Trouble for “Justice Sunday” Preacher

Back in the 2005 and early 2006, the Family Research Council hosted a series of “Justice Sunday” events timed to coincide with important developments in the political battle over judicial nominations.  

The first event, titled “Stop Filibustering People of Faith,” claimed that some of President Bush’s appellate court nominees were being filibustered because of their religion and was designed to pressure Senate Republicans to deploy the so-called “nuclear option.”

Justice Sunday II: God Save the United States and This Honorable Court” was held some months later and timed to coincide with the beginning of John Roberts’ confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court while “Justice Sunday III: Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land” was timed to coincide with the confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito.

The events featured a wide array of right-wing leaders and members of Congress such as Tony Perkins, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Richard Land, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Zell Miller.  Among the lesser known speakers was Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church which hosted the “Justice Sunday II” event, who boldly declared:

“Number one, it’s a new day.
Number two, liberalism is dead.
Number three, the majority of Americans are conservative.
Number four, you can count on us showing up and speaking out.
And number five, let the church rise.”

Presumably, this isn’t what he meant by the church being on the rise:

The Rev. Jerry Sutton, a prominent Southern Baptist pastor who lost a bid to become president of the denomination, is now facing an upheaval in the megachurch he leads, including complaints that he spent church money on his daughter’s wedding.

[S]ome Two Rivers members are accusing Sutton of failing to abide by church rules and punishing those who question his authority.

“We have a fractured fellowship. Somehow, with the Lord’s help, we need to put this church back together,” Harry Jester, who’s been in the congregation for 32 years, said at a church meeting July 28.

One of Sutton’s former administrative assistants has also said Sutton looked at pornography on his church computer and had an affair with a church staff member — charges that the church denies. The church’s executive pastor, Scott Hutchings, said human resource officials at the church investigated those charges and found no evidence that Sutton had looked at porn or had an affair.

About 600 members attended the July 28 meeting, which was organized by the church so that rumors and allegations could be addressed publicly. Sutton also attended, but did not respond to the allegations.

At the meeting, Hutchings relayed the accusations brought against Sutton, including charges that Sutton used church money to pay for his daughter’s wedding reception and has kept members in the dark on church spending.

Hutchings defended the church budget and acknowledged that the church paid about $4,300 for a reception for Sutton’s daughter that was open to all church members. He said Sutton personally paid for another separate reception outside the church.