A number of anti-abortion groups joined together last night for a webcast aimed at raising money for a legal defense fund for David Daleiden, the anti-Planned Parenthood activist who is facing an indictment in Texas, along with his fellow activist Sandra Merritt.
Life Legal Defense Foundation, the group that is representing Daleiden in a separate case in California, is managing a legal defense fund for Daleiden and Merritt. Thomas More Society’s Peter Breen, who is representing Daleiden in Texas, and Charles LaMandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, who is representing Daleiden on other charges, also joined the call, which was hosted by the anti-abortion protest group 40 Days for Life.
David Bereit of 40 Days for Life urged the reported 2,400 activists on the call to “pray” for Daleiden, “promote” his cause and “pitch in” for his legal defense, which the attorneys said had already cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Breen reported that he would try on Thursday get a Houston judge to “quash the indictment” against Daleiden. Daleiden’s allies at the radical anti-abortion protest group Operation Rescue will also be holding a press conference on Thursday urging prosecutors to drop the grand jury’s charges. Liberty Counsel, which is representing Merritt, will hold a similar press conference on Wednesday.
Breen, repeating the dubious claim that Daleiden is an “investigative journalist,” said a bad outcome for the activist in Houston would harm freedom of the press and at the same time give prosecutors in other parts of the country the confidence to “come after” anti-abortion activists.
“The stakes are as high as they could possibly be,” he said. “If the other side is allowed to proceed in bringing criminal prosecutions against legitimate journalism, I mean we certainly don’t want to live in a country where journalists can be tossed in jail for decades for just doing their jobs. And certainly what would this do to the pro-life movement and other prosecutors who say, ‘I want to come after the pro-life movement, I’m just not sure I can get away with it.’ If they get away with it here, they’ll be able to get away with it in other jurisdictions.”
Daleiden himself also joined the call, expressing hope that the next president will investigate Planned Parenthood, cut off its federal funding and leave the women’s health provider watching “their abortion empire … crumbling all around them.”
“I think they’re going to be pulling out all of the stops in the coming year,” he said, “every last bit of political capital they have to cash in, they’re going to do it, because they know the only thing that stands between them and getting completely cut off from the taxpayer trough at the federal level is a pro-life president, the only thing that stands between them and a federal investigation and criminal convictions for trafficking baby parts and money laundering and the money off of aborted baby parts is a pro-life Department of Justice. Planned Parenthood knows that this issue is the last thing that stands between their abortion empire and it crumbling all around them, and so that’s why they’re lashing out in the way that they are.”
As we have detailed in previousposts in this series, ever since the anti-choice movement rose to prominence in the wake of Roe v. Wade, it has been divided over how to go about repealing Roe and recriminalizing abortion in the U.S.
Groups like Americans United for Life (AUL) and the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) have achieved great success in pushing states to adopt incremental measures targeting abortion providers in the name of protecting women’s health and in advocating for national policies — such as the 2003 “partial-birth” abortion ban and the 20-week abortion ban currently being considered by Congress — that attempt to undermine the legal reasoning in Roe by targeting a small segment of abortion procedures.
But the anti-choice personhood movement believes that the incremental strategy is doing too little to end legal abortion. They believe they have a better plan.
The personhood movement argues that small, incremental legal victories cutting off access to abortion will never achieve the ultimate goal of completely criminalizing the procedure — in part because those measures fail to make a moral argument on behalf of the humanity of the fertilized egg and fetus.
Parker, with Moore’s backing, has been building a body of jurisprudence that offers a blueprint for a personhood victory in the courts. In doing so, he’s drawn the attention and praise of anti-choice activists; Liberty Counsel, a right-wing legal group, has called him a “modern-day Wilberforce.”
Personhood USA’s 2014 attempt to insert personhood language into Colorado law drew on this legal history, specifically limiting its new definition of personhood to the Colorado criminal code and Colorado Wrongful Death Act. But the proposal was nonetheless widely recognized as an attempt to ban abortion, or at least to set up a legal battle challenging Roe. In fact, Colorado had already passed laws imposing extra penalties for crimes against pregnant women, the purported purpose of the personhood amendment. “They are changing the tone, they are changing the language, they are changing the messaging to try to win,” Nash said.
