You may not know who Wiley Drake is, so first let’s send you over to the FFFF post celebrating his recent visit to the Fullerton City Council meeting to see how he is received:
(by Jan Flory’s Dog on May 19, 2012)
(by Abel Salazar on May 19, 2012)
(by Fullerton Lover on May 19, 2012)
(by Erin on May 19, 2012)
(by One for the books on May 19, 2012)
(by JP on May 19, 2012)
(by Wrong Guy on May 19, 2012)
(by truthseeker on May 19, 2012)
(by JustUs on May 19, 2012)
(by Rain on May 19, 2012)
All right! I think that we can tentatively conclude that the FFFF crowd loves them some Wiley Drake!
This post, put up by Tony Bushala himself unless he lent out his “admin” handle, fails to note some very basic things about Wiley Drake — the Fred “Westboro Baptist Church” Phelps of Southern California. He’s famous enough to have a detailed Wikipedia page (where you’ll find links to original articles on these points), so let’s start there:
#1 — He’s good on homeless issues.
I’ll grant him that. Of course, to eat the food you have to stay for the sermon — and the sermon is where this captive audience may experience a problem. Imagine being homeless and gay, and being told by society that if you want to eat you’re going to have to listen to the man described below.
#2 — He’s a bigot who hates homosexuality with the heat of a thousand Santorums.
Drake wrote the resolution at the Southern Baptist Covention in 1996 calling for a boycott of the Walt Disney Corporation over its decision to “promote homosexuality over family values,” by granting health benefits to gay and lesbian partners of employees. At that time, Drake described homosexuality as “abnormal, biologically unhealthy, as well as contrary to Bible teachings.” Drake later protested an unofficial “Gay Day” celebration held at Disneyland in 1998.
He also campaigned against the appointment of a gay man, former University of Chicago dean James Hormel, as ambassador to Luxembourg. “We need to speak out and say we do not want an avowed homosexual to represent the U.S,” Drake said in 1997.
#3 — He prayed for the death of people who tried to hold him accountable for flouting tax laws.
In early 2008, Drake, the pastor for the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, was a vocal supporter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. He sent out a letter personally endorsing Huckabee. Because the letter was on church stationery, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began investigating Drake for possibly endorsing a political candidate as a church leader; such electioneering by churches is forbidden as a condition for churches’ tax-exempt status.
Drake’s possible violation of federal tax law was reported to the IRS by an advocacy group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). Drake called on supporters use imprecatory prayer to pray for the punishment and even deaths of certain AU members, drawing controversy.
In May 2008, Drake announced that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the IRS.
#4 — He celebrated the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller
Drake was widely criticized for his response to the murder of abortion provider George Tiller on May 31, 2009. Drake stated on his Crusade Radio Program, “I am glad George Tiller is dead.” He called Tiller “a brutal, murdering monster” and said he is “grateful to God” that the physician was killed. He also said, “This man, George Tiller, was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler.” Religion journalist Cary McMullen has written that, in the wake of Tiller’s death, Drake “has gone from being outspoken to being dangerously outspoken, perhaps criminally so.
#5 — He has publicly prayed for the death of President Barack Obama
On The Alan Colmes Show on June 2, 2009, Drake stated that he is engaging in imprecatory prayer, praying for God to kill President Barack Obama, who he claimed needed to “turn his life around.” In 2008 he was party to a lawsuit in federal court, Captain Pamela Barnett v. Barack Hussein Obama, which claimed that Barack Obama was not an American citizen and therefore ineligible to be President of the United States. Also in 2008 he said that God would punish Rick Warren for agreeing to give the benedictionat the inauguration of Obama, who he called an “evil illegal alien”. …
In response to Drake’s comments about Obama, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sing Oldham stated: “Mr. Drake does not represent Southern Baptist actions, resolutions, or positions in his interpretation and application of imprecatory prayers. …Any comments made by Wiley Drake on this subject represent his personal views, not those of the Convention.”
For some reason, his Wikipedia page stops at 2009 — but I haven’t.
#6 — He’s a freaking leader of the “birther” movement
Wiley Drake has joined with uber-nutso birther and Senatorial candiate Orly Taitz to bring meritless lawsuits for the courts to declare that the President was not born in the U.S.
#7 — He just got arrested for refusing to leave the White House area
If you want the details, head over to the OC Weekly website, where they even smack the pastor with a bit of Jesus’ own words.
