Peter Montgomery's blog

Ralph Reed Makes The Case For Donald Trump

One theme of this year’s Republican National Convention is the Religious Right getting fully on board the Trump Train. Even before he vanquished Ted Cruz, his final primary opponent, Trump has been aggressively courting the Religious Right, and he has recently sought to shore up support from the movement leaders who backed Cruz and other candidates.

Yes, Trump is a habitual liar whose Bible-waving and political use of religious is transparently cynical, but that isn’t stopping Religious Right leaders from rallying around him. And why not? He allowed the Religious Right to write anti-gay discrimination into the GOP's platform. His promise to fill the Supreme Court with right-wing justices gives them hope that marriage equality in the U.S. will be short-lived. And he is even promising to overturn the federal law that forbids churches, like other tax-exempt nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral politics, and to sign legislation defunding Planned Parenthood.

In Cleveland this week for the RNC, Religious Right political operative Ralph Reed spoke with Doug Wright, “Utah’s most listened to talk show host.” Polls show that many of Utah’s Mormon voters are resisting the call to unite behind Trump.

When asked why so many evangelicals are supporting Trump in spite of his “interesting” background, his use of “vulgarities,” and other things that might concern a conservative Christian, Reed said, “You’re not electing a pastor-in-chief, you’re electing a commander-in-chief.”

Reed reminded Wright that evangelicals backed Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election even though they had a different approach to faith, and even though Romney had previously held pro-choice and pro-gay views, something for which some conservatives have criticized Trump. “I thought we were members of a faith where we were supposed to welcome converts,” said Reed.

In fact, said Reed, he thinks Trump “has the potential to be the greatest advocate for our values, and do the most to advance that agenda, precisely because he doesn’t necessarily come from where we come from.” In other words, because people don’t view Trump as a Religious Right activist, they might be more receptive to his call for ending the ban on church politicking.

Here’s Reed’s basic case for Trump, starting with the fact that “he is a professing Christian.”

More importantly…he shares our values. He’s pro-life. He’s pro-traditional marriage, which is very important to us…He’s pro-religious freedom. He supported the Hobby Lobby Decision, supports Little Sisters of the Poor, has placed in the platform, at his insistence, at this convention, for the first time in the history of the Republican Party, a call for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment to the internal revenue code, which threatens churches that speak out politically with the loss of their tax-exempt status. That has been used to harass and persecute the Christian community for over half a century. Donald Trump will end it.

'Gays for Trump' Join Conspiracy Theorists In Bringing Anti-Islam, Anti-PC Message To RNC

Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay British cultural provocateur, self-described “dangerous faggot” and senior editor at Breitbart, brought his anti-political-correctness, anti-Islam message to Cleveland this week, teaming up with conspiracy-spouting radio host Alex Jones, political dirty trickster Roger Stone, anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller and Gays for Trump.

At Monday’s America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos (simply “Milo” to his fans), took the stage wearing a bulletproof vest — a small group of protesters had gathered nearby but were being kept out of the park by a phalanx of police — but he theatrically peeled it off as he began his remarks. He performed the same routine at Tuesday night’s sold-out, Breitbart-supported Wake Up! party, organized by Gays for Trump, which Gateway Pundit called “the hottest ticket at the RNC.” Among the Trump supporters at the party were white nationalists Peter Brimelow and Richard Spencer, who chatted with guests and reporters.

The party venue was adorned with soft-core posters of skinny young men in Make America Great Again caps, some posing with guns, courtesy of Twinks4Trump. It gave a surreal feel to the event, which was appropriate given the surreal claims about Trump made by some of the speakers.

Chris Barron, a co-founder of GOProud, was among those welcoming people to the party, where he was also said to be acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. Barron said Trump is making the GOP and conservative movement more accepting of LGBT people, adding, “Donald Trump is a better friend to the LGBT community than Hillary Clinton could ever be.” Geller made a similar claim, saying, “If anyone is for gay rights, clearly it’s Trump.” Milo went even further, declaring, “Donald Trump is the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history.”

Really? The guy who couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger to keep the Religious Right from writing discrimination into the party platform? And who has promised Religious Right leaders the Supreme Court of their dreams? Such skeptical thinking is wrong-headed, according to the speakers at Wake Up!, because it is not focusing on the real threats to gay people: Islam and those who “mollycoddle” it.

