Christian Coalition of Florida

The Resurrection of Ralph Reed

Religion Dispatches' Sarah Posner has a really good article on Ralph Reed and his miraculous resurrection through his Faith and Freedom Coalition which contains a lot of useful information, a lot of which I was totally unaware of, like the fact that Tim Phillips, which whom Reed c0-founded Century Strategies after leaving the Christian Coalition, is now the president of Tea Party activist firm Americans for Prosperity and that Reed's new organization is apparently cannibalizing his previous organization to create his new organization:

Reed’s FFC is essentially a retread of the Christian Coalition which, under Reed’s leadership, was investigated by Congress, the Federal Election Commission, and ultimately (after Reed’s departure) had its tax-exempt status denied over its engagement in electoral politicking. But Reed, who has managed to survive the Christian Coalition meltdown, his two-timing of evangelicals through his business association with Abramoff, and his 2006 loss in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor of Georgia, is sifting the remnants of the Christian Coalition infrastructure to build FFC.

O'Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, and a Christian Coalition of Florida board member, said that the board voted last year to “come under the umbrella of” the FFC. For an organization that was low on funds, said Dozier, it was “a great opportunity that we felt we couldn’t pass up.”

Now Dozier also serves on the FFC board, and says that the affiliation brings “more fundraising capabilities. With Faith and Freedom and with Ralph being known as he is, we can get more conservatives involved and coming to functions that we have in order to raise funds,” both locally and nationally. “It costs a lot of money to print voter guides,” he chuckled.

Also rather amazing is the fact that nobody in the movement is particularly concerned about Reed's Jack Abramoff-related double-dealings:

Yet Reed continues to elicit effusive praise from fellow evangelicals. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody claims FFC “is indeed poised to be a major player in the 2010 and 2012 elections.” About Reed’s association with Abramoff, [Iowa Christian Alliance president Steve] Scheffler told RD, “if you look at the whole explanation it was a nonissue, it was the press that made something out of nothing that was there.” He added that Iowa activists were “excited” that Reed was the master of ceremonies for the Iowa Christian Alliance’s fundraiser this week, at which Rick Santorum was the keynote speaker.

Cindy Costa, the Republican National Committeewoman for South Carolina and former Christian Coalition activist, told RD that Reed is a “fine gentleman” and “helpful to the conservative movement.” After an FFC organizing event in Tennessee last week, Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the FFC “one of the most important forces for sound public policy in America in the coming years.” And GOP operative Chip Saltsman, forced to pull out of the race for Republican National Committee chair last year after he distributed a “Barack the Magic Negro” CD, added that FFC “has already been effective in identifying and turning out conservative voters and we’re pleased to bring it to Tennessee.”

But rest assured that even though Reed might be seeking to tie his current activism to the Tea Party movement, he isn't abandoning his Religious Right foundation:

Reed went on to claim that not running the country on a Judeo-Christian moral code is actually contrary to democracy. “So really, when you really get right down to it, James,” he said, “democracy doesn’t really work at all unless there is a citizenry animated by a moral code that derives from their faith in God. That’s what makes the whole thing work because otherwise, the government has to tell everybody what to do.”

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

FL Christian Coalition Leader Who Worried About Obama's "Muslim Roots" Running For Office

Are you familiar with the name Dennis Baxley?  He's a former Florida legislator who took over the Florida Christian Coalition in 2008, a position he held until last summer when he resigned to promote Republican Senate hopeful Marco Rubio's campaign.  Back in 2008, Baxley made news for saying that Barack Obama's "Muslim roots and training" were "pretty scary" to everyday Christians.

Well, he's decided to make his try and get his old seat back in the state legislature:

Former Florida Christian Coalition leader Dennis Baxley confirmed he is running for re-election to the state House.

Baxley, a conservative Republican from Ocala, served in the state House from 2000-2008 and as the executive director of the Christian Coalition until May.

The funeral director raised eyebrows prior to the presidential election when he told The Miami Herald how he and other Christians perceived then-candidate Barack Obama: “He’s pretty scary to us.”

Baxley is running for his old District 24 seat because incumbent Rep. Kurt Kelly has jumped into the race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal Democrat who defeated a four-term incumbent Republican in his election to Congress last year.

For the record, Baxley did more than raise eyebrows when he said Obama was scary ... mainly because he said a lot more than that:

Here's what Dennis Baxley, a former state legislator from Ocala and the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, one of the most prominent groups on the religious right, said during an interview with the Miami Herald about Obama's outreach to the Christian community:

"He's pretty scary to us,'' he said. "I think his Muslim roots and training -- while they try to minimize it -- it's there."

