Matt Barber, an anti-gay pundit and Liberty University law professor, attended last weekend’s Values Voter Summit, which he told Virginia-based radio host Rob Schilling felt “like an island of reason in a sea of insanity” because “this United States of America right now is more insane than certainly you and I have seen in our lifetimes.”
Schilling agreed, noting the rainbow display on the White House last year, which he said put “a spiritual target on the building.”
Our leaders, Barber said, are “devolving into ancient pagan sexuality of the Sodom and Gomorrah type and touting it as good, it makes you worry for your country.”
“Well we saw what happened to those places, Matt,” Schilling responded, “and I’m very concerned. And certainly maybe even a decade or at least for sure two decades ago, this seemed like a fortress that was protected by two oceans and nothing could touch us. And now you and I know there are many ways that this nation could be obliterated almost instantly.”
Barber agreed that there are “so many threats to this country right now” and that “the frog is just about dead that is boiling in the pot.”
“And I think we recognize now that we are in trouble, serious trouble as a nation, more so than any time immediately preceding the Civil War,” Barber added. “That’s how volatile the situation is here domestically, I’m just speaking about, you throw the global threat into the mix and these are tumultuous times.”
It was hardly surprising to see Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. on the speakers’ list for the Republican convention. After all, Falwell has compared Trump to Jesus Christ, the biblical King David, Martin Luther King Jr., and his own father, Jerry Falwell Sr. That’s the kind of adoration Trump appreciates.
Falwell’s man-crush on Trump began long before the current campaign. In 2012, he told Newsmax that Trump’s speech at the university’s weekly convocation was “probably the best” in the history of the school. Trump’s message — he told students to be sure to “get even” with anyone who slights them — was seen by some as not particularly Christian, but Falwell defended Trump’s remarks as not at all contrary to the turn-the-other-cheek message of Jesus.
Like Trump, Falwell is not one to worry about ideological consistency. In February, when Trump was embroiled in a war of words with Pope Francis, Falwell rushed to his defense, saying “Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run the country.” This was a hilariously un-self-aware comment from someone presiding over the empire that his father built on the premise that the Bible has clear instructions for people who run the country.
And this year, Falwell is holding nothing back. He invited Trump to speak at Liberty on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, something he said was a purposeful decision, one that generated some student protest. Falwell’s endorsement of Trump came just before the Iowa caucuses, and his effusive introductory remarks were turned into a radio ad by the campaign. And that was in spite of the transparent, cynical charlatanism of Trump’s Bible-waving. The candidate’s actual familiarity with the Bible was revealed by his laughter-provoking reference to “two Corinthians” when his written speech referred to the book of Second Corinthians.
Remarkably, Falwell has made “character” one justification for his endorsement. In March, Falwell recorded a robocall for Trump in which he attacked the candidate favored by most Religious Right leaders, calling Ted Cruz a “master politician” and practitioner of “dirty tricks.” Said Falwell, “Ambition must never be a substitute for character. Please vote for Donald Trump.”
Falwell has had little patience with other conservative Christians who have been critical of his embrace of Trump; when some expressed dismay about a picture of Falwell standing with Trump with a framed Playboy magazine cover visible on the wall behind them, he compared them to Pharisees.
Falwell may see parallels between Trump’s business doings and his own empire-building style. Thanks to a decision to push into distance learning — online education that doesn’t require much infrastructure — and thanks to a massive flow of federal student aid, Falwell has built Liberty into the biggest nonprofit private university in the U.S. and the largest Christian college in the world.
While providing a platform for right-wing candidates who trash federal involvement in education, Liberty has taken advantage of Democratic-supported increases in student aid that were part of the much-maligned-by-the-Right 2009 stimulus bill. At the same time, Falwell preaches the small-government gospel that portrays care for the poor as the responsibility of the church, not the government.
Falwell also seems to envision himself as something of a Trumpish flouter of political correctness. In December, after the mass shooting in Bernardino, Falwell told Liberty students:
If some of those people in that community center had had what I've got in my back pocket right now [applause] ... is it illegal to pull it out? I don't know. I've always thought that if more people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill. So, I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. Let's teach 'em a lesson if they ever show up here.
Earlier this year Falwell’s comments about Muslims led several Virginia high school debate teams to boycott the state finals because they were being held at Liberty.
