Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Montana Election Law Used to Stifle Religious Expression...Even Inside the Church Building!

This from the "I Bet You Never Thought This Kind of Thing Could Happen in America" File:

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a notice of appeal today in federal court for a case involving a Baptist church accused of violating Montana election law because it did not report to the government when it spoke out on the state’s marriage amendment.

“Churches should not be punished for speaking out on important social issues of the day. After all, that’s a big part of what churches do,” said ADF Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “We are appealing the district court’s decision in this case because the Constitution should never be construed to require cumbersome reporting requirements in order to exercise First Amendment rights.”

Montana’s commissioner of political practices, Gordon Higgins, asserted that because the church decided to support the state’s marriage amendment initiative, the church “became an incidental political committee under Montana law, with corresponding reporting obligations” ( The leftist group Montanans for Families and Fairness, which filed the complaint against the church, apparently disbanded, and the complainant left Montana.

“The complaint filed against the church was a politically motivated attack designed to muzzle marriage supporters,” said Schowengerdt. “The law is so extreme that it can be triggered by ‘anything of value’--even a penny spent on the church electric bill. Once triggered, the law demands that the church register with the state, comply with comprehensive reporting requirements, and jump through state-mandated organization hoops, as would a political committee.”

Read the rest of this account at the Alliance Defense Fund website.