Peter Montgomery's blog

Franklin Graham: US In Trouble For Embracing Godless Secularism

While political activists gathered outside Washington D.C. last Saturday for the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a group of Religious Right activists converged in Orlando for “The Awakening,” an annual conference sponsored by Liberty Counsel and the Freedom Federation. Among the major themes of the conference were the threat posed by Islamic extremism and the need for Christians to unite in resistance to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

The conference opened with a video from Franklin Graham, who is in the midst of a 50-state “Decision America” tour. Graham said he had no hope for the Democratic Party, adding:

Before you Republicans out there start high-fiving each other, I don’t have any hope in the Republican Party. The only hope that I have is for Almighty God. We’ve got to get God back into the political process of our country.

We need God. We have become secular. And secularism and communism, you know, there’s no difference. Both are godless. And that’s what we have accepted and adopted the last few years is a secular form of government. And we’ve taken God out. And so our country is in trouble…

Pray that God would touch the hearts of men and women across this country to run for political office. We need Christian men and women to run, not just for president, or Senate or Congress. But think how important local elections are. We need Christian men and women running for mayors across this country. Just think of America if the majority of mayors of America were born-again evangelical Christians. Just think of the impact it would have…

 

Federalist Society VP Says Senate Could Ignore SCOTUS Nominees Indefinitely

During the administration of George W. Bush, the Federalist Society helped the administration fill the federal courts with judges who embrace a right-wing legal ideology. Back then, group leaders criticized Democratic senators for filibustering some nominees. But at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, a senior Federalist Society staffer praised Republican Senators who have refused to even give a hearing to a nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia  and suggested that if a Democrat is elected president this year, the Senate could continue its obstructionist blockade through the next administration.

The Federalist Society has often portrayed itself as a polite debating society and downplayed the important and destructive role it has played promoting far-right legal theories as well as judges and political officials who can turn that ideology into public policy. The Federalist Society’s influence reached a pinnacle with the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an ideological warrior with deep roots in the right-wing legal movement. Alito, whose nomination was shepherded through the Senate by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, has returned the favor as a justice, helping raise money for the Federalist Society and other right-wing groups, and becoming the single most pro-corporate justice on the most pro-business Supreme Court since the New Deal.

Dean Reuter, vice president of the Federalist Society, led a brief workshop at CPAC with John Yoo, a law professor and author of the infamous “torture memos” while working at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration. Reuter and Yoo are co-editors of “Liberty’s Nemesis: The Unchecked Expansion of the State,” published last month. The book focuses on the growth of the administrative state, but Reuter began by addressing the dispute between the White House and Senate Republican leaders who have declared that they will refuse to even consider a Supreme Court nominee this year.

Reuter said it was the Senate’s duty to act as a check on executive power.

But I’m happy to report that the law and the Constitution are on the Senate’s side here. The president surely does have a duty to nominate someone, but the Senate has a co-equal duty as a co-equal branch of government to, in this case, operate as a check. It doesn’t have any responsibility or any duty to host one-on-one meetings with the nominee, or hold a hearing, or hold a committee vote or a floor vote. There’s no timetable. It’s not as if the president sends somebody over and says, we need this back next month, or next Wednesday, or whatever.

So the Senate is perfectly well within its prerogative, even the proper understanding of checks and balances, it can easily be said that the role of the Senate is to check the president’s power in this instance, the appointment power, especially I think when you’re dealing with a third branch of government and a lifetime appointment.

It’s not the president appointing the secretary of the Department of Commerce, it’s the president making an appointment to an independent, third branch of government and the Senate’s entitled to do its full due, which in this case may be not to act.

When asked if the Constitution would support the Senate’s refusal to act indefinitely if a Democrat were elected president, he said:

There’s no time limit in the Constitution. And there’s nothing magical about there being nine justices. The country started out with six justices, we’ve had as many as 10 at some point in time. And as recently as 2010, when Justice Elena Kagan came on the court, she had been solicitor general so she recused herself in over a third of the cases…I don’t see a sense of urgency.

