Pastors: Pro-homosexual watchdog tries to intimidate Missouri churches
August 3, 2004
KANSAS CITY – More than 100 volunteers for the Kansas City-based Mainstream Coalition are “monitoring” sermons and political activities of pastors and churches in Missouri and Kansas to make sure they do not violate Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules governing the political activity of churches.
However, a visit to the organization’s website shows that the Mainstream Coalition is partisan with links to the Democratic Party and a plethora of pro-homosexual sites. Coalition activity has raised concerns among area pastors and prompted at least one Christian organization, the Christian Seniors Association, to call for a federal investigation of the group. (See related story below.)
The organization began visiting churches in recent weeks as conservative pastors – including some Southern Baptists in Kansas and Missouri – have been speaking on the importance of amending the U.S. Constitution and Missouri Constitution to define marriage as being strictly between a man and a woman.
While Mainstream claims it only wants to help pastors and churches follow IRS guidelines, some clergy see the coalition’s efforts as scare tactics (by threatening to report them to the IRS with the possibility of losing their tax-exempt status) to keep them from participating in the political process.
“Somebody is trying to act like Big Brother when there’s no need for Big Brother,” James Conard, assistant pastor, First Baptist Church, Shawnee, Kan, told the Associated Press. “It’s obviously an attempt to intimidate.”
Charles Haynes, a senior scholar with the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., told AP that Mainstream’s tactics have only raised tensions.
“If we want to escalate a cultural war, this is a good way to do it,” he said.
Caroline McKnight, Mainstream’s executive director, said the group has not filed any complaints and that the organization was reacting to pastors being public and “brazen,” about political activity.
But Jerry Johnston, pastor of the 3,000-member First Family Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Overland Park, told mensnewsdaily.com that McKnight’s apparent lack of concern about the ramifications of her group’s activities was revealing.
“It shows you how out of step and out of touch the Coalition is,” Johnston said, “with issues that mean a great deal to people of faith and the majority of Americans. When you start redefining marriage … you’re out of touch.
“The growing churches in Johnson County are evangelical and Bible believing,” Johnston said. “Everyone associated with the Mainstream Coalition is on the left side of the political spectrum. There is nothing mainstream about the Mainstream Coalition. (This activity) was so Orwellian and Nazi-esque.”
McKnight defended her organization’s actions.
“Rev. Johnston is an uncommon man of God … . Whatever we did was not a huge deal in conjunction to what Johnston did,” she said, referring to meetings Johnston had organized with a large number of area clergy. The meetings stressed the scriptural basis for Christian involvement in the political process.
In addition, McKnight contends that when the Kansas legislature defeated a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage,” Johnston began distributing a voters’ guide containing background information on incumbent state legislators.
Johnston’s guide does not endorse candidates. It only provides candidates’ voting record on issues of importance to Christians.
McKnight said that Johnston’s current version of the voters guide has been modified and she is appreciative, but “the original version was questionable.”
However, Johnston said few changes have been made.
“It has been amended in that it now includes the Missouri representatives but no verbiage has been doctored or sanitized,” he said. “And after the defeat of the Federal Marriage Amendment we added the voting record of the U.S. Senate on (that issue).”
McKnight noted that the IRS does not have the resources to monitor churches’ activities and that Mainstream volunteers visit churches of all denominations.
But the Coalition has not visited New North Side Baptist Church in St. Louis or Rhema Word Breakthrough International Ministries in Cape Girardeau.
While campaigning in St. Louis in March, Sen. and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry of Massachusetts spoke at New North Side, criticized President Bush and quoted James 2:14, “‘What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds.’ When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?” Kerry asked the African American congregation at New North Side Baptist Church. Even though Kerry did not mention Bush directly, a Bush campaign spokesman called Kerry’s comments “beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack.”
Then on July 25 three Democratic candidates presented their views to more than 50 members of the Rhema Word congregation. Addressing attendees were public administrator candidate Deborah McBride, District 2 candidate for Cape Girardeau County commissioner Jim Bowers and Dean Henderson, an 8th District candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Henderson told the crowd he wants to approve tax cuts for low-income households and tax increases for the wealthy, pull U.S. troops out of Iraq and work toward federally funded health care and education for everybody. Henderson, of Peace Valley, will faced Wright County dairy farmer Jerry Cass in the Democratic primary.
Anthony G. Green, senior pastor and founder of the church told the Southeast Missourian that the three Democrats were invited in order to encourage people to vote. He said Republicans may be invited in the future. Mixing politics with church was not an issue to most of the congregation members and candidates, the newspaper reported.