Heritage Foundation

Pat Robertson: Bernie Sanders' Youth Supporters 'The Kids Who Want To Do A Panty Raid In The Fraternity'

Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson sat down with Stephen Moore, the former chief economist of the Heritage Foundation, to discuss the results of last night’s New Hampshire primaries, and particularly Bernie Sanders’ success in the Democratic contest.

After gloating that Hillary Clinton “is not going to be president” and commending Donald Trump’s “phenomenal,” “patriotic” and “pro-America” victory speech, Moore lit into Sanders and Clinton for proposing “big spending programs” and trying to “raise taxes on the middle class.”

Robertson, before repeating the myth that Sanders is seeking a 90 percent marginal tax rate, said he was confused as to why young voters overwhelmingly backed Sanders in New Hampshire. “Is that like the kids who want to do a panty raid in the fraternity?” he asked.

“It’s an indictment of our education system in America,” Moore said. “When these college graduates think that socialism is an economic model that works, I mean, show me anywhere in the world, Bernie Sanders, where socialism has worked.”

Congressional Republicans Promote 2016 'Ideas' Strategy, Warn Against Trump At Heritage 'Conservative Policy Summit'

The Heritage Foundation’s political advocacy affiliate, Heritage Action for America, held an all-day “Conservative Policy Summit” on Wednesday, during which Heritage staff and supporters heard from nearly two dozen conservative Republican members of Congress. Heritage's president, former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, reaffirmed one of the organization’s longstanding principles — that you can’t legitimately call yourself an economic conservative if you aren’t also a social conservative.

The morning consisted of speeches on “conservative policy pillars” – House Speaker Paul Ryan on leadership, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa on defense, Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina on social policy, and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska on economic policy. The afternoon was built around panel discussions on the House Freedom Caucus, the freshman class, differences in the workings of the House and Senate, and the state of the conservative movement. What was meant to be a closing debate on the filibuster between Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sen. Mike Lee turned into a moderated conversation with Lee — who defends the filibuster against frustrated right-wing House members — when Goodlatte didn’t show.

Ryan’s opening speech set a mostly high-minded tone, saying conservatives must address Americans who are hurting and convince them that a conservative pro-growth agenda offers them more promise than “failed” liberal policies. He called for a “clarifying election” that would, like Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory, come with a mandate to enact conservative policies. Ryan warned that with one more progressive presidency “liberals will lock in all their gains” — and that Democrats’ refusal to deal with entitlement reform would ensure monetary and fiscal crises.

In remarks that may have been intended for his Heritage Action hosts and members of the Freedom Caucus, Ryan urged conservatives not to engage in a “circular firing squad” or waste time fighting over tactics or impugning one others’ motives. “We can’t let how someone votes on an amendment to an appropriations bill define what it means to be conservative, because it’s setting our sights too low,” he said.

Ryan also said Republicans must not be merely oppositional. He suggested that conservatives who promised to repeal Obamacare while Obama was still in office were merely setting themselves up for failure. He said House Republicans are putting together a five part ideas-based agenda that will define the year in the areas of national security, jobs and the economy, healthcare, poverty and opportunity, and restoring the Constitution.

Rep. Mark Walker, a Southern Baptist minister, was introduced by Heritage’s Jennifer Marshall as a champion of the right-wing social agenda on marriage, abortion and religious liberty. Walker said the country was founded on traditional values, but that decades of liberal policies have led to the “undoing” of communities: “The federal government has hijacked the American Dream and the family has been decimated.”

Walker said Congress must “eliminate every taxpayer dollar that goes to Planned Parenthood,” saying, “There is no other freedom-robbing, opportunity-destroyer and life-killer that is more intentional than Planned Parenthood.”  Walker did not directly address the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling or the resistance to the ruling being pushed by some social conservatives. In a question about how to make marriage fashionable, he said the church has to do its job in teaching the truth about family.

Walker said people are right to be angry about some things, like classrooms indoctrinating students with “progressive secularism,” and said that anger can be a powerful motivator if properly targeted. He urged people to be discerning and compassionate in order to more effectively make the conservative case. “It’s okay to be a loud voice as long as you’re doing more than just making noise,” he said.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a former college president tasked with talking about economic freedom, said that the American idea of limited government and conservatives’ commitment to the free market are grounded in “an anthropological claim about human dignity.” Like other speakers, Sasse denounced what he described as regulatory overreach. He disputed the characterization by former Democratic Rep. Barney Frank that government is “another word for the things we choose to do together.” No, said Sasse, government is not community, but compulsion, power and force.

Sasse seemed to criticize Donald Trump’s campaign without mentioning the candidate by name (something Ryan had also done), saying it was wrong to think that government power or a single election can fix things.

A lot of what is happening in the Republican electorate right now is the downstream effects of the tribalism of race, class and gender identity politics on the left, that some of the right have decided, well, if they’re going to have an identity politics, maybe we should have an identity politics. And that is an abandonment of the American idea. We already have one post-constitutional party in this country; we don’t need a second one. And so the idea that there is a strongman that can save us isn’t true. It’s understandable why it can be attractive, but it isn’t true. And so if you pretend that if only we gave more power to one guy in Washington, but he was the right guy, everything would be fixed, I submit to you that that act is the act of saying everything is already lost in the American experiment. Because what America needs is a constitutional recovery, not a Republican Barack Obama.

A panel with members of the House Freedom Caucus — what moderator Fred Barnes referred to affectionately as the “Bomb-thrower Caucus” — included Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. A common theme of their remarks was that Republicans in Congress have lost the trust of the American people by overpromising and under-delivering because too many of them get to D.C. and get talked into being a “team player.” Members of the Freedom Caucus and panel of House freshmen all seemed optimistic that the House would function more effectively under the speakership of Paul Ryan than it did under deal-maker John Boehner.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia talked about the new Article I project that has been launched by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and others, which is designed to limit the regulatory power of federal agencies and the discretionary power of the president. (Lee and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas described the Article I project in National Review this week.) Later in the day Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona also mentioned the project, saying he hoped it would reinvigorate the constitutional balance between the legislative and other branches.

But in spite of the perils they said face America, panelists were positive about the state of the conservative movement. Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama noted that the conservative movement today has many assets that Ronald Reagan didn’t, including a national network of state-level think tanks and advocacy organizations, political groups devoted to candidate recruitment and training and grassroots mobilization, and GOP control in most statehouses and legislatures. Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, who waged the right-wing insurgent campaign that defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary, predicted a conservative wave election. And Rep. Bill Flores of Texas said the conservative movement is strong, as reflected in the success of “outsider” candidates in the Iowa caucuses and the majorities in the House and Senate — there’s just “one big step to go.”

Six GOP Hopefuls Vow To Enshrine Anti-Gay Discrimination Into Law

In the wake of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, anti-gay Religious Right groups rallied around a piece of legislation known as the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from "taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

In essence, the law would give individuals and businesses a license to openly discriminate against gay people and others in the name of "religious liberty," so naturally anti-gay groups have lined up in support of the legislation.

