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.”
Twentieth century, let’s see, we left the secularists in charge…We had Hitler, we had Joseph Stalin and we had Mao. 120 million people [killed]. It gets worse. In the second half of the 20thcentury, we’ve murdered 400 [million] babies through abortion in China and 50 million in the United States. Let’s see, there are 500 million people we have killed in the 20th century. It’s one-tenth of the number of people who are living today, almost one-tenth.
How did we do that? We let the secularists in charge. You can’t let the secularists in charge! You have to get involved.
-Chuck Stetson, CEO of Essentials in Education, speaking at Skyline Church's Future Conference, June 2015
First they came for the adoption ministry, but I did not speak out, because I did not do adoptions.
Then they came for the wedding photographer, but I did not speak out, because I did not do photographic weddings.
Then they came for the baker, and I did not speak out because I was not a baker. Then they came for the florist, but I said nothing, because I was not a florist.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
-Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, paraphrasing Martin Niemöller at the Future Conference
Last week, a few hundred pastors, parishioners and activists gathered at Jim Garlow’s Skyline Wesleyan Church outside of San Diego for what Garlow called the “Future Conference.” The name of the conference appeared to have two meanings. First, in the words of its marketing materials, that “what you thought was coming…is here now” — in other words, that a great spiritual clash in which Christians are called to be martyrs has arrived. And second, that ultimately, the future will belong to conservative Christians as they wrest control from secular authority and take “dominion” over the country and the world.
The themes of imminent martyrdom and eventual dominion dominated the four-day conference, in which 56 speakers gave what added up to more than 24 hours of TED-style speeches.
The event was heavily tinged with “seven mountains” dominionism, the idea that Christians are called by God to be leaders of or to wield dominant influence over the seven main areas, or “mountains,” of culture — not only religion and family, but also government, business, education, media and entertainment.
Garlow himself has been very active in politics, as one of the organizing forces behind the effort to pass the Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban in California and a proponent of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, the movement that encourages pastors to break the rarely-enforced IRS rule that prohibits tax-exempt churches from endorsing or opposing candidates for office. Garlow has especially close ties with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to whom he gave partial credit for inspiring the conference. Gingrich submitted a video address to the conference, as did two current Republican members of Congress, Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma.
Speaker after speaker lamented the failure of the church to engage in the “culture” — through media, through education, and most importantly through politics. As Garlow wrote in an introductory letter to attendees:
Allow me to be direct: our nation is in trouble. Deep trouble. But you already knew that. That is one of the reasons you are at the FUTURE Conference. But why is our nation in trouble? Because of (how do I say this nicely?) the church. What is lacking? A clear proclamation of biblical answers to the messiness of our culture. Does the Bible actually speak to civic and national issues. Yes, it does!
Secular government and culture, the message was, are creating chaos at home and around the world. And pastors and believers who fail to engage in the wider world are letting it happen.
Just as important was the idea that, as Garlow put it, “you and I were made for this moment.” The going has gotten tough, the message was, not just for Christians facing violent persecution in places like Syria and Iraq, but also for conservative American Christians who claim to feel marginalized by advances in gay rights and who fear a potential Supreme Court decision striking down gay marriage bans. Glenn Beck, promoting the conference with Garlow, said that he knew of 10,000 pastors who were willing to die fighting this supposed anti-Christian persecution in America.
Most speakers were careful to point out that these threats are on very different orders of magnitude, although some hinted that American Christians were on the path to much more difficult times.
This was a spiritual battle that a disengaged church was letting the forces of darkness — radical Islam, the “redefinition of marriage,” abortion rights, pornography — win. Territory would have to be regained.
A ‘Spiritual Battle’ Against Gay Marriage
As is patently obvious, this is a spiritual battle. We need the intercession of every prayer warrior, every angel, and certainly the Holy Spirit. We must bombard the gates of Heaven ceaselessly for God Almighty to reverse our tragic cultural course and restore marriage to the venerable and beautiful institution that He did create.
-Frank Schubert, National Organization for Marriage political director, speaking at the Future Conference
While Garlow gathered speakers to talk about a host of imminent threats to American Christians including terrorism, abortion rights, an economic collapse, pornography, welfare and unbiblical movies, at the top of nearly everybody’s minds was the upcoming Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.
Garlow took hope in a presentation from Troy Newman, head of the anti-choice group Operation Rescue, who boasted of a decline in abortion providers in recent years. “If America can survive long enough,” Garlow said, maybe, like in the anti-abortion struggle, a new generation will rise up and see “the casualties from same-sex marriage are so horrific, this has got to be stopped in our nation.”
He elaborated on the “horrific” consequences of marriage equality in an address to the audience the next day, referring to the thoroughly debunked study by sociologist Mark Regnerus that purported to show all manner of negative outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples.
“I’ve been concerned with how many Christians, how many pastors, cannot make the theological case or the sociological case for marriage,” he said. “The redefinition of marriage, sociologically, will be profoundly destructive, profoundly harming. The Regnerus report out of the University of Texas is going to be only one of many examples of many that will follow that are going to show the catastrophic consequences, the pain, the suffering inflicted on the human race by this redefinition of marriage.”
Schubert, a political strategist who works with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), similarly cited Regnerus’ questionable conclusions as he urged audience members to give money to NOM and to prod their pastors to speak out against marriage equality because “being silent on the most important issue of our day turns it over to the forces of darkness.” If your pastor refuses to speak out against gay marriage, he advised, “I would look for a different church.”
Schubert said that while anti-gay advocates “could very well win” the marriage case before the Supreme Court, Christians must be prepared to use “any and all efforts to encourage resistance” to a ruling they disagree with, “short of violence.” Christians, he said, should “renounce as illegitimate” any Supreme Court decision that attempts to “redefine” marriage.
NOM’s president, Brian Brown, delivered a similar message, telling attendees that the success of the LGBT equality movement means “the days of comfortable Christianity are over.”
“Things have been good for a long time for us,” he said. “We don’t experience the sort of persecution we’re witnessing in the Middle East. We don’t fear for our lives in coming together and worshipping. We’ve felt for a long time that we’re a part of dominant culture. Now in the course of the last decade or so, maybe a little longer, we’ve realized that’s not the case. Things are starting to change. And that, to put it bluntly, the days of comfortable Christianity are over.”
A Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, he said, would “put a lie into law” and “that law will be used to marginalize, repress and punish those of us who stand for the truth of marriage.”
Claiming that Obama administration policies opposing the violent repression of gay people overseas are actually persecuting people who oppose marriage equality, Brown said that what’s happening to Americans is nothing in comparison and so U.S. Christians should be “cheerful” about “being persecuted.” “What we see and we go and work with folks from around the world is a whole other level of hatred,” he said. “Be cheerful, be happy, you’re being persecuted! Quit being so weak! Okay? What I’m trying to say is, if that’s happening we must be doing something right!”
Anti-gay activist Michael Brown had a similar message, saying that previously bullied LGBT people have now become the “bullies” and that the LGBT rights movement “will not be satisfied until the church bows down.”
Garlow told the crowd that they were “moving into a time of testing” where evangelicals would have to stand up to the predominant culture. He recalled a “vision” he had all the way back in 1990 in which he spoke with God about a future in which there would be “churches being closed by government” on the basis of “the civil rights of homosexuals.”
But no speaker took the gay-marriage panic as far as Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who spoke to the conference via video. Marriage equality, Staver warned, will cause “a cataclysmic social upheaval in every conceivable area.”
Touting a pledge to disobey any marriage equality ruling that he has recruited hundreds of prominent anti-gay activists to sign, Staver said that gay-marriage opponents must be prepared to resist such a ruling just like the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement resisted segregation and Jim Crow: “I think we’re back in the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. If they tell you to get off the bus, you don’t get off the bus. If they tell you to go to the back of the bus, you don’t go to the back of the bus.”
“This could be the best, most magnificent time for the church,” he said. “It is moments like this, where there is an unprecedented clash, where there’s impossible odds, that God will intervene for his people.”
Staver closed his speech with a rewritten version of anti-Nazi dissident Martin Niemöller’s famous “First they came for the socialists” lines, appropriating them to warn that the supposed persecution of bakers, florists and wedding photographers who deny service to gay people will open the door to a much wider persecution of Christians in America.
Beware Muslims! (Unless They Agree With You On Gay Rights)
Christians are being enslaved and beheaded and burned alive across the Middle East and he’s silent. Christians are being threatened and intimidated and sued and sequestered in Middle America and mum’s the word.
-Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, speaking of President Obama at the Future Conference
Although most speakers were careful to say that the supposed persecution of American Christian conservatives at the hands of the LGBT rights movement is on an entirely different order of magnitude than that being faced by Christians at the hands of ISIS and oppressive Islamist governments, there was a sense of joint martyrdom, that both are fighting for spiritual ground against forces allied with Satan.
As Steven Khoury, an Arab Israeli pastor, put it, “persecution is coming to America,” and he was there to help Americans learn how to stand up to it.
Garlow invited a few of the top anti-Islam activists in America to warn that the country, if it lets its guard down, risks facing subjugation at the hands of American Muslims. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy warned that since 9/11, millions of Muslim immigrants have staged a “colonization” of America. He warned pastors in the crowd against any sort of interfaith dialogue with Muslims or letting Muslim groups use their church facilities, which he said “is really about providing political cover to Muslims who don’t deserve it.” Anti-Muslim activist Stephen Coughlin similarly warned pastors against falling for the “interfaith delusion.”
But nobody had a more dire warning than right-wing activist Avi Lipkin, who told pastors that “all” churches in America have been infiltrated by Muslim spies pretending to be Christian converts. These moles, he warned, are cataloguing Christians and Jews in order to kill them all when Muslim jihadists take over.
All of the talk of "religious liberty" and threats to the First Amendment seemed to be conveniently forgotten when Lipkin endorsed laws such as Switzerland’s ban on minarets, declaring: “Until Islam is banned and suppressed and erased, the Jews will not have any chance to survive in this country.”
However, he had some good news: Muslim immigration to America, he predicted, would drive U.S. Jews to the Middle East, setting up a conflict in which Islam will be “finished.” “I predict Islam will be terminated very soon,” he said to enthusiastic applause.
It was jarring, then, to later in the very same day, hear a speech from Austin Ruse, the head of the conservative Catholic United Nations advocacy group C-FAM, in which he said that some of his greatest allies in the fight to stop “radically secular countries” from inserting LGBT rights and reproductive health language into UN documents were representatives of Muslim countries.
“The pro-life, pro-family coalition in the United Nations is strange bedfellows,” he said. “It includes Muslims. And without a bloc of Muslim countries supporting life and family at the UN, we would have had a right to abortion a long time ago, and redefinition of family.”
Garlow took it upon himself to clarify this, taking the stage after Ruse's remarks to reassure the audience that “co-belligerency” with “people who are hostile to much of our values” is sometimes necessary when “they actually have an interest in some portion of our Kingdom values.” He compared Ruse’s work with Muslim countries at the UN to his alliance with Mormon leaders to pass Proposition 8 in California.
Throughout the conference, Israel was portrayed as a spiritual bulwark of the West against surrounding Satanic Islam — something exemplified by its relatively secular values. No one, however, mentioned, that Israel is one of what Ruse called the “radical secular countries” advocating for LGBT rights at the UN. Also ignored were policies such as Israel's public funding of abortion services or the fact that just days prior to the event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his "blessings" to LGBT Pride marchers.
Dr. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, tied together this idea that “secularists” are working in cahoots with radical Islam, aided by President Obama.
“For 67 years, we’ve disparaged dead, white, European males in our college classrooms,” he said. “Are we surprised that we now have a president whose first action was to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House and send it back to the British ambassador’s home? For 67 years, we’ve sent our kids off to sit under faculty who have panned a Judeo-Christian ethic and praised its antithesis. Are we surprised that we now have a White House that is seemingly more aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the PLO than it is Benjamin Netanyahu and Franklin Graham?”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — whom Garlow partially credited with inspiring the conference — put it a different way in a video address to the event, saying that Christians are facing simultaneous attacks from “secular totalitarianism” and “Islamic supremacism,” with the two factions allied in a “war on Christianity.” Gingrich, who has spent years warning that the U.S. will soon become a "secular atheist country" that is "dominated by radical Islamists,” has been working to court pastors like Garlow who have ties to the dominionist movement.
