State GOP leader mixes religion, politics | Opinion


Religion and politics are two subjects many try to never discuss. Then there are those, like new state Republican Executive Committee Chairwoman Melody Potter, who think the two are synonymous.

Potter has made it clear that her actions as the GOP leader will be governed by rules communicated by God Himself.

Sounding much like the recently defeated Roy Moore in his Alabama Senate campaign, Potter told some media outlets about how all of her activities are “God-centered.” She made it clear that all Republicans should follow those same marching orders.

While I have no objection to following the Deity’s (God’s, not Potter’s) commands, I am a strict proponent of the separation of church and state. Claiming to represent God on the government stage has never impressed me. When folks like Potter thump their Bibles and proclaim how the “founding fathers” wanted the majority religion to prevail in public places, they are simply ignoring facts such as the Treaty of Tripoli.

Potter makes much of her role as a Bible study teacher at a Kanawha County Church of God. She insists on Bible quoting, Jesus praying, no matter the occasion or location.

While West Virginia may have swung dramatically to the right in political thinking, I do not believe the majority is prepared to follow Potter and her Tea Party cohorts through the next Red Sea parting. Remember, this is the same executive committee that overwhelmingly voted to oppose last year’s road bond election. The issue passed by a 73-27 percent margin among state residents who voted in October. So much for influence.

Meanwhile, there is much ado in Mingo County about religion as well. This time it involves allegations by County Commissioner Thomas Taylor and others that the county is improperly subsidizing a Christian school. The national Freedom from Religion Foundation has jumped into the fray, too.

Taylor and others charge that the County Commission has negotiated sweetheart deals with Ambassador Christian Academy, renting space at below-market value and subsidizing utility payments.

Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith disputes that, and a handout at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting backed up his claims. It was also noted that 12 non-profits operate on county property without paying rent or utilities. One of those is the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Coal House, where Taylor’s wife is employed.

Debate has gotten heated with Commissioner Diann Hannah siding with Smith during recent meetings.

By the way, Potter apparently agreed not to publicly criticize Republican legislators for not toeing her view of the “party line.” She also agreed to step down as Republican state committeewoman. Those moves, presumably, won her unanimous election as chairwoman.

The problem could be that Potter wasted no time early this week criticizing positions taken by some GOP lawmakers.

I had a productive meeting with Cabell Dels. Kelli Sobonya and Carol Miller, who have offered to take a close look at the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As I have pointed out, both here and in an email to all legislators, the FOIA looks good on paper. However, with no real enforcement procedures except requiring a writ be filed in circuit court, it is highly ineffective.

Several legislators, on both sides of the aisle, have assured me they will support putting some “teeth” into the law.

Among those is Wayne Del. Ken Hicks, who is doing a good job representing his constituents.

Apparently, employees of Secretary of State Mac Warner volunteer to take photographs of some candidates filing for office at the Capitol. I doubt that taking pictures of candidates is in the job description for SOS employees. I wonder if the photography work will be included as in-kind contributions if candidates use them in their future advertising.

I know, I know. These public employees are just “being nice.” Maybe before long, they can start advising candidates on strategy while on government time.

Former Mingo Democrat Del. Phyllis White will challenge Republican incumbent Mark Dean in the 21st District. At week’s end, Delegate Shirley Love was still insisting he would file for Congress from the 3rd District.

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