Under Falwell’s leadership, Liberty reflects an institutional commitment to much of the Religious Right’s political agenda. For example:
In 2010 it hosted some of the country’s most well-known anti-gay activists for a conference and symposium on the “homosexual agenda” and its threat to religious freedom.
A few years ago, journalist Sarah Posner reported that Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver taught students that when faced with conflict between “God’s law” and “man’s law,” they should resolve that conflict through “civil disobedience.”
In 2010, AFP profiled a Liberty science class field trip to the Natural History Museum to help them learn to debunk the theory of evolution in favor of the Creationist belief that God created the world in a week about 6,000 years ago.
Falwell has invited climate change denialists as a way to challenge environmentalists who use “pseudo-science to promote political agendas” and help students “who come from public schools where the truth of global warming and the science of global warming is now always known.”
At last week’s Road To Majority conference sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America, anti-gay pundit and Liberty University law school associate dean Matt Barber promoted his new book, “Hating Jesus: The American Left’s War on Christianity.”
Barber’s remarks were a typically toxic mix, portraying Christians in America as being under assault from the “secular left, so-called progressives, orthodox Islamists and other pagan traditions, as well as fanatical atheists and others.”
Mankind’s enduring culture war, this is something we did not start. It’s nothing new. It first began in a garden, long ago, and today has reached a fever pitch worldwide, and right here in America in our own backyard. The battle lines are drawn, not so much as between conservative and liberal, as many presume, but rather between biblical and unbiblical, between truth versus deception, and in its most distilled form, the culture war is really a worldly manifestation of an otherworldly battle between good and evil.
Barber admiringly quoted Catholic Cardinal Robert Sarah, who has equated “atheistic secularism” and Islamic fundamentalism with Nazism and communism, “almost like the beasts of the apocalypse.” These two movements, he said, have “the same demonic origin.”
Barber said the progressive left is overwhelmingly anti-Semitic and anti-conservative-Christian, and called President Obama an “apologist for radical Islam.” And he repeated the Religious Right’s charge that the LGBT equality movement is somehow allied with radical Islamic jihadists in a war against Christian civilization:
Liberals and Islamists seem to have forged a bizarre and notably incongruous partnership that I call the Islamo-progressive axis of evil. You ever notice? It just defies logic that secular leftists will trip over themselves to make excuses for radical Islamists who, believe me, they’re coming for them too. The only explanation that I can see for this strange connection is best illustrated by the old adage, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ And the common enemy, of course, is who? Christ Jesus. It is the person of Christ Jesus who is truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through him. He is the personification, the embodiment of truth, and so they align against him. And so, Christians in America, ladies and gentlemen, are under attack…
Is this George Washington’s America or is this Joseph Stalin’s Russia? It’s starting — the lines are becoming pretty blurred ... We American Christians are now struggling to maintain our fundamental constitutional freedoms, and are now living under the daily threat of legal, reputational and even physical abuse simply for exercising our faith. Now let me be clear here. We are moving from a soft persecution to a hard persecution here in the United States. Now we’re not being beheaded. No, we’re not being burned alive … but we need to be praying for our brothers and sisters around the world. We are on that trajectory.
Like many speakers at Road to Majority, Barber denounced efforts to protect the ability of transgender people to use facilities appropriate for their gender identity, portraying the issue in apocalyptic terms:
There are wicked sacrileges being forced upon the American people today, things we couldn’t even imagine five years ago, by our own godless government in the name of so-called progress. Things like utterly evil and insane presidential edicts that open up little girls’ bathrooms and showers to grown men terrorizing themselves, violating their privacy and threatening their safety … Things like the sin-centric and oxymoronic notion of genderless marriage; forced taxpayer funding of child sacrifice and forced participation by Christ’s followers in all of the above sins, under penalty of law, to name but a few of these travesties that are being foisted upon us.
Amid the sprint to the election 2016, the secular left’s utter disdain for both Christ and his followers is reaching a fever pitch. Self-styled progressives, and that is America’s cultural Marxist agents of ruin … they typically disguise their designs on despotism in the flowery and euphemistic language of — and you have heard all of these — reproductive health, anti-discrimination, civil rights and their favorite, of course, multiculturalism. But their ultimate goal here is to silence all dissent and force Christians to conform to their pagan demand or, potentially, face even incarceration.
In addition, said Barber, the U.S. has become “a global force for evil” whose chief export is immorality.
