An ordinance to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in Delta Township was shelved for two weeks Oct. 7, because community members claimed passage of the law would infringe on their religious conscience.
But an investigation by Between The Lines has found that two of the three concerned community members who authored the legal memo challenging the ordinance run a ministry with a stated goal of creating government that reflects its own brand of socially conservative Christian beliefs. And in spite of claims in the trio’s letter of not harboring animosity towards the LGBT community, the public histories of two of the three men show otherwise. At the center of the controversy are attorneys David Kallman and William Wagner.
Kenneth Fletcher, supervisor of the Delta Township Board of Trustees, called the Kallman/Wagner legal memo concerns “baseless” in an email to BTL.
“As soon as I read Mr. Kallman’s memo, I knew that he wasn’t just a ‘concerned resident.’ His claims that our proposed ordinance would legalize polygamy, incest, pedophilia and necrophilia were outlandish and inflammatory. It became very evident that Mr. Kallman was a far right activist with a radical and hateful political agenda,” Fletcher said. “It’s sad that Mr. Kallman would purposely mislead well intentioned residents with his hateful fear mongering campaign against our non-discrimination ordinance.”
Kallman runs a small family practice based in Delta Township – a community west of Lansing – while Wagner is a professor at the Thomas Cooley Law School in downtown Lansing. Cooley is a private law school and Wagner teaches Constitutional law there.
Both men serve on the board of the Colorado based Salt and Light Global ministries. The ministry was started by Wagner in 1986, although the organization is just now in the process of filing for formal nonprofit status with the IRS. Salt and Light was formed “to proclaim God’s truth as relates to life, liberty and good governance under the rule of law.” The ministry argues that it’s mission is for “cultural transformation and renewal” and requires the recognition “that a proper understanding of the spheres of societal authority, and the First Principles that govern them, must be restored within the universal Church and society at large.”
The ministry explains : “First Principles” as follows: “First Principles are moral absolutes God reveals in His Word and places on the human heart. Present at the creation of the world, these self-evident truths correspond to reality and remain constant through time. First Principles therefore provide a reliable objective standard by which to measure whether an action is good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust. Salt & Light Global recognizes that lasting transformation is only possible if grounded in God’s law. Therefore, it desires to see First Principles embraced by every social sphere in every community.”
In the ministry’s worldview, the Bible is infallible, and “as followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to bring to life to our community and to ensure that the various social institutions are operating as God designed.”
In short, Kallman and Wagner represent and run an organization whose purpose is to enforce their specific Christian worldview through all spheres of society – business, education and government as well as church – at the expense of alternative beliefs or values.
“Salt & Light Global believes that government was created by God and that the Bible is the standard by which we determine the legitimate scope of the government’s power, which makes them dominionist in a broad sense,” says Ed Brayton, a member of the board of advisors for the Center for Inquiry Michigan. He is currently writing a book on the response to plaintiffs in church-state lawsuits titled “By Their Love: Violence in Defense of Christian Privilege.”
Despite a claim that the pair harbor no animosity towards LGBT or other minorities, their histories tell a different story.
In 2000 and 2001, Kallman represented the American Family Association of Michigan in fighting the creation of a Gay Straight Alliance at Jackson High School in Jackson. In a press conference announcing a possible lawsuit against the school – in which Kallman wrongly alleged the school district did not allow religious clubs to form or meet and later had to retract that claim – the attorney alleged approval of a GSA was equivalent to creating a club to celebrate marijuana use.
“The scientific evidence is clear on the dangers of homosexuality,” Kallman was quoted in a November 2000 report in the Jackson Citizen Patriot. “Clearly we wouldn’t allow a group that encourages smoking pot. Why would we allow one that encourages other dangerous behavior?”
The attorney went on to claim homosexuality was dangerous because of higher rates of HIV infection. He did not acknowledge that the CDC says anti-gay animus, like that espoused by Kallman and his clients, contributed to those higher rates by driving gay and bisexual men deeper into the closet and into positions wherein they are more likely to engage in riskier activities.
Kallman does not appear to have been involved in any more anti-gay activity since his legal saber rattling in 2000, but Wagner is another story.
In 2009, Wagner was involved in opposing LGBT equality in Europe, where he used substantially similar language related to Delta’s proposed law and the E.U. proposal. That argument was made on video and in print. Wagner also co-authored a 2007 paper on pro-life issues with former assistant attorney general for Michigan Andrew Shirvell. The brief was published by Americans United for Life. Shirvell came under fire, and was ultimately fired by then Attorney General Mike Cox for his stalking and blogging of openly gay University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong. Armstrong filed suit against Shirvell, and won a $4.5 million ruling. This spring, Wagner was a featured speaker at a conference in Trinidad which also featured Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, a Southern Poverty Law Center identified anti-gay group.
But Wagner’s animosity towards minorities does not stop with LGBT people. Wagner was a featured speaker in May of 2012 at a conference event sponsored by anti-gay former state lawmaker and current Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema on Sharia law.(Whole speech:. In this video, Wagner argues recognizing Muslim religious beliefs and creating exceptions for their values violates the U.S Constitution – something his own ministry is arguing should be allowed for Christians in relation to homosexuality. He has also published similar arguments on the Family Research Council’s website – another group recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.
“It is particularly ironic when Christian fundamentalists argue that the Constitution must be interpreted through their religious ideology while simultaneously arguing that Muslims are seeking to take over the country so they can do the same thing,” says Brayton. “Given that Muslims make up about one percent of the population and have zero political power, the threat of Christian theocrats is far greater in America than that of Muslim theocrats.”
There no evidence that Wagner has distanced himself from his association with Family Research Council, Brown or Shirvell. Kallman declined an interview with BTL, while Wagner did not respond to emails seeking an interview.
The next meeting of Delta Township will take place Oct. 21 where the non-discrimination ordinance will be taken up.