Peter Montgomery's blog

Disgraced Former Liberty Dean Ergun Caner Gets New Job, Seeks To Silence Critics

If you were the trustee of a troubled college fighting to keep its accreditation, would you hire as your new president someone who was forced out of a previous academic post for lying about his past? That’s what the trustees of Brewton-Parker College in Georgia have just done; the college announced this week that it has hired Ergun Caner to be its new president. 

Caner is the former dean of the seminary at Liberty University who was removed from that job in 2010 when the school could no longer ignore the evidence that the Jihadi-to-Jesus life story Caner had been peddling since the 9/11 attacks turned out to be a pack of lies. (Caner said, for example, that he was raised in Turkey and trained as an America-hating jihadist; in reality he was born in Sweden and moved to the U.S. as a very young child.)

It’s not as if the Brewton-Parker trustees were unaware of Caner’s controversial past. A press release from the college quoted an unnamed trustee saying, “We didn't consider Dr. Caner in spite of the attacks; we elected him because of them. He has endured relentless and pagan attacks like a warrior. We need a warrior as our next president.”

The mind reels. Caner’s most relentless critics are not “pagan” but born-again evangelicals who take great offense at Caner’s lying to fellow Christians from church pulpits. It’s hard to see how Caner’s hiring is evidence, as outgoing president Mike Simoneux claims, of the school’s “decision to honor Jesus Christ in every area.”

In fact, the timing of the announcement is a bit awkward for Caner and the college, because it comes just days after the filing of a detailed motion in a legal suit being brought by Caner against some of his critics.

Let’s backtrack just a bit. The most devastating weapon in the arsenal of Caner’s critics has been Caner’s own demonstrably dishonest words, captured in this digital age for everyone to see. Caner, who has taken a bullying, blustering approach to his critics, set out this summer to purge the online evidence of his lying.  In May this year, he had 34 videos that critics had posted online taken down from YouTube by filing copyright claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (Sound familiar?) In June, he filed a lawsuit  against Jonathan Autry and Jason Smathers, claiming they had “willfully and purposefully infringed” on his copyright.

Among Caner’s claims is that Smathers and Autry (operating separately) violated his copyright by posting video of speeches Caner gave to U.S. Marines in 2005 training sessions. They had obtained video of the speeches by filing Freedom of Information Act requests with the Marine Corps. Then they posted the videos online so that others could see and hear Caner’s claims firsthand and judge whether they were taking his remarks out of context. The videos showed Caner misrepresenting his past in order to bolster his credentials as an expert on Islamic terrorism.

It’s easy to understand why Caner would like to cleanse the public record of his lying to Marines. But a description of the case on Smathers’ website makes it sound like Caner wants to go beyond silencing his critics to punishing or destroying them. Smathers writes that even though Autry took down Caner’s videos, and offered to sign a non-disparagement agreement, he faced escalating demands that he could not afford to meet. Says Autry, “Dr. Caner has continued with the lawsuit for apparently no reason other than to seek attorney fees that I cannot afford to pay.” In a sworn statement, Autry says Caner demanded that Autry’s wife and three young children also sign non-disparagement agreements, and that Caner threatened to bankrupt him by following up his copyright suit with a defamation claim.

Just before Thanksgiving, attorneys for Smathers and Autry filed a motion to dismiss the charges; their filing is worth reading. It provides documentation of Caner’s duplicity as well as a sense of the flimsiness of his legal claims. The attorneys conclude that “Dr. Caner’s motive is simply to lock the videos away so that no one can expose his dishonesty.” Among the assertions in the motion:

  • Caner made his speeches to the Marines as a government contractor; therefore the government, and not Caner, owns the lectures.
  • It is a longstanding principal of Freedom of Information Act law that “a release to one is a release to all.”  Since the USMC released the video of Caner’s speech, it is available to every member of the public.
  • Caner’s copyright claims are bogus because he has not shown that he has copyright to the videos in question. The videos were posted online in 2010; he now claims that his applications are pending.

The attorneys also note, “It is a crime to falsely represent the truth on a copyright application.”

Caner has also gone after another persistent critic, James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. When Caner was at Arlington Baptist College, White says, the school tried to get a local church to cancel a presentation White gave about Caner’s “many fraudulent claims,” and charged White with criminal trespass when a former student distributed flyers on campus about his upcoming speech. (White wasn’t even in the state at the time; the charges were dropped.) White is basically begging Caner to sue him, saying he would love to depose Caner, his colleagues, and his family about the claims he made repeatedly over the years.

