Vision America's Rick Scarborough appeared on the American Pastors Network's "Stand In The Gap" radio program earlier this week to discuss his effort to encourage pastors to mobilize their congregations to vote and declared that, thanks to the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling last year, Christians are now being banned from serving in various public offices.
Scarborough said that in his years of working to mobilize pastors to get involved in politics, he has discovered that he has had the most success at times when pastors sensed that there was a direct threat against something that they cared about.
"Whenever there's a threat, pastors seem to be quicker to respond," Scarborough said. "Well, we have that now with the threat on religious liberty driven by the radical LGBTQ effort, this whole transgender assault on biblical marriage and just sane morality."
"We already have, in effect, because of the godless ruling of the Supreme Court," he continued, "when they implemented by judicial fiat the travesty of same-sex marriage upon the country, suddenly they literally made it unlawful and illegal for Christians to hold positions on the federal courts, those with biblical values to serve in various places in the military; they're literally being drummed out on the basis that their biblical values are counter to the Constitution as written by these five unelected lawyers."
Pastors understand that "now that there's a real threat," Scarborough said. "More and more pastors now can get it and are beginning to recognize that if they don't stand today, there will be no freedom to stand tomorrow."
Vision America's Rick Scarborough spoke at a "Pastors Appreciation Brunch" in Orlando, Florida, last week, urging the pastors in the audience to get involved in politics and to mobilize their congregations to vote because Christians in American are being driven into the closet and being robbed of their religious liberty.
Scarborough alleged that Christians didn't vote in recent elections and, as a result, President Obama was able to name two new justices to the Supreme Court and, consequently, "in June of last year, the Supreme Court countered our founders" by legalizing marriage equality.
"Our founders created a nation unlike the world had ever seen based upon natural law and nature's God," he said. "The heartbeat of the birth was that God had a higher law than man's law, but our Supreme Court looked a biblical revelation and natural law and countered both and said the Constitution, unbeknownst to its founders, contained a right of same-sex unions."
"And now, like a hammer, this false teaching is being used to drive you and I in the closets and to rob us of our freedom of religion," he warned.
And to make matters worse, he said that some U.S. embassies are now flying the rainbow flag during Gay Pride Month.
"The rainbow was a reminder of God's judgment and His grace, but now it's embraced to promote homosexuality; not only in America, we export it around the world," Scarborough said. "And you wonder why they call us the Great Satan?"
Next month, Donald Trump will host a meeting with some of the country’s most radical anti-LGBT and anti-choice leaders in New York City.
Trump, who has already recruited a variety of far-right activists and conspiracy theorists to his campaign, is set to take part in a convening organized by Ben Carson, a former rival turned campaign surrogate, aimed at bringing reluctant Religious Right leaders to his side.
According to a copy of the invitation to the event obtained by the National Review, Trump will be joined by Religious Right activists including Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Penny Nance, Jim Garlow, Rick Scarborough, Phil Burress, Ken Cuccinelli, Lila Rose, E.W Jackson, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Cindy Jacobs.
The meeting will be cohosted by the Family Research Council, Vision America and AFA Action, the political arm of the American Family Association, three of the most vicious anti-LGBT hate groups in the country.
Trump has already pledged to use nominees to the Supreme Court to pave the way for the reversal of the landmark rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality and has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, key priorities of right-wing activists.
Here is a brief introduction to some of the far-right extremists Trump will be meeting with next month.
David and Jason Benham will receive the 2016 "National Heroes of Faith Award" from Vision America in September, while their father, Flip, will recieve the "Don Wildmon Pastor Award."
Alex Jones says that "Glenn Beck is a Benedict Arnold, he is a sleeper cell."
Scott Lively calls Christians to battle: "Let’s help the populists defend national sovereignty and defeat the Cultural Marxists, AND be fully prepared to reoccupy the positions of cultural influence that the Marxists stole from us as they are pushed back across the cultural battlefield — similar to the way the Russian Orthodox Church under Putin has re-claimed the positions of cultural influence in the Russian Federation from the Soviet Communists."
TeaParty.org wonders if Michelle Obama is transgender: "It would explain a lot."
Finally, David Lane identifies the problem and the only solution: "Cannot secularists recognize what Secularism has done to America? Freedom is endangered. Secularists have imported destruction on America ... What do we do? Prayer must be re-established in our churches. We must beseech King Jesus to return to public education, higher learning and the public square in America."
