A small group of House Republicans has pledged to vote against John Boehner’s reelection as Speaker of the House, and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida, have thrown their hats in the race.
The two challengers have earned reputations as far-right politicians even among the deeply conservative House GOP conference. Conservative media pundits have cheered on the two congressmen, both of whom have quite a history of wild rhetoric and policy positions:
Insisted Obamacare is racist against white people because it taxes tanning beds: “It’s a racist tax and I thought I might need to get to a sun tanning booth so I can come out and say I’ve been disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin.”
2014 was a great year for conspiracy theorists running for office, but these extreme politicians couldn’t do it without the help of a conservative media bent on pushing outlandish conspiracy theories from the fringe into the mainstream. Here, gleaned from our weekly Paranoia-Rama, are the conspiracy theories that shaped the year.
While the temporary increase in unaccompanied child migrants coming to the southern border this summer has since subsided, the children fleeing violence in Central America provoked a year’s worth of fear mongering and conspiracy theories from conservative commentators and politicians.
Gordon Klingenschmitt, a televangelist who was recently elected to the Colorado state legislature, said a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Al Franken would “require pedophilia in all public schools” and “require pro-gay child recruiting.” He even hosted a whole show about how parents should avoid interactions with “a gay” lest he “recruit” their kids. Conservatives also railed against Common Core and other education efforts by warning that they would turnkidsgay.
Religious Right leaders who hope to criminalize homosexuality and strip LGBT people of marriage rights and antidiscrimination protections are pretty sure that conservatives are the real victims of oppression. And they not afraid to use absurd historical analogies to prove their point.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins charged that gay rights supporters are getting ready to “start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians” to concentration camps, Rick Santorum feared “reeducation camps” for gay rights opponents and pastor Scott Lively claimed gay people are using against conservatives “the same ‘blood libel’ used against the Jews by the Nazis.”
Others drew comparisons to slavery and Jim Crow, with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association alleging that gay people have become “our new slave masters” who will “send us to the hole if we refuse the massa’s demands” and “Trunews” host Rick Wiles warning that Americans “will be saves” to the newly powerful “homosexuals and sodomites.” Wiles even said that gay people in America may soon realize Adolf Hitler’s dream of creating a “race of super gay male soldiers” who are determined to “slaughter” Christians.
Supporters of marriage equality made tremendous progress this year in striking down discriminatory bans on same-sex marriages while, on the local level, more municipalities have enacted legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Radical Right, however, sees these changes as a reason to find new strategies to fight what it believes is a tyrannical government bent on persecuting conservatives and inviting divine punishment. Facing losses in court and at the ballot box, many conservatives hope that their brand of anti-gay politics may find more success overseas.
Just in case you thought that the debate over gay rights was “over,” we decided to look back on some of the anti-gay Right’s worst moments of 2014.
10. Comparing LGBT Americans To Nazis And Terrorists
There’s nothing that Religious Right activists love more than to pretend they are being oppressed by the LGBT community.
While conservatives rail against civil disobedience to protest police brutality, they are hopeful that the anti-gay movement will launch its own civil disobedience campaigns. In 2014, Sen. Ted Cruz urged gay rights opponents to “disregard unjust edicts from the government” and Fox News pundit Todd Starnes predicted that conservatives would take part in acts of civil disobedience and marches reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement. Pat Buchanan, Linda Harvey and Jeff Allen also joined calls for mass civil disobedience to protest LGBT equality, while Peter LaBarbera proposed protests to stop same-sex weddings.
6. Duggars Show ‘Love’ For Gays By Fighting Gay Rights
While the Duggar family usually campaigns for Republican candidates across the country come election time, in 2014 they worked in their home state of Arkansas to repeal an ordinance in the city of Fayetteville that added the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to existing bans on discrimination in areas such as commerce, housing and employment.
But Josh Duggar, who claims that God sent him to Washington D.C. to work with Family Research Council in opposing LGBT rights, defended their work to strip LGBT people of their rights and legal protections because it is done out of love for the LGBT community.
5. Rick Perry Goes There
As Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign flamed out after a series of poor debate performances, he used gay-baiting TV ads in one last desperate attempt to win the GOP nomination. Now, as Perry prepares for the 2016 campaign, it seems that by wearing new eyeglasses he is all of a sudden the new wonky candidate. He showed off this new-found knowledge during an appearance in California where he reacted to the news that the Texas GOP had adopted a resolution endorsing “reparative therapy and treatment” to help people “escape from the homosexual lifestyle” by comparing gay people to alcoholics.
“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry told the Commonwealth Club of California to audible groans from the crowd. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”
After the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, marriage equality opponents looked to their allies in Washington D.C. to try to reverse the court’s decision. Sen. Ted Cruz was more than happy to help, and the Texas senator joined Mike Lee, Utah’s freshman senator, in introducing the State Marriage Defense Act. The bill’s stated purpose is to undercut federal recognition of married same-sex couples, and while it didn’t gain much traction in Congress, it did give Cruz an opportunity to grandstand about his dreams of curtailing gay rights. He told right-wing radio hosts that his “heart weeps” due to same-sex couples’ legal victories, calling rulings in favor of marriage equality “heartbreaking” and a sign “that our constitutional liberties are being eroded.”
After the Supreme Court recently refused to hear appeals in several cases involving same-sex marriage rights, Cruz decided to introduce a constitutional amendment to ensure that the 14th Amendment cannot be used in cases involving equal rights for gays and lesbians.
