Calif. Pastor Prays For Demise Of Americans United Staff, Following Watchdog Group's Irs Complaint

AU's Lynn Says Pastor Offers Outlandish Attack Instead Of Answering Concerns Of Improper Electioneering

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today denounced the tactics of a political pastor in California who has urged followers to pray for the demise of staff members of the religious liberty watchdog group.

Yesterday, Americans United asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., for a potential violation of federal tax law barring electioneering by non-profit groups. Dr. Wiley S. Drake, pastor of the church, issued a press release on church letterhead endorsing Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and subsequently offered the endorsement on a church-affiliated radio show.

Instead of responding to Americans United’s concern of illegal activity, Drake issued yesterday afternoon a plea to his supporters to join in “imprecatory prayers” (curses) every morning for Americans United and its staff.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said it is telling that Drake declined to respond to his group’s charges of tax law violations.

“Instead of addressing our concerns of illegally melding religion and partisan politics, Dr. Drake has launched an outlandish attack on us,” said Lynn. “Calling for curses on us might distract Drake’s supporters, but it won’t help him with the IRS. I trust the tax agents will investigate Drake’s use of church resources to endorse a candidate for public office.”

Drake’s attack included some florid rhetoric.

“In light of the recent attack from the ememies (sic) of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer,” Drake said, in an Aug. 14 press statement issued from the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. “Especially against Americans United for Seperation (sic) of Church and State.”

“The righteous have dominion,” Drake said, “but only through imprecatory prayer against the ungodly.”

Drake singled out two Americans United staff members whose names appeared as contacts on the press release. The pastor’s missive said the imprecatory prayers should “specifically target” Americans United Communications Director Joe Conn or Communications Associate Jeremy Leaming.

“They are those who lead the attack,” Drake said.

In a message left in Lynn’s voice-mail, Drake said he had been urging his supporters to take similar action against Lynn for many years and would continue to do so.

In a section of his press release called “How To Pray,” Drake includes a long list of biblical citations that call on God to smite enemies. For example, the alleged enemies of God “shall be judged,” “condemned,” and “his days be few….” Additionally, supporters should pray that the enemy’s “children be fatherless, and his wife a widow,” and “his children be continually vagabonds, and beg; let them seek bread also out of their desolate places.”

“Let there be none to extend mercy unto him,” Drake quoted, “Neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.