Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver spoke recently at a "Standing for Jesus Christ Conference" in Delaware where he discussed his work defending Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in her fight to prevent her office from issuing marriage licenses because she disagreed with the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision.
Staver declared that Davis could not simply resign from her position just because she was unwilling to carry out her duties as an elected official, but had to remain in office because otherwise she would be sending a signal that Christians are not allowed to run for or hold public office.
We cannot "just cleanse our elected officials of Christians or those who believe in what everyone has believed through millennia of human history that marriage is a union of a man and a woman because five people — because five people! — disagree with God," Staver bellowed.
This sort of "persecution" of Christians will eventually spread to all levels of society, Staver warned.
"It's coming to every facility, every organization, every person that has deeply Judeo-Christian beliefs with regards to marriage as the union of a man and a woman," he stated, before declaring that the lighting of the White House in rainbow colors in celebration of LGBT Pride Month was a devastating shock to the entire world and "put a deep, solar plexus punch in their gut."
"What is happening in our country is happening around the world,"Staver asserted. "This is the greatest attack in our modern times on the church that we have ever seen."
In an email to supporters yesterday, Liberty Counsel chairman Mathew Staver repeated hisclaim that the U.S. is turning into Nazi Germany, warning that the “oppressive” Obama administration is working with liberal groups to push “America’s Christians into a ‘spiral of silence.’” This same “spiral of silence had devastating results in Nazi Germany,” he added.
“We need to stop the ‘spiral of silence’ in America induced by the Obama administration to mute the voices of their adversaries,” he wrote.
We are living under an oppressive regime that is pushing America's Christians into a "spiral of silence." I am calling on every friend of Liberty Counsel to rise up and be heard!
German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann coined the term "spiral of silence." Noelle-Neumann began her career working for a newspaper during Hitler's era. She found that people conceal their views when they think they are in the minority or may face reprisal for their beliefs. Of course, the spiral of silence had devastating results in Nazi Germany.
Silencing people of faith in the public square has always been the goal of those who realize the influence that pastors, churches, and people of faith have on elections and the culture. We have countless times seen and experienced the oppression of America's churches, ministries, and Christian believers by the Obama administration's use of the Department of Justice, the IRS, and even non-government organizations like the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Canter [sic].
It's time to stand against this oppression! Pastors and Christian leaders must cast off fear, remove their muzzles, and replace them with a megaphone. We need to stop the "spiral of silence" in America induced by the Obama administration to mute the voices of their adversaries.
We MUST recapture our government, our culture, and our freedom from the clutches of tyrannical leadership, rampant socialism, and moral relativism.
Liberty Counsel believes God's answer for America is going to come through her committed Christian pastors and other church leaders in every community and state in our nation.
Last week, the American Family Association released its "Naughty or Nice List," designed to let consumers "know which companies are Christmas-friendly" so they can patronize them this holiday season in an effort to fight back against the "secular forces in our country that hate Christmas because the word itself is a reminder of Jesus Christ."
Today, Liberty Counsel released its own "Naughty or Nice List," which likewise "applauds retailers who acknowledge the reason for the season, and exposes those who do not."
We have looked over both lists and realized that conservative Christians activists who intend to use them to plan their holiday shopping are going to find themselves very confused as to just which retailers are "naughty" and which are "nice," considering that several stores received opposite designations on the American Family Association and Liberty Counsel lists.
For instance, Liberty Counsel lists Barnes & Noble, Bath & Body Works, Best Buy, CVS and Staples as "nice," while the AFA lists those same stores as either "naughty" or "marginal":
Conversely, the AFA lists Dick's Sporting Goods, The Gap, Old Navy and TJ Maxx as "nice," while Liberty Counsel lists them all as "naughty":
Ever since the Supreme Court struck down state gay marriage bans back in June, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel has been leading the legal fight on behalf of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who ultimately went to jail for repeatedly refusing to allow her office to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Saying that Davis has been raised up by God to take a stand against gay marriage, Staver has repeatedly dismissed arguments that Davis should resign from her elected position if she cannot or will not carry out its basic duties, so we were rather surprised to hear Staver declare that Houston mayor Annise Parker ought to resign from her position if she is unhappy that voters recently repealed the city's non-discrimination ordinance.
