Peter Montgomery's blog

Can Religious Right Leaders' Disgust For Trump Be Overcome By Future Of Supreme Court?

Religious Right leaders believed this was their year. In Ted Cruz they had a candidate unquestionably committed to their agenda. Cruz was anointed the movement’s candidate at a secret endorsement meeting in Texas, followed by a wave of public endorsements by movement leaders. With only a couple of notable exceptions like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Phyllis Schlafly, Cruz had the overwhelming backing of the Religious Right’s institutional leaders. 

But it wasn’t to be. David Gushee, a Christian ethicist and author who has ruffled a lot of feathers with his move to an LGBT-affirming stance, calls the Trump victory “a major defeat” for “the Christian Right agenda.” Indeed, many Religious Right leaders and activists are bitter that Republican primary voters, including many self-described evangelicals, chose Trump over Cruz, and some have declared that they have no intention of backing Trump now that he is the presumptive GOP nominee.

The Wilks brothers, leaders of a billionaire fracking family that poured millions into a pro-Cruz super PAC, are planning to sit out the presidential race, reported Bloomberg. A family spokesperson called Trump a liar whose “despicable statements and actions” are too numerous “to count in a reasonable amount of time.”

Anti-gay activist Matt Barber is in the same camp, tweeting with the hashtag #NeverTrumpOrHillary and asking, “But what about when neither of the two evils is lesser?” On Friday, Barber tweeted, “I don’t oppose #Trump because I’m Republican & he’s not. Nor because I’m conservative & he’s not. I oppose Trump because I follow #Christ.”

A contributor to Barber’s BarbWire website, history professor Alan Snyder, wrote in piece titled “The Republican Obituary” that he “cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump.” Snyder slammed Republican voters for choosing “a man who rejects nearly every line in past Republican platforms.”

In an angrily bitter diatribe against Trump supporters at Charisma, Bert Farias of Holy Fire Ministries wrote that Cruz’s defeat “exposes the corruption of the American soul.” Maybe, he says, exposing the “corruption of the American soul and lukewarm church” is what God raised up Cruz to do. “While many celebrate the apparent victory of their amoral candidate, the darkness grows and moves in yet closer.” Faris even recalled, “Benny Hinn prophesied on New Year's Eve 1989 that a woman would one day be president of America and would destroy this nation.” Adds Faris, “It seemed like a far-fetched prophecy then, but not so much anymore.” Kevin Swanson, the anti-gay pastor who says the government should execute gays, suggested that God may be raising up Trump to be president as part of a divine plan to destroy America for its disobedience.

“Don’t blame us,” writes Napp  Nazworth, an editor at Christian Post. “Evangelicals led the opposition to Trump.”

Trump has already been a disaster for the Republican Party, essentially dismantling the Reagan coalition and undermining its efforts to retain control of Congress. A Trump presidency would be a disaster for the entire nation, given that he is entirely unfit, in character and experience, to be president.

For those reasons, it's important to set straight the historical record — evangelicals led the opposition to Trump.

Trump has won a lot of votes from people who call themselves evangelicals, but there’s evidence that the most frequent church-goers, probably the same people most likely to listen to Religious Right political leaders, have been much less likely to support Trump.

In February, the Christian Post editorialized against Trump, the first time ever it had taken a position on a political candidate:

"As the most popular evangelical news website in the United States and the world, we feel compelled by our moral responsibility to our readers to make clear that Donald Trump does not represent the interests of evangelicals and would be a dangerous leader for our country," they wrote.

Republican voters have concluded that morality, integrity, the rule of law, and the Constitution must be discarded in their headlong dash into an angry reaction against all politicians, even someone like Ted Cruz who has fought the good fight for Biblical and constitutional principles all his life.

In doing so, they have brought this nation to the brink of near-total collapse. No matter who wins in the fall, Republican or Democrat, Christian values will be subjected to even greater governmental suppression. No matter how Trump fares in the general election, the very fact of his nomination is a dismal indication that whatever honor and principle remained in the Republican party is now in the past.

