Originally published in the Columbus Free Press, January-February 2005.
All photographs were taken by the author; they did not appear in the original story.
Maybe it was the election. Maybe it’s payback from Operation Rescue/Operation Save America (and here.) Maybe it was our test-market reputation. Whatever it was, Columbus was a key city on the Biblical America Fall Election Tour 2004. Anti-abortion freak shows, street preachers, Minutemen United, Christian vets, and preaching politicians all shared with us their eschatological warnings of eminent national demise unless “Godly government.” is restored to the “high places.”
OHIO RIGHT TO LIFE: On the surface, the September 25 ORTL Voter Rally in Bicentennial Park looked like just another pre-election get-out-the-vote rally. While the local mainstream media was busy covering the OSU football game, and probably found the event inconsequential, its speakers and message were anything but. Keynoter Kay Coles James, Director of the US Office of Personnel Management, joined Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, Rep. Linda Reidelbach(R-Columbus) Derrick Seaver (DINO-Minster, who turned Republican immediately upon re-election), and Cong. Pat Tieberi (R- Columbus) to deliver the unified “moral values” message that “right to life” is the only right that counts.
James, a longtime Republican public policy appointee, formerly with the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation and Pat Robertson’s Regent University (and reportedly a member of the murky Council for National Policy) told the crowd of about 150 that they were the “vanguard of the civil rights movement” fighting “discrimination against young humans who live inside their moms and can’t be seen.” Coles attacked pro-choice politicians, “elitists” and “pseudo-intellectuals” for being more interested in health care, housing, and jobs than securing “my right to life.” Conjuring up a vision of womb warfare Coles argued that “the right to have housing means nothing if you won’t protect my right to my first home, inside my mom which is now probably one of the most violent places in America.”
With the exception of Petro who opposes abortion but didn’t hype his belief with Bible thumping, the life-is-the-only-right theme wound through each speech. The most aggressive came from Ken Blackwell. In a mini-sermon in which he folded Ephesians 6:11(“put on the whole armor of God”), Jeremiah 1:5 (“even before I placed you in the womb I knew thee”) into the Declaration of Independence (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), the gubernatorial hopeful presented his vision of a pro-life, pro-God society, where the Godly state owns the individual. “And so brothers and sisters of faith,” Blackwell excoriated the choir, “there is one primary responsibility of government and that is to protect life, which is the first God-given right. Protect Life. It is the essence of our freedom and it is the cornerstone of our Godly heritage.”
MINUTEMEN UNITED: Minutemen United, the Warsaw-based men’s ministry, headed by former London High School football coach Dave Daubenmire, that partnered locally with Operation Save America’s occupation of City Hall in July, has a growing presence in Columbus and Central, Ohio. Every Saturday since OSA’s departure, anywhere from a dozen to 30 or more “blue meanies in blue beanies,” waving baby blender-bits posters, pray and protest at Capital Care Women’s Clinic on the corner of N. High and Weber Road. A quick census reveals that the majority of protesters carpool in from Coshocton, Warsaw, Mount Vernon, West Lafayette, West Jefferson, Mansfield, and Health. They join long-time regulars Repent Man, prayer walkers, and a handful of non-affiliated protesters from Clintonville and other parts of the city.
On October, 8, the Minutemen staged a protest at the OSU Law School during a town meeting featuring OSU President Karen Holbrook and various school officials. The Minutemen called the demonstration to “chastise” Holbrook’s for her public opposition to Issue 1, the Ohio Marriage Amendment, and to protest the recent decision of the OSU Trustees to offer domestic partner benefits to employees. Claiming that “Mrs. Holbrook” and the Trustees violated Ohio’s Open Meeting law by holding “secret meetings” to decide the domestic partner issue, Daubenmire demanded Holbrook resign saying she is attempting to transform OSU into an “institution of moral decadence. ”
Skipping out on CapCare the Saturday before Christmas, the Minutemen joined Mark Harrington’s Christo-political Reform America at Easton for a “Shopper Education Project” to alert the public of Target’s recent decision to bar Salvation Army bell ringers. According to the Minutemen webpage about 100 people participated and they raised about $200 in donations from supporters which they planned to pass on to the Lancaster Salvation Army.
ISSUE 1: On October12, Minuteman and OSA friend, street preacher, physician, and Ohio Constitution Party vice –chair. Patrick Johnston (right in "Intolerant" shirt) debated Alan Melamed, chair of the anti-Issue 1 Ohioans Protecting the Constitution at the Columbus Metropolitan Club. Johnston accused Issue 1 opponents of having “counterfeit ethical standards” and argued that homosexuality should be criminally prosecuted. According to press reports published across the state, Melamed won hands down. Johnston disagrees. During one of his vigils at CapCare, he told the Free Press that the debate “went great for Christianity.” Johnston said unlike other Issue 1 debaters who liked to cite statistics and “what would be best for Ohio,” he presented a “transcendialist argument” in which he dismantled Melamed’s worldview and ethical system and questioned the propriety of even using the what’s best argument as a standard of judgement. “Whether we benefit from it is irrelevant.”
ROY’S ROCK: October15-17, saw the visit of “Roy’s Rock,” former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore’s 10 Commandments monument, removed by controversial court order from the Alabama Supreme Court. Dubbed the “Restore the Ten Tour ” by national sponsor American Veterans in Domestic Defense, the 5 ton marble monument is being escorted around the country on the back of a 20’ flatbed. The stop here was co-sponsored by Reform America. First stop: City Hal followed by visits to Potter’s House Church and the High Street Baptist Church in Worthington. Downtown, police, apparently expecting an OSA-type confrontation, nearly outnumbered the trickle of spectators. Dave Daubenmire, Mark Harrington, and Hollis Summers from ADVDD spoke. Scheduled speaker, Rep. Linda Reidelbach cancelled. Continuing the moral values message, Mark Harrington declared of the election, “If you think it’s about the economy, you’re stupid!”
OPERATION RESCUE WEST: In what turned out to be the most pathetic field trip of the campaign, Operation Rescue West (not to be confused with OR/OSA who ORW doesn’t speak to) showed up the Friday before the election with its “fleet” of 2 Truth Truck’s bearing baby-bits pics and the slogan “Kerry & Edwards: A Bloody Team for a Bloody America.” After a couple of apparent lively confrontations with protesters in Pennsylvania, OR leader Troy Newman (right with Patrick Johnston) had to settle for a crowd of 9 at City Hall (even the police didn’t bother to show up) 5 of whom were his entourage, and the other 4 Dr. Patrick Johnston and 3 of his small children, one in a stroller.
For what it’s worth, Operation Save America director Flip Benham, implied shortly after the November election that OSA’s presence in Columbus this past summer delivered the state from “the enemies of the cross,” that is, delivered Ohio to George W. Bush. “God directed us to Ohio so that He could make a statement! He made that statement!”
Unfortunately for Dave Daubenmire, that statement wasn’t loud enough. In his first time out, Daubenmire came in last in a 3-way battle for the District 9 seat on the Ohio Board of Education. Saying that it was “all in Gods hands, Coach told the Free Press that when Ken Blackwell is elected next governor, “maybe he’ll appoint me to the Board of Education..