One American Family Association radio host blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the U.S. military’s “sissification,” and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council linked the lifting of the ban on gay service members to what he called the “absolute destruction of our military readiness and our military morale.” Gordon Klingenschmitt read a statement on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program from a press release alleging that gay service members will soon be “taking breaks on the combat field to change diapers all because their treacherous sin causes them to lose control of their bowels.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, captured the mood best when he alleged that the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will make the U.S. more “vulnerable to terrorism” because gay soldiers will take after the ancient Greeks in bringing their lovers to the frontlines so they can “give them massages before they go into battle.”
This year, Uganda’s president signed into law a new version of the country’s “Anti-Homosexuality Act” which imposed extreme penalties for the crime of being gay (though dropping its provision making homosexuality a death penalty offense in certain cases). American anti-gay activists mostly offered praise to the East African nation. At least one group thought that Uganda should have kept its death penalty plank.
Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin lawmaker who last month won his race for an open seat in the U.S. House, also attacked opponents of Uganda’s anti-gay law, warning that people like Sec. John Kerry will bring about God’s judgment on America for his criticisms of Uganda.
Shortly after last month’s elections, conservative pundit David Horowitz gathered a variety of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim activists, including a handful of members of Congress and far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, at his annual retreat at a beach resort in Florida.
It appears that Wilders formed a strong connection with Rep. Louie Gohmert who, after Wilders’ speech to the event, stood to tell the Dutch visitor about the Muslim prayer service that had been recently held in the National Cathedral in Washington. Gohmert asserted that the service was purposefully timed by “these terrorists” to mark the hundredth anniversary of a fatwa issued by the Ottoman caliph in the early days of World War I.
“Yesterday, for the first time, Friday Muslim prayers were conducted in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.,” Gohmert said. “And what the Episcopal Church didn’t realize and what you know better than most anyone, anniversaries are a big deal to these terrorists and it’s the hundredth — I’d like to say it’s the thousandth, but it was the hundredth anniversary —November 14, 1914, when the last caliph of the Ottoman Empire, the last one, issued a fatwa that started the murder spree that began with young girls being raped and then crucified. So anyway, we see what’s happening here, but hardly a peep about yesterday.”
Wilders responded by asking the audience to stand and applaud Gohmert and Rep. Michele Bachmann for having “the guts to talk about the issue.”
The exchange came after a speech in which Wilders gave his standard calls for Western countries to “stop all immigration from Islamic countries,” ban the building of mosques and “close down all Islamic schools.”
“Islam is evil,” he told the enthusiastic crowd. “We must shout this out so loud that even President Obama and all the other cowards in politics all over the West will hear it.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert invited ultraconservative pastor Robert Jeffress to deliver the opening prayer in the House of Representatives today.
End Times broadcaster Jan Markell warns that now that the elections are over, "the White House is going to unleash unholy hell on the nation of Israel."
Obviously, the key lesson to be taken away from the Eric Garner tragedy is that "the tax hungry state is out of control, using police power to crack down on petty black market sales, to enforce the obscene taxation that created the black market in the first place."
Peter LaBarbera is scandalized: "When it comes to promiscuity and perversion, homosexual men are in a league by themselves."
Finally, Janet Porter says that the American Atheists' "skip church" billboards are proof that God exists because "nobody takes out billboards to attack fairy tales."
Insisting that “not a single child, young child, ever comes across unaccompanied” because many came with the help of smugglers, the Texas Republican said that the fact that some of the children were brought to the border by people affiliated with gangs shows that they were not actually fleeing gang violence.
Gohmert quoted the border patrolman, who he said told the children: “Now you may find some gringo who buys that stuff, but you and I know you paid a gang to bring you into this country, so don’t tell me you came to escape gang violence!”
Gohmert has previously claimed that the Central American children where lying about gang violence.
In the same panel discussion, Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana claimed that unlike “the way it worked traditionally in America,” today’s immigrants “come from countries where they look to the government, that’s their tradition is that the government takes care of them.”
“Now when it destroys their civilization, when it destroys their economy, they look for another place to go. And where do they come? They come here. And then what you see is a progressive lower standard of living.”
“Many of them now when they come they refuse to learn our culture, they refuse to learn our language, they refuse to build the skills necessary to be successful in America,” he added.
In an interview yesterday with Dan Cofall, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, accused President Obama of using immigration and the Ferguson case to provoke violence.
When Cofall asked Gohmert about Sen. Tom Coburn’s claim that Obama’s executive action deferring the deportation of some immigrants could result in violence, Gohmert replied that Obama’s critics would never resort to violence since only liberals do that.
“Civil disobedience comes from the left,” he said. “They’re the ones that loot and shoot up and shoot up stores and do all kinds of things like that. If you look at the conservative gatherings, we even pick up our own trash. But it could be that this president is doing all he can to get conservatives who remember the country when presidents didn’t exceed their bounds and wish we would go back to those days, it may be enough to make them that angry. But I hope not, I hope there’s no violence.”
Gohmert also weighed in on the Ferguson case, accusing Obama of inciting violence: “Obviously the president and the attorney general have done all they could to help stir up animosity and fuel the fire and getting people angry at police where they shouldn’t have, but I hope and pray that doesn’t happen. It may happen in Ferguson because obviously they brought in the liberal attack people that just create all the havoc and mayhem they can but I hope and pray that doesn’t spread anywhere else. I’m sure they want it to, I’m sure that people would love to have the federal government intercede, but I would beg conservatives not to get sucked into that trap.”
Suggesting that Obama is pushing conservatives to turn to violence, the congressman said that “this administration will be totally exposed for who and what they’ve been doing.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert and other conservatives are pushing for a short-term continuing resolution that could potentially lead to a standoff with President Obama over his executive action on immigration. The Texas Republican and his allies are threatening to use the budget process after that short-term spending bill runs out to threaten a government shutdown by insisting that the government “totally defund the amnesty.”
