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Ken Owen disbands conservative Christian organization

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Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 3:58 pm, Sun Jul 21, 2013.

The man who has led an effort to spread Christian influence in public schools and city government for 25 years is calling it a career.

Ken Owen, 74, said that God told him last year it's time to retire as president of Christian Community Concerns, an organization that has fought such efforts as gay marriage, adult bookstores in Lodi and the opening of the city's cardroom.

The group has also promoted prayer at City Council meetings, posting The Ten Commandments at City Hall and establishing a Christian voting bloc in Lodi and elsewhere in San Joaquin County.

"It's reflecting what's happening at the national level as well," said retired Lutheran Pastor Bob Mattheis of Lodi. "I think he had the ear of the fundamentalist, evangelical community."

Owen suffered a mild stroke in February 2010, causing him to take a six-month leave of absence from the organization as he recovered. He says that God told him last summer to not only retire as president of Christian Community Concerns, but disband the organization.

"I think my instructions from the Lord is to shut the ministry down," he said. "If someone wants to start it up again, they can do it under another name."

Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen, who has known and worked with Owen since 1985, when Hansen was a Lodi police captain, said he will miss Owen's contributions to the community.

"I have appreciated his support, and I think it is a huge loss for Lodi that his organization goes with him," Hansen said. "We could agree to disagree sometimes. He never made you feel like I was less of a person if I disagreed with him."

Born in Arkansas, Owen lived with his family in Salem, Ore., before they moved to Lodi in 1948, when the city had 5,000 residents. He noted that you had to take a two-lane road from Lodi to Sacramento in those days.

Owen has had a state landscaping license since 1965 and will continue his role three days a week as a landscape contractor at his church, Century Assembly.

An atheist before finding the Lord

Owen was actually an atheist until finding the Lord in 1971, when he stopped fishing on Sundays and went to church instead, and he stopped drinking, gambling and swearing. A few months later, he quit smoking as well.

Owen founded Christian Community Concerns in 1985, when he got a calling from God to exert a Christian influence in the community and noticed an increase in homosexuality, abortion, pornography and sexual promiscuity in American society. He added a Stockton chapter in 1994 and later expanded it to include all of San Joaquin County.

Owen has run the group since that time through a low-profile board of directors. The board includes Adam Cobarrubio of Lodi, Century Assembly's men's ministries director and board member of the San Joaquin Valley Men's Ministries; Greg Cross of Lodi, who attends Westside Assembly; Abraham Mackey of Stockton; Pastor Theo Pope of Manteca; Sandra Miller of Tracy; and Jackie Arrington of Elk Grove.

"I've known Ken and his family for 30 to 40 years," said Kevin Suess, associate pastor at Vinewood Community Church. "I think where Ken has really made a contribution is to bring to light legislative issues that might have gone under the radar or unnoticed."

Mattheis, who admits he's considerably more liberal than Owen, acknowledges Owen's contributions to the community.

"I disagree with almost all his positions, but he brought together a Christian message, compassion and concern for the community," Mattheis said. "I think his stands on gay marriage and abortion are out of line with the majority of people, but that doesn't negate the positive things he's done."

Fighting for morality

Owen frequently attended Lodi City Council meetings when moral issues were on the agenda. The most recent issue came in 2009, when the council agreed to allow prayers before meetings after an out-of-state atheist organization argued that prayer should be banned at government meetings.

Owen also led fights against a cardroom being allowed on Cherokee Lane and adult bookstores to be operated in Lodi. He also supported Proposition 8 in 2008, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

He's also organized Lodi's celebration of the National Day of Prayer, held each May at the All-Veterans Plaza off Pine Street, and began a "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign. But he says that one of his greatest contributions is distributing a voters' guide every two years.

Asking candidates about moral issues

The voters' guide, begun in 1990 in Lodi and expanded to include Stockton in 1994, featured a questionnaire in which political candidates ranging from Congress to local city councils and school boards are asked questions based on moral issues like abortion, homosexuality, and separation of church and state.

For example, candidates for county sheriff were asked whether people should have the right to bear arms, and what their position is on adult bookstores.

