Saturday, September 24, 2011

Memphis Church Embroiled In Gay Rights Election Controversy

One of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country, Bellevue Baptist, has been recently become entangled in a thorny controversy regarding its alleged support of political candidates in the upcoming Memphis City Council Elections. Flanked by its three imposing crosses, Bellevue has not been without controversy in its treatment of LGBT people, as last year it refused to allow a lesbian team to play in its softball league. 


In this most recent controversy regarding its treatment of LGBT people, Pastor Steve Gaines sent out an email alert on Tuesday of this week (which also appears on the front page of their website), calling on all Bellevue members to vote for "pro-family" city council members. 
 The election for City of Memphis council members is in progress, with early voting taking place now through October 1 and Election Day October 6. The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) has made a concerted effort to unseat councilmen who voted against a TEP-supported and proposed ordinance that would have provided preferential treatment to local government employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. The ordinance did not pass.
Since that time the Tennessee state legislature and governor have passed a law that prohibits cities and municipalities from imposing a "protected class" of employees on private employers. However, the TEP is pressing their agenda with respect to government employees by working to replace councilmen who opposed their original proposed ordinances.
We are asking our people to become fully informed before voting for city council members by being aware of candidates who have supported treating ALL employees equally and do not want to put additional burden on any employer by granting certain employees a special civil rights status based on sexual preferences or gender identity/expression.
For more information, visit the Family Action Council of Tennessee website at www.familyactiontn.org.
Americans United For Separation of Church and State (AU) as well as the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) has responded to this message by Pastor Gaines; both of them demanding an investigation of whether the Church is violating IRS rules regarding endorsement of political candidates. According to Rob Boston of AU
The Internal Revenue Service warns houses of worship about linking to campaign related sites, noting that choosing to link to another site is a proactive activity. Asserts the IRS, “An organization has control over whether it establishes a link to another site. When an organization establishes a link to another web site, the organization is responsible for the consequences of establishing and maintaining that link, even if the organization does not have control over the content of the linked site.”
(Bellevue Baptist) linked to one site that endorsed three candidates. That site happens to be run by a 501 (c)(4) organization that may legally endorse candidates. But the church, as 501 (c)(3) is subject to a different set of rules, one of which prohibits intervention in politics. (The Family Action Council of Tennessee, by the way, is an affiliate of Focus on the Family.)
The Tennessee Equality Project also has had some strong words for Pastor Gaines, stating on their blog - Grand Divisions - that not only does Pastor Gaines not embody true "family values", but that he is also using his pastoral office in an unacceptable way. 
Pastor Gaines is using his bully pulpit to attack law abiding people who simply want the right to make a living in Memphis. He's also using his Bible and church to prop up his personal bias and bigotry against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Gaines lives outside Memphis city limits yet believes he should determine the fate of city elections.
 Bellevue Baptist has not commented on this specific issue, yet their statement at the end of their pro-family exhortation seems to show that they believe they are free to link to such sites.
Some members have inquired regarding Bellevue's tax-exempt status. Please know that we are fully aware of the law granting tax-exempt status to churches.

1 comment:

  1. And again it's the same transparent bullshit where LGBT's desire for equal treatment under the law is presented as being "special" treatment. I'll never understand people being so gullible that they just lap this all up without asking questions. How stupid I must be...

    ReplyDelete

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