Faith and Freedom Coalition

Dinesh D'Souza's 'America' - The Book Is Not Better Than The Movie

This week Dinesh D’Souza’s “America: Imagine the World Without Her” is sitting at the top of the New York Times “nonfiction” bestseller list. Earlier this month, the movie version crossed the $14 million dollar mark, which moved it into six place overall for earnings by a political “documentary.”

But D’Souza is not just out to make money, of course. At a June screening of “America,” right-wing strategist Ralph Reed called D’Souza “a national treasure for our cause.” D’Souza’s last movie, “2016: Obama’s America,” was designed to keep Barack Obama from being elected.  “America” is an attempt to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected in 2016, wrapped in an attack on the progressive movement.

At a time when corporate power and profits are at record highs, “America” the movie argues that America the country is being led down the road to national “suicide” and socialist tyranny in a plan that was conceived by organizer Saul Alinsky and is being carried out by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Central to this long-term leftist scheme to bring about American decline has been an effort to convince Americans to be ashamed of the country’s history so that they will support a reduced role for America in the world.

In the movie, D’Souza sets out to refute progressive “indictments against America: We stole the country from the Native Americans, we stole the labor of the African Americans, we took half of Mexico in the Mexican War. Today our foreign policy and free market system are forms of theft.” D’Souza says this “new story of American shame” is “not just an attack on the one percent. It’s an attack on all of us. We are a nation of immigrants and settlers and we are the ones accused of these crimes.” 

D’Souza interviews some leftists and liberals as foils, including Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, and Michael Eric Dyson, and turns to Alexis de Tocqueville, writing more than 150 years ago, as a “more reliable” source. De Tocqueville understood, D’Souza says, that slavery and the treatment of Native Americans were nothing unique to America, but reflected a universal “conquest ethic.” Throughout history, he says, wealth was built by conquest and theft. But America is uniquely based on a different idea – the idea of acquiring wealth not by taking it from someone else but through innovation, entrepreneurship and trade.

In the process of taking on these progressive “indictments” of American history, D’Souza essentially tells Native Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans that in the big picture they really have nothing to complain about, and could be successful if they were just willing to work rather than spending all their time complaining.

D’Souza is proud of himself for being willing to take on racial taboos, which he calls “the enemies of history and truth.” His point seems to be that African Americans were not uniquely abused by slavery and so they should stop thinking the country owes them something. Yes, he says, enslavement was theft of life and labor. But Irish people were also sold into indentured servitude. And some free blacks also owned slaves. Slave-owning founders should not be viewed as hypocrites but as pragmatists who had to accept slavery as the price of creating the U.S. And besides, slavery is part of the “universal conquest ethic” but “what’s uniquely American is the fighting of a great war to end it.”

The movie ignores Jim Crow, but tells the story of Madam C.J. Walker, an African American woman who was born just after the Civil War and who became wealthy by building a successful business in the early 20th Century. In the movie, an actress playing Walker lectures workers about freedom and opportunity and hard work. Of course, the movie does not mention her support for the NAACP or her active involvement in its anti-lynching campaigns. D’Souza claims she is left out of history because her success “confounds the shaming narrative.”

D’Souza also interviews Star Parker, a familiar figure at right-wing conferences, whose I-used-to-be-lazy-and-on-welfare shtick suggests that it is only an unwillingness to work hard that keeps people from being successful. In remarks made after the screening, D’Souza said nonwhite immigrants are doing better than African Americans because the latter have adopted a strategy of “agitate, agitate, agitate” rather than “work, work, work.”

In the movie, D’Souza portrays American foreign policy and global capitalism as fundamentally noble. So why are progressives out to destroy America and its place in the world?

The answer is Saul Alinsky. “America” portrays Alinsky as the ruthless mastermind of a plot to bring socialism to America, and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as his equally ruthless acolytes. Hillary Clinton turned down a job offer from Alinsky after she graduated from college because she had more nefarious plans. “While Alinsky wanted the radicals to pressure the government, Hillary wanted the radicals to become the government,” D’Souza says. Why shame people from the outside when you can intimidate them from the inside? “Hillary figured it out,” says D’Souza, “Obama is now carrying it out.”

D’Souza wraps up the movie with a disjointed section on the surveillance state. D’Souza says the government is gathering information on all Americans so that it can target political opponents, the way he says the Obama administration has targeted conservatives through the IRS and other agencies. Not very convincingly, he portrays his recent prosecution for violating campaign finance laws – he has pleaded to a felony and faces sentencing in September – as part of this ideological warfare.

All of which is a long way of saying the movie is a jumbled, self-indulgent, right-wing mess, aside from the slanted take on American history. Critics have not been kind to “America,” which has a 9% rating from movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers put the movie in the “Scum Bucket,” calling D’Souza a “lunatic.”

But plenty of good books have been made into mediocre movies, right? At the screening, D’Souza described the book as the “intellectual spine” of the movie, and said it had been hard to fully communicate all of the book’s ideas and make the movie entertaining.

So, if the book any better? Sadly, no. If anything, D’Souza’s polemics are even more ridiculous and incendiary when he has the space to spell them out. For example, “Today’s progressivism is less indebted to Marx than it is to Lenin.”

D’Souza’s take on race and civil rights is particularly noteworthy given events in Missouri that have focused national attention on the unequal treatment of people of color by police and the justice system.

D’Souza says the Civil Rights movement was hardly revolutionary because racism was already on the decline after World War II.  Government-enforced segregation was bad, he acknowledges, because it represented “a triumph of government regulation over the free market.” But private discrimination is not theft and should not have been banned, he says, writing, “Private employers should no more be forced to hire employees than employees should be forced to work for employers against their will.”

“Somewhat weirdly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not merely outlaw discrimination by the government; it also outlawed most forms of private discrimination. While I consider these restrictions on the private sphere to be unwise and unnecessary, they are also understandable.”

D’Souza says the election of Barack Obama, the existence of affirmative action programs, and changing attitudes toward racial intermarriage are all evidence of the continuing decline in racism in America.

“Blacks know it too: ask blacks today to recall when they personally experienced racism—when for example someone called them ‘nigger’—and many are hard pressed to give a single example.”

So there’s no reason for whining about racism, or God forbid, reparations. “Racism today is not strong enough to prevent blacks or any other group from achieving its aspirations,” he says, adding a couple pages later,

“Progressives are still chasing the windmills of old-style racism, whipping the nation into a frenzy every time there is some obscure incident. The reason blacks remain so far behind whites, however, has very little to do with racism. It has to do with African American cultural backwardness.”

Here are some other highlights:

·         Obama: “Obama is simply part of a fifty-year scheme for the undoing and remaking of America,” he writes. So how did Obama get elected? “There is a one-word answer: slavery.”

·         Clinton: “If Hillary Clinton is elected in 2016, the baton will have passed from one Alinskyite to another. In this case, Alinsky’s influence will have taken on a massive, almost unimaginable, importance. Obama will have had eight years to remake America, and Hillary will have another four or perhaps eight to complete the job. Together these two have the opportunity to largely undo the nation’s founding ideals.”

