For many Religious Right groups, Christmas is not so much a time to celebrate Immanuel than it is to raise money by fomenting outrage when shops use slogans like “happy holidays.” The American Family Association has a “Naughty or Nice” list to stir up consumers to boycott companies which are “against Christmas” and yesterday Liberty Counsel announced its “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” targeting public spaces which “censor” Christmas and selling their “Help Save Christmas Acton Pack.”
As Jeremy Hooper noted yesterday, it appears that the Religious Right’s most beloved fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, has indeed declared war on Christmas. In their horrific assault on Christmas, the company released a statement celebrating the “holiday season” that doesn’t once include the word “Christmas” and also pushed out a press release about “holiday gift giving,” again failing to mention “Christmas.” Even their online ads are clear affronts to Christmas!
Last week, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon appeared on AFA Today with Buster Wilson, where the conservative leader was mourning the re-election of President Obama. He said that the election represented the beginning of the end for Western civilization and that the U.S. will “end up in chaos” as “ultimately we’re going to change the Constitution or do away with it.”
What happened is what we didn’t want to happen, there may be some people who will disagree and who may even be upset with what I’m about to say but in this election we tipped Western civilization, it’s no longer going up, it’s going down. Now you won’t see a drastic change in three months, you won’t see a big change in three years, but in thirty years from now you’re going to see a real big change. It’s going to be different, absolutely different. The Christian value system, the Christian view of man, will be replaced. With what? With whatever somebody else has enough gunpowder to make it work. That’s the tipping point and from here on out we’re simply going downhill. Hate to say that and I wish I didn’t have to say that, but if I want to be honest with you, I’ve got to say that. I’ve been looking at this for thirty years and the people spoke yesterday and Americans have nobody to blame except themselves, we’ve become a society where we expect you to give me something or do something for me.
Changes like this come over a period of years, scores of years sometimes, but ultimately we’re going to change the Constitution or do away with it. We’ll end up in chaos. I remember a sermon years ago by a preacher, ‘Christ or Chaos.’ That’s the choice and we made the choice.
Warning against the “homosexual agenda,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins introduced Mitt and Ann Romney and lauded the former Massachusetts governor for understanding “the threat that this imposes to our nation.”
Romney condemned people, especially activist judges, whom he accused of “trying to establish one religion, the religion of secularism” and “reject traditional values” and “reject the values of our Founders.”
“Here in Massachusetts, activist judges struck a blow to the foundation of civilization—the family—they ruled that our constitution requires people of the same gender to marry,” Romney said. “The principal burden of this court’s ruling doesn’t fall on adults, it falls on children.” He continued, “The price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children, our fight for marriage then should focus then on the needs of children, not the rights of adults.”
Romney called for the adoption of a Federal Marriage Amendment to block the “spreading secular religion and its substitute values” that he said “weaken the foundation of the family” and dishonor the Founders.
Other speakers included Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, American Family Association president Don Wildmon, and preacher Wellington Boone, who reminisced about the time when sodomy was a capital offense in America, joked about “sodomite island,” and said the push for LGBT rights represents the “rape of the civil rights movement.”
Yesterday, Newt Gingrich held another conference call for Religious Right supporters, seeking to mobilize them ahead of the Republican primary in Florida.
The call was hosted by Jim Garlow and featured several other of the Gingrich campaign's Faith Coalition leaders explaining why they had decided to support Gingrich ... and the consensus was that if President Obama wins re-election, it means the end of Western Civilization:
Mat Staver: I believe that if Speaker Gingrich wins Florida next Tuesday, he wins the nomination. If he wins the nomination, he beats President Barack Obama and we have not a cloud hanging over us in November and December of 2012 but we begin to see the clouds dissipating and some ray of sunshine of hope return to this land.
Jim Garlow: At the risk of sounding melodramatic, the United States as we know her will cease to exist as will, then, Western Civilization. Those who are discerning, those who are intuitive to what is happening morally and economically in our nation understand the truth.
George Barna: As you mentioned Jim, for the last twenty years I have steadfastly refused to endorse any individuals or organizations or products. But as I've analyzed the severity of America's situation today, I've come to believe that such self-restrictions are a luxury that we can no longer afford. So after carefully studying all the candidates in regards to the needs I just described and assessing their ability to win in November, I concluded that Newt Gingrich is the best man for the job.