Parker has chronicled laws treating fetuses as full-fledged humans in certain cases to argue that “[t]oday, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of Roe.” He has urged the Supreme Court to address the issue at the next chance it gets.
Parker and Moore’s strategy relies on what the personhood movement’s proponents believe is a loophole in Roe v. Wade that would allow anti-abortion advocates to effectively undo the decision without a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court friendlier to their cause. In Roe, the Justices rejected the idea of fetal personhood. Justice Blackmun wrote in his majority opinion that “no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment,” noting, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses...for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”
A federal bill that currently has 132 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate takes aim at this supposed loophole in Roe, simply declaring that “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being," which includes “each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the chief sponsor of the Senate bill, signed a fundraising email for the pro-personhood National Pro-Life Alliance in November, arguing that his was the strategy that would work:
The Supreme Court itself admitted — if Congress declares unborn children 'persons' under the law, the constitutional case for abortion-on-demand 'collapses.'
Alabama’s Supreme Court is the most prominent court to give a serious hearing to the personhood strategy, long considered by even some in the anti-choice movement to be a crackpot theory and a potential political and legal disaster. As recently as 2009, Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, wrote in the National Review that the so-called “personhood loophole” was an “urban legend” and those pursuing it were “heading toward a brick wall.” Forsythe argued that in 1992 Casey decision, the Supreme Court had shifted the abortion debate from the personhood of fetuses to the rights of women, and that that was therefore the ground that the anti-choice movement should be playing on. “The real challenge for pro-lifers in 2009 is to effectively address the assumption that abortion is good for women,” he wrote, presaging AUL’s revamped woman-focused messaging.
Even more alarming to the personhood strategy’s detractors in the anti-choice movement is the possibility that a personhood challenge to Roe could create the opportunity for a Supreme Court ruling that would actually strengthen constitutional protections for abortion rights. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for instance, has said that she believes abortion rights should be secured under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, making the issue more clearly about the rights of women. In 2010, Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) wrote, “If a personhood amendment comes before this court, a new and terrifying decision may put the pro-life movement back a quarter century or more.”
Although the Georgia amendment was based on language originally drafted as a federal constitutional amendment by NRLC, NRLC’s chief counsel James Bopp, Jr. tried to shut it down. In a lengthy and frank memo to his fellow anti-choice activists, Bopp contended that such an amendment would be immediately struck down in federal courts and, if it made it to the Supreme Court, could give the court’s majority the opportunity to rewrite Roe in the way favored by Ginsburg. The state-level personhood strategy, he cautioned, was “presently doomed to expansive failure.”
Instead, Bopp said, the anti-choice movement should continue its incremental strategy, which was succeeding in curtailing access to abortion while keeping the issue in the public eye. He wrote that the “partial-birth” abortion law had been a successful example of this strategy because it “forced the pro-abortion camp to publicly defend a particularly visible and gruesome practice.” Acknowledging that “most pro-lifers” believe that abortion should only be available to save the life of a pregnant woman, he warned that absolutist, no-exceptions approaches like personhood were both legally unwise and poor public relations:
By contrast, the pro-life movement must at present avoid fighting on the more difficult terrain of its own position, namely arguing that abortion should not be available in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and harm to the mother. While restricting abortion in these situations is morally defensible, public opinion polls show that popular support for the pro-life side drops off dramatically when these “hard” cases are the topic. And while most pro-lifers believe that a consistent pro-life position requires permitting abortion in only the rare circumstances where it is necessary to save the life of the mother, some pro-lifers believe that there should not even be an exception to preserve the life of the mother. Other pro-lifers advocate exceptions for rape or incest. This is an important debate to have, and we should be ready to convince the public of the need for few, if any, exceptions to laws prohibiting abortion when such laws can be upheld. However, since that is currently not the case, such a debate is premature and would undermine public support for the pro-life position.
Responding to Bopp’s memo, the conservative Thomas More Law Center, which drafted the Georgia amendment, argued that the incremental strategy had taken too long and done too little and that “after 34 years of abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy, it is time to rethink pro-life strategy.”
