Ralph Reed

Benham Brothers Ready To Die In Battle

The Religious Right mythologizing of David and Jason Benham continues. The Benham brothers – whose plans for a reality TV show on HGTV were scrapped by the network after Right Wing Watch reported on the brothers’ anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Islam activism – were featured speakers at last week’s Road to Majority conference, sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. And they’re on the schedule for the much bigger Values Voter Summit in September.

A Christian Post story on their appearance at Road to Majority frames their experience in typical martyrs-to-their-faith rhetoric, saying their reality show “was canceled because they spoke about their Christian views.”

Now, we don’t know exactly what motivated HGTV’s decision, but it seems to be a pretty good bet that it had nothing to do with the fact that the Benhams are outspoken about their Christian faith, and more to do with the fact that they had been outspoken advocates of limiting other people’s rights – as when Jason urged Charlotte, North Carolina, officials to deny permits for LGBT pride events, or when David took part it protests against the Islamic community center that critics inaccurately dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The Religious Right revels in manufacturing martyrs. And the Benham brothers are happy to play the part, portraying themselves as targets of a demonic gay rights movement that is out to silence its critics. “If people remain silent, then it’s going to continue to get worse. But when folks step up, and speak boldly the truth, and then it can actually get pushed back,” David told the Christian Post. “You have to be willing to die. I mean, Jason and I had to be willing to lose our show. We had to be willing to lose a book deal…”

In their Road to Majority remarks, the Benham brothers portrayed themselves as warriors.

“We just remember June the 6th, 1944. We know what happened at D-Day. We know what happened on Omaha and Utah beach. There’s something about those men that our dad taught us when we were kids. And he said, ‘Boys, don’t you ever run from bullets. You run toward the bullets.’ There are cultural bullets flying, all over today, especially religious liberty. And what’s happening right now is many spiritual leaders, elected leaders, they are running from bullets. But there’s a remnant of people that are ready to stand and say ‘I’m not running from these bullets any more. I’m gonna take this beach…’”

One of the brothers invoked Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who had been jailed in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith (and who, it was reported today, is now safe in the US embassy), and then invoked Mel Gibson’s bloody battle epic “Braveheart.”

“Just like in the movie Braveheart, when all the Scottish Army was standing there, and they all had their gear on, and they were lined up and they were unified, and they were ready to fight but not a single one of them wanted to fight.  And then as William Wallace and a few men rode in on horses with blue face paint on. They were ready to pick a fight. And what I see before me right now are a bunch of people with some blue face paint on – so let’s go get it!"

War And Peace: The Tea Party And The GOP

It’s not completely clear why Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, which he created in the wake of Obama’s election, has decided to hold an annual conference in Washington, D.C.  After all, the conservative Christian voters his group works to identify and mobilize already have the Values Voter Summit, the much larger fall event sponsored by the Family Research Council and a gaggle of other right-wing groups.

One reason may be for the once-disgraced Reed to show off his political access: last week’s Road to Majority conference was thick with Republican officeholders and presidential wannabes, and I lost count of how many times Reed told participants how impressed they should be by the lineup.  For the lobby day that preceded the conference itself, he was able to get face time for his participants with Religious Right and Tea Party heroes from the Senate -- Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and  Marco Rubio – and House of Representatives – Louis Gohmert, Steve King, and David Jolly – along with “establishment” Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen John Cornyn.

In fact, the conference may be seen by Reed as a way for him to play peacemaker among the sometimes warring factions within the Republican Party and encourage unity going into the election year. At last year’s conference, RNC head Reince Priebus had a chance to tell attendees, many of them skeptical, that he was indeed one of them, as a Christian and a conservative; this year he made an appearance via video.

Last Saturday, on panel on the 2014 elections, conservative pundit and author John Fund predicted that Thad Cochran would be defeated by Chris McDaniel. Fund said it would mark a second “humiliating defeat” for the Republican establishment (after Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss) and should lead to a demand from the grassroots for McConnell and Boehner to work out a “peace treaty” with Tea Party activists so they could stop spending an “insane” amount of resources on internal fights. “The real enemy is in November,” he said.

Of course that’s not what happened on Tuesday. With a boost from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, and ads by football great Brett Favre – and more notably with a direct appeal to African American voters – Cochran squeaked out an unexpected victory.