Geller, resplendent in rainbow sequins, started her remarks with a characteristically tasteful joke: “A jihadi walks into a gay bar. And the bartender says, ‘What’ll you have?’ And the jihadi says, ‘Shots for everyone.’”

She decried gay rights activists for talking about access to bathrooms for transgender people, saying, “Gay rights in the 21st century is the persecution, oppression, execution of gays living in Muslim countries under the Sharia.”

Geller said she was making her first public appearance since two ISIS-linked gunmen attacked a contest for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed she had organized in Garland, Texas, last year, saying 25 events had been cancelled out of fear. “So you gotta love Trump!” she said, “Yes! Because he gives them all the middle finger!” As she acknowledged, Trump harshly criticized Geller for holding the Garland event, but, she said, “he’s come a long way.” She said Trump’s proposed “ban on Muslims from jihad nations is logical, sensible and reasonable.”

Like speakers at the Alex Jones rally on Monday, Geller tore into Republicans who have not fallen in line with Trump:

I’m one hundred percent behind Trump. Because if you’re not behind Trump, you’re for Hillary. Bill Kristol is for that criminal. George Will is for that criminal. We have got to overthrow the GOP elite. We have got to unite behind Donald Trump.

Joining Milo and Geller at the Wake Up! party was Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who said Islam has “no place in a free society” and said Western countries should “de-Islamize” their societies; he has called for banning the Quran and said, “I don’t want no more mosques in the Netherlands and I am proud to say so,” leading someone behind me to shout “throw them out!”

Wilders described Europe – or “Eurabia” – as having been turned into an imploding hellhole of violence and fear because of Muslim immigrants, and warned that France is on the brink of civil war. The reason, he said, is that “we have no real leaders in the Western world anymore. We have appeasers. We have Chamberlains instead of Churchills, ruling all our countries.” He called for democratic political change, saying that people feel that their leaders have abandoned them and that political parties like his are winning support all over Europe. The crowd responded to Wilders with chants of “Geert” and “Trump,” and went wild at the statement that Wilders could become the next prime minister of the Netherlands. He ended his speech with this promise: “We shall win. We must win. And we will win this war.”

Milo reprised many of the comments he made at the Alex Jones rally, talking about a culture war in which liberals have become “traitors to the gays” by accommodating Islam. He joked about having been banned from Twitter that very day, a day before he would have access to all the national media at the RNC’s radio row, and he said, “I am going to make their lives hell.”

But he struck a defiantly hopeful tone, saying “I am not the only person who is dedicated to the destruction of liberal media in this country. I am not the only person who recognizes that after a few decades of good work, these people have now thrown us under the bus.”

At both events, Milo denounced political correctness, Islam and the left, in his intentionally button-pushing way. “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left,” he told the crowd at the Jones rally, generating surprised laughter, and then cheers:

They do not represent me. They do not represent you. They do not represent tolerance. They do not represent understanding. They do not represent diversity, any of the things they claim to care about. The left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate because it is undermining the fundamental principles on which this country was founded, and for which everybody looks up to you guys.

Political correctness is not just a problem, he said at the Jones rally, it is deadly:

Political correctness killed at Sandy Hook. People knew about this guy, they knew what he was about, they knew what he was up to, and they were worried about saying anything for fear of being branded racist.

At that statement, I exchanged a puzzled look with the man standing beside me. I was puzzled because the killer of the children at Sandy Hook was white. If my neighbor was a loyal Alex Jones listener, he might have been puzzled because Jones promotes the theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax, staged as a “false flag” operation to give the government an excuse to try to seize people’s guns. Yiannopoulos may have been thinking about San Bernardino; he also said “political correctness killed” in Orlando, suggesting that the shooter hadn’t been apprehended sooner because people were afraid of being seen as racist or Islamophobic.

Yiannopoulos said he knew not everyone in the crowd was with him when it comes to homosexuality, but urged them to “stick up for your women and your gays.”

“Die on your feet or live on your knees,” he said, pausing with comic timing. “Well, I do live on my knees, but that’s alright. That’s alright. As long as I’m not facing Mecca I guess I’m alright with you guys. I mean, I might have been by accident…”

Yiannopoulos said he was appalled to find out that on American college campuses, which he thought would be the freest places in the world, people’s thoughts and language are being policed and restricted. “It seems to me as though the political left in this country is trying to destroy all of the things that made America great.”

