Frederick Douglass Foundation

Top VAWA Opponents Partnered with Convicted Wife-Beater and Group Tied to Mail Order Bride Firm

The House of Representatives is poised to pass a hobbled version of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization (VAWA) later today. The House GOP version actually rolls back some current protections and excludes other key protections contained in the Senate version of the bill, which was passed with bipartisan support in April. 

In past years, VAWA enjoyed bipartisan support and garnered little controversy. This time around, however, top Religious Right groups have rallied against the bill due to the protections it would extend to immigrant, Native American, and LGBT victims of domestic abuse. These groups, including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, and the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, made noise on Capitol Hill and are most directly responsible for the events that will unfold in the House today.
 
It’s worth noting then that these groups partnered in their lobbying efforts with a convicted wife-beater and a group tied to a mail order bride firm. The anti-VAWA coalition, led by Concerned Women for America, wrote earlier this year to Senators:
We, the undersigned, representing millions of Americans nationwide, are writing today to oppose the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This nice-sounding bill is deceitful because it destroys the family by obscuring real violence in order to promote the feminist agenda. […]
 
There is no denying the very real problem of violence against women and children. However, the programs promoted in VAWA are harmful for families. VAWA often encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.
 
Further, this legislation continues to use overly broad definitions of domestic violence. These broad definitions actually squander the resources for victims of actual violence by failing to properly prioritize and assess victims. Victims who can show physical evidence of abuse should be our primary focus.
The letter was signed by leaders from major Religious Right groups like FRC, Eagle Forum, Liberty Counsel, Traditional Values Coalition, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It was also signed by Timothy Johnson, former vice chair of the North Carolina Republican Party and founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a small organization focused on outreach to conservative African Americans.
 
But there’s a big problem with partnering with Johnson on an issue like VAWA, and it’s been widely reported. Back in 2009, when Johnson was running for vice chair of the NC GOP, the media reported on his felony domestic violence conviction from 1996. He responded by releasing a statement of support from his ex-wife – “Were I a resident of the state I would vote for him.” Except she never said that. Months later the media reported that Johnson had fabricated the endorsement:
"I absolutely did not say that," Ofelia Felix-Johnson, now living in Nebraska, tells Xpress. "This was not done with my consent, and I didn’t even know about it. I didn’t appreciate him putting my name out there when I had nothing to do with it.”
On the other hand, this did happen, as Sarah Posner reported at Alternet:
According to court records, Johnson was arrested on Christmas Day 1995 in Cleveland, Ohio, and was later indicted by a grand jury for two felony counts, one of felonious assault and the other of kidnapping. According to the arrest report, when the police arrived, they found Felix-Johnson bleeding from the face. Timothy Johnson told the officers, according to their report, “I admit it. I hit her, that's the only way I can get her attention.” Felix-Johnson told the officers he restrained her on the couch, holding down her neck. One officer reports Ofelia Felix-Johnson saying that Johnson also punched her breasts, saying that she had no heart, and hit her over the back and buttocks with a plastic shoe rack, breaking the rack. The police report in the court file states that Johnson broke his wife's nose and toes, causing her to be hospitalized.
Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of felony aggravated assault and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, which was suspended. A few years later, Johnson was arrested again on domestic violence charges:
In 1998, Johnson was arrested by the Perrysburg Police, again on domestic violence charges. According to the police report, Johnson provided a "very similar" account of the incident to that his wife Ofelia and 14-year-old son gave police. Both wife and son reported that Johnson had Ofelia Felix-Johnson in a wrist lock, and when the son attempted to stop Johnson from hurting his mother, Johnson put the son in a head lock such that he was "unable to breathe and was choking up food," according to the police report. After the son broke free, the police report continues, Johnson "put his right hand around [the boy's] throat and pushed [him] against the wall with his back to the wall and choked [the boy] for about 5 seconds."

According to court records, Ofelia Felix-Johnson did not appear for the hearing, and the charges were dismissed. Johnson told AlterNet that "the incident that took place wasn't domestic violence. My ex-wife and I had a disagreement. And as always, well the person says, well I know you have this past on you so I'll just call the police. And as you said, there was no conviction and there was no trial. You know why? Because there was nothing there."
Given Johnson’s well-reported history of domestic violence and well-reported efforts to fabricate support from his battered ex-wife, it boggles the mind that Religious Right leaders would sign on to the above letter with him. In fact, their partnership with Johnson seems to take the War on Women to an entirely new level.
 
