Kyle Mantyla's blog

The AFA Suddenly Decides The First Amendment Applies To More Than Just Congress

It seems as if the entire Religious Right is in high dudgeon right now over a situation in which lawyers representing the city of Houston sought to subpoena sermons from local pastors as part of a lawsuit filed by anti-gay activists in response to the rejection of their petitions calling for a referendum on a newly enacted anti-discrimination ordinance.

The city has already backed down, but that is not stopping Religious Right groups from hammering away at city officials and using the issue to promote their persecution complex, even if doing so undermines their own previous stances, as it does with groups like the American Family Association.

Today the AFA climbed on board the outrage bandwagon, sending out an action alert slamming Houston Mayor Annise Parker and urging activists to contact her to voice their outrage over this purported violation of the First Amendment:

The mayor is demanding that sermon notes, emails, videos, and any negative comments about homosexuality or the mayor herself, be turned over to her. If the pastors refuse, the mayor has threatened to charge them with contempt of court and possible fines or jail time.

...

The mayor is using intimidation, threats and bully tactics in an attempt to silence anyone who will not embrace her lesbian lifestyle.

Does the First Amendment mean nothing to Mayor Parker? Does religious freedom and freedom of speech mean nothing to Mayor Parker? Does the people’s petition process mean nothing to Mayor Parker?

This is a rather odd position for the AFA to take since Bryan Fischer, the AFA's Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy and the organization's primary spokesperson, has repeatedly gone on record stating that the First Amendment only applies to Congress.

In addition to asserting that the First Amendment only protects Christianity and not other religions like Mormonism or Islam, Fischer also insists that the First Amendment was designed only to constrain Congress, which means that state and local government are not bound by its language prohibiting the establishment of an official religion or interfering with its free exercise.

Fischer has made this case time and again while arguing that local government are free to discriminate against non-Christian religions or appear to explicitly endorse Christianity, asserting that both are perfectly constitutional since the First Amendment applies only to Congress:

First, the amendment applies only to Congress. "Congress shall make no law..." No other entity is restrained by the First Amendment. Since the amendment applies only to Congress, it is legally, historically and constitutionally impossible for a state, a county commission, a city council, a school board, a school principal, a school teacher or a student to violate the First Amendment. This is for one simple reason: none of them is Congress. Violating the First Amendment is something only Congress can do.

If the First Amendment only applies to Congress when it comes to establishing or discriminating against religion, as Fischer contends, then logically it must also only apply to Congress when it comes to restricting the free exercise of religion. And if that is the case, then city officials in Houston could not have possibly violated the First Amendment rights of local pastors by subpoenaing their sermons due to the simple fact that they are not Congress.

Fischer has repeatedly said on his AFA radio program and written on the AFA's website that "violating the First Amendment is something only Congress can do." If that is true, then why is the AFA now fuming about city officials in Houston supposedly violating the First Amendment, since that is not even technically possible, according to the organization's primary spokesperson?

Right Wing Round-Up - 10/15/14

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 10/15/14

  • After months of controversy, megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has resigned.
  • Rick Santorum says that "I’m doing everything right now as if I’m running" for president.
  • Laurie Higgins says that moderate Republicans must be defeated at the ballot box because otherwise "the Democratic wing of the Republican Party will grow. It’s a ravenous beast devouring the squishy, spineless, chestless, tasteless, bootless bodies of conservatives."
  • E.W. Jackson is launching a new movement designed to protect Christians from "growing hostility, discrimination and anti-Christian bigotry."
  • Finally, Dan Snyder seems to think that having Glenn Beck on his side will somehow help his effort to save the name of his football team.

Fischer: Gay Marriage Can't Be Legal Because Government Is To Be 'A Minister Of God'

On his radio program today, Bryan Fischer made the case that the government can never endorse any position that is contrary to the will of God because government was established by God specifically for the purpose of carrying out his will, which is why gay marriage can never be legal.

As Fischer explained, the entire idea of civil government came from God and therefore all earthly political and legal authority stems from God. As such, the purpose of civil government is to carry out the will of God, meaning that government can never remain neutral on moral issues.

"God has called government to take sides in the culture war," Fischer said, "and God is instructing civil government to take the side of that which is right and good. That means government and those who hold government power have a divine responsibility to know the difference between good and evil so that they can reward the former and punish the latter."

Thus, when government bans gay marriage, "it is doing a good thing," Fischer said. "It is doing a divinely ordained thing. It's doing its job. It's fulfilling its role as a minister of God":

Prayer Breakfast Organizers And Speakers Seek To Distance Themselves From Jerry Boykin​

On Friday, a prayer breakfast is being held in Vancouver, Washington, at which the Family Research Council's Jerry Boykin is scheduled to be the keynote speaker.

