UPDATE: Scott Esk has lost his race:
Scott Esk, a conservative Christian who believes sexually active gay people should be stoned to death because the Bible says so, is on the verge of becoming a state representative in Oklahoma.
Esk advanced to a runoff after a GOP primary back in June, and that runoff is taking place today. State House District 87 has been one of the few Democratic districts in the state for the past several years, but the incumbent is retiring, which opens the door for a possible flip.
But those comments Esk made years ago are now coming back to haunt him.
It was 2013. Pope Francis had just delivered one of the iconic lines of his papacy, saying of gay people, “Who am I to judge?” In a subsequent conversation about that statement on Facebook, Esk repeatedly cited Leviticus 20:13 and said men who sleep with men should be executed. Even when another commenter tried to get Esk away from “regurgitat[ing] scripture” to find out what he really believed, Esk doubled down and said, “I think we would be totally in the right to do it.”
You might write this off as simply an evil fantasy of a Christian extremist, the sort of thing New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preachers say all the time.
The now-defunct website TheMooreDaily.com spoke with Esk at the time to ask him about what he said… and Esk didn’t walk any of it back. He said he had no plans to reinstitute that biblical law if elected, but only because it was a “moot point” and such legislation wasn’t about to be introduced. He still clearly believed gay people deserve to be executed.
What I will tell you right now is that was done in the Old Testament under a law that came directly from God. And in that time, it was totally just — it came directly from God. I have no plans to reinstitute that in Oklahoma law. I do have very big moral misgivings about those kinds of sins, and I think that those kinds of sins will not do our country any good and certainly doesn’t do anything to preserve the family.
He added: “I do stand for biblical morality.”
In other words: It was okay to stone gay people in biblical times because God said it was fine. It would be fine today, too, but since it’s not likely to become a real law, we’ll let it go… for now. Oh, and by the way, homosexuality is evil and hurts the country and destroys families.
At no point has he ever walked back his despicable comments.
After he lost his race in 2014, he never really got over the stain of what he had said… mainly because he kept saying the same thing in different words. He released a YouTube video in 2015 to “set the record straight” but it only confirmed everyone’s worst suspicions:
… I have compassion on anybody who is in the grips of an insidious addiction such as homosexuality and wish to help them. Whether or not they do, I don’t think… I never did move for expanding the death penalty to… discourage that. But…
You get the idea. He didn’t say he misspoke. He didn’t say he denounced his words. He just tried the evangelical pastor technique of saying reprehensible things in palatable language, to put them in a context so they sound less inflammatory. He failed.
All of that history came rushing back this summer when Esk won the GOP primary for State House District 87 with the plurality of votes, making it to today’s runoff.
In a video he released last month, he attempted to “set the record straight (yet again)”:
“I had an opinion against homosexuality,” Esk said in a July YouTube video he made in response to a KFOR story. “Well, does that make me a homophobe? Maybe some people think it does, but as far as I and many of the voters of House District 87 are concerned, it simply makes me a Christian.”
Yes, saying gay people should be stoned to death makes you a homophobe.
It also says a lot about the nature of conservative Christianity these days that calling for the execution of gay people is seen by some extremists as just part and parcel of the faith.
Now that the runoff has arrived, Esk is still trying to fend off accusations that he’s a Christian extremist who has no business in the legislature. He released yet another video on Sunday to “[set] the record straight the 3rd time.” (Just a suggestion: If clarifying your position didn’t work several years ago, then saying all the same things again isn’t going to help.)
This video goes in a different direction than the others, because he’s now accusing his Republican opponent of smearing him by using his old words against him, but the gist is the same.
To be clear, there are all kinds of reasons Esk shouldn’t be in power. He bloodlust against gay people is just the tip of the iceberg. He’s a monster in plenty of other ways, too, as explained in The Oklahoman:
Esk said he opposes illegal immigration, health mandates and abortion in all instances. He said he supports the Second Amendment, Oklahoma sovereignty and family values.
He has called COVID vaccines “poison” despite the shots having been safely administered to hundreds of millions of people.
Esk worked at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety for 12 years. He was fired from his position as a data management analyst in 2011 following allegations that he had threatened and harassed leaders at his church.
Although charges of threatening to perform an act of violence were later dropped, the state said Esk had engaged in conduct “unbecoming (of) a public employee.” Esk denies his actions were threatening.
The alleged harassment of church leaders at the 84th Street Church of Christ stemmed from when Esk’s wife took their three sons and left him in 2007, citing “his physical and emotional abuse towards her and the boys,” according to documents related to his termination proceedings.
No one who knows this guy well wants to be around him. Oklahoma’s voters would be wise to stay away, too.
If Esk ends up winning Tuesday’s primary, you can bet it’ll become yet another example of Republicans choosing the worst possible candidates for seats they legitimately have a shot at winning. And the worst candidate in this case is a Bible-believing Christian who fantasizes about the murder of sexually active gay people.
Even in ruby red Oklahoma, it may be a bridge too far.