“[T]he central holding of Roe v. Wade remains the primary obstacle to any meaningful pro-life initiative that seeks to end abortion,” wrote Thomas More attorney Robert J. Muise. “To remove this obstacle, a case must be presented to the United States Supreme Court that challenges the central premise of Roe — that the unborn is not a person within the meaning of the law.”
If personhood laws were to succeed in the courts, the legal implications would be immense and unpredictable.
The ambiguous wording of personhood measures has led to concerns that they could be interpreted to outlaw oral contraception, IUDs and in-vitro fertilization. But birth control is not the only issue. As the National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s Lynn Paltrow and Fordham sociologist Jeanne Flavin have documented, laws granting legal rights to fetuses outside the context of abortion have led to hundreds of cases of pregnant women being arrested or otherwise apprehended after suffering miscarriages or for alleged drug and alcohol use deemed to be harmful to the fetus.
In countries that completely criminalize abortion — the goal of the “pro-life” movement in the U.S. — pregnant woman can find themselves in terrifying situations: recently in El Salvador, a woman was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder after suffering a miscarriage.
As Paltrow told Newsweek in 2012, “There’s no way to give embryos constitutional personhood without subtracting women from the community of constitutional persons.”
By redefining what it means to be a person under the law, personhood measures could also have a broad legal impact on issues unrelated to reproductive rights, threatening to upend everything from inheritance law to census results. In 2014, the Colorado Bar Association opposed the state’s personhood ballot measure, warning that the vaguely worded measure would have “potentially serious, unintended and unknown consequences for Colorado lawyers…From areas of Family Law to Probate Law to Real Estate Law, as well as the explicit effect on Criminal Law and Wrongful Death statutes, this Amendment could create uncertainty and endless litigation.”
Daniel Becker, the former leader of Georgia Right to Life and founder of the Personhood Alliance, also sees the personhood issue as extending beyond abortion rights, but in a different direction. The final chapter of Becker's 2011 manifesto, "Personhood," is written in the form of a science fiction story set in a "post-human future" in which computers have gained consciousness, procreation has been moved to laboratories, and a "specialized sub-class of human-animal hybrids" has been developed to perform menial labor. The anti-abortion rights movement, he argues, will cease to be relevant in coming battles over biotechnology if it remains "at its heart, anti-abortion as opposed to pro-sanctity of human life." He argues that only by embracing full "personhood" rights for zygotes and fetuses will the movement remain viable in the future.
The personhood movement, while it has hope in the legal system, also recognizes that it won’t get far without winning hearts and minds. In the final post in this series, we’ll look at the movement’s efforts to reorganize in the wake of electoral defeats.
Similar dire warnings about the federal hate crimes law that was passed five years ago today have proven to be utterly false.
The apocalyptic rhetoric is a reaction to the advances in LGBT rights, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in dozens of states and the passage of non-discrimination ordinances in municipalities across the country. Along with categories such as race, gender, religion, age and ability, more localities are recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity as traits warranting protection from discrimination in the public domain.
As anti-gay politicians lose in the courts, Congress, state houses, town halls, and perhaps most importantly, at the ballot box, many have taken to conflating political defeat with a loss of rights and liberty. Only by depriving other people of their rights, so they claim, can conservatives and people of faith in this nation truly be free.
This month, many Republicans latched onto a complicated legal case in Houston to justify their hyperbolic warnings about impending doom for Christians in America. After Houston passed an equal rights ordinance this year, a pastor-led group tried — and failed — to collect enough valid petition signatures to force a referendum on repealing the ordinance. When a group of conservative activists and pastors filed a lawsuit demanding that officials accept the invalid petitions, pro-bono attorneys working for the city subpoenaed several pastors’ communications, including sermons, on petition collecting and related issues like homosexuality as part of the discovery process.
While many groups from the left and right alike called out the subpoenas as overly broad and intrusive, the Religious Right cited the legal move as proof that pastors will be, as the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody put it, “hauled off to jail for a hate crimes because they are speaking for traditional marriage.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who in 2012 warned that America was “at the edge of a precipice” and would soon see non-existent “hate speech” laws used “against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages [or] who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage,” agreed with Brody’s assessment.