On today's "Faith and Freedom" radio program, Staver's cohost Matt Barber asserted that Parker was so upset by the election results that she is now essentially urging companies to boycott her own city, prompting Staver to, without irony, declare that Parker ought to simply resign and "let somebody else do" the job if she feels that she cannot represent the "taxpayers and citizens" that she was elected to serve.
"That is like a CEO of a company who says you need to boycott our company," Staver said, "stop buying products from our company because we have a policy that I, the CEO, don't agree with even though the board of directors has ultimately voted for this policy, so stop patronizing our company. Well, you know what, if that's what your feeling is, resign from the company. Mayor, if you want people to boycott Houston, why don't you just resign and let somebody else who wants to run the mayor's office and represent the city of Houston and all of the taxpayers and citizens of Houston? Why don't you just let someone else do it because, frankly, you haven't been doing a very good job."
While Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who has attempted to deny marriage licenses to gay couples in her county and has been very upfront about her desire to use her public office to impose her religious beliefs on others, her lawyers at the Religious Right group Liberty Counsel have attempted to reframe her case as one about religious liberty, claiming that the clerk is merely seeking a personal exemption from putting her name on licenses.
Some in the Religious Right, it turns out, are unhappy with Liberty Counsel’s strategy and are urging Davis to go on openly defying the law in order to uphold what she sees as a divine mandate to stop gay marriages.
In an interview with former Missouri Republican state legislator Cynthia Davis in September, far-right activist Matt Trewhella insisted that by relying on religious liberty “nonsense,” Liberty Counsel was suppressing Davis’ true calling to “interpose” herself against gay marriage and thus save America from God’s judgment.
“What she should be doing is simply saying: ‘This is an immoral decree by the Supreme Court. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. It’s repugnant to the Constitution. I will not issue marriage licenses to homosexuals, I will only issue marriage licenses to heterosexuals,’” Trewhella said.
The Kentucky clerk, Trehwella said, must openly defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling because “when God looks for someone to stand in the gap against the tyranny, against wickedness being promulgated within the culture through the civil authority, if someone stands in the gap and defies them, then God relents in His judgment, but if they don’t defy the higher authority and they just go along with it, God allows His righteous judgment to come upon the land.”
“So, for her to be hiding behind the idea of ‘religious liberty’ is an absurdity,” he continued. “She shouldn’t be just trying to keep little Kim Davis from having to have her hand in the process of this abomination, two men or two women marrying. Her duty is far bigger than that. She actually has the duty to defy the higher authority completely and interpose on behalf of righteousness and therefore abate the just judgment of God upon our nation. That’s what true interposition of the lesser magistrate entails.”
Later in the interview, Trewhella insisted that Davis is a “good woman [who] just wants to openly defy and not issue to homosexuals” but had gotten “bad advice from her attorneys” because “standing on religious liberty is utter nonsense.”
He recommended that she instead seek the legal counsel of Michael Peroutka, a Christian Reconstructionist activist and Maryland county official, who said at a rally in support of Davis that the Supreme Court’s decision “is not law” because it is “not harmonious” with the word of God.
Turnout was small — about 50 during the day, a bit more in the evening — and the lunchtime press conference was delivered to a room devoid of press, but organizers filmed the speakers in hopes of turning the footage into a documentary or other resource for anti-gay activists.
Sprigg, who is also scheduled to speak at WCF on Wednesday, set the tone for the day by challenging the “gay identity paradigm” and urging social conservatives to avoid as much as possible using the words “gay” and “lesbian” because he said they refer to someone’s innate identity. Sprigg urged activists to separate sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and a person’s self-identification and instead to focus on gay relationships, which he called “objectively harmful to the people who engage in it and to society at large.”