·         Native Americans: “The Indians were here first, but they were only sparsely and sporadically occupying the land. Consequently, many settlers regarded America as largely unoccupied, although the Indians surely disagreed with that perspective. Too bad the two groups could not amicably work out a way to share and benefit from this vast country.” Too bad? “They couldn’t, I believe, because both groups continued to espouse at least elements of the conquest ethic. Neither wished to be taken from, but both were willing to take when they had the power and the inclination to do so.” D’Souza has little sympathy for those “forlorn” Indians who “seem to prefer the joy of victimhood – and the exertions of claiming reparations of one sort or another –to the joy of entrepreneurial striving” – unlike those who are making money with casinos.

·         Immigration: “Immigration—legal and illegal—is the mechanism that today’s progressive organizers are counting on to undo the consequences of the Mexican War, and make the dream of Aztlan a reality.”

D’Souza asserts that “in no circumstance over the past hundred years” has America “stolen the wealth of any other country.” It’s not foreigners, but Americans, who are victimized by the federal government, “the biggest thief of all,” he writes. “In fact, progressives have turned a large body of Americans—basically, Democratic voters—into accessories of theft by convincing them that they are doing something just and moral by picking their fellow citizens’ pockets.”

With this line of reasoning, D’Souza aligns himself with the proponents of biblical economics, who argue that the government has no right to tax someone in order to alleviate someone else’s poverty.  “It does not promote the common good for the state to insist that successful people pay other people’s medical bills,” he says, describing Obamacare and progressive taxation as forms of theft. Transfer payments, unlike roads, do not constitute “general welfare.” Rather, “It constitutes a forcible extortion from one group and an unearned benefit to another.” The federal government is therefore not an instrument of justice but “an instrument of plunder.”

As in the movie, D’Souza takes time in the book to complain about his own prosecution (even though he admits having broken the law) and to suggest that the current surveillance state is part of the progressive movement’s strategy to impose totalitarianism: “Surveillance is simply the means to ensure that no one is safe.” He writes, “If progressives enforce their agenda through total control and compliance, America will truly be an evil empire, and it will be the right and duty of American citizens to organize once again, as in 1776, to overthrow it.” (Of course, aggressive surveillance began well before the Obama presidency, and progressives have been among those opposing government overreach.)

D’Souza denounces what he says is the progressive plan to diminish America’s influence globally, and closes the book with a warning about what the world might look like when its dominant force is not America but China, whose growing economic power is translating into greater military force and geopolitical influence. Similar concerns may be shared across the political spectrum, but having celebrated China’s adoption of market economics and economic growth, and having defended the export of American manufacturing jobs to cheap-labor China – trends that cannot be blamed on the Obama presidency –D’Souza does not make it clear what he would have American leaders do to forestall China’s rising influence. If he has a solution, he’s keeping it to himself.

The same can be said for the plight of unemployed and underemployed American workers. It doesn’t matter that you’re willing to work hard if there are no jobs to be had. And while D’Souza describes inequality as an essential element of the free market economy, he does not address the fact that in recent decades American workers have received almost none of the benefits of increasing productivity. His lectures to African Americans that their unwillingness to work hard is the only obstacle to their success ignore both evidence of continuing impacts of structural racism – reflected for example in exploitive mortgage underwriting – and the brutal consequences of the recent economic downturn on the already huge disparities of wealth between white and African American (and Latino) households.

The facile ideology of “America: Imagine the World Without Her” – both book and movie – should be no surprise. D’Souza’s entire career, beginning with his work at the right-wing Dartmouth Review and continuing through stints at the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, has been nurtured by far-right funders. His claim to being a “scholar” is grounded in his authorship of a series of polemical books, including “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” an exercise in ideological excess that even some conservative commentators found embarrassing. He champions traditional values, but in 2012 he resigned as president of the Christian King’s College after news that he had traveled with, and become engaged to, a woman who was separated from but still married to her husband.  Like his old friend Ann Coulter, D’Souza has learned that there is seemingly no end to the money to be made, and fame to be enjoyed, by repackaging and peddling ideological diatribes to the country’s right-wing activists.

 

Ralph Reed Compares 'War On Faith Being Waged Here In America' To Violent Persecution Abroad

Glenn Beck invited Ralph Reed onto his program this morning to discuss the violent oppression of Christians in countries like Syria and Sudan, such as the case of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for her faith but has now reached safety in the U.S. Of course, the two inevitably slipped away from talking about the actual brutal persecution of Christians in those countries to the supposed persecution of Christians in America through things like health insurance coverage for contraception and same-sex marriage.

After talking about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Beck told Reed, “We have a problem with hostility to religion here in America too.”

When Beck asked Reed why American pastors aren’t speaking out enough about the persecution of Christians throughout the world, Reed said that one reason “is because we’ve had our own war on faith being waged here in America, not obviously with bombs and bullets and tear gas, but rather with court rulings and executive orders and laws that seek to marginalize the role of faith in our own society.”

“So if people are sitting around wondering, why aren’t we doing more, it’s because we’ve been callous about it in our own midst.”

Christian Reconstructionism And The GOP: 'Biblical Justice' vs Social Justice

There’s a reason so many Republican politicians seem to bring a religious fervor to their efforts to gut public institutions and social welfare spending. The modern day Religious Right draws much of its ideology from Christian Reconstructionists who teach that God gave specific duties to the government, the church, and the family.

According to this theological worldview, education and taking care of the poor are the responsibility of families and churches, and it is unbiblical for the government to take on these roles. That meshes well with the view of “constitutional conservatives” who believe, for example, the Constitution does not authorize any federal government role in education.

A stark example of the increasingly indistinct line between conservative Republicans and hard-core Christian Reconstructionists and dominionists (who believe the right kind of Christians are meant to have dominion over every aspect of society) can be found in the recent Republican primary victory of Michael Petrouka in a race for a county council seat in an Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Peroutka believes that any law that runs counter to God’s law is invalid, and that the Maryland General Assembly is itself no longer a valid legislative body. Here’s a concise summation of his approach to government:

Since civil government is ordained by God in order to protect God-given rights, then the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.

It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give heath care to…ANYBODY!

This religion-inflected ideological view of government is not relegated to inhabitants of the far-right fringe like Peroutka. David Barton, an influential Republican activist and “historian” who helped write the GOP’s national platform in 2012, claims that the Constitution was drawn directly from the Bible and the sermons of colonial preachers, and that its focus on individual freedom reflects the founders’ theology of individual salvation. In this view, the Tea Party’s belief in a radically limited federal government is not only a question of constitutional interpretation, it is a mandate of Holy Scripture.

Just this month, Barton promoted these views on “Praise the Lord,” the flagship program of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which bills itself as the world’s largest religious network and America’s most-watched faith channel. “In the Bible, Jesus has a teaching about minimum wage,” Barton said. “In the Bible, Jesus has two teachings on capital gains tax.” The Bible, according to Barton, opposes those taxes as well as estate taxes and progressive income taxes. A flat tax is “what the Bible supports.”

On the same show Barton denounced government spending on welfare. “It’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and needy,” he said, “it’s the church’s responsibility.”

According to Barton, there are 205 verses in the Bible that instruct the family or church to take care of the poor, but not the government. “The government is told to do only one thing with taking care of the poor and that one thing is to make sure that when the poor come into court they get justice. That’s the only thing government is told….What we’re doing right now is for the first time in America we have ignored what the Bible says, the Bible says you don’t work, you don’t eat.” He went on to say that people “not having to work and getting free money…violates everything the Bible tells us” about dealing with the poor.