Apparently organizers of the event were unfamiliar with Boykin's long history of anti-Muslim statements and right-wing radicalism until local Muslims brought it to their attention, at which point sponsors and other speakers began to distance themselves from Boykin and the event.

The local YMCA, which was a key sponsor and organizer, has now issued a statement announcing that it does not support Boykin's participation and the mayor has announced that he will not stick around to hear Boykin's remarks and will speak out against him when he delivers his own remarks at the breakfast while local officials have voiced their shock that organizers whould choose someone like Boykin for the event:

A planning committee on Tuesday voted to retain a controversial former Pentagon official and Christian conservative as keynote speaker for Friday’s Clark County Mayors’ & Civil Leaders’ Prayer Breakfast.

But the Clark County Family YMCA, one of the event’s sponsors, voted against keeping former Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin as keynote speaker, according to Roger Button, a YMCA chaplain and a member of the committee.

The truth is that the organizing committee knew little about Boykin at first, Button said, other than that he was a “great keynote speaker” who’d done a “wonderful job” at the national convention of the Full Gospel Men’s Fellowship in America. A local chapter of the Full Gospel Men’s Fellowship is the event planning partner who suggested bringing Boykin to Clark County for this 13th annual local prayer breakfast, set for 7 a.m. Friday at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

“We were looking to honor our military veterans and first responders and he sounded like a good fit,” Button said. “We really didn’t look into it.”

Button said the Y has now decided that Boykin is too divisive. In a statement, the Y said:

“The purpose of the mayor’s prayer breakfast is to pray for, encourage and uplift our civic leaders, first responders and those that serve and protect our community. It is meant to be an uplifting event, one in which we call on the risen Christ to bless our leaders. Originally we had asked our keynote to speak based on his Christian testimony. In recent days statements made by the speaker have come to our attention that detract from the purpose and mission of the prayer breakfast. Therefore the YMCA does not support bringing this speaker to the Clark County Mayors’ & Civic Leaders’ Prayer Breakfast.”

...

On Monday, [Vancouver Mayor Timothy] Leavitt told The Columbian he had not been familiar with Boykin, but he was finding “intolerance” in the retired lieutenant general’s public statements. He said he had not planned to stick around for Boykin’s speech, but now is considering speaking out more forcefully during his own preliminary remarks. He also said he’d reached out to a member of the prayer breakfast planning committee to ask how Boykin was chosen and “if the committee knew that this individual was as controversial as he is.”

...City Councilman Jack Burkman said he’s been growing uncomfortable with the event for years, and had already planned to skip this year. The selection of Boykin only reinforced his decision, he said.

“I’ve gone to some of these in the past,” he said, “but I’ve had increasing concerns with government’s active participation in very strong faith-based activities. I think it raises a lot of questions.”

It’s a strongly Christian event, he said, “and that’s great.” But, politicians attending a prayer breakfast as politicians isn’t too different from politicians attending church as politicians, he said. “In many ways (the prayer breakfast is) a service. A church service. That’s what I’m not comfortable with. Elected officials don’t go to church and say, ‘I’m here as a council member.’ ”

He wasn’t familiar with Boykin, he said, until he read Tuesday’s Columbian. Then he started looking on the Internet.

“Wow, how did they make that decision?” he marveled. “It’s not new information. Boykin has been getting a lot of negative publicity for quite some time. This is a clear signal to me not to attend this event.”

Mayor Scott Higgins of Camas, who is also a pastor, said he is used to attending meetings and events where he doesn’t agree with many things he hears. He still plans to go, he said, but that doesn’t mean he endorses the speaker.

Vancouver city Councilor Alishia Topper posted on Facebook: “I’m in New York this Friday, but if I were home I would not attend this year’s prayer breakfast because of the keynote speaker. I do not support hate and am shocked the event organizers chose such a polarizing guest speaker. Organizers should reconsider their invitation and event sponsors should think about how sponsoring this event will make their business look.”

UPDATE: After initially saying that he would honor his committment to speak at the event but leave before Boykin spoke, Mayor Tim Leavitt has now issued a statement announcing that he is boycotting the prayer breakfast entirely due to Boykin's radical views and bigotry:

Today, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt announced he would boycott the 2014 Clark County Mayor and Civic Leaders Prayer Breakfast, scheduled for 7 a.m. Friday, Oct. 17 at the Hilton.