The “humiliating defeat” was now pinned on Tea Party groups and there was little talk about peace negotiations.  Chris McDaniel’s already infamous non-concession speech turned into a rant against the Cochran campaign and Republican officials who sided with him:

There is nothing dangerous or extreme about defending the Constitution and the civil liberties therein. And there’s nothing strange at all about standing as people of faith for a country that WE built, that WE believe in. But there is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual, about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats.”

“This is not the party of Reagan,” he declared. “But we’re not done fighting. And when we’re done it will be. We have fought too long we have fought too hard to have a voice in this party. And today, the conservative movement took a back seat to liberal Democrats in the state of Mississippi. In the most conservative state in the republic, this happened. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. And that’s why we will never stop fighting.”

McDaniel was backed heavily by FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which denounced as “disgraceful” the money spent by the NRSC to back Cochran.

National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who moderated the 2014 panel, said the Establishment / Tea Party split has been vastly overblown by the media slapping the Tea Party label on every gadfly challenger.  But on the night of Cochran’s Democratic-voter-assisted victory, Sarah Palin was talking about a third party.

For those of us outside the movement, who see the overlapping Tea Party and Religious Right movements relentlessly pushing the GOP further to the right, it can be hard to understand why there is so much anger directed at the establishment.  After all, it’s not as if Eric Cantor and Thad Cochran are some kind of liberal Rockefeller Republicans.

But even these conservative leaders are not enough for grassroots activists who imbibe a steady ideological diet, from right-wing media and movement leaders, calling for a radically limited federal government and viewing compromise made in the process of governing as complicity with tyranny. Republican leaders who encouraged an angry grassroots uprising against the “tyranny” of health care reform are now reaping the whirlwind.

If there were a unifying message from Ralph Reed’s conference, it was, “America is in decline and the world is going to hell and it’s all Obama’s fault.” The solution offered was a combination of spiritual and political warfare. While right-wing groups have a common enemy in the White House, and will certainly work together this year to try to give Republicans control of the Senate, it is clear that we haven’t yet seen the end of the struggle over  just how far to the far right the Republican Party will be pushed.

Right Wing Round-Up - 6/23/14

  • Chris Moody: Ralph Reed: Those who oppose same-sex marriage can draw lessons from fight against slavery.
  • Warren Throckmorton: Candidates for Maryland County Council Get Blessing of League of the South’s President.
  • Simon Maloy @ Salon: A hack returns: Ed Klein’s new Benghazi bombshell is garbage.
  • Evan McMurry @ Mediaite: Tea Party Group Slams Ingraham: ‘When Did She Become Chris Matthews?’
  • Tim Murphy @ Mother Jones: This Leading GOP Congressional Candidate Insists We Found Saddam's WMD Program.

Ohio Board Of Education Member Calls On Religious Right To Take Over Education

One of Ralph Reed’s most infamous statements — “I want to be invisible. I do guerilla warfare…You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag” — came in an era of school board takeovers by stealth Religious Right candidates. But stealth is so 1990s. At the Road to Majority conference sponsored by Reed’s Faith and Freedom coalition last weekend, a member of the Ohio state board of education openly called on conservative Christians to take over the educational system and return it to a foundation of “biblical truth.”

Mark Smith, who was appointed to the board of education by Gov. John Kasich last year, is president of Ohio Christian University and president of the Ohio Faith and Freedom Coalition. He said at one board meeting that books like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” are “quite divisive” and part of an “underlying socialist-communist agenda.”

Excerpts from Smith's Friday night address to the 2014 Road to Majority conference:

At Road to Majority, Smith sounded as if he’s been reading discredited “historian” David Barton’s claims about the Constitution being drawn directly from the Bible.

“America, for 60 years we have tried to deny the source of truth. But we as a nation must not forget that truth, biblical truth, is what we were founded upon.  In fact, let me remind you, truth concepts like liberty, freedom, personal responsibility, law, justice, and hope are all words that came out of the Bible. They are words that our founders relied upon and they understood that biblical truth was our foundation.”

America was blessed for more than 200 years, Smith says, because it recognized God and biblical truth, and our current problems come from a rejection of those principles

“The first problem that I see is a God problem. Too many people think that they’re God, but we know that they are not. There is only one true God. In current society, you see people deciding critical issues by all manner of means, humanistic thinking, and polls. But many of them do not consider that the Lord our God is how they should be considering these issues.”

Smith also sees the desire for equality as a major problem.

“Secondly in America, we have a truth problem. Few understand foundational truth. The basis for our American doctrines and documents has been biblical truth....”