Another notable name on that letter is Philip Cook, the director of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), on whose site the letter is hosted. SAVE has been lobbying House Republicans, with much success, to roll back protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence under VAWA. As Laura Bassett reported last week at the Huffington Post, SAVE’s treasurer “has a major financial interest in reducing immigrant protections”:
Natasha Spivack, started international "marriage service" Encounters International in 1993 with the aim of arranging marriages between U.S. men and Russian women. "The Woman Of Your Dreams Just May have a Russian Accent," states the company's website.
 
A federal jury in Baltimore awarded one of the Russian brides matched by Encounters International a settlement of $434,000 after she claimed to have been beaten by her American husband and claimed that the company failed to screen candidates properly. The woman also claimed that Encounters International neglected to tell her about a law allowing immigrants to escape abusive marriages without fear of automatic deportation. […]
 
Rosie Hidalgo, director of public policy for the anti-domestic violence organization Casa de Esperanza, said she has notified Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee that SAVE Services had strong connections to Encounters International, and pointed out that there have been no studies documenting immigration fraud on the part of U.S. anti-domestic violence programs.
 
"It's shocking to me that the people who are advocating for these anti-immigrant provisions are the people who have a monetary interest in not holding batterers accountable and not holding marriage broker agencies accountable," she told HuffPost. "These are the ones reaching out to House Republicans, and Republicans are supporting the policies they're pushing."
This is the company that the Religious Right keeps, and they sadly have a great deal of influence in the House. Today’s vote in the House will reveal just how much.

 

AFTAH and Allies ask God to 'Destroy' the 'Nazi' Southern Poverty Law Center

Americans For Truth About Homosexuality held a rally last week against the Southern Poverty Law Center with AFTAH president Peter LaBarbera, Liberty Counsel deputy Matt Barber and North Carolina marriage equality opponent Patrick Wooden for labeling groups like AFTAH “anti-gay hate groups.” Among the other “pro-family leaders” at the press conference included Rochelle Conner, a representative of Scott Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries, who read a statement from Lively calling for “God himself to destroy” the SPLC:

My prayer as one who really does hate irrational prejudice is that the Lord by His sovereign power will remove this dangerous, hate-spreading organization from our nation and its leaders and its members cause them to repent of their wickedness. Finally, to prevent the Southern Poverty Law Center from using my prayer as part of its perpetual fundraising campaign, I want to make clear that I am asking God himself to destroy their organization and I am asking that it be by His miraculous hand and not by human beings just so as with Sodom and Gomorrah, they will know that God will get the glory, and not man.

Conner later claimed that the SPLC should now be called the “Southern Poverty Hate Center” as it has “now become a tool of the God-haters”:

The Southern Poverty Law Center has willfully, knowingly slandered, maligned, libeled Scott Lively, Abiding Truth Ministries, they have spread malicious lies in an attempt to undermine and destroy his credibility because as a leading authority on the homosexual agenda he exposes their villainy. The Southern Poverty Law Center has now become a tool of the God-haters, promoting hatred in the form of vicious lies against Christianity. The Southern Poverty Law Center has abandoned its mission of serving and protecting minorities and has evolved into the Southern Poverty Hate Center.

Peter LaBarbera read a statement from Brian Camenker of MassResistance, who portrayed the SPLC as Nazis for working “to dehumanize groups of people, twist the truth, and foment hatred”:

The Southern Poverty Law Center loves to use Nazi imagery to incite people against Bible-believing Jews and Christians. It’s extremely offensive but also very ironic. In the 1930s and the 1940s, the Nazis themselves used many of the same techniques that the SPLC use today to dehumanize groups of people, twist the truth, and foment hatred against those with traditional values through propaganda campaigns and also by working through governments, schools and police departments. I am surely here with you in spirit and so are thousands of others across America, all good people must fearlessly stand against this.

Another one of the “pro-family leaders” at AFTAH’s press conference included Timothy Johnson of the Fredrick Douglass Foundation, a right-wing group which targets African Americans. Sarah Posner writes in AlterNet about Johnson’s history of domestic violence, and he was convicted of aggravated assault in 1996. Johnson tried to explain away the charges with a supportive letter from his ex-wife, who claimed that he fabricated the letter:

According to court records, Johnson was arrested on Christmas Day 1995 in Cleveland, Ohio, and was later indicted by a grand jury for two felony counts, one of felonious assault and the other of kidnapping. According to the arrest report, when the police arrived, they found Felix-Johnson bleeding from the face. Timothy Johnson told the officers, according to their report, "I admit it. I hit her, that's the only way I can get her attention." Felix-Johnson told the officers he restrained her on the couch, holding down her neck. One officer reports Ofelia Felix-Johnson saying that Johnson also punched her breasts, saying that she had no heart, and hit her over the back and buttocks with a plastic shoe rack, breaking the rack. The police report in the court file states that Johnson broke his wife's nose and toes, causing her to be hospitalized.



