This past Sunday, Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, gave the sermon at the 2,500 member First Baptist Church in North Spartanburg, South Carolina. Mind you, the Republican Presidential Primary will be held in that state next Saturday, and Huckabee's sermon to potential voters in that primary is the ultimate in unctuous bad form, on the parts of both Candidate Huckabee and the leadership of the First Baptist Church.
Consider, for a moment, the sensibilities of those church members who support Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, or Fred Thompson. First Baptist Church has abused its position as a theological authority to these members. Religious services --especially evangelical Christian services -- should be above partisan political preferences, and nothing indicates preference better than the invitation to give a sermon to the entire congregation.
It also raises questions as to the tax-exempt status of the First Baptist Church in North Spartanburg. Clearly, the invitation represented a political endorsement of Huckabee by the leadership of that church. Indeed, it could be argued that the exclusive communication opportunity to address 2,500 potential voters represented an in-kind political contribution, which is also probably illegal.
Are Romney, McCain, Giuliani, and Fred Thompson not entitled to an equal opportunity to address those 2,500 church members ?
It is precisely this kind of seedy blending of religious and political directives under one roof that make so many Americans uncomfortable with Mike Huckabee's brand of politics.
We'll see what the voters of South Carolina have to say on Thursday.