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And he was proud to show those news reports in church the following Sunday. On January 16, the part of the service when Johnston talks about all of the great things the church is doing -- just before he collects the offering -- consisted of a video montage Johnston and his crew had made in Topeka.
It opens with Johnston in the rotunda. The preachers have finished their rally, but the pagans are still giving speeches and cheering on the floor below. "Nearly 1,000 evangelical churches have all come together and said, 'We're not going to stop until we have a marriage amendment in Kansas,'" Johnston says, looking into the camera. "Now below me are men and women on the first floor here in the rotunda, listening to Reverend [C. Welton] Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, that's trying to say that if we protect the family, defining it as one man for one woman, that we will be taking away people's freedom. Individuals like this -- from the religious community, if you can imagine -- believe that homosexuality and homosexual marriage should be approved in this country. And if homosexual marriage becomes law, then it will immediately descend to our educational system. They'll begin teaching elementary schoolchildren that mommy does have a partner, another lover."
The video cuts to WDAF Channel 4's Phil Witt and a live shot from First Family Church, where reporter Rob Low explains that, unlike last year, Johnston "and other like-minded ministers ... now believe they have enough politicians on their side to allow a public vote on banning gay marriage." Then there's a similar report from KMBC Channel 9's Dan Weinbaum, which gets lots of applause from the First Family congregation.
In fact, it seems odd that anyone at First Family would be worried about the church's activities turning into "The Jerry Johnston Show."
After all, the preacher is fond of publishing pamphlets with film-strip pictures of himself with Ted Koppel, with Bill O'Reilly, with Deborah Norville, with Charles Gibson, with Joe Scarborough. Back on December 8, First Family held its third annual "World Outreach Media Event" with a couple of other Christian TV and radio stars. "Let's pray for God to expand the territory of our television ministry for 2005!" Johnston wrote in the accompanying pamphlet.
Every Sunday, Johnston pays for a half-hour on KSHB Channel 41 right after Meet the Press and another at 10:30 p.m.
On January 17, he started a regular radio gig from 3:30 to 4 p.m. on KCCV 760.
Johnston clearly believes he's a celebrity.
The bodyguards who trail him, wearing their leather jackets and earpieces? That screams Hollywood.
For a while last week, it looked like I might actually get a chance to talk to Pastor Jerry for this article.
That was after a routine search of public records revealed that, according to the Johnson County Treasurer's office, the minister had not paid the real estate taxes on his half-million-dollar home in the pastoral woods on the far reaches of the suburbs.
He was delinquent for a significant chunk of change -- he owed around $7,000 for 2003 and more than $3,500 for the first half of 2004. So I put in a message to Jeremy Johnston, who handles all of his father's media requests.
Jeremy was friendly enough and suggested that I e-mail all of my questions so that the pastor could "review" them before responding. Specifically, though, he wanted to know more about the tax question so he could clear it up right away. He was certain that his dad had never been delinquent on his taxes.