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Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

May 18, 2007. We've posted an analysis by Rabbi Paula Reimers of the sectarian aspects of the recent Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at which the leader of Capitol Ministries gave the keynote speech. Please click here.

Capitol Ministries: Making disciples for Jesus Christ in state legislatures

by, May 15, 2007

Capitol Ministries aims to "reach every elected official in every nation of the world at every level of government with the uncompromised, saving message of Jesus Christ," according to its website. So far, the California-based group has, again according to its website, "singularly focused on establishing biblical ministries in State Capitols throughout our nation ... in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ within the political arena, at every level."

Last week, at the invitation of some of Capitol Ministries' supporters in the Pennsylvania legislature, the organization held a prayer breakfast in Harrisburg with an assertively Christian program.

So far, in addition to Pennsylvania, Capitol Ministries has established programs that include Bible study groups for elected officials (and separate study groups for their staffers) in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Programs in Montana and Missouri are set to begin and, the CM website says: "Our 2007 Ministry Leader Training Class, which commences in May, includes prospective Ministry Leaders for the following states: Maryland, Michigan, Illinois and Texas. If all goes according to plan, these four states will be online by the end of 2008."

An extreme organization
The growing roster of states is worth noting because of Capitol Ministries' extremism.

The group's leader, Ralph Drollinger, is so extreme that the Los Angeles Daily News reported this month without qualification that he "has a long record of bashing Catholics, gays and mothers of young children who serve in the state Legislature."

The Daily News so described Drollinger in reporting the protest that erupted last week against the participation of the mayor of Santa Clarita, California at a sectarian prayer breakfast at which Drollinger was scheduled to speak. She opted to attend, in order to chide Drollinger and his local sponsors.

Harrisburg prayer breakfast minimally inclusive
In his keynote address to the May 8th Harrisburg "Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast," Drollinger said it was important to challenge legislators to make decisions to "submit to Christ as Lord," according to Rabbi Paula Reimers of Congregation Beth Israel in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who attended.

She also noted Drollinger's remark that it isn't necessary "to coerce one who has come to Christ as to how to vote."

Some invitees to the Harrisburg event had hoped that, in response to their criticisms of the 2006 breakfast, this year's program would be more inclusive of other faiths, the Rev. Dr. Paul M. Fullmer, told in a telephone interview this afternoon.

Fullmer, a Presbyterian minister, said that he had talked to his state representative about the exclusionary nature of the 2006 program. This year, Fullmer said, "there was a nice turnout" of individuals representing the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh and other faiths.

However, Fullmer continued, only the opening and closing prayers were not in the name of Jesus. The rest of the program, he said, was "exclusively Christian." He noted that two verses of the hymn chosen for the program, How Great Thou Art, "are not at all inclusive."

"There seems to be a high level of unawareness," Fullmer said.

Rabbi Reimers said that Capitol Ministries' emphasis on evangelizing lawmakers implied criticism of clergy with legislators as congregants. "I wonder how the priests and rabbis and ministers of the legislators feel," she said. "Obviously, they're not doing their jobs!"

Appearance of official sponsorship
Rev. Fullmer also expressed concern that the program and invitation for the breakfast had the appearance of official sponsorship. "I think it is a misuse of government to send an invitation on General Assembly letterhead when the presentation is geared toward right-wing Christians." (There are examples of last year's program and a copy of this year's invitation at the end of this report.)

Fullmer also noted that the lieutenant governor had introduced Capitol Ministries' Drollinger, the keynote speaker. A local paper quoted her calling him "the epitome of good example for young people."

Bill Patton, a spokesman for Pennsylvania House Speaker Dennis M. O'Brien, told JewsOnFirst that the government did not endorse the prayer breakfast.

Responding to a question about a May 21st "Pastors' Day" that Capitol Ministries is holding at the Capitol and a nearby hotel, Patton said any group that wants to may reserve space for an event at the Capitol and "sometimes [House] members may appear" at the events. The prayer breakfast was held at a hotel.

Fullmer said that because he was quoted in a news report about the breakfast he has received many encouraging letters and emails. He said he and other advocates for a more inclusive program next year, will again contact their representatives "and model to them who they're representing."

Drollinger, the president of Capitol Ministries, was a basketball standout at UCLA and played briefly in the NBA. He is not ordained.

Insulting Catholicism
In 2004 he offended many in the California legislature when he called Catholicism "the world's largest false religion."

According to a 2005 report in the Sacramento News & Review, the previous year Drollinger "had to move the Bible study from the governor’s suites after he labeled Catholicism, the religion of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a 'false religion.'" Thanks to the sponsorship of three Republican legislators, Drollinger moved the study to a legislative suite, according to the paper, where its attendance was around a dozen Republican lawmakers. There is a separate study group for staffers.