Looking ahead, Milo said he’d be mocking criticism of concerns over “cultural appropriation” by lecturing to “the insane students at Yale” on famous cultural appropriators while dressed “in full Native American costume.” And next week, he said, he will be in Stockholm to “lead a gay pride march through the Muslim ghetto.”

The left is always telling us how homosexuals are stunning and brave. Well, the left-wing ones aren’t but ours are. And we’re going to take the fight to them. I’m taking the fight to American campuses. I’m fighting political correctness wherever I find it. I’m fighting hateful third-wave misandrist feminism wherever I find it. I am fighting Black Lives Matter, a hateful, destructive movement, wherever I find it. Donald Trump is going to fight the same things wherever he finds them, too.

Milo told the party crowd that the only thing that Breitbart ever cut from one of his columns was his response to people complaining that it was racist to put “whites only” in profiles on hook-up apps like Grindr. He asked whether his would be deemed racist for saying “blacks only.” But, he said, he wouldn’t actually put it that way. Instead he’d write, “Don’t contact me if you’re under seven inches or you know who your dad is.”

Which brings us to the end of the party and to the protesters outside with signs and flyers declaring, “There’s nothing fabulous about racism.”

 

Asian Americans for Trump Rep: We're The Minority 'You Can Trust'

Monday’s “America First Unity Rally” sponsored by Alex Jones and Roger Stone included representatives from what Rep. Steve King might call subgroups, including Bikers for Trump, Christians for Trump and Asian-Americans for Trump.

Paul Jhin, introduced as a senior adviser for Asian-Americans for Trump, dedicated much of his remarks to Trump campaign talking points about making America great again, putting America first, Benghazi, terrorism and more, before talking about his hopes for Asian American voters. Some excerpts from his rally comments:

Ladies and gentlemen, there are 25 million Asian Americans in this country and we are growing. When Ronald Reagan ran for president, 67 percent of the Asian Americans supported Reagan. Guess what? I’m going to do everything I can so that more than 67 percent of Asian Americans will vote for Donald J. Trump!

Let me tell you something. They talk about minorities. I can tell you one thing: Asian American minority is the one you can trust. And we’re going to vote for Donald J. Trump, OK? God bless America, and God bless Donald J. Trump.

In reality, Trump has been polling miserably among Asian Americans. But the Asian-Americans for Trump Facebook page has plenty of love for him and harsh rhetoric for others:

 

Alex Jones Rally Perfect Accompaniment to RNC's Ugly First Day

Alex Jones, the radio personality who consistently promotes the most reckless, paranoid, and utterly ridiculous conspiracy theories, has embraced and been embraced by Donald Trump. Yesterday, Jones teamed up with Trump adviser and legendary political dirty trickster Roger Stone to host the “America First Unity Rally” in Cleveland’s riverfront Settlers Landing Park on the first day of the Republican National Convention. The rally was a perfect fit for the Republican National Convention’s chaotic and divisive first day.

The big names at the rally were Jones and Stone, who were both greeted as rock stars. While Stone denounced Hillary Clinton, someone in the crowd repeatedly shouted, “She’s a reptile!” – a reference to one of the more, uh, colorful theories Jones has promoted.

Some of the other notable speakers:

  • Kelli Ward, GOP primary challenger to Arizona Senator John McCain, mocked him while people in the crowd shouted “traitor!”
  • Ed Martin, president of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, who has been embroiled in a power struggle between Ted Cruz-supporting board members and Trump backers Martin and Schlafly.
  • Diamond and Silk, who entertained the audience with a rendition of their “we’re proud black Trump-supporting women” shtick, calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch," denouncing the media, and telling black voters to “get off that Democratic plantation.”
  • Jan Morgan, extreme gun rights advocate, sounded like one with her seeming suggestion that any regulation of firearms violates the 2nd Amendment
  • Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart senior editor whose public persona is a performance of the self-described “dangerous faggot” and whose flamboyant raunchiness makes some conservatives squirm even while they love him for his far-right politics.

