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Friday, June 11, 2010

Pastor Endorses Howie, Then Hides with Weasel Words

"Liar, liar, pants on fire," or just "Misstater, misstater, cowboy up and eat your taters"?

During the primary campaign, GOP gubernatorial candidate Gordon Howie waged one unsuccessful political stunt after another. One such fizzler was his call for pastors to endorse him from the pulpit. As far as I know, only one pastor in the entire state took that bait (and it wasn't even Howie's own pastor, who explicitly declined).

Constitutional prooftexter extraordinaire H. Wayne Williams of teetotalling Liberty Baptist Tabernacle in Rapid City ignored his church's own tenet about walking circumspectly in this world and endorsed Howie from the pulpit. But now that Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the IRS to investigate Pastor H.'s Howie stumping, Williams is wimping out:

Williams says the church is protected by the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and religion. The pastor says he told church members that Howie shared his principles, but he never told people to vote for Howie ["Group Urges IRS to Look at SD Church's Endorsement," AP via KELOLand.com, 2010.06.10].

Come on, H., I thought when you had the Constitution and Jesus on your side, you didn't need weasel words.

The Rapid City Journal makes clear that the good LBT preacher endorsed Howie from the pulpit:

On May 15, the Rev. H. Wayne Williams, pastor of Liberty Baptist Tabernacle in Rapid City, officially endorsed state Sen. Gordon Howie in his bid for governor during a church service [Mary Garrigan, "Pastors Divided over Howie's Pulpit Challenge," Rapid City Journal, 2010.05.24].

Howie's press release on Williams's endorsement says the same [emphasis mine]:

Reverend H. Wayne Williams, Pastor of Liberty Baptist Tabernacle in Rapid City, became one of the first to accept the challenge, adding an official endorsement of Gordon Howie for Governor to a message delivered during his Sunday night services.

...[said Reverend Williams] "I’m glad that this issue has been brought to the forefront of public conversation. It is high time that churches return to the role that they’ve occupied historically in guiding their flocks in making election decisions.”

...Howie believes Williams experience represents a reawakening of clerical responsibility in shaping voting choices from the pulpit.

...[Williams again] “I have no fear of the I.R.S.,” Williams said. “Why should the church be silent on the issue of who governs us when I get letters all the time from the government asking us for involvement and endorsement of government programs. Asking us to refrain from participating in determining who governs us is a clear double standard” ["South Dakota Pastors Speak Out in Support of Political Speech from the Pulpit: 'No Laws Broken'," Gordon Howie gubernatorial campaign press release, 2010.05.18].

We can settle the Constitutional questions if the IRS takes up the investigation. What rankles me this morning is Pastor H. Wayne Williams's mealymouthedness. If you're going to make a brave stand for the First Amendment and the Word of God, then, by God, make that stand. Don't play word games and tell us you didn't really tell people to vote for Gordon Howie when your own language says that's exactly what you were doing.


  1. In the liberal lexicon, prooftext means "to cite a text which proves liberals wrong and evidence that should therefore be ignored."

    I'd be curious to hear or see a transcript of what Pastor Williams said. It could be interpreted as an endorsement even for Pastor Williams to speak favorably of one candidate or negatively about another.

    One thing most anti-Christian liberals are too stupid to figure out here (and it's pretty funny) is that Barry Lynn's bunch of God-haters are doing Williams and many other good pastors a favor by complaining to the IRS. Two years ago, the Alliance Defense Fund began the "Pulpit Initiative" to force the issue of the unconstitutional 1954 tax code change by Senator Lyndon Johnson to the Supreme Court.

    When this goes to the Supreme Court, Johnson's self-serving tax code amendment will be overturned for the unconstitutional piece of rubbish it has been since 1954--and pastors will no longer be intimidated into silence.

    Knowing that the liberal agenda advances much more easily in the absence of moral light being shed on it,liberals are scared silly that Christians might actually stop cowering in the corner and start speaking the truth. And if pastors stopped living in fear of speaking the truth about immoral candidates openly...the horror!

