In Sioux City, Iowa, a local pastor is asking for the removal of a newly appointed member of the city's human rights commission. The city council appointed Scott Raasch to the commission, which adjudicates discrimination complaints, on July 8. However, the Rev. Cary Gordon, executive pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach, recently brought to light threatening comments Raasch left comments on Gordon's Facebook page over Gordon's vocal opposition to the Iowa Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. According to the report from the Sioux City Journal:
In one comment, Raasch wrote: “You are haters and bigots and you will get what’s coming to you sooner or later. I hope you rot in hell.”
Gordon replied, “I hope you repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I wouldn’t want you or anyone else to go to hell.”
Raasch wrote, “I know Christ and don’t need a snake oil salesman like you to tell me about him. I guess that’s the difference between us because I think there are many people that deserve to burn in hell … including you and your entire family.”
“He gives blatant death wishes to anyone who disagrees with his political or sexual views," Gordon said Thursday. "He is obviously unstable and filled with raging hatred."
Raasch's temperament certainly suggests he should not be holding any kind of office that requires him to fairly pass judgment on opposing viewpoints. Raasch has apologized since his comments came to light, and so far two of the Sioux City's five city council members are standing behind him.
In a WEEKLY STANDARD feature earlier this year, I warned that local and state "human rights" commissions were trampling all over the First Amendment and targeting Christian business owners and religious organizations over gay rights issues. A few examples:
• In 2007, a lesbian couple brought a complaint to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights against a Methodist organization for not allowing them to use the church’s beachfront camp for a civil-union ceremony. More specifically, the church said they could use the property, just not any of the sacred worship spaces within. That wasn’t accommodating enough, so an administrative judge with the Division on Civil Rights stripped the group of their tax-exempt status, costing them $20,000 a year.
• In 2006, the Arlington County, Virginia, Human Rights Commission ... filed charges against Bono Film and Video for refusing a gay group that wanted video duplication services for footage of a gay rights rally. Again, the owner’s Christian beliefs were cited as the reason for not wanting to participate in promoting the film.
• In 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled against a wedding photography business for declining to photograph a gay commitment ceremony. The husband and wife who own the business are evangelical Christians. They were fined $6,637.
• And in 2011, the D.C. Office of Human Rights investigated allegations that the rights of Muslim college students were violated because they were prohibited from forming a Muslim student group, let alone provided rooms without Christian symbols. The school in question? Catholic University.
In addition to handling the cases in New Jersey and New Mexico, ADF is representing Blaine Adamson, the owner of Hands On Originals, a printer in Kentucky, against the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission. When Hands On Originals was asked to print T-shirts promoting the local gay pride parade, the owner refused on account of his Christian beliefs.
There was also another notable incident where the Catholic owners of bed and breakfast in Vermont paid $30,000 to settle a Human Rights commission complaint over an employee misrepresenting the couple and their attempt to comply with a law forcing them to host gay weddings.
This is the second major Iowa human rights commisson controversy in less than a year. Last fall, the state human rights commission was accused of corruption:
In October, it was revealed that over a five-year period at least 27 Iowa landlords were allowed to make donations to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in lieu of being brought up on charges. “All 27 complaints and requests for a ‘voluntary contribution’ to settle the matters were initiated by the commission itself,” reported the Des Moines Register. “The requests came after sting operations in which representatives of the commission would, for example, pose as prospective tenants and tell landlords over the phone that they needed a service dog for anxiety reasons and quiz them as to whether a pet deposit would apply to them.” The Register further revealed that all fines assessed by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission go directly to the budget of the commission, instead of to the state’s general fund. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission netted close to $20,000 from the landlord sting operation, and according to the former director of the commission, the state attorney general’s office gave its blessing to this way of operating.