Lori Miller of Indivisible Rapid City rustles up connections among the Family Research Council and its Watchmen on the Wall wing, a variety of conservative South Dakota culture war fighters, the efforts to foment anti-Islam hysteria, and South Dakota’s Congressional delegation. Scott Craig, Craig Moore, Ed Randazzo, Amy Willson, Family Heritage Alliance, the Pennington County Republican Party—as I’ve documented, they’re all connected to the effort to scare South Dakotans into some icky form of white Christian Sharia. The Watchmen of South Dakota, for instance, urge followers to attend their bogeyman shows by equating humanism, Islam, and atheism with persecution and depravity.
Interposed among Senator M. Michael Rounds, Senator John Thune, and Representative Kristi Noem are Watchman and Family Heritage Alliance boss Ed Randazzo (he’s the short one) and, if I’m seeing through the blur correctly, fellow Watchman, FHA leader and Fall River County GOP chair Phil Shively.
Indivisible Rapid City asked our members of Congress why they are hanging out with this radical bunch of culture warriors:
Neither Senator Thune or Representative Noem have responded publicly or in written statements on why they were photographed with this group. Senator Thune’s office has not responded to inquiries about this at all. Staff at Rep. Noem’s office did say, in a phone call with this author that, “There is a lot of daylight between how you view the group (WOTW) and how she views the group.”
…Senator Rounds was asked about this picture at his “coffee and conversation” in Deadwood, SD on August 17, 2017. An Indivisible Rapid City member asked him if he supports the group Watchmen on the Wall. His initial response was, “I never heard of the group.” He even went so far as to ask, “Has anyone ever heard of them?” After being pressed further he said, “I can tell you that if Senator Thune, Kristi Noem and I were all together and if you for one second that we’re gonna stand with a hate group, I can’t even try to convince you otherwise. I have no idea where it comes from. Do you have any idea where they made this picture up at?” One of the Indivisible Rapid City leaders told him that the photo was taken on May 24, 2017 in Washington D. C. A man in the audience, Dale, started to explain that the group was associated with Family Heritage Alliance and then changed it to Family Research Council. He stated that the group, WOTW, was specifically not the same group as the one associated with Tony Perkins and Family Research Council. To this Senator Rounds stated, “I have no problem with having my picture taken with members of the Family Research Council.” The full video can be viewed here [Lori Miller, “Hate in America: What a Tangled Web Our Leaders Weave,” Indivisible Rapid City blog, 2017.08.23].
Miller is worried that support for such theocratic fearmongers from South Dakota political leaders opens the door for more ugly outbursts like the white-supremacist attack in Charlottesville:
For the most part, these tangled webs are not challenged because of the perceived high level of support garnered from community leaders. The organizations intentionally target community leaders in churches, political parties, law enforcement, congress and even the presidency, to give credence to their agendas. It is easy to persuade Americans into believing that it is acceptable to hate “the other” when the information comes from these positions of authority. Once it is acceptable in every level of our community leadership from churches to the presidency it is not surprising that a tragedy like Charlottesville took place [Miller, 2017.08.23].
Healthy democracy runs on courage and facts, not the fear and falsehoods spread by groups like the Watchmen and supported by too many South Dakota Republican leaders.