The Federalist Society would undoubtedly experience a different sense of urgency if a Republican were elected president and given the opportunity to put more right-wing activists like Samuel Alito on the court.

Unintentional Heartland Humor At CPAC

The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank, held back-to-back breakout sessions on the first day of CPAC, the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Heartland promotes “free-market” ideology, school vouchers, other right-wing policy ideas and model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council on a range of issues, but may be most well-known for its attacks on climate change “alarmism.”

Heartland’s first session was seemingly designed as a response to media focus on the Koch brothers’ political networks, which funnel billions of dollars into political groups and campaigns through organizations designed to obscure the source of funds and control. The title of the presentation, “Darker Money,” may have been inspired by journalist Jane Mayer’s recent book, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.”

Heartland, which is funded by right-wing foundations and corporations, including organizations affiliated with the Koch brothers, used the opportunity to promote its website LeftExposed.org. Both the presentation and the website give you a sense of what constitutes “the Left” to Heartland. The organizations it covers are primarily those involved in environmental issues, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council. One presenter pointed to funding for the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank. Among the foundations discussed were the Gates Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation.

The second workshop promised to help participants never again lose an argument to a climate change “alarmist.” The Heartland Institute, which receives support from right-wing foundations and the energy industry, is a major source of material challenging the existence of a scientific consensus that human activity is leading to a climate crisis. In 2012, Heartland faced a flurry of public criticism when it launched a billboard campaign featuring a photo of “Unabomber” Ted Kacynski with the statement, “I still believe in global warming, do you?” Heartland justified the campaign, which was to include ads featuring Charles Manson and Fidel Castro, saying “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murders, tyrants and madmen” — but cancelled it in the face of widespread outrage.

Heartland president Joseph Bast moderated a CPAC panel two years ago at which climate change was denounced as a scam designed to let progressives gain control of people’s lives. This week Bast didn’t dispute that the earth is warming, or that human activity may be a contributing factor, but he argued  that global warming is a good thing. Bast said that the benefits from “modest warming” of the climate will outweigh costs for the next century or two. If it turns out there are problems, say, rising sea levels, they should be addressed by “adaptation” — like building more seawalls.

Heartland has a history of arguing about science; during the 1990s the group worked with the tobacco industry to question the risks of moderate smoking and secondhand smoke. As late as 2014 it argued, “The public health community’s campaign to demonize smokers and all forms of tobacco is based on junk science.”

Bast portrays Heartland as trying to tell the truth in the face of bad science from scientists who are being paid to promote a political agenda. He suggested at CPAC that Google and Wikipedia are part of the grand leftist conspiracy to hide the truth, and that Breitbart News is an example of the Right launching its own institutions when the Left “takes over” existing ones.

Which brings us to the Andrew Breitbart Center for Freedom at Heartland’s new headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Bast launched the creation of the Breitbart-honoring event space with a poster honoring the late “fearless defender of freedom and enemy of biased, lying mainstream media.”

The flowing script, sepia tone, and heroic photo of Breitbart on the poster seem oddly out of synch with the pugnacious, take-no-prisoners, truth-be-damned style of Breitbart and the media sites he created. But the Breitbart branding may be a good fit for Heartland’s own propaganda efforts. The news outlet hasn’t toned down since its founder’s passing. In fact, Glenn Beck, who is also in attendance at CPAC, recently accused the Trump campaign of “grooming Brownshirts” and likened Breitbart’s executive chairman Steve Bannon to Hitler’s propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Trump Wins Support of White Nationalist Youth Leader

I recently wrote about the ways that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has energized white nationalist activists and helped white supremacist groups and media with recruiting and fundraising. One of the people quoted in my Huffington Post story is 24-year-old white nationalist activist Matthew Heimbach.

Heimbach first made waves when he founded the White Student Union at Towson University and he is now a leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party. An Al Jazeera profile of Heimbach last year was titled “The Little Führer.”

Now Heimbach has turned up in another story that exemplifies why so many people are afraid of the forces being unleashed by the bigotry and bullying of Trump’s campaign.

