Brian Brown

The Religious Right Makes Friends Across The Atlantic

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder is out with an investigative report today on the rise of Europe’s own homegrown Religious Right. Feder cites People For the American Way’s research into funding going from American groups to the European Right — including from Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Center for Law and Justice, and, surprisingly, the fringe anti-choice group Personhood USA — but also notes that a lot of the movement’s energy is travelling in the opposite direction across the Atlantic.

Feder reports, for instance, that last month’s sparsely attended March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., was followed by a very well-attended gathering of representatives from about 70 countries who “met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage.”

A review of tax disclosures conducted by the progressive advocacy group People for the American Way found that several U.S. groups — many of which boomed in the 1990s — had recently invested in conservative drives across Europe: The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Pat Robertson, sent $1.1 million to its European branch, the European Center for Law and Justice, in 2012, which is the most recent year for which tax disclosures are available. Another group founded by well-known American social conservatives called the Alliance Defending Freedom spent more than $750,000 on European programs that year. The Federalist Society, which promotes conservative legal philosophy, reported spending nearly $800,000 in “conferences and seminars” in Europe that year. Personhood USA, a small Colorado-based group that has tried to pass ballot measures that would give fetuses the legal status of “persons” — a strategy for rolling back abortion rights that is controversial even among pro-life activists — poured $400,000 into Europe in 2012, just after one of its ballot measures went down in flames in Mississippi. (Personhood USA President Keith Mason declined to answer questions from BuzzFeed about which organizations received the funds or what they were used for.)

But while there are links to the U.S., the movement is very much homegrown. Arsuaga said neither HazteOír nor CitizenGo get funding from U.S. groups — and they don’t need it. Arsuaga said 99% of HazteOír’s 1.9 million euro ($2.5 million) annual budget comes from donations from Spanish citizens. CitizenGo has been raising 30,000 to 40,000 euros (roughly $40,000 to $55,000) each month from the 1.2 million members it’s signed up worldwide since its October launch.

Today, American ties seem much more about a shared vision to build a global conservative movement rather than leaning on stronger and wealthier U.S. partners for support. Arsuaga, Volontè, and La Manif Pour Tous President Ludovine de La Rochère were all in Washington on June 19 to support the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage. Their more important business, however, might have been in a closed-door summit the next day, where representatives of around 70 countries met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage, according to Volontè and another participant. A follow-up meeting is planned for next year.

Many LGBT rights supporters mocked the March for Marriage’s paltry turnout. So these Europeans appeared as if they were there to encourage a beleaguered movement, not the other way around — they now possess the vigor that has evaporated from the U.S. movement as opposition to marriage equality has collapsed.

We have reported on how American anti-gay groups, frustrated in their mission at home, are quietly working to form alliances with activists, politicians and funders in Europe, Russia and South America.

The strange case of Personhood USA’s $400,000 expenditure in Europe in 2012 —which represented more than one-third of its total spending that year — offers a clue that a similar dynamic may be happening in the extreme anti-choice movement. While Feder notes that most of the funding for recent viral anti-choice campaigns in Europe has been homegrown, and Personhood USA refused to say what its European shopping spree went toward, the personhood movement could be hoping that it can reclaim some of its energy by looking overseas.

It’s also important to note that the anti-gay and anti-choice movements on both sides of the Atlantic have significant overlap. One example: Last year, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown — who has worked extensively with European and Russian anti-gay groups — joined the board of CitizenGo, a conservative platform modeled on MoveOn.org that Feder reports recently helped to defeat a comprehensive sex-ed proposal in the European Parliament.

Anti-Gay Activists Call For 'Civil Disobedience' In Wake Of Marriage Equality Rulings

Denunciations of today’s court rulings striking down marriage equality bans in Indiana and Utah are beginning to trickle in from anti-gay activists, with the two cases representing additional defeats for an already struggling movement.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council — ignoring the fact that one of the Tenth Circuit Court judges who ruled in favor of marriage equality was recommended by Sen. Jim Inhofe and appointed by George W. Bushblamed the rulings on the Obama administration and leftists who have been “packing the federal courts with liberal jurists” in order to realize “a radical social agenda.”

Perkins also said that he will represent the “indignant Americans who are tired of seeing the foundations of a free and just society destroyed by a handful of black-robed tyrants.”

While disturbing, today's rulings come as no surprise given the rising disdain for the rule of law promoted by the Obama administration. These latest rulings are not just about redefining marriage but they are a further attempt by the courts to untether our public policies from the democratic process, as well as the anthropological record.

While judges can, by judicial fiat, declare same-sex 'marriage' legal, they will never be able to make it right. The courts, for all their power, can't overturn natural law. What they can do is incite a movement of indignant Americans, who are tired of seeing the foundations of a free and just society destroyed by a handful of black-robed tyrants. The Left has long believed packing the federal courts with liberal jurists is the means of fulfilling a radical social agenda, as the American people refuse to endorse that agenda at the polls or through their elected representatives.

As we saw with Roe v. Wade in 1973 – despite the Left's earnest hopes, the courts do not have the final say. The American people will have the final word as they experience the consequences of marriage redefinition and the ways in which it fundamentally alters America's moral, cultural and political landscape.

Jeff Allen, an Indiana-based pastor and senior editor of BarbWire, called for “elected leaders and Christians [to] defiantly rise up and engage in civil disobedience” to stop this “national tragedy” and “the death of democracy.”

“Each victory for the homosexual activists represents another nail in America’s coffin,” he wrote, adding that “these decisions require that reason be jettisoned in favor of unrestrained deviancy.”

Federal courts in Indiana and Utah on Wednesday blatantly overthrew the will of the people and subversively imposed same-sex “marriage” on the citizens of both states. The judicial oligarchy (tyranny of the few) continues flexing the muscle of its apparently unchecked power. The death of democracy is undeniably upon us. Each victory for the homosexual activists represents another nail in America’s coffin.

According to WLFI.com, a ruling from an elitist U.S. District Judge in Indiana wrongly declared that the prohibition was unconstitutional because it violated guarantees of equal protection and due process.



