Miranda Blue's blog

Jindal Rally Organizers Remove Controversial Prayer Guide, Still Think Gays Are Responsible For Natural Disasters

Last week, we reported that the anti-gay, Christian nationalist organizers of a supposedly nonpolitical prayer rally that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is hosting next month had reused some materials from a similar rally hosted by Texas Gov. Rick Perry back in 2011, including a prayer guide blaming LGBT rights and legal abortion for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Blaming Hurricane Katrina on gay people and abortion, it turns out, didn’t go over so well in the state that was hardest hit by the 2005 storm, and after reporters in Louisiana started asking the organizers and Jindal’s office about the prayer guide, it was scrubbed from the rally’s website.

But disappearing one document can only do so much to hide the fact that Jindal is partnering with some pretty extreme organizations to put on his "The Response" event. In fact, the offending document was replaced on the event’s website by a letter from organizer Doug Stringer which only slightly more vaguely blames “earthquakes, floods, fires, and an escalation of natural disasters across the country and the world” on “the continued moral failures of our leaders.”

And when the New Orleans Times-Picayune approached Bryan Fischer, a spokesman for the event’s main funder the American Family Association, about the controversial prayer guide, he told them that his group stood by the original content. "We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God's judgment on an unrepentant nation,” Fischer told the Times-Picayune, before explaining that it’s “fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance."

Still, the AFA initially issued a prayer guide that has offended many Louisiana residents. It implied legal abortion, same-sex marriage and pornography use contributed to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. Though the prayer guide has been taken down, Fischer reiterated that sentiment on Wednesday. He said Louisiana should be especially concerned about the morality of the country, given its vulnerability to natural disasters.

"We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God's judgement on an unrepentant nation," Fischer said, "It's fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance."

Texas School Board Let Anti-Muslim Group Pressure Publishers To Rewrite Religion Textbooks

Last month, the Texas State Board of Education approved a set of social studies textbooks after some disputes between Christian Right members of the board and scholars who had reviewed the texts. Although experts recruited by the Texas Freedom Network to review the proposed texts managed to convince textbook companies to remove some objectionable material, some claims demanded by conservative members of the board remained, including assertions that Moses was a direct influence on the founding of the U.S.

In an article for Religion Dispatches today, one of TFN’s reviewers, David R. Brockman, who teaches religious studies at Southern Methodist University, writes about his experience as a textbook reviewer and his frustrations with the board’s process for reviewing curricula on world religions. “The curriculum standards and the adoption process in Texas don’t simply lack balanced and accurate coverage of the world’s religions; they work against it,” he writes. “And while textbook publishers generally struggle against this tide, they are sometimes dragged along with it.”

In one example, Brockman writes that the Christian Right bloc on the school board “insisted that the publishers address” a last-minute set of comments submitted by Truth in Texas Textbooks, a group associated with the anti-Muslim organization ACT! for America, whose reviewers, with one exception, had no “relevant social studies credentials” and demanded that the textbooks include hostile and sometimes false comments about Islam. Although the textbook companies mostly refused TTT’s requests (many with clear exasperation), a few were successful, including a redefinition of the word “jihad”:

The problem is that, in 2014 at least, the conservative majority on the SBOE quite clearly gave comments from ideologically-driven pressure groups (such as Texas Eagle Forum and Texas Values Action) greater weight than comments from credentialed field specialists (such as myself and my fellow reviewers).

A mere two weeks before the SBOE was to take its final vote on the textbooks, and long after other public groups had filed their comments, Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT), which has allies on the SBOE, presented their reviews—469 pages of material. Two days before the final adoption vote was to take place, Christian Right members of the SBOE made much of the TTT criticisms and insisted that publishers address them.

To judge from its website, the only TTT reviewer with relevant social studies credentials was a professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. However, he reviewed only one world history textbook, and quite appropriately restricted his comments to his areas of expertise.

