Recently our local paper, The Acorn, published a wonderfully light piece on our city's "new" mayor, Pastor Rob McCoy. It's largely ceremonial in that council members generally rotate in cycle for their turn as mayor, moreso than it being a true election. Nevertheless, it's Pastor Rob's turn.
Those who seek their worship from Pastor Rob, rejoiced. Others ... have concerns.
Put me in the concern camp.
I'll start by sharing a comment I wrote as a response to The Acorn's piece ... and then we'll dive further or sources.
"I'm sure for those who seek Godspeak as their choice of worship, Pastor Rob McCoy is seen as a friend and community leader. In fact, I have no doubt that, to those with whom his religious views align, Pastor Rob is considered a good family man and community member. I have my concerns about Pastor McCoy, and they're not about whether he is a nice man who believes he is doing the right thing. They're not centered on whether he's a good father, a good friend or even a good cook. He may very well be all of these things. I don't know him personally. And, I have no concern over Pastor McCoy having a faith and god he chooses to believe in. Freedom of and from religion are both important rights to be protected. And while I'm grateful he was helpful and supportive of those in a time of tragedy, I would hope we all are — not just pastors whose very role in society would be to offer this support.
But, as he is mayor of an entire community of people — compromised of different cultural backgrounds, gender identities, sexualities, race, religious denominations and beyond, his alignment with the American Renewal Project, as well as his strong support of abusive therapies such as conversion therapy (and the belief that sexuality is a choice), do concern me.
David Lane, a good friend and strong supporter of McCoy's, who happens to be the founder of the ARP has written:
"As the men and women of Issachar are elected to office in towns and cities across America, the collision of two competing worldviews, Christianity vs. Secularism, will take center stage. The Left’s secular, atheistic values, and ideological supremacy has dominated America for the last three-quarters century. It has to be bridled if America is to survive, for virtue is a key to sustainable freedom.
Secular dominance and political correctness have saturated public education, higher learning, newsrooms, sports events, the Courts, the Fortune 500, Hollywood, and medicine for the last two to three generations. The culture has been impregnated with a sensuous, self-indulgent, and promiscuous character condemned by Biblical Christianity.
Once Evangelical and Pro-Life Catholic Christians arrive at City Hall, they most likely will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God the ruin that Secularism has wrought on America."
Now, if you aren't familiar with the mission of the ARP, it's quite transparent in what it hopes to achieve.
The ARP is designed specifically to drive evangelical pastors into politics in an attempt to establish a Christian theocracy in America. In a 2011 interview Lane stated, “our country is going to hell because pastors won’t lead from the pulpits.”
And so, ARP was formed, which recruits pastors to lead religiously, not just from the pulpits, but from positions of political power.
So, as you can imagine, for someone such as myself, who doesn't subscribe to a religious belief, when I have learned that our city's mayor specifically ran for political office with the expressed intent of aiding the ARP's mission to establish a Christian theocracy in America through the control of political leadership positions, this is disconcerting to say the very least.
And, when you consider McCoy's stance on the separation of church and state (*from a 2016 council meeting — he believes in keeping the state out of the church, but doesn't believe in keeping religion out of the state, and discusses the belief that morality should be legislated) ... I'm not confident he has the ability to be a true representative for EVERYONE in our community. I would like to be proven wrong. However, his vote in opposition of SB54, is one of many instances that suggest otherwise."
Someone followed up on my post, and wanted to get a better understanding of just how heavily involved Mayor Rob is in the American Renewal Project, and more about his history and motives regarding assuming a political leadership role. I've compiled some resources.
“For God and country: more U.S. pastors seek political office in 2016",
December 2015 REUTERS
“NEW YORK (Reuters) - One Sunday two years ago, Pastor Rob McCoy, who believes in banning abortion and gay marriage and putting prayer back in schools, stood at the pulpit of his California mega church and announced he was endorsing a political candidate: himself.
“Every single person in this room has been inculcated and trained to think that any time a pastor opens his mouth to talk about politics from the pulpit, somehow that’s wrong,” said the 51-year-old McCoy. “You’ve been taught incorrectly. There should be no other place that you should speak of it but from the pulpit.”
McCoy represents a tactical shift within a Christian far right seeking to regain its political influence after losing several big battles in the so-called culture wars, including the Supreme Court ruling this year allowing gay marriage. That shift is being brought into sharp focus as activists prepare the battleground for the 2016 general election.”
