Peter Montgomery's blog

Right Wing Touts New Poll Pitting Religious Liberty Against LGBT Equality

Conservative media and Religious Right leaders and activists are touting a new poll that supposedly shows Americans “overwhelmingly” side with “religious liberty” over gay rights. The new poll, conducted by Fox News contributor Patrick Caddell, adopts right-wing framing that pits religious freedom and LGBT equality in conflict with each other. Even in that context, a majority agrees that both religious liberties and the rights of gays and lesbians are important, and that “there can be a common sense solution that both protects religious freedom and protects gay and lesbian couples from discrimination.”

Of course, religious liberty and LGBT equality can happily coexist, despite claims to the contrary from the Right, but anti-equality advocates touting the Caddell poll suggest that the “common sense solution” is a “truce” that would allow business owners to discriminate against gay people based on their religious beliefs. Anti-gay extremist Peter LaBarbera is arguing that the poll shows that people see a war on Christians coming out of the “homosexual activist movement” and he is urging Americans to push for repeal of existing “sexual orientation laws and gender identity laws.”

The Caddell poll, an online survey of 800 voters, asserts that more than two-thirds of Americans – 68% -- believe the government should not be able “to require by law a private citizen to provide a service or provide their private property for an event that is contrary to their religious beliefs.” More specifically, the poll claims that 82 percent of Americans supports the right of a photographer with religious objections to same-sex couples getting married to refuse to photograph a gay couple’s wedding.

Conservatives are complaining that the Caddell poll is being “ignored by the establishment media.” But there are some good reasons for that.

First, Caddell’s numbers are far out of line with other surveys that show Americans are uncomfortable with the can of worms that would be opened by allowing business owners to cite religion as a reason to opt out of laws that apply to everyone else.  In an article in the Atlantic in June, Robert Jones of Public Religion Research Institute writes:

By a margin of nearly two to one, Americans oppose allowing a small business owner to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs (60 percent oppose, 34 percent favor). Most religious groups oppose these exemptions; white evangelical Protestants are the only religious group with majority support for these exemptions, and even among this group, support is only a bare majority (51 percent).

PRRI has also reported that white evangelical Protestants were the only religious group that gives majority support – and then only 51 percent – to so called “religious freedom” laws designed to protect business owners and others who do not want to serve LGBT people or couples.

By contrast, 59% of white mainline Protestants, 63% of non-white Protestants, and 64% of Catholics oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds, as do nearly three-quarters (73%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll published in March of last year found that “nearly seven in 10 respondents say business should not be allowed to refuse service to gays,” even if that refusal if based on the owner’s religious beliefs.” And an earlier poll, a 2013 survey by Human Rights Campaign and Third Way, reported that when asked specifically about wedding-related services being provided by small businesses, “64% of voters were still opposed to new laws that would allow small businesses to deny wedding-related services based on their religious beliefs, compared to 31% in favor.”

Other polls show more of a split among Americans on the issue, but they too are far from the results Caddell reports. A Pew Research Center survey from last year found Americans about equally divided about whether businesses that provide wedding services should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds or whether they should be required to provide services. And an Associated Press-GfK poll from earlier this year found that while a slim majority of Americans said wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples, only 40 percent said businesses in general should be allowed to. 

Another reason journalists might view the poll with skepticism may be Caddell himself. Caddell is a Fox News regular who is useful to right-wingers by virtue of the fact that he describes himself as a Democratic strategist who helped get Jimmy Carter elected. But he has long since acted as an advocate for the Right by trashing the Democratic Party as the “tool” of special interests and saying “the left doesn’t care about ordinary people.”

Last year, on Sean Hannity’s show, Caddell denounced President Barack Obama as “a raging narcissist who has no grip on reality” and accused Republicans of not opposing him strongly enough. Caddell reportedly helped identify people to appear in an anti-Obama “documentary” distributed by the right-wing group Citizens United.

New York Magazine recently reported that Caddell has been speaking to Donald Trump “almost every day” about his campaign

Already-Huge Heritage Foundation Expands DC Presence To 'Hit Washington Establishment' From 'Close Range'

The Heritage Foundation is a giant within the massive right-wing legal, political and cultural infrastructure that has been built over the past several decades. An ideological marketing operation in the guise of a think tank, Heritage has played a significant role in in getting economic and social conservatives to work together to push the Republican Party further and further to the Right. It operates out of an enormous complex near the U.S. Capitol — one that Heritage has announced is now growing even bigger.

