Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to make conservative Christians more politically powerful by eliminating legal restrictions on churches’ and other tax-exempt nonprofits’ ability to do electoral work. On Wednesday two Republican congressmen, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Georgia’s Jody Hice, introduced H.R. 6195, what they call the “Free Speech Fairness Act,” which would lay the groundwork for a President Trump to do just that.
Trump has said he decided to call for repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which dates to 1954, when he heard from pastors that it restricted their ability to help him get elected. He has made it clear that he sees its repeal as a way to build Christian conservatives’ political muscle. So it was a bit unconvincing to have Scalise and Hice portray their legislation not as a vehicle for turning churches into more effective political machines, but merely an effort to protect the trampled-upon free speech rights of pastors and nonprofits.
Scalise and Hice say their bill would allow churches and nonprofits to make political statements if those statements are in the ordinary course of their regular work and any expenses related to them are de minimis. In their example, a preacher could endorse a candidate as part of a sermon, and a church could do the same in its normal newsletter. Under their rules, they say, the church couldn’t launch a new political direct mail campaign that is outside the normal scope of its work. But given the massive communications networks that many megachurches and nonprofit religious broadcasters have, this seems like more of a fig leaf than an actual limitation.
Before coming to Congress, Hice was a pastor in Georgia. He said he was one of 33 pastors who challenged the Johnson Amendment back in 2008 with the help of ADF, a challenge that grew into “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an annual project that encourages pastors to violate legal restrictions by endorsing candidates from the pulpit and daring the IRS to come after them. Not coincidentally, this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday is this weekend, October 2.
Speakers at this week’s press conference portrayed the Johnson Amendment as a dire restriction on free speech and religious liberty. ADF’s Holcomb said it has had “devastating impacts on religious freedom and the freedom of speech.” Hice said it is “unconscionable that our government would force individuals to choose between their constitutionally protected rights or their faith.”
Perkins quoted Martin Luther King Jr. at the press conference, and his commentary on the new bill at the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal features a large photograph of King. Jackson also cited the civil rights movement. But the example of King actually undermines their hyperbolic claims about Johnson Amendment, which was in effect in the late 1950s and 1960s when African American pastors and churches served as moral and logistical focal points for the civil rights movement. They were not “muzzled” any more than conservative megachurches have been “muzzled” in speaking out about abortion for the past 40 years or rallying their members to vote against equality for LGBT people.
Under the existing IRS rules, the Family Research Council has no problem communicating on the issues of the day with the 11,000 pastors in its network. Indeed, there are currently multiple voter registration and GOTV operations being carried out by Religious Right networks through conservative evangelical churches. Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have appeared before gatherings of pastors brought together by Christian nationalist David Lane, who has recruited hundreds of pastors to run for office.
Their First Amendment freedoms are quite intact. But they’re looking for more—the ability of churches, religious broadcasters and other nonprofits to engage in direct electoral advocacy with tax-exempt funds. Speakers at Religious Right conferences routinely blame what they see as America’s moral decline on timid preaching, and they blame that on pastors who are intimidated by the IRS or hide behind the supposed threat of the IRS to avoid taking strong political stands. Charisma’s Bob Eschliman even said in praising the new bill that the Third Great Awakening—a national spiritual revival longed for by Religious Right leaders—cannot come about until the nation’s pulpits are “unshackled from the Johnson Amendment.”
Perkins, who is honorary chairman for Pulpit Freedom Sunday, bragged about the fact that he worked with the Trump campaign to get language calling for repeal of the Johnson Amendment into the Republican Party platform. He praised Trump for making it a campaign issue, adding, “I hope the next time that I’m talking about this could possibly be as he’s signing it behind his desk as president.”
The National Religious Broadcasters sponsored a debate on Friday morning between two Never Trump evangelicals and two evangelical Trumpers. The event, held at the National Press Club, was emceed by NRB’s President and CEO Jerry Johnson, who called it a “family conversation.” Johnson, whose own inclinations seemed to rest with Trump’s advocates, was careful to say that NRB members are on both sides of the debate and the group itself does not support or oppose political candidates.
Representing the Never Trump position: pundit Erick Erickson and Bill Wichterman, who served in George W. Bush's White House. Arguing that evangelicals should rally around Trump were radio host Janet Parshall and anti-gay activist Bishop Harry Jackson. The event was structured with two rounds, starting with an Erickson v Parshall bout, followed by a Jackson v Wichterman match-up.
Erickson got the ball rolling saying he wouldn’t tell people not to vote for Trump, but he said that Christians with public platforms should not support Trump publicly “because I think it’s harmful for our witness.” When asked about Jesus, he said Clinton called Him her savior, and Trump gave vague and rambling responses.
Justifying support for Trump based on “values,” he said, runs up against the reality of Trump’s behavior as someone who “has bragged in his books about multiple affairs, including with married women, has cheated widows and single moms and the elderly out of money through Trump University, has stiffed the low-income worker on his buildings, telling them if they want to collect everything they’re owed they need to sue. Why do you go with him instead of her? Well, you say, ‘our values.’ How does he represent our values?...If you want to advocate for that, OK, but how are you advancing the kingdom of God?” Trump, he noted, says he’s a Christian but has repeatedly said he has never repented or asked for forgiveness.
