Those of you familiar with the case of Ahlquist v. Cranston might well recognize both the candidates running for state senate in Cranston’s District 26.
First there is Frank Lombardi, a member of the School Committee who voted in favor of keeping a prayer on the wall of Cranston West High School three times, citing his Catholic Faith as one of his main reasons for doing so.
When questioned recently about marriage equality, an important issue in the upcoming legislative session of which Lombardi hopes to take part, Lombardi replied that he couldn’t switch off being a Catholic. In other words, he would vote against marriage equality, vote against reproductive rights and vote against church/state separation. It should be noted that Lombardi has the endorsement of outgoing State Senator Bea Lanzi, a solid yes vote for marriage equality. Why she should endorse a candidate so opposed to her values is a mystery.
Listen to Lombardi at a school board meeting in March of last year where he talks about the “three hats” he wears as an elected official. He speaks of being a lawyer, an elected official and a “practicing Catholic,” saying that all three roles come into play when he makes decisions as an elected official. Lombardi is simply unable to separate his religion from his politics, and this is bad for Rhode Island.
Later, Lombardi discusses a DVD he watched about the history of the United States. The video was a documentary by pseudo historian David Barton, and Lombardi’s take away is chilling. He learned that “religion is inevitably intertwined with our government and has been for… over two hundred years…” adding, “I learned about all the religious references in that DVD, and I paid attention.” That’s right, Lombardi has learned his history from a fringe right-wing Christian crackpot.
If this were all there was to Lombardi, that would be bad enough. After losing the case and exposing the taxpayers of Cranston to a potential $173,000 loss in defending the prayer banner, Lombardi used his three minutes of opening comments at the next school committee hearing to go after an anonymous social media poster who called the school board “dumb.” Lombardi’s public tantrum was an embarrassing display of defensive pettiness, and unbecoming of a public official.
It’s clear that Frank Lombardi is not suited to any elected position, and especially not the important role of state Senator where he will be voting on and introducing legislation of real importance and consequence to the lives of thousands of Rhode Islanders.
Fortunately, there is an alternative running for the Democratic Party nomination on September 11th, Gene Dyszlewski, he of the difficult to pronounce last name and the campaign website justcallmegene.com.
Gene supported the removal of the prayer banner at Cranston West, and after the judge ruled against the banner and in favor of Jessica Ahlquist, and the ugly death and rape threats against the sixteen year old student began, Gene was one of the many members of clergy who publicly stepped up and defended her. He was also a very visible and vocal presence at the school committee meetings where he challenged the expectations of the pro-banner crowd as a minister in support of church/state separation.
Gene’s take on issues of church/state separation fly in the face of his opponents. Rather than rely on the revisionist history of Tea Party zealots like David Barton, Gene reflected on the real accomplishments of Rhode Island’s visionary founder, Roger Williams, declaring, “The separation of church and state is one of those interesting paradoxes: In order to have freedom of religion, Roger Williams developed a secular society.”
Gene served on the board of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, and is a full supporter of equal rights for LGBTQ people. He recognizes the importance of reproductive freedom, and has earned the endorsement of Planned Parenthood, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, the Rhode Island National Organization of Women and the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats.
Unlike his opponent, a petty bureaucrat plugged into the political machine here in Rhode Island, Gene is a believer in higher ideals. He wants to make Rhode Island a better place for all its citizens, tackling real issues of real importance.
For anyone interested in challenging business as usual politics here in Rhode Island, the choice could not be more clear.