Brewton-Parker’s trustees are not the only people willing to overlook Caner’s dishonesty. Arlington Baptist College made Caner provost after his demotion at Liberty. And in May this year Caner was invited to address the Family Research Council’s “Watchmen on the Wall” conference for pastors.

White seems personally offended by Caner’s behavior, saying it is a sin for Caner to sue Christian pastors to “suppress the truth about his own lies.” Autry is also personally troubled by Caner’s behavior; he says he attended college and seminary at Liberty while Caner was the seminary’s dean.

But the trustees at Brewton-Parker College see something else in Caner. Trustee Bucky Kennedy said in the school's press release that Caner’s “character and love for God are admirable and inspirational.”

It makes one wonder what Brewton-Parker teaches its students about the definition of “character.”

Cruz Ally David Lane: America Must Renew Christian Covenant with God

Christian nation” advocate David Lane is organizing pastors in more than a dozen states in order to elect like-minded candidates, and hopes to get conservative evangelicals to coalesce around a presidential candidate in 2016 (it’s early, but Ted Cruz seems to have an inside track). On Thanksgiving, Lane urged American Christians to ask God for mercy and forgiveness for “what we Christians have allowed to happen to America in our lifetime.”

Lane argues that the pilgrims, who believed that their undertaking was “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith,” created a covenant with God that America must renew in order to survive. Of course the United States of America was created when the U.S. Constitution was adopted, more than a century and a half after the pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. Lane argues that “the Founders established America legally as a Christian nation at the state level, rather than the Federal” – and he approvingly cites state constitutions at the time that required officeholders to be Protestant Christians.  

“To argue that America’s Founders were not Christians — and the foundation laid was not upon Christ Jesus — is at best ignorant, and at worst dishonest,” he says.

Lane, who has been demanding the return of the Bible as a primary textbook in America’s public schools, says, “Restoring Christian education is a matter of life-and-death.” The last three or four generations of American students, he says, have been failed by secularism. “Instead of developing Christian character, secularism has dispersed the sacraments of that pagan religion and indoctrinated America’s children and culture with a false, dead religion.”

Lane finished his Thanksiving column – distributed through the right-wing Western Journalism Center – as he frequently does, with a call for “a Gideon or Rahab the Harlot” to stand. Both are biblical characters who according to the Old Testament were used by God to help destroy enemies of the Israelites.

Klayman Oath Keeper: Homeland Security Behind Boston Bombing

Larry Klayman’s effort to launch a Second American Revolution is fueled by all kinds of conspiracy theories, in addition to some reality-based concerns like the extent of the NSA’s electronic snooping. At Klayman’s rally last week, the now-expected invocations of tyranny and gun control fascism appeared alongside more esoteric theories, such as one about American sovereignty having been destroyed by an act of Congress in 1871 that changed “The Constitution for the United States of America” to “THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES,” and in the process turned the U.S. from a country to a corporation in the service of nefarious bankers.

One speaker topped the conspiracy theory charts. Thomas Robert Lacovara-Stewart, an Oath Keeper who set his theatrical speech against a backdrop of patriotic music, said that the Department of Homeland Security “blew up Boston” and committed murder to hide it. 

“Because we now truly do fear our own government. The words fill sadness in my heart. I am a true son of liberty, born into it by my own bloodlines direct. And that is exactly what they have sought to destroy with multiculturalism forced, to disintegration of morality and of the family. It has become presidentially acceptable to not only embrace immorality but promote it with spectacles such as we have never seen, time and time again, attacked  by progressives, another word for communists…

Lacovara-Stewart encouraged people to visit his website, Libertyimprovementandcare.org. The website, which calls itself The Holy Order of the Sons of Liberty, promotes a remarkable collection of conspiracy theories, in addition to the charge that the Boston bombing was a “false flag” operation. Many are focused on conspiracy theory staples: Zionism, the Rothschilds, the Federal Reserve. Others are more creative. Lyme disease is biological warfare being carried out by former Nazis that were allowed entrance into the U.S.  And speaking of Nazis,

Does it not bother anyone that the German people submitted to Hitler?  Well here is why. The Nazis fluoridated the water of the people. And it made them passive and not able to do more than whine and complain but never have the nerve to do anything when faced with hard choices. Oh and by the way, they fluoridate ours too.

