Archive for November 15th, 2009

Churches targeted by ‘gay’ intimidation campaign

Named in IRS complaints for opposing same-sex ‘marriage’

By Bob Unruh

Christian churches in Maine whose leaders encouraged support for a referendum that repealed a law allowing same-sex marriage are being targeted in an intimidation campaign urging homosexuals to file complaints against them with the Internal Revenue Service.

A “Maine Marriage Equality” website that lobbied for the same-sex marriage measure is asking its followers to file the complaints.

You are probably already aware of churches that supported and actively promoted a ‘YES’ vote on Question 1. Please take the time to file an IRS complaint against them. Examples of supporting documentation to include with your complaint are pamphlets or other material created and/or distributed by the church or religious organization, photographs that show attempts to influence legislation (see below), witness statements or recordings of individuals who were aware of the campaign activities, and any other evidence that may prove a church or religious organization attempted to influence the public to vote ‘YES’ on Question 1.

With your help, we can reaffirm our Constitutional Separation of Church and State and ensure that in the future, nobody’s civil rights are stripped away by religious fanatics attempting to force their religion on all of us.

The campaign was launched after a decision by Maine voters, by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin, to restore the definition of marriage to only one man and one woman. State lawmakers had expanded it to include same-sex duos, but voters made Maine the 31st state out of 31 to limit marriage to one man and one woman.

A defense for any churches or church leaders targeted by the complaints, however, already is being assembled.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, said pastors and churches have a right to discuss biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of being punished for their religious beliefs.

“They can encourage their congregations to take a stand for marriage and can directly support legislative issues like Question 1 without running afoul of IRS rules,” Stanley said.

Groups that want to redefine marriage are intentionally threatening the tax-exempt status of churches through fear, intimidation, and disinformation to silence their voice.

“ADF will stand with these churches to defend their right to free speech and religious expression against these baseless scare tactics,” he said.

Question 1 was the referendum on the Maine ballot Nov. 3 that allowed voters to decide on the state’s law that created “same-sex marriage” earlier this year. ADF said since the vote, supporters of homosexual unions “have been encouraging retaliation through the filing of IRS complaints against churches that indicated they supported a yes vote on Question 1.”

“This is an all-too-obvious attempt to use the IRS to intimidate pastors and churches as a means of punishment and to get them to be quiet,” said Stanley.

“We encourage the churches of Maine not to be intimidated and to contact us if they are contacted by the IRS.”

The homosexual activists are telling supporters IRS policy allows the withdrawal of church-status recognition if “a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).”

They have provided a link to an organization supporting traditional marriage, suggesting churches that participated be named in the complaints.

An editorial published by the Advocate blamed the churches for the vote.

“No, it’s not the fault of homophobes or those religious zealots frightened by their churches. It’s the churches themselves and the cowardly government that fails to tell all religious institutions to get out of politics or be taxed,” wrote Charles Bouley.

Banning religious groups from politics, however, violates the U.S. Constitution, according to Stanley, who also coordinates the ADF’s Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort to challenge IRS regulations imposing restrictions on pastors’ speech.

This year, 83 pastors in 30 states and the District of Columbia participated in the second annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday, more than twice the number who participated last year in the project.

Stanley explained forcing politics into the pulpit is not the goal of ADF. He said the intent is for churches to be free to preach how Scripture applies to every area of life, including candidates and elections, if they so choose.

“The IRS shouldn’t be making this decision for churches by threatening to revoke their tax-exempt status. To truly protect religious freedom, the government needs to get out of the pulpit,” he said.

The censorship for church pastors has been in place since the Johnson Amendment was added to the federal tax code in 1954. However, enforcement has been spotty, and the results have been vague, even though critics of Christian churches contend it limits what they can say from the pulpit.

The IRS has repeatedly launched investigations of churches based on allegations from organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, whose officials have taken advantage of the vagueness to report church “offenses.”

Stanley explained that, contrary to the misunderstanding of many, tax-exempt status is not a “gift” or “subsidy” from the government.

Churches were completely free to preach about candidates from the day that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 until 1954,” explained Stanley.

“The real effect of the Johnson Amendment is that pastors are muzzled for fear of investigation by the IRS. Rather than risk confrontation, many pastors have self-censored their speech, afraid to be critical of blatant immorality in government and foregoing opportunities to praise moral government leaders. The participants in Pulpit Freedom Sunday refuse to be intimidated into sacrificing their First Amendment rights.”

WND reported when the IRS closed an investigation into a Minnesota pastor’s sermons from just before the 2008 election that addressed the moral qualifications of the political candidates.

ADF said Pastor Gus Booth of Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn., had preached on moral issues as a part of the ADF’s Pulpit Initiative last year.

“Booth originally sent the IRS a copy of a sermon he preached in May 2008 with regard to the primary elections. After participating in the Pulpit Initiative’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday Sept. 28, Booth also sent the agency his sermon regarding the general election. After launching an audit of the church in August 2008, the IRS has now stated in a letter that it is closing its examination of the sermons due to a procedural problem,” ADF said.

