The American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, the state-level chapter of the national AFA led by the husband and wife team Phillip and Cathy Cosby, lists as its number one priority: “Promoting sexual integrity and confronting the pornification of our culture in all venues, secular and sacred.”
As part of this mission, the Cosbys have taken it upon themselves to wage a years-long campaign to remove one statue owned and publicly displayed by the city of Overland Park, Kansas – a campaign that has included multiple public petitions and a change in state law, and has forced the city of Overland Park to rack up $35,000 in legal fees.
Now, the Cosbys are starting the process all over again, hoping to force the city to once again pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend its right to display the art in its collection.
The statue in question, called “Accept or Reject,” was given to the city in 2011 by a Chinese artist as part of a cultural exchange and is currently on display in the town’s arboretum. I’ll let Phil Cosby describe it: "It is a nine-foot-tall bronze statue of a totally nude woman. Her arm is extended, and she's taking a picture of herself, in essence sexting herself."
Here’s a picture of Phillip Cosby with the sculpture in question (the signage is his):
Last year, Cosby used a novel tactic to try to get the statue removed. Kansas is one of six states that allows for “citizens grand juries” – grand juries called by a petition of citizens rather than a prosecutor. The 1887 Kansas law has been revived in the last several years by right-wing activists to go after abortion providers and pornography.” In 2006 and again in 2008, anti-choice activists gathered enough signatures to launch a grand jury investigation of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller. Tiller’s attorney described the process as “a perfect example of a system which has virtually become active vigilantism.” The year after the second investigation, Tiller was assassinated by an anti-choice extremist.
So last year, Cosby returned to the “citizens grand jury plan, gathering enough signatures on a petition to convene a grand jury to investigate whether “Accept or Reject” was criminally obscene. The grand jury dismissed the case within a day, but that didn’t stop Cosby’s crusade. Instead, he contended that the jury dismissed the case because prosecutors didn’t pursue it with adequate zeal.
Earlier this year, Cosby worked with anti-abortion groups, with the support of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to change the citizen grand jury law to give more power to people who file the grand jury petitions, including letting the petition filer himself open the proceedings in the grand jury and let anybody who wants to apply to testify.
With the rules changed, Cosby’s now trying again to gather enough signatures to bring the sculpture before a new citizen grand jury, hoping that the new rules will produce a different outcome.
Cosby’s crusade is far from universally popular. Last year, Overland Park spent $35,000 defending the statue. And as the Kansas City Star’s editorial board pointed out last week, it’s far from the only nude sculpture publicly displayed in the area.
But Cosby claims that if allowed to call his own witnesses before a grand jury, he can present “a solid case on the harms to minors.” As part of his case, he’s been circulating this audio recording of a boy reacting to the sculpture with a loud “Whoa!” and claiming that “a city agency putting in front of children an act, that if they mimicked, would be the illegal manufacture of child porn by children”
Cosby must gather about 4,000 signatures to convene the grand jury.
This is the first post in a four-part series exploring how American right-wing groups have supported Russia’s recent spate of anti-gay laws and its crackdown on LGBT citizens.
This summer, as part of a larger effort to channel political dissatisfaction by scapegoating minorities, the Russian government escalated its crackdown on the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens. President Vladimir Putin and his allies found support and guidance in their anti-gay efforts from a group eager for an opportunity to notch some victories in the battle against LGBT freedom and equality: the American right.
On June 11, the Russian Duma passed a law banning “propaganda” about homosexuality to minors, essentially a gag rule criminalizing any advocacy for LGBT equality. (Moscow had already instituted a 100-year ban on gay pride parades.) Weeks later, on July 3, Putin signed a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples abroad and by single people in countries that allow marriage equality. Shortly afterward, a member of the Duma proposed a law that would revoke gay people’s custody of their biological children. The bill’s sponsor said in an interview that children would be better off in orphanages than with a gay mother or father.
Russia’s crackdown on LGBT people comes amidst a broad crackdown on the rights of minorities and political dissenters or, in the words of one lawmaker, a campaign “to defend the rights of the majority.” On the same day the Duma passed its ban on gay “propaganda,” it also approved a harsh anti-blasphemy law promising jail time for “offending religious feelings.” The blasphemy measure was meant to strenghthen the laws that led to the political prosecution of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for a performance that was deemed to offend “religious sensibilities.”
Russia’s repression of LGBT people and the Pussy Riot case have provoked an international outcry, intensified by the the country’s role as the host of next year’s winter Olympics.
But throughout all this, one group has cheered on Putin’s actions: the American Religious Right and its international allies.
Even as tensions have grown between Russia and the United States, several Religious Right leaders have spoken loudly in favor of Putin’s crackdowns on gay people and political dissenters:
American conservative groups haven’t just praised Russia’s crackdown on gays. Working through several channels, American anti-gay activists quietly provided intellectual backing and international support that directly and indirectly fueled the resurgent anti-gay movement in Russia and in other former Soviet states like Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine.
