Oklahoma’s presidential candidate is refusing answer questions from reporters after making comments years ago that suggested gay people should be executed.
Scott Esk and Gloria Banister will be competing for a seat at the state House of Representatives in a primary race.
2013 responding to a Facebook post about Pope Francis’s views on homosexuality, Esk quoted Bible passages suggesting that people who sin are “worthy of death.” When asked if he was implying that gay people should be executed, Esk responded in the affirmative.
“I think we would be totally in the right to do it…Ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss,” he said.
When a journalist questioned him about the comments during his 2014 run for state representative, Esk doubled down, saying that the execution of gay people “was done in the Old Testament under a law that came directly from God.” In his view, this was a “totally just” command, Esk added.
Local media outlets and TV stations have been trying hard to get Esk to clarify his position ever since he was elected as a viable candidate earlier this year. Esk has however, refused to comment, saying in a video he published online that reports of his views are “hit piece[s] on the fact that I had an opinion against homosexuality.”
“Does that make me a homophobe? Maybe some people think it does,” he said in the video from July. “But as far as I and many of the people, the voters of House District A7 are concerned, it simply makes me a Christian.”
“I’ve stood up for what is right in the past, and I intend to in the future and I am right now. That’s got me in trouble,” Esk said. “The media are not my friends, as far as I’m concerned.”
In another video he published this week, Esk responded to reports about his firing from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) a decade ago, a decision the department made after he was arrested while at work for making threats against his pastor following the church’s intervention on his ex-wife’s behalf during a bitter divorce.
A DPS investigation determined that Esk should be terminated over his ex-wife’s allegations in 2007 that he had engaged in “physical and emotional abuse” toward her and their children. The decision was also based on Esk’s reaction to those claims.
The Church of Christ, which the former couple had belonged to, doesn’t recognize divorce unless one of the parties can prove adultery. Esk’s ex-wife provided evidence showing that he had frequently called a “house of prostitution,” the DPS report said. After seeing the evidence, the church granted its blessing for divorce.
Furious with the outcome, Esk — who denies the adultery claims from his ex-wife — began a harassment campaign against the church and its pastor. He sent weekly email to the church as well as other Church of Christ groups across the country. He would yell “repent” to the pastor if he saw him in public. And a fellow church member later testified that Esk also made violent threats to the pastor, saying that he would “like to show [the pastor] how good I am with a firearm,” and that he would “show him what violence really is.” He also allegedly said that he’d like to put the pastor “in a body bag,” that individual said.
Esk was eventually expelled by the church. His ex-wife, and the pastor filed Victim Protection Orders against Esk.
A 2016 court order also shows that Esk, who didn’t deny hitting his kids, believed that his abuse of his children was justified by his religious views. When his ex-wife assumed custody of his kids, Esk complained to a court that he was being “deprived of [his] God-given right to apply corporal discipline to my children.”
“So we are here because you haven’t had an opportunity to spank your boys enough,” a judge said. “Is that what you’re telling me?”
“I think that’s a big factor,” Esk responded.
Esk stated that he would draft legislation to change the state’s divorce law if elected.