Some high profile right-wing pundits remain in the #NeverTrump camp, like Erick Erickson. Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace reacted to Cruz’s withdrawal by resigning from the Republican PartyJerry Bader, conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin, is with him:

“I do not want to see Hillary Clinton as president; however, I do not see Donald Trump as a better choice. Important point: There is no lesser of two evils," Mr. Bader said. "I have no reason to believe his Supreme Court nominees would be any more palatable than hers because I have nothing to go on but his word, and that don't mean much to me."

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is probably the highest-ranking Republican official who has made it clear that Trump will not get his support. He said recently that he is resisting calls from “party bosses and politicos” telling him he has to support Trump. Sasse is trying to generate support for a third-party or independent candidate to enter the race.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, a strong supporter of Cruz, is among those hedging their bets, saying evangelicals “won’t necessarily fall in line” with Trump as the nominee. While he has made his disappointment clear, he says he is “waiting to see the substance of a Trump administration and the vision he has for America.” Anti-gay activist Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage is also taking a wait-and-see approach. And Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference has criticized Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric but says Hispanic evangelicals “are still up for grabs.” Religious Right activist Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association told The Hill that Cruz should “keep his powder dry and not do anything right now” while waiting to see how Trump behaves in the general election.

Of course, the most intense focus going forward will fall on Ted Cruz, the Religious Right’s anointed candidate. As runner-up and as a GOP senator, he would normally be expected to endorse the victor. But the ugly personal tone of Trump’s attacks, and the refusal of some Cruz backers to go along with the party’s ultimate choice, might make this year an exception.

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is more enthusiastic than many of his fellow Religious Right activists: “Donald Trump broke the code, owned the media, and inspired the masses. I will be all in to help him defeat Hillary Clinton and I call upon all fellow Republicans to unite in defeating Hillary and abandoning and repudiating the hapless ‘Never Trump’ nonsense.”

The Washington Times reports that party officials are using the prospect of future Supreme Court nominations to cajole #NeverTrump people into getting on board the Trump train.  As Miranda has reported, the Supreme Court is the main reason that anti-abortion activists are reluctantly lining up with Trump. Perkins said this week, “We can live with bad trade deals or high taxes, but we cannot live with bad judicial nominees.”

Indeed, Trump has already said that he will let the Heritage Foundation, the conservative group led by Religious Right icon Jim DeMint, draft a list of potential justices.

Right-wing activist Grover Norquist thinks Cruz should make a deal, reports The Hill. “Norquist said Cruz will stay aloof for a while but ultimately back Trump, perhaps in exchange for a promise to be appointed to the Supreme Court.”

 

'Hail Emperor Trump!' White Nationalists Take Victory Lap Following Trump Win

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been energizing and electrifying white supremacists, and their excitement is hitting new highs now that he is clearly the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee.

The neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, which endorsed Trump two weeks after his immigrant-disparaging campaign launch, is filled with posts celebrating the GOP candidate’s victory this morning. “White men in America and across the planet are partying like it’s 1999 following Trump’s decisive victory over the evil enemies of our race,” says one post, which also celebrates that “[t]he Jews are in full-on freak-out mode.”

The site is also promoting a video parody in which Trump and other political figures are spliced into clips from the movie “300” and Trump is portrayed as “leading an army of the White race against the barbarian hordes.” Daily Stormer is also glad that Trump helped move his ally Alex Jones from “tinfoil goofiness” and into “nationalism.”

White nationalist Richard Spencer’s Twitter feed is similarly filled with celebratory gloating.

White nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach, chair of the pro-Trump Traditionalist Worker Party, recently celebrated Trump for having gone “full ‘America First’ for his foreign policy plan.” On his Daily Traditionalist show on Radio Aryan this morning, Heimbach and co-host Sven Longshanks praised the way Trump’s campaign has “opened up so much political space for nationalists” and made it easier for people in both the U.S. and Europe to say things that were previously impossible to say in public discourse.

Heimbach said Trump’s campaign has also helped his Traditionalist Worker Party’s organizing because areas in which Trump does well provide fertile ground for recruiting. There’s a need for long-term organizing, he said, and while Trump takes the beachhead, nationalists will provide the reinforcements.

The fires of nationalism, the fires of identity, the fires of anger against the corrupt establishment are arising all around Europe, all around America, all around the entire world. So we just need to strap in, because the future is gonna definitely be interesting, and I believe we could have a switch in our direction even more…Hail, Emperor Trump! And hail, victory!

