SBC Pastor Backs Huckabee, Takes on Americans United

Article excerpt

An early candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention has called on Baptists to pray for misfortune to befall employees of a church-state watchdog group.

Wiley Drake, a pastor, radio crusader and Baptist gadfly, issued a statement August 14 calling for "imprecatory prayer" from supporters against two staffers of Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The term imprecatory generally refers to prayers used by biblical figures to summon God's wrath against their enemies.

The unusual appeal came after Drake endorsed Mike Huckabee, a fellow Southern Baptist minister, in the Republican presidential primary race, prompting Americans United officials to ask the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax-exempt status of Drake's church, First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, California.

Drake, who served as the SBC's second vice president in 2006-2007, had used his congregation's letterhead and a church-supported radio show to "personally endorse" Huckabee. On August 13, Drake became the first person to declare himself a candidate for the SBC presidency next June in Indianapolis.

Huckabee surprised many observers on August 12 by finishing as runner-up to Mitt Romney in the Republican field in the Iowa Straw Poll.

The federal revenue code prohibits churches and other nonprofits from endorsing political candidates or parties. However, they are allowed to speak out on ballot issues.

"Federal tax law is clear," Barry Lynn, Americans United executive director, said in a statement on the investigation request. "Churches and other nonprofits may not endorse candidates, if they want to keep their tax exemption. I am confident that the vast majority of Americans do not want to see their houses of worship politicized. …

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