On top of this, the United States has become, in many ways, a global force for evil. Once the moral authority of the world, our chief export now is immorality. We are evangelizing against Christianity as a government, official government policy, pushing radical homosexualism, pushing the transgender agenda worldwide, and using the power of the purse to blackmail countries, poor countries, into acquiescing and casting aside their Christian history and beliefs and embracing this evil …
And also like other speakers, Barber promoted the importance of electing Donald Trump to the White House without mentioning him by name, calling the upcoming election “absolutely critical” to the future of the nation. Christians are called to be salt to the culture, said Barber, and when the culture is an open wound, salt is going to burn. America is “ripe for revival,” he said. “We are going to burn people.”
We must fight back as Christians. It’s time to stop being nicer than Jesus … there is such a thing as righteous anger. We need to be angry because righteousness is being trampled and evil is being promoted to your children …
We can set this nation back on a path toward peace and prosperity and, most importantly, a deep love for God, both individually and, as our founding fathers intended, corporately. We can take America back for Christ, but we can only do it with and through Jesus Christ himself.
He also noted that it “is sad to see Christians attacking other Christians because they don’t support the same candidate or the candidate who they believe is the most righteous.” Of course, attacking others for being phony Christians for not supporting their candidate of choice has been standard practice for the modern Religious Right movement that was, in part, founded by his father.
Falwell recounted how he was very impressed by the presidential candidate’s 757, gushing over how Trump served his guests Wendy’s cheeseburgers and put a video of an Elton John concert on the television.
Trump then asked Falwell to stay the night and follow him on his campaign stops for the next day. “We went to the airport, and there was Trump’s 757 all lit up on the runway,” Falwell said. “So we walked on the plane, and we thought we certainly would be sitting in the back with Secret Service. But he said, ‘No, come on up.’ He brought us up front. He’s got this big living room with this big screen TV. He’s got a master bedroom he showed us. Then he let my son and his wife actually sit in the cockpit to take off because my son’s a pilot. Then we sat there with him the whole time, just across the table.”
Falwell said he was impressed by Trump’s hospitality on the flight.
“He offered us food, … so he brought out Wendy’s cheeseburgers,” Falwell said. “He ate cheeseburgers, and we ate cheeseburgers. Then he put on a concert. He found out that when I grew up in the 70s, I was an Elton John fan. So, he put the concert on the big screen. He was doing it all himself. He was the one serving the food. He was the one waiting on us. I thought it would be like caviar and something fancy, but it was cheeseburgers — Wendy’s cheeseburgers.”
Despite disapproval by some Liberty alumni and others in the community, Falwell believes Trump gives America the best chance to be great again.
“It is sad to see Christians attacking other Christians because they don’t support the same candidate or the candidate who they believe is the most righteous,” Falwell said.
“God called King David a man after God’s own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer,” Falwell said. “You have to choose the leader that would make the best king or president and not necessarily someone who would be a good pastor. We’re not voting for pastor-in-chief. It means sometimes we have to choose a person who has the qualities to lead and who can protect our country and bring us back to economic vitality, and it might not be the person we call when we need somebody to give us spiritual counsel.”
Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run a country.
With these remarks, Falwell Jr. is denying the very premise of the Religious Right movement … which was shaped in large part by his father, Jerry Falwell.
Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority with the explicit goal of pressuring politicians to follow what he believed were the Bible’s dictates, holding up a Bible at events and telling his audience, “If a man stands by this book, vote for him. If he doesn’t, don’t.”
Falwell engaged in battles over the social issues generally associated with the Religious Right, harnessing his “moral majority” of voters to “turn back the flood tide of moral permissiveness, family breakdown and general capitulation to evil and to foreign policies such as Marxism-Leninism.”
But he also applied his reading of the Bible to more surprising issues. Falwell wrote in 1980 that the “free-enterprise system is clearly outlined in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible.” An early People For the American Way report outlined what this meant to Falwell in practice:
Thesis Number 16 of Falwell’s “Ninety-Five Theses for the ‘80s” is: “That the free enterprise system of profit be encouraged to grow, being unhampered by any socialistic laws or red tape.” What “free enterprise” and “socialistic laws” mean to moral majoritarian leaders is clear from Jerry Falwell’s statement that, “I think we ought to take the shackles off (business) and get rid of outfits like OSHA.” … Falwell has even taken on the progressive income tax system. He has said: “I don’t think a guy who makes a lot of money should pay more taxes than a guy who makes a little.”
