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Healing Grace – Ministry of Information: Resources for Interested Faith Leaders

A List of Website Resources to Help Continue the Dialogue on The Black Church, Stigma, Prejudice and Homophobia

Taco-Protesting White Supremacist Burns Cross, Runs for Sheriff in Idaho

Shaun Winkler, a Republican candidate for sheriff in Kootenai County, Idaho, showed off a slice of his family life last Friday. After clearing it with friends and family, Winkler allowed reporters to attend a monthly get-together at his compound. Winkler, a member of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a former staffer for the Aryan Nations, was hosting an old-fashioned cross-burning.

Cameron Rasmusson of the nearby Coeur d'Alene Press attended the family get-together and filed this report
The evening began like many a family picnic elsewhere in the country. Group members barbecued and enjoyed a congenial meal with one another. Afterward, Winkler called everyone's attention to speak for about a half-hour on the racial, political and social groups they opposed. Finally, once darkness fell, the evening concluded by setting a wooden cross afire. 
Winkler is competing for the Republican nomination for sheriff in a May 15th primary. He’s expected to lose badly, but in the meantime he’s participating in candidate forums and clarifying his anti-Jew, anti-“negro,” anti-sex crime platform. Rasmusson reports:
On Monday, he participated in a candidates forum at the Blanchard Community Center. He continued to insist his Ku Klux Klan ties would not impact his performance as sheriff or make him susceptible to racial profiling. Instead, he would focus on tough stances regarding drugs and alcohol.
 
"Most people don't know that we don't just oppose the Jews and the negroes," he said. "We also oppose sexual predators and drugs of any kind."
 
Winkler added that if he had his way, perpetrators of sexual crimes would be hung immediately.
Winkler has previously made a name for himself by picketing a Martin Luther King Day celebration in January, and according to Reuters, last year “Winkler and a handful of followers demonstrated at taco stands to target Latinos in Coeur d'Alene.” Officials and residents of Kootenai County worry that Winkler “will hamper efforts to dispel an image that the northern Idaho region is a haven for hate groups and extremists.” After all, Northern Idaho has traditionally been a hotbed of radical white supremacist activity, and Winkler worked for the man long at the center of it, Richard Butler.
 
Janice Schoonover, owner of a local vacation spot, complained to Reuters that Winkler’s campaign “just stirs the pot and makes us seem like something we're not, complaining that the area hadn’t “been able to shake that stereotype of white supremacists, and it's really unfortunate and unfair.”
 
But that’s probably premature. Winkler isn’t operating alone, and the Kootenai County Constitution Party recently protested a sculpture of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity, calling it “an abomination.”

 

 

Barton Continues to Peddle the Myth of Raymond Raines

Just last week David Barton was on The Daily Show where he trotted out a nearly twenty year old piece of right-wing mythology about some poor public school student who was reportedly yanked out of his chair and yelled at by a teacher merely for praying before eating his lunch in the school cafeteria.

As we pointed out, this incident took place way back in 1994 and involved a student named Raymond Raines who, contrary to Barton's claims, was not yelled at for praying before lunch, but rather for fighting in the cafeteria.

But just because something might be demonstrably untrue, that is not going to stop Barton from repeating it, which he did again today on "WallBuilders Live":

Here's a good one: [In] St Louis, Missouri, an elementary student was praying over his lunch; a school official jerked him out of his seat - lifted him up physically out of his seat - reprimanded him in front of the other students for praying over his lunch and took him to the principal who ordered him to stop praying over his lunch. Can you believe that?

No, as a matter of fact, we cannot believe that ... because it is not true. 

Land Issues 'Genuine and Heartfelt Apology' for Trayvon Martin Comments

Several weeks ago, Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, set off a controversy when he delivered a rant on his weekly radio program claiming that all the attention being paid to the Trayvon Martin shooting was "being done to try gin up the black vote for an African-American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election."

Initially,  Land stood by his comments and vowed that he would never "bow to the false god of political correctness," but as the controversy grew, Land eventually relented a bit and issued a rather weak statement blaming others for the "misunderstanding" and complaining that he had "overestimated the progress" the country has made on issues involving race.

This dismissive non-apology only made matters worse, prompting Land to meet face-to-face with several Black SBC leaders last week, after which he issued a "genuine and heartfelt apology" for his statements and thanking these leaders "for holding me accountable": 

"I am here today to offer my genuine and heartfelt apology for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the ministry of The Reverend James Dixon, Jr. the president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a group of brethren who met with me earlier this month, I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were.