The white nationalist website VDARE leads with an article by James Kirkpatrick celebrating the meltdown of the conservative “establishment” and the conversion of the Republican Party into a nationalist party. A few days earlier, after Trump’s wins in the so-called “Acela primaries,” Kirkpatrick declared that Trump “is creating a new opportunity for the American Right, which either needs to embrace nationalism and identity policies or suffer slow extinction in a Third World America.”

Religious Right Leader Michael Brown: Trump's GOP Victory A Sign Of God's Judgment

Michael Brown, a North Carolina-based pastor and anti-LGBT activist, is among the huge number of Religious Right figures who have been backing Ted Cruz for the presidency. Brown, author of “Revolution! The Call to Holy War,” was quick out of the gate with his reaction to Cruz suspending his campaign, which all but assured Donald Trump’s Republican nomination.

Trump’s victory, Brown says, may be a sign of “divine judgment on America.” He declares Trump “a National Enquirer candidate for a Jerry Springer generation,” bemoaning the “generation raised on a steady diet of amoral and immoral reality TV.”

Brown acknowledges that some of his fellow evangelicals are in Trump’s corner:

Of course, there are fine people who also believe in Trump’s candidacy, people of conscience, spiritual people, patriotic people. I certainly do not condemn all of their judgments, nor is it my place to do so.

I have also listened carefully to the prognosticators who have predicted for months that Trump would be our next president — some even claimed prophetic inspiration for these predictions — and that he would be a tool in God’s hand to destroy the corrupt political establishment and do good to our nation.

I fervently hope that these prophecies will prove true and that I will have to eat every word I have written — and I am writing.

I have no desire to be right; I do have an intense desire to see America blessed; and I would far rather say, “I was so wrong about Donald Trump,” than say, “I told you so!”

But, says Brown, “it appears today in America that God has given us over to delusion, a phenomenon mentioned several times in the Bible when God takes away a people’s moral and spiritual sensibilities as a judgment on their sin. In other words, because people reject Him and His standards, He says, ‘Go ahead then. Have at it,’ further pushing us into our folly.”

After ranting about transgender people’s use of bathrooms, Brown asks, “how else do we explain this unless we have been given over to a spirit of delusion?”

I see the Trump candidacy in the same way. Tens of millions of Americans are not put off by his blatant, well-documented lying. Tens of millions of Americans are not put off by his consistent practice of vile character assassination for the purpose of political gain. Tens of millions of Americans are not put off by his vulgarity and profanity. Tens of millions of Americans are not put off by his ignorance of critical issues and his complete flip-flopping on major positions.

And among these tens of millions of Americans is a significant percentage of professing evangelical Christians, despite Trump saying he has never asked God for forgiveness, despite his failure to renounce his previous adulteries or to acknowledge the wrongness of making money off casinos and strip clubs, despite his taking offense at the distribution of the near nude photo of his wife Melania — not because he thought it was a bad picture but because it was made out to be bad.

And evangelicals continue to flock to him.

At other times in America’s history, Brown says, Trump’s negatives would have killed his campaign.

Not today.

Instead, we find ourselves with the increasingly likely possibility that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president, and to me, there is only one satisfactory explanation for this: God is giving us what we deserve and handing us over to judgment.

All the more, then, should we be on our faces, repenting of our own sins. All the more, then, should we be asking ourselves, “How much is Donald Trump a reflection of each one of us?” All the more, then, should we who profess to know the Lord be asking Him, “How have we failed as Your people? How have we failed in our calling to be salt and light? How did things sink so low on our watch?”

All the more, then, should we be praying for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Barring merciful divine intervention in their lives, America is on the verge of a great and fearful shaking.

 

 

Today's Republican Reality Revealed In 90 Seconds

It’s rare beyond measure that 90 seconds of Fox and Friends can be said to offer real insights into our current political climate. But this morning’s broadcast did just that.

The first insight came courtesy of Ted Cruz’s father. Rafael Cruz told Indiana’s Christian voters that they must choose between voting for God’s candidate – his son – and “the destruction of America.”

I exhort every member of the body of Christ to vote according to the word of God and vote for the candidate that stands on the word of God and on the Constitution of the United States of America. And I am convinced that man is my son Ted Cruz. The alternative could be the destruction of America.