“White supremacists hurled racist and sexist slurs Tuesday afternoon as they pushed a black protester out of a Donald Trump rally in Kentucky,” reports Raw Story. Video shows Trump supporters violently shoving a black protester, including a screaming man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

In the New York Daily News, Shaun King reported that the man seen shoving and cursing at the Louisville rally appeared to be Heimbach. For him and others wearing the same Traditionalist Worker Party t-shirts, writes King, “a Trump rally is a white power rally.”

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Chanelle Helm, a protester and respected activist who attended the rally, said that she and others were not just spat on, but were cursed at and demeaned repeatedly by Trump supporters.

She distinctly remembered one disturbing chant, which was lead by the white supremacists, "You're scum, your time will come. You're scum, your time will come."

Heimbach confirmed in a post on the website of the Traditionalist Youth Network that he is the person in the video, but he blamed Black Lives Matter protesters for the melee.  “I’ll avoid any additional Trump events to ensure that I don’t become a distraction,” he wrote, “but the entire point of the BLM’s tactics is to push people until they push back. It won’t be me next time, but White Americans are getting fed up and they’re learning that they must either push back or be pushed down.”

Before Trump arrived on the scene, Heimbach wasn’t really interested in politics. In fact, he told Al Jazeera last year, “The American system is the enemy.” He believes the country should be divided into racially homogenous enclaves. But then, Heimbach told the Washington Post, Trump started talking. “This is the first time since Buchanan in the ’90s and George Wallace in ’68 where you have a guy outside the mainstream speaking to white interests.”

Trump, says Heimbach, “has opened this floodgate that I don’t think can be restrained regardless of what happens in the 2016 elections.”

'School Choice' Just Part of DeVos Family's Far Right Agenda

Members of the DeVos family, which made billions with the Amway direct marketing company, have long been funders of far-right causes and Republican politicians. Over the years, they’ve appeared in PFAW and PFAW Foundation reports like Buying a Movement and Predatory Privatization. This week Inside Philanthropy has taken a  look at DeVos funding, which has been instrumental in driving anti-public education efforts all across the country.

The story’s author, Rick Docksai, writes that the DeVos family’s success at pushing “school choice” reflects its “remarkable talent for moving money by the truckload into socially conservative causes and putting it to work to shift voters’ and lawmakers’ mindsets in a rightward direction.”

Among the right-wing groups DeVos has funded are the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Federalist Society, Council for National Policy, Traditional Values Coalition, the Acton Institute, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. But education policy is a top priority.

Betsy DeVos is quite the political ringleader in her own right. She formerly chaired the Michigan Republican Party. And she's been called "the four-star general of the voucher movement," for her activism on this issue, which includes her present-day gigs as a board member of Advocates for School Choice and as head of All Children Matter, a group that has been pumping contributions into state elections since its inception in 2003. Conservative education reforms—school vouchers, in particular—are its rallying cause, and the organization claims a "win/loss record" of 121 to 60...

Docksai contrasts the DeVos family’s commitment to Religious Right and and social conservative causes with the Koch brothers’ more libertarian leanings. But, he notes, the DeVos family is just as far-right as the Kochs on economic policy:

DeVos' influence helped turn Michigan into a "right-to-work" state (e.g., no company in the state can obligate its employees to pay dues for union representation), for example. And they firmly back opponents of affirmative action: The Center for Individual Rights received funding from Dick and Betsy DeVos in 2001 after it challenged the University of Michigan's race-based admissions process in court, a lengthy legal fight that resulted in new court-imposed restrictions on the use of race as an admissions factor.

Inside Philanthropy says that Jeb Bush’s failed presidential campaign got “a significant share of its funding from Richard DeVos,” but says that’s a departure from the DeVos’s political win-loss record: “The family has been a major shaper of policymaking at the state and national levels and will surely remain so for years to come.”  

On Eve Of Super Tuesday Religious Right Continues To Split

On the eve of Super Tuesday, the dream of Christian-nation advocates like David Lane to get evangelicals to coalesce around one of their own in the Republican primary is fading away as Donald Trump pulls ahead of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in national polling, and among evangelical voters in particular.

