Your morning jolt: Praying over Sam Olens and Max Wood

We have a fight over prayer that’s not just about how and when one talks to God.

On Wednesday, we told you about the new TV spot from Sam Olens, Republican candidate for attorney general, which touted his defense of an opening invocation given at meetings of the Cobb County Commission – which he chaired:

Former federal prosecutor Max Wood of Macon, one of Olens’ two primary opponents, pronounced himself profoundly “disappointed.”

From Wood’s press release:

Olens brags that he helped set up a regular invocation before Cobb County Commission meetings. He does not tell voters, however, that he allowed an atheist to perform an “invocation.”

“As a Christian and as an American, I am insulted that Olens would allow a man without faith to stand up at a public meeting and encourage others to give up their religion,” Wood said. “As a candidate in this race, I am insulted that Olens would brag about this without telling voters the full story.”

In 2005, Smyrna atheist Ed Buckner was one of seven Cobb residents who with the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit to halt the practice of invocations before meetings of the board of commissioner and planning commission.

This is the lawsuit that Olens speaks of winning.

Immediately afterwards, in July of last year, Buckner served notice that he wanted to give the invocation at a county commission meeting.

Wood has referred his supporters to the AJC article documenting the incident:

No need to bow your heads, folks.

That’s what Smyrna atheist Edward Buckner told people before leading the invocationTuesday night at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“It’s actually a protest against invocations,” the president of American Atheists said Wednesday night. “My goal is to get them to stop doing invocations.”

County board of commissioners chairman Sam Olens, reached by phone Wednesday night, said he was offended by Buckner’s actions.

“Did I find his comments repugnant and insulting? Yes,” Olens said. “He abused the process by giving an opinion … rather than providing inspiration.”

In a telephone interview this morning, Olens said that, under the First Amendment, he had no choice but to let Buckner speak. Picking and choosing who could give a public prayer would only have landed the county right back in court.

“What [Wood] is saying is, if you don’t like the law, don’t apply it. Which is a strange position for an attorney general,” Olens said.

After the incident, Olen said he sent a letter to Buckner saying that his conduct had proven that the atheist was not interested in spiritual communication, and would be not be allowed to repeat his action.

There is a subtext to this discussion that no one is addressing. Olens is Jewish. Wood, as he prominently notes in his press release, is Christian.

Olens understands what’s going on, too. The topic of prayer wasn’t accidental. And that fellow standing at his side in the TV ad above is the Rev. Earnest Easley of Roswell Street Baptist Church, one of Cobb’s largest – and certainly the most influential.

Olens has also snagged the endorsement of House Majority Leader Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island, a former head of the Georgia Christian Coalition. And it’s worth noting that the former commission chairman was one of Ralph Reed’s early supporters in his unsuccessful 2006 bid for lieutenant governor.

This reporter nearly had a heart attack this morning when he checked the log of State Ethics Commission and found that Republican Karen Handel was reporting that she had only $9,119.14 available for spending through the July 20 primary.

But the report was for Handel’s secretary of state account, not her gubernatorial treasury.

With only 12 days to go before the July 20, state Rep. Randal Mangham of DeKalb County sent out his first press release as a Democratic candidate for governor on Wednesday.

The release noted that the candidate had been interviewed by WXIA-TV. From the press release:

[Mangham] welcomed the opportunity to get his message out to voters and wanted to dispel the misconception that he is an “obscure” or “stealth” candidate…. “This race is not about Randal Mangham. And yes, sometimes it’s a lonely journey,” he said during the televised interview. “But this state needs a new direction.”

The two Democratic candidates for attorney general, Ken Hodges and Rob Teilhet, continue to play tug-of-war over endorsements. From today’s Macon Telegraph:

[I]n the race to see who will become the state’s next attorney general, one candidate is advertising that Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena supports him, while another one actually has Modena’s endorsement.

The rub was made public Wednesday in a statement issued by candidate Rob Teilhet’s campaign.

Modena said he remembers sitting beside one of Teilhet’s opponents, Ken Hodges, at the Georgia State Fair. Hodges asked for his support, and Modena replied that he would think about it — but didn’t make a commitment or contribute to Hodges’ campaign. The sheriff later decided to support Teilhet and contributed $150 to his campaign.

