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.
Vision America's Rick Scarborough was a guest on Gordon Klingenschmitt's "Pray In Jesus Name" program recently, where he explained that God is blessing the state of Texas because "Christians have infiltrated" and taken over the state GOP.
Scarborough was discussing his efforts to mobilize right-wing pastors to get involved in politics across the nation and noting that he has had a great deal of success in Texas; so much so that if one now attends an annual Republican Party convention in Texas, it feels as if one is attending a revival meeting.
"Christians have infiltrated the Republican Party in Texas and it's like going to revival meetings when you go to our state conventions," Scarborough said. "That's why God's blessing our state and why, I believe, Texas has become a model for other states":
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.
The National Organization for Marriage needs donations because "the next six months may determine the future of marriage in America for generations to come!"
Poor people in America are not really poor, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation explains, because some of them own TVs and cars and have internet access.
Anne Graham Lotz responds to Jews who were upset by her assertion that they need Jesus to be saved by quoting the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans, which really ought to convince them.
Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana is not happy about judges allowing gay partners to be listed as the "spouse" on death certificates: "[R]ather than fully force same-sex marriage upon a state, they are chipping away at this through a public policy matter, knowing that this weakens marriage laws and [that] future judges can totally overturn the law by pointing back at these decisions."
Brian Camenker of MassResistance says that Scott Brown is nothing more than a liberal carpetbagger.
Finally, Vision America asks you to sign its voter pledge: "To restore religious freedom, I pledge to vote wisely in the upcoming political party primaries and general elections, and by reviewing factual data in Vision America Action's Voter Guide."
Next month, Rick Scarborough's Vision America will host its annual "Heroes of Faith Gala" where the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins will receive the 2014 "National Hero of Faith Award" and Rafael Cruz, a Religious Right activist and father of Sen. Ted Cruz, will be honored with the "Don Wildmon Award," named for the founder of the American Family Association.
Today, Vision America sent out an email urging activists to register for the event, revealing that the senator is also going to be in attendance, picking up the Don Wildmon Award on behalf of his father and delivering remarks:
Vision America's Rick Scarborough recently spoke at a church in Florida as part of a "Give Me Liberty Tour" where he declared that every day that passes without God destroying this country is a miracle, especially since President Obama is appointing gay ambassadors to represent America before other nations.
"This thing could all come crashing down," Scarborough warned, saying that if a "series of dirty bombs" or one massive nuclear blast were to destroy America, it would be "perfectly just ... because we have squandered our grace in this country."
And to demonstrate just how vile this nation has become, Scarborough pointed to the fact that our foreign embassies celebrate LGBT Pride Month and that President Obama has appointed several gay ambassadors, agreeing with Islamic fundamentalists that American is now the "Great Satan."
"You want to know why the Arab world calls us the Great Satan?" he asked, rhetorically. "How far we have fallen! When will pastors and when will Christians stand up and say enough is enough?"
Last week, World Congress of Families spokesman Don Feder joined Rick Scarborough on a Tea Party Unity conference call, where Feder got to talking about how liberals “intimidate” conservative pastors into not speaking out against gay rights.
As luck would have it, Scarborough was ready with a “very fresh and very real” anecdote to illustrate that this "threat" comes not just from gay rights activists, but from parishioners who don't want to hear about anal sex in church:
Well, let me give you a perspective that’s very fresh and very real. When pastors speak on this issue, it’s not just a threat that comes from the left that they fear.
I spoke in a church the last four days – I don’t recall the name of the church, so maybe somebody on the line listening from that church, if they are, they’re going to be very familiar with what I’m about to say – but in the second service out of five, I mentioned the word ‘anal sex’ illustrating what homosexuality actually is. And I know that that’s a repulsive expression, I know that nobody likes to think about it, but Christians need to understand what we’re talking about. This is not a gay activity, it’s a perversion. And it does carry consequences because of the nature of the act.
The one thing that the homosexual community doesn’t want us to talk about is what they actually do. They love to disguise their activities with euphemisms. And the presentation they always give is some handsome, erudite young man that’s a gift to society, when in fact he’s committing indecent acts with consequences.
But the firestorm that one, two-word expression caused among the Christians in the church was just palpable, and consequently a segment of the church didn’t come to another service of revival and just basically boycotted because they found what I said to be reprehensible. In other words, the church families don’t find what they’re doing reprehensible, but they put such pressure on the preachers not to even mention it that a lot of preachers have gone silent.
So, it’s not just the fear of the left, it’s the fear of the right, because Christians are more concerned about what their sensitive ears have to listen to than what’s taking place at the high school that may be perverting their own children.
So, we’ve got a real challenge. Will the pastor be forced to speak to it? I sure hope so. But the reality is, a lot of the problem is in the pew as well as the pulpit.