Today, several of these groups — the American Principles Project, Heritage Action for America, Family Research Council Action — announced that six GOP presidential hopefuls have all signed a pledge to, if elected to the White House, push for the passage of the FADA within their first 100 days in office:

American Principles Project has joined together with Heritage Action for America, the action arm of the Heritage Foundation, and FRC Action, the legislative affiliate of the Family Research Council, to invite each of the candidates running for President to sign the following pledge:

“If elected, I pledge to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and sign it into law during the first 100 days of my term as President.”

So far, six candidates have signed the pledge:

•   Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

•   Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida)

•   Dr. Ben Carson

•   Carly Fiorina

•   Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania)

•   Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas)

...

Maggie Gallagher, Senior Fellow at American Principles Project, released the following statement:

“It has become clear that the First Amendment Defense Act is rapidly becoming a signature issue that unifies the GOP. Three out of the four top contenders for the nomination — Carson, Cruz, and Rubio — have pledged to prioritize passing FADA in their first 100 days of office. Additionally, Bush, Graham, Paul, and now for the first time, Donald Trump, have publicly expressed support for FADA. Real, concrete protections for gay marriage dissenters appear to be just one election victory away.”

Ryan Anderson Takes Break From War On Marriage Equality To Target Nondiscrimination Laws

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson is one of the leading voices of the movement opposed to full legal equality for LGBT people. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, he rushed out a book designed to be a road map for a continuing culture war to resist and overturn marriage equality.

This week, he published another broadside against the LGBT movement — this one a Heritage Foundation “backgrounder” making the case that laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are unnecessary and “threaten freedom.” Given that Anderson is actively arguing for a generational culture war against marriage equality, it is somewhat difficult to take seriously the concern stated in his new paper that nondiscrimination laws “risk becoming sources of social tension rather than unity.”

Echoing the language of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Anderson starts by saying, “All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination,” adding, “but sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws are not the way to achieve that goal.” His claimed opposition to unjust discrimination may sound promising but, like the bishops, Anderson suggests that moral judgments about homosexual behavior are always legitimate justifications for discrimination.

Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities that people should accept instead of resist. Such views are inherently reasonable, even as people continue to disagree about them.

SOGI laws, he says, “do not protect equality before the law” but “grant special privileges.”

Anderson makes a libertarian anti-regulatory argument, charging that SOGI laws “expand state interference in labor markets, potentially discouraging economic growth and job creation,” though he offers no evidence that nondiscrimination laws have that economic impact.  (A 2015 study by a Colorado-based think tank found no evidence that anti-discrimination laws hurt small business growth.) Anderson says such laws “chip away at the at-will employment doctrine that has made the American labor market so much stronger than European labor markets.”

Anderson argues instead for “liberty under law,” saying employers should be allowed to fire employees for virtually any reason, and insists that nondiscrimination laws make that harder to do by making employers subject to legal action for violating those laws. Under Anderson’s conception of liberty under law, businesses as well as charities and civic associations “would be generally free to operate by their own values.” He argues that the free market will take care of problems with unjust discrimination:

Any business in the United States that posted a “no gays allowed” sign would soon find the power of public opinion expressed in the marketplace intolerably costly, without any need for the government to weigh in.

While that might be the reaction in gay-friendly locales, it is not hard to imagine pressure being applied the other way in some conservative communities, especially those where local churches and anti-marriage-equality activists have taken up Anderson’s charge to wage a long-term campaign to “bear witness to the truth” within a culture that he says has been told a lie about marriage.

Anderson’s 15-page paper summarizes its key points thusly:

  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws pose serious problems for free markets and contracts, free speech and religious liberty, and the health of our culture and pluralism.
  • SOGI laws threaten Americans with liability for alleged “discrimination” based on subjective identities, not objective traits.
  • SOGI laws mandate bathroom and locker room policies that undermine common sense in the schoolhouse and the workplace. They expand state interference in labor, housing, and commerce.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity are radically different from race and should not be elevated to a protected class in the way that race is.
  • Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities.
  • Market competition can provide nuanced solutions that are superior to coercive, one-size-fits-all government SOGI policy.

Anderson describes SOGI laws, including the proposed federal Equality Act, as if they are a secretive, nefarious plot by the LGBT movement:

Activist groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—an influential, sophisticated, and lavishly funded LGBT -activist organization—are pushing SOGI laws on unsuspecting citizens at the federal, state, and local levels.

First, it takes brass for Anderson to describe HRC as “lavishly funded” from his perch at the Heritage Foundation, whose 2013 income topped $112 million, with its political arm Heritage Action bringing in another $8.8 million — together more than double the combined income of HRC and its educational arm. Heritage has assets of well over $200 million and its already massive complex on Capitol Hill is in the midst of a major expansion. Lavishly funded, indeed.

Second, laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity are not being pushed invisibly “on unsuspecting citizens.” They are the result of decades of hard-fought advocacy by LGBT people and their allies. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws against discrimination in housing or on the job and almost as many have bans on discrimination in public accommodations. Protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are also in place in dozens of cities and counties.

Anderson, of course, does not mention that more than two-thirds of Americans – 69 percent – support laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination in workplaces, housing, and public accommodation, according to a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Even 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants support workplace nondiscrimination laws. “In fact,” reports PRRI, “fully three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans incorrectly believe workplace discrimination laws are already on the books.” In addition, 60 percent of Americans oppose allowing a small business owner to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs. 

Nevertheless, nondiscrimination protections are being actively fought by opponents of equality. Anderson praises Houston voters who recently overturned the city’s equal rights ordinance after a brutally bigoted campaign centered on the groundless, inflammatory charge that the law would give child molesters an open door to attack children in public bathrooms. Anderson’s paper raises similar “privacy and safety” concerns and says that allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms would defy “common sense.” What actually defies common sense is legislation that has been proposed in some states requiring transgender people to use only bathrooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth, which would mean requiring bearded trans men to use women’s restrooms.

Anderson devotes substantial time to criticizing what he calls a “false analogy” between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, wrongly claiming that such analogies are the primary justification for SOGI laws. In reality, advocates for LGBT equality have been pushing for legal protections against discrimination for many years, well before the organized marriage equality campaign of the past decade or two.  Anti-discrimination laws protect people on many grounds other than race, including religion, gender, disability, and marital status. They are not grounded in an analogy to the brutal history of race in America but in the principles of constitutional and civic equality.

Anderson repeatedly claims that nondiscrimination laws are vague and overly broad and do not make clear what actions might constitute discrimination. But in many, if not most, cases, sexual orientation and/or gender identity protections are added to existing civil rights laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and a range of other characteristics. Anderson does not explain why there should be any greater confusion about what constitutes discriminatory actions when applied to sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Seven Times Conservatives Have Admitted They Don't Want People To Vote

Earlier this week, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that he didn’t want “stupid” people — i.e. people who won’t vote for him — to vote at all. Then a Republican state representative in Florida was caught suggesting that the party beat Rep. Corrine Brown by redrawing her African-American-majority district to include a large population of prisoners, who are not allowed to vote in Florida.

