The American Pastors Network, a Religious Right group hoping to organize networks of politically active evangelical pastors in all 50 states, met with Pennsylvania pastors at Lancaster Bible College on Thursday. The day-long event featured several national speakers like “historian” David Barton, activist Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ, and right-wing broadcaster Sandy Rios, who as Kyle reported yesterday, urged participants to prepare for martyrdom.
The threat of anti-Christian persecution was a frequent theme at the U-Turn conference, which took its name and themes from a recent book co-authored by Barton and evangelical pollster George Barna. For example, Steve Scheibner, an American Airlines pilot who narrowly avoided being on a flight that was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, declared, “Persecution is coming.” But, he added, “It may be the best thing that’s ever happened to the church.” Another speaker, Dale Anderson, thanked “that rascal” Barack Obama for having woken up the church.
Paul Blair gave David Barton-esque remarks about the nation’s history and cited English jurist William Blackstone in arguing that there can be no valid law that is contrary to scripture. He declared that “Judge Roy Moore,” Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, is “a hero” for defying a federal judge’s decision on marriage equality. Blair said America is in its current state because too many pastors and people have been “sheep.” He insisted that marriage equality is a line that Christians must not allow to be crossed.
Barna was the Debbie Downer of the conference, reeling off pages of statistics designed to show the moral decline of America and the diminishing influence of the church in American culture. Among the statistics that seemed to land like a punch to the gut: only nine percent of born-again Americans have what Barna calls a “biblical worldview” – just over 51 percent of Protestant senior pastors make the grade. Barna decried the fact that so many pastors do not preach about current political topics.
Barton’s speech contained no surprises for anyone familiar with his shtick about the influence of colonial-era pastors on the country’s founding, the number of Bible verses supposedly contained in the U.S. Constitution, and his insistence that the Bible is filled with specific policy prescriptions, such as opposition to minimum wages and capital gains taxes. In fact, he said, the Bible includes 613 civil laws for running the country.
Barton cited principles of warfare taught at the Army War College to argue that the church is supposed to be on offense, not defense, in current culture war battles. Making that happen is the goal of those who are working to build the American Pastors Network, including Sam Rohrer, a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a 2010 gubernatorial candidate, who serves as president of both the national and Pennsylvania networks.
Among the video presentations at the conference was a message recorded by Mike Huckabee in Israel, standing on a ridge overlooking the valley that he said would be the site of the battle of Armageddon. He stood on Mt. Carmel, the site of an Old Testament showdown in which Elijah showed up the prophets of Baal by having God rain down fire on an altar he had drenched with water. America, said Huckabee, needs pulpits willing to call down God’s fire.
Among the vendors doing a brisk business at the conference was the Institute of the Constitution, which promotes a Christian Reconstructionist ideology, and which has used its materials to train Tea Party activists in their vision of a radically, and biblically, limited role for the government.
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.
Right-wing pastor Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ is not happy that same-sex marriage is now legal in his home state of Oklahoma, and took to BarbWire today to call on state government officials to defy federal court rulings on issues like marriage.
Blair warns that “the republic is officially dead” as a result of overreaching government officials and judges, charging that the courts “have no authority” to strike down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.
He writes if the states don’t push back against the judiciary, then people like Judge Terence Kern, who ruled in favor of two lesbian couples challenging the ban, might as well run all state affairs: “Let’s dissolve the state legislature, send the governor home and everyone else saving us at least half of our state’s annual budget. Apparently Federal Judge Kern already rules the state, so let him have an office in downtown OKC and we can be ruled by our masters and quit kidding ourselves.”
When leaving Constitution Hall in 1787, it is reported that Benjamin Franklin was asked by a passerby, “What kind of government did you give us?” His response, “A republic, ma’am. If you can keep it.”
Well, Mr. Franklin, the republic is officially dead.
Raising a navy? That is the Federal Government’s business. Healthcare? Not their business. Negotiating a treaty with France? That is the Federal Government’s business. Telling children what their educational curriculum must be? Not their business. Declaring war on a country threatening our security? That is the Federal Government’s business. Telling the farmers in western Oklahoma how much dust they can produce? Not their business. Organizing a postal service? That is the Federal Government’s business. Overruling the State Constitution in Oklahoma to redefine God’s definition of marriage? They have no authority and this is not their business.
I propose we do one of two things and will use my home state of Oklahoma as an example.