But Gohmert wants to take it even further, suggesting that Congress also go after any golf outings and family trips the president may take.
“I think we’ve got to make it clear that ought to be a short-term CR and we ought to keep holding that over the president’s head and if he grants an amnesty we just do massive cuts in programs that Americans won’t notice the bureaucrats being gone that he cares deeply about, including his own staff,” Gohmert told Dan Cofall earlier this month.
He added: “But if we’re funding everything he wants except for certain items that are his little pet piece or saying, like, we’re not going to fund any more golf outings or any more trips, vacations where he and his family travel on different planes. Just things in America go, really Mr. President, you can keep the government running and yet you’re the one saying, ‘No I want my golf outings, I want my czar for this and my czar for that,’ really, you will shut down the government over that?”
As of today, there is only one person undergoing treatment for Ebola in the United States, and only two people have contracted the disease in the U.S., both of whom are healthcare workers who survived.
But the U.S.’s success in fighting the disease at home has not stopped Republican politicians and their allies in the conservative media from turning it into a political issue, warning of an impending massive Ebola outbreak in the U.S. and declaring that when that happens it will be all President Obama’s fault.
Here are five of the most common conspiracy theories that conservative commentators and their Republican allies are pushing about Ebola:
1. Obama Will Bring Ebola To The U.S. Through The Southern Border
Never mind the fact that the countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak are all in Africa. Or that there hasn’t been a single case of Ebola in Latin America, let alone among migrants crossing the southern border. Republican politicians aren’t going to waste a good opportunity to gin up vague, unfounded xenophobic fears by claiming that people infected with Ebola are about to cross the southern border. (That is, if they haven’t already!)
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said in July that he had heard “reports” of undocumented immigrants infected with the Ebola virus coming into the U.S. through the southern border. When asked about these “reports” by journalists, Gingrey admitted that they did not actually exist. Indiana GOP Rep. Todd Rokita similarly warned that undocumented minors from Central America could represent a threat “from a public-health standpoint, with Ebola circulating and everything else.”
This month, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck about the prospect of the Ebola virus jumping the southern border, and in another interview speculated that Obama’s policies may cause thousands of U.S. troops to contract Ebola.
Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, said his plan to deal with Ebola is “to seal the border and secure it,” while Sen. Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican locked in a tight re-election race, cited Ebola as a major reason why “we have to secure the border and we cannot have amnesty.”
Mike Huckabee warned his Fox News audience that people with Ebola will begin to fly from West Africa to Mexico in order to sneak into the U.S.: “If someone with Ebola really wants to come to the U.S., just get to Mexico and walk right in."
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who is now running for Senate in New Hampshire, said that America’s “porous” southern border will let people with Ebola just “walk across it.” He later claimed that “if Mitt [Romney] was the president right now,” then he could “guarantee you we would not be worrying about Ebola right now.”
2. Obama Will Bring Ebola To The U.S. In Order To Impose Martial Law
Naturally, the White House “orchestrated” the Ebola epidemic in West Africa to justify its Big Government agenda, according to several conservative commentators and at least one actual member of Congress.
Rep. Steve Stockman, Republican of Texas, said this month that Obama has laid the groundwork to use “emergency powers to take over control of the economy and everything” and speculated that the president might intentionally slow the government response to Ebola in order to create a crisis situation that he could then exploit:
Their terminology is there’s always a crisis which they want to use to their benefit, I would not be surprised that the reason that you see a lack of response is so that it becomes a real crisis and things can be used to correct the crisis, you know. It’s just bizarre there’s not enough action up front and I’m wondering if that’s — I’m not saying this — but I’m wondering if that’s intentional in order to create a greater crisis to use it as a blunt force to say, well in order to solve this crisis we’re going to have to take control of the economy and individuals and so forth. I don’t know. It’s just a strange non-response, a strange way of handling it and I think that if it does go forward and we do not control it, there may be an overreaction where the government starts taking away the rights of those that aren’t that necessarily involved or need that to happen. I hope that’s not that case but as you know this current government uses crisis to advance their philosophy and their agenda.
Laurie Roth, a conservative talk show host, predicted that Obama would “create a guise to declare martial law due to created outbreaks” and introduce a fake Ebola vaccine that would “act as a tracker.”
The conspiracy theorists of WorldNetDaily are sounding similar themes.
Erik Rush, a columnist for the conservative media outlet, wondered if Obama administration officials actually “want Ebola to spread in the United States,” creating a crisis “orchestrated by the White House in order to ultimately ‘legitimize’ a declaration of martial law in America.”
Mychal Massie also took to WorldNetDaily to suggest that Obama will manufacture an Ebola crisis in order to achieve his goal of cancelling the 2016 elections and staying in office indefinitely.
WorldNetDaily’s Morgan Brittany claimed that the government is showing “no urgency to stop the disease from entering the U.S.,” which she said betrays the administration’s intention to make use of its non-existent FEMA coffins, declare martial law and seize guns.
“Questions were then brought up about the stockpiling of ammunition and weapons by Homeland Security over the past couple of years and the $1 billion worth of disposable FEMA coffins supposedly stored in Georgia. Why was there preparation being made for FEMA camps to house people in isolation?” Brittany wondered. “My fear is that this has all been orchestrated from the very beginning. Who knows? Maybe the current administration needs this to happen so martial law can be declared, guns can be seized and the populace can be controlled. Once that happens … game over.”
3. Obama Will Bring Ebola Outbreak To The U.S. To Help His ‘African Brothers’
Conservatives frequently insist that none of their criticism of Obama has anything to do with race, and more than a handful have claimed that the president’s handling of the Ebola outbreak proves that he is the real racist.
