The Journal Gazette
Thursday, April 25, 2019 1:00 am

Threat of theocracy

Through Smith, Allen County Right to Life seeks to impose its vision on city

Timothy Pape

For the past 18 months, Tim Smith, Republican candidate for mayor, has bragged to almost anyone who would listen that he would win the primary on the backs of the right-wing Christian vote.

Not on his ideas. Not on his experience. But because he's the anointed choice of a well-funded, discriminatory group that is seeking to control who will be the next mayor of Fort Wayne and impose its restrictive beliefs on us all.

Smith's patrons employ a gross distortion of the Christian faith to malign and mistreat our fellow citizens. Smith and his cohort, by specific campaign design and tactic, marshal religious bigotry and hypocrisy to win political power. This is not the welcoming, tolerant Fort Wayne we have fought so hard to promote.

Allen County Right to Life endorsed Smith without interviewing any other mayoral candidates. Right to Life then refused to endorse 5th District Republican candidate Tyler Vanover in spite of Vanover's answering its candidate questionnaire exactly the same as Smith.

Vanover is a gay man. Vanover expressed to Right to Life that abortion is genocide, and it's the most important issue of our generation. Yet, Right to Life did not endorse him. While Allen County Right to Life is coy about it, the obvious reason is intentional, mean-spirited bigotry against homosexuals.

Allen County Right to Life Board President Peter Scaer posts on Facebook: “Gay marriage contributes to a culture in which children are commodities, where wombs are for rent, and to in-vitro fertilization.” Homosexuals are responsible for abortion, according to the local leader of Right to Life, and in-vitro fertilization is caused by gays and is bad (somehow). In that post Scaer also references Paul's Letter to the Romans, in which letter Paul instructs slaves to be obedient to their masters.

These are the voters Smith strategically has rallied to elect him mayor. They practice bigotry. They seek to divide us. They oppose gay marriage. They support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that infamous law that would have allowed – in the name of Jesus Christ, mind you – self-proclaimed Christian businesses to hang “Gays not served” signs.

This bigotry is underscored by Smith's own hypocrisy. Smith piously postures as being “very anti-abortion,” but he spent his entire career working for a company that insures abortion providers and pays to defend them in court. He earns the Right to Life endorsement, but an anti-abortion gay need not apply.

The selective use of the Holy Bible by those of this religious sect to demonize homosexuals further underscores their bigotry. Homosexuality is mentioned a handful of times in the Bible, along with other sinners, such as the greedy, liars, adulterers and fornicators. Yet, you don't see Smith and his cohort seeking to outlaw or disqualify those sinners.

After Smith announced his mayoral candidacy I challenged him in these pages to reject such divisive, exploitative politics, and specifically to pledge opposition to any amendment to ban gay marriage or pass any RFRA-type law. He declined.

Talking economics seems pedestrian in light of the moral peril Smith brings us. Yet, we face the prospect of a mayor who intentionally courts RFRA-style bigotry, and the ensuing national and even international moral outrage it would prompt. He espouses attitudes that slam the door on the talented, tolerant workers we are so intently courting.

Remarkably, it is a testament to Smith's amazing doublespeak that he strangles freedom, yet promises to transform our community by making it a magnet for opportunity.

Proverbs instructs us that God hates those who sow discord. Fort Wayne must stand together and reject those like candidate Smith, the leaders of Right to Life, and their sect of supporters who pervert religious texts and doctrine in the name of discrimination. It's an old trope. Even slavery was justified in the name of the Lord.

Fort Wayne and its mayor should, instead, be a beacon of love to our neighbors, with arms open wide in welcome to all.

Timothy Pape is an attorney and former member of Fort Wayne City Council.

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