A former Southern Baptist Convention official was arrested May 4 for kneeling and praying outside the White House on behalf of blind Chinese human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng.
Wiley Drake, who served as second vice president of the nation’s second-largest faith group in 2006-2007, was part of a demonstration organized by Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition protesting the administration’s handling of a diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and China prompted by Chen’s daring escape from house arrest and rescue by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Demonstrators in Washington for the May 3 National Day of Prayer called on President Obama to provide asylum for Chen and his family. "I want Mr. Chen to know that we are in support of him,” Drake said in a statement. “We are a nation of laws and freedom. Our country has long been a country of sanctuary and accepting those in trouble, and we will not allow politics to get in the way of protecting human rights."
Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., said he and four others were handcuffed by U.S. Park Police after ignoring orders to stop blocking the sidewalk and move across the street to Lafayette Park. They were released after paying $100 fines.
Back home in California, Drake told the Orange County Register that he didn’t believe he violated any laws and would do it again when he goes back to the nation’s capital in the future. He said the protestors felt what they did “was very minimal” compared to suffering endured by Chen.
Once a popular figure at annual meetings of the SBC because of his frequency at floor microphones to make motions or propose resolutions, Drake turned controversial in 2008 when he got in trouble with the IRS for endorsing Mike Huckabee for president using church letterhead. That was nothing compared to 2009, when Drake said on Alan Colmes’ radio show that he was praying for God to kill Barack Obama.
Drake appeared on the California ballot in 2008 as vice presidential nominee alongside presidential candidate Alan Keyes on the American Independent Party ticket. Later Drake filed state and federal lawsuits seeking to nullify the election, claiming Obama was not born in Hawaii as he claims and does not meet the constitutional requirement that the president be a “natural-born” U.S. citizen.
Recently Drake announced he was dropping plans to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and taking it to the people by running as a write-in candidate for president in 2012.
Friday’s arrest wasn’t Drake’s first run-in with the law. In 1997 a jury convicted him of misdemeanor city code violations for allowing homeless people to stay on his church property and providing them with food and clothing.
Prior to his election as second vice president, Drake was best known in SBC circles for his successful motion to boycott The Disney Company for its support of homosexuals. Messengers ended the 8-year boycott in 2005, declaring it a success.