Peter Montgomery's blog

What If Hobby Lobby Wins?

David Barton, an influential conservative activist who helped write the Republican Party’s 2012 platform, argues that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, unions and collective bargaining, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and progressive taxation in general. Should a company whose owners share Barton’s views be allowed to ignore laws that protect workers by claiming that those laws violate the company’s religious beliefs?

That’s a questions being asked as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether it will recognize for the first time ever that for-profit corporations can make religious freedom claims under federal law.

When an actual human being goes to court with a claim that the federal government is violating their freedom to practice their religion, judges consider several questions in applying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Does the law or policy in question place a substantial burden on the person’s religious exercise? If so, can it be justified because the law is advancing a compelling government interest and doing so in the least restrictive way?

That’s pretty straightforward, even if individual cases require tough judgment calls about what constitutes a substantial burden and a compelling government interest. But what happens when a for-profit corporation claims a law violates its exercise of religion? Can a business have a religious conscience?

That crucial question is being considered by the Supreme Court in two cases brought by for-profit corporations claiming their religious freedom is violated by a requirement that their insurance plans include comprehensive contraception coverage. In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, business owners say their companies should not be required to provide their employees with insurance that covers kinds of contraception that violate the business owners’ religious beliefs or what they say are the religious beliefs of the corporation itself.

Legal scholars have weighed in on both sides of the claim. While federal courts have never recognized a for-profit corporation’s right to make a religious exercise claim, they have also never explicitly ruled that there is no such right. In the cases now before the Supreme Court, two appeals courts disagreed with each other. The Tenth Circuit sided with Hobby Lobby but the Third Circuit said, “[W]e simply cannot understand how a for-profit secular corporation—apart from its owners—can exercise religion.”

If the Supreme Court sets a new precedent granting for-profit corporations a soul, so to speak, where will it end? Law professors Ira Lupu and Robert Tuttle warn that it would produce “a massive redistribution of legal leverage away from employees and to their employers.” And, they write, “If Hobby Lobby’s claims prevail…other employer claims under RFRA will be very difficult to deny. Some current cases involve objections to coverage of all pregnancy prevention services. In the future, others may involve protection of employees with respect to different medical services, collective bargaining, family leave, or invidious discrimination.”

The Becket Fund, the conservative legal group representing Hobby Lobby, dismisses concerns about opening the floodgates to all kinds of religious objections, saying it hasn’t happened under RFRA to date. But of course, no Court has yet invited the flood of objections by giving business owners the right to claim corporate exemptions for religious belief.

Justice Elena Kagan raised this concern during oral argument, asking Hobby Lobby’s lawyer Paul Clement about employers who might have religious objections to sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, and child labor or family leave laws. Clement said he doubted the “parade of horribles” would happen. But Justice Kagan replied that if the Court were to adopt his argument, “then you would see religious objectors come out of the woodwork with respect to all of these laws." Solicitor General Paul Verrilli noted that if the Court grants corporations a right to make free exercise claims, judges will have to grapple with potential harm to employees and other third parties.

But it’s not just employees who could be hurt by such a ruling – it could be companies themselves. David Gans, writing for Slate, made an interesting observation: corporate America is staying out of this case almost completely, which is surprising given its eagerness to use federal courts to promote corporate interests. Gans says that not a single Fortune 500 company filed a brief in the case. Neither did the Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Business. The corporate voices that did weigh in — the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce — oppose Hobby Lobby’s claims because recognizing a corporate right to the free exercise of religion would “wreak havoc in corporate boardrooms.”

Gans cites a brief from a group of corporate law scholars “who argued that Hobby Lobby’s argument would eviscerate the fabric of corporate law” because ascribing a business owner’s religious views to the corporation would treat the owner and company as one and the same. “Such an unprincipled, idiosyncratic exception from corporate law fundamentals, the scholars argued, would breed confusion in the law, lead to costly litigation, and undermine critical aspects of corporate law designed to spur creativity and innovation.”

Mary Ann Glendon, a law professor who serves on Becket’s board, has argued that if we want businesses to behave responsibly, “they must be treated as having some moral agency.” The Supreme Court, she says, “should take the opportunity to confirm that businesses can and should have consciences.” It’s a nice thought. But given right-wing efforts to merge the Tea Party and Religious Right, and foster a growing belief that far-right economics and anti-government ideology are grounded in religious dogma, it seems highly unlikely that the consequence of giving conservative business leaders a powerful new tool for undermining government regulation would be more socially responsible corporate behavior.

