Doug Wardlow and friends (
by Steve Timmer
Oct 21, 2018, 11:00 AM

Performing feats of pseudo-religious legerdemain

Greenville, S.C. – July 29, 1960  Six young Negro boys were arrested for sitting down at a local whites-only lunch counter and refusing to leave without being served. After the boys were cleared out by the police, the owner of the lunch counter was asked for a reaction.

“I’m sure those Negroes will be represented by the NAACP,” said the owner. “I love this lunch counter,” he continued, “I love my customers, love visiting with them and hearing their stories and telling them jokes. Serving wholesome food and companionship is really kind of a ministry for me; it’s my way of serving God. Serve the Lord where you are, Ma always told me.

“My pastor tells me that the Bible says to keep the races separate. He’s preached it many times. We’ve always believed that here. I don’t make a big deal of it. Most everybody knows the rules. I do have a sign that says, ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.’ I pointed at the sign, but the Negroes wouldn’t leave, so I called the cops.

“If it wasn’t for people like the NAACP coming down here upsetting the natural and settled order of things and riling up the Negroes, we wouldn’t have these problems.”

This was obviously an imagined interview. But I was inspired to write it by an op-ed in the Saturday print edition of the Strib. The hed:  State shouldn’t decide what stories we must tell.

Here are a few grafs from the beginning of the piece:

My wife, Angel, and I co-own Telescope Media Group, a small film production company in St. Cloud. We get to tell stories for a living. It fires us up. It pays the bills. But it is also a way we serve God.

Not only are we natural storytellers, we also believe that beautifully told stories point to a common story we all share — how God created us and loves us [well, some of us, ed.]. In this way, our stories are part of a larger story. And that’s why our company exists — to point to that larger story that glorifies God.

This conviction — this deeply held belief about our Creator and his vision for the world — is why we challenged a Minnesota law that would force us to tell stories and celebrate messages that contradict our beliefs. Because of these religious beliefs, there are a lot of stories we love to tell. But there are some stories we just can’t tell.

We can’t tell stories demeaning others or promoting racism, or stories celebrating infidelity or sexual abuse. We also can’t tell stories promoting a view of marriage that contradicts our religious beliefs, such as stories celebrating same-sex marriage.

I submit to you, my friends, that the story of the Greenville Six reads right on the complaint of the author of the op-ed, Carl Larsen. If you have even a nodding acquaintance with the history of the justification for slavery and apartheid, you know that religion, specifically the Christian religion, played a big part.

The link is to a story I wrote in 2011 for my old blog, titled All Things Bright and Beautiful. Please read it. I was moved to write it by the testimony of then Representative Steve Simon who was testifying about the proposed gay marriage ban amendment, but there is a discussion of the role of religion in slavery and apartheid, too. The video of his testimony is at the beginning of the story; his remarks are admirable.

His very best line is, “How many gays must God create before we accept that He wants them around?”

Somehow, I doubt that Carl has given that much thought to that, nor have his lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom – Doug Wardlow’s old outfit, of course. Wardlow, in his one and only term as a member of the House in 2011 was naturally hot for the amendment. The voters weren’t in 2012, though. And they weren’t so hot for Doug, either.

Carl and Doug don’t have a corner on religious or Christian thought on the subject of GLBTQ rights and their place in our society. Carl says he has a “deeply held religious belief.” Well, I have one, too. It’s that Carl is full of doo-doo and he is just a simple bigot, cloaking his bigotry in religious frippery, and it offends me that he uses my religion to do it. I believe that; I really do. Deeply. I also believe that Carl, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Doug Wardlow are trying to use religion and the First Amendment as both a shield and sword for their bigotry. It would hardly be the first time.

It is truly hard to be a co-religionist with these people. Seriously.

People will perform amazing feats of pseudo-religious legerdemain to justify what is a simple but odious attempt at social control. Here’s Doug Wardlow again, claiming that an “unwritten constitution” of natural law somehow trumps (so to speak) the real one. You can almost hear him invoking the former glorious days of the Fatherland to a group of credulous Tea Partiers with his absurdist arguments cloaked in deceit and intended to divide citizens one from another. As I have observed elsewhere, that’s the standard formula of fascism.

Just follow the link in the tweet below to hear audio of Wardlow’s remarks to a south-suburban Tea Party group. (If you are using the new Firefox browser, the graphics in the tweet may not show if you have the tracking protection turned on, but the link will still take you to the audio.)

Carl and Angel’s case was recently heard by a federal appeals court. It’s ultimately headed for the Supreme Court, though, however that comes out. Given the current makeup of that Court, they have a leg up. The young men in the Greenville case were convicted of trespass. They appealed to the Supreme Court of South Carolina; they lost there, too. But they won in the U.S. Supreme Court.

But that was a different time. When you examine the cases though, you won’t find, really, a nickel’s worth of difference between them.

Oh, and Carl, when somebody calls you a “natural story teller,” accept the compliment with grace. When you call yourself one, it’s just boasting. Vainglory — pride — is one of the seven deadly sins, you know.

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