    The IRS has known that pastors have been doing this for nearly two years (http://www.dakotavoice.com/?s=%22pulpit+initiative%22&submit=Go). In that time we've seen: silence. Perhaps the IRS believes it can get more mileage out of milking the ignorance of remaining pastors as to the unconstitutionality of the current tax code, than if they take the matter to the Supreme Court...and lose like mangy dogs.

    The pastors and Christians of this nation are on the way back to reclaiming the freedom and moral fiber that fueled this nation until we allowed liberals to trash it. Your days are numbered.

  2. I have made clear my views on this issue in general and even in relation to a Howie endorsement but I have this to add...

    I can understand how Pastor Williams' most recent quote seems weasel-like but I'll chime in to clarify that the Pulpit initiative is not to tell people who to vote for. It's is to lay out a Scriptural case on matters and set candidates alongside that standard. I wasn't there on the day Williams endorsed Howie so I can't say for sure but I can easily understand Williams' most recent comment. It many seem like splitting hairs to everyone else but saying you endorse someone and telling them who to vote for are not the same thing.

    Isn't all this kind of similar to Kelby K. at Sanford (non-profit) sending out a last minute letter to his staff in hope to rally support behind Knudson?

    For what it's worth, the only group in the state that I know of telling their people who they are voting for are the Hutterites. My ex-colony friends tell me the main leader decides and tells the rest who they are voting for. The pulpit initiative is NOT that.

    Last thought... desperate Barry Lynn (of American's United for the Separation of Church and State) doesn't so much care if the IRS investigates this, he knows they aren't touching these cases anymore, and they likely won't, and if they do they will quickly drop it. Barry Lynn wins simply by getting this in the news and having a whole city full of church-going people and pastors get into fear of the IRS - and this intimidation works to keep all the rest in silence on anything in the future. That's the game.

  3. Twice I called this the pulpit initiative and it's actually the pulpit freedom initiative.

  4. Non-denominational christian pastors operating independent businesses from the pulpit contrast priests or rabbis towing a corporate line.

    Way different.

  5. In my political work with Equality South Dakota, we have to constantly watch to make sure that we do not use our resources to endorse candidates.

    EqSD is a C4 - we can freely talk about issues and lobby legislators once they are in office, but if we endorse candidates we will be fined and have donations and property taxed. AND, our donors cannot write off their donations to us.

    Churches get a special pass -- they are totally free to talk issues AND they get the "double" tax deduction as their donors get the write off and those donations (and property) are not taxed either. They also do a lot of good work and are the core of many of our communities -- this is why they get special treatment under the tax laws and very careful treatment and consideration by law enforcement compared to non-church organizations. That's part of our American tradition and Constitution.

    Unfortunately, they also often get a gray area that allows them freely ignore laws they don't like (for example, ENDA will not apply to them, don't let them tell you differently).

    While my 501 c4 organization promotes moral concepts that I consider christian ones (fairness, acceptance, dignity) -- Bob and Steve's particular churches serve up additional "values" that I consider unchristian AND immoral: discrimination against LGBT people being of course the most abhorrent to me.

    Is this fair?

    It sure would be a better world when they decide that excluding and bearing false witness about my LGBT friends (and anyone else that doesn't agree with their view of the world) is not okay anymore.

    Tax deductions or not.

  6. Excellent discussion of the statistical successes of children of Lesbian parents:


  7. Equality South Dakota does some really great and important work here in our fine state, with some nice blogging too. Job well done - Keep it up! (And follow those tax-laws too, that's our responsibilty as citizens afterall)

  8. Corey,

    I think you are a bit to hard on Pastor Williams. The Rapid City article said that he endorsed them and you could make a case what he said is an endorsement. But even then, an endorsement isn't the same as "telling one how to vote" as a parent can tell a child how to brush his teeth.

    Members of a congregation are adults and they can choose to vote as their pastor advises them to do or refuse to do so. Whatever they do in the ballot box is between them and their conscience.


    You bring up some good points but you must remember one thing: Your organization is an entity (501 C4) which is an entity created by law and operating under the tax code for purposes of your donors getting a tax deduction for their donations.