“In fact, let me remind you further that equality and liberty are in opposition to each other. We hear equality, equality, equality. If you begin to study what you’re being fed by the media and by the president that is in our office today, you would understand that this word equality and liberty are diametrically opposed.”

A third problem, he says, is an educational problem.

 “It’s no secret that our educational system is full of teachers and professors who desire to obfuscate truth, and these individuals are effectively [deconstructing] our nation. It’s been happening since John Dewey and his humanist manifesto.”

He said that Common Core, Race to the Top, and other efforts to “nationalize” the curriculum “are becoming an agenda that is hostile to the traditional family, promoting causes that we do not believe in, promoting sexual promiscuity — I’ve looked at the material and I refuse to accept it.”

He urged conservative Christians to join him in taking a stand for traditional marriage and to take back the country’s schools:

“You see I’m excited to lead the cause for the rebirth of faith values in America, the rebirth of embracing a love for God, the love for family, and a love for our nation. I like traditional marriage. I’m for traditional marriage. Let’s embrace traditional marriage....”

“I call on us to stand and to bring about change in a failed educational system that opposes freedom, capitalism, and personal responsibility, and that wastes billions of dollars on experiments on our children. It’s fine for us to take back our school system, and every one of you should be running for school boards, getting involved in the Department of Education, in the state board of education – and you should take it back as Faith and Freedom members, that is the hope for America.

Ohio Christian University seems to be doing its part. Its lobbyist helped push through the legislature a program that allows gifted high school students to take classes at OCU at taxpayer expense. The Akron Beacon Journal reported in February that OCU’s lobbyist C. Todd Jones “not only sits on the school board with Smith but chairs the committee” responsible for guidelines for the program. “He has actively lobbied the legislature and governor’s office on [the law] that would benefit the colleges at the same time he is running board meetings on the topic.”

As an example of its curriculum, the school says students taking the class Survey of American History “will be able to analyze the varied political, economic, religious, and cultural achievements of America in light of biblical truth,” according to an online course description.

Payment for a high school student taking such classes is deducted directly from money provided by the state to that student’s school district.

Ralph Reed Calls For The IRS To Be Razed To The Ground

Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road To Majority" conference today, Ralph Reed declared that after Republicans gain total control over Congress in the midterm elections, conservatives "are not going to stop" until they completely abolish the IRS and raze its headquarters to the ground "and build a monument on the rubble so that future generations will know that we stood up and stopped tyranny":

Later, Reed once again promised big results in the midterm elections, saying "the cavalry is on its way" but also warning that there is only one thing that can truly save America, and that is for us to undergo a "moral and spiritual awakening that will call our nation back to brokenness, humility, reliance, and dependence upon Almighty God":

Fox News' Monica Crowley: Left At War With America

Monica Crowley of Fox News served as the emcee for a “legislative luncheon” that kicked off the “Road to Majority” conference sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

The speakers’ lineup – Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Allen West, and John Bolton – promised a butcher shop’s worth of red meat for right-wing activists, and Crowley must have decided she didn’t want to be overshadowed.

She complained that she has both a Marxist president and mayor (New York’s Bill de Blasio) and asserted that “we are in a war…the left is waging a 24/7 war against this country.” She said the fight is not only against leftism and statism, but against “the ideology of control.” Health care reform was not about health care, but about government power and control. “Every day of this presidency has been an impeachable offense – every day.”

Crowley could be unintentionally funny, as when she railed, without any apparent sense of irony, that the left relies on divisiveness and “manufactured” crises, then a few moments later ticked off a set of the right wing’s favorite manufactured crises.  Or when she complained that the mainstream media is too partisan, saying that the Obama administration has gotten away with ravaging the Constitution because of “the protection racket of a corrupt and supine press.” Or when she called people like Ralph Reed and Ted Cruz “truth tellers.”

She managed to hit on just about every current right-wing meme, from Benghazi to the IRS, from illegal immigration to “the removal of God from public life.” The Obama administration, she says, is engaged in “the deliberate takedown of America.”

In introducing the “brilliant” and “beautiful” Crowley, Ralph Reed noted that she has recently been named online opinion editor for the Washington Times, a major sponsor of the anti-marriage-equality rally that the National Organization for Marriage was holding at that very moment in front of the US Capitol.