Conservative columnist and Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman cited Obama’s response to the Ebola outbreak as proof that he favors “his African brothers, putting the interests of fellow blacks, with whom he feels a kinship, ahead of others.”
“Obama has favored his African brothers over the rest of us by allowing them free entry into this country,” Klayman wrote in another column. “As a result, Ebola has now been introduced into the United States, may be on the verge of spreading rapidly, with the end result being potential massive death to our citizenry.”
“Regrettably our Muslim commander in chief has favored his own creed over the rest of us,” he added.
Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly also claimed that Obama is “letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people” in order to make the U.S. more like Africa.
“Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional,” she wrote. “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”
Rush Limbaugh argued that “leftist” elected officials believe that Ebola “is ultimately traced back to us; because of our slavery, we kind of deserve a little bit of this.”
Not to be outdone, Laura Ingraham maintained that Obama’s “familial connection to Africa” and “core ties to the African continent” are shaping the president’s response to Ebola to the detriment to the U.S.
4. Obama Will Bring Ebola Outbreak To The U.S. Because He Hates America
Public health experts have consistently said that knee-jerk reactions like stopping travel from West Africa and quarantining healthcare workers will do nothing to lessen the Ebola risk in America (and may in fact make it worse), and that the best way for the United States to protect itself from the disease is to help fight it at its source in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
But we all know not to trust scientists!
Republican politicians and conservative commentators have expressed outrage that President Obama has put resources into fighting Ebola in West Africa and is ignoring their calls for counterproductive flight bans and quarantines. They remind us that the president is, after all, an anti-American radical so everything he does should be held in suspicion.
Fox News commentator Keith Ablow speculated this month that “the president may literally believe we should suffer along with less fortunate nations,” arguing that Obama wants Americans to experience an Ebola epidemic out of a sense of “fairness” since he thinks the American people have “been a scourge on the face of the Earth.”
“We don’t have a president who has the American people as his primary interest,” Ablow said. “We’re not even voting for somebody who likes us. This guy, who has names very similar to two of our archenemies, Osama, well, Obama. And Hussein. Hussein.”
The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer said recently that he was just asking the question whether Obama wants to “punish” America with Ebola: “It looks like he actually wants Ebola to come to the United States. Why would he want that? Well, remember President Obama thinks that this country is racist to its core, it’s been racist since the beginning, it’s an evil, colonial force that’s been the root of all kinds of evil all around the world, it needs to be punished, it needs to be brought down to size, it needs to be disciplined.”
Conservative talk show host Michael Savage suggested that Obama “wants to infect the nation with Ebola,” insisting that Obama’s handling of Ebola “rises to levels of treason, it actually exceeds any level of treason I’ve ever season.”
“Obama wants equality and he wants fairness and it’s only fair that America have a nice epidemic or two or three or four in order to really feel what it’s like to be in the Third World. You have to look at it from the point of view of a leftist,” he added.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, also posited that Obama and other Democratic officials say “don’t quarantine, let’s don’t close our borders” because they “feel like we want everyone to feel included” and “don’t want anybody to feel like they’re being left out.”
Glenn Beck speculated that Obama may be allowing the disease to take hold in conservative parts of the country, telling Fox News host Bill O’Reilly earlier this month that the president was ignoring the cases of two nurses who contracted Ebola in Dallas, perhaps because the city “doesn’t particularly care for the president.”
If this were happening in Washington, D.C., right now, do you think the President and his administration would be acting like this? Do you think the Congress would be acting like this? This is happening in Dallas, Texas, this is a top-ten city in the United States of America. Happens to be one that doesn’t particularly care for the president all that much and his policies, one that the president has not been too favorable on. We are already being squeezed on our southern border, now we’re being squeezed by Ebola. Is there an agenda here? Is that possibly the reason, because I can’t figure out any other reason.
5. Ebola Is God’s Judgment On America (Especially Obama)
Of course, several Religious Right figures are responding to the Ebola epidemic by suggesting that it is divine punishment on America.
The televangelist John Hagee said this month that Ebola is a sign of God’s disapproval of Obama’s foreign policy in the Mideast.
“Our president is dead-set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment,” he said, and as a result “we are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola.”
Ron Baity, a North Carolina pastor who worked with the Family Research Council and other anti-gay groups to pass a marriage equality ban, blamed Ebola on the gay community.
“We are bringing the judgment of God on this nation,” Baity said. “As sure as Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, don’t be surprised at the plagues, don’t be surprised at the judgment of God. You think Ebola is bad now? Just wait.”
“Trunews” host Rick Wiles also linked Ebola to homosexuality, but had a slightly different view. As Wiles explained, “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”
In an interview with Newsmax today, Rep. Louie Gohmert said that Texas voters shouldn’t trust state senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis…because she has been divorced.
When host Ed Berliner asked if Davis “has found enough of the will and enough prayers to get her elected,” Gohmert replied that he thought that “she’s showing the same will she had when she let her husband paid for her to get through law school and then divorced him the day law school was finished and paid for, so she’s got a lot of will and that makes her interesting.”
The Texas congressman went on to say he never says “outrageous things to get the press.”
“It’s amazing, so often I get quoted and people say it’s outrageous and then a year or two years later people go, ‘Wow, he was right all along,’” he said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert was an in-studio guest on the "Point Of View" radio program yesterday, where he went off on a bizarre tangent about Ancient Greece in trying to make the case that allowing gays to serve in the military "is not a good idea."
The Texas Republican had been railing against the Obama administration's decision to send several thousand members of the U.S. military to Western Africa to assist in the effort to control the Ebola outbreak, saying that it was just the latest example of the administration demonstrating its fundamental disdain for the military.