He was also one of many speakers who insisted that advocacy for anti-gay policies is not motivated by hate but by love. For example, Sprigg said that while he mourns the gay men who died of AIDS, “the reason they died is because they chose to have sex with men, not because conservatives told them not to. We do no one a kindness by denying the truth.”
Sprigg, who argued against legal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, was one of several speakers who spoke, directly or indirectly, in opposition to this year’s “Utah compromise,” in which the Mormon Church agreed to support passage of limited LGBT nondiscrimination protections in return for religious liberty exemptions. Sprigg warned that compromise with the LGBT rights movement is “unwise” and “unsustainable.”
Also arguing for an uncompromising stance and “zero affirmation of the gay rights paradigm” was Americans For Truth About Homosexuality’s Peter LaBarbera, who urged anti-gay activists to stop playing defense and go on the offense, reclaiming the moral high ground by always opposing homosexual behavior. One way to go on offense, he said, would be by proposing state bans on hormone therapy and surgery for transgender youth.
Other notable anti-gay activists who addressed the gathering included Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver (via video) and Brian Camenker of MassResistance. Camenker said he respectfully disagreed with those who called for always speaking the truth in love. “I think there is a place for being insulting and degrading, and I think I can back that up by scripture,” he said. “I think we have to look at this as a war, not as, you know, a church service.” Rios agreed, saying, “I do think that evangelicals have gotten a little bit soft and not understood warfare.”
Camenker said that in the Old Testament, “God has two sets of laws regarding how you treat your fellow man.” One is how you treat your neighbor, who you might work with and forgive. “There’s a whole different set of rules for people who want to tear down society, who want to push immorality, who want to tear down the moral structure of society.” That set of rules is “very brutal,” he said. “God says those people who want to do that must be destroyed.”
He said the LGBT movement is a “house of cards” that is “held together by force, intimidation, and propaganda” and can be destroyed by standing up to it, the way communism was. “We are in a war,” he repeated, saying of gay-rights advocates, “They would send us to concentration camps if they could.”
One premise of the #Stand4Truth gathering is that the LGBT movement and their allies in the media suppress evidence about the causes of homosexuality, the medical and mental health harms associated with it, and the possibility of change through “authentic” ex-gay therapy. The evening session began with a panel seemingly designed to portray LGBT people as lost and miserable: a few “ex-gays,” a person who experienced “transgender regret” and Canadian activist Dawn Stefanowicz, an author whose book “Out From Under” recounts growing up with a gay father and his many sex partners and is portrayed as a cautionary tale against gay parenting.
In an email to members yesterday, Liberty Counsel head Mathew Staver found another opportunity to embrace the victim narrative, this time highlighting a new Justice Department effort to combat homegrown extremism.
Unsurprisingly, conservative activists have reacted to the DOJ program by predicting that the government will begin to go after Republicans, veterans and gun owners, the exact same claim they made after the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on far-right domestic terrorism in 2009.
In its latest email about the supposedly looming government attack on conservatives, Liberty Counsel compares itself with Christians who are actually facing persecution in the Middle East and insists that the U.S. government considers conservative Christians “more dangerous than radical jihadists and ISIS.”
“Mentored by radicals, including Bill Ayers, President Obama embraces ideologies that conflict with Christian values and the very principles upon which our nation was founded. That's why we are now in the Obama administration's crosshairs,” the email says. “Help us continue to stand against the radical onslaught being waged against Christians right here in America.”
A dangerous new chapter in the persecution of Christians is underway. No, not in the Middle East, but shockingly, right here in the United States!
Last week, we learned through CNSNews.com that President Obama's assistant attorney general for national security, John Carlin, revealed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is creating a new position called the "Domestic Terrorism Counsel," to combat the "real and present threat" of domestic terrorism...
And who are they identifying as posing that threat? Christians!
…in the opinion of President Barack Obama and his administration, you and I are considered more dangerous than radical jihadists and ISIS operatives which the State Department admits are being actively recruited in the United States.