He preached againstBrown v. Board of Education, which banned racial segregation in public schools, telling his church, “When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line. The true Negro does not want integration.”
Falwell kept his private Christian school segregated to help families avoid integration in public schools and opposed the Carter administration’s attempt to challenge the tax status of segregated schools. He also subscribed to the belief that black people were under “ Noah’s curse on Ham ” and argued that school “facilities should be separate.”
“If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made,” he said, warning that integration and interracial marriage will “destroy our race.”
Nobody is responsible for what their parents say, but Jerry Falwell Jr. is very consciously carrying on the legacy of his father as president of Liberty University and as a conservative activist and evangelical leader. He might be angry that some of his fellow evangelicals and the pope are criticizing his favorite presidential candidate ... but he could do with a small dose of self-awareness.
Perhaps South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been reading too many history books authored by David Barton: “We’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion. Let’s not start that now.”
Accuracy In Media warns that “communist groups have manipulated the cause of Black Lives Matter.”
Lastly, Don Feder wants to share some important advice: “We could get the Constitution back one day. Electing someone like Ted Cruz would be a start. But even that is no assurance. We’ll need to raise up a generation — like the one that produced the Constitution — to rise to rebellion and overthrow a judicial tyranny supported by the political elite.”
Bankrolled by business interests, a "Spiritual Mobilization" effort was organized in the late 1930s for the purpose of using religion to promote a right-wing, pro-business agenda that was, in many ways, the precursor to today's Religious Right.
I couldn't help but think of Kruse's book and this movement while watching Rabbi Daniel Lapin deliver remarks at Liberty University's convocation earlier this week, where he dedicated his entire speech to asserting that making money is a sign of God's approval because "making money means you are delivering value to another one of God’s children. You are caring for another child of God."
As such, Lapin was outraged by the "slandering of business" that manifests itself in the idea that wealthy people are "giving back to society" when they donate to charity because it implies that when they are making money, they are doing so by ripping people off.
Lapin even went so far as to defend "profiteering," which is a term generally applied to people who seek to make "an unreasonable profit especially on the sale of essential goods during times of emergency."
"Profit isn't plunder," Lapin argued, "it's good, it's evidence that you are pleasing God's other children. They make up a word like 'profiteering,' see 'profiteer' sounds like 'sneer' or 'jeer.' Somehow it's evil to make a profit. What does it mean? That you're charging too much? Well, let people go and buy it from somebody who will charge less, you'll go out of business."
Such phrases are dangerous, Lapin insisted, because they are part of an anti-capitalist effort to brainwash people into thinking "that it is impossible to make money honorably and in a godly fashion."
Rick Joyner says that if he had to vote today, he'd vote for Donald Trump.
Gee, what a surprise! Several of the GOP candidates whom Glenn Beck really likes are quite eager to have his network host a debate.
Chuck Baldwin warns conservatives to beware of Marco Rubio because he is the "globalist insiders' water boy."
Finally, the Family Research Council prays that God will forgive us for Obamacare: "May God forgive His people for too quietly standing by and allowing Congress to approve a plan sold by strong-arm tactics and shameless deception, plan filled with the shedding of innocent blood, and built upon theory that departs from biblical truth and principles of American liberty that set us on a road to possibly irreversible socialism. May God have mercy and grant us repentance. May we elect a president and Congress in 2016 that meet his qualifications (Ex 18:21); that they will unite to overturn ObamaCare and replace it with a system based upon individual liberty and the free market. May we not add to our sin of complacency, rather, may Christians arise to be salt and light in the electoral process. Instead of a 25% Christian voter turnout, may we cast deciding votes for men and women across America who, under God, will set us on a course God can bless!"
Last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert delivered the convocation at Liberty University, where he repeated his call for a study in which straight couples and gay and lesbian couples are placed on separate deserted islands in order to prove that homosexuality is unnatural.
Gohmert was complaining about the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision and was attempting to make the case that even people who don't believe in God ought to be able to see that same-sex relationships are not natural.
"Let's just take a totally secular approach to this," he said. "Congress is good about having studies; how about if we take four heterosexual couples and put them on an island where they have everything they need to live and exist and we take four couples of just men and put them on an island where they have all they need to survive and then let's take four couples of just women and put them on an island and then lets come back in 100 years and see which one nature favors."
