Is Alaska Governor Sean Parnell a Christian dominionist?

Sean ParnellAnd just what is a “Christian dominionist”?  Well, it’s a lot like a Christianist.

Here’s Wikipedia:

In a politico-religious context, dominionism (also called subjectionism) is the tendency among some politically-active Christians, especially in the United States, to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action. The goal is either a nation governed by Christians, or a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law.1

Lots of us Alaskans have been kinda wondering if Governor Sean Parnell — sometimes called “SP2” since he follows in the footsteps of former governor Sarah Palin — might be one. Especially after his February 11 appointment2 (currently awaiting confirmation) of Valdez  ultraconservative Don Haase of the ultraconservative Eagle Forum — an affiliation Haase neglected to include on his resume — to the Alaska Judicial Council.  As I wrote in a comment on the Anchorage Daily News story3 about the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Haase,

Putting people like Haase on the Judicial Council is part of Parnell’s participation with ChangePoint, Alaska Family Council, & related to try to overturn judicial independence in Alaska. Over the past couple years they’ve attempted to get rid of the Alaska Constitution’s provisions about the Judicial Council (via lawsuit in the case of Miller v. Carpeneti); they’ve tried to force judges up for retention to answer litmus test questions on abortion & LGBT rights; now they’re trying to stack the Judicial Council with members who will also work to keep nominees for the bench out based on those same litmus test questions.

That’s what Haase’s about, that’s what Gatto chair of House Judiciary is about, that’s what Sean Parnell is about. They don’t want _good_ judges: they want judges who will be in ideological agreement with them.3

Henkimaa readers may remember that I wrote quite a bit a couple years back  about the  Miller v. Carpeneti lawsuit, which sought to overturn provisions of the Alaska Constitution with regard to judicial selection and to undermine the checks and balances of our governmental system by placing more power into the hands of the executive branch at the expense of the judicial branch. See the post “Lawsuit asks feds to overrule Alaska Constitution” for a discussion of those issues.4

See also the post “Miller v. Carpeneti: The conservatives behind the attack on Alaska judicial independence and impartiality”5: One of the plaintiffs in that case is Carl Ekstrom who was a development director at the Anchorage megachurch ChangePoint.6 And guess what? — Sean Parnell also attends ChangePoint.7 Now, I don’t know that the church itself is attempting to promote this longterm campaign against judicial independence, but it’s where a lot of religious right activists rub shoulders, and events are frequently held there related to rightwing political issues, such as abortion.

Another plaintiff in Miller v. Carpeneti was Anchorage attorney Kenneth Kirk, an Anchorage attorney practicing in the areas of family law, estate planning, adoptions, and elder law. According to a 2009 Anchorage Press article by Scott Christiansen,

He’s also done some in-court activism on behalf of James Dobson’s Family Research Council, a major national policy arm of the conservative Christian movement. When the FRC wanted to file a friend-of-the-court brief in Alaska lawsuit over parental consent and minors choosing abortion, they called on Kirk.8

And so who else should show up on Sean Parnell’s February 11 appointment list but Kenneth Kirk?2 — in his case, the appointment was to the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC), the state agency charged with administering Alaska’s laws on campaign disclosure, financial disclosure of legislative and public officials, and lobbying regulation.  What a great place for an ideologically driven Republican Party of Alaska attorney9 to find himself.

Kirk was questioned on March 17 in the Alaska Senate State Affairs Committee about his views. Here’s an excerpt from the committee’s minutes:

SENATOR PASKVAN noted Mr. Kirk’s writing on the merit based system for the selection of judges sets out a dichotomy between liberal and conservative, and asked how he would apply that distinction in his work with APOC.

MR. KIRK replied that is his private citizen view. As a commissioner he would need to be more careful and considered in his decisions. He noted that he writes for the Bar Rag and his writings often try to shake things up; as an APOC commissioner he would be much more cautious.10

But can he be?

Questioning went into Mr. Kirk’s use of the word weapon in a 2007 article he wrote for Americans United for Life titled “Alaska: Conservative State, Liberal Judiciary” — essentially a report on the state of the Alaska judiciary regarding the issue of abortion from a “right to life” perspective.  Here’s the quote at issue:

In the past decade, the Alaska Supreme Court has gone far beyond the United States Supreme Court (“USSC”) in making it difficult for the legislature or governor to restrict or limit abortions, using the state constitution as its weapon.11

From the committee minutes:

SENATOR PASKVAN  noted the phrase  “using the  state constitution as  a   weapon”  in  Mr.   Kirk’s  writing  is  a   concern.  The constitution is more of a  standard than a weapon. That reference was made  to the Alaska  Supreme Court. The writing  was “Alaska: Conservative State, Liberal Judiciary.”

MR. KIRK said  he did that writing at the request of an advocacy organization. The  reference was to the Supreme Court trying to push a particular agenda.

SENATOR PASKVAN said he was focused  on the word “weapon” and why Mr. Kirk would use that term.

MR. KIRK said he doesn’t recall,  but his point was probably that the court  was  not  interpreting the  constitution  but  rather misusing it to push a particular agenda.10

But it could be just as easily argued that Mr. Kirk’s article was pushing an agenda and that the Alaska Supreme Court, charged with interpreting the Alaska Constitution, was doing just that.  Certainly the lawsuit in which Mr. Kirk joined in 2009, Miller v. Carpeneti, was squarely aimed at toppling the judicial independence — i.e., independence from political and ideological litmus tests — provided to the Alaska Supreme Court and the rest of the Alaska judiciary under the Alaska Constitution.