The other reviewers on TTT’s list appear to have no academic credentials in history, geography, economics, or religious studies (though they do include a Ph.D. in “educational leadership,” and a professor of foreign languages). Despite a lack of pertinent credentials, the TTT reviewers weighed in on a wide range of topics, including prehistory, climate change, economics, political science, and U.S. government.

But they directed special vitriol at the alleged “dangers” posed by Islam. One reviewer wrote of Islam’s “threat to the Western world,” while another lumped Muslims together with communists and socialists commenting, bizarrely, that “The greatest fear for a communist, a socialist or a Muslim is Truth.”

Other TTT comments were just plain false: “Islam is spread by the sword while monotheistic religions are not.”

(Try telling that to an Aztec or Inca—not to mention the fact that Islam is a “monotheistic religion.”)

Yet despite TTT’s lack of credentials and the obviously biased and tendentious nature of their critiques, conservative SBOE members insisted that publishers give them the same level of attention they gave comments from credentialed scholars.

Sadly, in some cases, publishers actually changed their text to suit TTT, as when Pearson Learning ( see page 16) removed from its world history text the factually correct statement that jihad “is most frequently used [by Muslims] to describe an inner struggle in God’s service.” In its place Pearson inserted more ambiguous wording: “For some Muslims, [jihad] means a struggle against one’s evil inclinations. For other Muslims, it refers to a struggle or violent holy war to defend or spread Islam.”

While this change may please TTT and other anti-Islam groups, it deprives students of the important fact that the “holy war” interpretation of jihad is held by only a small minority in the Muslim community today.

Stewart Rhodes: Bundy Ranch Standoff Nearly Turned Military Against Feds, Started Civil War

Oath Keepers founder Steward Rhodes told a gathering of “constitutional sheriffs” last month — which also featured Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas — that federal officials eventually backed down in the standoff at the Bundy Ranch earlier this because they knew that if they didn't the U.S. military would turn against the federal government, igniting a second civil war.

Noting that a number of military veterans joined the armed anti-government protest at the Nevada ranch, Rhodes said that “the politicians and the would-be dictators in Washington, D.C…have to worry if they go too hard, if they drop the hammer too blatantly on Americans like at Bundy Ranch, that the Marine Corps would flip on them. And I think it would. And same goes for the tip of the spear in the Army, Army Airborne, special forces, your Navy Seals, all of those groups out there, the more hardcore they are as warriors, the more likely they are to look at something like that and say, ‘that’s it, I’m done’ and join the resistance.”

“And so that’s why [federal officials] are careful about what they do,” he added. “It’s not out of charity or concern for your lives that the don’t drop the hammer.”

Citing a Washington Times report that the Obama administration “considered but rejected deploying military force” against the armed groups trying to stop the Bureau of Land Management from collecting decades of grazing fees from Cliven Bundy, Rhodes said, “Thankfully they did not, because if they had, that would have kicked off a civil war in this country. It would have.”

The only way to avoid a civil war, he said, was for sheriffs and other officials like those in the audience to refuse to be "the muscle for idiots like Cuomo or Obama or Holder who don't understand warfare."

"Do not open the door on U.S. soil for sheepdog and sheepdog violence," he warned.

Larry Pratt Accuses Congresswoman He Threatened Of 'Hissy Fit': 'You're Nuts, Lady, Shut Up'

Back in March, Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, gave a radio interview in which he told the story of one of his group’s members threatening a member of Congress, which Pratt thought was just fine because the fear of being shot is “probably a healthy fear” for elected officials to have. A few months later, the exchange made it into a Rolling Stone profile of Pratt and caught the eye of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who it turns out was the threatened congresswoman in question, and who immediately notified the Capitol Police.

Pratt’s group reacted to this news by calling Rep. Maloney “foolish” and claiming that she just didn’t understand “key historical documents.” And since then, Pratt has repeatedly doubled down on his comments, saying that elected officials should live “in constant trepidation” of citizens turning to the “cartridge box,” arguing that politicians fearing for their lives “ is what the Second Amendment is all about,” and hoping for an increase in politicians “dispatched” while trying to avoid “metal jackets.”