These are just two of the instances of Republican lawmakers admitting that their electoral strategy hinges not just on winning votes, but on suppressing the votes of people who they think will oppose them.

Paul Weyrich

More than 30 years ago, an influential conservative leader explained why his movement shouldn’t “want everybody to vote.”

Paul Weyrich, an operative considered to be the “founding father of the conservative movement” because of his hand in founding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, the Council for National Policy and other influential conservative groups, laid out the GOP’s voter suppression strategy in a 1980 speech in Dallas.

"I don't want everybody to vote,” he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

Phyllis Schlafly

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers pushed through a package of voter suppression bills , including restrictions on early voting, something that many African American voters had taken advantage of the previous year.

Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly rejoiced in the news , saying that the early voting restrictions were “particularly important” because early voting had tended to help Democrats:

The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”

Franklin County, Ohio, GOP

In 2012, Republican officials in Ohio repeatedly attempted to cut back early voting hours , fighting off legal challenges from President Obama’s reelection campaign.

Doug Preisse, the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party (whose area includes the city of Columbus), put his party’s case frankly in an email to the Columbus Dispatch:

I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.

Mike Turzai

Before the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai declared that a new voter identification law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Greg Abbott

In 2013, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — who has since become the state’s governor – responded to the Justice Department’s accusation that recent redistricting had discriminated against minorities by explaining that the goal was just to discriminate against Democrats and “effects on minority voters” were merely “incidental”:

DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.

FRC Official: Call Gay Marriage 'Garriage' And Lesbian Marriage 'Larriage'

Pat Fagan, the director of the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religious Research Institute, suggested yesterday that marriage equality opponents start referring to gay men’s marriages as “garriage” and lesbians’ marriages as “larriage,” with the overarching term for “homosexual marriage” being “harriage.”

Fagan made his proposal in a question to Ryan T. Anderson, the marriage equality opponent who was presenting on his new book “Truth Overruled” at FRC’s office.

"A proposal," Fagan said, "something along this line, that we in the pro-family movement start using related terms, but keep ‘marriage’ for what it always was. So we might call — and this is to be worked out — but something like, if you're talking about gay marriage you call it ‘garriage.’ If it’s lesbian, you call it 'larriage.' If you want a generic homosexual marriage it’s ‘harriage.’ But getting these words into use I think is key. And that will take time, but whomever holds the language ultimately holds the whole game.”

Anderson, who has been doing his best to soften the public face of opposition to marriage equality, politely told Fagan that while his “broader point” was “exactly right,” his “only concern with the three terms that you suggest is how will that be heard by other people?”

H/T reader Erik

Sandy Rios: Liberals Bringing Soviet 'Sexual Chaos' To America

The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios invited anti-marriage-equality activist Ryan Anderson onto her radio program last week to promote his new book “Truth Overruled,” written in reaction to the Obergefell decision.

Anderson repeated his lament that marriage equality is a “symptom” of the “disintegration of marriage and family” that began with “the hookup culture, the rise of premarital sex, the rise of non-marital childbearing, the rise in the divorce rate, the redefinition of divorce laws with no-fault divorce laws.”

Rios agreed, saying she had been distraught in the decades since the 1960s watching the “fabric of our morality” tear, with “everyone acting out on their own sexual whims in any way they chose, and not wanting boundaries for themselves or anybody else.”

“It’s sexual chaos," she said, "which is what the left has been proposing since a long time ago, in fact back in communist Russia, and then the Weather Underground in the ‘60s wanted to practice, smash monogamy. It was the destruction of the family. I don’t understand that, but it is absolutely their goal and they’ve really done a good job of it.”

Ben Carson's Bible-Based Tax System and Other GOP Adventures In 'Biblical Economics'

In last night’s Republican presidential debate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said he would base a new tax system on the biblical system of tithing. “I think God is a pretty fair guy,” he said.

And he said, you know, if you give me a tithe, it doesn’t matter how much you make. If you’ve had a bumper crop, you don’t owe me triple tithes. And if you’ve had no crops at all, you don’t owe me no tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about that.

And that’s why I’ve advocated a proportional tax system. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. And everybody gets treated the same way. And you get rid of the deductions, you get rid of all the loopholes, and…

Carson has plenty of company on the far right. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has declared, “God believes in a flat tax.” On his radio show last year, Fischer said, “That’s what a tithe is, it’s a tax.”

Of course, that kind of flat tax would amount to a massive tax cut for the richest Americans and a tax hike on the poorest. So it’s not terribly surprising the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity has teamed up with the Religious Right to promote the idea that progressive taxation is an un-Christian idea. AFP joined Religious Right groups to create the Freedom Federation, one of the right-wing coalitions that sprung up in opposition to Barack Obama’s election as president. The coalition’s founding “Declaration of American Values” declares its allegiance to a system of taxes that is “not progressive in nature.”

David Barton, the pseudo-historian, GOP activist, and Glenn Beck ally, is a major promoter of the idea that the Bible opposes progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, and minimum wage. Barton’s views are grounded in the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, a movement whose thinking has infused both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its notion that God gave the family, not the government, responsibility for education — and the church, not the government, responsibility for taking care of the poor. 

That’s how we have Republican members of Congress supporting cuts in food stamps by appealing to the Bible. And how we get Samuel Rodriguez, the most prominent conservative Hispanic evangelical leader, saying that a desire to “punish success” — i.e. progressive taxes — “is anti-Christian and anti-American.”

This notion that laissez-faire economics, small government, and flat taxes are divine mandates, and that taxation is theft, is also how we end up with the Heritage Foundation promoting the idea that “[t]hose who esteem the Bible should also applaud St. Milton Friedman and other Church of Chicago prelates, because their insights amplify what the Bible suggests about economics.” And the idea that unions and collective bargaining are unbiblical is how we get Religious Right groups celebrating Scott Walker’s war on unions.

Already-Huge Heritage Foundation Expands DC Presence To 'Hit Washington Establishment' From 'Close Range'

The Heritage Foundation is a giant within the massive right-wing legal, political and cultural infrastructure that has been built over the past several decades. An ideological marketing operation in the guise of a think tank, Heritage has played a significant role in in getting economic and social conservatives to work together to push the Republican Party further and further to the Right. It operates out of an enormous complex near the U.S. Capitol — one that Heritage has announced is now growing even bigger.

In an email headlined “From close range,” Heritage President Jim DeMint writes:

If we’re going to reclaim America, conservatives have to hit the Washington Establishment from close range.

That’s why a critical phase of The Heritage Foundation’s Reclaim America campaign is building the Freedom Center.

Only steps from the U.S. Capitol, the Freedom Center will be at very close range. It will be your conservative stronghold for retaking our country.

