Alan Sears

Why Has The Religious Right Embraced Neo-Confederate Michael Peroutka?

Our friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center have obtained a copy of the 2014 membership list of the Council for National Policy, a secretive group led by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins that includes a who’s who of leaders of the Religious Right and the wider conservative movement who work together to influence national politics. (In 2014, Perkins was the group’s vice president.) We’ve known from news reports that CNP’s membership includes a wide range of Religious Right leaders, but one name on the list obtained by SPLC stood out: Michael Peroutka.

Peroutka, who made his fortune with a family debt-collection business, has become a minor benefactor to the Religious Right, including funding anti-choice groups, bankrolling some of the campaigns and advocacy work of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (who is currently suspended for attempting to defy the federal courts on marriage equality), and, maybe most notably, donating a million-dollar dinosaur skeleton to a creationist group.

Peroutka runs the Institute on the Constitution, a Christian Reconstructionist group that argues for the enforcement of a particular interpretation of biblical law. For instance, Peroutka has suggested that all laws passed by the Maryland legislature are invalid because the legislature became an invalid body when it violated “God’s law” and passed marriage equality legislation.

Most troubling, Peroutka has a history as a neo-Confederate activist, including spending time on the board of the secessionist League of the South. In a 2004 speech to the group, Peroutka said that he was “still angry” that Maryland failed to secede from the Union during the Civil War. At the group’s 2012 convention, Peroutka led attendees in a spirited rendition of “Dixie,” which he referred to as “the national anthem”:

Peroutka was appointed to the board of the League of the South in 2013, the year before the CNP membership list obtained by SPLC was published. He quit the group in late 2014 as he ran for a local government seat in his home state of Maryland, unconvincingly claiming that he hadn’t been aware of the group’s racism.

Peroutka ended up winning a seat on the county council of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, after his openly gay Democratic opponent was hit withnasty anti-LGBT robocalls that were later tied to Peroutka’s advisers.

CNP’s membership list is closely guarded and new members can join only by invitation. This means that Peroutka didn’t just show up unannounced: He was invited to join a group that includes Perkins, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Alan Sears and many other high-profile conservative activists.

We don’t know if Peroutka is still a member of the group. But even by the time CNP’s 2014 membership directory was published, there was already plenty of public information available about his troubling ideology. Why was the leadership of the Religious Right willing to invite Peroutka into their fold?

Conservative Groups Circle The Wagons On SCOTUS Obstruction

When the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, Republicans in the Senate almost immediately vowed to block the nomination of any person President Obama puts forward to fill the empty Supreme Court seat.

Conservative groups quickly followed suit, putting forward various rationales for keeping a Supreme Court seat open for more than a year in the hopes that a Republican is elected president in November.

Some of these activists made variations on the false claim that the Senate never confirms judicial nominees during election years. Others warned of dire consequences for America if the president is allowed a Supreme Court pick. One activist going so far as to claim that Scalia’s seat should be kept vacant in perpetuity until a Republican is elected president.

Conservative legal activist Ed Whelan said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to let Obama pick the next justice:

Senate Republicans would be grossly irresponsible to allow President Obama, in the last months of his presidency, to cement a liberal majority that will wreak havoc on the Constitution. Let the people decide in November who will select the next justice.

Whelan also told “Breitbart News Daily” that “we are at risk of really losing the Supreme Court and losing the Constitution.”

The American Center for Law and Justice ’s Jay Sekulow said that President Obama was perfectly free to nominate a conservative to replace Scalia:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley are both committed to letting the American people decide at the ballot box this November, letting our 45th President appoint Justice Scalia’s replacement. While President Obama remains free to appoint a conservative committed to upholding the Constitution as his replacement, he has given us no reason to believe he would.

So the American people should get to decide.

This is a prime opportunity for all branches of government to show that we still have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network (formerly the Judicial Confirmation Network), said President Obama is the “last person” who should be nominating the next Supreme Court justice:

… This president, who has shown such contempt for the Constitution and the laws, is the last person who should be appointing his successor. The American people on both sides of the aisle are disgusted with the status quo in Washington and another nomination by this President would just bring about more of the same. The people’s voice should be heard in November to determine who will appoint the next Supreme Court Justice.”

