The theocracy movement in Ohio
Last Thursday I attended an event of the ACLU of Ohio
, featuring speakers from Equality Ohio
. I wrote just a bit about it here
, but haven't had a chance to write up much of it until now. I was particulary interested to hear Adam Leddy of Equality Ohio
describe the experience of attending a service at Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church, which I have written up here
More of what he told us about Rod Parsley, as well as the other big players in this movement, below the jump.
We'll start with Phil Burress who actually may be more responsible than anyone for laying the groundwork for the theocratic movement in Ohio. Phil Burress is in southwestern Ohio, and he is the leader of Citizens for Community Values. That's an organization that was founded in the early 80s, and originally was exclusively an anti-pornography advocacy group. Phil Burress has been very forthcoming about his pornography addiction, which he credits with ruining his first two marriages,
CCV's first major victory was in 1992 in Cincinnati with Article 12, which successfully removed sexual orientation from Cincinnati's civil rights ordinance, which prohobits the city from protecting GLBT people from discrimination, and that was a major victory for them. It was in 2004 that Article 12 was repealed by the voters in Cincinnati. Burress spearheaded an effort this year to put it back on the ballot, and that effort has failed. It turns out that many of the signatures he gathered were gathered fraudulantly.
Russell Johnson of Fairfield Christian Church, which is south of here, is a church with some 3500 congregants, and is a mostly White church, while Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church is a very diverse church, Johnson's is not. Johnson's church members have been getting elected to public office for quite some time. Recently at least a half dozen in the past couple years. Russell Johnson has some 400,000 people on his e-mail list, and according to the Columbus Dispatch, when Mike DeWine earlier this year decided to come out in support of a federal marriage amendment, Russell Johnson was the person that he called to discuss it with.
Russell Johnson's goal is to recruit 2000 Patriot Pastors, each committed to registering 300 new voters by the end of 2006. And these pastors are to be in every county in Ohio, and that is their mission. Their publicly stated goal is to raise a one million dollar war chest in order to "build a database of 300,000 postal addresses and 100,000 e-mail addresses, to recruit a number of like-minded Christian voters to be 21st century "minute men".
"From our country's classrooms to our courthouses, from Christmas carols to graduation celebrations, from the Pledge of Allegiance to our state motto, the forces of darkness have opposed every public expression of allegiance to God." That's the mentality, and I think that sums it up better than anything I could say.
But the real celebrity of the group, and certainly for us here because he's a local boy, is Rod Parsley. He is the pastor of the World Harvest Church and also the founder and leader of the Center for Moral Clarity and of Reformation Ohio. World Harvest and the Rod Parsley empire have a 40 million dollar a year budget, 12,000 congregants, a 5200 seat church, which is visually stunning and state of the art--I've been there. His weekly television show Breakthrough airs on 1400 cable stations and affiliates. He's got a prep school a Bible college, a mission program, and a church jet.
He's a recent arrival to the spotlight, but it's not that he's only now becoming politically active. He was active throughouth the 80s, any time a movie theater would show an LGBT themed film, he would protest and get people out. But he credits his recent activism to 2003 when he was invited to the White House, not for the first and not for the last time, to attend the president's signing of the partial birth abortion ban.
Reformation Ohio, Parsley's organization's goal has been 400,000 new voters registered, 100,000 new Ohioans brought to faith in Christ. He reportedly had 100,000 strong supporters that he could mobilize on election day in 2004. They're not going to hit these goals in 2006 that we or anyone else knows of. There have been reportedly less than half a dozen Reformation Ohio events this year. An article in the Columbus Dispatch a few weeks ago mentioned that this effort wasn't necessarily going as strongly as they would have liked. A spokesperson said something to the effect that registration numbers are always off in nonpresidential election years, which is true. So the goal for this year is probably going to be the goal for 2008, and it is not by any stretch of the imagination an unattainable goal. So, right now things are not going particularly well for them by all public accounts, but this is an effort that is so far beyond 2006 and 2008, obviously.
Real quickly, I'll run through some of Parsley's basic beliefs. From my recent reading of his book, Silent No More, Parsley believes that the media is aiding a secular effort to silence and persecute Christians, that separation of church and state is a lie that has been foisted on Americans, that our founding fathers did intend to found a Christian nation. He believe that Mohammed was possessed by demons and has called Islam a false religion. The quote again, "I do not believe that our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.
He interestingly enough goes on to suggest that our early 19th century conflicts with the Barbary pirates off the northern coast of Africa, was America's opening salvo in this conflict with Islam. And what's informative about that--what we need to remember--is these people have in created their own version of American history in some cases. And once you've done that, it's not that far of a stretch to believe that you can create the future if you have already remodeled the past into your worldview. They have a very effective narrative going.
There are a number of national groups with which Parsley and Johnson are affiliated that do pull in your Falwells and your Robertsons. The acronyms of the groups are confusing and I can't remember them, but many of the national groups that Parsley and Johnson are involved with, their prime function is to lobby the White House for a harsher policy on Iran and the Middle East in general, in order to lead to the rapture.
The theocracy movement in Ohio | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)
The theocracy movement in Ohio | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)