It came as a surprise when phone calls started coming in this week and Modena heard that Hodges was saying he had Modena’s endorsement. Also, Modena’s name was listed on the Hodges campaign Web site Wednesday in a list of sheriffs that had endorsed Hodges.

Shannon Marietta, a spokeswoman for the Hodges campaign, had this response:

“It was a small clerical error made by a staffer. Hodges still has the largest group of law enforcement endorsements in the state.”

The Rome News Tribune reports that, during a town hall meeting on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey took a relaxed view on a favorite topic of tea partyists:

One person asked Congressman Gingrey if he was for setting term limits for politicians.

“The American people pretty much set the terms and that’s the way the House was meant to be. There is such a turnover that I believe it works. I don’t really think that we really have to have term limits, but if we did I think I would set it at maybe 18 years,” answered Gingrey.

When another person asked him to provide a yes or no answer on if he would support term limits Gingrey added, “Yes, I would support looking at something. At this point I’m a little undecided about what the appropriate length of time should be.”

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100 comments Add your comment

No Fan of Any Team

July 8th, 2010
10:13 am

It would be nice if our candidates for office actually obey laws in their campaigns. Sign ordinances clearly state campaign signs are not allowed in the public right of way. Yet our aspiring candidates use parks, greenspaces, on/off ramps and vacant properties to place their signs. If candidates really had support, they would have signs placed by supporters in their yards, not littering our public greenspace. Have respect for the law and you will get my vote! Stop littering with your prefab grafitti!

david

July 8th, 2010
10:28 am

Religion has no place in politics period we are not a theocracy!

DannyX

July 8th, 2010
10:38 am

I think Jesus was pretty clear about public prayer, Mt 6/5.

Its amazing how Christians can judge homosexuality and condemn a whole group of people through an obscure quote in the Bible. A subject Jesus never mentions.

But when Jesus talks specifically against the arrogance of public prayer it is all but ignored or worse yet given an interpretation that totally distorts the reality of the subject.

Of course all the politicians in this state will be busy pandering to this sin for the next few months, so much for literal interpretation of the Bible.

Olens, Woods spar over ACLU lawsuit

July 8th, 2010
10:41 am

[...] Political Insider [...]

ProgressivePeach.com

July 8th, 2010
10:46 am

Thanks to the neocons, we get more like the Taliban every day.

David Hill

July 8th, 2010
10:53 am

I am confused as to why Sam Olens in his videos and in his Public speeches keeps saying he fought the ACLU. The Civil Action File number :1:05-cv-2075(RWS) filed against Sam and Cobb county was filed two years before the invocation was given. Sam Likes to say he fought the ACLU and won but the True facts of the case are that he CAVED and let the invocation take place. All one has to do is review the court case and the time line.

East Lake Ira

July 8th, 2010
11:00 am

I will not vote for any candidate regardless of their political party that comes from Cobb County.

Those folks are all nuts.

John K

July 8th, 2010
11:01 am

Screw policy, voting records, platform etc. All that matters to the majority of the voting populace in this ever regressing state is whichever candidate claims to have ordered a super sized serving of Jesus.

AngryVoter

July 8th, 2010
11:04 am

Why are people like Olens and Wood so uncomfortable with their own beliefs that they feel the need to violate the separation between church and state? What amazes me even more is that so many of these so-called Christians think fighting a theocracy in the Middle East is worthwhile, while at the same time they are trying to set one up here.

One of the great things about this country is that people like Olens and Wood are free to practice their religion as they see fit. Why are people like Olens and Wood so myopic that they cannot see the danger to their own beliefs if the government starts recognizing one belief? That they don’t have the intellectual security to believe that if others hear about their religion they will choose to join, and, instead, want to force their beliefs on others by law speaks volumes.

Apple doesn’t have to pass a law to get people to by I-Pods. Coke doesn’t have to pass a law to get people to buy soda. The fact these religious nuts think they have to use the force of law to get people to follow their religion pretty much tells us they don’t have faith that their religion is worth choosing in a free society.

It doesn’t matter which of these fools gets the nom, neither will get my vote.