To those who have suggested God could be using Trump like he used biblical figures like King Cyrus, Erickson said God had done that on His own and “has never asked His people to choose the evil.” Erickson said that he’s sure that there were some in Babylon saying “go on and bow, it’s just a statue,” but that the names we remember are those who resisted.
Parshall seemed a bit peeved about Erickson’s arguments. She talked about the supermajority support Trump is getting from conservative Christians and adopted evangelical pollster George Barna’s nomenclature for “SAGE Cons” – Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservatives. Trump’s support from that group, she said, has grown from 11 percent early in the year to 80 to 85 percent now.
“I’m interested in keeping the republic,” Parshall said. She dismissed the question of Trump’s character by saying that everybody is a sinner and “God has a track record of using flawed and broken people, even when it doesn’t look right to us.” She read a long list of moral failings by presidents throughout history, saying, “We are not electing a Messiah.” She did a similar litany with biblical figures, saying, “Noah was a drunk. Abraham lied. Jacob was a liar. Moses was a murderer. Samson was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah preached naked. Jonah ran from God. Job went bankrupt. Peter denied Christ.”
Parshall suggested that Trump’s victory over the huge field of Republican competitors was a sign of God’s favor: “For those who have been praying and fasting through, during and for this process, have we now believed the sovereignty of God didn’t apply? Did He take off to Philadelphia, as W.C. Fields said? Or was a God sovereign in this entire process? Can God raise up a leader who just doesn’t look right to us, but is exactly who God wants for such a time as this?”
During a Q&A session, Parshall said that evangelicals should look to Trump’s pick of Mike Pence, “who represents everything we evangelicals love and support,” as his running mate. Wichterman said that the vice president has as much power as the president wants him to have. Trump, he said, is not someone who surrounds himself with people who challenge his authority or is willing to hear from dissenting opinions. “I don’t have any confidence that Mike Pence, a good man, will be able to have that influence on Donald Trump,” he said.
In his response to Parshall, Erickson said essentially that yes, we are all sinners, but do we revel in our sin or repent of it? Are we to lower the bar or strive for something higher? Embracing Trump, he said, neither glorifies God nor advances the kingdom. Parshall responded that Christians have responsibilities on earth to be engaged culturally and politically. She said she doesn’t care that Hillary Clinton says Jesus is her savior if she also supports “the denigration of marriage” and the “annihilation of the pre-born.” She said she was interested in what a candidate will do for the country and “first, last, and always, what will you do with the court?” She said the difference between the judges Hillary Clinton would nominate and Trump’s list is “the difference between darkness and light.”
Harry Jackson started the second round, making the astonishing assertion that Trump “may be the only one who’s able to bring some substantive healing to the racial divide,” because, Jackson said, he could help the country by advancing “practical answers” on educational and economic opportunity. Black and Hispanic voters, he said, have too often settled for “the politics of grievance.”
Jackson’s top three reasons for all Christians to vote for Trump were religious liberty, the Supreme Court, and support for Israel. He cited other reasons of particular interest to Black and Hispanic Christians to back Trump, including educational reform, economic development in urban areas, and family-oriented tax policies.
Trump isn’t perfect, Jackson said, but he’s getting better. Besides, he said, a little “organized and strategic chaos” might be just what the country needs to shake up the status quo of generational poverty and explosive racial tension. “We are at a place in our culture that the folks who control the system, their grasping little fingers need to be broken off the controls.”
Wichterman, a former special assistant to George W. Bush who now runs a ministry to congressional staff, established his conservative bona fides by saying that "you’ll have a hard time getting to my right. I’m a Republican because I’m a conservative, and a conservative because I’m a Christian. I believe conservative policies best reflect a Christian worldview.” Wichterman said he had been ready to support any of the other 16 Republican candidates, but is not willing to support Trump. Wichterman said he will vote for third-party candidate Evan McMullin.
Wichterman took on three of the arguments being used to justify evangelical support for Trump: Trump is the lesser of two evils; God uses bad people for good purposes; and Trump is a “good man”—a phrase Pence repeats over and over when talking about Trump.
Wichterman says the lesser of two evils argument is the most compelling. He said he has used it himself over the years, and understands that Trump is more likely to nominate conservative judges. But that’s not enough, he said, because Trump may actually be “a threat to our democratic republic”:
I care about the Supreme Court because I care deeply about the government handed down to us by the founders…Trump, on the other hand, has too often demonstrated contempt for the rule of law. He has sounded more like a strongman impatient with constitutional constraints. He advocates death to the innocent family members of terrorists…He advocates torture, not as a means of extracting important intelligence, but as a means of retribution. He said he would do a hell of a lot more than waterboarding.
Wichterman slammed Trump for praising dictators like Vladimir Putin – who is a strong leader in the same way arsenic is a strong drink – and the Chinese officials who Trump says showed “strength” by slaughtering peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square. He cited examples of Trump encouraging violence against protesters. “Trump admires strength whatever form it takes,” he said, which is “inimical to the Gospel.”