Christians are dual citizens. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ … We are also citizens of an earthly “kingdom” … In the absence of Christians taking their dual citizenship seriously, obeying the dual commissions faithfully, and attempting to follow the dual commandments devotedly, the devil’s crowd has taken over key places of influence in our culture largely by default, even in a nation where professing Christians are still in the majority.
- Family Research Council manual for establishing a church “culture impact team,” distributed to pastors at the Future Conference
The sense of the inadequacy of secular leadership that pervaded the Future Conference was summarized by Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, who told the Future Conference via video that secular government leads to rampant divorce, teen pregnancy, crime and gang violence, all of which invite a greater presence from Big Government:
Garlow painted a similarly bleak message, saying that the struggles of the city of Detroit are the result of a lack of “bold, biblical preaching and the application of scriptural truth to all components of contemporary life.”
“The absence of biblical truth being applied to a metropolitan area literally destroyed it,” he said.
Garlow didn’t specify which exact “biblical truths” Detroit is in violation of, but conservative activist Star Parker, who declared her intention to “destroy the welfare state,” might have provided some hints.
Parker told the gathering that the U.S. is “in a similar place right now in our country to where we were in the 1850s” when we were “half free and half slave.”
“And we’re at a crossroads again,” she said, “because we’re at the place where we’re half free and half slave. We’re in the battle of our lifetime, we’re in the battle for the very heart and soul of our great country, to go into a future, if we can, even as the Scriptures told us that God actually planned for us a future and a hope, and yet that future and hope is under attack.”
“We’re either going to come up out of this biblical and free,” she said, “or we gotta come up here secular and statist.”
Chuck Stetson, who runs a program that develops “biblical literacy” courses that clear the First-Amendment bar for being taught in public schools, had a similar message, claiming that the great genocides of the 20th century (in which he included abortion) were the result of leaving the “secularists in charge.”
Lamenting that “three percent of the population” (LGBT people) are defeating "70 percent of the population” (Christians), Stetson urged conservative Christians to develop a “broader concept of missions” and to get involved in politics as well as “literature, art [and] music.”
He used the metaphor of a cruise ship: Christians, he said, were gathering around the lifeboats in an effort to save souls, even while throughout the boat, “they’re breaking out the booze, bringing out the gaming tables. They need the Christians down there.”
In fact, the Future Conference, Garlow reported, started out as a sort of founding conference for the United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, a new group led by Joe Mattera, a New York minister who is a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). NAR is a controversial movement within evangelical Christianity which is led by self-declared prophets and apostles. Many of NAR’s leaders promote “seven mountains” dominionism, the idea that conservative Christians must take “dominion” over all seven “mountains” of culture in order to pave the way for Christ’s return.
(NAR and dominionism began to attract press attention back in 2011 when then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry hosted a rally featuring many NAR leaders. Its adherents then began to downplay its core themes, saying they were seeking more “influence” than “dominion.”)
Wallnau gave a Glenn Beck-style whiteboard presentation outlining the "seven mountains" theology for the audience, explaining that if the church doesn’t occupy each of the seven spheres of culture, “the Enemy will.”
“The reason why we’re having a problem in the United States is because, honestly, we have not been pursuing the discipling of the nation, we’ve been pursuing the evangelizing of the people and the building of ministries,” he said. “And so we’ve neglected entire territory that the Enemy was all too quick to go in and take possession of.”
Peacocke — the founder of a group that works with business and community leaders to bring “God’s kingdom to earth” — put the message succinctly when the told the enthusiastic crowd that Christians have been called to be leaders in every area: “We should be leading. Virtually every place there’s a Christian, they should be a manager, they should be management. We should have the relational skillset to manage wherever we go, because that is what Christians are called to be, responsible empowerers of other people.”
In his talk, Mattera clarified that he and his allies were calling on Christians to become “leaders of culture” not through force but through simply being the best in all fields. “We’re not called to take cities, we’re called to love them and serve them,” he said, “and once we produce the greatest problem-solvers the world has ever seen, the leaders of culture will come and beg us to lead, because they’re going to see that we’re the only ones who have the answer.”
He added that a key component of this would be to follow the scriptural commandment to “multiply” and “replenish” the Earth, which he specified means having more than two children per couple.
“In general, God has called His children to have more children than any other people,” he said, “so this way we will have the people to fill every aspect of culture, not just bodies, but trained in the covenant, because the word ‘replenish’ implies that they go and they fill the earth with God’s law, with the result being subdue the earth and have dominion.”
A practical guide to the political portion of this mission was provided by Kenyn Cureton, the head of ministerial outreach at the Family Research Council, who presented pastors and churchgoers with guides for establishing “culture impact teams” — basically political committees — within churches. Politically involved churches, he said, are “fighting a spiritual battle,” not against gay rights advocates or pro-choice groups, but against Satan, who has caught cultural liberals in his “snare.”
“Who’s behind the effort to snuff out human life through embryo-destructive research and abortion?” he asked. “Who’s behind the effort to indoctrinate our children with these alternative lifestyles, redefine marriage, and even ruin our military? Who’s behind the effort to drive God out government, Christ out of culture and faith out of public life? Who’s behind that? I mean, it’s pretty easy for us to understand as believers, it’s the Devil.”
Where Politics and Religion Collide
Although the focus of Garlow’s conference was largely on the twin evils of secularism and Islam, he also invited Black and Latino pastors with whom he had worked on resisting Prop 8 to discuss criminal justice reform, on which conservatives are increasingly engaging in bipartisan coalition work, and immigration, on which some evangelical leaders have been trying to get Republicans to adopt positions, or at least rhetoric, that is less offensive to Latino voters.
One of the most revealing moments of the conference came after a speech by Mark Gonzales, a Texas pastor who through his Hispanic Prayer Network seems to be attempting to connect the NAR movement with Latino evangelicals. Gonzales told the mostly white audience that God is using Latino immigration to bring “revival to America,” but that Satan is trying to stop that revival from happening by dividing the church on the issue of immigration.