Whoever

July 8th, 2010
11:05 am

I have been an admirer from afar of Mr. Olens’ brains and administrative ability. Now that I have a chance to vote for him in a statewide election, I cannot after seeing this ad. He is pandering to the “lowest common denominator”, as almost all Georgia politicians eventually do. Maybe they do it because it works, but not for this voter. Call me “turned off”.

Leaving RSBC now!

July 8th, 2010
11:07 am

Olens snagging endorsements from weak-minded Christians shows how far he will go to get votes. REV. EASELY is a shameless political tool. Makes one wonder what back room deal has been done at Roswell Street Baptist Church.Maybe Olens is promising to run a MARTA station up beside the place to get more members. In the last days even the very elect will be deceived. Matthew 24:24.

Keep It Real

July 8th, 2010
11:18 am

Quick! Somebody check the offering plate the Roswell Street Baptist Church. Must be some kind of big ass check in there from Olens.

Retired Solider

July 8th, 2010
11:21 am

Amazing, the number of folks bashing Christians and religion in general. I have gotten to know Olens and seems to me to be highly qualified and would be an excellent AG. I’m glad we have superb candidates like Olens willing to step forward, even with the crazy fringe that think someone running for office wants a “taliban” state. Unreal.

Jewish Voter

July 8th, 2010
11:27 am

So if Olens is Jewish, why didn’t he have a rabbi in the commercial? This is pandering on steroids. I actually gave him a large check and he spends it like this? This is very low class of him to betray me like this.Also I read where Sam decided not to run for governor because he is Jewish and he thought he would not win. Now he does this. Oh My God! I am sick.

Jewish Voter

July 8th, 2010
11:29 am

Keep it Real – The big ass check at the baptist church was probably mine. God I am sick!

ATF

July 8th, 2010
11:36 am

I like what Olens did. He gave the atheist a chance to speak – a very American thing to do. And, Olens avoided going back to court and spending more money in law suits that will never go away.

Practical.

Those who have faith are not going to lose their faith by having a faithless person speak to them. I say let the atheists have their say. Of course, if the guy had at least gotten up and read in inspirational poem, he would have done something useful. He could have read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” about the Statue of Liberty. Protest for protest’s sake is boring.

David Hill

July 8th, 2010
11:37 am

Jewish voter….Sir I know this upsets you.. Make calls to your friends and help us get the Word out For MAX WOOD!!!

Pandora

July 8th, 2010
11:41 am

Letting religion have it’s place in politics or in life hardly makes us a theocracy.

What about Preston Smith??

July 8th, 2010
11:41 am

I heard he had “uncommon courage” – what is he trying to say??

Fox 5

July 8th, 2010
11:45 am

Teilhet was reprimanded for his commercial by Fox 5 yesterday – and they wanted to let everyone know that they DID NOT endorse him or any other candidates and that he did not ask anyone for their permission.

ACLU friend

July 8th, 2010
11:47 am

VOTE FOR MAX WOOD!!!

Angry Mother

July 8th, 2010
11:47 am

Okay look- what is missing from this entire thread is that &%*&% Sam Olens appointed an atheist to tell kids there is NO God! My son was one of the boys on the little league baseball team in that meeting as he was spending the summer with his father. He called me after this meeting traumatized the men said there was no longer a God. Had I been in there, I would have exercised my first amendment right to protest and raise hell. I can never forget the way my son cried on the phone to me. You men play political games with these kids. Shame on everyone of you. I am so sad that the fact that children were misled was never even mentioned. There was also a Boy Scout troop there as well. Don’t know who Max Wood is, but I am seriously going to find out. He is challenging the pragmatic establishment. He seems principled like me.

John K

July 8th, 2010
11:52 am

Angry Mom, would you be just as mad if a minister told an atheist boy there WAS a God?

AngryVoter

July 8th, 2010
12:00 pm

Angry Mother – You illustrate my point exactly. NO religious discussion should take place within a government sanctioned event. You are free to teach your child whatever you want when it comes to religion. You can take him to whatever church and have him learn from whatever religious leaders you think are fit for the task. The second government crosses the line, you wind up with a mess similar to what you experienced. Non-Christians feel the same way every time Christianity is invoked at public events.

Retired Soldier – No intent to bash a religion here. I do intend to bash those who want to use the government to impose their Christian beliefs on society as a whole. Most real Christians I know ascribe to a live and let live attitude and have a tranquility about them that comes from their beliefs. These pandering right wing zealots who want to turn this into a Christian nation, ie a theocracy, are a far cry from true Christians. Much like the Taliban is a far cry from try Islam.