On her program last Friday, Rachel Maddow also took note of the fact that the leading 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls had no problem participating in an event organized and co-hosted by an extremist like Scarborough:
The event itself was broadcast on Saturday morning from the headquarters of the Family Research Council, the group led by Perkins, and wound up being four hours of sanctimonious self-pity and mind-numbing dullness interspersed by short videos submitted by Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum all blatantly pandering to the Religious Right.
After Bush kicked things off by providing a vague promise to be a "strong advocate of religious liberty" as president, Carson turned things up a notch by declaring that "the greatest threat to religious freedom in America today is secular progressivism," as demonstrated by the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision, and vowing that, if elected president, he will work with Congress to pass legislation exempting Christians from having to recognize this decision.
Carson was followed by Cruz, who insisted that Christians "face an unprecedented attack on our first freedom from an aggressive secular state that seeks to push faith out of the public square entirely" and likewise promised that, if elected president, he'll make it his first order of business to see that "the persecution of religious liberty ends today."
Later in the broadcast, Carly Fiorina told those watching that "religious liberty is under assault in our country" and that America needs a leader who will fight to "take our country back." And that leader should be her, Fiorina explained, because "my faith has been tested in good times and in bad and never found wanting."
She was followed by Huckabee, who trotted out his standard campaign promise to simply ignore the Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage and abortion and essentially outlaw them both through executive action.
Up next, Rubio declared that "it shouldn't surprise us, this all-out assault on our liberties, because we have a president that, when he was a candidate the first time, he said that those of us that have traditional values are bitter people who cling to our guns and to our religion." He went on to promise that, as president, he will proudly "stand up for those" who are called "bigots and haters" for opposing gay marriage and abortion.
Santorum finally closed things out by decrying the "virulent assault" on religious liberty in America as demonstrated by "the lack of tolerance" for those who oppose gay marriage, promising that, as president, he will not only sign the First Amendment Defense Act, but "then we'll move further" and reverse the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling.
In yet another example of what the Religious Right’s recent focus on “religious liberty” is really about, five Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to speak this weekend at a “religious freedom” event hosted by a conservative pastor who has repeatedly declared that AIDS is God’s punishment for gay people’s “immoral act” and has called for a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality.
Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee are scheduled to join a “Free to Believe Broadcast” on Saturday, hosted by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, two of the most outspoken anti-gay activists in the country.
Both, even while attempting to curtail the rights of LGBT people, have claimed that it is their rights that are being violated by the LGBT movement: Perkins has said that the supposed persecution of anti-gay Christians in America is inspiringISIS, and Scarborough has declared that he is ready to burn to death in the fight against gay marriage.
But neither Scarborough nor Perkins has ever been particularly interested in a “live and let live” truce with LGBT people.
Scarborough has declared that AIDS, “a homosexual disease,” is God’s “judgment as a result of an immoral act.” Just last year, he repeated his belief that AIDS is “God’s judgment on a sinful generation, adding that “God would probably give us the cure for AIDS today” if the U.S. stopped supporting gay rights:
He also said last year that marriage equality is part of Satan’s effort to “destroy this country,” warning that gay parents will lead their children “into an early grave called hell”:
Scarborough is so concerned about gay people that back in 2013 he brought up the idea of issuing a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality, much like actions taken against the tobacco industry:
In 2014, Scarborough agreed with Islamic fundamentalists who call America the “Great Satan,” saying that God would be perfectly justified in sending a nuclear bomb to destroy the country because of such sins as President Obama’s appointments of a handful of gay ambassadors:
And that’s just Scarborough. Perkins has a vile anti-gay record of his own, which Brian summarized last month.
Also appearing at the event will be Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who has warned that gay people seek to “groom” and “entrap” children, and David and Jason Benham, brothers who became Religious Right martyrs when they lost a TV show they were set to star in after their anti-gayactivism came to light.
If you’ve watched Rafael Cruz or his son at all, there’s not much new or surprising in Rafael’s book. It is essentially a book-length pitch for his son’s candidacy, beginning with a gushing foreword from Glenn Beck — “Rafael Cruz is one of the greatest freedom fighters of his generation” and “Ted Cruz will do anything to protect and preserve freedom” — to an epilogue from Ted Cruz, which reads like a reprint of his presidential campaign’s stump speech. Rafael says in the book that he has known since Ted was a young boy that he had “a special calling on his life.”