    Churches are entities with special Constitional protections (the government can't regulate their creation or conduct under the first Amendment). It is not because they do good work as judged by you, me or anyone else. They are specifically protected even if they do no work at all.


    I think though you bring up the best point of all. Professors at taxpayer financed and tax-exempt colleges can say anything they want with regard to "educational freedom" (which is not specifically mentioned in the Constititution) yet Pastors can't exercise free speech from the pulpit (freedom of speech and religion is specifically mentioned in the Constitution). Doesn't make sense to me.

    Seriously, if a Pastor's words from the pulpit jeopardize tax exempt status, should't Bill Clinton speaking from a pulpit or Bush/Obama speaking at a graduation ceremony?

    Frankly, I think we need to worry more about infringements of free speech of all Americans rather than trying to stifle Pastor Williams. I'm sure glad nobody tried to censor Martin Luther King from the pulpit.

  9. Now back to CP's comment about the activities of Equality South Dakota. (CP, nothing I'm saying is intended to be a criticism or judgment of the rightness of your cause or conduct. Just using your group as an example.)

    It has two arms: One is a 501 C4 and the other is a PAC. The C4 doesn't endorse candidates but the PAC does. While legally each entity is following the letter of the law I'm sure. But, to the public, does anyone really think Equality South Dakota doesn't endorse candidates? Of course not. They just use the PAC to do it and the public makes no distinction because the endorsement is done on letterhead with the qualifier "PAC".

    It is almost like one is arguing that Pastor Wiliam's church should have formed a PAC and they said "After today's sermon, I will say a few words representing our PAC."

    Let's just end the charade and allow them (Pastor/Churches and Equality South Dakota) to endorse candidates and if they back up the endorsement with cash use the PAC which is subject to election laws.

    Personally, all this rules and regulations is an impingement on free speech (and Freedom of Religion) with no redeeming justification. Whether it be a pastor I agree with (or disagree with) or Equality South Dakota, speech is a Constitutionally protected right regardless of who says it or whether or not what is said is agreeable.

    What really irks me on this whole discussion is liberals defend a professor, consider what MLK Jr. did as ok, think Bishop's should speak out on immigration but go ballistic when a conservative pastor endorses Howie or talks about abortion or homosexual conduct. Friends, speech is protected regardless of whether or not you agree with it. I'll defend your right to say what you want but why won't you defend Pastor Williams or Pastor Hickey?

    Sidenote: CP, your characterization of your views as "moral and christian" while castigating those who disagree with you as "immoral and unchristian" is rather ironic (and belies an attitude since you don't capitalize Christian but capitalize LGBT. Rules of capitalization are to capitalize names and words that come from proper nouns (ie names) and not capitalize words that come from other nouns or in this case adjectives). You don't like someone calling your view immoral but you don't hesitate to do the same. Intellectually you'd be better off arguing relativism.

  10. Troy-

    Let's pretend that the law changes and religious organizations are allowed to endorse candidates/legislation freely while maintaining their tax free status. Do you foresee any problems that could occur but such a change in the law?

    It might be useful to check out the pdf at:


    where tax exempt entities are defined.

  11. Tony,

    First I assume you mean to say "by" and not "but." I do that too. Start a sentence/thought and change structure w/o changing the beginning.

    Problems? I never consider free speech (even speech that causes me to recoil) a problem so in all liklihood I don't.

    Challenges? Maybe. I looked at the website you referred me to but that didn't help me imagine any challenge.

    Help me out here. If there is a challenge, I'd love to deal with it.

  12. Well said Troy Jones.

    Ironic that we did not hear this clamor when the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Alvesta Wright Jr, or Louis Faracon, etc., gave their endorsements of BHO or vomit out their numerous diatribes...

  13. On the contrary, Stace, we heard all that and more, then, as now. Just keepin' it real, bro.

  14. Churches are given a special tax exemption because they are recognized religions. The pastor is claiming that his church and he can't be taxed because of freedom of speech.

    By that logic, every movie producer, every newspaper, every tv or radio station, every magazine publisher, every blogger actually making money,whatever...all should be exempt from taxes because taxes infringe on freedom of speech.