On his website, Lacovara-Stewart warns, “We must realize that these devils exist among us…continuing their one world government Nazi/Soviet Socialist bankers dream!”

At Klaymen’s rally, Lacovara-Stewart’s message for President Obama: “We are here to tell you that your eviction notice is served!”

Klayman's 'Peaceful' Revolution Comes With Hints Of Violence

At last week’s Reclaim America Now rally, a placard next to the speaker’s podium featured a Thomas Jefferson quote that many speakers cited: "When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." But there is apparently no evidence that Jefferson ever said this: the website of Monticello, Jefferson’s home, lists it among “spurious” quotations attributed to him.

Larry Klayman repeatedly described the Second American Revolution he is launching in nonviolent terms. He says massive peaceful civil disobedience will lead to the downfall of the current government and patriots from across the country will convene in Philadelphia to convene a new one. In recent weeks, though, Klayman has repeatedly warned that if the nonviolent approach doesn’t work, the people and the military will rise up and resort to “another recourse.” He has said that “violent revolution…looms on the horizon, if we cannot find a way to peacefully settle the score with the political establishment…”

A similar theme was heard at last week’s rally from speaker Manny Vega, who was identified as a retired marine and a Three Percenter. Three Percenters take their name from their belief that during the American Revolution only three percent of colonists took up arms against the British. The Anti-Defamation League reported a few years ago that Three Percenters, like the Oath Keepers, “promote the idea that the federal government is plotting to take away the rights of American citizens and must be resisted. The two groups are apparently trying to make inroads in the U.S. military.”

Vega, who said he served multiple tours in Iraq, said he thinks war is “abhorrent” and he wants peace to prevail. But he also said the Virginia Three Percenters are “planning and getting ready to mobilize if anything comes down.”

“But I’ll tell you what. There are a lot of men and women across this country who are willing to give it all, ok? Our forefathers, they fought for less. I am willing to fight today, ok? And, God, we don’t want violence, but if it should ever come to that, I can tell you what. I was willing to give my life in Iraq, over there, today I am more than willing to give my life over here, and I hope the president of the United States understands that. There are many more men and women like myself who are more than willing to give their lives here at home. Spread the word.”

Michael Peroutka, God, and Christian Reconstructionists At Larry Klayman's Revolution

At last week’s less-than-spectacular kickoff for the Second American Revolution, Larry Klayman announced that President Obama has until this coming Friday, November 29, to resign. If he doesn’t, Klayman and his friends will move forward with their plan to organize mass civil disobedience, force the resignation of President Obama and the Congress, and replace them with a government-in-waiting to be formed in Philadelphia in the coming weeks.

The idea was even too much for Alan Keyes, who decided not to show up at Klayman’s rally in Washington DC last week.  Klayman read the crowd a letter from Keyes explaining his decision, then dismissed Keyes’ argument that Americans should rely on grassroots political organizing rather than Egyptian-style mass demonstrations. Klayman said he no longer believes America can be fixed through elections, at least not until he’s “cleaned house.” Klayman complained bitterly that none of the Tea Party-affiliated members of Congress was willing to attend his revolution rally.

One speaker who did show up at Klayman’s rally was Michael Peroutka, the U.S. Constitution Party’s presidential nominee in 2004 (he got about 150,000 votes). According to the party’s platform, “The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Peroutka is also a southern secessionist and Christian Reconstructionist who sees the Republican Party and “Godless” conservative movement as part of the problem.

Just last month, Peroutka wrote, “Anyone, including those who identify with the ‘Tea Party’, who loves America and desires real reform, would do well to disengage themselves from the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.” And in challenging Rush Limbaugh’s rhetoric about Republicans having been “hoodwinked” by Democrats and the media during the government shutdown showdown, Peroutka wrote,

Isn’t it more likely that those who have been “hoodwinked” are those that put their trust in the Republican party and the Godless, conservative movement? Isn’t it beyond time to return to the true American View of law and government, acknowledging the Creator God as the Supreme Judge of the Universe and the written Constitution as the Supreme law of the Land?