Wichterman challenged people who say they won’t vote for Clinton because they believe she’s a liar, but will vote for Trump hoping that he’s been lying and doesn’t really mean what he says. Trump, he said, corrupts his supporters and corrupts “what it means to be a Republican.”
Regarding the argument that God uses bad people for good purposes, Wichterman said that doesn’t mean Christians are called to do bad so that good may result. “I’ve heard some evangelical leaders say we need a bad man to stand up to the bullying of the left…It’s almost as if we’re hiring a hitman to play dirty for the sake of good government,” which is an idea, he said, that “has nothing to do with our faith.”
Wichterman said the argument that Trump is a good man, a humble man, a truth-teller, “completely mystifies me.” He cited a litany of Trump outrages, including the implication that liberal judicial nominees should be assassinated and his reckless talk about rigged elections, which could be a set-up to civil strife. “If Trump is a good man, then I’ve got an entirely different definition of what ‘good’ is,” he said.
In his response, Jackson provided an example of the kind of double standard on truth that Wichterman had talked about. Jackson said Trump ran his primary like a “shock jock,” saying things to get attention, but that he is “growing.” Jackson said that people have been failed by both parties and that Trump can be a “change agent” who can move America forward by “pragmatically” addressing race and class issues.
In his response, Wichterman took on Jackson’s “shock jock” justification for Trump’s comments. What should concern us more, he asked, that Trump means the “profoundly destructive” things he says, or that he doesn't really mean them but says them to get some votes? He thinks Trump’s repeated expressions of admiration for Putin suggest that brute strength is “what he really appreciates and adores.”
He returned to his criticism of Trump’s support for dictators and his dog-whistle on “Second Amendment” responses to possible Clinton judicial nominees. “Is that the kind of society we want,” he asked, “where we’re killing one another over our disagreements?” Wichterman said it makes his blood boil when Trump talks about “knocking the crap out of” people. Trump, he said, is “profoundly reckless” with the rule of law, which is “a precious thing.”
When the NRB’s Johnson started a Q&A session, Parshall responded to Wichterman’s support for McMullin, who is a Mormon, by attacking Mormon theology and Mitt Romney:
What I want to know is why we didn’t have this discussion four years ago. We had a man from Massachusetts who was pro-abortion before he was pro-life, who was supporting Obamacare before he said he opposed it. But far more importantly, because this is an evangelical conversation, I love my friends who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve coalesced and worked with them on many an occasion. But this is an ecclesiastical conversation. That candidate wore underwear that he felt would protect him from harm, believed that Jesus was Satan’s spirit brother and believed that Jesus had returned already to the earth but only to the southern hemisphere. And yet we have a member of our panel who yet again is advocating another Mormon. If we’re going to have an ecclesiastical conversation about evangelicals, then let’s put doctrine on the table and see if that’s our driving factor.
In response to a later “lesser of two evils” question, Wichterman seemingly responded to Parshall’s attacks on Mormons by saying “I know many non-Christians who have wonderful character, and I know many Christians who have deplorable character.”
In response to a question about whether Trump’s comments about immigrants and others had been misinterpreted as “blanket statements,” Erickson said it is troubling that those in the alt-right who embrace a kind of white “tribalism” hear Donald Trump and think he is one of them. The campaign, he says, has made a mistake in “fostering those dog whistles for that group.”
Johnson asked Wichterman about a video created by Catholics for Trump meant to suggest that Trump’s much-criticized mocking of a disabled reporter might have been a more generic form of making fun of people. Even if you give Trump the benefit of the doubt in that specific instance, Wichterman said, Trump has a habit of “unapologetically” making fun of people for how they look, something Wichterman said is “corrosive to our national character” and “says something deeply wrong about the man’s character.”
In his closing remarks, Wichterman said people do not have to give into a binary choice. The founding fathers, he said, didn’t trust majorities, which is why they built in checks on power, including the electoral college. “I think we need to take seriously Trump’s words,” he said, “and we need to stop hoping that he’s just a huckster and a charlatan and just lying all the time.”
Bishop Harry Jackson, a member of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, joined fellow advisory board member Mark Burns on his “The Colors That Unite” program on Sunday to discuss “why African Americans should vote for Donald Trump.”
Responding to a caller who said that she feared for her white son and his wife who live near Ferguson, Missouri, Jackson directed listeners to his “The Reconciled Church” website, which he said offers ways to combat “the problem of race in America, black lives matter and all of that.”
But, he said, nothing can be done without “a spiritual awakening,” which can never be achieved under Hillary Clinton “because her agenda is anchored in anti-biblical darkness”:
I think we win this battle against racism heart to heart, house to house, community to community. And I think we’ll win, ultimately, we need a spiritual awakening in America because of its sin. Now if we promote, though, unrighteous ideas like promulgating abortion … then we’ll hinder God’s process of restoration for the nation. So, for me, anybody but Hillary’s where I’m at because, just because her agenda is anchored in anti-biblical darkness, it is an ungodly ethos at the very heart of it, and Donald Trump is for free enterprise and he is for lift that will bring dignity to all people.
