It has been sometime since I have posted (mid-January). I was motivated to start back up again after reading this story. A survey released last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found a "narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters." Apparently, for over a decade, Americans have supported religious institutions weighing in on such issues. The change of heart has come largely from people who describe themselves as conservatives. Those surveyed do not want purely secular elected officials, however, as they want their political leaders (including the President) to have strong religious beliefs. They are uncomfortable with politicians talking about how religious they are (wearing their faith "on their sleeve" so to speak).
It seems like a mixed message: churches shouldn't espouse their political/social views, but political leaders should have religious beliefs - however, they shouldn't talk about them very often. We should be careful when saying that churches have no place in discussing social and political matters. They were instrumental during the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery in England and America, not to mention the civil rights movement (Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister). The list could go on. I think the concern arises when churches enter political debate when it is perceived that they do not have their house in order. Some persons of faith are quick to judge society while not holding their fellow Christians accountable. Hence the claim of "hypocrites" by opponents to religion.
Religious institutions should engage on issues of importance to our great country. Participation has proved beneficial in the past and will in the future. We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.