Glenn Beck, who has spent months openly attacking Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Donald Trump and the entire GOP, is now asking the RNC to allow his network to host a GOP primary debate in February.
Bad news for Andrew Shirvell: "The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a former lawyer for the state of Michigan who lost a defamation lawsuit filed by a gay student at the University of Michigan."
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke on Monday morning at Liberty University. Liberty was founded by Jerry Falwell and has, under his son’s leadership, grown to be a huge and influential part of the Religious Right’s cultural infrastructure. The school has a tradition of drawing attention to itself by inviting politicians to its mandatory student convocations.
Sanders stated upfront and unapologetically that he is pro-choice and pro-gay and that he knew most of the people in the audience disagreed with him about that. His speech focused on the themes of economic hardship and inequality, urging students to grapple with the morality and injustice of poverty, huge income and wage gaps, children dying for lack of health care and Republican budget proposals to slash safety-net spending for poor children and families. Sanders, who was raised Jewish but currently claims no religious ties, quoted Pope Francis’s critique of the global economy and warnings against the “idolatry” of money.
Sanders was received politely, but there was plenty of resistance to his message, and not just on abortion or marriage equality. Nick Corasaniti at the New York Times reported from the event:
“Calling on us to help the neediest, that resonates with me as a Christian,” said Quincy Thompson, the student body president, who had a chance to briefly meet Mr. Sanders after the event. “But as a Christian, I think the responsibility to help them falls to the church, not the government.”
Liberty’s President Jerry Falwell, Jr. also took exception to Sanders’ approach to economics, sticking with the gospel of small government:
“I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money,” Mr. Falwell said in an interview after the event, making the case that he thought working toward a limited government and lowering taxes would “create the tide that rises all ships.”
A different strain of the Right took on a similar theme on Tuesday, when panelists at the libertarian CATO Institute, whose lobby features a quote from Ayn Rand, addressed Pope Francis’ critique of the global economic system at an event titled, “Blessing or Scourge? Capitalism through the Eyes of Pope Francis.” Francis will visit Washington, D.C. next week.
Catholic University of America President John Garvey and National Catholic Reporter columnist Michael Sean Winters portrayed Francis’ statements as well within the tradition of Catholic social justice teaching and in line with comments from his papal predecessors.
Jay Richards is an assistant professor in the business school at Catholic University and a senior fellow at the creationist Discovery Institute who authored a 2010 book called “Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem.” Richards, whose Twitter handle is @FreemarketJay, suggested that Francis’ views on capitalism may have been distorted by his experience in Argentina, which Richards says ranks near the bottom on “economic freedom” indicators. The pope’s beef is not really with free-market capitalism, he says, but with the kind of cronyism and corporatism found in his home country— an argument that has been advanced by other Catholic conservatives but doesn’t reflect the scope of Francis’s critique of current global economic and financial systems.
The CATO panel was moderated by Marian Tupy, editor of CATO’s HumanProgress.org project. Tupy argued that the pope is ignoring evidence that capitalism has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Two of Tupy's articles critical of Francis’s economic critiques were distributed at the event, one of which concluded condescendingly, “Pope Francis has a big heart, but his credibility as a voice of justice and morality would be immeasurably improved if he based his statements on facts.”
Recently, Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty University Law School's interim dean, delivered an address to students on the question "Do Government Officials Have Authority to Impose Their Morals on Others?"
Lindevaldsen's answer was a resounding "yes," provided that the morals being imposed are Christian ones. But if the morals being imposed are not Christian ones, then the answer is obviously "no."
As she explained, "civil government only has the authority that God has established" and so "civil government, if it's acting rightfully within its authority, should be acting consistent with Scripture."
"Government's only just authority [is] derived from God and it's purpose is to protect those inalienable rights that we have been given, not to infringe them as we're seeing take place a lot in society today," Lindevaldsen said. "Whether it's zoning or taxes or marriage or abortion, in those issues, government doesn't have authority to say that these things are appropriate because they're contrary to Scripture."
Josh Duggar, who recently resigned from his post with the Family Research Council after it was revealed that he sexually abused several girls as a minor, recently withdrew from speaking at a homeschooling convention in Sandusky, Ohio.
However, Duggar is still scheduled to speak at the ALIVE Festival in Mineral City, Ohio, an event sponsored by Liberty University and other Christian organizations, to discuss how “the Bible is the owner’s manual for life.”