(In a similar episode this month, the owners of a for-profit wedding chapel business filed a lawsuit against their hometown over a nondiscrimination ordinance, arguing that city officials have threatened them with prosecution and jail time for denying service to same-sex couples — even though officials haven’t pursued any legal action against the couple.)
We’ve seen this movie before. In 2007, members of a group called Repent America were charged after disrupting a gay pride event and refusing to abide by police orders. The way conservatives tell the story, godly missionaries were punished by law enforcement for exercising their First Amendment rights and “sharing the gospel,” but as court records show, the group tried to disturb the peace and protest inside an event without a permit.
In fact, if Religious Right were correct in their warnings, America should have experienced a wave of arrests targeting pastors, church-goers and Republicans following the passage of the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Predictions about the criminalization of the Bible, pastors locked in jail cells and concentration camps for Christians never came true, mainly because these prophecies had no basis in reality.
The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Law was passed by Congress five years ago today, and so far, the far-right’s twisted and baseless claims about the law have all been proven false. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t stopped making the exact same discredited arguments five years after the bill’s passage:
End of Free Speech
Despite the hate crimes law’s provision making clear that it is applicable only to cases of violent crime and nothing “shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs,” Religious Right activists and their allies in the GOP nonetheless predicted that the 2009 law would bring free speech to an end.
“Gay activists will use it against preachers who present the Biblical view of homosexuality,” Rick Scarborough said at the time. “The federal hate crimes law doesn’t target crime, but free speech.” He also warned that the law’s passage would “criminalize pastors and ordinary citizens who speak out biblically against homosexuality,” telling members of his group, Vision America, that he may face arrest for “speaking out against sexual deviancy.”
Scarborough, a Texas anti-gay pastor and political organizer close to Ted Cruz, hasn’t backed down from his claims even years after the law has gone into effect. At the 2013 Values Voter Summit, Scarborough declared that the “infidels” in the Obama administration are “hell-bent on silencing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Christians wouldn’t rise up against the attacks, he feared, “until a bunch of us are thrown into concentration camps.”
The Traditional Values Coalition went as far as to claim that the hate crimes law would imprison Jesus Christ.
“I believe that ‘hate crimes’ is the most dangerous bill in America, it is precisely what they are using to silence Christians around the world,” Janet Porter, a Religious Right activist with the group Faith 2 Action, said in an interview the year before the bill was passed. “How much of a stretch is it, really, to say that because I would say to you homosexuality is a sin or it’s dangerous behavior, before that speech alone is worthy of jail time? And that’s what we’re facing.” Porter told a Washington, D.C., rally shortly after the law was passed that it “criminalizes Christianity” and “sends pastors to prison for biblical positions and speech.”
In an 2009 email message with the subject line, “The Senate Will Vote To Silence You!,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins claimed that “what ‘hate crimes’ legislation does is lay the legal foundation and framework for investigating, prosecuting and persecuting pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions reflect their faith.”
He also alleged that the law would “gag people of faith and conviction who disagree with the homosexual agenda” and that it “punishes a person’s beliefs — part of the Left's intolerant agenda to silence the voice of Christians and Conservatives in America and eliminate moral restraint.”
“If federal thought crimes laws are passed, your right to share politically incorrect parts of your Christian faith could become a federal crime,” Perkins warned. At another conservative event, Perkins said hate crimes laws will curtail freedom and breed “chaos in America.”
Rusty Lee Thomas of Operation Save America even encouraged opposition to the law by alleging that “there is a direct connection between the sins and crimes of abortion and the sodomite agenda and the Islamic terrorism that threatens our nation.”
One group of GOP and Religious Right figures claimed the law would be “a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression.”
E.W. Jackson, a Virginia pastor and GOP politician, told a conservative rally that the law “represents a virulent strain of anti-Christian bigotry and hatred” that is “another step in the process of robbing all Americans of the very freedoms the founding fathers pledged their lives for and the civil rights martyrs gave their lives for.”
Ohio-based televangelist Rod Parsley, best known for his work supporting George W. Bush’s re-election campaign and the passage of his state’s gay marriage ban, said that the hate crimes law would force him out of the pulpit.
