So Why Is DE State House Giving Official Tributes to Known Christian Dominionists?

On January 19, 2012, one C. Peter Wagner was awarded an official tribute from the Delaware House of Representatives, sponsored by Representative Daniel Short and officially signed off by Speaker Gilligan. The House awards tons of these, but this one is spectacularly different.

Why? Dr. Wagner is a leader in the Christian Dominion movement – they believe that Christians (or at least certain ones of them) should have Dominion over government, the media and business in order to be prepared for the end times. (Michelle Goldberg has a great article on this here.) Called the New Apostolic Reformation by Dr. Wagner, its front line associates are called Apostles and meant to focus on the work of taking over these institutions. You may have heard his name when Governor Perry was showily organizing his state-sponsored prayer rally, called The Response.

The great blog Right Wing Watch picked this up when they received a copy of an email that Wagner sent out to his people. In it, he replicates the text of the Tribute awarded to him from the House:

State of Delaware House of Representatives. Tribute. Be it known to all that the House of Representatives recognizes Dr. C. Peter Wagner As an Apostle For the Occasion of Commissioning Apostles in the State of Delaware. On this special day of the Commissioning Service, we honor Dr. C. Peter Wagner for his many years of faithful service to the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and the advancement of His Kingdom. ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” Rev. 3:7.’ The House of Representatives extends its sincere congratulations and directs this tribute to be presented on this 19th day of January 2012. (Signed) Robert F. Gilligan, Speaker of the House; Richard L. Puffer, Chief Clerk of the House, Representative Daniel B. Short, Sponsor.

This is highly unusual and an abuse of what was intended for legislative tributes. The history of ‘tributes’ dates back only about 12 years or so. Before tributes, the General Assembly would wade through scores of non-controversial resolutions, Eagle Scouts congratulations, stuff like that, each resolution requiring a print run and somebody to write the empty ‘Whereas’ clauses, and a legislative body to vote on it. Plus, they didn’t exactly look like ‘keepsakes’ when received by the honorees. Richard B. Carter, Administrative Assistant for the Delaware State Senate Majority Caucus, came up with the tribute concept, a one-page document enclosed in a navy-blue binder, tribute prepared on a faux-parchment stock, and signed only by President Pro-Tem or Speaker, the Chief Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate, and the sponsor of the tribute. The program has served its intended purpose and has generally worked well. The advantages are considerable: No print runs, no votes, and a genuine keepsake for the recipient. It works and works well, as long as tributes comport with the non-controversial intent of the program, and someone doesn’t try to slip something like this through. Especially since this document implies the imprimatur of the Delaware State House of Representatives on a particular type of religion. Did they really have to quote biblical scripture in the tribute? One would hope that that would have served as a red flag to someone concerned about separation of church and state. If anybody was.

An official tribute from the House (a scanned copy of the document is here), for these “apostles” in the service of making our government and institutions look more like those in Iran. Substitute Ayatollahs for Apostles and you get the drift here. Take a look at how he describes how he got this thing:

As part of the ceremony, I was officially welcomed as an apostle and authorized to help commission apostles to the state. The mayor of Seaford (a committed believer) read the Commendation from his office and presented me with the key to the city. This was followed by a Tribute complete with the seal of the Sussex County Council, a Tribute with the seal of the Senate of the State of Delaware, and a Tribute from the House of Representatives of the State of Delaware read personally by the representative of the district.

So his haul included keys to the city of Seaford and a tribute from the Sussex County Council. And this is from people who are screaming that their country is being taken from them, screaming about socialism, screaming that no one follows the constitution and yet they turn around and kiss the butt of a guy who would transform the leadership of this country into ayatollahs.

It is important to pay attention to this stuff and shine a light on it and push back on it as much as possible. This is not harmless – you can see the influence of these people around Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. And just because you are Christian doesn’t mean you are OK with these people. He has been waging a “prayer war” against Catholics in Argentina and urging that Catholic statues be burned (scroll down). He told a group that the Emperor of Japan and the “Sun Goddess” sleep together and apparently this is the cause of Japan’s stock market troubles. And we have official government institutions in our state using our tax money to provide Tribute to this very extreme theocratic business. Aren’t you curious as to how our House of Representatives could sign on to this craziness?

(Fresh Air had Wagner on back in October and it is chilling and fascinating.)

h/t and thanks for this story to Kyle Mantyla at People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, a blog vigorously documenting the right wing atrocities.

29 comments on this post.
  1. pandora:

    So… were other House members made aware of this official tribute? Would they have had a chance to object or endorse?

