Ted Cruz

CPAC Superheroes: Who's The Hulk?

If “superhero” is not the word that comes to mind when you think of Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, or Rick Perry, you clearly aren’t CPAC material. The Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual right-wing gathering hosted by the American Conservative Union, is promoting this year’s event with a graphic inspired by the movie “Avengers” – or Disney’s animated series “Avengers Assemble.”

As in the Marvel universe, there are some household names, and some clearly second- or third-tier heroes. We’ll leave it to you to speculate on the superpowers wielded by Bobby Jindal, John Bolton, Laura Ingraham, Ben Carson, and others.

Meet David Lane: The Anti-Gay, Christian-Nation Extremist Of The RNC

Last night, Rachel Maddow reported that the American Family Association has fired Bryan Fischer as its official spokesman, while letting Fischer keep his radio show on the organization’s radio network. The move apparently came as a result of growing controversy surrounding a trip to Israel for Republican National Committee delegates bankrolled by the AFA.

It didn’t look good for the RNC that the group paying the tab for the trip to Israel has a spokesman and radio host who believes that gay people are modern-day Nazis who are responsible for the Holocaust, demands Jewish conversion to Christianity (and wants to require conversion for Jewish and other non-Christian immigrants), and insists that non-Christians have no First Amendment rights: “Counterfeit religions, alternative religions to Christianity, have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of the religion.”

However, the RNC trip’s chief organizer, David Lane of the American Renewal Project, which has close ties to the AFA, is no less radical than Fischer … but his extreme views haven’t stopped Republicans from embracing Lane.

lane

Priebus, center. Lane, far right. Via The Brody File.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has appeared at Lane’s political gatherings and praised his radical anti-LGBT activism. In fact, potential Republican presidential candidates like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and Mike Pence have either appeared at Lane’s events, which typically take place in early primary states, or participated in election-themed advertisements for Lane’s group.

Bobby Jindal, who has participated in both ventures, even hosted a prayer rally last weekend that was organized by Lane and funded by the AFA.

Lane and the AFA also organized an earlier visit to Israel for Paul and Perry, and Lane also organized Huckabee’s recent trip to Europe.

Lane, who describes himself as a political operative who prefers working behind the scenes, shares Fischer’s view that God is preparing to violently punish America for its tolerance of homosexuality. Lane, like Fischer, also believes that gay Republicans and gay rights supporters in the GOP are dangerous figures who will help bring the country down. He has:

  • Feared that God might destroy the U.S. just as he punished Nazi Germany: “If we get judgment like Nazi Germany, I’m assuming we go to rebel, and God says ‘I’m done.’”
  • Favorably quoted a Christian author who said that “same-sex marriage practiced universally is suicide. To survive gays and lesbians are parasites, depending for their cultural survival on couples that birth the next generation.”
  • Explained why homosexuality is a threat to freedom: “Homosexuality is debauchery. God’s loyalty and fidelity — that guard the nation — make sustainable freedom dependent on seeking virtue.”
  • Predicted that homosexuality will lead to the destruction of America: “Homosexual desire and marriage is unnatural and — more so — is a symptom of advanced cultural decay and precursor to the collapse of the Republican Party and the nation.... The mark of a decadent society is the exaltation and normalization of sin — which leads to the death.”
  • Compared Republicans who support marriage equality to politicians who backed slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.

“What is our aim?” Lane asked in a 2013 op-ed. “One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, America will ultimately collapse.”

He has set his sights at the separation of church and state, warning that “America is lost, one has to think through and devise a strategy to recapture our Christian heritage and reestablish our Christian culture.” Lane has also outlined his strategy to further entrench his radical ideology in the Republican Party by holding prayer rallies like “The Response,” sponsoring events featuring GOP leaders, known as “restoration” and “renewal” events or “pastor policy briefings,” and recruiting 1,000 pastors to run for elected office.

Urging conservatives to “wage war for the Soul of America and trust the living God to deliver the pagan gods into our hands,” Lane wants conservatives to embrace his exclusionary Christian Nationalist beliefs and abolish the separation of church and state. Lane:

  • Called the separation of church and state a “lie” and a “fabricated whopper” used to stop “Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media.”
  • Claimed that while “America was a Christian nation” since its founding, now it must choose between being “a Christian nation or a pagan nation.”
  • Said America needs a “thorough cleaning from pornography, abortion, homosexuality, filth from TV and Hollywood, racism, and injustice.”
  • Congratulated a pastor for exposing Mitt Romney’s belief in the “false god of Mormonism” during the 2012 GOP primaries.
  • Lamented that the “‘religion of secularism’ has produced red ink as far as the eye can see, homosexuals praying at the Inauguration, tax-funded abortion, homosexual marriage in several States, Evangelicals held in contempt, and God expelled from the classrooms of America — and the public square.”
  • Warned that while America has “grovel to the false god of Islam,” “America, a Christian nation in heritage and culture, is being dismantled brick by brick.”

National School Choice Week: PR For Privatizers?

On Wednesday morning, a roomful of school children were herded into a congressional meeting room and required to sit through an hour and a half worth of speeches by conservative Members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Patrick McHenry, Education & Workforce Committee Chair John Kline of Minnesota, and a handful of others. Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana was the emcee.

The Capitol Hill event was in honor of National School Choice Week, whose organizers describe it as a nonpolitical, nonpartisan “independent public awareness campaign” promoting the idea that every child deserves access to an excellent education. Who would disagree?

In other words, it’s a PR campaign, one that wraps itself in the moral mantle of children. But the bright yellow scarves it wraps around its participants are meant to distract attention from the fact that sponsors of this week’s thousands of events include many anti-public education, anti-union, anti-government ideologues, including the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance for Prosperity and others. The President of National School Choice Week, Andrew Campanella, used to work at the Alliance for School Choice, whose board is chaired by deep-pocketed right-wing activist Betsy DeVos and is funded by a who’s who of right-wing foundations.