Rafael is not shy in his political pronouncements. The Democratic Party “promotes an ungodly socialist agenda that is destroying America,” he declares. “And unfortunately, there are those in the Republican Party who aren’t much different.” That is why, he says, it is even more important to vote in primary elections than in the general election, because the primary “gives you the opportunity to select the candidates that best align with biblical and constitutional principles.” Rafael, and Ted in his campaign-speech epilogue, repeat their assertion that 54 million evangelical voters stayed home on Election Day 2012 and that getting more of them to vote is the key to putting the government back in the hands of a “righteous” president.
I believe without a shadow of a doubt that the reason the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States have lasted over two centuries is that they were divinely inspired and then written by men who had spent time on their knees. These were men of God seeking revelation from God, and that’s what He gave them. Of course, these two documents aren’t equivalent to the Word of God, but God certainly directed the men who crafted them.
Also cited in “A Time for Action” is Christian-nation advocate and political strategist David Lane, who is trying to mobilize an army of conservative pastors to run for office, which he hopes will in turn bring out conservative evangelical volunteers and voters. Lane has also been, with FRC’s Tony Perkins, a major promoter of the effort to get Religious Right leaders to unite around a single candidate — a step taken earlier this month when dozens of them voted in a secret endorsement meeting to back Ted Cruz.
Rafael talks about the dangers of secular humanism and makes a glancing reference to Seven Mountains dominionism, the belief that conservative Christians must gain control over the "seven mountains" of American culture.
In no way, shape, or form was Jefferson implying that the church should be restricted from exerting an influence upon society. On the contrary, the Bible tells us that we are the salt of the earth and light of the world…Doesn’t that suggest that our influence should touch every area of society – our families, the media, sports, arts and entertainment, education, business, and government?”
Like Barton and Lane, Rafael makes his case for the Christian nature of the U.S. government by conflating the Pilgrims and Puritans with the founding fathers who gave us the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution more than 150 years later. Rafael declares that “the concept of separation of church and state is found nowhere in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States of America,” which leads into this:
To understand this clearly, we need to go back four centuries to the time of the first settlers in America. If you lived in England in the early 1600s and were not a member of the Church of England, you would be considered a heretic and subject to persecution. So the early settlers immigrated to the New World in order to freely worship the Lord their God. What a remarkable heritage of religious freedom this exceptional country gives us! The only country on the face of the earth founded on the World of God!
As this new constitutional representative republic stretched its wings following the Revolutionary War, citizens of the thirteen colonies wondered if their new government would impose a state religion upon them like the one their forefathers suffered in England…
That is followed by a discussion of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, ending with the Bartonesque conclusion that Jefferson’s wall of separation image “was only referring to a one-way wall.”
Rafael’s writing on Cuba is similarly incomplete. He describes the explosion that sank the U.S. Maine in Havana harbor in 1898 as “an unprovoked attack” without any indication that many historians now believe the ship’s boiler exploded and that the “unprovoked attack” story was simply cover for the U.S. to declare war on Spain and bring Cuba under U.S. control. Rafael suggests without offering any evidence that President Obama’s unsuccessful efforts to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay suggest that Obama is “complicit” with Raúl Castro’s demands that the U.S. return the military base itself to Cuban control.
“A Time to Act” includes plenty of familiar Religious Right claims: that Supreme Court rulings on state-sponsored prayer and Bible readings in public schools have contributed to America’s downward slide, along with legal abortion and the “redefinition” of traditional marriage.
The book is also full of the hyperbolic rhetoric you’d expect from Rafael Cruz and World Net Daily, the far-right news outlet that serves as his publisher. Jimmy Carter’s policies were “reminiscent of the bearded dictator I had left behind in Cuba” and Obama taking executive action on immigration in the face of congressional inaction “doesn’t sound much different from the old, bearded dictator I left behind in Cuba almost sixty years ago — governing by decree, by fiat, just like Fidel Castro.”
