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"There is nothing in our Constitution that says pastors must remain mute," he said. "If we are truly interested in diversity and inclusion, then people of faith should be welcome in the marketplace of ideas, not censored."
But Dan Hofrenning, a political science professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, said he believes Bachmann's appearances "crossed the line if the church failed to invite her opponent."
(Corey Day, campaign manager for Bachmann's chief rival, Democrat Patty Wetterling, said Living Word did not invite Wetterling.)
"It's important to know that no one is talking about silencing churches, just about their tax-exempt status," Hofrenning said. "Pastors should be able to talk about gay marriage all they want to. But [Hammond] urging people to register to vote and saying he supports her at a speech in a church where the heating bills are paid with tax-exempt funds -- well, that comes pretty close to connecting the dots."
Careful around candidates
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, said she has not heard of any similar cases in Minnesota but that there is "an awful lot of buzz among church people about where the line is."As an organization and with our individual churches, we try to be very careful," she said. "Anytime we hold an event around politics, we would invite all the candidates."
Burt said Living Word held an issues forum in March to which it invited Republican and Democratic candidates.
"Truly, there was no intent for this to be a political event," he said. "But the lines can be blurry. Next time, we would be more careful."
Washington correspondent Kevin Diaz contributed to this report. Pamela Miller 612-673-4290 firstname.lastname@example.org