"I admit that my comments were expressed in anger at what I thought was one injustice -- the tragic death of Trayvon Martin -- being followed by another injustice -- the media trial of George Zimmerman, without appeal to due judicial process and vigilante justice promulgated by the New Black Panthers. Like my brothers in the Lord, I want true justice to prevail and must await the revelation of the facts of the case in a court of law. Nevertheless, I was guilty of making injudicious comments.

"First, I want to confess my insensitivity to the Trayvon Martin family for my imbalanced characterization of their son which was based on news reports, not personal knowledge. My heart truly goes out to a family whose lives have been turned upside down by the shocking death of a beloved child. I can only imagine their sense of loss and deeply regret any way in which my language may have contributed to their pain.

"Second, I am here to confess that I impugned the motives of President Obama and the reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It was unchristian and unwise for me to have done so. God alone is the searcher of men's hearts. I cannot know what motivated them in their comments in this case. I have sent personal letters of apology to each of them asking for them to forgive me. I continue to pray for them regularly, and for our president daily.

"Third, I do not believe that crime statistics should in any way justify viewing a person of another race as a threat. I own my earlier words about statistics; and I regret that they may suggest that racial profiling is justifiable. I have been an outspoken opponent of profiling and was grief-stricken to learn that comments I had made were taken as a defense of what I believe is both unchristian and unconstitutional. I share the dream of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that all men, women, boys, and girls would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. Racial profiling is a heinous injustice. I should have been more careful in my choice of words.

"Fourth, I must clarify another poor choice of words. I most assuredly do not believe American racism is a 'myth' in the sense that it is imaginary or fictitious. It is all too real and all too insidious. My reference to myth in this case was to a story used to push a political agenda. Because I believe racism is such a grievous sin, I stand firmly against its politicization. Racial justice is a non-partisan ideal and should be embraced by both sides of the political aisle.

"Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude to Reverend Dixon and the other men who met with me recently for their Christ-like witness, brotherly kindness, and undaunting courage. We are brethren who have been knit together by the love of Jesus Christ and the passion to reach the world with the message of that love. I pledge to them -- and to all who are within the sound of my voice -- that I will continue to my dying breath to seek racial justice and that I will work harder than ever to be self-disciplined in my speech. I am grateful to them for holding me accountable.

NOM's Hypocrisy on Civility

The National Organization for Marriage has found time between its campaigns to enshrine anti-gay discrimination in state constitutions to join a Religious Right attack on gay activist and author Dan Savage, who has forthrightly apologized for comments he made when some students walked out of a speech he gave at a high school.  Earlier this week, NOM blogger and “culture director” Thomas Peters, speaking about the incident on a Seattle radio show, said NOM wants to debate issues like marriage with civility and respect.  When the interviewer told Peters he has heard vitriolic and denigrating language about gay people from religious leaders opposed to marriage equality, Peters said that “when people on our side have said something like that, NOM is always very careful to distance ourselves from those sort of comments, to say, ‘that’s not us, that’s not our movement.’”

Really? Is that why NOM promoted Rev. Patrick Wooden as a spokesman for the anti-gay amendment that voters in North Carolina just passed?  As RWW has reported, Wooden has called anti-LGBT violence “normal” and encouraged parents to beat their transgender child, blamed Oprah, Tyler Perry and the cast of Glee for promoting “wicked” and “perverse” causes, said that Chaz Bono is controlled by demons and claimed homosexuality is a “wicked, deviant, immoral, self-destructive, anti-human sexual behavior."

We have also reported that NOM also promoted Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, who Brian notes has said that gay rights is “Satan’s plan” and “Satan’s point of attack on the United States,” claimed “Oprah [Winfrey] will have to answer to her Creator” for “promoting” homosexuality, wondered if gay TSA agents were deliberately groping passengers, attacked the US for trying “to lecture the Ugandans about homosexuality” by opposing their “kill the gays” bill, and agreed with Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern that homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism and the greatest threat to America.

Faced with this vitriolic and denigrating language, NOM's response has not been to say, “that’s not us, that’s not our movement” -- it has been to promote the vitriol-spewers as spokespersons for their movement.  So it’s hard to take too seriously anything NOM says about civil debate.

Beverage Giant Diageo Drops Heartland Institute

Joining the scores of corporations that have recently dropped their support of ultra-conservative organizations that represent shady, undemocratic and disingenuous practices, the London-based beverage giant Diageo, which owns brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnny Walker and others, announced that they will no longer fund the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank. General Motors also discontinued their support for the organization earlier this year.