In an email headlined “From close range,” Heritage President Jim DeMint writes:

If we’re going to reclaim America, conservatives have to hit the Washington Establishment from close range.

That’s why a critical phase of The Heritage Foundation’s Reclaim America campaign is building the Freedom Center.

Only steps from the U.S. Capitol, the Freedom Center will be at very close range. It will be your conservative stronghold for retaking our country.

The group’s website says, “The new Freedom Center will be the driving force behind a revitalized conservative resurgence, not just in Washington, but also around the country.”

The Heritage Foundation is vastly expanding our presence in Washington D.C.—the belly of the beast.

Our headquarters in the heart of Washington, D.C. is just two city blocks from the Senate offices, three city blocks from the Capitol building, and three city blocks from the House offices. It’s from this base that we will wage a policy war with the Left and the Establishment at very close range. In politics, proximity matters. That’s why our physical presence is key and that’s why expansion is critical to future conservative victories.

To beat down Big Government, we need to expand our footprint on Capitol Hill.

The Freedom Center will be only blocks from the U.S. Capitol in a remodeled structure already purchased—prime real estate once rented by far-left groups. The modernized Freedom Center will be specifically outfitted for:

  • Educating Congress about how conservative ideas solve today’s problems and help the American people;
  • Reaching the American people with an enhanced media outreach program focused on spreading conservative ideas;
  • Communicating facts to mobilize grassroots Americans;
  • And bringing together conservative groups to coordinate strategy.

In short, the Freedom Center will be a beachhead from which we can advance your principles in Washington from inescapably close range. 

DeMint says that Heritage is trying to raise $1 million for the project by August 18 and that a donor will match gifts made by August 18. According to IRS filings from 2013, the Heritage Foundation had income that year of $112.7 million, with net assets of more than $194 million. Its explicitly political arm, Heritage Action for America, reported income of $8.8 million and net assets of $4.8 million.

NOM’s Brian Brown: Ending Anti-Gay Discrimination Means Giving 'Believers' the Shaft

Religious Right leaders have long argued that legal equality for LGBT people cannot coexist with religious freedom. Now that the Supreme Court has made marriage equality the law of the land, and the LGBT movementis seeking protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, these claims are getting more shrill.

The Right is worked up about the introduction in Congress last month of the Equality Act, which would provide legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service. The Equality Act, says Lambda Legal, “does not change the religious exemptions already in federal law.”

Miranda reported last week that Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage said the Equality Act should be called “The Persecution of Americans Act.” Now, in a new fundraising email, NOM calls the “Beyond Marriage Equality” agenda “an outrageous attempt to persecute Americans who believe in God” and suggests that extending civil rights protections to protect LGBT people would be “catastrophic.”

The agenda being advanced by the left will have a catastrophic impact on every single American as it covers housing, employment, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service. Gays and lesbians get special legal rights and can beckon the government to target people of faith for investigations and punishment, while Americans who believe in God get the shaft.

But Brown doesn’t speak for “Americans who believe in God.” Most Americans, including religious Americans, support nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBT people. A Public Religion Research Institute survey from June found that 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants support nondiscrimination laws.  As PRRI’s Robert Jones recently wrote in the Atlantic:

Today, nearly seven in ten (69 percent) Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT individuals against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, compared to 25 percent who oppose such policies. And there is majority support for these protections across partisan and religious lines. In fact, most Americans actually already believe that workplace nondiscrimination is the law of the land: Three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans incorrectly believe it is currently illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

A poll conducted for HRC earlier this year found overwhelming public support for a nondiscrimination law.

Religious Right Columnist: Obama Used By Satan Just Like Other ‘Pervert Despots of History’

You may have known that President Barack Obama has done much to advance LGBT equality in the U.S. and overseas, but did you realize that this makes him the latest in a long line of “sex depraved tyrants” who, throughout history, have “brought their respective empires close to and beyond ruin as a result of their megalomania and hubris?” No? Well, clearly you haven’t been getting the Sons of Liberty newsletter from anti-gay rocker and motivational speaker Bradlee Dean. Dean’s endorsers include RWW regulars Bryan Fischer, Harry Jackson, and Michael Peroutka.

“The irony of the Sodomy Rights movement in America,” begins contributor Jason Charles in a column published at Wake the Church as well as Sons of Liberty, “is the fact that it was built on the foundation of human trafficking, slavery, and hedonistic elitist lifestyles of ancient times.”

Charles argues that Rome fell “because it was infected by a contingency of prominent Homosexuals.”

