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Ted Cruz Meeting David Lane's Religious Test For The Presidency

We’ve been covering the political organizing of Christian-nation advocate David Lane, and the way that Republican presidential hopefuls flock to his events in important primary states like Iowa and South Carolina. Recent news reports make it even clearer that one of Lane’s goals is to establish a de facto religious test for the Republican presidential campaign – a violation of the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and the first of our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s “12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics.”

Ted Cruz, who appeared at a Lane-organized event in Iowa this summer, spoke at Lane’s “Rediscovering God in America” event in South Carolina on Monday along with an array of Religious Right figures. Before the event Lane had described the goal:

“Everyone knows what they’re running for,’’ Lane said. “We want to know where you are coming from. What we’re looking for is what’s behind the curtain.’’

Thanks to Cruz and his father, it’s pretty clear “what’s behind the curtain” when it comes to Cruz’s faith – a belief that he has been anointed by God to help lead America.  US News reports on Monday’s event in South Carolina:

…during a gathering of 400 South Carolina pastors here Monday, attendees laid their hands upon Sen. Ted Cruz and asked God to grant him the strength to continue to be “as bold as a lion” and “fearless before all men.”

The Texas freshman now famous for his role in the government shutdown gave every indication he’d do all in his power to make sure their prayers are answered.

In his speech, Cruz delivered a clarion call to defend a litany of important causes to the evangelical leaders in the room: From the Ten Commandments and ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance to standing with Israel, in support of traditional marriage and against abortion.

The religious standard to which Lane plans to hold presidential contenders, and his fondness for Cruz, were even more explicit in comments reported in the New York Times this weekend. Lane is describing the Iowa event at which Cruz and Rand Paul appeared:

“One of the pastors said to Rand, ‘We’ve beat all around this, I don’t want to beat all around this anymore, let’s be real specific: Would you define yourself as born again?’” recalled David Lane, a Christian conservative organizer. “He said, ‘I’m born again.’ ”

Still, Mr. Lane underscored the advantage Mr. Cruz has with some evangelicals. Asked about the Texas senator’s faith, he responded, “Cruz is obviously born again and goes to First Baptist Houston.”

Lane wants to make sure that there’s no repeat of the GOP’s nomination of anyone who is not “born again” in a manner that meets his approval. During the last presidential campaign, Lane was deeply troubled by Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. When Rick Perry backer Robert Jeffress made anti-Mormon statements, Lane wrote that “juxtaposing traditional Christianity to the false god of Mormonism, is very important in the larger scheme of things.”

If Cruz or any of the Republican presidential hopefuls has any problems with Lane’s divisive approach to religion and politics, they’re keeping it to themselves.

Anti-Gay Groups Rev Up Anti-ENDA Rhetoric As Senate Vote Nears

As RWW has been documenting, anti-gay groups have been getting wildly over the top in their denunciations of the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act, which would add to federal anti-discrimination law protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  With a procedural vote in the Senate scheduled as early as Monday evening, anti-LGBT groups are getting increasingly shrill.

On Friday night, the Family Research Council blasted out a breathtakingly dishonest alert charging that under ENDA “employers would be forced to reward workers based on their sexual preferences.” FRC’s Tony Perkins called ENDA a “republic-altering piece of legislation that has the power to fundamentally destroy Americans' First Amendment rights.”

Through ENDA (which FRC has blocked for a decade), businesses would be ordered to make hiring, firing, and promotion decisions -- not based on a person's qualifications -- but on their sexual expression. Homosexuals, cross-dressers, and transgendered workers would automatically qualify for special treatment that other workers would not. Can you imagine walking into your child's classroom and meeting a teacher dressed in drag? Neither can most Americans. But unfortunately, that's just one of the many consequences of adopting a law as dangerous as this one. Preschools, daycare centers, summer camps, religious chains like Hobby Lobby or Chick-fil-A -- they'll all be subject to the law, regardless of their personal beliefs and workplace standards.

Also on Friday, the National Organization for Marriage blasted ENDA, calling it “a Trojan horse built to attack the foundational institution of marriage between a man and a woman.”

