Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vote For Me Because I'm A Christian And An Evangelical

Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas is one of two Republicans competing for the Attorney General nomination at next month's Indiana Republican Convention. He has the backing of Gov. Mitch Daniels, Secretary of State Todd Rokita and a slew of other Republican leaders across the state. I haven't met Costas, but he appears to have an impressive resume upon which to run. What bothers me is the first YouTube video clip his campaign launched to introduce him to delegates to the state convention. There is a very heavy emphasis on Costas' religion. He wants you to know that he's not just a Christian, but an "evangelical Christian." My question to Costas: Why do you want me to know that you are an evangelical Christian? You are a candidate for Attorney General. As an attorney, I want to know first and foremost that you understand the Indiana Constitution. In particular, I want you to know if you understand the meaning of the part which reads: "No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for any office of trust or profit."

In Indiana politics, religious right fanatics like Eric Miller and Micah Clark seek to place a litmus test on persons seeking public office. If you aren't an evangelical Christian, then you can't be trusted to hold public office. Describing oneself as an "evangelical Christian" is code to say you believe the government should regulate the relations of consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom. It's code to say you believe women are stripped of any right to reproductive health and freedom. It's code to say you believe fundamentalists' interpretation of Christian laws should supersede non-secular, civil laws. By emphasizing that you are an evangelical Christian, are we to believe you will interpret our laws and run the office the way former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore tried to carry out his constitutional duties before being unceremoniously driven from office? Efforts in our country by fundamentalist Christians to impose so-called "Christian law" as the civil law is as much a danger to individual freedom and to the rights of minority groups as is the Islamic radicalism our country is at war with in Afghanistan and Iraq. Islamic radicalism represses religious and individual freedoms in every country where it rules.

The last Indiana Republican to begin his campaign for public office touting his fundamentalist Christian bona fides was Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Matt Kelty. Interestingly, Kelty launched his campaign with a YouTube video clip which relied heavily on a similar religious message. I wrote then about my concern for Kelty's emphasis on his personal religion:

What Kelty and so many politicians forget is that under our constitutional government, religious tests cannot be imposed as a condition to public service. By invoking their personal religion in the fashion Kelty has done, it has the effect of excluding anyone who doesn't subscribe to those particular set of religious beliefs. With a population over 220,000, Fort Wayne is Indiana's second-largest city. The vast majority of the city's residents are no doubt Christian, but I suspect a city of that size includes among its citizens a variety of non-Christians as well. If he becomes mayor, he is expected to represent all citizens, not just those of his same religious faith. But when politicians like Kelty invoke their religion in this fashion, people of other faiths have reason to worry about whether they will be treated equally as

A critic responded to my comment this way: "The Kelty Christmas message is less about alienating voters and more about demonstrating the candidate has a moral compass and core, believes in something that defines good and evil, and has the courage of his convictions to present them." That was before Kelty went on to run a campaign during which he was caught up in lie after lie, received a 9-count indictment for campaign-finance related violations tied to money his campaign received from anti-abortion activists and took a beating at the polls in a race which by all accounts should have been won by the Republican candidate.

Now, I'm not suggesting Costas is anything like Matt Kelty. It doesn't help though that he has surrogates like State Rep. Eric Turner, who has been on a mission to rewrite the Indiana Constitution to ensure that Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens will become permanent, second class citizens, appealing to delegates for support on his behalf. “It is important that the citizens of Indiana have a true conservative in the Attorney General’s office working for them,” Turner said in an appeal to delegates. He added, “Jon has done Christian relief work across the globe and helped found a crisis pregnancy center in Porter County. Jon Costas has a long history of putting his conservative beliefs into action.” What I do see thus far is enough to make me ask additional questions about who Jon Costas is. I'm a delegate to the state convention and I've not yet made up my mind who I will support. Costas is opposed by Chief Deputy Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who has the backing of his boss, Attorney General Steve Carter. I heard talk earlier that Costas was supposed to be the "progressive candidate". If he wants me to vote for him for the same reason Matt Kelty asked voters to support him, I'm going to have a tough time bringing myself to vote for him over his convention opponent.


Wilson46201 said...

...and the incumbent Republican Attorney General Steve Carter was a strong and vocal supporter of SJR-7. Would Zoeller differ?

artfuggins said...

In Indiana GOP politics, being a Christian Evangelical is almost a requirement.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

In Indiana Democrat politics, being an athiest and liberal is almost a requirement.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Can't agree with you on that point, concerned taxpayer. There are no fewer than a few dozen Democratic members of the state legislature who take care to maintain a 100% voting record with Eric Miller as well.

MissouriDemocrat said...