These guilds of homosexuals also seem to be a prerequisite for anyone wishing to ascend to power. They become a spiritual proving ground for Satan as he vets future leaders for their compromised roles in history. People with power issues, especially sexually are often selected by the power brokers of each age for the sole reason they can be controlled and manipulated. Anyone that has become blinded by perversions usually has few moral limits of any kind they won't cross, this makes them ideal candidates for Satan's agenda in this world.

But back to the “new Rainbow tyrant of the modern age,” as Charles describes Obama. Charles places Obama at number 72 (or somewhere between 73 and 76 if you count his references to Bush Sr. and Jr.) on a list of “purported sodomite/bi-sexual rulers of History” that begins with Alexander the Great and continues through Julius Caesar and Adolph Hitler. The Bushes make the article based on their involvement with the Skull & Bones Society at Yale and the Bohemian Grove.

Charles cites WND’s anti-Obama conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi as the source for his assertion that “Obama when living in Chicago was a regular at homosexual bath houses.” And his most recent bit of evidence – those rainbow colors on the White House celebrating the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

…the enemy of this world has always had his guilds of sexual perversity for the sole reason of grooming compromised individuals, usually starting with children. Obama is so obsessed with creating a culture of homosexuality he has pushed it into public schools, praised the SCOTUS decision on sodomy-based “marriage” on official twitter accounts, coordinated corporate praise for sodomy-based “marriage,” and even lit up the White House in rainbow colors…

Obama has lived his entire life with disdain for God's natural laws of human sexuality, so of course he would live with disdain of manmade laws, and also Biblical laws, just like all the other pervert despots of history.

Religious Right Teams Up With Anti-Gay Governments at United Nations

American Religious Right groups are teaming up with anti-choice and anti-gay governments and organizations from around the world in order to prevent a new United Nations development proposal currently being negotiated from including language that might lead to some recognition of families headed by same-sex couples, a possibility the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) describes as “tragic.” (C-FAM was formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.)

C-FAM’s “Friday Fax” warns:

Leftist governments, including the United States, are trying to convince the General Assembly to discard family language from the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and instead use phrases that critics consider to be ideologically freighted, specifically “all families” and “various forms of the family.” These types of phrases have been rejected in recent years but the Obama administration has made it a priority to have them used in this important development document.

C-FAM argues that language declaring that “the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society” must be kept in place to prevent Europeans and Americans from having any “wiggle room” to “promote same-sex relations as families through the UN system.”

C-FAM reports that a group of African and Arab nations are leading efforts to strip language about “all families” from the final draft of the “Post-2015 Summit outcome” by proposing language that “EXCLUDES any international recognition to relations between persons of the same-sex as a ‘family,’ as in the case of homosexual civil unions and so-called gay marriage.”

Among the Religious Right organizations fighting tooth and nail to prevent even a possibility that same-sex families might gain recognition at the UN are: C-FAM; National Organization for Marriage; Alliance Defending Freedom Global (ADF was formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund); Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society (sponsors of the World Congress of Families); Human Life International; Personhood USA; Christian Family Fellowship; Family Research Institute; and the American Center for Law & Justice’s European affiliate, ECLJ.

Evangelical Leaders Far From Consensus On Presidential Candidate

Religious Right leaders have been intensely frustrated that their inability to coalesce around a single candidate in the 2008 and 2012 GOP primaries helped John McCain and Mitt Romney, neither of which were evangelical favorites, secure the Republican presidential nomination. Strategists like Tony Perkins and David Lane dearly hoped that things would be different in 2016. As we have previously noted,

Although Perry’s tanking disrupted Lane’s plans to get conservative evangelicals to coalesce around a single candidate in 2012, it seems clear that he has similar intentions for 2016. He told the Houston Chronicle in June [2013], “We’re going to try to eliminate the stuff that they [GOP leaders] do to us every four years, which is picking somebody who has no chance of being viable and they kill us off and we have the McCains and Romneys left.”

But a survey of 94 evangelical “leaders and insiders” — as identified by World Magazine —suggests that they are not even close to a meeting of minds on a favored presidential candidate. Four candidates had the support of more than 10 leaders – Rubio (18), Bush (14) and Cruz and Walker (13 each) – all below 20 percent of the leaders who responded to World’s survey.  

Religious Right Billionaire Wilks Brothers Give Millions To Ted Cruz Super PAC

Dan and Farris Wilks, Texas billionaires who made a fortune from the fracking boom and have showered millions of dollars on right-wing organizations, have given $15 million to Keep the Promise, a super PAC supporting Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, according to a CNN story by Theodore Schleifer which was highlighted by John Wright at Towleroad today.

