Minister defends political rally at church
By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 18, 2004 2:01 PM
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is denying that a political rally last week violated a church's nonprofit status.
Furthermore, he called Dave Quick's complaint to the Internal Revenue Service an attempt to hold down the vote in the black community.
"We will not be intimidated, nor will our communities be intimidated, from exercising their rights of voter education and voter participation," Barber said in a statement released this morning. "We love Mr. Quick with Christian love, but we disagree with his attempt to taint our activities."
Barber said that organizers had consulted legal advisers about what could and couldn't be said at the Get Out To Vote rally, held Oct. 11 at Mount Zion Disciples Church. He also noted the presence of two former justices of the N.C. Supreme Court and two current judges on the N.C. Court of Appeals among the speakers.
"This is nothing but an attempt, like many happening around the nation, to scare and intimidate the prophetic and political involvement of people of faith and especially the African-American community," he said.
The civil rights movement was founded in churches, Barber said, and people tried similar legal scare tactics. "It didn't work then and it won't work now."
He also said that President Bush has often made political appearance in churches, and the Republican Party has been active in courting religious leaders to endorse its candidates.
"We are prepared for whatever tricks and schemes are used to try and stifle voter participation," he said.
In fact, a seminar will be held this Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. at Greenleaf Christian Church's fellowship hall on William Street, Goldsboro. Two lawyers who specialize in constitutional and tax law will advise pastors and other religious leaders on these issues, Barber said.
He quoted civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who said, "We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We intend to be full citizens with full participation and we ain't gonna let nobody turn us around."
The Get Out To Vote rally featured several Democratic candidates and activists and was moderated by Barber. About 220 people attended, and the rally was broadcast on radio to 15 counties. Following news reports, Quick, a Goldsboro businessman, complained to the IRS fraud division that the church was engaging in political activities.
Quick, a Republican, had said he would have had the same problem if it had been a Republican gathering in a church. "To me, it's totally wrong -- morally, legally and ethically," he said.
An IRS official declined to say whether the church would be investigated or if it could face possible sanctions.
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