Mike Huckabee To Join Liberty Counsel For Right-Wing Pastor Rallies

Liberty Counsel is organizing a “powerful, five-screen multimedia extravaganza” for conservative pastors who want to stop America from “spiraling out of control as our foundation of traditional values is threatened and eroded every day” and “to dramatically affect the 2014 elections this coming November.”

The “Who Will Stand?” rallies will feature former Gov. Mike Huckabee, pseudo-historian David Barton and Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, along with uplifting songs and “thousands of images portraying the beauty and grandeur of all 50 states of our great nation” that apparently will help bring an end to President Obama’s tyranny.

Televangelist James Robison, Star Parker, Ralph Reed and Samuel Rodriguez are also listed as speakers.

While so far the events are only scheduled to take place in Florida churches, Liberty Counsel aims to expand the effort to “Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia.”

Chris Christie To Join Ralph Reed Summit To Dispel Moderate 'Myth'

Today, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition announced that Gov. Chris Christie will speak at its “Road to Majority” conference this month, where perhaps Reed can offer the embattled governor advice on how to downplay scandals.

But the director of the New Jersey Faith and Freedom Coalition, Larry Cirignano, doesn’t seem to be much of a fan of his state’s governor.

On his Facebook page, Cirignano has posted columns attacking Christie from the right, including articles titled “Chris Christie dooms NJ to judicial activism and himself to obscurity” and “Chris Christie’s court pick has a pro-choice, anti-free press record,” which criticizes the governor for having “rolled over” on nominees for the Supreme Court.

Cirignano also shared a post “exposing ‘Republican’ Christie” as a secret Democrat for backing a “radical pro-abortion and pro-gun control” judicial nominee.

Last year, Christie was accused of snubbing the “Road to Majority” summit to attend a Clinton Global Initiative event.

Right-wing pundits have expressed outrage and disgust over Christie’s decision to sign a law banning ex-gay therapy for minors, even linking it to the bridge scandal, and lashed out at the governor for declining to appeal a court ruling in favor of marriage equality and appointing a Muslim-American to a judgeship.

At CPAC earlier this year, Christie emphasized his anti-choice stances and told the Christian Broadcasting Network that it is a “myth” that he is a moderate.

Religious Right Sees Opportunity In Supreme Court Prayer Ruling

Religious Right groups are celebrating yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding sectarian prayer at official public meetings – like city council sessions – and narrowly defining what would amount to unconstitutional religious coercion of people attending. The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway.

Though divided on their reasoning, the Court’s five conservative Justices upheld a practice in which, month after month, year after year, town leaders reached out to Christians and Christians only to offer opening prayers at town meetings, prayers that were often quite sectarian in nature.  The very few exceptions were in response to this lawsuit.  Although town leaders said that members of other religions could lead the opening prayer if they asked to, they had hardly let that be widely known, and they continued to reach out only to Christians.

SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston characterized the Court’s ruling as “[s]topping just short of abandoning a historic barrier to religion in government activity.” Conservative and religious groups hostile to church-state separation are gushing over the ruling and hope it is a sign of more to come.

The Becket Fund signaled that it hopes yesterday’s decision will just be the first step in further dismantling rulings upholding church-state separation.  From Deputy General Counsel Eric Rassbach:

“The Court’s landmark decision today echoes the wisdom of the Founders. Not only did the Court uphold the centuries-old practice of legislative prayer, it also started the work of bringing the entire law of church and state onto a firmer foundation in the words of the Constitution.”

David Corman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Town of Greece:

“Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced,” he said. “Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer celebrated the ruling as a “monster win” and said it was proof that “we are fighting a winnable war,” because the “Supreme Court has ruled that you can have sectarian prayers, prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, to open any legislative session, any lawmaking body – a county commission can do it, a city council can do it, a state government can do it.”  

Fischer he went on at great length endorsing Justice Clarence Thomas’s position that the First Amendment does not limit states’ constitutional right to, for example, declare the Southern Baptist Church to be the official state church and force people to support the church with taxes.  Fischer, in fact, called Thomas “a stud on the issue of religious liberty.” (Fischer says he wouldn’t personally support coercive state establishment, but he supports Thomas’s constitutional analysis, and says it should be applied to interpret that the federal government has no right to tell public schools whether and how prayer is permitted.)  Fischer is delighted that the Supreme Court’s majority decision discussed the fact that the Continental Congress opened with “emphatically Christian” prayer.