Mat Staver, head of the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel (which represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and is now representing an anti-Planned Parenthood activist) declared that the “future of the Supreme Court and America” depends on the Senate blocking any Obama nominee:

“With the passing of Justice Scalia, the future of the High Court and the future of America is hanging in the balance. The Senate must not confirm any nominee to the Supreme Court from President Obama. The Senate must hold off any confirmation until the next President is seated. Unfortunately the presidential debates have been more theater and less substance about the real issues surrounding the Supreme Court. The election of the next President has now taken on even greater importance. The future of the Supreme Court and America now depends on the Senate blocking any nominee by President Obama and the people electing the right person to occupy the White House,” said Staver.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins echoed the call to hold Scalia's seat open:

"The Supreme Court has now become the centerpiece in this presidential election. There has not been an election-year nomination in generations and the Senate must not break that trend now. With the election only 269 days away, the people should decide what president should fill this seat," concluded Perkins.

As did the American Family Association’s Buddy Smith:

We cannot allow President Obama to replace him with a judicial activist. Activist judges have mangled the Constitution almost beyond recognition, and we cannot allow Justice Scalia to be replaced by a justice who will continue to shred the Constitution rather than protect it and uphold it.

While the Constitution gives the president the right to nominate Supreme Court justices, it also gives the Senate the right to reject them. The Constitution does not even require an unacceptable nominee be given a vote on the floor.

Americans United for Life’s Charmaine Yoest said, “His loss is tragic, and we hope that when it comes time for the Senate to vote on his replacement, that a worthy successor who can pick up his banner can be found after the election.”

Alan Sears, head of Alliance Defending Freedom, hedged his bets, saying that “it is unlikely that a new justice will be installed prior to the election of our next president.

Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action declared, “The best way to honor Justice Scalia’s legacy is to make sure there is no Obama nominee confirmed by the U.S. Senate.”

Troy Newman, head of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and a member of Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, warned that if Obama were to nominate the next justice, America would become a “totalitarian government”:

"With the passing of the esteemed Justice Scalia, America stands at a crossroads. Will she choose the path of fascism or freedom? We are just one Obama appointee away from a totalitarian government. Two years ago, the GOP promised the American people that, if elected, they would thwart Obama's radical leftist agenda. This is the GOP's moment. Will it shine as a light for liberty in this dark moment or will that light be extinguished by political appeasement?" asked Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

John Zmirak, editor of James Robison’s website The Stream, went even further, saying that if the next president is a Democrat, a Republican Senate should still refuse to confirm any of their judicial nominees:

But they should go further. As long as Republicans control the Senate, there is no excuse for any pro-choice, anti-gun rights, anti-marriage justices to be confirmed to our highest court. If, God forbid, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton is elected, they should face a Republican Senate — or even a GOP minority — that will obstruct their every judicial appointment, even if it means leaving key seats on national benches empty, for years at a time. As justices retire or die, the court will simply grow smaller. Big deal. America will muddle through. This is the kind of implacable determination that defeated the solidly conservative Justice Bork and got us the muddled Anthony Kennedy — and Casey v. Planned Parenthood and Obergefell. It is time for that worm to turn.

Conservatives must drop the facade of high-minded bipartisanship, which only ever cuts to the left. The courts have staggering power to change our lives, and damage our country. They can kill our nation’s unborn babies, seize our guns and punish our churches. If GOP senators aren’t willing to fight long, hard and relentlessly to stop that from happening, we should find other senators who can, back them in the next primary election, and cripple the re-election of squishy moderate turncoats. A presidential candidate who appreciates all this will get my vote. And I think he’ll earn yours.

Albert Mohler at CNP: Freedom To Preach Gospel Threatened By 'Erotic Liberty'

The secretive Council for National Policy (CNP) and the Conservative Action Project, right-wing coalitions that are trying to figure out how to get conservative evangelicals united around one of the many GOP presidential candidates vying for their support, met outside Washington, D.C. late last week to vet the presidentials and strategize for 2016.