Stanley said it was an example of the IRS applying pressure to churches but refusing to let a case come to court where a ruling could be made.

“Instead of standing and fighting in court, the IRS prefers to run the other way,” said Stanley.

“ADF would likely have waived any complaint about procedural concerns involved in the investigation stage of the audit in order to reach the merits of the case and clarify the law. Once a federal court has an opportunity to review the Johnson Amendment, we believe it will not take long for the court to strike it down as unconstitutional. Pastors have the right to preach from their pulpits on all issues, including candidates and elections. No pastor should fear the IRS.” [emphasis mine]

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AmeriCorps Inspector General Shredded White House Documents at Request of Agency’s Spokeswoman

By Fred Lucas

The acting inspector general of AmeriCorps said he shredded White House documents at the request of an agency press spokeswoman that pertained to the controversial firing of the previous inspector general, who was ousted after investigating a political ally of President Obama.

The e-mail message from agency spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer seemed urgent, as she wrote:

“WH documents were sent in error. Can you please destroy them? And can you confirm you receive this e-mail?”

Acting IG Kenneth Bach responded 13 minutes later writing, “Confirmed, documents were shredded.”

The email exchanges between Bach and Schmelzer, as well as other documents pertaining to the firing of the AmeriCorps inspector general, were obtained by CNSNews.com through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The documents referenced in the Bach-Schmelzer email exchange included a draft of a letter to be signed by President Obama that would be sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to inform her that Obama was firing Gerald Walpin as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which runs AmeriCorps, and also a set of talking points to be used in explaining to the media why Walpin was being fired.

An inspector general is the designated watchdog for a public agency who is supposed to have autonomy from the agency’s officials in guarding against waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

When interviewed by CNSNews.com, Walpin said he thought a request from an agency spokeswoman to an inspector general to destroy documents and an inspector general’s compliance with such a request to be “shocking.”

“It’s an erroneous view that an IG should accept orders from the agency that it’s overseeing,” Walpin said.

“I want to make clear that I think that Ken Bach is honest. It’s just that I don’t think he had the experience and background to understand that it’s wrong to accept instructions to destroy something that was given to the files of the inspector general’s office, and those instructions come from the entity that he should be overseeing.”

Bach had led an investigative team at the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office prior to joining the inspector general’s office at CNCS, according to his biography posted on the CNCS Web site. Earlier, he had served for more than 20 year in the U.S. Army working as a Criminal Investigative Division agent focusing on white collar crime.

Walpin is suing in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to get his job back. He said the request to Bach to destroy the documents indicates AmeriCorps’ “recognition that they’re doing something wrong and they did not want to have a paper trail of it. To me that is an admission of their wrongdoing.”

The firing happened on June 10 and documents show that the White House already had a media strategy worked out to respond to questions about the firing. Before being fired, Walpin had aggressively investigated Kevin Johnson, director of the Sacramento, Calif.-based charitable organization St. Hope Academy. Walpin determined that Johnson, a political ally of President Obama, had misused some of the grant money the group had received from AmeriCorps. Johnson later was elected mayor of Sacramento.

After the ouster of Walpin, both Republican and Democratic members of Congress demanded that the White House provide a reason for firing Walpin. Under the Inspector General Reform Act, the president must notify Congress 30 days before firing an IG and provide a specific reason. To comply with the 30 day rule, the CNCS put Walpin on a 30 day suspension from June 10 before the firing became official.

President Obama’s letter to Congress explaining the firing said only that he had lost confidence in Walpin.

Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are investigating the matter and preparing a staff report on the issue.

U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown of the Eastern District of California alleged that Walpin acted improperly in the investigation of St. Hope for talking publicly about the case too often. The Counsel of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, the oversight organization of inspectors general who looked into the matter at Brown’s urging, determined that Walpin’s conduct was satisfactory. But the counsel’s ruling came after the firing.

“We know that how Mr. Walpin has acted certainly has been deemed adequate and sufficient,” Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Republican oversight committee members, told CNSNews.com. 

“What we still have questions on are the things you are looking into obviously here and just the overall issue of what the White House has said and what the circumstances actually were. We’re trying to reconcile that.”

On the day the White House notified Walpin that he was fired, Nicola Goren, the chief executive officer for AmeriCorps e-mailed board members to notify them that Walpin was out and that Kenneth Bach, the chief technology officer for the Office of Inspector General, would become the acting inspector general.

That same day, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest e-mailed the draft letter to Pelosi and the White House talking points to Schmelzer, the corporation’s director of the office of public affairs. The draft letter and talking points showed that firing Walpin had been planned for some time. The draft letter was dated June 5, five days before the firing took place. [emphasis mine]

“I should have forwarded this to you last week,” Earnest wrote Schmelzer. “It’s the basic language that we’ve agreed upon that should be helpful to you as you draft a news release today. I’m in a meeting in the morning–but you can get me on bberry at this e-mail address or on my cell at [redacted].”

Schmelzer told Earnest in a return e-mail that she had talked with an Associated Press reporter.

“She wants to know what the circumstances were,” Schmelzer wrote of the AP reporter. “I stuck to our TP [talking points] on background (as an official from CNCS). I assume she’ll call the WH tomorrow for comment if she writes. Let me know if you have Qs.”