These themes are repeated in Social Justice: How Good Intentions Undermine Justice and Gospel, a booklet published last year by the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and the anti-environmentalist Cornwall Alliance. The booklet, written by Cornwall’s Calvin Beisner (according to him, at the request of the Family Research Council), was distributed at last month’s “Road to Majority” conference, which was organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

The premise of the booklet is that “social justice” is contrary to “Biblical justice.” If that sounds familiar, you may be recalling Glenn Beck’s diatribes against “social justice” a few years ago, when he urged people to leave their church if its website included the phrases “social justice” or “economic justice.”

It is wrong, Beisner writes, to try to mitigate inequality “through force of government.” Why? “Because God ordained the state to dispense justice, and the church to dispense grace.” According to Beisner, giving someone “unearned” benefits is grace, not justice. People should graciously serve the poor, he writes. “But if care for the needy is made a matter of justice to the needy rather than to God, then grace becomes law. Then, the needy—and those who merely profess to be needy—may claim the benefits of grace as their due by justice.”

In other words, government has no right to tax someone in order to help feed someone else.

That is a widely shared belief on the Religious Right. Speakers at Religious Right conferences like Reed’s June event, and Republican Members of Congress, can be heard justifying cuts in food stamps with an appeal to the Bible passage that David Barton quoted on TBN. That verse, depending on your translation, says something like “he who will not work shall not eat.”

Reps. Kevin Cramer and Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee cited that verse last year. Fincher said, “The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.” In equating taxation for social services with theft, Fincher echoes Barton, Beisner, and others. (In context, by the way, the work-to-eat verse referred to early Christians who were so confident of the imminent return of Christ that they quit doing anything.)

Poor people turning to the government, Beisner writes in his anti-social-justice booklet, results in “the stultifying effects of wealth redistribution by the coercive power of the state.” Even worse, he says, “it blinds [poor people] to their deepest need: the grace of God offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This is another theme of the Republican Party’s right wing. Sharron Angle, the GOP’s 2010 Senate nominee in Nevada, said during her campaign that entitlement programs are “idolatry” because they “make government our God.” Farris Wilks, the Texas fracking billionaire who gives huge amounts to the Heritage Foundaiton and other right-wing groups, declares that “the Torah is set up on the free enterprise system” and that “Yahweh never intended for us as a people to be afraid and reliant on government.” Former Sen. Jim DeMint, who now heads the Heritage Foundation, says “the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets.

Heritage is just one of the institutions working to make right-wing economics an article of faith just like opposition to gay rights and abortion. The Freedom Federation, one of the many right-wing entities created in the wake of Barack Obama’s 2008 election, brings both "mainstream" and fringe Religious Right groups together with the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. The Freedom Federation’s “Declaration of American Values” includes not only the expected rhetoric about traditional values, but also opposition to progressive taxation.

John Lofton, a right-wing pundit, is the spokesperson for Republican county council candidate Peroutka, and for Peroutka’s Christian Reconstructionist Institute on the Constitution, which has trained Tea Party activists on the biblical basis of the Constitution. Lofton has spoken on “God and Government” at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government. In 2012, in reference to an article about evangelicals disagreeing on budget priorities, Lofton wrote that “there should be no disagreement among those who believe the Bible is true. Because it is crystal clear that in God’s Word He gives NO AUTHORITY to civil government (Caesar) to give health, education or welfare to ANYBODY. If people need help, it is the role of the Church – God’s people – to provide this help and NOT government.”

Tea Party? Religious Right? GOP? Or all of the above?

Benham Brothers Ready To Die In Battle

The Religious Right mythologizing of David and Jason Benham continues. The Benham brothers – whose plans for a reality TV show on HGTV were scrapped by the network after Right Wing Watch reported on the brothers’ anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Islam activism – were featured speakers at last week’s Road to Majority conference, sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. And they’re on the schedule for the much bigger Values Voter Summit in September.

A Christian Post story on their appearance at Road to Majority frames their experience in typical martyrs-to-their-faith rhetoric, saying their reality show “was canceled because they spoke about their Christian views.”

Now, we don’t know exactly what motivated HGTV’s decision, but it seems to be a pretty good bet that it had nothing to do with the fact that the Benhams are outspoken about their Christian faith, and more to do with the fact that they had been outspoken advocates of limiting other people’s rights – as when Jason urged Charlotte, North Carolina, officials to deny permits for LGBT pride events, or when David took part it protests against the Islamic community center that critics inaccurately dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The Religious Right revels in manufacturing martyrs. And the Benham brothers are happy to play the part, portraying themselves as targets of a demonic gay rights movement that is out to silence its critics. “If people remain silent, then it’s going to continue to get worse. But when folks step up, and speak boldly the truth, and then it can actually get pushed back,” David told the Christian Post. “You have to be willing to die. I mean, Jason and I had to be willing to lose our show. We had to be willing to lose a book deal…”

In their Road to Majority remarks, the Benham brothers portrayed themselves as warriors.

“We just remember June the 6th, 1944. We know what happened at D-Day. We know what happened on Omaha and Utah beach. There’s something about those men that our dad taught us when we were kids. And he said, ‘Boys, don’t you ever run from bullets. You run toward the bullets.’ There are cultural bullets flying, all over today, especially religious liberty. And what’s happening right now is many spiritual leaders, elected leaders, they are running from bullets. But there’s a remnant of people that are ready to stand and say ‘I’m not running from these bullets any more. I’m gonna take this beach…’”

One of the brothers invoked Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who had been jailed in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith (and who, it was reported today, is now safe in the US embassy), and then invoked Mel Gibson’s bloody battle epic “Braveheart.”

“Just like in the movie Braveheart, when all the Scottish Army was standing there, and they all had their gear on, and they were lined up and they were unified, and they were ready to fight but not a single one of them wanted to fight.  And then as William Wallace and a few men rode in on horses with blue face paint on. They were ready to pick a fight. And what I see before me right now are a bunch of people with some blue face paint on – so let’s go get it!"

War And Peace: The Tea Party And The GOP

It’s not completely clear why Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, which he created in the wake of Obama’s election, has decided to hold an annual conference in Washington, D.C.  After all, the conservative Christian voters his group works to identify and mobilize already have the Values Voter Summit, the much larger fall event sponsored by the Family Research Council and a gaggle of other right-wing groups.

One reason may be for the once-disgraced Reed to show off his political access: last week’s Road to Majority conference was thick with Republican officeholders and presidential wannabes, and I lost count of how many times Reed told participants how impressed they should be by the lineup.  For the lobby day that preceded the conference itself, he was able to get face time for his participants with Religious Right and Tea Party heroes from the Senate -- Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and  Marco Rubio – and House of Representatives – Louis Gohmert, Steve King, and David Jolly – along with “establishment” Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen John Cornyn.

In fact, the conference may be seen by Reed as a way for him to play peacemaker among the sometimes warring factions within the Republican Party and encourage unity going into the election year. At last year’s conference, RNC head Reince Priebus had a chance to tell attendees, many of them skeptical, that he was indeed one of them, as a Christian and a conservative; this year he made an appearance via video.