In a series of posts today and tomorrow, we’ll look at how American activists influenced Russia’s anti-gay laws by funding anti-gay activism in Russia, testifying before the Duma, providing false research to fan the flames of anti-gay laws abroad, and building an international movement to back the harshest anti-gay laws around the world.
American Family Association radio host Sandy Rios spoke to Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) yesterday about the government shutdown, and the congressman spent most of the time attacking President Obama for not capitulating to the GOP’s demands to derail Obamacare in order to keep the government running.
Stockman laced into Obama, calling him a “Machiavellian, amazing man that can call John Boehner a terrorist, it’s just beyond the pale.”
“It really is, oh that he did have the kind of courage that some of the—oh that’s kind of a dangerous statement I just made,” Rios replied, implying Boehner should have the same courage as terrorists. “I think many of us are praying that he will have more courage, there’s no question about that.”
Seizing upon a video of some guy telling anti-abortion activists that he wants to live in a world "where all your churches burn," Bryan Fischer repeated his warning that the Left will soon start forcing Christians to wear identifying patches and do to them exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews.
Asserting that liberals are "the most totalitarian, close-minded ... intolerant bigots that you can find," Fischer warned his listening audience today that "if secular fundamentalists ever get the power, they will eliminate us from public society" by requiring Christians to wear identification markers, forcing them into ghettos, and banning them from running businesses, voting, or holding any sort of public office:
American Family Association radio hosts have a tendency to ignore real journalism and instead to rely on chain emails to back up their absurd conspiracy theories, including claims that Obamacare has a special exemption for Muslims and that President Obama wears a secret Muslim wedding ring.
Last week on Focal Point, AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer mentioned a right-wing chain email that says Japan bans mosques, Qurans and Muslim immigration — all of which are measures that Fischer supports wholeheartedly.
“Japan does not allow any Muslims to immigrate there,” Fischer said. “They cannot become Japanese citizens, the Quran is not permitted in the country of Japan, the teaching of Islam is not permitted in the country of Japan, no mosques are permitted in the country of Japan. If that information is correct, that’s one nation that’s got its eyes open.”
Of course, none of this matters to Fischer, who will likely continue to point to this chain email’s claims about Japan as a model for the United States to harshly curtail religious freedom and ban Islam.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer, who believes that Muslims worship “a demon God,” alleged today on Focal Point that Satan is using Islam to usher in the End Times. He corrected a caller who said he “thought about getting rid of Islam but it says in the Bible that if we get rid of Islam then the one-world government is going to move in and the bankers are backing up the one-world government,” telling him that, to the contrary, Islam is the “one-world counterfeit religion” prophesied in the Bible.
“That’s part of the End Times mix is Satan is always working to form a one-world government but he’s also working at the same time to get the entire world devoted to a counterfeit religion,” he continued.
Fischer said that while he can’t say for sure if we are living in the Last Days, Islam will be the false, universal religion that will usher in the apocalypse: “If we are in the Last Days, then Islam is clearly the religion that Satan is promoting to be the counterfeit alternative to Christianity.”
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.
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.
After Ex-Gay Pride Month was a complete disaster, to say the least, ex-gay activist Christopher Doyle appeared yesterday on Sandy Rios In The Morning to promote his latest event: Ex-Gay Awareness Month.
Rios wanted to know why the White House held a meeting with bisexual leaders while leaving out ‘ex-gays’ like Doyle, who told the American Family Association radio host that it is another sign that straight people like himself are facing discrimination by their “powerful oppressors” in the LGBT community.
“I think that what is really going on is there’s an effort by the White House and by politicians in rank and charge to include and recognize every single sexual orientation, sexual deviance, sexual preference and sexual lifestyle out there except for heterosexuals and ex-gays,” Doyle said. “So the people who say they are oppressed are the ones that are now politically powerful oppressors.”
Citing 1 Kings 18, where Elijah engaged in a showdown against the prophets of Baal, Fischer declared that "our Elijah today, confronting the prophets of Baal, is Ted Cruz and last night was his showdown on Mount Carmel."
Just like Elijah, who stood there "all day to defend the truth, to defend God, to stand for what is right," Fischer said, "last night was Ted Cruz's Elijah moment":
Fortunately for the other members of the Senate, Cruz didn't take his "Elijah moment" all the way to its Biblical conclusion:
And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.
Never missing an opportunity to stoke anti-Obama conspiracy theories, American Family Association radio host Sandy Rios yesterday used the massacre at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, to suggest that President Obama was born in the country and is related to a leading Kenyan political figure:
The implications of this are pretty frightening and of course it’s interesting that this is the country from which our President hails. This is his lineage. We know his cousin Raila Odinga is a Muslim communist. It’s just amazing. I think he’s the Prime Minister right now.