There’s more: America today “is tragically following the same path that Cuba did a half century ago.” The Obama administration has “intensified our progression into an age of lawlessness.” The Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran will make it “quite literally, the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.” The Supreme Court’s “lawless” and “preposterous” marriage equality decision is “one of the biggest signs of our country’s moral degradation.” The federal government “mandates that teachers affirm alternative, nonbiblical lifestyles, teach evolution as incontrovertible ‘fact,’ and mock the notion that God created the heavens and earth.” Common Core is a means for educational elites to “brainwash our students through federally mandated curriculum that extols socialism, globalism, and immorality from a secular humanist worldview.”
Like countless speeches at Religious Right political gatherings, Rafael Cruz places much of the blame for America’s sad state of affairs on pastors who aren’t being aggressive enough in preaching politics from the pulpit. “The time has come,” he writes, “for pastors to again fearlessly preach toward the political landscape, just like their predecessors centuries ago. If they don’t, Satan will rule without opposition in our halls of legislation.”
It is interesting to read the extent to which Ted Cruz is a product of careful grooming since childhood by his father and by far-right organizations. Rafael was active in the Religious Roundtable’s efforts to elect Ronald Reagan, and Ted, then nine years old, heard plenty of dinner conversations about the importance of getting rid of Jimmy Carter and replacing him with Ronald Reagan. Says Rafael, “My son received a dose of constitutionally conservative politics from a biblical worldview every day for a year when he was just nine!” As a kid, Rafael’s friends introduced Ted to the founder of the Free Enterprise Institute and began inculcating him in the teachings of people like Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Ted was part of a group of five high school students that the Institute sent around Texas giving speeches on free-market economics and the Constitution.
“A Time for Action” also includes a few appendices. One helpfully explains how U.S. government policies — such as progressive income taxes, net neutrality, Amtrak subsidies and the auto industry “bailout” — align with the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto. Also included, courtesy of David Barton’s Wallbuilders, the letter of the Danbury Baptists to Thomas Jefferson and his response; a sermon preached by colonial pastor Jonas Clark before the battle of Lexington and his account of the battles of Lexington and Concord; and recommended resources, which include Ted Cruz’s “A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America” as well as books by conservative economists and a few Religious Right organizations, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, David Lane’s American Renewal Project, Wallbuilders, and, of course, WND. Earlier in the book, Cruz promotes other Religious Right groups that produce voter guides or voting records, including Vision America, Liberty Counsel, Liberty Institute, Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America.
Here at Right Wing Watch, we listen to hours of video and audio each day in order to find the short clips that we share with our readers. It’s been a doozy of a year, in which presidential politics has collided with the farthest of the far right, and here at Right Wing Watch, we’ve had the dubious pleasure of witnessing it all. It’s hard to pick our favorite/most horrifying memories of the year, so instead we’ve looked back at the 10 most watched videos and most listened-to audio clips of the year.
10. Sandy Rios Investigates The Amtrak Crash
Days after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia in May, killing eight and injuring hundreds, the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios pointed out “an interesting part of the story” that was likely “a factor” in the crash: the conductor’s homosexuality.
June was not a happy month for anti-gay activists, as exemplified by Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, who days before the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision warned that gay marriage was a satanic plot to destroy Christianity and may very well bring God’s judgment on America.
Televangelist Pat Robertson is not always quite on point with the advice he gives to viewers of “The 700 Club” at the end of every program, such as when he told a bereaved mother who had just lost a young child that the child could have turned out to be the next Hitler .
4. The Gay ‘Jihad’
Ted Cruz went there during a campaign event in Iowa in April.
3. Rick Perry’s ‘Accident’
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had a very ill-timed “oops” moment when he called the mass shooting at a church in Charleston an “accident,” in the process of claiming that the crime was the result of drugs rather than guns.
2. Phil Robertson’s Imagination
Back in March, controversial “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson tried to make a convoluted point about atheists supposedly having no moral code by telling a gruesome hypothetical story about a family of atheists getting raped and murdered.
1. Rick Scarborough’s Martyrdom
Nobody took the hysteria over the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision quite as far as Rick Scarborough, who declared a few days before the court handed down its decision that he was ready to burn to death in his fight against gay marriage.
Vision America recently posted a new promotional video celebrating the organization's work mobilizing pastors for the purpose of getting their congregations more involved in politics, which featured footage of Rick Scarborough literally throwing a copy of the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision to the ground and stepping on it while vowing never to disobey the Bible.