Joining them on the podium were Tea Party activists, political candidates and leaders of Bikers for Trump, Christians for Trump and Asian Americans for Trump. We were told that God had anointed Trump and he would bring God back into American life.

In addition to Trump campaign talking points and hard-edged attacks on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a number of speakers attacked Republicans. While the event highlighted the participation of veterans, several speakers denounced former prisoner of war McCain, drawing shouts of “traitor” from the crowd. One Tea Party leader said it’s important to get rid of House Speaker Paul Ryan. Another speaker went after Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

These and other attacks on Trump doubters and the Republican establishment were made while the speakers were standing in front of a banner proclaiming “unity.”

We will post more information on some rally speakers in separate posts.

 

 

 

RNC Preview: Monday’s Alex Jones & Roger Stone “America First” Rally

Kicking off the Republican National Convention week in Cleveland on Monday will be an “America First Unity Rallyorganized by two far-right allies of Donald Trump: conspiracy-theorist radio host Alex Jones and political dirty trickster Roger Stone. They have billed the event as a way to oppose any effort to “steal” the nomination from Trump. Jones has warned of “revolution” if Trump is denied the nomination, though the odds of that happening have essentially vanished since the convention’s rules committee rejected efforts to “unbind” delegates last night.

Sponsors are calling Monday’s event a “massive victory rally celebration of Mr. Trump’s nomination,” declaring, “We need every Trump supporting patriot to converge on Cleveland in YUGE numbers to show our unity and support for Donald J. Trump!”

In addition to Jones and Stone, speakers are scheduled to include Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay enfant terrible of the Right who is a prominent apologist for the racist alt-right movement, and Tea Party activist and radio host Wayne Dupree.

Among sponsors of the event are Jones’ InfoWars, Citizens for Trump and a number of subgroups including Bikers for Trump, Truckers for Trump and Christians for Trump. Eternal Sentry, a white nationalist website that was originally a sponsor of the event was dropped after Media Matters reported on the racist and anti-Semitic material featured on the site. Citizens for Trump describes its supporters as members of “Tea Party, 912, 2nd Amendment coalitions, anti- common core groups, Christian conservative groups, and many more conservative organizations.”

The head of Bikers for Trump told CNN this week that with Ohio’s open-carry gun laws, Cleveland could turn into “the O.K. Corral.”

"We're anticipating a victory dance, but it sounds like there's a lot of agitators and a lot of troublemakers coming to town," Chris Cox of Bikers for Trump said on Tuesday. "What happens remains to be seen, but you can definitely count on the Bikers for Trump standing with the police department in the event they need it."

Jones is no stranger to violent rhetoric, having said earlier this year that Bernie Sanders supporters are “pathetic scum” who “need to have [their] jaws broken.” Last month he called Hillary Clinton a “demon-antichrist” figure.

Trump has embraced Jones and appeared on his radio show even though Jones is in a class by himself when it comes to promoting false and irresponsible conspiracy theories, the latest of which is that liberal philanthropist George Soros engineered the shootings of police officers in Dallas as part of a plot to start a race war that will lead to a “Marxist overthrow of the United States.” Jones is fond of promoting “false flag” theories about everything from the 9/11 attacks to the killing of elementary school students in Connecticut, making him one of the most notorious and truly bizarre conspiracy theorists out there. But he is far from the only one in Trump’s stable. Trump’s own obsession with conspiracy theories is reflected in the number of unhinged characters whose support he has embraced.

Trump told Jones last year that he has an “amazing” reputation. In return Jones called Trump a modern-day George Washington. He and Trump agreed that the country might not survive unless Trump is elected president.

RNC Preview: Dominionists To Hold Pre-Convention Christian Nation Prayer Rally

For the past couple of months, Christian-nation advocate David Lane and dominionst Doug Stringer have been organizing a day-long prayer rally that will take place in Cleveland this Saturday. Timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention, the event will be the latest in the series of “The Response” rallies organized around Republican politicians. They are modeled after a series of “The Call” events organized by dominionist “apostle” Lou Engle.

The first Response, which was promoted by some of the most extreme and divisive Religious Right figures, served as the unofficial launch of Rick Perry’s doomed presidential bid in 2011. The Perry event reflected Lane’s perennial goal of uniting conservative evangelicals behind a single candidate. Other Response rallies have been hosted by Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Pat McCrory of North Carolina.