The only thing new about Rafael Cruz’s rhetoric is that it was broadcast on Fox and Friends. He says this kind of stuff – and worse – all the time in his role as a valuable campaign surrogate. Rafael has spent so much time on the Religious Right circuit that he’s become a folk hero of sorts in his own right.

Rafael is an ardent Christian nationalist whose book spouts the discredited theories of Religious Right “historian” David Barton. Rafael, like his son’s other most ardent supporter, broadcaster Glenn Beck, believes Ted Cruz has been anointed by God to lead America. It’s one reason Cruz won the Christian-nation primary, lining up endorsements from the overwhelming majority of Religious Right organizational and political leaders.

When Fox asked Donald Trump about Rafael’s comments, he responded, “It's disgraceful that his father can go out and do that. And just – so many people are angry about it. And the evangelicals are angry about it the way he does that.”

Trump might have stopped right there, making the point that he does in fact get a lot of votes from self-described evangelicals (mostly those who don’t go to church that faithfully) and that it’s a bad idea for the Cruz campaign to claim God’s endorsement. That would have left us in the unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable position of agreeing with Trump. (Although not with Trump’s suggestion had Rafael should not be “allowed to say it.”)

But Trump did not stop there. He went on to spout a conspiracy theory — recently elevated by the National Enquirer after floating around the dark corners of the far-right internet — linking Rafael Cruz with the CIA and JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald based on an old photograph that some people think looks like Rafael:

You know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don't even talk about that. That was reported and nobody talks about it.

Coming from Trump, you might say this was disgraceful but hardly surprising. Trump, of course, was an early and ardent birther who harangued the White House about President Obama’s birth certificate, and has since embraced a wide array of conspiracy theories on everything from Justice Scalia’s death to Muslim residents of New Jersey celebrating on 9/11.

And Trump has appeared on the radio show of Alex Jones, who Right Wing Watch has called “one of the most notorious and, frankly bizarre conspiracy theorists out there.” Jones, for example, promotes the idea that the shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school was “staged” as a “false flag” operation designed to ease the way for Obama to confiscate Americans’ guns. Oh, and the fact that flies are “always landing on him” is evidence that Obama is “a demonic creature.”

When he appeared on the show, Trump gushed to Jones, “Your reputation is amazing.” And Jones has continued to return the favor, praising Trump and warning that Democrats are planning to go “full-authoritarian” and that if Trump loses, “this really could be one of the last real elections.” Trump confidant Roger Stone has repeatedly made the case for Trump on Jones’ show.

So there, in one and a half minutes, is today’s Republican Party, whose two frontrunners for the presidential nomination are a Christian-nation candidate who complains that people of faith have allowed “nonbelievers” to set the nation’s course and a conspiracy-theory-promoting demagogue who will say anything he thinks will help him take power.

Congratulations, GOP!

Video captured by TPM

Defending Roy Moore's Nullification Efforts, Liberty Counsel Shows New Concern For 'Judicial Independence'

Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal group that opposes legal equality for LGBT Americans, held a press conference on Wednesday with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been waging a campaign of resistance to the Supreme Court’s June 2015 marriage equality ruling.

Moore and his Liberty Counsel lawyers were calling on the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to dismiss ethical complaints that had been filed against Moore earlier in 2015 after he urged the governor not to comply with a federal court order on marriage equality. Moore, of course, had gotten in trouble before; in 2003 he was removed from his seat on the court when he refused a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the rotunda of the judicial building.

People For the American Way Foundation was one of the groups that filed a complaint against Moore last year. The PFAWF complaint, which you can read here, was filed in early 2015, based on actions he took when he began to insert himself into a federal marriage equality case that was not before his court. He accused federal judges across the country of seeking to impose tyranny upon the nation, and he suggested he might not comply with a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality (which came down a few months later). The complaint spells out the Canons of Judicial Ethics that Moore violated, undermining public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. “Like the United States as a whole, Alabama is governed by the rule of law,” the complaint concludes, noting that “the history of the state shows the violent and tragic consequences when that ideal is not met.” The complaint asked that Moore once again be removed from his office.

In defending Moore on Thursday, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver dismissed the complaints as “politically motivated” and warned that they “pose a threat to the doctrine of judicial independence.” Continued Staver, “Judges must be free to exercise their considered judgment without the threat of being attacked by organizations and individuals who wish to misuse the ethical process to further a radical political agenda.”