Prominent evangelist Ray Comfort also told fans in a Facebook post that he will boycott TLC if the network dares to drop the Duggar family’s reality TV show in response to the alleged cover-up of Josh’s abuse.
www.livingwaters.comI saw that The Learning Channel dropped “19 Kids and Counting” from their line-up, so we dropped...
Liberty University’s Matt Barber took anti-gay activists’ vow to disobey a Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality to its extreme yesterday, telling Iowa radio host Steve Deace that if the court strikes down bans on same-sex marriage, it will “no longer be legitimate” as a court.
Saying that such a ruling would be the “Dred Scott of marriage,” Barber told Deace that if the justices “presume to redefine the institution of marriage, thereby destroying the institution of natural marriage, this Supreme Court will no longer be legitimate.”
Barber said that there “would be no rationale” for such a decision. “There’s no constitutional rationale,” he said, “there’s no historical rationale, there’s no biological rationale, there simply is no rationale other than that they want it so very badly, ‘they’ being homosexual activists and other cultural Marxists, leftists, people who are seeking to undermine the institution of natural marriage and ultimately God’s design for human sexuality.”
When Deace asked him what would happen if the Supreme Court were to side with anti-gay activists on the marriage issue, Barber echoed his colleague Mat Staver in saying that the movement would have to then get to work making sure that gays and lesbians can no longer get married anywhere in the U.S.
First, he said, the movement would have to work to repeal state-level judicial decisions instituting marriage equality, “and then work from there to make sure that marriage is not redefined in any of our 50 states here and to undo the damage that has already been done.”
Right-wing megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress spoke at Liberty University's convocation this morning, where he told the student audience that America's complete collapse was unavoidable, thanks to Supreme Court rulings banning organized prayer and Bible study in public schools, legalizing abortion, and striking down bans of gay sex.
These rulings, Jeffress declared, have "so weakened the moral and spiritual infrastructure of our nation that our collapse is inevitable," explaining that the 9/11 terrorist attack was God's judgment upon America for the sin of abortion.
"All you have to do is look in history to see what God does with a nation that sanctions the killing of its own children," he said. "Just look at the nation of Israel ... Because they got involved in the worship of Moloch, the pagan god, and they sacrificed their children on the altar, what did God do? He raised up the godless Babylonians and Assyrians to bring judgement on his own people."
"People ask me all the time," Jeffress continued, "'Well, I just don't understand why God wouldn't protect our nation and he would allow these radical Muslims in 2001 to kill 3,000 of our citizens and why God doesn't protect us. Surely, God doesn't use pagans to bring judgment upon his own people, does he?'"
"Just read the Bible," he said. "God will not allow sin to go unpunished and he certainly won't allow the sacrifice of children to go unpunished":
Earlier today, Sen. Ted Cruz announced his campaign for president at Liberty University (LU), the ultraconservative school established by Jerry Falwell. His decision to choose Liberty is rather telling, considering that LU is a radically right-wing university with a law school staffed by some of the most viciously anti-gay Religious Right activists operating today.
Of course, given that LU itself was founded by Falwell, who blamed gay people for 9/11, this should not come as much of a surprise.
Staver continues to call for a revolution to fight gay marriage and is currently leading an effort to get anti-gay Christians to ignore any Supreme Court decision striking down gay marriage bans, saying that refusing to obey such a ruling is like refusing to turn a Jew over to the Nazis:
When Staver announced his resignation from Liberty's law school last year, LU President Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced that Rena Lindevaldsen would take over as interim dean. Lindevaldsen previously served as senior litigation counsel at Liberty Counsel, where she was the lead attorney in a custody case involving Lisa Miller, an "ex-gay" woman who kidnapped her daughter and fled the country rather than abide by court-ordered custody arrangements with her former partner. Lindevaldsen even wrote a book about the saga while she and Liberty Counsel continue to insist that they have no knowledge of Miller's whereabouts, despite the fact that she was reportedly living at a home in Nicaragua owned by the father of an administrative assistant working at the Liberty University Law School.
Furthermore, Staver and Lindevaldsen even reportedly taught a class at Liberty based on the Miller case in which students were instructed that the "right" thing for a Christian lawyer to do in a case such as this would be to counsel their client that they have an obligation to ignore the law and court orders and instead engage in "civil disobedience" to uphold God's law. In 2012, the school was hit with a lawsuit over its alleged involvement in Miller's kidnapping.