Stringer has been on the ground in Cleveland meeting with local clergy to promote Saturday’s event as a nonpolitical opportunity for Christians to come together across racial and denominational lines to pray for America. That was also the message delivered on a pre-Response conference call last week, on which Stringer and other organizers described the event as a time of unity and prayer so that the Christian church can be a source of healing and hope at this “providential time” in our nation.

That’s the bait part of the bait-and-switch nature of these events. The switch comes at the rallies themselves, which, along with prayer and praise music, promote the Religious Right’s political agendas on abortion, LGBT rights and separation of church and state.

As we noted when the Cleveland Response was announced:

Lane and Stringer took the Response to Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 2015. At this “nonpolitical” event, Religious Right rock star David Benham talked about gay rights groups who he said were out to “force” their agenda on the country, portraying a “spiritual battle that is now waging before us in this nation, the home of the brave and the land of the free.” Lane opened the “nonpolitical” North Carolina Response rally with a prayer that talked about the lack of prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, abortion, and “homosexuals praying at the inauguration.” Another speaker prayed for God to “help us be like Kim Davis, obeying the Constitution and defying federal criminals.”

Event sponsor David Lane is an intensely political operative who believes America’s mission is to advance the Christian faith. He has been trying to organize “an army” of conservative pastors to run for office in hopes that each of them will mobilize hundreds of volunteers to help turn out the evangelical vote.

While Lane’s dream of getting Religious Right leaders to coalesce around a single candidate was, to a significant extent, achieved this year with nearly unanimous backing for Ted Cruz, many evangelical voters did not follow the script. Lane is now putting his faith in Trump, who he believes “can be one of the top 4 presidents in American history.”

Another hint of the “nonpolitical” nature of the Cleveland event comes from its promotional materials, which included a video from E.W. Jackson, a failed Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia; Jackson has called the Black Lives Matter movement “demonic,” said promotion of LGBT equality is “spitting in the face of Almighty God,” and accused President Obama of being more interested in “defending Islam” than “defending America.”

Also gathering in Cleveland before the RNC is the Council for National Policy, a secretive network that brings together activist leaders from right-wing to far, far right. Politico reported this week that Ted Cruz is meeting with the group on Friday, which may act as a quiet launch for a 2020 White House run.

 

How Would Religious Right Respond To Pence As VP?

According to some news reports, Donald Trump has settled on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate, though other reporters say their sources tell them the decision has not been finalized. Trump has said he will announce his decision on Friday morning.

Pence has a long record before becoming governor that includes time in nearly every branch of the country’s huge right-wing political infrastructure: He headed a state-level “free-market” think tank; had a career in talk radio; and served in Congress, where he led the right-wing Republican Study Committee.

That’s a lot of right-wingery that we and others will be exploring in depth if he is indeed Trump’s running mate. But here are a few initial points about Pence’s relationship with the Religious Right, whose leaders seem to be largely coming around to Trump’s candidacy despite initial skepticism.

Pence has been much beloved on the Religious Right. Early in the 2012 election cycle, he won the Values Voter Summit straw poll and won gushing praise from CBN’s David Brody. Even the American Family Association’s far-right radio host Bryan Fischer predicted that Pence would be the 2012 nominee. 

Pence has participated in Christian-nation advocate David Lane’s political events and he has been an aggressive proponent of defunding Planned Parenthood. He has connections with other Religious Right leaders through the National Day of Prayer task force.

Pence was unhappily in the national media last year when Indiana became embroiled in a high-profile controversy over a state “religious liberty” law pushed by anti-gay groups and signed by the governor. Pence seemed to have been caught completely off-guard when business and community leaders joined equality activists in a backlash to the law.

Pence tried to defend the law on national television, with disastrous results. Pence’s main problem is that he was essentially caught in a lie. He pretended the bill had nothing to do with legalizing anti-gay discrimination, when that was the clear purpose of the religious groups that pushed the law and gathered around him when he signed it.

But having said that protecting discrimination wasn’t the law’s intent, he was not well positioned to resist demands by business leaders and media that he sign an amendment saying so. When he ultimately signed off on such an amendment, some Religious Right leaders were furious. Some compared his reversal to an act of betrayal like Judas selling out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

It is not clear how warmly Religious Right leaders will embrace Pence as Trump’s running mate. Earlier this week, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera responded to rumors about Pence as VP by tweeting, “HOW ironic it wld be if Mike Pence ever became VP. Pence declined to run for president in part b/c he FAILED conservatives on relig liberty.”

