On Tuesday, The Plain Dealer reported on a press conference in which a group of ministers (who use an organizational name but claim they are speaking as individuals) voiced their endorsement of Ken Blackwell for governor. Interested in seeing the original article? Try this link. I sent the following letter to the editor, but so far The Plain Dealer hasn’t shown any indication that they will print it. I figure I’ll publish it here.
Predictions that Kenneth Blackwell’s campaign would focus on “God, guns, and gays” received further confirmation Tuesday in Ted Wendling’s article “Ministers Back Blackwell, Challenge IRS.”
The article quotes Donald Tobin, an OSU expert on tax-exempt organizations, as saying that the ministers spoke as individuals; yet it also identifies them as a a group calling themselves “Clergy for Blackwell.” No one disputes people’s right to form groups: like freedom of religion, freedom of association is protected in the American Constitution. But when they act in concert, specifically attempting to influence their congregations by implying that the Blackwell candidacy is blessed, no one should interpret their speech as individual.
This curious non-group “coalition” of people “speaking as individuals” would remind us all that the candidates’ positions on “abortion, same-sex marriage and placement of the Ten Commandments in public buildings” differ. These are serious issues; but does any thinking Ohioan believe that they have anything to do with Ohio’s present decline and imperiled future?
Mr. Blackwell is quoted as saying that “the flip side of a theocracy is not the secular state. The flip side of a theocracy is religous liberty.” What he conveniently forgets is that centuries of successful experience at home and bitter observation abroad have demonstrated that a secular state is the best protector of religious liberties.
In Matthew’s gospel (22:21), Jesus tells us to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” If we were electing a pastor-in-chief, the clergy’s statements–and The Plain Dealer‘s decision to give them prominent display–might make sense. As it is, we are electing a governor; and the governor’s mansion belongs to Caesar.
Electing a believer to live there is a good idea; electing someone who manipulates believers is not.