Friday, January 27, 2006

Church leaders come forward to defend call for IRS audit

This is the so-called "anonymous 31", but as you see from the article, they never had any intention or expectation that they would remain anonymous when they signed their names to an IRS complaint against Rev. Rod Parsley and Rev. Russell Johnson.

Church leaders come forward to defend call for IRS audit

"We come from different traditions, we come perhaps from different theological points of view, we come from different experiences, but we all come together around this one single concern," Williams said, referring to the pastors representing nine Judeo-Christian denominations.

The pastors want the IRS to determine whether the two evangelical megachurches headed by Parsley and Johnson, along with three affiliated organizations, should lose their tax-exempt status for participating in partisan politics.

The complaint alleges numerous instances in which the churches promoted conservative Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican candidate for governor, at religious events, in voter-registration drives and in educational materials.

Until yesterday, only about nine of the complaining pastors — whom Johnson labeled "an unholy alliance" — had been identified. But they revealed themselves yesterday under pressure from the public and Parsley, who last week called them the "anonymous 31." The pastors said they acted as individuals and not on behalf of their churches.

The Rev. David W. Meredith of the United Methodist Church said "there was never any intention to keep our names secret" and it was difficult to assemble "very busy clergy" for a public event.

Did you catch that? The nice "Christian" minister calls his fellow persons of the cloth an "unholy alliance".
Parsley said if the pastors had come to him personally, "rather than air their grievances in the media, we certainly would have quickly put their fears to rest."

But the Rev. John Edgar, of the United Methodist Church, said, "It’s not a conversation about whether or not we should have gone to Pastor Parsley ahead of time. It’s about whether or not there’s a violation of the IRS code . . . Clearly, there are significant violations. They knew it and the person they were helping (Blackwell) is someone who should have enforced the laws that were being broken."

Most of the pastors who assembled yesterday said they have told their congregations they signed the complaint and were overwhelmingly supported.

"When I told my congregation on Sunday during our worship service, there was a round of spontaneous applause," said the Rev. Kim Keethler Ball, of the American Baptist Church.

"As American Baptists, one of our core values, like the other traditions here, is that we value separation of church and state. For us, this issue falls in that realm and, precisely, (in the complaint) the issue is running a political campaign from church for a particular candidate."