Gordon Klingenschmitt:

Hallelujah!  Today YOU helped score a VICTORY at the U.S. Supreme Court, reaching the pinnacle of seven years of work and prayer with The Pray In Jesus Name Project.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it's OK for pastors to pray "in Jesus' name" at city council meetings. 

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins:

"The court today has upheld our first and most fundamental freedom. The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square. We applaud the majority on the court for getting that right. This is an historic victory for all Americans of faith and for the common-sense reading of the Constitution itself. The Court's affirmation of the right of Americans to practice their faith in public life and the public square is a major win for the religious liberty we have always cherished.”

Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition called it a victory that would empower Religious Right activists to push elected officials to bring sectarian prayer into more official settings:

Reed also announced that, armed with today’s Supreme Court decision, Faith & Freedom Coalition would redouble its efforts to encourage opportunities for prayers offered at meetings by town boards, city councils, and county commissions nationwide.  The organization has in the past mobilized public support for local officials who have allowed such prayers at government meetings.

“Speech honoring God and invoking His blessing on our land should be welcomed, not treated with hostility,” said Reed.  “With today’s decision, the government officials that faith-based voters help to elect can provide a forum for such expressions without fear of being reversed by future courts.”

Concerned Women for America celebrated, saying the decision “lifts up the best in our country.” CWA President Penny Nance managed to slam what she said has been “a push to establish atheism as the official religion of our land” and claim that the Supreme Court’s ruling was a win for everyone, “even the staunchest atheists.”

Those who object to these practices do not seek to exercise their religious liberty; they merely feel hostile towards other people’s religious practices and seek to silence them. They seek to silence those with whom they disagree….

The Founders of this great nation benefited and relied heavily on prayer to seek the guidance they needed to establish the foundations of our nation. When the first Congress met on September 7, 1774, it began with an amazing prayer “in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.” No religious oppression or favoritism followed from that practice, only the blessings of freedom and liberty, including the freedom of religious thought, belief, or even non-belief.

Everyone wins, including the staunchest atheists, when we allow the free exercise of religion or non-religion according to a person’s conscience.

Fox News pundit Todd Starnes, who specializes in promoting fictitious threats to religious freedom, declared that “the Obama administration has been waging a war against people of the Christian faith,” somehow neglecting to mention that the Obama administration had actually weighed in on the side of the Town of Greece and its overwhelmingly Christian prayers.  Starnes said it is “always a good day when the anti-Christian folks get smacked down by the Supreme Court” but said the fact that it was a 5-4 decision should be a “wake-up call” for Americans that elections matter.

Gary Bauer made the same point:

Here's the good news: The Supreme Court today upheld public prayers, even Christian prayers, at government meetings in 5-to-4 decision.

But that is the bad news too! The free exercise of religion depends on just one vote….

Now a win is a win. But don't miss the fact that this victory for religious liberty was won by the narrowest of margins. One more liberal appointment and the Supreme Court could easily ban prayers before town council meetings and legislative sessions. If that were to happen, our Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto would surely be next.

Your vote at the ballot box has a direct impact on our federal courts. Federal judges, including those on the Supreme Court, are appointed (by the president) and confirmed (by the Senate) by the men and women we elect to public office. 


Supreme Court Upholds Sectarian Prayer At Official Meetings: Religious Right Cheers

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today overturned a ruling by the Second Circuit appeals court and upheld the practice of an upstate New York town that begins its council meetings with prayers that are almost always given by Christian clergy. Religious Right groups are celebrating the ruling; Ralph Reed announced that his Faith and Freedom coalition would use the ruling to “redouble its efforts” to encourage more prayers at city and county government meetings. Both the decision and the Religious Right's responses are likely to invite more religiously divisive church-state conflicts.

Justice Clarence Thomas used his concurring opinion to argue, as he has before, that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not apply to the states at all; in other words, he believes there is no constitutional reason that a state cannot have an official religion. Fortunately, the decision in this case is far narrower than that.