The ongoing split is reflected among right-wing political leaders.  Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach both endorsed Trump for his anti-immigrant policies. But first-term Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, the former president of a Christian college, wrote a public letter explaining why he would not vote for Trump in the general election if he became the party’s nominee.

And while Ted Cruz, his father, and Glenn Beck are frantically making the case that Cruz is God’s chosen candidate for the presidency, one of the country’s most prominent Christian business leaders has endorsed Marco Rubio.

David Green is the founder of the Hobby Lobby arts & crafts empire.  Green and his family have become right-wing folk heroes for successfully arguing that their massive for-profit company deserved a religiously-based exemption from the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that its insurance plans include contraception. Over the weekend, Green declared Rubio “a man who is prepared to be president.”

Cruz continues to build his own list of often-extreme Religious Right backers.  Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, put out a video endorsement of Ted Cruz, who he called the most conservative candidate who can win the election. Johnson said Cruz will fix the economy by cutting taxes and regulation, “and he’s going to eliminate the IRS, and I like that.” Johnson also focused on the future of the Supreme Court.

Ted Cruz will make the right appointments on the Supreme Court. He’ll make conservative appointments. He’ll appoint justices that defend the sanctity of innocent human life and oppose abortion. He’ll appoint justices that protect your First Amendment freedom to believe and to live out your faith. He’ll appoint justices that will protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Johnson added that Cruz will rebuild the military, secure the border, and defeat and destroy ISIS. He said the fact that Cruz can’t get along with politicians in Washington, D.C. is a “badge of honor.”

Phyllis Schlafly Praises Jeff Sessions, Trump & Cruz, Warns GOP 'Kingmakers'

In her February newsletter,  which came out just after Sen. Jeff Sessions’ endorsement of Donald Trump, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly reproduced a column she wrote earlier in the month gushing about a round of interviews Sessions had given in which he said 2016 “is the last chance for the American people to take back control of their government.” Sessions helped Trump craft his immigration platform and previously backed his call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Here’s Schlafly:

“To win, Republicans need to demonstrate that they care about the average person who goes to work every day,” he added. Average Americans are tired of paying billions in welfare handouts to immigrants who are undermining U.S. wages. “People should have total confidence and a clear commitment on those issues. If they don’t, then they don’t have my vote,” he said…

Our immigration policy has been anti-American, decade after decade, and the voters need to know that 2016 might be our last chance to elect a president who can reduce this tide of illegals crossing our borders. The interests of working Americans must “be put first,” Sessions urged. “We need a president with the credibility to tell the world that the time of illegality is over. Do not come to this country unlawfully,” he said.

In the same column, Schlafly praised “outsider” candidates like Trump and Ted Cruz, and warned against “the Washington-based Republican Establishment” who she said are plotting to “take back control of the party from the outsiders and grassroots.” Among those she names as would-be “kingmakers” are House Speaker Paul Ryan – “who is openly contemptuous of Trump and has little use for Cruz” – and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who offended Schlafly by using her response to the State of the Union Address “to slam the ‘angriest voices’ in the presidential campaign and disavow the Republican front-runner’s popular call for a temporary pause in Muslim immigration.”

Schlafly vows that the Republican platform will be written by GOP delegates who are disappointed with the ineffectiveness of congressional Republicans and who “will have no use for Ryan’s open-borders ideology, which holds that anyone who can find a low-wage job should be allowed to settle in the United States.” Schlafly warns that a deadlocked convention could make  someone like Ryan the nominee. “Such an outcome,” she writes, “could destroy the Republican Party and guarantee a Democratic victory by causing disheartened grassroots voters to stay home and tempting an aggrieved candidate to mount a third-party or independent presidential campaign.”

In January, Schlafly declared that Donald Trump was “the only hope” to defeat the GOP’s “Kingmakers.”

Trump Once Again Embraces Anti-Gay, Anti-Catholic Pastor Robert Jeffress

Donald Trump’s rally in Fort Worth, Texas, today included an endorsement by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Trump’s pledge to “open” libel laws so that he could sue journalists. It also included yet another mutual embrace between Trump and anti-gay pastor Robert Jeffress.