Somehow that discussion eventually prompted him to launch into criticism of the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the most perfectly Gohmert-esque fashion imaginable.
"I've had people say, 'Hey, you know, there's nothing wrong with gays in the military. Look at the Greeks,'" he said. "Well, you know, they did have people come along who they loved that was the same sex and would give them massages before they went into battle. But you know what, it's a different kind of fighting, it's a different kind of war and if you're sitting around getting massages all day ready to go into a big, planned battle, then you're not going to last very long. It's guerrilla fighting. You are going to be ultimately vulnerable to terrorism and if that's what you start doing in the military like the Greeks did ... as people have said, 'Louie, you have got to understand, you don't even know your history.' Oh yes I do. I know exactly. It's not a good idea":
Similar dire warnings about the federal hate crimes law that was passed five years ago today have proven to be utterly false.
The apocalyptic rhetoric is a reaction to the advances in LGBT rights, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in dozens of states and the passage of non-discrimination ordinances in municipalities across the country. Along with categories such as race, gender, religion, age and ability, more localities are recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity as traits warranting protection from discrimination in the public domain.
As anti-gay politicians lose in the courts, Congress, state houses, town halls, and perhaps most importantly, at the ballot box, many have taken to conflating political defeat with a loss of rights and liberty. Only by depriving other people of their rights, so they claim, can conservatives and people of faith in this nation truly be free.
This month, many Republicans latched onto a complicated legal case in Houston to justify their hyperbolic warnings about impending doom for Christians in America. After Houston passed an equal rights ordinance this year, a pastor-led group tried — and failed — to collect enough valid petition signatures to force a referendum on repealing the ordinance. When a group of conservative activists and pastors filed a lawsuit demanding that officials accept the invalid petitions, pro-bono attorneys working for the city subpoenaed several pastors’ communications, including sermons, on petition collecting and related issues like homosexuality as part of the discovery process.
While many groups from the left and right alike called out the subpoenas as overly broad and intrusive, the Religious Right cited the legal move as proof that pastors will be, as the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody put it, “hauled off to jail for a hate crimes because they are speaking for traditional marriage.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who in 2012 warned that America was “at the edge of a precipice” and would soon see non-existent “hate speech” laws used “against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages [or] who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage,” agreed with Brody’s assessment.
(In a similar episode this month, the owners of a for-profit wedding chapel business filed a lawsuit against their hometown over a nondiscrimination ordinance, arguing that city officials have threatened them with prosecution and jail time for denying service to same-sex couples — even though officials haven’t pursued any legal action against the couple.)
We’ve seen this movie before. In 2007, members of a group called Repent America were charged after disrupting a gay pride event and refusing to abide by police orders. The way conservatives tell the story, godly missionaries were punished by law enforcement for exercising their First Amendment rights and “sharing the gospel,” but as court records show, the group tried to disturb the peace and protest inside an event without a permit.
In fact, if Religious Right were correct in their warnings, America should have experienced a wave of arrests targeting pastors, church-goers and Republicans following the passage of the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Predictions about the criminalization of the Bible, pastors locked in jail cells and concentration camps for Christians never came true, mainly because these prophecies had no basis in reality.
The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Law was passed by Congress five years ago today, and so far, the far-right’s twisted and baseless claims about the law have all been proven false. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t stopped making the exact same discredited arguments five years after the bill’s passage:
End of Free Speech
Despite the hate crimes law’s provision making clear that it is applicable only to cases of violent crime and nothing “shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs,” Religious Right activists and their allies in the GOP nonetheless predicted that the 2009 law would bring free speech to an end.
“Gay activists will use it against preachers who present the Biblical view of homosexuality,” Rick Scarborough said at the time. “The federal hate crimes law doesn’t target crime, but free speech.” He also warned that the law’s passage would “criminalize pastors and ordinary citizens who speak out biblically against homosexuality,” telling members of his group, Vision America, that he may face arrest for “speaking out against sexual deviancy.”
Scarborough, a Texas anti-gay pastor and political organizer close to Ted Cruz, hasn’t backed down from his claims even years after the law has gone into effect. At the 2013 Values Voter Summit, Scarborough declared that the “infidels” in the Obama administration are “hell-bent on silencing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Christians wouldn’t rise up against the attacks, he feared, “until a bunch of us are thrown into concentration camps.”
The Traditional Values Coalition went as far as to claim that the hate crimes law would imprison Jesus Christ.
“I believe that ‘hate crimes’ is the most dangerous bill in America, it is precisely what they are using to silence Christians around the world,” Janet Porter, a Religious Right activist with the group Faith 2 Action, said in an interview the year before the bill was passed. “How much of a stretch is it, really, to say that because I would say to you homosexuality is a sin or it’s dangerous behavior, before that speech alone is worthy of jail time? And that’s what we’re facing.” Porter told a Washington, D.C., rally shortly after the law was passed that it “criminalizes Christianity” and “sends pastors to prison for biblical positions and speech.”
In an 2009 email message with the subject line, “The Senate Will Vote To Silence You!,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins claimed that “what ‘hate crimes’ legislation does is lay the legal foundation and framework for investigating, prosecuting and persecuting pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions reflect their faith.”
He also alleged that the law would “gag people of faith and conviction who disagree with the homosexual agenda” and that it “punishes a person’s beliefs — part of the Left's intolerant agenda to silence the voice of Christians and Conservatives in America and eliminate moral restraint.”
“If federal thought crimes laws are passed, your right to share politically incorrect parts of your Christian faith could become a federal crime,” Perkins warned. At another conservative event, Perkins said hate crimes laws will curtail freedom and breed “chaos in America.”