I agree with you 100 percent AI. And then we get the comment from "concerned taxpayer" who obviously believes "Christ-like" means degrading the opposition. This is a perfect example of some of the things wrong in American politics that I have been commenting on since I discovered these blogs. As a christian and a gay american I find it revolting anyone would want to impose their particular brand of conservative christian theology on me. This is religious bigotry at its best.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

My point, AI, was that Wilson/artfuggins & too many others constantly bombard us with how bad religion is and how it has no place in politics, etc.

When you reverse their positions, as I did in my post, you see just how absolutely absurd their position is.

Thank you for your forum.

Unknown said...

Zoeller is chief deputy of the worst run AG's office I've ever experienced in my life. That's the only issue for me. We need change in that office.

daltonsbriefs said...

I know Jon Costas personally, let me expand a bit.

Jon is a Christian and I guess that makes him an evangelical unless he attends a non-evangelical church. Jon works with a missions organization that works with orphans in the third world. I've been in those orphanages with the Mayor, watched him play his guitar and play soccer, he's no radical Pastor Hagee type.

Jon walks his faith, but has never forced his faith.

Your concerns about the radical right are well founded and I think you'll find that the Eric Miller types are actually working more closely with Zoeller because he toed the line and signed pledges to support their issues. Jon did not.

That doesn't mean he won't look at those same issues, but he has made a committment to look at each issue one at a time, balanced on the constitution, and within the confines of his office. He is also no Elliot Spitzer looking to use the job to expand a personal vendetta against a people or niche.

Jon is a practicing elder law attorney, so of course he cares about seniors. I don't think this makes him radical. The attacks on Jon from the far right come from those (like Hoosier Pundit) that claim his "progressiveness" makes him a screaming liberal.

Just some background for those that don't know him personaly.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Daltonsbriefs. Someone forwarded this e-mail from Micah Clark on the race:

Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas is the son of a respected former State
Senator. Costas is a popular mayor having twice been elected to that
office. Although I do not know him very well, I have friends who are
working closely with the Mayor. I have a very favorable opinion of him
based upon our recent conversations.

The other candidate is Deputy Attorney General Greg Zoeller who has
worked as Steve Carter’s right hand for close to eight years and has
political experience going back to the staff of US Senators Dan Quayle
and Dan Coats. I have known Greg for over a decade, first working with
him when he was with George Witwer, the Republican Lt. Governor nominee

running with Steve Goldsmith. I have also worked with Greg on some key
issues in his role in the Attorney General’s office on a zoning law
challenge and issues such as the Ten Commandments and opening prayers
the capitol.

Numerous political insiders are publicly reporting some very
intimidation tactics being used on behalf of Mayor Costas and Governor
Daniels who has endorsed Costas. I do not believe that these two
are directly responsible, but rumors and reports of strong-arm tactics
from a few overzealous administration and Republican party staff
before the June 2nd convention are very disturbing.

Here is how Howey Politics Indiana described this problem: “Several
Republican county chairs have complained to HPI about the strong armed
campaign tactics used by Gov. Daniels’ re-election campaign on behalf
Costas.” The influential newsletter, Indiana Legislative Insight,
reports that some county chairmen are requiring “loyalty pledges”
order for Republican supporters to become delegates. These ostensibly
would require them to vote for Costas if the rumors of strong-arm
tactics being used against county chairs are as true as even I am now

In fact, pressure tactics by a few staffers to make this a referendum
for the Governor or to view support for Greg Zoeller as insubordination

apparently angered Whitley County GOP chairman Jim Banks so much that
went from being neutral, to volunteering to be Zoeller’s campaign
manager during the convention.

There is good reason for delegates and county chairmen to be upset.
(Whether there is a significant backlash remains to be seen.) There is
nothing wrong with endorsements or honest campaigning behind the
which is what both Zoeller and Costas personally seem to be doing.
However, “loyalty oaths” and threats of “keeping score” are
uncalled for, and do not belong in what should be a fair contest and a
friendly competition among Republicans.

Incidentally, if I were hearing of similar rough tactics by a few staff

members under Attorney General Carter portraying a failure to support
their boss’ choice of Zoeller as insubordination, I’d report on
too! I haven’t heard of any such reports.

If anyone on this e-mail list is a GOP delegate or is considering
their county chair to be appointed as a delegate, my advice is to
any undue pressure. You may want to avoid committing to any specific
candidate beforehand. After all, this is supposed to be a convention
election, not a prearranged coronation ceremony. These convention
selections don’t happen all that often and there are two talented
individuals running. Why not wait until you hear each candidate’s
convention speech, and observe his floor demonstrations? Enjoy all the
fun parts of the convention process and make your decision about who
would be the best Attorney General when it is most appropriate based
upon your own convictions.