Separately, a rogue appeals court ruled 2-1 that Utah’s traditional marriage amendment was unconstitutional as well, saying that the gender of the two persons cannot be considered as a reason to deny a marriage license. And that’s just it — these decisions require that reason be jettisoned in favor of unrestrained deviancy.



The light of morality and freedom is being brutishly snuffed out right before our very eyes. It’s a national tragedy unfolding at an accelerating pace.

And this is not a good harbinger of things to come — unless our elected leaders and Christians defiantly rise up and engage in civil disobedience.

National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown unsurprisingly accused the judges of “activism” and “sophistry.”

Today's split decision of a panel of judges in the 10th Circuit is not surprising given that this Circuit refused to even order a stay of the district court decision when it came down during the Christmas holidays. While we strongly disagree with the two judges in the majority, we are encouraged by the strong defense of marriage articulated by Justice Paul Kelly in his dissent, and especially his defense of the sovereign right of the people of Utah to decide this issue for themselves. This principled recognition by a federal judge considering the marriage issue underscores that the people of a state are entitled to respect and deference in their desire to promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Indeed, the US Supreme Court decided in the Windsor case that the federal government must respect the right of states to define marriage. The majority in the Utah case engage in sophistry to attempt to argue their way around the Supreme Court's ruling that it is up to the states to define marriage. As Justice Kelly noted in his dissent, ‘If the States are the laboratories of democracy, requiring every state to recognize same-gender unions—contrary to the views of its electorate and representatives—turns the notion of a limited national government on its head.'



The elected representatives of the people of Indiana have decided, for good and proper reasons, to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is judicial activism for a single judge to substitute his own views on marriage for the considered opinion of the people's representatives. This is just the latest example of activism from the federal bench, but we fully expect this decision to eventually be reversed when the US Supreme Court upholds the right of states to define marriage as a man and a woman. In the meantime, it is imperative that the state legislature move forward a state constitutional amendment preserving marriage so that the people always remain in control of the definition of marriage in Indiana.

Pastor Says 'Dismal Turnout' At NOM's March For Marriage Helps Satan, Seals America's Doom

While the National Organization for Marriage inexplicably stated that 10,000 people attended last week’s March for Marriage in Washington D.C., pastor Dan Cummins concedes in WorldNetDaily today that “reports put the turnout on the Capitol’s west-side lawn at 2,000.”

“The Mall should have been packed all the way to the Washington Monument with biblical marriage supporters,” Cummins laments, decrying the “dismal turnout” as just another victory for the Satanic left. Cummins writes that “the left, those left at the rapture, [are] desperately attempting to destroy” marriage because “Satan hates marriage.”

While “the March for Marriage ends in Heaven before God’s throne with a countless throng shouting the victory,” the pastor regrets that gay rights supporters used the “lack of support for nuptial bliss” at the march to argue that “marriage equality is becoming accepted by society and the church at large.”

He also cites a new poll showing lackluster opposition to marriage equality, lamenting, “God help us.”

As an electrical storm lit up the skies over the nation’s Capitol on the eve of the March for Marriage Rally, was it a harbinger, a sign, of the stormy road ahead for traditional, natural marriage in America? The National Organization for Marriage Rally (NOM), organized by Brian Brown on June 19, was left somewhat standing in the lurch, literally, on the lawn of the National Mall, as only a handful of the expected 10,000 “betrothed” bothered to make it to the church on time to march down the aisle, actually Constitution Avenue, kneel and pray outside the Supreme Court that marriage’s crumbling vestiges remain intact. Was it a case of a runaway bride?

Reports put the turnout on the Capitol’s west-side lawn at 2,000. This apparent lack of support for nuptial bliss only fuels those who say marriage equality is becoming accepted by society and the church at large – thus concluding, wrongfully in my opinion, that same-sex marriage should be legalized in all 50 states.



Has the church lost its first-love for biblical marriage? According to the marriage equality crowd and recent polling data released by TargetPoint Consulting (TPC), it has. “The majority of Americans continue to support same-sex marriage – and those who are opposed to marriage equality don’t care that much about it at all.”

The poll released by TPC, a Republican polling firm, reveals that the majority of Americans continue to support same-sex marriage. Alex Lundry, who was Mitt Romney’s data director, says anti-gay Americans are just ho-hum about same-sex marriage becoming the law of the land – bad news for the National Organization for Marriage if these polling figures are valid. The report continued that when asked to respond to recent statements made by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins – If the Supreme Court steps in and says, ‘We’re redefining marriage, same-sex marriage will be the law across the land,’ it will create a firestorm of opposition. This will be the straw that broke the camel’s back – 58 percent of same-sex marriage opponents said they “would do nothing, or that there wasn’t anything they would do, or that they would abide by the law of the land” should the Court take such legislative action.

Nothing! Really? God help us.



Soon, they all grow weary – foolish and wise alike – and all fall asleep. So, I’m not a bit surprised the church is sound asleep – all of it – on the issues confronting marriage. Could this explain Friday’s dismal turnout? The Mall should have been packed all the way to the Washington Monument with biblical marriage supporters. Where were they?



Why is the preservation of biblical marriage so important to our culture? Why is the left, those left at the rapture, desperately attempting to destroy it? Marriage is a picture of Christ and His church. It portrays the kingdom of God and his righteousness revealed on earth. That’s why Satan hates marriage.



The March for Marriage will not end with a small remnant praying before the Supreme Court. It will not end with blinded bloggers bloviating that the church has lost the battle and Christians could care less. No, the March for Marriage ends in Heaven before God’s throne with a countless throng shouting the victory.

Brian Brown Is Confident That Anti-Gay Activists 'Stand On The Right Side Of History'

Speaking at the March for Marriage rally today, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown declared that those fighting against marriage equality will never give up and will eventually be victorious because "we stand for the truth about marriage."

"We know that some day," Brown proclaimed, "whether it's one year, ten years, twenty years, or decades from now, people will look back at this time and remember those of us who stood up for the truth."

