"That being said, I don't think that message that was taken in 2012 should be crafted in 2016," he added. "I'm of the opinion that pastors should speak freely, priests should speak freely from the pulpit about the issues pertaining to Catholics in this election."
Hale voiced hope priests would do so "in a way that would represent the totality of the Church's social teaching," adding "no pastor should feel threatened in any capacity that their First Amendment rights should be infringed."
According to Hale, Catholics in Alliance and Catholics United effectively merged in 2015.
James Salt is currently a board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He previously served in faith outreach for the Kansas Democratic Party, did messaging work under then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, and served on the 2012 Democratic Party Platform Committee.
Salt's 2012 letter asked Florida pastors to "protect your parish from losing its tax-exempt status" by taking a pledge, titled "Keep Politics Out of Our Pulpits." He said this would demonstrate pastors' commitment and help ensure their parish is free from "any illegal political activity."
The reputed pledge solicited the pastor's name and house of worship. It asked that pledges be sent to the Catholics United Education Fund in Washington, D.C. The education fund, whose Pennsylvania affiliate Keystone Catholics is now an arm of Catholics in Alliance, was the 501c3 arm of Catholics United.
For its part, the Florida Catholic bishops' conference recommended that pastors not sign the pledge.
The response to the Catholics United letter and pledge was written by Michele M. Taylor, who at the time was the state Catholic conference's associate director for communications. The internal response was published on the website of the Diocese of Orlando without the knowledge of the Catholic conference.
Taylor recounted the situation to CNA in October 2012.
"Our pastors had received faxes from Catholics United telling them that their activities would jeopardize 501c3 status," Taylor said. "We disagree with that. As long as their activities are within the guidelines that we put out from this office, they're fine."
In an Oct. 30, 2012 press release, Catholics United misidentified the source of the Catholic response, wrongly claiming it came from the Diocese of Orlando. The group portrayed the diocese as refusing "to keep partisan politics out of its pulpits."
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"In this election year, and especially in a swing state like Florida, lay Catholics have been inundated with nasty political attacks," Salt said, claiming that the Orlando diocese was encouraging "political games."
"This request was apparently out of line for the diocese. It's a shame Orlando Catholics have to endure this type of politicking in their churches," he added.
The issue of Catholic messaging was on the mind of politico John Podesta, according to other emails posted to WikiLeaks and attributed to his email account.
In a Nov. 4, 2012 email, one Jon Schnur wrote Podesta that he was concerned about many Catholic churches that "may be giving highly problematic messages to parishioners/voters today." In the email, written the Sunday before Election Day, Schnur said he was especially concerned about churches in the states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado and Pennsylvania.
Schnur, whose wife is Catholic, said he thought the parish he attended in New Orleans that weekend was "over the top." He worried this messaging could be well-organized in the Catholic Church, "even if they would argue somehow doesn't cross political lines."
He asked Podesta whether there was any sense of this in the Obama campaign.