HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. — Charles Merrill first came to the attention of Q-Notes two years ago when he sent out a press release announcing that he would not pay taxes because the federal government refused to grant him and his partner the same privileges afforded same-sex married couples.
Just call me the anti-christ: artist and wealthy gay eccentric Charles Merrill is hoppin’ mad that a N.C. newspaper refuses to allow him to use the blog handle of his choice.
“I have no intention of paying Federal and State Income taxes because my same-sex partner and I cannot … receive the same-tax benefits as other married couples,” Merrill explained. “We just want the same federal tax benefits afforded to everyone else. A marriage license in exchange for a tax payment — sounds reasonable to us.”
Merrill describes himself as a “blue blood” and a “self-made millionaire” who reportedly comes from the same family as the founders of Merrill Lynch & Company. According to his own website he was once married to Princess Evangeline Johnson Zalstem-Zalessky, the daughter of the founder of the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.
To date, Merrill has continued to refuse to file a report with the IRS, which is withholding 28 percent of his income.
Now Merrill is up in arms because the Hendersonville Times-News, based in Hendersonville, N.C., has reportedly suspended his access to the paper’s blogsite because his blog name is “Anti-Christ.”
“I have been a very frequent blogger to the online Hendersonville Times-News, which is owned by The New York Times,” says Merrill. “Suddenly, out of nowhere, because they found my username offensive, the paper removed me from the site.”
Merrill, 72, is a lifetime member and financial contributor to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization currently arguing a case before the Supreme Court on whether the FFRF can mount a First Amendment challenge to the Bush administration’s “faith based” initiatives.
“Ironically, the New York Times, in a Feb. 28 editorial this year argued on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s position and against the Bush Administration stand on mixing up religion with the government,” Merrill continues. “Yet, on the other hand, the Times controlled newspaper, says I can’t have a username such as “Anti-Christ.”
“[This is] taking away my first amendment rights as a U.S. citizen to express myself as an atheist.”
At press time, the Hendersonville Times-News had not returned calls to Q-Notes requesting an explanation.