Even more troubling is the fact that the DOJ is depending on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to help root out domestic terrorists. In earlier messages, we explained how the SPLC operates, placing groups — including conservative, Christian groups — on its "Hate List" based on their ideology, not their propensity for violence. Liberty Counsel has been added to that list!
As columnist Bryan Fisher so aptly wrote about the DOJ's methods of identifying domestic extremists, "[T]he folks at SPLC are still useful to the DOJ, which is desperate to paint conservative Christians as a greater threat to our domestic tranquility than people who are determined to decapitate us in the name of Allah."
Given the facts, why would the Obama administration name the SPLC as the DOJ's right arm in the effort to root out “domestic terrorists"?
Look no further than Barack Obama himself. Mentored by radicals, including Bill Ayers, President Obama embraces ideologies that conflict with Christian values and the very principles upon which our nation was founded. That's why we are now in the Obama administration's crosshairs.
…we can no longer ignore the increasing legislative and legal efforts to discredit and demonize our faith. This latest announcement should drive all of us to reinforce the walls for a battle that is already well underway!
Liberty Counsel has long fought on your behalf against those eager to silence believers while driving every vestige of Christian faith from public life. But we need help...
Your generosity is needed more than ever — both in prayer and through financial support. We are facing well-funded adversaries who are being emboldened by the President and his administration — and we must rise to the challenges!
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P.S. Help us continue to stand against the radical onslaught being waged against Christians right here in America. Your special gift will encourage us and help us overcome a significant budget shortfall this month.
Tami Jackson of BarbWire laments that “Obama and his administration, from the first day of the first term, have been at odds with the biblical Christian worldview, mocking and decreeing ungodly legislation at will.”
WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush unveils his “many quote verifiable charges” against President Obama.
Texas Eagle Forum is upset that Gov. Greg Abbott isn’t defying the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision.
Liberty Counsel is incensed that the Associated Press noted in a recent article that its founder and chairman, Mat Staver, once threatened to sue a library for encouraging kids to read “Harry Potter” and that he recently falsely claimed that 100,000 people in Peru gathered to pray for Kim Davis. The AP also dared to note that Liberty Counsel has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
All three claims are true, but Staver insisted in a letter to the AP’s assistant general counsel on Monday that the article was “defamatory” because it delivered an “unmistakable message to a reasonable person” that “Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel are liars and haters.”
“At a minimum, AP should permanently remove the link and the cache,” Staver wrote.
While Staver claims that the SPLC only lists Liberty Counsel as a hate group due to its biblical beliefs, the SPLC makes clear that its listing of anti-LGBT hate groups is “based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”
The AP included in its story a quote from Staver disputing Liberty Counsel’s hate group designation, but the designation was well-earned, as the right-wing legal group has a record of spreading misinformation about the LGBT community. Staver alone has:
After Liberty Counsel made the Davis meeting into a national news story, the Vatican was forced to clarify that Davis was one of several people who had been brought to see the pope at the end of his visit and that the pontiff “did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects." The only “real audience” the pope granted, it turned out, was with a former student and his same-sex partner
But Mike Huckabee, who says he spoke with Davis about the meeting at the Values Voter Summit, insisted in an interview with Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson yesterday that Davis and the pope “visited privately, just the two of them, for about 15 minutes” and that it is “elitist” forces in the Vatican who are trying to downplay the pope’s support for Davis’ cause. Outside of that “elitist world,” he said, people realize that Davis’ case could mark “the beginning of the criminalization of Christianity.”
“Now, why the Vatican is trying to downplay this meeting, the only thing I can figure is that many of the very liberal elements, not only of the media, but in some cases of the Catholic Church want to distance themselves because in their elitist world, Kim Davis is an unpopular figure,” Huckabee said. “But I’m telling you, wherever she goes and wherever I see people, in every airport I get on a plane and people say, ‘Thanks for standing up for Kim Davis.’ It’s very different because people realize that this is the beginning of the criminalization of Christianity if we don’t stand up to it.”