At the rally, Peroutka praised Klayman as a “legal restorer,” saying “an order has been denigrated and lost and needs to be found and recovered and restored.” His rhetoric echoes Christian Reconstructionist godfather Rousas John Rushdoony, who said, “The only true order is founded on Biblical law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion.” Klayman is a member of the secretive Council on National Policy, where he has had the chance to rub shoulders with people like Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips, who died earlier this year. In his introduction to Peroutka, Klayman praised Phillips as “a great American” and “one of the icons of the conservative movement.”

In addition to his association with the Constitution Party, Peroutka is the founder of the Institute on the Constitution, a Maryland-based group that spreads Christian Reconstructionist ideas about the law and Constitution through seminars presented around the country. Peroutka’s remarks at the rally echo the Institute’s message that the only law that matters is God’s law:

“There is a God. Our rights come from him. The purpose of civil government is to protect and defend God-given rights. This is the American view of law and government. It also happens to be the biblical view of law and government. America was founded upon the biblical view of law and government….”

According to this Christian Reconstructionist view, God has not granted government the authority to have any role, for example, in education or the alleviation of poverty; God gives that responsibility to churches and families. Religion scholar Julie Ingersoll describes Christian Reconstructionism this way:

For Reconstructionists, the civil government’s authority is limited to protecting citizens from criminals. Family and ecclesiastical authority are established to uphold (and enforce) other aspects of biblical law. That’s not to say that any of these institutions are understood as functioning autonomously; all are under the authority of God and are to function according to biblical law. But each is independent of the others.

The idea that the Bible puts strict limits on government’s “jurisdiction” is at the core of Christian Reconstructionist thinking, and is frequently embraced by more “mainstream” Religious Right leaders. Peroutka writes:

Since civil government is ordained by God in order to protect God-given rights, then the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.

It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY! (Or to operate a Panda-cam at the National Zoo.)

On a website promoting the Institute on the Constitution’s course, Peroutka says, “As American culture has moved away from the acknowledgment of God’s authority, and the desire for his blessing, American government has untethered itself from God’s requirement that it stay within its limited jurisdiction.” He argues that “When God’s law is ignored, chaos ensues.” Peroutka recently told right-wing radio host Steve Deece that “so-called civil rights laws” are not law because “there is no such thing as a civil right.” And he denounced the proposed Employment Non Discrimination Act as “federalizing perversion.”

Echoing a theme heard frequently at Religious Right events, Peroutka told rally participants they share the blame for the country’s problems because they have allowed “usurpers” who don’t have allegiance to his view of law and government to “rule over us.” He said, “We need to repent of these ways, these things that we have done. Because we have broken the law by allowing this to occur. We are responsible. We need to repent before God.”

Last year, the Human Rights Campaign noticed that Peroutka, a Maryland-based lawyer, was one of the biggest donors to the anti-marriage-equality effort in the state, and slammed his association with The League of the South. Peroutka denied that he is a white supremacist, but called himself a “proud member” of the group; in fact he is a board member. He was a featured speaker at the group’s conference last June, which was entitled, “Southern Independence: Antidote to Tyranny.” The group defines its mission this way: “The League of the South is a Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic.”   Also:

We also encourage individuals and families to personally withdraw (secede) from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America. We call this "abjuring the realm," and it's a real and dramatic first step all of us can take by simply withdrawing our support of and allegiance to the corrupt government in Washington that through its greed, corruption and lack of Christian values has destroyed your children's and grand children's future.

Plenty of other speakers, including a couple of clergy, claimed God’s endorsement.  Even W. Cleon Skausen, the late far-right Mormon conspiracy theorist, was invoked. Sheriff Richard Mack demonstrated a “political prayer” that he said Skausen had taught 250 law enforcement officers at a training session – a series of hand motions to go along with a recitation of the preamble to the Constitution. Skausen, also a member of the Council on National Policy, was popularized by Glenn Beck’s promotion of his book The 5000 Year Leap as divinely inspired. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the book as “an illustrated recipe for turning the United States into 50 little theocracies.”

Klayman himself wasn’t shy about invoking God’s blessing on his revolution:

“Our strength comes from God. We take orders only from him. We don’t take orders from Hussein over there. We take orders from our God, not his. So consequently we are moving forward and we look for your support and your help.” He ended his remarks by saying, “and most important of all, we have God on our side.”

