Last week, we reported on the quiet effort of national right-wing groups to, in the words of the Family Research Council, “flip” the Supreme Court of Montana by electing former state solicitor general Lawrence VanDyke, who has indicated that he will be friendly to business interests and social conservative causes.
We first heard of VanDyke’s campaign for the officially nonpartisan office at last month’s Values Voter Summit, where the Family Research Council’s political action committee had decided to highlight the race at a $100-a-head fundraiser featuring Rick Santorum, Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and a number of Republican members of Congress.
Yesterday, VanDyke’s campaign issued its fundraising report for the period that included the FRC fundraiser. In the period, the campaign brought in $48,000, nearly doubling its supply of cash. It’s impossible to tell how much of that came from the FRC’s fundraiser — much of it came from Montana residents and out-of-state attorneys — but the FRC’s impact is shown in a few notable contributions.
The FRC Action PAC itself contributed $320 to VanDyke’s campaign, the maximum contribution allowed so far. William Saunders, the top lawyer at the anti-choice group Americans United for Life, also contributed $320, while Gary McCaleb, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom contributed $200. An organizer for the Koch group Americans for Prosperity also kicked in $200.
Although we can’t know the impact of the FRC’s fundraiser, these numbers illustrate the fact that in VanDyke, Corporate Right and Religious Right activists throughout the country have found common cause in a little-noticed but pivotal state court race.
Phil Burress of the Ohio-based group Citizens for Community Values was outraged last year when Sen. Rob Portman came out in favor of marriage equality, even urging the senator to put his son in ex-gay therapy.
This weekend, while speaking with Mission America’s Linda Harvey, Burress said that if more Republicans announce their support for marriage equality or merely offer muted opposition to marriage rights, then he and other conservatives will leave the GOP.
“You can put a cross on the grave of the Republican Party if they ditch this issue, it would be the same thing with the life issue,” he said. “If they’re not going to stand for life and natural marriage, Huckabee was the first one that came out and said that he would not only leave the Republican Party but he’ll take everybody with him. The Republicans had better take this serious because this is a nonnegotiable issue with us.”
Burress — whose group is the Ohio affiliate of the Family Research Council and of Focus on the Family’s political arm Citizenlink — predicted that Portman will lose his race for reelection because of his marriage equality support: “I find this rather amusing, he stands no chance whatsoever. He’s seen his numbers, he knows what his numbers are and so do we. He is basically lost, he’s not even going to hold his own seat in ‘16.”
“People will vote but they just will not vote for somebody who’s wrong on these nonnegotiable issues. If they’re wrong on life, marriage or religious freedom, they’ll go to the polls and vote but they just won’t vote for them,” he said. “I have been saying this and screaming it from the treetops: If Rob Portman decides to run in the primary in 2016, he is on the ballot in 2016, Ohio will again have two Democratic senators. This is not our fault, this is his fault if we lose this seat.”
Burress warned that if a primary challenger to Portman does emerge, the GOP “will still spend millions of dollars to support him” against an anti-gay opponent.
“Rob Portman stands no chance of being president, this is a hoax,” Burress said of the rumored Portman presidential campaign, adding that “there’s between 24 and 26 percent of the voters that go to the polls in Ohio [who] are evangelical Christians and if you lose that base then you’re dead.”
He attributed Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss in Ohio to the former governor’s “flip flops” on social issues, saying evangelical Christians “did not trust Romney.”
On his radio program today, Bryan Fischer reacted to a situation in Idaho where the owners of a for-profit wedding chapel have sued the state for the right to discriminate against gay customers on religious liberty grounds by proclaiming that gay activists are seeking to impose "secular sharia" on every Christian in America.
"It's never enough for the homosexual lobby," Fischer said. "That's what we have got to understand, ladies and gentlemen. It is never, ever enough for the homosexual lobby. They will not be content until you and I are completely silenced, repressed, punished, locked away and locked up. Do not mistake me on this! They are determined and they are relentless."
Gay activists are, in fact, just like Nazis and radical Mullahs, Fischer said, except they seek to impose "secular sharia" in America:
Pat Robertson went on another anti-gay diatribe on “The 700 Club” today, telling viewers that “this onslaught of homosexual behavior that is being forced on us by the Supreme Court of the United States is having deadly consequences.”