That’s the same line taken a day earlier by Ryan Anderson, a protégé of Robert George and the Heritage Foundation’s answer to young Americans’ support for LGBT equality. Anderson wrote in National Review online that “ENDA would create special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity, backed up by coercive enforcement.” Anderson also says “ENDA would further weaken the marriage culture and the ability of civil society to affirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary constructs but objective ways of being human.”

Anderson and others call ENDA a threat to religious liberty even though the bill in fact includes a broad exemption for religious organizations, an exemption that is broad enough to raise concerns among some backers of the law. But for Anderson, even that religious liberty exemption is “inadequate and vaguely defined.” He says ENDA would interfere with the rights of business owners to run their businesses the way they want.

That was also the theme of a hyperventilating alert send on Sunday by former military chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt warning that the Senate was preparing to vote “to punish Christian Business Owners.” He says ENDA will trample religious freedom and “will force Christians into bankruptcy and lawsuits if they refuse to hire homosexuals that oppose their corporate mission.”

In reality, ENDA has broad support in the business community and is backed by large majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Not only that, but majorities of all religious groups – including white evangelical Protestants – support laws to protect gay and lesbian people from workplace discrimination. So clearly, ENDA’s opponents do not speak for all Christians, or even all evangelical Christians, most of whom agree that fairness on the job is an American value that is worth upholding in law.

As President Barack Obama notes in an op-ed published in the Huffington Post on Sunday, ENDA is a concrete expression of America’s ideal of equality under the law:

America is at a turning point. We're not only becoming more accepting and loving as a people, we're becoming more just as a nation. But we still have a way to go before our laws are equal to our Founding ideals. As I said in my second inaugural address, our nation's journey toward equality isn't complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

In America of all places, people should be judged on the merits: on the contributions they make in their workplaces and communities, and on what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the content of their character." That's what ENDA helps us do. When Congress passes it, I will sign it into law, and our nation will be fairer and stronger for generations to come.

Larry Taunton At FRC: US Must Choose Between Christianity And Tyranny

Larry Taunton, an author whose Fixed Point Foundation is devoted to advocating for the truth of Christianity in the public arena, spoke at the Family Research Council Wednesday on the topic of “Combating Secularism in the Public Square.” Having recently injured his foot in a stumble, he joked that he wished he had a better story, that he’d been “kicking around a few liberals.” 

Taunton’s FRC speech  recycled much of the language in an article he wrote last year mocking the “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C. as the “Rally for Nothing in Particular.” It reiterated the main thrust of his book, The Grace Effect: societies do better when there are enough Christians around to bring grace to the culture, and societies are in danger when they no longer have Christianity at their center.

Citing “new atheists” such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (whose books he called “sheer nonsense”), Taunton argued that there is “growing hostility toward Christianity” and an effort to “drive Christianity from western life and culture.” Like many speakers at Religious Right events, he argued that a big source of America’s problems is that Christians and the church are not outspoken enough.

Taunton argues that how people answer questions about God determines our view of mankind and our view of government, particularly whether government is meant to serve man or man to serve the state. He warned that “we live in a time when the state is deemed to be the answer to all things.” The notion that “all men are created equal,” he said, makes sense only in a Christian context. And he warned that “we cannot dismiss God from public life and retain human dignity, worth and meaning, because those things can only be given by God.” More explicitly, he said, “society cannot and will not stand in the absence of belief in God.”  Taunton says some secular societies, like those in Western Europe, are “still running off of their accumulated Christian capital. But beware. When the fumes in that tank are spent, tyranny cannot be far away.”

In a response to a question from FRC’s notoriously anti-gay Peter Sprigg, Taunton expressed a sort of grudging admiration for the “gay and lesbian lobby,” which he said has changed America’s cultural conversation even though it represents a “tiny percentage” of the population.  He said many young people who identify as homosexual see God as a “cosmic spoilsport” and the church as hostile.  Citing research he did for an Atlantic article on young atheists, he said one young lesbian viewed Christians not as a group but as a “gang.”  Taunton said that in reaching out to people, he does not believe in compromising the gospel, but he encourages Christians to consider whether they are “projecting grace” in the way they communicate.  Odd, then, that he praised the Family Research Council, whose approach to LGBT people could hardly be any less grace-projecting.