Jim Garlow: We are in a situation that is so crisic in America, I'm actually stunned that President Obama could do this much destruction to the nation in a three year span. I never anticipated that this much harm in the moral and economic arenas of our nation could be brought on by one particular president.
Don Wildmon: This is not a typical election. This is an election unlike any ever held in our country. We're not just voting for a president; we're voting for the continuation of Western Civilization. If those who are listening think that what we enjoy, the freedoms we enjoy, the right to practice our Christan faith, is merely an accident and is there, it's not, people paid for it. And we can lose it, and we will lose it, if we lose this next election. What's at stake is everything that the human race, Western Civilization, has fought for for the last two thousand years.
When Gingrich joined the call, the thrice-married candidate served up some red meat to the audience by declaring that efforts to grant equal marriage rights to gays and lesbians are "pagan behaviors":
It's pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it's a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.
Finally, Gingrich explained that he didn't really have any interest in being president but decided that he had to do so because all the other Republicans are so terrible so that he had a moral obligation to step up and save this nation and that he would just magnanimously have to suffer the insults that come his way:
I want people to understand, I'm a volunteer. Callista and I had very long talks for over a year and then we talked with our two daughters and our two son-in-laws because we knew if we tried to offer help the country that we would be subjected to news media assaults, we'd be subjected to vicious gossip, we'd be subjected to people on the web saying horrible things and we'd be subjected to negative ads from our opponents. And we concluded that we are in so much trouble and we are in such grave danger of losing the America that we grew up in and the lack of Republican ability to articulate and communicate and defend is so great that both of us - this was a dual decision - we both concluded that we had a moral obligation to endure whatever comes and to at least offer, as citizens, to try and be of service.
With news that gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife have now both contributed $5 million each to the pro-Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future, on top of the millions of dollars the Adelson’s have contributed to Gingrich’s organizations before he entered the presidential race, Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton is wondering if social conservatives know—or care—about Gingrich’s close ties to the “billionaire casino owner.” Adelson, who is believed to be worth $26.5 billion, made his money through casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau, China, and is one of Gingrich’s longtime financers.
Ironically, members of Gingrich’s Faith Leaders Coalition have strongly denounced the gambling industry.
One of Gingrich’s first Religious Right endorsers and a coalition co-chair, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, is also an outspoken opponent of the gambling industry. In his native Mississippi, Wildmon condemned then-governor Haley Barbour for betraying the “moral people” who voted for him by siding with the “money people” in his move to liberalize gambling laws. The AFA has consistently opposed the legalization of casinos and said [pdf] that “a federal commission to study the impact of gambling in America” should only include “people with sound Judeo-Christian values and no ties to the gambling industry,” while attacking congressmen who have taken “big gambling bucks.” In fact, that was the very same commission Gingrich tried to weaken to the chagrin of gambling opponents and AFA Journal noted that Gingrich “used one of his two choices to appoint the chairman and CEO of a Las Vegas casino company” to the commission. Wildmon himself wrote in 2005:
But the truth is that all our fine talk about personal freedoms in the U.S. can be nullified by the freedom we take with the moral laws of God. … Our consciences have become blunted and dulled with an overdose of pseudosophistication and broad-mindedness. We have become so tolerant of sin and sinfulness that we have lost our capacity to protest and rebel against plain indecency and moral rottenness. In many quarters we are so accustomed to violence, licentiousness, the glorification of sex, the shady deal, and the fast dollar — to say nothing of the gambler’s passion for something for nothing — that old-fashioned righteous indignation is regarded as a corny exercise for squares.
The tragedy is that modern Christians too often go along with the tide. We try to convince ourselves that drunkenness is illness, that filthy writing is realism, that obscenity is social comment, that perversion, adultery, cynicism, and gambling are the folkways of our time. … The cause of our problem does not lie altogether in poverty or slums or ignorance. … The truth is, the human mind is being poisoned, not by common immorality, but by an amoral, humanistic, nihilistic, cynical outlook on human behavior, wholly divorced from any concept of right or wrong.
Seeing as that Ralph Reed continues to be a leading Religious Right figure despite his past funding from casinos, Gingrich may still be able to balance his campaign focus on attracting “values voters” while his Super PAC is bankrolled with casino money.
