Jay Sekulow

GOP Presidentials Line Up to Kiss Ralph Reed's...Ring

Remember that “game-changing” endorsement of Rick Santorum by a group of evangelical leaders desperate to deny the Republican nomination to Mitt Romney?  As Brian reports, there wasn’t really that much of a consensus in Texas.  And it certainly didn’t make it to South Carolina, where Romney, Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Perry all paraded before a gathering convened by Ralph Reed’s “Faith and Freedom Coalition” just hours before the latest debate.  All had their fans in the crowd, and Gingrich seemed to have more, or at least more vocal, backers, than Santorum.

“We are here today because we say unapologetically and unequivocally that there cannot be true freedom without faith in almighty God,” announced the disgraced-and-rebounding Reed, who led the Christian Coalition to prominence in the 1990s and launched the Faith & Freedom coalition in 2009 as a voter turnout machine for conservative evangelicals.  He claims that he is going to register 2 million new voters on his way to compiling a database of 27 million voters who will be contacted over and over up and through Election Day.  “If you thought we turned out in 2010, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” he warned Democratic leaders.  Reed said “in 2012 we’re going to stand up and be counted and we’re going to say that people with faith in God aren’t what’s wrong with America, they’re what’s right with America and we need more of them engaged and more of them involved.” 

The audience may not have been united on a candidate, but the candidates were unanimous in their avowed devotion to the Religious Right’s anti-abortion, anti-gay agenda, and their promises to fight “secularism” and the Obama administration’s alleged love affair with European-style “socialism” and its supposed “war on religion.” Also on the list: promises to repeal “Obamacare,” appoint right-wing justices to the Supreme Court, and shrink government.  Reed promised that a Republican Congress and president would “dramatically slash” the corporate tax rate and take the capital gains tax to zero.

Rick Perry, whose once-mighty support has virtually evaporated in recent months, promised to set the audience on fire.  His rambling remarks – punctuated with fist-pumping exclamations like “God and country!” – were well received, but South Carolina doesn’t seem likely to resurrect his candidacy.

The Supreme Court

Several candidates and their backers talked about the importance of the next president’s ability to appoint Supreme Court justices.  Jay Sekulow, head of the Religious Right legal group American Center for Law & Justice, is one of Romney’s most prominent Religious Right backers.  Sekulow talked about counting to five when he prepares Supreme Court cases, and said he was confident that with a President Romney making appointments in the mold of Justices Roberts and Alito, “I’m not going to have to worry about my math skills.” Reed, who introduced Gingrich, cited Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito as the kind of justices he was looking forward to – and not someone like Sotomayor.  The Obama administration’s Justice Department also came in for sharp criticism, with Reed saying that Attorney General Eric Holder needs to “go back to where he came from.”

Pursuit of Happiness: The Gay Exception

One candidate after another cited the Declaration of Independence’s reference to the unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”  -- and then went on to call for a constitutional amendment that would prevent any state from allowing same-sex couples to get married.  Romney said he would defend the Defense of Marriage Act and called for a constitutional amendment on marriage.  Santorum said government based on the principles of strong faith and strong families was needed to constrain bad behavior and immoral activity.  Perry dropped his voice to a dramatic whisper to assure gay people that “I love you regardless of what you’ve done. I hate your sin, but I love you.”

Threats to “Religious Liberty”

Many speakers argued that Christians in America are besieged by rampaging secularists.  Romney said President Obama had put America on a path to being “more and more of a secular nation.” Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) asserted, “The greatest minority under assault today are Christians – no doubt about it.” Rick Perry decried liberals in Congress and on the courts who he said wanted to “whitewash the public square of all spiritual references” and “sanitize from our history books our Judeo-Christian roots.”  “If I am president of the United States, I will not allow them to do it! I will welcome people of faith to the public arena!” said Perry.  “This is our country, ladies and gentlemen. This is our time. And it is time for people of faith to take this country back!”  Romney and Reed promised that 2012 would bring more than political victory; it will bring spiritual awakening and renewal to America.

Ron Paul’s Biblical Economics

Journalist Adele Stan has reported on Ron Paul’s ties to Christian Reconstructionists and their religious view of limited government. Paul cited the Bible to support his monetary policies, saying “The Bible says we’re supposed to have honest currency and we’re not supposed to print the money.”  He also cited Biblical stories from Isaiah and Elijah about the importance of the “remnant” – the small number of people who could be counted on to hear the word of God.  The portrayal of conservative Christians as the righteous remnant is a popular theme at Religious Right gatherings.

Romney v (Gingrich v Santorum)

The current story of the GOP primary seems to be whether Santorum or Gingrich can rally enough conservatives who distrust Romney to wrest the nomination away from him.  On one South Carolina radio station, Gingrich and Santorum ads ran back to back on Monday, each making the “electability” case.  Santorum and Gingrich both attacked Romney’s ability to challenge “Obamacare,” and each used their remarks to argue that they could best carry the banner of unapologetic conservatism.   Santorum bragged that he opposed the Wall Street bailouts while Romney, Gingrich, and Perry supported them.  He claimed that he was the only one whose economic plan was grounded in building strong families.  Gingrich pledged that he would challenge Obama to seven 3-hour Lincoln-Douglas-style debates, even offering to let Obama use a teleprompter (those jokes never go out of style at GOP gatherings), saying, “I think I can tell the truth without notes better than he can lie with a teleprompter.”  Gingrich’s brashness was mirrored in the comments of Rep. Trent Franks, who once called President Obama an “enemy of humanity,” told the Faith & Freedom crowd that in a debate with President Obama, Gingrich “will eat Mr. Obama’s cookies and all accoutrements thereto.”