The group’s website says, “The new Freedom Center will be the driving force behind a revitalized conservative resurgence, not just in Washington, but also around the country.”

The Heritage Foundation is vastly expanding our presence in Washington D.C.—the belly of the beast.

Our headquarters in the heart of Washington, D.C. is just two city blocks from the Senate offices, three city blocks from the Capitol building, and three city blocks from the House offices. It’s from this base that we will wage a policy war with the Left and the Establishment at very close range. In politics, proximity matters. That’s why our physical presence is key and that’s why expansion is critical to future conservative victories.

To beat down Big Government, we need to expand our footprint on Capitol Hill.

The Freedom Center will be only blocks from the U.S. Capitol in a remodeled structure already purchased—prime real estate once rented by far-left groups. The modernized Freedom Center will be specifically outfitted for:

  • Educating Congress about how conservative ideas solve today’s problems and help the American people;
  • Reaching the American people with an enhanced media outreach program focused on spreading conservative ideas;
  • Communicating facts to mobilize grassroots Americans;
  • And bringing together conservative groups to coordinate strategy.

In short, the Freedom Center will be a beachhead from which we can advance your principles in Washington from inescapably close range. 

DeMint says that Heritage is trying to raise $1 million for the project by August 18 and that a donor will match gifts made by August 18. According to IRS filings from 2013, the Heritage Foundation had income that year of $112.7 million, with net assets of more than $194 million. Its explicitly political arm, Heritage Action for America, reported income of $8.8 million and net assets of $4.8 million.

Ryan Anderson's Road Map for Marriage Resisters

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, celebrated as the anti-marriage movement’s fresh young face, is promoting his new book Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, which promises to tell anguished opponents of marriage equality how to respond in to the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to be legally married. Anderson’s book will be available July 20, but there’s probably no need to order it, since he has been flooding the media with his analysis of the ruling and advice about what anti-equality Christians should do in its wake.

Anderson is a protégé of Robert George, the Princeton professor and current intellectual godfather of the anti-gay movement. Like George, Anderson has made the case that the dispute over marriage is not about discrimination but about definition. Same-sex couples cannot be married, they argue, because marriage is by definition a relationship between a man and a woman, “uniting comprehensively, creating new life, and uniting new human beings with their mother and father.”

Anderson repeats that argument in his legal analysis of the Supreme Court’s ruling at Public Discourse, complaining that Justice Anthony Kennedy did not seriously engage with the main arguments of anti-marriage-equality advocates in his majority opinion. Anderson is unmoved by analogies to bans on marriage by interracial couples:

The problem with the analogy to interracial marriage is that it assumes exactly what is in dispute: that sex is as irrelevant to marriage as race is. It’s clear that race has nothing to do with marriage. Racist laws kept the races apart and were designed to keep whites at the top. Marriage has everything to do with men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers and their children, and that is why principle-based policy has defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Anderson has previously pointed to the anti-abortion movement as the model for long-term resistance to marriage equality. Since the Court’s ruling in Obergefell, Anderson has been more explicit about what the strategy means. In a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation on June 30, Anderson declared, “The central thesis of my new book…is that the pro-marriage movement is in the same exact situation culturally that the pro-life movement found itself in 42 and a half years ago after Roe v. Wade.”  In the 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, that movement has been all too successful at getting legislatures to restrict women’s ability to access reproductive health care, and at convincing courts to go along. In the Boston Globe, Anderson explained how that happened:

The pro-life community stood up and responded to a bad court ruling. Academics wrote books and articles making the scientific and philosophical case for life. Statesmen like Henry Hyde, Edwin Meese, and Ronald Reagan used the bully pulpit to advance the culture of life. Activists and lawyers got together, formed coalitions, and devised effective strategies.

At Heritage, Anderson identified three steps taken by abortion foes that he says must now be pursued by anti-marriage-equality advocates.

  1. Identify the decision as illegitimate judicial activism.
  2. Act to protect the rights of “conscience.”
  3. Wage a long-term campaign of “rebuilding a truthful, strong marriage culture” to “bear witness to the truth” within a culture that has been told a lie, in this case about the nature of marriage. This will be a long-term, “generational” effort, “something our children and grandchildren will be responding to.”

Anderson and other right-wing leaders have certainly been ready to carry out his first piece of advice, denouncing the ruling as judicial activism and, in Anderson’s words, “a significant setback for all Americans who believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, democratic self-government, and marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” His mentor Robert George responded in kind, saying, “we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation. We must, above all, tell the truth: Obergefell v. Hodges is an illegitimate decision.” Anderson’s colleague Matthew J. Franck, called it an “appallingly illegitimate decision.”

As for the second step, acting to protect the “rights of conscience,” Anderson says, “There is an urgent need for policy to ensure the government never penalizes anyone for standing up for marriage. We must work to protect the freedom of speech, association, and religion of those who continue to abide by the truth of marriage as one man and one woman.”

Anderson and other anti-equality leaders are pushing for passage of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act in Congress, and for passage of similar laws at the state level. He says that the First Amendment Defense Act would allow individuals, organizations, and businesses to “act on the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman” – in other words, to discriminate against same-sex couples without facing any legal consequences.

Just as the pro-life movement ensured that no pro-life citizen would ever have to pay for an abortion or perform an abortion, so too must we work to ensure no one is coerced on marriage. Rather than forcing people and institutions of faith to go to court for their religious liberty, this bill would prevent the government from ever acting unjustly in the first place.

As we noted recently, this strategy has the potential to lead to increasing restrictions on the ability of same-sex couples and their families to experience the equal dignity the Court has said they deserve.

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v Wade, laws were passed to allow doctors who had religious objections to performing abortions to refuse to do so without experiencing negative professional consequences. There has been little opposition to such laws. But over the past few decades, at the urging of anti-abortion activists, the scope of that kind of religious exemption has been expanded wildly to include people ever-further removed from the actual abortion procedure, and expanded to include even marginal participation in the provision of contraception. In emergency situations these accommodation could come at high cost, including the life of a patient.

Exemptions have been extended to or claimed by nurses who don’t want to provide care to women after an abortion, pharmacists who don’t want to dispense a morning-after pill prescribed by a woman’s doctor, even a bus driver who refused to take a woman to a Planned Parenthood facility because he said he suspected she was going for an abortion.

Law professors Douglas NeJaime and Reva Siegel describe these as “complicity-based conscience claims” – claims that are about refusing to do anything that might make one complicit in any way with another person’s behavior that one deems sinful. They note that the concept of complicity has been extended to allow health care providers not to even inform patients that some potential care or information has been withheld from them based on the religious beliefs of an individual or the policies of an institution.

The resistance to complying with the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that insurance plans cover contraception takes the notion of complicity to almost surreal lengths.  Just days after the Hobby Lobby decision, the Court’s conservatives sided provisionally with religious conservatives who are arguing that it is a burden on their religious freedom even to inform the government that they are refusing to provide contraceptive coverage, because that would trigger the process by which the coverage would be provided by others. Cases revolving around the simple act of informing the government of an objection are working their way back toward the Supreme Court….

