Ohio Clergy Challenge
In the News
Clergy cite key role of religion in politics
By Marilyn H. Karfeld, Cleveland Jewish News, October 27, 2006
Karfeld reports that since a group of Ohio clergy complained earlier this year to the IRS about Parsley and Johnson using their churches for partisan political purposes, the two "patriot pastors" have not been seen publicly together. She reports: "According to [Rev. Tim] Ahrens [a leader of the liberal clergy organization "We Believe Ohio"], Blackwell and Parsley have not been seen together in public since the complaint was filed. 'Money has dried up,' Ahrens added. 'We Believe rattled them. They thought they were the only ones allowed to speak (in the public square.) Now we're on the playground.'" Click here, please.
Pastors embrace opposing views, each other
By Jim DeBrosse, The Oxford Press (Oxford, Ohio), October 06, 2006
The rift between religious right and left ended with a surprising hug Sept. 26 after an hour of sometimes pointed exchanges between the Rev. Russell Johnson of the conservative Ohio Restoration Project and the Rev. Eric Williams of the more liberal We Believe Ohio.
The two Columbus-area pastors, tangled in a dispute over how far churches can delve into politics without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status, met for the first time at Sinclair Community College in an election forum on faith and politics.
The forum was the first of four elections forums being co-sponsored by "The Dayton Daily News" and Miami's radio station WMUB. Continue.
Religious right powerhouses mobilize for 2006 election
Focus on the Family and "patriot pastors" work to turn out Republican base
by Jane Hunter, JewsOnFirst, August 21, 2006
In October 2004, the week before the election, I was walking precincts, campaigning for John Kerry, in Columbus, Ohio. As I trudged up and down porch steps in the city's white working-class neighborhoods, I ran into many other Kerry campaigners. We introduced ourselves and laughed at the "overkill" of our efforts.
We remarked that we'd seen no Republican walkers and no Republican literature. None. And how strange that was. Then we trudged on, careful not to dislodge each other's literature from screen doors.
Later we learned that "patriot pastors" Rod Parsley, Russell Johnson and others, had been intensively using their pulpits to register and turn out voters... We could excuse ourselves for not anticipating the invisible Republican get-out-the-vote.
This time the religious right is doing its pro-Republican campaign work above the radar. Focus on the Family has launched a major effort to register and turn out voters. People For the American Way Foundation, the NAACP, and the African American Ministers Leadership Council have just released a joint report detailing the action plans of the "patriot pastors." So we can't say we didn't see it coming. Continue
Events in Southern Ohio
by Holly in Cincinnati, The Moderate Voice, September 29, 2006
This concise posting contains summaries, local reports, and links to several recent programs about church-state separation in southern Ohio: A debate between Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming and Phil Burress, a religious right leader in Ohio; a panel discussion featuring Rabbi James Rudin, author of The Baptizing of America; "a town hall meeting with "patriot pastor" Rev. Russell Johnson, chairman of the Ohio Restoration Project, and the Rev. Eric Williams, representing We Believe Ohio. Continue.
The IRS and Church Tax Exemptions
Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Public Broadcasting Service, August 18, 2006
KIM LAWTON, guest anchor: There's been a long-standing debate about the appropriate lines between religion and politicking. As Lucky Severson reports, it's a question that has pitted clergy against clergy in the key battleground state of Ohio.
LUCKY SEVERSON: This is Pastor Russell Johnson, a man with strong views on just about everything.
Reverend RUSSELL JOHNSON (Senior Pastor, Fairfield Christian Church, Lancaster, OH): From my standpoint, separation of church and state is in the Soviet constitution that the Bolsheviks wrote. Separation of church and state is not [written] a single time in the American Constitution.
SEVERSON: Over the past 20 years, Pastor Johnson has transformed the tiny Fairfield Christian congregation into a megachurch bigger than a Wal-Mart superstore in the cornfields outside Columbus, Ohio. Continue reading this transcript, or click here to watch the video report.
Liberals Criticize 'Patriot Pastors' Movement
By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service via BeliefNet, August 23, 2006
August 23 -- A "new generation of Religious Right" pastors is turning churches into Republican political machines, three left-leaning interest groups charged on Tuesday (Aug. 22).
The report, titled "The Patriot Pastors' Electoral War Against the `Hordes of Hell,"' was issued by the NAACP, the People for the American Way Foundation and a subsidiary group, the African American Ministers Leadership Council. Continue
Columbus clergy complaint about pastors alleges forbidden political activity, IRS partiality
It is important to encourage Christians, a Columbus rabbi tells JewsOnFirst
by JewsOnFirst.org, April 27, 2006
A group of Columbus, Ohio clergy has filed a second complaint with the Internal Revenue Service over partisan political activities of Columbus area pastors Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson. The two pastors are prominent leaders of the religious right, Parsley on the national stage. They have been widely credited with turning out the vote to help President George Bush eke out a narrow victory in Ohio in 2004.
