Friday, October 13, 2006

Second Baptist Church of Houston and the Domionist takeover

Houston claims the distinction of having the largest church involved in the Right-Christian GOP alliance to institute Christ-centered, Christ-favored government. Christian reconstructionists at Second Baptist founded the Nehemiah Project to endorse and oppose candidates and political measures and take over the Harris County Republican Party, acts prohibited to churchs and other tax-exempt organizations. The headline link article describes Second Baptist as the center of the Harris county GOP takeover by religious activists and its role in the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and the state and national GOP parties. The Christian reconstructionists are intent on restoring an American Christian nation that never was.

Their is a long list of questionable associations of Second Baptist and the SBC, including ties to the John Birch Society. Second Baptist members are on the secretive Council for National Policy, a religious group that meets with conservative political leaders three times a year to lobby and coordinate agendas.

After a four-year IRS investigation Second Baptist managed to keep its tax-exemption status. It seems to be that only churchs that clearly use church money for political advertisements have lost their tax-free status. Recently under Bush, liberal churches are now being targeted by the IRS even when they have carefully obeyed the guidelines not to make endorsements. Many conservative churches seem to hand out voting endorsements that violate the guidelines. Before the 90's, American major churchs and religious organizations generally stayed out of politics. That changed.

Houston's, and the nation's, largest Church is not as politically connected as Second Baptist. Lakewood Church, while promoting a lite version of the prosperity gospel which appeals to Republicans, doesn't seem to have the same political connections or involvement in politics possibly due to its youth and origins in the racially diverse lower economic strata. Centrist Democrat and blogger Greg Wythe is a member.

The Anatomy of Power: Texas and the Religious Right in 2006 - PDF, is a free publication by the Texas Freedom Network that documents the takeover by the conservative churches of the Republican party in Texas.
Among the report’s findings:

• The religious right has tightened its grip on the Republican Party of Texas and now completely controls the party leadership. In fact, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between the movement and the party in leadership, political goals and tactics. (Chapter 1)

• Having spent $10 million since 1997 to help the Texas GOP take control of state government, wealthy San Antonio businessman James Leininger is now working to purge from office those Republicans who fail to support fully the religious right’s public policy agenda. In fact, with Leininger’s financial support, the religious right is on the verge of finally winning a majority of seats on the State Board of Education. (Chapter 2)

• The new model in the religious right’s political strategy relies on recruiting conservative evangelical pastors who will use their positions as church leaders to advance the movement’s policy agenda. In fact, the state’s newest far-right pressure group, the Texas Restoration Project, has been recruiting thousands of pastors to support (successfully) a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and to back conservative candidates for office, including Gov. Rick Perry. (Chapter 3)

• David Barton, vice chair of the state GOP and president of the Christian advocacy group WallBuilders, has become a key part of efforts to recruit conservative evangelicals into the Republican Party. Using questionable research, Barton appeals to Christian conservatives with the dubious argument that the separation of church and state is a myth created by activist judges. (Chapter 4)

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