Religion Notes


Issue: "The politics of grace," April 25, 1998

CBN settles

In a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service, Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network agreed to pay an undisclosed but "significant" penalty and accept retroactive loss of tax-exempt status for 1986 and 1987. Under the agreement announced last month, CBN also must increase the number of outside directors on its board and make other modifications to ensure it complies with tax laws. The case involved CBN funds allegedly spent to promote the broadcaster's 1988 Republican presidential campaign through three affiliates targeted by IRS and Federal Election Commission investigations: The Freedom Council, National Perspective Institute, and National Freedom Institute. CBN gave the Freedom Council $250,000 a month or more during 1985 and 1986 to mobilize Christian voters, with the total estimated at several million dollars to as high as $8.5 million. An IRS-required CBN news release-its wording reportedly thrashed out in months of haggling between CBN and IRS lawyers-noted the organization retains its "present tax-exempt status [and] the agreement also ensures the tax deductibility of donations to CBN." It quotes Mr. Robertson as saying he is "very pleased to conclude this audit with an agreement that permits CBN to get on with its worldwide Christian ministry while satisfying the legitimate concerns of the IRS to ensure compliance with the tax laws."

Missionaries killed

A New Tribes Mission (NTM) Cessna 207 crashed into the side of a cliff shortly after takeoff from a village in southern Venezuela last month, killing all five aboard. They were veteran NTM pilot and trainer Rick Burd, 45, of York, Pa.; Tim Stucky, 15, son of NTM missionaries from Kansas; Robert, 60, and Ida McCormick, 56, associate NTM missionaries from Anchorage, Alaska; and Freda Lopez, a tribal woman en route to attend the graduation of her son from Rio Grande Bible Institute in Edinburgh, Texas. Authorities theorized high winds and low visibility contributed to the crash.

Appeals court backs RFRA

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Citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the 8th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Minneapolis ruled April 13 that Crystal Evangelical Free Church in New Hope, Minn., may keep $13,450 given by a couple who later declared bankruptcy. The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled in a Texas case that RFRA was unconstitutional when applied to state law. The appeals court said the Texas case did not apply to federal laws, such as the bankruptcy code. An attorney for the bankruptcy trustee said the 8th Circuit misread the Supreme Court case; he may appeal.

Pedophile priest gets life sentence

Suspended Catholic priest Rudolph Kos, 52, was sentenced to life in prison by a Dallas jury last month on charges of sexual assault against four altar boys at St. Luke Catholic church in suburban Irving between 1987 and 1992. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years. The priest was at the center of a civil lawsuit last July in which the Diocese of Dallas was ordered to pay $119.6 million in damages to 10 former altar boys and the parents of another who has since committed suicide.

Churchgoers as "customers"?

Fewer Brits attend church regularly than ever before-just 10 percent of the population, according to the latest surveys. By some estimates, churches across the United Kingdom lose some 1,500 people each week, with many survey respondents citing boring or irrelevant services. Now several leaders, including the best-known evangelical in Britain, pop singer Cliff Richard, are floating a "customer care" plan to help churches become more welcoming, relevant, and challenging. The initiative is catching on among other church leaders, and both Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and Cardinal Basil Hume, archbishop of Westminster, have endorsed it. Packets to help churches prepare for the campaign-"Fanfare for a New Generation"-will start arriving next month. Services were anything but boring when six homosexual protesters interrupted Archbishop Carey's traditional Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral in southeast England. The prelate stepped aside as the activists struggled with ushers and police for control of the pulpit and microphone. Protest leader Peter Tatchell shouted denunciations of the archbishop from the pulpit for opposing the lesbian and gay agenda. Police later reported they were holding Mr. Tatchell on suspicion of damaging the pulpit microphone.


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