Today, Donald Trump’s campaign announced the formation of his Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, which includes right-wing figures ranging from ex-Rep. Michele Bachmann to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
After retiring from Congress on the heels of a campaign scandal, Bachmann has not let up in her radical preaching.
Next month, Donald Trump will host a meeting with some of the country’s most radical anti-LGBT and anti-choice leaders in New York City.
Trump, who has already recruited a variety of far-right activists and conspiracy theorists to his campaign, is set to take part in a convening organized by Ben Carson, a former rival turned campaign surrogate, aimed at bringing reluctant Religious Right leaders to his side.
According to a copy of the invitation to the event obtained by the National Review, Trump will be joined by Religious Right activists including Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Penny Nance, Jim Garlow, Rick Scarborough, Phil Burress, Ken Cuccinelli, Lila Rose, E.W Jackson, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Cindy Jacobs.
The meeting will be cohosted by the Family Research Council, Vision America and AFA Action, the political arm of the American Family Association, three of the most vicious anti-LGBT hate groups in the country.
Trump has already pledged to use nominees to the Supreme Court to pave the way for the reversal of the landmark rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality and has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, key priorities of right-wing activists.
Here is a brief introduction to some of the far-right extremists Trump will be meeting with next month.
Two major prayer rallies organized by Religious Right figures are being held on Saturday —one at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and one in Los Angeles. The two events will be linked with a simulcast “Bridge to Prayer.”
WorldNetDaily is excited about the event, promoting it with a breathless story, declaring “what an assembly it promises to be.” WND even tries to put a good face on the lousy weather forecast, saying, “Perhaps the Almighty is already calling attention to the event by providing some freakish spring weather, with the possibility of snow in the forecast. But hardy souls will brave the elements because they consider the gathering a divine calling.” A Thursday email from event organizer Lewis Hogan was not so excited about the weather, urging people to pray away the rain.
This is not the first “solemn assembly” called by Religious Right leaders to put America on the right path during an election year. While the Great Awakening whose beginning is predicted at every Religious Right event hasn’t yet materialized, organizers believe it’s just around the corner. Meanwhile, they say, America’s embrace of marriage equality is just asking for God’s wrath.
In WND’s story about United Cry DC, Rabbi Cahn complained that America hasn’t heeded his warnings:
In the course of the last few years, America has not turned back to God but has grown much farther from Him. We’ve witnessed a rapid acceleration in the nation’s apostasy from God and His ways. We have called good evil and evil good. We are now at the threshold of persecuting God’s people as we celebrate godlessness. The Bible is very clear on the consequences. To any nation that has been given so much as America, much is required. If we don’t turn back to God, we are advancing toward judgment.
“The fact that it is also the year of a presidential election and a critical moment with regard to the Supreme Court, raises the stakes even higher.
Radical Religious Right activist Janet Porter has released yet another trailer for her upcoming documentary "Light Wins: How To Overcome The Criminalization Of Christianity," which features a who's who of anti-gay activists as well as several Republican members of Congress and presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.
"Like a tank in Tiananmen Square," Porter says, as she walks down the middle of a dark street as a pair of headlights bear down upon her, "the homosexual agenda has been running over people since Anita Bryant's courageous stand in the 1970s."
After that, it is nothing but 10 minutes of anti-gay activists calling upon Christians to rise up and fight back against the "homosexual agenda."
Among the participants we immediately recognized in this new clip are Huckabee, David Barton, Gary Glenn, Steven Hotze, Robert Knight, Judith Reisman, Stacy Swimp, Greg Quinlan, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Brian Camenker, James Dobson, Bill Donohue, Scott Lively, Frank Pavone, Dutch Sheets, Phyllis Schlafly, Rick Scarborough, Gary Bauer, Mark Crutcher, Jerry Boykin, and Harry Jackson.
At one point, Gohmert declares that it is the duty of Christians to "love people who engage in homosexualty" because "we all have family members that we think are making major mistakes with their lives, but you can still love them."
Later, Pastor Steve Witt declares that just as God would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah if only 10 righteous people could be found, so too can most American cities be spared, but only if thousands of people will take a stand against homosexuality.
At the end of this new clip, Porter is shown in an empty football stadium, warning that "the battle for our freedom is being fought while most Christians are on the sidelines. We need to get out of the stands and into the game because the Super Bowl for our country is being fought and our team is not even on the field."
Subtlety and nuance aren’t this crowd’s strong suits. In fact, it wasn’t that hard for us to come up with a list of at least 15 scheduled summit speakers and panelists who believe that America has gotten so bad under Obama’s leadership that the country has become just like Nazi Germany.
Soon afterwards, Perkins said a caller on his “Washington Watch” radio show “hit the nail on the head” when she claimed Christians in America are about to be “loaded in cattle cars like it was when the Nazis took over.”