Last Saturday, on panel on the 2014 elections, conservative pundit and author John Fund predicted that Thad Cochran would be defeated by Chris McDaniel. Fund said it would mark a second “humiliating defeat” for the Republican establishment (after Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss) and should lead to a demand from the grassroots for McConnell and Boehner to work out a “peace treaty” with Tea Party activists so they could stop spending an “insane” amount of resources on internal fights. “The real enemy is in November,” he said.

Of course that’s not what happened on Tuesday. With a boost from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, and ads by football great Brett Favre – and more notably with a direct appeal to African American voters – Cochran squeaked out an unexpected victory.

The “humiliating defeat” was now pinned on Tea Party groups and there was little talk about peace negotiations.  Chris McDaniel’s already infamous non-concession speech turned into a rant against the Cochran campaign and Republican officials who sided with him:

There is nothing dangerous or extreme about defending the Constitution and the civil liberties therein. And there’s nothing strange at all about standing as people of faith for a country that WE built, that WE believe in. But there is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual, about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats.”

“This is not the party of Reagan,” he declared. “But we’re not done fighting. And when we’re done it will be. We have fought too long we have fought too hard to have a voice in this party. And today, the conservative movement took a back seat to liberal Democrats in the state of Mississippi. In the most conservative state in the republic, this happened. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. And that’s why we will never stop fighting.”

McDaniel was backed heavily by FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which denounced as “disgraceful” the money spent by the NRSC to back Cochran.

National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who moderated the 2014 panel, said the Establishment / Tea Party split has been vastly overblown by the media slapping the Tea Party label on every gadfly challenger.  But on the night of Cochran’s Democratic-voter-assisted victory, Sarah Palin was talking about a third party.

For those of us outside the movement, who see the overlapping Tea Party and Religious Right movements relentlessly pushing the GOP further to the right, it can be hard to understand why there is so much anger directed at the establishment.  After all, it’s not as if Eric Cantor and Thad Cochran are some kind of liberal Rockefeller Republicans.

But even these conservative leaders are not enough for grassroots activists who imbibe a steady ideological diet, from right-wing media and movement leaders, calling for a radically limited federal government and viewing compromise made in the process of governing as complicity with tyranny. Republican leaders who encouraged an angry grassroots uprising against the “tyranny” of health care reform are now reaping the whirlwind.

If there were a unifying message from Ralph Reed’s conference, it was, “America is in decline and the world is going to hell and it’s all Obama’s fault.” The solution offered was a combination of spiritual and political warfare. While right-wing groups have a common enemy in the White House, and will certainly work together this year to try to give Republicans control of the Senate, it is clear that we haven’t yet seen the end of the struggle over  just how far to the far right the Republican Party will be pushed.

Tuesday's Primaries Reflect a Hard Right Turn for the GOP

A Republican incumbent held on against his upstart Tea Party challenger in Mississippi, but let’s be clear: Radical right-wing candidates secured their place on the ballot in races for federal, state and local office yesterday.

People PFAW’s Right Wing Watch follows closely like:

Gordon Klingenschmitt, a candidate for state representative, in Colorado, who:

And Michael Peroutka, a far-right activist and county council candidate in Maryland who:

On the congressional front…

We knew that after Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss to an even bigger Tea Party extremist that the GOP would shift even farther to the right.

Well, they have not wasted a single minute.

Newly elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made his very first official appearance at Religious Right icon and former Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition conference over the weekend.

The event was nothing more than an extremist hate fest, featuring a butcher shop’s worth of red meat for right-wing activists from the likes of Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Allen West and John Bolton, and even pictures of President Obama placed in the men’s room urinals.

Then on Sunday, McCarthy appeared on Fox News to assure the GOP base know that Republicans are unifying around a more extreme right-wing issue agenda.

This is the same political party that is backed by endless special interest cash and will be pulling out every distortion and dirty trick to take over the U.S. Senate this year.

These recent happenings are just the latest example of why 2014 is a fight we can’t lose.

PFAW

NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest: America 'Must Decide For Or Against God'

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest followed Texas Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Patrick to the microphone at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s 2014 Road to Majority conference. Forest joked about following another “Lieutenant Dan” and said he’d been backstage crossing things out because Patrick was already saying them. Indeed, Forest’s comments about the Constitution being grounded in “biblical truth” echoed Patrick’s Christian-nation address. “My friends,” Forest said, “America is at a great crossroads where it must decide for or against God.”

Excerpts from Dan Forest's remarks:

Forest quoted George Washington and Abraham Lincoln writing about the nation relying on God’s aid, and he said that the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was “one small declaration from tyranny, one giant declaration of dependence upon Almighty God.”

American leaders, he said, continued to rely on God until Supreme Court rulings on church-state separation:

In America, as time moved on, our leaders sought the help of the Lord through the great and terrible Civil War, through a Great Depression, through two great world wars and numerous other conflicts. Then, in 1947 our Supreme Court separated church and state and placed a high wall between the two. In 1962 our Supreme Court removed prayer from our public schools. In 1973, our Supreme Court ruled that it was OK to kill children still in the womb. In the span of a mere 25 years, we, the people allowed our nation to turn its back on God in the name of independence and freedom.

And he began a litany of ways he said America had turned its back on God:

We have forgotten God and we call it freedom.

We kill our children for convenience, and we call it freedom.

We enslave our poor in welfare and call it freedom.

We take from the hard working and give to the sluggard in the name of income equality and call it freedom.

We allow our children to become addicted to pornography in the name of free speech and we call it freedom.

We rack up mountains of debt on the backs of our grandchildren and we call it freedom.

We reward the criminal at the expense of the victim and we call it freedom.

We take God out of our schoolhouse, out of our statehouse, out of our courthouse and we call it freedom.

We allow a few individuals in the courts to determine the moral standard for all and we call it freedom.

Forest said the country must choose between “policy band-aids” and getting at the root of problems, which is that we as a nation have taken our eyes of God, “who is the giver of truth, virtue, and a moral compass.”

The heart of the matter is we have forgotten God. We have kicked him out of our house, out of our schoolhouse, out of our courthouse, and out of our statehouse, and now, out of our nation. We call it everything but what it is, we call it everything but sin, the turning away from God.

He said that the national focus on rebuilding after the 9/11 attacks was done in the name of freedom and security, but that we did it by our own strength rather than relying on God.

We don’t just need, my friends, to rebuild the walls of America. We need to rebuild the biblical foundation upon which the walls sit. We need to trust God. Fear only comes when we don’t believe that God is who he says he is. If God is the creator of the universe, if he allows our hearts to beat and our lungs to breathe, why do we not trust him? If we trust God, my friends, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. With him we can do anything. Apart from him we can do nothing. Seek first his kingdom and all these things will be given.

We continue to declare ‘God Bless America’ without doing our part, without prayer, without fasting, and repentance as a nation, without recognizing the sins we commit and humbling ourselves before the sovereign ruler of nations, and asking for forgiveness.

It is time for America to recognize that freedom does not come from being a nation of wealth, power, influence, abundance, and ease – but rather it comes from being a humble nation on its knees. It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

 

Texas Lt. Gov Nominee Dan Patrick's Christian-Nation Politics

Texas State Sen. Dan Patrick, the GOP nominee for Lt. Governor, addressed Friday night’s session of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference. Patrick said that America is a Christian nation, that politics is about building God’s kingdom, and that America’s policies must be grounded in the Bible.

