Thursday, September 06, 2007

TOPIC: A Christian Statesman Has Gone Home
Rev. D. James Kennedy, Broadcaster, Dies at 76
[For some reason, Ms. Banerjee has a problem calling Dr. Kennedy by his proper title. Yet, she entitles Barry Lynn "reverend" as though it means something. ???]

The Rev. D. James Kennedy, a Christian broadcaster and the pastor of a Florida megachurch who played a critical role in the rise of conservative Christianity, died yesterday at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 76. The cause was not immediately known, said Kristin Cole, a church spokeswoman, but Mr. Kennedy suffered permanent damage from heart arrhythmia last December and had been undergoing rehabilitative therapy since then.
From the founding of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale 48 years ago, Mr. Kennedy became an indefatigable and persuasive voice urging Christians to take on a broader culture that, in his view, had begun to decay.
He argued that the decline was due to society’s increasing secularization and hostility to Christianity, said Frank Wright, a friend and the chief executive of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. Though not as well known to the broader public as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell or the Rev. Pat Robertson, Mr. Kennedy provided much of the theology that attracted millions of Christians into the camp of the religious right, said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “He was absolutely relentless in his criticism of everything on the left,” Mr. Lynn said. “He was a formidable creator of an opposition to what people like I believe.

Mr. Kennedy stayed largely in the background as men like Mr. Falwell, Mr. Robertson and James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family spoke to Americans about the need to curtail abortion rights, gay rights and the teaching of evolution. But over the last decade, he, too, grew more openly active, creating the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, which held conferences that taught people to how to get involved in the political process. The center closed in April.

Mr. Kennedy opened the Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington to equip evangelicals on Capitol Hill to be more effective in government. He was also instrumental in establishing the Alliance Defense Fund, an increasingly active Christian counterweight to secular civil liberties groups.
For decades, Dr. Kennedy has been a passionate defender of biblical truth in a culture that increasingly forgot it,” Dr. Dobson said in a statement. “He was a giant in the battle to restore traditional values in our nation.
Kennedy accepted Jesus after the message of a radio preacher woke him one Sunday morning. In Mr. Kennedy’s often-repeated account, which appears on his Web site, the preacher asked: “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God, and he were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into my heaven?’— what would you say?

In 1967, he started an “evangelism clinic” called Evangelism Explosion, which taught Christians how to spread the Gospel. Mr. Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, which includes radio and television, says it now has an audience of 3.5 million people, according to the group’s Web site. “Coral Ridge Hour,” a weekly sermon by Mr. Kennedy, is broadcast in more than 145 countries and on more than 600 stations.

Mr. Kennedy also founded a seminary and a school and wrote more than 65 books. Mr. Kennedy worked with other evangelicals to articulate the core beliefs of what would become the religious right. Mr. Kennedy spoke sharply against gay rights and abortion rights. But he thought the greatest threat to society was the fact that public education had left prayer out of the classroom and continued to teach evolution, Mr. Wright said. “When people feel that they are the product of some accident and not the intended creation of God, they are filled with a sense of hopelessness and there is an almost pagan barbarianism in the way some people would act,” Mr. Wright said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Obama, UCC Draw IRS Complaint
By Jeffrey Lord
Published 9/7/2007 12:08:08 AM

A June 23 appearance by Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama at the General Synod of the United Church of Christ is now the subject of a formal complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service on August 2.

Portions of the redacted documents obtained by the website UCC Truths, a growing online gathering for dissenters from the church leadership's rigid left-wing political orthodoxy, were published August 27. Those redacted documents have now been obtained by The American Spectator.

The complaint, addressed to Lois Lerner, the Director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service, formally asks the IRS to "investigate the United Church of Christ," identified in the complaint as "a 501 (3) (c) non-profit religious entity" for violating "federal tax law banning political campaign intervention." The redaction has blacked out the name of the filer.

The complaint alleges the UCC "violated every single point outlined in the IRS guidelines," in sponsoring the Illinois Senator's appearance at the church's bi-annual national gathering, which this year was held in the Hartford Civic Center in the Connecticut capital. It charges:

* "The United Church of Christ selectively provided the convention facilities for Sen. Obama to speak in support of his campaign."

* "The United Church of Christ and Sen. Obama referenced his candidacy before and during the speech."

* "Clear and deliberate campaign activity occurred in connection with the [sic] Sen. Obama's attendance and speech."

Specifically the complaint references guidelines that an individual addressing the church does so "only in a non-candidate capacity," that the individual makes no "mention of his or her candidacy or the election," and that "no campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate's attendance." The complaint also cites a guideline that prohibits a church from mentioning an individual's political candidacy or the upcoming election in "the communications announcing the candidate's attendance at the event." Both a video and a transcript of Obama's speech are available on the UCC website and apparently will be present throughout the election.

The complaint is replete with citations and links directly to both the IRS guidelines themselves as well as the transcript of Obama's speech as presented on the UCC website. Also linked are communications from the UCC in the run-up to the event that focus on Obama's role not as a Senator but in his capacity as a presidential candidate.

Included with the complaint are photographs of tables set up by campaign volunteers for Obama at the entrance to the Civic Center. The tables are decorated with Obama campaign signs and literature. To further back up the charge of an IRS violation, the complaint links to stories covering the General Synod that were aired by New Haven's news channel WTNH-TV and written in Christian Century magazine. The news stories described Obama's UCC-sponsored appearance as a "political convention" and "political rally."

Now, as the comedienne Joan Rivers liked to say, "Can we talk???" This exact possibility was bearing down on both Obama and the church hierarchy with all the subtlety of a B-52 over Baghdad from the moment Obama announced his presidential candidacy. A UCC member, the Senator had already accepted the church's invitation to speak, according to the church leadership, well before he changed his mind and entered the race for the White House. At that moment Obama and the UCC had two viable options: cancel Obama's appearance entirely, or have him appear but talk about something other than his presidential campaign. Effectively thumbing their noses at the IRS, neither option was taken.