Micah Clark

Gary R. Welsh said...

I also learned that Costas is a major opponent of gambling. He successfully led the referendum fight against riverboat casinos in Porter County when they were legalized back in the 90s.

artfuggins said...

Concerned Taxpayer: Once again you have deliberately twisted what I said to fit your political agenda. I do not consider religion bad. I come from a religious family. I do object when it becomes part of our government or a litmus test for our political candidates. In the future, let me speak for myself. I do not need you misinterpreting or twisting what I say. But then that is your way of operating.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Again, this proves my very point:

"As a christian and a gay american I find it revolting anyone would want to impose their particular brand of conservative christian theology on me. This is religious bigotry at its best."

Its always OK for the left, homosexuals, and democrats to force their beliefs onto others, and derise those who don't agree with them, but not for Christians, Republicans, or conservatives to do the same.

Wild Wild West Drive said...

My question to Costas: Why do you want me to know that you are an evangelical Christian? You are a candidate for Attorney General. As an attorney, I want to know first and foremost that you understand the Indiana Constitution. In particular, I want you to know if you understand the meaning of the part which reads: "No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for any office of trust or profit."
That was so perfectly said. Too many politicians want us to know about their "religion" but can't tell us much about the constitution.

Haley said...

Concerned Taxpayer, please help me to understand exactly HOW "the left, homosexuals, and democrats" are "force[ing] their beliefs onto others?"

Here's how I see the situation. Homosexuals do not believe their relationships/actions are sinful, and they believe they are deserving of the same civil rights as heterosexuals. Giving them those rights affects you how, exactly? Do you no longer have the right to marry? Will you no longer consider homosexuality a sin? Or will you continue to believe exactly the same thing you did before? Will your minister continue to preach against homosexuality? Will you continue to live your everyday life EXACTLY the way you did before? WHAT does granting homosexuals the same civil rights as everyone else TAKE AWAY from you?

On the other hand, your BELIEFS actually TAKE AWAY rights from other citizens who just happen to have different beliefs than you.

I happen to be a heterosexual Christian woman, and I fail to see how giving my fellow citizens and human beings the same rights as myself is in any way forcing me to believe or do anything differently.

MissouriDemocrat said...

Concerned Taxpayer I think that is backfiring more on you than me. I am not forcing my beliefs down your throat. I am fiscally a conservative. I believe in smaller government and less governmental intervention which speaks to my desire that the religious right not try to run everyones bedroom life based on the bible. I am socailly a liberal on in that those most in need of help, the elderly, infirm, etc. should be given a helping hand. Nothing in either of my stances on things label me a liberal in the strictest interpretation that you far right wing conservative christians hold. It is fairly simple, which one of your right wing ideologies shuold i follow, the baptists, the methodists, the assemblies of god? They dont agree with themselves on lots of bibical areas, but they do agree that my lifestyle is a sin and i should be quarantined, held under water torture until I scream trust jesus i am healed! Thats not Christ-like. It is not christ-like to immediately attack. Jesus looked at the prostitute and said go and sin no more I do not condemn thee! When is the last time you cut any of your political opponents a break by saying, maybe i don't understand what they believe but i fight for their right to believe it. Never i would bet.

La vache qui rit said...

I'm a pro-choice, gambling, swearing, drinking, cards-playing Republican. I don't attend any religious services, and I'm wary of the Evangelical wing of our party. I've known Jon Costas my entire adult life and am a strong supporter.

This is actually the first time Jon ever has mentioned his religion in a campaign context. It was in response to criticism that Costas is too liberal because he's committed such awful breaches as reaching out to trade unions and asking the City Council to write a restaurant smoking ban.

I have never seen Jon make any decision or in any way use his public office to advance his religion. (Aside from traditions like being sworn in with a Bible.) In fact, Jon even went hat-in-hand to Indianapolis to ask for more 3-way liquor licenses for the city so that they could be given to new restaurants that Jon wanted to attract downtown. It was the right thing for creating a vibrant downtown, but it wasn't exactly what a far-out Christian would do.

Where Jon's religion guides him in government policy is in treating everyone fairly, respecting all opinions, exercising good government, spending public money wisely, using natural resources wisely, being compassionate with the disadvantaged, and having patience when things go wrong.

From a non-church-going Republican to another Republican: you have nothing to worry about with Jon Costas's religion.

Unknown said...

That was our biggest problem not having enough "true hearted God spirit people" caring for People First, then things then money. It's Time to rise and let Democracy Shine.