Excerpts from Dan Patrick's remarks:

Patrick portrayed his resounding come-from-behind victory over incumbent David Dewhurst as God’s will. He said he started every campaign appearance by saying,

“’I’m a Christian first, I’m a conservative second, and a Republican third. And if our party ever turns our back on the word of God or the principles of Ronald Reagan, I will become an independent.’ And this is the key to the future of our party the future of our country and the future of this nation.”

He explains his victory this way:

“We were solid on the issues. We never backed up from being bold for Jesus Christ. And, most importantly, we worked hard, and we left the victory to God…if you really believe God, then you take him at his word that he’ll handle the victory. And if you’re in the middle of God’s will, then that’s where you’re supposed to be.”

It was a dirty campaign, he said, but he told himself, “If the Lord wants me to win, I’ll win, and if not, that means he has something else he wants me to do.”

“We have too many candidates, and too many elected officials, that think politics and serving is about them. It’s about Him, it’s about building the kingdom for Him. That’s why this nation has been blessed.”

Patrick said the world needs America to return to its roots as a Christian nation:

 “We are a Christian nation. And the only way the world will survive is with a strong America. And a strong America will only be strong again if we stand on the word of God. Again, there’s a difference from believing in God and believing God. Even the Democrats believe in God. But when you believe God you must take him at his word and you can’t back up from that word. And that has to be the policy mindset of our elected officials. It should be biblically based, because every problem we have in America has a solution in the Bible. And that doesn’t mean we want a theocracy. But it does mean we can’t walk away from what we believe.”

Patrick said too many Republican candidates worry about offending voters. But, he said, “the left doesn’t even worry about offending God.” He added, “In fact, I would argue, that if you are a believer, and if you are a Christian conservative Republican and you won’t stand for your faith, that’s just as offensive to God. Because they may not know better, but we do.”

Patrick used the Texas governor’s race as an example of how “standing for God will keep us in power and win us the election in 2016.” He said “abortion queen” Wendy David lost Hispanic areas of Texas in her primary because Hispanic Catholics and evangelicals who “put God before party” will not vote for a Democrat who is “radical on the life issue.”  To get Hispanic voters, he said, Republicans must stand for life, marriage, school choice, and economic opportunity.

He warned that “the left” will attack messengers who stand on the foundation of the Bible. But, he asked, “If we won’t stand for Christ, if we won’t stand for the word of God in the Bible, then who will?

America, he said, is thirsty for a leader who will not only talk about public policy but about strengthening families and values. He asked for money and prayers, saying that conservatives shouldn’t take Texas for granted, given that Democrats are putting resources into making it a battleground state.

 “The job ahead is not easy. But Jesus said, ‘my yoke is easy.’ And if we all pull together, and we get up out of our church pews, and we get our pastors engaged, and we get our fellow Christians to register to vote and then get them out to vote. And we find leaders who are bold, then America has hope again.

And if we don’t, in our generation, in our time, then we will have failed our children, we will have failed our grandchildren, and we will have failed the world. And we will have failed, I believe, God’s belief and hope and wish that America is the country that He blessed to share the Word with the entire world.

So it’s on us. And I don’t want to put too much pressure on you. But it is on us. And I’m ready to do my duty, and I know you’re ready to do yours.”

Mike Huckabee's 2016 Themes? God In Textbooks And Attacks On Judges

Part of the Christian-nation lineup at this weekend’s Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority conference was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a right-wing media figure and former (and likely future) presidential candidate.

Excerpts from Huckabee's remarks:

Huckabee said that he and his wife recently went to China to celebrate their 40th anniversary. He said he hadn’t been earlier because he doesn’t like the Chinese government — citing piracy and dumping but, oddly, not China’s repression of dissent and religious freedom.

He praised the flowering of entrepreneurship in China, saying the country is becoming more like America used to be and America is becoming more like China used to be. Huckabee compared NSA spying to Chinese control over Internet access. And more absurdly, he equated the Chinese government’s erasure from history of the massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square with what he said was our country’s treatment of the role of God in America’s founding.

“And I thought I’m so glad that I’m in a country that would never erase a significant part of our history, and then I remember that we are erasing most of the history of this country. We’re telling young people that God had nothing to do with the foundation of this country when in fact there wouldn’t be a United States of America if it were not for the men and women of faith who got on their knees to pray and then got on their feet to fight, who took muskets off their mantles and took on the toughest  army that had ever existed in the world at that time and had no chance of creating a new country, but they did -- because of the Providence of God’s hand. And you try to find that in an American textbook today in a public school, and good luck doing it.

Maybe Huckabee’s desire to have public school textbooks teaching that God was behind America’s founding reflects the fact that he’s been hanging out with Christian-nation zealot David Lane, who wants to make the Bible a primary public school textbook. CBN’s David Brody reported on Friday that Lane has organized a European trip for Huckabee and pastors from key primary states.  Huckabee says the trip, called “Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II Tour: God Raising Extraordinary Leaders for Extraordinary Times,” is an opportunity to show “the human instruments used by God to change the world’s history.”

Huckabee clearly has a hankering to put himself in that category. At the Faith and Freedom conference, he railed against government regulation and “irrational people” running the government. He said abortion is “a curse for which we will answer.” He also signaled what may be a defining campaign issue if he decides to run: an attack on the federal courts.

And one of the things that I do not understand is why more Americans have not rallied in opposition to the notion that just because the Court says something that that is the final word. Have we not read our Constitution? Have we not reminded ourselves that we have three branches of government, not one, and all of those three branches are equal branches of government. One is them is not superior to either of the other two, and certainly not to both of the other two. This notion that when the Supreme Court says something it’s the last word is fundamentally unconstitutional and wrong. It is the Supreme Court, not the supreme branch.  And we have allowed guys and women in black robes not simply to interpret a law, but to transform a law, rewrite a law, and actually prescribe the fix and implement it, two responsibilities and functions that are left exclusively and totally to the legislative and executive branches.

It is high time that we recognize that one of the greatest threats to our liberty in this land is the notion of judicial supremacy. There is no such thing in the Constitution of judicial supremacy, and one of the ways in which we must transform America, unlike the way that our current occupant of the White House has transformed America, is to teach our children and to teach our peers that ultimately the authority in this country is not the courts, nor is it even the legislature or the executive branch, the ultimate authority in this country still remains the people of America, We the People.   And if we don’t truly believe that and exercise that, we will lose this country not because we have to, but because we have given it away.

Huckabee that he is optimistic, because there has never been a greater opportunity to show what freedom looks like – and it’s not just because there are a lot of conservative activists motivated to fight.

It’s because I believe that there is a God, and that his country would not be here without him, and that if this country will get on its knees and it will ask God’s forgiveness for how we have behaved. It’s not about the people who hate us, it’s about those of us who decide we wanna love God more than we wanna hate our enemies. And when we get on our knees in forgiveness, God will heal our land and He will restore us.

To those at the conference who seem overly pessimistic about the state of the country and the world, he said he’s “read the end of the book,” and his message is, “In the end, we win, and that’s good news.”

Ohio Board Of Education Member Calls On Religious Right To Take Over Education

One of Ralph Reed’s most infamous statements — “I want to be invisible. I do guerilla warfare…You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag” — came in an era of school board takeovers by stealth Religious Right candidates. But stealth is so 1990s. At the Road to Majority conference sponsored by Reed’s Faith and Freedom coalition last weekend, a member of the Ohio state board of education openly called on conservative Christians to take over the educational system and return it to a foundation of “biblical truth.”

