James Lankford

Right Wing Round-Up - 6/17/14

Ted Cruz, Archbishop Lori Will Address FRC's 'Watchmen' Pastors

The Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall conference is an annual gathering for pastors and other church leaders to hear from a panoply of right-wing speakers and get motivated to “transform America.” Our coverage of last year’s event highlights speakers’ attacks on evolution, secularism, Islam, LGBT people, and other tools of Satan.

This year’s conference, which takes place in Washington DC May 22-24, has been promoted by FRC for months.  In April, FRC sent an excited alert that Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party and Religious Right favorite who is reportedly mulling a 2016 presidential bid, had confirmed.

Based on other confirmed speakers, it seems likely that there will be two major themes to this year’s gathering: 1) religious liberty in America is under attack by Obama and his gay allies; and 2) only the church – led by uncompromising fired up pastors – can save freedom and America.

A notable addition to the cast of conservative evangelicals is William Lori, Archbishop of the Diocese of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. Lori has led the bishops’ attack on the Obama administration’s proposed regulations requiring insurance coverage of contraception.  Lori, who believes that “aggressive secularity” is “becoming the established ‘religion’ in our country today,” will be right at home with his friends at the Family Research Council. A typical FRC Action mailing from Tony Perkins earlier this year said President Obama is out to “crush freedom.” The same letter warns about “death panels” under Obamacare, which Perkins calls “the tip of the tyranny-iceberg.”

Also entertaining the Watchmen will be Rep. James Lankford, who earlier this year blamed gun violence on “welfare moms” overmedicating their kids with psychiatric drugs because they “want to get additional benefits.”  At FRC’s Values Voter Summit in September, Lankford said of the dispute over contraception coverage, “this is not a war on women, this is a war on people of faith.” 

Also confirmed is Ergun Caner, who lost his position at Liberty University after Muslim and Christian bloggers, and then journalists, began to expose the falsehoods in the Jihadi-to-Jesus life story that Caner had used to make a name for himself in the post-9/11 evangelical universe. Caner will probably echo his remarks at the 2009 Values Voter Summit, where his message to Christians who were not being outspoken enough on the issues of the day: “You need to preach, teach, and reach, or just shut up and get out of our way.”

Anti-gay activist Harry Jackson is quick to invoke Satan and other demonic powers as the forces behind the gay rights movement, which he portrays as an enemy of religious freedom. He has charged that a “radical” gay element is trying to “close down every church in America.” In fact, one of his columns was titled,” Why do Gays Hate Religious Freedom?”  Jackson’s apocalyptic anti-Obama rhetoric did not convince many Black Christians to vote against Obama, but Jackson thinks they’ll be sorry. God, he says, will “take out” those who chose “race over grace.” Jackson is a long-time FRC ally; he and Perkins co-authored Personal Faith, Public Policy, which calls Supreme Court rulings on church-state issues “assaults” on Christianity.

Jim Garlow, a California pastor who led church backing for Prop 8 in California and was then tapped by Newt Gingrich to run one of his political groups, had warned before the election that an Obama reelection would destroy the country.  During an FRC post-election special Garlow said that Christians should expect massive persecution from the government.  At last year’s Watchmen on the Wall conference, Garlow spoke at a press conference attacking President Obama’s use of religious language to describe his support for marriage equality. Evoking the words of a colonial preacher, Garlow said, “if necessary, here we die.” In an FRC DVD promoting Watchmen on the Wall, Garlow says an FRC-produced video was crucial to the Prop 8 win.

Richard Land is retiring in October after 25 years as head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty commission; he was dogged by controversy during the past year over plagiarism charges and racially inflammatory remarks he made regarding the Trayvon Martin killing.  Land has charged that the only reason the Obama administration proposed regulations on contraception coverage was to "set the precedent of ramming this down our throats and forcing us to surrender our First amendment freedom of religion." Land says God will unleash judgment on America for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Watchmen will also hear from Jacob Aranza, whose 1983 book Backward Masking Unmasked warned that rock music was encoded with satanic messages that would entice teens into drug use and abnormal sexual behavior. Aranza says he burned “hundreds of thousands” of albums in those days. More recently, Aranza was an endorser of Rick Perry’s “Awakening” and participated in Religious Right strategy sessions convened by James Robison to try to prevent Obama’s re-election. In 2011, Aranza and Perkins appeared together on Robison’s television show, and Aranza gushed about Perkin’s work to mobilize pastors:

Tony Perkins is one of the great heroes in America today. He is a hero because it is unseen. He is uniting and equipping the most important people in America, and that's the pastors in America. If the local church is the hope of the world then pastors are the hope of the local church. Tony Perkins exists to encourage them and to equip them and to empower them. He's taking regular pastors -- the average church in America, James, as you know is less than 200 people; 80% of the churches in America are 200 or less -- and he is taking men like that and he is turning them into absolute heroes, just like pastors in Maine who are literally changing the moral fiber of an entire state because he has equipped them and empowered them and told them they're the people that are supposed to be the hedge of builders, and he is encouraging them to do just that.…I believe that as you speak you are literally trumpeting a sound that is encouraging pastors across America and families across America that are Christians to unite together to see God once again bring spiritual awakening to our nation.