As we noted during last year’s NSCW:

Education policy is a vast, complicated, and hotly contested arena. Terms like “education reform” and “school choice” sound good, but they are so broad as to be almost meaningless. They can be applied to genuine efforts to strengthen teaching and educational opportunity as well as cynical schemes to destroy public employee unions and dismantle public education altogether.

In particular, “school choice” encompasses a huge array of education policies, from public charter and magnet schools to taxpayer-funded for-profit cyberschools and homeschooling.  Even a seemingly specific term like “charter schools” cloaks a more complex reality that ranges from innovation labs co-located in public schools to for-profit chain operations.  

Indeed, this year, Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter published “A Smarter Charter: Finding What works for Charter Schools and Public Education.” The book documents that the original vision for charter schools – teachers empowered to be creative in diverse schools that could identify ways to strengthen public education – has been turned on its head. Rather than a teacher-empowering and collaborative paradigm, charter schools are often noted for tightly controlled teachers in highly segregated schools dominated by an ideology of competition with public schools. 

There are more collaborative models, just as there are charter schools with strong academic track records as well as those that lag behind the public schools that choice advocates consistently disparage. Important distinctions get lost under the big, vague, banner of school choice. And that’s intentional.

NSCW is about painting in broad strokes and drawing no distinctions, for example, between public magnet schools and for-profit corporations cashing in on the “reform” movement. No distinction is made between giving students choice among their district’s public schools and diverting education dollars into religious academies and online homeschooling via vouchers and other schemes.  These do not have the same impact on public schools, or the same levels of public accountability, but in the interest of keeping things simple, and winning public support for across-the-board expansion of these programs, they’re all “choice.”

As we wrote last year:

The problem with this “collective messaging” approach is that it hides the anti-public-education agenda of some “reformers.” Celebrating “school choice” across the board lends credibility to organizations pushing for destructive policies that are not at all popular with the American public. In spite of decades of right-wing-funded attacks on public education, for example, Americans oppose privatization plans like vouchers that transfer public education funds to private schools.

Self-proclaimed reformers often dismiss concerns about privatization as a “red herring.” But you can’t embrace the Milton Friedman Foundation as a partner and then pretend that privatization is only an imaginary threat dreamed up by teachers unions.  Friedman has an explicit goal of getting rid of public schools altogether; they see programs like vouchers for poor kids as a tactical stepping stone toward that ultimate goal.

Other supporters of National School Choice Week have included companies that want to tap into the huge flow of public dollars spent every year on education. K12, a member of the “choice”-promoting American Legislative Exchange Council and a company the New York Times has described as “the biggest player in the online-school business,” paid its president more than $5.5. million last year; two other executives each made more than $4 million. A November 2014 investigation by Bloomberg focused on the company’s efforts to turn around “subpar test scores” and declining enrollments.

National School Choice Week promoters say it is nonpolitical and has no legislative agenda, but that’s hard to take seriously given the agendas of its backers. At this week’s event on Capitol Hill, the only Democratic Member of Congress to join the Republican parade was Illinois’ Dan Lipinski, who declined to endorse Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. (Former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford also spoke.)

Members of Congress at Wednesday’s event talked about pushing legislation this year to expand “school choice” programs, meaning that battles over vouchers, charter schools, and other education issues will be on the agenda this year, including February’s Senate markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “There are currently private school voucher and tuition tax credit programs in 23 states and at least 10 states are looking to create new or expanding existing school voucher programs this year.”

Obviously, not everyone who participates in National School Choice Week activities is an anti-public-education ideologue. People from across the political spectrum are eager to strengthen schools and give students an opportunity for a great education. That includes public school teachers, administrators, and school board members – people who are collectively smeared as “the blob” by some “reformers.” People who are seeking to strengthen public education and make schools better for all children should think twice about making common cause with organizations that see public education as something to be dismantled and corporations that see students as the means to a bigger bottom line.

This post originally appeared on People For the American Way's blog.

National School Choice Week: PR for Privatizers?

On Wednesday morning, a roomful of school children were herded into a congressional meeting room and required to sit through an hour and a half worth of speeches by conservative Members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Patrick McHenry, Education & Workforce Committee Chair John Kline of Minnesota, and a handful of others. Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana was the emcee.

The Capitol Hill event was in honor of National School Choice Week, whose organizers describe it as a nonpolitical, nonpartisan “independent public awareness campaign” promoting the idea that every child deserves access to an excellent education. Who would disagree?

In other words, it’s a PR campaign, one that wraps itself in the moral mantle of children. But the bright yellow scarves it wraps around its participants are meant to distract attention from the fact that sponsors of this week’s thousands of events include many anti-public education, anti-union, anti-government ideologues, including the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance for Prosperity and others. The President of National School Choice Week, Andrew Campanella, used to work at the Alliance for School Choice, whose board is chaired by deep-pocketed right-wing activist Betsy DeVos and is funded by a who’s who of right-wing foundations.

As we noted during last year’s NSCW:

Education policy is a vast, complicated, and hotly contested arena. Terms like “education reform” and “school choice” sound good, but they are so broad as to be almost meaningless. They can be applied to genuine efforts to strengthen teaching and educational opportunity as well as cynical schemes to destroy public employee unions and dismantle public education altogether.

In particular, “school choice” encompasses a huge array of education policies, from public charter and magnet schools to taxpayer-funded for-profit cyberschools and homeschooling.  Even a seemingly specific term like “charter schools” cloaks a more complex reality that ranges from innovation labs co-located in public schools to for-profit chain operations.  

Indeed, this year, Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter published “A Smarter Charter: Finding What works for Charter Schools and Public Education.” The book documents that the original vision for charter schools – teachers empowered to be creative in diverse schools that could identify ways to strengthen public education – has been turned on its head. Rather than a teacher-empowering and collaborative paradigm, charter schools are often noted for tightly controlled teachers in highly segregated schools dominated by an ideology of competition with public schools. 

