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Ronnie Floyd, on Fox News, discusses pulpits and politics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Ronnie Floyd told a nationwide audience on Fox News Channel he is using his pulpit to encourage people to “vote God, His ways, His will, His Word,” not to endorse one presidential candidate over another.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service in July saying Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., is forfeiting his church’s tax-exempt status by engaging in partisan politics.

Floyd appeared in the Tyranny of the Minority segment on “Heartland with John Kasich” July 31 opposite Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

Kasich introduced the segment with a video clip of Floyd speaking to his congregation with a picture of President Bush appearing behind him.

“In the upcoming presidential election of 2004, the United States stands at a crossroads. Since the founding of our republic, Christians have been active in American government, shaping our Constitution and federal institutions and opposing moral wrong,” Floyd said on the tape.

But Lynn said the clip did not show the whole story. According to Lynn, Floyd went on to say one candidate — with a large picture of Bush — believes America is fighting a war against terrorism, while the other candidate — with a small picture of Democratic nominee John Kerry — doesn’t think the country is in a war.

“He went on and on and on. He also disparaged Kerry’s religion and supported the strong God sentiments of President George W. Bush,” Lynn said on Fox. “Frankly, if you looked at this whole tape, unless you were a recent immigrant from the planet Mars, you would know exactly what the pastor wanted you to do, and that is to vote for George W. Bush’s reelection in November. There’s no question about it.

“The tax laws are also unequivocal. Nonprofit groups, including churches, cannot endorse or oppose candidates for public office. I think this is really an open and shut case,” Lynn added.

When Kasich asked Floyd if he is using his pulpit to reelect Bush, Floyd said “absolutely not.”

“I’m using my pulpit to share the Word of God, I’m using my pulpit to inform people about the issues, and I’m using my pulpit for the purpose of encouraging people to register to vote, as well as when they vote to go and vote God,” Floyd said. “Vote God, His ways, His will, His Word.”

Floyd then explained that the video clip was part of a summer freedom celebration at his church, and his comments were interspersed with a musical presentation. When the president’s picture was so large, he said, the war on terror was being discussed.

“We were trying to lift up what was happening in our nation. We were applauding the troops. I mean what would Barry Lynn want us to do? Use our pulpit to denounce what the troops are doing in Iraq?” Floyd said.

Lynn disagreed with that assessment and said he has watched the video several times only to see Floyd repeatedly tell why Bush is good and Kerry is bad.

“Now he says he didn’t use the word Bush but he did talk about George Bush favorably six times. If a picture is worth a thousand words as they say, he gave about 10,000 words for George Bush,” Lynn said.

Kasich then asked Lynn whether Americans United has filed charges against churches that have liberal pastors, and Lynn mentioned the case of a prominent African Methodist Episcopal church in Boston. Last April, Lynn said, the pastor went up to his pulpit with Kerry in the audience and said, “Let’s bring him on, the next president of the United States, John Kerry.”

“Well, that was completely inappropriate too,” Lynn said. “It may not have taken as much time and space as Pastor Floyd’s endorsement, but we did file a complaint. And in fact, as I look back over the last 50 complaints that we’ve filed, in about 40 percent of the cases they are directed at churches or religious institutions that supported Democrats. We do this on a nonpartisan basis because we do think the integrity of the pulpit is important and the integrity of our political process is important.”

Lynn did not comment on the recent endorsement of the Kerry-Edwards ticket by the pastor of St. Mark AME Church in Orlando, where Sen. John Edwards spoke in the pulpit July 18.

Kasich lastly questioned Floyd to clarify the difference between preaching politics and preaching the Bible.

“Well, first of all, when we preach the Bible as the authoritative, infallible, inerrant Word of God, that is basically a worldview that is not always shared by some people in America,” Floyd said. “It also is a time when we’re able to share what God’s Word says about various matters in life like abortion, like homosexuality. I mean, the bottom line Mr. Lynn is not talking about today and one of the reasons he is so not excited about my message is because I talked against same-sex marriage and because I just released a brand new book called ‘The Gay Agenda.'”

Americans United filed a similar complaint against Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., after he wrote in a July e-mail newsletter that for “conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the reelection of George W. Bush.”

Falwell’s weekly e-letter, Confidential, is owned and sponsored by the Liberty Alliance, a not-for-profit educational and lobbying organization recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(4) corporation. His website, www.falwell.com, also is sponsored by the Liberty Alliance.

Thomas Road Baptist Church, Jerry Falwell Ministries and Liberty University are not affiliated with the Liberty Alliance.
For information about balancing the pulpit and politics, visit www.iVoteValues.com. To view Ronnie Floyd’s comments in the July 4 freedom celebration service, click on the following link: http://rs.eonstreams.com:8080/ramgen/fbcs/T227.rm

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  • Erin Curry