The Internal Revenue Service has filed an official complaint against a Roman Catholic bishop who is not only accused of telling people how to vote, but has also compared President Barack Obama's policies to those of dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
"Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care," Bishop Daniel Jenky said at last Sunday's homily at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, Ill.
He was speaking of Obama's recent policies, such as his controversial move to make contraceptive coverage a necessity in health insurance plans provided by religious institutions, including Catholic churches whose doctrines teach against birth control.
Continuing his "history lesson," Bishop Jenky said to the Sunday worshippers, "Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room."
He also spoke of Otto von Bismarck, another noted German leader, and his "culture war against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany."
"In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path," Bishop Jenky added.
The bishop's comments have drawn wide-spread media attention and criticsm.
According to the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Bishop Jenky's homily clearly urged people not to vote for Obama in this year's presidential elections, which is in violation of a federal law stating that tax payer-funded organizations should not seek to influence electoral campaigns.
"To be sure, Jenky never utters the words 'Do not vote for Obama,'" Lynn told the Chicago Tribune. "But the Internal Revenue Code makes it clear that statements need not be this explicit to run afoul of the law."
"I'm very upset," said Barb Heinz, a Catholic Peorian, to Illinois publication the PJStar.
"I'm outraged that the bishop wants to tell Catholics how to vote, period," he said. "That's our decision, not his."
The Anti-Defamation League has demanded an apology from Bishop Jenky for his comments, calling them "not only offensive, but grossly inaccurate and dangerous rhetoric."
"A clergy person with so many people listening to every word should be more responsible and should think twice before making analogies," said League Regional Director Lonnie Nasatir.
The church diocese has defended Bishop Jenky's remarks, however, saying they were not understood for the context they were presented in.
"Based upon the current government's threatened infringement upon the church's religious exercise of its ministry, Bishop Jenky offered historical context and comparisons as a means to prevent a repetition of historical attacks upon the Catholic Church and other religions," explained Patricia Gibson, chancellor of the Peoria Diocese.
"Bishop Jenky gave several examples of times in history in which religious groups were persecuted because of what they believed," Gibson added. "We certainly have not reached the same level of persecution. However, history teaches us to be cautious once we start down the path of limiting religious liberty."