It is, as Justice Stephen Breyer says in the opening sentence of his dissent, a “fact-sensitive” case. It did not revolve around the question of whether legislative prayer is unconstitutional – the Court has previously upheld legislative prayer in Marsh v Chambers – but in part whether the way clergy were invited to give prayers to open town council meetings was sufficiently inclusive. In Breyer’s words,

“The question in this case is whether the prayer practice of the town of Greece, by doing too little to reflect the religious diversity of its citizens, did too much, even if unintentionally, to promote the ‘political division along religious lines’ that ‘was one of the principal evils against which the First Amendment was intended to protect.’” [quoting from the Court’s 1971 decision in Lemon v Kurtzman]

Also at issue was whether a town council meeting, at which members of the public are appealing to councilmembers for specific action, is more susceptible to being a coercive environment than a prayer given by a chaplain to a group of lawmakers about to start their legislative day. For example, the council hears debates on individual applications from residents and business owners seeing zoning permits and other licenses. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan recognizes that the Court has upheld the historical tradition of legislative prayer, but writes that the town hall meetings in Greece are a kind of hybrid, “occasions for ordinary citizens to engage with and petition their government, often on highly individualized matters.” That, she says, requires special care that each member of the community is respected as an equal citizen, something the Town of Greece has not done.

While the plaintiffs in the Town of Greece case did not argue that town leaders were motivated by religious bias, they argued that the selection process led almost exclusively to prayers being given by Christian ministers, and to prayers that were not just ceremonial invocations but quite explicitly sectarian. Kagan writes that town meetings need not be religion-free zones, saying that “pluralism and inclusion in a town hall can satisfy the constitutional requirement of neutrality,” but concluded that the board of the Town of Greece did nothing to recognize religious diversity, and that its practice “does not square with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share in her government.” She offers a hypothetical of a Muslim resident coming before the board to see a zoning variance to build an addition on her home:

“But just before she gets to say her piece, a minister deputized by the Town asks her to pray ‘in the name of God’s only son Jesus Christ.’ She must think – it is hardly paranoia, but only the truth—that Christian worship has become entwined with local governance. And now she faces a choice—to pray alongside the majority as one of that group or somehow to register her deeply felt difference….She does not wish to be rude to her neighbors, nor does she wish to aggravate the Board members whom she will soon be trying to persuade. And yet she does not want to acknowledge Christ’s divinity, any more than many of her neighbors would want to deny that tenet. So assume she declines to participate with the others in the first act of the meeting—or even, as the majority proposes, that she sands up and leaves the room altogether…At the least, she becomes a different kind of citizen, one who will not join in the religious practice that the Town Board has chosen as reflecting its own and the community’s most cherished beliefs. And she thus stands at a remove, based solely on religion, from her fellow citizens and her elected representatives.

Everything about that situation, I think, infringes the First Amendment…That the Town Board selects, month after month and year after year, prayergivers who will reliably speak in the voice of Christianity, and so places itself behind a single creed. That in offering those sectarian prayers, the Board’s chosen clergy members repeatedly call on individuals, prior to participating in local governance, to join in a form of worship that may be at odds with their own beliefs. That the clergy thus put some residents to the unenviable choice of either pretending to pray like the majority or declining to join its communal activity, at the very moment of petitioning their elected leaders. That the practice thus divides the citizenry, creating one class that shares the Board’s own evident religious beliefs and another (far smaller) class that does not. And that the practice also alters a dissenting citizen’s relationship with her government, making her religious difference salient when she seeks only to engage her elected representatives as would any other citizen.”

Kagan writes that the Court majority opinion reflected “two kinds of blindness.” First, it missed the difference between traditional legislative prayer and the setting of the town council, a difference she described as a “chasm,” and the fact that the prayers in Greece are mostly addressed to the public rather than lawmakers. She said the majority “changes the subject” rather than addressing the sectarian content of the prayers delivered in Greece, such as those invoking “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross” or “the plan of redemption that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” These are not, as she says, the recitation of “God save the United States and this honorable Court” invoked at the beginning of Supreme Court sessions.

Kagan cites George Washington’s well-known letter to the Newport Hebrew Congregation, in which he assured members of that congregation that the First Amendment does not simply tolerate people of minority faiths, rather all possess the same “immunities of citizenship.”

Writes Kagan:

For me, that remarkable guarantee means at least this much: When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as members of one faith or another. And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines. I believe, for all the reasons I have given, that the Town of Greece betrayed that promise. I therefore respectfully dissent from the Court’s decision.

Breyer also joined Kagan’s dissent, as did Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway.