Then, quoting Abraham Lincoln, Brown declared that anti-gay activists "stand on the right side of history":

NOM Spins Judicial Smackdown As Victory

Last year the National Organization for Marriage sued the IRS over a clerk’s mistaken release in 2012 of a tax form that by law should have had the group’s donors redacted but didn’t. When gay rights activists published the list of major donors, NOM portrayed the release as a sinister political plot by the Obama administration that was “reminiscent of Watergate” and “part of a deliberate attempt to chill the First Amendment activity of NOM, its donors, and others who associate with NOM.” Based on this conspiracy theory, NOM sued the IRS for punitive damages.

Last week a federal judge harshly rejected NOM’s claims that the release was willful or a result of gross negligence, but NOM is trying to spin the humiliating rejection of its false charges as some kind of victory.

In reviewing the facts of the case, the judge said it is clear that the IRS clerk, who was responding to a public records request, sent a copy without the donors redacted by mistake. The government readily admits the accidental release. But NOM lawyers absurdly tried to claim that IRS supervisors investigating the incident were somehow breaking the law by reviewing the group’s forms.

“NOM has proffered no evidence that its unredacted tax information was willfully disclosed,” wrote Judge James Cacheris. In fact, the judge’s ruling says, the clerk had no idea who was requesting the information or what NOM was about. David Badash at the New Civil Rights movement nicely summarized the tone of the judge’s dismissal on summary judgment of the charges that the release was due to a political plot or gross negligence:

United States District Court Judge James C. Cacheris in his Tuesday ruling against NOM used terms like, “NOM has failed to produce a shred of proof,” NOM’s argument “misses the mark,” is “unconvincing,” “is unpersuasive,” and “[t]o find that NOM could prevail from this scintilla of evidence … is not appropriate.”

The one part of NOM’s lawsuit the judge did not throw out was NOM’s claim for attorney’s fees and funds for any actual damages it can prove resulted from the mistaken release. NOM will get to make the case for those damages in court.

That was enough for NOM to spin the decision as a victory. In an email to supporters on Sunday evening, NOM’s Brian Brown wrote:

First, the IRS news you've been waiting to hear — they finally admitted we were right and they were wrong! This week the IRS was forced to admit that they were the ones who unlawfully released our confidential donor information to a gay activist who promptly gave it to our political opponents, and opponents of marriage, the Human Rights Campaign.

Brown’s email makes it sound as if the government was trying to cover up the mistaken release, and it was only the pressure from grassroots activists and the Act Right Legal Foundation (which Brown chairs) that pushed members of Congress to “keep the IRS scandal in the public view and to dig into the truth of what happened to NOM and its donors.”

The truth is much less exciting than NOM’s claims. But NOM seems likely to get the government to pay some legal fees related to the mistaken release. Also to be considered by the court will be the government’s argument that any damages NOM can prove should be offset by money NOM raised by falsely portraying themselves as the victims of political persecution.

NOM’s lawyers, of course, have plenty to keep them busy.

World Congress Of Families Funder Convenes Far-Right Group To Discuss Ridding Europe of 'Satanic Gay Lobby'

Yesterday, Andy Towle spotted a report in the Austrian Independent about a meeting in Vienna this week “discussing ways to rid Europe of the ‘satanic gay lobby’” that was “hosted by a Russian oligarch” and attended by far-right politicians from throughout Europe.

A secret meeting discussing ways to rid Europe of the 'satanic gay lobby' was hosted by a Russian oligarch and attended by a host of far-right MPs and ultra-conservative Eurasian ideologists in Vienna at the weekend - just across the road from where the Life Ball was taking place the very same night.

The meeting was hosted by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeew and his Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation and was attended by nationalists and Christian fundamentalists from Russia and the West. These were thought to include the chief Russian ideologist of the Eurasian movement Alexander Dugin, the nationalist painter Ilja Glasunow, and MPs from far right parties including the Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

According to Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, who say they managed to confirm the event tok place from two independent sources, the meeting was hosted at Vienna’s Palais Liechtenstein under conditions of extreme secrecy.

As it happens, the Russian oligarch who convened the meeting is Konstantin Malofeev, who is also heavily involved with the Illinois-based World Congress of Families. According to a talk WCF's managing director gave in February, Malofeev’s St. Basil the Great Foundation was to be a major sponsor of WCF’s since-postponed conference in Moscow this year and Malofeev was a member of the conference’s planning committee.

It was also Malofeev who hosted the meeting in Moscow that National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown attended last summer, just in time to cheer on the Russian parliament’s approval of new anti-gay laws. (Brown had been invited to participate in the event by "Russian activists working with the World Congress of Families").

The Swiss paper Tages Anzeiger notes that Aymeric Chauprade, a newly elected member of the European Parliament from France’s far-right National Front party, also attended the event. (Chauprade confirmed his attendance to Le Figaro.) Chauprade, a foreign policy advisor to National Front leader Marine Le Pen, also participated in the meeting last year with Brown and Malofeev.

It’s hardly unusual for politicians and activists to have a private meeting, but the existence of this summit to combat the “satanic gay lobby” underscores the fraught role that anti-gay activism is currently playing in European and Russian politics. Many on the European far-right see Russia’s anti-gay crackdown as a key part of their resistance to the European Union and liberalism in Europe.

As Malofeev put it at the meeting last year, Russia is the “center of salvation for conservative, Christian, European values.” Or as Chauprade said, “Patriots around the world, as committed to the independence of nations as they are to the foundations of our civilization, turn their eyes at this time towards Moscow.”

Brian Brown's Far-Right French Allies Working To Form 'Pro-Russian Bloc' In European Parliament

The New York Times and Slate this week reported on the European far right’s love affair with Vladimir Putin, which could lead to the formation of “a pro-Russian bloc” in the European Parliament following this week’s elections.

The Times story focused on the French National Front party, and in particular Aymeric Chauprade, a top advisor to National Front leader Marine Le Pen and himself a candidate for European parliament.

Chauprade was a member of the small delegation of French activists who traveled to Moscow last year with National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown to advocate for Russia’s adoption of a spate of new anti-gay policies. Brown later said that he was invited to participate in the delegation by activists working with the Illinois-based World Congress of Families. The apparent leader of the delegation was French far-right activist Fabrice Sorlin, a former National Front candidate who runs an NGO devoted to developing “better relations between France and Russia” and who was appointed last year [pdf] as the World Congress of Families’ representative in France.

