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Separation of Church and State and Tax Exemptions

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards  talks with  Wendy Li and her son Brandon about how  gas prices affect their Menlo Park, Calif., business.
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards talks with Wendy Li and her son Brandon about how gas prices affect their Menlo Park, Calif., business. (By Marcio Jose Sanchez -- Associated Press)

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Florida evangelist Bill Keller says he was making a spiritual -- not political -- statement when he warned the 2.4 million subscribers to his Internet prayer ministry that "if you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!"

But the Washington-based advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State says the Internal Revenue Service should revoke the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of Bill Keller Ministries, nonetheless.

Keller, 49, who has a call-in show on a Tampa television station and a Web site called Liveprayer.com, on May 11 sent out a "daily devotional" that called Romney "an unabashed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago." If the former Massachusetts governor wins the GOP nomination and the presidency, Keller's message added, it will "ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell."

In a letter to the IRS yesterday, Americans United called Keller's message a violation of the ban on partisan politicking by tax-exempt religious groups.

Keller, in a telephone interview, laughed off the controversy. "Let them come after me for making a spiritual statement about Mitt Romney. I would love that," he said. "Bring it on."

-- Alan Cooperman

Edwards on Prewar Intelligence

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.), a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and a former member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Wednesday that he had read a classified version of a National Intelligence Estimate summarizing Iraq's weapons program before voting to authorize the war in 2002 -- which was at odds with prior statements that had indicated Edwards only was briefed about the October 2002 NIE.

"I read it. I read it. But the idea that, you know, somehow we had so much more information. You know, having the information turned out to be bad, not good," Edwards said.

Edwards's campaign quickly corrected his comments, made during a question-and-answer session at an event hosted by Google. "It was a simple misunderstanding, and Senator Edwards has said many times before he read the declassified version of the NIE, as well as other intelligence documents that was ultimately summarized in the classified version of the NIE," said Mark Kornblau, a spokesman for Edwards.

Edwards yesterday also outlined the principles of his energy plan and called for a Justice Department investigation of the oil industry as gas prices continue to soar.


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