God's Own Party

Everything's divine in Arvada, where the GOP has veered sharply to the religious right.

Democrat Sue Windels says she wasn't surprised when Arrington got the nod from the GOP vacancy committee to run against her. "You can't get appointed to anything out here if you're not in the FBC camp," she says. "[The church] is a huge force. They are so organized, and with the new Amendment 15, in which individuals can form PACs, it'll be PACs by pew. If churches are going to be involved in politics, they'd better pay their share of taxes."

Arrington, spared a primary race that probably would have exposed his rigid views on abortion and other social issues, ran a shrewd campaign in the general election--he kept his mouth shut--and squeaked out a win over Windels.

"He was quiet as a church mouse," says Windels. "He didn't come to candidate forums. He learned from the Perlmutter campaign. He just sent out a flier against negative campaigning."

It didn't hurt Arrington that registered Republicans held a 14 percent edge over Democrats in that district. What did hurt was a postcard campaign aimed at Republican voters by Republican moderates Mike Palmer and Steve Burton. With behind-the-scenes financing from Democratic state senator Mike Feeley's campaign, the two sent cards to 9,000 GOP voters, urging them to support the Democratic opponents of three Republicans--Arrington, Representative Mark Paschall of District 29, and Jim Congrove, who was running for Meiklejohn's seat in District 19. The anonymous mailing blasted Congrove for voting "against the interests of Arvada," particularly by withdrawing his support during the 1996 session for funding an Arvada branch of Red Rocks Community College; the card pointed out that Congrove's campaign manager sought the location of the proposed Arvada branch for a charter school instead. Paschall, the guerilla attack by the GOP moderates continued, "has consistently embarrassed himself and the community with his comments"--referring in part to an anti-abortion prayer Paschall had offered on the House floor. But Palmer and Burton saved their harshest words for Arrington, who they said "bullied and physically threatened those who disagreed with him and who causes controversy whenever he speaks."

The thin-skinned Arrington, after winning the election, slapped Palmer and Burton with a lawsuit, asking for a public apology and $10,000 because they'd called him a bully. The suit, which has been inching toward a settlement, had an immediate chilling effect on Arrington's foes.

Palmer, for example, now cautiously refers to the religious-right faction of the GOP as a "very, very well-organized group that works very, very hard," and adds, "It's truly a grassroots effort. They're to be commended on what they have accomplished. Whether or not one agrees with their philosophy is debatable."

Palmer, himself a former candidate whose future with the GOP looks dim now that he has openly supported Democrats, is circumspect even about the notoriously rowdy GOP meetings at which the Miller camp often outshouted its opponents in the past few years. "I wouldn't deem some of the precinct meetings as being polite," he says.

Arrington hasn't made his reputation by being polite. In January he introduced a bill that would ban so-called partial-birth abortions and had it steered to the State Affairs Committee, on which the House's few religious-right lawmakers are clustered. He and Paschall, deciding to turn up the heat on their enemy, abortion doctor Warren Hern of Boulder, made Hern swear "under the living God" that he would tell the truth before he testified against the bill. Those who testify at the legislature are rarely made to utter such an oath; Arrington explains it by saying, "Warren Hern is a liar--that's the reason Mark put him under oath."

Arrington's bill brought out of the woodwork perpetual abortion protester Ken Scott, who has tracked and harassed Hern. But Arrington refuses to take the rap for Scott, who freaked out lawmakers when he got access to their Capitol mailboxes and left them graphic anti-abortion literature.

"I did not know Ken Scott before this," insists Arrington. "I thought he was a nut, and I think he's a menace. He claims to be animated, like me, by his Christian beliefs. That makes me sick."

Although he says he's not fond of Scott, Arrington believes he's called by his beliefs to love even an abortionist.

"I have a deep, deep sense of grief for Warren Hern," he says. "I don't hate him by any means. I feel so sorry for him."

Of course, critics say it's typically sanctimonious of Arrington to say such a thing about a man he detests. Oh, ye of little faith.

"Listen, I'm called to love Warren Hern," says Arrington. "And let me tell you, I don't have warm, fuzzy feelings for him. I think his acts are despicable. But Jesus said love your enemy."

At the same time, Jesus tells Arrington to hate the "sins" of abortion, pornography, homosexuality, divorce and adultery. "My faith informs and animates some of the things I do and say," he says. "What good is a faith that doesn't do that? People think Christianity is something you do a couple of hours on Sunday morning. Christianity is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, 365-days-a-year thing you do."

He insists, though, that it's unrealistic to think that everyone else will come to think his way. "You cannot make someone believe," he says. "Social reform in this country is a bottom-up process, and my role right now is to try my best to stem the flood. But unless there's a spiritual awakening in this country of a wide proportion, what I'm doing won't matter."

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