Op-Ed: Stolen Identity – How the Maine Council of Churches appropriates your political voice without your approval


by Pem Schaeffer

“Thou shalt not steal” is the eighth of the ten commandments God handed down to Moses. This would lead you to think the last place you’d discover stealing is among Church officials.

Well, think again. Do you attend a Swedenborgian Church, an Episcopal Church, a United Church of Christ, or a United Methodist Church? How about an ELCA Lutheran Church, or a Quaker Church, or a Unitarian Universalist Church? Or you might attend a Presbyterian or Roman Catholic Church.

If you do, then I have news for you. Your identity, in the political sense at least, has been stolen from you by the Maine Council of Churches. And they have taken it like a thief in the night.

How can I make such an assertion? Because if you attend a church of any of the above denominations, they claim your imprimatur in their political activism. And I am confident they have done it without your direct approval, and more than likely, without your knowledge.

In a report on The Maine Wire on December 15th, we read these words:

The Maine Council of Churches (MCC), which represents more than 550 individual churches in the state, will be holding prayer vigils in the capital building for what they call a “moral budget.” The statement of conscience regarding the budget cuts which MCC has released reads in part, “a fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the most vulnerable are faring. We cannot allow thousands of Mainers to lose health (insurance) coverage at a time when many are also struggling to put food on the table, find housing, or just keep warm through the winter.”
Leslie Manning, Vice President of the MCC and the appointed denominational representative of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), was asked to explain why MCC advocates that the moral obligation to be the servicer of these needs rests with the government, and not simply with the people. In response she said, “In a society such as ours, the people control the government and decide what policies it implements. The people who make up our membership have made the decision that the final responsibility for caring for the most-needy rests with government. Therefore, we are here today advocating for that position, and have taken this position during many similar rallies since our founding in 1938.”

You can research the MCC here. On the site, you’ll find this mission statement:

Rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, our mission is to inspire congregations and persons of faith to unite in good works that build a culture of justice, compassion and peace.

Other than the reference to unspecified roots in scripture, the focus on “a culture of justice, compassion and peace” could just as easily apply to an organization of atheists and agnostics, or the Democrat party, for that matter. The appealing vagueness evokes comparison to baseball, motherhood, and apple pie.

The MCC is very judicious in how they portray themselves, unmistakably trying to persuade the politically powerful that they represent the thinking of throngs of Maine church-goers, while leaving an escape route should they be challenged on their false claim. But note their use of these words: “The people who make up our membership.”

I was taught that the church is not the building, but the people in it. So when they claim they represent ‘more than 550 individual churches,’ they want and expect any who hear them to believe they represent more than 550 congregations in the state, amounting, we would guess, to perhaps 100,000 church-goers, a very big population segment in a small state like Maine.

But they don’t, and let me explain why. Nearly ten years ago, I first learned of the Maine Council of Churches when their officials appeared at protests against the Bush tax cuts. I was perplexed by a ‘Church’ group engaging in partisan politicking, and looked them up. What I found was an organization that had absolutely nothing to do with handing out New Testaments, reaching the unchurched, or living out the great commission. Instead, they had everything to do with joining other leftist advocacy groups for pressing the progressive agendas of our day, and implying they represent Maine church-goers in doing so.

I contacted the head of the organization at that time to ask how they could take such positions on our behalf, and he promptly turned the other cheek. He said, as I recall, that any further questions could be directed to their attorney. It was a major learning moment in my understanding of the liberal non-profit industrial complex in Maine.

At the time, we were members of a large congregation of an MCC member denomination for more than five years, and I was a member of a governing board of that congregation for two years. In that time, I don’t recall a single mention of the Maine Council of Churches in the conduct of church activities, a visit by an MCC official, a discussion of their finances and our contribution to them, or a vote on any of their advocacy positions. Yet as it turns out, the MCC was actively lobbying state government on positions taken by their staff and board.

There’s an explanation for this lack of connection with the good folks sitting in the pews. In most cases, the MCC member denominations are hierarchical; they have district and/or state level denomination offices. The individual congregations forward a portion of their offerings to these offices to fund their operations. In turn, the leadership of these offices make the decision to affiliate with the MCC, and we are sure, pay a dollar tribute to the organization to fund its operations.

You as an individual church member have virtually no say in this connection, and may very likely not even know it exists. Meanwhile, the MCC portrays to elected officials that all Maine church-goers are a unified, single-minded constituency in social and political matters, and cloak their advocacy in the trappings of religious morality. The notion that the Christian Bible is an apolitical document that informs a variety of widely divergent political positions is foreign to them.

Like it or not, if you attend one of their member denominations, they have decided what your position is, and it’s the same as theirs when they do their very public lobbying. And since very few government officials are going to research MCC membership, it’s reasonable to assume those hearing the MCC advocacy assume they represent the vast majority of congregations in Maine.

To be clear, you as an individual are not a member of the MCC, only your denominational hierarchy, if a member, is. You don’t get a mail solicitation every year asking you to renew your membership.

The MCC and others like it are isolated from church-goers by multiple layers of organizational hierarchy, and there are no mechanisms employed to determine the will of their “members,” and no voluntary relationship on the part of the church-goer. Your political voice is simply confiscated without your knowledge and consent.