 

 

Klayman Rally Speaker: America Under God's Judgment, Must Repent

Among the speakers at Larry Klayman’s rally in Washington was Brooke McGowan, a Tea Party activist from North Carolina. She had also spoken at the “We the People” rally on Veteran’s Day. McGowan, who was introduced as a representative of the Tea Party News Network, devoted her remarks to the need for national repentance, declaring that “we are in dire trouble today in America. We are a nation under judgment.” Among the reasons McGowan cited were abortion, religious pluralism, and church-state separation:

“In this nation we have turned away from the God of the Bible, and we’ve told Him He’s simply not welcome here. We have welcomed pluralism, atheism, secular humanism, Wicca, and even Islam, but we’ve told the Holy God to stay away. Legally, we removed God from the public schools over 50 years ago, and then 40 years ago through a court of nine justices, though not unanimous, we determined that His very image, precious life in the womb, could now be legally torn apart, killed, and discarded. Legalized murder began our rapid moral downfall....Now, how can we expect as a nation to stay blessed or even prosper when we willingly stay under this curse?”

McGowan cited the theories of Jonathan Cahn, whose book The Harbinger and movie Isaiah 9:10 Judgment argue that America is experiencing the end-times wrath of God in ways that were foretold in the Old Testament. According to Cahn, the 9/11 attacks were a wake-up call from God, but America didn’t repent, so the 2008 financial crisis was sent our way, but still we as a nation have not repented. If we don’t repent now, we’re looking at a military takeover in 2015.

McGowan pushed right-wing “war on Christianity” themes and a couple of false myths meant to prove it. “Today there is a cold war on Christianity, a civil war,” McGowan said. “Will we repent? How far does it have to go before we give in to His call for repentance?”

“At Walter Reed hospital down the road where our broken and mangled servicemen and women lie, you can’t even speak the name of Jesus or take in a Bible,” she said. “This is a disgrace!”

Actually, it’s a lie.

Biker Belinda Bee: God's People Taking Country Back

One of the speakers at Larry Klayman’s rally launching the Second American Revolution was Belinda Bee, a coordinator of 2 Million Bikers to DC. The group initially came together in protest of a 9-11 event called Million American March Against Fear (which some dubbed the Million Muslim March). At the time the biker group was denied a permit to protest, which Bee told Fox News was part of a “political agenda.” In the end, thousands of bikers did roll through Washington that day. At Klayman’s rally, Bee expressed contempt for President Obama – she referred to him as “whatever it is in office over there” – and for the federal government.  “We are homeland security. We are our own government. The government does not tell us what to do. We’re supposed to tell them.”

By teaming up with Klayman and his call for Americans to overthrow the current government and start over, the biker group seems to have expanded its vision far beyond an annual 9-11 protest. Bee’s remarks were heavily focused on America’s relationship with God, and she seemed to call for abandoning every constitutional amendment after the first ten:

Our mission statement starts off with: We at 2 Million Bikers to DC do believe in God, Country, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights – as written. That means there should not be change. We don’t care about all of those Bill of Rights that came after the original. We want to go back to our Founding Fathers’ views and beliefs. We are one nation under God, and without God, we are not America. I’m gonna tell you right now, the first thing that I hear somebody talk about is ‘I have freedom from religion.’ No sir that’s not what it says, it says freedom of religion. Do not preach to me about this not being a God country. It was founded on God. They came over here and left to come here to be able to have the freedom to be a Christian, and to have the God that we have, that brought this country together, that this country was created after.

Bee may want to think through her position: getting rid of all those later amendments and returning to the vision of the founders would not only make slavery legal and abolish women’s right to vote, it would also allow President Obama to run for a third term.

Bee also targeted the supposed threat of Sharia law and churches that accept “perversion” – presumably homosexuality.

You know what, y’all? I want to explain something. This is no longer about Democrat. This is no longer about Republican. This is about getting rid of those who are trying to enslave us. This is about getting rid of those who are trying to push their Sharia law on us. Let me tell you something. [audience: “Christian blood in this earth!”] That’s it. We are God’s people and if we don’t get our own churches to stand up and quit submitting and talking about, it’s ok for us to be different. Perversion is perversion and per the Bible it is not acceptable in God’s eyes. And we’ve got to quit letting others tell us it’s ok. It’s not. … And who are we?  We are God fearing Americans. We are homeland security, and we’re taking our country back.

Bee and a colleague said the group is launching political organizations in every state, will mount a major campaign in 2014, and is preparing to launch a social networking site that will be based outside the United States and therefore beyond the prying eyes of the NSA.