Appropriating a Sanitized MLK

Several speakers noted that the Faith & Freedom rally and GOP debate were taking place on Martin Luther King Day.  Romney expressed admiration for King, who he referred to as “a great man.”  But King’s Poor People’s Campaign and demand for government help in finding people jobs would not have won any praise from Romney or others at this event.  Neither would Jesus’ teaching that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.  Building on the backlash against Gingrich and Perry’s criticism of Romney’s record as a “vulture capitalist,” Romney denounced “class warfare” and charged that Obama wants to create an “entitlement society.”  Obama, he said, wants to replace ambition with envy, and “poison the American spirit by replacing a sense of unity with a sense of class warfare.”  According to Romney, believing “one nation under God” means not noticing economic inequality. Others took the same line. Santorum, who says it’s un-American to even talk about a “middle class,” said Obama “wants to rule us” and thinks he can win by “dividing America up.”  He said that Obama is destroying the incentive to create wealth.

In his eagerness to rally the Founding Fathers to his side, Romney mangled history in a way that called attention to the importance of MLK Day being more about learning and less about empty platitudes.  According to Romney, the Founders’ choice of words about the unalienable right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence indicated that they meant to create an opportunity society.  “This would be a nation where people would pursue happiness according to their dreams,” said Romney. “We would not be limited by the circumstances of our birth, we would not be limited by our race or gender…”   Well, Mr. Romney, we’re closer to that ideal, thanks to the work of Martin Luther King and countless others, but the founders were quite willing to limit people’s opportunities based on race and gender.  And they weren’t the last.

PFAW Calls on Romney to Apply Religious Bigotry Standard to his Own Endorsers

At a news conference, Mitt Romney urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to disavow the remarks of his endorser Robert Jeffress, a Religious Right leader who has called Mormonism a "cult." People For the American Way today echoed Romney’s appeal to Perry, but also urged both candidates to disavow endorsers who have perpetuated misinformation about and fear of American Muslims.

The Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism

Under the guise of defending freedom and American values, right-wing anti-Muslim activists are campaigning to prevent Muslim-Americans from freely worshiping and practicing their religion, curtail their political rights, and even compel their deportation

Free speech, Irresponsible Speech, and the Climate of Intolerance in 2009

Shortly after anti-government terrorist Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, President Bill Clinton urged Americans to challenge those who use powerful political and media platforms to promote the kind of inflammatory falsehoods that poison public discourse, make civil conversation impossible, and can ultimately lead to violence. The reaction from right-wing leaders of the day was sadly predictable and by now familiar: they claimed that Clinton was seeking to "silence" voices of dissent, even though his speech affirmed that the First Amendment protects both the purveyors of irresponsible speech and those who challenge him.

Right Wing Follows Deceptive Script On Supreme Court

A day after news of Justice Souter's planned resignation broke in the news, "dozens" of right-wing leaders representing more than 60 groups got together for a strategy call organized in part by the Judicial Confirmation Network to get everyone fired up and on message. All you need to know about the credibility of this campaign's leaders, and the credibility of their evaluations of potential nominees, is contained in this one sentence from the Judicial Confirmation Network's Wendy Long: "The current Supreme Court is a liberal, judicial activist court."

The Right Re-Tools as a 'Resistance Movement'

Now that the Religious Right and the Republican Party are regrouping from significant electoral defeats, many progressives as well as pundits are tempted once again to dismiss the movement or the continued threat it poses to the constitutional principles of equality, privacy, and separation of church and state. But the legal, political, grassroots, and media infrastructure that has been built steadily over recent decades is still largely in place. It maintains a powerful ability to shape public debate and mobilize millions of Americans. And it is finding a renewed focus in opposing the Obama administration and obstructing progressive change.

The 'Big Lie' Strategy: Religious Right Stokes False Fears of Religious Persecution

On February 5, 2009, the U.S. Senate took up an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to strip church-state protections from the stimulus bill. The amendment failed 43 to 54 after DeMint repeated the inflammatory claims he had been making all week and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) swiftly and effectively refuted them. The creation of a phony crisis that DeMint's amendment was supposed to solve is a case study of Religious Right leaders' strategic use of false alarms about threats to religious liberty &emdash; and of the willingness of right-wing media and elected officials to play along. Watch now, in the wake of the amendment’s defeat, for Religious Right leaders to use the vote as "evidence" that Democrats are hostile to people of faith and to try to undermine support from religious Americans for the new administration.

Statement of Ralph G. Neas on the House Constitution Subcommittee Hearing on the Federal Marriage Amendment

Today, Americans will witness the sad and sorry spectacle of right-wing legal and political activists urging Congress to reject strides toward equality and to pass a constitutional amendment that would require every state to treat some Americans as second-class citizens.

Back to School with the Religious Right

The Religious Right continues to target public schools in a variety of ways that disrupt education and threaten religious liberty, according to a report released by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). The report provides an in-depth analysis of the struggle over the future of our public education system by focusing on six categories: creationism; textbook controversies; sexuality education; religion and public schools; anti-gay activity and censorship.

Anti-Gay Politics and the Religious Right

An analysis of the Religious Right's anti-gay policies and activities, leading up to the Christian Coalition's 1998 Road to Victory Conference.

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