Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Parishioner shocked by electioneering from the pulpit

WIMAUMA — After the praise songs and prayer, Pastor Arlen Beck approached the pulpit last Sunday to deliver a sermon titled Wake Up.

He quoted Bible verses and talked about well-known pastors. Everything was fine, churchgoer Brenda Fuqua said, until he brought up the Nov. 2 elections.

A lot of people had been asking him whom he planned to vote for, said Beck, pastor of Sun City Christian Center. So he wrote a list with the candidates' names, all of them Republicans. The printouts were available at the back of the room, he said.

"If you're conservative you might want to pick one of those up. If you're liberal you might not want to stop by there," Fuqua remembers Beck saying.

She was horrified. Fuqua, 66, didn't want to make a scene by walking out, but said she was shocked when about 50 people stood up and clapped after Beck said that green initiatives and global warming are part of a pagan movement.

"I couldn't believe this was going on in a country where we have separation of church and state," she said. "I will not be back at this church."

Tax law expert Ellen Aprill, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said she believes Beck violated federal law by supporting specific candidates in an official capacity.

Pastors are allowed to express their political views, but not as a leader of a religious organization, she said. And they can't make partisan comments in a church publication or at church functions, Internal Revenue Service guidelines state.

"Someone asked me to sum up the rules, and I came up with: issues good, people bad," Aprill said. "Nobody says pastors should stop talking about issues that are important for their faith. They just shouldn't name names."

Beck doesn't care. He said if the IRS wants to take away his church's tax-exempt status, it can.

"I am a little agitated because of where we are as a society," he said.

He also believes the separation of church and state is being violated — but in the opposite direction.

"The state's sticking their nose in my business, when they believe there should be separation of church and state," he said.

Aprill said she doubts the IRS will take away the church's tax-exempt status. That happens infrequently, she said.

Washington Law School professor Andy Pike said the IRS is not very aggressive when it comes to investigating reports like these.

Still, Fuqua, a Kentucky native who comes down to Florida each winter with her husband, said she plans to report Beck to the IRS.

She's a retired social studies teacher and a registered Democrat, but she said the problem isn't that her pastor is conservative. She said she would be upset even if he endorsed Democratic candidates.

"I just never think that should be preached from the pulpit of a church," she said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Parishioner shocked by electioneering from the pulpit 10/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.