If you’re already tired of the Duck Dynasty flap, I have some bad news for you: Religious Right leaders aren’t going to drop it. On Christmas Eve, while millions of Americans were finishing Christmas preparations and gathering with loved ones, Janet Porter and Rick Scarborough were holding an emergency conference call to launch Porter’s latest gimmicky scheme: sending rubber ducks to A&E executives to protest the suspension of Phil Robertson.
Porter has been warning about a war on American Christians for years – she even wrote a book called The Criminalization of Christianity. So she clearly sees this as her (current) last chance to save America. Faith2Action has launched a website MailTheDuck.com, at which you can hand over your contact information to Porter so that she can send a postcard on your behalf to Nancy Dubuq, CEO of A&E Networks, declaring “You Can’t Camouflage Anti-Christian Bigotry!” The postcard demands an apology and warns of a boycott until Robertson is reinstated. You can also fork over some cash if you want to send a rubber duck or ten to A&E to be sure they get the message.
The opening image of the website is, unfortunately, a big lie. It’s a picture of Robertson with the word FIRED stamped across it. In fact, Robertson hasn’t been fired for making offensive comments in a magazine interview, just suspended. Americans who have wanted to get their Duck on this week have been able to watch a Duck Dynasty marathon. Even WND, in its story on the project, notes: “According to Entertainment Weekly, sources close to the show report nine of the 10 remaining episodes of season four have already been shot, and the network has no plans to cut out the footage featuring the senior Robertson.”
But on the conference call Porter and Scarborough had with activists, freedom was hanging by a thread. Robertson’s suspension is “an atrocity,” “an attack on religious liberty” and an effort to “shut down Christians.” Faith itself is at risk of “being declared unlawful.” Porter even compared Robertson to the famous Chinese activist who stood in front of a tank (yeah, that’s just the kind of risk Robertson took by spouting off to GQ magazine). Porter says Americans can courageously stand with Robertson by sending millions of ducks (probably made in China, come to think of it) to A&E.
Porter mentioned that she is working on a documentary about anti-Christian persecution. A caller who described herself as a former lesbian urged Porter to include the story of Lisa Miller, the woman who became a far-right folk hero when she kidnapped her child and fled the country rather than obeying court ordered custody arrangements involving Miller’s former partner. Porter said Miller’s story is part of her film project.
Back to the ducks. In addition to Scarborough’s Vision America, Porter’s new project is being cosponsored by the dominionist Oak Initiative (Porter is a board member) and by Liberty Counsel, the Religious Right legal group that used to represent Lisa Miller. Of course, Porter and Scarborough aren’t the only ones trying to cash in on the Duck Dynasty controversy. Among those who have launched petitions are the National Organization for Marriage and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee and Porter are longtime allies; she declared his 2008 presidential candidacy anointed by God.
Rick Scarborough invited Peter LaBarbera to address his Tea Party Unity group today, and the two anti-gay activists discussed ways to somehow file a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality just like when attorneys general of many states filed a lawsuit against tobacco companies.
LaBarbera was also upset that Fox News and other outlets aren’t covering the “wonderful stories of happy men and women who have left the homosexual lifestyle,” explaining that he wished there was an ad “of the kid in high school who was counseled by the official school counselor to just be gay, then he comes down with HIV.”
LaBarbera: We need to work on our conservative, alternate media and say, ‘look, don’t do the pro-gay thing, why don’t you rather step out and support these ex-gays?’ We should encourage Fox News to tell their stories. Fox is now telling the stories of black conservatives because the other media is not doing that, we should all get on Fox and say, ‘come on, tell these stories, these wonderful stories of happy men and women who have left the homosexual lifestyle.’
Scarborough: Peter, the whole issue of a class action lawsuit, you and I have talked about this a little bit. I just wonder if you’ve explored that, talked to anyone about it. Obviously, statistically now even the Centers for Disease Control verifies that homosexuality much more likely leads to AIDS than smoking leads to cancer. And yet the entire nation has rejected smoking, billions of dollars are put into a trust fund to help cancer victims and the tobacco industry was held accountable for that. Any thoughts on that kind of an approach?
LaBarbera: Yeah I think that’s great. I would love to see it. We always wanted to see one of the kid in high school who was counseled by the official school counselor to just be gay, then he comes down with HIV. But we never really got the client for that.
This is the first post in a four-part series exploring how American right-wing groups have supported Russia’s recent spate of anti-gay laws and its crackdown on LGBT citizens.
This summer, as part of a larger effort to channel political dissatisfaction by scapegoating minorities, the Russian government escalated its crackdown on the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens. President Vladimir Putin and his allies found support and guidance in their anti-gay efforts from a group eager for an opportunity to notch some victories in the battle against LGBT freedom and equality: the American right.
Russia’s crackdown on LGBT people comes amidst a broad crackdown on the rights of minorities and political dissenters or, in the words of one lawmaker, a campaign “to defend the rights of the majority.” On the same day the Duma passed its ban on gay “propaganda,” it also approved a harsh anti-blasphemy law promising jail time for “offending religious feelings.” The blasphemy measure was meant to strenghthen the laws that led to the political prosecution of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for a performance that was deemed to offend “religious sensibilities.”