Westboro Baptist Church Founder Fred Phelps Is Dead

Notorious anti-gay activist Fred Phelps has died, according to news reports.

Fred Phelps was the founder and patriarch of Westboro Baptist Church, which he and his family members used as a base for attention-grabbing protests at funerals of people who had died from AIDS, at gay-rights rallies and marches, at churches he deemed insufficiently anti-gay, and later at the funerals of American soldiers (based on the “logic” that America itself is vile and hated by God for its growing acceptance of LGBT people).

It is hard to know how much pain Phelps caused individual LGBT people and their families, particularly young people struggling with their sexuality and/or faith, with his denunciations.  But he certainly failed in his mission to frighten or harass Americans away from support for equality. In fact he may have accelerated the trend by putting such an unappealing face on anti-gay bigotry that many American Christians wanted nothing to do with him.

Phelps did allow other anti-gay leaders to posture that he was the face of hatred, not them. But the substance of their message to gay people is similar: repent or be damned – it’s just that Phelps framed it as “God hates fags” while people like Bryan Fischer say God loves them and wants them to abandon their demonic lifestyle. They may have disagreed on rhetorical strategy, but they shared their hostility to an America in which LGBT people are treated equally under the law.  In the end, other anti-gay religious leaders, even ones who distanced themselves from Phelps’s rhetoric, were tainted by him.

The Phelps family has inspired some truly creative activism by pro-equality activists, who used their appearances to raise funds for progressive organizations, and who created visually striking walls of “angels” to keep Phelps family protesters out of view of grieving family members.

Fred Phelps’s decision to protest military funerals may have accomplished the most in terms of helping more Americans view anti-gay bigotry as broadly un-American. He may have left exactly the legacy he didn’t want.

BarbWire: Liberal Christians, Non-Christians, 'People Of The World' – Satanic, Satanic, Satanic!

Given Matt Barber’s own penchant for extremely harsh rhetoric, it’s not surprising that his newish website BarbWire has become a home for anti-gay hostility and Religious Right alarmism over the impending death of religious freedom in America.

Today’s offering comes from Gina Miller, who is described as “a conservative Christian political writer and radio/television voice professional.” Miller’s article, “Why Are Christians (Really) the World’s Most Persecuted Group?” was written in response to a column from Middle East Forum that BarbWire had linked to. Its author had argued that Christians are persecuted because Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, it seeks converts, and is a religion of martyrdom. No, Miller says, Satan is the reason Christians are persecuted. And Satan is operating through a lot of channels.

Islam, she says, is Satanic.

Islam is a demonic, militant-political-religious ideology born of the children of Ishmael, and like them, it has greatly proliferated.  It is one of Satan’s premiere deceptions, tyrannically ensnaring countless millions of people….

Those who adhere to Islam naturally have a demonically-inspired hatred for the people of the Lord, but as the Bible says, they hate everyone.  However, it is with the deepest of hatreds that they regard Christians and Jews, because their hatred is Satan’s hatred, and it goes well beyond simple dislike or disagreement on principles.  It goes to the heart of the spiritual essence of the foundational struggle, to the basic forces of darkness and light.

But it’s not just Islam. Every non-Christian religion is Satanic, she says, and so are liberal Christians:

From the beginning of time, Satan and the other fallen angels (demons) have made war against the Lord and His creation.  It is their sole mission to steal, kill and destroy what God has made and to keep as many people as possible from the knowledge of salvation through Jesus.  In this mission, they have heaped deception upon deception for mankind.  They have created countless false doctrines and distractions to mislead and deceive people into taking the path to Hell.  The world’s false religions—all those whose foundation is not solely the Gospel of Christ—lead to one place:  eternal damnation and separation from God.  This includes false, so-called “Christian” religions that deny Christ as the only Way to salvation, and instead, rely on traditions of men and on works to “earn” salvation, something we could never earn.

The frenzied, irrational hatred people of the world have for Christians is inspired by, and based in, Satan’s hatred for God and His people.  It’s a demonic hatred found in people who have rejected the Lord.  Have you ever noticed that there is not the same deep hatred for non-Christians and non-Christian religions?  Satan doesn’t hate his own work; he aggressively promotes and supports it.  Supernatural hatred for Christians and Jews exists because they are God’s people, the real deal, chosen by Him from the foundation of the world to be miraculously reconciled to Him.  We simply remind Satan of his eternal defeat and the fact that his time as “the god of this world” is short and growing to a close.  He is furious in his great loss.