2. Mike Huckabee
Former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee agreed last year that it was “the truth” that bills introduced to prevent gun violence are just like what happened in Nazi Germany. “[T]hey’ll start saying, ‘Oh there you go comparing to the Nazis.’ And I understand the reaction, but it’s the truth,” Huckabee said. “In every society and culture where dictators take over, one of the things they have to do is get control of the military and the police and ultimately all of the citizens and make sure the citizens are disarmed and can’t fight in the streets.”
Huckabee has also claimed that the legalization of same-sex marriage will compel Christians to defy the government in order to uphold their religious beliefs, just like people who aided Jews broke the law during the Holocaust : “It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal.”
Family Research Council executive vice president Jerry Boykin accused President Obama of reviving Hitler’s Brownshirts through the health care reform law.
“Remember Hitler had the Brownshirts and in the Night of the Long Knives, even Hitler got scared of the Brownshirts and killed thousands of them. So you say ‘are there any signs that that’s happened?’ And the truth is, yes,” Boykin said in 2010. “If you read the health care legislation which, by the way nobody in Washington has read, but if you read the health care legislation it’s actually in the health care legislation…. It's laying the groundwork for a constabulary force that will control the population in America.”
6. Michele Bachmann
At a campaign stop in New Hampshire during her presidential bid, Bachmann said that government inaction on the national debt reminded her of the world’s silence in the midst of the Holocaust. “We are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to,” she said.
In 2012, Bachmann alleged that the administration was “aiding and abetting” an Islamist plot to take over America and the rest of the world, calling on people to read about the Islamic “belief system” and find out “what they truly believe” just like how “the most important thing a person could do in World War II during that conflict was to read the book that the leader of Germany wrote.”
7. Jim Bob Duggar
In a speech to the 2013 Values Voter Summit, Jim Bob Duggar said his visit to Nazi concentration camps reminded him of the U.S., saying that the Holocaust is “where we are at in our nation.” When asked by reporters about his statement, Duggar said that America is experiencing “a baby holocaust.”
8. Todd Starnes
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes said last year that the so-called “War on Christmas” and purported acts of anti-Christian persecution under the Obama administration made him wonder if he was living in the U.S. or Nazi Germany: “This is not 1930s Germany, gentlemen, this is the United States of America, and unless people of faith stand up and put a stop to this, we very well could be facing a 1930s Germany here.”
9. Mat Staver
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel believes that the U.S. under President Obama’s leadership is now actually worsethan Nazi Germany. He said this month that the Obama administration surpassed Nazi Germany’s crimes by “forcing” people to “participate in a genocide” through the contraceptive coverage mandate. He has alsorepeatedlyargued that legal abortion is the same as the Holocaust.
Earlier this year, Staver drew a Nazi analogy while demanding that conservatives more strongly oppose gay marriage: “This is not an issue in which you can remain silent any more than you can remain silent during Nazi Germany.”
So it is amazing that in the name of liberality, in the name of being tolerant, this fascist intolerance has arisen. People that stand up and say, you know, I agree with the majority of Americans, I agree with Moses and Jesus that marriage was a man and a woman, now all of a sudden, people like me are considered haters, hate mongers, evil, which really is exactly what we've seen throughout our history as going back to the days of the Nazi takeover in Europe. What did they do? First, they would call people "haters" and "evil" and build up disdain for those people who held those opinions or religious views or religious heritage. And then the next came, well, those people are so evil and hateful, let's bring every book that they've written or has to do with them and let's start burning the books, because we can't tolerate their intolerance.
11. Mark Levin
Conservative talk radio show host Mark Levin claimed last year that President Obama was organizing a Brownshirt paramilitary to defend and promote the Affordable Care Act. “All they need is special uniforms,” Levin said of Obamacare supporters. “Learn how to march and salute and carry flags. I think brown would be good, you know, Brownshirts.”
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Levin said then-presidential candidate Obama was “really into these big German-like events” reminiscent of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
12. Ed Vitagliano
After the 2008 election, the American Family Association’s Ed Vitagliano urged the organization’s members to pray for President Obama just as one would pray for Adolf Hitler to veer away from his wicked ways. He especially urged his readers to pray to block Obama’s “plans to push both abortion and the gay agenda.”
“Obama is like Hitler because, while Hitler primarily slaughtered the Jews in the Holocaust, Obama’s support for abortion is similarly evil,” Vitagliano said. “Now I think the moral equivalency of the Holocaust and abortion is a good, defensible argument. Both objectified a category of human beings and then took horrifying steps to pursue their murder. The depths of evil connected to the Holocaust and abortion are equally difficult to comprehend.”
They want to impose their will on the culture and if you cannot reproduce you may try to recruit, and what I mean by that is what is going on is an attempt to reshape, refashion the mind, hearts and desires of the next generation. Many Christians are sitting back and we aren’t speaking out, but the reality is just like during the times of Hitler we have people coming after one group after another group after another group, and folks are saying, well this doesn’t affect me I’ll let this slide, we have a problem that really we have a whole generation of people who want to affect not only their lives and choices but the choices of another generation.
