Arkansas church again enters political pulpit controversy

Posted: Friday, September 24, 2004

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) A Baptist church already accused of using its tax-exempt pulpit to endorse President Bush gave its backing to a ban of gay marriage in a nationally televised service Sunday.

Evangelical leaders, led by Focus on the Family's James Dobson, used Springdale's First Baptist Church to summon support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

About 3,000 churchgoers in Springdale, and an estimated 1 million television viewers around the country, heard U.S. Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, promise that the amendment battle would be won.

''If Christian people are awake and involved, we can change this country,'' Dobson said.

The speakers also supported the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, the church's pastor, whose July 4 sermon provoked a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The group said Floyd's talk amounted to a Bush endorsement.

Floyd mentioned no candidates, but used pictures of Bush and opponent John Kerry to illustrate his points. IRS rules on tax exemption forbid pulpit endorsements.



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