The former director of the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt organizations, Marcus Owens, recently began representing the group of clergy. He told the Washington Post that he suspects favoritism by the agency. "You have flagrant intervention continuing and no indication of IRS activity."
Continue to our report, which includes our interview with Rabbi Harold Berman of Congregation Tifereth Israel, one of several rabbis who signed the complaint. Please click here
Complaints about pastors Parsley and Johnson submitted by Columbus, Ohio clergy to the IRS and related documents
Please be aware that these are all PDF documents.
Ohio Churches' Political Activities Challenged
Clergy Members Are Pressing the IRS to Investigate Whether Partisan Support Violated Tax-Exempt Status
By Peter Slevin, The Washington Post, April 25, 2006
In a challenge to the ethics of conservative Ohio religious leaders and the fairness of the Internal Revenue Service, a group of 56 clergy members contends that two churches have gone too far in supporting a Republican candidate for governor. Continue
Pair of pastors emerge in Ohio politics: Ministers are faces, voices of movement
With differing styles, evangelical Christian leaders can sway many in pews around state
In-depth proflies of pastors Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson portray the two as important religious right leaders:
To many Ohioans, Parsley and Johnson are just two more names leading two more movements on the political front. But they cannot be dismissed as mere preachers with lofty ambitions who momentarily have captured the media spotlight. For this year, they have emerged as the face and voice of a deep-rooted conservatism in Ohio that is fervent, politically active and spreading.
Parsley leads Reformation Ohio, and Johnson heads the Ohio Restoration Project -- both calling for Christian witness, service and political activism. Their real power, though, lies in their ability to influence thousands of Christians through member churches who care deeply enough to take their beliefs into the voting booth.
Group Calls I.R.S. Unfair on Political Violations of Tax Code
By Stephanie Strom, New York Times, April 7, 2006
A group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code. Continue
Pastor defends sending pro-Blackwell e-mail
By Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch, April 19, 2006
Rev. Russell Johnson said he complied with Internal Revenue Service rules since he only sent an email from the Blackwell electoral campaign to "friends" -- not his church or his nonprofit Ohio Restoration Project. But critics countered that it was nontheless partisan. Continue
Ministers file new allegations against churches
The Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), April 6, 2006
Some of the allegations in a second IRS complaint announced Thursday by a group of religious leaders who say two conservative churches are improperly promoting the gubernatorial candidacy of Republican Kenneth Blackwell:
The Ohio Restoration Project, a public issues group founded by Pastor Russell Johnson of Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster, invited only Blackwell to attend a "Patriot Pastors" rally in Hartville on Jan. 18.
The ORP hosted a "Pastors and Christian Leaders Dinner" March 2 and a rally March 9, both featuring Blackwell as speaker.
Pastor Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church in suburban Columbus plans to feature Blackwell in "Ohio for Jesus" radio spots as part of Reformation Ohio, a group formed to register voters, help the poor and recruit Christians. Parsley claims the ads are sponsored by Johnson's group.
Johnson has said Blackwell has been featured at events because of his support for key issues like opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.
Parsley has escorted and endorsed Blackwell at political campaign events throughout Ohio. Parsley denies that he has done so.
Church criticizes IRS complaint as harassment
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, The Beacon-Journal (Akron, Ohio), April 7, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A complaint alleging improper political activity by conservative churches on behalf of Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is "a campaign of harassment" and full of errors, one of the churches said. Continue
Gay marriage debate began frequent meetings by Blackwell, pastors
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, The Beacon-Journal (Akron, Ohio), April 5, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's 2004 gay marriage debate was the impetus for the frequent contact between Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a candidate for governor, and two conservative pastors whose activities on his behalf sparked an IRS complaint, newly obtained records show. Continue
Blackwell met with pastors more often than IRS says
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 12, 2006
"Columbus -- Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has met with two conservative pastors more often than alleged in an IRS complaint accusing the pastors of improperly supporting his campaign for governor, according to a review of documents by the Associated Press.
"While the complaint looked at nine publicly reported events sponsored by the pastors, a review of Blackwell's daily schedule found 18 other meetings or other contact with the pastors, including flights on a church-owned plane, meetings in Blackwell's office and attendance at church services. Click here
Pastors May Face IRS over Political Squabble
Paul Strand, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN.org), February 6, 2006
Answering a complaint to the IRS by 31 Columbus, Ohio ministers that they improperly used their tax-exempt organizations for partisan (Republican) political purposes, Rev. Rod Parsley and Rev. Russell Johnson denied breaking laws. "But Parsley and Johnson warn that this is about so much more than just their churches -- that if the IRS investigates and punishes them, it could potentially have a chilling effect on every pastor in America." Click here to read more.
Church leaders come forward to defend call for IRS audit
By Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch, January 26, 2006
"Religious leaders who accused two evangelical pastors of illegally playing politics came forward yesterday and reaffirmed their decision to challenge the tax-exempt status of the pastors' churches." Click here to read the report.
Pastor says allegations over political activity baseless
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Akron Beacon Journal, January 20, 2006
Pastor Rod Parsley said the complaint filed against his operations with the IRS by Ohio religious leaders was part of a liberal political agenda. Click here to read the report.