And, of course, supporters of church-state separation (described by Miller as people who want to “eradicate all vestiges of Christianity in America”) are Satanic:

At the same time, as we watch our world marching inexorably toward the horror of the very last days and the period of great tribulation, those of us who put our trust in the Lord must not lose courage or hope.  The Word of the Lord is true, and every bit of it will come to pass.  This is why we see such a feverish effort by satanically-inspired people to eradicate all vestiges of Christianity in America today.  The campaign has its source in the demonic realm.  

Barber himself is no stranger to such rhetoric.  He has said Satan is behind the marriage equality movement and the Obama administration’s support for LGBT equality

'Persecuted': Religious Right Movie Thriller About The Death Of Freedom In America

Ah, Friday night at CPAC. If you weren’t joining the “drunken yuck monkeys” whose loutish behavior so incensed Matt Barber, and you weren’t attending the white nationalist party whose invitation was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center, you could catch an advance screening of Persecuted, a movie scheduled for release later this year.  Some of us who attended the screening felt pretty persecuted ourselves by being forced to watch the trailer over and over and over again in the half hour before show time. Maybe that was a plan to put us on emotional edge for this “thriller” about religious liberty in America being destroyed by the sinister forces of freedom, equality, and religious pluralism.

Since I’m writing about a movie few people have seen, I will say for the record, SPOILER ALERT.

But first a little context: Bemoaning the dominance of liberals in Hollywood is a familiar theme at right-wing conferences like CPAC and the Values Voter Summit. But conservatives in Hollywood are organizing. And they’re working hard to convince studios to produce more films with “pro-family” and religious themes. (Son of God and Noah are examples.) A Friday morning panel on the topic featured actor and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson; Persecuted producer Daniel Lusko; Gerald Molen, a producer of Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America and his upcoming film America; and D’Souza himself. If anyone had qualms about having Dinesh D’Souza being held up as a “values” icon, they kept it to themselves.

But back to Persecuted, which features Thompson, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Davison, and James Remar. The cast includes a couple of well-known Christian performers, comedian Brad Stine and singer Natalie Grant. As in real life, Fox News’s Gretchen Carlson plays a journalist.

As a movie, the film is Preposterous. But as an insight into the paranoia and worldview of Religious Right activists, Persecuted is as fascinating as it is disturbing.

The plot revolves around an evil senator who is obsessed with a piece of legislation, “The Faith and Fairness Act.” It’s never clear exactly what the Act does, but it seems to force all religions to operate under a single umbrella organization, and to allow members of any faith the ability to preach in others’ houses of worship. It thus combines the Religious Right’s fear that liberals are itching to silence Christian broadcasters by reviving the long-defunct Fairness Doctrine, and their resentment that people view them as intolerant for believing their faith is the only avenue to truth and God.

Standing tall against this plot is evangelist John Luther (John Calvin/John Wesley and Martin Luther?). Luther is sort of a Billy Graham figure who has overcome a past of drug abuse to become a national figure.  His ministry, we are told, reaches more people than the evening news. Early in the movie, the evil Senator Harrison tries to bully Luther into backing his legislation at a religious rally; when Luther refuses to compromise his faith for the senator’s political gain, Harrison puts in motion an elaborate plot to destroy him. The also-evil president of the United States is in on the scheme: he looks a little bit like Ted Kennedy and sounds more than a little bit like Bill Clinton.

The plan involves murdering a teenage girl and framing Luther as her rapist and murderer. While Luther is on the run, Harrison corrupts the rest of the ministry’s leadership with promises of “earmarks” and personalized tax breaks, and they throw the ministry’s support behind the senator’s new law. 

Somehow, Luther, the most hunted man in America, is able to sneak into the launch event for Sumac, the new organization that brings together Jews, Christians, and Muslims and brings to fruition Sen. Harrison’s “dream of a tradition of faith as diverse as our skins.” If the point about the dangers of diversity and religious pluralism isn’t obvious enough, the senator says America is “no longer a Christian nation…it never has been,” echoing a statement by President Obama that caused spluttering outrage among right-wing Christian leaders. By the way, in the movie, the whole governmentally-forced-religious-merger thing is justified as a response to the threat of terrorism.

Still with me? Luther has an amazing knack for evading government agents disguised only by sunglasses and a hoodie, and shows a remarkable ability to outrun professional killers even with a bullet in his back. Eventually, with help from his dad (confusingly, and without explanation, a Catholic priest), another young priest, some honorable FBI agents, and Gretchen Carlson, Luther is able to clear his name, but at great price: his father is killed by Secret Service assassins.