Did social conservative leaders come together and jointly endorse Rick Santorum at the Texas retreat over the weekend? That is the way Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and many in the media interpreted the meeting of leading Religious Right luminaries, where on the second ballot Santorum led Gingrich 70 to 49, and on the third ballot 85 to 29. Perkins claimed there was a “strong consensus” behind Santorum, who has won the backing of Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Young Nance, former National Organization for Marriage president Maggie Gallagher, American Values president Gary Bauer and the expected endorsement of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
But have Religious Right leaders really coalesced around Santorum?
Gingrich has locked in the support of prominent social conservative leaders: Concerned Women for America founder and chairman Beverly LaHaye; Council for National Policy founder and author Tim LaHaye; American Family Association founder and chairman Don Wildmon; Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver; California pastor and Proposition 8 organizer Jim Garlow; evangelical pollster George Barna; Restoration Project organizer David Lane and pastor and former congressman J.C. Watts.
Gingrich supporters have even claimed that the third ballot, which showed Santorum winning handling, occurred after many leaders left the meeting and that some Santorum boosters were involved with “ballot-box stuffing.” Bob Vander Plaats, an early Santorum endorser, told Bryan Fischer on Focal Point that the Texas gathering only showed “divided support” between Santorum and Gingrich, and Red State’s Erick Erickson, who attended the meeting, said that “it was divided with many thinking Gingrich is the only one who can win.”
While it remains to be seen if social conservatives will really “coalesce” behind Santorum, it is clear that the Religious Right leadership that begged Perry to enter the race has now utterly abandoned him.
Is the Religious Right beginning to coalesce behind Newt Gingrich? Yesterday, the former Speaker hosted a conference call with the members of his Faith Leaders Coalition: American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, Religious Right pollster George Barna and pastor Jim Garlow. Now, Gingrich is racking up additional endorsements from Religious Right figures just days before conservative activists are set to meet in Texas to see if they can get behind one of the presidential candidates.
Tim LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind series on the End Times and founder of the Council for National Policy, and his wife Beverly, the founder and chairman of Concerned Women for America, endorsed Gingrich, warning that America may “end up being like the godless socialist countries of Europe,” as did Mat Staver, the chairman of Liberty Counsel, one of the country’s most stridently anti-gay groups, and the dean of the Liberty University School of Law. “America will be unrecognizable if Obama is elected for four more years,” Staver said. “We need a strong leader with domestic, international and political experience who can inspire a new conservative resurgence in the line of Ronald Reagan. Speaker Gingrich is the clear choice.”
UPDATE: The Gingrich campaign released this statement from Tim LaHaye:
“During the last three years our nation has been led by liberal secularists who have tried their best to remove God from our public square and the elimination of the Biblical principles our founding fathers built this nation on” said LaHaye.
“Please prayerfully consider going to the polls on January 21 and help elect Newt Gingrich, a proven conservative who has the best chance of replacing the present occupant of the White House with a man with a proven record of appointing conservatives to office that can return this country to the constitutional principles that God has chosen to bless for over two hundred years” he said.
Pastor LaHaye also pointed to Speaker Gingrich’s qualifications as the best candidate to defeat President Obama as one of the reasons for his endorsement.
“It seems apparent the Republican candidates have come down to two possible winners,” LaHaye said. “As my friend, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell told me personally, ‘Speaker Newt Gingrich is the most qualified man in America to run as president of the United States”… We agree!’”
"I am honored to have Tim's endorsement. His work as both a minister and author is truly unmatched," said Gingrich. "Tim will be a terrific partner for the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition as we work to combat the influence of radical secularism and activist judges."
Newt Gingrich today joined a conference call with members of his campaign’s Faith Leaders Coalition including Pastor Jim Garlow, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, and Religious Right pollster George Barna where he urged social conservative voters to coalesce behind his candidacy. During the call, Gingrich repeated his claim that religious charities are losing their rights because they refuse to follow codes that prevent taxpayer-funded services from discriminating against people such as married same-sex couples. He even warned that America might go the way of Europe where Gingrich claimed that reading parts of the Bible regarding homosexuality would be a “hate crime”:
Gingrich: The state governments, for example in Massachusetts, which has literally driven Catholic adoption services out of the state, the District of Columbia, which has literally driven Catholic services out of taking care of the poor, the degree to which if you aren’t pro-gay, pro-abortion and pro-secular, you don’t have any rights. If you watch Europe right now, there is an increasing risk of speech becoming illegal, there are sections of the Bible you can’t read anymore in some European countries because it involves homosexuality and the act of reading it from the pulpit would be considered a hate crime.
