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Pastor asks followers to pray for the death of his critics

August 16, 2007|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Wiley S. Drake, a Buena Park pastor and a former national leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, called on his followers to pray for the deaths of two leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The request was in response to the liberal group's urging the IRS on Tuesday to investigate Drake's church's nonprofit status because Drake endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for president on church letterhead and during a church-affiliated Internet radio show.

Drake said Wednesday he was "simply doing what God told me to do" by targeting Americans United officials Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, whom he calls the "enemies of God."

"God says to pray imprecatory prayer against people who attack God's church," he said. "The Bible says that if anybody attacks God's people, David said this is what will happen to them. . . . Children will become orphans and wives will become widows."

Imprecatory prayers are alternately defined as praying for someone's misfortune, or an appeal to God for justice.

"Let his days be few; and let another take his office," the prayer reads. "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."

Conn said he was "startled" at Drake's reaction to the complaint against Drake's First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park.

"We expected him to try to defend his actions," Conn said. "Instead he goes on spiritual blitzkrieg against us, praying for our destruction. He completely glossed over the fact that his actions are clearly a violation of federal tax law."

Drake is a long-time Orange County evangelical preacher who frequently captures the spotlight.

In the 1990s, he protested "Gay Day" at Disneyland and a 2 Live Crew concert as obscene, and also fought Buena Park city officials who tried to stop him from sheltering homeless people on church grounds. He gained national prominence in 2006, serving a year-long term as the second vice president of the 42,000-church Southern Baptist Convention.

In 2006, Drake received a stern warning from the group's top lawyer for creating a Southern Baptist Convention letterhead and using it to endorse Republican Dick Mountjoy of California in his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.

Drake confirmed Wednesday that he endorsed Huckabee for president Aug. 11 in a news release on church letterhead, and on his radio show Aug. 13. But he said those statements should not jeopardize the church's nonprofit status.

"I said I personally endorse Mike Huckabee," he said. "And yes, I used my letterhead. I use it to pay my bills, write my mother, that's who I am. I am a spokesman for the church, but I was speaking personally. I did encourage my fellow Southern Baptists and fellow Christians to ask God what they could do for Mike Huckabee. And whatever God told them to do, that's what they should do."

As tax-exempt organizations, churches are barred from campaigning for candidates. The IRS has previously investigated churches for perceived political activity. A sermon before the 2004 presidential election by a former rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena prompted an IRS probe that is unresolved.

IRS officials declined to comment Wednesday regarding Americans United's complaint against the First Southern Baptist Church. Drake said he was not concerned about a possible investigation by the federal agency.

"I have never have been worried about the IRS," he said. "They don't scare me. I don't give a rip about the IRS. I don't believe in the separation of church and state and I believe the IRS should stay out of church business."

Drake said he endorsed Huckabee because of his religious qualifications.

"Mike Huckabee is a born-again Christian," Drake said, "And I believe in the final countdown for him, he will do what God told him to do. He is a God-fearing man and he'd fear God more than his constituents and more than the Constitution."

david.mckibben@latimes.com

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