And it’s not just religious revival that Latino immigrants will bring, he said. They will also help conservatives win elections.
“When God allows this many people to come into a nation, he’s up to something,” Gonzales said. He then made a well-rehearsed pitch to the conservative audience for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have long lived in the country if they first overcome a number of hurdles.
Immediately following Gonzales’s speech, Garlow came on stage to “clarify” for the crowd what Gonzales was saying. “What he’s talking about, so we’re all on the same page, is not amnesty,” he said.
Gonzales responded that anti-immigrant pundits do indeed call proposals like his “amnesty,” but using that word is the “biggest disservice we can do as the body of Christ.”
Parts of the audience clapped. Others did not seem sold.
Questions of biblical guidance and political expediency had, for a moment, become the same thing.
At today’s Future Conference, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., sent in a video message where he blasted the “so-called separation of church and state,” which he labeled a “false belief.”
Hice claimed that church-state separation has tricked Christians into ignoring their role in government and, as a result, the government has become more corrupt without the input of “uprighteous, nice people who have moral compasses.”
“There’s excuses like God is sovereign or we’re living in the Last Days and there is nothing we can do to change what’s happening, and listen, those things may be true, but those things never are a reason for us to not engage in what’s happening in our culture,” he added.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., told the Future Conference today that the separation of church and state inevitably leads to Big Government. Hice told guests to imagine two towns, one “a secular town" and one “that embraces a Judeo-Christian worldview.”
The secular town, Hice claimed though he has absolutelynoproof, will be so ridden with divorce, teen pregnancy, crime and gang violence that it will require government intervention: “That’s historically accurate.”
On the other hand, the town with a “Judeo-Christian worldview” won’t need a large government presence since it has few social ills.
“I am thoroughly convinced that it is impossible to have limited government in a secular society because of the problems that secularism creates,” he said.
The Benham Brothers: After reporting on HGTV’s plans for a new home improvement reality show starring notorious anti-gay, anti-choice extremist David Benham and his brother Jason back in May, the Benham brothers have now taken their tale of "persecution!" throughout the Religious Right speaking circuit.
Gordon Klingenschmitt: What a year for Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt! Klingenschmitt, whose whole career has been based on a myth about his supposed religious persecution in the military, used his “Pray in Jesus Name” program this year to spread the word that it’s basically child abuse for a kid to be raised by gay parents, and that transgender people are just in need of an exorcism and a spanking. (Of course, this is a man who once tried to perform an exorcism on President Obama.)
But in between spouting anti-gay vitriol and denouncing Obamacare, Klingenschmitt somehow managed to run a campaign for a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives and won! Congratulations to Colorado’s new anti-gay, demon hunting state legislator.
Texas State Board of Education: This year, we nominate the Texas State Board of Education for an Equine Posterior Achievement Award for their approval of social studies textbooksthat were more about the ideological beliefs of the board members than, you know, actual history.
It turns out that by branding themselves as members of a party that has returned to its mainstream, center-right roots after successfully stamping out a Tea Party rebellion, even “establishment” Republican candidates are able to hold all sorts of extreme views without any consequences.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a party that regularly endorses candidates who deny climate science and denounce evolution has moved the political center so far to the right that even candidates with radical views can still be treated as moderates. These days, Republicans win kudos simply for stating that they don’t want to ban birth control or destroy the economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.
This dynamic has allowed any number of conspiracy theories to flourish in the GOP. Here are five conspiracy theories that newly elected members of the United States Congress will be bringing with them to Washington next year:
Senator-elect Joni Ernst, a Republican of Iowa, shares their fears. Last year, Ernst predicted that Agenda 21 agents may start “moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers and then telling them that you don’t have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind and it’s bad for the United States, bad for families here in the state of Iowa.”
She later warned that Agenda 21 will compel people to move into designated “urban centers” and “take away our individual liberties, our freedoms as United States citizens.”
2) Just Making Stuff Up About ISIS
Never mind the fact that there have been exactly zeroofficialreports of ISIS members coming to the U.S. via the southern border, “closing the border” has emerged as a leading Republican talking point when describing how they plan to fight the terrorist group.
Tom Cotton, the Arkansas congressman who won his race for U.S. Senate yesterday, said during his campaign that his opponent and President Obama are “refusing to secure our border” and as a result, ISIS is now at the gates: “Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.”
While conservative politicians have denounced the science behind climate change as a big lie, some are very interested in the “science” behind “blood moons,” with more Religious Rightactivists arguing that lunar eclipses are actually signs of God’s impending judgment against America for policies such as abortion rights and LGBT equality.
“I certainly am aware of the fact that every time there have been blood moons like this, there have been major events that have followed,” he said.
Perhaps Congress should move to study blood moons rather than climate change!
4) Gay Recruitment in the Classroom
Are sex-ed classes just a secret plot to turn kids gay? Yes, according to Wisconsin state senator and soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, who once warned that some school classes are the result of an “agenda which is left unsaid is that some of those who throw it out as an option would like it if more kids became homosexuals.”
Grothman instead proposed that schools enact their own “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies, lest growing support for gay rights in the U.S. lead to divine punishment.
Hice, as it happens, shares Grothman concerns about gay recruitment, once citing a satirical 1987 essay to claim that gay people want to “sodomize your sons” and “seduce them in your schools.”
5) Identity of the Antichrist Revealed!
At least one Republican candidate knows the true identity of the Antichrist, and it’s Hillary Clinton.
“It’s time to stop the lies. Let’s talk about the truth,” Zinke said. “Who trusts the U.S. government?” he asked rhetorically. “No one in this room. I’ve served in 25 nations. I’ve seen where people don’t trust their government. We’re there. In the military, the last option is to send in the SEALs.”
Zinke said he wants to restore truth, grace, honor and decency, which he called “our moral compass. It’s always been Judeo-Christian,” he said. With the present administration, “It’s whatever you can get away with. I will never bow to pressure. I will do what’s right,” he said.
“We need to focus on the real enemy,” he said, referring to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom he called the “anti-Christ.”
After getting called out for the remark, Zinke later said that the “anti-Christ” comment was a joke.
