Raymond Johnson is a name you probably haven't heard before — unless, perhaps, you're part of the Christian right. Or unless you're in the habit of reading Matt Schellenberg's campaign expenditure reports: The Jacksonville City Councilman paid Johnson's Grassroots Campaign Management organization $2,000 last month for "political consulting."
Yet Johnson has created a must-read document, the Biblical Concepts Ministries 2015 Duval County Candidates Christian Voter Guide Survey, which aims "to educate Christians in our local churches on where candidates stand on these moral, biblical and cultural issues."
Which moral, biblical and cultural issues? you ask. (All of the below, by the way, are presented exactly as they appear on the survey, typos, punctuation errors, weird capitalization and all.)
"Are you a professing Christian?"
"When should life be legally protect? At Conception, end 1st or 2nd trimester or at birth."
"Do you support or oppose any kind of anti-discrimination human rights law adding the words ‘sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual expression' to current discrimination laws."
"Would you support or oppose the reappointment of current Jacksonville Human Rights Commissioner, UNF Professor Parvez Ahmed (Former national chair of ‘CAIR', Council on American Islamic Relations, a designated Islamic terrorist organization) to the HRC or any appointment anywhere."
"Do support or oppose legalization of Marijuana."
Intrigued, I called Johnson last week to ask him about this questionnaire. He told me there was "nothing radical, weird or arrogant about these questions." They just needed to be asked because, well, "people just aren't educated — they don't know much." Thus, he sent out a "relevant survey — typical Christian voter guide for a normal Christian group."
Our conversation lasted a half-hour. It was, shall we say, edifying.
For example, I heard his unique take on homosexuals: "They are mentally and emotionally ill, where they're sodomizing themselves, and we're telling them [with the human rights ordinance expansion] that it's OK."
And I heard his take on Ahmed, a Fulbright scholar appointed to the Human Rights Commission by then-Mayor John Delaney: "Parvez Ahmed specifically is one of the major moral issues City Council has faced in the last four years, this and the HRO. We have to know where these people stand. Either you're completely ignorant of national security or you're not."
There was another rather interesting question that appeared on Johnson's survey: "Support or oppose the harshest legal restrictions on any kind of (current or new) gambling establishments." Those who read fundraising reports know that the Jacksonville Kennel Club has supported Lenny Curry's PAC with alacrity.
Asked about this, Johnson hemmed and hawed, clearly not wanting to piss off the Republican establishment favorite. "There are reasons evangelical conservatives oppose gambling, but there are strong economic arguments in favor."
Schellenberg right now is his only paying client, but Johnson does support other candidates, even non-Republicans — for instance, the Rev. Kim Daniels, the Democratic city councilwoman/exorcist Folio Weekly readers know as the author of The Demon Dictionary ["The Devil and Kimberly Daniels," Feb. 4].
"I am going to vote for Kim Daniels," Johnson enthusiastically told me. "Bottom line is, I disagree with her on many issues but I can count on her to do the right thing." Referring to Daniels' opponent, Anna Brosche, Johnson explained that "it's a sad day in the Republican Party when we put up candidates without biblical principles."
That might be news to Mrs. Brosche and her myriad establishment endorsers and supporters.
I contacted Schellenberg for comment; however, his father had recently passed away, and he was in no state to comment.
Having lost my own father, I don't discount the emotional impact of that loss. That being said, this questionnaire nonetheless raises existential questions.
A prominent Northeast Florida Republican told me last summer that there is a war in the local Republican Party between religious extremists and pro-business conservatives — the Church and the Chamber, if you will.
We know, also, that some elements in the GOP are comfortable with socially conservative Democrats, even at the expense of Chamber Republicans. The other day, a few of them hosted Mayor Alvin Brown at a luncheon, after which one Tea Party activist posted to Facebook that the event had given her "lots to think about" related to Jacksonville's forthcoming mayoral contest. (At that luncheon, I was later told, Brown was asked why he didn't just change parties. No word on his response.)
All of this is to say that, as extreme as Johnson's questionnaire sounds, these issues resonate with at least some part of the electorate. The war for city government domination right now appears to be between the religious right and the Chamber crowd, which is ironically much more moderate on some social issues than are some incumbent Democrats.