14. Rick Santorum
After losing his 2012 presidential bid, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum became a Christian film producer, and he recently unveiled a new movie called “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty.” Santorum’s latest film depicts the U.S. in a dire state eerily similar to Nazi Germany, warning that America’s transformation into a tyrannical, Nazi state will be complete thanks to the silence of conservative Christians. You can get some of the flavor of the film from its trailer, which includes footage of Germany in the 1930s.
While campaigning against for president, Santorum also told a church gathering that people should get involved in his bid to defeat Obama just as the Greatest Generation fought the spread of Nazism.
15. Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz launched his faux-filibuster against Obamacare by arguing that refusing to fight the implementation of the health care reform law was just like appeasing Adolf Hitler, and people who didn't support his plans to stop the law were like Neville Chamberlain.
As Jon Stewart explains, “Ted Cruz says we’re at Defcon Nazi.”
Santorum said the movie will be released in September. His EchoLight Cinemas is trying to create an alternative to Hollywood distribution channels by building a network of thousands of tech-equipped churches who will sell tickets for "One Generation Away" and other movies. He says the long-term strategy is to bring more people into churches and put the church back at the center of the culture.
"One Generation Away" is described as a documentary, but it’s really a preaching-to-the-choir call to arms for conservative Christians and pastors to get more involved in culture war battles while they still have the freedom to do so. Among the film’s producers are Donald and Tim Wildmon from the American Family Association, which Santorum said is packaging a shorter version of the movie into more of an activist tool.
The title comes from Ronald Reagan – specifically from a speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1961, a time in which Reagan was working with conservatives to rally opposition to Medicare – “socialized medicine”:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
The thrust of "One Generation Away" is that religious freedom in the United States is disappearing fast, and if the church doesn’t fight for it now, it will soon be gone forever. Before running the film on Monday, Santorum quoted Cardinal Francis George, who said during the debate about insurance coverage of contraception, “I expect to die in my bed. I expect my successor to die in prison. I expect his successor to be a martyr.” That’s just the kind of hyperbolic “religious persecution” rhetoric we have come to expect from Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy.
At one point toward the end of the movie, it seems as if the filmmakers might be striking a more reasonable tone, with a couple of speakers saying that Christians should stand up for the rights of people of different faiths — even though the AFA’s chief spokesman opposesFirst Amendmentprotections for non-Christians— and others actually acknowledging that it is problematic for American Christians to be complaining of “religious persecution” over policy disputes when Christians and others are facing horrific, deadly persecution in many other parts of the world.
But that caution is quickly abandoned as the movie makes a direct comparison of the status of the Christian church in America with the church in Germany as the Nazis came to power. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who tried to mobilize German Christians to resist Nazi tyranny and was executed by the regime, is held up as the model that American Christians need to be willing to follow.
Eric Metaxas, a Bonhoeffer biographer who became a Religious Right folk hero when he questioned President Obama’s faith at a National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, warned that if the church doesn’t link arms to fight, all will be lost. “The good news,” he said, “is that the American church is slightly more attuned to the rumbling heard in the distance than the German church was in the 30s. The bad news is, only slightly, right?”
The movie cuts to Mike Huckabee saying that Bonhoeffer could have saved his life if he had been willing to soften his faith, but that instead he resisted and rebuked the Nazi regime. And then we’re back to Metaxas to complete the Nazi analogy:
“The parallel today is simply that. You have a government, a state, which is getting larger and larger and more and more powerful, and is beginning to push against the church. There’s a window of opportunity where we can fight. If we don’t wake up and fight before then, we won’t be able to fight. That’s just what happened in Germany. And that’s the urgency we have in America now. And people that’s incendiary, or I’m being hyperbolic. I’m sorry, I wish, I wish, I wish I were. I’m not.”
Filmmakers said at the screening that they had conducted 75 interviews for the movie, and it sure feels like it. It includes names that will be well-known to RWW readers, like Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Alveda King, Robert George, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration, and Ryan Anderson and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation.
Also appearing are Rep. Doug Collins; Rick Perry backer Robert Jeffress; Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, which sponsored the infamous and discredited Regnerus “family structures” study; Stephen McDowell of the dominionist Providence Foundation; Gregory Thornbury of Kings College; lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, the Beckett Fund, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund; and a number of pastors.
The film also includes interviews with some opponents of the Religious Right, including Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Princeton’s Peter Singer, and Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Santorum told the audience at Heritage that he wishes he had even more of his opponents included in the film because “they scare the hell out of me” and would help motivate the right-wing base.
In order to keep the movie from being one brutally long succession of talking heads, the filmmakers resort to a tactic of constantly shifting scenes, a couple of seconds at a time, in a way that feels like they got a volume discount on stock images of Americana: boats on the water, kids playing softball, families walking together. There are also odd random fillers, like close-ups of the pattern on a couch in the room in which a speaker is sitting. The endless, repetitive succession of images actually makes the film feel even longer than it actually is. (Zack Ford at ThinkProgress had a similar reaction to this technique.)