The AFA commentator’s claim that Obama “hails” from Kenya is not the first time she promoted birtherism, and her suggestion that Obama is related to the “Muslim communist” Raila Odinga most likely comes from discredited chain emails. Odinga is Kenya’s former prime minister and is neither a Muslim (he’s an evangelical Christian) nor a communist.
The right-wing rumor mill has claimed that Obama donated to Odinga’s presidential campaign (false), endorsed Odinga’s candidacy (false) and campaigned for him (false). While Odinga has claimed to be Obama’s cousin, they are not biologically related and it is likely that Odinga was simply trying to garner publicity for his campaign.
The myth-busting website Snopes.com found that “no evidence has been offered to document that claim,” noting that Odinga was not the only candidate for president to claim to be Obama’s cousin and that Obama’s uncle denies that they are blood relatives. PolitiFact adds:
"It's stretched to the point of ridiculousness," said Joel D. Barkan, political science professor emeritus at the University of Iowa and senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. "To my knowledge, they are not first cousins in the normal sense. To my knowledge, there's absolutely no relationship at all."
Alex Awiti, a Kenyan postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, says you have to consider the context of when Odinga was speaking, in the middle of a political crisis.
"Raila Odinga was groping all over the place, trying to find some political legitimacy to get on a high pedestal to claim leadership and using Obama was basically going to add some political points," said Awiti, who lived in Kenya until three years ago. "This is very opportunistic and it should be totally disregarded."
[Salim] Lone, Odinga's spokesman, said cousins in the African sense is very different from cousins in the American sense, so they might be distant relatives.
A transgender California teenager has been a target of bullying after she was named her high school’s homecoming queen, and now American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer has joined in the backlash against the sixteen-year-old. Fischer called her election as homecoming queen a “charade” that “violates every known standard of decency and normality.”
He has a mental illness, he thinks he’s a girl and they elected him homecoming queen and the school officials allowed this charade to go on. That violates everything we know about gender, about sex, about genetics, about biology, about human health, about what mental health is, it violates every known standard of decency and normality in America.
Fischer also criticized CBS News for using the correct pronouns in their story on the high school girl.
Scott Lively was the guest on Bryan Fischer's radio program yesterday, and while, unfortunately, they did not discuss Lively's theory that President Obama is the Antichrist, they did discuss their mutual admiration for Russia's anti-gay crackdown.
Lively told Fischer that while he did not play a direct role in drafting the legislation, he does believe that a tour he made through Russia a few years back where he urged the implementation of just these sorts of laws served as a catalyst for legislation.
"I indirectly assisted in that," Lively said, "and it's one of the proudest achievements of my career":
Earlier this week, Bryan Fischer hosted Peter LaBarbera on his radio program and we didn't write a post about it which, according to Fischer and his producer, Jeff Reed means ... something.
Fischer, who normally complains that we are "cyberstalking" him, is now complaining that we are not posting clips from his show because supposedly the topic of HIV rates among young males does not fit our agenda.
Of course, we did actually mention LaBarbera's appearance on Fischer's show in our daily Right Wing Leftovers post. In fact, if you scroll through our Bryan Fischer archive, you will find dozens of instances where we just dumped his nonsense in a Leftovers post because, shocking as this may be to Fischer, not every single thing that he says is something that deserves a blog post.
But sometimes he does say things that we think deserve highlighting, such as his declaration today that he appreciates our efforts to help him "get the word out" about his insanely bigoted views:
We are always happy to help.
Earlier this week Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz bought ad space in major national newspapers to run an open letter requesting “that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.”
Naturally, this prompted American Family Association radio host Sandy Rios to speculate if the “next shooting” will occur at Starbucks because criminals will now target Starbucks coffee shops: “Speaking of shooting, you just wonder if the next one is going to take place at one of your favorite coffee establishments because Starbucks is now…asking customers to stop bringing firearms to their stores or even outdoors.”
“I don’t know if people like the shooter on Monday,” referring to the Navy Yard shooting, “read the Washington Post or these treatises from people like Starbucks,” Rios said, alluding to the NRA-pushed myth that criminals target gun-free zones.
While American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer is confident that Americans would never elect Hillary Clinton as president because she is simply “too old” and “too saggy,” he now says that if Clinton should win, then she might be the “first lesbian president.”
Fischer pointed to an interview between Gennifer Flowers and the UK-based Daily Mail in which she claims that Bill Clinton told her that Hillary is bisexual, and therefore it isn’t out of the question that she may be having an affair with aide Huma Abedin.
Since Fischer accepts pure speculation from whatever source as indisputable fact so long as it fits his agenda, it is no surprise that he now claims that “the bottom line is that if Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2016 she will not only be our first female president she could be our first lesbian president.”
Fellow AFA radio host Sandy Rios leveled a similar charge earlier this year after Clinton released a video endorsing marriage equality. Rios suggested that the former Secretary of State might be a lesbian since she has a “love of homosexuality.”