COMMENTARY: Questionable ethics of St. Jerome Parish’s Fancy Farm Picnic panders to political duopoly, excludes Libertarian candidates

St. Jerome parish
Libertarian National Committee chairman Nicholas Sarwark speaks before a crowd during the 2017 Fancy Farm Picnic. Libertarians were deliberately excluded from this year's event. (KET/YouTube photo)

An annual event hosted by a Kentucky Catholic parish may have their not-for-profit status at risk following a July 26 letter.

St. Jerome Parish, which hosts the annual two-day picnic at Fancy Farm, an unincorporated community in the northwestern part of Kentucky, and the event’s organizers drafted a letter July 26 denying Libertarians time to speak during the candidate speeches on Saturday, August 3.

It referenced a letter from Libertarian gubernatorial candidate John Hicks and running mate Ann Cormican, written July 22, requesting to be included in the schedule of speakers.

The political chairman of the event, Mark Wilson, submitted the letter as follows:

Mr. Hicks,

 

Thank you very much for your gracious letter of July 22 requesting to be included in our schedule of speakers for the St. Jerome Catholic Church Picnic at Fancy Farm on August 3.

 

As you know our Catholic Church picnic is a standard stop for many political candidates’ campaigns. Some folks come to speak and others attend to walk the grounds and fellowship. Concerning your request, I’ve felt I needed to confer with Father Darrell Venters, pastot of St. Jerome Catholic Church, as well as members of my political committee.

 

They remind me that in setting the policy for speakers at our political event, the length of the program must be considered. Listeners can only take so much, especially in the typically hot weather we usually have. We follow the guidance of the Kentucky legislature as it pertains to political parties, organizations and groups. We invite the nominees of the two recognized political parties of the state to speak.

 

We invite you to join everyone at the picnic. As we are sure you are aware, candidates and possible candidates effectively communicate their messages to voters in various ways throughout the picnic. We welcome you to join in this great tradition.

 

Again, thank you for your request. More importantly, thank you for giving of your time and effort to seek public office in these very challenging times.

Let’s just blow one huge hole in this flawed logic this political committee made this year, shall we?

They didn’t keep LNC Chairman Nicholas Sarwark from speaking in 2017. What gives?

Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, was a participating speaker during the 2017 picnic. While he pokes some humorous jabs at Gov. Matt Bevin and Sen. Mitch McConnell and some valid criticisms toward both the Democratic and Republican parties, it is no excuse for Libertarians like Hicks and Cormican to be excluded from speaking in front of a large crowd like this.

An archive of Sarwark’s 2017 speech can be viewed below.

Nicholas Sarwark, Libertarian Party | Fancy Farm 2017 | KET

The Libertarian Party of Kentucky is a recognized party with ballot access

While this point could be argued over and over again by the political duopoly, case law has embedded the Libertarian Party of Kentucky’s recognized status.

While a 1991 case, Libertarian Party of Kentucky v. Ehrler, was not successful regarding the definition of ballot access, the party received some much-needed justice in 2016 via Libertarian Party of Kentucky et al. v. Grimes.

Libertarians are the only other candidates on the ballot

Between Republican incumbent Matt Bevin — who is scrapping lieutenant governor Jenean Hampton in his re-election bid for state Sen. Ralph Alvarado — and Democratic opponent Andrew Beshear (with running mate Jacqueline Coleman), the only other ballot-qualified candidates for the top political executive roles in the state are that of Hicks and Cormican.

Sure, the Socialist Workers Party has Amy Husk trying to get on the ballot, but with limited support, is she really going to make the ballot in November? Unlikely.

Hicks and Cormican aren’t the only candidates on the ballot in November. The Libertarian Party of Kentucky nominated candidates for state auditor (Kyle Hugenberg) and ag commissioner (Joshua Gilpin) during their convention in March.

St. Jerome Parish’s 2019 decision could backfire on them

The decision of the church’s political committee to exclude Libertarians from speaking at this year’s event is nothing more than political grandstanding, which can put the tax-exempt status of a not-for-profit organization like a church at risk.

This situation is somewhat similar to complaints from Libertarian and Conservative party supporters during the 2018 Illinois gubernatorial debates, where the Illinois chapter of the League of Women Voters allowed Libertarian nominee Kash Jackson and Conservative nominee Sen. Sam McCann were allowed in the first debate, but deliberately excluded from the other two debates based on arbitrary and invalid reasoning.

There is a reason why IRS Form 13909 exists: to hold these organizations responsible for their actions. It’s a complaint form to have the IRS check into the alleged violations and take action if necessary — worst-case scenario being having their tax-exempt status suspended, revoked or terminated altogether.

Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed and GM/program director of the Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network. Leonard is also general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks and an active contributor to four newspapers for Pana News Group.

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