In a speech to fellow activists and members of Russia’s parliament at the meeting Brown attended, Chauprade backed Putin’s anti-gay policies along with the Russian president’s bid for greater geopolitical power, saying, “In this new battle…those who do not want the U.S. anti-missile shield, the dominance of NATO, or the war against Syria and Iran are in the same camp as those who refuse the loss of sovereignty, population replacement on a grand scale, FEMEN, gender theory, homosexual marriage, as well as the further commodification of the human body.”

Chauprade repeated the theme in a speech quoted by the Times, in which he offered up Russia’s leadership as the way for Europe to break free of both the “technocratic elite serving the American and European financial oligarchy” and its “enslavement by consumerist urges and sexual impulses,” and attacks Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst. Chauprade was an enthusiastic supporter of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, and the Times notes that he joined a pro-Russian election monitoring outfit for Crimea’s vote to annex itself to Russia. The Economist characterized the observers as “a motley group of radicals” who “declared that the ballot, denounced by most Western governments as illegitimate, had been exemplary.”

Of course, Brown doesn’t subscribe to the views of everyone he’s ever been to a meeting with. But Chauprade’s activism illuminates an important subtext of the anti-gay activism that Brown and the World Congress of Families were aiding in Russia. For Putin and his far-right European allies, opposition to gay rights is part of a much larger project.

NYT:

While the European Union has joined Washington in denouncing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the chaos stirred by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Europe’s right-wing populists have been gripped by a contrarian fever of enthusiasm for Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin.

“Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is a phenomenon seen all over Europe,” said a study by the Political Capital Institute, a Hungarian research group. It predicted that far-right parties, “spearheaded by the French National Front,” could form a pro-Russian bloc in the European Parliament or, at the very least, amplify previously marginal pro-Russian voices.

Some of Russia’s European fans, particularly those with a religious bent, are attracted by Mr. Putin’s image as a muscular foe of homosexuality and decadent Western ways. Others, like Aymeric Chauprade, a foreign policy adviser to the National Front’s leader, Marine Le Pen, are motivated more by geopolitical calculations that emphasize Russia’s role as a counterweight to American power.

“Russia has become the hope of the world against new totalitarianism,” Mr. Chauprade, the National Front’s top European Parliament candidate for the Paris region, said in a speech to Russia’s Parliament in Moscow last year.

When Crimea held a referendum in March on whether the peninsula should secede from Ukraine and join Russia, Mr. Chauprade joined a team of election monitors organized by a pro-Russian outfit in Belgium, the Eurasian Observatory for Elections and Democracy. The team, which pronounced the referendum free and fair, also included members of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party; a Flemish nationalist group in Belgium; and the Jobbik politician in Hungary accused of spying for Russia.

Russia offers the prospect of a new European order free of what Mr. Chauprade, in his own speech, described as its servitude to a “technocratic elite serving the American and European financial oligarchy” and its “enslavement by consumerist urges and sexual impulses.”

The view that Europe has been cut adrift from its traditional moral moorings gained new traction this month when Conchita Wurst, a bearded Austrian drag queen, won the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Russian officials and the Russian Orthodox Church bemoaned the victory — over, among others, singing Russian twins — as evidence of Europe’s moral disarray.

At the National Front’s pre-election rally, Mr. Chauprade mocked the “bearded lady” and won loud applause with a passionate plaint that Europeans had become a rootless mass of “consumers disconnected from their natural attachments — the family, the nation and the divine.”

Paranoia-Rama: Hitler's 'Super Gay' Race, Gun Tracking Bracelet Myth & Another Bogus Religious Right Persecution Story

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

Did you know that it is illegal to be a Christian in America? Or that World War II was all about promoting homosexuality?

Probably not, but you might just think that if you get all of your news from the paranoid world of the Religious Right media.

5. Hitler’s Gay Dream

Religious Right talk show host Rick Wiles is not happy about the growing support for gay rights in America, which he believes is really the fulfillment of Adolf Hitler’s dream to engender a “race of super gay male soldiers” that would “slaughter” Christians.

According to Wiles, Nazism and World War II had nothing to do with promoting the supremacy of the “Aryan race,” but were all about Hitler’s plan to create a Christian-killing “homosexual special race.”

His guest, BarbWire editor and pastor Jeff Allen, unsurprisingly agreed.

4. Gays Targeting South Carolina For ‘Recruitment’

South Carolina Republicans are fighting the scourge of gay “recruitment,” which apparently has become a major problem in the Palmetto State. State senator and US Senate candidate Lee Bright, for example, is worried that the “homosexual agenda” has “seized the educational establishment” and has gone on “full march in our institutions of higher ed and we’ve gone from education to indoctrination.”

Fellow GOP state senator Mike Fair similarly fears that a lesbian comedian is “recruiting” students into homosexuality at the University of South Carolina-Upstate, and wants to punish the school along with the College of Charleston for their “glorification of same-sex culture.”

3. Gun Tracking Bracelets A-Comin’

It didn’t take long for conservative media outlets to disseminate the false claim that Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would be exploring “gun tracking bracelets” as part of a looming crackdown on gun rights. Of course, Holder never said that he would be tracking gun owners through bracelets.

As Erich Lach of TPM writes, Holder only “talked about ideas for gun safety technology including finger print identification and a bracelet that ‘talks to’ a gun, to allow use only by the lawful owner,” a technology that many gun manufacturers are working to develop.

Naturally, the story moved up from right-wing pundits to GOP politicians like Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin, who pushed the gun tracking bracelet myth regardless of the actual facts.

2. Religious Right Persecution Story Debunked, Again

It’s time for another bogus Religious Right tale about persecution in schools, this time in North Carolina. Conservatives were outraged when a teacher allegedly tried to dissuade a student from writing a short essay about how Jesus is her hero, and now there is a phony photo circulating of an essay marked with “F: Remove Jesus Please!”