JC Church is one of FRC’s pastor leaders “networking churches in Ohio to answer the call on moral issues.”  His 3 Cord Alliance, which is affiliated with FRC, teaches pastors “how to bring sound scripturally based influence and change to your community.” Church has been praised by Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values: “I believe that if all the pastors in Ohio were like Pastor Church, we would have an army that Satan could not stop. He understands that America is led by the pulpit and we count on him to unite fellow pastors and their congregations to be the salt and light we so desperately need in the world today.”

Jack Hibbs is a California-based preacher who also pushed Prop 8; in 2011 he helped lead an unsuccessful effort to overturn the state’s SB 48, which he charged would lead to public schools indoctrinating students.  In a video urging pastors to get involved, he said it is not enough to teach and preach the word of God, pastors needed to be “culture changers for Christ.” Leading into the 2012 election Hibbs was outspoken about the fact that Christians should vote for Romney over Obama. In a radio show the day after the 2012 elections, He says he was on the phone with Tony Perkins on election night and they had both believed that the outcome was up to the church: “The answer wouldn’t be determined in the White House or the statehouse….the answer for righteousness or unrighteousness, for light or for darkness, for liberty or tyranny, would be decided by the pastors.” Given the way things turned out, Hibbs says “I believe the responsibility, the outcome, and the fallout falls into the hands of the pulpits of America’s pastors who did not speak up….” Hibbs also echoes Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks: “those who are looking for handouts, they don’t want to work, they want the government to give things to them, overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama.” Hibbs said he was disappointed but not discouraged, because “God’s on the throne” and therefore “God has appointed him to be our president for God’s purposes – OK that means God has got some pretty gnarly purposes coming for America.”

There’s a special role at the conference for FRC’s executive vice president, retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin.  Boykin retired from the military after being reprimanded by then-President Bush for making speeches depicting the war on terrorism as a Christian holy war against Islam. FRC hired Boykin last year after he was disinvited from speaking at West Point after faculty and cadets objected.  Boykin and his Religious Right allies portrayed his mythical martyrdom as an attack on freedom of speech and religion. At last year’s Values Voter Summit, Boykin invoked Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler in denouncing what he said is an effort to move Americans away from belief in a sovereign God.  He says everything President Obama is doing is right out of the” Communist Manifesto.”

Perkins seems to be counting on Boykin to strong-arm pastors at the conference into making a concrete commitment to political activism. In an insert in a packet mailed to pastors, Perkins says Boykin will offer the “concluding challenge” – and he insists that pastors book their flights home no earlier than 4pm so that they can stay.  “During the Briefing, we will share details of the strategic plan the Lord is using to bring revival and renewal in communities around the nation through the engagement of pastors. At the end, we have a ‘call to decision’ or ‘invitation’ sort of like many of you do in a worship service. Just as you want those attending your worship service to stay and respond, we would respectfully ask the same of you.” Perkins has some leverage – FRC picks up most of the tab for one pastor from each church.

FRC launched Watchmen on the Wall in 2004. A 2010 promotional DVD said the group was up to 14,000 pastors; it said Perkins’ goal was to have 40,000 Watchmen pastors by 2015. Pastors who sign up get access to regular briefings, model sermons, and other toolkits for mobilizing their congregations and communities.  The same promotional video contains a clip of “historian” David Barton quoting 19th Century preacher Charles Finney saying, in effect, that if the country is going to hell, it’s pastors’ fault.  The notion that America can only be saved by more aggressive preachers is a recurring theme at Religious Right gatherings, including Liberty Counsel’s recent Awakening conference.

Common Sense Gun Solutions Struggle Against Mindless NRA and GOP Opposition

The big gun lobby and its yes men in Congress, it seems, are much more interested in protecting the loose regulations of the gun industry than they are with taking practical steps towards public safety.
PFAW

Sally Kern, Who Says Homosexuality is 'More Dangerous' than Terrorism, to Headline Conservative Conference

Oklahoma Republican state representative Sally Kern made national news several years ago when she claimed that the “homosexual agenda” is “the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.” While she argued that her remarks were taken out of context, Kern just last year charged that homosexuality is “more dangerous because it will tear down the moral fiber of this nation.” Homosexuality is something we “have to deal with every day,” Kern said, “Fortunately we don’t have to deal with a terrorist attack every day.”

She has also maintained that homosexuality should be criminalized and will lead to bestiality and pedophilia, along with destroying America. “We do have an enemy who wants to destroy us,” she told Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, “They are using sexual perversion to destroy the future of America, the future of our children, and we don’t have a minute to lose.”