The video was presumably produced to be shown during the organization's recent "Heroes of Faith" gala as it was clearly aimed at encouraging donors to continue to fund Vision America's efforts by highlighting Scarborough's various speaking engagements, including one where he was shown grandstanding on the gay marriage decision.
"You cannot redefine that which God has already defined," Scarborough proclaimed of the Supreme Court decision at the start of the video. "However, they did place our nation at odd with God's revealed moral law. I choose to obey God rather than men."
The video then showed footage of Scarborough preaching in a church, holding up a copy of the decision in one hand and a Bible in the other while declaring that "five lawyers just said God was wrong when he defined marriage. There comes a time when men have to choose who they're going to obey and what's going to be the authority in their life."
"Well, I've made my choice," Scarborough said, tossing the court decision to the ground and then stepping on it. "I'm not going to obey that."
Later in the video, the narrator warned that "five unelected lawyers ... have empowered God-haters to come after true believers."
Some helpful advice from Michael Youssef: "It is time for those within the homosexual movement to reassess their fight against Christians and evangelicals. And more importantly, it is time for them to seek to know the Savior. By coming to the Savior with repentance and faith—just like the rest of us have done who have come to the Savior—He will have mercy on them and deliver them."
Phyllis Schlafly fumes that the "Army favors gays over patriotism."
Janet Porter says that "Governor John Kasich must either support the pro-life Heartbeat Bill or quit calling himself pro-life."
FRC is joining the anti-Planned Parenthood rallies this weekend.
Finally, Todd Starnes will be honored as the "National Hero of Faith" at Vision America's annual gala next month.
Last night, Vision America's Rick Scarborough spoke at St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida, as part of the church's weekly "Spiritual Revolution - Reclaiming America" series, where he declared that the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision will kill this nation and warned that children will now be adopted by gay parents and wind up in Hell.
"The reason Satan is trying to destroy this country right now is because we send more missionaries, do more good than any nation in history," Scarborough thundered. "But that's all at stake right now because by the act of five unelected judges mandated something upon this country that, for the first time could kill it!"
Gay marriage is far worse than abortion, he explained, because Christians can simply "opt out" and refuse to have abortions but "when homosexuals begin lining up to adopt those children, they will literally disciple them into an early grave called Hell."
On Tuesday, as the Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the constitutionality of gay marriage bans, E.W. Jackson convened a conference call with Texas-based pastor Rick Scarborough and conservative attorney William Olson to discuss how a decision in favor of marriage equality would destroy America.
“Gentlemen, we’re facing a crisis unlike any before,” Scarborough told callers, saying that while Roe v. Wade was “a dreadful decision wreaking havoc upon the nation and upon the world” at least “with abortion we can opt out of that.”
Marriage equality, he warned, would be a different story.
“I have portrayed it as two trains on the same track going in opposite directions,” he said. “One is the train of free speech and religious rights, religious liberty as defined in the First Amendment. But the other train is this newly created, unnatural civil right of two men being able to marry one another or two women marrying one another.”
“And only God knows where we go after that,” he continued, “because once you tear down that wall, how do you keep a man from marrying a child, or five men from marrying one woman or one man marrying five women? Once the wall is torn down and God’s law is no longer supported by our federal laws and our statutes, then we move into a realm that we’ve never lived in before, but I can assure you religious liberty will not survive that. And there will be a collision, a collision unparalleled in American history.”
He urged callers to sign a pledge organized by Religious Right leaders vowing to meet any marriage equality decision with civil disobedience. If enough people sign the pledge, he said, maybe the court “will pause and say, ‘We’re about to sow to the wind and reap a whirlwind.’”
“This is the day for modern-day Bonhoffers in America to stand up and speak up,” he said, referring to the German pastor who was executed by Nazi forces.
Olson warned at a Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality would mean “we no longer have a written constitution, we no longer have rule of law, we have had Darwinian revolution influence the courts.”
“So we have an extraordinary moment where we might be losing just about everything…if an adverse decision is not met with resistance,” he said.
Olson told callers that while “we’re not being told we cannot preach the Gospel, but it’s awfully close to that command that requires us to obey God and not obey man.”