The movie doesn’t quite wrap things up in a happy-ending bow. There’s a climactic scene in which the good FBI agents come to the rescue, and Luther, despite having nearly bled to death, manages to kill the murderous Secret Service agent. Next thing we know, he is making his post-recovery return to his ministry’s headquarters, where all the sell-out executives are still in place, telling him how much money has been pouring in along with cards from well-wishers. Luther glares at them, grabs his Bible, and heads to the White House, where the sinister president introduces Luther at a press conference and, as he is headed to the podium, whispers in his ear to say nice things.

The movie ends with Luther clutching the podium and staring into the camera. Will he speak Truth to power? Will he denounce the president and his money-grubbing ministry colleagues? How soon will filming start on the sequel?

Let’s review the symbolism in Persecuted. The enemies of religious liberty are those who use the language of fairness and equality and those who say America is not a Christian nation. Religious pluralism is portrayed not as a matter of respecting freedom for every faith tradition, but as a deceptive, coercive tool of government to erase religious difference and put all faiths under the politically correct thumb of government. Other religious leaders are either co-conspirators or complicit sheep. The only non-Christians I remember in the film were those sitting silently on the dais as Sen. Harrison launched his religious takeover project. Oh, and about that growing cohort of religions “nones” in America? Luther’s dad tells him at one point that those who believe in nothing must destroy him in order to achieve their goals. And with the exception of some FBI agents, government officials are as soulless and devoid of scruples as the characters on House of Cards.

Luther and his father symbolize the alliance between right-wing evangelicals and conservative Catholics. We aren’t told how it is that Luther’s father came to be a Catholic priest, but perhaps he was an Episcopalian who left for the Catholic Church when his own denomination became insufficiently conservative on sexuality issues. After Luther finds his father murdered, he spends the rest of the cat-and-mouse drama with his dad’s bloody rosary beads wrapped around his hands: a symbol of the shared willingness for martyrdom pledged by conservative evangelical and Catholic signers of the Manhattan Declaration?

It’s hard to say what kind of impact Persecuted might find, but any contribution it makes to our civic discourse is likely to be negative. Its backers clearly hope that a marketing campaign targeting conservative Christians will find an audience and help push a trend toward bigger-budget movies with that audience in mind. 

Whether or not Persecuted is a box-office success, it is one more story-telling weapon in the arsenal of the right-wing media machine that is dedicated to promoting the ideology that America was meant by God to be a Christian nation, and that the federal government and the forces of pluralism and “political correctness” are agents of tyranny bent on forcing Christians to bend to their will.  Sort of like Ben Carson’s speech at CPAC.

Ben Carson 2016 Backers: He Will Destroy Democratic Coalition

National Journal’s Alex Seitz-Wald reported yesterday on the high visibility at CPAC of those who want Ben Carson to run for president. The Draft Ben Carson for President Committee has a booth in the exhibit area and the shuttle bus I rode between the suburban Maryland conference center and downtown D.C. was plastered with a large banner urging Carson to run.

Carson, an African American pediatric neurosurgeon, has had a fervent right-wing following since he used his appearance with President Obama at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast to denounce political correctness and suggest that the Bible supports a flat tax. (He made the same case as CPAC last year.) Carson appeals to anti-government conservatives by calling to phase out government poverty assistance and let churches and other charities deal with the fallout. And he appeals to Religious Right activists by claiming there is a "war on God" in America and by denouncing homosexuality and opposing same-sex marriage. He has claimed that the IRS has targeted his family and associates and says the Obama administration is like the Gestapo and wants to shut down Fox News.

The National Journal quotes committee director Vernon Robinson saying that if Carson can draw just 17 percent of the black vote, “the Roosevelt Democratic coalition is destroyed” and it will be impossible for Democrats to win the White House.

Robinson makes the same case in a direct mail piece I received this week. The mailer itself unfolds into a Ben Carson poster, and includes letters from Robinson and from the group’s “national chairman” John Philip Sousa IV.  “I am convinced that no 2016 Republican ticket can win without Ben Carson on it,” writes Robinson. “Only Ben Carson can get enough black votes to keep the Democrats from winning the White House.”