Staver’s concern for Moore’s judicial independence is touching, if a bit surprising, given that Staver was a cheerleader for Religious Right attacks on Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality. After a political campaign that was successful in unseating three state justices in 2010 retention elections, Staver crowed, “The justices crossed the line when they played the role of a legislator and abandoned judicial restraint.”

Moore also said at Wednesday’s press conference that this was about “judicial independence.” But when right-wing groups were cranking up the outrage machine against Iowa Supreme Court justices, Moore joined in the condemnation, saying that the conservative outcry against the justices would send “a signal all across the nation.”

Attack On Gay-Straight Alliances Reveals Religious Right's Ugly Anti-Gay Heart

Many Religious Right activists and leaders feign hurt and indignation at being described as anti-gay. They’re not anti-anybody, they insist, they are just in favor of “traditional values” or “biblical marriage.” But others make it clear that they see homosexuality itself as the problem, and want to do anything they can to prevent LGBT people from gaining cultural acceptance and legal recognition, and their words and actions reveal the ugly anti-gay heart of the Religious Right movement.

One of these activists is Brian Camenker, a Massachusetts-based activist who operates the anti-gay hate group MassResistance. During a one-day anti-gay summit that preceded the World Congress of Families in Utah last October, Camenker disagreed with activists who call for “speaking the truth in love" to LGBT people and their allies. He said that there is scriptural justification for being “insulting and degrading” given that “we are in a war.” He said the Old Testament has a “very brutal” set of rules for treating “people who want to tear down society, who want to push immorality, who want to tear down the moral structure of society.” According to Camenker, “God says those people who want to do that must be destroyed.”

Now Camenker is praising the work of Liberty Counsel, one of the Religious Right legal groups pushing anti-LGBT and “religious liberty” legislation at the state level. This year, Liberty Counsel and MassResistance worked with parents and school board members in Franklin County, Tennessee, who opposed the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at the county high school. Some of those parents waved Christian flags at a school board meeting to counter the rainbow flags of GSA supporters.

Liberty Counsel helped the school board write new rules for school clubs that Camenker gloats will “severely restrict – and eventually cause to terminate – the activities of the ‘gay’ GSA club recently put into the high school.” OneNewsNow, a “news” site affiliated with the anti-gay American Family Association, called the new rules “a way of eliminating the club, while avoiding a costly lawsuit.”

Liberty Counsel’s press release was more circumspect, saying it had helped the school board update a policy that “was inadequate to provide the necessary supervision for this group that promotes homosexuality and gender confusion.” But the intent was clearly to interfere with the creation of a safe space for students who have been struggling with their sexuality or want to support LGBT friends.

The new Franklin County regulations require, among other things, written parental approval to participate in a club, sign-in sheets documenting every attendee at a meeting, school administrators attending meetings once a quarter – all things that might well discourage questioning or vulnerable students. “When forced to be completely accountable, open, and transparent with what they’re doing with kids, and not having free access for their adult activists, these ‘gay’ clubs don’t last long,” Camenker sneers.

The reason that the school board and Liberty Counsel have to go to convoluted lengths, rather than simply refusing to allow the creation of a GSA, is that federal courts have ruled that the Federal Equal Access Act – pushed into law by Religious Right activists to protect the rights of students to form Bible clubs – also protects the right of students to form GSAs if their school district allows other non-curricular clubs. In 1999 and 2000, People For the American Way Foundation, working with Lambda Legal and the law firm of Irell & Manella, represented students in Orange County, California, to win the first court order that applied the Equal Access Act to require a school district to allow a GSA to meet on the same terms that it allows other high school non-curricular clubs to meet.

Aside from the legal requirements, the positive benefits of Gay-Straight Alliances for schools and students have been well documented. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that high schools with GSAs “may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students.” According to a news release from the University of British Columbia:

LGBTQ youth and heterosexual students in schools with anti-homophobia policies and GSAs had lower odds of discrimination, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, primarily when both strategies were enacted, or when the polices and GSAs had been in place for three years or more.

UBC researchers had previously concluded that high schools with GSAs or other anti-homophobia polices reduced binge drinking and other problems with alcohol and drug use. 

