Stuart Shepard

Kim Davis And The Religious Right's Bizarre Definition Of 'Reasonable Accommodation'

It is kind of amazing that defenders of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has ordered her office not to issue any marriage licenses in order to avoid abiding by the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, actually think that it is entirely reasonable to force the more than 20,000 residents of the county to accommodate Davis' personal religious convictions rather than require her to simply do her job.

Like Mat Staver yesterday, Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family's Citizenlink insists today that the 23,333 residents of Rowan County, Kentucky, "could easily drive to any neighboring county" in order to obtain a marriage license and should be forced to do so because "an elected official has a right to a reasonable accommodation for her faith."

The idea that it is reasonable to make tens of thousands of people drive to a different county to obtain a marriage license because their clerk simply refuses to do her job, or even to let her subordinates do theirs, is laughable, as is Shepard's argument that it is gay rights activists who are trying to force their views on Davis when, in reality, it is Davis who is forcing her views on an entire county by demanding that all residents accommodate her religious convictions. Of course, if the clerks in the surrounding counties likewise refused to follow the law, Religious Right activists would defend them as well.

Predictably, Shepard goes on to claim that the true reason that gay rights activists are waging this fight is because they are in pain and are lashing out.

"My observation is that the activists are sincerely hurting," he said, "yet their worldview will not allow them to see any connection between the pain they're feeling and the life they're living, so they look for someone to blame and the focus right now is on any Christian who would take a stand for God's timeless design for marriage and relationships."

CitizenLink: Forcing Obama To Veto Anti-Abortion Legislation Helps Republicans In 2016

Yesterday, Tom Minnery and Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family's CitizenLink were discussing the need for conservative Christians to vote in the upcoming election, with Minnery saying that it was important so that Republicans can control both the House and the Senate and then pass right-wing legislation that President Obama will then veto, which will help the Republicans in the 2016 presidential election.

"It's always important to highlight the difference between conservatives and liberals," Minnery said. "The issue of marriage, the issue of sanctity of human life, the issue of religious liberty more and more, are issues that highlight the differences."

If Republicans take control of Congress, Minnery hopes that they will then pass various pieces of anti-abortion legislation that Obama will inevitably veto, which will help Republican candidates who will be running for president in the next election.

"Highlighting it during these next two years will be a good thing," Minnery said, as Shepard reminded viewers that "it's always important to keep an eye on the long term, on the big picture ... because it's the long term movement we're looking for":

Right Wing Leftovers - 4/4/14

  • FRC's Tony Perkins was on hand as Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a new Arizona-like "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" into law during a private ceremony.
  • Don Feder lays out the "10 Pillars of Patriotism."
  • Judie Brown, founder of American Life League, is outraged that President Obama gave a rosary blessed by the Pope to Nancy Pelosi: "I'm horrified, because as a Catholic, I think it's sacrilegious for someone like Pelosi – who is allegedly a Catholic – to accept anything from a pro-abortion president, but specifically when it is a rosary. It's a sacrilege for the president to have given it to anybody or to have accepted it in the first place. He has no faith."
  • You have been warned: "Without Revival, Our Civilization Will Become Like Sodom and Gomorrah."
  • Finally, Stuart Shepard blames groups like PFAW for an incident in which a little girl was allegedly told that she could not pray before lunch, even though the entire thing was false and ginned up by Todd Starnes.

Focus On The Family: Gays Are Blaming Christians For Their Own Emotional And Psychological Pain

On the most recent "CitizenLink Report" from Focus on the Family, Stuart Shepard and Bruce Hausknecht defended the recently vetoed legal discrimination bill in Arizona as nothing more than "an otherwise ordinary bill" that was badly misrepresented by gay activists.

As Shepard explained, the push for gay rights will not stop until Christian are compelled to celebrate same-sex marriages under the force of law and Hausknecht agreed, saying that what gay activists ultimately seek is the "coerced acceptance of all of their actions, behaviors, and whatnot."

"That's the direction the country is headed," Hausknecht declared. "It's a sad story to actually have to tell people."

Shepard concluded that the entire issue is rooted in the fact that gay people are in deep psychological and emotional pain but refuse to accept the fact that it is their own behavior that is causing such pain and instead lash out at Christians in order to use the law to force Christians into silence on this issue:

Focus On The Family Praises Ex-Gay Therapy, Wonders If Chris Christie Approves Of Adultery

Tom Minnery , head of Focus on the Family’s political arm CitizenLink, criticized Gov. Chris Christie for signing a bill barring the practice of ex-gay therapy on minors. He told Stuart Shepard that ex-gay therapy is “common and there is a history of them working well, many people have lost their confusion about sexuality as a result of them to the good.”

Minnery also feared the society is making kids think they are gay when they are not, increasing the need for the discredited pseudo-scientific practice: “As society prides itself on putting homosexuality on a pedestal you can see how more and more young people might think they are gay, might think they are lesbian, but what they are probably is just confused and need precisely the kind of help that the governor by signing this law says they cannot have and that’s a tragedy.”

Later, Shepard wondered if Christie, who said he didn’t consider homosexuality to be a sin, urged reporters to ask him “if immorality is okay, are you okay with adultery? Is that what you’re saying, what sins and which ones are out, Gov. Christie?” “Someone ought to ask that question of his wife, what about adultery,” Minnery added.

(HT: Michael Allen)

Focus on the Family: Dedicated to Defending The Rights of "People of all Faiths," Just Not Muslims

Earlier this month, just as the right-wing anti-mosque hysteria was getting whipped up, Focus on the Family posted a video in which Stuart Shepard and Bruce Hausknecht complained about how municipalities were discriminating against churches using zoning laws:

Shepard: What does this tell us about the state of religious freedom in the United States?

Hausknecht: Well, we're seeing first a hostility toward religion. You would think in this day and age of tolerance that there would be tolerance for religious views, religious people. There is not. We're seeing it in the zoning cases, we're seeing it in the schools. That is a definite wake-up call for people of all faiths to stand up and protect their rights.

At the time, Focus was one of the few Religious Right groups that had not yet taken a position on Park 51, so I wondered if the organization would defend the right of Muslims to build the Islamic Center, especially in light of the organization's plea for "people of all faiths" to wake up and protect their religious freedoms.

So I know it will come as a shock to you all to learn that Focus' concerns for the rights of "people of all faiths" does not, in fact, apply to Muslims:

During CitizenLink's weekly webcast, Tom Minnery said, "Nobody is suggesting that the brand of Islam practiced by the owners of this mosque [is] going to lead to more terrorist attacks. But for Heaven's sake, in the name of all that is decent and in the name of common sense, build it elsewhere."

He said the group had the right to build, but he questioned the prudence of doing so. "Is it dishonoring to the 3,000 people who gave their lives to have this mosque which, in some minds, represents a similar religious belief that caused the terrorists to do what they did?" said Minnery.

Stuart Shepard, host of the webcast, noted that this position is a departure from Minnery's previous positions on religious liberty.

"You have spent a lot of time talking about religious freedom. And you work for Alliance Defense Fund quite a bit helping them fight for the rights of people, for religious freedom. It is quite a turn for you to say that this is not the right location for religious freedom to be expressed," said Shepard.

"Well, it is indeed," said Minnery.

Where Does Focus On The Family Stand On The "Ground Zero Mosque"?

While some Religious Right groups have made it very clear that they oppose the construction of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero in New York City despite their so-called commitments to religious freedom, other groups have remained rather silent. 

