The campaign between Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry saw the current mayor routinely slandered and libeled by people on his putative left, with labels such as “party boss” and worse thrown his way.
A little more than three months after his inauguration, Curry is feeling slings and arrows from a different direction: the right … including active members of the Republican Party, as we report just hours before the first 6 p.m. HRO Community Conversation at the Advanced Technology Center at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Raymond Johnson, of Biblical Concept Ministries, has been among the most vocal of the speakers against expanding the Human Rights Ordinance to LGBT people. Last week, Johnson, a Confederate flag enthusiast who did campaign consultant work for Councilmen Doyle Carter and Matt Schellenberg, issued a communique calling for “urgent prayer and action” regarding the HRO “immediately.”
The document starts off with the predictable “Do you want men in women’s restrooms?” motif that worked to scuttle the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance referendum earlier this month.
“Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a professing Methodist Christian, has refused to take a public position against a Christian persecution law known as a ‘Human Rights Ordinance’ or ‘Anti-Discrimination Law’ also known as a ‘Bathroom Bill’,” Johnson writes, “Christian persecution” being an especially interesting phrasing given that Curry regularly meets with his pastor.
Johnson bills the “Community Conversations” as an “excuse to show community support for such laws that will hurt our families, churches and Christian businesses.”
Then, Johnson tells the faithful to “add this situation and mayor [SIC] Curry to your church prayer list.”
And then it gets good: “The end times our near [SIC], and now Jacksonville pastors and churches are literately [SIC] about to face real persecution and will lose religious freedoms. Don’t believe me. Don’t believe you need to get involved or attend and speak out at meetings? In the last year we have seen the first Christian American citizen JAILED for her Christian [SIC] convictions.”
Johnson turns his attention to “the most pro-Homosexual Council” in Jacksonville’s history, before winding up his pitch.
“Pastors, let me be blunt, You CANNOT ignore this plea, you MUST get involved NOW or you will have refused to protect your own religious freedom and willfully allowed your church to be persecuted. There’s enough votes in City Council to pass this law, and its defeat at this point will rely on a VETO from Mayor Curry.”
Will Curry succumb to this appeal? Seems doubtful.
Johnson leaves out, of course, the fact that a group he fronted for, United Christians of Florida, withheld endorsement of Curry in the mayoral race.
Curry won that one. So what does Curry need from Johnson at this point?
Curry, just the other day at the Sunshine Summit, gave a rousing speech about how “conservatives win elections.” He did so without pandering to this element in his own party.
What is clear: These three “community conversations” will be interesting. With the hard right attempting to put the mayor and City Council in check, including by casting aspersions on the administration for scheduling those meetings in “high crime” areas, the stage is set for the conservative mayor to have a moment not entirely different from William F. Buckley reading the Birchers out of the conservative movement decades ago.
Will Curry go that far? Or will he defer to the obvious ploys of his adversaries on the right?
A conversation with Johnson on Monday night revealed some of the claims familiar to those following the Houston debate, including references to the “evil agenda” of pro-equality advocates, and a seeming preoccupation with public restrooms.
One can expect a lot of the same rhetorical flourishes to surface in the community conversation on Tuesday night, the subsequent two in December, and, very likely, at City Council committees and public comment throughout the life of whatever bill is eventually introduced, whether it’s a “fully inclusive” measure or not, and whether it’s introduced by the Republican mayor or a member of City Council.