Pastor shocked by Spring Grove Area board member's message
The Rev. Christopher Rodkey suggests a Spring Grove Area school board member is unfit for office in light of the heated, at first anonymous, message he left on the pastor's cellphone.
Rodkey, pastor of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Dallastown, earlier this month changed the sign in front of the 205 W. Main St. house of worship, as he does regularly.
This particular time, however, he changed it to read, "Wishing a blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors," a nod to the monthlong Islamic holiday that began June 6.
On Saturday, June 11, a message was left on his cellphone by a man saying he was "shocked" by the "despicable," "unbelievable" sign and that Islam is a "godless," "pagan" religion.
"Are you sick? Is there something wrong with you?" the man asked after promising to share a photo of the sign on Facebook and Twitter "so everybody can see this, what you've done."
Although he didn't leave his name with the message, that man was Matthew Jansen, a Spring Grove school board member and an elected delegate to next month's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he intends to vote for Donald Trump.
Rodkey said he researched the phone number associated with the call and found it belonged to Jansen.
The pastor said he was on the phone with a representative from the York County Republican Committee the following Monday when Jansen left another message with his name and phone number, asking Rodkey to call.
Jansen said Saturday he wasn't trying to be anonymous when he left the first message but that he simply forgot to give his name.
Rodkey said he has no plans to call Jansen back.
“He’s not going to change my mind. I’m not going to change his mind,” Rodkey said.
Jansen's social media posts included the church's phone number. Rodkey said St. Paul's received several hang-up calls, prompting the church to disconnect the phone and answering machine.
The call: Jansen said he first called the church number listed on the sign. He got the church's message system, which provides Rodkey's cellphone number to be used in case of emergencies.
He acknowledged he was irate when he called the cellphone, and the reason he left the message was the "greater issue of Islam."
“The very next day after I left this message, 49 Americans were murdered by somebody who claims to be an Islamist,” he said, referencing the Orlando nightclub shootings committed by an American Muslim.
"It’s not a religion. It’s not a cult. It’s a system” designed to promote "global Sharia," he said of the faith.
"Sharia law is inconsistent with the values and philosophies of western cultures," Jansen said, adding he saw the sign in front of St. Paul's as a blessing to a "pagan" religion.
"I think (St. Paul's and Rodkey) deserve some pushback," he said.
Jansen, who said he's Protestant, said he doesn't have a problem with any other religions. “This wasn’t any kind of a discriminatory thing,” he said.
Islam is the second-largest religion after Christianity, and nearly a quarter of the world's population identify themselves as Muslims, according to the Pew Research Center.
Rodkey said initially he was not sure about Jansen's message, but when he played it for a conservative friend, the friend was surprised.
“He assured me that I hadn't done anything wrong with the sign, and this was just ridiculous,” the pastor said.
Different issue: Rodkey said the issue is not just with what Jansen said but that he is a member of a school board.
“I can't believe an elected official would believe the things that he does,” he said, adding, "I see it as my responsibility in the community to make this known.”
Jansen said his voicemail message and social media posts are his own views, and they do not represent the feelings of other organizations.
Rodkey said he reached out to the superintendent's office at Spring Grove and was told they were taking it seriously.
“If this was my school district, I would be loudly demanding a resignation,” he said.
The pastor said he was surprised Jansen was elected to the school board because board members have to deal with diverse people.
“This is an area that has a reputation of electing fringe people to school boards, that's what I want to emphasize here,” he said. "The people who voted for him in Spring Grove didn't know who they were voting for, or don't care."
Rodkey said the chair of the York County GOP was apologetic when told of Jansen's message.
“I don't hold the county Republican office responsible for any of this,” Rodkey said.
Messages left for county Republican committee officials were not immediately returned Saturday.
Religion: Tom Murray, former president of the recently dissolved York Interfaith Alliance, said Islam had been considered just another religion, but in recent years, because of terrorist attacks, some people think of it differently.
He said the condemnation of a whole religion based on the actions of a few is wrong.
"To turn this into some political thing ... it's sad, it's meaningless, and it's divisive," Murray said.
Jansen seems to have an agenda, he added, saying the school board member is practicing "political Christianity."
“He listens to Trump. He wants to support Trump. And what he's doing is dividing the country," Murray said.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee earlier in the campaign proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States and renewed the call last week after the Orlando massacre.
Murray said Jansen is disrespecting other religions and trampling on the First Amendment.
"What he's doing is saying, 'I get to pick and choose,'" Murray said.
Rodkey said the way Jansen acted was a reflection of this year's national election.
"It would be dishonest to pretend that it isn't," he said.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.