As he told John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church that America may soon become “a secular country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” Gingrich argued that atheists and Islamists are both waging war against Western civilization by trying to “drive God out of our lives” and “make America safe for Islam and militant religion.” He went on to call for the restoration of the “Church Militant” so civilization can “survive”:
Gingrich: We’re in a two front war for our civilization. At one front are the secular atheists who would seek to drive God out of our lives, and on the other front are radical Islamists who would seek to make America safe for Islam and militant religion. I think that we have to recognize how truly serious a crisis this is for our civilization, I find when I talk that there is a need for the Church Militant once again if we are going to survive. I really do believe that we are in a two front war over the very potential of our society being preserved.
Later, Garlow and Wildmon ended the call by warning that Mitt Romney would inevitably lose to President Obama if nominated because he would have lukewarm support among evangelical voters, which would doom America and “be the beginning of the end for Western civilization as we know it”:
Garlow: I really, truly believe that this nation is on a very short fuse and the reason I threw my lot in beside, behind Newt Gingrich is that I believe what he brings in the table is what is needed in this particular moment to break through and to be able to keep us from having a candidate like Romney. If we have a candidate like Romney, the evangelical participation will drop, probably from a 2010 level to a 2008 level, that would be from 28 percent to 23 percent, and that would result in the reelection of President Obama and our country cannot possibly, morally and economically, survive that. It would spell, in my opinion, the end of the United States of America as we have known her and consequently the end of Western civilization. Don Wildmon, you’ve heard me say these words, am I overstating the case Don Wildmon or do you believe that is within the range of accuracy?
Wildmon: Jim, I’ve been thinking in the last few weeks, about forty years ago I’ve became travelling a good bit in Europe and I saw what was happening in Europe and the shape that they’re in now and that’s where we’re headed. Let me say this, this is not just another election, and I’m not one to try to blow things out just to get attention. If we lose this election, then it will be the beginning of the end for Western civilization as we know it.
Divided Religious Right Leaders may ask Presidential Candidates to Withdraw With Religious Right leaders set to meet in Texas about the GOP presidential primary, divisions within the movement may hinder efforts to put on a united front. Just as in 2008, when many social conservatives were divided and John McCain was able to win the Republican nomination, it looks like discord and delay will doom any chance that this meeting will be a game-changer.
Elizabeth Dias of TIMEreports that Don Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association who was an early supporter of Rick Perry but has since endorsed Newt Gingrich, told invited guests that they must be prepared to switch which candidate they support so as not to “not divide our strength.” Dias also reports that there “is a rumor among several invitees that the leaders may ask a candidate to withdraw” from the race:
Some 125 evangelical leaders and their spouses will gather this weekend at a Texas ranch to discuss the latest iteration of Operation What To Do About Mitt Romney. While organizers say it is not a meeting to stop the GOP front runner, the invitation is urgent: “This coming election could prove to be the most critical of our lifetime,” it reads. The real kicker: Event sponsor and former American Family Association chairman Don Wildmon has asked invitees if they would be “be willing to compromise and change your choice to one that the body as a whole supports in order to not divide our strength,” according to someone who has received the invitation. The implication? Time’s running out to anoint a consensus candidate for social conservatives.
Getting all the members of this group, let alone the voters of South Carolina, behind this proposition in the middle of January will likely require an act of God. Evangelical votes and donations are already splintered between Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. (Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, despite their second and third place finishes in New Hampshire, will not be under consideration at the ranch outside Houston this weekend.) There is a rumor among several invitees that the leaders may ask a candidate to withdraw, but entrenched loyalties will make it difficult to settle on one or possibly two contenders to take to the fall. Wildmon financed Perry’s “Response” prayer rally this summer, and event organizer Gary Bauer, a former Family Research Council president and a U.S.-presidential hopeful in 2000, endorsed Santorum at a South Carolina campaign event this past Sunday.