There are more collaborative models, just as there are charter schools with strong academic track records as well as those that lag behind the public schools that choice advocates consistently disparage. Important distinctions get lost under the big, vague, banner of school choice. And that’s intentional.

NSCW is about painting in broad strokes and drawing no distinctions, for example, between public magnet schools and for-profit corporations cashing in on the “reform” movement. No distinction is made between giving students choice among their district’s public schools and diverting education dollars into religious academies and online homeschooling via vouchers and other schemes.  These do not have the same impact on public schools, or the same levels of public accountability, but in the interest of keeping things simple, and winning public support for across-the-board expansion of these programs, they’re all “choice.”

As we wrote last year:

The problem with this “collective messaging” approach is that it hides the anti-public-education agenda of some “reformers.” Celebrating “school choice” across the board lends credibility to organizations pushing for destructive policies that are not at all popular with the American public. In spite of decades of right-wing-funded attacks on public education, for example, Americans oppose privatization plans like vouchers that transfer public education funds to private schools.

Self-proclaimed reformers often dismiss concerns about privatization as a “red herring.” But you can’t embrace the Milton Friedman Foundation as a partner and then pretend that privatization is only an imaginary threat dreamed up by teachers unions.  Friedman has an explicit goal of getting rid of public schools altogether; they see programs like vouchers for poor kids as a tactical stepping stone toward that ultimate goal.

Other supporters of National School Choice Week have included companies that want to tap into the huge flow of public dollars spent every year on education. K12, a member of the “choice”-promoting American Legislative Exchange Council and a company the New York Times has described as “the biggest player in the online-school business,” paid its president more than $5.5. million last year; two other executives each made more than $4 million. A November 2014 investigation by Bloomberg focused on the company’s efforts to turn around “subpar test scores” and declining enrollments.

National School Choice Week promoters say it is nonpolitical and has no legislative agenda, but that’s hard to take seriously given the agendas of its backers. At this week’s event on Capitol Hill, the only Democratic Member of Congress to join the Republican parade was Illinois’ Dan Lipinski, who declined to endorse Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. (Former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford also spoke.)

Members of Congress at Wednesday’s event talked about pushing legislation this year to expand “school choice” programs, meaning that battles over vouchers, charter schools, and other education issues will be on the agenda this year, including February’s Senate markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “There are currently private school voucher and tuition tax credit programs in 23 states and at least 10 states are looking to create new or expanding existing school voucher programs this year.”

Obviously, not everyone who participates in National School Choice Week activities is an anti-public-education ideologue. People from across the political spectrum are eager to strengthen schools and give students an opportunity for a great education. That includes public school teachers, administrators, and school board members – people who are collectively smeared as “the blob” by some “reformers.” People who are seeking to strengthen public education and make schools better for all children should think twice about making common cause with organizations that see public education as something to be dismantled and corporations that see students as the means to a bigger bottom line.

PFAW

It’s a Radical Right Red Meat Feast as 2016 GOP Primary Kicks Off with a Bang

Over the weekend, likely Republican 2016 presidential candidates stepped up to the microphone at two extremist events to throw red meat at their Radical Right base and prove their ultraconservative bona fides in the run up to primary season.

Here’s a taste of what went down at Iowa’s so-called Freedom Summit, hosted by Rep. Steve King – who is most famous for his radical and dehumanizing anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won the day with the most well-received speech, in which his biggest applause came when he bragged about his party’s attempts at voter suppression in his state, saying, “we required in our state, by law, a photo ID to vote.”

Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee said states should ignore Supreme Court rulings favorable to marriage equality.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie played up how staunchly anti-choice he is.

Senator Ted Cruz made the case for caucus voters to weed out anyone but extreme right-wing candidates. “Every candidate is going to come to you and say they are the most conservative person that ever lived,” Cruz said. “Talk is cheap.”

And at a separate Religious Right event, hosted by SPLC-designated hate group the American Family Association, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal discussed the need to enshrine discrimination against same-sex couples in the Constitution, promoted Islamophobic conspiracy theories and closed his speech with the statement “our god wins.” That event, titled The Response, perfectly embodied the dangers of mixing religion with politics in the way that the Right so loves to do.

By making political issues – even incredibly important ones, and even ones that are historically divisive – litmus tests for their followers’ religious conviction, they cast their opponents not only as wrong, but as evil and satanic, allowing for no possibility of compromise and making even civil coexistence difficult.  

It was a lot of what you’d expect – unfortunately – but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. These are the people who are setting the agenda for one of America’s two major parties – and the one that right now controls both houses of Congress.

Read more and check out video from both events at RightWingWatch.org.

UPDATE: Jon Stewart's can't-miss segment on the Freedom Summit from the Daily Show (video courtesy of Comedy Central):

PFAW

Alex Jones Envisions Paul-Cruz Dream Ticket: 'Rand Paul Is The Best'

Sen. Rand Paul has scored a big endorsement for his potential presidential candidacy…from legendary conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

Paul has appeared a number of times on Jones’s program and has said he relies on the “Infowars” host for information on the Bilderbergers and the “people who are promoting this globalist agenda," so it came as no surprise when Jones endorsed him for president yesterday, citing their years of friendship.

Jones’ endorsement came after an interview with the senator’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, who warned of an imminent economic collapse and foreign calamities.

“Rand Paul is the best,” Jones said after the interview concluded. “I trust him. I’ve known him for 19 years and he’s the guy for president.”

Jones also had an idea for the candidate Paul should pick as his running mate: Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Ted Cruz will make a good VP," Jones said. "I’m telling you, Ted Cruz is getting more aggressive. That’s why, in polls, he’s now number one. In real polls, Ted Cruz has now taken the lead because he’s being aggressive and that’s what people want.”

The “InfoWars” host has previously boasted of his nearly two-decade relationship with Sen. Paul while cautioning that “he’s got a real shot at [the presidency] except for the electronic voting machine fraud.”

