IRS Investigates Wichita Church Politicking
The pastor of Spirit One Christian Center in Wichita, Kan., is being investigated by the IRS, following complaints about election-time marquees. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, on behalf of a local resident, sent a complaint last November to the IRS. One church marquee read: Abortionist Tiller has given $300,000 to Sebelius. Price of 1,000 babies." Kathleen Sebelius was running for re-election as governor. The other read, "Morrison accepts blood money from abortionist Tiller. How many babies." Paul Morrison was running for attorney general.
In a letter to the IRS, Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor quoted IRS policy that "public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity."
Other locals also complained. The church released a letter from the IRS in August revealing the IRS concerns.
Pastor Calls for Death Prayers
A pastor who endorsed former Gov. Mike Huckabee for president via church stationery and an Internet radio program is calling on followers to pray for the deaths of those who filed a complaint against him with the IRS.
Rev. Wiley S. Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., called for "imprecatory prayer" against Americans United director Barry Lynn, as well as two other staffers.
Tax-exempt nonprofits cannot endorse candidates. Drake endorsed Huckabee in an Aug. 11 press release, and reaffirmed the endorsement on his Internet radio show.
"The prayer does call for serious, serious punishment on people. But I didn't call for that, God did," said Drake, who is second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Huckabee is also a Southern Baptist minister.
Examples of imprecatory prayer suggested by Drake:
"Persecute them. . . . Let them be put to shame and perish.
"Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."
Creationist Heads Texas Board
The new chair of the Texas school board, dentist Don McLeroy, 61, was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in July despite his publicly-voiced skepticism of evolution.
Christian Video at Pentagon Violated Ethics
The Pentagon's inspector general in August issued a 45-page report finding that seven current or former military officers violated ethics rules when they appeared in uniform in a promotional and fundraising video for the evangelical group Christian Embassy. The video and the report on it detail evangelism at the highest levels of the U.S. Military.
Christian Embassy is an offshoot of Campus Crusade for Christ, which recruits diplomats, government leaders and military officers.
Extensive scenes involving four generals were shot inside the Pentagon. The chaplain at the time, Col. Ralph G. Benson, obtained approval for the Christian group by mischaracterizing the purpose and the proponent of the video, according to the report.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack Catton, Army Brig. Gen. Bob Caslen, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Maj. Gen. Peter Sunnon, a colonel and a lieutenant colonel "improperly endorsed and participated with a nonfederal entity while in uniform," according to the report. Brooks told investigators he did not violate any rules. Caslen was formerly deputy director for political-military affairs for the war on terror. They were recommended for discipline for misconduct.
The video also featured six members of Congress, and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the Christian Embassy website, it conducts daily bible studies, and has Wednesday prayer breakfasts in the Pentagon's executive dining room. The film crew roamed freely around the Pentagon, with at least 34 religiously-affiliated volunteers given unrestricted access to the Pentagon. Their so-called "contractor badges" were unauthorized.The violation came to light via Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. (Read or listen to Mikey's speech at the 2006 FFRF convention.)
DOD Nixes Christian Packet to Soldiers
A plan by the Department of Defense approving the mailing of an apocalyptic Christian evangelical video game to U.S. troops in Iraq was abruptly halted on Aug. 14 after an ABC-TV inquiry.
Operation Start Up Tour, an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes soldiers, had been given permission to send a Left Behind video game in "care packages" also slated to contain a New Testament. The bloodthirsty game is based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling "Left Behind" book series about the battle of Armageddon, in which believers of Jesus Christ fight the AntiChrist, and unbelievers perish unless they convert. The group brags on its website: "We hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."
Operation Start Up Tour is one of the newest members of a program by the Defense Department called America Supports You, which connects citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families.
Boot Camp Drags Teen
The director of a Christian boot camp and an employee were arrested on Aug. 10 on charges of dragging a 15-year-old girl behind a van after she fell behind the group during a morning run.
Charles Eugene Flowers and Stephanie Bassitt of the San Antonio-based Love Demonstrated Ministries, a 32-day boot camp, were charged with aggravated assault for the June incident. They allegedly tied the girl to the van with a rope, then dragged her on her stomach.
Church Service Nixed for Gay Vet
A megachurch in Arlington, Texas, canceled a memorial service in August for a Navy vet because he was openly gay. Officials at High Point Church knew Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host the service, but cancelled after his obituary listed his life partner, and a video tribute showed pictures of men "engaging in clear affection." The pastor called homosexuality a "sin."
Ohio's Big-Brother Bill
Several Ohio state representatives have introduced a bill to give impregnators veto power over abortions. The bill would ban women from seeking an abortion without written consent from the "father." If his identity is unknown, the women would be required to submit a list of "possible fathers." The physician would be forced to conduct a paternity test, then seek paternal permission to abort. An abortion would be refused to women claiming not to know the man's identity. Women would be required to present a police report to prove a pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
Decalogs Return to Public Land
A Ten Commandments monument donated to the city of Casper, Wyo., in 1965 by the Eagles club, which had been moved into storage in 2003 after a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, was replaced this summer in "a new historic monument plaza." The five other large, granite monuments include the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, Preamble of the Constitution, Mayflower Compact and Declaration of Independence.
After the Foundation threatened to sue, the city placed the Ten Commandments monument in storage, announcing plans to restore it within a monument plaza. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Ten Commandments might remain on public property if there were sufficient other monuments. A marker next to the Eagles monument refers to them as a "starting point of law."
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The city council in Bloomfield, N.M., has approved placement of a granite Ten Commandments monument, calling it artistic and historic during an April vote. In July, the council moved ahead with plans, despite objections by several citizens, by unanimously approving a policy permitting monuments on city property that relate to the "development of the law and government of the city, state or nation." That policy was drawn up "with help from the conservative Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Ariz.," according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Bloomfield businesswoman Tracy Tucker and Bloomfield firefighter Adana Rutter presented a petition with 47 signatures against the monument.
Exodus Leaders Apologize
Three former leaders of Exodus International, self-described as the largest ex-gay ministry, publicly apologized in late June for harm they had caused.
The former leaders, speaking at a Hollywood news conference, said they had been sincere, but became disillusioned with what they called the wrenching human toll of trying to "convert" gays to heterosexuality through prayer. The conference coincided with Exodus' annual conference. The trio identify as gay but still call themselves "committed Christians."
Bibles With Your News?
A campaign by the International Bible Society-Send the Light, to pay newspapers to distribute bibles with the news, is meeting with criticism. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently announced it will deliver more than 200,000 New Testaments to subscribers on the last Sunday of the year.
Following about 35 complaints, the Star-Telegram told subscribers they could opt out of receiving the bibles.