At VVS Heritage Predicts 'Massive Upheaval' and Right-Wing Takeover of GOP

Dissatisfaction with “establishment” Republicans has been a consistent theme at this year’s Values Voter Summit, and it reached new heights at a Saturday morning breakfast session hosted by the Heritage Foundation and its more overtly political arm, Heritage Action.

Sen. John McCain has been a favored punching bag, no doubt for having had the temerity to criticize the “Teavangelical” favorite son, Ted Cruz.  An audience member asked whether Heritage was planning to do something to take out South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, referred to by the questioner as “John McCain’s lapdog.” Heritage Action Chief Operating Officer Tim Chapman said that Heritage Action has “steered clear” of primaries since its bread and butter is working on Capitol Hill, but said the group’s materials are often used in primaries, and he praised the work of groups like Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund. 

Regarding Graham, Chapman told the questioner “I am with you” and said he would like to see some “good accountability" applied to Graham. He said he hoped one of the conservative members of the South Carolina House delegation might step up to take on Graham. Chapman slammed Republicans in Congress as “close to failing," saying the average Republican score on the group's congressional scorecard is only 67 percent, something that has "rankled a few feathers on Capitol Hill."

Chapman complained that Republican leaders were preparing to cave to Obama in the current standoff: “As we speak, Republican leaders are speaking to the White House and they are cutting a deal and I promise you the deal is going to be total garbage.”

“We are at the point right now where we are seeing a complete cleavage away from the Republican Party of the conservative movement,” he said. “You are going to see massive upheaval in the next election on all fronts…We have an opportunity to take over the party and it will be in the next election cycle.”

AFA Lunch at VVS: Call for 'Aggressive' and 'Offensive' Church in Culture War

The American Family Association hosted a luncheon on Friday at the Values Voter Summit. The featured speaker, Rep. Randy Forbes, was a no-show, though the audience was assured his non-appearance had nothing to do with ads being run in his district urging him to stay away.  Whatever was keeping Forbes so busy that he couldn’t break away didn’t prevent Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) from making it to the VVS hotel to give some opening remarks. Aderholt praised the activists, saying that the only way for America to be saved is for the country not to forget its founding values.  In Forbes’ absence we also heard from Jerry Boykin, the retired general who is now a VP at the Family Research Council, and Lea Carawan, the director of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation.

Boykin was his blunt self, asserting, “we are in a culture war today like America has never been” and complaining that the problem was with the church in general and with “Christians in name only” in particular.  “The majority of the Christians in America today are dead, asleep,” he groused. “They are not involved in what’s going on in our culture. They’re not engaged in this culture war. They are not putting their faith into action.”  He said it was the church that brought about the Revolutionary War and the abolition of slavery through the Civil War.  When he looks at America today, he said, “There is no other solution to our ills than for the church to wake up, get off your dead behinds and get in this culture war that we’re involved in.”

Carawan picked up on Boykin’s message, saying that members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and affiliated members in state legislatures are disappointed that they aren’t getting more backup from churches.  For example, she said, members of the Maine legislature have had to do the organizing to get pastors involved in a push for a “religious liberty” bill.  Carawan said the caucus was committed to an “offensive strategy” – one example she gave was Pennsylvania legislation requiring the display of “In God We Trust” in all the state’s public schools. 

Carawan said the prayer caucus favors a neutral public square and religious liberty for all Americans, but in the next breath said “we are equally committed to advocate, aggressively engage the public for advocating that Judeo-Christian values be reflected in our laws and policy, because somebody’s values are going to be reflected in laws and policies.” The founding fathers, she said, fought “so that we could have Judeo-Christian values reflected in our government, laws, and policy.” The founders understood, she said, “that it is only Christianity, Judeo-Christian principles, that provides the only valid moral basis that will secure freedom for all Americans.”

Carawan warned that “the strategy of the secular progressive agenda is simple and dangerous:  use the limitless financial resources at their disposal and the power of government to overwhelm and bury religious freedom in the ash heap of history. And that’s their plan. Not on our watch. Not on our watch. We’ve relied on defending our freedom in the courts. But this isn’t sufficient. We have to go on the offensive. We have to be aggressive. We have to stand up. We have to be intentional and strategic.”