When Lindevaldsen spoke at a right-wing conference earlier this month, she told the audience at a breakout panel on "sexual rebellion" that when fellow conservative Christians ask her what the "big deal" is about LGBT rights, she responds that "it’s a big deal because it’s a big deal to God." Marriage equality, she told the enthusiastic audience, matters to God because it is "the heart of where Satan’s attacking":
Matt Barber is another Liberty University/Liberty Counsel crossover. He formerly served as vice president of Liberty Counsel Action and still co-hosts Liberty Counsel's daily radio program with Staver, while also holding positions as associate dean and adjunct professor at Liberty.
Baber happens to be one of the most viciously anti-gay bigots operating today, as demonstrated by his view that homosexuality is nothing more than "one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it "love.'"
He has said that marriage equality mocks God and desecrates the Church, declared that the Defense of Marriage Act was necessary to prevent children from becoming gay and getting AIDS, said that gay teens end their own lives because they "know that what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, [and] immoral," proclaimed gay adoption to be "tragic," "unconscionable," and "reprehensible," and warned that gay activists are seeking to poison the minds of children and are "running interference for the pedophile movement."
He has supported repressive anti-LGBT regimes around the world, praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay crackdown and saying he'd like to see a ban on "gay propaganda" in the U.S., as well as defending Uganda's harsh criminal penalties for LGBT people.
Several other anti-gay activists also hold teaching positions at Liberty University, including Shawn Akers, who has said that measures to prevent the bullying of LGBT youth are "a form of indoctrination and reeducation that smacks of socialist and Communist countries" and accused gay rights advocates of bullying Christians and persecuting them in the same way as Adolf Hitler persecuted Jews.
Any way you cut it, it is clear that Liberty University is home of a slew of anti-gay bigots. The fact that Ted Cruz chose this as the venue at which to announce his presidential campaign speaks volumes.
On Saturday, roughly 2,000 activists gathered at Faith Assembly, a megachurch in Orlando, for the Awakening, an annual “Prayer and Patriotism event” organized by the Christian Right legal group Liberty Counsel. The Awakening, which Liberty Counsel organizes under the auspices of an amalgam of Religious Right groups called the Freedom Federation, brings together activists from the evangelical Right with the GOP politicians who want their votes.
At this year's event, GOP politicians including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal (via video) and RNC faith director Chad Connelly shared a stage with far-right activists including "ex-gays," a phony ex-terrorist and at least two Religious Right leaders who insist that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality.
Here are five takeaways from a day with the core of the Religious Right.
1. Gay Marriage Will Send Christians To Jail
While some on the Right may be trying to shy away from the issue of marriage equality now that it could be on its way to a Supreme Court victory, the activists at the Awakening were not among them. Throughout the conference, marriage between gay and lesbian couples was portrayed as a demonic and existential threat to liberty, one that if allowed to proceed would end in Christianity being outlawed and Christians thrown in jail.
The Republican National Committee’s faith outreach director, Chad Connelly, who was moderating a panel on abortion rights, echoed the Religious Right’s rhetoric when he warned that LGBT rights activists are “coming for the church.”
Far-right pastor Rick Scarborough, who was sitting beside him, agreed that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, pastors will be forced to “participate in same-sex marriage ” or be thrown in jail. Liberty Counsel’s Harry Mihet, moderating a separate panel, issued a similar warning.
Scarborough repeated his warning when he told activists that a pro-equality Supreme Court ruling would outlaw anti-gay speech, thus undermining “the whole nature of America.”
Multiple speakers compared a potential Supreme Court decision on marriage equality to Dred Scott, the infamous pre-Civil War decision that barred African Americans from citizenship, declaring that it should be met with similar resistance.
2. Losing The Church on Gay Rights Issues
Although the Awakening took place in what appeared to be a generationally diverse, multiethnic church, the crowd at the conference was overwhelmingly older and white. Throughout the conference, speakers bemoaned the fact that the Religious Right was losing support among younger Christians for its political agenda, especially its opposition to LGBT rights.