“This deceptive ploy of liberal, homosexual agenda begins to lose its allure once you pull the mask back and take a closer look,” Parsley said. “The legislation that’s before our United States senators right now extends to speech and can punish people not for their actions but for their culturally incorrect thoughts. This legislation could become law, and you and I could find ourselves forbidden to speak from God’s word right here in America. I could no longer share my heart with you on critical issues, such as this, through the medium of television, or even in the pulpit of my own church.”
We can report that despite Parsley’s grim predictions, he is still very much “sharing his heart” as a preacher.
Outlawing the Bible
One group of Michigan pastors, joined by local Republican politician and American Family Association state chairman Gary Glenn, filed an unsuccessful legal challenge against the hate crimes law soon after it was enacted. The group’s legal representative, the conservative Thomas More Law Center, contended that “the sole purpose” of the law was “to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.”
Pastor Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ also offered an ominous warning: “If preaching the Bible is now against the law, then let us be arrested.” One WorldNetDaily commentator said the law would “crack down” on Christians for “reading the Bible.”
“Christianity Is Now Outlawed,” declared the Christian Seniors Association, a front group of the Traditional Values Coalition, in a fundraising letter following the law’s passage. “Did you know that the new Hate Crimes Act that President Obama signed into law makes the Bible illegal ‘Hate Literature?’” the letter continued.
“Most Christians might as well rip the pages which condemn homosexuality right out of their Bibles because this bill will make it illegal to publicly express the dictates of their religious beliefs,” said Andrea Lafferty of the TVC. “The ultimate objective of this legislation is to claim that ‘hate speech’ — criticism of homosexuality — incites individuals to violence and must be suppressed and punished. This will violate the First Amendment rights of any person or group that opposes the normalization of homosexuality in our culture.”
In the paranoid conservative alternate reality, pedophilia has been legal for five years now thanks to the updated federal hate crimes law.
“The main purpose of this ‘hate crimes’ legislation is to add the categories of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ ‘either actual or perceived,’ as new classes of individuals receiving special protection by federal law. Sexual orientation includes heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality on an ever-expanding continuum. Will Congress also protect these sexual orientations: zoophiles, pedophiles or polygamists?” asked televangelist Pat Robertson.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, similarly charged: “We have a record roll call vote that shows every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee voting to have pedophiles protected.”
King’s colleague Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, went one step further and said that as a result of the hate crimes law, courts would “have to strike any laws against bestiality” along with laws targeting “pedophiles or necrophiliacs.” Gohmert went on to warn that the law would effectively turn the U.S. into Nazi Germany.
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, for his part, predicted that the law would extend legal protections to “bisexuality, exhibitionism, fetishism, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, urophilia, voyeurism, and bestiality.”
Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center claimed the law “elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy.”
Porter dubbed the law the “Pedophile Protection Act,” “summarizing” the law by completely making things up: “Pushing away an unwelcome advance of a homosexual, transgendered [sic], cross-dresser or exhibitionist could make you a felon under this law. Speaking out against the homosexual agenda could also make you a felon if you are said to influence someone who pushes away that unwelcome advance. And pedophiles and other sexual deviants would enjoy an elevated level of protection, while children, seniors, veterans and churches would not.”
Pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia are still against the law and such laws have not been affected by the Hate Crimes Act, while declining “an unwelcome advance of a homosexual” is still very much legal. However, we are still waiting with bated breath for Porter’s lawsuit detailing how she was forced and legally bound to succumb to the charms of a homosexual enticer.
Can the Religious Right Be Trusted?
The many frantic, unfounded warnings about the perils the 2009 Hate Crimes Act are just one example of anti-gay activists’ penchant for manufacturing myths and brazenly distorting cases of supposed persecution.
Apocalyptic warnings and blatantly dishonest remarks have always been characteristic of the Religious Right's crusade against LGBT rights and we can expect such activists to continue to engage in such shameless fear mongering and misinformation before the 2014 election.
But, like the Religious Right’s warnings about the effects of the 2009 Hate Crimes Act, these dire predictions should be taken with a heavy dose of salt.
