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Fox's O'Reilly seems skeptical of church politicking bill. (People & Events).

Popular Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly has admitted to being "a little worried" over legislation pending in Congress that would allow houses of worship to engage in partisan politicking.

O'Reilly, host of "The O'Reilly Factor," interviewed Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), the sponsor of the legislation, Feb. 7. Jones' bill would lift provisions of the federal tax code that prohibit houses of worship from intervening in partisan politics. Jones insists his bill is about free speech; O'Reilly did not seem persuaded.

After listening to Jones give a history of the provision, O'Reilly said, "I understand what you're saying.... See, I say this. I go to church, but I don't need to hear priests tell me his political views, because, I mean, I have my own political views. So why do I need the church to do that?"

Jones asserted that under the current IRS provision, clergy may not note that certain candidates favor or oppose legal abortion. He again insisted that his bill would promote free speech in pulpits.

O'Reilly countered, "Yes, but, you know, there's a danger with the, there's a danger, because in 1988, Jesse Jackson went down and started to mobilize and organize black churches to not only support him in the pulpit ... but also give him money from the pew. And, and that disturbs me. I just -- and I could see the same thing happening on the right as well."

Jones replied, "Bill, but the thing is, that is still ongoing."

Still not convinced, O'Reilly, who often sides with the Religious Right on the program, told Jones, "I don't want to get the churches involved in the political process."

Jones' bill has yet to have a hearing in the House but seems to be picking up some media attention. Recently, both The New York Times and The Washington Post have run stories about the proposal.

The Times reported that one church, Second Baptist Church in Houston, was the subject of a four-year investigation by the IRS for its political activities. Americans United reported the church to the federal tax agency in March of 1996 after receiving information about partisan political activity there.
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Title Annotation:commentator Bill O'Reilly, Fox News Channel
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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