School board candidates have been asked whether schools should teach abstinence only; whether they believe creation and evolution should be in the curriculum; whether Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving should be called by their traditional names; and if students should be allowed to read the Bible and pray on public school campuses.

In recent years, some 25,000 to 40,000 voters' guides were distributed countywide.

"I think our voters' guide influenced our culture more than anything I did," Owen said.

Due to Owen's stroke, the voters' guide wasn't published for the 2010 elections.

Trying to keep Christ in Christmas

The "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign focused on four basic components:

  • Encouraging retail clerks to wish customers a "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," and for customers to ask store owners and managers to say "Merry Christmas."
  • Requesting that public schools allow traditional Christmas carols and plays emphasizing the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • Telling Lodi city officials to feel free to express themselves religiously in public.
  • Asking churches and merchants to display a "Keep Christ in Christmas" poster.

"There's no question he has a passion for our community and a passion for the local church," Suess said. "The things he has put his hands on have been for the general good of the people."

Hansen added, "He definitely saw his role as a calling. He has certainly earned the right to retire and enjoy the rest of his life at a slower pace."

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • Timothy Branson posted at 5:39 pm on Sat, Aug 6, 2011.

    branscom Posts: 1

    I believe Ken Owen is and will always be remembered as a good man who tried helping his fellow man. He had love in his heart to do what he has done. No one can ever take that love away from him.

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 8:16 pm on Mon, Apr 4, 2011.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    Well, the American Atheists kinda scratched off number 2 on that list. I with they had a bit more candor (although, I will say that the "You know they're all myths" billboard isn't the only American Atheist INC. billboard up, it's just the one that got the most publicity.) I prefer the American Humanist Association billboards, the Freedom From Religion Foundation Billboards and the Richard Dawkins Foundation billboards, of which generally promote a positive message rather than a negative one (the "Good without Gods" billboard is my favorite.)

    The remainder of the list is generally true. Number 3 is most notable. There are no atheist witnesses :]p

  • Bob Silvano posted at 6:23 pm on Mon, Apr 4, 2011.

    Bob Silvano Posts: 145


    1. Atheists never try to persuade you to believe as they do
    2. Atheists never put up billboards along the freeway
    3. Atheists never knock on your door just as you sit down to dinner
    4. Atheists never condemn anyone for their views on abortion
    5. Atheists never ask you to tithe 10% of your income
    6. Atheists never ask you to volunteer to work bingo games
    7. Atheists never ask you to provide free labor to prove your faith
    8. Atheists never ask for last rights
    9. Atheists never try to influence legislation unless it is to counter a religion initiated or endorsed measure
    10. Atheists are not sheep who follow blindly. They are true to themselves.
    11. Atheists will be your friend regardless of your beliefs
    12. Atheists will invite you over for a BBQ, and you won’t have to say prayers
    13. Atheists will visit you in ANY hospital
    14. Atheists are good neighbors because they don’t insist that you believe as they do

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 3:30 pm on Mon, Apr 4, 2011.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    I am assuming you are referring to the plaintiff in the case regarding "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance? Would you like to explain how such an act is an attempt to revoke the rights of others when the goal is to maintain a separation between church and state, and keep government out of religion (and vice versa?) Note the clause of my response: permissible venues. Private individuals have the right to express their religious viewpoints, what is unacceptable is the involvement of the state in such affairs. I would assume that a conservative such as yourself would be opposed to governmental influence in what is solely a private matter.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:21 am on Mon, Apr 4, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Charles stated...Apparently, Manuel, you haven't been paying attention to Americas ...

    Charles, it is very likely that Manuel has not only followed Mr. Newdow but appreciates his contributions to society. I would not be surprised if Manuel shares his allowance he is allotted with Mr Newdow in order to support Mr Newdow's causes. As normal, I could be wrong as I am just making a guess based on his prior posts.

  • Charles Nelson posted at 8:20 pm on Sun, Apr 3, 2011.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 257

    Apparently, Manuel, you haven't been paying attention to Americas biggest waste of time, Michael Newdow, for the last decade or so. Not exactly a champion for the right of every American to express themselves freely. Especially when it contradicts his "free thinking" idealism.