Sousa’s letter says Carson is the only candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton, heal America and unite Americans. “Don’t just sit back and let the Republican establishment pick the next GOP nominee!” Sousa urges, taking direct aim at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:

Besides, do you really want a candidate for President who is just another big spending Republican like Christie? And, can you really trust Christie who was pro-abortion before he was pro-life to nominate pro-life judges to the U.S. Supreme Court?

The simple truth is that moderates like McCain and Christie are sure to lose, while conservatives like Ronald Reagan and Ben Carson are sure to win.

Seitz-Wald reports that the committee to draft Carson raised $2.83 million in its first six months of operation. 

GOProud The CPAC Beaver

GOProud, a group for gay conservatives, was bounced from the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference in 2012 when a coalition of social conservatives pulled out in protest of the group’s participation. This year the group has been “welcomed” back – not in the sense of having a table or other visible presence, but in the sense of GOProud leaders being allowed to attend, according to some news reports, as guests of the ACU.  GOProud co-founder Chris Barron criticized the group’s current leaders for touting the conditional return as a victory, saying they were letting themselves be used as “stooges” for anti-gay conservatives.

But even this mild and invisible welcome is too much for Tradition, Family, and Property, the far-right Catholic organization whose members sport bright scarlet capes.  Walk by TFP’s table and someone will eagerly hand you a flyer explaining “Why GOProud Does Not Belong at CPAC.”  GOProud is memorably portrayed as a rainbow-colored beaver, gnawing away at the social conservative leg of the conservative movement (the other two legs being fiscal and defense-oriented conservatives).

Why is GOProud a welcomed and official guest at CPAC, when it advocates the legalization of same-sex “marriage,” thus undermining the votes and dreams of millions of God-fearing Americans?

How can GOProud consider itself conservative when it directly opposes the work of social conservative activists and contributes to America’s moral ruin, through the weakening of the family – the first and fundamental building block of society?

TFP’s flyer says it protests against GOProud’s efforts to “cast itself as a bone fide member of the conservative movement.” TFP believes:

To be true to itself, the conservative movement must battle on all three conservative fronts (defense, fiscal, and social).

That individuals and organizations who subscribe to only one or two of the conservative movement’s three legs are still welcome to join the coalition, but should refrain from publicly opposing the rest of the movement’s efforts on the leg or legs they disagree on.

TFP says welcoming GOProud into the conservative movement would be like a communist or socialist organization seeking admittance to the conservative movement by claiming to be against abortion. As part of the evidence that TFP marshals to prove that GOProud is not conservative, it notes that the group’s website says it encourages “committed stable, relationships between two people, regardless of sexual orientation, that promote healthy families and create value within our society.” Mercy!

TFP does have some kind words for the ACU, applauding the decision to deny American Atheists a booth at CPAC. But that didn’t prevent American Atheists from distributing a CPAC flyer that says “Christianity’s influence on conservatism is pushing away almost 20 million voters – more than enough to swing an election.”

Scott Lively's New Anti-Gay Coalition: Governments Should Suppress LGBT 'Propaganda'

Anti-gay activists Scott Lively and Peter LaBarbera held a press conference today to announce the formation of a new Coalition for Family Values to fight the “destructive” LGBT agenda around the world. They were joined by “ex-gay” activist Greg Quinlan and Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania. Linda Harvey of Mission America sent a supportive statement.

And don’t worry about calling these guys anti-gay. The rationale behind their new coalition seems to be that too many other Religious Right leaders will only speak out against marriage equality but not against homosexuality itself for fear of being labeled a hater or bigot. That approach, said Lively, is “unprincipled.”

The coalition’s statement says:

“…the vast majority of the people of the world do not accept the notion that sexual deviance should be normalized. It is time that these voices are heard on the world stage before the so-called elites of the Western powers impose their inverted morality on everyone through the manipulation of international law, which they clearly intend to do.”

To explain why a new coalition was needed – after all, it’s not as if there aren’t already plenty of groups pushing anti-gay policies overseas -- Lively said:

“We believe that the pro-family movement is not being well represented at the moment. Because most of the people that are in the leadership positions are afraid to speak the plain truth because of the media….We’re not against gay marriage and gay adoption because they’re just bad public policy. We’re against them because homosexuality itself is harmful to the people who practice it and to society. 

The organizing statement written by Lively and signed by his new coalition partners says,

“Let us pray for healing for those who choose the LGBT path, and (within reason) respect their right to be wrong in their private lives. But let us not allow the LGBT political movement to transform the world in its own distorted image.”