However, as the myth-busting website Snopes points out, the school explained that the only reason the teacher spoke to the student about the assignment was because the student approached the teacher and told her she is having problems writing it.

“Our school has recently been the target of intense negative publicity in numerous forms of the media,” the school’s principal said in a statement [PDF], noting that at no point was the student pressured to drop Jesus as the subject of the essay and that the finished product “is still entitled, ‘Jesus is my Hero.’”

As is often the case, right-wing activists quickly jumped at the first cry of “persecution!,” without waiting for the facts of the case to come out.

1. Christianity Made Illegal!

Back in 2011, a seniors group affiliated with the Traditional Values Coalition sent out mailers with the headline “Christianity Now Outlawed,” warning that President Obama has declared the Bible to be “illegal hate literature.”

Of course it wasn’t true, but conservative activists every year seem to come up with new ways to claim that it is now against the law to be a Christian.

Just this week, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins said that the gay rights movement is transforming America into Nazi Germany, while Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage maintained that Christians are now facing anti-religious Jim Crow laws.

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer took the ridiculousness to a new level, declaring that “it is now a criminal offense according to the Supreme Court of the United States, it is now a punishable offense, you can be fined for being a Christian in the United States of America. For living, behaving as a Christian, it has now become a crime in the United States of America.”

Brian Brown: Gay Rights Activists Reviving Jim Crow With 'Anti-Christian Bigotry'

In a conference call in February about Arizona’s proposed “right to discriminate" bill, National Organization For Marriage president Brian Brown counseled fellow Religious Right activists to turn accusations of anti-gay discrimination around and accuse gay rights activists of “anti-religious” and “anti-Christian bigotry.”

Brown was the guest on a weekly call held by Staying True to America’s National Destiny (STAND), an organization run by former Virginia GOP lieutenant governor nominee E.W. Jackson.

Noting that opponents of Arizona’s bill – which was later vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer – pointed out its similarities to Jim Crow laws, Brown said, “in fact, it’s the reverse” and that gay rights opponents are the ones facing systematic discrimination.

He advised the activists on the call to claim that opponents of gay rights are the real victims: “So, when they bring up discrimination, we need to turn it on its head and say, this is about anti-religious, specifically in some cases, anti-Christian religious bigotry, and there’s no place for this in this country. The discrimination is there, but right now what’s happening is the discrimination is coming from those that want to punish, repress and marginalize individuals and organizations that stand up for their religious beliefs.”

Whether it’s being forced to photograph a ceremony that you don’t agree with, forced to create a same-sex marriage wedding cake, whatever it is, that’s a very different thing than saying this is somehow Jim Crow all over again. In fact, it’s the reverse. What proponents of same-sex marriage are attempting to do is to coerce Americans to leave their faith at the door when they enter the public square, leave their faith at the door if they own a business.

So, when they bring up discrimination, we need to turn it on its head and say, this is about anti-religious, specifically in some cases, anti-Christian religious bigotry, and there’s no place for this in this country. The discrimination is there, but right now what’s happening is the discrimination is coming from those that want to punish, repress and marginalize individuals and organizations that stand up for their religious beliefs.

And what they’re trying to do is to constrain religious liberty to a new term: freedom of worship. Well, our founders didn’t die and come here for freedom of worship, they came here for religious liberty, to practice in the public square, not only within their houses of worship what they believed, but to go out into the community and act on it. And this is one of the important points when we debate this, is to not accept this new language of quote-unquote ‘freedom of worship.’ We believe in religious liberty, we believe in freedom of conscience. We don’t accept the idea that people should be punished in the public square for trying to live out the Gospel call.

Focus On The Family Spokesman: 'Organized Homosexuals' Ushering In 'New Era Of Intolerance'

The National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown and Focus on the Family vice president Tim Goeglein were the guests on a webinar last week hosted by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, in which they discussed the need for young “heroes” to bring the anti-marriage equality cause to younger generations.

The two also discussed the supposed threat to religious liberty put forward by what Goeglein called “the political agenda of organized homosexuals.”

“One of the things that perhaps Christians and Jews and others have not fully internalized is that the political agenda of organized homosexuals in America is one of the great threats to our religious liberty,” Goeglein said. 

He added that gay rights are bringing about “a new era of intolerance against those of us who are men and women of faith.”

“I think that’s exactly right,” agreed Brown
 

Concerned Women For America Drops Out Of World Congress of Families Moscow Summit

As we’ve been reporting, the American Religious Right has found itself in a tough spot following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, since many Religious Right leaders have not only praised Putin’s anti-gay, anti-choice policies but are planning to attend a World Congress of Families summit at the Kremlin later this year.

Now, one such group that previously praised Putin has announced that it will pull out of the Moscow summit. Buzzfeed reported yesterday that Concerned Women for America will no longer be participating in the World Congress of Families event because, as the group’s CEO Penny Nance said, “I don’t want to appear to be giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin.”

CWA’s choice is especially surprising because its senior fellow, Janice Shaw Crouse, is amember of the board of the World Congress of Families and has been a vocal defender of Putin’s social policies. Last month, Crouse even appeared at a press conference promoting the Moscow summit.

Now the question becomes whether other American groups will follow Nance’s lead. An organizing meeting for the event in October included Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, Benjamin Bull of Alliance Defending Freedom, Justin Murff of the Christian Broadcasting Network and Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.

A draft program for the event that was obtained by Buzzfeed includes speeches by ADF president Allan Sears, Focus president Jim Daly, Mike Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, Brown, Ruse and Murff, among others.

In addition, the World Congress of Families receives funding from “partner organizations” including the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and Americans United for Life.

The World Congress of Families’ Larry Jacobs said at last month’s press conference that members of the U.S. Congress would also attend the event, though he would not specify which ones since he said their confirmations were not yet finalized. The draft program also accounts for speeches from unidentified members of Congress. to speak.

As we’ve noted, the planned summit is more than just a trip to Moscow. It’s being held at the Kremlin with funding from key Putin allies and will include a joint forum with Russia’s parliament. In addition, the World Congress of Families itself has been working to support Putin’s crackdown on LGBT rights in Russia, along with his push to keep Ukraine out of the European Union. Riling up hostility to gay rights, in particular, has become a powerful wedge issue for Russian-aligned, anti-EU activists in Ukraine.