Ted Cruz: Your Two-Time Equine Posterior Achievement Award Winner

Congratulations to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has won this year’s Equine Posterior Achievement Award, People For the American Way’s annual prize for the country's most extreme right-wing politician. Cruz won by a 21-point margin in a poll of PFAW members and Right Wing Watch readers, repeating his 2013 victory, when he beat out the likes of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin for the coveted award. The Texas Board of Education came in second place this year, emerging as a serious contender as a result of another round of historical revisionism, denial of climate change science and flirtation with Creationism.

Cruz ended the year by embarrassing himself when he pulled a stunt that backfired badly. The Texas senator and Tea Party darling hoped to humiliate President Obama and congressional leaders by challenging a bipartisan budget bill as a way to show his anger with the president’s recent executive actions on immigration.

Instead, Cruz’s maneuver was easily defeated, but it did give Senate Democrats the opportunity to put several judicial and executive nominees up for a vote before Republicans took control of the chamber, delighting Democrats while fomenting anger amongst Cruz’s fellow Republicans.

Such attention-grabbing political stunts are typical of Cruz, who spearheaded the opposition to a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision by falsely claiming that the amendment would throw comedians in jail and muzzle pastors.

An anti-gay crusader, Cruz threatened civil disobedience to block the enforcement of gay rights measures, introduced new measures to prevent marriage equality, said same-sex marriage is “heartbreaking” and causes his heart to weep and alleged that gay rights laws will put pastors in prison.

Cruz also stood by lawless rancher Cliven Bundy , notorious for his racist remarks and refusal to recognize the U.S. government’s authority, while at the same time torpedoing the nomination of a noted civil rights attorney , whom he accused of “fanning…flames of racial tension.” Now, Cruz wants to go to war with net neutrality , although he doesn’t seem to have a clue about what net neutrality actually means.

So congratulations Sen. Cruz, or something.

The Year In Homophobia: Ten Of The Worst Anti-LGBT Stories Of 2014

Supporters of marriage equality made tremendous progress this year in striking down discriminatory bans on same-sex marriages while, on the local level, more municipalities have enacted legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Radical Right, however, sees these changes as a reason to find new strategies to fight what it believes is a tyrannical government bent on persecuting conservatives and inviting divine punishment. Facing losses in court and at the ballot box, many conservatives hope that their brand of anti-gay politics may find more success overseas.

Just in case you thought that the debate over gay rights was “over,” we decided to look back on some of the anti-gay Right’s worst moments of 2014.

10. Comparing LGBT Americans To Nazis And Terrorists

There’s nothing that Religious Right activists love more than to pretend they are being oppressed by the LGBT community. This year, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel and Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association all said opponents of LGBT rights today are facing a situation reminiscent of the oppression African Americans endured under Jim Crow, while other anti-LGBT activists shamelessly compared themselves to Jewish people living in Nazi Germany. More recently, Religious Right activists compared supporters of gay rights to ISIS members bent on beheading Christians, and Pat Robertson described gay rights supporters as terrorists.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wondered when gay people and gay rights advocates would “start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians,” and “Trunews” host Rick Wiles even warned that LGBT rights activists in the U.S. are hoping to fulfill Adolf Hitler’s dream of creating “a race of super gay male soldiers.”

9. Civil Disobedience To Stop Gay Rights

While conservatives rail against civil disobedience to protest police brutality, they are hopeful that the anti-gay movement will launch its own civil disobedience campaigns. In 2014, Sen. Ted Cruz urged gay rights opponents to “disregard unjust edicts from the government” and Fox News pundit Todd Starnes predicted that conservatives would take part in acts of civil disobedience and marches reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement. Pat BuchananLinda Harvey and Jeff Allen also joined calls for mass civil disobedience to protest LGBT equality, while Peter LaBarbera proposed protests to stop same-sex weddings.

Janet Mefferd hoped that an anti-gay Rosa Parks would soon emerge, while Matt Barber, who has pledged to bring back “some of the civil disobedience that we saw in the 60s during those civil rights struggles” to stop the “LGBT sexual orientation agenda,” said that anti-gay activists will be acting just like Martin Luther King Jr. by demonstrating against gay rights.

8. Breakaway Anti-Gay Nation

Upset over recent gay rights victories, former Reagan administration official Douglas MacKinnon seems ready to give up on America and start a new country composed of conservative Southern states that will secede from the U.S. as a way to preserve their bans on same-sex marriage. MacKinnon outlined his plan in his book, “The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country . . . Now,” and in an interview with right-wing talk show host Janet Mefferd, he defended the South’s original attempt at secession during the Civil War.

MacKinnon said that if the secession plan actually worked, he would name the country “Reagan.”

7. Dave Agema’s ‘Common Sense’

It wasn’t a good year for Dave Agema, the Michigan GOP politician and a member of the Republican National Committee. Not only did Agema lose his lawsuit against People For the American Way, the notoriously anti-gay activist made waves after he endorsed Russia’s criminalization of speech in favor of gay rights as a “common sense” measure and faced calls to resign from the RNC after attacking Muslim-Americans in a Facebook post. Last year, Agema posted a bizarre pseudo-scientific survey on how homosexuality is “filthy” on his Facebook page.

Agema became a right-wing martyr after people dared to criticize his bigoted statements, and he refused to step down despite statements from top GOP leaders urging him to leave his position. Instead, Agema only amped up the rhetoric, blasting people for “shoving this idea down our throat that we have to accept this homosexual lifestyle” and warning that gay rights will destroy America.

6. Duggars Show ‘Love’ For Gays By Fighting Gay Rights

While the Duggar family usually campaigns for Republican candidates across the country come election time, in 2014 they worked in their home state of Arkansas to repeal an ordinance in the city of Fayetteville that added the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to existing bans on discrimination in areas such as commerce, housing and employment.

Michelle Duggar recorded a highly misleading robocall for the successful anti-LGBT campaign, suggesting that the ordinance would undermine public safety and empower “child predators.”