As Brian reminded us in January, Jeffress said during the 2012 presidential campaign that electing a Mormon president would cause God to judge America. He’s said that the Catholic Church is a “counterfeit religion” that represents “the genius of Satan.” Jeffress also says gays are “perverse” and “miserable” people who will lead to the “implosion” of America and pave the way for the Antichrist.

What does Trump have to say about Jeffress?  “I love him!” he gushed at today’s rally.

The feeling is mutual. Jeffress told the crowd that Trump loves America and is “truly pro-life.” And, he said, “Donald Trump cares about and loves evangelical Christians.”

“If Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, we who are evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House,” Jeffress said. “God bless Donald Trump!”

Meet A Law Professor Conservatives Turn To On Marriage, Immigration And The SCOTUS Blockade

Among the right-wing figures encouraging Republican senators to block any nominee President Obama might make to the U.S. Supreme Court last week was law professor John Eastman, who right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt calls “perhaps the most revered center-right specialist in America.” If that’s true, it may be because Eastman puts himself out there on so many issues that rile today’s far-right. He chairs the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and he is also one of the leading voices in opposition to birthright citizenship. His advocacy pretty much covers the right wing’s public policy wish list.

On Hewitt’s radio show on February 15, Eastman called Scalia’s death a “devastating loss” not only for Scalia’s family “but also for our understanding of the appropriate role of the court in constitutional adjudication.”  Eastman agreed with Hewitt’s assertion that it is “well within” Republican senators’ constitutional authority “not to give a hearing or a vote to President Obama’s nominee,” saying that Republicans “ought to oppose with every bit of their power” the kind of nominee he would expect from President Obama, someone who he believes will “try and nail the lid in the coffin on advancing his radical transformative agenda.”

Eastman said Scalia’s death will put the role of the high court at the center of the presidential campaign, declaring that “there is a fundamental difference” between the political parties on a central question: “Do we live in an autocratic, unelected regime run by nine black robed individuals, or are we the people the ultimate sovereigns in this country?”

That’s the kind of rhetoric that warms the hearts of far-right leaders like Sharron Angle, the Tea Party activist who lost a challenge to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid in 2010 and whose is encouraging an effort by a couple of state legislators to draft her for a 2016 Senate bid. “The U.S. Senate should absolutely put a hold on any nomination this President sends to the hill,” Angle said last week. “We have to stop the damage to the Constitution now!”  Angle went even further, declaring that Eastman would make the “perfect” Supreme Court justice.

If he ever did make it onto the court, Eastman would manage the remarkable feat of being to the right of the late Justice Scalia. Like Chief Justice John Roberts, Scalia opposed the Supreme Court’s infamous 1905 Lochner decision, which ushered in an era in which the court routinely rejected economic regulations, like a state limiting the hours employees could be required to work, and exhibited hostility to union activity. On Hewitt’s show, Eastman recalled Scalia turning a speaking invitation into a forum on Lochner, on which Scalia disagreed with Eastman, who is part of a pro-Lochner movement in right-wing legal circles.  Eastman also takes a fringe position, one held on the current Supreme Court only by Justice Clarence Thomas, that the First Amendment’s ban on the establishment of religion cannot be properly applied to the states.

Eastman is a professor  at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law in California and is the founding director of Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, affiliated with the conservative Claremont Institute. He stepped down as dean of the law school to run for California attorney general in 2010. National right-wing leaders, including Ed Meese, Ed Whelan, Bill Bennett, Michele Bachmann and others backed his bid, but he failed to win the nomination.  Eastman, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and 4th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Michael Luttig, worked at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during the Reagan administration. In 1990 he was the GOP nominee for Congress from the 34th District in California.

A few highlights (or lowlights) from Eastman’s activism and rhetoric:

Role of the Courts

Eastman, who chairs the National Organization for Marriage, appeared at a July 2015 Senate hearing convened by Ted Cruz after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, which Cruz called “the very definition of tyranny.”