So there you have it, in an election where pundits raved about establishment Republicans “crushing” Tea Party insurgents, it seems that the GOP establishment has simply appropriated the Tea Party’s tarnished brand of paranoid politics and unmistakable extremism.
Back in 2011, Georgia pastor and GOP politician Jody Hice appeared on the End Times radio broadcast “Trunews” to discuss the Penn State abuse scandal, which he blamed on the end of government-organized school prayer.
Hice, who is now the GOP nominee for the Republican-leaning U.S. House seat being vacated by far-right Rep. Paul Broun, told host Rick Wiles that the Penn State scandal was a result of America having “kicked the Bible out of schools and then prayer out of schools. We’ve just basically been going downhill since then and you get what you get [when] you kick God out.”
Werthmann, who was a child in Austria when it was annexed by Hitler’s Germany, spent the program going through what she saw as the similarities between that regime and America today, which Hice was eager to agree with.
“The parallels as you’re talking are just incredible with what we are seeing in America,” he said, adding that “like a politician here in America,” Hitler “made all these wonderful promises” before transforming into the “monster you never saw coming.”
“And so, you’ve got the nationalized education, nationalized banking, nationalized press that you alluded to, the nationalized medical care,” Hice said later in the program. “It sounds like you were describing America. And the last thing that you mentioned was the gun control. It sounds like you were describing to us tomorrow’s newspaper here in America. Every one of these issues we’re facing right now.”
“That’s right, that’s why I’m so fearful, it’s going so fast,” Werthmann replied, before warning that Obama’s appointment of “czars” signals the end of democracy.
This summer, we spent a couple of scintillating days listening the archives of a radio program hosted by Georgia pastor Jody Hice, who won the Republican primary for an open U.S. House seat and is now the favorite to replace outgoing Rep. Paul Broun.
From Hice, we learned that by accepting homosexuality, “we are enslaving and entrapping potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals in a lifestyle that frankly they are not,” that the Sandy Hook and Aurora gun massacres were the result of the separation of church and state, and that we ought to have our “antennas up” that blood moons coinciding with Jewish holidays could signal “world-changing events.”
As if we needed more proof that Rep. Paul Broun’s likely GOP replacement in the House, Georgia pastor and activist Jody Hice, will be just as enthusiastic a Christian-nation advocate as his predecessor, we stumbled across this clip from a 2011 broadcast of Hice’s radio show in which he laments that the separation of church and state is turning government into God and thereby destroying America:
“The more we remove God individually from our lives or culturally, the more secular we will become, which means that in place of God we’re going to set ourselves up or we will set up the state, the government, to fulfill the role of God,” Hice opined.
“That’s the only option is that’s what happens, and that precisely is why secularism is not, cannot, be neutral,” he continued. “Secularism, the belief system in itself, by doing away with God in turn sets itself up as God, either as an individual or as a government. That’s where we’re moving. And we are experiencing what we are experiencing in this country simply because of our continual drifting away from our Judeo-Christian principles, drifting away from our awareness and understanding and belief in God for so long that now we are reaping the consequences.”
Jody Hice, the GOP nominee for an open House seat in Georgia, said on his radio program in 2011 that “totalitarian” liberals have turned public schools into “camps for indoctrination,” a strategy he likened to Nazi Germany.
Hice seems to imply that the very existence of public schools is a Nazi-like scheme, but that liberals in particular are trying to maintain their “clutch” on public schools in order to control “the minds of children” and raise money from teachers’ unions:
Obviously, if we have government — which is what the public school is — if we have government indoctrinating what students are learning, then we have a problem. This took place in Germany, friends. I’m not trying to say we are necessarily headed in that direction, but it is undeniable that one of the first things Hitler did was to grab, so to speak, the minds of the youth. And once he was able to instill in those young minds his own ideals and his own philosophy and that of the Nazi Party, then the rest of it was pretty much a piece of cake. It was a cakewalk to go through once you had the minds of the schoolchildren at every age level.
It is likewise just as dangerous what we are witnessing today. And it’s obvious that the liberals in this country are going to be fighting tooth and nail to protect the public school system from getting out from underneath their total, absolute, totalitarian control. If it gets out of their control, they not only lose the minds of the children in this country, but they also lose enormous financial resources, as the teachers’ unions are the number one biggest supporter politically to liberal ideology. So there’s a lot at stake for the liberals to continue their clutch on the public school system.
Later in the program, Hice elaborated on his concerns, citing a book lamenting “political correctness" on college campuses to warn that public schools are training students to “disdain America” and to defend homosexuality and “the green agendas.”
“What happens when our schools become just nothing other than liberal – or, soften it up a little, progressive – camps for indoctrination, which in essence is what they have become?” he asked.
He warned that schools are engaging in “the intentional training of students to dislike, to actually disdain America” and “encouraging students to freely experiment with all forms of sexuality, forcefully defend issues like abortion and homosexuality and also just encouraging students to become cultural advocates for political correctness, and there’s no tolerance for political incorrectness.”
“There’s the push for relativism, for globalization, for environmental agendas, the green agendas and tolerance for everybody,” he continued. “All of this stuff is now being pushed upon children in the public school system.”
The conventional wisdom is that so-called establishment Republican candidates by and large triumphed over Tea Party radicals this election cycle. But the truth is that those victories were the result of a party establishment that itself has moved far to the right. Even where Tea Party candidates have failed, the Tea Party movement has increasingly remade the “establishment” GOP in its own image.
It is now core doctrine in the GOP to deny the science behind climate change, endorse sweeping abortion bans and engage in anti-government rhetoric reminiscent of the John Birch Society.
As Tea Party icon Michele Bachmann put it last week, while she may be retiring from Congress, she leaves with the knowledge that “even the establishment moved toward embracing the Tea Party’s messaging.”
Here, we look at five Republican congressional candidates who could be heading to the Capitol next year. Some have been labeled “establishment,” some “Tea Party,” but all are emblematic of the party’s strong turn to the right.
1. Joni Ernst
One Iowa conservative pundit has described state Sen. Joni Ernst, now the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, as “the choice of the Republican establishment” who has “been backed by national Republican establishment figures like Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Marco Rubio.”