Given what we know about the intensity of the anti-gay movement’s opposition to marriage equality, it is not hard to imagine how far that movement could run with the principle that religious beliefs about “traditional” marriage are a legitimate basis for discriminating against same-sex couples.

As for Anderson’s final step, waging a generational culture war to promote the idea that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, he offers several strategies:

  1. Conduct “rigorous social science” on family structures, which he says could be used to sway future conservative justices to overturn Obergefell. Anderson is editor of Public Discourse, published by the Witherspoon Institute, which is probably best known for financing the notorious Mark Regnerus study on “family structures,” which anti-equality groups continue to cite even though the study and the way it has been used by marriage equality opponents have been thoroughly discredited.
  2. Use “better spokespeople.” Anderson says the movement should make more use of gays and people raised by same-sex couples who oppose marriage equality.  Anderson complained at Heritage that both groups filed amicus briefs but that the Court did not acknowledge either.
  3. Live out “the truth about marriage” by demonstrating the beauty, truth, and holiness of one-man, one-woman marriage. Anderson acknowledged that gay and lesbian people did not cause family breakdown, heterosexuals did that through contraception, divorce, and other aspects of the sexual revolution. “Justice Kennedy’s philosophy of marriage is the natural result, the logical result, of the past 50 years of the breakdown of the American family. It’s the natural, logical conclusion of the sexual revolution.” Anderson said "We have ourselves to blame” for 50 years of “failing to live out the truth about marriage.”  Still, he said, “redefining marriage will not do anything to strengthen the family; but it will likely make the family even weaker.”

Anderson has achieved folk-hero status among the anti-gay right and many are likely to follow his road map. The National Organization for Marriage is praising his “encouraging words and advice” on how to “continue the fight to defend marriage as it has always been defined – the union between one man and one woman.”

 

Ryan Anderson: Gay Marriage Will Make Sexual Revolution's 'Mess Of Marriage' Worse

Ryan Anderson, senior fellow at Heritage Foundation and founder of “Public Discourse,” joined Eric Metaxas on his show Tuesday to discuss the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

Anderson provided listeners with a historical backdrop to the ruling, arguing that for “the past 50 years heterosexuals have failed to live out the truth about marriage.” Heterosexuals mistakenly “bought into a bad ideology; it was called the ‘sexual revolution.’” This, he said, made “a mess of the family, whether it was the hook-up culture, pre-marital sex, non-marital childbearing, lots of divorce.”

“And once you have made a mess of marriage in those ways,” Anderson continued, “there’s a certain logic to redefining it to include same-sex couples: if it’s just about consenting adult romance, why not?”

“That whole 50 years has been a problem,” he said. “Same-sex marriage didn’t cause the problem, but same sex marriage will make the problem worse and it will make it harder to create a strong marriage culture.”

Anderson made similar comments earlier this year in response to an interviewer who lamented that “the widespread acceptance of contraception” was “the first domino to fall” on the way to marriage equality.”

GOP targets Latinos’ ability to vote

This piece by People For the American Way Political Coordinator Carlos A. Sanchez originally appeared in Fox News Latino.

Even as a diverse coalition of Americans unite around the principle that voting rights are an essential American principle that needs to be protected, the Republican Party remains firmly committed to doing the opposite. Their continued push for policies that make it more difficult for people to vote disproportionately affects minority and young voters.

Republicans – including leading Presidential candidates – have for years been pushing initiatives that make it harder to vote. Jeb Bush supports states’ efforts to enact voter ID laws, and as governor, he restricted early voting and infamously purged 12,000 eligible voters before the 2000 presidential election. Marco Rubio asked, “What’s the big deal?” with voter ID laws. Scott Walker enacted what has been described as “one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.”

Voter ID laws systematically target Latinos’ and other minorities’ ability to vote. In 2012, measures to restrict voting could have affected over 10 million Latino voters. A Brennan Center for Justice study reported, “In Colorado, Florida, and Virginia, the number of eligible Latino citizens that could be affected by these barriers exceeds the margin of victory in each of those states during the 2008 presidential election.”

And it’s no accident that these laws disproportionately affect Latinos. A separate study from last year found “a solid link between legislator support for voter ID laws and bias toward Latino voters, as measured in their responses to constituent e-mails.” And yet another study that was released earlier this year found that even in states without voter ID laws, Latinos were targeted: “Election officials themselves also appear to be biased against minority voters, and Latinos in particular. For example, poll workers are more likely to ask minority voters to show identification, including in states without voter identification laws.”

Some Republicans have explicitly made known their intentions of suppressing Latino and African-American voters in order to win elections. Over 30 years ago, ALEC-founder and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation Paul Weyrich spoke plainly:  “I don’t want everybody to vote…As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Republican after Republican has continued in his footsteps: An Ohio GOP County Chair stated he supports limits on early voting because, “I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine.” Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai believed voter ID laws would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Former GOP Precinct Chair Don Yelton used the “n” word as he tried to deny that a voter ID law in North Carolina was racist (and he explained that “the law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt”). Conservative activist and notoriously anti-immigrant Phyllis Schlafly said, “The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game.” Schlafly’s Eagle Forum endorsed Marco Rubio in his run for Senate (here’s a lovely picture of the two of them) and applauded Scott Walker for his opposition to legal immigration.

The Republican response to the growing power of minority voters could not be clearer: shut them out of the election process. Under the guise of fighting voter fraud, despite a striking absence of evidence that fraud exists, Republican-led chambers across our nation have moved in concert to restrict access through the polls for political reasons. It’s that simple.

What’s even more upsetting is to hear a group who claims to represent the best interests of a community choose to ignore the facts in favor of their funder’s agenda.  Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Iniative, said he’s fine with voter ID laws and that he doesn’t think Republicans are trying to suppress the Latino vote. Libre is a Koch-funded GOP shadow group that time and again turns its back on the Latino community – for example, Libre supported Republican candidates who opposed immigration reform in 2014. Garza’s support for voter ID laws is yet another instance of him and Republicans supporting a policy that’s devastating to Latinos.

It’s time for the Republican Party to end their campaign against voting rights—and for people like Daniel Garza to stop giving them cover when they do it.

Carlos A. Sanchez is the Coordinator of Political Campaigns for People For the American Way.

PFAW

Sandy Rios 'Grieved To The Bone' That Gay Pundit May Destroy The Conservative Movement

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, spoke to American Family Association’s Sandy Rios on her talk show “Sandy Rios in the Morning” this week about the danger of growing support for gay rights within the conservative movement.

Rios began the segment by discussing her concern regarding Guy Benson, a conservative commentator for the Salem Media Group-owned Townhall.com who recently came out as gay in a footnote to his new book, End of Discussion, coauthored by Mary Katharine Ham. Rios is not the only AFA affiliate to speak out against Benson, as American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer also issued a statement calling for Benson’s replacement. Rios played a clip in which Megyn Kelly of Fox News tells Guy Benson on her show, “You are in a safe place here.”