Asked what he meant, Baxley pointed to Obama's childhood stint in Indonesia and his Muslim relatives.

"That concerns me particularly in the period of history we are living in, when there's an active movement by radical Muslims to occupy us,'' Baxley said of Obama's background. "That whole way of life is all about submission. It concerns me that someone rooted in those beginnings, how it might have affected their outlook. That's what scary for me."

Baxley on Obama's trip to Europe: "I think you can tell from his appeal and how a lot of the media emphasized how loved he is in other places. I'm very concerned that our own American values rooted in Christian principles be protected. It's fine with me if he wants to run for chancellor of Germany or chief of the European union, but not for president of the United States. I'm concerned about someone who has those global priorities. I just want someone who will take those responsibilities of preserving American values and American culture and not try to make us citizens of the world."

On Obama's description of himself as a devout Christian: "I don't want to pass judgment. I take him at face value. I do look at his story and where he's been, and the influence of the Rev. Wright-type of Christianity, and I'm not sure that's what I relate to...He wants to tax the rich more and redistribute wealth to other people -- where I come from that's socialism. Karl Marx was not a Christian."

Asked if he speaks in public about Obama's "Muslim roots'': "I really don't talk about candidates. I talk about issues. My greatest challenge is not Obama, it's apathy. I'm trying to get values voters to rise out of their apathy and participate...I can't speak for anyone else but I'm probably typical of all of the people who are suspect of those Muslim roots. We all know what early intervention with children is all about, and I am really wondering what the influence was on him from his father's background and being in a Muslim country. I'm not cooking up some plot about Muslims trying to inject a leader into our country but I am wondering how it influences his thinking."

Correction: Originally, I stated that Baxley was running for Congress, when he is actually running for a seat in the state legislature. I've updated the post to correct that mistake.

Land: Obama and Company Are Literally Nazis

Generally, when Right Wing activists and leader are attacking President Obama and Democratic policies as utterly evil, they say that such policies are similar to what the Nazis did. 

But not Richard Land, who recently declared that Obama's healthcare reform effort is exactly the same as what the Nazis did and proclaimed that Ezekiel Emanuel was just like Josef Mengele:

President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders of Congress are advocating healthcare reform that will result in rationing of care, making them guilty of the same ideology that fueled the Nazi Holocaust, Richard Land told the Christian Coalition of Florida at a Sept. 26 banquet in Orlando.

“I want to put it to you bluntly. What they are attempting to do in healthcare, particularly in treating the elderly, is not something like what the Nazis did. It is precisely what the Nazis did,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Land was the keynote speaker for the 20th anniversary “God and Country Banquet” of the Christian Coalition of Florida.

“Let’s remember,” Land added, “the first 10,000 victims of the Holocaust were not Jews, they were mentally handicapped German children who were gassed and burned in ovens because they were considered to have … lives unworthy of life,” citing the Nazi ideology used to rationalize the Holocaust.

...

Land said he has bestowed on Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the president’s chief healthcare advisor, the “Dr. Josef Mengele Award” for his advocacy of healthcare rationing. Mengele was the German SS officer and medical doctor dubbed the “Angel of Death” for his role in the Holocaust.

“We are faced with what I call ‘biological bigotry’ and it is every bit as pernicious, every bit as evil, every bit as destructive as the racial and ethnic bigotry that has plagued us in the past,” he said.

...

“The Nazis said people should be euthanized when they had lives unworthy of life. … Well, at the very least Dr. Emanuel, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, [Sen.] Max Baucus and President Obama are saying that some people have lives less worthy of life. And the older you are, the sicker you are, the less valuable your life is and the more likely they want to terminate your care,” Land said.

Land said Americans are at a “desperate fork in the road. And it’s not a fork that goes left and right; it’s a fork that goes up and down. We will either reclaim our country or we will live to walk the streets of our cities and they’ll have the same names, but we will be strangers in a strange land. And we’ll not recognize it, but only remember the America that was.”

Via AU.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Club for Growth has nominated Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for its Comrade of the Month Award for May. It's not meant as a compliment.
  • Speaking of Crist, Dennis Baxley has resigned his position as executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida in order to work full-time in promoting Marco Rubio, Crist's Republican primary opponent.
  • Promise Keepers is expanding its mission: "This event is going to honor women ... We’re going to honor the poor, the oppressed, and the needy. We’re going to honor the believing Jew."
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry has put his name on a fundraising letter for Grover Norquist's anti-tax group, Americans for Tax Reform, denouncing "an over-reaching liberal federal government."
  • Finally, Religion News Service reports that anti-marriage activists see ballot as their last hope for stopping the spread of marriage equality:
  • "The integrity of our most fundamental institutions is in question and needs to be in question," says Mike Heath, executive director of the Maine Family Policy Council, an evangelical Christian lobbying group.