Referring to Scarborough’s comment at a press conference last week that he would be willing to die fighting marriage equality, Olson said, “As extraordinary as that sounds, that is not an impossibility.”
Anti-gay activists, he said, will have to practice civil disobedience such as “jury nullification” and encouraging state elected officials to refuse to enforce a marriage equality decision. This led Jackson to slam Republican politicians who say they would attend the wedding of a gay or lesbian loved one.
“The popular compromise it seems for politicians these days is, ‘I’m opposed to same-sex marriage, but I would go to a same-sex ceremony to support a friend,’” he said. “It’s unconscionable.”
This morning, James Dobson, Mat Staver, and Rick Scarborough organized a press conference at the National Press club in support of their pledge to refuse to accept any Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage.
During his remarks, Scarborough declared that marriage equality is an attack on God and dismissed the idea that the majority of Americans support gay marriage by asserting that a majority of Americans once also supported segregation.
"I am not surprised that some recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans now say they approve of same-sex marriage," he said. "We have heard a steady drum beat for the last decade of a one-sided national discussion on the subject. But there was also a time when the majority of Americans in this country approved of separate restrooms and separate classrooms for black American citizens. The majority often gets it wrong."
"Marriage can no more include same-sex couples than a rock can fall up," Scarborough continued. "The court can no more redefine marriage than it can redefine gravity ... Today I declare before Heaven, I will no deny God, nor His word to curry any man's favor. With great caution should anyone indulge the notion that one can change what God has said ... To deny the created order is to attack God's very nature":
On his radio program today, Family Talk's James Dobson hosted a discussion with Rick Scarborough of Vision America, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, and Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association about how anti-gay Christians should react if the Supreme Court strikes down state bans on gay marriage.
As usual, most of the talk revolved around the call for right-wing Christians to engage in civil disobedience and resist any such ruling but, at one point, Scarborough and Dobson went off on a tangent, attacking President Obama for voicing his support for bans on "ex-gay" conversion therapy for minors, with Scarborough fuming that such bans will outlaw the teaching of the Gospel and are turning America into a nation like Saudi Arabia.
Scarborough said that if the Supreme Court strikes down gay marriage bans, then "our nation is now sanctioning a lifestyle that God forbids." He warned that such a ruling will endanger children by telling them that such relationships are okay while making it "illegal for me to share the Gospel with a child."
"That child grows up in his life never knowing right from wrong from a biblical perspective and they die and crash into Hell," Scarborough said. "So what we're discussing has eternal consequences."
Dobson was likewise outraged, saying that teaching young children about homosexuality is "draconian" and blasting Obama for opposing conversion therapy.
"What does the president of the United States, who knows nothing about this issue, have to do with telling the rest of us how live our lives?" Dobson bellowed.
"That's the kind of thing you'd hear if you were trying to teach the Scripture in a Muslim country," Scarborough added. "You can't say that in this country":
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.
At a panel discussion on abortion rights at this weekend’s Awakening conference, the topic at one point turned to how abortion rights advocates are supposedly nasty and mean while anti-choice activists are kind and compassionate to their adversaries.
This caused Vision America’s Rick Scarborough to recall the time God disrupted a protest of “radical homosexuals” from the gay rights group ACT UP when the late Jerry Falwell was speaking at his church in Texas.
Falwell, Scarborough recalled, asked him to send pitchers of ice water out to the protesters outside those church, “and those radical gays were just astounded by the kindness.”
Then, Scarborough recalled, “God got involved” and in an apparent act of solidarity with Falwell’s magnanimity drove away the “radical homosexuals” with a torrential downpour.
Falwell was speaking in our church back in the days of ACT UP. Radical homosexuals showed up, I mean the police literally stood between them and our congregation. Rev. Falwell said, ‘Rick, while I’m preaching, send your men out there with pitchers of ice water because it was a roaring July day in Texas. And so our men when out there and those radical gays were just astounded by the kindness.
And then God got involved. This is really humorous to think about and remember. But right about halfway through Dr. Falwell’s sermon, with these radical gays outside, we heard a clap of thunder and lightning…and a torrential rain fell. By the time he finished, the sun was shining, but the gays were wet and gone.
So, sometimes when we radically live the faith, God gets involved.
At Saturday’s Awakening conference, an annual Religious Right confab organized by Liberty Counsel, the mood surrounding LGBT rights had reached full-blown panic.