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 5:58 pm on Sun, Apr 3, 2011.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    Wondering where an atheist can be accused of denying another citizen their rights of free expression or opportunity in permissible venues...

  • Charles Nelson posted at 3:08 pm on Sun, Apr 3, 2011.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 257

    Did I just read a member of an "Atheists and Freethinkers" organization accuse someone else of "forcing his opinions on our community"? Now, THAT'S funny!

  • Bob Silvano posted at 12:06 pm on Sun, Apr 3, 2011.

    Bob Silvano Posts: 145

    Lordy Lordy ! What will happen to all of us sinners with Mr. Owens out of the picture? Don't let the door hit you in the butt, Ken.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:49 am on Sat, Apr 2, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Never met Mr Owens but if the comments here are an indication of this mans life, he must have been a good and interesting man. I think it is common that people who are motivated to do good things in life attract these kind of people who seem to enjoy bringing down others who see life differently than themselves.
    Of course I have no way of knowing for a fact that he was a good man... but people who “know” if he was talking to an imaginary friend or not , unless they are god, have no way of knowing that for a fact as well.

  • David Diskin posted at 9:12 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    David Diskin Posts: 175

    When Lodi was divided over the issue of prayer during council meetings, I had coffee with Mr Owens. A few things were clear to me at the end of that meeting:

    1) While he claims to love all, his actions are focused on bigotry and hate.

    2) Though he claimed to have once been an atheist, he further explained to me that he "hated god" during this time. That is a contradiction.

    3) He has no understanding of evolutionary biology, yet wishes to remove it from our schools.

    4) He has no tolerance for any worldview outside of Christianity.

    I am glad he is stepping down, and I hope he will instead focus his time on his health and family rather than forcing his opinions on our community.

    There are many good things that Christians in this community have done, but I do not know of any that can be attributed to Mr Owens.

    -David Diskin
    Stockton Area Atheists and Freethinkers

  • anna marie rivieccio posted at 7:57 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    anna marie rivieccio Posts: 1

    Ken Owens did a good job for this community god bless him.

    We appricate a man like Ken Owens for standing up for morality and what is right

    we need more men like Ken Owens. Thank you, Ken

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 6:29 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    I wonder how Ken Owen concluded that God communicated a desire that he retire and shut down the organization. Did it come in a vision? Through a dream? A clear message assembled through alphabet soup on the order of: "give it a rest," or perhaps the stroke itself? (It would not be the first time that one would conclude that a physical ailment implied a sign from heaven...) What positive things can be said of this man and his organization? I've looked and found nothing about bringing people together, settling disputes, preaching peace or anything of the kind. Instead, I see a campaign that sought to deny human rights to LGBT, women and non-believers. Along with a concerted effort to breach the separation of church and state and couple civil government with invocations to a fairytale. Why place a copy of the Decalogue in City Hall when only 4 of 10 commandments are codified in secular law? Why not promote a moment of silence prior to council meetings so that each individual can pray to their respective gods or clear their minds without a reference to a particular person's god? What is so wrong with letting people live their lives without the modern day representation of would-be inquisitors hovering over them with the intention of denying them their indulgences or rights of expression? What is wrong about saying Happy Holidays when it is a season filled with numerous celebrations and rituals conducted by the many diverse believers and non-believers (human light...) present in society?

    Today, I celebrate the end of a conservative religious organization that, along with many others of the same category, held back the rights of man and promoted myth en masse. If I could, I'd celebrate at that cardroom Mr. Owen opposed, because Wine and Country makes delicious Filet Mignon, second only to Wine and Roses.

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 6:28 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2238

    God told Ken it was time to stop?

    I would say God was right.

  • Rose Hilliard posted at 4:22 pm on Fri, Apr 1, 2011.

    Rose Hilliard Posts: 1

    I'm sure this man felt he was doing the right things(as told to him by his imaginary friend in the sky with whom he apparently "spoke" regularly) , but Lodi is really better off without his own or his group's mentally unhealthy religious influences on people.



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