    "I see our institutions as having become openly hostile (to religious views). They're responsive to the elite and moneyed interests that dominate our statehouse. ... The only hope here is the people."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • California State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, one of Proposition 8's strongest supporters, has maneuvered his way into the leadership of the Republican caucus after state Senator Dave Cogdill was ousted for his support of last week's budget deal.
  • The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission proclaims that Hollywood has declared war on God and that "to say that God loves everyone regardless of their willful, sinful rebellion is blasphemous."
  • The Arkansas Times profiles Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas Family Council, and his role in helping to pass the state's anti-gay adoption measure last November.
  • Tom Tancredo says that Gov. Bobby Jindal's presidential aspirations are over and that Grover Norquist ought to be in jail.
  • Finally, among the individuals Fl. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed to the state's census panel is Dennis Baxley, director of the Christian Coalition of Florida.

Welcome Back, Christian Coalition

The Christian Coalition has had its share of problems in recent years. Ever since Ralph Reed left, the Coalition has been in a freefall, watching as state chapters sever their ties with the national organization and then start suing each other and then trying to hire a new president to turn everythying around, only to have him resign before ever taking office because they are unwilling to consider broadening their agenda.

It was into this chaos that Dennis Baxley stepped when he took over the Christian Coalition of Florida earlier this year, seemingly fully aware of the organization’s increasing irrelevance:

Until the Christian Coalition shows again that its endorsed candidates can win major offices, Baxley said, its influence will be negligible.

"Is anyone going to care what grade they get from the Christian Coalition?" Baxley asked. 

But Baxley has been working hard to turn that around and got off to a good start by getting Mike Huckabee to headline their God and Country Gala back in July.  And now it looks like Baxley is doing his part to recapture some of the Coalition’s former glory by experimenting with the Right’s standard means of generating coverage for itself: saying stupid things in the press

Here's what Dennis Baxley, a former state legislator from Ocala and the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, one of the most prominent groups on the religious right, said during an interview with the Miami Herald about Obama's outreach to the Christian community:

"He's pretty scary to us,'' he said. "I think his Muslim roots and training -- while they try to minimize it -- it's there."

Asked what he meant, Baxley pointed to Obama's childhood stint in Indonesia and his Muslim relatives.

"That concerns me particularly in the period of history we are living in, when there's an active movement by radical Muslims to occupy us,'' Baxley said of Obama's background. "That whole way of life is all about submission. It concerns me that someone rooted in those beginnings, how it might have affected their outlook. That's what scary for me."

Baxley on Obama's trip to Europe: "I think you can tell from his appeal and how a lot of the media emphasized how loved he is in other places. I'm very concerned that our own American values rooted in Christian principles be protected. It's fine with me if he wants to run for chancellor of Germany or chief of the European union, but not for president of the United States. I'm concerned about someone who has those global priorities. I just want someone who will take those responsibilities of preserving American values and American culture and not try to make us citizens of the world."

On Obama's description of himself as a devout Christian: "I don't want to pass judgment. I take him at face value. I do look at his story and where he's been, and the influence of the Rev. Wright-type of Christianity, and I'm not sure that's what I relate to...He wants to tax the rich more and redistribute wealth to other people -- where I come from that's socialism. Karl Marx was not a Christian."

Asked if he speaks in public about Obama's "Muslim roots'': "I really don't talk about candidates. I talk about issues. My greatest challenge is not Obama, it's apathy. I'm trying to get values voters to rise out of their apathy and participate...I can't speak for anyone else but I'm probably typical of all of the people who are suspect of those Muslim roots. We all know what early intervention with children is all about, and I am really wondering what the influence was on him from his father's background and being in a Muslim country. I'm not cooking up some plot about Muslims trying to inject a leader into our country but I am wondering how it influences his thinking."

Romney Picks Up Where He Left Off

In the early going, before the entrance of Fred Thompson and the rise of Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney set out to be the preferred candidate of the Religious Right.  And he was well positioned to do so, since Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were (and are) widely reviled by the Religious Right establishment and their supporters.  

Back then, Romney was hard at work meeting with Jerry Falwell and others, hobnobbing with right-wing leaders at their events, and buying victories in conservative straw polls.  But then Fred Thompson appeared on the scene and began siphoning off potential right-wing supporters while Mike Huckabee staked his claim as the most religious candidate in the field on his way to winning the support of a wide-range of Religious Right leaders.  