Evangelicals Opposed To Evangelicals For Immigration Reform

Today’s Heritage Foundation event featured conservative evangelicals who are unhappy with other evangelicals who are promoting comprehensive immigration reform. Our “who’s who” of the speakers turned out to be a good guide to what they had to say.  Speakers repeatedly (falsely) characterized the Senate immigration bill as “amnesty.”

James Hoffmeier, author of a book on immigration and the Bible, said he objects to people using the Bible to talk about immigration “the wrong way” and “misuse the scriptures to advance a cause.” He argues that undocumented immigrants are not the kind of people referred to in Bible verses about being welcoming to strangers.

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy griped about mainline denominations demonstrating a lack of concern for border security.  He credited evangelicals endorsing comprehensive immigration reform for citing a need for border security, but criticized them for supporting the “mass legalization” in the Senate bill, which he characterized as legalization first, border security later.

Kelly Kullberg organized Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration as a counter to the Evangelical Immigration Table, which energetically backs the Senate bill.  She is also, like Tooley, a founder of Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE), a group that criticized Christians calling themselves the “Circle of Protection,” who had argued against cuts to federal programs that serve the poor.  (In a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders, CASE asked, “Whom would Jesus indebt?” and declared “The Good Samaritan did not use a government credit card.”) Kullberg made similar points about the immigration bill, saying America is a “near-bankrupt welfare state living on borrowed money” and cannot afford “amnesty” and “an influx of foreign labor.” She said “Kindness to foreigners should not be theft or injustice to citizens.” She also said that nowhere in scripture do we see “blanket amnesty or asylum.”

Carol Swain, right-wing author and law professor, argued that Christians should support respect for the rule of law. Swain warned “We’re welcoming people who totally reject who we are as a people,” and said we create problems for ourselves “if we bring in people who are not easily assimilated.” She declared, “There is no place in America for Sharia law in the U.S. Constitution.”  But Swain said she favors immigration reform if it is done the “right way” and encouraged people to read her book, Be the People, to find out how.

 

Religious Right Leaders Defend Russia's Anti-Gay Law

As Miranda reported earlier, House Speaker John Boehner’s office stepped in to provide space to the anti-gay Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society for its symposium on what Americans should learn from other countries when it comes to “family policy.” Sen. Mark Kirk, who had originally sponsored the group for a room, withdrew his support last night saying he doesn’t affiliate with groups that discriminate.

The Howard Center’s Allan Carlson, who described himself as a historian by training, saw fascism at work: “The parallel I see here is what happened in Italy, Germany, other lands in the 1920s and 1930s as fascism began to impose its fear-driven grip on debate, on conversation, and on policy-making.”

[UPDATE: Concerned Women of America has posted videos of the event]

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America boasted about having been a speaker at all but one of the World Congress of Families summits – annual events organized by the Howard Center and attended by conservative religious activists from around the world. Crouse acknowledged that “things don’t look so good” to activists watching the advance of same-sex marriage in Europe and the U.S., and public opinion in many countries shifting to “quote LGBT rights.”  But, she said that’s not the whole story, and praised countries that have outlawed gay marriage and other groups of citizens who are “with the help of God” changing the world.

Crouse is particularly excited about what is happening among opponents of marriage equality in France, which she portrays as a “David v. Goliath” battle of plucky pro-family activists fighting the French government and media. She mentioned activists in Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and Nigeria. She encouraged the small number of attendees to “take heart” and count on the power of truth and faithfulness.

Austin Ruse, the enthusiastically anti-gay head of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, devoted much of his remarks to supporting Russia’s new anti-free-speech and anti-gay propaganda law.  He read from a statement of support from “pro-family groups” defending Russia’s new law. The letter claims that “the Russian law protects the innocence of children and the basic rights of their parents recognized in the international legislation and treaties.”  More from the letter:

With its new law Russia is protecting genuine and universally recognized human rights against artificial and fabricated “values” aggressively imposed in many modern societies….We thus call for respect of the sovereignty of the Russian people and we invite all organizations and people who feel responsible for the protection of the innocence of children and their rights, the natural family and parental rights to stand up for Russia, as well as for Ukraine and Moldova suffering the same pressure due to similar laws.

Ruse, who has been spending time in Russia to prepare for the World Congress of Families 2014 summit, being held in Moscow, said western LGBT rights advocates were guilty of overheated rhetoric and “propaganda” about the status of gays in Russia. He saw gays everywhere in Moscow! They can enjoy themselves “hassle-free” at clubs.  Russians, he said, accept that homosexuality exists, but they believe the political movement to celebrate and regularize it is harmful to children.