AlterNet obtained documentation of a second incident when police were called to intervene in a domestic conflict at the home of Timothy Johnson and Ofelia Felix-Johnson. Land records show the couple purchased a house in Perrysburg, Ohio, in March 1997. In 1998, Johnson was arrested by the Perrysburg Police, again on domestic violence charges. According to the police report, Johnson provided a "very similar" account of the incident to that his wife Ofelia and 14-year-old son gave police. Both wife and son reported that Johnson had Ofelia Felix-Johnson in a wrist lock, and when the son attempted to stop Johnson from hurting his mother, Johnson put the son in a head lock such that he was "unable to breathe and was choking up food," according to the police report. After the son broke free, the police report continues, Johnson "put his right hand around [the boy's] throat and pushed [him] against the wall with his back to the wall and choked [the boy] for about 5 seconds."

Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum to Participate in Forum hosted by Radical Anti-Choice Activists

Republican presidential candidiates Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have signed on for a “Presidential Pro-Life Forum” hosted by Personhood USA and moderated by Iowa conservative radio personality Steve Deace. The three candidates along with Rick Perry have already announced their support for personhood laws.

Personhood USA wants abortion and even common forms of birth control banned without exception, and personhood laws may even outlaw in-vitro fertilization and the treatment of problem pregnancies. The group launched unsuccessful referendums in Colorado and Mississippi, and has characterized President Obama as the “Angel of Death” and likened opponents to Nazis.

The other organizations listed as hosts of the forum are just as radical, if not more so.

The Call is led by Lou Engle, who has claimed that legal abortion may lead to civil war and is responsible for the Joplin tornado. Engle has also used his The Call prayer rally to bolster Ugandan legislation that would criminalize and in some cases give the death penalty for homosexuals. Moreover, Engle has compared gay rights to Nazism, advocated for Seven Mountains dominionism, and said that both gays and Muslims are demonic.

Another organization hosting the forum is the Oak Initiative, a project of South Carolina pastor Rick Joyner, who has argued that God will imminently destroy California, Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment for homosexuality, “extremist Islam” is God’s judgment for “perversions” and “abortions,” and that very soon “God’s judgment is going to come upon Hollywood.” Joyner also believes that President Obama may be a Muslim and that Muslims are trying to take control of Michigan, school textbooks and Christianity. Like Engle, Joyner is a proponent of Seven Mountains dominionism.

Both Engle and Joyner are closely affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation, which believes that God is raising up modern day apostles and prophets, and another cosponsor, the Freedom Federation, includes the NAR groups Generals International, led by the self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs, and Harvest International Ministries of self-proclaimed apostle Che Ahn.

Three Republican candidates for the nation’s high office including Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Senator Rick Santorum, and Speaker Newt Gingrich have confirmed their participation in the Presidential Pro-Life Forum on Tuesday, December 27, from 8:00 to 9:30 pm CST. The national tele-town hall and radio simulcast will be hosted by Personhood USA and their partner organizations: National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition, Liberty Counsel, Bott Radio Network, Freedom Federation, Frederick Douglass Foundation, Champion the Vote, Oak Initiative, The Call, Georgia Right to Life, Rock for Life, and Iowa Right to Life. An invitation has been extended to the remaining GOP presidential candidates.

The 90-minute pro-life tele-town hall will feature the candidates discussing their views on the rights of the preborn and other issues of great importance to pro-life voters. Pro-life groups around the nation are inviting their members to attend. Callers will have an opportunity to ask questions via email and give instant feedback to thoughts and ideas shared.

Nationally-syndicated radio host Steve Deace, whose influence in the Iowa Caucuses has been highlighted by numerous national media outlets, will broadcast the event live on his Salem Network program. Last week, four candidates, Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, and Gov. Rick Perry, signed Personhood USA’s Personhood Republican Candidate Pledge, declaring their intentions to stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death.”

“We’re pleased to see the candidates standing for the rights of every person to live, love, and be loved. The time has come to end the 40-year reign of the abortion industry, once and for all,” said Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. “This is an opportunity for everyone who understands that ‘all men are created equal’ to hear from the candidates their plans to recognize the most fundamental rights of every human being, no matter their age. Come, take advantage of this interactive and important event, and be a voice for the voiceless.”
Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious