OH Restoration Project churches in IRS trouble?
dogemperor printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 11:51:44 AM EST
Two particular churches which have been linked to the Ohio Restoration Project--World Harvest Church in Columbus and Fairfield Christian Church (also in Columbus)--may be in serious tax trouble.

An alliance of thirty moderate churches has teamed together to file formal complaint against World Harvest Church and Fairfield Christian Church for electioneering violations.

As groups such as DefCon America are gathering documentation of illegal electioneering in churches, it's very encouraging to also see mainstream churches finally standing up to dominionists attempting to hijack Christianity.

Most of you are familiar with the Ohio Restoration Project (which has been the subject of several posts on Talk2Action, most notably "Let's Talk About Ohio...NOW!").  For those who aren't, I'll refer you to the excellent series of articles that Theocracy Watch has done on dominionism in the state, and on the Ohio Restoration Project in particular.

World Harvest Church is the de facto center of the "patriot pastor" movement; the church itself is a neopentecostal "nondenominational" church that, like several large independent neopentecostal churches (like Ted Haggard's New Life Church) does maintain friendly relations with the Assemblies of God despite not being an AoG church proper.  (I've so far been unable to find a listing for them in AoG directories, at any rate.  The exact relationship is hard to feel out, as it is only very rarely that even AoG megachurches list their affiliation, listing themselves as "nondenominational" as well--one usually has to do quite a bit of research to find the links to the Assemblies.)

World Harvest claims 12,000 members (though a scholarly discussion of megachurches lists the number of members closer to 3000; exaggeration of numbers is common in megachurches, especially those with multiple campuses), operates a considerable televangelism empire, has an church affinity Mastercard, and even offers "online bill" payment services where "donations" and tithes are automatically deducted from bank accounts of members.  The church also operates a dominionist group, the Center for Moral Clarity, which has as part of its purpose the spawning of "Ohio Restoration Movement" type groups throughout the United States.  Parsley has criticised other nations, most notably Sweden (which has investigated several pastors affiliated with US-based dominionist groups for violation of their hate-speech laws, which include protection for LGBT individuals explicitly).  Of note, Parsley also is explicitly a word-faith preacher (aka "name it and claim it") and promotes the idea of "seed faith offerings"--giving money to the church "till it hurts" in hopes God will multiply the blessing (in other words, yes, God is promoted very much as a divine Ponzi scheme) and has promoted faith healing despite the fact his son is autistic.  (As autistic kids are seen as being possessed by demons--and at least one documented case of "death by exorcism" exists specifically regarding an attempt at exorcising an autistic child by a pentecostal church--this is worrying.)

Even with its known partisan links, World Harvest Church was apparently a polling place during Ohio's last election.

Fairfield Christian Church is the lesser known of the two churches in question, but also has dominionist links.  The church actively promotes Athletes in Action (a group connected with Campus Crusade for Christ that has been involved in numerous cases of "stealth evangelism" via anti-drug assemblies at which attendance was mandatory, even deceiving school officials re the use of prosyletisation (one instance, ironically, was successfully stopped in Ohio; AiA is also linked to the USAFA religious coercion scandals and similar instances where coaches associated with AiA have pressured students to convert have been documented elsewhere); the church's links site promotes Fellowship of Christian Athletes (a group linked to similar deceptive recruiting and coercion as AiA) as well as Focus on the Family and several other groups that have promoted dominionism.

Fairfield Christian Church also claims it is "nondenominational"; however, at least historically it was associated with the Church of Christ (and probably was removed from it for being a megachurch, much like Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY); the church apparently has two separate campuses it operates from.

Reportedly, according to Max Blumenthal Fairfield Christian Church keeps regular correspondence with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council--the latter of which has maintained friendly relations with multiple racist groups including the Council of Conservative Citizens and David Duke (the former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK group friendliest to militia and neo-Nazi groups in the US).

Anyways...it seems that the non-dominionist Christian groups in Columbus have finally had all they can stand of the two dominionist churches and their electioneering.

In possibly the first case I've ever seen of this (and hopefully this will be a sign that more churches will wake up and take Christianity back), 30 pastors in the Columbus, OH area have filed complaint en masse with the IRS regarding World Harvest Church and Fairfield Christian Church:

More than 30 local pastors last night officially accused two evangelical megachurches of illegal political activities.

In a rare and potentially explosive action, the moderate ministers signed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate World Harvest Church of Columbus and Fairfield Christian Church of Lancaster and determine if their tax-exempt status should be revoked.

The grievance claims that the Rev. Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church and the Rev. Russell Johnson of Fairfield Christian Church improperly used their churches and affiliated entities -- the Center for Moral Clarity, Ohio Restoration Project and Reformation Ohio -- for partisan politics, including supporting the Republican gubernatorial candidacy of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

The complaint asks the IRS to seek a court injunction "if these churches' flagrant political campaign activities do not cease immediately." It was signed by 31 pastors from nine denominations during a meeting last night at the North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus and was to be faxed late last night to IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

"For me, it's church and state, not church in state and I really feel there are some churches in central Ohio crossing that line," said Eric Williams, senior pastor of the host church. "The law allows church involvement in issues. This goes beyond issue-involvement to partisan politics and we're simply asking the IRS to uphold the law."


According to the article,
The complaint makes three main allegations:

  • That church-sponsored events conducted by Parsley and Johnson have showcased a single gubernatorial candidate -- Blackwell.

  • That Parsley and Johnson have launched a "partisan-oriented" voter-registration campaign "with the goal of registering 400,000 voters to support Blackwell's candidacy."

  • That Parsley and Johnson have been behind efforts to distribute "biased voter education" materials aimed at solidifying voter support for Blackwell.