For Lively, respecting “within reason” people’s right to be “wrong” seems to be limited to society not persecuting gay people who have sex in private. He says he doesn’t believe people should go to jail for what they do in their own bedroom, as long as they aren’t trying to move society away from what he believes is a biblical approach to sexuality – what he calls the “one flesh paradigm.” He said, “And that if you’re going to be engaged in that kind of behavior, then stay in the privacy of your home and not try to transform the mainstream culture according to your sexual values.”

Another point of the press conference was to praise Russian anti-gay laws. Says the coalition statement, “we want to praise the Russian Federation for providing much-needed leadership in restoring family values in public policy, and to encourage the governments of the world to follow the excellent example that the Russian government has set in 2013 and 2014 by banning LGBT propaganda to children and limiting the adoption of children to natural families only.” Peter La Barbera cited a poll saying that 74 percent of Russians say homosexuality should not be accepted in society, adding, “Good for the Russians.” 

Lively said his goal is not the criminalization of homosexuality. But, he said, the government has “an affirmative duty to protect the natural family and to discourage all sex outside of marriage.” He says he’d like to return to the days “when adultery was a criminal act.” Such laws, he says, would be lightly enforced, but would help discourage sex outside marriage. What really bothers Lively, he says, is that pro-LGBT ideology has “infiltrated” the government; there needs to be a “separation of LGBT and state” so that the government is not allowed to advocate for “the homosexual perspective.”

Pushed by conservative activist Cliff Kincaid about the ways the anti-gay “propaganda” law in Russia is being used to suppress free speech and freedom of the press, Lively said he didn’t favor that. But he said he was “torn.”

“There is a zero sum equation here – that you’re either going to have society that believes that sex belongs inside of marriage only, or that it’s really anything goes within the principle of mutual consent. Those two ideas are mutually contradictory. In Russia, the Russian policy is to favor the pro-family perspective and suppress the speech of those who are against it. In the United States, it’s the pro-gay perspective that’s favored and anything against that is being suppressed.”

When Kincaid challenged that claim, noting that Lively was holding a news conference and, unlike gay rights advocates in Russia, he wasn’t been arrested or beaten, Lively said, “I wish there was a good balance that could be struck.”

“I try to make all of my policies based on principle, and my principle is, the most important thing in dealing with this issue is that we need to affirm the biblical standard of one-flesh sexuality. All sex outside of marriage is harmful to society. Now, right now, the challenge to the Russians is how far are they going to let aggressive homosexual propagandists get a foothold in their society. And they’re looking at the United States, and they’re seeing what’s happening here.

When we started extending tolerance to these activists -- you know in the 1950s, Dale Jennings of the Mattachine Society said the goal of the gay movement was the right to be left alone – that’s a direct quote. And as soon as we extended tolerance, then they began demanding more, and more, and more. You give ‘em an inch and they take a mile.

If there were some balance we could have, in which people who want to live discretely in a gay subculture can articulate their views in context, in which it’s not going to be tearing down the fabric of society, then I’m all for that. But if the only choice is suppressing a harmful propaganda, and giving it free reign, I’m going to choose the suppression of the harmful propaganda. Because we’ve seen in our country the consequences of not doing that.

Lively complained about businesses being punished for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples. “This is what the homosexual activists do. They are the worst bullies in society. If you dare to stand up to them, even if all you say is that I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, they try to destroy you.”

Lively made a similar point about the anti-gay law in Uganda. He claimed to have encouraged parliamentarians there to focus on “prevention” and “treatment” of homosexuality rather than punishment, and said he believes the law is overly harsh. He even said he had turned down a Ugandan who wanted to join the new coalition. But, he said, he was asked, “If you could only choose between the Ugandan law minus the death penalty, or complete freedom for the homosexual agenda in Uganda, which one would you go with?” His answer: “And I said, well, I would have to with the restriction, because you have to put the children ahead of the adults. And that’s what Russia is doing…it’s the lesser of two evils.”

Both Lively and LaBarbera were contemptuous of the notion that same-sex couples with children could be considered a family. In response to a question about children with gay parents, Lively said he rejects the premise that they are a family.

“I think there’s a false premise in your question, that these are families. I don’t believe that they are families. I think when two people who define themselves by a type of sexual behavior put their own sexual interests ahead of the interests of children, that that is not a family.”

Lively said same-sex couples are “posing” as mothers or fathers.  LaBarbera denounced “the bizarre concept of subjecting innocent children to households that are intentionally motherless or intentionally fatherless.”