While most of what happens at CNP gatherings is kept behind closed doors, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) was happy to brag that its president, Albert Mohler, had received the 2015 Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award from the Alliance Defending Freedom on Friday. The award was presented by ADF’s Alan Sears and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, identified by the SBTS as president of the CNP.

Meese, who played a major role in the rise of the Federalist Society and the right-wing school of constitutional interpretation known as “originalism”— colloquially referred to as “strict constructionism” — was on hand for the event.  According to the SBTS account, Meese said originalism and religious liberty “go hand-in-hand” and asserted that “religious liberty is under attack as never before” in America.

That was also the theme of Mohler’s remarks, which took their title, “The Gathering Storm: The Eclipse of Religious Liberty and the Threat of a New Dark Age,” from Winton Churchill’s account of the period leading up to the World War II. “We are not facing the same gathering storm,” Mohler declared, “but we are now facing a battle that will determine the destiny of priceless freedoms and the very foundation of human rights and human dignity.”

Other excerpts from Mohler’s speech:

A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom….

Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.

A new moral and legal order is ascendant in America, and this new order is only possible, in the arena of American law and jurisprudence, if the original intent and the very words of the Constitution of the United States are twisted beyond recognition….

We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image. Religious liberty is being redefined as mere freedom of worship, but it will not long survive if it is reduced to a private sphere with no public voice. The very freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the Creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one. I am a Christian, and I believe that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus Christ and in no other gospel, but I will fight for the religious liberty of all.


Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 12/1/14

  • The Alliance Defending Freedom's Alan Sears is excited about Pope Francis' scheduled visit to the United States in 2015 because "this could be a turning point in the struggle for marriage."
  • Glenn Beck muses that Ronald Reagan never would have been elected president were it not for Walt Disney.
  • Janet Porter is calling upon activists to "fast until the Heartbeat Bill is passed."
  • Writing in the Christian Post, Bethany Blankley blindly repeats David Barton's bogus history: "The founding fathers knew this, recalling Exodus 18 and 21, Leviticus 18, Ezekiel 3, and Isaiah 33:22, among others, understanding the Judeo-Christian God, the Lord, as lawgiver, judge, and king. Following this model, they devised three branches of government. Congress, the legislative branch—represents the lawgiver; the judicial branch—the judge, and the executive branch—the king, primary ruler, head of government."
  • OneNewsNow falsely claims that "pastors are barred from endorsing candidates or preaching about them, which means even though they are Americans, they do not have free speech rights."
  • Finally, dozens of Religious Right leaders are asking Governor Rick Perry to commute the death sentence of Scott Panetti, mostly because they are concerned that he is so mentally ill that he believes he is to be "executed for preaching the Gospels to his fellow prisoners."

Truth In Action Ministries Cites Bogus Jefferson Quote To Refute Separation Of Church And State

Truth in Action Ministries, a purveyor of incendiary “documentaries” that explore our country’s apparent slide into anti-Christian moral turpitude, is back to warn us that Christians are now an increasingly persecuted minority in America.

Watch highlights of the film here:

Hosted by conservative activists Jerry Newcombe and John Rabe, the group’s most recent film, “We the People: Under Attack,” is a field guide to how “activist judges” are restricting religious liberties and the freedom of speech, and includes appearances from right-wing figures such as Herb Titus, Phyllis Schlafly, Carrie Severino and Alan Sears.

The subject of scorn in “We the People” is the federal judiciary, seen as a rogue branch of government with a revisionist interpretation of the Constitution. Newcombe warns that “our country is under attack by activist judges, including some on our nation’s Supreme Court.”

The separation of church and state is framed as both a slap in the face to Christians and a subversion of the will of our Founding Fathers, and Titus laments that the U.S. government doesn’t strictly adhere to the Ten Commandments and the Bible in its public policy. Rabe breathlessly reports that “in recent decades, the federal judiciary has instituted abortion on demand, overturned limits on partial-birth abortion, silenced voluntary prayer in schools and discovered a so-called ‘right to sodomy’ in the constitution.”

Newcombe argues that recent decisions by the Supreme Court defy the Constitution’s purportedly religious themes, and relays this quote by Thomas Jefferson to prove that even he believed in mixing religion with government:

No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man, and I as chief magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example.

