Photo: William DeShazer, Chicago Tribune
MOLINE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has pulled out of Thursday's Rock Island County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner citing fear of being linked to what his campaign calls "inflammatory" views of a local, African-American pastor.
Rev. Don Johnson was initially scheduled to speak at the event but was dis-invited by Rock Island County GOP Chairman Bill Bloom in an effort to assuage Rauner's concerns. However, the change failed to appease the campaign, which announced that Rauner would no longer keynote the event.
Defending the decision, Rauner's office released a statement saying, "Bruce (Rauner) condemns the inflammatory remarks written by (Rev.) Don Johnson and believes such language has no place in our society. After learning of his association with the event, the campaign has decided to forgo the dinner."
Rev. Johnson is pastor of Destiny Baptist Church of Rock Island. He holds several degrees, including a Masters of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He taught for over ten years at the Chicago Baptist Institute, and was a board member for the Home Mission Board of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, as well as Vice Chairman of QC Chapter of Congress of Racial Equality; Vice President of the Iowa Illinois Bi-State Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and board member of the Metro-Com Branch, National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples.
Johnson has authored several books (HERE and HERE) about what he calls President Obama's unBiblical views on abortion, gay marriage and the redefinition of the family. He's also written about the erosion of religious freedom through mandated health care coverage, and about the President's immigration policies.
"I think Rev. Johnson is a great guy," Rock Island County GOP Chair Bill Bloom told Eric Timmons of The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus. "He builds his arguments well and supports them with facts."
Bloom said the Reverend's socially conservative message made the Rauner campaign "nervous," and they were worried the dinner could become a "media circus."
Following Rauner's decision not to attend, Johnson was re-invited to the dinner and will now give the opening invocation and make brief remarks.
Along with Rev. Johnson, speakers include former congressman Bobby Schilling and Dr. John Morris, Director of the Ronald W. Reagan Society.