But in today’s Republican Party, even an “establishment” candidate like Ernst can be just as extreme as a Tea Party insurgent.
Ernst subscribes to the radical,neo-Confederate idea that states can “nullify” federal laws that they deem to be unconstitutional — and even went so far as to suggest that local law enforcement officers can arrest government officials for simply administering federal laws.
In response to a 2012 candidate survey for a group affiliated with former congressman Ron Paul, Ernst pledged to “support legislation to nullify ObamaCare and authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement the unconstitutional health care scheme known as ObamaCare.” In a speech to a Religious Right group the next year, she criticized Congress for passing “laws that the states are considering nullifying.”
Not only does Ernst think states should simply be able to void laws they don’t like, but she also wants to abolish the federal minimum wage and eliminate federal agencies such as the Department of Education, the EPA and the IRS. She also came out in favor of a plan, known as the “Fair Tax,” that would scrap the income tax and replace it with a federal sales tax of 23 percent on nearly all goods.
Her anti-government paranoia even extends to taking on a non-binding United Nations sustainable development agreement, Agenda 21, which she warned will pave the way for the UN to remove Americans from rural lands and force them into cities. She has even disagreed with the official investigations finding that Iraq did not have WMDs at the time of the 2003 U.S. invasion.
But Ernst does support government intervention when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, sponsoring the Iowa personhood amendment, which would ban abortion in all cases along with common forms of birth control. “I think the provider should be punished, if there were a personhood amendment,” Ernst said, but has since insisted that she thinks the amendment would be purely symbolic.
In 2007, Tillis blasted government policies that “have redistributed trillions of dollars of wealth,” calling them “reparations” for slavery. The same year, he opposed a resolution apologizing for an 1898 massacre of African Americans in a North Carolina city, explaining that the amendment didn’t sufficiently honor white Republicans.
Tillis supported the repeal of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act — which allowed death-row inmates to appeal their sentences based on evidence of racial bias — and backed heavily restrictive voting laws designed to weaken the black vote. In a 2012 interview, he lamented that Democrats were gaining ground in North Carolina thanks to growing Latino and African American populations while the “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable.”
At an event in 2011, he suggested that the government cut public spending by finding “a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance” — specifically by setting disabled people against “these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government.”
He has now pivoted his campaign to focus on addressing the menacing specter of people infected with Ebola coming to Mexico to illegally cross the southern border into the U.S.
3. Jody Hice
Jody Hice entered politics as a Religious Right activist and a conservative talk radio show host, making him part of two worlds that are at the core of the conservative movement. Now, as the frontrunner in an open Georgia House seat, currently held by outgoing far-right Rep. Paul Broun, Hice is set to bring his right-wing agenda to Congress.
Hice made his first foray into politics by trying to convince local governments to erect monuments of the Ten Commandments in public places, which were deemed unconstitutional by, in Hice’s words, “judicial terrorists .” A Christian Nationalist, Hice thinks the founding fathers would support his congressional campaign and has posted on his Facebook page numerous fake quotes from our nation’s founders about the dangers of “Big Government” and the need to mix religion and government.
Hice outlines his political beliefs and fears in his book, “It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America,” in which he claims that abortion rights make the U.S. worse than Nazi Germany; endorses the fringe “nullification” theory; argues that Islam “does not deserve First Amendment protection”; and spells out his worries about gay people trying to “sodomize” children and persecute Christians, fearing that children will be “preyed upon” by gay “recruitment” efforts until they embrace “destructive,” “militant homosexuality.”
When armed militia groups gathered at the Bundy ranch in Nevada to back a rancher and race-theorist who refused to pay grazing fees for using federal property, Hice praised the groups that were threatening violence against law enforcement officers. He has argued that individuals have the right to have “any, any, any, any weapon that our government and law enforcement possesses,” including “bazookas and missiles,” in order to give citizens a fighting chance in a potential war against the government.
The GOP nominee blamed mass shootings such as those that occurred at Virginia Tech and in Aurora, Colorado, on abortion rights, the separation of church and state, and the teaching of evolution, and said that the Sandy Hook school shooting was the result of “kicking God out of the public square” with the end of school-organized prayer.
Hice also believes that we are now living in the End Times, worrying that “we have little time” left on earth and citing the appearance of blood moons as proof of imminent cataclysmic, “world-changing events.”
While Hice is worried about the destructive consequences of blood moons, he dismissed climate change as a “propaganda” tool of the “Radical Environmental Movement” to make people of believe in an “impending environmental disaster due to ‘Global Warming.’”
Grothman opposes abortion rights without exceptions in cases of rape, incest and a woman’s health, even working to make it a felony offense for a doctor to perform an abortion that could save a woman’s life. Grothman successfully passed laws requiring doctors to read scripts meant to discourage women from terminating their pregnancies, which he said was necessary because oftentimes “women are looking for someone to talk them out of it.” He also sponsored a 24-hour waiting period for abortions that only exempts survivors of “forcible rape” who file a police report.
The Republican lawmaker worries that “gals” are running — and ruining — America by leading a “war on men.” He has said the U.S. “is in the process of committing suicide today” as a result of single mothers collecting public benefits and pushed a bill to declare single parenthood “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect,” calling single parenthood a “choice” and the result of a culture that “encourages a single motherhood lifestyle.”
“I think a lot of women are adopting the single motherhood lifestyle because the government creates a situation in which it is almost preferred,” he said in a 2012 interview with Alan Colmes, adding that he believes women aren’t telling the truth about having unintended pregnancies: “I think people are trained to say that ‘this is a surprise to me,’ because there’s still enough of a stigma that they’re supposed to say this.”
In a similar vein, he defended Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to rescind a pay equity law because, according to Grothman, pay disparities are due to the fact that “money is more important for men.”
Grothman is a sponsor of the Wisconsin Personhood resolution [PDF], which would ban abortion in all cases and many forms of birth control, and his campaign has touted the support of personhood activists.
He once described Planned Parenthood as “probably the most racist organization” in the country, adding that he believes the group targets Asian Americans for abortion. In 2007, he voted against a bill that made sure hospitals provide information about emergency contraception to sexual assault survivors.