Blackwell tells pastors to ignore complaint
Group doesn't invite other gubernatorial candidates to meeting
By Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch, January 18, 2006
"HARTVILLE, Ohio - Republican gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell told conservative religious leaders yesterday not to be deterred from political participation by a federal complaint filed by 31 Columbus-area pastors.
"'You tell those 31 bullies that you aren't about to be whupped,' said Blackwell, the secretary of state, who said that 'political and social and cultural forces are trying to run God out of the public square.'" Click here to read the report.
Group Seeks I.R.S. Inquiry Into 2 Ohio Churches Accused of Improper Campaigning
By Stephanie Strom, The New York Times, January 16, 2006
"A group of religious leaders has sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation of two large churches in Ohio that they say are improperly campaigning on behalf of a conservative Republican running for governor.
"In their complaint, the clergy members contend that the two Columbus-area churches, Fairfield Christian Church and the World Harvest Church, which were widely credited with getting out the Ohio vote for President Bush in 2004, have allowed their facilities to be used by Republican organizations, promoted the candidate, J. Kenneth Blackwell, among their members and otherwise violated prohibitions on political activity by tax-exempt groups." Click here to read the report.
Pastors bring Blackwell to Hartville
10-city Ohio tour stops in Stark to spread faith message with help from GOP gubernatorial hopeful
By Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard, Akron Beacon Journal, January 18, 2006
"Against a large U.S.-flag backdrop and flanked by large projection screens, Ohio Restoration Project founder Russell Johnson brought his 10-city Patriot Pastors tour to the Akron-Canton area Tuesday...Johnson warned that Christians have allowed a ``secular jihad'' to remove prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Bible from public places." Click here to read the report.
Minister at center of politics debate calls clergy group 'unholy alliance'
By Mark Naymik, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 18, 2006
Russell Johnson, the evangelical minister who, along with Pastor Rod Parsley, has been charged with using his religious organizations' tax-exempt status to promote Republican causes, called his critics, a group of moderate clergy , an "unholy alliance" running a "secular jihad" against expressions of faith. Click here to read the report.
I.R.S. Finds Sharp Increase in Illegal Political Activity
By Stephanie Strom, The New York Times, February 25, 2006
"The I.R.S. said yesterday that it saw a sharp increase in prohibited political activity by charities and churches in the last election cycle, a trend that it aims to reverse as the country heads into the midterm elections.
"The tax agency found problems at three-quarters of the 82 organizations it examined after having received complaints about their political activities, according to a report the Internal Revenue Service released. The infractions included distributing materials that encouraged people to vote for particular candidates and giving cash to campaigns....
"Last month, a group of religious leaders representing Christian and Jewish denominations filed a complaint against two large politically active churches in Ohio, Fairfield Christian Church and World Harvest Church, and their leaders, the Revs. Russell Johnson and Rod Parsley.
"The churches, which deny wrongdoing, said the I.R.S. had not contacted them since then." Click here to read the report.
Is IRS Investigation Intended to Protect -- or Prohibit -- Churches from Politics?
Allie Martin and Jody Brown, Agape Press, February 28, 2006
"Steve Crampton, chief counsel with the American Family Association (AFA) Center for Law & Policy, sees the IRS proclamation [about its investigation of non-profits] as an important milestone for groups such as AFA. 'I'd say they have essentially thrown down the gauntlet and have now challenged, openly, those of us who dare to speak to matters of politics to either put up or shut up, as it were,' the attorney says. 'So it's kind of a crossroads moment for many of us,' Crampton adds, 'And frankly, I'm a little surprised that the IRS has taken the tack that it has.' The lawyer explains that the guidelines governing such activity of non-profits can be confusing." Click here to read more.
Bullying the Pulpits
The IRS threatens church leaders who talk about politics.
By Brendan Miniter, Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2006
"Earlier this year, 31 Ohio pastors called down the most powerful force they could find against two of their fellow church leaders in Columbus. No, it wasn't God--but close.
"In a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the pastors alleged that the Rev. Russell Johnson and the Rev. Rod Parsley crossed the line into advocacy over the past year by preaching on political topics, initiating a voter registration drive and associating with Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Republican who is now running for governor. Continue..
Group Seeks I.R.S. Inquiry of Two Ohio Churches
By Stephanie Strom, New York Times, January 16, 2006
Moderate religious leaders in Ohio have filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation of two large churches in the Columbus area, Fairfield Christian Church and the World Harvest Church. The complaint alleges that the churches, credited with securing the 2004 Ohio vote for President Bush, have been misusing their tax-exempt status by promoting Republican gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell. Click here for the report.
Please keep politics out of the pulpit
Response to Rev. Rod Parsley
Phyllis Orcutt, The Columbus Dispatch, January 26, 2006
"I am always amused to be informed that all Republicans are Christians and morally upright, while all Democrats are liberal, left-wing heathens. The recent local and Washington scandals certainly don't show that." Click here to read the commentary.
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