"Our country was founded on the idea that our rights come from the Creator, not the government. I'm afraid we're losing that," Farris Wilks, a 63-year-old pastor in the small town of Cisco, said in a statement to CNN. "Unless we elect a principled conservative leader ready to stand up for our values, we'll look back on what once was the land of opportunity and pass on a less prosperous nation to our children and grandchildren. That's why we need Ted Cruz."

Farris’s brother Dan added that America needs a “leader that will stand up for biblical morals…a leader who encourages hard work, not one who tells people who don’t work that they should make the same living as people who do. We need a leader who will make sure America doesn’t end up a socialist nation.”

Last year, RWW documented the Wilks brothers’ massive funding of anti-gay and anti-abortion groups, as well as organizations in the Koch brothers’ political networks. And that’s only counting gifts we know about because they are made through foundations created and funded by the brothers and their wives -- the Thirteen Foundation for Farris and Joann and Heavenly Father’s Foundation for Dan and Staci.

Earlier this year, we reported that the Wilks brothers have been backing the work of Christian-nation extremist David Lane. Lane has always refused to tell reporters who funds his events, which are carried out by his American Renewal Project under the umbrella of the American Family Association. But as we reported in June,

According to the 2013 990 forms filed by the foundations with the IRS, The Thirteen Foundation gave 922,000 that year to the American Family Association. It is not clear how much of that was for Lane’s projects, but the filing from Heavenly Father’s Foundation is more explicit, reporting $750,000 to the AFA for three Pastors and Pews conferences.

In 2013, the Christian Broadcasting Network identified the Wilks brothers as members of Lane’s “Pastors and Pews” network, which brings right-wing candidates, including GOP presidential contenders, to meet-and-greets with conservative evangelical pastors. Lane sponsored an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel taken by more than 60 members of the Republican National Committee in January, as well as a series of prayer rallies for Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley.

Not coincidentally, Lane has praised the world of big-money politics created by the Supreme Court with its Citizens United decision and related rulings, explicitly praising multi-million-dollar super PAC donations in an interview with NBC News’s Perry Bacon in 2014: "The problem used to be, you had to raise $2,500 per person, so you had to come up with the bundlers. With Citizens United, I don’t think it’s as big of a hurdle. Now you can have somebody who gives $15 or $20 million into a super PAC and that changes the game.”

The Wilks brothers’ worldview, hinted at in their statements above, is grounded at least in part in the theology taught in the church founded by their father, at which Farris is now a pastor. In his sermons, Farris Wilks has quoted Christian-nation “historian” David Barton, denounced government social spending as socialism, warned that tolerance of “sexual perversion” and abortion “could bring about the end of our nation,” and declared in response to Barack Obama’s re-election as president, “I do believe that our country died that Tuesday night, to all that’s honorable, that’s good, that’s ambitious, and that has justice.”

No wonder they love Ted Cruz.


Ted Cruz's Hearing on Supreme Court's Marriage Equality 'Tyranny'

Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has repeatedly called recent Supreme Court decisions on marriage and health care reform “tyranny.” On Wednesday, he used his platform as chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts to hold a hearing on “Supreme Court activism” in which he said that the marriage equality ruling was “the very definition of tyranny” and that “Justice Kennedy’s pop psychology has no basis in the text and history of the Constitution.”

Among the witnesses Cruz called was John Eastman, chair of the National Organization for Marriage. Eastman said a simple majority of states should be allowed to override Supreme Court decisions. (While we’re talking about “tyranny,” let’s not forget that Eastman recently defended Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act and hoped for its swift reinstatement.)

Cruz is far from the only right-winger crying “tyranny” over the prospect of gay couples getting married. We have seen right-wing activists and politicians denounce the marriage equality ruling in the most apocalyptic terms, and charge that it will bring unprecedented religious persecution to the U.S. Right-wing Catholic Hugh Brown of the American Life League even said that Justice Kennedy had “betrayed” Jesus. Another, Michael Hichborn of the right-wing Catholic Lepanto Institute, said Kennedy should be excommunicated.

Some have been calling for states to resist or ignore the ruling (Liberty Counsel is defending county clerks who refuse to do their jobs), or negate it with a “creative” law. Some are focused on passing laws to allow government officials and business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples – like the proposed federal First Amendment Defense Act. Some are calling for constitutional amendments to overturn the marriage ruling. And some are looking at the 2016 presidential election as an opportunity to pack the Court with far-right justices.