Needless to say, both World Harvest Church and Fairfield Christian are claiming they've done nothing wrong (World Harvest Church even claiming the groups it runs are "separate entitites").

Needless to say, this could put a world of hurt on both churches--especially since it's pastors of other churches filing the complaint:

John Green, a University of Akron authority on religion and politics, said the complaint is extraordinary because it was filed by pastors rather than watchdog groups that routinely monitor church and state issues.

"This complaint is detailed and complex enough that I think the IRS is going to say, `We better look into this,' " said Green, author of Religion and the Culture Wars.


Complaints and investigations of violations of tax-exempt status for electioneering violations have reportedly become more common.  Americans United and, more recently, DefCon America have led the front in pushing for investigations, but apparently up until the recent push for investigation of dominionist churches such complaints have been rare indeed:
Marcus Owens, a Washington, D.C., tax attorney and director of the IRS tax-exempt division from 1990 to 2000, said that IRS investigations of churches typically involve theft, but examinations of churches for playing politics are becoming more common.

Owens, who helped the clergy draft the IRS petition, said they had extensively documented the alleged political activities of Parsley and Johnson and their affiliated organizations.

"You have a number of churches and charities involved with a number of road trips for Mr. Blackwell, all of which seem to be aimed at gaining him visibility for his political campaign," Owens said.
. . .
Marci A. Hamilton, a professor of constitutional law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City and an expert on the separation of church and state, said she was surprised by the pastors' complaint.

"There are very few instances where anybody's ever been turned in on this," she said. "Even though the laws are on the books, it's rare that the law is enforced."

During the last 15 years or so, Hamilton added, churches have had "a tacit agreement" to look the other way and not criticize each other for political activities. But, she said, that appears to be changing as televangelists and conservative evangelical churches flex their muscles in the political arena.

"Those who have been in favor of separation of church and state have been pretty quiet, and it may be because they couldn't get hold of the microphone. The agenda has been set by the religious right for so long."

Owens, who is representing a pacifist California church being audited because its former pastor delivered an anti-war sermon, said the number of investigations has grown dramatically of late, particularly under the Bush presidency.

"I think historically there were about 20 audits a year, and the number now is up to 50 or 100," he recalled from his 25-year tenure at the IRS, including 10 as head of its tax-exempt arm.

Owens said the jump in the number of church investigations has occurred because, since 2004, audits no longer require high-level approval in the IRS, and can be initiated by revenue agents or their subordinates.

"It is like doing away with the grand jury and giving authority to the cop on the beat," he said. "On its face, it really smells and suggests that there is something very wrong with how the IRS selects cases for review."


According to the article, there are at least nine documented instances where Blackwell was promoted or held rallies at the two churches in question, or members of the churches were told to vote for Blackwell.  One example is particularly egregrious:
During an October gathering at the Ohio Statehouse orchestrated by Reformation Ohio and led by Parsley, the televangelist called upon supporters of his $38.5 milliona-year church and affiliated operations to sign up 400,000 voters statewide. Blackwell shared the dais with Parsley.

"Man your battle stations," Parsley commanded attendees, who had been bused Downtown from his World Harvest Church. "Ready your weapons. Lock and load. Let the reformation begin."


Mark Owens himself has some experience with electioneering law; he is presently defending a pacifist church in California (All Saint's Episcopal) that has been targeted by the IRS for speaking out against the war in Iraq.  Part of the reason he's filing the lawsuit is to determine (in rather dramatic fashion) if the IRS is showing partisan favouritism towards dominionist churches in complaints re electioneering.

Needless to say, this is going to heat things up considerably in regards to the Ohio elections controversy and the attempts by Ohio dominionists to hijack the government there.  The fact that moderate churches are now starting to actively fight back is extremely encouraging; if the thirty pastors are successful, more teamwork should be encouraged with moderate churches to stop those dominionist churches actively electioneering.  (In Louisville, for instance, a coalition of moderate churches banded together to counterprotest the first Justice Sunday event.)




Display:
This is good news and the Dispatch article you linked to does a fine job of reporting. I first got the news via the NY Times - and that is a breakthrough. The corporate media has been seemingly reluctant to cover these issues. To find the Times not only reporting but doing so in a fairly comprehensive manner was astounding. Getting information out on blogs and in local newspapers is important but it doesn't have the impact of attention by national media. The fact that this action comes from mainstream clergy gives it additional credibility.

While we're talking about Ohio, don't know if people here heard about the other "outing" of the the Religious Right. Paul Hackett, the Iraq vet that almost beat "Mean Jean" Shmidt in the last election in a very conservative area and is now running for the US Senate, took dead aim at our resident dominionists. And, more important, he didn't back down in the face of counter-attacks by the right.

by Psyche on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 03:41:15 PM EST


Regarding the statement, Needless to say, this could put a world of hurt on both churches--especially since it's pastors of other churches filing the complaint

I do not deny that it is true, though it is also upsetting.

It is an unmistakable sign of the worst form of bigotry that in this society, we can well imagine two people making an identical complaint, where one is an atheist and the other a pastor, and that the atheist making the complaint will be scorned and ridiculed, while the pastor will be taken seriously.

It would be nice to live in a society where the government and the people do not check a person's religious affiliation in deciding whether he is saying something worth listening to.
Alonzo Fyfe

The Atheist Ethicist
by Alonzo Fyfe on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 11:04:37 PM EST



WWW Talk To Action


Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here  and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (5 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (7 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (6 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (6 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (21 comments)
Religious Freedom is Not Just for Christian Conservatives
Religious freedom is one of the central issues of our time. Arguably, it a central issue in any time, and every time, at least......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (5 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (4 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (4 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (3 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (2 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (13 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (2 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.