Rios, who hired Benson to be the producer of her previous radio program, responded to Benson’s announcement by sharing that “when he came out last week it was a great shock to me, and very sad, very sad.” For Rios, “it’s not just a matter of Guy coming out; it’s that they’re coming out endorsing gay marriage. That’s not the main part of their book but it’s, it’s a huge part of their book. They’re both mainstream conservative voices.” Rios warned that “even though Guy smiles and is very sweet, I fear for the repercussions of this.”

“Guy Benson’s professed homosexuality is not a mere footnote, Sandy,” LaBarbera added. “And that’s the temptation of the new, I guess I’d call it soulless, conservatism.” LaBarbera explained that identifying as a gay Christian “makes no more sense, Sandy, than someone being a so-called porn-using Christian, or substitute any other sexual sin, and that doesn’t make a positive identity.”

“And yet,” bemoaned LaBarbera, “look what Megyn Kelly says. She says ‘you’re so brave.’ Why is it brave? You can tell there’s an approving tone when you watch the interview. It’s just bizarre that we’ve come to this point that somebody professes homosexuality and a quote ‘gay’ identity, which puts a really sort of nice face on it, is brave and that’s a sign of being honest, when actually it’s merely publicly embracing a sin.”

Rios, seemingly personally offended by Kelly’s “safe place” remark, responded, “Where did that, I mean, what could have been unsafe? I mean, Guy worked with me for years, and he’s still, he may not be happy with me discussing this publicly, but he would not be surprised, and certainly when he was working with me he was in a safe place. My love for him has not changed, but I am grieved to the bone, that he is, that this is an issue in his life.”

Rios added that she felt compelled to speak because, from her perspective, Benson’s coming out will have “detrimental, terribly detrimental effects on what it means to be a Christian conservative because it muddies the lines. And it’s also, if Salem does not care about this, Salem the Christian communications company, and if Heritage, who is fighting gay marriage, doesn’t care that they’re premiering a book that, you know, the authors, Mary Kathrine Ham has her own big following, are supportive of gay marriage, the lines are just being erased.”

Rios, still reeling from her grief, said, “Surely he must know that if the Supreme Court comes out and legalizes gay marriage all over the country people will be breaking the law if they oppose it in any way. So, uh, the normally clear-thinking guy is not thinking clearly, and neither is Megyn.”

“Yeah. I agree with you,” LaBarbera responded. “He also came out for nondiscrimination laws in the BuzzFeed article and those laws have been the basis for the persecution of people who oppose homosexuality.”

Comparing Benson with the “small number of openly homosexual people” who are against marriage equality, LaBarbera said that by embracing LGBT equality, Benson has joined a “radical” and “revolutionary” movement that “is all about normalizing homosexuality.”

“He says he’s standing on the shoulders of gay activists,” LaBarbera said, “and when I saw that I was like, ‘Well, which ones?’ Are you standing on the shoulders of the 1970s gay activists who scream in politicians’ faces? What about the homosexuals who will harass people, harass the psychologists to have them supposedly normalize homosexuality in the APA, the American Psychiatric Association, the direct-action homosexuals who use far-left techniques? I know he said he’s not with the far left, but, I mean Sandy, this is a movement that is all about normalizing homosexuality. That was a radical, a revolutionary goal. So which homosexual activist is Guy Benson standing on? That’s kind of troubling to me.”

Marriage Equality Opponent: Gay Marriage 'Mess' Started With Contraception

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson — the fresh face of the movement against marriage equality — agreed with an interviewer last week that the road to marriage equality started with widespread contraception use, saying that the acceptance of gay marriage came about because “we’ve had a culture since the ‘60s, since the sexual revolution, that has largely made a mess of human sexuality, the family and marriage.”

Patrick Coffin, who hosts a podcast for the group Catholic Answers, asked Anderson whether “the widespread acceptance of contraception” was “the first domino to fall” on the way to marriage equality.

“Yes, the sexual revolution explains quite a bit of this,” Anderson agreed. “We only arrived at the place where we are today, in 2015, at the cusp of a potential Supreme Court case redefining marriage everywhere because we’ve had a culture since the ‘60s, since the sexual revolution, that has largely made a mess of human sexuality, the family and marriage. It’s only after a generation or two of premarital sex, non-marital childbearing, the hookup culture, pornography, no-fault divorce, that you’d then be at the point of saying, ‘Oh, yeah, marriage has nothing to do with men and women.’”

Opponents of marriage equality don’t always acknowledge that the rights that they would like to roll back don’t stop with gay marriage. But just as the gay rights and women’s rights movements have been intertwined for decades, so has the opposition to those advances.

In fact, Anderson made this very argument in a 2006 essay in defense of the radically anti-contraception Quiverfull movement (made famous by the Duggar family), in which he wondered if a backlash against gay marriage might lead Christians to reexamine their "sexual practice" and come to realize "the immorality of contraception":

As people continue to see the bad results of the sexual revolution, they are likely to reevaluate their current attitudes toward sex, and while doing so they may find that the logic of human sexuality leads right back to traditional Christian orthodoxy. Might the continued push for same-sex "marriage" and the normalization of homosexuality prove to be the tipping point, the catalyst for a widespread reexamination of Christian sexual practice? Might these issues push the envelope so far that, as faithful Christians reflect on the reasons why they must conclude that homosexual acts fail to embody the truth of human sexuality, they come to realize that these same reasons entail the immorality of contraception? (For the moment I’ll assume that anyone entertaining this line of thought has already concluded that premarital and extramarital sex likewise fail to embody the truth of human sexuality.)

Last month, during the Supreme Court arguments in the Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality cases, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg challenged the idea that the definition of marriage has existed for “millennia,” pointing out that the ground for same-sex marriage was paved by a “change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian” for women. More recently, the legal fight for reproductive rights for women — starting with defending the right to contraception — has gone hand in hand with the fight for LGBT rights.

This post has been updated with Anderson's 2006 article.

The Anti-Equality Movement's Favorite Laughably Disingenuous Talking Point

Anyone who has paid any attention at all to the marriage equality debate has heard an equality opponent speak some version of this line: “All Americans have the freedom to live as they choose. But no one has the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.”

There’s a reason for that. The National Organization for Marriage instructs its activists that it is the “most effective single sentence” the anti-marriage-equality movement has:

Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is the following: “Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose; they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.” This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage.

Not surprisingly, people like former NOM President Maggie Gallagher use that talking point. And even as the movement continues to lose public support and legal battles, they have maintained message discipline when it comes to using this sentence. You can find nearly endless examples of it with tiny variations, spanning more than a decade. Here are just a few examples:

  • Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson used the line in his speech at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference;
  • Kate Sweeney, assistant director of the Colorado-based Catholic women's group ENDOW, used it while opposing a state civil unions bill in 2013;

Of course, the line is not only ineffective, judging by the continued pro-equality swing in public attitudes, but it’s also ridiculously disingenuous coming from people who have tried so hard over the years to restrict the ability of LGBT people “to live as they choose,” as PFAW Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon recently documented.