Ruse articulated the apparent attitude of many American groups when he told Buzzfeed that although the Ukraine invasion “muddied the water,” he had not been concerned about working so closely with the Putin regime until now, “because the Russian government has been quite good on our issues.”

Nance is aware of the message that her group’s participation in the summit would send. Will anybody else follow her lead?

Religious Right Leaders Rail Against Virginia Marriage Equality Decision

A federal judge’s decision to strike down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriagehas unsurprisingly stoked the ire of conservatives.

Family Research Council head Tony Perkins offered a typical rebuke of “activist judges” and the “arrogant judiciary,” and once again warned that marriage equality will in fact lead to unprecedented inequality.

It appears that we have yet another example of an arrogant judge substituting her personal preferences for the judgment of the General Assembly and 57 percent of Virginia voters. Our nation's judicial system has been infected by activist judges, which threaten the stability of our nation and the rule of law.

This ruling comes on the heels of Attorney General Mark Herring's refusal to fulfill his constitutional duty to defend the state's marriage law. His lawlessness is an insult to the voters of Virginia who rightfully expected elected officials to uphold the laws and constitution of the state, not attack them as Herring has done.

An arrogant judiciary is only one of the major consequences of the drive to redefine marriage. Increasingly, Americans are being forced to finance and celebrate unions that not only step on free speech and religious liberty but also deny children a mom and a dad. Rather than live-and-let-live, this court by redefining marriage will create a level of inequality that has never been seen in our country as people are forced to suppress or violate the basic teachings of their faith," concluded Perkins.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and Liberty University Law School, which is based in Virginia, said the judge must not have ever read the Constitution.

“This decision is outrageous and legally flawed. Judges would be well-served to read the U.S. Constitution and not invent or rewrite it,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Constitution cannot be changed by the stroke of a judge’s pen, nor does it bow to a judge’s personal ideology. The overwhelming majority of Virginia voters who make up ‘we the people’ voted to affirm natural marriage. Same-sex marriage, as a policy matter, sends the message that children do not need moms and dads. There is ample evidence that children fair [sic] best when raised with a mother and a father. Same-sex marriage is not the equivalent of natural marriage. Judges should be careful to render decisions grounded in the Constitution and the rule of law. Otherwise, judges and courts will render themselves impotent when the people lose confidence in the judicial system,” Staver continued.

The Family Foundation of Virginia, meanwhile, blamed Valentine’s Day for the ruling, which the group says threatens “our entire social fabric.”

“The timing of this decision certainly calls into question Judge Wright Allen’s objectivity,” a Friday morning statement from the group stated. “This rushed release just prior to Valentine’s Day reeks of political show, making her ruling less a legal argument and more a press release. It’s disappointing that a federal judge would so blatantly expose her personal political agenda at the expense of not just marriage, but our entire social fabric.”



“Regardless of one’s stance on marriage, the people of Virginia were disenfranchised by this ruling as our voice and our vote that amended our Constitution have been rendered meaningless by a single federal judge with the assistance of our own Attorney General,” the Family Foundation statement read. “Protecting a timeless institution for the well-being of children was the will of the overwhelming majority of Virginians and this ruling denies this important state interest as it places the desires of adults over the outcomes of children.”

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown said the “terrible decision” must be reversed:

This is another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia. There is no right to same-sex 'marriage' in the United States constitution. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that states have the preeminent duty of defining marriage. The people of Virginia did just that in voting overwhelmingly to affirm marriage as the union of one man and woman. That decision should be respected by federal judges and we hope that the U.S. Supreme Court ends up reversing this terrible decision. This case also leaves a particular stench because of the unconscionable decision of Attorney General Mark Herring to not only abandon his sworn duty to defend the laws of the state, but to actually join the case against the very people he is duty-bound to represent.

Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation blasted the “imperious federal judiciary” and the “liberal state apparatus,” warning that they are trying “to advance a social experiment that changes America from the nation that we know into something totally unrecognizable” and “will force you to support homosexual marriage.”

The case, if it can be appealed must be appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The problem is that appellate courts have to rule based on the record from the trial court. The record is the transcript of witnesses’ testimony and other evidence the trial judge heard.

With Virginia’s Attorney General refusing to defend the case, the case might not even be appealed and even if it is, the record may be very limited.

Once again, we see an imperious federal judiciary overruling the voters of a state to advance a social experiment that changes America from the nation that we know into something totally unrecognizable.

And with the striking down of this law, can the liberal state apparatus be far behind? That liberal state apparatus is the one that will force you to support homosexual marriage whether or not it conflicts with your religious beliefs.

Globalizing Homophobia: PFAW Member Telebriefing on the Far Right

As the world’s eyes turned to Russia for the Sochi Olympics, and for the increasingly anti-gay policies of the Putin government, People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery spoke with PFAW supporters on an activist teleconference about the destructive export of homophobia by American Religious Right groups and political leaders.
PFAW

Video: Brian Brown Says Anti-Gay Movement Represents 'True Civil Rights'

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown spoke Tuesday night at an anti-marriage equality rally at the Utah state capitol, where he claimed that the anti-gay movement represents “true civil rights.” There have been several news reports about the event, but YouTube user Drew Stelter posted video of Brown’s speech.

In the speech, Brown pushed the narrative that conservative Christians are being persecuted by the increased acceptance of gay rights. While he acknowledged that there might be people of many faiths in the crowd, he made it clear exactly who his audience was: “I would say that it’s pretty likely that those of us here share some respect for our savior, Jesus Christ.”

Brown went on to compare the movement against marriage equality to Christians who fought against the Roman empire, slavery, and those at the head of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. “Throughout history, people of faith have stood up against gross injustices, stood up for true civil rights,” he said, adding later: “We stand up for the civil rights for all when we stand up for the truth about marriage.”

Ted Cruz vs. The Religious Right: Is Putin Tyrant Or Savior?