Pratt, in fact, was so delighted by the story of threats to Rep. Maloney that he told it last month to a gathering of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association in Washington, a group that believes states and counties should ignore federal gun laws.

Rep. Maloney, Pratt said, “went off on a hissy fit” after hearing his comments. The Capitol Police, he added, “came back with a conclusion that there was no articulable threat, which I think was a nice way of saying, ‘You’re nuts, lady, shut up.’”

Right's Favorite Sheriff: Michael Brown 'Chose Thug Life,' Was 'A Co-Conspirator In His Own Demise'

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has become something of a folk hero on the Right since he ran radio ads urging county residents to not rely on calling 911 in an emergency and to arm themselves instead and told Alex Jones that he foresees a “second coming of an American Revolution” to fight gun control. The sheriff’s popularity has only increased in the past month as he has taken to Fox News to denounce the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and around the country and accuse President Obama of encouraging rioting and building a “racial divide” in America.

Clarke, who is African American, continued his commentary on the Ferguson protests in an interview this week on “The Palin Update,” where he declared that Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot by a Ferguson police officer, “was on a path that was leading him to a very dark place” and “couldn’t deal with authority.”

“What we’re talking about in the case of Michael Brown is a lifestyle choice,” Clark added. “He chose thug life. And that’s unfortunate, but that’s what happened. Like I said, he didn’t deserve to die, but he was a co-conspirator in his own demise.”

Jindal Claims Obama Refuses To Stand 'On The Side Of Those Fighting Against Terrorists'

In an interview with Steve Deace yesterday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal praised Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee’s efforts to force a government shutdown last weekend and criticized the Republicans who were openly exasperated with Cruz and Lee’s gambit, which ultimately backfired.

“This president has done severe damage to our foreign policy, to our military, to our economy, to our freedoms, we need leaders who will stand up to him and understand what’s at stake here,” Jindal said.

He said that Republican leaders are enforcing a “double standard” by criticizing conservatives like Cruz while supposedly letting president Obama get away with “forcing liberal radical judges on our courts” and “using the EPA to go after our economy” while the president — who has steadily increased U.S. national security aid to Israel — “refused stand with Israel against Hamas” and “unequivocally say ‘We’re on the side of those fighting against terrorists.’”

“Nobody was there when they were forcing liberal radical judges on our courts, nobody was there when they were using the EPA to go after our economy, nobody said that when this president refused to stand with Israel against Hamas, when he refused to unequivocally say ‘We’re on the side of those fighting against terrorists,’ nobody was out there wringing their hands, I don’t get this double standard,” he said.

“We need Republicans who understand they’re not trying to please the New York Times editorial page, they’re not trying to please the Washington Post editorial page, and if they’re making them happy they’re probably doing something wrong,” he concluded.

Pat Robertson: Gays 'Will Die Out Because They Don't Reproduce'

On “The 700 Club” today, Pat Robertson took a question from a viewer who said she attends a church whose members aren’t allowed to date, leaving many church members “frustrated because we’re getting older and no one is getting married.”

Robertson found this to be absolutely ridiculous because a church with a no-dating policy will eventually “die out”… just like gay people.

“You know, those who are homosexual will die out because they don’t reproduce,” he said. “You know, you have to have heterosexual sex to reproduce. Same thing with that church, it’s doomed, it’s going to die out because it’s the most nonsensical thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

Pat Robertson: Hillary Clinton Suffered Secret 'Minor Strokes,' Would Lose To Bush-Kasich 'Dream Ticket'

On “The 700 Club” today, Pat Robertson discussed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s announcement that he is exploring a presidential run, speculating that a “dream ticket” of Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich would defeat Hillary Clinton “in a walk” because he’d read something about Clinton having health problems including “little minor strokes.”