A few years earlier, a study published in Applied Developmental Science found that middle and high school students with access to a GSA were less likely to experience depression and less likely to drop out. As ThinkProgress noted, “Participation in a GSA was associated with fewer problems with substance abuse, depression, and lifetime suicide attempts.”

This is what Camenker and his Religious Right friends are so proud of denying students.

 

Did NOM Lower Standards For 'Marriage Champion' Cruz?

Before the 2012 election, the National Organization for Marriage released a marriage pledge and badgered Republican presidential candidates to sign it. NOM has done the same thing this time around, but there are telling differences between the two pledges.

In fact, NOM’s favored 2016 candidate, Ted Cruz, could not have signed the pledge from four years ago. As we’ve reported, Cruz signed NOM’s current marriage pledge and won the group’s endorsement. He was able to sign the new version thanks to a slight change in wording that seems designed to make the pledge palatable to Cruz while not calling attention to NOM’s retreat from a key demand made of 2012 candidates.

The first element of that pledge, which was released in 2011, was: “Support an amendment to the United States Constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” NOM’s key demand was very clear: a constitutional amendment that would override state marriage equality laws as well as any court rulings in favor of marriage equality, much like the Federal Marriage Amendment proposed by President Bush.

But the equivalent first plank of this election’s marriage pledge, which NOM released last summer, is a vow to “support a federal constitutional amendment that protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” Defines became protects. That word change apparently gave Cruz enough wiggle room to sign the pledge even though the constitutional amendment he favors would not enshrine a federal definition of marriage as a man and a woman, but would allow each state to make its own laws about marriage, overturning the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.

NOM praises Cruz for sponsoring what it now says is “one of our key objectives” — “an amendment to the U.S. Constitution restoring the right of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” In a December 9 press release announcing its endorsement, the group called Cruz “someone we can absolutely count on to fight to restore marriage to our nation’s laws and defend the religious liberty of the tens of millions of Americans who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” NOM pledged to do “everything in their power to support his election.”

Cruz seemingly tries to downplay the intensity of his opposition to LGBT equality when campaigning in places like New York and California. The newly nebulous language of NOM’s pledge allows him to continue telling anti-LGBT activists that their issues are a priority for him while insisting to less socially conservative audiences that his marriage equality opposition is grounded in a belief in states’ rights.

Along with the demand for a constitutional definition of marriage, the most recent pledge drops a couple of other planks: that a candidate defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court — moot after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA’s key provision; and a pledge to “support legislation that would return to the people of D.C. their right to vote for marriage” — which reflected Religious Right outrage at the time that district officials and courts rejected a referendum on D.C.’s marriage equality law as a violation of its Human Rights Act. 

The two pledges include some similar provisions, including a promise to appoint judges and an attorney general who will uphold the “original meaning” of the Constitution and to support investigations of harassment of traditional marriage supporters. The pledge Cruz signed this time around also commits him to working to review “regulatory, administrative and executive actions taken by the current Administration that have the effect of undermining marriage” and “working to restore our policies to be consistent with the proper understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

It is worth noting that the pledge Cruz signed calls for support of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, the federal version of the “religious liberty” laws being promoted at the state level to give legal protections to people and organizations that discriminate against same-sex couples. And it would be interesting to hear a reporter ask Cruz what he means by pledging to “prevent the promotion of a redefined version of marriage in public schools and other government entities.”

 

Religious Right Activists 'Occupy' Washington With Tiny Prayer Rally

We noted on Friday that a bunch of Religious Right figures were planning a seven-hour prayer rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, while a 15-hour rally organized by dominionist Lou Engle was scheduled for Los Angeles. In advance of the event, organizers of United Cry DC16 called it a gathering of “30,000+ pastors and Christian leaders.” According to the event’s website, “Each time thousands of Christians gathered to pray in Washington, DC, our nation encountered significant events and God intervened.”

The “crowd” at the Lincoln Memorial was far, far short of organizers’ hope that 30,000 “pastors and Christian leaders” would “be led to this historic event.” A few hundred attendees — at best —  fit comfortably in the small plaza between the stage and the reflecting pool, the dozens of unnecessary porta-potties standing in silent testimony to the organizers’ unfulfilled hopes. The organizers of the D.C. event had sent an email on Thursday asking people to pray away the rain; those prayers were also not successful.