Jim Rutenberg of the New York Timesfound that Religious Right leaders are trying to make sure that they don’t come across as hostile to Mitt Romney as he inches closer to winning the nomination, noting that Romney’s evangelical supporters will be present:
Gary L. Bauer, president of American Values and one of the organizers, said Tuesday in an interview, “We’re not forming some alliance to stop somebody else that’s competing for the nomination,” adding, “the only person in that room the people want to stop is Barack Obama from having a second term.”
Mr. Bauer, it happens, will be supporting Mr. Santorum, whom he endorsed and campaigned with last week. But Mr. Bauer said the meeting would include advocates “for all of the candidates, including Romney.” Mr. Romney’s advocates are expected to be working the room aggressively.
For some insider knowledge, AFA spokesman and Perry-cheerleader Bryan Fischer urged his allies to all rally around the Texas governor despite his extraordinarily low place in the polls and beyond-terrible debate performances:
The only alternative to this scenario is if social conservatives are able to rally around Rick Perry. Newt Gingrich is fatally flawed and bleeding from too many self-inflicted wounds, including morphing into Michael Moore in his attacks on free enterprise. Rick Santorum, despite his unapologetic and vigorous social conservatism, does not have the infrastructure, the organization, or the money to run a nationwide campaign. He will not even be on the ballot in four or five states.
Only Rick Perry combines effective executive experience, a proven record of economic vitality, a consistently conservative set of social values, and the structure and fund-raising capacity to defeat Romney in the primary and Obama in the general. He or Santorum could blunt some of the Ron Paul mania and keep many conservatives from defecting to Paul. But Perry finished fifth in Iowa, was barely a blip in New Hampshire, and is polling at five percent in South Carolina.
But following last night's vote in Iowa in which Perry finished a distant fifth, causing him to return to Texas to "assess" the future of his campaign, activists will be meeting again next weekend to plot how to stop Mitt Romney:
A group of movement conservatives has called an emergency meeting in Texas next weekend to find a "consensus" Republican presidential hopeful, POLITICO has learned.
"You and your spouse are cordially invited to a private meeting with national conservative leaders of faith at the ranch of Paul and Nancy Pressler near Brenham, Texas, with the purpose of attempting to unite and to come to a consensus on which Republican Presidential candidate or candidates to support, or which not to support," read an invitation that is making its way into in-boxes this morning.
The meeting is being hosted by such right-leaning figures as James Dobson, Don Wildmon and Gary Bauer. Many of the individuals on the host list attended a previous closed-door session with Rick Perry this summer.
Movement conservatives are concerned that a vote split between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum among base voters could enable Mitt Romney.
A source who shared the invitation said the meeting was about how to avoid such a possibility.
Given that Michele Bachmann will reportedly be dropping out and Newt Gingrich's campaign is floundering after his dramatic failing in Iowa, it looks like it will only be a matter of time before the Religious Right finally begins to unify behind Rick Santorum.
Yesterday, leading Religious Right activist and Gingrich-surrogate Jim Garlow appeared on The Steve Deace Show, where he joined former congressman J.C. Watts in praising Gingrich. Deace, who recently endorsed Gingrich, asked Garlow why evangelical voters should back Gingrich when many feel there are candidates who are more ideologically pure and do not have Gingrich’s personal baggage. Garlow commented that Religious Right voters continue to be “defeated and frankly humiliated” by “hyper-spiritualizing” elections, when they should be backing candidates who have a chance at winning. He said Bachmann, Perry and Santorum do not stand a chance against “the Romney machine,” and that Christians need to start using a “healthy, biblical, biblically-founded pragmatism” and that “the Holy Spirit can show us” in order to win political fights:
Garlow: The second component is that we do not as Christians assess the problem quickly enough with a healthy, biblical, biblically-founded pragmatism. For example, I see people hyper-spiritualizing this election, they say, ‘well God parted the Red Sea,’ well he did it once! But he told Noah to build a boat, in other words, get in there and float on this thing. So we’re being out-fought, unfortunately, because we hyper-spiritualize way too much. Let me make it real, ground-tested and practical, and this will probably disturb some people. Michele Bachmann is wonderful but she has no cash and no traction; Rick Perry is wonderful, I think he’s absolutely fabulous, I hope he has strong influence in the nation in the future along with Michele Bachmann, he has lots of cash but his articulation skills have harmed him seriously and he cannot overcome them, not now; Rick Santorum is wonderful but he has no cash and no machinery, if he wins Iowa he needs to be spending $3 million a week minimum to carry him through to try keep up with the Romney machine, so Romney’s best interest is to land Rick Santorum right up there at the top. People are not thinking through a strategy and by lack of a biblically-founded pragmatism that the Holy Spirit can show us, the lack of a strategy, we are being defeated and frankly humiliated and our biblical rights are being robbed from us.