The decision came after the Heartland Institute ran an unsavory billboard ad showing a picture of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, with a caption that read, “I still believe in global warming. Do you?”

In addition to the Unabomber, the Heartland Institute’s ad campaign also compares climate change scientists and advocates to murderers such as Charles Manson and the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and the organization believes that "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society," a statement reads. "This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."

The Institute, which receives funding from the Koch Brothers, has also posted an impassioned defense of the American Legislative Exchange Council on their blog: “The Heartland Institute stands with ALEC in support of free enterprise, limited government, and federalism, and asks that you do so as well.” Apparently, this includes a blatantly disingenuous and hateful ad campaign that calls those who oppose their pro-oil, pro Koch-brothers agenda, even scientists, “murderers” and “tyrants.”

While Diageo should be commended for severing ties with the Heartland Institute, the corporation unfortunately has not joined a number of other corporations, including The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi and Kraft Foods, who have severed their ties with ALEC.

PFAW Foundation

The Religious Right's Organizing Philosophy: Victory Through Redundancy

One of the most amazing things about Religious Right activism, especially around elections times, is how redundant so much of it is.

Back in 2010, it seemed like every organization was organizing a prayer campaign aimed at swaying the election.  But this time, it looks like the Religious Right is focusing more on getting conservative Christians registered to vote.

We have already written about the Champion The Vote effort, which seeks to register 5 million new Christian voters ahead of the 2012 election and some 50 million over the next decade.  And now it looks like Focus on the Family is heading up a joint voter registration with pretty much the same goal.

Yesterday, Focus released a new video in which Gary Schneeberger, the organization's vice president of communications, (mistakenly?) claimed the goal of the effort was to register some 50 million new Christian voters before the election, which would seemingly require them to begin registering more than 250,000 new voters daily. 

That seems highly unlikely, especially since the rudimentary website for the effort, called Commit2Vote2012.com, says that the goal is to reach some 5 million unregistered voters: 

It's really a matter of simple math: If we want politicians and policies that reflect our most deeply held Christian convictions to win on Nov. 6, we need to ensure fellow believers register to vote and then get to the polls on Election Day.

And you can help make that happen with your financial gift to Focus on the Family's most ambitious voter-registration effort to date. "Commit 2 Vote 2012," an unprecedented partnership with six other pro-life, pro-family groups, aims to reach 5 million unregistered, pro-life Americans with easy registration materials and the motivation to vote their values on Election Day. Every dollar we raise is another potential voter activated who shares our morals and biblical values.

The election is only six months away and Focus is just announcing this massive registration effort now?  How exactly do these various Religious Right groups plan on registering nearly one million voters per month via a project that doesn't even have so much as a website yet?

Fischer 'Apologizes' to Romney, Gives Him Credit for Grenell's Resignation

There is no question that Bryan Fischer played a key role in the resignation of Richard Grenell from his position with Mitt Romney's campaign, as Fischer had  been relentlessly attacking the campaign for having hired an openly gay man to serve as foreign policy and national security spokesman.

And when Grenell finally resigned, Fischer declared it to be a "huge win," saying that the Religious Right had taught Romney a lesson and that the campaign would not make this sort of "mistake again."

And then on Friday, Fischer capped off the crusade by essentially mocking Romney for having caved on this issue to "a yokel like me," saying that his handling of the Grenell situation was now raising questions about Romney's leadership abilities since it showed that he could be "pushed around, intimidated, coerced, co-opted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America."

But apparently Fischer has since realized that demanding concessions from politicians and then mocking those politicians when then make the very concessions that you demanded might be somewhat hypocritical ... and so yesterday Fischer offered an amazingly back-handed "apology" to Romney, saying that even though the entire fiasco demonstrated Romney's weakness and utter lack of core values, he still deserves credit for having done the right thing in letting Grenell go:

I want to issue what amounts to sort of an apology to Gov. Romney. I was pretty hard on him on Friday and my point on Friday was his waffling when conservatives raised a concern about Richard Grenell - he went silent, he put a bag over Richard Grenell's head, let him fall on his sword, only said supportive things to Richard Grenell after he had resigned - it was an indication of the challenges that we have with Gov. Romney, that he does not seem to have a core set of principles, a core set of values by which he guides himself. And the fact that he could be so - I used the word intimidated or coerced or whatever - could be so influenced by a comparatively small number of conservatives ... and so I think it was illustrative of Gov. Romney's weaknesses and things that we've got to be concerned about.

