Reformation America
Tanya Erzen printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 04:50:36 PM EST
On an April morning at World Harvest church in Canal Winchester, Ohio, Pastor Rod Parsley declared to the four thousand people assembled in his tabernacle:

The church has been confined to church too long...the idea of the separation of church and state is the biggest lie that was ever perpetrated in America.  And simply put, it's time for us to speak up for an America based on the foundation our fathers established - a foundation of faith and of commitment to moral boundaries. We've lost that America. But we can get it back! ...Our times demand it. Our history compels it. Our future requires it. And God is watching.

Parsley is one of the leaders of Reformation Ohio, a plan to elect conservative Christians to school board and local legislatures throughout the state by registering two million new Christian voters.  Parsley is also a member of the nationwide Patriot Pastors movement, led by Pastor Rick Scarborough, which urges pastors "to promote their congregation's citizenship responsibilities in addition to their spiritual growth."  Churches like World Harvest are the institutional basis for a wider Christian Right political agenda that is increasingly blurring the boundaries between the pulpit and the arena of partisan politics.  

Parsley is representative of a cadre conservative pastors who are using their churches as forums to explicitly discuss political issues and build an extensive grassroots network of conservative religious voters.  In these churches, the pastor's ability to introduce listeners to issues like gay marriage, distribute voter registration cards and values voting guides was a powerful tool during the 2004 presidential elections, and it will be this fall during the Ohio gubernatorial race.

Parsley's church participated in the I Vote Values campaign, a grassroots voter mobilization and education effort spearheaded by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It provided a crucial link between churches and the Bush/Cheney campaign during the 2004 election.   The goal of "I Vote Values," was to register two million previously unregistered voters for the 2004 election by educating Christians about "values-based voting" through an eight-page voter guide, a half a million copies of which Land distributed to pastors to use as talking points to speak to their congregations.  The impetus behind "I Vote Values" was that voting was a biblical duty:

Our attempts to make a difference in society flow from the fact that as Christians we have responsibilities in the realm of the nation as well as in the realm of the Lord's Kingdom.

Land advised Christians to consider themselves, "citizen Christians," citizens of both earthly and spiritual realms with responsibilities in each. "Ultimately, our loyalty belongs not to any political party or candidate, but to God almighty."  Under the section "seeking God for our government," Land included an injunction for Christians to pray for elected officials to lead the nation "according to Judeo-Christian principles," and "to know Christ and be saved."  The citizenship message reminded voters that only their core values-- life, family and freedom, should determine their choice for president.  For state representatives, "Ask what their position is on abortion, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia. We value life."  

The success of the Republican ground campaign during the 2004 elections was partially due to a highly coordinated, face-to-face strategy to bring people to the polls with churches providing key institutional spaces for organizing.   By calling voting a biblical duty, pastors like Parsley made participation in the election an extension of membership in church.  They also used the church venues to discuss and disseminate these ideas.  

Today, as part of Reformation Ohio, Rod Parsley has created a three-year, ten-step plan to "bring spiritual revival and moral reformation to Ohio."  Parsley is organizing thousands of evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders as part of the "Patriot Pastors" network to register new voters and enlist activists.  He has close ties to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council who has also spoken at World Harvest church.  Phil Burress, the head of an Ohio-based political action committee called Citizens for Community Values Action (CCVA) is also linked to Reformation Ohio.

The immediate goal of Reformation Ohio is to elect Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell governor of Ohio in 2006.  Blackwell is a conservative Christian who was the state co-chair of the Bush-Cheney re-election effort in 2004, and he simultaneously supervised the 2004 presidential election as Ohio Secretary of State.  During the 2004 election, Parsley, Burress, and Blackwell campaigned vigorously for the same-sex marriage ban in Ohio with Blackwell personally appearing on radio broadcasts.  Through campaign contributions and joint public appearances, Parsley and Burress are supporting Blackwell's bid to become the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2006.  

This election is critical not just for Ohio, but for the national elections in 2008 as well.   With Blackwell as governor, the republican candidate for president will face a sympathetic and supportive state apparatus in Ohio in 2008.  In 2004, Ohio swung the election to Bush despite wide reports of voting irregularities in predominantly urban and democratic precincts.    If Blackwell becomes governor, the Christian Right in Ohio will have unprecedented institutional power and backing.  