Right Wing Round-Up - 4/24/14

  • Oliver Willis @ Media Matters: VIDEO: Cliven Bundy's Racist Comments.
  • Josh Feldman @ Mediaite: Bundy Explains ‘Negro’ Remarks: ‘I’m Wondering’ If They’re ‘Better Off Being Slaves.’
  • Joe Jervis: PolitiFact Rates Ralph Reed's Claims About Gay Parenting As Totally False.
  • Sarah Jones @ Wall of Separation: Moore Extremism: Alabama’s Infamous ‘Ten Commandments Judge’ Is As Big A Zealot As Ever.
  • Chris Rodda: Pentagon to Join in “One Voice United in Prayer” (On Separate Days in Separate Locations, Depending On What Religion You Are).
  • David Edwards @ Raw Story: NH lawmaker: Women deserve less pay because they don’t work hard like men.

Cal Thomas Says Public Schools Are 'The Enemy's Re-Education Camps,' Evolution Will Kill Seniors And People With Disabilities

After warning that marriage equality for gays and lesbians will destroy America, conservative columnist Cal Thomas told Daystar on Monday that public schools are instruments of “the enemy” and warned that Obamacare and the belief in evolution will lead to the deaths of senior citizens.

“Don’t put your children in the enemy’s re-education camps where they’re taught they evolved from slime and their nearest relative is down at the zoo and that’s why they like bananas on their cereal, and where they don’t learn the real history of America,” Thomas said before charging that the “government education system” is state-imposed Unitarianism that unfairly demonizes the Pilgrims as people who “hated the Indians and deprived them of their land.”

Later in the interview, Thomas said the theory of evolution will inevitably lead to the murder of “the elderly and then, soon after that, the handicapped, the unwanted, the mentally unfit and the rest” while Obamacare will establish death panels that will decide “who gets care” based in part on “how much you’re contributing to the tax base.”

“I spent a lot of time in the UK and I studied the NHS and I hear these horror stories. This is coming to America. You’re going to have — now Sarah Palin called them death panels, the left didn’t like that— but there will be bureaucrats deciding who gets care, who gets surgery and who doesn’t based on your age, the cost of the procedure and a lot of other factors, how much you’re contributing to the tax base,” he said.

“It’s coming and the reason it’s coming is we’ve devalued human life among the unborn. It will now be attacked at the other end of life among the elderly and then soon after that the handicapped, the unwanted, the mentally unfit and the rest because once you decide that we’re evolutionary accidents, we weren’t created in the image and likeness of an objectively existing God who endows us with a right to life, then all bets are off.”

Host Joni Lamb then asked Thomas and Ralph Reed, the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, “Twenty years ago, could you have ever imagined that America would have deteriorated in its moral values to the degree that we have here in 2014?”

“No, I would never have thought that it was possible,” Reed responded.

But Thomas said that Jesus “foresaw everything that was to come,” including the apparent collapse of America.

Right Wing Leftovers - 4/1/14

  • Judith Reisman says that AIDS victims should file a class action lawsuit against condom manufacturers on the grounds that condoms "are not effectively designed to protect from disease those people who engage in sodomy."
  • "Kids Are Humans, Not Machines" reports a helpful new anti-Common Core documentary produced by Mike Farris and his Home School Legal Defense Association.
  • Matt Barber says that President Obama "has committed multiple offenses that taken by themselves are impeachable."
  • Ralph Reed and Russell Moore have written a joint op-ed supporting of immigration reform as a "moral imperative."
  • Finally, it is a little odd to watch conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck spend an entire segment mocking other people for believing crazy conspiracy theories.

Pat Robertson & Ralph Reed Will Save America By Restoring The Religious Right

Pat Robertson’s protégé Ralph Reed, who formerly ran Robertson’s Christian Coalition and now leads the Faith & Freedom Coalition, appeared on the 700 Club today to discuss his new book, “Awakening.”

Reed said that after the GOP’s defeat in the 2012 election, he realized that the United States can only “turn around” and return to greatness if the Religious Right rises into a powerful political force as it did in the 1980s.

Robertson added that Reed’s book seems to take “a page out of my playbook” from his 1988 presidential campaign. “I think great minds think alike,” Reed agreed.

Right Wing Round-Up - 3/18/14

Ralph Reed Claims 'The Last Acceptable Form of Bigotry' Is Directed Against Evangelicals

Anti-gay activist Ralph Reed of the Faith & Freedom Coalition stopped by former congressman J.D. Hayworth’s NewsMax show, “America’s Forum,” today to warn that “bigotry against evangelical Christians is the last acceptable form of bigotry left in the country.”

Fittingly, Pat Robertson’s protégé made the comments after Hayworth delivered a rant about how Muslim-Americans are supposedly imposing Sharia law in Minnesota.

