This article was written for the May-June 2005 issue of the Columbus Free Press but never made it. (Photos by author: (1) Dave Daubenmire, Roy's Rock speech, December 2004, Columbus, OH; (2) Good Friday Terri Schiavo Prayer Vigil, sponsored by The Center for Bio-ethical Reform-Midwest, March 25, 2005, Statehouse, Columbus, OH.
Former London High School football coach Dave Daubenmire leader and founder of the Central Ohio Christian domionist men’s organization Minutemen United was arrested at Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida on March 23 while attempting to take a cup of water to Terri Shiavo. He views the Schiavo case as the Roe v Wade of euthanasia and fears what he calls “the tsunami of euthanasia” targeting especially the disabled that will follow in its wake.
The Free Press caught up with Daubenmire a week later back at his usual Sarday spot in front of the Capital Care Women’s Center in Clintonville, where since August 2004 the Minutemen have held weekly anti-abortion protests. The following article, the latest installment of our ongoing series on domionist and theocon activities in Central Ohio, is based on our interview with him and his March 28 “Pass the Salt” radio show broadcast live on WRFD-AM from outside the hospice site via cllphone.
The Road to Pinellas Park: Daubenmire, a veteran of Operation Save America’s 2004 occupation of Columbus City Hall (and here), numerous anti-abortion and anti-queer protests, and pro-10 Commandments events, told the Free Press that he struggled with his decision to join the Schiavo protest in Florida. He believed initially that some sort of government intervention would force doctors to “stick the feeding tube back in,” rendering the whole thing a “wasted trip.” When fellow CapCare protester, anti-gay activist, and Ohio Constitution Party vice chair, Dr. Patrick Johnston, handed him a check for the airfare after a March 20 talk at the Church of God of Licking County, however, Daubenmire put his doubts aside, and flew down the next day. Joining him was Bill Dunfee, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Warsaw who was arrested also. Several Minutemen and their wives drove down as well.
On the Ground: Arriving on-site Tuesday morning, “Coach” was surpirsed to find himself only the 12th protester of the morning but surrounded by about 150 reporters and another 150 cops. Despite the Schiavo all-day-every-day media-fest that knocked Iraq, Social Security “reform,” and the Pope’s final days right off Page 1, Daubenmire said that during the 5 days he was there, he saw probably no more than 200 protesters at any given time, though the crowd was fluid and new faces appeared constantly while old faces went away. He denies that the Schiavo event was largely an OSA photo op even though OSA director Flip Benham and other OSA members received much of the media’s attention-- albeit uncritical and unquestioning.
Unlike the OSA gang that thrives on serial-arrests, Coach’s stay in the Pinellas Park Gray Bar was a new experience for him. “I was treated like a criminal,” he said. “I was cuffed and put in the paddy wagon and processed. I sat there for about 8 hours.” After posting a $250 bond, paid by a Knox County contractor, he returned to the hospice where he remained until Saturday.
Daubenmire admits, the “rescue” attempt was simply a symbolic gesture since there was no way to get near the hospice. “I tried to live out Matthew 25:35: I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was in prison and you visited me,” Daubenmire said. “We thought Terri was thirsty. We thought she was hungry. And we thought she was in prison.”
Domionists v “the Church” In a widely distributed news segment that defined the us against them/ tone of the domionist movement, not only relating to secular society but with “mainstream” elements within their own movement, a CBS correspondent asked Daubenmire if the Schiavo event was in fact a road show—a reunion of sorts-- of core Biblical American players who travel from event to event. He agreed. “I always see the same faces…. It’s a religious road show because someone has to go stand for the cause of Christ. I can be sitting home on Easter weekend, but I feel the cause is so great in this place, this is the Roe v Wade of euthanasia.”
Comparing themselves favorably to everybody from David to early Christian martyrs the Minutemen, Operation Save America, Operation Rescue-West, The Christian Defense Coalition and other domionists active in the Schiavo protest, view themselves increasingly as isolated from even ultra conservative evangelical churches they deem “mainstream” and ineffective and even unbiblical, that when push comes to shove, are uninterested in putting their bodies on the line at “abortion mills,” “Where are the local churches?” Daubenmire frequently asks at CapCare where the majority of picketers come from Delaware, Licking, Madison, Knox, and Coshocton counties” The question continued in Pinellas Park where local “evan-jellyish”—too busy with Easter egg hunts—were almost as scarce as Minutemen at a same-sex marriage in Vermont.
Daubenmire, reserves his real ire though for evangelical big wigs: Billy and Franklin Graham, D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Rick Warren, Pat Robertson—even sleazeball televangelist Bennie Hinn-- who talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk to Pinellas Park, leaving people like Daubenmire to carry the load.
The Church: “Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. That’s all we do. Thats what it’s all about. We stand in our pulpits and rail against the culture. We get behind the microphone and rail against the culture. And don’t have the courage or the guts to walk out and do anything about it…The blood of Terri Schiavo is our hands. It’s on the hands of the Church.”
The Bush Brothers and the Republican Party? “We are sick and tired of pro-life Republicans getting our vote and then stepping back and watching this woman die.”
Politicians? “Hired guns.”