In 2004 Drollinger wrote a Bible study stating that women legislators were sinning by leaving their children to go to Sacramento. "It is one thing for a mother to work out of her home while her children are in school," he wrote. "It is quite another matter to have children in the home and live away in Sacramento for four days a week. Whereas the former could be in keeping with the spirit of Proverbs 31, the latter is sinful."

Drollinger amplified with a patriarchal assertion about the roles of men and women. "Man's is, primarily, to be a breadwinner, and women's is to be at home nurturing their children," according to contemporaneous news reports.

Some members of the state Senate responded by wearing aprons to a legislative session.

Drollinger claims support of church-state separation
In the interview with the Sacramento News & Review, Drollinger differentiated his operation from religious right organizations. They, he said, lobby on bills, whereas Capitol Ministries works to win souls (the same distinction he made at the Harrisburg breakfast)..

He also insisted that he supports the separation of church and state, because the two insititutions are biblically ordained to serve different purposes, according to the SNR.

The group's own descriptions of its activities suggests quite the opposite. A 2002 "Bible study lesson series" aimed at Tennessee government workers was titled "Decision-Making and God's Will," according to the Nashville Business Journal.

In 2002, Capitol Ministries leader for North Carolina said the group was "saturating the North Carolina General Assembly, senators, representatives, staff, lobbyists, security, maintenance and bystanders, with Jesus Christ and with His Word,” according to The Charlotte World, a Christian publication.

In 2005, based on an interview with Drollinger (mostly about his days as a basketball player), the Dallas News reported: "Being liked isn't Drollinger's goal with Capitol Ministries. Spreading the gospel to state legislators, and ultimately the U.S. Congress, is."

In 2005, in a retort to the speaker of the California Assembly's statement that all are "children of God," Capitol Ministries' national "expansion" director, Sean Wallentine, said: "While it is nice to believe that God is everyone’s Father, it is not true." Only those who are "born again" become God's "adopted children," Wallentine said in a written statement quoted by the California Observer blog.

The Daily News report on the prayer breakfast in Santa Clarita quoted Wallentine disparaging an alternative Interfaith event. "I would just say they're allowed to have their meeting," he said, "but we wouldn't be supportive of a meeting that taught that there are many ways to heaven. There are not."

Spanking the sin away
This year Drollinger weighed in on a topic of current controversey in California, a bill banning spanking of children under four. In a column in The Pulpit magazine, Drollinger wrote:

[I]f children come into this world morally and ethically neutral then all they really need is education; direction, not correction. Herein is the viewpoint of the Humanist, who believes that man is basically good and his greatest need is education. Since all problems are remedied with learning, there is therefore no need for corrective discipline.

In reality, however, there is a sin problem that needs addressing. To illustrate this, watch toddlers long before they talk. They struggle against you (as their parents), for example, during diaper changes or when you instruct him or her not to touch something. They all have a self-will that defies authority. Left unchecked it will eventually bloom into teenage rebellion. A child’s problem is not a lack of education and instruction.

Drollinger continued, writing:

[T]he rod, according to the Bible, is God’s specific means of dealing with foolishness in the heart of a child. Yes, effective verbal communication is necessary too, but speaking fails without spanking. Consider this in a governmental sense. The Legislature creates penalties for those who violate its decrees. It requires submission. Punishment follows a lack of submission to California’s authority. How would the people of California behave if the Legislature removed all penalties for violating its laws? Would “talking things through” with law-breakers be more effective? Anarchy would rule in the streets! Words without enforcement are ineffective. It is the same in the family.

For more details about Capitol Ministries operations in state capitals, see the group's 2006-07 annual report, subtitled Making Disciples. Click here to read the PDF document.

The 2007 Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast

Rabbi Paula Reimers, Congregation Beth Israel, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, May 17, 2007

In my opinion, the 2007 Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast clearly showed state endorsement of one particular religion (Christianity) and one particular sect within that religion (evangelical Protestantism), and even one particular Christian evangelical organization, Capitol Ministries. Many specific indications would lead to this conclusion: Continue reading (a PDF document).

Prayer breakfast pushes for legislative salvation

Posted by Ford Turner/The Patriot-News Penn-Live Blog, May 9, 2007

Capitol Ministries hopes to have lawmakers in every state submit to the "lordship of Christ," according to the speaker at this year's Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast. College basketball coach John Wooden had to chastise his 7-foot center until Ralph Drollinger realized he had to submit to Wooden's will as the "lord" of the UCLA basketball team.

