Dear Office of General Counsel,
Greetings, this is Chris Halverson, Pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran in South Plainfield, NJ. On October 22nd I received a letter from Steven Baer (see triplicates included) offering between $1,000-10,000 dollars in “donation” to St. Stephen if I pass out a voters guide to my congregation before Tuesday, November 4th. From the clergy chatter on facebook we were not the only congregation to receive a letter like this.
This seems dodgy to the extreme.
It suggests religious officials can be bribed, which undermines the authority of the clergy, as well as the message of the Gospel we proclaim—which ultimately is the Good News about what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, not some political agenda.
Additionally, Mr. Baer’s letter is a temptation to forsake my ordination vows, in which I promised to “live a life above reproach”… which I would imagine includes not taking bribes.
Not only that, this kind of injection of politics, and ultimately the State, into the Church and vice versa, goes against the division between church and state found both in my faith tradition (Luther’s “Two Kingdoms Theory”) and my country’s tradition (Jefferson’s “Separation of Church and State”).
Finally, and likely more importantly for you all, I can’t imagine this kind of thing is kosher from an election law standpoint.
So, that’s my formal complaint. Steve Baer’s attempt to buy church backing of a political agenda: undermines my authority and stifles the Gospel, threatens my ordination vows, goes against the traditions of my faith and country, and probably violates some campaign finance/election laws.
In Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Chris Halverson
If your church would like to lodge a similar complaint send Mr. Baer's letter in triplicates along with a notarized letter of complaint to:
The Office of General Counsel
Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463