Thursday, February 21, 2008

Death Wishes from a Church Minister

LA minister Wiley S. Drake has gotten himself in some pretty hot water. It seems that the Southern Baptist minister has been encouraging his congregation to pray for the deaths of members involved in the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Any no, this is not a gross exaggeration of his words. Why would a church minister do this you ask?

Well, it all started when he openly endorsed Mike Huckabee for president on church letterhead and then later reinforced his endorsement on a church radio program. The AU caught wind of this and reported him to the IRS.

So, why is this the IRS' problem? It's simple: churches are tax exempt and because of this it is strictly against the law for churches to participate in political campaigns in any way. Linda Beale on her blog A Taxing Matter put it perfectly:

"[The] use of tax-free financing by a church to intervene in an election through endorsements and other means of supporting political candidates violates [the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom by] using "tax expenditure" (foregone federal revenues) to support its religious intervention in politics. Other taxpayers, who may disagree strongly with the particular religious viewpoint of that religious organization, must pay more in taxes because of the exemption, yet the churches benefiting from the tax exemption are using the funds made available to them because of the exemption to act against those other taxpayers' religious interests."

Wiley claimed that he was merely expressing his personal views but I have to agree with Linda on this one. Personal views are not expressed on church letterhead and on church run radio shows. When you're in the public eye and hold a very influential position, you need to be aware of the things you say and endorse. Just as there needs to be a clear separation of church and state, there needs to be a clear separation of personal opinions and spiritual guidance. Additionally, he only digs his corrupt hole deeper by then praying for the deaths of his adversaries. If the man is willing to break God's law, then who's to say he'll be any different with the government's law?

If you'd like more information on this story, please visit Linda Beale's post. It's full of great links and further discussion.

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