Drollinger described that experience yesterday as a formative one as he told Pennsylvania legislators of his organization's goal of having lawmakers in every state submit to "the lordship of Christ." Continue.

Prayer breakfast draws multifaith audience

Posted by Ford Turner/The Patriot-News, Penn-Live Blog, May 8, 2007

Ralph Drollinger, the president of Capitol Ministries, told legislators and others gathered for the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast that his evangelical Christian organization hopes to put "men who are Bible expositors" in every state Capitol.

The annual breakfast, an event organized by state legislators that frequently has featured conservative Christian themes, yesterday drew people of several non-Christian backgrounds. They were drawn by public criticism from a Presbyterian minister that last year's breakfast was too focused on Jesus and the Christian faith. Continue.

Lines drawn amid prayer
Mayor says she'll defy, not boycott, Drollinger

Patricia Farrell Aidem, The Los Angeles Daily News, May 2, 2007

Santa Clarita - Mayor Marsha McLean said Wednesday that she would ignore a call to boycott this morning's Prayer Breakfast, opting instead to challenge the controversial keynote speaker with calls for tolerance and appreciation of diversity.

At the Hyatt Valencia event, whose private sponsors call it the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, McLean said she will be a voice for those insulted by speaker Ralph Drollinger, leader of Capitol Ministries, who has a long record of bashing Catholics, gays and mothers of young children who serve in the state Legislature.

Nevertheless, dozens of protesters signed an online petition initiated by blogster Jeff Wilson on community Web site, urging the mayor to be a no-show at the $25-a-plate breakfast. The petition, e-mailed by Wilson to McLean, was sparked by Daily News reports this week on the event and speaker Drollinger. Continue.

Mayor Urges Respect For Beliefs

By Kristopher Daams, The Signal (Santa Clarita Valley, California), Friday May 4, 2007

People should worship in whatever religion they believe - so said Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean at a local prayer breakfast hosted by a group of Christian businessmen.

McLean's comments at the event called for people to "believe in what we in our hearts want to believe."

She also urged support for American troops serving overseas, who are working "to keep the freedom we all enjoy to worship as we please."

The prayer breakfast's keynote speaker, Ralph Drollinger, is known for having asserted several years ago that women legislators who left small children at home were sinning. Continue.

Controversy on menu at prayer breakfast

Alex Dobuzinskis, The Los Angeles Daily News, April 20, 2007

Santa Clarita - The keynote speaker at Thursday's Santa Clarita Mayor's Prayer Breakfast is an evangelical leader who called Catholicism a false religion and accused women legislators of abandoning their children.

While it is not sponsored by the city of Santa Clarita, the annual prayer breakfast typically draws the city's mayor, some City Council members and other local officials.

Mayor Marsha McLean said she plans to speak briefly at the event and will talk about her experience seeing many religions co-exist peacefully when she worked in Israel for the U.S. government. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, a former City Council member, is tentatively scheduled to speak. Continue.

God’s Word on Spanking (Part 1 of 3)

By Ralph Drollinger, Pulpit Magazine ("The Online Magazine of the Shepherds’ Fellowship"), April 4th, 2007. "Ralph is the founder and president of Capitol Ministries. As an extension of the local church, Capitol Ministries seeks to place highly skilled, Bible-teaching evangelists in each of our nation’s State capitols."

Intro: For the past eleven years Ralph has been teaching God’s Word to California’s political leaders. At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, a bill was introduced to ban the spanking of a child under the age of 4. While Capitol Ministries strictly avoids political lobbying, Ralph believed it was important to educate California’s lawmakers regarding God’s perspective on the matter. What follows comes from the study he did for the California state legislators to whom he ministers. Continue.

See also: Part 2 and Part 3 of Drollinger's essay on spanking.

Ministering to the Capitol
Despite controversies and condemnations, Ralph Drollinger says his Capitol Ministries are not blurring church and state

By Shane Goldmacher, Sacramento News & Review, June 30, 2005

Ralph Drollinger is hard to miss. At 7-foot-2, he is an imposing presence as he enters the Capitol, where he leads a small group of legislators, lobbyists and staffers in a weekly evangelical Christian Bible study.

The former University of California, Los Angeles, basketball standout (he won two national championships) peppers his biblical lessons with sports analogies. As his big frame traversed into the room on Wednesday, June 15, he beamed about hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, before quickly delving into the day’s lesson: the archaeological verification of the Old Testament, a relatively benign topic for the sometimes-controversial Drollinger.