As far as I can tell, the only comment the Family Research Council has made on this issue came in the form of this radio commentary back in June:

Muslims are gaining ground all right--Ground Zero. Hello, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Nine years after terrorists forever altered the New York City skyline, an Islamic leader is threatening to do it again--this time, by building a mosque three blocks from where the twin towers collapsed. To the families of 9-11, this 13-story project is the ultimate insult. "This is a burial ground," said a dad who lost his son in the attack. The man who bought the land said his people's only goal was peace. But that'll be a tough sell in a city that lost 3,000 to his religion's extremists. Besides, if he really cared about harmony, he'd have picked a less offensive location. Instead, he's building a monument to Islam on a site where terrorists committed mass-murder in Allah's name. For years, Muslims have said we need to be sensitive to their needs, their customs, their rights. But is there anything more insensitive than creating a foundation for shar'iah law on the graves that its fanatics killed?

Other Religious Right groups don't appear particularly eager to take a position on the issue either:

The Becket Fund, which describes itself as a "public interest law firm protecting the free expression of all religious traditions," has been notably silent considering how outspoken it has been in the past. In addition to helping the Third Church of Christ, Scientist in Washington, DC sue the city using RLUIPA in 2008, the fund represented a New Jersey mosque in 2006 in a RLIUPA case claiming that the city of Wayne, N.J., was "improperly and arbitrarily delaying the mosque's land development application" due to "community anti-Moslem hostility." The group is normally not shy about wading into public debates, and recently caused a minor furor by reading nefarious intent into President Obama's use of the phrase "freedom of worship" instead of "freedom of religion." Its silence may be related to its conservative political backers. For instance, Newt Gingrich, who has loudly opposed Cordoba House, served as honorary vice chair of one of its annual black-tie dinners.

The Alliance Defense Fund, another conservative religious rights group that has made frequent use of RLUIPA cases, has also stayed out of the debate. "We've been asked by a few outlets," a spokesperson told The Upshot. "We're not commenting."

The Upshot spoke with just one person within this ecosystem of religious rights organizations who was neither silent nor contradicting past actions: Matthew Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a religious rights law firm associated with Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.

"The Constitution cuts both ways," Staver said. "I think you have to be principled from a legal perspective, because the First Amendment is a double-edged sword."

Which brings us to this new report from Stuart Shepard and Bruce Hausknecht of Focus on the Family's Citizenlink voicing their outrage over a church being shut down in Georgia for violating zoning regulations:

Hausknecht: Well here's the problem: for some reason, around the country cities and counties and other municipalities are hostile to churches, they don't want them for some reason or another. Usually its taxes ...

Shepard: The fact that they don't pay property taxes.

Hausknecht: They're usually exempt and so they try to zone them away or discourage them away. And by creating zoning laws the discriminate against churches, they're violating federal law and the First Amendment.

Shepard: What does this tell us about the state of religious freedom in the United States?

Hausknecht: Well, we're seeing first a hostility toward religion. You would think in this day and age of tolerance that there would be tolerance for religious views, religious people. There is not. We're seeing it in the zoning cases, we're seeing it in the schools. That is a definite wake-up call for people of all faiths to stand up and protect their rights.

So, does that mean that Focus on the Family supports the right to build this Islamic Center or does the organization, like seemingly so many others on the Right, really only believe in protecting and defending "religious freedom" when it involves Christians? 

FRC Calls for Impeachment Over National Day of Prayer Ruling

Last Friday, a judge struck down Arkansas' law banning adoption by unmarried couples but, interestingly, the decision has not yielded an outpouring of outrage from the Religious Right - at least, not yet.

And the reason for that seems to be due to the fact that they are still too busy being outraged about the other ruling from last week finding the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional.