Cruz has called for a constitutional amendment that would require justices to face retention elections, and has said he would also support term limits on justices, an idea promoted by fellow presidential contender Mike Huckabee.

Croatian LGBT Group Fined For Calling Journalist & Judith Reisman Ally A Homophobe

Many Religious Right leaders have thrown their support behind anti-gay laws around the world that not only criminalize gay sex but also limit free speech by making even the advocacy of LGBT equality illegal. Another tactic is to limit the free speech of equality advocates by restricting public criticism of their opponents.

In Croatia, a county court has upheld a ruling of the Zagreb Municipal Court that Zagreb Pride, an LGBT rights group, had violated the personal honor and dignity of a journalist by placing her on its annual list of candidates for “homophobe of the year” in 2013. The Court ruled that Zagreb Pride must pay more than 41,000 krona (a bit over $6,000) in fines and court fees. Zagreb Pride officials contend this case is an outgrowth of an organized campaign by conservative Catholic groups and their allies that led to a 2013 referendum banning marriage by same-sex couples.

The journalist, Karolina Vidović-Krišto, had been placed on the list after producing a television segment in December 2012 which used the research of American anti-gay activist Judith Reisman, who is affiliated with Liberty University, to criticize sex-education curricula. When Vidović-Krišto was suspended by state television after the show, Reisman rallied to her defense, and the journalist was reportedly among those who helped organize Reisman’s 2013 trip to Croatia. Reisman also visited in 2014.

As reported by the Croatia-based Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI), Reisman was brought to Croatia for a series of public appearances by Stjepo Bartulica, a member of the Catholic order Opus Dei and a Commissioner for Religious Communities in the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia. 

Reisman’s record of anti-gay commentary is long and well-documented. For example, Reisman has:

  • said that sex ed turns children into prostitutes and “little sexual deviants”;
  • said that sex education classes are designed to brainwash children into thinking they might be gay, transgender or “all kinds of other things” and “these kids become fodder for adult predators, that’s exactly what they become”;
  • appeared in an anti-gay “documentary” called “Light Wins,” in which she argues that parents should sue teachers and school administrators who allow students to read gay novels, which she says violates a federal law that makes it illegal to “groom children for sex”;
  • said Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and anti-bullying campaigns are modeled on Hitler Youth efforts to “sever schoolchildren from their parents’ religious and sexual training”;
  • called GLSEN “a modern version of the Hitler Youth” and said that “the whole point” of GLSEN’s anti-bullying efforts was to promote pedophilia;
  • claimed that “the aim of homosexual males and now increasingly females is not to have sex with other old guys and get married but to obtain sex with as many boys as possible”;
  • joined her Liberty colleague Mat Staver in Jamaica in December for a conference organized by those working to preserve laws criminalizing consensual gay sex;
  • wrote that condoms are not meant for anal sex and called for a “class action lawsuit by AIDS victims and their loved ones” against the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Planned Parenthood and teachers and school systems that promoted condom use;
  • and  warned that the Boy Scouts’ vote to end the ban on participation by gay youth would lead to increased pedophilia, and agreed with right-wing radio host Rick Wiles that the Boy Scouts change was about “getting sexual predators into the Boy Scouts.” 

Reisman also believes that pornography should be outlawed.

Not surprisingly, Reisman’s visit to Croatia was controversial and was criticized by some scientists as well as activists. Reisman faced a number of outspoken critics, whom she denounced as “thugs.” She spoke to parliamentarians and to college students, by whom she was not well received ; when she responded to critical questions by charging that students had been indoctrinated by communists, the school’s dean asked whether she realized how young these students were. He also challenged her credentials to speak about brain chemistry in regard to her promotion of an “erototoxin” theory that pornography leads to “mating confusion.”

Zagreb Pride officials, who say that challenging anti-gay rhetoric and actions are central to their reason for being, are calling the recent ruling an attack on free expression. The Croatian Journalists Association hosted a Zagreb Pride press conference last week.

"The Constitution guarantees us the freedom of speech, and Zagreb Pride's mission is to publicly reveal homophobia, so our basic duty is to react every time we see someone acting against homosexuals," Zagreb Pride representative Marko Jurcic told a news conference in the offices of the Croatian Journalists Association, calling on citizens to support the association and freedom of expression.

Another report from the press conference quotes Jurcic calling for solidarity from citizens in support of free speech and human rights. Also speaking were Sandra Benčić from the Center for Peace Studies and Natasa Bijelic from CESI, who put the case in the larger context of the growing neo-conservative threats to sexual and reproductive rights in Europe.