One slight caveat, however: this quote appears absolutely nowhere in any of Jefferson’s writings or records of his speeches, and first materialized in 1857, decades after Jefferson died. Looks like Newcombe will have to find more fake quotes from the nation’s founders to prove his point. 

Right Wing Leftovers - 3/15/13

  • CBN correspondent David Brody warns “evangelicals all across the country may start walking away from the GOP” if Republicans aren’t “willing to take a stand for traditional marriage.” 
  • Liberty Counsel’s Steve Crampton claims that gay marriage will “lead to the disintegration of the family” and that “when the history of this administration is written, it will be recorded that its deception and aggressive advocacy on this issue were among the most destructive actions of any administration in the history of our nation.” 
  • Scott Lively urges lawmakers not “to arm militant ‘gay’ social engineers with legal weapons to hunt down and destroy the lives of people of faith.” 
  • Jim Garlow predicts that marriage equality will have “horrific” consequences including the abolition of the First Amendment.
  • Alan Sears of the Alliance Defending Freedom, while quoting Martin Luther King Jr., calls for prayers against same-sex marriage. 

Prop 8 Defenders Call For 'National Day to Pray for Marriage'

Back when the fight over Proposition 8 first started working it way through the legal system, the folks over at Liberty Counsel tried to force their way onto the case of concern that the legal team in general, and the Alliance Defense Fund specifically, were doing a poor job of defending the amendment.

They did such a poor job, in fact, that after the amendment was ruled unconstitutional by Judge Vaughn Walker, Liberty Counsel dedicated most of its press release to attacking the ADF's handling of the case.

ADF continues to be deeply involved in the legal efforts to defend Prop. 8, but after their efforts were thwarted yet again earlier this month, it looks like the organization is looking for all the help it can get as ADF President Alan Sears is now calling for a "National Day to Pray for Marriage":

I hope you will make plans to take an active part in the National Day to Pray for Marriage on February 26, praying with other concerned Americans coast to coast about this critical issue. We know that a day of unified, focused prayer for marriage can and will have a powerful impact on this case – and on the future of marriage – and marriages – nationwide. Please join us, and spread the word about this special day to your friends, neighbors, and fellow church members. May God bless and grant our petitions, and accomplish what only He can in the hearts of our nation’s judges.

ADF has even released a prayer guide [PDF] with suggestions of goals and court cases for which to pray:

The institution of Marriage is under severe attack in our culture today. Will you join in a nationwide day of unified, focused prayer for Marriage in America?

There are many ways you can be in prayer for marriage on this special day. This is merely a guide to help you, and your church, as you go before the Lord in prayer for marriage.

Praise God for the impact of Marriage:

• Thank Him for how marriage refines our character, creates stable community for the birth and nurture of children, and unites men & women in an enduring whole-life union.

• Thank Him for giving the distinct, irreplaceable gifts a mom and a dad each uniquely bring to children, through marriage.

Pray for the marriages in your community:

• For healing, restoration, and divine protection over the relationships between husbands and wives in your church, neighborhood, and among your friends and family.

• That Christians will hold fast to the Biblical truth about marriage and boldly stand up for children, who are most protected and impacted by marriage.

Pray for the future of Marriage:

• For the nation to uphold the truth that marriage between one man and one woman is the foundation of society and the best environment for raising children.

• For Americans to remember the damage already done to marriage in our society, and how that has hurt children.

Pray for God’s design for sex and sexuality in Marriage:

• Pray for sexual purity; that sex will be reserved for marriage, and celebrated in marriage.

• Pray for those hurting and suffering from going outside of God’s plan for sexuality.

• Pray for sexual fidelity and faithfulness between husbands and wives.

• Pray for children’s innocence to be protected from false sexual indoctrination in schools.

Pray for victory in the lawsuits and legislation that threatens to undermine Marriage:

• Perry v. Brown – a lawsuit to redefine marriage by creating same-sex “marriage.”

• Bishop v. United States – a lawsuit to overturn our nation’s highest law about marriage.

• Brown v. Utah – a lawsuit to legally recognize polygamy.

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