Robertson brought up Clinton’s admission that she hasn’t driven a car since 1996, when she was first lady. Although this isn’t surprising for someone who’s been under Secret Service protection for decades, Robertson speculated that it was because of an “ischemic things where she’s had little minor strokes.”

“I was reading that the reason she doesn’t drive, she hasn’t driven in maybe a decade or so, that she has some kind of ischemic things where she’s had little minor strokes, I don’t know if they’ve released the medical thing on her, but I think Hillary’s yesterday’s news,” Robertson said, perhaps a reference to Dr. Karl Rove’s diagnosis of the former secretary of state.

“Sometimes time goes by and you miss your chance, and coming back a second time, it may not play,” he said.

Robertson, who said in 2008 that God had told him who would win the presidential election, but refused to say at the time who it was, said today that he "thought for sure” that Clinton “was going to be the next president.” In what is perhaps bad news for Bush and Kasich, this was not the first time that God has provided Robertson with the wrong election prediction: He also told Robertson that Mitt Romney would defeat President Obama in 2012.

Alveda King Cites Racist Ferguson Photoshop: 'I Googled It To Make Sure It Was True'

Back in September, a photographer for the St. Louis Riverfront Times took a photo of a group of protestors in front of the Ferguson, Missouri, police station, one of whom, a young African American man, was holding a sign reading “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he leaves home.” Two months later, as protests were again rocking Ferguson, the image was resurrected as a viral racist meme after someone photoshopped the man’s sign to read “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he robs a store.”

The image was quickly traced back to its origin and debunked, but not before it had entered the popular conscious of right-wing activists trying to demonize the Ferguson protestors.

Among these, it turns out, is Alveda King, a conservative activist who is a niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., who cited the hoax photo in an interview last week with Iowa GOP committeewoman Tamara Scott as she asserted that if a “child is trained” then “he or she will not be in the wrong place at the wrong time” like Michael Brown.

“I just can’t believe that quote,” Scott responded, adding, “It just shows you a whole mindset.”

King responded that she also “couldn’t believe it” but had “Googled it to make sure it was true.”

Far-Right Anti-Government Group Plans Political Takeover Of Arizona County

Earlier this month, Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff and popular “Patriot” movement speaker, gave a speech in Pueblo, Colorado, in which he announced that he was launching a new bid for public office.

Mack said that he would be moving to Navajo County, Arizona, to run as the county sheriff in 2016 and told the members of the Tea Party group in his audience, “I need some backup and I wouldn’t mind if you went there, too.”

He wasn’t joking. In fact, Mack is the most prominent recruit of a group that is seeking to stage a political takeover of the sprawling rural county as an experiment in creating a local government that will ignore and “nullify” federal laws — such as federal lands restrictions and gun regulations — that its leaders believe to be unconstitutional.

Mack explained the plan in a speech to this weekend’s “I Won’t Comply” demonstration in Olympia, Washington, which gathered anti-government activists from around the country to protest a new state law requiring background checks on most gun purchases.

Mack, who runs a group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which argues that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the country, urged the Washington crowd to join him in Navajo County.

“I want you to carefully, prayerfully consider moving there with me, and I’m serious. You want to live in a free county? You want to live by constitutional law? You want to not be worried about federal government coming in and ruining your lives and families and hauling you off at midnight? Come live with us there,” he said.

He said that the establishment of “constitutional counties” was the last “peaceful” option for the movement to “regain our constitution and freedom in America.”

“If we’re going to take back freedom, we have one opportunity to keep it peaceful, and that is the enforcement of state sovereignty by our sheriffs and by our state and county legislatures,” he said.

The former sheriff explained how a group called the Constitutional County Project had approached him and asked him to join their first experiment in creating a “constitutional county,” what Mack said would be a “blueprint for freedom” that could then be replicated across the country.