But Josh Duggar, who claims that God sent him to Washington D.C. to work with Family Research Council in opposing LGBT rights, defended their work to strip LGBT people of their rights and legal protections because it is done out of love for the LGBT community.

5. Rick Perry Goes There

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign flamed out after a series of poor debate performances, he used gay-baiting TV ads in one last desperate attempt to win the GOP nomination. Now, as Perry prepares for the 2016 campaign, it seems that by wearing new eyeglasses he is all of a sudden the new wonky candidate. He showed off this new-found knowledge during an appearance in California where he reacted to the news that the Texas GOP had adopted a resolution endorsing “reparative therapy and treatment” to help people “escape from the homosexual lifestyle” by comparing gay people to alcoholics.

“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry told the Commonwealth Club of California to audible groans from the crowd. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”

Of course it wasn’t the first time Perry made such a claim, and other potential presidential candidates such as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have made similar arguments. 

4. Ted Cruz’s New DOMA

After the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, marriage equality opponents looked to their allies in Washington D.C. to try to reverse the court’s decision. Sen. Ted Cruz was more than happy to help, and the Texas senator joined Mike Lee, Utah’s freshman senator, in introducing the State Marriage Defense Act. The bill’s stated purpose is to undercut federal recognition of married same-sex couples, and while it didn’t gain much traction in Congress, it did give Cruz an opportunity to grandstand about his dreams of curtailing gay rights. He told right-wing radio hosts that his “heart weeps” due to same-sex couples’ legal victories, calling rulings in favor of marriage equality “heartbreaking” and a sign “that our constitutional liberties are being eroded.”

After the Supreme Court recently refused to hear appeals in several cases involving same-sex marriage rights, Cruz decided to introduce a constitutional amendment to ensure that the 14th Amendment cannot be used in cases involving equal rights for gays and lesbians.

3. Still Angry About Repeal Of DADT

Anti-gay activists issued countless dire predictions about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which officially ended in the summer of 2011, warning about everything from a return to the draft to a “virtual genocide” of Christian service members. None of their claims ever materialized, but conservatives are now just acting as if they did.

One American Family Association radio host blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the U.S. military’s “sissification,” and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council linked the lifting of the ban on gay service members to what he called the “absolute destruction of our military readiness and our military morale.” Gordon Klingenschmitt read a statement on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program from a press release alleging that gay service members will soon be “taking breaks on the combat field to change diapers all because their treacherous sin causes them to lose control of their bowels.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, captured the mood best when he alleged that the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will make the U.S. more “vulnerable to terrorism” because gay soldiers will take after the ancient Greeks in bringing their lovers to the frontlines so they can “give them massages before they go into battle.”

2. ‘Forced’ To Watch Michael Sam’s Kiss

This year, the far Right leveled an all-out attack against openly gay athlete Michael Sam, who is apparently paving the way for the Antichristbrainwashing children, Satanic and part of a “plan to destroy black America” by “emasculating its men.” After ESPN aired footage of him kissing his boyfriend when he was notified that he was drafted into the NFL, right-wing activists denounced his “slobber-knocker of a kiss” as “sewer filth”; “yucky”; “gross”; “cringe-inducing” and “nauseating.”

Some conservatives claimed that they were actually forced to watch Sam kiss his boyfriend, while other conservatives vowed to boycott the NFL. Rush Limbaugh feared that Sam’s decision to come out of the closet is evidence that heterosexuals are “under assault,” and one right-wing outlet warned of “the gayification of professional sports.”

1. Cheering On Uganda And Russia

This year, Uganda’s president signed into law a new version of the country’s “Anti-Homosexuality Act” which imposed extreme penalties for the crime of being gay (though dropping its provision making homosexuality a death penalty offense in certain cases). American anti-gay activists mostly offered praise to the East African nation. At least one group thought that Uganda should have kept its death penalty plank.

While the country’s top court ultimately struck down the law on technical grounds, organizations such as Concerned Women for AmericaLiberty Counsel and the American Family Association defended Uganda, with the latter condemning criticisms of the law as Satanic. Pastor Scott Lively, who helped craft the original anti-gay bill, spoke out in favor of the new law.

Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin lawmaker who last month won his race for an open seat in the U.S. House, also attacked opponents of Uganda’s anti-gay law, warning that people like Sec. John Kerry will bring about God’s judgment on America for his criticisms of Uganda.

The Uganda news came at a time when many U.S.-based activists were already pleased with new laws in Russia criminalizing speech in favor of gay rights and enthralled with Vladimir Putin, demanding that America enact similar laws.

Bryan Fischer Bonus

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer’s daily cascade of anti-gay bigotry is difficult to summarize, but rest assured that throughout 2014 he remained in “fine form” when it came to maliciously attacking the LGBT community. Insisting that his hostility to homosexuality is just something that he was born with, Fischer regularly uses his radio program to rail against gay rights as the “greatest threat” America has ever seen and a precursor to the End Times. Fischer has even suggested that God will uses ISIS terrorists to “discipline the United States” for supporting gay rights and urged the government to ban gay people from ever holding public office.

The 2014 Equine Posterior Award: Vote For Your Favorite Right-Wing Extremist

It’s time to cast your vote for the winner of People For the American Way’s annual Equine Posterior Achievement Award, which recognizes the worst of the worst in right-wing extremism.

Our 2014 nominees outdid themselves this year in promoting conspiracy theories, inventing persecution myths and pushing bigotry, and now it’s your turn to decide who wins this year’s coveted award.

Ted Cruz: Last year's EPAA winner Ted Cruz didn’t run for office in 2014, but that didn’t stop him from rallying Religious Right voters. The possible 2016 presidential hopeful spent the year supporting anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy and helping to block the nomination of Debo Adegbile.

Cruz was an outspoken opponent of the proposed amendment to overturn Citizens United, claiming it would “repeal the First Amendment” and “muzzle” pastors. Also threatening the free speech of pastors, Cruz contended, are equal rights for LGBT people, to which he is as vehemently opposed as ever.