What can be done to oppose the Christian Right in Ohio and throughout the country?  This is not a simply a question of values or voter irregularities, it is also a question of organization and institutions.  Whether democrats can win in the fall and ultimately in 2008 will depend on progressive organizations and religious groups from a variety of faiths and denominations mobilizing their members and countering the message of Parsley, Burress, and Reformation Ohio.  Although groups like America Votes are doing important work, in order to defeat a Christian Right agenda, it is critical to have a grassroots network of progressive religious leaders who can promote a different message from Rod Parsley.  

As I've written, one site of hope is We Believe.  We Believe is a group of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders and laypeople from Columbus and Cleveland who aim to promote a progressive message on faith and public policy,  "speaking as a unified voice of faith representing the diversity of Ohio's religious communities, and ensuring that religion is not co-opted by voices of intolerance and division."

YES to justice for all
                  NO to prosperity for only a few;
YES to diverse religious expression
                  NO to self-righteous certainty;
YES to the common good
                  NO to discrimination against any of God's people;
YES to the voice of religious traditions informing public policy
                  NO to crossing the lines that separate the institutions of Religion and Government.

We Believe plans to focus on social justice issues and to inform their constituencies about voting through public events, a website, and a book of sermons on social justice.  These are important steps in challenging the Christian Right in Ohio, but national grassroots mobilizations are necessary as well.  The success of the Christian Right is due to years of institution building on the local and state level.  Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and the American Family Association, among others have local and state councils that promote their agenda and tie them to a national policy center.  A new message is crucial, but so are the networks and sites of affiliation for people to get involved in issues, and to feel they have a means to combat the theocratic message of someone like Rod Parsley.   Churches, especially, continue to play a key role in galvanizing their constituencies around political issues.   Secular and religious progressives have slowly realized they have been left behind, and it is imperative that we catch up.  

Thank you for posting it. We need to spread the word. I'm pleased that progressive clergy are beginning to take action but not sure how many churches fully understand the threat or the degree of organization of the religious right in Ohio.

My sense is that there aren't a lot of Ohio readers on this site but suggest that readers from any state who have moderate or liberal friends or relatives in Ohio forward the link or print out the post and mail it to them with a request that they discuss it with their pastors or congregants who might be unaware of the details. The newspapers here have begun to give the topic some coverage but leave out information in the interests of appearing "fair and balanced."
There is some good news from Ohio today: Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the Cleveland Congresswoman, and Black mayors of large cities are finally endorsing Strickland. This is important because Blackwell was trying to split the Black vote and has been marketing aggressively to Black clergy - even those who don't share his religious beliefs.

by Psyche on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 05:09:18 PM EST

his shares in the morning after pill.

Blackwell, who opposes abortion rights, also holds stock in Barr Pharmaceuticals, maker of the controversial Plan B, or the morning-after pill, to prevent pregnancy. Many Catholics and conservative Christians believe that emergency contraception can cause an early abortion.

[Blackwell spokesman Carlo] LoParo wouldn't talk about that part of Blackwell's holdings: "I have nothing to say about that. We're just not going to address it."

One more thing he doesn't mention when he attends super-secret meetings of the Council for National Policy.

by moiv on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 08:03:12 PM EST

And maybe he could throw in his shares of Diebold and slot machine stock as well. He sure is a piece of work.

Let's hope RFK Jr.'s new work on election fraud in Ohio in 2004 gets some attention.


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by shaka22 on Thu Sep 19, 2019 at 07:20:40 AM EST

As a resident of Ohio I'm very concerned about Ken Blackwell's ties to dominionst Rod Parsley and other dominionist preacher's.  It is imperative that Ohioans be informed about the dominionist agenda and what it would mean to have Blackwell in office as our governor.

by RasSteve on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 09:33:10 PM EST

God must have been truly ashamed when Jesus failed to enforce religion throughout the Roman Empire.