Nearly two years after the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision let loose a cascade of federal court decisions legalizing marriage between same-sex couples in dozens of states, the Religious Right activists gathered in a megachurch in Orlando were bracing for a Supreme Court decision that could establish marriage equality nationwide.
At a panel titled “Activism in the Age of Lawlessness,” four Religious Right leaders — John Eidsmoe, Rick Scarborough, William Murray and Harry Mihet — gathered to suss out what the movement’s response should be to pro-LGBT court rulings that they find to be “lawless.”
John Eidsmoe, the influential Christian nationalist thinker who served as a mentor to Michele Bachmann, outlined the issue, explaining to the audience that “‘rule of law’ ultimately means ‘rule of the highest law,’” or God’s law.
Eidsmoe, who now works for the Religious Right group founded by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who is urging judges in his state to defy a federal court ruling on marriage equality, argued that you are only disobeying the law if you disobey “the law of God.”
“You disobey a law only when those who have that law are breaking a higher law, the law of God,” he said. “And in fact, if you follow the decree of a tyrant when he is defying the law, you are complicit in his defiance. Disobedience then becomes not only a right, it becomes a duty.”
Eidsmoe explained that the idea of civil disobedience had been perverted since biblical times, since the idea of not violating your conscience should only apply if “your conscience is in accord with the word of God.”
Rick Scarborough, the head of Vision America, warned that a Supreme Court decision for marriage equality would be worse for the Religious Right than Roe v. Wade because “with abortion, you can opt out, you don’t have to participate in that.”
He claimed that, in contrast, a marriage equality decision would outlaw anti-gay speech, the exact same erroneous prediction he made following the passage of the 2009 Hate Crimes Law.
“We’ll get up the day after that ruling, and in fact a few hours after that ruling when it’s widely disseminated, and you’ll find yourself, those of us who believe that homosexuality is a sexual sin — perversion if you will — those of us who believe that homosexual marriage is unnatural and forbidden by God and who have taught that our entire lives…when that law is passed you are then going to breaking the law when you preach or teach what you’ve always taught or what you’ve always preached,” he claimed.
“Fundamentally, it undermines the whole nature of America,” Scarborough concluded.
Liberty Counsel attorney Harry Mihet, who was moderating the panel, echoed Scarborough’s dire warnings when he declared that there would be “no way to escape this issue” and that it might “in the near future” land anti-LGBT pastors in jail… just like Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We have to draw the line in the sand and stand firm on the truth of the Word, and not to shy away from a fight, not to quit, not to be silent, but to actually speak truth and love to a society that has a desperate need to hear it,” he said. “And there may come a time when you will have to lose your job because that’s what you’ve done. There may come a time in the near future when you have to lose your liberty and go to jail like Martin Luther King did.”
When an audience member in a session about abortion rights asked what to do about a pastor who refuses to participate in politics, Connelly responded that “voting is not political, it’s spiritual” and urged pastors to violate rarely-enforced regulations that prevent churches from being involved in partisan politics in order to keep their tax-exempt status.
Referring to cases where businesses have run afoul of nondiscrimination laws by refusing service to gay and lesbian couples, Connelly said, “Who would have thought that a florist or a baker or a photographer or, for goodness sakes, a wedding chapel would be sued when there were competitors that they could have gone to? They’re coming for the church.”
Listen, voter registration is not political, it’s spiritual. Voting is not political, it’s spiritual. So witness and testimony to the community what you believe in. No wonder we get legislation we don’t agree with, no wonder we get candidates and elected officials we don’t agree with, because our people aren’t engaged.
So if your pastor’s saying, ‘It’s a legal issue, I can’t do this,’ ask them how many churches have lost their tax-exempt status. It’s a finite number: zero. By definition, you’re tax exempt. If there’s no freedom of speech in the pulpit, there’s no freedom of speech, brothers and sisters. And if we can’t say the truth from the pulpit, guess what, we can’t say the truth anywhere.
Who would have thought that a florist or a baker or a photographer or, for goodness sakes, a wedding chapel would be sued when there were competitors that they could have gone to. They’re coming for the church.
He ended by asking the audience to “please help us pressure your pastors” to get involved in elections, but adding that “it’s not a party or political issue.”
