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236Wherein Lies The Problem? - Courts!

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  • jail4judges
    Oct 19, 2000
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      October 19, 2000
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      Wherein Lies The Problem?
      - Courts!

      Baptist Temple expects guests for upcoming eviction day
      By Terry Horne
      October 19, 2000
      Alone or hand-in-hand with hundreds of supporters, the pastors of the
      Indianapolis Baptist Temple say they will meet a federal eviction order
      next month with prayers and a refusal to budge.

      The Rev.  Gregory A.  Dixon said Wednesday that the church has received hundreds of calls and e-mail messages from sympathizers offering help in resisting the government's pending seizure of the church to satisfy a $6 million tax judgment.

      Dixon's response is Bob Barker-like: Come on down. "I tell them to come, 'bring all the friends you can,' " Dixon said.

      U.S.  District Judge Sarah Evans Barker has ordered Dixon and other church members to leave the Southside church by noon Nov.  14 or face arrest by federal marshals.  Anyone remaining in the church after that time could be found in contempt of court and be incarcerated, fined or both, she warned.

      The temple will hold a prayer service at noon that day -- in the church,
      Dixon said.  "They'll have to bodily remove us from the building," he said.  "We're going to be here.  We're going to take our stand.  We're going to practice our faith.  And if the federal government is so tyrannical as to shut down a 50-year-old church, then we're in awfully sad condition in this country."

      A spokesman for the U.S.  Marshals Service declined to discuss the agency's plans. U.S.  Attorney Timothy Morrison also declined to comment. "Responses to hypothetical situations are not very wise.  At this point, I presume the IBT will do what the court has ordered it to do," he said.

      There's still an if attached to the church's plans. Dixon said the church will petition the U.S.  Supreme Court next week for an emergency stay of the court's order. "But, of course, we have to plan for the worst," he said. Church leaders have begun considering alternative places to hold worship services after Nov.  14. Dixon said the church, 2711 S.  East St., has received offers for the use of other facilities. Also, the church will move its school beforehand, so the 150 students won't be around when the marshals arrive, Dixon said. The key question is how many supporters will be there.

      The Indianapolis Baptist Temple's tax feud with the Internal Revenue
      Service dates to the mid-1980s, when the church decided to stop withholding
      employee income taxes and paying the church's share of Social Security and Medicare taxes for its employees. The church has become a celebrated cause to many members of self-described patriot groups, which range from militia groups to other "unregistered" churches.  These groups generally share a distrust of the federal
      government and are linked by short-wave radio broadcasts, fax, e-mail and Internet bulletin boards.
      Dixon said e-mail messages had come from throughout the country, including a politician in Minnesota. "As promised last spring and when we met in Chicago, I will stand with you and your church on Nov.
      14," wrote one minister with a Virginia telephone number. "Please send me details on exactly what you have planned on what days.  There are several thousand people who get my e-mail posts," wrote the minister, who could not be reached for comment. Another e-mail offer of help came from a writer representing a North Carolina church with 1,200 members. ...

      In the past, the church has sent a message to militia groups to leave their guns and military-style uniforms home if they come to support the temple. "We're still repeating it, loud and clear," Dixon said. He has estimated that 1,000 or more supporters will come to the church's aid, but Dixon acknowledges that he really doesn't know. Nor does he care, he said.  Dixon will be there.  So, presumably, will his father, the Rev.  Gregory J. Dixon, the former senior pastor who led the church on its quest for independence from the IRS. "We'll just be doing what the Lord wants us to do, and the federal government will do what they think their God wants them to do.  And their God isn't our God.  You can put that in bold letters," the younger Dixon said.

      Contact Terry Horne at (317) 444-6082 or via e-mail at terry.horne@...

      Previous article:
      A coming showdown

      A Star editorial September 30, 2000

      It's easy to dismiss the Indianapolis Baptist Temple as a Southside fringe church, but its lawyers have presented a First Amendment argument worthy of U.S.  Supreme Court review. Until the high court decides whether to accept the temple's appeal, federal marshals should keep their mitts off.  On Thursday, U.S.  District Judge Sarah Evans Barker ordered the church to vacate its premises by Nov. 14 and authorized the government to use "force as necessary" to seize the
      property as payment for millions in back taxes and penalties.

      The Rev.  Greg A.  Dixon says the church will file a petition with the
      court before the November deadline and request a stay of Barker's order as well.

      The case raises novel and complicated questions about the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause: Can a church operate in the United States without following any governmental regulations? The Internal Revenue Service says it cannot and has pursued the church for
      years because of its refusal to withhold taxes from its staff.  All told,
      the church has been ordered to pay $5.3 million in taxes, penalties and
      interest or face the loss of its property at 2711 S.  East St.

      Baptist Temple claims its workers are self-employed ministers responsible for their own tax liabilities.  It pays them all in cash, but advises them to file tax returns, including Social Security and Medicare.
      Church leaders say 60 of them have been audited over the years and no big irregularities found. Dixon not only files a tax return, but refuses to claim standard deductions for his dependents.  It is not the government's role to pay him to raise his children, he contends.

      In order to avoid any entanglement with the government, the church forsook its tax-exempt status in 1984.  It operates as an unincorporated entity and calls itself a New Testament Church.  That means members who fund its operations are not entitled to tax deductions for their donations.

      It is extreme behavior, but it is also principled behavior.  While the
      church has appeared intransigent in refusing to comply with Judge Barker's various requests to provide records or make partial payment, to do so would compromise the very principle it wants the Supreme Court to consider. If the court rejects the appeal, a showdown is inevitable.  Considering the Justice Department's track record at places like Waco and Ruby Ridge, that's a frightening proposition. But the time is not now.  As long as a constitutional tenet is at stake, there should be no rush to seize the church's property. *

      * It is ironic that at a time when courts are continually asserting the so-called doctrine of "separation of church and state" in doing away with such things as prayer at ball games, these same courts determine that this "state" which must be separate, can now govern in the affairs of churches. Which way is it? The truth is, there is no such thing as "separation of church and state" in the Constitution. The Constitution does say, however, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Let's see now, what law is the IRS appealing to, and who "legislated" that  "law?" It wouldn't be Congress, would it? "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States..." Perhaps we need to go back to the basics and ask what part of "No" is it that Congress doesn't understand. And further, if Congress is unable to grasp the concept, doesn't it dawn upon the courts to ask, "Why are we allowing this."
      With whom lies the power of determination of Constitutionality? Is it not the courts? Therefore, it is the courts that run this country, not Congress, the IRS, or any other Branch or Department of WhoCares. It is exclusively the judicial branch of government in any country that throws its nation into internal upheaval and ultimate revolution. Again, I repeat, "It is exclusively the judicial branch of government in any country that throws its nation into internal upheaval and ultimate revolution."   -Ron Branson
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