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Pulpit politics

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Bears for religious freedom, the old Baptists would have loved Barry Lynn. Nobody does more to keep church and state out of each other's hair than he, and that separation was once a passion of the Baptists. But then the Southern Baptist Convention was seized by its dark-siders, by holier-than-thous, extreme partisans and the worst kind of Texans. Religiosity replaced religion; Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson replaced Billy Graham and Jimmy Carter. Megachurches blossomed, Wal-Marts of salvation.

The new Baptist church found a soul mate in the Republican Party. The two became as one. When a Democratic war hero ran for president against a Republican slacker, it was the war hero who was mocked by the boss of a big Baptist ring in Northwest Arkansas. And it was Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who pointed out to the IRS that the Arkansas church was playing politics and should be ineligible for the tax exemption it enjoyed. Under a Republican administration, the IRS did nothing, of course, but Lynn, an ordained minister, continued on with the Lord's work.

That's more than can be said for the Baptist minister in California who recently used church stationery and an Internet radio program to endorse fellow Baptist minister Mike Huckabee for president. Again Lynn complained to the IRS. Churches aren't given their tax breaks so that they can spend the money on politicians.

The offending cleric, Rev. Wiley S. Drake of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., took umbrage. A recent vice president of the SBC, Drake asked his followers to pray for the deaths of those who filed the complaint — Lynn, Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, all of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Drake calls this “imprecatory prayer,” and he probably does a lot of it. The paper boy who misses the porch, the driver who won't move over, the congregant who critiques a preacher's sermon — all are objects of Drake's maledictions, we'll wager.

“The prayer does call for serious, serious punishment on people,” Drake conceded to a reporter. “But I didn't call for that, God did.” Some theologian — he doesn't even know which end of a prayer God's supposed to be on.

Left unopposed, the Wiley Drakes will bring jihad to America. From praying to God to kill your enemies to doing the job yourself is a small step. Mike Huckabee must repudiate these warmongers forcefully — no waffling allowed. It might hurt him politically, but so might failure to speak. And in the latter case, his honor and his country would be at risk too. Even his soul might be in play.

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