He opposes laws protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and once tried to strip a sex education bill of a nondiscrimination provision that he suspected was part of a plot to make kids gay. Grothman also demanded that his state refuse to follow a court order to recognize same-sex marriages, which he feared would “legitimiz[e] illegal and immoral marriages.”
Not content with just opposing gay rights in the U.S., Grothman also defended a Ugandan law that makes homosexuality a crime punishable by sentences including life in prison. He even suggested that “unbelievable” American criticism of Uganda’s law would prompt God to punish the United States.
Although Grothman fears that America might incur God’s wrath for standing up to state-sanctioned violence against gays and lesbians, he is less concerned about climate change, which he says “doesn’t exist.” Grothman told one interviewer: “This environmental stuff, this is the idea that is driven by this global warming thing. Global warming is not man-made and there is barely any global warming at all, there’s been no global warming for the last twelve or thirteen years. I see a shortage of Republicans stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘look, this global warming stuff is not going on.”
5. Zach Dasher
Taking advantage of his family’s new-found reality TV fame, “Duck Dynasty” cousin Zach Dasher is running for U.S. Congress in Louisiana in an election where the top two candidates advance to a runoff vote if no candidate takes over 50 percent of the vote.
Dasher cited the success of “Duck Dynasty” as one of the reasons he entered the race: “Five years ago, I didn’t see an opportunity or window of opportunity to get into this type of venture. But here recently, obviously with the family name and being able to get my message out there, I saw an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
Of his uncle Phil Robertson, who came under fire for making statements in a magazine interview defending Jim Crow and demonizing gays and lesbians, Dasher gushed: “The support of the family means a lot to me. We share a very similar background and philosophy, and our spiritual beliefs are the same as well. They’re going to be a big part of the campaign. I’m going to have Phil as my PR director, since he’s so good with the media.”
Robertson also appears in commercials promoting Dasher’s candidacy, and Dasher has said he agreed with Robertson’s remarks about the gay community. Dasher’s wife wrote in a blog post that just as people should break out of addictions to alcohol and heroin, gay people can “overcome” and “come out of” homosexuality and find “healing.”
One of Dasher’s opponents, Rep. Vince McAllister, is a freshman Republican congressman who said he would retire after he was caught on video kissing a staffer who was not his wife, then changed his mind. Dasher says he is running as an even more conservative candidate than the GOP incumbent, and has received backing from Tea Party and pro-corporate groups such as the Club for Growth and Citizens United.
“My platform begins with God. That’s really what this whole thing is about. In Washington, when we look at what’s going on, we see an erosion away from that platform,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We see the ruling classes kick God out and in His place they place themselves. That scares me because we didn't send these folks to Washington, D.C. to determine our rights, we sent them there to defend our rights.”
Dasher fears that the federal government “believes that they’re God” and is intent on “gain[ing] control over every aspect of our lives” as part of a plan to create a “culture of dependency.” In a personal podcast, Dasher said the “swift drift away from God will usher in tyranny and death,” warning: “Tyranny will get its foothold — if it already doesn't have it — and in the end, there will be mass carnage and mass death. It's inevitable.”
Dasher blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on atheists, whom he also accused of “brainwashing a generation ” through rap music and ushering in “moral decay” and the erosion of liberty. He said that schools should “arm the teachers,” arguing that laws targeting gun violence actually leave people as “unarmed sitting ducks, waiting for someone to come in and shoot their schools up.” Dasher recently claimed that the Second Amendment was established to allow people to defend themselves against “a tyrannical government,” warning that government officials intend to repeal the amendment in order to eliminate all other freedoms.
Although city officials have been backing away from the subpoenas, attributing them to overly zealous pro-bono lawyers, the Religious Right has turned the incident into a cause celebre, and Hice is on board, declaring on his radio program that the Houston incident is “the new Alamo” for anti-gay activists.
“This is the battleground now over traditional family,” he said. “And what is going to occur over this development is that we are either going to see this in Houston, Texas, be the beginning of the end of the LGBT assault, if you will, on freedom to practice religion and of traditional family values being rightfully defended, or this is going to be a huge step toward the ultimate collapse of religious liberty in America.”
He warned listeners that if they don’t get involved in Houston, “one day the government is going to be knocking on the door of your pastor.”
“This is the first attempt in this country where we have a widespread attack on pastors in an entire region. And if it is not stopped here, we are in for a serious problem regarding the attacks of religious liberty in this country,” he said.
Earlier in the program, Hice alleged that the subpoenas — which were related to a lawsuit over the validity of petition signatures — were in fact part of a scheme by Houston’s openly lesbian mayor to find sermons that she “might deem to be offensive or whatever” and bring charges against pastors for preaching from the Bible.
“They may be actually trying to bring legal charges against these pastors for sharing with their congregants scriptural passages,” he guessed.
Tomorrow, people in much of the world will have the opportunity to witness a rare “total lunar eclipse,” which could turn the moon a deep shade of red. But, be warned: such a “blood moon” isn’t just an astronomical curiosity. According to a story that WorldNetDaily has been pushing for months, it’s also potentially a message from God warning of the impending Last Days.
In an interview with WorldNetDaily published yesterday, Pastor Mark Biltz — who literally wrote the book on the “heavenly signs” disguised in blood moons — reports that tomorrow’s eclipse could potentially signal “that God is closing this chapter of human history” and warning us of the coming “Great Tribulation mentioned in the Bible.”
“All these signs, coming together at one time, are potentially the culminating signals that God is closing this chapter of human history,” Biltz said. “This could be the final curtain call before the Great Tribulation mentioned in the Bible. God has always wanted to warn His people, and the rest of the world, before He intervenes. What better way to communicate to us than through the universal language of heavenly signs that speak to every tribe, tongue, and nation?”
He said, “In the Old Testament, the prophet Joel states: ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come’ (Joel 2:31). In the New Testament, Jesus is quoted as saying: ‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light … And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:29-30).”
In an email promoting the article, WND backs up Biltz’s point by noting that since the last blood moon occurred, several terrible things have happened in the world, including the spread of the Ebola virus and the rise of ISIS.