Earnest responded at 9:58 p.m., “I’ll let u know if I hear from her.”

The talking points that Earnest sent on June 10 had a headline of “CONFIDENTIAL: FOR BRIEFING PURPOSES ONLY.” They went on to say that Walpin had “delivered a disastrous presentation” at a May 19 CNCS board meeting and that he “displayed excessively antagonistic behavior to agency grantees and espoused a ‘gotcha’ mentality.”

The White House talking points also criticized Walpin for living in New York and working in Washington, and pointed to the ethics complaint made against Walpin by Brown regarding Walpin’s investigation of Johnson’s non-profit group, St. Hope Academy because Walpin “spoke with the press, inappropriately, during the pendency of the investigation.”

At 8:33 a.m. on June 11, Schmelzer forwarded the talking points to Bach at the IG’s office. She copied that message to Goren and the corporation’s General Counsel Frank Trinity.

“Ken–here are the WH materials in case they’re helpful.”

At 9:10 a.m., she sent another e-mail to Bach.

“The send [sic] two WH documents were sent in error,” Schmelzer’s e-mail to Bach said.

“Can you please destroy them? And can you confirm that you receive this e-mail?”

At 9:23 a.m., Bach replied: “Confirmed, the documents were shredded.”

At 9:25 a.m., Schmelzer forwarded the message about the shredded documents to Trinity, the general counsel for AmeriCorps.

Schmelzer sent a statement to CNSNews.com in response to questions seeking clarity about why the documents sent to Bach needed to be destroyed.

“The documents in question were the same ones that were provided in the FOIA [to CNSNews.com],” Schmelzer said in the statement, referring to the fact the White House talking points and the draft letter to Pelosi that she had sent to Bach had been included in the FOIA release.

“I mistakenly forwarded these documents to Kenneth Bach,” said Schmelzer. “I advised him that the documents had been forwarded in error and requested that he not keep them as they were not intended for his receipt. Mr. Bach complied with the request. The agency, however, retained the documents.”

Bach spokesman Bill Hillburg said the IG’s office had no comment on the e-mail exchange.

“I think you would have to talk to Ms. Schmelzer on that,” Hillburg told CNSNews.com.

“Those aren’t documents in our control. I’m familiar with the documents. I think we’ve answered all the FOIA requests, everything that we have. I don’t believe those are ours. So you would have to ask her. I’m not familiar with that.”

Asked specifically why Bach would shred documents at the request of AmeriCorps’ public affairs office, Hillburg responded, “We don’t have any comment on anything like that.”

AmeriCorps General Counsel Trinity could not be reached for comment.

Eisen, the White House ethics counsel, said in a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that was sent on June 16 (six days after Walpin was fired) that the CNCS board wanted Walpin out because at the “May 20, 2009, board meeting Mr. Walpin was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve.”

The issue of Walpin’s behavior at the board meeting, which was first publicly raised in Eisen’s letter to the Homeland Security Committee, had also been included in the White House talking points that Schmelzer sent on June 11 to acting AmeriCorps IG Bach.

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In the two videos below, Geert Wilders, a controversial Member of Parliament and Party for Freedom chairman from the Netherlands (a country with extremely liberal policies towards Muslims), explains why it’s foolhardy to mollycoddle Muslim extremists.

Geert Wilders Warning to America Part 1—10:09

In Part 2, Wilders outlines a 10-step plan to eliminate Islamic extremism from western culture.

Geert Wilders Warning to America Part 2—10:44

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Everyone in Britain could be given a personal ‘carbon allowance’

From The Telegraph

Everyone in Britain should have an annual carbon ration and be penalised if they use too much fuel, the head of the Environment Agency will say.

Lord Smith of Finsbury believes that implementing individual carbon allowances for every person will be the most effective way of meeting the targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It would involve people being issued with a unique number which they would hand over when purchasing products that contribute to their carbon footprint, such as fuel, airline tickets and electricity.

Like with a bank account, a statement would be sent out each month to help people keep track of what they are using.

If their “carbon account” hits zero, they would have to pay to get more credits.

Those who are frugal with their carbon usage will be able to sell their unused credits and make a profit.

Lord Smith will call for the scheme to be part of a “Green New Deal” to be introduced within 20 years when he addresses the agency’s annual conference on Monday.

An Environment Agency spokesman said only those with “extravagant lifestyles” would be affected by the carbon allowances.

He said: “A lot of people who cycle will get money back. It will probably only be bankers and those with extravagant lifestyles who would lose out.”

However, some have criticised the move as “Orwellian” and say it will have a detrimental impact on business.

Ruth Lea, an economist from Arbuthnot Banking Group, told the Daily Mail: “This is all about control of the individual and you begin to wonder whether this is what the green agenda has always been about. It’s Orwellian. This will be an enormous tax on business.” [emphasis mine]

Under the Climate Change Act, Britain is obliged to cut its emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. This means annual CO2 emissions per person will have to fall from about 9 tonnes to only 2 tonnes

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