    This…

    So his haul included keys to the city of Seaford and a tribute from the Sussex County Council. And this is from people who are screaming that their country is being taken from them, screaming about socialism, screaming that no one follows the constitution and yet they turn around and kiss the butt of a guy who would transform the leadership of this country into ayatollahs.

    …tells me that the “people who are screaming” are screaming for a Christian Theocracy. Which we already knew.

    Thanks for drawing our attention to this nonsense.

  2. El Somnambulo:

    Pandora, no, they weren’t.

    Tributes were created to do away with the non-controversial resolutions that cost more $$’s, took more time, and looked like crap, that had preceded them. Tributes are not voted on by the General Assembly, though I believe that a list of them may be released to members, I’m not sure.

    For the most part, tributes have served the intended purpose, although some legislators, *cough*Lumpy Carson*cough* believe that every kid that graduates 6th grade deserves a tribute. As long as he doesn’t have to lift a finger to help prepare them.

    But, I’ve never seen something like this before. Which is not to say that it hasn’t happened. The process is essentially pro-forma, the legislator requests the tribute, and it’s created.

    Something tells me that the process will be less pro-forma after this. Rep. Dan Short should really be ashamed of himself for using public office to promote religion of any sort, not to mention this whackadoodle Christian Dominionism.

    Speaker Gilligan has egg on his face. When it comes to tributes, I suspect it will be the last time.

  3. Jason330:

    Be it known to all that the House of Representatives recognizes Dr. C. Peter Wagner As an Apostle For the Occasion of Commissioning Apostles in the State of Delaware. On this special day of the Commissioning Service, we honor Dr. C. Peter Wagner for his many years of faithful service to the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and the advancement of His Kingdom.

    ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: blah blah blah blah blah… Rev. 3:7

    .

    It is just creepy. The Delaware Legislature shouldn’t be in the business of giving these nuts credibility.

  4. AQuestion:

    As someone who might be considered conservative by some, this certainly seems inappropriate to me. I presume, of course, that there have never, ever, ever been any such tributes associated with liberal causes that might be considered controversial.

    By the way, I think the current practice goes back to sometime in at least the mid-90′s, if not earlier.

  5. Jason330:

    The need to rationalize and create false equivalences is never leaves a conservative. Even when the conservative thinks that something is inappropriate.

  6. cassandra_m:

    And said conservative doesn’t seem to have a problem with this group of delusional theocrats trying to impose their version of Sharia Law.

  7. anon.:

    I’m sure Reps. Smith, Schooley, and other liberals have given tributes to organizations like Planned Parenthood, Delaware Liberty Fund, ACLU, ect. that conservatives dont agree with either. No big deal in my opinion.

  8. El Somnambulo:

    I think you’re wrong, anon with a period.

    Prove it, whydontcha? You made the statement, back it up.

    In fact, had liberals done that, the right-wingers would scream bloody murder. But, when it’s a religious whacko being honored, it’s OK. No it’s not.

  9. Jason330:

    There is never proof, there is only ever the fuzzy-headed logic of Republican vicitimhood.

  10. SussexAnon:

    Really, stop the concern trolling and actually find a controversial tribute that supports your argument.

    Giving tribute to a man who represents an organization that wants the US to be turned into a theocracy is undeserving of any positive recognition.

    Say what you will about Planned Parenthood (they are more than just about abortions, you know) but they certainly do not seek to evangalize and make everyone in the US think and do as they do.

  11. anon.:

    El, democratic Reps and Senators from Wilmington honor their Pastors, Reverands, and Deacons all the time on the House and Senate floor. There, I just proved it and backed it up.

  12. cassandra_m:

    And none of them advocating a theocratic takeover of the US Government. Or even the burning of Catholic statues.

    So you can provide links or it didn’t happen.

  13. El Somnambulo:

    No you didn’t, dope. A shoutout to a religious leader from a legislator on the floor is not the same as a document from the General Assembly lending its imprimatur to a Christian Dominionist.

  14. Geezer:

    “I’m sure Reps. Smith, Schooley, and other liberals have given tributes to organizations like Planned Parenthood, Delaware Liberty Fund, ACLU, ect. that conservatives dont agree with either.”

    “El, democratic Reps and Senators from Wilmington honor their Pastors, Reverands, and Deacons all the time on the House and Senate floor. There, I just proved it and backed it up.”

    Those don’t look like the same claim to me. Furthermore, there’s a big difference between a minister doing community work and one furthering a theocratic, and therefore un-American, political agenda.