All of these extremist anti-gay statements have made Kern a good fit for Concerned Women for America’s “Take a Stand” rally [PDF] at Oklahoma City’s Rock Church. Also speaking will be Rep. James Lankford, who said that homosexuality is a choice and employers should be able to fire someone simply for being gay, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

Listen as Kern maintains that homosexuality is America’s “biggest threat” and “more dangerous” than terrorism:

You know if you just look at it in practical terms, which has destroyed and ended the life of more people? Terrorism attack here in America or HIV/AIDS? In the last twenty years, fifteen to twenty years, we’ve had maybe three terrorist attacks on our soil with a little over 5,000 people regrettably losing their lives. In the same time frame, there have been hundreds of thousands who have died because of having AIDS. So which one’s the biggest threat? And you know, every day our young people, adults too, but especially our young people, are bombarded at school, in movies, in music, on TV, in the mall, in magazines, they’re bombarded with ‘homosexuality is normal and natural.’ It’s something they have to deal with every day. Fortunately we don’t have to deal with a terrorist attack every day, and that’s what I mean.



It’s more dangerous, and yes I think that it’s also more dangerous because it will tear down the moral fiber of this nation. We were founded as a nation upon the principles of religion and morality, if we take those out from under our society we will lose what has made us a great nation, we will no longer be a virtuous people, which we see happening already. And without virtue this nation will not survive.

Rep. Lankford Doubles Down, Defends Comments on Employers Being Able to Fire Gay Employees

Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) earlier this week told Think Progress that being gay is a “sexual preference” and a “choice issue,” and that he wouldn’t support employment protection legislation because people aren’t born gay. While speaking with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins today on Washington Watch Weekly, Lankford insisted that being gay is a behavioral choice and people shouldn’t receive “special privileges” for it in the workplace:

Perkins: The idea there is they’re looking for special protections; your point is that everybody should be treated equally, no one should be fired or denied employment based upon their sexual orientation, in the ideal world we won’t even know about it, why would we even ask that question?

Lankford: Right. But neither should you have a situation where no one can fire you because of your behavior outside of the workplace, we also should not be in a situation where there are special protections extended to say ‘if I have a certain sexual behavior then you can no longer fire me, I’m a protected class and I can do whatever I want in the workplace,’ that’s not true either. So we are trying to be able to keep that balance, when you say you create special rights you also create special privileges and protections to say that they are untouchable in the workplace and they can have any kind of work conduct they choose to on that, that’s not correct. This is one of those instances where we look at every individual as created in the image of God, every person as valuable to God but every person has to be able to show that they are going to work hard and do the right thing in the workplace and outside.

He also spoke with Perkins and American Family Association president Tim Wildmon on Today’s Issues where he distorted the Think Progress report while accusing them of misrepresenting what he said, which he apparently doesn’t realize is on video.

Perkins: This is really a case study on how the left is working these days, what they do is they go and they try to ambush somebody and get them to say something or say something and take it completely out of context in which they made those comments, they slap a false headline on it, and then they feed that to the more, and I say more not ‘completely,’ legitimate news outlets, it gets on to places like MSNBC and they just hound it. I wonder though, Congressman, does this really get beyond the liberal media? How many normal people actually watch these things and respond to them?

Lankford: Well, it depends on what they are picking up and what they are reading and who else picks it up. When they throw an inflammatory headline out there saying, ‘Congressman Supports Firing People Because They Are Gay,’ then immediately people begin to pick it up and say ‘oh goodness.’ Of course when you read the story, there is no story in it, there is no fact to that headline, but it even reached into Fox News.

Actually, that wasn’t the headline, which is: “GOP Rep. Lankford Explains Why It Should Be Legal To Fire Someone For Being Gay: ‘It’s A Choice Issue.’Think Progress did not claim that Lankford wants to fire people for being gay but said he thinks it should be legal for employers to do so.

Immediately following Lankford’s appearance, Wildmon lashed out at LGBT-rights advocates for their “vile, wicked, [and] evil ways,” which he says reveals “the depravity of that lifestyle,” while Perkins astoundingly maintained that the Religious Right never speaks poorly of the LGBT community:

Wildmon: These homosexual and lesbian, transgender, bisexual, I don’t know if there’s any other word left that they are using now, these activists out there, they act in the most vile, wicked, evil ways, I’m telling you.

Perkins: Everything they accuse Christians of doing, which they don’t generally do, I have not found many on this side, if they do they are not acting in the character of Christ, but they do everything they accuse everybody else of doing.

Wildmon: Oh yeah, they will threaten you, they will call you names, they will post things on your Facebook pages and things like that and it just shows the depravity of that lifestyle, quite frankly, not all of them but a lot of the activists, man they are vile.
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