Later in the same discussion, far-right pastor Rick Scarborough warned that “every pastor is going to be directly assaulted” by the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on marriage equality, claiming that a pro-equality ruling would force churches to “participate in same-sex marriage” or face fines or imprisonment.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, after teaming up with Christian nationalist extremists to host his “The Response” prayer rally in Baton Rouge earlier this year, is now continuing his project of endearing himself to the far fringes of the Religious Right by addressing an annual conference hosted by Liberty Counsel this weekend.
Liberty Counsel’s “The Awakening” event will bring Jindal, along with fellow likely GOP presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, together with some of the most unapologetically extreme Religious Right leaders, including Sen. Ted Cruz’s dad Rafael.
With speakers from John Eidsmoe, a founding father of the Religious Right’s current Christian nationalist thought, to Kamal Saleem, the phony ex-terrorist and prolific anti-Obama conspiracy theorist, the candidates are sure to be treated to an exciting array of far-right ideas.
The Awakening is organized by Liberty Counsel, a legal arm of Liberty University founded and chaired by Mat Staver. Staver is particularly invested in anti-LGBT activism both in the U.S. and abroad, where he has spoken out in favor of laws criminalizinghomosexuality. Here at home, he has warned that marriage equality will help bring about God’s destruction of America and will be “the beginning of the end of Western Civilization.”
Staver’s extremism is not limited to LGBT rights. For instance, at the 2010 Awakening conference, Staver agreed with an audience member who asked if the Affordable Care Act created a private army of Brownshirts for President Obama.
Kamal Saleem claims to be an ex-terrorist who worked for a number of Islamist groups before coming to America to build sleeper cells and ultimately converting to Christianity. The fact that Saleem’sstory doesn’t add up — and that he’s suspiciously reluctant to talk about the details — hasn’t stopped him from being a popular speaker on the Religious Right conference circuit, where he impresses audiences with his insider knowledge that President Obama is a secret Muslim out to destroy America.
In 2012, he told The Awakening that when President Obama appeared to be pledging allegiance to the flag, he was actually taking part in an Islamic prayer. The same year, he warned the Values Voter Summit that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be shutting down churches in America within the year:
Eidsmoe has specifically warned that gay rights will bring about divine judgment on the U.S. and wrote a whole book, “Gays & Guns,” arguing against allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, warning that they might molest children.
Eidsmoe, who has gotten in trouble in the past for speaking to white supremacist groups, is currently the “senior counsel and resident scholar” at the Foundation for Moral Law, the Christian nationalist group founded by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a longtime ally.
Rick Scarborough, a Baptist pastor and the head of the Religious Right group Vision America, is one of the most extreme voices in the anti-LGBT movement. Although he insists that he is neither a Democrat or Republican, but a “Christ-ocrat,” he frequently allies with likeminded Republican politicians including Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee to get his followers to the polls.
Scarborough has also dabbled in anti-immigrant nativism, warning that “more non-white families” in the U.S. would lead to fewer Christians and that “if this country becomes 30 percent Hispanic we will no longer be America.”
Graham’s opinion of the Obama administration was only reinforced when he was disinvited from speaking at an event at the Pentagon because of hishistory of anti-Muslim rhetoric. He has since claimed that the White House has been “infiltrated by Muslims” and is being run by Muslims who “hate Israel and hate Christians.” Just this week, he speculated that Obama’s mother “must have been a Muslim,” which he said explains why the president supposedly won’t fight ISIS.
Barber is fond of comparing his opponents to Nazis, calling supporters of reproductive rights “modern day Nazis” and LGBT rights advocates “Rainbowshirts” who have “broken out the long knives” to go after Christians. At the same time, 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., and defending Uganda’s harsh criminal penalties for LGBT people.
A coalition of far-right groups, including Faith 2 Action, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, BarbWire, Vision America Action and the Judicial Action Group, wants Congress to order the Supreme Court and other federal courts to “cease and desist” from ruling on same-sex marriage cases.
In a letter to Congress, which it dubs a “Restraining Order,” the coalition claims that the “judicial usurpation” on marriage “fueled a government assault on Constitutionally protected First Amendment rights of pastors, churches, business and facility owners, employees, public officials, organizations, ministries and citizens.”
Of course, the coalition is asking for as much as $49.95 to send the letters to members of Congress.