Option 1: If we are really ruled by Washington, then let’s quit pretending. If the only purpose of our state legislature is to vote on the “Doctor of the Week” or choose what the “State Bird” or “State Flower” should be, let’s close down the state government and save the money. If any real piece of legislation, like when the Citizens of Oklahoma voted 76% to amend our State Constitution to officially define marriage as one man and one woman, can simply be overruled by a single, non-elected, politically appointed Federal judge, then let’s just admit we are ruled by our masters in Washington. Let’s sell the state capital and turn it into a museum. It has to be worth at least $150 million. Let’s dissolve the state legislature, send the governor home and everyone else saving us at least half of our state’s annual budget. Apparently Federal Judge Kern already rules the state, so let him have an office in downtown OKC and we can be ruled by our masters and quit kidding ourselves.
Option 2: Imagine a world without the IRS. Imagine a world without the EPA. The states, who created the Federal government have the ability to say “NO” when the federal government acts illegally (Federalist #33, Tenth Amendment). Several conservative states like Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Louisiana and others, begin by first auditing the Federal Reserve, then proceed to eliminate it, so they cannot create money out of thin air. We dissolve the IRS and have each state collect revenue at the state level. Then, the states send to Washington their proportionate share for carrying out their Constitutionally defined duties. Goodbye national debt as they would be forced to live on the allowance we send them. No one would fall through the cracks as social programs can be far more efficiently operated at far less cost on the state and local level than funneling money through D.C. so that 12,000 lobbyists can all take out their share. Through eliminating federal regulations, we could unleash the energy industry in America and unleash our entrepreneurial spirit. We can break OPEC while simultaneously paying off our own national debt.
On Washington Watch yesterday, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins chatted with Oklahoma pastor Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ about a federal judge’s decision to strike down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage, and the two Religious Right figures were unsurprisingly outraged.
Blair, who has claimed that the gay rights movement is a Satanic endeavor to destroy America and introduce communism, said that the movement to stop marriage equality is no different from the fights against slavery and Nazi Germany: “It’s time for us to stand with men like Charles Finney in opposition to slavery and with Dietrich Bonhoeffer to opposition to totalitarian government in Germany. We’re facing much the same thing.”
Blair: We had talked in years past when they made the change as far as the United States Military and just exactly where this is going to lead. Well, now this is on our front doorstep and it’s not just going to stop here. Ultimately, this will be forced upon pastors and our hiring practices and any Christian business within the state of Oklahoma. It’s up to us now to decide that along with our forefather pastors, “resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” It’s time for us to stand with men like Charles Finney in opposition to slavery and with Dietrich Bonhoeffer to opposition to totalitarian government in Germany, we’re facing much the same thing. The answer really is simple, if we will just adhere to what the rule of law is, the Declaration and the Constitution are very clear. If we follow the rules, this union would function beautifully; unfortunately, we haven’t followed the rules in almost seventy-five years.
Because we all know how “beautifully” America was functioning seventy-five years ago.
Blair also told Perkins that the Oklahoma judge, in his marriage equality ruling, “shook his fist in the face of God and defied natural law and he shook his fist in the face of 6,000 years of human history.” He claimed that the decision was part of a growing “omnipotent, national dictatorship,” and urged Oklahoma to simply ignore the judge’s “illegal acts.”
Perkins, apparently unaware that gay people live in Oklahoma, said that the legal challenge to the state’s anti-gay laws is part of a “strategy” to “go into the heart of the conservative part of the country and force this redefinition on the people.”
Blair: It seems that any time the federal-anything acts, the citizens of the country need to shake and tremble. Not only did this guy throw out the will of 76 percent of the voters in Oklahoma from 2004, but he shook his fist in the face of God and defied natural law and he shook his fist in the face of 6,000 years of human history in stating that he knows better about how civil society should function than what God, history or the citizens of the state of Oklahoma know.
Perkins: Pastor Blair, it’s not even a question in Oklahoma, 76 percent of voters affirmed the marriage amendment. I grew up in Oklahoma and went to high school there, this is the reddest of red states. I think the strategy here is to try to go into the heart of the conservative part of the country and force this redefinition on the people. What is going to be the response, in your opinion, from Oklahomans to this decision?
Blair: We’ve already been responding to some of the other things, quite frankly beginning the travesty of Obamacare, we have been acting. But the bottom line is this, Tony: the Tenth Amendment is not going to defend itself. In the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution we didn’t establish an omnipotent, national dictatorship to rule over us. Article 1, Section 8, We the People of the United States created this federal government, we only delegated seventeen legally defined and limited responsibilities, and quite frankly the federal government is running roughshod over those limitations. Unless the states simply say we are not going to enforce your illegal acts, they’re going to continue to do whatever they want to do.