Conspiracy Theories for Breakfast at Values Voter Summit

Early this morning, before the official opening of the Values Voter Summit, the Religious Right legal and advocacy group Liberty Counsel hosted “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” a breakfast panel on threats to the Second Amendment.  On the menu: conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama and the United Nations plotting to disarm Americans, and rhetoric of resistance.

In addition to Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, the speakers were the Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell (also a board member of the National Rifle Association) and gun-rights advocate Jan Morgan, who also appeared at Liberty Counsel’s Awakening conference earlier this year.

Morgan portrayed a United Nations treaty meant to restrict the illegal international trade in weapons as a UN plot to take Americans’ guns (false), and the Obama administration’s decision to sign the treaty as an ominous step.  Blackwell portrayed the “assault” on the Second Amendment as an assault on the Constitution and on God himself, warning that nations that fall to tyranny or big-government socialism first must destroy the family, silence the church, and disarm their citizens.  The Obama administration, he said, thinks it has replaced God in people’s lives. Asked how Americans should respond to the signing of the treaty, he said, “resist, resist, resist.”

Morgan celebrated the Colorado recall of two state senators who had supported the state’s new gun law, and she praised southern governors who she said are looking to put the “Firearm Freedom Act” into law in their states, which would threaten the arrest and prosecution of federal agents who try to enforce federal gun regulations in their state. She ended with a dramatic call for conservatives to “pull ourselves out of this pity party” and channel the fighting spirit of the founding fathers.

Religious Right Will Cheer Tea Party Extremism at Values Voter Summit

Boehner threatens the global economy w/ default, the Tea Party shutdown continues & a new Supreme Court term could do harm to campaign finance, reproductive choice & church-state separation...perfect week for the Values Voter Summit!

Irony Alert: The AFA Is The Epitome Of The 'Ugliness Of Christian Activism'

Is it possible that Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, has never heard AFA spokesperson Bryan Fischer’s radio show?  Of course not. But that leaves only less charitable explanations for the level of a) cluelessness and b) disingenuousness revealed in the October issue of AFA’s magazine.

In his column, Wildmon describes a disagreement he had with Christian author Os Guinness during a recent interview:

He said that Christian young people are leaving the faith because of the “ugliness of Christian activism.” I asked him for an example of what he was talking about, and he cited a video that went around the Internet a couple of years ago that included clips from President Obama’s comments which would lead the viewer to believe Obama is a Muslim. Os said basically that this video was slanderous.

I told him I believed his example to be weak because that video was not produced by an mainstream pro-family or Christian group. My personal opinion is it is Obama himself who has created the suspicion among one out of four Americans that he is a secret Muslim. I have no idea if he is or not. I just know that many of his statements and actions have been extremely positive and sympathetic toward Islam.

So, Wildmon has “no idea” if Obama is a secret Muslim, but says the idea that he might be was not put out there by a “mainstream pro-family or Christian group.” 

Now, where in the world would people get the idea that Obama might be Muslim? 

"Is President Obama ... taking advantage of that doctrine of taqiyya?" Fischer asked. "Is he pretending to be a Christian, falsely and taking cover under the doctrine of taqiyya because his role as the president is advancing the cause of Islam? I mean, who knows?"

Tim Wildmon, meet Bryan Fischer, who has told his listeners that he believes the discredited right-wing theory that Obama’s wedding ring contains an inscription reading “there is no God but Allah” which, Fischer says, the mainstream media has ignored because it could raise the possibility “that Barack Obama may, in fact, be a closeted Muslim.”

There’s more. Fischer  says President Obama is heading “the most virulently anti-Christian, anti-Christ, anti-God administration we’ve ever had in American history” and is leading “a purge of Christians from the military.”  Fischer has accused President Obama of having a “visceral dislike of America” and a desire to destroy America.  Fischer says “whether he’s a Muslim or not, we may not know that until it’s too late to matter, but he clearly has Muslim sympathies, far more sympathetic to Islam than he is to Christianity…”  In the same show, Fischer said an Egyptian foreign minister claims that Barack Obama confided that he is a secret Muslim. 

For good measure, Fischer has also accused CIA Director John Brennan of being a devout Muslim who is funding terrorism.

