Wednesday 26 January 2022
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Christian politics turns vicious in Colorado, US

Like in Colorado, The Christian Right and their allies create a new wave of political base-building for lasting power and influence across the United States

While people and the governments of the US alike spare no opportunity to lecture the world on the pitfalls of the religion-politics mix, Christian groups mobilise people for political ends with impunity in that country. Colorado is a rather conspicuous example. “Man, as many people as we have in this school here, we ought to take over Woodland Park.” theocratic leader Andrew Wommack had said at a political mobilisation conference in April at the Charis Bible College he heads. He has not yet taken the town, but the four-candidate slate for the school board backed by his Truth and Liberty Coalition won their races in November 2021 to take control of the five-member board.

It’s a start. But Wommack’s ambitions, like those of the movement of which he’s a part, are national, international, and eternal — and part of an End Times war that’s currently underway.

What had been, until recently, sleepy school board races across the state and the country this year, became political hot potatoes. The Colorado media generally cast these contests as battles between conservative groups and teachers unions, and that the results were mixed. But lost in this framing was the quiet electoral pilot project of the Truth and Liberty Coalition, other arms of Wommack’s political, and educational empire—and their out-of-state partner, the Texas-based Wallbuilders organisation.

‘Approved for use in churches’

It was reported in that this initiative had targeted 17 school boards. Their visible source of support for their candidates came in the form of voter guides in English and Spanish intended for use with churches. Consistent with the culture warring themes of the Christian Right in the past year, the guides asked candidates to agree or disagree with five statements regarding “Critical Race Theory,” “Parental Rights,” “Boys Playing Girl Sports [sic],” “Sex Education,” and “Gender Identity Pronouns.”

The fine print at the bottom of each voter guide illuminates the institutional relationships between the partner organisations behind it.

This election guide has been approved for use in churches by a constitutional attorney licensed to practice before the US Supreme Court. Documentation may be accessed at Paid for by Truth and Liberty Coalition, 1 Innovation Way, Woodland Park, CO 80863. Billy Epperhart, Registered Service Agent.

Epperhart is the CEO of Andrew Wommack Ministries and Charis Bible College.

The link takes you to the website of Christian Voter Guide, published by the Aledo, Texas-based Wallbuilders, a Dominionist, Christian nationalist organisation founded by David Barton, and now run by his son Tim Barton.

The school board races were the pilot project in a long-term campaign by the Truth and Liberty Coalition and its de facto training institute, nearby Charis Bible College, in Woodland Park, a suburb of Colorado Springs. As RD reported, the unaccredited school teaches its students how to conquer the “7 Mountains” of society (government, religion, family, education, media, arts & entertainment, and business) in order to achieve Christian Dominion. This theology and its praxis is known as Seven Mountains Dominionism, 7M for short, and its political conferences are open to a wider community of like-minded Christians.

The main leaders of the Colorado campaign are Texas-based David and Tim Barton of Wallbuilders, 7M theorist Lance Walnau, and Andrew Wommack—who heads a growing education, political and broadcasting empire of increasing national consequence (Wallbuilders was also one of the architects of the stealthy state legislative campaign, Project Blitz.)

Big changes in Grand Junction and Colorado Springs

Nine candidates who won their races for four-year terms on three large school boards in the Colorado Springs area scored 100% on the Truth and Liberty Coalition’s voter guide. These wins flipped board control from Democratic to Republican. The same candidates were also backed and substantially bankrolled by a mysterious, Republican-oriented entity, the Springs Opportunity Fund, which provided more than $57,000 to the candidates. The Springs Opportunity Fund, formed in February 2021, is one of dozens of political committees set up over the past decade by tax attorney Kathleen A. Kennedy (AKA “Katie Kennedy”) of Denver. No one knows who turned on the dark money spigot, but there was no question that these races were awash in more cash than they’d ever seen in a school board race.

In Colorado Springs District 11, three candidates whose views conform to the Truth and Liberty voter guide, won seats on the seven-member board. One of the winners was Rev. Al Loma, senior pastor at Victory Outreach Church, who defeated the incumbent board president by 1,000 votes. In Academy District 20, the region’s largest school district, their candidates won three of the five seats on the board, to take control. Three Coalition-backed candidates also took control of the five-member board in Falcon School District 49.

In the far Western city of Grand Junction, in Mesa County Valley School District 51, three candidates who answered correctly on the Coalition’s issues, swept the three open seats to take control of the five-member board. The races for Mesa 51 were the focus of a feature story on Buzzfeed News and critical reporting by local blogger Anne Landman. The slate was also endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, the Republican Party, and by a far right group, Stand for the Constitution.

These races may seem like small beer to those who only look at the big picture. But they may very well be harbingers of a changing big picture. This is how the Christian Right and their allies will create a new wave of political base-building for lasting power and influence. They may not succeed, but their intentions are clear—even if their visions may sometimes vary.

The victorious Coalition-supported candidates in Grand Junction may be the most colourful as well as the most controversial slate in the state. Angela Lema is the proprietor of a cosmetology school and Will Jones works at a strip club. Anne Landman reported that local realtor Andrea Haitz (along with the entire slate) was,

endorsed by ‘Stand for the Constitution,’ (SFTC) the extreme right-wing group that has been demanding the County Commissioners declare Mesa County a ‘constitutional sanctuary,’ where state and federal laws don’t apply. The Commissioners unanimously rejected SFTC’s demand to do this because doing so would not only violate state and federal laws but their oaths of office as well.

