On April 6th, fifty-three Ohio ministers filed a supplemental complaint with Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark W. Everson against the World Harvest Church of Canal Winchester, Ohio and the Fairfield Christian Church of Lancaster, Ohio. They allege the obvious, that “The churches have continued to organize and host political rallies featuring one, and only one, Ohio gubernatorial candidate — J. Kenneth Blackwell.”
Blackwell, as the chief elections officer in the state, has worked directly with Rev. Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church and Pastor Russell Johnson of the Fairfield Christian Church to destroy the separation of church and state. Parsley plans to do “Ohio for Jesus” radio spots for his Reformation Ohio project featuring Blackwell.
Rev. Parsley and Blackwell went on a bus tour together during the fall of 2004, to promote a state constitutional amendment against all forms of domestic partnership and gay marriage, which appeared on the ballot as Issue One. Blackwell, according to the tour’s information, would privately “minister” to voters prior to the rallies. He also ran the Issue One initiative out of his Secretary of State’s office. He was censured for that activity.
Blackwell doesn’t care whether he’s censured. He’s using the rabid rightwing evangelicals to ride into the Ohio gubernatorial mansion and is encouraging Pastor Johnson to whip up a reactionary frenzy among his so-called “Patriot Pastors.”
The tax exempt status of the churches is a privilege. There is no right to use taxpayer dollars in the form of tax exemptions, which are unpaid taxes, to promote one candidate and one candidate only. The pastors in the church have a right to free speech. They don’t have the right to exploit their church’s tax statuses for partisan political purposes. The fact that 53 mainstream pastors understand the importance of the separation of church and state is cause for great rejoicing.