Last week, Garlow interviewed Gingrich on a conference call with Iowa pastors that also featured American Family Association founder Don Wildmon and “Restoration Project” organizer David Lane, both of whom previously supported Rick Perry but have since endorsed Gingrich. On the call, Wildmon warned conservatives against splitting their vote (2:45). Gingrich criticized abortion rights (8:15), marriage equality, which he called “a violation of the core framework of our civilization” (9:20), and the judiciary (10:50), warning that “the Obama, European secular socialism is fundamentally different and in a key way threatens our rights as citizens” by turning Americans into subjects of the state:
I am inviting you (and select Christian Iowa Leaders) to join me on a Conference Call with Former Speaker Newt Gingrich this Friday, December 30, 12 Noon (CST).
Dr. Jim Garlow will emcee the call, pastor Skyline Church San-Diego, founder of the California Pastors Rapid Response Team, a group of several thousand pastors who led the successful charge for Prop. 8 in 2008, a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California.
These are important and critical days in which to live and serve the Lord. I'm praying that the Lord is doing something dramatic in our time, and Iowa is leading the way on January 3rd.
Newt is leading the thrust to remove elitist judges who ignore the American people, like the 3 Iowa Supreme Court Justices who voted in 2009 to impose homosexual marriage on all Iowans.
On the call we will hear directly from Newt about this historic undertaking and hopefully have a chance to ask him about his plans for his "21st Century Contract With America."
I have been impressed with Newt and have come to the conclusion that Newt is the one person who can lead us out of the awful environment created by the present occupant in the White House. As Newt has expressed it, "America’s exceptional nature is based on the self-evident truths contained in the Declaration of Independence. Our rights are endowed by our Creator and they are unalienable." This is the type of understanding and strong leadership America needs.
Our Nation requires courageous, principled conservative leadership now more than ever.....from someone who understands that our rights as Americans are a gift from God, not government.
Please join me on this conference call with Newt Gingrich. Your participation is important to our future.
Thank you for your active participation in these critically important times.
On Tuesday, the founder of the far-right American Family Association Don Wildmon endorsed Newt Gingrich for president, citing Gingrich’s stringent attacks against the judiciary and the need to stop Mitt Romney from winning the Republican nomination as reasons for his endorsement. Wildmon told AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer, who has harshly criticized Gingrich, that he was originally “ecstatic” about Rick Perry but decided against supporting him due to his poor debate performances and said that only Gingrich can stop “the homosexuals and the liberals” from their plot to “destroy the family” and “the whole of Western Civilization.”
Deace: Newt, tell me what you think this endorsement means and what you want this endorsement to say to undecided voters out there?
Gingrich: No one has been a more consistent fighter for Christian freedom to actually practice our religion, for the right to life, stopping abortion, for the protection of marriage between a man and a woman, and I think the degree to which the Rev. Wildmon has been a national leader in these areas, the 2.5 million people who recognize his leadership through his association, this is a very important signal that if you are a social conservative and you’re interest is making sure that we have a social conservative as the Republican nominee, the Rev. Wildmon from his many years of experience is telling you that Newt Gingrich is the one candidate who could potentially stop Mitt Romney. I think that is a very, very powerful and a very important message, and I think it will make a big impact not just in Iowa but across the country. Having watched his work for a number of years, I am very grateful for this kind of support and the courage he’s shown standing up in the public arena for the values that we believe in.
Wildmon said that the election is so serious that if either President Obama or Mitt Romney wins we will “lose this country”:
Wildmon: If we don’t have a strong leadership that knows and believes in maintaining our Judeo-Christian heritage, we’re going to lose it. And let me tell you, don’t load up any buses because there’s nowhere else in the world that what we have can be replicated. It’s gone and it is gone forever if Obama or Romney wins the presidency, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. That’s a strong statement, I’m not trying to scare anybody, I’m not trying to say I got any kind of intellect, but I just see it and it’s there and if we lose this country, it’s gone and it can never again be replicated.