Dave Welch of the US Pastor Council says the ruling "is grounded in a fundamental hostility against public expression of the Christian faith" and the result of the fact that the nation continues to "reject the existence and/or sovereignty of God," while Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard made the issue the focus on his latest "Stoplight" video (note Mike Huckabee's appearance in the very beginning):

And while Fox News' Megyn Kelly can't seem to understand how a day designed to "acknowledge the role that God has played in the formation of this country and its laws" could ever be seen as promoting religion, The Christian Defense Coalition's Rev. Patrick Mahoney and Faith 2 Action's Rev. Rob Schenck are planning a press conference to demand that the Obama administration appeal the ruling:

President Obama has a unique chance to build a bridge to the faith community by acting quickly on this matter and reaffirming his commitment to public expressions of faith and the National Day of Prayer. It is not enough for Mr. Obama to make wonderful speeches about protecting religious freedom around the world.

"Now is the time to act on protecting religious freedom in America.

"Sadly, the President's record concerning the Christian community and religious liberty is not a good one.

Meanwhile, Rep. Randy Forbes is telling Focus on the Family that the decision should be a "wake-up call" to all Americans about the importance of keeping "activist judges" off the bench:

The federal judge’s decision to call the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional represents a movement we are seeing across the country of a small minority who want to exclude faith, religion and morality from the marketplace of ideas. In so doing, they may be depriving us of the very principles we need to secure our freedom.


While we cannot speculate how the Supreme Court would rule on this case, one thing this particular decision should make clear is how dangerous it is to appoint activist judges. This federal judge has essentially said that the Declaration of Independence – a document that very clearly states that our rights were given by a Creator – is unconstitutional. Is there any question this judge would have declared the Declaration of Independence unconstitutional if it were written today, since it proclaims all our rights come from the Creator? It is regrettable that we would have a federal judge essentially rule against the very premise of the nation's foundational document of freedom. The decision should be a wake-up call to Americans across the country.

But not to be outone is the Family Research Council, which is demanding the impeachment of the judge and that the nation fall on its knees to pray for our nation during these "darkest days":

Make no mistake. This judicial mutiny lies directly at the feet of the Left, including President Obama, who has created an atmosphere in which the Constitution is silly putty in the hands of liberal activists. Slowly but surely, he is making American soil more fertile for the radical redefinition of society. This cannot be tolerated. We must ensure that the President's bench nominees have a reverence for the Constitution that this judge lacks. In the meantime, we call on Congress to start the impeachment proceedings for Barbara Crabb, as she violated of her sacred oath of "administering justice... under the Constitution and laws of the United States." What she has done to repress, we will use to revive. What she meant to undermine prayer, we will use as the reason why it's necessary. When the great men and women of our past bent their knees to God on behalf of the "sacred fire of liberty," it was often during the nation's darkest days. My friends, it is time we join them.

Understanding the "War On Christmas" Mindset

I think this video from Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard pretty much sums up the mindset of those who annually fight the "war on Christmas":

It's almost like Shepard is entirely unaware that there are millions of people in America who aren't Christians but who also celebrate holidays this time of year and that advertisers might want to reach them as well.

And considering that Shepard thinks that "the entire nation is ready to celebrate Christmas," that seems to be exactly the case. 

Via Good As You.

Right Wing Round-Up

Today we are starting a new feature highlighting other good posts from progressive blogs that relate to the issues we work on.  

So, without further ado: 

  • The Texas Freedom Network has released it’s annual “The State of the Religious Right” report, which explains that while some “might assume the religious right’s influence [in the state] will be much weaker in the 81st Legislature ... that would be wrong … the religious right will not easily give up its long-standing influence over public policy.”

  • Media Matters catches BOND’s Jesse Lee Peterson declaring that “most black Americans, 96 percent of them, are racists who (unintelligible) white Americans. And white folks feel guilty and they are afraid of being called racists.” Pam's House Blend has more.

  • Good as You highlights Tony Perkins voicing concerns about new RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

  • Tips-Q takes on Matt Barber's latest insanity.

  • Sarah Posner points to Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard asserting “that conservatives' failure to speak up for poor Rush Limbaugh in the face of the fascistic criticism from all those ‘wild-eyed liberals’ is like not speaking up against Nazism.”