“The purpose of the prayer breakfast is to bring together people of many different faiths and religions to pray for, honor and encourage military personnel, public safety first responders, civic leaders and others who serve our community – and that is an effort that I do support,” said Leavitt. “In fact, the vision of the breakfast is ‘Inspiring Clark County residents to honor, encourage and support each other.’ But, it is apparent to me that the values and beliefs of the keynote speaker are not consistent with the original vision of this event. In fact, I’m certain that Lt. General Boykin’s position on a number of social, political and religious issues does not at all reflect the values of acceptance, tolerance and compassion our community strives for.”

When information about this year’s speaker, retired Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, began circulating earlier this week, Leavitt said that he intended to honor his commitment to host the event, but did not intend to stay for the presentation. However, after personally researching and reviewing Boykin’s previous public statements, Leavitt strengthened his stance.

“I respect and commend the lieutenant general for his service to our country,” said Leavitt. “However, I can’t condone extremist values through my attendance and participation at the breakfast. Vancouver prides itself on being a welcoming community for all faiths, cultures and belief systems. Frankly, I’m stunned that the event planning committee, when given the option to correct a poor decision, chose to keep the invitation to Boykin. I encourage others, including the event sponsors, to carefully consider their attendance and support.”

Matthew Hagee Says Ebola Crisis Is A Sign Of The End Times

While John Hagee sees the current Ebola outbreak as proof that God's judgment is on America for failing to support Israel, his son Matthew sees the crisis as a sign that the End Times are near and Jesus will soon return.

Answering a question from a viewer on today's "Hagee Hotline," Hagee (wrongly) cited Matthew 24:7 to claim that Jesus warned that famines and pestilence would break out before his return (In Matthew, Jesus warned of "famines and earthquakes"; It was in Luke 21 where Jesus warned of "famines and pestilences.")

"Pestilence is an illness for which there seems to be no cure," Hagee said. "That would certainly describe Ebola":

John Hagee Says Ebola Is God's Judgment On America Because Obama Is Trying To Divide Israel

On yesterday's broadcast of the "Hagee Hotline," televangelist and Christians United For Israel founder John Hagee issued a stark warning to America that the Ebola crisis is God's judgment on this nation for President Obama's failure to adequately support Israel.

"I want every American to hear this very clearly," Hagee said, citing Joel 3 to warn that God will judge any nation that seeks to divide up Israel and declaring that "our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment."

"There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun," Hagee continued, "because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now."

"We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola," he stated, as well as threats from Islamic radicals and even civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri all as a result of God's judgment on America due to Obama's policies:

Benham Brothers Once Again Compare Themselves To ISIS Victims

During last weekend's "iPledge Sunday" event, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins interviewed David and Jason Benham, who repeated their new favorite talking point likening the loss of their planned reality television show to Christians who are being murdered by ISIS in the Middle East.

"This is a spiritual battle," Jason said. "From the outset, there was a war in Heaven and now it's manifesting itself here on this earth" in the form of attacks on Christians like them.

"We see the struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies," David said, pointing to ISIS as he then declared that "what's happening with swords over in the Middle East is happening with silence over here in America."

"The exact same agenda in the form of silence," he said. "That's their weapon and Jason and I were targeted and it's a very well orchestrated, well-oiled machine that comes after us."

Perkins completely agreed, saying that "in the Middle East they use the sword, and here they use silence but in both ways the voice of Christians are lost":

Rep. Frank Wolf Says Christians May Need To Go To Jail In Order To Wake Up America

On Sunday, a variety of Religious Right groups hosted a webcast called "iPledgeSunday 2014: The Rise of the Church," designed to mobilize right-wing Christians before the midterm elections. Hosted by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and Live Action's Lila Rose, the event featured in-person interviews with people like Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, as well as a variety of pre-taped interviews with Religious Right activists including David Barton, Jim Garlow, and the Benham Brothers.

Rep. Frank Wolf also appeared in a prerecorded interview, telling Perkins that religious liberty is under attack in America because the church has been intimidated and fallen into silence.

In order to combat this, the Virginia Republican said, Americans need to imitate people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and prepare to go to prison in the face of government oppression.

"Frankly," Wolf said, "some people in the church may have to go to jail and that would wake up America. That would literally wake up America if they arrested a cardinal, if they arrested a bishop, if they arrested a prominent pastor":

Klingenschmitt: Government Recognition Of Gay Marriage Is Deceiving Citizens Into Hell

On yesterday's "Pray In Jesus Name" program, Gordon Klingenschmitt warned that recent court decisions striking down various gay marriage bans and the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeals of such rulings are God's judgment on America and that legalizing gay marriage is sending Americans to Hell.

"Gay marriage is still illegal in all fifty states because God has decreed it so," Klingenschmitt declared before praying that "our laws will reflect God's highest law so that our government locally does not deceive our citizens into Hell by telling the citizens this is okay, this is normal, this is acceptable when God, you yourself, have decreed it to be sin":

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