Questions Persist About Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Sep 21, 2011 at 10:20:44 PM EST
Rachel Tabachnick's recent revelations about the unusual elasticity of the views of Rev. Samuel Rodriguez reminded me of a post I did about him in 2009. But before we get to that, let's rewind to the beginning of this story, and briefly review what has happened so far.

Tabachnick's post on September 2nd revealed that Rodriguez' views on religious supremacism or religious pluralism may depend on his audience. Her reporting on Rodriguez's leadership role in the rabidly anti-Islam Oak Initiative, led evangelical journalist Greg Metzger to ask Rodriguez about it. Rodriguez pleaded ignorance and insisted that his involvement in the organization had been minimal. He also said that he opposed all forms of "fear-mongering" and "Islamophobia" and that he would resign. But afterward, Metzger began to worry that Rodriguez may be a victim of guilt by association, and went so far as to invoke the specter of McCarthyism.

But Tabachnick further reported on September 21st, on the depth and breadth of Rodriguez's involvement in the Oak Initiative and how it is in turn, deeply enmeshed in the New Apostolic Reformation. She also exposed Rodriguez's apparently contradictory stance on health care reform; and showed that his motives behind immigration reform include an effort to preserve the U.S. as a Christian nation and to counter what he apparently views as the demon of Islam. Metzger now seems to be rethinking his view that Rodriguez has been treated unfairly -- and has some questions for Rodriguez himself. He is undoubtedly not the only one.

My post from 2009 shows that Rodriguez has a history of slippery politics. He had made a big show of joining Democratic figures in promoting a "common ground" agenda on a number of matters including immigration reform. But he soon turned around and told Charisma magazine that he felt that the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) he heads had erred in prioritizing immigration reform over abortion and marriage.

More Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party

Frederick Clarkson

[Fri May 15, 2009 at 11:48:59 AM EST

Not so long ago and not so far away, two agencies of the Religion Industrial Complex held a press conference to announce Come Let Us Reason Together: A Fresh Look at Shared Cultural Values Between Evangelicals and Progressives  (CLURT). The signatories said they had hammered out a common ground "Governing Agenda" for the new Democratic president and Congress. One of the items on the agenda (along with "reducing abortions")was "Creating secure and comprehensive immigration reform."  

Among the principal signatories to this much ballyhooed "common ground" agenda was Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). Whatever his commitment at the time, he now says he has other priorities. In an article in Charisma, titled:  "Hispanic Christians Rally Against Gay Marriage in New York," Rodriguez says he is joining a Religious Right Democratic State Senator in a campaign against marriage equality in New York -- and beyond.

Led by Democratic New York state Sen. Rubén Díaz , a Pentecostal pastor in the Bronx, tens of thousands of Christians are expected to gather outside Gov. David Patterson's Manhattan offices on Sunday afternoon to protest his moves to bring same-sex marriage to the state.

Díaz, who is ordained through the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), said Patterson disrespected the Catholic, Jewish and evangelical communities by introducing the gay marriage bill April 16, just days after Easter and Passover week.

"I'm telling the governor he's being disrespectful," said Díaz, pastor of Christian Community Neighborhood Church in the Bronx. "On Sunday, it is a good possibility that someone in the rally will ask him to resign."

Of course, whatever one's view on marriage equality, Gov. Patterson was certainly not "disrespecting Catholic, Jewish and evangelical communities" merely because he announced the bill a few days after Easter and Passover. That is more than a stretch. Diaz also presumes that all Catholics, Jews and evangelicals are anti-marriage equality, which is very far from the case.

For his part, Rodriguez said:

"This is not a political issue. It's a God issue, and we can't stay in our pews praying," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC.

Although the NHCLC has been known for its activism around immigration reform, Rodriguez said he believes the group misplaced its priorities by emphasizing immigration over the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.

"Immigration is one of God's values, " Rodriguez said. "But when we have to prioritize, if we are faithful to life and marriage, God's going to be faithful to making sure we get comprehensive immigration reform."

While the Religion Industrial Complex apparently thought that they were standing on common ground with a moderate evangelical, apparently they were wrong on both counts.

Meanwhile Rodriguez is emerging as a leader of the new Religious Right.  One indication is his recent announcement  of a "Strategic Partnership" with Liberty Universtity, founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

"It's a natural fit", Rodriguez said.

Frederick, thank you for this. It gives further overview on a complicated person. I do need to clarify what I meant when I said I was worried about McCarthyism and I plan to do that on my blog. I just want to reiterate that I appreciate and have grown from Talk to Action's coverage. There are way too many reporters dismissing this type of coverage and I want to help religious media in particular take it seriously, while trying to remain fair about people's possible motivations and associations. The main concern I had was with consistent labeling of Rodriguez as a NAR leader. I think that there are plenty of people who are clearly in that description and they need to be held accountable for that, but I do not think Rodriguez is a NAR leader. That was the context of my concern about McCarthyism. At any rate, thanks again for your work.

by gregmetzger on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 12:36:32 PM EST
The main concern I had was with consistent labeling of Rodriguez as a NAR leader.

Who has been making these claims?

"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 Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 12:43:51 PM EST

I think at this website he has been regularly referred to as a NAR leader, particularly in writing about Rodriguez's time at the Washington Post. Again, this does not mean I defend him completely, but just that the NAR linkage is not always clear and where it seems to be there we need to do all we can to make sure of it before we make the charge. I would rather err on the side of caution and benefit of the doubt, especially when there is so much (Oak Initiative, Joyner, Jacobs, TheCall) that Rodriguez is clearly connected to that begs for clarification.

by gregmetzger on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 12:57:55 PM EST
I asked because it is easy (and lazy) for journalists to make vague charges (some people claim x) rather than specific charges (person x claims y).

Can you link to a blog post or an article here at that makes this claim?

Also, are you accusing writers at of McCarthyism?

"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 Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 02:59:12 PM EST
Parent y-hopes-for.html This links to my a new blog piece I have done on Rodriguez and the broader conversation between Talk to Action and Christian leaders. Thanks again to everyone here for their stimulating work.

by gregmetzger on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 03:30:05 PM EST

I am still confused about this guy, but this at least lays out the knowable facts. I almost feel sorry for him, he's obviously caught between two worlds.

by Hirador on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 08:09:10 PM EST
...but there are other, equally valid interpretations, in which Rodriguez is anything but a victim.

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