Anti-LGBT activists in Dallas and Oklahoma City are trying to shut down performances Paul Rudnick’s “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” a play that includes gay characters and takes a humorous look at Bible stories.
America Needs Fatima, a project of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, is organizing a “public Rosary of Reparation against the blasphemous play” in Dallas this weekend.
Join our public Rosary of Reparation against the blasphemous play 'The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told' scheduled to show as “holiday fare” at the Kalita Humphreys Theater in Dallas, TX, on December 8...
…because “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” refers to Our Lady as a lesbian!
This is blasphemy.
I ask -- will God bless those who allow His Holy Mother to be dragged into the dirt of lesbian insults? Will He allow the Immaculate Conception to be turned into a homosexual party game?
A group of Oklahoma City pastors are going one step further and asking for a performance of the play in their area to be cancelled. The group, led by Paul Blair and Steve Kern , whose wife State Rep. Sally Kern claimed that homosexuality is “more dangerous” than terrorism, sent a letter [PDF] to state officials demanding that they stop the performance because “it is quite possible that this production meets the definition of obscenity and might be in violation of Federal and State obscenity laws.”
A First Amendment law professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law toldThe Oklahoman that he
didn't see enough data in the ministers' letter to conclude that an obscenity prosecution was possible or plausible.”
LaBarbera criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for using “homosexualist semantics” in her speech defending the human rights and dignity of the LGBT community, and went on to commend countries with severe laws that punish gays and lesbians and face of American pressure to decriminalize homosexuality. Blair said that the communists are trying to “inculcate homosexual values, or lack of values, into the American culture” in order “to destroy the family” and create “a global utopia.” Barber readily agreed with Blair and said those “trying to impose a globalist, communist structure” are using the gay rights movement as a “polar ice cutter,” arguing that “homosexual activism, undermining the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic and doing away with it, that is the ice breaker that breaks the ice so that the bigger communist ships and the redistributionist ships” can take hold:
Referencing Family Research Council senior fellow Peter Sprigg’s condemnation of the LGBT rights directive, LaBarbera warned that we have “now become a force for evil in the world,” and Blair, once again, said that Satan is the source and “ultimate conspirator” behind “the force of communism, the force of the radical homosexual agenda, the secularist movement in America”:
Blair: Isaiah talks about in his day and age, and we’re seeing it now, where right is turned into wrong and wrong is turned into right and bitter waters have become sweet and truly we have turned the world upside down. You look at some of the things we’ve got going on in America and you would think we moved into the Twilight Zone. But ultimately all of these forces—the force of communism, the force of the radical homosexual agenda, the secularist movement in America—they all have the same source, the same ultimate conspirator, and that is Satan.
Not to be outdone, Barber claimed that Satan is behind words like ‘gay’:
Barber: Proponents of God’s objective truth relative to sexual morality and sexual sin, we’re not as crafty as the Enemy, the Enemy being Satan, what we’re talking about here is Satanic, this is sin. Those who are defenders of sin and who embrace and identify based upon giving into such sinful temptations, they are very good at crafting the language and arguing semantics. If we play by their rules and let them define the terms, then we’re off to a marked disadvantage. Unfortunately, too many people in churches and in para-church organizations and pro-family organizations across the country have adopted the euphemistic language of homosexual activists and it puts us at a distinct disadvantage.
A few weeks ago, we noted that anti-gay activist Paul Blair was contemplating a run for the Oklahoma state Senate, prompted by threats he received after speaking out against a local anti-discrimination policy.
So it was no surprise that Blair was recently on Peter LaBarbera's radio program where the two spent most of the program discussing the threats they have received and complaining how differently such things would be treated if Christians did them to gay activists.
Also joining them on the program was Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber, who has never been shy about vocalizing his own pure and unabashed disgustforallthingsgay. So eventually Barber trotted out the false Religious Right claim that the military was going to legalize bestiality and managed to link that to the Religious Right outrage over the fact that the Air Force Academy had constructed a worship center for Wiccans:
Now it is legal in the United States Armed Services, if this gets through the House and is signed by President Obama, bestiality will be legal in the ranks of the Armed Services. It boggles the mind.
But this is that slippery slope we're on, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised to find that the United States Air Force Academy recently built a shrine - a Satanic Wiccan shrine - so that Wiccans can worship at the Air Force Academy.
Once you open the door to evil, it doesn't take long for it to fall completely apart.