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October 19, 1990     The Message
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October 19, 1990

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October 19, 1990 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Bishop's Forum By BISHOP GERALD A. GETTELFINGER Guidelines for pastor00,;, parishes on lobbying and electioneering Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfingar is a member of the board of the Indiana Catholic Conference, which has issued the following "Guidelines for Pastors and Parishes on Lobbying and E]ectioneering. " The Catholic Bishops of Indiana have for many years distributed guidelines for parishes in election years. The Church speaks often to issues that are both moral and political, but it directs its attention to the issues, not to political parties or candidtates. The United States Catholic Conference recently ad- dressed this point: "We bishops specifically do not seek the for- mation of a religious voting bloc; nor do we wish to instruct persons on how they should vote by en- dorsing or opposing candidates. We do, however, have a right and a responsibility as teachers to analyze the moral dimensions of the major issues of our day. We urge citizens to avoid choosing candidates simply on the basis of narrow self- interest. We hope that voters will examine the positions of candidates on the full range of issues, as well as their personal integrity, philosophy, and performance. "We are convinced that a consistent ethic of life should be the moral framework from which we address all issues in the political arena. "In this consistent ethic we address a spec- trum of issues, seeking to protect human life and promote human dignity from the inception of life to its final moment." ("Political Responsiblity: Choices for the Future," United States Catholic Conference, September 1987} Because of recent Supreme Court rulings, the issue of abortion has once again become a focal point of human rights efforts. But abortion is not the only issue facing the people of Indiana. The consistent ethic of life demands a concern for all the weak and vulnerable members of our . society, not just the unborn, but also the frail elderly, the disabled, the helpless. People in the church are involved in many issues, such as ab9rtion, agricultural workers, capital punishment, criminal justice, housing, parochial schools, pornography and sex education. The following guidelines have been developed after consultation with the General Counsel of the United States Catholic Conference. I. Parishes and other institutions may, in some cases should, engage in issue-oriented activities and lobbying. As a general rule, limitations on the extent of such lobbying would not be a problem for parishes or active institutions, since lobbying would be an insubstantial part of their total work. The following are examples of such acceptable activity: Educational efforts about issues and in sup- port of legislation. Encouragement of letter writing campaigns and other contacts with state or federal legislators designed to educate them and to develop support for legislation. a Distribution of fliers containing a statement about an issue or issues before the Congress or the Indiana legislature, and containing the names and addresses of senators and representatives. a Preaching and distribution of pertinent in- formation concerning particular issues, especially those affecting human life. II. Non partisan registration campaigns and get-out-the-vote campaigns are proper and recom- mended activity for parishes and church organizations. III. Materials prepared for use in educating citizens, including surveys or polls as described in the following paragraph, much emphasize educative objectives. IV. Surveys or polls of political candidates may be distributed at churches, or reported in parish bulletins only if: 1. The poll is objectively worded and objec- tively taken; 2. poll results are accurately reported and free of bias; 3. poll results do not contain discussions of issues; 4. the poll is multi-issue involving various of the issues set forth in the preamble of these guidelines or other relevant issues; 5. the validity of the poll has previously been approved by the Indiana Catholic Conference or the diocesan attorney. 6. Parish bulletins containing reports of polls should point out that the parish does not endorse or oppose candidates and that the polls are distributed to inform and educate voters. V. Evaluations of candidates or political par- ties should be avoided. Types of objectionable evaluations are as follows: 1. encouraging readers or listeners {e.g., a homily} to vote for or against a particular can- aidate or party; 2. labeling a candidate or party as "pro-school aid" or "anti-life'.'; such a practice removes objec- tivity by not allowing readers to evaluate a can- didate's position themselves; 3. using plus ( + } or minus (-) signs to evalute the candidate or party; 4. Rating candidates or parties on a scale of "one to ten" for example, or otherwise saying "X is good", "Y is better;" 5. The use of marked sample ballots. VI. No diocesan or parish entity or organiza- tion shall endorse or oppose or campaign for or against any political party or candidate for public office; nor shall any funds of any such entity or organization be contributed to any political can- didate, party, campaign or political action committee. VII. No diocesan or parish entity or organiza- tion, or other 501{c}(3) exempt church organization shall engage in voter education communications which directly or indirectly suggest that a par- ticular candidate or party should be supported or opposed. VIII. Pastors or other religious leaders are urg- ed to avoid endorsements or other political activi- ty, contributions, or electioneering. Although not prohibited, it may be difficult to separate their per- sonal activity from their role as a representative of the Church. These are based on more extensive guidelines which relate to diocesan newspapers, problems of constitionality and related matters. Questions which might arise should be referred to the diocesan attorney or to the Indiana Catholic Conference. Please patronize Message advertisers! i:i .i!iiii:i.  .;: : re :,:: :: ::: ": ;r,::-: ? :::;i::iii!ii!':ii:ii: :i American National Bank Bicknoll- Sandb0m Vincennes Drive-in Facilities - Member F.D.I.C. 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