If Wednesday morning's total lunar eclipse – the second so-called blood moon – is indeed a "culminating signal that God is closing this chapter of human history," then consider history's path since the last blood moon occurred in April:
The death toll from the newly identified Ebola virus had not yet reached 150, all in Liberia and Guinea ... far from the United States.
Early reports of crucifixions and other atrocities in Syria did not yet have the labels ISIL, ISIS or IS in most people's minds.
Something big is happening in the world and in time ...
“We have a majority of people who want to have a prayer before a ballgame and yet we are rapidly becoming a society where the minority rule,” Hice lamented, adding, “If you’re in the majority in a situation like this, the minority rules. I don’t believe that is the intent of our Constitution.”
“Who could possibly be offended” by a school-sponsored sectarian prayer, Hice asked, recalling that in his school athletic years a prayer was read before every game and “I don’t recall anyone on either side of our competition every being taken off in an ambulance to the hospital.”
GOP congressional candidate Jody Hice of Georgia took to his radio program this week to attack President Obama for “giving the appearance of a willingness to defend religious liberties” in the Middle East merely for “political advantage,” while “fighting against religious freedom here” through the HHS contraception coverage mandate.
“Our same administration is attacking us here in America while trying to defend others around the world,” Hice lamented.
On his radio program yesterday, Georgia GOP U.S. House nominee Jody Hice blamed court decisions barring school-sponsored prayer and the display of religious texts in public buildings for a “downward slide” in America, including low test scores, gang violence, drugs, teenage pregnancy and “promiscuity.”
“[A]s we have removed prayer and Bible and our Christian heritage from our public school, what has been the counter consequence?” he asked. “Has behavior increased or decreased? Has education gotten better or worse? Have our overall citizenship, our citizenry, have we become a better place to live or a worse place to live? Is there more drugs or less? More gang violence or less? More teenage pregnancy or less? More promiscuity or less?”
“Folks, across the board we have suffered,” he concluded.
So we had in 1952 a clear understanding of the role of religion in our public life, even in our schools. Then shortly thereafter we had the beginning of a reinterpretation of the First Amendment, a reinterpretation of separation of church and state as it applies to the public school system.
And wow, have we been on a downward slide ever since. Removing prayer, then removing the Bible, then removing religious documents such as the Ten Commandments, which of course has led to the removal of other symbols and so forth, and then removal of benedictions and invocations at any kind of school event or activity.
And I just want to ask you, what kind of behavior, as we have removed prayer and Bible and our Christian heritage from our public school, what has been the counter consequence? Has behavior increased or decreased? Has education gotten better or worse? Have our overall citizenship, our citizenry, have we become a better place to live or a worse place to live? Is there more drugs or less? More gang violence or less? More teenage pregnancy or less? More promiscuity or less? What has happened in our society as we have removed our religious heritage from being taught, from even being allowed in our public schools?
Folks, across the board we have suffered. Education scores have gone down, violence and crime has gone up and we are witnessing more and more of the consequence of those decisions.
Georgia pastor and activist Jody Hice, who is now the GOP nominee to fill Rep. Paul Broun’s U.S. House seat, explained on an episode of his radio program posted today that LGBT people aren’t asking for equal rights because “gay people have the same rights as everybody else.”
“Let’s just suppose a gay person comes up to you and says something like, ‘Why shouldn’t I have the same rights as everybody else? Why can I not marry the person I love?’” Hice said.
“Well what rights are we talking about?” he asked, before implying that gay people can simply marry someone of the opposite sex: “Gay people have the same rights as everybody else. There are no rights that are missing. They have the same rights as anyone. We are Americans and we all have the same rights.”
“People have been loving one another as companions and so forth for a long, long time and they have been giving care to one another for a long, long time without calling every instance of love and mutual care, without calling that marriage. But now all of a sudden we have the demand to fundamentally redefine the world marriage,” he continued.
Later in the program he likened same-sex marriage bans to prohibitions against bigamy and incest, saying that when it comes to marriage, “homosexuals, gay people, have exactly the same right as heterosexuals have.”
“Homosexuals have the right to be married but what they are demanding, in reality, is that marriage be redefined to suit them,” he said.
“We already have marriage laws that prevent people from marrying the person they love,” he said, citing people who want to marry their siblings.
Back in 2008, The Alliance Defending Freedom launched a project called Pulpit Freedom Sunday that encouraged pastors to explicitly discuss political issues and candidates during their Sunday sermons in an effort to provoke the IRS into revoking their church's tax-exempt status so that the ADF could then take the IRS to court in order to challenge regulations prohibiting tax-exempt churches from engaging in direct, partisan political activism.
Among the pastors who agreed to participate was Jody Hice, a right-wingradiohost who is now the GOP nominee for an open House seat from Georgia, who openly brags about his involvement on his campaign website:
In September 2008 – and in years since, Dr. Hice joined with pastors across the nation in challenging an IRS code that he considers an attack upon religious liberty. The IRS threatened churches with loss of tax-exempt status and with criminal sanctions if political issues were addressed from the pulpit. Hice took his bold stand by formally endorsing a candidate in a Sunday message and sending a copy of it to the IRS. The IRS backed down.
This Pulpit Freedom Sunday effort has taken place every year since 2008 and the IRS has consistently refused to take action against any of the churches or pastors who participated, much to the dismay of church-state separation organizations.
Eventually the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed its own lawsuit against the IRS, seeking to compel the agency to enforce these regulations and then withdrew the lawsuit after the IRS convinced the FRFF that it had not been ignoring the issue.
As Sarah Posner explained today, this latest development is now being spun by the Religious Right to claim that the IRS is colluding with atheist groups in order to target and persecute churches.
Among those fuming about this supposed persecution is none other than Jody Hice, who spent an entire radio broadcast last week declaring that it is a violation of the separation of church and state and accusing the IRS of threatening, bullying, and intimidating Christians into silence:
Of course, the entire point of the Pulpit Freedom Sunday was to get the IRS to take action against churches so that ADF could sue. And now that it looks like the IRS might actually do the very thing that ADF has been trying to provoke it to do for several years, Hice is livid even though he has personally participated in the effort to bring about this very result!