Sunday, April 16, 2006


The Times Magazine apparently didn't want to sully a profile of Christian public relations man Larry Ross with suggestions that any of Ross's clients are unseemly -- perhaps because Ross's best-known client is Billy Graham, the secularist media's favorite evangelical -- so we got this whitewash of the activities of one of his clients:

Ross has largely stayed out of politics, but he did sign up Rod Parsley's Center for Moral Clarity in 2004; Parsley, a rising evangelical, is not publicly aligned with a political party, but he worked to mobilize voters in the swing state of Ohio, which went for George Bush in the last election.

... Ross's client Rod Parsley had his church governance and fund-raising practices questioned in an article last winter in the left-leaning American Prospect. (Ross says that much of what was reported occurred "way before our time" and is "not consistent with the man and the organization" he has been working with for the past 18 months.)

That's it? That's the full extent of what Parsley's been criticized for? Ad it's only by a sandal-wearing pinko writing for The American Prospect?

Tell that to these people:

More than 30 local pastors last night officially accused two evangelical megachurches of illegal political activities.

... The grievance claims that the Rev. Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church and the Rev. Russell Johnson of Fairfield Christian Church improperly used their churches and affiliated entities -- the Center for Moral Clarity, Ohio Restoration Project and Reformation Ohio -- for partisan politics, including supporting the Republican gubernatorial candidacy of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

...The complaint makes three main allegations:

• That church-sponsored events conducted by Parsley and Johnson have showcased a single gubernatorial candidate -- Blackwell.

• That Parsley and Johnson have launched a "partisan-oriented" voter-registration campaign "with the goal of registering 400,000 voters to support Blackwell’s candidacy."

• That Parsley and Johnson have been behind efforts to distribute "biased voter education" materials aimed at solidifying voter support for Blackwell.

...The complaint cites nine instances when Blackwell was featured at events by the churches or their entities. During an October gathering at the Ohio Statehouse orchestrated by Reformation Ohio and led by Parsley, the televangelist called upon supporters of his $38.5 million-a-year church and affiliated operations to sign up 400,000 voters statewide. Blackwell shared the dais with Parsley....

The same preachers filed a follow-up IRS complaint this month charging, among other things, that

Pastor Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church in suburban Columbus plans to feature Blackwell in "Ohio for Jesus" radio spots as part of Reformation Ohio, a group formed to register voters, help the poor and recruit Christians.

As Americans United for Separation of Church and State has noted,

Parsley's World Harvest Church has hosted prominent socially conservative firebrands, such as polemicist Ann Coul­ter and former senator Zell Miller, to extol Blackwell's candidacy. In the Ohio religious leaders' complaint to the IRS, they note that Blackwell attended an August service at World Harvest Church, where Miller, from the pulpit, proclaimed that Blackwell, seated in a front-row pew, was "the kind of leader this state -- any state -- needs."

Oh, well -- Zell Miller. I guess that proves Parsley is nonpartisan! So I guess it's also OK that a candidate is being endorsed from Parsley's pulpit, in violation of IRS reules for tax-exempt institutions.

Ross, the PR guy, fed the author of the Times piece, the regrettably named Strawberry Saroyan, some careful spin (Parsley's nonpartisan! All his troubles were long ago!) and Saroyan swallowed it whole. I have a normal first name, but I know how to Google, so I know more about Parsley than Saroyan does (and I bet a lot of you do, too). So how come we're not writing for the Times Magazine?

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