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Anti-Gay Pastor Enters Ohio Political Arena


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Anti-Gay Pastor Enters Ohio Political Arena

by Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press

Posted: November 18, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Columbus, Ohio) On one side of the street, a handful of liberal ministers pleaded for tolerance of gay rights and respect for Islam. On the other side, hundreds of people cheered as evangelist Rod Parsley called on the crowd to "lock and load" for "a Holy Ghost invasion."

The preacher's rally represented the newest wrinkle in politics in Ohio, the state that put President Bush back in the White House and is engulfed in a political scandal that has given hope to Democrats trying to break a 10-year-old GOP stranglehold on state offices.

The man behind the rally - head of a 12,000-member suburban church, vocal opponent of gay marriage and critic of Islam - is the most high-profile conservative pastor to date to enter the political arena in this battleground state.

The goal of what he calls Reformation Ohio: convert 1 million people to Christianity, help the poor and register 400,000 new voters.

"We just seek to be a voice in the public arena," said Parsley, who has a TV ministry seen around the country.

"For some reason it has become chic to say that everybody should have a voice in that public square, but when born again or evangelical Christians begin to lift up their voice, everyone gets nervous," he said.

While ministers of all stripes have long taken stands on social issues and registered voters, Parsley's political activities worry Democrats and more liberal churches.

His critics say it's impossible to separate the goals of Reformation Ohio from Parsley's work on a successful election campaign to ban gay marriage and his ties to Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative leading many polls in his run for governor next year.

Blackwell spoke briefly at the Statehouse rally.

"If you're not interested in influencing politics, you don't hold a major rally on the steps of the Statehouse," said Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, a member of the national staff of the Cleveland-based and left-leaning United Church of Christ.

In his book, "Silent No More," Parsley questions the biological basis for homosexuality and argues that the gay lifestyle is morally and physically damaging to homosexuals. In his new book, Parsley thanks Blackwell for his support.

Parsley calls Islam an "anti-Christ religion" that intends to use violence to conquer the world and writes that Allah is a demon spirit.

"I don't know how on Sunday you can say one thing and on Monday you can say another," said Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat who spoke at last month's tiny opposition rally.

Though not a political group, Parsley says, Reformation Ohio originated with his 2003 invitation to President Bush's signing of a late-term abortion ban.

Parsley decided he needed to be more vocal about social issues and what he saw as the under-representation of evangelical Christians at the polls.

"I felt led at that point, that God was saying, 'This is a time to present the gospel to people whose values are reflective of biblical values and to present the gospel to them in a major way,"' he said.

Parsley, 48, got his start preaching in the backyard of his parents' home in suburban Columbus as a teenager.

At 29, he built the 5,200-seat World Harvest Church that anchors a large complex of brick buildings - including two schools and an outreach program for ministers - tucked between fields and new subdivisions.

©365Gay.com 2005


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