The Benham Brothers: After reporting on HGTV’s plans for a new home improvement reality show starring notorious anti-gay, anti-choice extremist David Benham and his brother Jason back in May, the Benham brothers have now taken their tale of "persecution!" throughout the Religious Right speaking circuit.

When HGTV dropped the show just hours after our first reporting on their anti-gay activism, including their claims that homosexuality is “destructive” and “demonic, Religious Right leaders from Pat Robertson to Bryan Fischer wasted no time in drumming up a “Christian persecution” narrative and declaring the Benhams modern-day martyrs. The Benhams enthusiastically embraced their new role, repeatedly likening themselves to ISIS beheading victims and making an appearance at the 2014 Values Voter Summit.

Gordon Klingenschmitt: What a year for Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt! Klingenschmitt, whose whole career has been based on a myth about his supposed religious persecution in the military, used his “Pray in Jesus Name” program this year to spread the word that it’s basically child abuse for a kid to be raised by gay parents, and that transgender people are just in need of an exorcism and a spanking. (Of course, this is a man who once tried to perform an exorcism on President Obama.)

But in between spouting anti-gay vitriol and denouncing Obamacare, Klingenschmitt somehow managed to run a campaign for a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives and won! Congratulations to Colorado’s new anti-gay, demon hunting state legislator.

Jody Hice: Jody Hice is a Georgia Republican who won a seat in the U.S. House this year despite saying that women should ask their husbands for permission before entering politics, that homosexuality “enslaves” people, and that Muslims shouldn’t have First Amendment rights. He blamed everything from the Sandy Hook School shooting to the Penn State abuse scandal on the separation of church and state. He’s a big believer in the power of “blood moons” and he thinks our public schools are a lot like Nazi Germany.

And, again, he will soon be a member of Congress.

Texas State Board of Education: This year, we nominate the Texas State Board of Education for an Equine Posterior Achievement Award for their approval of social studies textbooks that were more about the ideological beliefs of the board members than, you know, actual history.

While the approved textbooks were an improvement on the original proposed content, which included blatant denial of climate change and negative stereotypes of Islam as a violent religion, the final editions emphasize the biblical influence in America’s founding, even going so far as to reference Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

Glenn Beck: This year Glenn Beck assured his viewers that his many prophetic visions and predictions would finally, definitely come true. It’s hard to imagine where Beck found the time for all his clairvoyance and divine inspiration, what with everything else he accomplished this year including devising plans to fix the VA and destroy ISIS. But 2014 hasn’t been a banner year for Beck. In March, he was sued for defamation after falsely accusing one of the victims injured in the Boston Marathon bombing of being behind the attack. (Unfortunately for Beck, a federal judge recently allowed the lawsuit to move forward.)

Pat Robertson: This year, EPAA staple Pat Robertson kept up the HIV fear-mongering with his assertion that you can get AIDS from a towel -- you may remember last year, when he accused gay people of intentionally spreading HIV by cutting people with special rings.

There was hardly a news story this year that Robertson didn’t weigh in on, from Michael Brown’s death to marijuana legalization, and even Robin Williams’ suicide. He spread the word about the demonic threat posed by Ouija boards and the serious risk of fighting climate change. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Pat Robertson his show can cure the neck injuries and asthma of its viewers, after all.

Ben Carson: Right-wing activist and potential presidential candidate Ben Carson kicked off 2014 with a rousing CPAC speech denouncing “extra rights” like marriage equality for gay people. Despite repeatedly speaking out against marriage equality and calling it a Marxist plot, Carson believes that gay rights supporters are trying to inhibit his right to free speech. Carson also shared his many opinions on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, blaming Michael Brown’s death on his lack of a father figure, and accusing protestors of being part of a “me generation” started by women’s libbers.

Bryan Fischer: Bryan Fischer spent a lot of 2014 being grossed out, horrified, and otherwise offended by openly gay football player Michael Sam. After that, he said that commemorating Harvey Milk is a lot like honoring Jeffrey Dahmer, asked Michelle Obama to start an anti-lesbian campaign, and expressed his preference for sharia law and displeasure with Pope Francis. Perennial EPAA nominee Fischer also chimed in on Ferguson, claiming that Michael Brown was possessed by a homicidal demon.

Kevin Swanson: Religious Right broadcaster Kevin Swanson took to the airwaves in 2014 to warn his audience about the sinister motives of “The Hunger Games” movies, the potential for LGBT nondiscrimination laws to protect murderers and rapists, and the threat of “Antichrist” Presbyterians. But maybe most memorable were Swanson’s ruminations on popular culture, including his speculation that Beyonce may be possessed by a demonic spirit, and his claim that the Disney movie “Frozen” is a Satanic movie that turns kids gay.

Ted Cruz: Too Extreme For Pat Robertson

Ted Cruz handed Senate Democrats a major victory this weekend when he forced an unsuccessful vote challenging President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, a move that badly backfired since it allowed Democrats to move forward with votes to confirm several of Obama’s nominees that Republicans hoped to block.

While Cruz’s ploy gave Democrats a reason to celebrate, it upset right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson, who said that he won’t put up with the Texas senator and Tea Party leader’s “nonsense.”

“I tell ya’, this Ted Cruz, a lot of people in Texas just think he’s wonderful and I don’t want to rain on their parade but what he did was this, he held the Senate open by his delaying tactics and in the process Harry Reid says, ‘Oh, we’ve got some time, let’s rush through some appointees.’ So they started approving one after the other, left-wing appointments that Barack Obama had made that a more deliberative process would’ve held up, that was what Mr. Cruz gave us,” Robertson said.

“This bomb-throwing stuff and ‘I’ll be a lone wolf and I’m the man in the Senate who is going to be like Jimmy Stewart and I’m just going to Washington to represent the people,’ it’s nonsense.”

Right Wing Round-Up - 11/26/14

Ted Cruz Vows to Damage Texas Courts in Response to Obama's Immigration Action

In response to President Obama's upcoming action on immigration, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has vowed to retaliate by sabotaging the federal court system in his own state.