Gramley from the Pennsylvania AFA affiliate said that children exposed to “homosexual propaganda” in schools, books, video games, and entertainment are like “lab rats” or “guinea pigs.” Said Gramley, “We recognize the outcome of this war on the family will determine the very future of humanity itself.”

Linda Harvey’s written statement sounded a similar tone:

“To be a faithful Christian in many of today’s U.S. public schools means for many students that they walk into a daily atmosphere of sexual anarchy, institutional bigotry and widespread deceit….Our next generation in the U.S. is being deliberately corrupted through such wayward guidance from deviant adults. We applaud the steps Russia is taking to ensure this is not the path for their students, and we encourage more countries to make the same wise choice, to say ‘no’ to homosexual activism.”

Lively seems unwilling to entertain the idea that his years of travelling the world to denounce LGBT people as threats to children could be in any way responsible for violence against LGBT people. “We unequivocally condemn any violence against anyone, including homosexuals,” he said. LaBarbera chimed in to say neither Lively or other activists he works with have ever espoused violence or hatred. Really. 

Lively said he only put out the word to get coalition members two days ago and that responses are flooding in from around the world. Among the recognizable Religious Right figures who signed up are Matt Barber, Tim Wildmon, Bryan Fischer, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Janet Porter, and Sally Kern. No haters there. 

Phyllis Schlafly's Ludicrous Lie

Most RWW readers probably had little intention of reading Phyllis Schlafly’s latest column, entitled “Obama’s War on the First Amendment.” But just in case you were interested, we can spare you the time. Its ridiculous nature is encapsulated in one paragraph:

Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t want any expression of religious faith in any public place, including buildings or schools or events. He wants to redefine the First Amendment from “free exercise” to “freedom of worship,” which means you would only be able to go inside your church, shut and perhaps lock the doors, and say a prayer where no one else can hear you.

Actually that transparently false first sentence is enough. No expression of religious faith in any public space? Has Phyllis Schlafly ever listened to an Obama speech? Did she watch either of his inauguration ceremonies? His National Prayer Breakfast addresses?

It’s one thing to disagree with the Obama administration’s position requiring insurance coverage of contraception, and to take a position that private corporations have the right to exempt themselves from laws that company owners say violate their religious beliefs. It’s another to make the ludicrous leap that the administration is out to force all religious expression behind closed doors.

In her column, Schlafly says “Make no mistake; we are in a war for religious liberty.” Clearly, in Schlafly’s war, truth is already a casualty.

AFA's Love Letter To Phil Robertson

On Valentine’s Day, I found a stack of boxed “Duck Dynasty” valentines on the 50 percent clearance shelf at Food Lion. America seems to have moved on from December’s flap over offensive remarks by Phil Robertson – along with many of the show’s former viewers – but the American Family Association hopes that fond memories of the family patriarch’s anti-gay sentiments will encourage AFA’s contributors to dig deep.

A new fundraising letter from AFA’s Tim Wildmon is built around a postcard to Robertson that Wildmon asks people to sign and return to the AFA, along with a check. The postcard reads:

Dear Phil,

By simply expressing the truth of God’s moral law you have encouraged other Christians to speak out in opposition to those who would convince our society that homosexuality is morally equivalent to heterosexuality.

Following your example, I intend to be bolder and more active in defense of God’s truth.

I am praying for you and your family. May God bless you.

Wildmon’s letter, which recounts Robertson’s brief suspension by the A&E network, portrays the support for Robertson from Christian conservatives as an opportunity to “uproot the entrenched evil that’s killing the soul of our nation.”

Will Christians and other like-minded Americans seize the moment? Will we capture the energy Phil Robertson has generated and draw on that energy to confront the entrenched fortresses of error and sexual anarchy that now dominate our social landscape?

The homosexual lobby’s outrageous demand – and A&E’s capitulation – has awakened social conservatives from their slumber and brought them to the point where they’ve had it with being insulted, demeaned and deprived of their basic rights to freedom of religion and speech.

That being the case, we’ve got to harness the outrage of Christians and direct it at helping uproot the entrenched evil that’s killing the soul of our nation.

If we fail to do this, then all this righteous anger will dissipate and our cultural wasteland will remain just that: a cultural wasteland. On the other hand, using the support that you and other AFA ministry partners provide, we will act quickly and decisively to turn this attack on Phil Robertson into a victory for our nation and for those who are to come after us.