Is it possible to talk about human rights abuses in Russia in the context of the Olympics and not once mention Russia’s anti-gay laws, the rising tide of anti-gay violence, or the controversy over the impact that Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law might have on athletes and visitors? Sure, if you’re Sen. Ted Cruz speaking at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation. 

Cruz, darling of the Religious Right and Tea Party, slammed Russia’s “increasingly autocratic” president at the January 28 Heritage event.  He portrayed Vladimir Putin as a tyrant systematically working to crush Ukrainian independence and reassemble the old Soviet Union. And of course he took the opportunity to slam the Obama administration, which he said was not standing up forcefully for human rights.

Following Cruz to the microphone was Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Swett, a “proud Democrat,” detailed a litany of anti-democratic laws adopted in Putin’s Russia, including “religious freedom” and “extremism” laws that give the government wide latitude to discriminate against minority religions, including Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostal Christians.  She said the Russian government is undermining civil society with severe restrictions on protests and the return of Soviet-era tactics like sentencing dissidents to psychiatric treatment. Swett did mention the anti-gay “propaganda” law in her list of Putin’s anti-democratic actions.

There are a couple remarkable things about this panel, other than finding myself in agreement with Cruz about something (Putin is an anti-democratic strongman).

First, in his 26-minute speech and during the Q&A, at an event about human rights and the Olympics, Cruz did not breathe a word about the raging controversy over Russia’s attacks on the rights and lives of LGBT people. The closest Cruz came was mentioning, as an example of Putin’s efforts to crush dissent, his moves against “a punk rock band.” Cruz joked about his unwillingness to say the band’s name (Pussy Riot).

Second, Cruz is clearly at odds with anti-gay and anti-abortion leaders in the U.S. who have been busily praising Putin as the defender of traditional values and savior of Christianity. Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, for example, has said Putin is being allowed to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation.” The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has called Putin “the lion of Christianity, the defender of Christian values, the president that’s calling his nation back to embracing its identity as a nation founded on Christian values.”

In fact there is a whole gaggle of Religious Right leaders who have, as Miranda has reported, fallen all over themselves to praise Putin and his anti-free-speech, anti-gay crackdown. And some of them have done more than just praise Putin. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage traveled to Russia to build support for anti-gay legislation. The Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society is excited about heading to Moscow for its 2014 “World Congress of Families” summit.

Cruz was eager to criticize the Obama administration for not advocating more strongly for human rights in Russia, but what does he have to say about his Religious Right pals who are actively praising and enabling Putin’s anti-democratic moves? And who have attacked the Obama administration’s efforts to promote the human rights of LGBT people abroad? We’re listening.

Right Wing Round-Up - 1/14/14

Paranoia-Rama: Pot Welfare; Islamists In Charge & The Gay Police State Is Coming For You

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

This week, we learned more details about President Obama’s sinister gay-Sharia plot. And according to one right-wing radio host, if the president fails to implement his nefarious policies before his second term runs out, he will simply set up “a satellite administration in exile.”

5. Pot Wreaking Havoc On Colorado!

Colorado’s legalization of marijuana went into effect at the start of the year, providing plenty of material for satirical websites such as the Daily Currant and the National Report. Unfortunately, it seems that many people fell for the Daily Currant’s post titled “Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization”; many also believed the National Report articles, “Feds Raid Colorado Pot Shop” and “Colorado Pot Shop Accepting Food Stamps – Taxpayer Funded Marijuana for Welfare Recipients.”

Of course, we don’t need satirical stories from the Daily Currant or National Report when we already have terrible reporting on marijuana policy from folks like Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly and Washington Times opinion editor Emily Miller.

4. Priebus Uncovers Democratic Jobless Aid Conspiracy

After Senate Republicans failed to block a vote to extend unemployment benefits for three months, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus alleged that is actually the Democrats who want the jobless aid bill to fail, even though every single Democratic member of the Senate voted to consider the legislation. “They don’t want this to pass,” Priebus said, arguing that Democrats simply want to make Republicans look bad by trying to hold a vote on an extension of unemployment insurance for 1.3 million jobseekers.

“I’m reasonably certain this theory is stark raving mad, but let’s assume for the sake of conversation that Priebus is onto something,” Steve Benen responded. “If this were true, wouldn’t it make sense for Republican leaders to pass the measures and undermine the Democratic plan?”

Instead, all but six Senate Republicans opposed it.

3. The Mythical Gay Police State

The National Organization for Marriage is still fuming Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s brief suspension from A&E and defending his imaginary constitutional right to appear on television. In a hysterical post about the Duck Dynasty flap — since deleted but grabbed by Jeremy Hooper — NOM president Brian Brown warned that soon the police may arrest and prosecute people for “criminal hate-speech charges.” He asserted that the “homosexual lobby” is creating “a new State regime” that will make religious beliefs “subject to punishment” and “grounds for criminal action.”

“This is what our country is facing if the same-sex ‘marriage’ movement gets its way: a society in which not just Phil and other celebrities who voice Christian values are put in the crosshairs and targeted for persecution, but any ordinary citizen who believes in traditional values — ordinary citizens like you and me — will be liable to sanction,” Brown wrote.

Laura Ingraham delivered a similar message on her radio show this week, cautioning that gay rights laws represent “a victory against religious liberty” that “puts us on a very dangerous path, it’s a path that Karl Marx would be very happy from the grave, or from hell, to see us being on right now.”

2. Limbaugh: Obama Will Keep Power After Second Term

When President Obama announced that his family may stay in the Washington, DC, area after his second term ends so his youngest daughter can graduate from school, Rush Limbaugh’s sixth sense for conspiracies was immediately triggered.

The conservative talk show host alleged that Obama will try to hold on to power by establishing “a satellite administration in exile” with the “media continuing to treat him as though he is still president.” He warned that Obama will have an “unprecedented post-presidency” that will allow him to hold onto the reins of power even outside of elected office. 

“He’s gonna be staying there to protect his legacy and to make sure it is never unwound,” Limbaugh said. “Unless he’s run out of town in shame.”

