More verses for the Bittersweet Ballad of Harris Himes….
Harris Himes, a self-proclaimed pastor from Hamilton, has a history of ranting about the LGBT community’s responsibility for many things, including the supposed moral collapse of America and the eventual destruction of Western civilization. Therefore, it shouldn’t really be surprising that he is blaming the LGBT community, along with reproductive justice advocates, for the six felonies which he currently faces.
In late September, Montana’s Insurance Commissioner charged Himes with fraud and theft for an investment scheme that tricked a man in the Bitterroot Valley out of $150,000. After posting bail, Himes called a talk radio program and went on the attack. He said pro-gay activists were likely behind the charges. He also claimed the Insurance Commissioner was going after him for political disagreements they’d had in the past. Callers to the radio program responded by denouncing his baseless accusations. However, Himes was merely singing from the same hymnal he has used since appearing on Montana’s political scene.
Connected at the State and National Levels
Formerly an attorney in California, Harris Himes frequently identifies himself as both an attorney and pastor. The media recently reported on his claims to ordination by the Calvary Chapel. After a few years, he split from the chapel and proclaimed himself pastor of Big Sky Christian Center. A pastor with Calvary Chapel recently told the press: “But to call him a pastor isn’t accurate because he doesn’t have a church. There are accountability structures built into a church. He’s a self-proclaimed pastor….”
Regardless of his real or perceived pastor credentials, Himes has been active with a laundry list of Religious Right organizations in Montana. He’s been a board member for the Montana Family Coalition (which originally was the Christian Coalition of Montana). He is currently listed as a speaker for the Montana Pro-Life Coalition’s upcoming “Personhood Conference” in October. He’s testified at the Montana Legislature on behalf of the Big Sky Christian Center, Montana Values Alliance, and Montana Eagle Forum.
At the national level, Himes has served as voluntary counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which was founded by Religious Rights icons including James Dobson to “keep the door open for the Gospel in America.” Himes has also worked with the Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. In other words, Himes isn’t just a rank-and-file member of Montana’s Religious Right. His connections reach into national circles, and he has been a leader and prominent lobbyist for its issues in Montana.
Over the past decade, Himes has frequented the Montana Legislature and testified that America was “founded on biblical principles” and that legislators needed to “have a bias to stand for God.” In other forums, he has stated America was better when people had to be Christian to run for office. He has also encouraged churches to get rid of their tax-exempt status so they can engage in open politicking.
While he has worked closely with numerous Religious Right activists in Montana, he has been most closely aligned with Ravalli County’s Dallas Erickson. He has been integral to Erickson’s attempts to pass anti-obscenity/censorship ordinances in Ravalli County. In 1999, the county passed the ordinances. However, a district court judge ruled they were unconstitutional. The Liberty Counsel represented the county, with Himes acting as the liaison. In 2002, the Montana Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Ravalli County that sought to uphold the ordinances. The county has had to pay damages and court costs of some $70,000 in defense of Himes’ and Erickson’s religious campaign.
Hating the LGBT Community
During the 2011 Montana Legislature, Harris Himes told a legislative committee that the Bible commanded that gays be put to death, saying:
“The religious reason [to discriminate against the LGBT community] is God himself, who says that homosexuality is an abomination, and he has punishments for that…The punishment is this. If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.”
He was testifying for House Bill 516 (Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre) which would have repealed the Missoula Anti-Discrimination Ordinance and prohibited other localities from passing similar measures. The Missoula Ordinance outlaws discrimination against the LGBT community in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations. It is notable that, when Rep. Hansen submitted her initial file to Montana Legislative Services for drafting the bill, it included a handwritten letter from Dallas Erickson to the bill drafter. The note stated, “Rep. Kristen Hansen has given Harris Himes and I permission to work with you on LC1865 [which became HB 516].” Himes and Erickson were vocal opponents to the Missoula Ordinance, even testifying against it although they didn’t live in the City of Missoula. The note with the bill-draft request makes it clear that they were instrumental in bringing HB 516 to the legislature.
Himes’ “death to gays” comment was shocking to many people. However, it just echoed the many previous anti-LGBT comments he’s made. The following is nowhere close to being a comprehensive cataloging of his anti-gay diatribes. However, they provide a good overview.
- During a 2003 legislative hearing to repeal Montana’s deviate sexual conduct law, which had been ruled unconstitutional a decade earlier, Himes compared the LGBT community to imprisoned drug dealers. He said neither group wanted the law to apply to them. He said homes where LGBT Montanans lived should be raided like drug dens.
- Himes opposed attempts at the Montana Legislature to require the adoption of comprehensive bullying-prevention policies. In 2003, he said such a bill contained the words “sexual orientation” and, since being gay violated the Montana Constitution, it should be treated as a crime. In 2005, he said a bullying-prevention bill was part of the “homosexual agenda” to take over schools.
- While opposing a 2003 hate crimes proposal, Himes stated that the protections in the bill would be a “sword against Christians who take the Bible seriously.” In opposing a 2009 hate crimes bill, Himes said he preached God’s word, and the bill would make him a “potential prison inmate” if it passed. Himes frequently mischaracterized hate crimes bills as attempts to limit his freedom of speech.
- Himes has told legislators that there needs to be some discrimination against gays. He’s told them that “God is watching” and would punish them for their leniency toward “sexual deviants.”
- During a 2006 Board of Public Education meeting about bullying-prevention policies, Himes claimed the policies create “whispering indictments” like the ones used to kill Jews during the Holocaust. He also stated the Montana Legislature defeated the proposed legislation, because the entire goal of preventing bullying was to advance the gay agenda.
Himes has a history of demonizing LGBT Montanans and blaming them for pretty much everything. He’s even done this in the absence of the LGBT community. During the 2005 legislative session, he opposed a bill and tried to link it to the “homosexual agenda.” His supposed proof—that LGBT supporters weren’t in the room. His claim that the LGBT community is somehow responsible for him facing felony charges has a similar level of “credibility.”