Religious Right groups have for years employed what the National Organization for Marriage described as a plan to “to drive a wedge between gays and blacks.” But this week, the Thomas More Law Center unveiled a campaign to file amicus briefs opposing same-sex marriage on behalf of black preachers, boasting that this worn-out strategy is “a game changer” in the marriage equality debate.
In a press release announcing the game-changing strategy, one of the pastors warns that “every culture that has embraced a homosexual culture has suffered decadence, depravity, and decline,” while another alleges that gays and lesbians aren’t protected under the 14th Amendment.
Pastor Emery Moss even compares the fight to stop marriage equality to the Revolutionary War: “The American Revolution had taxation without representation and we’re going to have marriage legislation without representation. It’s un-American and all Americans should stand up against it.”
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center disclosed that a legal team has been formed to file friend-of-the-court briefs (amicus briefs) on behalf of a Coalition of African-American pastors and Christian leaders. The legal team consists of the Law Center’s senior trial counsel, Erin Mersino, and co-counsels William R. Wagner and John S. Kane of Lansing, MI.
Thompson explained, “In its briefs, the Law Center reflects the voice of a majority of African-Americans that discrimination because of one’s sexual preference is not the same thing as racial discrimination and that tradition and morality should not be discarded as a basis of the law; as the pro-homosexual judges have done in their opinions.”
Bishop Samuel Smith, of the Apostolic World Christian Fellowship consisting of 25, 000 churches worldwide representing over 5 million laity, stated: “Every once in a while, the homosexual agenda makes an effort to redefine morality, but history tells us, that every culture that has embraced a homosexual culture has suffered decadence, depravity, and decline.”
Pastor Danny Holliday, Pastor of Victory Baptist exclaimed, “We all know that the 14th Amendment was made because Black folk were considered as property. Gays have never been considered as property.”
Evangelist Janet Boynes, a former lesbian and member of the Coalition related from her own experience, “There is no substitution for the role of a father and a mother. I know this to be true. I was in a homosexual lifestyle with a woman who had two children and I tried to fulfill the role of a dad. As time went on, I realized that I wasn’t equipped nor built to be a daddy.”
Pastor Emery Moss, of Strictly Biblical, said, “The American Revolution had taxation without representation and we’re going to have marriage legislation without representation. It’s un-American and all Americans should stand up against it.”
Back in 2012, Saleem was scheduled to address a forum at a Michigan public school about the supposed dangers of Muslims in the U.S., prompting People For the American Way and the Council on American Islamic Relations to send a joint letter to the school asking them not to provide a platform for someone promoting misinformation and intolerance.
The school cancelled the event due to safety concerns after independently discovering that Saleem’s supporters bragged that he is a target of terrorist threats.
The hosts of the event — Republican National Committeeman and former state lawmaker David Agema, a local county commissioner, and a chapter leader of the anti-Muslim group ACT! for America — sued the school, the city and other city officials for a variety of claims, as well as PFAW and CAIR for the tort of interfering with a contract.
Right Wing Watch, a project of PFAW, was also mentioned in the lawsuit [PDF], which says the blog “criticizes and disparages conservative politics and Christian–Judeo values.”
The organizers were represented by Thomas More Law Center, a far-right legal group which counts Michele Bachmann and Allen West as board members, and its attorney Erin Mersino.
Today, a federal judge dismissed their lawsuit, noting that the plaintiffs “fail to state a constitutional deprivation” and base their lawsuit on “mere conclusory statements.”
Judge Janet Neff, a Bush appointee, correctly found that PFAW and CAIR were within their First Amendment rights to send a letter to the school: “The Court agrees that the petition from Defendants CAIR-MI, [Dawud] Walid, PFAW and [PFAW president Michael] Keegan to the school superintendent constitutes an attempt to influence governmental action, a petition that is protected by the First Amendment.”
As we’ve noted before, the Thomas More Law Center doesn’t exactly have the best track record:
The Thomas More Law Center, a right-wing legal group whose advisory board includes Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Rep. Allen West, is warning the Supreme Court that a ruling in favor of marriage equality would lead to “ideological totalitarianism” and hand gay rights advocates “a legal weapon with which to beat down ideological opponents.”