That includes DeMint, who believes gay people should not allowed to be teachers and slams the Supreme Court for overturning sodomy laws that made gay people criminals. And it certainly includes the Heritage Foundation, which slams landmark equality cases Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans as examples of unacceptable “judicial activism.”

Heritage, also the professional home of the fresh-faced hope of the marriage equality movement Ryan T. Anderson, opposes the Employment Non Discrimination Act, which would protect people from being fired for being gay, and fought federal hate crimes legislation. Of course, Anderson frequently uses the same poll-tested phrase, as he did in a 2013 briefing paper for Heritage on the perils of “redefining marriage.”

While it is increasingly true that LGBT Americans are “free to live as they choose,” that goal is far from being accomplished nationwide. And whatever progress has been made, it has been over the opposition of people who now smile into the camera and hope to hide their anti-gay agenda with a little deceptive messaging. 

Ryan T. Anderson: Gay Marriage Advocates Like Opponents Of Interracial Marriage

Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson, a vocal opponent of marriage equality, spoke to Sandy Rios of the American Family Association today about the controversy over “religious freedom” measures in states like Indiana and Arkansas. During the interview, Anderson took issue with gay rights supporters who assert that businesses that cite moral reasons to deny services to same-sex couples aren’t acting all that differently from businesses that denied services to interracial couples by claiming that such relationships were immoral and unnatural.

While anti-miscegenation laws were implemented throughout the United States for centuries until the Supreme Court struck them down in 1967, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that a majority of Americans began to accept that interracial relationships are moral (many, and disproportionately white evangelicals, still do not believe so), Anderson suggested that interracial marriage opponents never really held sway.

“What does race have to do with marriage?” he asked. “Absolutely nothing. And no great thinker at any point in human history ever said race had anything to do with marriage.”

Well, they may not be the greatest thinkers of human history, but plenty of leaders of the Religious Right movement believed that the Bible required them to oppose interracial marriage. Bob Jones said that any “Bible-believing Christian” would oppose interracial marriage, Jerry Falwell preached against it, and Jesse Helms — who has been honored by Anderson’s own group — “got his political start by bashing interracial marriage.”

Anderson then went one step further, insisting that gay rights advocates are the ones acting like the opponents of interracial marriage.

“For the past generation, there have been a bunch of lies told in the public schools and in the media, lots of propaganda, but propaganda can’t win in the long run. In the long-run, the truth wins out,” Anderson said. “In the same way when there were some racists who tried to say that you can’t have interracial marriage, that was propaganda, it was a lie, and it failed. In the same way, trying to eliminate that marriage is about uniting the two halves of humanity, not black and white, because that’s not the two halves of humanity, the two halves of humanity, male and female, husband and wife, mom and dad, you can’t erase that, and in the long run the truth will win out.”

Heritage Foundation Event Defends Ex-Gay Therapy As Sound Science

While John G. West of the Discovery Institute dedicated most of his time speaking at the Heritage Foundation today to attacking evolution and “totalitarian science,” he briefly discussed laws prohibiting sexual orientation conversation therapy for minors during the Q&A portion of the event.

While leading associations in the medical community have roundly denounced ex-gay therapy as reliant on discredited science and dangerous to the people it is supposed to “help,” West claimed that it is actually the LGBT advocates who are harming young people by placing limits on such practices and pushing “preposterous” claims about sexual orientation.

Heritage Anti-Evolution Event Blasts 'Cosmos' For Promoting 'Totalitarian Science'

The Heritage Foundation today hosted a speech by John G. West of the Discovery Institute, a group founded to promote Intelligent Design, undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools and raise the alarm about the purported persecution of people who do not believe in evolution.

While promoting his book “Darwin Day in America,” West told the audience that proponents of evolution seek to “muzzle” and “silence” Intelligent Design supporters.

West, who concedes that he is not a scientist, also lashed out at Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of the television program “Cosmos.” He criticized President Obama for filming an introduction for the first episode of the series, claiming that the Obama administration has joined scientists in promoting “totalitarian science.”

National School Choice Week: PR For Privatizers?

On Wednesday morning, a roomful of school children were herded into a congressional meeting room and required to sit through an hour and a half worth of speeches by conservative Members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Patrick McHenry, Education & Workforce Committee Chair John Kline of Minnesota, and a handful of others. Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana was the emcee.

The Capitol Hill event was in honor of National School Choice Week, whose organizers describe it as a nonpolitical, nonpartisan “independent public awareness campaign” promoting the idea that every child deserves access to an excellent education. Who would disagree?

In other words, it’s a PR campaign, one that wraps itself in the moral mantle of children. But the bright yellow scarves it wraps around its participants are meant to distract attention from the fact that sponsors of this week’s thousands of events include many anti-public education, anti-union, anti-government ideologues, including the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance for Prosperity and others. The President of National School Choice Week, Andrew Campanella, used to work at the Alliance for School Choice, whose board is chaired by deep-pocketed right-wing activist Betsy DeVos and is funded by a who’s who of right-wing foundations.

As we noted during last year’s NSCW:

Education policy is a vast, complicated, and hotly contested arena. Terms like “education reform” and “school choice” sound good, but they are so broad as to be almost meaningless. They can be applied to genuine efforts to strengthen teaching and educational opportunity as well as cynical schemes to destroy public employee unions and dismantle public education altogether.

In particular, “school choice” encompasses a huge array of education policies, from public charter and magnet schools to taxpayer-funded for-profit cyberschools and homeschooling.  Even a seemingly specific term like “charter schools” cloaks a more complex reality that ranges from innovation labs co-located in public schools to for-profit chain operations.  

Indeed, this year, Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter published “A Smarter Charter: Finding What works for Charter Schools and Public Education.” The book documents that the original vision for charter schools – teachers empowered to be creative in diverse schools that could identify ways to strengthen public education – has been turned on its head. Rather than a teacher-empowering and collaborative paradigm, charter schools are often noted for tightly controlled teachers in highly segregated schools dominated by an ideology of competition with public schools. 

There are more collaborative models, just as there are charter schools with strong academic track records as well as those that lag behind the public schools that choice advocates consistently disparage. Important distinctions get lost under the big, vague, banner of school choice. And that’s intentional.

NSCW is about painting in broad strokes and drawing no distinctions, for example, between public magnet schools and for-profit corporations cashing in on the “reform” movement. No distinction is made between giving students choice among their district’s public schools and diverting education dollars into religious academies and online homeschooling via vouchers and other schemes.  These do not have the same impact on public schools, or the same levels of public accountability, but in the interest of keeping things simple, and winning public support for across-the-board expansion of these programs, they’re all “choice.”