In any case, Mr. Kirk passed committee muster and his name will go forward to a joint meeting for confirmation to APOC.  Do we want him there?  If you don’t — call or write your legislators.

But Kenneth Kirk and Don Haase are Sean Parnell’s political appointees.  What about Sean Parnell himself?

As it happens, earlier today my colleague at Bent Alaska, E. Ross, posted a lengthy article about Parnell’s own activities indicating Christian dominionist leanings.  Her article, “Gov. Parnell, Choose Respect for All Alaskans,” calls Gov. Parnell out about the contradictions inherent in his “Choose Respect” campaign against sexual assault and domestic violence, in which he “calls for a cultural shift…towards honor and respect for all Alaskans” even as he shows anything but respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans Alaskans and our families.12 The article is worth quoting at length:

Last week, the state senate questioned Don Haase, recent president of the anti-gay Eagle Forum and Parnell’s choice for the panel that nominates state judges. Haase kept off his resume his leadership role in the extreme conservative group, but admitted that he thought sex outside of marriage should be illegal, saying, “I think that would be up to the voters… I can see legitimate reasons to push that as a crime.”

(The judicial panel only has three members of the public, and already has one far right member: Sarah Palin appointed Kathleen Tompkins-Miller, wife of tea party Senate candidate Joe Miller, to the council in 2009.)

Let’s put the pieces together on Don Haase – the person Sean Parnell wants to pick our state judges – and LGBT Alaskans: Leader of the Eagle Forum which pushes a strong anti-gay agenda, worked against the effort to allow same sex marriages in Alaska, worked to take away domestic partnership benefits for same sex partners of state employees, worked against hate crimes protections and non-discrimination laws, and clearly does not support even civil unions. So sex outside of marriage is a crime, and gay and lesbian couples must not be allowed to get married, therefore… consensual sex between two adults of the same gender should be illegal.

This is not the way to choose respect for all Alaskans.

Last year, Parnell flew to Colorado on state money to spend the day with Focus on the Family.13 He told them about his Choose Respect project and other ideas for Alaska. Why? He doesn’t need their approval to start a sexual assault and child abuse prevention program in Alaska. What would a corporation that sells harmful pray-away-the-gay workshops tell the governor of another state about his domestic violence project?

The hate watch site Good As You writes:

“Focus on the Family dedicates much time to keeping same-sex couples away from adoption, foster care, and a whole host of protections that strengthen LGBT families. And of course they work every day to deny a fair shake to gay kids and/or the kids of gay parents… [They] talk only about the kind of ‘strong family environment’ that’s defined by evangelism and heterosexuality.”

This is not the way to choose respect for all Alaskans.

OK, Gov. Parnell. Put your money where your mouth is. Tell ALL Alaskans who have been abused, including LGBT Alaskans, that you support us and we are not alone. Show all Alaskans, including LGBT Alaskans and those who abuse us, that together we can break the silence and choose respect. Walk the talk: Be a role model for how to choose respect by choosing leaders who respect all Alaskans. Call for a cultural shift towards honor and respect for all Alaskans and encourage the legislature to pass Hate Crimes and non-discrimination bills that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Or start small and proclaim June 2011 as LGBT Pride Month in Alaska. Do it.

Stand at the point of the spear and choose respect for all Alaskans. And mean it.12

But something tells me… he won’t. I think we’d be fairly safe to say that Parnell is a Christianist & dominionist, much like Sarah Palin — except not quite so noisy about it. Which actually makes him more effective at it.

Looking forward to a rightwing Alaska theocracy? No?  Then what will you do about it?


  1. “Dominionism.” Article on Wikepedia.
  2. 11 Feb 2011. “Governor Delivers Appointments to Legislature” (press release) (Office of Governor Sean Parnell).
  3. 24 Mar 2011. “Sex outside marriage should be illegal, says Parnell nominee: Don Haase was active for years as advocate for socially conservative issues” by Richard Mauer (Anchorage Daily News). See also reader comments.
  4. 8/27/09. “Lawsuit asks feds to overrule Alaska Constitution” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
  5. 11 Sep 2009. “Miller v. Carpeneti: The conservatives behind the attack on Alaska judicial independence and impartiality” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
  6. Google search on “changepoint” + “carl ekstrom.”
  7. Google search on “changepoint” + “sean parnell.”
  8. 9/2/09. “Battle for the bench – Why do conservatives want to change the way Alaska picks its judges?” by Scott Christiansen (Anchorage Press).
  9. 20 Oct 2010. “Alaska Supreme Court hears arguments on write-in lists” by Joshua Saul (Alaska Dispatch).
  10. 17 Mar 2011. Minutes of the Alaska Senate State Affairs Committee. (Alaska State Legislature).
  11. “Alaska: Conservative State, Liberal Judiciary” by Kenneth Kirk (Americans United for Life, 2007).
  12. 31 Mar 2011. “Gov. Parnell, Choose Respect for All Alaskans” by E. Ross (Bent Alaska).
  13. 10 Jun 2010. “Alaska pays for Parnell’s date with Colorado homophobes” by E. Ross (Bent Alaska).
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