A Southern Baptist pastor criticized for mingling politics and the pulpit says he is being singled out for speaking out against homosexuality.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State last month complained to the Internal Revenue Service about a July 4 sermon by Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., contrasting the two main candidates in the upcoming presidential election.
AU Executive Director Barry Lynn said Floyd’s presentation “seemed more like a Bush campaign commercial than a church service.” IRS regulations forbid tax-exempt charities like churches from endorsing candidates.
Defending his remarks on “Fox News Channel,” Floyd said one reason Lynn “is not so excited about my message is because I talked about same-sex marriage and because I just released a brand new book called The Gay Agenda,” according to Baptist Press.
Lynn said the complaint had nothing to do with Floyd’s book but with abuse of his church’s tax-exempt status by “engaging in blatant partisan politicking.”
“I think he knows that his intervention in the presidential campaign went over the line, so he trying to divert attention to other issues that have no relevance to the complaint,” Lynn said in a statement to EthicsDaily.com. “Churches and church leaders are perfectly free to speak out on social and moral issues. But houses of worship, like other tax-exempt organizations, may not endorse candidates for public office. It’s that simple.”
Floyd dedicated his book, titled The Gay Agenda: It’s Dividing the Family, the Church and a Nation, to the church where he has been pastor for 18 years. He gave every member family attending the July 4 patriotic-themed service a free copy.
The book is published by New Leaf Press and sold at LifeWay Christian Stores. Baptist Press featured the book July 26.
“The proponents of the gay lifestyle have declared war against our culture, and they have an agenda,” Floyd writes in the book.
“Those pushing the Gay Agenda do not have the right to impose their chosen lifestyle on the rest of society,” he says. “If left unopposed, their efforts to mainstream the lifestyle will annihilate the family as we know it.”
Floyd says the issue divides families when a child “comes out” and it results in estrangement with parents.
He says it is also affecting churches.
“The Gay Agenda is now making major advances into the Church,” Floyd writes. “According to USA Today, five of the major denominations in America openly ordain gay clergy and bless same-sex unions. They are the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church, American Baptist Church and the United Church of Christ.”
A spokesman for the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. said ordination in the denomination is handled by regional bodies and not the national convention.
“Inevitably within an autonomy-based denomination of 1.5 million people there are dissenting opinions raised on any issue affecting church and society,” said Richard Schramm, deputy general secretary for communication at the denomination based in Valley Forge, Pa., “but there is no question that the overwhelming majority of American Baptists hold a very traditional Christian understanding of marriage and sexual expression.”
Schramm said policy statements of the ABC/USA defining marriage as between a man and woman and declaring “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” are “clear and representative expressions of mainstream American Baptist understanding.”
In his book, Floyd says the entertainment industry promotes gay issues in an effort to “mainstream” homosexuals, or make them appear “normal.” Courts and “activist” judges, meanwhile, have created the need for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, he says.
He says presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has “straddled the fence on the gay issue,” while applauding President Bush for “risking his presidency on supporting a constitutional amendment about marriage being that of only a man and woman.”
Floyd explains why leaders in Washington aren’t hearing more from the grassroots opposing gay marriage: “We have to keep in mind that a pro-family father or mother is preoccupied with the daily routine: working, taking care of children, church activities. They are at a disadvantage, since proponents of gay marriage, generally speaking, have no such responsibilities.”
While “pro-family” dads work at regular jobs, Floyd said, many pro-gay men work as lobbyists or in the entertainment media. “In other words, many pro-gay individuals are ‘married’ to their cause and have ample time to lobby, write and speak out.”
Laura Montgomery Rutt, director of communications for the ecumenical gay-rights group Soulforce, said Floyd is “a victim of misinformation and untruths.”
“Couples who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people have families just like his,” she said in a statement. “They face the same problems, only the problems are compounded by a society that refuses to acknowledge the sacredness of all families, the value of diversity and grant equal rights to people who have promised to support and cherish one another ’till death do them part.'”
Rutt said contrary to Floyd’s analysis, gay people are “accountants, lawyers, firefighters, school teachers, ministers, professional athletes, politicians and computer repairmen.”
“Some are active politically, some are not,” she said. “There is no ‘gay agenda,’ just as there is no ‘heterosexual agenda.’ Working to be treated with dignity, respect and afforded equal civil rights is not an agenda, it is a God-given right.”
Floyd said the gay lobby goes as far as “re-imagining the Bible,” using revisionism to soften or confuse the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality.
“The Word of God declares homosexuality to be a sin and indicates that all who practice it need to be saved from its grip by the strong arm of Jesus Christ,” he wrote.
“The Bible nowhere affirms, sanctions, endorses or approves of the practice of homosexuality,” he wrote. “God never calls it an alternate lifestyle. God opposes civil unions of homosexuals. God condemns same-sex marriage. God is against the ordination of homosexuals into the ministry. Never does God authorize any practice or act of the gay lifestyle.”
The Soulforce spokeswoman disagreed. “Just as leaders and religious institutions were mistaken when they used the Bible to justify slavery and the subordination of women, they are mistaken now in their condemnation of people with minority sexual orientations,” Rutt said.
“Jesus called us to love one another, not to judge one another, to help those less fortunate and to truly see the best in all people,” she said. “This is the ‘agenda’ we need to be focused on.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.