Liberty University’s Rena Lindevaldsen told the audience at a breakout panel on “sexual rebellion” that when fellow conservative Christians ask her what the “big deal” is about LGBT rights, she responds “it’s a big deal because it’s a big deal to God.” Marriage equality, she told the enthusiastic audience, matters to God because it is “the heart of where Satan’s attacking”:
Evangelist Franklin Graham also lamented that “a lot of pastors have quit preaching against homosexuality” out of fear of offending people in their churches who might have gay relatives. He told the audience that “God will bless you and he’ll honor you” if you “don’t shut up” about gay rights and abortion:
This was a crowd that had not given up on discredited “ex-gay” therapy. An “ex-lesbian” activist, Janet Boynes, was given a main stage speaking slot and “ex-gay” activist Greg Quinlan earned a roaring round of applause from the audience at the “sexual rebellion” panel when he announced that he had been “out of homosexuality for 27 years.”
3. A Spiritual Battle Against Islam And Progressivism
Just as the crowd at the Awakening was upset that the conservative movement and the church have supposedly become less invested in fighting LGBT rights, they were also wary of any overtures between Christians and Muslims.
Graham declared that “Islam is a wicked system” and blasted Christians who say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Kamal Saleem, the self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist” whose personal story has never quite held up to scrutiny , also warned that churches are being “invaded by ‘Chrislam,’” lamenting that Americans are oblivious to the dangers of radical Islam: “We’re watching American Idol and they are doing jihad.” He also warned of what he called “jihad of the womb,” or Muslim immigrants giving birth in order to outnumber Christians.
What activists at the Awakening saw as a war against Islam was merely part of a larger “spiritual battle” between good and evil, God and Satan. In the panel discussion he led on LGBT rights, Matt Barber declared that there is an “Islamo-progressive axis of evil” with a “common enemy”: Christians.
Maine pastor Ken Graves repeated that theme when he declared that American Christians are fighting “militant Islam” and “militant homofascism” and secularists who want to establish a “secular humanist caliphate”:
4. Time Is Running Out On America, And It’s Up To The Church To Save It
Throughout the day, speakers warned that America is running out of time before it is lost forever, and that it is up to conservative Christians to get involved in politics to save the country.
Graham told the crowd that he is more politically outspoken than his father, Billy Graham, because America is in a more dire state of secularism. “When my father was born, the Ten Commandments were on the wall of every school in America. When my father was born, the teachers still led the class in the Lord’s Prayer. Our country is not that anymore,” he said, declaring that the 2016 election is the last chance for the Religious Right to save the country.
Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, delivered a similar message, warning that “we are heading down in a direction that, let’s be honest, no civilization has ever been able to recover from.” Conservative Christians, he declared, must reinvest themselves in politics in order, to among other things, put the Bible in public schools:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another likely GOP presidential hopeful, told the crowd that prayer was needed to bring about “spiritual revival” and change the political direction of the country: “If God’s people truly pray down a spiritual awakening, then the political landscape will change.”
“This country did not start because some people had some brilliant ideas, although they did. This country happened because God’s providence was the foundation of their brilliant ideas,” Huckabee said. “Because of his inspiration, this country has been sustained throughout all of its history because of God’s specific intervention in helping us to win battles we should never have one and in keeping us from losing battles we should have lost.”
5. The Religious Right And The GOP Still Need Each Other
One of the strangest moments of the day came when a George W. Bush impersonator walked onto the stage with Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver as he introduced Huckabee. Staver jokingly reassured the audience that it was not the former president’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has clashed with the Religious Right over gay rights issues. It seemed to be a spontaneous addition to the program, it was hard not to see it also as a reminder to the audience of the potential power of the evangelical vote.
Unlike the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which has become the flagship gathering of the GOP and the Religious Right, the Awakening tends to attract only true believers in the cause. This year, Santorum and Huckabee spoke, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a video message. Connelly, who heads the GOP’s outreach to evangelical voters, moderated a panel on abortion rights, but largely deflected difficult questions from the far-right crowd.
Connelly did not, however, shy away from right-wing conspiracy theories, responding to a question about the “culture of death” in end-of-life care by claiming that the Affordable Care Act’s mythical “death panels” are “a reality":
It was clear throughout the day that however wary the Religious Right and the GOP establishment may be of each other, they still need each other. Speakers like Graham urged conservative Christians to revive the powerful Religious Right pressure machine to win GOP politicians to their side, whether or not they agreed with their issues. Meanwhile, the presence of the GOP candidates and Connelly indicated that this is a voting bloc that is still important to the party, however extreme its priorities may be.