Mark Smith, who was appointed to the board of education by Gov. John Kasich last year, is president of Ohio Christian University and president of the Ohio Faith and Freedom Coalition. He said at one board meeting that books like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” are “quite divisive” and part of an “underlying socialist-communist agenda.”

Excerpts from Smith's Friday night address to the 2014 Road to Majority conference:

At Road to Majority, Smith sounded as if he’s been reading discredited “historian” David Barton’s claims about the Constitution being drawn directly from the Bible.

“America, for 60 years we have tried to deny the source of truth. But we as a nation must not forget that truth, biblical truth, is what we were founded upon.  In fact, let me remind you, truth concepts like liberty, freedom, personal responsibility, law, justice, and hope are all words that came out of the Bible. They are words that our founders relied upon and they understood that biblical truth was our foundation.”

America was blessed for more than 200 years, Smith says, because it recognized God and biblical truth, and our current problems come from a rejection of those principles

“The first problem that I see is a God problem. Too many people think that they’re God, but we know that they are not. There is only one true God. In current society, you see people deciding critical issues by all manner of means, humanistic thinking, and polls. But many of them do not consider that the Lord our God is how they should be considering these issues.”

Smith also sees the desire for equality as a major problem.

“Secondly in America, we have a truth problem. Few understand foundational truth. The basis for our American doctrines and documents has been biblical truth....”

“In fact, let me remind you further that equality and liberty are in opposition to each other. We hear equality, equality, equality. If you begin to study what you’re being fed by the media and by the president that is in our office today, you would understand that this word equality and liberty are diametrically opposed.”

A third problem, he says, is an educational problem.

 “It’s no secret that our educational system is full of teachers and professors who desire to obfuscate truth, and these individuals are effectively [deconstructing] our nation. It’s been happening since John Dewey and his humanist manifesto.”

He said that Common Core, Race to the Top, and other efforts to “nationalize” the curriculum “are becoming an agenda that is hostile to the traditional family, promoting causes that we do not believe in, promoting sexual promiscuity — I’ve looked at the material and I refuse to accept it.”

He urged conservative Christians to join him in taking a stand for traditional marriage and to take back the country’s schools:

“You see I’m excited to lead the cause for the rebirth of faith values in America, the rebirth of embracing a love for God, the love for family, and a love for our nation. I like traditional marriage. I’m for traditional marriage. Let’s embrace traditional marriage....”

“I call on us to stand and to bring about change in a failed educational system that opposes freedom, capitalism, and personal responsibility, and that wastes billions of dollars on experiments on our children. It’s fine for us to take back our school system, and every one of you should be running for school boards, getting involved in the Department of Education, in the state board of education – and you should take it back as Faith and Freedom members, that is the hope for America.

Ohio Christian University seems to be doing its part. Its lobbyist helped push through the legislature a program that allows gifted high school students to take classes at OCU at taxpayer expense. The Akron Beacon Journal reported in February that OCU’s lobbyist C. Todd Jones “not only sits on the school board with Smith but chairs the committee” responsible for guidelines for the program. “He has actively lobbied the legislature and governor’s office on [the law] that would benefit the colleges at the same time he is running board meetings on the topic.”

As an example of its curriculum, the school says students taking the class Survey of American History “will be able to analyze the varied political, economic, religious, and cultural achievements of America in light of biblical truth,” according to an online course description.

Payment for a high school student taking such classes is deducted directly from money provided by the state to that student’s school district.

Rafael Cruz Preaches Seven Mountains Theology, Tells Activists To 'Stop Electing The Village Idiot'

Rafael Cruz, the father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and a regular campaign surrogate, delivered his usual stump speech at today’s Road to Majority summit, filled with David Barton-inspired pseudo-history and Christian Nationalism. Echoing Barton, Cruz preached Seven Mountains Dominionism, which as we have noted in the past seeks to give right-wing Christians authority “over the seven forces that shape and control our culture: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion.”

While preaching against the separation of church and state and the supposed “onslaught against Christianity and against righteousness” in American culture, Cruz said the church should have “an influence upon every area of society.”

“Indeed we should have an influence upon arts and entertainment, upon media, upon sports, upon education, upon business, upon government,” he continued.

Later, while criticizing the “lies” of the Obama administration, Cruz delivered a crowd-pleaser: “Stop electing the village idiot!

Gary Bauer Warns Obama Is 'Obsessed' With Gay Issues, Will 'Destroy' The Republic

Gary Bauer told the audience at today’s Road to Majority summit that President Obama is “obsessed” with gay issues, an ironic statement for a conference full of activists who have dedicated their political careers to opposing gay rights.

Bauer later said that Obama “repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for homosexuals and replaced it with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for Christians.” He added that if the president’s “secular” agenda is successful, “the Republic will be destroyed.”

Ralph Reed Calls For The IRS To Be Razed To The Ground

Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road To Majority" conference today, Ralph Reed declared that after Republicans gain total control over Congress in the midterm elections, conservatives "are not going to stop" until they completely abolish the IRS and raze its headquarters to the ground "and build a monument on the rubble so that future generations will know that we stood up and stopped tyranny":

Later, Reed once again promised big results in the midterm elections, saying "the cavalry is on its way" but also warning that there is only one thing that can truly save America, and that is for us to undergo a "moral and spiritual awakening that will call our nation back to brokenness, humility, reliance, and dependence upon Almighty God":

Fox News' Monica Crowley: Left At War With America

Monica Crowley of Fox News served as the emcee for a “legislative luncheon” that kicked off the “Road to Majority” conference sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

The speakers’ lineup – Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Allen West, and John Bolton – promised a butcher shop’s worth of red meat for right-wing activists, and Crowley must have decided she didn’t want to be overshadowed.

She complained that she has both a Marxist president and mayor (New York’s Bill de Blasio) and asserted that “we are in a war…the left is waging a 24/7 war against this country.” She said the fight is not only against leftism and statism, but against “the ideology of control.” Health care reform was not about health care, but about government power and control. “Every day of this presidency has been an impeachable offense – every day.”

Crowley could be unintentionally funny, as when she railed, without any apparent sense of irony, that the left relies on divisiveness and “manufactured” crises, then a few moments later ticked off a set of the right wing’s favorite manufactured crises.  Or when she complained that the mainstream media is too partisan, saying that the Obama administration has gotten away with ravaging the Constitution because of “the protection racket of a corrupt and supine press.” Or when she called people like Ralph Reed and Ted Cruz “truth tellers.”

She managed to hit on just about every current right-wing meme, from Benghazi to the IRS, from illegal immigration to “the removal of God from public life.” The Obama administration, she says, is engaged in “the deliberate takedown of America.”

In introducing the “brilliant” and “beautiful” Crowley, Ralph Reed noted that she has recently been named online opinion editor for the Washington Times, a major sponsor of the anti-marriage-equality rally that the National Organization for Marriage was holding at that very moment in front of the US Capitol.

Awkward: Jerry Boykin To Speak Alongside Grover Norquist, Who He Thinks Is A 'Muslim Brotherhood Facilitator'

According to the schedule [PDF] for tomorrow’s Road to Majority summit, the annual event organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Family Research Council vice president Jerry Boykin’s address will be followed by a speech by Grover Norquist, the Americans for Tax Reform leader.