Others may be more forgiving given Pence’s long track record, and may rationalize that his heart was in the right place but he was forced to back down when business leaders and the LGBT lobby — twin enemies of the Religious Right these days — ganged up on him.

Meet the RNC Speakers: Jerry Falwell Jr.

In the lead-up to and during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, we’ll be profiling some of the activists and politicians invited to speak at the event. Find more of our Meet the Speakers series here.

It was hardly surprising to see Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. on the speakers’ list for the Republican convention. After all, Falwell has compared Trump to Jesus Christ, the biblical King David, Martin Luther King Jr., and his own father, Jerry Falwell Sr. That’s the kind of adoration Trump appreciates.

Falwell was one of the speakers at last month’s meeting between Trump and hundreds of Religious Right leaders and activists. At that meeting, Falwell called Trump a “bold and fearless leader” and said that the day after Trump becomes president, “every terrorist in the world will crawl under a rock.” Falwell declared, “I personally feel strongly that Donald Trump is God’s man to lead our nation at this crucial crossroads in our country’s history.”

Falwell’s man-crush on Trump began long before the current campaign. In 2012, he told Newsmax that Trump’s speech at the university’s weekly convocation was “probably the best” in the history of the school. Trump’s message — he told students to be sure to “get even” with anyone who slights them — was seen by some as not particularly Christian, but Falwell defended Trump’s remarks as not at all contrary to the turn-the-other-cheek message of Jesus.

Like Trump, Falwell is not one to worry about ideological consistency. In February, when Trump was embroiled in a war of words with Pope Francis, Falwell rushed to his defense, saying “Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run the country.” This was a hilariously un-self-aware comment from someone presiding over the empire that his father built on the premise that the Bible has clear instructions for people who run the country.

Falwell has had his own political ambitions for Liberty. In 2008 the school hosted campaign events for John McCain, and Falwell organized a student voter registration drive in hopes that Liberty could “go down in history as the college that elected a president.” In 2010, he tried and failed to engineer a takeover of the city council in Liberty’s home of Lynchburg, Virginia.

And this year, Falwell is holding nothing back. He invited Trump to speak at Liberty on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, something he said was a purposeful decision, one that generated some student protest. Falwell’s endorsement of Trump came just before the Iowa caucuses, and his effusive introductory remarks were turned into a radio ad by the campaign. And that was in spite of the transparent, cynical charlatanism of Trump’s Bible-waving. The candidate’s actual familiarity with the Bible was revealed by his laughter-provoking reference to “two Corinthians” when his written speech referred to the book of Second Corinthians.

Remarkably, Falwell has made “character” one justification for his endorsement. In March, Falwell recorded a robocall for Trump in which he attacked the candidate favored by most Religious Right leaders, calling Ted Cruz a “master politician” and practitioner of “dirty tricks.” Said Falwell, “Ambition must never be a substitute for character. Please vote for Donald Trump.”

Falwell has had little patience with other conservative Christians who have been critical of his embrace of Trump; when some expressed dismay about a picture of Falwell standing with Trump with a framed Playboy magazine cover visible on the wall behind them, he compared them to Pharisees.

Falwell may see parallels between Trump’s business doings and his own empire-building style. Thanks to a decision to push into distance learning — online education that doesn’t require much infrastructure — and thanks to a massive flow of federal student aid, Falwell has built Liberty into the biggest nonprofit private university in the U.S. and the largest Christian college in the world.

While providing a platform for right-wing candidates who trash federal involvement in education, Liberty has taken advantage of Democratic-supported increases in student aid that were part of the much-maligned-by-the-Right 2009 stimulus bill. At the same time, Falwell preaches the small-government gospel that portrays care for the poor as the responsibility of the church, not the government.

Falwell also seems to envision himself as something of a Trumpish flouter of political correctness. In December, after the mass shooting in Bernardino, Falwell told Liberty students:

If some of those people in that community center had had what I've got in my back pocket right now [applause] ... is it illegal to pull it out? I don't know. I've always thought that if more people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill. So, I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. Let's teach 'em a lesson if they ever show up here.

