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Falwell on 'Thugs' and Taxes

By Brian Faler
Friday, August 6, 2004; Page A06

Jerry Falwell says he has had it with "left-wing thugs."

The Christian right leader said he is tired of being accused by civil liberties groups of abusing his ministry's tax-exempt status just because he has a few things to say about the direction of the country.

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So this year, he's fighting back. Falwell told the Associated Press he intends to organize a conference in September to explain to conservative preachers what they can and cannot say about the nation's politics, without threatening their tax-exempt status. Churches that enjoy such tax breaks must abide by certain restrictions on their political activities and advocacy.

"Because this is an election year and because of the controversy over the right of churches to be involved in moral and social issues, we will have constitutional attorneys there to explain to pastors what they may and may not do," Falwell told the AP. "We're going to be careful not to break the law, but we are also going to be careful not to be intimidated by left-wing thugs, not to let them intimidate evangelical pastors into silence."

Don't expect Barry Lynn to attend. The executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- a group that complained last month that Falwell was promoting President Bush's candidacy -- issued a statement mocking the proposed conference. Noting that Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour" was fined in the 1980s for its political activities, Lynn said: "The scriptures say, if the blind lead the blind, they both will fall into the ditch. Or in this case, into the hands of the IRS."

GOP Bloggers, Invitation Only

The Republican Party is offering a small group of bloggers credentials to cover its convention in New York later this month. But don't bother applying for them: It's by invitation only.

Leonardo Alcivar, a spokesman for the convention, said the party is forgoing any sort of application process and, instead, inviting 10 to 20 bloggers it believes would do a good job covering the four-day event. The Democrats permitted bloggers -- amateur pundits writing for their personal Web sites -- to cover its convention in Boston. The party collected around 200 applications before giving the nod to about three dozen, mostly liberal, bloggers.

Cop Protests a Conventional Item

Looks like deja vu all over again.

With little more than three weeks until the GOP convention, off-duty New York police officers and firefighters are demanding a new labor contract. During a recent demonstration by off-duty officers outside Madison Square Garden, one protester held a sign that read: "Low pay + fewer cops + terrorism = formula for disaster."

Delegates will arrive amid new warnings that terrorists have plotted to strike sites in Manhattan. But union officials said that the heightened alert has not discouraged plans for off-duty protests.

Last-minute contract settlements in Boston averted protests by police and firefighter unions at the Democratic National Convention.

No Takers for Other Kerry Edwards

Kerry Edwards is an Indianapolis bail bondsman, and for years he has owned a Web site in his name. So when Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate -- forging the Kerry-Edwards ticket -- Kerry Edwards thought he might be sitting on a gold mine.

The Kerry campaign approached him about acquiring the Web site, but when they couldn't reach a monetary agreement, Kerry Edwards put the site on the block. His optimistic online auctioneer told washingtonpost.com that he wouldn't be surprised if the address drew a "mid-six-figure" offer.

But after nearly two weeks, there have been no takers. Matthew Bentley, whose company handled the auction, said no one offered the minimum $150,000. "We're quite optimistic that we'll be able to have something over the next few days," Bentley said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company