Eastman agreed with Cruz’s call for Supreme Court justices to be subjected to judicial retention elections and term limits, and added his own proposals to keep the court in check. He said a simple majority of states should be allowed to override “egregiously wrong” Supreme Court decisions, and that Congress should be able to veto Supreme Court rulings by a two-thirds majority in both houses.  He also suggested that Congress should impeach judges whose rulings it considers unconstitutional.  And he interpreted Scalia’s dissent in the marriage case to be “an invitation to executive officials throughout the land to refuse to give their ‘aid’ to the ‘efficacy of the’ Court’s judgment in the case.”

I truly hope this Committee will give serious thought to these proposals, advancing them with your approval, first to the full Senate, then to the other House, and then ultimately to the people for consideration and hopefully ratification. But I encourage you to do that soon, as I sense in the land a strong feeling that our fellow citizens are about out of patience with the “long train of abuses and usurpations” that have emanated from an unchecked judiciary. They have demonstrated for a very long time now that they, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, have been “more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms [of government] to which they are accustomed.” We should not expect that the patience of our fellow citizens will last forever. Let us now, therefore, in good faith, advance solid proposals to restore and expand checks and balances on the judiciary before that patience runs out.

Marriage and LGBT Equality

In 2000, Eastman called homosexuality an indicator of “barbarism.” He called the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence decision, which overturned laws criminalizing consensual gay sex, a “despotic” decision.

Given his position at the National Organization for Marriage, which he has chaired since 2011, it is not surprising that Eastman’s rhetoric in opposition to marriage equality has been consistently hostile. When he took the position, he told the conservative National Catholic Register, “Evil will be with us always, and it requires constant vigilance to defeat.”

At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, Eastman attacked the Ninth Circuit decision overturning California’s Proposition 8 and warned that legalizing marriage for same-sex couple would hurt children and have “catastrophic consequences for civil society.” He said marriage equality “would destroy the institution that has been the bedrock of civil society since time immemorial.”

At the June 2014 March for Marriage in Washington, organized by NOM, Eastman said that Justice Scalia’s dissent from the court’s 2013 decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act was “a call to arms.” “Let the justices know that we will not tolerate them redefining marriage!”  he said. “The good of society and the wellbeing of our children depend on it!”

In 2014, after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a federal court ruling that made legalized marriage for same-sex couples in North Carolina, Eastman told North Carolina legislative leaders to defend the state’s marriage ban anyway — even though Attorney General Roy Cooper had said it would be a waste of taxpayer money. The Charlotte Observer later reported that the Claremont Institute, where Eastman serves as the director for the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, had billed North Carolina $78,200 for its work defending the law, a price that it said included a “public interest” discount.

In an April 2015 podcast for the Constitution Center following oral argument in Obergefell, Eastman said it was “perfectly legitimate” to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples due to their “unique procreative ability.”  He denounced the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling as “not only wrong, but illegitimate,” going so far as to encourage anti-equality groups in Alabama to resist the decision. 

In 2015, commenting immediately after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling for a Federalist Society podcast, Eastman called it “surreal beyond belief” to believe the people who ratified the 14th Amendment would believe that it mandated “the redefinition of a core social institution that is both religiously and biologically grounded.”

Eastman has praised Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis, who tried to stop her county office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying  “She confronted what I call a Thomas More moment, and she’s demonstrated her saintliness in how she’s responded to this.”

Outside of marriage equality, Eastman has said that a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s decision to treat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a form of sex discrimination was an example of the “utter lawlessness” of the way “these agendas are being pushed through.”  Last July Eastman said that some gay rights activists “in their candid moments … have admitted that they want to destroy the church, and they want to destroy the family…”

A few months ago, Eastman reacted to Hillary Clinton’s address to the Human Rights Campaign in a radio interview in which he denounced the LGBT equality movement as “fascist” and claimed that it was promoting pedophilia:

This is not about anti-discrimination laws any more. This is about forcing people to bend the knee to an agenda to say things that are inherently immoral are in fact normal and moral … It’s a very fascist movement that forces a viewpoint on other people that disagree ... We’re finding challenges to age of consent rules because a good portion of this movement seeks to remove age of consent so they can have sex with teenage boys.

