Monday, August 25, 2008

Anchorage Baptist Temple Hosts "Candidates Day"; Ted Stevens And Don Young Among The Attendees

One of the recurring events of any Alaskan election cycle is the presentation of the candidates at the Anchorage Baptist Temple. And on Sunday August 24th, 2008, Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) hosted a "candidates day" during their 11 A.M. service. Story reported by KTUU Channel 2 and the Anchorage Daily News' Alaska Politics blog.

What makes this a significant event in Alaska is the size, reach, and influence of the church. With an average weekly attendance of 2,200 at the "marquee" 11 A.M. Sunday service, ABT is one of the largest churches in Alaska, the closest thing to a "megachurch" in the state, and has its own television station, KCFT Channel 19/35, on which their services, along with other Christian and family-friendly programming, are aired. In addition, they operate Anchorage Christian Schools, offering K-12 Christian education.

ABT invited all Alaska candidates for Federal office, along with state legislative candidates from Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. According to KTUU, some of the candidates in attendance Sen. Ted Stevens (who got a rousing ovation), Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, Congressman Don Young, Diane Benson, Dave Cuddy, and Gabrielle LeDoux. Alaska Politics reports that others in attendance included Senate Republican primary candidates Jerry Heikes, Michael Corey, and Rick Sikma. Alaska Indpendence Party candidate Bob Bird and Libertarian Frederick David Haase also showed up. A small number of state candidates also showed up, including District 20 Representative Max Gruenberg. They, among others, presented themselves to hundreds of parishioners, and perhaps more importantly, hundreds of voters putting a face to the name.

Conspicuous by his absence was the bombastic "Republican" Senate candidate Vic Vickers. Since the mass introduction was brief, everyone was given a chance for one on one time with the candidates after the service. Candidates set up tables, passed out campaign materials, and talked to the public. Dianne Benson said that in this case it is ok to blend a little bit of church and state. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell backed up Benson saying it's more important to reach the voters and make sure they get an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.

Because Anchorage Baptist Temple extended the invitation to ALL candidates, they stayed withing the guidelines of 501(c)(3), which bars a tax-exempt church from publicly endorsing a single candidate. ABT church leaders reaffirmed this principle today. ABT has also been the subject of a post on the Anchorage Daily News' Church Visits blog, an innovation edited by Chris Thompson, who's seeking a religious home, so to speak. He visits a different church every week and reports his findings. His post on his ABT visit can be viewed HERE.

Anchorage Baptist Temple is an independent Baptist church with beliefs closely paralleling the Southern Baptists. They believe the Bible to be the inerrant and exclusive word of God. Their basic beliefs are further summarized HERE. Because ABT is faithful to the Bible as written, Pastor Jerry Prevo has taken a strong public stand against various moral sins, including homosexuality. The latter position has attracted noisy and persistent opposition from secular-progressives within the community. Yet Pastor Prevo continues to courageously speak out against the promotion and protection of the homosexual lifestyle.

However, the secular-progressive bias against ABT was further employed against them when another issue arose - the issue of property tax exemptions. Most churches seek to exempt only the chapel, the pastor's residence, and, if applicable, any church school from property taxes. However, ABT chose to take this further, securing property tax exemptions for residences occupied by a few other key officials and employees of the church. This triggered a secular-progressive outcry for the end of those exemptions. But action by the Alaska State Legislature eventually solved the problem, after the legislation was upheld by the state courts.

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