Don't feel bad. The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado has barely heard of the John Jay Institute either even though for the past two years the academy has been headquartered inside its own Colorado Springs landmark, the Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish.
All of the attention over Grace has been lavished on the Rev. Don Armstrong, found guilty this month by an ecclesiastical court of financial misconduct and tax fraud totaling nearly $1 million, and receiving more than $122,000 in illegal loans. Armstrong is now a "person of interest" in a Colorado Springs police investigation.
Meanwhile, the John Jay Institute, its organizing machine hard at work in the bowels of Grace's building, has somehow escaped scrutiny.
What is this John Jay Institute, you wonder? Let's start with its president, Alan R. Crippen II. You might recognize Crippen he's the guy who's been pitching Armstrong's talking points in the press. Turns out he's much, much more than a mouthpiece. But more on that in a minute.
At the beginning of this month, Crippen moved his two-year-old organization out of Grace Church, down a block and over, to another familiar Colorado Springs address: 506 N. Cascade Ave.
With 25 rooms and 15,000 square feet, the grand Victorian is the childhood home of Alice Bemis Taylor, whose family's philanthropic contributions to Colorado Springs, at the turn of the last century, were monumental. Indeed, Taylor's personal generosity alone brought us the Fine Arts Center.
In the 1970s, the mansion was restored to its former glory as the Hearthstone Inn. But the bed and breakfast fell on hard times after the turn of this century. Since closing two years ago, it has remained vacant, with an enormous Griffis/Blessing real-estate sign planted in front. Its most recent asking price was a cool $2 million. Several weeks ago, the well-heeled new tenants moved in. They've signed a year lease, with an option to buy.
So just what is Crippen's institute? For starters, it's named after founding father John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States and co-author of the Federalist Papers. According to its literature, the official mission is to "prepare Christians for principled leadership in public life."
Let's cut to the nuts-and-bolts translation: Essentially, the institute appears to be a sort of high-class, all-expenses-paid Christian boot camp for recent promising college grads (preferably white, if the academy's online testimonials are a clue).
Every semester, a dozen or so idealistic students will trek to Colorado Springs to learn how to be secularity-busting soldiers for Jesus. They will then, as hopes go, attain leadership roles in the highest levels of government, where they will presumably work to obliterate the separation of church and state.
For those who are keeping track, chalk up another point for Team Theocracy.
Included among the Institute's advisory council is Kenneth Starr yes, he of Bill Clinton impeachment-over-a-stained-blue-dress fame. The former solicitor general is joined by 11 other men, most scattered in places like Oxford, Malibu, Chattanooga and Washington, D.C. The group includes one well-known Coloradan: former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, now president of Colorado Christian University and widely regarded as the godfather of conservative GOP politicos in Colorado.
The board of governors similarly includes a collection of well-groomed, middle-aged white men, only two are from Colorado. One you guessed it is Don Armstrong. The other is Crippen himself. A former vice-president at the Family Research Council, which is Focus on the Family's Washington lobbying arm,Crippen also founded and operated the Witherspoon Fellowship,which appears to be the same sort of setup as the John Jay Institute.
Two years ago, Crippen returned to Colorado Springs. His inaugural class of young, idealistic Christian warriors-in-residence inside the childhood home of a Colorado Springs icon is set to start in just a few weeks.
God only knows what Alice Bemis Taylor and, for that matter, John Jay, would think of all this.
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