#8 — Not even the conservative Southern Baptist Convention can stand him.
Drake is a former vice president of the SBC who ran unsuccessfully for president of the SBC this year (receiving just 4 percent in a two-person race). He has been controversial in recent years for hisleadership in the so-called “birther” movement; Drake called Obama an “evil illegal alien.” Most infamously, Drake prayed for the death of President Obama if he does not “turn to God.” In 2008, he called for prayer to end the lives of leaders of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Perhaps as a response, the SBC passed a “civil public discourse” resolution that specifically objected to the “calling for prayers for the deaths of public officials.”
Yes, his own religious denomination had to explain to Wiley Drake that this was wrong.
There’s more, but I’ll stop there. There are two lessons I’ll draw from the fawning over Wiley Drake in the FFFF story.
The first problem I have with Drake is that he wants to enlist God — and thus God’s followers — in terrorism.
If Wiley Drake were praying silently in his room for God to kill Obama and no one knew he was doing it, then I wouldn’t care. His speaking to God would be his business — and God’s listening and responding would be God’s business.
If you whip people up into a frenzy and give them someone to hate, the chances is that some idiot or bastard is going to do something violent and terrible — and if people are afraid to participate in politics (or medicine) for fear that someone will do something violent or terrible to them, then our policies suffer as well. Drake’s view of God is as an entity that can be called upon to punish people with death for their political views. He wants to get his way in politics because he wants people to be afraid that God will strike them down. If prospective violence from God were the only problem, this would be disturbing but not all that dangerous. The problem is that followers get whipped up to consider themselves instruments of God and to do God’s bidding — as they did with Dr. George Tiller. And then Drake tells them, once they’ve committed murder, that they’ve done what God wants.
This is essentially the same thing for which we condemn the extremists in Al Qaeda and Hamas (and their counterparts in other religions.) “Kill this person who I tell you God wants you to kill and ye shall receive thy reward in Heaven.” The difference between Wiley Drake and a murderous cleric is that Drake does not arrange for people to have weapons; he just exhorts them in general that God wants someone to do this on their own. (Technically, he might say that he’s just calling for God to give someone a heart attack, but he knows damned well that some sad sack with a screw loose might take this as imploring him to fulfill God’s wishes. It’s the use of terror for political gain — and you don’t try to reason with or rationalize it, you condemn it.
There are good reasons why, in the interests of free speech, we can’t draw the line to make Drake directly liable for the murder of George Tiller in this way — even if he spent every day muttering out loud the equivalent of Henry II’s “will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”, which led to the death of Thomas Becket. I appreciate that the law can’t do anything to Wiley Drake for blowing hot air on the tinder that may lead to a forest fire of political violence. I’m not asking for the law to intercede. I am asking for people to condemn it so that anyone listening to Wiley Drake knows that the rest of us are horrified by it — just as the Southern Baptist Conference itself was horrified by it.
At the very least, I am asking for people to have the decency NOT to embrace Wiley Drake in the terms that we see in comments to this article on FFFF. (Maybe people have been ignorant of his past — but surely someone there ought to have Googled him before now.) And that brings us to the second problem.
The embrace of Wiley Drake on FFFF shows the problem with single-issue politics.
I know, the FFFF creed is actually three issues, “justice for Kelly Thomas”; undoing the “illegal water tax”; and stopping public unions and doing something, though it’s not clear what, about public pensions. But without the Kelly Thomas killing there would be no successful recall, so even though I suspect that both Tony and his recall candidates care a lot more about public pensions, their power comes from their involvement with the criticism of the FPD — in which Drake has joined them.
That’s fine; despite the above, I don’t see Drake as a pure villain. Whatever the reason for his embrace of rights for the homeless, he’s basically on the right side of this issue. But should the man be celebrated, as opposed to merely acknowledged, for that? Hell no. The sort of celebration of Wiley Drake that I note above suggests either ignorance of his history, or agreement with it — or the opinion that nothing else but this single issue matters.
When you find yourself effusively praising someone with the track record of Wiley Drake, it’s time to search your own soul. I would not mind interviewing him, as Vern recently did, and acknowledging what he has done right — but failing to challenge him on his bigotry and imprecatory prayer is flat our wrong.
If FFFF won’t condemn him for his positions, I hope that other candidates will. You’ve read my doing so right here. Who will stand with me, against him, and risk people the target of a death prayer — or worse?
That you have to wonder whether doing so is safe tells you right there much of what is wrong with it.