  • Finally, Dan Schultz (aka Pastor Dan) writes in Religion Dispatches that efforts to find a common ground between conservative, moderate, and liberal Christians tend to overlook the basic fact that the views of each group are often antithetical to one another and that “to think that they can be resolved in due time around the kitchen table not only underestimates their importance, it underestimates the people behind them.”

And I Start to Complain That There's No Rain

Late last month, Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard released his now infamous video calling on people to join in praying that Barack Obama's speech to the Democratic Convention would be drowned out by "rains of biblical proportion."

Focus unsuccessfully tied to yank the video and Shepard issued his own apology of sorts, only to see the call taken up by Alan Keyes' running mate, Wiley Drake.

But it doesn't look like their efforts are going to pay off:

Well, the Democrats can sigh with relief.

It's doesn't look like it is going to rain on their party tonight in Denver. This lays to rest the prayers for rain that a Focus on the Family official recently suggested sort of kiddingly. It should be a mild evening, at least weather-wise, when 75,000 people flood Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium for the presidential nominee's speech.

Today in Colorado Springs the skies should be a sunny 83 degrees It's a bit cooler because of a cold front.

The Weather Channel reports zero percent chance of rain this evening

Drake Picks Up the “Pray for Rain” Mantle

You may remember Wiley Drake as the pastor who issued a press release endorsing Mike Huckabee on church letterhead last year and then responded by calling for “imprecatory prayer” against Americans United when they reported him to the IRS.

Drake is now reportedly serving as Alan Keyes’ running mate in the gadfly’s long-shot presidential bid, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have time to rally his supporters to ask God do some of his dirty work.

And since Focus on the Family is ashamed of their infamous “Pray for Rain” video and doing everything they can to erase all trace of it from the web, Drake, who has no shame, has decided to take up the call:

I was sadden when Focus pulled the 'Rain' Video and I am asking "The Telephonic Prayer Meeting" to daily pray, at 6:00 am Denver time to ask God to bring on the rain.

I too am still against killing babies and allowing sodomites to marry. Anyone wishing to join those of us who believe in Imprecatory prayer are invited to join "The Telephonic Prayer Meeting" daily 5:00 am to 7:00 am, call 1-712-432-1690 put in access code 399430.

We keep the prayer conference call line open every day for at least 2 hours, 5:00 to 7:00 am PT

Stuart Shepard is invited to lead us in this prayer for rain any day. Other prayer warriors are welcome not only to pray for rain but repentance in America as well.

Focus Really Doesn’t Want You To See Its “Pray for Rain” Video

As we noted earlier this week, Focus on the Family yanked its video featuring Stuart Shepard asking supporters to beseech God with prayers so that Barack Obama’s Democratic Convention speech at Mile High Stadium in Denver would be washed out with “rains of biblical proportion.”

The video and attempt to hide it generated so much attention that Shepard was forced to apologize, kind of, in his latest video:

Despite their efforts to remove the video, someone else uploaded a copy of it to YouTube which quickly generated more than 100,000 views.  But now, Focus has gone after that version as well and gotten YouTube to remove it.

But try as they might, there are still several versions of the clip available on YouTube and now, News Blab 2008, which first posted the copy of the FOF video to YouTube, has gone ahead and posted it again on their own website, saying Focus “obviously [does] not understand Copyright ‘Fair Use’ when reporting a news story.”

On top of that, Good As You also has a copy of it posted on their website.

And now, so do we:

Get the Flash Player to see this video clip.

Focus Tries to Hide Its “Pray for Rain” Video

On July 31, Focus on the Family’ posted a video featuring Stuart Shepard asking supporters to beseech God with prayers so that Barack Obama’s Democratic Convention speech at Mile High Stadium in Denver would be washed out with “rains of biblical proportion.”  But don’t bother clicking the link to watch the video, because Focus has now removed it, as the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Focus on the Family Action pulled a video from its Web site today that asked people to pray for "rain of biblical proportions" during Barack Obama's Aug. 28 appearance at Invesco Field in Denver to accept the Democratic nomination for president.