“David Lane's American Renewal Project mobilizing pastors to run for office” June 2015 WASHINGTON TIMES
“We are mobilizing an army,” David Lane, founder of American Renewal, told The Washington Times on the sidelines of the training session, which he named after a biblical tribe of Israel that produced wise leaders.
During the six-hour session, Bruce Watke, author of “Proverbs and Politics: The Biblical Foundation for Righteous Governing,” told the rapt attendees that there has been a misunderstanding of the separation of church and state in politics. He used parables to outline the need for Christians to be involved in the “dirty” game of politics.
“The righteous must defend society against the wicked by vigilant and spiritual warfare. If Christians don’t fight, the wicked will plunder their heritage,” Mr. Watke said. “With hard work, the wise will prevail over the evil as surely as oil protects iron from rust, as cedar wood protects cloth from moths and salt preserves meat from maggots.”
“Thousand Oaks Councilman Rob McCoy returns from voter outreach trip in South Carolina”
February 2016 VENTURA COUNTY STAR
“McCoy, 51, spoke at an event hosted by the American Renewal Project, a conservative nonprofit that promotes pastor involvement in politics across the nation.
He has been involved with the group in visits to Iowa, New Hampshire and other key primary states in past elections. McCoy said if his schedule allows and if the events don't conflict with council meetings, he'll visit Florida and Nevada in the coming weeks.
"We don't promote one candidate," McCoy said. "We promote evangelicals getting engaged."
“Two fired preschool teachers in Thousand Oaks: not Christian enough?”
April 2015 LA TIMES
“In 2009, Little Oaks was bought by Calvary Chapel, a Thousand Oaks church led by the Rev. Rob McCoy, a conservative Christian with political aspirations.
Over the next few years, the school transitioned from a secular tradition to an explicitly religious one: Mandatory chapel service. Prayers before snack and lunch. Art projects revolving around religious themes.
Teachers were expected to go along with the program. Neither Serrano nor Guevara had a problem with that.
But teachers were also expected to provide the school, starting in 2012, with a "pastoral reference," essentially a religious loyalty oath, signed by each teacher's pastor.
Serrano, 55, a Protestant, and Guevara, 65, a Catholic, were not regular church-goers. They refused to provide the letter, and were fired in August 2012.
“How White Evangelicals Are Outliers Among US Faith Groups”
July 2018 WORD AND WAY
“Rob McCoy, a pastor and city councilman in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is active in a group called the American Renewal Project, which encourages clergy to run for office. He said white evangelicals will defend their values.
“They don’t waver from it,” he said. “It may not be popular, but it still is what they hold to. They are who they are.”
What is the American Renewal Project (founded by David Lane)?
Southern Poverty Law Center
In its own words:
“If God allows, we intend to launch, in the 2013-2014 political cycle, the American Renewal Project, to engage the church in a culture war for religious liberty, to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and to re-establish a Christian culture.” – “The Plan to Put Bible, Prayer Back into Schools,” WND, 12/19/2012
“What we’re doing is the mobilization of pastors and pews to restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage. That’s our goal.” – American Prospect, 1/23/2008
The American Renewal Project (ARP) is run under the sponsorship of the American Family Association (AFA), an anti-LGBT hate group.
The ARP is designed specifically to drive evangelical pastors into politics in an attempt to establish a Christian theocracy in America. In a rare 2011 interview held in Iowa following a gathering of the Iowa Renewal Project in West Des Moines, Lane said that the pastor meetings his organization was holding were spiritual, but “the end result is political. From my perspective,” Lane continued, “our country is going to hell because pastors won’t lead from the pulpits.”
What is a Christian Theocracy?
Theocracy is a form of government in which a religious institution is the source from which all authority derives. The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition:
1. a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.
What is Christian Evangelicism?
In Christianity, evangelism is the commitment to or act of publicly preaching (ministry) of the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ.
HAS MY CONCERN BEEN ADEQUATELY ADDRESSED?
Perhaps Pastor Rob will listen to the community's concerns, and understand why his stated mission in running for office leaves us with great unease. Perhaps Pastor Rob will take heed and note that this community isn't comprised of just Christians — but people of all different religious denominations — and even lack thereof. Perhaps Pastor Rob will demonstrate that he can respect the concept of church and state (regardless of how may ways it can be interpreted).
His comments here, at a city council meeting, in which he talks about legislating morality and keep the state out of the church, but not his religion out of the state, doesn't leave me with the confidence to believe he can look at his whole constituency and represent them fairly and objectively.
Pastor Rob has an opportunity to prove me wrong about my misgivings. I hope for everyone's sake, he does.