In an interview with the radio show “Liberty Roundtable” in June, Mack discussed early negotiations on the project. Although he didn’t say that he had committed to run for office, he hinted at it, saying "we have got to be able to sacrifice and move to where we can be united and take over a county politically."

Mack told the Washington rally that he planned to move to the county in the spring of 2015 to prepare for a 2016 run for office.

The Constitutional County Project's website says that once it achieves its political takeover of Navajo County, its allied elected officials get to work repealing "local and county laws and regulations which are unrelated to protecting individual rights," enforcing environmental regulations at the "county level," cutting taxes and regulations and using "legal and political means to protect the county’s residents against any attempt to un-Constitutionally interfere with peaceable living and enterprise."

A 2012 Southern Poverty Law Center report on Mack explained his growing influence in the “Patriot” movement and the source of his ideology in Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s and 1980s, which provided some of the ideological foundation for the militia movement:

An inductee in the National Rifle Association’s Hall of Fame whose stardom dimmed by the turn of the century, Mack is once again riding high in the saddle as a patron saint of the resurgent antigovernment “Patriot” movement and a meticulously coiffed darling of the Tea Party set. For the past two years, the former public relations director for the Gun Owners of America has zigzagged across the country spreading dark fears and conspiracy theories about the federal government, hawking his self-published books about guns and God, and encouraging sheriffs to join his new organization, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), and be a “line in the sand” against government agents. He recently bragged that he had spoken at 120 Tea Party events across the country (his website says 70), in addition to the many law enforcement gatherings, local political fundraisers, John Birch Society (JBS) meetings, and other events where he is treated as a hero.

Whether he’s speaking to local chapters of the JBS or appearing on far-right radio shows like James Edwards’ white nationalist program “The Political Cesspool,” Mack’s central message is that the federal government has far overstepped its constitutional bounds and that county sheriffs have the rightful authority — and duty — to protect citizens from what he believes are its unlawful incursions. This idea that sheriffs have supremacy over other law enforcement agencies and even the federal government was born and gained traction in the 1970s and 1980s when it was pushed by the explicitly racist, anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus (Latin for “power of the county”), which capitalized on the Midwestern farm crisis of the era to promote an extreme antigovernment ideology. The Posse’s founding tract, the so-called Blue Book written by white supremacist Henry Lamont Beach, asserted the county was “the highest authority of government in our Republic.”

Mack focuses most of his advocacy on promoting county- and state-level resistance to federal gun laws — he won a Supreme Court case against the Brady bill in the ‘90s — but has also involved his group in anti-immigration efforts and has spoken out against LGBT rights, urging sheriffs to back up county clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, he finds common ground with many progressives in his opposition to the drug war.

Mack, a board member of the Oath Keepers, was a prominent presence earlier this year at the Bundy ranch in Nevada, where armed “Patriot” and militia groups resisted the Bureau of Land Management’s effort to collect more than a million dollars in grazing fees that rancher Cliven Bundy had refused to pay for 20 years of using federal lands. Mack compared the stand of the anti-government groups at the Bundy ranch to Rosa Parks’ resistance to segregation.

An acolyte of “New World Order” alarmist Cleon Skousen, Mack shares his movement’s taste for conspiracy theories. Mack believes that President Obama fabricated his birth certificate and is threatening those who know about it to keep them from coming forward, has speculated that the 1995 Waco siege was a federal government setup to rustle up more ATF funding, and said this year that he had “no doubt” the federal government might stage a false flag attack on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Still in its early days, the Constitutional County Project has the backing of the chairman of the Navajo County GOP and the Republican chairmen of Maricopa and Pinal counties, as well as the leaders of the Arizona chapters of the John Birch Society and the Tenth Amendment Center. The project had its official launch in October immediately after a "Prepperfest" in Scottsdale.

Mack said in his speech in Olympia that moving with him to Navajo County would be a perfect project for retirees. But for those who still need employment, the Constitutional County Project’s Facebook page is advertising job openings in the county for those who are looking to move.

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