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Ronnie Floyd Claims Victory over Church-State Separatist Group

Evangelical pastor Ronnie Floyd said the IRS’ silence on the issue proves his victory over the ‘baseless and false allegations by the Americans United for the Separation and church and State group’
( [email protected] ) Sep 16, 2004 05:31 PM EDT

Ronnie Floyd, pastor of the 14,000 First Baptist Church in Springdale, claimed victory over an IRS complaint filed against him two months earlier by a Church-State separation group, on Wednesday, Sept 15, 2004.

"The baseless and false allegations by the Americans United group have proven to be just that - baseless and false," Floyd said at a news conference.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a complaint on July 20 against Floyd’s July 4th message on the civil duty to vote.

"Pastor Floyd's presentation seemed more like a Bush campaign commercial than a church service," said Barry Lynn, Americans United executive director, in a statement made in late July. "His sermon was clearly intervention in the campaign on behalf of Bush."

During his sermon, Rev. Floyd told his congregants that the presidential election is “one of the most critical elections in U.S. history. ... Rarely have we seen two candidates so diametrically opposed in their convictions."

Floyd then went on to contrast the candidates’ stance on gay “marriage.”

“One candidate believes marriage is a God-ordained institution between one man and one woman and has proposed a constitutional amendment protecting marriage." Floyd said as a picture of George Bush showed up behind him.

"The other candidate was one of only 14 U.S. senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996," Floyd added, as a photo of Kerry appeared.

During that same time, Lynn also accused evangelical Pastor Jerry Falwell on the same grounds.

Neither Falwell nor Floyd had yet received comments from the IRS.

Floyd, in his Sept 15 statement, said his church “has received absolutely no contact from the Internal Revenue Service.”

"As stated throughout this ordeal, there has never been a church to lose its tax-exempt status over political lobbying or endorsement, although we were guilty of neither of these issues,” said Floyd.

Meanwhile, Lynn commented that the victory was “premature” and “absolute nonsense” since the claim was based on nothing more than the “lapse of time.”

“The backlog on these complaints extends for more than a year. Just this week, the IRS announced the results of an investigation in an incident that occurred in the Jeb Bush-Janet Reno race for governor in Florida two years ago. For him to claim victory at this point is premature to say the least,” said Lynn.

The IRS spokesman Phil Beasley, however, said there was “no comment” on the matter or whether backlog played a part in the lack of communication.

On Sunday, Floyd’s church is expected to be flooded with tens of thousands of pro-family evangelical Christians, as they watch the next “Battle for Marriage” event live alongside countless churches.

Floyd said the church was "expecting several thousand people here on Sunday evening" and that doors to the church would open at 4:30 p.m. that day to accommodate the expected crowd.

Floyd is one of the eight featured speakers for Sunday’s event.