He claimed that the LGBT movement’s actual goal was not to achieve the right to marry but to destroy the institution of marriage, because the family is a bulwark against unlimited and omnipotent government.

Support for Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

In 2015, Eastman gave a speech at the Family Research Council defending Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act and saying he hoped the law — rejected by the country’s Supreme Court over a procedural issue — would come back “in short order.”

He cited as justification for the law President Mouseveni’s claims that “western groups” were trying to use the schools to recruit children into homosexuality.  Eastman said that the law’s provision for lifetime in prison was only for “aggravated homosexuality,” which he defined as “homosexual acts” by someone with HIV/AIDS or “homosexual acts with minors.” In reality, the law’s definition of “aggravated homosexuality” also included serial offenders. As he noted, the law included prison terms for someone who “counsels” a person into homosexuality, a provision that seemingly did not bother Eastman. The law would even have imposed a prison term of up to seven years for attempting “to commit the offence of homosexuality.” Eastman denounced American opposition to the bill as “cultural imperialism.”

Eastman also joined Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater as a speaker at a “National Family Conference” in Nairobi in 2015; the conference was sponsored by Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, a group that not only supports the country’s law criminalizing homosexual sexual activity, but fought to prevent LGBT groups from even being allowed to legally register as advocacy organizations.

Immigration as Invasion

Eastman has also become one of the most visible advocates for eliminating the 14th Amendment’s protection of birthright citizenship. Actually, Eastman believes there’s no need to change the Constitution or law in order to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, just a court decision to correct what he thinks is an erroneous interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

In December 2014, Eastman testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which he said violated the Constitution. Eastman rejects the idea that the administration’s actions reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion.  Obama, he said, “has taken it upon himself to drastically re-write our immigration policy, the terms of which, by constitutional design, are expressly set by the Congress.” 

Eastman has been at this for a long time. He testified before a House subcommittee in 2005 in favor of reconsidering birthright citizenship in the wake of 9/11, and he published a paper for the Heritage Foundation in 2006 urging Congress to assert its authority and make clear that children born to people who are not in the country legally are not considered citizens.

In a 2006 Federalist Society exchange, he said:

Our current non-enforcement policy has fostered "outlaw" communities of non-citizens amongst our midst, who not only work illegally, but who are bankrupting our social services systems and who, tragically, are preyed upon by trans-border thugs well aware that their victims will not report crimes for fear of deportation. This is no way to treat fellow human beings. Why should we expect that the new spate of amnesty proposals, whether denominated "guest worker" plans or something else, will not also continue the incentive for illegal immigration that the 1986 Act provided?

In that same Federalist Society Q&A, he noted that the Constitution requires the president to protect the country against invasion, adding, “We have been invaded by more than 10 million people, and it is the president's duty, not just right, to defend against that invasion.” He also challenged the notion of dual citizenship, calling it “self-contradictory” and saying “it has no place in our existing law.”

In 2011, he co-authored an article for a Federalist Society publication defending Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, writing that “Arizona was well within its rights to adopt SB 1070. Indeed, given the border lawlessness that Arizonans are facing, it is not a stretch to argue that the Arizona government may well have been duty-bound to take some such action.”

Church-State

Eastman is critical of more than a half century’s jurisprudence on church-state issues. He says that under the modern view of church-state separation “we completely destroy the foundation for our entire constitutional system.” He has argued that a state taxing people to support an official church, as some states did early in the nation’s history, was not all that coercive and, as we noted earlier, he believes it is wrong to interpret the 14th Amendment as applying the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the states.

Eastman champions an expansive reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in line with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling and backs the passage of additional state RFRAs and religious exemptions. He has joined Religious Right leaders in portraying Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis as a heroine for refusing to marry same-sex couples.

