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Corporate Media's Go-To 'Expert' on Latino Evangelicals Actually a Right-Wing Political Operative

Rev. Sam Rodriguez casts himself in the mold of MLK, despite his organizing for right-wing interests, and Islamophobic associations. So why do media treat him seriously?

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Islamophobia in Sharp Relief

Last year, Rodriguez's duplicity on several matters was revealed in a remarkable series of events beginning with growing concern about his involvement in and leadership of the NAR-led, South Carolina-based political project called The Oak Initiative. The Initiative is a religio-political organization with a mandate to save America from what it views as a Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic enemy. Rodriquez co-founded the group in 2009 and served as its vice president until his resignation in 2011.  

Rodriguez represented the Initiative on conference calls in preparation fora 2011 Detroit event for Lou Engle's The Call. The event was billed as a rally to help cleanse the city from the demon of Islam by engaging in “spiritual warfare.” The Web site of the event’s sponsor stated: “Transformation Michigan is in partnership with The Oak Initiative. We have established groups in Michigan who, with one united purpose, are taking the Seven Mountains in Michigan. Join us in this warfare.”

As the details of Rodriguez's true views and organizational commitments began to catch up with him in 2011, he sought, in a published interview with journalist Greg Metzger, to minimize his involvement in NAR and the Oak Initiative. However, after a series of articles by Rachel Tabachnick proved Rodriguez’s deep involvement, he was compelled to not only resign but to publicly state: “I repudiate all vestiges of Islamophobia or any other platform that engages in fear-mongering...”  While this statement was issued, it was not publicized, and he has no other obvious public record of opposing the continuing Islamophobia among his religious and political associates. 

Similarly, Rodriguez has also sought to simultaneously oppose both homosexuality and homophobia. In the wake of President Obama’s announcement that he supports marriage equality, African-American Christian Right activist (and fellow NAR leader) Bishop Harry Jackson hosted an event in Washington, D.C. called the Defense of Marriage Summit (which he has since taken on the road).  The duo then announced a “Black/Brown coalition to defend biblical marriage.”  Rodriguez said:“The partnership aims to engage Hispanics and African American clergy and laypeople in prophetic activism that repudiates homophobia while simultaneously preserving the biblical definition of marriage.”  

Rodriguez’s contradictory role extends into right-wing economics. He has been an avatar of the evangelical version of environmentalism (also called “creation care,” according to the National Association of Evangelicals, where Rodriguez is an executive board member) but he is also a global warming skeptic and has served as a front man, along Harry Jackson, for an industry-financed group called the American Power Alliance. Rodriguez signed a statement of the NAE's Evangelical Environmental Network called “An Evangelical Call to Stop Mercury Poisoning of the Unborn,” but he is also a director of the American Power Alliance, which opposes this regulation.

Nonpartisan, But Somehow Strangely Republican

His nonpartisan image notwithstanding, Rodriguez emerged in July 2012 as a key “Hispanic outreach” adviser for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. David Brody of CBN reported that Romney was “regularly meeting” with Rodriguez (in addition to a larger group of some 70 top Christian Right leaders) since he clinched the nomination.  Brody also reported that, as a result, the candidate had “made a 180-degree turn and is headed to a significant Hispanic outreach.”

These conversations do not appear to have been about Romney's views on immigration. Indeed, anti-immigrant lawyer Kris Kobach still serves as the GOP candidate’s adviser on immigration. Kobach helped draft Arizona's draconian SB1070 law, and promotes similar policies across the country.  Rodriguez’s advice is more likely about how to find Latinos who will vote for Romney despite his anti-immigrant views.

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