Jack Cashill likes to play fast and loose with the facts and find conspiracies wherever he can (and where they usually don't exist), as we've copiously documented. So when Cashill alleged in an April 30 WorldNetDaily column that a Kansas City-area church was being unfairly targeted by the local newspaper, it could be assumed that Cashill wasn't telling the whole story. Now that we've had a chance to investigate, we can confirm or suspicions.
Cashill wrote that Kansas City Star reporter Judy Thomas was waging an "assault on the Kansas City area's most effective conservative preacher, Jerry Johnston of the First Family Church in the Kansas suburbs,"beginning with a 2007 article on the church's finances:
Thomas began her assault against Johnston and his church with a comprehensive front-page series in 2007. "Perhaps the biggest criticism of Johnston's church," the readers learn, "is that members aren't allowed to see detailed financial information."
Although Thomas never discovered any financial irregularities, she justified this exhaustive investigative series on the fact that, well, who knows, maybe there might possibly have been some.
Thomas' reporting abounds in irony. She claims that her attention was attracted by the fact that hundreds of members had bailed out of the church, but she is even more disturbed by the church's soaring assets and growing membership.
Cashill leaves a lot out -- namely, that it was the disgruntled former members who were raising questions about the church's finances. Cashill's undefined "irregularities" aside, the Star did find that "the church is structured in a way that provides little financial oversight." Among the findings:
•Broken promise. [Pastor Jerry] Johnston raised millions of dollars in late 2005 for a new children’s building that was to include a Christian academy. But last August, despite completion of the building, he told church members that the launch of the academy was being postponed and that First Family instead would build a bigger, 5,000- to 7,000-seat sanctuary. Financial experts said that raised ethical and possible legal questions.
•Delayed spending. In October 2000 the church launched the “Cornerstone Campaign” for its sanctuary, promising donors their names would be engraved on a large monument near the church entrance. Though $750,000 was raised, the monument wasn’t erected until six years later, after The Star began examining church finances. And it was scaled down considerably from what was proposed in 2000.
•Unexplained land deal. In 2005, Johnston told followers that God had answered their prayers — someone had donated more than 200 acres for a new youth camp. But real estate records show that Johnston’s 25-year-old son, Jeremy, actually signed a $400,000 mortgage on the property in the church’s name.
The Star has also reported on the lavish lifestyle Johnston and his family are enjoying -- including an ultra-exclusive black American Express card -- while the church refuses to tell its members what it pays Johnston.
Cashill goes on to whine:
This past week, in a textbook illustration of chutzpah, Thomas blasted Johnston in another front-page article detailing the money Johnston had to spend on the attorney and public relations fees that Thomas' article necessitated.
Note the blame-shifting there: the church wouldn't have to spend all that money on legal fees and PR agencies if Thomas hadn't reported all those mean things. In Cashill's eyes, the church is innocent no matter what, even if it's being investigated by Kansas tax officials.
The funny thing is that Cashill spends part of his column railing against the exact same behavior he's engaging in. He complains about liberals "defaming key opponents" and quotes a church official as saying, "Doubt is the author's poison. ... Doubt is a toxin that overwhelms reason, pollutes trust and invidiously propagates dissension."
At no point does Cashill contradict anything Thomas say, even as he's defaming her and casting doubt on her reporting -- all because Thomas reported a truth Cashill didn't want to hear.