Political mixology

The Coalition’s hundred percenters had mixed success elsewhere. But there’s an old saying that if you don’t play, you don’t win. What’s more, it’s also said that sometimes there’s even winning in losing. This is especially so when a movement is seeking to build for long-term power and control. In all, 21 candidates who scored 100% on the Truth and Liberty Coalition voter guide won seats on school boards. Of these, 12 now have voting control of four school districts.

The Truth and Liberty Coalition did well on its first outing, even if the results were mixed. Beyond the big wins in Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and their home town of Woodland Park, their success elsewhere cannot be measured entirely by the score. For example, the voter guides and their candidates were able to focus on and frame their five issues in their target communities—primarily conservative churches—in this disruptive and disingenuous fashion. This was important because it shifted concerns away from the traditional wonkery of school budgets, curricula, and test scores, and thrust the races deep into contemporary culture war issues, especially via the new gateway into the Christian Right “parents rights.”

Here’s the rundown on the rest of the races with links to the local voter guide and the results in each race:

  • In Elizabeth School District C-1, Coalition candidates won the four-way race to fill three school board seats, taking control of the five-member board in rural Elbert County.
  • In Aspen School District 1, only one candidate that scored 100% on the Coalition scorecard was elected.
  • But in Brighton School District 27J, a Coalition candidate flipped one Democratic seat.
  • Only one of a Coalition-backed slate of candidates won a seat on the Durango School District 9-R.
  • A Coalition candidate won a seat on the Bayfield 10 School District JT-R and another won a seat on the Ignacio School District JT board (in the city of Durango).
  • Coalition candidates won two of the three seats on the ballot for the Estes Park School District R-3.
  • In Widefield School District 3 two of the three Coalition backed candidates also won their races.
  • In Cherry Creek School District 5, none of the three candidates scoring 100% on the Coalition guide took either of the two races.
  • In Cheyenne Mountain School District12, Coalition candidates lost to two incumbents.
  • In Montrose County School District RE-1J, Coalition-backed candidates lost in the three contested races.
  • In Poudre School District R-1there were eleven candidates running for four seats. None of the four Coalition candidates won their races.
  • The four-candidate Coalition slate lost their races in Thompson School District R2-J.

Born for war

This is part of a much-discussed national trend of increasingly contested school board races. In addition to recognising that the theocratic principals in the Truth and Liberty Coalition have national standing, it’s worth noting that just like in past waves of fresh political action, there are other organisations doing similar things for similar reasons, often in close collaboration. Their impact is undoubtedly greater than the sum of their parts in the movement.

One such group called Church Voter Guides, launched in 2021 by former Colorado Springs megachurch Pastor Steve Holt, targeted some of the same school board races as the Truth and Liberty Coalition. In fact, they’re close allies. The Coalition issued a press release promoting the voter guides of both groups on 5th, casting the election as “a referendum on parental rights.”

The group insists, “It’s better to be biblically correct than politically correct!” They also declare,

When the citizenry does not seek to be obedient to God’s Law, they vote in wicked and corrupt candidates, who then trample underfoot the God-given liberties of the people.

Nine days before the election, Holt announced during Sunday service and at his new, much smaller church, The Road @ Chapel Hills, that three members of his church were running for school boards in two districts. All three went on to win: Aaron Salt in Academy District 20 and two of the three members of the winning (and Coalition-backed) slate in District 49, Lori Thompson and Ivy Liu.

Holt asked for a show of hands of people who live in each of the three school districts, District 11, Academy District 20, and District 49. Towards the end of the service he pointed people to stacks of 30,000 cards for parishioners to use to organise people to visit their online voter guide. “So if there is someone who you really don’t think really shares your values—then don’t give them the card,” Holt declared with a twinkle in his eye. “No, I’m only kidding,” he concluded.

Andrew Wommack was present, along with another member of a slate who wasn’t a church member. And just to hint that his congregants are part of something greater than themselves, Holt also said he had met two nights before with former Trump CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (who may run for president), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO).

The following Sunday, just before the Tuesday election, he continued to emphasise the school board races and the role of local churches. While denouncing the “Marxist philosophies that are coming out of the White House,” he said “we are seeing conservative evangelicals rising up” and “I want that to be our prayer, so we can see a more Godly, Christian presence in our county and in our city.”

He called for “a Kingdom of God revolution in our time.” He prayed,

May this state, in the years ahead, run red with the blood of Jesus. May this city, run red with the blood of Jesus. May this county, run red with the blood of Jesus.

As disturbingly ambiguous and unexplained as this prayer was, he also left people with a further mixed message.

Holt said he wanted members of The Road to be seen as “the most loving, kind people in the city. But,” he averred, “that we also don’t lay down for falsehood, lies, deception and evil. But we are known as a people who stand up for truth.” He prayed that God would elect them to school boards. He also prayed,

that these county superintendents wake up and smell the coffee and that we are not going to be pushed around and let our children be taught a bunch of crap.

The title of Holt’s sermon those two Sundays: “Born for War.”

The rise of such groups, and politicians who pander to them, is likely to be part of what the new normal looks like—and not just in Colorado.

Courtesy: Religion Dispatches

A profile to publish the works of established writers, authors, columnists or people in positions of authority who would like to stay anonymous while expressing their views on Sirf News

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