When Deace asked Wildmon how the Religious Right leader came to terms with a supporting a candidate whose last two marriages ended following extramarital affairs, Wildmon pointed to his own conversations with Gingrich where he repented for his past indiscretions and to California pastor Jim Garlow, who has pressed evangelicals to forgive and support Gingrich. Wildmon also reminded Deace that “Paul was a murderer, Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer and for all intents and purposes a murderer,” and were still forgiven and lifted up by God:
Deace: I keep getting questions about someone that has had the past on a personal level that Newt has had, with even Newt has himself described as moral failings in his past, and whether or not we as evangelicals can support somebody like that and do we look hypocritical, I know you obviously wrestled with this, so let me ask you that question.
Wildmon: Yes I think that is a legitimate question, my friend Jim Garlow could answer that more in depth, but let me answer what I can. Go back four years ago, I was sitting in a room in Washington and we asked Newt to come out and discuss the situation, and we did and he said that he had repented, at that time this was four years ago now and if I remember there was a tear or two, I think the man was genuine, I think he was honest, I think he meant what it said. Now and I say this with Newt sitting there, only Newt knows Newt’s heart other than God, I think that he has paid his dues, I think he has accepted his forgiveness, God has forgiven him, I forgive him, let’s go on to do what’s best for the country.
I am supporting Newt because I think he’s the best fellow for the job, as far as sin, we know what’s in Newt’s past, Paul was a murderer, Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer and for all intents and purposes a murderer, the man has paid his dues, he’s been forgiven by God. Am I supporting him? Yes I am. Why? I’ll say it again; I think that everything considered he is the best candidate for the office. Look—I’m taking a lot of heat, a lot of people already tell me ‘I’m not going to support you anymore’—you only live once and you got to do what you believe to be right and best, and you suffer the consequences thereof, and I think this is the right and best what I did. I hope some of my influence in the state of Iowa will help the Speaker carry the state.
Newt Gingrich today nabbed the endorsement of Don Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association, which is now under the leadership of his son, Tim. Wildmon praised Gingrich’s aggressive attacks on the judiciary, saying, “Newt Gingrich recognizes the threat to our country posed by judges and lawyers imposing values upon the country inconsistent with our religious heritage, and has proposed constitutional steps to bring the courts back in balance under the constitution,” and Gingrich welcomed the endorsement by calling Wildmon “one of the most important leaders in the country in the battle to uphold our founding principles.”
Wildmon endorsed Gingrich, who has admitted that extramarital affairs were reasons that ended his first two marriages, despite previously arguing that “adultery is destructive to relationships, to families, and to society.”
After founding the National Federation for Decency, which later became the AFA, Wildmon led censorship campaigns against shows like Seinfeld and Murphy Brown, along with other movies, television programs and music he found objectionable.
Wildmon also has claimed that “liberals” and those who support the “homosexual agenda” all “hate Christians,” and in his recent book Speechless, he claimed that “homosecularists” are trying to “persecute Christians” and “insert homosexual propaganda into the schools.” He warned that the “homosecularist elite” is using “the schools to indoctrinate children” through “pro-homosexual and anti-Christian” programs to combat school bullying. Wildmon also praised the Boy Scouts for not wanting to “expose its young members to lonely sodomites.”
But Wildmon’s endorsement doesn’t mean others in the AFA have had less than kind words for Gingrich.
Recently in a phone interview I challenged former Speaker Newt Gingrich with the query If the men of the Republican Revolution and their Speaker couldn't keep their marriage vows why should we now entrust, say, that Speaker who looks to be making a run for the presidency?
It wasn't much of an answer he gave. Evangelicals in power must do better in the future, and cultural conservatives in particular must surely know that the public will hold them to higher standards.
John the Baptist famously rebuked a politician of his day for his problematic marital history, and Mr. Gingrich rightly comes in for similar censure.