Russia’s repression of LGBT people and the Pussy Riot case have provoked an international outcry, intensified by the the country’s role as the host of next year’s winter Olympics.
But throughout all this, one group has cheered on Putin’s actions: the American Religious Right and its international allies.
Even as tensions have grown between Russia and the United States, several Religious Right leaders have spoken loudly in favor of Putin’s crackdowns on gay people and political dissenters:
Conservative commentator and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan praised Putin for “trying to re-establish the Orthodox Church as the moral compass of the nation” by going after gays and political dissent and suggested that the United States follow his lead.
The anti-feminist group Concerned Women for Americahailed the Pussy Riot prosecution, saying that the band displayed an “utter lack of morality.”
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer declared that Russia’s gay “propaganda” ban was exactly the kind of “public policy that we’ve been advocating” and that, if anything, the ban didn’t go far enough.
Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality praised the propaganda law, writing, “Russians do not want to follow America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth.”
Scott Lively, an American activist linked to Uganda’s push for the death penalty for gays, wrote that under Putin’s leadership, Russia has become a “beacon of freedom” while the U.S. has descended into a “gay version of the Soviet Union.” Lively also gave himself credit for “indirectly” assisting the ban on “homosexual propaganda,” calling it “one of the proudest achievements of my career.”
Vision America’s Rick Scarborough suggested that God would rebuke President Obama over his condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay crackdown, saying that Obama’s criticism of the propaganda law “puts our country in a very precarious place.”
Radio host Linda Harvey, head of the group Mission: America, praised the gay “propaganda” ban, declaring that any “responsible adult” would support it.
Rush Limbaughpraised Putin for “putting [his] foot down” against gay peoples’ “full-frontal assault on what has always been considered normalcy.”
Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) called the Russian law a “good thing” and claimed that “most of the people in the United States” would support a similar measure.
Larry Jacobs of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families hailed the propaganda law for “preventing [LGBT people] from corrupting children" and declared that "the Russians might be the Christian saviors to the world."
American conservative groups haven’t just praised Russia’s crackdown on gays. Working through several channels, American anti-gay activists quietly provided intellectual backing and international support that directly and indirectly fueled the resurgent anti-gay movement in Russia and in other former Soviet states like Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine.
In a series of posts today and tomorrow, we’ll look at how American activists influenced Russia’s anti-gay laws by funding anti-gay activism in Russia, testifying before the Duma, providing false research to fan the flames of anti-gay laws abroad, and building an international movement to back the harshest anti-gay laws around the world.
Last week's Tea Party Unity call ended with host Rick Scarborough announcing his hope that God will confuse the minds of the Supreme Court justices so that they will "punt" on the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases they will soon be deciding in order to give America one last chance to get "our politics right" before God's judgment rains down on us.
Saying that homosexuality and abortion are "the twin towers of evil," Scarborough declared that homosexuality is actually far more dangerous before warning that it will only be a matter of time before pastors are rounded up and imprisoned:
The twin towers of evil in America, I believe are abortion on demand and the homosexual movement ... I believe that of the two great sins of our country, the one that's the most grievous is this whole more toward the legalization of homosexuality.
In 2002, as you recall, in Lawrence v Texas the Supreme Court struck down the prohibitions in the state of Texas and applied it across the land that no longer could the citizenry declare that sodomy was a sin. You can take a position however you like on that but that law was based on a moral fabric in the country, a belief in biblical rights and wrongs. The reason I said at the time that that was a more dangerous precedent than even Roe v Wade is because of the following: I believe, as a Christian and as a pastor, that as horrible as abortion is - and there's just no way to describe the horror of abortion - the only ray of sunshine is that at least the baby that was aborted, which is a living human being, suddenly finds itself in heaven.
But with sodomy, it's a different sin altogether because what you do is you allow children now to be adopted into these families. Those children are raised in the normalization of homosexuality; if they live like that and die like that and you have a biblical understanding you find yourself with children that are basically rejecting biblical truth and that has eternal implications.
Now I am fully aware that the Left monitors our calls and I have no doubt that I likely will be the subject of derision for saying something like this, but I'm praying at best God will confuse the minds of our Supreme Court that they'll simply, as Bob alluded, punt on the issue of standing and give you and I a little more time to start getting our politics right.
The very first thing Obama did when he got elected president was pass hate crimes legislation inclusive of sexual orientation. The laws are now on the books to prosecute preachers who have the audacity to say in public what I just said from their pulpits.
You will find them armed with this Supreme Court ruling, if its adverse, then rounding up anyone who says otherwise and prosecuting, perhaps with fines at first but finally with jail and imprisonment. And the laws are now, at least the foundation of laws through hate crimes legislation is in place to bring fill-scale persecution on those of us who stand for truth.