WeBelieveWeVote.com, What is it?
A 4X8 "yard" sign just east of Applebee's near Lincoln Heights on the north side of 29th. This and a bevy of signs presumably for like-minded Republicans are firmly affixed on a lot privately owned by Grapetree Village, LLC. The "registered agent" of Grapetree Village, LLC is Pamela Cloninger, widow of Glen Cloninger (1944-2010). [Update: By early October this WBWV 4X8' "yard" sign had been removed from this location. Two smaller ones along with a McMorris Rodgers signed appeared on church grounds of the 'Berachah' Church of Blessings at 25th and Grand. Could this church be more blatantly involved in candidate advocacy?
The Christian values with which I was brought up were tolerance, forbearance, respect for my fellow man, justice, charity, non-violence, stewardship of God's creation. Still ringing in my ears from my mother are sayings from the Bible, "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword," "It is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle," and "turn the other cheek." [paraphrased here from memory].
I do not recognize my mother's values, the Christian values with which I was brought up, among the "Evaluation Criteria" at WeBelieveWeVote.com, the voters guide advertised on yard signs on lawns and some churchyards in eastern Washington. Anyone who uses this website and considers themselves a Christian ought to consider the specifics of what the folks behind this Political Action Committee called "We Believe-We Vote" actually believe. Christianity is not a monolith, it never has been, and the folks who put together this website are using selected material, the majority of it from the Old Testament, to sell their version of politics. We Believe-We Vote is a gross attempt to weld together a fundamentalist interpretation of the Constitution, an armed, closed-door nationalist view toward the world, and a particularly narrow fundamentalist version of Christianity...and sell it as a voters' guide to local Christians.
I cannot resist some irony here. Who knew that articles of Christian belief included "a well run campaign", "references to God in government", "the right to keep and bear arms", fealty to the electoral college system, "strong national security and borders", opposition to recreational marijuana, and a cherry-picked literal interpretation of the Bible? You have to dig a little on their website to find these criteria and the churches and pastors who subscribe to them. (Scroll to the bottom of the second link to see if your pastor is among them.) Without that diligence the Christian is invited to simply fill out their ballot with assurance the recommended candidates share "Christian" values the PAC wishes you to believe are universal.
I am reminded of the saying, "When Fascism* Comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Could the imagery on the We Believe-We Vote yard sign be more obvious?
While we still have federal and state campaign finance laws in place it is possible to learn quite a lot about a political action committee like We Believe-We Vote from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, pdc.wa.gov. (Forces within the Republican Party are actively engaged in repealing such campaign finance law...but save that for another day.)
Political action committees (PACs) like We Believe-We Vote (WBWV) do not appear out of thin air. WBWV first appears at the Public Disclosure Commission in 2013 as "We Believe-We Vote Barbara Lancaster Sponsor" with an address on Farwell Road, just southeast of Green Bluff. Two years later, in 2015, Ms. Lancaster's name was dropped (the address stayed the same). Also in 2015 WBWV broke the PDC threshold both for more than $5000 total donations and no single contributor donating more than $500 in aggregate. They broke into the big time with a $3000 donation from Northwest Trustee and Management and total donations of $10,335.00. As a result we can see where WBWV spent its money that year: on radio ads, Facebook ads, and "digital marketing management."
We Believe-We Vote pops into general public view with its flag-draped cross in 2018 with a $1741.89 purchase of 4X8 foot and 1.5X2 foot yard signs, part of a budget now swelled to $32,967.26. Without these yard signs most eastern Washington Catholics, Methodists, Congregationalists, Episcopals, Presbyterians, and Unitarians, among others, would not have guessed that gun rights, strong borders, and fealty to the electoral college system were articles of Christian faith. Without the outbreak of yard signs WBWV might only have festered on right wing radio, Facebook and the web.
I know people who attend the churches and listen to pastors who have signed on to the We Believe-We Vote voters' guide. I have attended services at some of those churches. Much of what is preached there is familiar fare. But with endorsement of the WBWV website these pastors subscribe to a profoundly disturbing brand of Christianity I do not recognize from my upbringing, a Christianity that is a mockery of the values by which I try to live. Explore the website for yourself, see what you think.
Keep to the high ground,
*From my online dictionary: Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.
P.S. I would be interested to hear from other parts of U.S. Congressional District 5 (eastern WA, the domain currently "represented" by McMorris Rodgers, a product of Stevens County). Does WeBelieveWeVote have signs up in Walla Walla and in Pullman? I ask because the pulldown menu at WeBelieveWeVote.com under "Voter Guide" suggests it is tailored for just two counties, Stevens and Spokane.