King David of the ancient kingdom of Israel kept his throne after his adulterous liaison with the beautiful Bathsheba, but a consequence of his unfaithfulness was that the sword never left his house, never left the dynasty he left behind nor the nation his descendants ruled. There were lasting consequences to the body politic for his moral failures, no matter how repentant he was and no matter how forgiven by God.
A candidate or president with such a troubled past would have little or no credibility in talking about the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity and importance of the intact family unit. “Who are you,” folks would say, “to be lecturing us about the importance of family?”
And there certainly would be fallout for the American family and the institution of marriage if such a flawed individual served as our nation’s leader.
UPDATE: Wildmon today appeared on Focal Pointwith Bryan Fischer where he explained that while he was initially “ecstatic” about Rick Perry’s candidacy, he decided that because of the Texas governor's disastrous debate appearances his candidacy “cannot recover.” Wildmon said that electability matters because “we are facing the most critical election this nation has ever seen, the stake in this election is Western civilization.”
When discussing Gingrich’s extramarital affairs, he said that Gingrich “seemed genuinely repentant,” telling Fischer, “we are voting for a president, not a pope, and there is a difference.” He added that his endorsement was personal and does not reflect an endorsement by the American Family Association.
Later in the show, Wildmon and Fischer praised Gingrich’s fight against “judicial tyranny” and Wildmon cited Gingrich’s attacks on judges as one of the major reasons he endorsed him: Wildmon said “the whole of Western Civilization” is in jeopardy because “when you destroy the family, which the homosexuals and the liberals now are trying to do, then you've destroyed the foundation here. All of this business about homosexual marriage, well let’s go to Massachusetts where it started, did the people vote on it? No they didn’t. What happened? Judges, judges, liberal judges passed the law, made the legalization of homosexual marriage in Massachusetts.”
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer said that the ad’s hostile reception on YouTube proves that Perry is a good candidate for Christian conservative voters: “Perry’s ad had triggered an astonishing 637,738 dislikes to just 19,792 likes by 10:53 Eastern time this morning, clearly stamping him as the candidate the vengeful, hate-filled, vitriolic homosexual lobby wants to destroy,” Fischer wrote today. “If you’re looking for your values candidate, conservatives, you may have just found him.” On his radio show last week, Fischer even said that AFA founder and chairman emeritus Don Wildmon, who led The Response prayer rally with Perry, called the ad “the best political ad he’s ever seen.”
Wildmon’s son Tim, the current head of the AFA, agreed with Todd Starnes of Fox News that the ad might help Perry consolidate support among conservative voters and propel Perry to the top of the polls. Starnes predicted “that we are going to see a bump in the poll numbers as the result of this ad, they may not give this ad credit but if you see a rise in the numbers I think it is because of this ad,” saying that it “articulated” how evangelical Christians in America feel:
The Family Research Council even promoted the ad to members and dismissed concerns that it would backfire on the Texas governor, whom they claim is in touch with “everyday Americans”:
Rick Perry's latest ad was intended for Iowa, but thanks to the national media, it's airing on every network in America. A number of pundits are panning the spot for its bold social conservative themes, which they insist will hurt the Texas Governor's chances. "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian," Gov. Perry says, "but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." The ad is called "Strong," and that's the kind of message it sends on issues like religious freedom. "As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage." True, Gov. Perry probably wouldn't win the media's vote with that kind of platform--but he does stand to benefit with everyday Americans who are tired of seeing their values in the line of fire under this administration.
The How To Take Back America conference held in St. Louis September 25 and 26 drew some 600 activists and, according to organizers, 100,000 online viewers. The gathering was an expanded version of the annual conference held by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, co-hosted this year by radio personality and far-right activist Janet Folger Porter and promoted by other right-wing bloggers and radio shows.
If the Values Voter Summit last weekend in Washington, D.C. confirmed the tight mutual embrace between the Religious Right and the national Republican Party, the How to Take Back America conference taking place in St. Louis, MO this coming weekend demonstrates national GOP figures’ willingness to embrace even the most extreme elements of the right-wing political movement.
Anti-gay organizations have been fighting the steady advance of federal hate crimes legislation with rhetoric that is increasingly unhinged from reality. When the U.S. House of Representatives passed a hate crimes bill on April 29 with a bipartisan 74-vote margin, Religious Right leaders and some of their congressional allies were inspired to new heights (or depths) of literally incredible accusations.