Earlier this year Falwell’s comments about Muslims led several Virginia high school debate teams to boycott the state finals because they were being held at Liberty.

Under Falwell’s leadership, Liberty reflects an institutional commitment to much of the Religious Right’s political agenda. For example:

  • In 2010 it hosted some of the country’s most well-known anti-gay activists for a conference and symposium on the “homosexual agenda” and its threat to religious freedom.
  • A few years ago, journalist Sarah Posner reported that Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver taught students that when faced with conflict between “God’s law” and “man’s law,” they should resolve that conflict through “civil disobedience.”
  • In 2010, AFP profiled a Liberty science class field trip to the Natural History Museum to help them learn to debunk the theory of evolution in favor of the Creationist belief that God created the world in a week about 6,000 years ago.
  • Falwell has invited climate change denialists as a way to challenge environmentalists who use “pseudo-science to promote political agendas” and help students “who come from public schools where the truth of global warming and the science of global warming is now always known.”

 

 

Religious Right Out-Muscles Pro-Equality Republicans

We have lost count of how many times the Religious Right has been declared spent as a political force. Those declarations have always been wrong, and this year’s Republican Party platform is the latest sign of the movement’s continued power.

Four years ago, we called the GOP platform “a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing, and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP.” Yet this year’s platform is even further to the right.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2012, Religious Right leaders spent the entire week in Tampa bragging about how they had essentially written the platform. But pro-LGBT Republicans were remarkably confident that it would never happen again. At the time, the Log Cabin Republicans vowed that never again would the party platform be hostile to LGBT equality. Former member of Congress Jim Kolbe said the anti-gay sentiment in that year’s platform was “the last gasp of the conservatives.” The upbeat attitude had us wondering about “the fine, fuzzy line dividing optimism from delusion.”

Well, there’s nothing left to wonder about. In spite of an organized and well-funded campaign by LGBT-friendly conservatives, Religious Right activists made sure that they dominated the platform committee. During the committee’s deliberations on proposed amendments on Monday and Tuesday, every effort to moderate the language on LGBT rights was rejected, including tame language that would have acknowledged growing support within the party for marriage equality. The Log Cabin Republicans are calling this year’s document “the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.”

Even an amendment that would have recognized the LGBT victims of ISIS terror was deemed too much. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is bragging that he and fellow Louisiana delegate Sandy McDade, Eagle Forum’s political chairman, watered that language down so that it refers generically to all people terrorized by ISIS.

The platform includes Religious Right-approved language opposing marriage equality and endorsing legislation to give legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious liberty. And it calls for eliminating the IRS provision that prevents churches, like other nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral advocacy — one of the promises Donald Trump has made to win Religious Right support.

A seemingly last-ditch effort by LGBT-friendly delegates to require a vote on a “minority report” to replace the long platform with a short statement of principles is now being denounced by Perkins and Religious Right activist David Barton as an attempt by gays to hijack the platform process. Its odds of success seem vanishingly small.

Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory Angelo says he’s “mad as hell” about the new platform, but in the same email he tries to distance the document from Donald Trump, who Angelo praised last December as “one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency.”

Not long after that, as journalist Michelangelo Signorile noted, Trump accepted the endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr. and promised to put right-wing justices on the Supreme Court. In January he promised to make Christianity (read right-wing Christianity) more powerful. More recently, Trump reiterated his promises in a closed-door meeting with hundreds of conservative Christian leaders, where he told them, “I’m on your side.”

Trump may be willing to let Caitlin Jenner use the bathroom of her choice at his office building, but he was unwilling to lift a finger to keep the party from supporting states that pass laws preventing transgender people from using bathrooms that match their identity — or from declaring in many ways that the party remains officially opposed to legal equality for LGBT people.

The presumptive Republican nominee is all bluster and toughness when he is denouncing political correctness, but he turns meekly obliging when dealing with the Religious Right leaders he is counting on to turn out the vote.

 

 

GOP’s Super-Far-Right Platform Completed But Drama Continues

During Monday and Tuesday’s Republican platform committee deliberations, an already right-wing draft was pushed even further to the right by activists on the platform committee. But now Religious Right activist David Barton and other delegates are complaining that they were duped by pro-LGBT activists into signing a minority report that could force a floor vote on replacing the entire platform with a much shorter statement of principles.

