IFAS | Freedom Writer | January/February/March 1990 | mayor.html

Ohio mayor crusades for decency

Ravenna, Ohio, mayor Donald J. Kainrad, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, uses his authority to promote his religious beliefs. Claiming that God has placed him in office, the mayor uses city stationery, city personnel, city equipment, and city-paid postage to wage a religious crusade against what he terms "immoral evils." As part of his crusade, he sends these letters to corporate heads, government officials and religious leaders.

Freedom Writer learned of Mayor Kainrad's practice through one of our readers. The reader, Charles Nirenberg, chairman of Dairy Mart, Inc., was the recipient of several of Kainrad's letters.

On City of Ravenna stationery, Kainrad wrote to Nirenberg: "There is a biblical principle that cannot be altered 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' (Galations [sic] 6:7) Mr. Nirenberg, God is not mocked! Dairy Mart is sowing poison and destructive seeds in our society through the sale of pornography; and Dairy Mart will reap the bitter consequences. Dairy Mart has sowed to the wind 'iniquity' and will reap the whirlwind of despair, confusion, and economic hardship... God cannot and will not bless the Dairy Mart corporation or any other business that willfully violate His Commandments."

Kainrad concluded, "If you truly care about the future of the Dairy Mart Corp. ... and want the return of God's blessings, you must remove all forms of pornography from your stores. If there is any other business activity of which you know in your heart t hat is displeasing to God, you need to stop and redirect those activities in the light of God's Commandments."

In expressing his personal religious viewpoint on City of Ravenna stationery, Kainrad's actions were a clear violation of the constitutional mandate for church/state separation. There were two critical issues: first an elected official was advancing his p ersonal religious viewpoint at taxpayer expense; and secondly, the mayor's activities implied government endorsement of religion.

In early December, we wrote to Mayor Kainrad and asked him to cease and desist because his actions violated the constitutional provision for a separation of church and state. He informed us that he didn't believe in the separation of church and state. "Th ere is not a separation of church and state," he stated. We then informed the mayor that if he insisted upon continuing his unlawful actions, he should resign. If he refused to resign, we would take appropriate legal action.

At first Kainrad was adamant in his position. He claimed that God had put him in a leadership role as mayor. We then began preparations for a legal suit against Kainrad.

With a sudden change of heart, Mayor Kainrad called us and said, "You've made your point." The mayor agreed to stop using city resources to promote his religious views. Kainrad is also chairman of Citizens for Decency of Portage County, an eight-member r adical religious right organization. He vowed that he would continue his religious crusade against "immoral evils" utilizing the resources of the Citizens for Decency of Portage County. With these assurances, the Freedom Writer believed the matter resolved.

In mid-January the Freedom Writer learned that Kainrad had not kept his promise. Two new letters were uncovered, one to Ohio's attorney general Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr., and one to a Rev. Joseph E. Propri, pastor of a church near Ravenna. The lett er to Propri, also on official city stationery, thanked him and his congregation for their "prayers and generous donation to the Citizens for Decency of Portage County." This was proof that Kainrad continued to wear two hats in city hall mayor and evang elist.

In his letter to Celebrezze, currently a gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, Kainrad attacked the attorney general for his pro-choice stance, "You will find that your strong personal opposition to abortion cannot mesh with your public stance in support of wo men to have abortions. You will have a never-ending 'personal internal struggle' trying to justify to yourself, and to the public, that abortion is privately wrong and publicly right."

He continued, "There is no middle ground on this serious 'issue of life.' You either acknowledge and support human life at conception as our Creator God has designed, or you don't. I do not believe in the 'smoke-screen fallacy pro-choice.' You are either 'pro-life' or 'pro-death.'"

The next paragraph revealed the basis for Mayor Kainrad's lack of understanding of church/state separation. He wrote, "God ordained and established human government. Those of us who are government officials, are placed in these positions by God. Therefore , we are not only responsible to our constituents, but are primarily responsible to Him (our Heavenly Father)."

Kainrad added, "For the well-being of our Country, we need to support and defend the moral laws of God. We should not, for the sake of political convenience and votes, set aside, ignore, or deny the laws of God or the Almighty God himself."

"As Mayor and Safety Director, I have the responsibility to protect and to promote the health, safety, and welfare of all Ravenna citizens, including the unborn baby in a mother's womb. Abortion destroys life!"

Kainrad concluded, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

We respect Donald Kainrad's right to pursue his religious ideals, but as an elected representative of the City of Ravenna, he should not create the impression that the City of Ravenna endorses any religious view, for this action is violative of our Consti tution.

Several members of the Ravenna City Council are concerned about the bad press Ravenna is receiving on account of their mayor. The Freedom Writer suggested that the City Council make a resolution, which will enable the Council to distance itself fr om the mayor's religious crusade. We suggested that the resolution read:

As the City Council was elected by the people to serve all the people, regardless of religious belief, the City Council goes on record to state that it is neutral in all matters concerning religion; that we neither endorse, nor oppose religion; that if the Mayor, a Council Member, or anyone else presumes to speak on behalf of the City of Ravenna on religious matters, they do so on their own.

So far, the Council has failed to act on this. It appears that they will take no action and continue to let Donald Kainrad represent the city.

The best possible solution would be for Mayor Kainrad to resign. If he chooses not to resign, we are prepared to take whatever legal action is necessary to enforce the First Amendment's provision for the separation of church and state.

It is worthwhile to note that in 1986 the Lawson Division of Dairy Mart in Ohio was boycotted by some "decency" groups, including Donald Kainrad's. In the true spirit of America, the company proceeded to have a "Democracy in Action" vote by their customer s. They were willing to let their customers decide whether they wanted adult magazines in the stores.

Of course, the obvious danger of such a survey is the possibility of voter fraud. In fact, that is exactly what happened. Some churches bused "customers" from store to store in order to cast ballots against the sale of the magazines.

However, after 432,000 ballots were cast, 55% voted to keep the magazines, 10% did not care either way, and even with the busing only 35% voted for censorship. The customers had their say and the magazines continue to be. in the convenience store.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.