No, that's not how he phrased it, but that would be the impact of his vow. Yesterday in Politico, Cruz wrote how he thinks the Senate should respond to the president's policy decisions on immigration enforcement:

If the president announces executive amnesty, the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee—executive or judicial—outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists.

While such a refusal to perform one of the basic functions of the Senate would harm the entire nation, the damage in Texas would be particularly severe. No state has more judicial vacancies than the Lone Star State. No state even comes close.

As of today, Texas is suffering from eleven current federal court vacancies, with another four known to be opening in the next few months. The White House has worked closely with Sens. Cruz and Cornyn to identify potential nominees, but progress has been slow: Only six of the vacancies even have nominees; three of these have not yet had their committee hearings.

But the other three – for the Eastern and Western Districts – advanced through the Judiciary Committee this morning and are now ready for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. All three would fill vacancies formally designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Confirming them would be a good start at addressing the vacancy crisis in Texas.

And that's what is it: a crisis. As we wrote earlier this month in a Huffington Post piece entitled Lame Duck Opportunity and Obligation: Confirm Judges:

The situation is even more dire in Texas, where the Senate has a chance to fill three vacancies in the Eastern and Western Districts. The Western District judgeship has been vacant since 2008, and the Judicial Conference has asked for five new judgeships there to carry the load on top of filling all the existing vacancies. Chief Judge Fred Biery discussed the need for new judges last year, saying, "It would be nice to get some help. We are pedaling as fast as we can on an increasingly rickety bicycle." Judge David Ezra, formerly of Hawaii, explained why he was moving to Texas to hear cases in the Western District: "This is corollary to having a big wild fire in the Southwest Border states, and fire fighters from Hawaii going there to help put out the fire."

The Eastern District of Texas is in similar need of getting its vacancies filled during the lame duck: Of the nation's 94 federal districts, only two have had more weighted filings per judgeship than the Eastern District, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts' most recent statistics. Small wonder, then, that the Judicial Conference has asked for two new judgeships there: Even if every judgeship were filled, that just isn't enough. To make matters worse, two more judges in the Eastern District have announced their intention to retire or take senior status next year, making it all the more important to fill the current vacancies now.

Even if the three nominees are confirmed during the lame duck, as they should be, more vacancies in both of those districts will open up early next year. Texas would still have eight vacancies, a number that would rise to twelve in the next few months.

To express his fury at President Obama and rally his right-wing base, Cruz would work to make sure that all these vacancies remain unfilled, which would hurt a lot of innocent Texans.

Cross-posted from the PFAW blog.

Ted Cruz Vows to Damage Texas Courts in Response to Obama's Immigration Action

Ted Cruz urges a retaliatory freeze on all confirmations next year, which would cause particular damage to courts in his own state.
PFAW

Five Conservatives Who Don't Understand Net Neutrality…But Are Definitely Against It!

On Monday, President Obama publicly urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt strong rules preserving net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers must treat all data equally.

Obama’s comments placed a previously fairly niche technical issue right into the middle of the national political debate, forcing commentators to take a side on something many of them did not seem to understand. But luckily, many conservative politicians and pundits have an easy way of deciding where to stand on an issue: if Obama is for it, it will destroy America and they are against it!

1. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz got the right-wing net neutrality pile-on started with a tweet calling the proposal “Obamacare for the Internet."

It didn’t really make sense, but as Matt Yglesias notes, that wasn’t the point: “What, if anything, that phrase means is difficult to say. But its political significance is easy to grasp. All true conservatives hate Obamacare, so if net neutrality is Obamacare for the internet, all true conservatives should rally against it.”

2. Bryan Fischer

As soon as Cruz spoke out, his far-right acolytes seem to have felt obligated to follow. On his radio program on Monday, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer struggled to grasp the proposal that he was definitely against, claiming that it would ban internet providers from charging customers more for faster service — something that already happens and that has nothing to do with net neutrality.

3. Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is outraged that President Obama wants to end “the freedom of the internet” and ruin something that’s “working pretty well” because “the government is not involved in it at all.” Apparently unaware that current FCC regulations allow his online network, The Blaze, to stream on an open internet, Beck claimed that regulations preserving net neutrality would end this supposedly government-free system in which he operates his business.

Beck’s cohost Pat Gray accidentally debunked his own point by comparing Internet regulation to the interstate highway system, which he seems to also think remains open and accessible because it’s free from government interference.

4. FreedomWorks

The Tea Party group FreedomWorks got into the game yesterday with a video “clearing up” net neutrality for its supporters.

As Consumerist explains, FreedomWorks’ net neutrality explanation is basically a work of fiction:

“Supporters of the plan call it a [uses finger quotes] ‘free and open Internet’ but in reality it’s anything but,” says Somberg. “What net neutrality does is force providers to treat all Web content equally — the same speeds, the same prices, the same access.”

This is simply untrue.

Net neutrality merely says that ISPs can’t slow down, block, or prioritize any content. It doesn’t mean that everything gets treated with the same speed — just that an ISP does nothing to impede or boost any particular content company’s speed. So if it’s fast coming in from the company, it should be fast going out to the end-user. And if the host is slow, then it remains slow.

5. Alex Jones

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones added his own special twist to the net neutrality debate, claiming that it is a “high tech version of what the Soviets and the Nazis and the Chinese Communists and Fidel Castro and every other nut ball did.” 

Bonus: David Barton

While net neutrality might have just recently crossed the radar of many right-wing commentators, make-believe historian David Barton has been beating the anti-net-neutrality drum for years. In 2011, Barton called net neutrality “socialism on the internet” and “redistribution of wealth through the internet” and insisted that it is "wicked stuff" that goes against the dictates of the Bible and the Founding Fathers.

This launched Barton into a discourse on the concept of “fairness,” which he said “is a word no Christian should ever use in their vocabulary” because “what happened to Jesus wasn’t fair.”