Zagreb Pride leaders have vowed to challenge the decision to the Constitutional Court as a matter of freedom of expression, and to develop a strategy for taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Donald Trump The 'Moral, Principled' Leader for Christian Nation Extremist David Lane?

In the conservative Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard wrote on Tuesday, “Amen corner: Trump makes inroads with social conservatives, evangelicals.”

Donald Trump's surge into the lead of the Republican presidential primary can be credited partly to two groups he has rarely engaged: social conservatives and evangelical Christians.

"Trump is tapping into deep-seated anger in America, a nation founded by Christians 'for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith,'" said David Lane, a prominent national evangelical political organizer. "He's tapping into something at the grassroots, precinct level of America. America is starving for moral, principled leadership. I hope that Donald Trump brings that."

Seriously? David Lane, as regular RWW readers know, is an anti-gay “Christian-nation” political operative who organizes meet-and-greet events and international trips that bring conservative evangelical pastors together with Republican politicians. The oft-married, self-worshipping Trump seems an odd fit for the man who wants to make the Bible the primary textbook in public schools and thinks the purpose of the U.S. government is to advance the Christian faith.

Evangelicals have flirted with Trump before. Recall Trump’s 2012 appearance at Liberty University, where he delivered a speech that Kyle described on RWW as “a typically self-aggrandizing and buffoonish message that was superficially about the importance of God and his Christian but was really about self-promotion and the importance of always getting even with your enemies.”

An unnamed “leader in the social conservative movement” reportedly told Bedard that Trump’s bluster about restoring “order” on the Mexican border has “wowed” voters who are disgusted with Washington.

But other evangelicals were not too happy about Trump’s weekend appearance in Iowa. Trump’s comments denigrating John McCain’s war service got the most mainstream media attention, but Ed Kilgore noted in Washington Monthly that Trump’s response to questions about his faith from pollster Frank Luntz were hardly the kind that would inspire evangelicals: “Luntz asked The Donald if he had ever asked God for forgiveness, and it was really as though the idea had never occurred to him.”

“If I do something wrong, I try to do something right,” he said. “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

Spoken like an ethical agnostic, right? But perhaps sensing his answer wasn’t adequate, he tried to recover:

“When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said.

Byron York also wrote that Trump’s McCain remarks were not the biggest problem coming out of Iowa, saying that a “senior Iowa Republican” was “dumbfounded” by Trump’s comments on religion.

“While there were audible groans in the crowd when Trump questioned whether McCain was a war hero,” the senior Republican said via email, “it was Trump’s inability to articulate any coherent relationship with God or demonstrate the role faith plays in his life that really sucked the oxygen out of the room.”

Steve Benen notes that Jeb Bush jumped to take advantage of Trump’s remarks, telling a conservative radio host that he, Bush, “regularly” asks God for forgiveness. Rick Perry is also trying to use Trump’s dismissal of the need for God’s forgiveness as a way to get some attention, saying that a man too self-absorbed to seek God’s forgiveness does not belong in the White House. It’s worth noting that Perry informally launched his failed 2012 bid with a political prayer rally organized by David Lane and his dominionist allies, making it hard to take Perry seriously when he warns against “false prophets” and messengers “who appeal to anger, division and resentment.”

Lane’s comments are also out of synch with some of his political allies. Sarah Posner pointed out this week that Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said last week that they didn’t know a single evangelical who supports Trump, saying Christians are turned off by Trump’s immigrant-bashing. But it seems that Moore and Rodriguez need to get out among their constituents a bit more — Posner notes that a Washington Post poll showed Trump as the preferred candidate of 20 percent of white evangelicals, with 45 percent of white evangelicals saying Trump is “just about right” on the issues. A recent Public Policy Polling survey [PDF] found that Trump had higher favorability ratings among evangelical Republicans than non-evangelicals in the party.

David Lane’s positive comments about Trump, who is currently sitting at the top of the polls, are probably just another example of Religious Right leaders’ habit of publicly demanding religious and political purity, but then throwing their support to whatever politicians the GOP nominates. (James Dobson perfected this move.)

Lane has said his effort to recruit 1,000 like-minded evangelical pastors to run for office — and in the process get hundreds of thousands of conservative Christian volunteer workers to influence the 2016 elections — was inspired by his own pastor’s failed run for the state assembly. Last month that pastor, Rob McCoy, made it to public office, winning a seat on the city council of Thousand Oaks, California.

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