This might be a bit awkward since Boykin has frequently smeared Norquist as a secret Islamist, claiming that the conservative lobbyist is a “is a Muslim Brotherhood facilitator” who “has been involved with some very questionable insurgent elements from the Muslim Brotherhood here in America.”

A similar episode occurred at least year’s Road to Majority conference, when outspoken immigration reform advocate Rev. Samuel Rodriguez was immediately followed by Eagle Forum head Phyllis Schlafly, who used her speech to call for primary challenges against any Republican who votes for a reform bill.

Chris Christie To Join Ralph Reed Summit To Dispel Moderate 'Myth'

Today, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition announced that Gov. Chris Christie will speak at its “Road to Majority” conference this month, where perhaps Reed can offer the embattled governor advice on how to downplay scandals.

But the director of the New Jersey Faith and Freedom Coalition, Larry Cirignano, doesn’t seem to be much of a fan of his state’s governor.

On his Facebook page, Cirignano has posted columns attacking Christie from the right, including articles titled “Chris Christie dooms NJ to judicial activism and himself to obscurity” and “Chris Christie’s court pick has a pro-choice, anti-free press record,” which criticizes the governor for having “rolled over” on nominees for the Supreme Court.

Cirignano also shared a post “exposing ‘Republican’ Christie” as a secret Democrat for backing a “radical pro-abortion and pro-gun control” judicial nominee.

Last year, Christie was accused of snubbing the “Road to Majority” summit to attend a Clinton Global Initiative event.

Right-wing pundits have expressed outrage and disgust over Christie’s decision to sign a law banning ex-gay therapy for minors, even linking it to the bridge scandal, and lashed out at the governor for declining to appeal a court ruling in favor of marriage equality and appointing a Muslim-American to a judgeship.

At CPAC earlier this year, Christie emphasized his anti-choice stances and told the Christian Broadcasting Network that it is a “myth” that he is a moderate.

Religious Right Sees Opportunity In Supreme Court Prayer Ruling

Religious Right groups are celebrating yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding sectarian prayer at official public meetings – like city council sessions – and narrowly defining what would amount to unconstitutional religious coercion of people attending. The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway.

Though divided on their reasoning, the Court’s five conservative Justices upheld a practice in which, month after month, year after year, town leaders reached out to Christians and Christians only to offer opening prayers at town meetings, prayers that were often quite sectarian in nature.  The very few exceptions were in response to this lawsuit.  Although town leaders said that members of other religions could lead the opening prayer if they asked to, they had hardly let that be widely known, and they continued to reach out only to Christians.

SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston characterized the Court’s ruling as “[s]topping just short of abandoning a historic barrier to religion in government activity.” Conservative and religious groups hostile to church-state separation are gushing over the ruling and hope it is a sign of more to come.

The Becket Fund signaled that it hopes yesterday’s decision will just be the first step in further dismantling rulings upholding church-state separation.  From Deputy General Counsel Eric Rassbach:

“The Court’s landmark decision today echoes the wisdom of the Founders. Not only did the Court uphold the centuries-old practice of legislative prayer, it also started the work of bringing the entire law of church and state onto a firmer foundation in the words of the Constitution.”

David Corman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Town of Greece:

“Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced,” he said. “Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer celebrated the ruling as a “monster win” and said it was proof that “we are fighting a winnable war,” because the “Supreme Court has ruled that you can have sectarian prayers, prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, to open any legislative session, any lawmaking body – a county commission can do it, a city council can do it, a state government can do it.”  

Fischer he went on at great length endorsing Justice Clarence Thomas’s position that the First Amendment does not limit states’ constitutional right to, for example, declare the Southern Baptist Church to be the official state church and force people to support the church with taxes.  Fischer, in fact, called Thomas “a stud on the issue of religious liberty.” (Fischer says he wouldn’t personally support coercive state establishment, but he supports Thomas’s constitutional analysis, and says it should be applied to interpret that the federal government has no right to tell public schools whether and how prayer is permitted.)  Fischer is delighted that the Supreme Court’s majority decision discussed the fact that the Continental Congress opened with “emphatically Christian” prayer.

Gordon Klingenschmitt:

Hallelujah!  Today YOU helped score a VICTORY at the U.S. Supreme Court, reaching the pinnacle of seven years of work and prayer with The Pray In Jesus Name Project.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it's OK for pastors to pray "in Jesus' name" at city council meetings. 

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins:

"The court today has upheld our first and most fundamental freedom. The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square. We applaud the majority on the court for getting that right. This is an historic victory for all Americans of faith and for the common-sense reading of the Constitution itself. The Court's affirmation of the right of Americans to practice their faith in public life and the public square is a major win for the religious liberty we have always cherished.”

Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition called it a victory that would empower Religious Right activists to push elected officials to bring sectarian prayer into more official settings:

Reed also announced that, armed with today’s Supreme Court decision, Faith & Freedom Coalition would redouble its efforts to encourage opportunities for prayers offered at meetings by town boards, city councils, and county commissions nationwide.  The organization has in the past mobilized public support for local officials who have allowed such prayers at government meetings.

“Speech honoring God and invoking His blessing on our land should be welcomed, not treated with hostility,” said Reed.  “With today’s decision, the government officials that faith-based voters help to elect can provide a forum for such expressions without fear of being reversed by future courts.”

Concerned Women for America celebrated, saying the decision “lifts up the best in our country.” CWA President Penny Nance managed to slam what she said has been “a push to establish atheism as the official religion of our land” and claim that the Supreme Court’s ruling was a win for everyone, “even the staunchest atheists.”

Those who object to these practices do not seek to exercise their religious liberty; they merely feel hostile towards other people’s religious practices and seek to silence them. They seek to silence those with whom they disagree….

The Founders of this great nation benefited and relied heavily on prayer to seek the guidance they needed to establish the foundations of our nation. When the first Congress met on September 7, 1774, it began with an amazing prayer “in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.” No religious oppression or favoritism followed from that practice, only the blessings of freedom and liberty, including the freedom of religious thought, belief, or even non-belief.

Everyone wins, including the staunchest atheists, when we allow the free exercise of religion or non-religion according to a person’s conscience.

Fox News pundit Todd Starnes, who specializes in promoting fictitious threats to religious freedom, declared that “the Obama administration has been waging a war against people of the Christian faith,” somehow neglecting to mention that the Obama administration had actually weighed in on the side of the Town of Greece and its overwhelmingly Christian prayers.  Starnes said it is “always a good day when the anti-Christian folks get smacked down by the Supreme Court” but said the fact that it was a 5-4 decision should be a “wake-up call” for Americans that elections matter.

Gary Bauer made the same point:

Here's the good news: The Supreme Court today upheld public prayers, even Christian prayers, at government meetings in 5-to-4 decision.

But that is the bad news too! The free exercise of religion depends on just one vote….

Now a win is a win. But don't miss the fact that this victory for religious liberty was won by the narrowest of margins. One more liberal appointment and the Supreme Court could easily ban prayers before town council meetings and legislative sessions. If that were to happen, our Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto would surely be next.

Your vote at the ballot box has a direct impact on our federal courts. Federal judges, including those on the Supreme Court, are appointed (by the president) and confirmed (by the Senate) by the men and women we elect to public office. 