1. Islamists In The White House

Doing his best Joseph McCarthy impression, Fox News pundit Tom McInerney insists that he has a list of names of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are working in government…except he doesn’t know their names. “We’ve got Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. government today,” McInerney told the Washington radio station WMAL. “I haven’t got their names exactly but there’s a list of them, at least 10 or 15 of them in the U.S. government.”

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association took this theory one step further to contend that the chief Islamist in the Obama administration is Obama himself:

NOM's Brown: Rose Parade Wedding Used to 'Target Children,' 'Indoctrinate Kids'

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown was one of the Religious Right activists to attack last week’s Rose Parade in Pasadena for including a float featuring a same-sex wedding, lamenting that “once marriage is redefined to make it genderless, this perverse construct of ‘marriage’ is forced on everyone.”

In an interview with Voice of Russia radio on Friday, Brown doubled down, saying that Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclaire’s wedding had been “shoved in the face of families,” including those who had voted against marriage equality in their states.

This was all part of a plan to “target children” and use “a family event to sort of indoctrinate kids,” he added.

All along, we’ve been hearing from activists who support same-sex marriage, ‘Hey, if we redefine marriage, it won’t have any effect on you, this is about loving individuals, what they decide to do, it will have no effect on you.’

Well, lo and behold, it has to be shoved in the face of families -- many of whom voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman – on a float at a family event.



We know that when you redefine marriage this  is taught in schools, we know that teachers tell kids that folks who believe in this notion of marriage as a union between a man and a woman are discriminating, they’re the functional equivalent of bigots.

And now it hasn’t even stopped in the classroom, now the idea has to be, well, at family events we need to make a point to have a same-sex marriage to sort of put it right in their faces and call them out. Well, that’s just wrong. In America, we can disagree over key issues, but the idea that you would target children and make this about using a family event to sort of indoctrinate kids, that’s just wrong.

In a speech before the Russian parliament promoting anti-gay laws last year, Brown similarly warned that advances in gay rights would lead to “talking to children about homosexuality.”

Duck the Halls: The Religious Right's Own War on Christmas

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.

What Persecution Looks Like

Nothing like putting things in perspective.

At the end of a week in which Religious Right leaders, cable TV pundits, and conservative politicians acted as if freedom were being destroyed because a rich TV star was suspended for making offensive racist and anti-gay comments, the Parliament in Uganda passed a bill that threatens gay people with life in prison.

And with that vote, all the alarmist bluster about persecution from Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal and every Religious Right leader who saw a chance to boost year-end fundraising by jumping on the martyrdom bandwagon was made to look ridiculous.

This week’s news gave us plenty of evidence about real persecution, and it had nothing to do with Duck Dynasty. The face of persecution is not Phil Robertson, but the terrified LGBT people in Uganda who fear that they are about to be hunted.  Persecution looks like gay teenagers in Russia being beaten by thugs, and by gay parents who have the ability to leave Russia fleeing because anti-gay political leaders are threatening to take their children from them. Persecution looks like LGBT people all over the globe whose lives and freedom are threatened by new laws that enshrine discrimination and define them as criminals. Persecution looks like LGBT teens in Jamaica facing vigilante violence.  And on and on.

Newsweek reported a week ago that Ethiopia had declared war on gay men this year, noting, “A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality announced that the council was making ‘promising’ progress in convincing the government to introduce the death penalty to punish ‘homosexual acts.’”

How do American conservative religious and political figures respond to this kind of persecution? Not with shouts of outrage but with enthusiastic cheering. It is no small irony that many of those most loudly screaming "persecution" over Robertson's suspension have been equally vocal supporters of international efforts to literally criminalize homosexuality. 

Brian Brown, Pat Buchanan, Matt Barber, and a sad parade of other religious conservatives fawn over Russia’s violently anti-democratic strongman Vladimir Putin as if he were Christendom’s new Defender of the Faith. Putin, in Barber’s words, is being allowed to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation.” (Of course many American Christians want nothing to do with Barber or his interpretation of the faith.)

And to their lasting shame, American Religious Right leaders’ financial and political support have been inflaming anti-gay passions in Uganda for years.  Lou Engle and Scott Lively actually traveled to Uganda and helped rally support for the bill. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who takes such umbrage at FRC’s designation as a hate group, dismissed criticism of the Uganda law in its earlier and more sinister incarnation, calling the proposed law an effort to “uphold moral conduct.”

There’s no indication that the Uganda bill’s passage is causing any noticeable soul-searching among the far right.  Far from it. The American Family Association’s always-repellant Bryan Fischer invoked the Duck Dynasty flap in celebrating the passage of the anti-gay law in Uganda: “Uganda stands with Phil. Makes homosexuality contrary to public policy. It can be done.”

Actually, as offensive as Phil Robertson’s statements were, they pale in comparison to Fischer’s. Robertson hasn’t suggested, as far as I know, that gay people should be arrested and put in prison for life. And I seriously doubt that Robertson has ever traveled to Russia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, or Australia to promote legal discrimination against and criminalization of LGBT people or anyone who advocates for equality, the way right-wing figures like Engle, Lively, Brown, Mat Staver, Peter LaBarbera, Paul Cameron, and others have.

No worries about the Olympics on the American Right.  In fact the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society is excited about having its 2014 “World Congress of Families” summit in Moscow, which they see as a new stronghold for “traditional values” against the secular moral squalor of Western Europe.

Conservative activists were prepared to see Phil Robertson as a victim of religious persecution because they’ve been primed for years with the “religious liberty” narrative being pushed by Religious Right leaders and their conservative Catholic allies. They portray criticism as persecution. They equate being on the losing side of policy debates with being under the heel of oppression. And when courts and legislatures struggle with the challenge of balancing religious liberty with other constitutional values like equality under the law, they see only black-and-white battles between good and evil.

Their rhetoric cheapens and distorts the meaning of terms like tyranny. Anti-religious persecution is a violent, heartbreaking reality for Christians in many parts of the world. But not for the privileged and powerful figures in the United States who wrap themselves in the mantle of martyrdom.

The next time you hear some talking head on Fox talk about persecution, think about people in the Central African Republic who are caught in sectarian violence verging on genocide. Or think about LGBT people whose lives and freedom are threatened every day in the name of Christian values.  

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