Johnson County Commission Chairman allows anti-Christian rant that violates county policy

(The Sentinel) — Johnson County, Kansas, Commission Chair Mike Kelly has taken steps to stifle citizens who are concerned with or critical of county actions, but he apparently welcomes anti-Christian rhetoric that violates commission policy on public comments.

The Johnson County Commission has a policy requiring public comments to only be “on matters that pertain to or involve the Johnson County Government.”

However, at the March 7, 2024 meeting, local resident Cassie Woolworth came into the meeting virtually to deliver an anti-Christian screed that had nothing to do with “matters that pertain to or involve” the county government. Because public comments are not broadcast at Johnson County Commission meetings, an audio file of the comments was provided to the Sentinel.

“It takes a great deal of arrogance to litter the U.S. with over 200 different sects of Christianity, all with their own unique theology yet insist your sect has the moral authority to speak not for all Christians, but for all people in our country,” she said. “The founders wrote the Constitution, not the apostles. They added the Bill of Rights, not the 10 Commandments. Their intent was freedom of religion. It was not controlled by religion.”

Woolworth went on to claim, “Conservative Christians aren’t looking for religious freedom, they’re looking for religious dominance.

“Well, no offense, but you can’t be Christian and hate gay people. You can’t be Christian and hate people of a different color, or speaking a different language. You can’t be Christian and hate people for living differently than you do. You can’t be Christian and hate people. That is not Christianity.”

She then went on to essentially rewrite Matthew 25:35-40.

“You made sure I didn’t get lunch at school,” she said. “When I was thirsty, you made sure I didn’t get water while waiting in line to vote. When I was a stranger, you put razor wire in the water and watched as I drowned. What you did to these you did to me?”

Johnson County Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara said in a phone interview that the comments were certainly out of line.

“I immediately after the meeting spoke to our county counselor (Peg Trent), and she agreed that those comments were not appropriate,” O’Hara said. “And that, in her opinion, the chairman (Mike Kelly) should have been … enforcing our policy.”

O’Hara said this is not the first time Woolworth has come forward with similar comments.

The board policy also states: “Speakers are encouraged to be professional, concise, courteous and respectful,” and “speakers should refrain from obscene, profane, slanderous, insulting or threatening remarks.” Given the rewriting of the passage from Matthew, some of Woolworth’s comments easily could have been seen as “profane,” and certainly were not “respectful.”

O’Hara said she simply wishes to see the policy enforced — particularly as the public comment section is not broadcast and many in the community may be unaware of what is being said to influence the commission.

“To me the real issue is that if these comments were broadcast, then I think that we would not have the issues of attacking a group of people,” O’Hara said. “I don’t think we would have it because it would be going out to the public, whereas now it’s really insulated.

“The broader issue to me is that if we’re going to have policies in place they need to be enforced, and then these public comments need to be broadcast.”

The Sentinel reached out to Commission Chair Mike Kelly to ask about why the comments were allowed but received no reply.

Kelly used bogus excuse for not broadcasting public comment

In January of last year, The Sentinel reported, Kelly unilaterally instituted a policy of not streaming the public comment portion of commission meetings, claiming it was to combat “misinformation”  from residents.

Kelly claimed the county had received a warning from YouTube, which live streams the meetings and stores videos for public access, that its community guidelines were violated last year by a resident’s allegations, during public comment time, of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, and warned subsequent violations could lead to the county losing the YouTube channel.

However, a Washington Post story from Aug. 7, 2021, contradicted Chairman Kelly’s statement. In the story, reporter Caroline Anders wrote that, in response to censorship concerns from local officials, “YouTube has reversed course, telling The Washington Post on Friday that it had updated guidelines to ‘make exceptions for videos of school board or town hall meetings, where the intention isn’t to promote misinformation.’”

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