By Scott Tibbs, November 16, 2007
"Bentley said there are six nasty posts after the Vindy editorial. All about you. Jesus had it better on good friday."
This line, from an electronic mail sent by Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann to a subordinate on April 6, has become a source of controversy as the Ohio Christian Alliance (formerly the Christian Coalition of Ohio) demanded that Dann apologize for his "bigoted" "disparaging" and "intolerant" remark. The OCA's statement is below:
We are outraged that you, the Attorney General of the State of Ohio, would make a bigoted, disparaging remark in reference to Jesus Christ in an official communiqué…My fellow citizens and I are shocked and appalled that you, as an elected official, would make such a remark in regard to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and the leader of the Christian faith on one of the most holy days of the Christian calendar. That such an intolerant comment would be made by Ohio’s Attorney General, whose duty it is to defend the rights of all Ohioans, only adds to our distress.
Oh, come on! Are you kidding me? A one-line remark in a person-to-person e-mail from seven months ago is suddenly a major test of an elected official's ability to serve the citizens of Ohio? The OCA didn't mention what Dann actually said in the e-mail alert they sent on Wednesday, so I was curious as to what he said that was so offensive. One Google news search later, and I am offended. I am offended that a Christian group would be such a bunch of whiny crybabies.
Was Dann's remark stupid? Yes. Was it offensive? Yes, it was mildly offensive. Should he have been more prudent with use of state property and bandwidth? Yes. But to make a big issue out of it discredits and marginalizes the Ohio Christian Alliance. There are real cases of discrimination going on all over the world. There are cases right here in the United States of America where Christians have faced persecution. We can expect that persecution will get worse, because Jesus says that we will face persecution in John 15:20.
With limited exceptions, anything a government employee or elected official says over electronic mail using state property can potentially be seen by everyone in the country under open records laws. For that reason, elected officials need to think about what they write, and ask themselves whether they would be comfortable with the text of that e-mail being printed on the front page of the newspaper or distributed to voters across the state. If the answer to that question is "no", then the statement should be rewritten or eliminated before the "send" icon is clicked.
What Dann is guilty of is making a hyperbolic statement complaining about an editorial. I sincerely doubt that he was actually saying that a few "nasty" comments in an editorial are worse than someone being tortured to death. Dann can certainly be ridiculed for what he wrote, but demanding that he "apologize" is an overreaction that turns the attention off of what he wrote and onto the people turning an anthill into Mount Everest. The OCA is engaging in political correctness, and that is far more offensive than a comment that disrespects Jesus Christ.