Up-and-coming Religious Right activist Rod Parsley has announced the kickoff of a new organization that will use Ohio as a laboratory to perfect a scheme to saturate America with fundamentalist Christian values.
Standing on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus Oct. 14, Parsley announced plans to register 400,000 new voters over four years, evangelize one million Ohioans and recruit 60,000 young people to spread his religio-political message.
Parsley claims his effort is non-partisan, but all of his work to date has been on behalf of socially conservative Republicans. As the Akron Beacon Journal noted, “All the politicians who spoke are conservative evangelical Republicans.”
Among the attendees was Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who is competing for governor in the GOP primary against Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and State Auditor Betty Montgomery. Parsley has held several events with Blackwell, clearly seeking to present him as the favored candidate of conservative Christians.
Several hundred people attended the 90-minute event. Aside from Blackwell, attendees included U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and two members of the Ohio legislature, Sen. Jim Jordan and Rep. Linda Reidelbach.
Parsley introduced Dan Stemen, who will run the new group, called Reformation Ohio. Stemen said he hopes to raise $20 million to spend over four years and open offices in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. A Kansas City-based organization, Youth with a Mission, is kicking in an additional $10 million to pay for the training of young people.
“The vision of our country’s founding generation and the inspiration of great reformers of the past are colliding with unprecedented moral decay and cultural decline,” Parsley said. “Today we come to declare a new movement that is an answer to the crisis of our times.”
The Beacon Journal reported that Parsley told the crowd the Ohio program will become a model for the nation. It also noted that the bombastic preacher did not travel lightly. Parsley was accompanied by “his own security, a media relations firm, rappers and television cameras.” Nearby, a giant television screen played a three-minute video about Parsley’s plan.
Parsley’s efforts to help Ohio’s Republicans seem somewhat ironic. The state’s governor, Bob Taft, is mired in scandal and recently pleaded no contest to violating the state’s ethics laws.
Democrats have criticized the new effort. U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, who is running for governor, attended a counter event and bemoaned the fact that religion “is being used as a political weapon.”
Said Strickland, an ordained Methodist minister, “As I look at the New Testament, I see no indication that Jesus Christ tried to use the instruments of government to accomplish his kingdom on this earth.”