    The pastor is spewing nonsense.

  15. "Knowing that the liberal agenda advances much more easily in the absence of moral light being shed on it,liberals are scared silly that Christians might actually stop cowering in the corner and start speaking the truth. And if pastors stopped living in fear of speaking the truth about immoral candidates openly...the horror!"

    The above is pure unadulterated crap of the bulliest kind.

  16. The truth hurts, I know, Douglas. But like surgery for a tumor, it's good for you even though it hurts.

  17. Bob keeps missing the point. For a brave Christian soldier, Pastor H. Wayne isn't owning his words. Which is it, Pastor H. Wayne: did you violate the Johnson Amendment in an act of civil disobedience or not? Give us some of that truth Bob mentioned.

    Troy, note that I'm citing not only RCJ but also Gordon Howie's press release. I would assume Howie would give an accurate account of his supporter's act, and that account speaks of shaping people's voting choices and endorsing the candidate. So either pastor H. Wayne is weasel-wording, or Howie didn't get the one pulpit endorsement he said he did.

    Stace: Note that my issue here is not whether pastors can or should endorse from the pulpit. (But I'm with Bill: when pastors do endorse from the pulpit, we do and should hear some complaints... though perhaps more out of respect for Christianity than for the Constitution.) My very specific issue is Pastor H. Wayne's apparent cowardice. We need (as will the IRS, if they inquire) to establish exactly what Pastor H. Wayne said, and right now, he's sending wimpy mixed signals that contradict the content the Howie campaign put out in May. That's my beef.

  18. "The truth hurts, I know, Douglas. But like surgery for a tumor, it's good for you even though it hurts."

    The truth might hurt, but your BS isn't even in the neighborhood of truth. That is what readers here need to know. Not how you assume I feel.

    You might ask yourself how self-righteous, hypocritical right-wingers "hurt" when they milk government programs, whine about big government and taxes, but also whine about not getting immediate service from that same "big government".

    If truth hurt, they should be in a world of pain.

    Frankly, I don't see the logic of any church or non-profit organization escaping all taxes. Society incurs costs with nearly all of them. Perhaps education costs should be excluded, but infrastructure taxes, police protection, etc that also benefit churches and other "non-profit" organizations should not be exempt for those organizations.

    I don't care if such organizations are liberal or conservative, religious or atheistic.

  19. @Bill If it happened, I stand corrected, albeit I have never heard even a chirp; however, they clearly did NOT lose their protected status.

    @CP I believe that muzzling them is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment on both counts. I am with you in that I do not think the pulpit should be used regularly for an election stump; however, I do believe that our clergy DO have a moral obligation to decry actions of our government, or elected representatives, that run contrary to God's Word (ie. abortion). All things being equal, I do not believe the pulpit is the place to promote a candidate unless one is prolife & the other prodeath for a child. Away from the actual pulpit, I feel clergy have every right to voice their opinions and personal endorsements.

  20. Stace, I just wish Pastor H. Wayne would be as bold and direct in his speech as you. He has a chance to fight the Johnson Amendment, and he's chickening out, saying he didn't violate the statute in question in the first place... even though the record clearly shows he did endorse a candidate.

    Read more about Rev. Wright's UCC being investigated in 2008 by the IRS for apparent candidate endorsements (hat tip to Mt. Blogmore commenter).

  21. Ah, but note that the IRS-UCC investigation was a different situation, dealing with Senator Obama speaking at a church convention. The IRS found the UCC violated no laws in this case.

  22. “It is not, or should not be, in order to pledge allegiance to a party, candidate or earthly agenda. One can spend inordinate amounts of time on that subject simply by watching cable TV, or listening to talk radio, or reading the newspapers. No matter how hard they try to protect the gospel from corruption, ministers who focus on politics and politicians as a means of redemption must minimize their ultimate calling and message. The road to redemption does not run through Washington, D.C. Politicians can't redeem themselves from the temptations of Washington. What makes anyone think they can redeem the rest of us?”

    —Cal Thomas, "Pulpit Bullies," via Reading Eagle, 2008.10.02


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