AT THE TIME OF THIS INCIDENT I predicted in this space that Obama's in-your-face decision would doubtless run the risk of just this sort of complaint being filed. As a (politically dissenting) member of the UCC myself, it seemed obvious that drawing the attention of the IRS through a filed complaint would be the inevitable result of mixing a rookie candidate with an arrogant church leadership determined to shut out all dissent. Now, rank-and-file members must endure the public relations black eye of an IRS investigation -- and the legal costs to fight it -- along with the accompanying threat of the denomination losing its tax-exempt status.

The irony is that IRS complaints of this nature have been lovingly crafted into a science by left-wing activist -- and UCC minister -- Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Lynn, quite famously, has made much of his tangles with conservative Christians, filing numerous IRS complaints designed to effectively shut down conservative religious activists such as the late Jerry Falwell. The goal, and a very serious goal it is, is to remove the tax-exempt status that the IRS gives to churches.

With the news of the filing of this complaint, both Lynn's previous actions and his language are turning around to take a bite out of both Obama and the UCC, Lynn's own denomination. "Falwell is thumbing his nose at the IRS," Lynn said in September of 2004 as the Bush-Kerry race was heating up. Falwell, Lynn said, "must not be permitted to use a tax-exempt ministry to engage in partisan politics. The vast majority of America's institutions play by the rules. He should too." When charges arose that this time it was the liberal UCC and Obama which ran the risk of an IRS complaint, Lynn dismissed the possibility

Strikingly, the language in a Lynn complaint to the IRS against Falwell is close to that in the complaint filed against the UCC.

Lynn complaint language: "I believe this is intervention in a political campaign on behalf of a candidate in clear violation of federal tax law. I urge you to take appropriate action to correct this abuse of law."

UCC complaint language: "The evidence that the United Church of Christ violated IRS guidelines is clear and plain....I urge you to take action promptly to address this issue."

IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING OBAMA'S appearance, Lynn was quick to issue a pass for his own church, saying neither Obama nor the UCC had "run afoul of federal tax law." Obviously, the filing of an official complaint signals there is a different opinion about the issue, and unfortunately for UCC members it is their offering dollars that must now be used to fight the complaint. To make matters more interesting, Lynn has issued a public defense of the liberal Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, who drew attention when he publicly endorsed Obama. Robinson, Lynn stressed of the Bishop who ignited controversy by becoming the first openly gay bishop in that denomination's history, was doing so as an individual. He approvingly quotes Robinson as saying: "I will not be speaking about the campaign from the pulpit or at any church function. That is completely inappropriate."

But allow Obama to speak "at any church function" and "from the pulpit" is precisely what UCC President John Thomas did. By refusing either to cancel Obama's appearance as a candidate at the General Synod ("any church function") or to insist that Obama refrain from discussing his campaign, Thomas did what Lynn praises Robinson for not doing. As the complaint against the UCC also specifically says, the UCC-owned website, clearly an Internet pulpit that is every bit as much church property as a physical pulpit, deliberately headlined a story from the Religion News Service trumpeting Obama's speech to the UCC as Obama's "first major address on faith and politics as presidential candidate." There too, Lynn praised Robinson for not doing exactly this kind of thing.

As Lynn is the first to say, the results of this kind of complaint can indeed be serious. Lynn's website cites his seemingly endless chase after Falwell as proof. After much televised back and forth with Falwell over whether the IRS had indeed punished the conservative religious leader and his church for their political activity, Lynn came across a May 1993 issue of a publication called the Exempt Organization Tax Review. In it he found this statement by Jerry Falwell: "The Old Time Gospel announced that the IRS has revoked its tax exempt status for 1986 and 1987 for improper political activities....As a condition of reinstatement of Federal tax-exempt status, OTGH said it agreed to pay $50,000 in tax for two years and to change its organizational structure to ensure that no future political campaign intervention activities will occur." In an August, 2004 joint appearance on Fox News Live, with Lynn waving the report on air, Falwell angrily put his experience this way: "We went through four and a half years of audits and our attorneys and the IRS attorneys agreed that they would settle if we would pay $50,000 in taxes rather than a million dollars continuing legal fees."

Predictably, a search of the UCC website for "IRS" reveals nothing about the IRS being asked to investigate the UCC. (Nor has Obama's website commented on his role in bringing the attention of the IRS to his own denomination.) No wonder. What the search for "IRS" on the UCC site does retrieve is a March 2006 speech by UCC President Thomas complaining of the kind of tactics used by Barry Lynn. But surprise, surprise, the UCC's Reverend Lynn is not even mentioned. No, the filing of an IRS complaint is not about shutting down conservatives, it is the other way around. And who is to blame for these kind of tactics? According to Thomas -- are you ready? -- filing IRS complaints against liberal churches "reeks of Karl Rove."

Sure. And Sponge Bob is gay.

THIS IS ONE UCC MEMBER who believes that churches should be able to invite anybody they wish to address their members. Candidate or not. (And opening up UCC forums to the apparently terrifying idea of intellectual and political diversity by inviting non-liberals would surely help a denominational leadership seemingly determined to drive the church into oblivion.) But in considerable measure because of the activities of one of the UCC's own ministers, we are where we are.

"Complaints to the IRS are not lodged on a whim," the UCC's Rev. Karl Rove -- uh -- Barry Lynn - sniffed when dismissing the importance of Obama's UCC appearance.

Just so.

Jeffrey Lord is the creator, co-founder and CEO of QubeTV. A former Reagan White House political director and an author, he writes from Pennsylvania.