In an amicus brief filed last week [pdf], Thomas More argues:
To enshrine one side of a deeply divisive issue in constitutionally untouchable concrete is to fashion a legal weapon with which to beat down ideological opponents, at the cost of intellectual liberty. For this Court to say that it is irrational or illegitimate for a government to recognize, and act upon, the distinction between the potentially procreative marital act, and every other sexual act, would be for this Court implicitly to declare as irrational, benighted, or bigoted, all those individuals who adhere to the traditional view of marriage.
Already those who dare to voice objections to any part of the political program of various LGBT advocacy groups risk vilification, marginalization, or worse. Liberty suffers when one side of a debate is delegitimized as a matter of constitutional law.
In Lawrence, this Court has held that sexual acts between persons of the same sex may not be prohibited. But to go further and say that no government may treat such acts as different, for purposes of government policy or official recognition, from the unique marital acts of a man and a woman, would be enormously to expand the constitutional power this Court already affords sexual choices as such. To take that additional step would be to declare unacceptable and illegitimate the recognition of the uniqueness of the marital act. Those who subscribe to that recognition, in turn, then become pariahs, ignoramuses, or bigots in the eyes of the law.
Opponents of the legal redefinition of marriage already face the prospect of significant retaliation. Equating such persons, as a matter of constitutional law, with racist rednecks or backwards fools, serves as a legal license to continue or increase the legal and social marginalization of such persons. The price is the loss of liberty for those individuals who can no longer obtain gainful employment in their fields….and the loss of intellectual diversity for larger society…This Court should not foster the imposition of what would be, in effect, an ideological totalitarianism, i.e., a regime in which the unquestioning acceptance of the same-sex marriage movement represents the only permissible point of view. (Citations omitted)
The Thomas More Law Center is prone to this sort of dramatic prediction. The group unsuccessfully sued the Justice Department over the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which it claimed would create “a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior.” The group further claimed that "the sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin." The Shepard-Byrd Act, of course, only imposes jail sentences on people who have actually committed crimes and has yet to “criminalize the Bible.”
When congressmen Michele Bachmann and Allen West promote extremist anti-Muslim conspiracytheories, remember that they are members of the advisoryboard of the rabidly right-wing Thomas More Law Center, whose head Richard Thompson warned talk show host Janet Parshall that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken “over the education system of the United States military.” Thompson said that Sharia law is becoming part of U.S. law and that the government is unable to fight it because Americans are too sensitive to criticize Islam, and so we are now “being destroyed from within.” Angry that the military is trying to removeanti-Muslimtraining materials, Thompson asserted that the government has “turned over our organizations that are supposed to protect us to the Muslim Brotherhood” and now America’s survival is in jeopardy.
They are establishing Sharia law slowly through our court system and you have Al Qaeda and its associates using terrorism to strike fear in the hearts of people. We’re still trying to define who the enemy is and we can’t do it, one of the reasons we can’t is because we don’t like—we’re very sensitive when we criticize religion. So even though these terrorists are coming out of mosques and their terrorism is promoted by them imams in those mosques, we’re afraid to connect the terrorist with the mosque and with the Islamic religion. Because we’re very sensitive about that and don’t do that we have opened ourselves up to being destroyed from within.
They took over the educational system of the United States military, they are telling the Pentagon what they should their officers, as well as the FBI, responsible for domestic violence and domestic terrorism. So we’ve turned over our organizations that are supposed to protect us to the Muslim Brotherhood. Now our officers and our FBI agents cannot be trained as to what is the true threat facing our nation and we can’t survive like that.
In accepting service on the Advisory Board, Congresswoman Bachmann stated, "I am pleased to join forces with the Thomas More Law Center. They are in the courts aggressively fighting the internal threat to America posed by radical Islam."
Congresswoman Bachmann is a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. As a member of that Committee, she has steadfastly advocated for peace through strength to ensure America's national security.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, "We are honored to have the counsel of a tough, tested, true American patriot; a person who puts her country above politics, party and political correctness. She understands and shares our concerns about the internal threat to our nation posed by Stealth Jihad as well as maintaining the Judeo-Christian values that made this nation 'the shining city on the hill.'"