The meat of the film, or the “red meat,” mixes the personal stories of people being victimized by intolerant secularists and/or gay activists with miniature David Bartonesque lectures on the Christian roots of America’s founding; the fact that the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the U.S. Constitution; the notion that the American government is trying to replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” and require any expression of faith to take place behind church walls; and the disgracefulness of making any analogies between the civil rights movement and the LGBT equality movement. The 1947 Supreme Court decision in which Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” phrase was invoked by the Court and “changed everything” is portrayed as nothing more than a reflection of Justice Hugo Black’s hatred of Catholics.
Featured “persecution” stories include:
a long advertisement for Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, which recently won its legal battle against the contraception mandate;
a baker and florist who ran afoul of their state’s anti-discrimination laws when they refused to provide services for a same-sex couple getting married;
cheerleaders at a public high school in Texas who were challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for creating football game banners featuring Christian scriptural quotes;
Catholic Charities being “forced” to give up adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples;
an ACLU challenge to a large cross at the Mt. Soledad war memorial; and
the supposed frontal attack on the religious freedom of military chaplains as a result of allowing LGBT members of the armed forces to serve openly. On this issue, Tony Perkins declares, “The military is being used as a vanguard of radical social policy. And in order for that policy to permeate and to take root, you’ve got to take out the religious opposition.”
In spite of the parade of horrors, the movie tries to end on an upbeat note, saying that the early Christian church expanded while it was being suppressed, and that it will only take “one spark of revival” to change the nation. A familiar theme at Religious Right conferences is that blame for America’s decline rests with churches that don’t speak up and pastors who don’t preach or lead aggressively enough. One Generation Away ends on this point, telling Christian pastors it is their responsibility to wake up and challenge their congregants to live their faith “uncompromisingly.”
During the Q&A after the screening, Santorum said the fact that Hobby Lobby was a 5-4 decision demonstrated the importance of the 2016 election. “Part of me almost wishes we’d lost,” says Santorum, because that would have made the threat clearer to conservative activists. “We are one judge away,” he said, adding that “if we get a Democratic president, our five, or four-and-a-half, justices are not going to hold out forever.”
“I just worry,” he said to the young people in the audience, “that the longer we delay, and America sleeps, and your generation is indoctrinated the way it is, the harder it will be to come back.”
Citizens for Community Values is holding "Four Days of Prayer for Marriage" before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments against Ohio's gay marriage ban.
David Wasserman says Lenar Whitney is "the most frightening candidate I’ve met in seven years interviewing congressional hopefuls."
Finally, Phyllis Schlafly longs for the good old days when we "used to teach women to be smart and not go alone to a man’s bedroom, especially if she has had too much to drink" unlike today "where mixed signals confuse men into sex that a woman can later call assault."
Jackson counselled the pastors to make sure that every lay leader in their churches can “bring a New Testament apologetic on why homosexuality is not the will of God, why God didn’t make anyone that way, and why it’s all right to speak up, speak out and keep on speaking.”
“We’re not just fighting a political battle, but we’re dealing with principalities and powers and this present darkness in the land,” he added.
Rodney Howard-Browne is organizing a Washington D.C. prayer event, Celebrate America, complete with a promotional video that includes a gay couple alongside images of a strip club, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and Agenda 21 as threats to America.
At another Holy Laughter event, Howard-Browne says he healed a man of cancer.
Jerry Boykin and Harry Jackson have also endorsed the event, with Boykin telling the Christian Broadcasting Network that America is “beginning” to “completely self-destruct”:
"At the root of America's problem, we really have a spiritual cancer that's been eating away at our nation," Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, told CBN News.
Retired Gen. Jerry Boykin used to fight America's physical enemies overseas. He's now working with the Family Research Council fighting spiritual foes.
Boykin said without a Third Great Awakening, forces like those that took down mighty empires of the past will also bring down the United States.
Howard-Browne pointed to the epidemics of abortion and illegal drug use in the nation. "Three-thousand babies aborted every single day in this country. We have over 300 million people; we use over 70 percent of the world's drugs," he said.
They'll be holding 14 days and nights of mega-sized meetings and street evangelism in the nation's capital as America celebrates its 238th birthday. They're calling it Celebrate America.
"We've come to light the fires right in the belly of the beast, if you can put it that way," Howard-Browne said.
Later this month, a Religious Right gathering is scheduled to take place in Texas called "San Antonio in Black, White, and Brown" which, as the name suggests, is aimed at unifying the White, Black, and Hispanic communities in order to establish a "Biblical worldview" in the city:
David Barton and Harry Jackson will be among the speakers at this event, sharing the stage with several other figures who played high-profile roles in Gov. Rick Perry's Dominionist-dominated "The Response" prayer rally back in 2011, including Doug Stringer and, more interestingly, Alice Patterson of Justice At The Gates.