Rusty Lee Thomas of Operation Save America even encouraged opposition to the law by alleging that “there is a direct connection between the sins and crimes of abortion and the sodomite agenda and the Islamic terrorism that threatens our nation.”
One group of GOP and Religious Right figures claimed the law would be “a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression.”
E.W. Jackson, a Virginia pastor and GOP politician, told a conservative rally that the law “represents a virulent strain of anti-Christian bigotry and hatred” that is “another step in the process of robbing all Americans of the very freedoms the founding fathers pledged their lives for and the civil rights martyrs gave their lives for.”
Ohio-based televangelist Rod Parsley, best known for his work supporting George W. Bush’s re-election campaign and the passage of his state’s gay marriage ban, said that the hate crimes law would force him out of the pulpit.
“This deceptive ploy of liberal, homosexual agenda begins to lose its allure once you pull the mask back and take a closer look,” Parsley said. “The legislation that’s before our United States senators right now extends to speech and can punish people not for their actions but for their culturally incorrect thoughts. This legislation could become law, and you and I could find ourselves forbidden to speak from God’s word right here in America. I could no longer share my heart with you on critical issues, such as this, through the medium of television, or even in the pulpit of my own church.”
We can report that despite Parsley’s grim predictions, he is still very much “sharing his heart” as a preacher.
Outlawing the Bible
One group of Michigan pastors, joined by local Republican politician and American Family Association state chairman Gary Glenn, filed an unsuccessful legal challenge against the hate crimes law soon after it was enacted. The group’s legal representative, the conservative Thomas More Law Center, contended that “the sole purpose” of the law was “to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.”
Pastor Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ also offered an ominous warning: “If preaching the Bible is now against the law, then let us be arrested.” One WorldNetDaily commentator said the law would “crack down” on Christians for “reading the Bible.”
“Christianity Is Now Outlawed,” declared the Christian Seniors Association, a front group of the Traditional Values Coalition, in a fundraising letter following the law’s passage. “Did you know that the new Hate Crimes Act that President Obama signed into law makes the Bible illegal ‘Hate Literature?’” the letter continued.
“Most Christians might as well rip the pages which condemn homosexuality right out of their Bibles because this bill will make it illegal to publicly express the dictates of their religious beliefs,” said Andrea Lafferty of the TVC. “The ultimate objective of this legislation is to claim that ‘hate speech’ — criticism of homosexuality — incites individuals to violence and must be suppressed and punished. This will violate the First Amendment rights of any person or group that opposes the normalization of homosexuality in our culture.”
In the paranoid conservative alternate reality, pedophilia has been legal for five years now thanks to the updated federal hate crimes law.
“The main purpose of this ‘hate crimes’ legislation is to add the categories of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ ‘either actual or perceived,’ as new classes of individuals receiving special protection by federal law. Sexual orientation includes heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality on an ever-expanding continuum. Will Congress also protect these sexual orientations: zoophiles, pedophiles or polygamists?” asked televangelist Pat Robertson.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, similarly charged: “We have a record roll call vote that shows every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee voting to have pedophiles protected.”
King’s colleague Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, went one step further and said that as a result of the hate crimes law, courts would “have to strike any laws against bestiality” along with laws targeting “pedophiles or necrophiliacs.” Gohmert went on to warn that the law would effectively turn the U.S. into Nazi Germany.
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, for his part, predicted that the law would extend legal protections to “bisexuality, exhibitionism, fetishism, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, urophilia, voyeurism, and bestiality.”
Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center claimed the law “elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy.”
Porter dubbed the law the “Pedophile Protection Act,” “summarizing” the law by completely making things up: “Pushing away an unwelcome advance of a homosexual, transgendered [sic], cross-dresser or exhibitionist could make you a felon under this law. Speaking out against the homosexual agenda could also make you a felon if you are said to influence someone who pushes away that unwelcome advance. And pedophiles and other sexual deviants would enjoy an elevated level of protection, while children, seniors, veterans and churches would not.”
Pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia are still against the law and such laws have not been affected by the Hate Crimes Act, while declining “an unwelcome advance of a homosexual” is still very much legal. However, we are still waiting with bated breath for Porter’s lawsuit detailing how she was forced and legally bound to succumb to the charms of a homosexual enticer.
Can the Religious Right Be Trusted?
The many frantic, unfounded warnings about the perils the 2009 Hate Crimes Act are just one example of anti-gay activists’ penchant for manufacturing myths and brazenly distorting cases of supposed persecution.
Apocalyptic warnings and blatantly dishonest remarks have always been characteristic of the Religious Right's crusade against LGBT rights and we can expect such activists to continue to engage in such shameless fear mongering and misinformation before the 2014 election.
But, like the Religious Right’s warnings about the effects of the 2009 Hate Crimes Act, these dire predictions should be taken with a heavy dose of salt.
Rep. Louie Gohmert appeared on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” program yesterday to complain that the Obama administration is doing too little to contain the Ebola outbreak, which then led him to attack the Obama administration for sending military service members to West Africa to help contain the Ebola outbreak.
“Your heart goes out for those members of the 101st Airborne and others that are going to be sent into Ebola-infected epidemic countries,” he said. “Man oh man, there are terrorists in Africa that would love to wipe out a bunch of our military.”
The Texas Republican added that the deployments will leave service members “defenseless” despite military leaders claiming there will be “very low to no risk” to troops.
RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.
Now that a Liberian man who flew to Dallas this week has become the first person to develop Ebola symptoms in the U.S., the right-wing media is doing what it does best: freak out and blame everything on President Obama. Or maybe Ebola is just a distraction from Obama’s plot to seize everyone’s guns while gay people and ISIS attempt to “recruit” American children.