I guess we're lucky to have World Harvest Church pick up where Jesus went wrong.

by Tenoch on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 06:04:24 PM EST

I just finished reading an article in Rolling Stone (Was the 2004 Election Stolen?) that details the ways that Blackwell and Republicans rigged the election in Ohio in the 2004 Presidential election.  It makes me ill to read about it.  I don't know why I'm only now getting this information.  Why wasn't this reported in the news media?  And this guy is going to be in charge of regulating his own election for Governor?  Here is a link to the article: tion_stolen/1

by RasSteve on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 09:59:16 PM EST
A day or two after the 2004 election I wrote a piece, on a prominent left-leaning forum, that prefigured the Rolling Stone piece you mention.

It discussed preliminary data pointing to the same conclusion as the Rollling Stones piece and also compared the the US 2004 election to that which happened in the Ukraine in the same year. The election in the Ukraine actually conformed more closely with international standards for electoral integrity. The US 2004 election looked rather shoddy by comparison.

The post was quickly deleted.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 10:50:46 PM EST

The NY Times has a good editorial about this today.  Basically, elections in Ohio aren't going to be democratic until Blackwell is no longer overseeing his own election to governor.

Block the Vote, Ohio Remix
Published: June 7, 2006

If there was ever a sign of a ruling party in trouble, it is a game plan that calls for trying to win by discouraging voting.

The latest sign that Republicans have an election-year strategy to shut down voter registration drives comes from Ohio. As the state gears up for a very competitive election season this fall, its secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, has put in place "emergency" regulations that could hit voter registration workers with criminal penalties for perfectly legitimate registration practices. The rules are so draconian they could shut down registration drives in Ohio.

Mr. Blackwell, who also happens to be the Republican candidate for governor this year, has a history of this sort of behavior. In 2004, he instructed county boards of elections to reject any registrations on paper of less than 80-pound stock -- about the thickness of a postcard. His order was almost certainly illegal, and he retracted it after he came under intense criticism. It was, however, in place long enough to get some registrations tossed out.

This year, Mr. Blackwell's office has issued rules and materials that appear to require that paid registration workers, and perhaps even volunteers, personally take the forms they collect to an election office. Organizations that run registration drives generally have the people who register voters bring the forms back to supervisors, who can then review them for errors. Under Mr. Blackwell's edict, everyone involved could be committing a crime. Mr. Blackwell's rules also appear to prohibit people who register voters from sending the forms in by mail. That rule itself may violate federal elections law.

Mr. Blackwell's rules are interpretations of a law the Republican-controlled Ohio Legislature passed recently. Another of the nation's most famous swing states, Florida, has been the scene of similar consternation and confusion since it recently enacted a law that is so harsh that the Florida League of Women Voters announced that it was stopping all voter registration efforts for the first time in 67 years.

Florida's Legislature, like Ohio's, is controlled by Republicans. Throughout American history both parties have shown a willingness to try to use election law to get results they might otherwise not win at the polls. But right now it is clearly the Republicans who believe they have an interest in keeping the voter base small. Mr. Blackwell and other politicians who insist on making it harder to vote never say, of course, that they are worried that get-out-the-vote drives will bring too many poor and minority voters into the system. They say that they want to reduce fraud. However, there is virtually no evidence that registration drives are leading to fraud at the polls.

But there is one clear way that Ohio's election system is corrupt. Decisions about who can vote are being made by a candidate for governor. Mr. Blackwell should hand over responsibility for elections to a decision maker whose only loyalty is to the voters and the law.

by Tanya Erzen on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 01:35:15 PM EST
And before an election instead of after. It's been difficult to get national attention and suspect that will be necessary to get Blackwell to step down. He has to become an embarrassment for the RNC.

This probably deserved a separate diary. I'm afraid it will be lost here for a lot of readers.

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by shaka22 on Sun Sep 01, 2019 at 11:53:31 AM EST

Keith Olberman did a good job covering the stolen election a year ago. Naturally, nothing happened.

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If you wish to return America to its roots.  Its Achilles heel is to eliminate Confidentially between lawyer and client.  It will take demonstrations.  Anything short of this action will fail.

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by Facilitator Peter on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 12:29:37 AM EST

Churches are symbol for unity but some of the pastors are changing the real value of churches and making them as a people gathering place. Using those holy places for other thing like politics is very bad thing. According to top essay services au blogs, Those places are meant for sacredness and holy wordings of god not for other things.

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