In fact, Patterson wrote a whole book about it which I have just finished reading called "Bridging the Racial and Political Divide: How Godly Politics Can Transform a Nation" in which mentions how she went to hear Chuck Pierce speak in Louisiana where he preached on "Saul Structures" at which points she realized that the Democratic Party is "an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure" that is, quite literally, controlled by demonic forces:
As Chuck described Saul Structures, my thoughts raced to politics. "Oh my God, Chuck is describing the Democratic Party!" This was the first time I'd ever considered that an evil structure could be connected to and empowered by a political party ... One strong fallen angel cannot wreak havoc on an entire nation by himself. He needs a network of wicked forces to restrain the Church and to deceive the masses. Unlike the Holy Spirit, who is everywhere at once and can speak to millions of people simultaneously, the devil can only be in one place at a time. By himself Satan would be totally ineffective, but in cooperation with other powers of darkness he erects structures to deceive and manipulate entire nations ... At the time I was listening to Chuck Pierce in Louisiana, I hadn't given any thought at all to strongholds in political parties. If I had ever thought about it, of course, it would have made sense, but it was new information. As Chuck's words began to sink in, I asked the "Lord, Father, what is the demonic structure behind the Democratic Party?"
Patterson goes on to explain that "the demonic structure behind the Democratic Party" is in fact "the Jezebel structure" which is rooted in long-ago Democratic support for slavery and which remains today because of the party's support for reproductive and gay rights.
Harry Jackson has worked closely with Mike and Cindy Jacobs for several years, but we were still a little surprised to see him film something of an infomercial for their Generals International ministry that aired during the most recent episode of "God Knows."
In an effort to raise money for the Jacobs' ministry, Jackson recounted a time when America was on the brink of war and Mike and Cindy called a meeting of top religious leaders in Washington, DC where they revealed, through divine inspiration and revelation, when the war would start and how it would unfold.
As such, Jackson told the viewers, if they are willing to donate financially to the Jacobs' ministry, they too can receive just such "prophetic anointing" for themselves:
And what sort of miraculous gifts can one expect to receive through partnering with Generals International? Well, as Mike Jacobs later explained, a translator who once worked for him when they were preaching in a foreign nation was able to fix a trucking company's broken radio system simply by laying his hands upon it:
Religious Right leaders are lining up to endorse Rod Parsley’s new book, The Cross, which is about how American culture and even Christian churches have “degraded the significance of the cross.” Parsley, who has also authored works such as Silent No More, Culturally Incorrect and Living On Our Heads, is best known for his Prosperity Gospel preaching, opulent living and right-wing politics.
Seeing that Congress was in the midst of a battle over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, ex-gay activists may have wished they chose a different day to come to Washington.
While organizers denied Right Wing Watch’s registration to the dinner focused on getting more attention for stories from ex-gays, the conservative outlet WORLD was allowed into the event, and reported that activists vowed to go on the offensive:
Greg Quinlan, president of PFOX, led a group of about 15 ex-gay activists to lobby on Capitol Hill earlier in the day. “In order to win the culture war on homosexuality, it’s going to take ex-gays telling their stories,” Quinlan said during fiery remarks that prompted a standing ovation.
Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, finished the evening with a keynote address urging former homosexuals not to back down and let the naysayers stop them from fulfilling their God-given potential.
“Gay activists have actually paved the way for us,” said Christopher Doyle, president of Voice of the Voiceless. “We need to scream and yell for equality and justice for all. We can no longer afford to be on the defensive.”
The “Ex-Gay” community loves to complain that LGBT acivists, the media, and public officials ignore their existence. They portray themselves as martyrs to political correctness. And they’re tired of it! So this year, they decided to make a big splash.
Unfortunately, plans for an “Ex-Gay Pride Month” in July imploded: a rally expected to draw “tens of thousands” drew fewer than a dozen. A dinner celebration planned for the Family Research Council building was postponed with vague explanations about security concerns.
Organizers – including Voice of the Voiceless, Equality and Justice for Fall, and PFOX – regrouped and declared September to be “Ex-Gay Awareness Month.” The culmination of the month is supposed to be this coming Monday’s “First Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month Dinner and Reception.” Organizers have lined up anti-gay activist Harry Jackson to give the keynote address, and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver – whose anti-gay credentials are unquestionable – to receive the “2013 Ex-Gay Pride Freedom Award.” Also set to be honored is a “former Satanic drag queen,” Trace McNutt.
What is not clear is how the event will raise the “awareness” of anyone except the attendees. The event is being held at a secret location. Organizers asserted their right to exclude anyone who they didn’t think was already completely signed on to their agenda. My payment was returned without explanation. When I sent a note asking if my registration had been rejected, I received a one-word reply: Yes.
As I told PFOX, I had no intention of being a disruptive presence. I just wanted to hear and report on what was said. You know, bring some awareness to the event. But then I took another look at the registration form and found this disclaimer:
Code of Conduct -- PFOX requires attendees to sign and adhere to certain standards of conduct, and is not responsible for the individual conduct of attendees. We reserve the right to refuse any person to register or attend for any or no reason at our sole discretion, and disruptive conduct will be grounds for removal without a refund. Attendee agrees to uphold the principals [sic] and beliefs of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays -- that we support the ex-gay community, ex-gay rights, and providing hope to those with unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion that change is possible. No cell phones, recording devices or photos may be used or taken during the event. I agree to the above conditions
No photos. No recording. No one who doesn’t already agree with them. They must be bursting with pride.