The gatherings in DC and Los Angeles were covered by GodTV, and WorldNetDaily wrote an upbeat article about the Lincoln Memorial event. The article never offered a description of the size of the crowd, and the headline — “Christians Occupy Washington in ‘Sacred Assembly’” —  seems laughably overblown.

WND included video clips of a couple of the speakers praying for a spiritual revival and praying for God to put the right man in the White House next year. Of course, for Rafael Cruz, father of and campaign surrogate for Ted Cruz, there is no question who God’s choice is, even if he didn’t mention Ted by name. Rafael Cruz’s remarks were heavy on the David Barton and David Lane style Christian-nation rhetoric that also fills his recent book:

Father, you raised up America as a beacon of light throughout the world, a country that you set up on the word of God for the propagation of the gospel throughout the world. Father, Lord God, you command us to raise up righteous leaders…Lord God, you tell us to select able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, Father. Lord God, you have given us the prescription on who you want to lead our nation, Father. Father, Lord God, open our eyes….We have been asleep. We’ve been away from the political process, and we’ve allowed the unrighteous to govern us, Father….Father, because the righteous have not exercised their right to vote, the righteous have stayed at home, we’ve allowed the wicked to be elected and impose their wickedness upon We, the people….

Lord God, we have a responsibility before you, to preserve the freedom to worship you, to preserve the freedom to share the gospel unashamedly, Father, and we will fight against the forces of evil that are trying to impose upon us, Lord God, restrictions where our freedom of religion is being trampled upon, where our freedom to protect life is trampled upon….

Father we must shout it from the housetop that Jesus Christ is still Lord of this great nation!

The event closed with remarks from bestselling doomsday author and Messianic Jewish rabbi Jonathan Cahn, who also prayed for revival and asked participants to turn and lift their hands toward the Capitol two miles away, where he noted that in nine months, someone would be standing on the balcony being sworn in as the next president. Cahn’s remarks were also heavy on Christian-nation themes as well as the Religious Right’s defiance against the evils of the country. From Cahn’s remarks:

The answer lies in the name of Y’shua Ha Mashiach, the name by which America came into existence and the only name by which America can be saved…We resolve we will not yield to the darkness…We will not compromise. We will not desist. We will not step down. We will not be silent…

Cruz & Backers Exploit Broken Campaign Finance System

“Emergency: Ted Cruz under attack” declares the urgent subject line in Monday morning’s email. “The attacks from Donald Trump and the establishment are absolutely blistering,” reads the letter begging for contributions, “and Ted Cruz urgently needs our help to lock up this nomination.”

Really? Hasn’t the “establishment” been busy easing Cruz’s path to the nomination by trying to derail Donald Trump? Never mind. “With the continued support of grassroots patriots like us, Ted is well on his way to securing the necessary delegates and winning the nomination.”

This fundraising pitch did not come from the Cruz campaign, but from one of the growing army of super PACs working to get him elected. The “grassroots patriots” behind this particular super PAC, Keep the Promise III, are fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks, who along with their wives gave $15 million to get the super PAC going. Keep the Promise III also goes by the name “Reigniting the Promise.”

Cruz’s presidential bid is benefitting from the no-holds-barred campaign finance system created by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, which trashed previous campaign finance regulations in Citizens United and other rulings. Those rulings gave rise to the creation of super PACs, which are allowed to take contributions of unlimited size.

Super PACs are only permitted by law to make independent expenditures. They are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns. But thanks to loose rules and enforcement by the perpetually gridlocked Federal Election Commission, Cruz and the super PACs supporting him have made a mockery of those rules.

Last week the Washington Post reported that super PACs are no longer just raising money and buying ads, but are actually taking over operations traditionally performed by candidates’ campaign committees, like holding pre-election rallies featuring the candidate. Cruz super PACs have, the Post reported, been “effectively serving as an extension of Cruz’s official campaign, hosting major rallies for him from South Carolina to Utah.”

The tactic serves to offload costs onto the super PAC, which has been financed by six-figure checks from wealthy Cruz supporters — allowing Cruz to harbor his resources for a drawn-out Republican nomination battle with front-runner Donald Trump.

