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San Diego Catholic church says the devil works through Hillary Clinton

The letter rails against abortion and constraints on tax-exempt organizations from certain political activity, and blames elected officials for allowing US society to be “enslaved” to sin.

us presidential election Updated: Nov 05, 2016 10:42 IST
Hillary Clinton,US elections 2016,San Diego
US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during services at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., October 30, 2016. (REUTERS)

A Roman Catholic church in San Diego told its parishioners the devil works through politicians like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and warned that voting for Democrats is a “mortal sin,” according to local media and the church’s website.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the neighbourhood of Old Town made the statements in a weekly leaflet given to churchgoers, a copy of which remains on the church’s website. The letter rails against abortion and constraints on tax-exempt organizations from certain political activity, and blames elected officials for allowing U.S. society to be “enslaved” to sin.

“Satan has deceived many Christians to convert to worldly values from Christian ones,” the October 30 bulletin reads. “The devil does this through the tactics outlined by Saul Alinsky with the outcome as Hillary Clinton has stated, ‘And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed,’ to draw us away from God’s teachings.”

Alinsky was a pioneer in community organising in Chicago known for confrontational, though nonviolent, tactics to achieve social change.

Local broadcaster NBC 7 said a one-page insert in a separate bulletin called voting for Democrats a “mortal sin.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego could not be reached for comment on Friday.

But according to NBC 7, Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, said in a statement: “While we have a moral role to play in explaining how Catholic teaching relates to certain public policy issues, we must not and will not endorse specific candidates ... or engage in partisan political activity of any kind.”

Richard Schmalbeck, a professor at Duke University School of Law with expertise in non-profits, said the statements appear to violate requirements for tax-exempt organizations around political activity.

“Anything that clearly disparages a candidate is intervention in opposition to a candidate, and I think saying the devil operates through a person would count as disparagement,” he said.

Schmalbeck said it seems unlikely, however, that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service would aggressively pursue revoking the church’s tax-exempt status given its recent history of not going after churches that have made similar comments.

The race for the White House has tightened significantly ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, as several swing states that Republican Donald Trump must win have shifted from favouring Clinton to being toss-ups.

Several of the church’s bulletins contain incendiary columns about the election and politics. One piece, titled “Decision 2016 - Will America Die As a Fool Dies,” attacked President Barack Obama.

First Published: Nov 05, 2016 10:42 IST