Ralph Reed: Social Issues Aren't Going Away, So GOP Needs To 'Stand And Fight' Against Gay Marriage And Abortion Rights

After delivering his remarks at CPAC, Ralph Reed sat down with the PolitiChicks to discuss the lack of attention given to social issues like gay marriage or abortion at the conference. Reed said it was unfortunate that these issues did not receive more attention not only at CPAC but from Republican candidates in general "because I think they're winning issues."

These sorts of social issues "never go away," Reed said, so any Republican running for office needs to just "plant your feet, stand and fight, and make it clear where you stand."

What is particularly upsetting to the GOP's right-wing base, Reed said, is that Democratic leaders like President Obama or Vice President Biden have no qualms about publicly declaring their support for marriage equality while "too many of our guys, they run for the tall grass even when the question comes up":


Right Wing Round-Up - 3/10/14

Paranoia-Rama: CPAC Edition

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

This week, here at Right Wing Watch we have been monitoring the Conservative Political Action Conference, the American Conservative Union’s annual summit that has been packed with typical right-wing blustering over taxesBenghazi, Ronald Reagan, not to mention plenty of good old fashioned anti-government conspiracy theories:

5) Wayne LaPierre’s American Nightmare

NRA head Wayne LaPierre told CPAC attendees yesterday that “political and media elites” have conspired against gun owners and conservatives in general, working to “punish anyone who disagrees.”

“The media's intentional corruption of the truth is an abomination and NRA members will never, and I mean never, submit or surrender to the national media,” he said.

Even though crime rates have been falling steadily since the 1990s, LaPierre described his dark vision of an America in which happy and peaceful neighborhoods have been transformed into places of violence and death filled with “knockout-gamers.”

4) IRS Just As Bad As Deposed Leader Of Ukraine

Plenty of CPAC speakers have mentioned the crisis in Ukraine as a supposed failure of President Obama, but Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch went as far as comparing the Obama administration to the government of overthrown Ukrainian president and Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports that Fitton told attendees of CPAC’s “IRS Targeting Scandal: Protecting the Voice of the People” panel that Obama’s IRS, which has been falsely accused of targeting conservative groups, is operating much like how the Yanukovych government violently suppressed anti-government protesters: “People are dying in the streets in Ukraine. People being oppressed by the political regime. That's what the IRS was doing.”

3) Trump’s Immigration Solutions

Donald Trump seems to think Jimmy Carter is dead, and that the US may die too if Congress passes immigration reform. The real estate mogul told CPAC yesterday that immigration reform would mean that America would no longer exist, as immigrants flood into the country, destroy the GOP and “take your job.”

2) Muslim Brotherhood Infiltration of CPAC

Anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney hosted an alternative CPAC event yesterday, prompted in part by worries that the right-wing gathering has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood through Republican activists such as Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan. Gaffney joined other conservatives in denouncing Norquist and Khan as Muslim Brotherhood agents who are advancing “civilization jihad” and undermining America.

Diana West yesterday took to WorldNetDaily to warn CPAC that Norquist and Khan are “a pair of influential men with track records of working with America’s enemies – Islamic organizations the U.S. government has linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and larger world of jihad.” She claimed that they are allied with those who hope “to destroy the United States and transform what is left into an Islamic-ruled land,” and pushed the Muslim Brotherhood “straight into the inner sanctum of the Bush White House.”

1) President Obama Is George Wallace

When the Justice Department challenged Louisiana’s voucher scheme over evidence that the program would resegregate the state’s schools, conservatives were unsurprisingly outraged. At CPAC today, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Religious Right leader Ralph Reed likened President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace.

Ralph Reed Likens Obama To George Wallace: 'Let Those Children Go!'

Speaking at CPAC, today, Ralph Reed defended Louisiana’s constitutionally dubious voucher program -- which the Department of Justice warned was resegregating schools -- by comparing President Obama to notorious segregationist George Wallace.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition head told CPAC today that Obama was harming black children and lifted from the spiritual “Go Down, Moses,” to tell Obama: “Let those children go!

Reed also chastised “left-wing bullies” for defeating Arizona’s right-to-discriminate bill and completely misrepresented the Little Sisters of the Poor case.

Reed, who has been embroiled in an ethics scandal over conning Native American casinos, also demanded that Attorney General Eric Holder face impeachment for his pro-marriage equality stance.

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