It seems conservative pundits are trying to one-up each other to come up with the most insane ways to connect Obama to the case of a person in Dallas being diagnosed with Ebola after traveling from Liberia.
Laura Ingraham suggested that Obama is threatening the health of Americans due to his “core ties to the African continent,” saying Obama’s “familial connection to Africa” is the reason why flights from West Africa are still entering the U.S., while Michael Savage said Obama “wants to infect the nation with Ebola” by sending U.S. troops to West Africa who will then contract Ebola and spread it when they are back in the U.S.
It was only a matter of time before a Republican congressman embraced the latest conspiracy theory emerging from right-wing talk radio, and of course, this honor once again belongs to Rep. Louie Gohmert, who told Fox Business that Obama wants to “send 3,000 military into where they can get Ebola that they can bring back,” even though, as the Texas Republican astutely noted, “the military’s not trained to go catch Ebola and die.”
4. The Gays Are Coming
There’s only one thing worse than Ebola, and that’s “a gay” who is trying to “recruit” your son, or so explained “doctors” Paul Cameron and Gordon Klingenschmitt this week on Klingenschmitt’s acclaimed show “Pray In Jesus Name.”
3. Obama Taking Your Guns, Again
Naturally, Fox News commentators believe that a bill to expand background checks on firearm purchasers and a proposed treaty to codify practices in the transnational arms trade are actually attempts to ban guns for everybody. In fact, Fox News’ Steve Doocy and Andrew Napolitano believe that, thanks to Obama’s fictional gun-grab, Americans everywhere are in constant risk of getting decapitated.
“The problem is the President of the United States who is doing everything he can, administratively as the chief executive officer of the federal government, and attempting to now get us to enact a treaty to make it very, very difficult to carry guns,” Napolitano fumed following the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma City by a former coworker, adding that Obama wants “to intimidate people out of getting guns because the president believes that he and the government — and all logic defies this — can keep us safer that we can keep our self.”
Doocy then hit Napolitano with a hardball question: “So if Barack Obama could, he would ban guns in the hands of everybody except the police?”
“He has made that patently clear, his problem is the Second Amendment,” Napolitano responded.
Carson, a self-proclaimed historian, said this week that he is “shocked” by the advanced placement course’s emphasis on the “evils” of slavery and massacres of Native Americans, suggesting that the curriculum is a recruiting tool for terrorists: “I mean, I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS. This is what we’re doing to the young people in our nation and we have got to stop this silliness, we have got to stop crucifying ourselves.”
Pundit and prophet Glenn Beck has been predictingAmerica’sdemise for a while now, and the case of a man in Dallas diagnosed with Ebola after traveling from Liberia is proof enough that the U.S. is about to experience a “massive humbling.”
Subtlety and nuance aren’t this crowd’s strong suits. In fact, it wasn’t that hard for us to come up with a list of at least 15 scheduled summit speakers and panelists who believe that America has gotten so bad under Obama’s leadership that the country has become just like Nazi Germany.
Soon afterwards, Perkins said a caller on his “Washington Watch” radio show “hit the nail on the head” when she claimed Christians in America are about to be “loaded in cattle cars like it was when the Nazis took over.”
2. Mike Huckabee
Former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee agreed last year that it was “the truth” that bills introduced to prevent gun violence are just like what happened in Nazi Germany. “[T]hey’ll start saying, ‘Oh there you go comparing to the Nazis.’ And I understand the reaction, but it’s the truth,” Huckabee said. “In every society and culture where dictators take over, one of the things they have to do is get control of the military and the police and ultimately all of the citizens and make sure the citizens are disarmed and can’t fight in the streets.”
Huckabee has also claimed that the legalization of same-sex marriage will compel Christians to defy the government in order to uphold their religious beliefs, just like people who aided Jews broke the law during the Holocaust : “It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal.”
Family Research Council executive vice president Jerry Boykin accused President Obama of reviving Hitler’s Brownshirts through the health care reform law.
“Remember Hitler had the Brownshirts and in the Night of the Long Knives, even Hitler got scared of the Brownshirts and killed thousands of them. So you say ‘are there any signs that that’s happened?’ And the truth is, yes,” Boykin said in 2010. “If you read the health care legislation which, by the way nobody in Washington has read, but if you read the health care legislation it’s actually in the health care legislation…. It's laying the groundwork for a constabulary force that will control the population in America.”
6. Michele Bachmann
At a campaign stop in New Hampshire during her presidential bid, Bachmann said that government inaction on the national debt reminded her of the world’s silence in the midst of the Holocaust. “We are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to,” she said.
In 2012, Bachmann alleged that the administration was “aiding and abetting” an Islamist plot to take over America and the rest of the world, calling on people to read about the Islamic “belief system” and find out “what they truly believe” just like how “the most important thing a person could do in World War II during that conflict was to read the book that the leader of Germany wrote.”
7. Jim Bob Duggar
In a speech to the 2013 Values Voter Summit, Jim Bob Duggar said his visit to Nazi concentration camps reminded him of the U.S., saying that the Holocaust is “where we are at in our nation.” When asked by reporters about his statement, Duggar said that America is experiencing “a baby holocaust.”
8. Todd Starnes
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes said last year that the so-called “War on Christmas” and purported acts of anti-Christian persecution under the Obama administration made him wonder if he was living in the U.S. or Nazi Germany: “This is not 1930s Germany, gentlemen, this is the United States of America, and unless people of faith stand up and put a stop to this, we very well could be facing a 1930s Germany here.”