Road Scholar

July 8th, 2010
12:00 pm

So, how does Woods feel about Buddists, Muslims, Jews, etc.? I didn’t see that the US was only Christian in the Constitution! Religion has no place in our elections, but if it shows it’s face…which face is it?

Rob

July 8th, 2010
12:01 pm

These theists need to keep their superstitions to themselves and stop forcing it down the public’s throat. He’s offended by Buckner’s comments? I’m offended every time I have to sit through some whacked out ceremony where one guy, who thinks he is the mouthpiece of his particular “god” and knows exactly what his “god” wants and needs to hear, leads a bunch of zomby worshipping sheep in a telepathic converstaion with some imaginary entity in the clouds. Maybe these Christians should practice what they preach and keep their personal relationship with their imaginary friend just that, personal.

John K

July 8th, 2010
12:08 pm

If you do if Jesus directed, and prayed quietly, how would everyone else know what a wonderfully devout and Godly person you are?

Disavantaged Insider

July 8th, 2010
12:12 pm

I think any canaidate who comes out and states his or her religion before anything else ought not be elected to ANYTHING. Olens is reaching out to the ENTIRE community of Georgia, but it seems that Woods just wants Christians to vote for him. I’m a Jew too, who has successfully run for local office in the past, and if all I did was reach out to my fellow Jews I’d have never won anything.

As for the suite, the ACLU has been known to overreach, and this was one of those times.

Let's Be Real

July 8th, 2010
12:13 pm

Max Woods was basically saying Sam’s a Jew, he less American than me, and he sympathizes with atheists.

lmno

July 8th, 2010
12:28 pm

This morning at the intersection of Hwy 78 and Park Place Rd in Gwinett County, I saw Randall Mangham standing in the middle of the median and waving at passerbys. He was holding his own sign.

I scratched my head and thought, “I’ve been following this governor race pretty closely, who the heck is this guy?”

I will have to look him up.

[...] original here: Your morning jolt: Praying over Sam Olens and Max Wood | Political … Tags: aclu, case, court, court-case, fought-the-aclu, invocation, report, the-case, the-invocation, [...]

Marine with a Brain

July 8th, 2010
12:33 pm

Let’s all step back a minute and have a peek at the facts.
#1 – The law suit filed by Mr. Ed Buckner was done son in 2006 – NOT 2005.

#2 – Mr. Buckner is from Mableton. NOT from Smyrna.

If these were cited wrongly, what makes us think any of the rest of this is accurate? Never fully trust the media to get things right!

http://www.acluga.org/docs/docket/Pelphrey%20v.%20Cobb%20Conty%20%28Sectarian%20Prayer%29/Injunction%20brief%202.pdf

By the way – I already voted for Col. Max Wood and I am damn glad I did. This confirms he is not one to stand by and let someone re-write the freaking dictionary and reinvent the meaning of an invocation. Thank you, Sir. Semper Fi

lmno

July 8th, 2010
12:34 pm

All I can find out about Mangham is that he was ordered to pay a $650,000 Legal Malpractice judgement a few years ago. I see nothing about his stances on any issues.

I will say this about him though, he has a killer mustache!

Marine with a Brain

July 8th, 2010
12:44 pm

Speaking of malpractice. Sam Olens is a Medical Malpractice Plaintiff Attorney…. just the Republican we all know, love, and need. He is a RINO without question.

Frightened by Wood

July 8th, 2010
12:48 pm

Wood and his supporters scare me. They use the worst tactics possible. They attack supporters of Olens based upon their religion, and have used anti-Jewish slurs, anti-Catholic slurs, and others. They are sick and one can only imagine how they would be if he won.

Casual observer

July 8th, 2010
12:51 pm

Angry Voter,

Please QUOTE the Constitution of the United States that addresses “separation of church and state”.

I anxiously await your response.

[...] AJC’s Jim Galloway says we have a battle in the  Republican race for attorney general over prayer that’s not just about how and when one talks to God. Read more here [...]