 

Supreme Court Upholds Sectarian Prayer At Official Meetings: Religious Right Cheers

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today overturned a ruling by the Second Circuit appeals court and upheld the practice of an upstate New York town that begins its council meetings with prayers that are almost always given by Christian clergy. Religious Right groups are celebrating the ruling; Ralph Reed announced that his Faith and Freedom coalition would use the ruling to “redouble its efforts” to encourage more prayers at city and county government meetings. Both the decision and the Religious Right's responses are likely to invite more religiously divisive church-state conflicts.

Justice Clarence Thomas used his concurring opinion to argue, as he has before, that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not apply to the states at all; in other words, he believes there is no constitutional reason that a state cannot have an official religion. Fortunately, the decision in this case is far narrower than that.

It is, as Justice Stephen Breyer says in the opening sentence of his dissent, a “fact-sensitive” case. It did not revolve around the question of whether legislative prayer is unconstitutional – the Court has previously upheld legislative prayer in Marsh v Chambers – but in part whether the way clergy were invited to give prayers to open town council meetings was sufficiently inclusive. In Breyer’s words,

“The question in this case is whether the prayer practice of the town of Greece, by doing too little to reflect the religious diversity of its citizens, did too much, even if unintentionally, to promote the ‘political division along religious lines’ that ‘was one of the principal evils against which the First Amendment was intended to protect.’” [quoting from the Court’s 1971 decision in Lemon v Kurtzman]

Also at issue was whether a town council meeting, at which members of the public are appealing to councilmembers for specific action, is more susceptible to being a coercive environment than a prayer given by a chaplain to a group of lawmakers about to start their legislative day. For example, the council hears debates on individual applications from residents and business owners seeing zoning permits and other licenses. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan recognizes that the Court has upheld the historical tradition of legislative prayer, but writes that the town hall meetings in Greece are a kind of hybrid, “occasions for ordinary citizens to engage with and petition their government, often on highly individualized matters.” That, she says, requires special care that each member of the community is respected as an equal citizen, something the Town of Greece has not done.

While the plaintiffs in the Town of Greece case did not argue that town leaders were motivated by religious bias, they argued that the selection process led almost exclusively to prayers being given by Christian ministers, and to prayers that were not just ceremonial invocations but quite explicitly sectarian. Kagan writes that town meetings need not be religion-free zones, saying that “pluralism and inclusion in a town hall can satisfy the constitutional requirement of neutrality,” but concluded that the board of the Town of Greece did nothing to recognize religious diversity, and that its practice “does not square with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share in her government.” She offers a hypothetical of a Muslim resident coming before the board to see a zoning variance to build an addition on her home:

“But just before she gets to say her piece, a minister deputized by the Town asks her to pray ‘in the name of God’s only son Jesus Christ.’ She must think – it is hardly paranoia, but only the truth—that Christian worship has become entwined with local governance. And now she faces a choice—to pray alongside the majority as one of that group or somehow to register her deeply felt difference….She does not wish to be rude to her neighbors, nor does she wish to aggravate the Board members whom she will soon be trying to persuade. And yet she does not want to acknowledge Christ’s divinity, any more than many of her neighbors would want to deny that tenet. So assume she declines to participate with the others in the first act of the meeting—or even, as the majority proposes, that she sands up and leaves the room altogether…At the least, she becomes a different kind of citizen, one who will not join in the religious practice that the Town Board has chosen as reflecting its own and the community’s most cherished beliefs. And she thus stands at a remove, based solely on religion, from her fellow citizens and her elected representatives.

Everything about that situation, I think, infringes the First Amendment…That the Town Board selects, month after month and year after year, prayergivers who will reliably speak in the voice of Christianity, and so places itself behind a single creed. That in offering those sectarian prayers, the Board’s chosen clergy members repeatedly call on individuals, prior to participating in local governance, to join in a form of worship that may be at odds with their own beliefs. That the clergy thus put some residents to the unenviable choice of either pretending to pray like the majority or declining to join its communal activity, at the very moment of petitioning their elected leaders. That the practice thus divides the citizenry, creating one class that shares the Board’s own evident religious beliefs and another (far smaller) class that does not. And that the practice also alters a dissenting citizen’s relationship with her government, making her religious difference salient when she seeks only to engage her elected representatives as would any other citizen.”

Kagan writes that the Court majority opinion reflected “two kinds of blindness.” First, it missed the difference between traditional legislative prayer and the setting of the town council, a difference she described as a “chasm,” and the fact that the prayers in Greece are mostly addressed to the public rather than lawmakers. She said the majority “changes the subject” rather than addressing the sectarian content of the prayers delivered in Greece, such as those invoking “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross” or “the plan of redemption that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” These are not, as she says, the recitation of “God save the United States and this honorable Court” invoked at the beginning of Supreme Court sessions.

Kagan cites George Washington’s well-known letter to the Newport Hebrew Congregation, in which he assured members of that congregation that the First Amendment does not simply tolerate people of minority faiths, rather all possess the same “immunities of citizenship.”

Writes Kagan:

For me, that remarkable guarantee means at least this much: When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as members of one faith or another. And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines. I believe, for all the reasons I have given, that the Town of Greece betrayed that promise. I therefore respectfully dissent from the Court’s decision.

Breyer also joined Kagan’s dissent, as did Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway.

Culture Warriors Danny Carroll & Gopal Krishna Picked To Head Iowa GOP

Last month, we wrote that the Iowa Republican Party had picked a new co-chair , Danny Carroll, a social conservative culture warrior who serves as a lobbyist for The Family Leader.

Shortly after Carroll became co-chair, the state party chairman, libertarian-leaning A.J. Spiker, announced that he was resigning from his position. And this weekend, Carroll was elected to replace him as the chairman of the Iowa GOP.

It’s unclear how long Carroll’s reign over the state party will last and if he will still be at its helm in 2016, when he would be in charge of running the Iowa caucuses. New state central committee members will be seated in June, and could possibly then oust him as chairman.

But in the meantime, Carroll’s election seems to show that the Iowa GOP has no intention of softening on social issues.

Here is Carroll opining last year that banning gay marriage will help fix “just about every problem facing society today”:

And here he is in 2010 blaming teen suicides on the end of school-sponsored prayer:

And let’s not forget the new co-chair of the Iowa GOP, elected this weekend. Gopal Krishna of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition (the state branch of Ralph Reed’s group) will succeed Carroll as the state party’s number two. Krishna, who boasts that "the first three letters of my name are G-O-P,"  looks to be just as much of a culture warrior as Carroll.

For instance, here’s Krishna in 2011 warning that the United States has become “a multicultural haven for every weird and kinky lifestyle”:

Pat Robertson & Ralph Reed Will Save America By Restoring The Religious Right

Pat Robertson’s protégé Ralph Reed, who formerly ran Robertson’s Christian Coalition and now leads the Faith & Freedom Coalition, appeared on the 700 Club today to discuss his new book, “Awakening.”

Reed said that after the GOP’s defeat in the 2012 election, he realized that the United States can only “turn around” and return to greatness if the Religious Right rises into a powerful political force as it did in the 1980s.

Robertson added that Reed’s book seems to take “a page out of my playbook” from his 1988 presidential campaign. “I think great minds think alike,” Reed agreed.

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