MICHIGAN—Ralph Rebandt, an Oakland County pastor and one of five Republicans running to take on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November, thinks he knows why the US is facing a crisis:

It’s because American society has strayed away from its “Judeo-Christian” values, Rebandt explained in a July 5 interview with Justin Barclay, host of WOOD radio’s “West Michigan Live.” And the only way to right the ship is to bring more Godly values into government, he explained.

Here are six takeaways from the interview:

Rebandt wants to bring more God into government. 

As part of his campaign, Rebandt has made it his mission to bring a Christian ethos into every aspect of American culture, including weaving those values into the state’s judicial system.

“I’ve been going all across the state to Supreme Court justices here in Michigan, to judges all over Michigan from southwest Michigan, and even on our side of the state—pro-life, Catholics, evangelicals, pastors and priests. They’re all resonating with our message about bringing God back into culture, because if we don’t do that, we’re going to lose it,” Rebandt said.

Rebant idolizes a slave owner as a “prophet.”

“Lewis Cass was the first governor of the Michigan territory before we became a state, and he said that the fate of our republic is indissolubly tied to the fate of the Christian religion,” he said. “People who abandoned the Christian faith will find themselves slaves of their own evil desires and arbitrary rulers. That’s exactly where we are right now. It’s almost as if he was a prophet.”

Cass—who represented Michigan in the US Senate, served in the Cabinets of two US Presidents including Andrew Jackson and died in 1866—was also a slaveowner, and believed that individual states should be able to decide whether or not slavery was legal in their own boundaries. For this reason, his name was removed from a state office building in 2020.

Rebandt has his Bible ready for public schools too.

Rebandt has called for the total dismantling of Michigan’s public school system, for the purposes of eliminating Critical Race Theory, sex education, and “all of the things that are anti-American.”

Rebandt illustrated that point in a discussion with Barclay about the deadly Highland Park shooting, which occurred just one day before the interview. Rebandt said the epidemic shootings are more emblematic of the nation’s spiritual decay than its dearth of gun safety laws.

“I’m running on bringing our Judeo-Christian principles back to Michigan to make it a lighthouse to the nation,” Rebandt told Barclay. “We’ve taken God out of the classroom. We’ve taken him out of the courtroom, and we’ve taken him out of culture. And so, I’ve been sharing with people: What else would you expect when people have mental health issues? They don’t know why they’re on the planet. They’re trying to find their purpose in life. You can’t do that without God.”

Rebandt is riding a wave of Christian influence in government. 

Rebandt isn’t the only GOP candidate set on expanding Christian influence into government.

Gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley recently announced an endorsement from the Michigan Coalition for Freedom, an activist group which aims to “build relationships across party lines and serve as a catalyst to equip Christians to be involved in the political process.” The organization lists combatting election fraud, abortion, and same-sex marriage as three of its key policy areas.

“It is unfortunate that instead of acting as beacons for freedom, our federal and state governments choose to copy and implement the policies of authoritarian countries,” Kelley wrote in a recent campaign email. “Instead of turning toward God, they have turned away from God.”

Many Republican politicians across the country have used conservative Christian ideology as the basis of their political platform, including Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano, who recently won his state’s gubernatorial primary. More recently, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert called the concept of separation of church and state “junk,” also noting that “the church is supposed to direct the government.” Boebert went on to win her congressional primary at the end of June.

The rise in similar rhetoric nationally has led some commentators to say that Christian nationalism—an ideology that advocates for Christianity to be fused with all aspects of American life—is surging among core Republican voters. Rebandt’s comments on “bringing back” Christian ethos into classrooms, courtrooms, and culture echo many of those same ideas.

Rebant may not believe in a separation of church and state. 

Rebandt’s campaign did not respond to The ‘Gander when asked whether or not he believes in the separation of church and state, and how that viewpoint would play out in his administration.

But his comments to Barclay shed some light on what that answer might look like:

“Washington said in his farewell address, you cannot rightly govern a nation without God in the Bible. John Adams said that our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other. John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, said that our country was founded by men and women who came to be dedicated to two propositions. The first one was that of religious liberty. And the second one is that religious liberty could only flourish in a system of freedom,” Rebandt told Barclay. “Everybody acknowledges our country didn’t begin with Buddhism, didn’t begin on the foundation of Islam. It began on Judeo-Christian principles.”

Rebandt’s campaign also frequently quotes Biblical scripture, noting any policy decision should include “an intentional discussion on how God, family, and country are affected.” The platform has earned Rebandt some opposition—not just from Democrats, but from other Republicans.

“Somebody told me nine months ago that they had heard the establishment say that they did not want me to become governor, because I’ll listen to God more than I’ll listen to them,” Rebandt said.

Rebandt seems to be preaching to the wrong choir. 

Rebandt was recently excluded from a gubernatorial debate because he was polling too low. Two independent polls showed he weighed in with only 1-3% of the primary vote. But Rebandt seems to think these statistics are skewed, and that reality is more favorable towards him.

“The polling group that they have is just incredibly small. Most polls have 300 people they asked, or it could have as many as 500,” Rebandt told Barclay. “And that polling group is so small that I’m not sure any pollster would really see that as a legitimate scientific poll. … So I seriously doubt that the percentages that are being represented are accurate.”

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