As we wrote last year:

The problem with this “collective messaging” approach is that it hides the anti-public-education agenda of some “reformers.” Celebrating “school choice” across the board lends credibility to organizations pushing for destructive policies that are not at all popular with the American public. In spite of decades of right-wing-funded attacks on public education, for example, Americans oppose privatization plans like vouchers that transfer public education funds to private schools.

Self-proclaimed reformers often dismiss concerns about privatization as a “red herring.” But you can’t embrace the Milton Friedman Foundation as a partner and then pretend that privatization is only an imaginary threat dreamed up by teachers unions.  Friedman has an explicit goal of getting rid of public schools altogether; they see programs like vouchers for poor kids as a tactical stepping stone toward that ultimate goal.

Other supporters of National School Choice Week have included companies that want to tap into the huge flow of public dollars spent every year on education. K12, a member of the “choice”-promoting American Legislative Exchange Council and a company the New York Times has described as “the biggest player in the online-school business,” paid its president more than $5.5. million last year; two other executives each made more than $4 million. A November 2014 investigation by Bloomberg focused on the company’s efforts to turn around “subpar test scores” and declining enrollments.

National School Choice Week promoters say it is nonpolitical and has no legislative agenda, but that’s hard to take seriously given the agendas of its backers. At this week’s event on Capitol Hill, the only Democratic Member of Congress to join the Republican parade was Illinois’ Dan Lipinski, who declined to endorse Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. (Former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford also spoke.)

Members of Congress at Wednesday’s event talked about pushing legislation this year to expand “school choice” programs, meaning that battles over vouchers, charter schools, and other education issues will be on the agenda this year, including February’s Senate markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “There are currently private school voucher and tuition tax credit programs in 23 states and at least 10 states are looking to create new or expanding existing school voucher programs this year.”

Obviously, not everyone who participates in National School Choice Week activities is an anti-public-education ideologue. People from across the political spectrum are eager to strengthen schools and give students an opportunity for a great education. That includes public school teachers, administrators, and school board members – people who are collectively smeared as “the blob” by some “reformers.” People who are seeking to strengthen public education and make schools better for all children should think twice about making common cause with organizations that see public education as something to be dismantled and corporations that see students as the means to a bigger bottom line.

This post originally appeared on People For the American Way's blog.

National School Choice Week: PR for Privatizers?

On Wednesday morning, a roomful of school children were herded into a congressional meeting room and required to sit through an hour and a half worth of speeches by conservative Members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Patrick McHenry, Education & Workforce Committee Chair John Kline of Minnesota, and a handful of others. Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana was the emcee.

The Capitol Hill event was in honor of National School Choice Week, whose organizers describe it as a nonpolitical, nonpartisan “independent public awareness campaign” promoting the idea that every child deserves access to an excellent education. Who would disagree?

In other words, it’s a PR campaign, one that wraps itself in the moral mantle of children. But the bright yellow scarves it wraps around its participants are meant to distract attention from the fact that sponsors of this week’s thousands of events include many anti-public education, anti-union, anti-government ideologues, including the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance for Prosperity and others. The President of National School Choice Week, Andrew Campanella, used to work at the Alliance for School Choice, whose board is chaired by deep-pocketed right-wing activist Betsy DeVos and is funded by a who’s who of right-wing foundations.

As we noted during last year’s NSCW:

Education policy is a vast, complicated, and hotly contested arena. Terms like “education reform” and “school choice” sound good, but they are so broad as to be almost meaningless. They can be applied to genuine efforts to strengthen teaching and educational opportunity as well as cynical schemes to destroy public employee unions and dismantle public education altogether.

In particular, “school choice” encompasses a huge array of education policies, from public charter and magnet schools to taxpayer-funded for-profit cyberschools and homeschooling.  Even a seemingly specific term like “charter schools” cloaks a more complex reality that ranges from innovation labs co-located in public schools to for-profit chain operations.  

Indeed, this year, Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter published “A Smarter Charter: Finding What works for Charter Schools and Public Education.” The book documents that the original vision for charter schools – teachers empowered to be creative in diverse schools that could identify ways to strengthen public education – has been turned on its head. Rather than a teacher-empowering and collaborative paradigm, charter schools are often noted for tightly controlled teachers in highly segregated schools dominated by an ideology of competition with public schools. 

There are more collaborative models, just as there are charter schools with strong academic track records as well as those that lag behind the public schools that choice advocates consistently disparage. Important distinctions get lost under the big, vague, banner of school choice. And that’s intentional.

NSCW is about painting in broad strokes and drawing no distinctions, for example, between public magnet schools and for-profit corporations cashing in on the “reform” movement. No distinction is made between giving students choice among their district’s public schools and diverting education dollars into religious academies and online homeschooling via vouchers and other schemes.  These do not have the same impact on public schools, or the same levels of public accountability, but in the interest of keeping things simple, and winning public support for across-the-board expansion of these programs, they’re all “choice.”

As we wrote last year:

The problem with this “collective messaging” approach is that it hides the anti-public-education agenda of some “reformers.” Celebrating “school choice” across the board lends credibility to organizations pushing for destructive policies that are not at all popular with the American public. In spite of decades of right-wing-funded attacks on public education, for example, Americans oppose privatization plans like vouchers that transfer public education funds to private schools.

Self-proclaimed reformers often dismiss concerns about privatization as a “red herring.” But you can’t embrace the Milton Friedman Foundation as a partner and then pretend that privatization is only an imaginary threat dreamed up by teachers unions.  Friedman has an explicit goal of getting rid of public schools altogether; they see programs like vouchers for poor kids as a tactical stepping stone toward that ultimate goal.

Other supporters of National School Choice Week have included companies that want to tap into the huge flow of public dollars spent every year on education. K12, a member of the “choice”-promoting American Legislative Exchange Council and a company the New York Times has described as “the biggest player in the online-school business,” paid its president more than $5.5. million last year; two other executives each made more than $4 million. A November 2014 investigation by Bloomberg focused on the company’s efforts to turn around “subpar test scores” and declining enrollments.

National School Choice Week promoters say it is nonpolitical and has no legislative agenda, but that’s hard to take seriously given the agendas of its backers. At this week’s event on Capitol Hill, the only Democratic Member of Congress to join the Republican parade was Illinois’ Dan Lipinski, who declined to endorse Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. (Former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford also spoke.)

Members of Congress at Wednesday’s event talked about pushing legislation this year to expand “school choice” programs, meaning that battles over vouchers, charter schools, and other education issues will be on the agenda this year, including February’s Senate markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “There are currently private school voucher and tuition tax credit programs in 23 states and at least 10 states are looking to create new or expanding existing school voucher programs this year.”

Obviously, not everyone who participates in National School Choice Week activities is an anti-public-education ideologue. People from across the political spectrum are eager to strengthen schools and give students an opportunity for a great education. That includes public school teachers, administrators, and school board members – people who are collectively smeared as “the blob” by some “reformers.” People who are seeking to strengthen public education and make schools better for all children should think twice about making common cause with organizations that see public education as something to be dismantled and corporations that see students as the means to a bigger bottom line.

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