Through endless hours of amendments — some substantive and some petty wordsmithing — attempts by libertarian-leaning delegates to introduce more moderate language on LGBT equality, the drug war and other issues were routinely voted down, even an amendment that would have acknowledged the LGBT victims of ISIS terror.

Throughout the grueling process, a few delegates repeatedly complained that the platform should be seen as a vehicle for marketing Republican Party principles, and should not be something so long and so deep in the weeds on policy disputes that nobody will bother reading it. One of those voices was Utah’s Boyd Matheson, who had proposed an alternative approach that would simply lay out a set of principles, based on the platform on which Abraham Lincoln ran for the presidency in 1860.

That could have saved everyone a lot of time, but the committee didn’t go for it. The committee wrapped up its deliberations on Tuesday evening, voting to approve the amended draft, which will get final up-or-down approval by the committee on Monday before going to the convention as a whole for approval.

But that’s not the end of the story, because 37 delegates signed a “minority report,” which The Dallas Morning News’ Lauren McGaughy describes as “a sort of petition by those who couldn't muster a majority for their proposals.”

“In this case,” McGaughy writes, “it supports doing away with the whole platform and replacing it with something shorter and simpler.” Among those who signed the petition were Matheson and Barton, the Religious Right activist who played an active role in shaping this year’s platform as well as the 2012 version.

Now, however, Matheson and Barton are among those claiming that they were “duped by a group of pro-gay rights delegates” into signing something that could be a source of division on the floor of the convention:

Boyd Matheson of Utah wrote the language in the minority report, but he said he did not support doing away with the whole platform and replacing it with his mission statement. In fact, he withdrew support of his own proposal Tuesday afternoon amid the fight.

"A minority report is a divisive issue that some people are trying to use to air their issues on the floor for the convention," Matheson said late Tuesday.

David Barton, a Texas delegate who helped him edit the language, went a step further, saying "someone hijacked the process."

He added: "It looks to us like they created a controversy." 

Matheson and Barton allege that a group of LGBT-friendly Republicans who had tried -- unsuccessfully -- to include some positive mention of the gay community in the party's platform was behind the scheme. 

The two said they would send an email to the other 35 delegates who also signed the report on Wednesday morning saying just this. Texas' other platform committee delegate, Diana Denman, also signed the minority report, and expressed her interest in removing her name.

Other delegates suggest that Barton and Matheson knew exactly what they were signing but “got cold feet afterward when they feared being associated with a gay rights push.”

Family Research Council Action, whose leader Tony Perkins was another active member of the platform committee, pushed out an alert yesterday warning that LGBT activists were attempting to “hijack” the platform.

Perkins and the Family Research Council are delighted with the far-right platform, saying the GOP’s support for “traditional family values” is “stronger than ever.”

In another message to FRC supporters yesterday, Perkins celebrated the Religious Right’s platform victories:

I am very happy to say that the final platform document overwhelmingly approved by the delegates may be the strongest statement of conservative principles by a GOP platform to date. As Gayle Rozika, a Utah delegate for whom this was the 6th platform, told me this is the most conservative platform in her experience. Her efforts, along with those of delegates like Carolyn McLarty (Okla.), Len Munsil (Ariz.), David Barton (Texas), Jim and Judy Carns (Ala.), Kris Kobach (Kan.), Sandy McDade (La.) and a host of other conservative leaders were effective in ensuring the GOP platform provides a clear and compelling understanding of the core conservative principles that those associated with the Republican party prioritize and pursue.

Our coalition of delegates -- including FRC Action and other groups like the March for Life Action, Eagle Forum, and Concerned Women for America -- proved invaluable. The platform is an important document, showing the Party of Lincoln continues to respect freedom, and the rule of law, the idea that all humans deserve respect, not because of some category, but because we have inherent dignity and are made in the image of our Creator. The platform is a useful document -- a standard for the party in local, state, and federal elections, use in town halls, and it provides standards to which we should hold our elected officials. Platform Chairman Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), led by co-chairs Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.) and Governor Mary Falin (R-Okla.) all did an excellent job allowing delegates to offer amendments and debate the issues with sincerity and respect. They deserve much respect for their efforts.

 

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious