Will McCain "denounce" or "reject" Rod Parsley?
anastasia p printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 01:27:39 AM EST
We are pleased to welcome Anastasia Pantsios as a guest front pager. She is associate editor of the Cleveland Free Times. -- FC

One of the low points of the Democratic presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday was the harping of moderator Tim Russert on the issue of Barack Obama's repudiation of Louis Farrakhan. Although  Obama firmly stated his denunciation of Farrakhan's anti-semitic remarks, Russert wouldn't let it go, worrying the issue until it devolved into a parsing of the difference between the words "denounce" and "reject." It will be fascinating to see whether Russert pursues John McCain this doggedly during the general election debates. The very day that the Obama and Clinton campaigns were preparing for the Cleveland debates, McCain was campaigning at the other end of the state in Concinnati. At his side (captured in an AP photo published in the Columbus Dispatch among other places) was the Rev. Rod Parsley of Columbus's World Harvest Church.

Those of you with moderately keen memories will remember the Rev. Parsley, even though he has been off the political radar recently. In 2004, Parsley actively campaigned throughout Ohio with then Secretary of State Ken Blackwell on behalf of Ohio's "Defense of Marriage" amendment. Parsley was at Blackwell's side when Blackwell made his remark comparing gay people to "barnyard animals." When Blackwell ramped up his gubernatorial campaign the following year, Parsley and fellow Columbus-area pastor the Rev. Russell Johnson were two of his most vocal supporters, promising to activate thousands of "patriot pastors" to turn out hundreds of thousands of new "values voters" for Blackwell. Sometime during that year, for unclear reasons, Parsley slipped off the political radar, not even appearing with Blackwell when he announced the formation of his "Pastors for Blackwell" late that summer.

In spring, 2005, Parsley published a book called "Silent No More." Chapter 5 of that book contains some assertions you'd think any presidential candidate would want to "denounce" and "reject". In that chapter, titled "Islam: The Deception of Allah" (and in a sermon of the same name delivered at World Harvest that May), Parsley claimed that "Muhammad received revelations from demons and not from the true god," "Islam is an anti-Christian religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world" and "Islam is responsible for more pain, more bloodshed and more devastation than nearly any other force on earth at this moment." He talks about the "persecution" of Christians by Muslims whom he dismisses as deluded illiterates.

At that time, in an interview I did for my paper, the Cleveland Free Times, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told me, "The man is inciting hatred, there's no plainer way to say it. When you say an entire group of people are demonic and anti-Christian, that's hate speech, yes." And Ahmad Al-Akhras, who was then president of the Council on American Islam Relations-Ohio said to me, "The message of Jesus is the message of peace and the message of embracing other people. Apparently, he [Parsley] does not seem to understand this. I think those politicians who are being courted by him need to be called upon and they should denounce his hatred."

Certainly any aspiring president who expects to have any chance at forging diplomatic relations in the Middle East would have to condemn -- to both "denounce" and "reject" -- such ideas to be effective. And any candidate who even tacitly endorses such beliefs cannot expect to convince leaders of Muslim countries of the trustworthiness and good faith of the US. Unlike Obama, whose campaign never involved Farrakhan,  McCain in Cincinnati on February 26 praised Parsley, according to the Columbus Dispatch, as a "spritual guide," while Parsley praised McCain as a "strong, true, consistent conservative." Undoubtedly, campaigning with Parsley was McCain's way of trying to signal his acceptability to the evangelical base that has had issues with him. But if Obama owes repeated apologies for the mere fact that he received unsolicited compliments from a man who has said ugly things about Jews, then McCain would seem to need to atone even more for openly embracing on the campaign trail someone who has said equally ugly things about Muslims.

that when I wrote this story in the spring of 2005 in regards to Parsley's close ties to Blackwell I was the only person outside of a handful of local state blogs to write about this -- and no one else in the offline media ever picked it up. Apparently having a governor supported by a virulently anti-Islamic pastor was not alarming to anyone despite Ohio's 150,000 Muslims. I wonder if the possibility of having a president with such support will alarm anyone.

by anastasia p on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 01:38:11 AM EST
In April 2006, I was at a book signing in Cincinnati (yes, I am an Ohioan also) and mentioned the Restoration Project at Kevin Phillips' book signing for his book American Theocracy. I was eager to keep Ken Blackwell out of the governor's office as he is a theocrat and because of his serious conflicts of interest in serving as chairman of Bush's reelection campaign in 2004 and also serving as Ohio's secretary of state.

by khughes1963 on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 09:31:38 PM EST
starting in 2004 was to keep Blackwell out of the governor's mansion.  Yes, his warm support by Parsley and Russell Johnson included sharing their theocratic beliefs. I believe it was Parsley (but could have been Johnson) who said the constitution of Ohio needed to be replaced with Christian Biblical law. I hope someone asks McCain if he also believes this. I am disgusted he can get away with saying that although he doesn't support all of Hagee's ideas he is "proud" and "honored" to have his endorsement. If Obama had said that in response to the question about Farrakhan , who we all know didn't even endorse him at all, there would have been a nuclear explosion. Yet Farrakhan has also said and written a lot of thoughtful things with which one might agree (His release immediately after 9-11 was one of the wisest things I read about that event and the appropriate response to it.) We've got to work hard on welding all these remarks to McCain.

by anastasia p on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 02:48:57 PM EST

is coming a little late to the party, so I don't know if anyone will see it.  I thought people at talk2action would be interested in this video of Parsley talking to Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about the involvement of his church in politics.  He seems to singing a different tune from when he was politicking for Ken Blackwell in 2006.  Also, he claims in the video that the IRS regulations were changed in 1954 to prevent churches from endorsing or opposing candidates for office (a variation on this claim is that LBJ inserted the change into a bill in order to prevent churches from criticizing him in a close election).  What is the truth of the matter regarding the history of the IRS regulations?

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sun Mar 02, 2008 at 04:01:57 PM EST

This is a legend created by the media.  Rod Parsley has/had nothing to do with "Restoration Ohio" and "Patriot Pastors.  These were both created by Russell Johnson.  The two were linked in the media when 31 liberal pastors wrote a complaint to the IRS accusing both of violating their tax exempt status.

Pastor Parsley created "Reformation Ohio".  In 2005, Russell Johnson sent out a flyer to about 200 of his "Patriot Pastors" inviting them to a Reformation Ohio event sponsored by Pastor Parsley.  The flyer said "..Join Russell Johnson and Rod Parsley at a Restoration Ohio Event".  Russell Johnson was given 5 minutes to speak and referred to Pastor Parsley as "my fellow Patroit Pastor".  That is the entire extent of their colaboration.

This legend has been perpetuated by many liberal bloggers and media pundits but it is simply not true.  Go ahead.  Try and find a single verifiable quote of Pastor Parsley claiming for himself "Patriot Pastor" status.  Try and find a single patriot pastor meeting sponsored by Russell Johnson and attended by Pastor Parsley.  You won't.  It never happened.

The truth is the media, and the 31 liberal pastors needed Johnson for the infractions and Pastor Parsley for the name recognition.

by Tell The Ttruth on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 08:19:47 PM EST

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