INDIANAPOLIS (AP) â€” Parishioners and supporters of a church facing seizure for not paying taxes took their vigil into a second day on Wednesday while they waited for federal marshals.
Nearly 24 hours after a noon Tuesday deadline passed for the Indianapolis Baptist Temple to vacate its church and school, a defiant group of about 100 people ate biscuits and gravy in a sanctuary stripped of hymnals, icons and most other items not nailed down.
The Rev. Greg J. Dixon, former pastor of the 1,000-member congregation, spent the night in the church with dozens of others swaddled in sleeping bags.
``This is an attempt to silence dissent,'' he said.
Experts believe the church could become the first seized by the U.S. government in a quarrel over taxes.
The church stopped withholding federal income and Social Security taxes from the paychecks of its employees in 1984. Church officials say their duty to obey God supersedes laws made by humans, and that withholding taxes would make the church an agent of the government.
On Sept. 28, a judge ordered the surrender of the church, its school and parsonages to satisfy a lien of $6 million in back taxes, penalties and interest.
On Tuesday afternoon, federal marshals seized a parsonage a few miles from the church. U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson declined to say when marshals plan to seize the church and other property.
We do not want to jeopardize the safety of any of the members involved,'' he said. ``We don't want any type of confrontation.''
The church's struggle has attracted support across the country from independent, conservative Christians, right-wing militias and others. Many people remaining at the church Wednesday had traveled from other states.
Before Tuesday's deadline, more than 400 people began a prayer vigil, and for most of the day, a revival-like atmosphere held forth as they sang hymns and shouted ``Amen!'' to a series of ministers who preached at the pulpit.
``This is my life,'' said Elizabeth Stadler, 21, who attended the church school for 13 years. ``I'm not going to give it up easily now.''
On the Net:
Indianapolis Baptist Temple: http://www.indianapolisbaptisttemple.com