Churches are being reminded this week that collecting money for a political cause is not OK.
Washington State’s Public Disclosure Commission recently learned that Bishop Joseph Tyson, of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima, sent a letter to pastors in 41 churches asking them to take up a special collection for Preserve Marriage Washington, the campaign opposed to the state’s same-sex marriage law.
A formal complaint, however, was not filed. Lori Anderson, communication and training officer for PDC, said the reminder was precautionary.
“There’s been no formal action. Preserve Marriage Washington and our partners have done everything within full compliance of the law,” said PMW Deputy Campaign Director Chris Plante.
Anderson explained that an organization — religious or not — cannot serve as an intermediary for a contribution, though it can freely promote a campaign.
“Churches can distribute the envelopes and encourage parishioners to use them, but they can’t be the middle man,” she said, adding that individual contributors have to send the donations in themselves, or someone from the campaign has to be on hand to collect the money.
Plante said the Catholic Diocese of Yakima and the Catholic Diocese of Spokane will distribute pre-addressed remittance envelopes in September, which will then be collected by PMW volunteers. A date for the collection has not yet been determined.
“The Catholic Church, during the month of September, plans to up its teachings on marriage and on our understanding that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman based on natural law, the scriptures and our traditions,” said Monsignor Robert Siler, chief of staff and chancellor for Yakima diocese. “We don't takes sides for or against candidates, but we do speak out against other issues. The Preserve Marriage Washington campaign aligns with our teachings, so we have no problem supporting it.”
Zach Silk, Campaign Manager of Washington United for Marriage, which supports Ref. 74, however, says the diocese’ fundraising plan is inappropriate.
"We're proud to have nearly 300 congregations and clergy supporting our campaign to Approve Referendum 74. Our faith supporters are making their voices heard in traditional ways, whether that's preaching about love and commitment, joining a phone bank or talking to their family and friends. To the extent our faith supporters have been raising money, they have done so in legitimate ways, like hosting a house party or attending a fundraiser,” he said.
PMW has raised $471,000 for its campaign urging voters to reject Referendum 74, which was filed in response to the February law that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.
Washington United for Marriage has raised more than $6 million.
The issue will go to voters in November.