Evangelical Pastor Defends “Non-Partisan Preaching” on National Television

“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…Vote God, His ways, His will, His Word."
( [email protected] ) Aug 03, 2004 09:01 PM EDT

Ronnie Floyd, one of the several evangelical pastors charged with using the pulpit as a political arena, defended his actions before a nationwide audience through the Fox News Channel, on July 31, 2004. Floyd sat opposite to Barry Lynn - the president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the one who reported Floyd to the Internal Revenue Service last month – as he explained his position.

"I'm using my pulpit to share the Word of God, I'm using my pulpit to inform people about the issues,” said Floyd as he appeared in the Tyranny of the Minority segment on “Heartland with John Kasich”.

"Vote God, His ways, His will, His Word,” he continued.

The Saturday night program began with a video clip of Floyd speaking to his congregation with in front of a large picture of President Bush.

"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 July 4th recording.

Upon viewing the clip, Americans Separated’s Lynn said the clip did not capture the full story.

"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.”

During the patriotic service, Floyd mentioned that “one candidate” supports a ban on marriage, abortion and stem cell research – a picture of Bush appeared behind him as he spoke theses word. He then said that another candidate – as a picture of Kerry appeared – does not support abortion and doesn’t think the country is at war.

Lynn repeated on television what he wrote to the IRS: Floyd is violating his tax-exempt status by taking a partisan stance in politics.

"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.

However, when Kasich asked Floyd if he were using his pulpit to keep President Bush in office, Floyd answered, “absolutely not.”

“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 further explained that the video clip was a part of a “summer freedom celebration” at his church. When Bush’s picture appears, Floyd said, the church was discussing the war on terror.

"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 then shot back, saying that he watched the clip numerous time and that each time, his initial assessment was reinforced.

"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.

Evangelicals have noted Lynn’s discriminatory attitude toward conservatives in the past, and have criticized him for taking action only against a particular group.

When Kaisch asked Lynn whether the claim was true, Lynn denied it, saying that some 40% of its complaints are made against democrats.

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."

As his last question, Kasich asked 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.'"