This is in contrast to AMAC, NRA, and the Heritage Foundation, for example. These organizations deal only in individual memberships, and are accountable to you if you are a member. When they say they speak for XYZ members, they have a foundation in reality. Not so for the MCC. And lots of other similar organizations.

To make matters worse, take a look at the ‘coalition’ the MCC has aligned with to inundate Maine officials with their political positions. Begin here. Now, look up the coalition that “Maine Can Do Better” calls into play, MCC included. You’ll see 100 or so non-profits of the sort who love to claim ‘the poor have no voice.’

One wonders how many people earn their livings from these non-profits, and thus have a stake in seeing that big government programs continue and expand. Then ask yourself who provides a voice for the hard-working taxpayers who pay for the entitlement programs, and who wants to help folks escape government dependency.

Something else worthy of note is the list of denominations conspicuous by their absence from MCC membership. Immediately apparent are Independent Bible Churches, a variety of Baptist denominations, Seventh Day Adventists, Nazarenes, and many more. It is widely known that the ‘traditional mainstream denominations,’ which is to say the members of the MCC, are dying off, while church growth in this era is concentrated among the independent Bible congregations, evangelicals, and others who focus on a personal relationship with the Bible and its message of forgiveness and salvation.

We doubt that MCC staff hands out cards to everyone they see clarifying who they ‘represent’ and who they don’t. Since the MCC members are inclined to engage in unashamed political advocacy, and the non-members aren’t, it doesn’t take much of a logical leap to understand why the former is shrinking and the latter is expanding.

This phenomenon is not limited to Maine and the MCC, however. Most of the traditional mainstream denominations have ‘Washington Operations’ offices. Clearly, this isn’t because of the focus on “things of the world” in our nation’s capitol; it’s because of political activism once again, with the imprimatur of stolen pew-sitter identities, portrayed as unanimous in their social and political agendas.
One envisions hundreds of well-meaning 60’s radicals living out their ideology as well-paid and unaccountable zealots for big government programs, liberal radicalism, and dissolution of the social mores once considered sacred in this country.

Now let’s discuss the National Council of Churches (NCC). Several years ago, I was going through a list of grants made by one of the Soros sponsored organizations; as I recall, it was the Tides Foundation. I discovered they had given several hundred thousand dollars to the NCC. Concerned by what I knew about Soros’ political activities, and what this might mean in this case, I contacted the head of the NCC directly. At that time, it was Bob Edgar, a former congressman and ordained minister.

I expressed concern about money coming via a Soros organization, and what strings might come with the grant. Edgar told me that when he took the job at NCC, the board said he had three priorities: raise money, raise money, and raise money. When I told him of my concerns about Soros, he blew them off as over-reaction. Edgar is now gone from that job, and from what I read, the NCC has been struggling mightily in the face of declining revenues, cutting staff and pulling back in other ways.

The phenomenon here is troublesome: Via rather direct connections, including financial dependency, the religious left is playing into the hands of secular progressives, including Soros, the Nature Conservancy, the global warming industry, and the pacifists.

If not useful idiots, they are at least useful naifs. They serve, in effect, as money launderers for The Tides Foundation and others. And what a triumph for Soros and others: “principled, moral, upstanding leaders” in the community espousing your political agenda! Keeping distance between “church” and “state” is simply not an issue.

This provides a perfect opportunity for Soros, environmental coalitions, and gay rights movements to co-opt the political voice of millions of American church-goes by a modest expenditure of funds that allow the central offices to survive in the face of declining membership and local congregational support.

It’s a brilliant strategy when you think about it. Where else can you get a greater bang for the buck, and especially with the moral and ethical pedigree that Church-goers bring to the table?

Guess where Bob Edgar is now: he heads Common Cause, the non-profit formerly headed by Rochelle Pingree-Sussman, while she waited for a chance to return to elected office.

Separation of Church and State? What about Separation of State and Church?

According to Wikipedia, “The Ten Commandments have been at the center of a recurring debate over the legality of displaying religious texts on public property in the United States of America, whose constitution, in its First Amendment, reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….

For years we’ve heard about the ‘radical religious right,’ and their ‘efforts to impose their values on the rest of us.’ All the while, there has been a radical religious left demonizing them, yet working in the shadows and making the so-called ‘religious right’ look like Sunday School children singing “This little light of mine…”. You might say they have one message at the front door, and another at the back door.

There are significant differences in political style. The religious right is largely a bottom up, grass roots, independent Church/congregation, drive the vote phenomenon. It works to influence pew sitters and how they vote. The radical religious left is a top down, shadowy set of HQ activists working through lobbying activities. It ignores pew sitters, and acts in their stead.

Demands to “welcome the stranger, end hunger now, and cover all children” are common.

And in the case of the MCC, the NCC, and the various denominational Washington Offices, we see the opposite of first amendment language: Religious organizations doing their best to see that laws are made embodying their religious convictions, and thereby respecting an ‘establishment’ of government per their desires.

Does anyone else see the incredible irony in these circumstances, if not the blatant misrepresentation of the vast diversity of Church member political convictions?

A reading assignment for the interested student:
Wall Street Journal -The Rise of the Religious Left