Rob McCoy is pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel church and, as of Tuesday, mayor of Thousand Oaks, California. In September, over some neighborhood opposition, his congregation moved into a former YMCA facility that was bought and renovated by the foundation of Dan Wilks, a Texas fracking billionaire who supports Religious Right and Christian nationalist causes. According to the Citizens Journal, Wilks was on hand to celebrate the move.
In April, the VC Star reported:
The former YMCA was bought for $2.85 million in January by the Texas-based nonprofit Heavenly Father’s Foundation, which plans to lease it as the new home of McCoy’s church. McCoy said he is a “very dear friend” of the founder of the foundation, Texas billionaire Dan Wilks.
This is not the first time McCoy has benefited from the largesse of the Wilks family. When McCoy made his first run for public office, for state legislature in 2014, Dan Wilks, his brother Farris and their wives gave thousands of dollars to McCoy’s campaign. (After losing his bid for the legislature, McCoy ran for and won a seat on the Thousand Oaks City Council.)
Why are these Texans so interested in a local politician in California? The connection is Christian nationalist David Lane. For more than two decades, Lane has been organizing gatherings that bring together conservative pastors and politicians with the hope of getting pastors to preach more aggressively about politics and to get their congregants to vote. Lane says it was McCoy, his pastor, that inspired his more recent effort to recruit a thousand evangelical pastors to run for public office. Part of Lane’s theory is that is pastor-candidates can each mobilize hundreds of congregants as volunteers, and the resulting impact could be felt on campaigns up and down the ticket.
The Wilks brothers, who were interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network at one of Lane’s events in Iowa in 2013, have funneled lots of money to Lane’s American Renewal Project (and other Religious Right causes) through the foundations they set up after selling their fracking services company for billions of dollars: Dan and his wife Staci have Heavenly Father’s Foundation, while Farris and his wife have the Thirteen Foundation. Liberty Counsel, which has received huge donations from Wilks foundations, defended the sale and occupancy of the new Godspeak building against legal challenges brought by a local community group.
The Thousand Oaks Acorn has reported on the Wilks-McCoy relationship:
A major donor to Republican and conservative Christian causes, Dan Wilks was invited to Israel along with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom McCoy knows though David Lane, a member of McCoy’s church and founder of the American Renewal Project. Lane is a significant behind-the-scenes player in the GOP, which has enabled McCoy to make connections with the likes of Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz, among others.
McCoy said Wilks was touched by his teachings and they struck up a friendship. In the years following their initial meeting, Wilks has flown the pastor to visit his ranch in Cisco, Texas, and Wilks has visited McCoy in Newbury Park.
After attending a sermon at Godspeak, McCoy said, Wilks told him in his Southern drawl that he wanted the church to be in a better location.
“He liked my teaching and decided to be a blessing,” McCoy said.
McCoy was intimately involved in two events for pastors that were held by the California arm of Lane’s American Renewal project in southern California in September to encourage pastors to get their congregations mobilized for this year’s midterm elections.
“If California is to be saved, and if its current direction is to be reversed, biblical values must be re-embraced in the public square,” said Religious Right “historian” David Barton in a video promoting the events. McCoy also helped promote the gatherings and was one of the speakers. (According to one report, the two events drew 1,100 pastors and wives.)
As we have previously noted:
Lane preaches that the U.S. has a divine mission to glorify God and advance the Christian faith, and he has called the separation of church and state a “lie” and a “fabricated whopper” designed to stop “Christian America—the moral majority—from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media.” He has complained that there was “not a peep from the Christian Church” in response to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, when the church “should have initiated riots, revolution, and repentance.”
On the Saturday before the election, McCoy took part in “Engage California,” a conference sponsored by another congregation in the Calvary Chapel network. McCoy talked about the fact that Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, generally stayed away from politics. But now that’s changing.
“I am excited because we are staging ourselves for an enormous effect throughout the country,” McCoy said in September. “We are a hub, assembling spokes, and steps into the public square. The major players in the Calvary movement are now touched by this paradigm shift which is profound.”
As RWW has previously reported:
At the Engage California event, McCoy bemoaned the fact that so many Christians in California don’t vote or aren’t even registered. Said McCoy, “Had Christians just decided to show up, we would dominate every election up and down the state.”
“We will not lose this state,” he said, encouraging attendees to call as many people as they could before the election. As for the more than 7 million Christians in California he said haven’t registered to vote, “we’re gonna get them in the next election.”
“We’re not giving up on this state,” said McCoy. “This is ours. We are going to infuse the culture with the presence of Christ.” Host pastor Jack Hibbs sounded the same theme, saying California is “worth fighting for.” He told attendees that they had “an amazing opportunity” on Election Day to “make a shock happen in California” and create an “earthquake of righteousness.”
After the election, Lane complained that Democratic Governor-elect Gavin Newsom was elected “by California evangelicals who stayed home on Election Day.”
It has been an extremely challenging fall for McCoy and his community; just after the elections, Thousand Oaks experienced both a deadly mass shooting and a wildfire that forced the evacuation of part of the town.