Stuart Shepard, director of digital media at Focus Action, the political arm of Focus on the Family, said the video he wrote and starred in was meant to be "mildly humorous."

But complaints from about a dozen Focus members convinced the organization to pull the video, said Tom Minnery, Focus Action vice president of public policy.

"If people took it seriously, we regret it," Minnery said Monday.

"Pray for Rain" was posted July 30 and blazed its way through the Internet, scoring 20,000 page views, Shepard said.

It was one of Shepard's weekly video commentaries that appear on, Focus Action's Web site. The general timbre of Shepard's videos is tongue-in-cheek as he examines political issues from the conservative Christian viewpoint of Focus Action.

Most of "Pray for Rain," which lasted less than three minutes, showed a lighthearted Shepard at Invesco Field asking viewers to pray for "torrential" rain during Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.

"I'm talking ‘umbrella-ain't-going-to-help-you rain,'" he said on the video.

The video's point, Shepard said, is that in his view Obama has not clearly stated his stances on abortion and gay marriage, important themes within the Christian right.

"I'm still pro life, and I'm still in favor of marriage as being between one man and one woman," Shepard said in the video. "And I would like the next president who will select justices for the next Supreme Court to agree."

As for his praying for a deluge: "It's called hyperbole," Shepard said Monday. "It is meant to be humorous."

Minnery said the video was taken down because several Focus members complained that prayer shouldn't be used to bring harm on someone else.

"We are not about confusing people about prayer," Minnery said.

Focus has gone all out; disabling the video and removing it from their archives, as well as from their GodTube and YouTube pages but, unfortunately for them, that hasn’t prevented others from capturing the video and posting it themselves [Good As You has the video as well]:

Despite Focus’s best efforts to remove their video and pretend they were only kidding, it wasn’t enough to keep Shepard from earning himself the top spot on yesterday’s Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World”

Election of Obama Would Allow “March of Darkness” to Continue Unfettered

Last night, Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery and Stuart Shepard took time out from their busy schedules attacking Barack Obama’s faith and praying for "rain of biblical proportions" to ruin his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention to sit down for a webcast with Bishop Harry Jackson, himself taking a break from running his bogus grassroots energy front group to discuss the upcoming election.

Jackson explained that it is vitally important for "values voters" to get active before November because "an anti-church sentiment is aligning against us" and that an on-going "march of darkness" will overtake the country if "we don’t do the right thing in this campaign":

Drowning Out Obama With “Rain of Biblical Proportions”

Focus on the Family’s Stuart Shepard is asking supporters to beseech God with prayers so that Barack Obama’s Democratic Convention speech at Mile High Stadium in Denver gets rained out:

Via Good As You

News Flash from Conservative Evangelicals: We’re Out of Mainstream

Last week, The Barna Group, an evangelical Christian research and publishing outfit, released a poll saying that the priorities of evangelicals are far different than those of other Americans.

Other polls suggest that many evangelical Christians in fact have priorities that are closer to the public at large than to those of the Religious Right’s self-proclaimed leaders.  So why would an organization whose purpose is “to be a catalyst in moral and spiritual transformation in the United States” proclaim that evangelicals are out of the political mainstream?

It could be about the struggle within the Religious Right over who speaks for evangelical Christians.  Movement leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council insist that criminalizing abortion and opposing legal equality for gay people must remain the overriding priorities for Christian involvement in the public square.  The emergence of an active pro-environment movement among evangelicals has provoked foot-stomping outrage from the likes of Dobson and Perkins.

Barna weighs in with the supposed finding that evangelicals consider the environment a low priority:

… evangelicals stood out regarding their views on the environment. Only 35% said that protecting the environment should be a top priority - the lowest score recorded among any of the 80 subgroups studied. The national average was 60%.

But the environment is not the only issue in which Barna finds evangelicals out of the mainstream:

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