    “No big deal in my opinion.”

    Yes, we all know that you consider a wide variety of things to be “no big deal.” It’s your defining characteristic.

  15. kavips:

    If the House can give credence to this minority of opinionists, why then can’t Peter C. Schwartzkopf give a hearing on expanding FOIA to include the University of Delaware to which $150,000,000 of Delaware State Tax money gets funded? Why is that getting stuffed in a desk drawer, and this allowed to see the light of day?

  16. El Somnambulo:

    Here is an official House statement regarding this tribute:

    House Statement on C. Peter Wagner tribute

    DOVER – The Delaware House of Representatives has become aware of a misunderstanding surrounding a tribute recently sponsored by a member of the Minority Caucus and presented to Dr. C. Peter Wagner, a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation.

    The following is a joint statement from House Speaker Robert F. Gilligan, House Majority Leader Peter C. Schwartzkopf and House Majority Whip Valerie Longhurst:

    House and Senate tributes were established more than 15 years ago as a more cost-efficient and less time-consuming way to honor individuals and groups for various accomplishments. Prior to this process, each chamber had to vote on each individual resolution.

    The tribute process was devised to handle items that do not require the vote of the full House or Senate. These topics include but are not limited to: deaths, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, 50th wedding anniversaries, 100th birthdays, congratulating local sports teams and recognizing the accomplishments and milestones of individual members of the community, nonprofit groups and civic associations. More than 1,000 tributes are requested each year by the 41 members of the House.

    Under the House tribute process, each individual Representative is responsible for making a request on behalf of his or her constituency. Discretion for what constitutes an acceptable request is left to each individual Representative rather than subjecting each tribute to a review that could be interpreted as partisan or vindictive. The Speaker of the House is elected by the entire House and his signature appears on each tribute. That signature is a formality and is electronically applied.

    To be clear, in no way does a tribute represent nor should it be interpreted as an endorsement by the Delaware House of Representatives. The House does not vote on tributes. They are requested and sponsored by a specific Representative or Representatives.

    Unfortunately, Dr. Wagner seemingly has mischaracterized the intent of this tribute to be an endorsement by the Delaware House of Representatives. We want to be absolutely clear that the House of Representatives does not endorse Dr. Wagner or his organization.

    Additionally, the Delaware House of Representatives does not endorse any religion or present one above another. It is not uncommon for individual Representatives to request tributes to honor members of the religious community much in the same way that nonprofit and civic groups are recognized. Multiple faiths have been recognized through these tributes throughout the years.

    Any questions regarding this specific tribute should be directed to the Representative who requested the tribute, Rep. Danny Short, and the House Minority Caucus at (302) 744-4184.

    ###

  17. puck:

    “That signature is a formality and is electronically applied.”

    So it’s kind of like a bank foreclosure.

  18. Jason330:

    ..or a Newt Gingrich marriage license.

  19. El Somnambulo:

    OK, now that I’ve posted it, let me just say that there is no misunderstanding nor misrepresentation on my part.

    I think my description of the tribute program is precisely as described by the House leadership. However, this House tribute specifically “recognizes Dr. C. Peter Wagner As an Apostle For the Occasion of Commissioning Apostles in the State of Delaware.” That is a direct quote from the Tribute.

    Whether or not the House “does not endorse any religion or present one above another”, this Tribute recognizes Wagner specifically for his Christian dominionism.

    As Cassandra wrote:

    Dr. Wagner is a leader in the Christian Dominion movement – they believe that Christians (or at least certain ones of them) should have Dominion over government, the media and business in order to be prepared for the end times. (Michelle Goldberg has a great article on this here.) Called the New Apostolic Reformation by Dr. Wagner, its front line associates are called Apostles and meant to focus on the work of taking over these institutions. You may have heard his name when Governor Perry was showily organizing his state-sponsored prayer rally, called The Response.

    So, when the Tribute speaks about “recogniz(ing) Dr. C. Peter Wagner As an Apostle For the Occasion of Commissioning Apostles in the State of Delaware”, it is, in effect, paying tribute to him for helping his religious ‘Dominion’ to ‘take over government, the media and business in order to be prepared for the end times.’

    That’s not a misunderstanding on our part, and if you really believe that legislative tributes specifically recognizing similar whackadoo religious zealotry are commonplace, you are mistaken.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think that this was just a screw-up. And it DID happen b/c of the pro-forma nature of the process. But that’s what the bleeping press release should say, not to pawn it off as some misunderstanding.