How is this possible given rules against coordination? Cruz supporters say the candidate is simply invited to appear at the events as a “special guest,” which his campaign lawyers say is good enough to meet flimsy campaign finance rules. But Larry Noble of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center told the Post, “It’s one thing to have a candidate appear at something billed as a super PAC fundraiser. What this has morphed into is the super PAC putting on campaign events, and that is illegal.”

It’s actually hard to keep track of all the Cruz-supporting super PACs. There’s a family of four separate but affiliated super PACs operating under the Keep the Promise name – all funded by wealthy individuals, one of them now run by discredited Christian-nationalist “historian” David Barton. In December the Sunlight Foundation counted eight pro-Cruz super PACs. Since then, former Texas governor Rick Perry helped launch Keep the Promise to Veterans, and some of the same people behind the Keep the Promise super PACs decided that Cruz needed yet another one, and the Trusted Leadership PAC was born.

Politico reported in February that five of the major Cruz super PACs had spent $10.5 million in January and had $25.6 million cash on hand at the end of that month. Since then they’ve been spending heavily and the new Trusted Leadership PAC is meant to replenish the coffers for all the delegate battles between now and the convention. Cruz also benefits from super PAC spending that is aimed at denying Trump the delegates he needs to win the nomination.

The super PACs wield their muscle in a variety of ways. Last month Keep the Promise hosted a campaign rally for Cruz in Arizona, and the super PAC denied access to a reporter from the Phoenix New Times because a KTP official said the paper writes “hit pieces on Republicans.”

The Religious Right’s Bicoastal Political Prayer Rally Weekend

Two major prayer rallies organized by Religious Right figures are being held on Saturday —one at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and one in Los Angeles. The two events will be linked with a simulcast “Bridge to Prayer.”

The Washington event, United Cry DC 16, is scheduled to run for seven hours and will be broadcast on GodTV. It features an impressive number of familiar Religious Right figures, including Tony Perkins, Jerry Boykin, Harry Jackson, Samuel Rodriguez, Jim Garlow, Alveda King and E.W. Jackson. Joining them will be bestselling doomsday author and “Messianic” Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz and “Hour of Power” preacher Bobby Schuller.

Also in the lineup is Doug Stringer, the “apostle” who has hosted a number of “The Response” political prayer rallies organized by Christian nationalist political operative David Lane in recent years with Republican governors like Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley and Pat McCrory.

WorldNetDaily is excited about the event, promoting it with a breathless story, declaring “what an assembly it promises to be.” WND even tries to put a good face on the lousy weather forecast, saying, “Perhaps the Almighty is already calling attention to the event by providing some freakish spring weather, with the possibility of snow in the forecast. But hardy souls will brave the elements because they consider the gathering a divine calling.”  A Thursday email from event organizer Lewis Hogan was not so excited about the weather, urging people to pray away the rain.

This is not the first “solemn assembly” called by Religious Right leaders to put America on the right path during an election year. While the Great Awakening whose beginning is predicted at every Religious Right event hasn’t yet materialized, organizers believe it’s just around the corner. Meanwhile, they say, America’s embrace of marriage equality is just asking for God’s wrath.

In WND’s story about United Cry DC, Rabbi Cahn complained that America hasn’t heeded his warnings:

In the course of the last few years, America has not turned back to God but has grown much farther from Him. We’ve witnessed a rapid acceleration in the nation’s apostasy from God and His ways. We have called good evil and evil good. We are now at the threshold of persecuting God’s people as we celebrate godlessness. The Bible is very clear on the consequences. To any nation that has been given so much as America, much is required. If we don’t turn back to God, we are advancing toward judgment.

“The fact that it is also the year of a presidential election and a critical moment with regard to the Supreme Court, raises the stakes even higher.

On the same day as the United Cry rally in DC, Dominionist “apostle” Lou Engle and friends will be in Los Angeles hosting another in his multi-year “supernatural series of events” under the banner of “The Call.” In a video promoting the event Engel talking animatedly about the symbolism of speakers flying only on United Airlines so that America can be united.Engle has held a number of “Call” events over the last decade and a half, including one on the National Mall in September 2000 and one in 2008 in California focused in part on promoting the anti-gay Proposition 8.  This one, called Azusa Now, is scheduled to run for 15 hours at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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