Washington Churches Can Support 'Preserve Marriage' Fund, But Can't Collect Money

Church members in Washington State have been cautioned against collecting funds in support of the Preserve Marriage movement, due to laws preventing any organization from serving as an intermediary for a campaign. Individual church members, however, are still permitted to use church provided envelopes to make a campaign donation.

Last week the Bishop of Yakima, Rev. Joseph J. Tyson sent a letter out to pastors in 41 different parishes, which provided guidelines for collecting funds in support of the upcoming Preserve Marriage month.

Preserve Marriage is a grass roots organization that supports the traditional definition of marriage- between one man and one woman. Labor Day marks the first day of Preserve Marriage month, which has the specific goal of opposing Referendum 74, which will appear on the ballot in November and aims to redefine marriage as between two people.

"R‐74 would grant no additional benefits to same sex couples, as Washington State already has a law granting same sex couples all of the rights associated with civil marriage," Rev. Tyson wrote in the parish letter.

He has therefore asked a number of parishes to provide special envelopes to church congregation members who would like to help oppose R-74. However, while the Reverend offered specific guidelines as to how the collections should be carried out, the churches were still warned about what was permissible according to law.

Lori Anderson, a member of the state's Public Disclosure Commission, reported to the Associated Press that no organization- religious or otherwise- is permitted to serve as an "intermediary" for a contribution.

Anderson stated that church would be allowed to pass out the envelopes, but cautioned that a member of the Preserve Marriage campaign would have to be on hand to collect the envelopes; church members could also mail the envelopes directly.

Rev. Tyson explained that it was not the church's job to become involved in politics, but also stated that it was the goal of the church to keep members of society informed about moral values.

"The Church does not engage in partisan politics, but it has an obligation to teach about moral values of the issues facing society," he said in the Aug. 17 letter. "As faithful citizens, we need to be involved in the political process so that marriage as the essential building block of society is preserved."