Anti-Union

Eastman, not surprisingly, supports right-wing attacks on unions. In a July 2015 blog post, Eastman argued that it is “time to drive a stake through the heart of mandatory dues.” Eastman noted that Justice Samuel Alito, writing in an earlier decision, essentially invited the kind of lawsuit that the Court has agreed to hear this term in the Friedrichs case, which conservatives hope the Supreme Court will use to dramatically weaken the power of public employee unions.

Constitutional Limits on Spending

Eastman has also argued that the country’s view of the Constitution’s Spending Clause has been wrong ever since the Supreme Court’s 1936 decision in United States v. Butler. He believes Congress does not have the constitutional authority to make appropriations for “internal improvements,” citing, among other things, President James Buchanan’s veto of a bill that would have granted public lands to states for the establishment of agricultural colleges.

In 2014 he joined the advisory council of the Compact for America, a group whose goal is to have the states propose and ratify a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution through an “Article V” convention. Under the proposal, Congress could only increase the debt limit with the approval of a majority of the state legislatures; any new sales or income taxes would require two-thirds approval of both houses of Congress.

Reproductive Rights

At a Federalist Society debate, Eastman referred to Roe v. Wade as one of the Supreme Court’s “grievous mistakes” — like its affirmation of the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality — to which he would not give deference.  At a Federalist Society panel from 2014 on the ACA’s contraception mandate, he argued that there is basically no distinction between individuals and the corporate structure when it comes to freedom of conscience, a view adopted by the Court majority in Hobby Lobby, which has opened a door to corporations claiming exemptions from generally applicable laws based on the religious beliefs of company owners, such as complying with the requirement that insurance provided for employees include coverage for contraception.  

 

Schlafly: GOP Must Block All Obama Judicial Nominees, Strip Courts Of Funding And Power

Right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly wrote today that Justice Antonin Scalia’s death is “a terrible loss for our Nation” and “a reason for Republicans to rethink their approach to the judicial branch of our government.”  The Eagle Forum founder agrees with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to block any nominee President Obama puts forward to fill the Scalia vacancy, but she wants much more — essentially a declaration of war on the federal judiciary by a conservative Congress.

Of course Senate Republicans should block President Obama from filling this Supreme Court vacancy in an election year, and they have 80 years of precedent on their side. But Republicans should go further and block nominations for all the other vacancies in the federal judiciary, too.

But even with that call for a total blockade of the federal courts, Schafly is just warming up. She wants Congress to cut funding for the courts, cut funding for the enforcement of what she believes are “bad” court decisions, and strip the courts of their jurisdiction over immigration, abortion, and marriage:

It’s fine for the Republican presidential candidates to point out that a vacancy on the Supreme Court is part of the upcoming election, and to promise to fill Justice Scalia’s immense shoes with someone similar. But even if a Republican wins the upcoming presidential election, even if he picks another Justice Scalia, and even if he is confirmed by the Senate, the federal judiciary will still be stuffed with hundreds of activist judges appointed by Obama, Clinton, and even Jimmy Carter.

The Founders gave Congress everything necessary to take power away from this runaway federal judiciary. Congress can deprive the federal courts of power over immigration, abortion and marriage, and can completely defund enforcement of bad federal court decisions that are already on the books.

Congress spent months trying unsuccessfully to defund Planned Parenthood, a laudable goal, but Congress can more effectively defund enforcement of the pro-abortion and pro-homosexual marriage decisions by the judiciary without sparking a phony “war on women” debate.

Congress should also defund use of taxpayer money by the Department of Justice to push the liberal agenda in the liberal courts. Congress should cut back on the funding for the courts themselves, too, and eliminate rather than fill some of the vacancies.

While stopping short of an actual endorsement, Schlafly recently called Donald Trump “the only hope” that grassroots activists have, while many of her Eagle Forum colleagues have endorsed Ted Cruz. But Schlafly is apparently not satisfied with any of the presidential candidates:

While some presidential candidates promise to work with Congress, none of them promise to rein in the Supreme Court in the absence of Justice Scalia. None of them promise to stand up against an unconstitutional order by an activist court by refusing to enforce it, as the next president could do with respect to activist Supreme Court rulings on immigration, abortion, and marriage.

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