Pro-homosexual, abortion group criticizes keynote speaker for MBC’s annual meeting
August 3, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY — A left-wing organization that supports homosexual marriage and abortion — while claiming to be a separation of church and state watchdog — has accused the keynote speaker for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at First Baptist Church, Raytown, Oct. 25-27, of being a partisan Republican whose lectures describing America’s Christian roots as a “shaky thesis.”
“For years, a self-proclaimed historian named David Barton has traveled the nation, offering fundamentalist Christian audiences a cut-and-paste version of American history that intends to prove that separation of church and state is a myth and that America’s founders intended for the United States to be a ‘Christian nation,’” states a July 21 press release from Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU).
Barton, a respected author and authority on America’s founding, is scheduled to speak at the MBC’s annual meeting on the morning of Oct. 27. Barton’s Texas-based group, Wallbuilders, distributes books detailing America’s Christian past, videos, DVDs and other materials. While some of Barton’s early work was questioned because it did not always rely on original sources, his more recent work like his book, Original Intent, is well-respected and full of original source material supporting his argument that America was founded largely by Christians who intended for the new nation to rely on a Judeo-Christian ethic as its moral compass.
Barton is routinely attacked by groups like AU which claim that a “wall of separation” exists between public policy and religion.
AU has been on a recent rampage against evangelical churches, claiming they are mixing politics and religion and thus breaking federal guidelines, a move it claims could put a church’s tax-exempt status in jeopardy with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS regulations prohibit churches from endorsing specific candidates or political parties, however, churches may address – and endorse support or opposition to – issues they deem relevant to the church. Churches may also conduct voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns and even host debates among candidates. Critics have charged AU with attempting to intimidate pastors from speaking out on moral issues and churches from getting involved in elections.
AU has had several clashes with Southern Baptists in recent years. In July 1998, Barry Lynn, AU’s executive director, sent a threatening letter to the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, because the pastor had urged the congregation to vote against city council members supporting the placement of two pro-homosexual books in the children’s section of the public library. The church refused to buckle and AU eventually backed away after an attorney for the Rutherford Institute came to the defense of the church.
More recently, AU has clashed with Jerry Falwell Ministries and the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark. (See story below.) AU has filed 50 complaints in the past decade urging the IRS to deny tax-exempt status to particular churches and ministries. Since 1980 the IRS has either revoked the tax-exempt status of a church or religious organization or levied taxes on such a group for engaging in “prohibited political activities” fewer than 10 times.
In July 1999 six Republican senators called for then Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate AU to determine if the organization had violated federal law by warning churches not to use voter guides, like those produced by the Christian Coalition. Reno declined to investigate and the matter subsided.
AU gained attention again in November 2002 when it was discovered to be among the sponsors of a homosexual film festival. The organization also distributed its material at the event which drew more than 30,000 homosexuals to Washington, D.C.
Lynn has proven to be a controversial figure. An ordained minister by the United Church of Christ (UCC), Lynn has often defended the pornography industry, homosexual marriage, and abortion. The UCC was the first denomination in America to ordain homosexuals into the Gospel ministry. Lynn has also fought against prayer in public schools and the displaying of the Ten Commandments in public venues.
More recently Lynn balked at the Southern Baptist Convention’s iVoteValues.com voter registration campaign.
“The Southern Baptist Convention has become the arm of the so-called religious right in this country,” Lynn said in a June 24 debate on National Public Radio with Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Parts of the (iVoteValues.com) website are under construction, but I am fearful that I will see that the values discussed on the homepage turn out to tie you directly to campaign party platforms soon; that will make it clear that real valued people are the people that vote for Republican candidates.”
Patterson said there is little difference between how conservative politicians are appealing to supporters today and how many Democratic politicians have rallied for their causes in African American churches over the years. For example, on July 25 Sen. John Kerry spoke at the First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio. Bishop Timothy Clarke, senior pastor to the 4,000-member church which is largely African-American, introduced Kerry, calling him “a hero among us.”
“We have our senator here today, but most of all Jesus is here today,” he said.
When asked about the incident, AU issued a statement saying that nothing inappropriate had occurred.