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 11/10/14

  • Apparently Ingrid Schlueter is in danger of being sued by her own father, Vic Eliason of VCY America.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz clearly does not understand Net Neutrality.
  • Matt Barber says that just as "there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny ... There is no such thing as 'same-sex marriage.'"
  • The National Organization for Marriage has announced that they "will set their sights on defeating Sen. Rob Portman for reelection in 2016, or if he decides to run for president."
  • Finally, more claims that President Obama is not a Christian: "[I]f Obama is anything, he is a Politician. His religion is politics; his pursuit is power."

'God Is Not Done With America': Ted Cruz Rallies Religious Right Voters To Save The Nation

For the last two days, Sen. Ted Cruz has been the guest on "Life Today," telling host James Robison that it is vitally important for Christians to vote so that America can continue to enjoy God's blessings.

On yesterday's program, the Texas Republican declared that Christians are required by Scripture to vote and cast their votes based on biblical values. After praising his father's efforts to mobilize right-wing pastors and get them involved in politics, Cruz said that Christians could fundamentally reshape this nation is they simply voted according to the Bible.

"Can you imagine how different our country would be if an additional 70 million Evangelical Christians simply showed up and voted biblical values?" Cruz asked. "We would be on a fundamentally different path": 

On today's program, Cruz wholeheartedly agreed with Robison's assertion that the Founding Fathers "were under some kind of powerful umbrella of divine providence influence" when they created this nation.

"From the founding of our country, America has enjoyed God's providential blessing at every stage," Cruz said. "When the Declaration and Constitution were drafted, they were drafted on the knees of the Founding Fathers through prayer."

"I'm convinced," he continued, that "God is not done with America. That his blessings are still on this nation, and that the American people when the challenges are great, rise to the occasion":

Ted Cruz: Anti-Gay Civil Disobedience May Be Needed To Resist Alinskyite Democrats

Conservative talk show host Steve Deace has been focusing his program over the last couple weeks on what he calls the “rainbow jihad” of gay rights, in particular the situation in Houston involving a lawsuit filed by Religious Right activists attempting to take down the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. On his program yesterday, Deace welcomed the self-appointed star of the Houston dust-up, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who told him that pro-equality Democratic lawmakers are waging an Alinsky-inspired plot to silence dissent and that anti-gay conservatives may soon have to resort to civil disobedience.

“The problem is the modern Democratic Party, the professional politician, whether it is Democratic senators in Washington or whether it is the mayor or the city council members in the city of Houston, they have gotten so extreme that their objective is not to win an argument but it is instead to try to silence dissent and to crush and destroy anyone they deem to be their political opponent,” Cruz said.

“You know, Saul Alinsky, who both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton studied carefully, Saul Alinsky said you never want to debate your opponent because it humanizes them,” he continued. “Instead you simply want to silence them. And that is the reality of the modern Democratic party, the elected politicians.”

Later in the interview, Deace asked Cruz if “we are coming to the point” where anti-gay conservatives will have to participate in “organized civil disobedience” like that of the civil rights movement.

“Well, listen, if government tries to silence pastors, if government tries to force believers to violate their faith, it is my hope that believers honor their faith and disregard unjust edicts from government,” Cruz responded.

Top Birther Richard Mack Says Ted Cruz Is Ineligible To Be President

As Brian has written about quite a bit, there is some strife in the ranks of birthers over the potential presidential candidacy of Texas senator and Tea Party hero Ted Cruz.

Birthers believe (falsely) that President Obama was born overseas to one parent who was an American citizen and one who was not, and so, they claim, is not a “natural born citizen” eligible for the presidency. But many prominent birthers have made clear that they would be absolutely fine with the presidential candidacy of Cruz, who was actually born overseas to one parent who was an American citizen and one who was not.

Most mainstream legal observers hold that Cruz is still eligible to be president — just as Obama would have been even if he had concocted an elaborate scheme to lie about his place of birth — but the case highlights the hypocricy of the anti-Obama birther movement.

One prominent birther has at least decided to stay consistent. Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who now heads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association — a guild of officers who believe the county sheriff has the authority to defy and arrest federal officials — said in a recent Blog Talk Radio interview that he believes Cruz is ineligible for the presidency.

In response to a caller who argued that the Constitution bars the Canadian-born Cruz from being president, Mack said, “That is correct, I try to say that to a lot of people. Ted Cruz cannot run for president of the United States.”

“I like Ted, I’ve met him several times and he’s kind of a friend of mine, but he can’t run for president,” he continued.

Earlier this year, Cruz praised the efforts of Mack and his fellow anti-government protesters in their armed standoff against the federal government at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Colorado.

Earlier in the program, Mack discussed the president’s birth certificate, saying that it was “real easy to determine that that was a fake and a fraud,” and alleged that the people “who helped fabricate all of these things and people who know about” aren’t coming forward because they’re “all fearing for their lives.”

“I know the person who has done this, they’re all fearing for their lives, obviously, but it’s time to come forward,” he pleaded. “The more light you shed on this, the less likely you are to be killed or hurt or put away.”

Five Years After Passage Of Hate Crimes Law, Religious Right's Dire Predictions Still Haven't Come True

Here we go again. If Religious Right activists are to be believed, any day now the government will throw pastors in jail, have people “fined $500 a day” for reading the Bible and “start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians.” These are among the claims that were made this year by conservative politicians and movement leaders, who warn that America is now witnessing a “war on religion.” 

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.)

The rhetoric surrounding the Houston case has become so apoplectic that even some conservatives are calling out their allies for making false and grossly misleading claims.

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.”

Pseudo-historian David Barton told a California church that the law will throw pastors in jail for reading the Bible.

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.”

Legalizing pedophilia

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.

Religious Right commentators now regularly liken themselves to Jews living under Nazi Germany or shamelessly compare the state of Christians in the U.S. to that of Middle East Christians facing displacement and death at the hands of terrorist groups like ISIS.

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.

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