AP: How Palin Blurred Lines Between Church and State

The Associated Press reports today that as Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin blurred the lines between church and state and billed taxpayers for her attendance at religious events:

An Associated Press review of the Republican vice presidential candidate's record as mayor and governor reveals her use of elected office to promote religious causes, sometimes at taxpayer expense and in ways that blur the line between church.

Since she took state office in late 2006, the governor and her family have spent more than $13,000 in taxpayer funds to attend at least 10 religious events and meetings with Christian pastors, including Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, records show.


The expense breakdown:

Palin and her family billed the state $3,022 for the cost of attending Christian gatherings exclusively, including visits to the Assembly of God here and to the congregation they attend in Juneau, according to expense reports reviewed by the AP.

....The Palins billed the state an additional $10,094 in expenses for other multi-day trips that included worship services or religiously themed events, but also involved substantial state business, including the governor's inaugural ball and an oil and gas conference in New Orleans.

Palin says she keeps her faith separate from her governing. But....

....after the AP reported the governor had accepted tainted donations during her 2006 campaign, she announced she would donate the $2,100 to three charities, including an Anchorage nonprofit aimed at "sharing God's love" to dissuade young women from having abortions.

This is nothing new for Palin, who also blurred the lines while she was Mayor of Wasilla:

Records of her mayoral correspondence show that Palin worked arduously to organize a day of prayer at city hall. She said that with local ministers' help, Wasilla — a city of 7,000 an hour's drive north of Anchorage — could become "a light, or a refuge for others in Alaska and America."

"What a blessing that the Lord has already put into place the Christian leaders, even though I know it's all through the grace of God," she wrote in March 2000 to her former pastor. She thanked him for the loan of a video featuring a Kenyan preacher who later would pray for her protection from witchcraft as she sought higher office.

In that same period, she also joined a grass-roots, faith-based movement to stop the local hospital from performing abortions, a fight that ultimately lost before the Alaska Supreme Court. Palin's former church and other evangelical denominations were instrumental in ousting members of Valley Hospital's board who supported abortion rights — including the governor's mother-in-law, Faye Palin.

She also promoted religious causes to get federal faith-based money which she then in turn awarded to evangelical groups.

Palin also is one of just two governors who channeled federal money to support religious groups through a state agency, Alaska's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Palin has made it a priority to unite faith communities, local nonprofits and government to serve the needy, bringing her high marks — and $500,000 — from the Bush administration.

....Several Catholic and Christian charities received funding, including $20,000 for a Fairbanks homeless shelter that views itself as a "stable door of evangelism and Christian service" and $36,000 for a drop-in center at an Anchorage mall that seeks to demonstrate "the unconditional love of Jesus to teenagers."

On the ethics of Palin's charging taxpayers for her religious excursions:

Experts say those trips fall into an ethically gray area, since Democrats and Republicans alike often visit religious venues for personal and official reasons. J. Brent Walker, who runs a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for church-state separation, said based on a reporter's account, Palin's June excursion raised questions.

"Politicians are entitled to freely exercise their religion while in office, but ethically if not legally that part of her trip ought to not be charged to taxpayers," said Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. "It's still fundamentally a religious and spiritual experience she is having."

Palin is exactly what we don't need in the White House -- an advocate for evangelical causes and issues who blurs the constitutional lines of separation of church and state.

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    nitpicky (none / 0) (#2)
    by txpublicdefender on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 03:32:03 PM EST
    I think this is pretty nitpicky, personally.

    I think the perception or appearance of (none / 0) (#3)
    by befuddledvoter on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 04:34:25 PM EST
    this is problematic.  I also think the perception depends to a great deal on the region of the country.  Where I come from (Boston area), this would be a great BIG no no.  I also lived in northern FL.  I doubt folks there would give this any notice whatsoever.

    I suspect that Palin's blending of religion and politics is pervasive, though may have gone unnoticed in Wasilla.      


    suggestion (none / 0) (#4)
    by white n az on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 06:29:38 PM EST