But, at the end of the day, I didn't make enough of the fact that he did the right thing here. Now, regardless of why he did it - most likely, it was for reasons that are politically expedient - but he did the right thing. He allowed this resignation to take place, probably had some hand in bringing it about; I cannot believe that they were entirely passive in that. But here's the point: at the end of the day, Richard Grenell had stepped down, this homosexual activist, this crusader for gay marriage had stepped down and Romney could have taken a different tack. So I want to give Romney credit for doing that. Now, you'd like to know that he did it on the grounds of principle and conviction and all that - I believe that would kind of be a bridge too far - but nevertheless, Gov. Romney did the thing that he should have done.

Maybe She Wishes Romney's Position Wasn't So Clear

The Republican National Committee’s Hispanic Outreach Director Bettina Inclan sparked a mini-firestorm today when she told reporters that she could not comment on Romney’s immigration positions because “he’s still deciding what his position on immigration is.”  She later tried to clean up the mess by tweeting that she was mistaken, and that his position was clear, linking to his website

Unfortunately for Romney and for the RNC’s Hispanic outreach, his position is all too clear: he opposes not only “amnesty” but all “magnets” – such as the DREAM Act or in-state tuition for students whose parents brought them here as children.  Romney has backed legislation, like Arizona’s, that has the goal of making life for undocumented immigrants so miserable that they will choose to “self-deport.”  That’s a bit much even for some right-wing activists, including some of those at the Freedom Federation’s recent Awakening conference in Orlando, Florida, where one speaker called the “self-deportation” approach “cruel” and “unbiblical” and where the Southern Baptists’ Richard Land called the GOP’s positions on immigration policy “dismal” and “indefensible.”

Perkins: Pray that Dan Savage will Become a 'Modern Day Saul of Tarsus'

Peter LaBarbera was the guest on the American Family Association's "Today's Issues" radio program today where he, Tim Wildmon, and Tony Perkins discussed the Religious Right's on-going campaign against Dan Savage. 

After the interview ended and before the guest for the following segment was introduced, Perkins took a moment to urge listeners to place Savage at the top of their prayer list in hopes that Savage will be "blinded by the light" and become a "modern day Saul of Tarsus":

I would put out this challenge to folks who are listening: to put Dan Savage on the top of your prayer list and pray for him because I believe he has the potential to be a modern day Saul of Tarsus. I mean, just think if the Lord got a hold of his heart and changed him and turned him from persecuting Christians to being an advocate of Christianity and morality, what a huge impact that would have. So don't get angry at Dan Savage; he's doing what people do when they're lost. Pray for him that he would see the light, be blinded by the light, and come to know Christ as his personal savior.

UPDATE: “Gut and go” used to move up proof of citizenship in Kansas

A Kansas Senate committee put the brakes on efforts to move up proof of citizenship for voter registration – until a backdoor maneuver known as “gut and go” brought it back to life. As of May 8, it’s one step closer to Governor Brownback’s desk.
PFAW Foundation

Lila Rose: The Church Must 'Rise Up' Because 'This is Our Nation'

Hailed as "the Upton Sinclair of this generation" by her Religious Right elders, Lila Rose has been at the forefront of right-wing video guerrilla activism, targeting groups like Planned Parenthood and then releasing selectively edited footage designed to promote her anti-abortion crusade.

Rose, who believes that all abortions ought to be performed in public, has been the guest on James Robison's "Life Today" television program for the last few days, where the two discussed the need for Christians to take the lead in efforts to outlaw abortion with Robison warning that "the Enemy of life, the Enemy of truth" has politicized the issue in order to intimidate Christians into remaining silent, as Rose declared that it was time for the Church to rise up because "this is our nation":

Robison: Don't you think it is a tactic of the enemy of life, the enemy of truth, to try to get something politicized, even though it is spiritual, moral, it is a matter of life, if they can get it politicized then they think they've discounted, dismissed, or written off or discouraged people in the faith community and those who are committed to family from being involved because it's become a political issue. Don't you think that has kept a lot of people out of the fray, so to speak, and from speaking, that's why a lot of people are not even registered or involved? They just say, look at all the dirty stuff that goes on politically so they stay out of it and it just gets worse. Don't you think that's the biggest mistake believers can make is to stay out of the battle for life and not be involved in choosing our leaders and insists that we make the right decisions and the right choices?

Rose: It's crazy what we've allowed. So I think now more than ever the church does need to rise up. We need leaders of faith to stand up and say, "Enough is enough." This is our nation. This is a nation founded under God for the protection of human life because they are endowed by their creator with these rights and we need to remind people this is a country that is based on Judeo-Christian values. That the reason that we're great is because we value human life; we see human beings as being made in the image of God, human beings as being stamped with that beautiful mark of the creator God, and we need to remind people of that otherwise our nation won't succeed.

