El Paso rejects demand for $10,000 by anti-gay hate group

TomBrown

Tom Brown

Tom Brown Ministries demanded $10,000 from the city of El Paso to settle a lawsuit it initiated over city domestic partner benefits. The city council rejected the demands from the organization labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 2011, Brown began a recall petition against Mayor John Cook and two city council members who voted to reinstate domestic partner benefits. The benefits were approved in 2009 and repealed in an election in 2010 before being reinstated in 2011. The recall election cost five times what the benefits cost the city.

A lower court threw out the recall and the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Complaints against Brown’s ministry were filed with the IRS in 2011 for illegally using his church’s nonprofit status for political purposes.

—  David Taffet

Tom Brown Ministries named anti-gay hate group as El Paso pastor files appeal of recall ruling

Pastor Tom Brown

Just as El Paso pastor Tom Brown filed an appeal this week to the Texas Supreme Court, his Tom Brown Ministries was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Brown filed an appeal Wednesday of a court’s ruling rejecting his effort to recall El Paso Mayor John Cook and two other council members over their support of domestic partner benefits for unmarried city employees.

This was just as the Southern Poverty Law Center was issuing its annual list of anti-gay hate groups. The 27 groups, up from 17 last year, includes Tom Brown Ministries.

Brown’s group is the second anti-gay group in Texas to be declared a hate group by the SPLC after the San Antonio-based Bethesda Christian Institute.

The El Paso City Council approved DP benefits in 2009, but were overturned in a ballot measure led by Brown’s El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values in 2010.

City Council voted to restore DP benefits last year, prompting Brown to begin a recall effort. While a county judge ruled in Brown’s favor after the recall was challenged in court by El Paso Mayor John Cook, the appeals court overturned the decision in February.

While Brown may have filed with the Texas Supreme Court, an attorney for Cook previously said the odds of the court taking the case are slim.

—  Dallasvoice

Anti-gay El Paso pastor faces IRS complaint for using tax-exempt church to fight DP benefits

Pastor Tom Brown of Word of Life Church was the driving force behind a ballot measure to repeal DP benefits in El Paso.

An anti-gay El Paso pastor is accused of illegally using his tax-emempt church to advocate political causes. The Rev. Tom Brown of Word of Life Church, who spearheaded last year’s ballot initiative rescinding domestic partner benefits for city employees, has now launched a petition to  recall council members who voted to restore DP benefits this June. The El Paso Times reports that Brown announced the recall petitions to his congregation last month and has written in support of them on his Tom Brown Ministries website, prompting a complaint to the IRS from Americans United for Separateion of Chruch and State:

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said his group files such complaints against about “eight or 10″ tax-exempt groups nationwide each election cycle.

His group has received several complaints about Brown’s activities from El Paso residents.

“This seems so over-the-top, so brazen an attempt to involve himself in a partisan political campaign,” Lynn said, explaining his group’s reason for filing the complaint.

When Brown’s wife ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in May on an anti-DP benefits platform, she announced her campaign from the pulpit of the church and asked people to meet her in the vestibule if they wanted to volunteer. But it’s unclear if anyone filed a complaint about that incident. Brown denies all of the allegations and says the IRS complaint amounts to “harassment and persecution of anti-religious people against people of faith.”

In related news, the El Paso City Council voted Tuesday to hold a charter election in November 2012. One council member has proposed an anti-discrimination charter amendment that would prohibit the city from denying DP benefits to gay and lesbian employees.

The council, which initially approved DP benefits in 2009, voted to reinstate them last month after a federal judge upheld the ballot initiative rescinding them.

—  John Wright