Scientific polls contradict Huckabee's anecdotal evidence about Davis’ popularity.
Huckabee later suggested that the pope fire the Vatican officials who have tried to downplay his meeting with Davis and paint him as more moderate on social issues: “I’d like to think that at some point the pope might start reading the press clips and maybe fire some of the people who are trying to represent him. I know, as a candidate, if I had press people that were out there misrepresenting my views, they wouldn’t be my press people any longer.”
Second Amendment zealot Jan Morgan tells Bryan Fischer that the solution to mass shootings in America is simply to declare that gun-free zones are unconstitutional.
Rob Schenck, a long-time Religious Right anti-abortion activist, has now turned his attention to fighting for gun control.
Finally, BarbWire's Tristan Emmanuel is not a fan of President Obama: "You are the leading jihadist of our day. By definition you are a traitor because you have harboured, aided and supported 'non-terrorist' organizations that seek to destroy America."
UPDATE: It turns out the only private meeting held at the venue was with one of Francis’ former students, who is gay, and his partner.
The Religious Right legal group Liberty Counsel boasted in a statement and at least two fundraising emails this week that their client, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, had a private meeting with Pope Francis during his recent visit to Washington and that the pope thanked Davis for her courage in denying marriage licenses to gay couples.
“Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we're doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything,” Davis said in an interview following the meeting.
But it seems that Davis’ lawyers attempt to paint Pope Francis as a Davis supporter has forced the Vatican to issue a statement claiming that the encounter between the pope and Davis has been greatly exaggerated, as she was one of dozens of people who met the pope only briefly at a stop in Washington, D.C.
Gerard O’Connell of the Catholic publication Americawrites that “a short but clear statement from the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., ... effectively deflates and denies the widespread misinterpretation in much of the media about that encounter.”
At that same time, he said, Pope Francis also “met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City.”
He explained that “such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability.” But, he added, “the only real audience granted by the pope at the nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”
Then, in the key passage of the statement, Lombardi clarified that “The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”
Father Thomas Rosica, who frequently assists Lombardi on matters relating to the Anglophone world, told reporters that there were “several dozens of people” in the Nunciature (the Holy See’s Embassy) for before the pope departed for New York. He said the pope would “have known little” about Mrs. Davis, apart from her name, and found it hard to give credence to Davis’s account that she had spent 15 minutes alone with the pope. There simply was not time, he said; the time was very limited and the people were scattered in small groups in different locations on the one floor of the building, and each had a very brief greeting with him, nothing more. Moreover, Rosica said, each of those present had been cleared by the U.S. Secret Service before entering the nunciature.
CBS News reports that a “ highly placed source inside the Vatican claims the Pope was blindsided” by the Davis meeting, adding that “[n]ot even Lombardi knew about it ahead of time, nor did the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which would have opposed it.”
“A close advisor to Pope Francis tweeted that the Pope was, in his words, ‘exploited’ by those who set up what the CBS 2 source says was a ‘meeting that never should have taken place,’” the report continued.
Reuters also spoke to a Vatican official who expressed a “sense of regret” about the meeting.
However, Davis’ lawyer and Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver is holding firm in his claim that the two had a much more meaningful encounter:
However, Davis' lawyer, Mat Staver, told The Associated Press that the Vatican initiated the meeting as an affirmation of her right to be conscientious objector.
"We wouldn't expect the pope to weigh in on the particulars of any case," Staver said Friday.
He said Vatican personnel initiated the meeting on Sept. 14, the day she returned to work, saying the pope wanted to meet her. He said Vatican security picked up her and her husband from their hotel and told her to change her hairdo so she wouldn't be recognized since the Vatican wanted the meeting kept secret.
Staver disputed a Vatican spokesman's claims that the pope only met Davis in a receiving line. He said the couple was in a separate room with Francis and Vatican personnel.