Speakers actually seemed envious of Russia in some ways.  Ruse said that with the resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church, “Christians over there are truly dominant.” In the U.S., though, there is “an increasingly hostile atmosphere toward people with traditional values” and a “vicious totalitarianism that is loose in the land.” And “there’s more trouble coming” with the Employment Non Discrimination Act.  Crouse said American gay-rights activists are “turning into thugs who are destroying freedom of speech, destroying religious liberty.” It’s very “refreshing,” she said, to see that’s not the case in other countries.

Ruse acknowledged that anti-gay violence and thuggery is a problem in Russia. He denounced such violence and said he has urged Russian officials to do more to stop it. But when he was asked whether the conversation about the anti-gay propaganda law and protecting children from gay people might encourage such violence, he said anti-gay violence in Russia has been going on for a long time and didn’t think the new law was to blame. And he said blaming religious conservatives for creating a climate of hate is a tactic of gay-rights groups, a “maneuver to silence people.” 

Carlson said he cuts Russia a lot of slack because the country is “trying to put decent moral society back together” after both Communism and some of the “bad things” – like a “libertine approach to sexuality” – that poured into Russia from the west after the fall of Communism.

Who's Who at Heritage Foundation's Rebuke to Pro-Immigration Reform Evangelicals

In recent years, a growing number of conservative evangelicals have joined more progressive Christians to embrace comprehensive immigration reform.  Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table have been making the case for reform at Religious Right events in recent years; one prominent conservative evangelical, Sam Rodriguez, recently announced a 40-day fast to advance reform legislation.

As RWW has reported, getting conservatives on board has been a hard sell, particularly for the “Teavangelical” wing of the Religious Right, whose members tend to stand with hard-right anti-immigration politicians. In particular, some conservatives aren’t happy about having the Bible quoted by those lobbying for passage of the bill that passed the Senate earlier this year.  In response, conservative activist Kelly Monroe Kullberg started a competing group, Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration.  

This Friday, her group is getting a boost from the Heritage Foundation, which is hosting “Doing Good to the Stranger and the Citizen: Evangelicals Discuss Immigration Reform.”

Here’s a quick look at the speaker line-up:

Kelly Monroe Kullberg

Kullberg is a founder of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration. She accuses leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table of being “deceptive and manipulative.” She complains that reform backers are supported by “atheist globalist and open border advocate George Soros.” She says the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill “does not reflect balanced biblical teaching” and would “make asylum easier for people like the Boston Marathon bombers.”

Kullberg decries “easy sloganeering” by reform advocates and says the U.S. cannot afford more immigrants. She says Jesus and biblical passages encourage the welcoming of some, but not all, strangers – those willing to assimilate culturally and religiously – and “also remind us to love not only the foreigner who comes to us in need, but our neighbors, such as those in Arizona, whose needs are being ignored.”

In a June letter Kullberg wrote:

The ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill will increase debt and danger in America for both citizens and guests, thus further precipitating the decline of the America we love and steward. In Scripture we are taught to make wise distinctions between the well-meaning sojourner (the 'ger' in Hebrew) and the foreigner who does not advance a nation’s faith, values and story (the 'goyim').

Kullberg recently spoke to American Family Association talk show host Sandy Rios where she warned of the dangers that an immigration reform bill would case people of “other faiths” and “incompatible worldviews” to flood into the United States, diminishing respect for the value of human life and leading to an increase in human trafficking.

Carol M. Swain

Swain is a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who has edited books on immigration and white nationalism.  She has created a non-profit group to help her promote her conservative views. When she showered praise on a “documentary” film called “A Conversation About Race,” the Southern Poverty Law Center called her “an apologist for white supremacists.” She and her supporters at the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies lambasted SPLC – she calls it a hate group that “harasses conservatives” – but even her fans at the Wall Street Journal, which came to her defense, found parts of the film “inflammatory and invidious.”  And they noted that on immigration, Swain’s views “are closer to Lou Dobbs’s than to ours.”

Swain’s most recent book, 2011’s Be the People, places her firmly in the right-wing activist camp. She says the book is “a call to action for We the People to reclaim our nation’s faith and promise.”  The blurbs at the front of Be the People let you know what you’re in for. Among the right-wing stars praising the book are Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Tony Perkins, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Robert George, Harry Jackson, and Jesse Lee Peterson. 

