Nearly a dozen protesters gathered outside The Rock church in Castle Rock Sunday to protest the church’s hosting of an FEC United “emergency” town hall on Feb. 10 where election conspiracists said elected officials involved in election fraud “deserve to hang.”
“We wanted to make sure the parishioners of the church were aware of how their church was used last Thursday night, that was our goal to be here,” said Katie Barrett, the House District 45 Chair for the Douglas County Democratic Party and one of the organizers of the protest. “I think they’re the bullies in the room. They’re loud, they’re aggressive. Their goal is to intimidate kind people from speaking out. This is our line in the sand that this is not who Castle Rock is.”
The Feb. 10 event at The Rock featured Joe Oltmann, the founder of FEC United, an election conspiracy group with a militia division; John Eastman, a former visiting conservative scholar at the University of Colorado Boulder who authored legal memos urging Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the results of the 2020 election; recently-arrested Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters; state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Canon City); El Paso County GOP Chair Vickie Tonkins; El Paso County Sheriff candidate Todd Watkins; Republican gubernatorial candidate Danielle Neuschwanger; and Shawn Smith, a member of U.S. Election Integrity Plan and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s new election integrity group, Cause of America.
“I think if you’re involved in election fraud, then you deserve to hang,” said Smith during the Feb. 10 event. “Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. I was accused of endorsing violence. I’m not endorsing violence, I’m saying when you put your hand on a hot stove, you get burned, and you ought to see it coming. That’s what happens to tyrants.”
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has been a prominent target for Smith and others who advocate the false position that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. Griswold is the subject of a lawsuit originally brought by Hanks. He has now withdrawn his name from the court filing, which claims Griswold deleted voting records during the installation of a routine trusted build software update on Dominion voting machines. In the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the Secretary of State’s Office noted that the files identified in the lawsuit are not “election records” as defined by Colorado law.
The Rock Church is a regular host of FEC United meetings and events in Douglas County.
“The separation of church and state is sacrosanct, and the fact that the church is tax-free yet they’re hosting a political event is very concerning to me,” said Barrett.
While churches are prohibited from endorsing political candidates under the Johnson Amendment, they are allowed to host nonpartisan events and educational events around issues of concern. FEC United also holds regular meetings and events at Fervent Church in Colorado Springs.
Members of The Rock Church, who declined to be interviewed, brought coffee and snacks out for the protesters.
“We’re here to love on you,” said one of the women from The Rock. They stated that FEC United was a separate organization, not a part of their church.
“It was very nice of the church people to bring us some coffee and some snacks, and we did have wonderful conversations with them,” said Barrett. “We don’t always agree, but it stayed civil and it was refreshing. We didn’t change anybody’s mind, they still think the election was stolen and that Jena Griswold committed treason in some way.”
Barrett notes that FEC United, which was started in Douglas County, has had an outsized impact on county politics.
“FEC United was one of the driving forces behind the election of the conservative [Douglas County School District] board members down here in Castle Rock,” she said. “I’m really concerned about the amount of money in politics, particularly our school board election. It concerns me that the conservative board literally bought the election and spent $400,000. They were able to send two mailers to every household in Douglas County, as well as ads on local TV stations, and they’ve been interviewed on national Fox News twice. I think that kind of exposure really distorts who is supporting what in Douglas County.”
According to state campaign finance records, the slate of Douglas County conservative candidates — Becky Myers, Kaylee Winegar, Christy Williams, and Mike Peterson — that were elected in November paid $86,100 to Denver tech company PIN Business Networks, the company started by Oltmann, who was asked to step down as CEO due to his growing involvement in election conspiracy efforts.
“If you don’t pay attention and do so on a regular basis, if you don’t vote, you will get what you’re not paying attention to,” said James Reed, who was part of today’s protest. “That will be bad for everyone — Republican, Democrat, everyone. You have to pay attention, you have to do your civic duty. It’s a moral imperative.”
For Barrett, today’s protest was also about raising awareness of organizations like FEC United.
“I think we need to be more aware of who these ultra-right-wing groups are who are influencing our politics,” she said. ”FEC United, there’s another group called America First Policy Institute. I think everybody would be well served to educate themselves on the intentions of these organizations.”
UPDATE The Rock Church provided the following statement on Feb. 16:
On Thursday, February 10, an outside group using The Rock facility had a speaker that made an inappropriate comment. The Rock church opens up their facility to many outside organizations for events throughout each week. The views and statements made by these outside organizations do not reflect the position of The Rock church. The Rock in no way supports violence, threats, slander, or hatred of any kind. In all situations, The Rock strives to love well, speak with kindness, and bless with action – regardless of beliefs. We desire to represent Jesus well to the world around us and love as He loved us and gave His life for us.