Port O'John

July 8th, 2010
12:56 pm

“So what were you doing on Christmas day?”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R -SC) to Supreme Court Nominees Elena Kagan, who replies:

“Like most Jews I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

OK, I get it. The GOP wants me to know that Elena Kagan is Jewish. I knew that already. Now Max Wood wants me to know Sam Olens is Jewish. I knew that already too — but I won’t vote for either of these pandering turkeys.

Frightened by Wood

July 8th, 2010
1:00 pm

Wood and his supporters have no toleration for other religions. When Mitt Romney endorsed Sam Olens, Wood’s people attacked Romney for being a Mormon and Wood and his wife said that was the right thing to do and was an issue.

Casual observer

July 8th, 2010
1:01 pm

Max Wood did not take the moral high ground in his press release.

Max is a former Federal Prosecutor? Really? Then he should know better than to question a process that follows the law allowing ALL citizens access to government and in this case the opportunity to offer an invocation. Though I am opposed to the belief presented by the atheist he clearly has a right to express himself.

The US has been on a very slick downhill ride since Madeline Murray O’Hair and other atheists successfully removed prayer from our schools.

John K

July 8th, 2010
1:03 pm

Prayer was never removed from our schools no matter how much you want to play the victim.

Casual observer

July 8th, 2010
1:03 pm

Can anyone, how about you self-professed lawyers posting here, quote the Constitution on the “separation of church and state”?

Casual observer

July 8th, 2010
1:04 pm

John K, you are clueless.

Gwinnett Is Great

July 8th, 2010
1:04 pm

Worse than that, Olens was primarily a “personal injury attorney”. You know those guys with the late night commercials where they tell you that you can get money for your injuries. That’s the type of lawyer he was.

Personal injury is the sleaziest type of law. The whole point is to make a spurious claim expensive to defend so that the defendant just settles with the plantiff. Justice in truth do not matter, just extorting money from businesses.

If you want to know why it is so hard to stay in business, it’s the expensive insurance you have to have to cover for snakes like Olens and his clients.

Stella Lohmann

July 8th, 2010
1:04 pm

Colonel Max Wood is a humble defender of the Constitution and the Truth. The ad by the Olens campaign is disengenous by planting a pastor (when Olens is Jewish) in the production. Where was Olens when the Nativity was kicked out of Marietta Square at Christmas time requiring private citizens/taxpayers to pay $1000 per night if they want to keep Christ in Christmas. Not a peep. He could have intervened openly or privately. I’m sure the Christian pastors he has in his ad would have appreciated that. I lived in Cobb County for 13 years and was amazed at the Good Ole Boy network. Max Wood is neither a politican or a elitest. He is man who willingly serves today in the Air National Guard in GA, a former Iraqi Freedom soldier on the battlefield, and former U.S. Attorney General under Bush Admin. who served in Baghdad and knows what it means to lay down his life for the Constitution and defend her in the courtroom. He prosecuted and won the largest child molestation case in GA History! He is among good candidates, but he is clearly the best we have.

Gwinnett Is Great

July 8th, 2010
1:08 pm

That’s hilarious. Olens’s supporters are now accusing Wood of outing Olens as being Jewish. No one cares, but it is telling that Olens is trying to wrap himself in the victim role. How Democratic of him. No wonder so many people think he is a liberal, he is. (And he has the donations from Obama supporters to prove it.)

DannyX

July 8th, 2010
1:08 pm

Forget the Constitution, where in the world did Jesus give Christians a waiver to pray in schools?

Marine with a Brain

July 8th, 2010
1:08 pm

I have known Max Wood my whole adult life and never has he “bashed” Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, or any other group. Anyone who accuses him of this is a paid staff member of Sam Olens, without question. Nobody who actually knows him would ever do such a thing. He is the finest man I know (and I do not mean that in the Biblical sense),

John K

July 8th, 2010
1:09 pm

Sorry Casual Observer, it is you that is clueless. It was administration led prayer that was removed from schools. Any child can pray if they want, as long as they don’t disrupt the class or other children. Same with teachers.

I understand you need the alarmist talking point to play the victim. But your right to pray has never been removed from schools. It’s just that, as usual, you want the grandstand so everyone can see how devout you are. Looking for your reward on earth.

Frightened by Wood

July 8th, 2010
1:10 pm

Woods is a bigot and so are most of his supporters.