No wonder they love Swain: she writes respectfully of those who question President Obama’s faith and about birthers – she calls the term itself “pejorative” and an “epithet. Part of the book is a Christian-nation screed that would make David Barton proud. “We are engaged in a battle for the soul of our nation,” she writes. She slams the Supreme Court’s rulings on separation of church and state, saying, “The expulsion of God from public schools was a blow to civil religion and a clear repudiation of what Jesus proclaimed to be the greatest commandment.”

She cites Stephen Keillor, who says the 9/11 attacks might have been God’s judgment against the United States, which we well deserve. “We are being confronted with numerous national disasters and freak weather patterns. Could some of these occurrences be related to our decision to reject biblical injunctions against abortion, greed, homosexuality, fornication, and adultery?” While Swain calls her book a “rallying cry” for people to get involved, she also says it may be too late for America to escape God’s wrath for having violated the covenant its founders made with God.  “Accept the fact that no matter what Christians and other believers do, it may be too late to save the United States of America….As it stands, we do not know if judgment has been determined for our nation.”

In the chapter on immigration reform, SWain mentions testifying on immigration before a congressional committee. She was outnumbered on the panel, she says, but was encouraged by friendly faces like those of Reps. Steve King and Lamar Smith. She writes, “In light of the high unemployment in the US, no sensible argument can be made for legalizing millions of undocumented persons currently holding jobs to which they are not entitled.”

Swain also takes on the interpretation of scripture by pro-reform evangelicals, saying that the “stranger” in Old Testament injunctions does not apply to people in the U.S. illegally. She even impugns Catholic leaders for supporting immigration reform efforts, suggesting they are motivated by a desire to boost church membership. Among the specific proposals in her definition of reform are that Congress should “flex its muscles” and legislatively close the “loophole” of birthright citizenship under the 14th amendment.

Mark Tooley

Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a rght-wing group dedicated to attacking progressive elements within mainstream and evangelical Christianity and resisting the advance of LGBT equality at home and abroad. IRD calls the Evangelical Immigration Table a front group for George Soros and derides the Evangelical Immigration Table's “I was a stranger” campaign as “a masterful piece of emotional blackmail.” IRD has suggested that EIT is trying to manipulate evangelicals, which would be “a sad betrayal of a flock by its shepherds.”

IRD has also  insinuated that religious backers of the Senate immigration reform bill are just eager to get their hands on a “slush fund” of taxpayer dollars the bill includes for organizations that assist immigrants.

Tooley has criticized pro-reform leaders’ “superficial ‘God-talk’” and suggested that religious leaders should not be spending their time on immigration reform, which he says is not of the same “moral order” as “marriage, human life, and religious liberty.” In speaking about immigration, Tooley says it is “very problematic when people of faith start to claim that the Bible gives them very direct guidance on a particular contemporary political issue.” Well, that will certainly be news to the folks at the Heritage Foundation and the conservative evangelicals who are presumably the target for Friday’s event.

James Hoffmeier

Hoffmeier is Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is author of The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, a book that seems to be the basis for other speakers’ claims about the Old Testament. Hoffmeier summarizes his book in “The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Immigration Debate,” which is published on the website of the Center for Immigration Studies, which along with FAIR and NumbersUSA form a trio of anti-immigrant groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the core of the nativist lobby in America.” He says the Old Testament makes a distinction between strangers – equivalent to a resident alien who agreed to abide by the law – and foreigners, who did not have the same legal protections. Hoffmeier criticizes the “sanctuary” movement in America, saying, “So when American cities offer their cities as sanctuary from federal law, or when churches offer their facilities as a refuge for illegal immigrants who have been tried and order deported, they are neither following the letter or spirit of the OT law.” Or in other words, “American cities that use their communities to circumvent the law to help the illegal alien in the name of justice are doing a gross injustice to the letter and spirit of the biblical law.”

From a Publisher’s Weekly review of his book:  

“The book offers little in the way of sociological, political or economic insight into the circumstances surrounding modern-day illegal immigration, beyond advocating for a law-and-order approach. Missing from this analysis is an understanding of the Bible as a prophetic document more concerned with larger issues of justice. Still, Christians looking for a biblical justification for strict federal enforcement of immigration laws may find much to like.”

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious