By John Settle
Many Shreveport churches are proud of their community outreach services –soup kitchens, clothes closets, after school tutoring, etc. –and well they should be. Bishop Brandon and his Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church has recently expanded the definition of “community outreach” –in a way that raises many questions that are worthy of reflection, and perhaps concern.
The local Shreveport NAACP chapter conducts its election of officers and at large Executive Committee in November of each year. The cutoff date for membership, which is a requirement to hold these offices, was Monday, October 16th. At virtually the 13th hour, an envelope with the Praise Temple logo was delivered to the local NAACP office –containing three cashiers checks totaling $1,530 to pay for fifty new NAACP members. The remittier on each of the checks was Praise Temple.
Perhaps it is no surprise that one of Brandon’s church members has announced her intentions to seek the presidency in the November election. However it should be a surprise, and an unwelcomed one, that church funds were utilized to underwrite an obvious takeover attempt of the local NAACP chapter.
The October 25 issue of The Shreveport Sun has as large ad promoting the candidacy of the Praise Temple member who is seeking the presidency of the local NAACP. Brandon, of course, is listed as one of the endorsers. The ad was reportedly paid for with a check from Praise Temple, which could be a violation of the tax regulations regarding non-profits.
How the members of Praise Temple view the Bishop’s generosity for NAACP membership is a question, –or whether or not this financial expenditure is known by the rank and file of his church. Perhaps more important is what impact this expenditure may have on the tax exempt status of his church; specifically can funds of a (presumed) nonprofit church be spent for the private benefit of its members, i.e. a membership in the NAACP?
The NAACP power grab by Brandon is not his first political foray. Recently Brandon endorsed Court of Appeals candidate Francis Pitman at a Sunday morning service; both Francis Pitman and her husband Mike Pitman addressed the congregation. The Pitmans tendered an offering to the church at this service.
Brandon is also the major supporter/enabler of State Representative Barbara Norton, another member of his church. Last year, Norton delivered a $25,000 check from the State of Louisiana to help fund Brandon’s private church school; the school is now closed. Norton delivered similar checks to public schools in her district; Brandon’s school was the only private school to receive state funds.
Brandon, who lives in the high-end Long Lake subdivision in Shreveport, served this year as a member of the Bossier Parish School Bond Advisory Committee. Brandon and his wife (co-pastor of Praise Temple) are the principals in L.L. Brandon Ministries (LLBM) which, according to the webpage, “works hand-in-hand with Praise Temple in a variety of community programs.” Reportedly this business relationship between his private venture and the church he serves is quite profitable for his household.
Brandon is known to be a mover and shaker with the black community, and he has parlayed his church ministry into economic development efforts. Whether or not these are for the good of the entire community and do not primarily rebound to the benefit of his church, its members, and/or his personal welfare is an open question. The NAACP“membership drive” certainly sends a message beyond the “we are better” together mantra Brandon expresses. Hopefully the local NAACP members will select its new leaders utilizing independent judgment, notwithstanding Brandon’s puffing of the membership rolls.