Back to Wildmon, who says later in his column,

To be fair to Os, his main point in our conversation was that as Christians we should be doing “the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.” Meaning, we need to be honest and treat our philosophical and political detractors as the Bible commands us to treat any other person – with love and respect.

I agree with that.

Wildmon also asserts that “there is nothing ugly about the Christian activism that American Family Association engages in.”

Really? Honesty, love and respect are not exactly hallmarks of the Bryan Fischer oeuvre. In fact, as our in-depth report on Fischer and our ongoing coverage of his rantings document, AFA spokesman and radio host Fischer is one of the biggest purveyors of dishonest, divisive, disrespectful, and outright bigoted rhetoric in the public arena today. 

Ex-Gay Pride Hide And Seek

How do you raise “awareness” in total secrecy?

The “Ex-Gay” community loves to complain that LGBT acivists, the media, and public officials ignore their existence. They portray themselves as martyrs to political correctness.  And they’re tired of it! So this year, they decided to make a big splash.

Unfortunately, plans for an “Ex-Gay Pride Month” in July imploded: a rally expected to draw “tens of thousands” drew fewer than a dozen.  A dinner celebration planned for the Family Research Council building was postponed with vague explanations about security concerns.

Organizers – including Voice of the Voiceless, Equality and Justice for Fall, and PFOX – regrouped and declared September to be “Ex-Gay Awareness Month.”  The culmination of the month is supposed to be this coming Monday’s “First Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month Dinner and Reception.” Organizers have lined up anti-gay activist Harry Jackson to give the keynote address, and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver – whose anti-gay credentials are unquestionable – to receive the “2013 Ex-Gay Pride Freedom Award.”  Also set to be honored is a “former Satanic drag queen,” Trace McNutt.

What is not clear is how the event will raise the “awareness” of anyone except the attendees.  The event is being held at a secret location. Organizers asserted their right to exclude anyone who they didn’t think was already completely signed on to their agenda.  My payment was returned without explanation. When I sent a note asking if my registration had been rejected, I received a one-word reply: Yes.

As I told PFOX, I had no intention of being a disruptive presence. I just wanted to hear and report on what was said. You know, bring some awareness to the event. But then I took another look at the registration form and found this disclaimer:

Code of Conduct -- PFOX requires attendees to sign and adhere to certain standards of conduct, and is not responsible for the individual conduct of attendees. We reserve the right to refuse any person to register or attend for any or no reason at our sole discretion, and disruptive conduct will be grounds for removal without a refund. Attendee agrees to uphold the principals [sic] and beliefs of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays -- that we support the ex-gay community, ex-gay rights, and providing hope to those with unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion that change is possible. No cell phones, recording devices or photos may be used or taken during the event. I agree to the above conditions

No photos. No recording. No one who doesn’t already agree with them. They must be bursting with pride.

David Lane Digs In

In July, we reported on Christian-nation extremist David Lane’s closed-door pastors briefing in Iowa, and the presidential hopefuls and other politicians who have flocked to Lane’s gatherings over the years.

This week the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs reported that Lane’s American Renewal Project is holding church-based voter registration drives on three Sundays this month: Sept. 15, Sept. 22 and Sept. 29.  Steve Michael, a spokesperson for the project, told the Register that after the American Renewal Project’s $1.2 million voter registration campaign in Missouri during the last election cycle, the state saw a 3 percent increase in evangelical voters.  He said it will organize in Iowa “steadily until the 2014 election.”

The "Stand-up Sundays" model goes like this: Pastors ask their congregation members to stand up if they're already registered. Volunteers will then hand out voter registration paperwork to the adults still seated. But each Iowa pastor will decide how to do it, Lane told the Register.

Iowa is among 11 states the American Renewal Project is targeting in the 2014 cycle, Michael said. The others are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Organizers will do “Pastors and Pews” events followed by voter registration drives in each state. Next up is Louisiana on Sept. 26-27….

Lane said Iowa may be one of the most registered states in the nation, thanks to the attention from the presidential campaigns, so he expects Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina to be more "target rich areas."

It’s worth noting that Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina are also among the top Senate races for 2014, as are other states on Lane’s target list. 

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