News of the meeting sent shockwaves through the U.S. church, with Davis' supporters saying it showed the pope backed her cause and opponents questioning whether the pope had been duped into meeting with her.
Initially the Vatican only reluctantly confirmed the meeting but offered no comment.
On Friday, Lombardi met with Francis and issued a fuller statement to "contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired." Francis has made clear he dislikes being used for political ends, and Lombardi's statement appeared intended to make clear that the encounter should in no way be exploited.
An assistant to Lombardi, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said he believed the pope would have been given a list of names of the several dozen people who were invited to the embassy to bid farewell as he left Washington, but was unaware of the details of her case or any possible implications of the meeting.
"I don't think he knew the details, the full biographies of each person, except for the names of the people there," Rosica said.
On the Friday before the pope’s arrival in Washington, D.C., Lori gave the keynote to a day-long “Religious Freedom Summit” at the Catholic University of America’s law school. Much of the day was devoted to discussion of horrific religious persecution in other parts of the world, including anti-Christian persecution in Syria and China. Those harrowing first-person accounts made it hard to consider claims of “religious persecution” by people like Kim Davis as even remotely in the same category.
Even among the conservative lawyers who filled the room, support for Davis wasn’t unanimous. The closing address at the conference was given by Ken Starr — yes, that Ken Starr — who is now president of Baylor University, a Texas-based Christian college with Baptist heritage.
Starr talked about how courts have wrestled with the words of the First Amendment for some 80 years, and proposed some key principles that he said should guide the law: non-coercion in matters of conscience; nondiscrimination against religion; government’s ability, within limits, to provide affirmative protections for religious belief; and government noninterference with the mission and governance of religious organizations.
Starr acknowledged that in implementing many of these principles there are lines that must be drawn. For example, he explained, the majority and dissenters in the Hobby Lobby case gave different weight to the religious liberty claims of the company’s owners and the potential for demonstrable harm to the company’s employees. How we identify and measure recognizable harm to third parties, and weigh it against free exercise, will continue to be wrestled with in the courts, he said, suggesting that there were probably differing opinions even among the people in the room.
Which brings us to Kim Davis, and other Religious Right martyrs-in-the-making such as bakers and florists who refuse service to same sex couples.
I don’t think that this question is easy. Others may, and the freedom of conscience simply trumps all. But the reason I think it’s not easy is because she is a public official who has taken an oath to uphold the law. I know, I heard the panel saying, look at all the exceptions to individuals who’ve been sworn to uphold the law and who have chosen not to do it. I personally find that a little uncomfortable. Oh, you’re going to pick and choose which laws to enforce.
He asked whether people in the room would be okay with a sheriff or chief of police deciding which laws to enforce based on their personal beliefs.
Starr then addressed conversations about accommodations for bakers and florists who refuse to serve gay customers:
Not a public official like Kim Davis, a private citizen. But at the same time I’m going to suggest that we really think hard on this. She is one who has opened her bakery or catering service or floral shop to business. She has a license from the state to do business. And in carrying out a commercial business, the general rule is one akin to principle two of nondiscrimination. That rule is deeply anchored in the common law. You’ve got to serve people who come in to you. And also the public accommodation provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when folks were excluded from service on grounds of race. The very idea and ideal of the common law rule is equality — you take care of every customer who comes to you unless you have a very substantial — they’re trying to tear up my shop.
Starr noted that there’s plenty of litigation in these areas, and that some “creative” arguments are being mounted by those suggesting that wedding services such as cakes and flowers are protected as a freedom of speech issue. (That kind of claim was made unsuccessfully by a photographer in New Mexico, discussed in PFAW’s “Religious Liberty: Shield or Sword?”)
Starr also noted that “we are an increasingly diverse community of men, women and children who come from so many cultures and traditions …The world we inhabit is a pluralistic one.” He acknowledged that his four principles won’t magically resolve differences on these issues, suggesting that those involved should adhere to another organizing principle, the Golden Rule, and treat those with whom they disagree with kindness, dignity, and respect.