“Whereas theological liberals tend to stereotype conservative Christians as simpletons who clench to their beliefs in blind faith--ignorant and lacking intellectual support--this study proves exactly the opposite,” reads Drollinger’s preamble to the lesson. He goes on to say that liberal theology is “tantamount to calling Jesus a liar.” Continue.

Who are God's Children?

The California Observer (blog of Sean Goldmacher), September 30, 2005

Following the governor's veto of AB 849 [legalizing gay marriage], Speaker Fabian Nunez said, "“I am deeply disappointed that the Governor chose to veto AB 849 and let the courts make the tough decisions for him. We are all God’s children and we all deserve to be treated equally under the law..."

The clearly rankled one Christian group, Capitol Ministries which I wrote about earlier this summer.

Sean Wallentine, the director of national expansion for Capitol Ministries, sent out this missive:

There are many, many things that could be said about the statement above [Nunez's], but the purpose of this memorandum is to correct the erroneous statement that all people are God’s children. Why is this so important? It is important because God makes a very big deal about who will and who will not be called his children.

Click here.

Bible study leader stirs controversy
Views on Catholicism, women prompt furor

Bill Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, June 9, 2004

Sacramento - Catholicism is a false religion.

Female legislators with children at home are sinners.

Legislators should let staffers go to the gym three hours a week.

All of these are biblical interpretations from Ralph Drollinger, leader of Capitol Ministries, an evangelical Bible study group that has sparked controversy, protests and an invitation to leave the offices of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Catholic. Continue

Aproned senators protest pastor's remark
'Sinful' zinger aims at legislator moms

Jennifer Coleman, San Diego Tribune (Associated Press), May 25, 2004

Sacramento -- Several state senators donned kitchen aprons and scarlet "M's" yesterday to protest remarks by a pastor who said female lawmakers with small children at home were "sinful."

Sen. Debra Bowen said the domestic revolt was to point out that the lawmakers with children "can do as good a job being parents as they can being legislators."

Bowen and other lawmakers said they were furious to learn the Rev. Ralph Drollinger, who leads a Bible study class for lawmakers, wrote in a Bible lesson that women lawmakers with young children at home are sinners. Continue

The Light Is On In Our State's Capitol
Capitol Ministries Works With Legislators, Others, To Dispel Darkness

By: Joseph Wirtz, The Charlotte World, March 14, 2002

Raleigh--- The logo of Capitol Ministries is comprised of a large traditional state capitol dome surrounded by a dark background. What might not strike you at first though, is the fact that light seems to be emanating from inside the dome, giving the imaginative the impression that when the light is on in the capitol, darkness is dispersed on the outside.

Jim Young, the “Ministry Leader” for the North Carolina edition of Capitol Ministries, will tell you that the overall goal of the ministry reflects what occurs in the logo. Believing that the “light of the world” dispels the darkness of our society, Young endeavors to bring the truth of the Gospel, and not an agenda, to the legislators. This has been accomplished through prayer breakfasts, Bible studies and one-on-one relational time, all of which were unheard of in a sustained capacity in the North Carolina General Assembly before the ministry started its work in 2000.

State Senator Bob Carpenter (R) corroborates the outcome of these goals by stating that “Jim has brought an infinite amount of Christian knowledge to our General Assembly. Our monthly prayer breakfasts and weekly Bible studies have encouraged us, strengthened our faith, and greatly increased our knowledge of the Word of God.” Continue.

Ex-Mavs center Ralph Drollinger is now living by the book
Minister to legislators shunned riches, let faith govern his ways

By Keith Whitmire, The Dallas Morning News August 8, 2005

Ralph Drollinger's NBA career lasted 67 minutes. He hopes the work he does now will last an eternity.

Drollinger, 51, is the president of Capitol Ministries, an evangelical group that provides ministry to legislators in 13 states – but not Texas.

He gave up basketball for Bible studies a long time ago, but Drollinger is perhaps best remembered as the center on John Wooden's final championship team at UCLA in 1975. Continue.

The Sharper Iron blog

Chatter from the religious right about Capitol Ministries, including one remark that Ralph Drollinger selects "Master's Seminary graduates" to staff the organization's state offices. Click here.

Capitol idea offers lawmakers heavenly help

Nashville Business Journal, November 1, 2002

The answer to Tennessee's budget woes may well come from above.

This fall, Brentwood's Capitol Ministries, Tennessee is offering "Decision-Making and God's Will," a Bible study lesson series for Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Building and State Capitol workers.

...California-based Capitol Ministries ministers to the spiritual needs of elected officials, staff and lobbyists in state capitols throughout the country. Click here.


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