by the Bible comes to Nevada
as GOD morphs into GOP
Expanded from the 10-13-2002 Daily
Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 3-23-2007, 6-29-2008, 9-25-2011, 6-5-2014 , 10-21-2014
The separation of church and state is a longrunning and convenient national myth. As a nation, we have always sought the nipple of a secular god at which to spiritually suckle while still preaching religious tolerance. That god, of course, would be made unto our own image and likeness.
Politicians, whose careers depend on learning the right things to say before various organizations, become very skilled at which buttons to push where and when.
Commentators more learned than me have observed that we have made the U.S. Constitution into an object of near-religious veneration. Just look at all those who term the American flag as "sacred," the Latin root of which is "sacer," which means "holy."
The principal support for the queer-bashing Question 2 state constitutional amendment on the general election ballot comes from Nevada's Mormon and Catholic churches.
Religion has always influenced our politics. It may seem quaint today, but John F. Kennedy's Catholicism was an issue in the 1960 election. If elected president, would he be obligated to take orders from the pope? JFK had to publicly swear allegiance to his belief in the separation of church and state as allowing him to act apart from his religious beliefs.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Democrats went nuts trying to find out the source of a nefarious multiplicity of toxic rumors which were damaging the party's candidates. They were aghast at what they heard when they finally started monitoring religious radio stations.
Several very successful Nevada elected officials have even split their spousal worship assignments between competing religions. One longtime Catholic officeholder with a Mormon wife used to boast of being "almost a Mormon." He was thus considered quite acceptable to the LDS voting bloc.
Nevadans remain a pretty tolerant lot and don't complain when the First Amendment envelope gets pushed. Just before the 1984 November election, when the recoronation of King Ronald the Vague looked inevitable, the Washoe County Republican Party paid for a major radio advertising campaign announcing the location of its victory party St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church at Plumb Lane and Bowling Alley in Reno. The quite unsubtle message: God is a Republican.
In 1998, a quite ugly and extreme version of religious politics came to Nevada. I first reported it on January 25 of that year. In the October 25, 1998, installment of this column, I wrote the following
"In Nevada, you put an 'R' behind your name and the devil himself could get elected. We've seen that in a number of cases in our state."
I didn't say that. A Nevada Christian conservative Republican did at a local meeting. I taped the program when it ran on Sierra Nevada Community Access Television last Feb. 22 (1998).
It was a formative session of the Nevada Republican Assembly, a Silver State affiliate of an outfit I first revealed on January 25, 1998, in an item entitled "Ayatollah Nevada."
According to Mother Jones Magazine's MoJo Wire, an outfit tamely called the California Federation of Republican Assemblies has an active Nevada chapter. They've taken over the California GOP and advocate replacement of democracy with a Bible-based theocracy.
Am I scared? Hell, yes.
If you websurf to the MoJo site, you will find links to the California and national organizations. The Nevada contact listed is longtime GOP activist Mike Weber of Reno.
The Feb. 22 meeting was most interesting when the camera turned to politicians who showed up asking support: State Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks-Reno, Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sun Valley, and GOP Assembly District 29 candidate Sharron Angle.
The moderator (Weber) checked off a list of candidates particularly worthy of the group's endorsement, including Washington, Gustavson and Rep. John Ensign, R-Las Vegas, who is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"They are 100% believers of everything we're doing as far as our principles are concerned," he (Weber) noted.
Those principles can be found on the Republican Assembly websites linked to the MoJo story. Here's a sampling: "We believe that God is the source of eternal truth and law as revealed in Holy Scripture...We hold to principles over politics...All human rights are granted by God, not government...the Constitution was written by wise men under the inspiration of God...to govern a moral and religious people and it is being destroyed by those who are neither...the forces of socialism and international communism are at present, and continue to be, the greatest threats to our freedom...the Unites (sic) States should stress victory over, rather than co-existence with, or containment of, communism; and its citizens should feel and express the will to win...Only men, not women, will serve in combat.'"
I have posted additional excerpts of the organization's philosophy with the Internet version of this column. It all remains there for you to read.
MoJo Wire reporter Suzanne Herel wrote "a faction of right-wing Republicans who believe in governing by the Bible has already taken control of the California Republican Party. Now they're poised to duplicate that feat in 35 other states and counting under the banner of the new National Federation of Republican Assemblies. Their immediate goal: to cultivate a Reaganesque candidate who can win the presidency in 2000. Their long-term goal: an America ruled by the word of God," Herel reported.
The operative philosophy was typified by one Stephen Frank, who in 1998 served as NFRA president. He "advocates legislating by biblical principles," Herel wrote.
"They condemn the separation of church and state, abortion, affirmative action, women in combat, and homosexuality. And members even Frank, who is Jewish advocate legislating by the Bible.
"Legislation should be biblical principles put into action," Frank says.
I recently revisited that 1998 videotape. The moderator at that founding meeting was indeed Mike Weber, currently a candidate for Assembly Dist. 32 which sprawls from eastern Washoe County to east central Nevada. His opponent is longtime Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain. Weber expects to win easily, he told the Tribune's Willie Albright last July. Legislative reapportionment placed almost all the voters in the new district in Washoe County in eastern Sparks.
GERRYMANDERING FOR GOD AND THE GOP. At a debate last Wednesday sponsored by the Vestal Virgins League of Vague Politics (airing 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. tonight on Action 21/Cable 7, the local UPN affiliate), Democrats, Republicans and fringies alike decried the loss of legislative clout for the north, which saw three assembly seats and one senate seat removed to sprawling southern Nevada. None dared state the reason why. Caving to pressure from the White House, Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, sold the seats to Las Vegas in exchange for the removal of 8,000 Democrats from the new southern Nevada Congressional District 3. Watch that show tonight and see if anybody dares cross the vindictive Raggio. Nobody has the guts.
Campaign 2008: They're Back
That reapportionment has paved the way for the Republican religious right to consolidate its power. Mike Weber may well win. His wife, Bonnie, also appears on the 1998 tape with Washington, Gustavson and Angle. The latter three are up for re- election to the legislature. Bonnie Weber upset County Commissioner Joanne Bond in the GOP primary and faces Democrat James Balough in the general election.
The cult is spreading. The Webers own a signmaking company. One of their clients is Jason Geddes, GOP opponent to longtime Assemblywoman Vivian Freeman, D-Reno. Mr. Geddes has a Bonnie Weber sign in front of his northwest Reno home. Wonder if he knows what he's endorsed? I'll print his and other responses in future columns should anyone care to respond.
When you see the Webers, Sen. Washington, Assemblymembers Angle and Gustavson, or Mr. Geddes, ask them about these issues.
Government by religious code is so dangerous that the Reaganesque president the NFRA was hoping to elect is now sending U.S. soldiers to war all over the world to topple such regimes.
CHARTER CABLE UPDATE. This just in from Reno City Hall: "The next public meeting for cable franchise renewal has been scheduled for Monday, October 21, at 7:00 p.m. in the Reno City Hall Council Chambers. We are planning to run news and radio ads as before, and advertise on our web site. The meeting will also be televised on SNCAT and we may be offering a call-in segment as well." (Watch DecidingFactors.tv for updates.)
Be well. Raise hell.
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Copyright © 1998, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.
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