    We understand. I hope that House leadership does.

  20. cassandra_m:

    I’m not sure of what the misunderstanding was — it looks to me like a Representative used the process incorrectly, putting the House of Representatives on the hook seemingly to endorse this crazy man and his theocratic delusions. Wagner taking this to mean an endorsement of his activities is likely the intention of this tribute as requested by Short.

    I hope that someone is thinking about implementing some QC around this process from here on out.

  21. liberalgeek:

    The key portion of the press release is the last sentence. Take it up with the Dominionist among us.

    It’s sort of how reps end up paving parking lots in their district with their street funds (I’m looking at you JA!). The idea is good, but you end up with assholes deciding what reasonable is.

  22. El Somnambulo:

    That’s what happened. Rep. Dan Short should never have submitted this to be a Legislative Tribute. Because the dominionist language was in the tribute, at the least, one would think that Short subscribes to this. Which is reason enough to question his worthiness to serve. I mean, is he serving in a body that he believes will or should ‘take over government…to prepare for the end times’? A bit scary, that.

    Regardless, the fact that the process for tribute preparation is as pro-forma as the House admitted that it is is reason to, as Cassandra said, institute a little QC and a little less pro-forma-ness.

    That’s all I’m asking, along with a total repudiation of this particular tribute.

  23. puck:

    Great, now they have to go clean up all those inadvertent Hitler tributes.

  24. anon:

    This is a sham, and everyone involved should be ashamed. The text of the tribute leads anyone with half a brain to think that the House voted on it.

    “The House of Representatives recognizes .. we honor … The House of Representatives extends its sincere congratulations and directs this tribute to be presented …”

    That’s not a mistake or misunderstanding. The tribute allows recipients to think that their legislator pushed for it and got the entire House to vote on it, when in fact all they did was send it to a staffer who printed it on pretty paper and used a robopen. Just utterly ridiculous.

    Gilligan, Schwartzkopf and Longhurst should be ashamed to try to say that voting on all those tributes took a ton of time out of the legislators’ busy schedules. It may have, but only because Delaware was stuck in the dark ages. The way that responsible, organized legislatures and public bodies do it is load all the noncontroversial meaningless piffle onto a consent calendar and do the voting on all the tributes at once. They’re still printed up, posted online, and made available for everyone to read before the vote is taken – so there’s accountability and oversight – not this one-person backdoor stuff.

  25. El Somnambulo:

    The House had done Consent Calendars for, like, ever. As is typical, the Senate took much longer to embrace that mechanism.

    However, the fact that Delaware had been so slow to embrace the concept of a paperless legislature made the Tribute process an improved, and less costly, mechanism for dealing with ‘noncontroversial’ resolutions.

    The Short tribute exposed a weakness in the process. It should be corrected, and Dan Short should never be allowed to arrange for a tribute w/o someone exercising quality control over him.

  26. crunchy:

    Great job, alerting us to this immense screw up.

  27. cassandra m:

    Any chance Short has a challenger? Because it would be worth it to try to get him to be clear on whether or not he supports this crazy theocratic stuff. I’m sure his Catholic constituents won’t be happy he gave a tribute to a guy who is urging his followers to burn Catholic statues.

  28. anon:

    First, his constituents won’t give a crap about this. The majority of them will probably agree with the guy.

    Second, here’s Danny Short’s political resume. He’s only lost one election in his lifetime.

    - Elected Seaford City Council in 1995, served four years.
    - Elected to four two-year terms as Seaford mayor.
    2004: While still mayor, challenged Bob Venables for his Senate seat, lost with 40 percent of the vote.
    2006: Ran for Tina Fallon’s House seat with her blessing. Beat Democrat Richard Sternberg with 69 percent of the vote.
    2008: Beat Democrat Jerry Semper with 69 percent of the vote.
    2010: No challenger.

    Third: He’s a former Seaford fire chief. And if you know anything about western Sussex politics and fire companies, that’s about all that needs to be said about that.

    A challenger? Only if you want someone to waste their time and money like Jim Westhoff did against Dave Wilson last go-round. Unless he’s caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, he’s untouchable, and he’ll easily move to the Senate when Venables decides to retire in 2014.

  29. El Somnambulo:

    Agree with anon.

    Many Sussex Countians pride themselves on willful ignorance. If western Sussex had a motto, it’d be “He may be a fool, but he’s OUR fool.”

    In other words, “Forget it Jake. It’s Wingnuttown.”