Through it all, Romney plodded along, picking up a handful of right-wing backer here and there, but the pickings were slim.  But now, with Thompson out of the race, it looks like things might be turning around for his campaign:

Joining Romney for President after having served as National Co-Chair of Lawyers for Fred Thompson, Victoria Toensing said, "Appointing strong judges is one of our President's most important responsibilities. The next President will make a number of appointments, and I am confident Governor Romney will nominate judges in the mold of President Bush's nominees, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. I am proud to work with Governor Romney and this outstanding group of legal minds."

Also joining the Advisory committee from Lawyers for Fred Thompson are Lizette D. Benedi, Rachel L. Brand, Reginald Brown, Charles J. Cooper, Joseph E. diGenova, Michael R. Dimino, Viet D. Dinh, Noel J. Francisco and Eileen J. O'Connor.

And with Huckabee’s campaign slowly collapsing due to lack of funds, Romney is able to starting picking up the support of right-wing leaders once again

Dennis Baxley, David Caton, Carole Griffin and Anthony Verdugo, representing over fifty years of combined pro-family leadership in Florida, support Mitt Romney in the Florida Presidential Preference Primary.

Mitt Romney is clearly the most conservative candidate among the top three competitive candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) appearing on the Florida Presidential Preference ballot in Florida.

Dennis Baxley is the incoming Executive Director for Christian Coalition of Florida and former Florida State Representative for District 24.

David Caton is the Executive Director of Florida Family Association.

Carole Griffin is a pro-family lobbyist in Tallahassee and heads the Eagle Forum in Florida.

Anthony Verdugo is the president of Christian Family Coalition.

So, with the field thinning, things are starting to look up for Romney, at least as far as being the Republican candidate most willing and able to pander to the Right is concerned.

The Dangers of Relying on the Right For Your News

As we have noted before, right-wing groups around the country are inundating judicial candidates with questionnaires demanding to know their views on everything from the right to choose to marriage equality.    

There has been some debate in Florida about whether it is appropriate for candidates running for seats on local courts to answer these questions since doing so could create the appearance of having pre-judged issues that might come before them should they win election to the bench.

Focus on the Family is reporting that the state’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has decided that judicial candidates can indeed answer such questions

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee notified judicial candidates that it's OK to answer questions and express their views to assist voters in making educated choices.

The resolution came in response to an inquiry whether candidates should respond to questionnaires from the Florida Family Policy Council and the Christian Coalition of Florida. 

The six-page decision indicated that "answers do not constitute a promise that the candidate will rule a certain way in a case." 

James Bopp, Jr., counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech, said the committee's decision echoes the First Amendment. 

"This is a victory for all involved," he said. "Judicial candidates can exercise their First Amendment right to speak, and voters can make informed decisions about whom to vote for on election day." 

If you were just to have read FOF’s report, you’d have no idea that the Advisory Committee’s decision was actually far more measured  

Was He Trying To Get Them In Trouble?

One has to wonder what Michael Blake, a candidate for Seminole County Commission, was thinking when he issued a flyer that seemed to indicate that he had received the endorsement of the Christian Coalition of Florida, causing the Coalition to hurriedly explain that it had issued no such endorsement

"Our organization never endorses candidates, yet a mailer was recently sent by Blake that is misleading many voters into thinking that he has been endorsed by the Christian Coalition," the recorded message from executive director Bill Stephens said in part.

Considering that the Christian Coalition has had some unpleasant run-ins with the Federal Election Commission in the past, it is not hard to understand why the Florida chapter reacted so swiftly.  

The story of what happened is actually pretty entertaining

Blake said he was surprised and disappointed at the response to the flier, which includes an endorsement from Christian Coalition board member Christine Moore, who also is a paid consultant running Blake's campaign.

"The mailer says what it says and is not misleading in any way," Blake said. "Christian Coalition board members [individually] are routinely involved in politics and make endorsements."

Moore, a founding member of the Christian Coalition of Florida in 1990, has run several successful campaigns through her company, Discovery Group, including two County Commission campaigns in 2004.

Getting the endorsement of one’s own campaign consultant is usually not the sort of thing a candidate would trumpet, which is probably why Blake played down the consultant’s role in his campaign and played up her ties to the Christian Coalition.

Considering that “at least 40 people … called the [Christian Coalition] last week” out of concern about the supposed endorsement, Blake’s claim that the flyer was “not misleading in any way” defies reason – it obviously misled at least 40 people.  

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