Michele Bachmann is the mother of five and the foster mother of 23. As a believer in the traditional values upon which this country was founded, she consistently defends traditional marriage, the importance of the family as the first unit of government, and the right to life for all Americans, including the unborn.
Bachmann expressed her strong commitment to America's Judeo-Christian heritage and values: "I am honored to stand with the Thomas More Law Center as they engage in the legal battles to uphold the Judeo-Christian values upon which our country was founded."
Eagle Forum’s San Diego chapter is hosting a conference in June to unite conservatives in Democratic-leaning California before the upcoming election:
Tomorrow, Friday June 1, 4-9pm prominent national, state and local leaders will address hundreds of conservatives at the "Rise Up California" Eagle Forum San Diego Convention at Skyline Church in Rancho San Diego. The purpose of the convention is to gather, energize, educate, empower and activate conservative Californians 4 days prior to the primary, and into the November general election.
Other activists appearing at the event include Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, Charles LiMandri of the far-right Thomas More Law Center, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for Vice President in 2008 Wayne Allyn Root, Dran Reese of the Salt and Light Council, and anti-environmentalist campaigner Holly Swanson.
Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center today visited WallBuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green to publicize his group’s anti-Muslimactivism and to lavish praise on Barton’s group for “giving the kind of information that people have to have to understand that is going on,” including Barton’s debunked memo calling Obama “America’s Most Biblically-Hostile U. S. President.” He said that the left’s alleged attempts to “attack faithful Christians” and support of the “homosexual agenda” are part of a “war against Christianity.” If successful, Thompson warn, “America will disintegrate”:
Just recently I recall that Dave put out a list of all the anti-Christian statements made by President Obama, I think one of the reasons for this is that we are in a culture war and the left, the far left views Christianity as the major hurdle that they have to overcome to get their agenda passed. So they do everything they can to attack faithful Christians.
It is clear that there is this culture war going on. We are at the tipping point now, we are seeing an attack on the Judeo-Christian principles, whether it’s the homosexual agenda that’s coming down, where they just eliminated the whole Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that prevented open homosexuality in the military, whether there’s now attack [sic] on pro-life organizations because they are supporting pro-life stands and they are not going to get any funding from the government on certain social things that these organizations do like adoptions, like assisting women who have been abused. So you see this full court press against Christianity and its time for Christians to stands up and speak out. Even though a vast majority of Americans are Christen it is the people who hold the strings of power, whether it’s the mainstream media, or whether it’s the cultural elite, or whether its academia, they are waging a war against Christianity and Christians can’t stand by and be silent. We have to speak out.
I know you praise the Thomas More Law Center but I want to turn around and praise WallBuilders because you are giving the kind of information that people have to have to understand what is going on, to understand the history of our nation. They’re not teaching history anymore to show American exceptionalism, and I believe in American exceptionalism, we are the shining city on the hill, and if we don’t keep faith with our Founding Fathers, faith with the Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values that we have, America will disintegrate like every other huge power that existed in history.
Rep. Allen West (R-FL) today announced that he will be joining the Thomas More Law Center’s Citizens Advisory Board, because the group “knows the true threat to our nation posed by radical Islam and it has initiated and funded more cases challenging the Stealth Jihad being waged against our Nation than any other public interest law firm in America.” West will be joining former Republican presidential candidate and conspiracytheoristAlan Keyes, anti-choice activist Mary Cunningham Agee, and former Alabama Republican Senator Jeremiah Denton.
Seeing that West has his own rabidly anti-Muslim views, he should fit right in, and last month Tom Lynch of the Law Center told Concerned Women for America’s Chelsen Vicari that Islam is a Trojan Horse trying to “destroying America” that is simply “disguised as a religion,” and that nobody should trust Muslims because they are lying because of Taqiyya:
A lot of Americans are ignorant and that’s why I want to talk about this subject today, about this internal subversion or what we call a stealth jihad. If you go back in history, I mean today the Trojan Horse here in America is Islam, it’s entered America disguised as a religion, it’s ultimate objective is political, and that is to destroy America and to establish an Islamic nation under Allah and Sharia law.
With Taqiyya, if you’re following the Qur’an and your religion, that means that you can lie. So how can you really trust anybody that might be appeasing to our Constitution, our Christianity, or our country?