It’s worth noting that while sometimes, when AFA radio host and spokesman Bryan Fischer says something even more offensive than usual, he and the organization claim (unconvincingly) that he doesn’t speak for the AFA, Wildmon happily quotes Fischer’s defense of Robertson and his criticism of “Big Gay.”

Pluralism & Prejudice: Catholic Bishops, Mormons, Evangelicals Unite To Oppose Equality

On Monday, five religious organizations filed an amicus brief urging the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold bans on same-sex couples getting married in Utah and Oklahoma. According to the Associated Press, the brief was written by lawyers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and was joined by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

The thrust of the brief is to argue that there are sound social policy reasons to oppose marriage equality, and to attack the notion that opposition to gay couples getting married is grounded in anti-gay prejudice, or “animus.” Says the brief, “The accusation is false and offensive.”

“Our faith communities bear no ill will toward same-sex couples, but rather have marriage-affirming religious beliefs that merge with both practical experience and sociological fact to convince us that retaining the husband-wife marriage definition is essential.”

No ill will toward same-sex couples?  Let’s review.

We can start with the Southern Baptists, who have officially declared that “homosexual conduct is always a gross moral and spiritual abomination for any person, whether male or female, under any circumstance, without exception” and that they even oppose businesses extending benefits to domestic partners.  OK, to be fair, that was 1997. The SBC voted in 2003 to “call upon all judges and public officials to resist and oppose the legalization of same-sex unions,” and in 2008 called for constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex couples from getting married anywhere in the U.S.

Richard Land, who was for 25 years the voice of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission until his retirement last fall, has said the Devil takes pleasure in the destructive homosexual lifestyle.  In 2012, Land said, “God is already judging America and will judge her more harshly as we continue to move down this path toward sexual paganization.” A year earlier he accused gay rights activists of “child abuse” for “recruiting” children in elementary school.

Land’s retirement was expected to shift the ERLC’s tone; but the group still opposes ENDA, a proposed federal law to protect LGBT people from discrimination on the job.

Let’s see, who else opposes ENDA, domestic partnerships, civil unions, and marriage equality? That would be the US Conference of Catholic bishops. The bishops have said they oppose “unjust discrimination” against people with same-sex attractions, but they define the term “unjust” in a way that applies only to people who remain celibate. So if you are a gay couple and you are having sex, workplace discrimination against you is justified, as is a refusal to legally recognize your relationship.

A number of prominent U.S. bishops signed, and urged other Catholics to sign, the Manhattan Declaration, which compared liberals to Nazis. It declares conservatives’ positions on marriage to be "inviolable and non-negotiable," and pledges that conservatives will engage in civil disobedience, and may even need to prepare for martyrdom, in order to avoid recognizing legally married same-sex couples.

Let’s not forget Bishop Thomas Paprocki, from Springfield, Illinois, who told Catholics in 2012 that voting for the equality-supporting Democratic Party would put their eternal souls in jeopardy, and who responded to the passage of marriage equality in Illinois by conducting an exorcism.

The Mormon Church was a driving force in opposition to early marriage equality moves in Hawaii and Alaska and was crucial to the success of California’s Prop 8, providing tens of thousands of volunteers and a flood of cash. After a post-Prop-8 backlash from both inside and outside the church, LDS officials seemed to have abandoned the anti-marriage-equality crusade. The church says it supported Salt Lake City ordinances banning discrimination in housing and employment and has supported same-sex couples’ rights regarding “hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights” – sounds good – “so long as those do not infringe of the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.” Hmm.

How about the National Association of Evangelicals?  In 2008, Richard Cizik, the longtime public policy face of the NAE, was forced to resign after he publicly expressed support for civil unions.

Unlike the more progressive Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the more conservative Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) strongly opposes LGBT equality. In a statement after the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, the church insisted, “Same-sex unions are contrary to God’s will, and gay marriage is, in the eyes of God, no marriage at all… no matter what the courts or legislatures may say.” The conservative Lutherans have backed HJR 6 in Indiana, which is attempting to add a ban on marriage equality to the state constitution.

In January, the LCMS announced it was entering formal discussions with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Makane Yesus, which cut its longstanding ties with the ELCA last year over sexuality issues. The Ethiopian church was so disturbed by the ELCA’s pro-equality positions that it has declared its members may not share communion with ELCA members.  Ethiopia’s churches and government, with the encouragement of American missionaries, have, in the words of a recent disturbing Newsweek article, “declared war on gay men.”

So, maybe it depends what you mean by “ill will.”

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