Rev. Derrick Harkins, director of Faith Outreach at the Democratic National Committee, is distancing himself from the controversial Christian Right Latino leader, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez.
There was a time when the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez was one of the darlings Inside the Beltway. He was one of the new moderate evangelicals who were said to be displacing the bad old Christian Right; ringing-in the end of the culture wars; and inaugurating a shining new era of common ground.
from Rodriguez's Facebook page
But it was not to be.
Much of what was touted as moderation, was not.
The epitome of this was Rick Warren, who was cast as the new Billy Graham. But as it turned out, he was a Christian Right Republican partisan; an anti-gay marriage leader, who later lied about it on Larry King Live; a creationist; held to extreme Austrian school economic views; and was supportive of anti-gay legislation in Africa, until he was exposed and forced into changing his position.
And so on.
And then there was Rev. Samuel Rodriguez.
The national media puffed Rodriguez the way they had Warren. He was a new moderate. A bridge builder. One of the leading spokesmen for Latino Christians, well Latino evangelicals, no really all Latinos.
He was part of a 2009 effort to pass off "abortion reduction" as common ground on abortion, when that was really the strategy of the Religious Right since the 90s.
More recently, reporting by among others, Rachel Tabachnick and Greg Metzger forced Rodriguez to resign from the profoundly Isalmo-phobic Oak Initiative, of which he was a co-founder. The liberal group Faith and Public Life, of which he had once been an advisory board member, called on him to further explain himself.
But he never did.
For a long shining moment, Rodriguez was someone two presidents looked to for help in bringing people together on immigration. It was his best moment, but it soon darkened. As I reported in The Public Eye a few weeks ago, he proved himself to be an unreliable political partner, even on his best issue.
Shortly after the inauguration of President Obama in early 2009, for example, Rodriguez participated in the creation and release of a highly publicized document, Come Let Us Reason Together: A Fresh Look at Shared Cultural Values Between Evangelicals and Progressives. The several signatories announced they had crafted a "Governing Agenda" proposal for the new Democratic president and Congress, including "creating secure and comprehensive immigration reform." But only a few months later Rodriguez told Charisma magazine that he believed NHCLC had "misplaced its priorities by emphasizing immigration over the sanctity of life and traditional marriage."
"Immigration is one of God's values," Rodriguez said. "But when we have to prioritize, if we are faithful to life and marriage, God's going to be faithful to making sure we get comprehensive immigration reform." Rodriguez's comment came on the occasion of his joining Democratic State Senator Reuben Diaz (who is also a Pentecostal minister) in rallying Hispanic Christians against marriage equality in New York.
Unsurprisingly, this past year he emerged as an adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and promoted Christian Right voter mobilization efforts. He also served as a headliner at Christian Right political rallies, including one in New Mexico that also featured Republican Lt. Governor John Sanchez and militant anti-abortion leader, Fr. Frank Pavone.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez has been able to sustain most of his high level relationships, including serving on the boards of directors of leading evangelical organizations including Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, Christianity Today magazine, and the National Association of Evangelicals.
But the bonds may finally be breaking.
In the wake of journalist Greg Metzger's recent detailed expose, Rev. Derrick Harkins, the Faith Outreach director of the Democratic National Committee has disassociated himself from Rodriguez's organization, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Harkins, who has been featured on the NHCLC web site for years, says he was "surprised" that he was still listed as an adviser, and has asked that his name be removed.
As of this writing, Harkins is still listed.
This post is adapted from http://www.talk2action.org/">Talk to Action
Frederick Clarkson is a Senior Fellow at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, MA. He has written about politics and religion for thirty years.
He has written many ground breaking exposes. He was the first to report that elements of the Christian Right were encouraging the formation of citizen militias - five years before the Oklahoma City bombing propelled the militia movement into national consciousness. (Mother Jones). His 1991 undercover investigation of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition was the first to expose and detail the group's plans to take over the Republican Party. (Church & State). He was the first to report the alliance between Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon in advance of the Million Family March on Washington, DC in October 2000. (Salon.com)
He is the editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America (Ig Publishing, 2008) and of A Moment to Decide: The Crisis in Mainstream Presbyterianism, (Institute for Democracy Studies, 2000); and author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, (Common Courage Press, 1997). The Humanist magazine called it "the best book yet written about the religious right." Church & State magazine called it "essential reading for anyone who cares about freedom."
He co-authored Challenging the Christian Right: The Activist's Handbook, (Institute for First Amendment Studies 1992; Ms Foundation edition, 1994) for which he and his co-author were named among the "Media Heroes of 1992" by the Institute for Alternative Journalism. They were described as "especially brave at taking on powerful institutions and persistent about getting stories out... journalists and activists who persevere in fighting censorship and protecting the First Amendment," and "understanding the Christian Right's recent strategy of stealth politics early on, and or doggedly tracking its activities across the U.S."
He and his work have often cited by major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. His radio appearances include NPR's Fresh Air, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation, as well as Democracy Now and the Voice of America. His television interviews include The CBS Evening News, ABC's 20/20, Fox, CNN as well as the BBC, CBC, and Al Jazeera, English.