Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell, Rev. Russell Johnson, pastor of Fairfield Christian Church and chairman of Ohio Restoration Project, and Rev. Rod Parsley, of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, hit back at a complaint filed with the IRS by 31 mainline clergy members over Johnson and Parsley using their churches to electioneer for Blackwell.
“You tell those 31 bullies that you aren’t about to be whupped,” said Blackwell, the secretary of state, who said that “political and social and cultural forces are trying to run God out of the public square.”
Johnson accused the complaining pastors of launching a “secular jihad against expressions of faith” and said, “We are not going away. We will not be intimidated.”
Blackwell tells pastors to ignore complaint(subscription req)
[I]n a statement issued by Parsley’s spokesman, Mark Youngkin, World Harvest said the “left-leaning clergymen” have no case — although they do seem to have “a political agenda.”
Laws of man, God obeyed, World Harvest Church says(subscription req)
Blackwell and Johnson made their remarks at an event at the Hartville Kitchen. It is the fourth of 10 planned meetings across the state by the Ohio Restoration Project to enlist “Patriot Pastors” and register voters who share its values, particularly its opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Johnson claimed: that “every statewide officeholder who supported” the ballot issue to ban same-sex marriage was invited to yesterday’s meeting. But, in the Dispatch article today, it noted that Blackwell was the only governor candidate invited. Betty Montgomery, another candidate, who supported the gay marriage ban, wasn’t invited.
Johnson said she wasn’t invited because she is “pro-abortion.”
And there you have proof that Rev. Johnson and Rev. Parsley are using their group to endorse one candidate and that my friends is a violation of the tax exempt status they enjoy for their churches.
I have no problem with churches encouraging their members to vote or to support an issue, like a ban on gay marriage (even though I wouldn’t agree on their position), but one thing a church can’t do is endorse candidates.
I have been involved with a tax exempt group for more than 10 years, the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, and we have had candidate forums at our meetings in recent years. One thing we must do is invite all candidates to speak. The rules don’t require all those invited have to show up – and most haven’t shown up – just that we don’t only invite candidates that share our point of view or particular point of view. That is what Johnson and Parsley have done with their meetings.
Johnson and others have suggested their actions aren’t any different than what African-American churches have done for the Democrats for decades. African-American churches have had Democrats and Republicans speak on occasions and those churches work hard on issues of importance to the African-American community, like poverty and hunger, but they have never made it a practice to tell a member who to vote for as religious conservatives have done in recent years.
Blackwell said other clergy members have backed Democratic candidates, pointing to a February 2004 photograph in yesterday’s Dispatch showing John Edwards — then a North Carolina senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination — being blessed by two bishops during an appearance at First Church of God on Refugee Road.
But Timothy J. Clarke, senior pastor at the church, said yesterday that any candidate who asks to appear at the church may do so — but that no candidates are specifically invited or endorsed from the pulpit.
Clarke said he will pray for candidates, as seen in the photo, and that he will endorse issues. But he never uses the church to back specific candidates, he said.
“Whenever candidates of any party worship with us, my statement always is, we do not endorse candidates from this church,” Clarke said. “I encourage my members to vote; I do not tell them how to vote.”
In many cases African-American churches have a tradition of political activism because the church was really the only place African-Americans had for building their community due to segregation laws on the books for decades and outright racism in traditional main stream political structures. As long as they don’t tell members who to vote for I don’t see an issue with it.