9. Mat Staver
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel believes that the U.S. under President Obama’s leadership is now actually worsethan Nazi Germany. He said this month that the Obama administration surpassed Nazi Germany’s crimes by “forcing” people to “participate in a genocide” through the contraceptive coverage mandate. He has alsorepeatedlyargued that legal abortion is the same as the Holocaust.
Earlier this year, Staver drew a Nazi analogy while demanding that conservatives more strongly oppose gay marriage: “This is not an issue in which you can remain silent any more than you can remain silent during Nazi Germany.”
So it is amazing that in the name of liberality, in the name of being tolerant, this fascist intolerance has arisen. People that stand up and say, you know, I agree with the majority of Americans, I agree with Moses and Jesus that marriage was a man and a woman, now all of a sudden, people like me are considered haters, hate mongers, evil, which really is exactly what we've seen throughout our history as going back to the days of the Nazi takeover in Europe. What did they do? First, they would call people "haters" and "evil" and build up disdain for those people who held those opinions or religious views or religious heritage. And then the next came, well, those people are so evil and hateful, let's bring every book that they've written or has to do with them and let's start burning the books, because we can't tolerate their intolerance.
11. Mark Levin
Conservative talk radio show host Mark Levin claimed last year that President Obama was organizing a Brownshirt paramilitary to defend and promote the Affordable Care Act. “All they need is special uniforms,” Levin said of Obamacare supporters. “Learn how to march and salute and carry flags. I think brown would be good, you know, Brownshirts.”
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Levin said then-presidential candidate Obama was “really into these big German-like events” reminiscent of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
12. Ed Vitagliano
After the 2008 election, the American Family Association’s Ed Vitagliano urged the organization’s members to pray for President Obama just as one would pray for Adolf Hitler to veer away from his wicked ways. He especially urged his readers to pray to block Obama’s “plans to push both abortion and the gay agenda.”
“Obama is like Hitler because, while Hitler primarily slaughtered the Jews in the Holocaust, Obama’s support for abortion is similarly evil,” Vitagliano said. “Now I think the moral equivalency of the Holocaust and abortion is a good, defensible argument. Both objectified a category of human beings and then took horrifying steps to pursue their murder. The depths of evil connected to the Holocaust and abortion are equally difficult to comprehend.”
They want to impose their will on the culture and if you cannot reproduce you may try to recruit, and what I mean by that is what is going on is an attempt to reshape, refashion the mind, hearts and desires of the next generation. Many Christians are sitting back and we aren’t speaking out, but the reality is just like during the times of Hitler we have people coming after one group after another group after another group, and folks are saying, well this doesn’t affect me I’ll let this slide, we have a problem that really we have a whole generation of people who want to affect not only their lives and choices but the choices of another generation.
14. Rick Santorum
After losing his 2012 presidential bid, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum became a Christian film producer, and he recently unveiled a new movie called “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty.” Santorum’s latest film depicts the U.S. in a dire state eerily similar to Nazi Germany, warning that America’s transformation into a tyrannical, Nazi state will be complete thanks to the silence of conservative Christians. You can get some of the flavor of the film from its trailer, which includes footage of Germany in the 1930s.
While campaigning against for president, Santorum also told a church gathering that people should get involved in his bid to defeat Obama just as the Greatest Generation fought the spread of Nazism.
15. Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz launched his faux-filibuster against Obamacare by arguing that refusing to fight the implementation of the health care reform law was just like appeasing Adolf Hitler, and people who didn't support his plans to stop the law were like Neville Chamberlain.
As Jon Stewart explains, “Ted Cruz says we’re at Defcon Nazi.”
It is no secret that Sen. Ted Cruz is a favorite of Religious Right activists. After all, at last year’s Values Voter Summit, the Texas Republican received a euphoric welcome and when one member of the audience declared that God supported Cruz’s effort to shut down the government, he was met with an enthusiastic round of applause. It’s no wonder that Cruz has won the hearts of the GOP’s far-right base, given his penchant for paranoid and incendiary rhetoric along with his boasts about his superior religious convictions.
So, we’ve decided to help Cruz out and pick him out a “dream cabinet” consisting exclusively of Values Voter Summit speakers.
Tony Perkins, Secretary of Homosexuality
To say that the Family Research Council leader and Values Voter Summit host is obsessed with homosexuality would be putting it mildly. Perkins fears that gays and lesbians are such a threat that he predicts they will bring about a holocaust of Christians. He calls gay people “vile” and “hateful” pawns of “The Enemy” — Satan — who are “engaged in activity, behavior and an agenda that will destroy them and our nation.”
What’s more, Perkins comes with a built-in circle of anti-gay advisors: For instance, one of his FRC colleagues once suggested that the U.S. “export homosexuals” because “homosexuality is destructive to society.”
Reality TV star Jim Bob Duggar, a frequent right-wing campaign surrogate whose son Josh serves as executive director of the Family Research Council, made a splash at last year’s summit when he said that a visit to a Nazi concentration camp reminded him of the U.S. today. Speaking of the Holocaust, he said, “that’s where we are at in our nation.” In Duggar’s telling, the Nazis are pro-choice advocates who have taken over America, while Duggar and his conservative movement allies are like concentration camp liberators.
While defending his remarks to the press, Duggar said Roe v. Wade has led to “a baby holocaust” no different than what took place in Nazi Germany.
While not an “ex-gay” himself, Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver is a leading proponent of sexual orientation conversion therapy and is attempting to bring his defense of the discredited, pseudo-scientific practice to the Supreme Court.
Staver has also been tied to an “ex-gay” client’s alleged kidnapping of her daughter to Central America to avoid sharing custody with the daughter’s other mother. He claims that gay people want to “entrap” and “groom” children and force them “into a lifestyle of destruction” by barring the use of ex-gay therapy on minors.