More good news on the voting rights front, this time in Louisiana

Judge Jane Milazzo of the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled in Ferrand that the National Voter Registration Act requires public assistance agencies to offer all clients the opportunity to register to vote, including those that have remote contact, not just those that seek services in-person.
PFAW Foundation

Push for voter ID marches on in Missouri

Though a court ruled against SJR 2, Representative Shane Schoeller wants to make sure that voter ID makes it on the Missouri ballot in November.
PFAW Foundation

AFA Host Warns the European Union Will Raise up the Antichrist

Last week on his radio show AFA Today, the American Family Association’s Buster Wilson, the General Manager of American Family Radio, warned that the European Union is setting the stage for the emergence of the Antichrist. While reading an article from a British tabloid magazine, Wilson claimed that the EU is poised to abolish its member states and foist upon them a single, dictatorial ruler, who he believes may be the Antichrist.

Watch:

New Lawsuit Challenges Voter ID in Pennsylvania

This week, voting rights supporters in Pennsylvania filed suit against HB 934, claiming that it deprives citizens of their basic and fundamental right to vote.
PFAW Foundation

An ALEC Bill's Journey

Bloomberg Businessweek put together a handy infographic charting the path of one particular piece of ALEC model legislation, the Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act, on its journey from approval as a model through introduction in 12 states across the country, and eventually becoming law in three. Shielding corporations from liability for causing harm to consumers and the environment is a major ALEC priority, and this legislation makes it harder for states to hire law firms to bring suits against businesses.

ALEC claims that it is just a library for bills and falsely states on its IRS returns that it conducts no lobbying, but documents submitted by Common Cause to the IRS last week all but prove otherwise. Internal documents show that ALEC actively engages in all the hallmarks of lobbying – from advocating for bills to tracking their progress through statehouses nationwide.

PFAW Foundation

Porter's 'Heartbeat Bill' Stopped Dead in Ohio

Back in 2010, Janet Porter's world was thrown into chaos after her flagship radio program was dropped by VCY America due to her increasing involvement with Dominion Theology and partnership with leaders within the New Apostolic Reformation.

Considering that this radio program was the central focus of her Faith 2 Action activism, Porter suddenly found that her entire career had essentially ground to a halt and she more or less disappeared from the scene for several months ... until she resurfaced in her native Ohio in early 2011, introducing radical anti-choice legislation known as the "Heartbeat Bill" and leading the fight for its passage.

The legislation created a deep rift among Ohio's anti-abortion activists, but quickly gained support from national Republican and Religious Right leaders as Porter organized a variety of stunts and promotions designed to pressure Ohio legislators to pass it, including flooding their offices with heart-shaped balloons and even scheduling a fetus to "testify" on behalf of the bill.

The bill passed in the state House but then stalled when it reached the state Senate amid concerns that it was blatantly unconstitutional. Convinced that she had the votes in the Senate needed to pass the legislation if it could simply be brought to a vote, Porter began holding regular rallies to pressure Republican Senate leaders to allow a vote, even bringing in a variety of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets to wage spiritual warfare as part of her effort.

Recently, Porter's group hoped to set up the pressure with newspaper ads [PDF] warning the Republican leadership that if they did not allow a vote on the bill, "we will work to replace them with people who will."

But all of this pressure appears to have backfired, as today, Senate President Thomas Niehaus announced that Porter's Heartbeat Bill was dead and blasted her organization for its unwillingness to accept any compromise on the legislation and for making "exaggerated and inflammatory statements" about his opposition to it:

President Tom Niehaus says he won’t pass legislation to essentially outlaw abortion in Ohio.

House Bill 125, the so-called heartbeat bill, triggered an unprecedented split in Ohio’s anti-abortion community, which disagreed about whether it was a good legal strategy to enact legislation almost certain to be declared unconstitutional.

In a strongly worded letter to “fellow pro-life Ohioan(s),” Niehaus said the bill was flawed and slammed supporters for questioning the commitment of majority Republicans in the Senate to ending abortion.

“Unfortunately, leaders of an organization called Faith2Action have made exaggerated and inflammatory statements...their claim that we ‘lose more than a school bus full of children every day’ due to a lack of Senate action on the bill is simply false, and I will not continue to allow this organization to question the commitment of my colleagues to ending the scourge of abortion.”

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