He was discussing a case out of Idaho where ministers working for a for-profit business and represented by the Religious Right group Alliance Defending Freedom are challenging a non-discrimination ordinance in the city of Coeur d’Alene.
The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel until recently said that it offered services to marry couples “using a traditional or civil ceremony,” and said that while its staff are Christian ministers, the business could “also perform wedding ceremonies of other faiths as well as civil weddings.” As blogger Jeremy Hooper noted, the chapel recently edited its website and “changed the text so that all the mentions of civil weddings no longer appear.”
Robertson called on the business to “leave Idaho” and “get out of that state and if need be close that chapel down,” predicting that soon churches will be “forced to perform a gay marriage.” He also told a story in which he claimed that Cardinal O’Connor, the late archbishop of New York, once threatened to shut down Georgetown University, which is in Washington, D.C., over government pressure to “provide money, resources to support a gay club in the student body.”
“I would close the school down,” Robertson recalled O’Connor saying. “I think those guys in Idaho had better get out and dodge now before it gets any worse.”
Conservative religious leaders have a long track record of hyping supposed threats to religious liberty in America — specifically, to the religious liberty of conservative Christians. In fact, portraying Christians as a persecuted minority under siege by anti-freedom LGBT activists and secular humanists has become the right's primary strategy for reversing the advance of equality in America. But even in the long context of crying wolf over threats to religious freedom, Sen. Ted Cruz and his religious right allies have set new records for dishonest hype in their response to this week's controversy over subpoenas sent to a few religious leaders in Houston.
Cruz told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody that there is a "real risk" that preachers will be hauled off to jail for preaching against homosexuality, recycling an old and equally ludicrous charge that hate crimes laws would result in pastors being dragged from the pulpit.
Some in the media ridicule that threat saying there is no danger of the government coming after pastors. That is the usual response." But he adds: "The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets with the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities, that prospect is real and happening now.
As exciting as it is to hear the alarm bells and read the hyperventilating emails, the truth is far less dramatic. Sorry, Sen. Cruz, but the government is not policing sermons for political correctness. It's not going to start tossing anti-gay preachers in jail.
So what is the real story?
The immediate cause of the ruckus was a subpoena sent by attorneys for the city of Houston to several pastors who had been active in opposition to the city's new anti-discrimination law. Conservatives ran a signature-gathering campaign to put the law before the voters, but city attorneys ruled that so many of the signatures were not valid that the effort did not qualify for the ballot.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right law firm, stepped in and sued the city over that decision. As part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, attorneys for the city sent subpoenas to five prominent pastors asking for sermons and other communications they had about the ordinance, the signature gathering effort, and the controversy over homosexuality and gender identity.
Here's the problem. The subpoena was sent to pastors who are not party to the lawsuit, and it asked for some materials that do not seem directly relevant to the determination of whether signatures were collected in accordance with the law. By giving pundits something to scream about, the subpoena was a gift to Religious Right leaders and their political allies, who thrive on promoting the myth of anti-Christian religious persecution in the U.S. And they have run with it.
On Friday the city narrowed the scope of their discovery request somewhat. And it's entirely possible that a judge will further limit the amount of materials the city can collect in the Religious Right's lawsuit. That's how our legal system works.
It's terribly inconvenient to the Religious Right's narrative that progressive religious leaders are among those who have criticized the Houston attorneys' subpoena. Among those who criticized the city's subpoena as troubling and overly intrusive were supporters of LGBT equality and church-state separation. Baptists of all stripes weighed in. Both progressive religious leaders and atheists publicly agreed. Even the ACLU! So much for the supposed enemies of religious freedom.
Even some religious conservatives have denounced the Houston hype. In reality, the entire episode undermines right-wing claims that religious liberty is hanging by a thread in America. Indeed, it demonstrates that Religious liberty is widely respected as a core constitutional principle and a fundamental American value — by people across the religious landscape and our fractured political spectrum. If only Ted Cruz and his allies were as committed to the constitutional and legal equality of Houston's, and America's, LGBT citizens.
With gay marriage now legal in North Carolina, it was only a matter of time before Flip Benham of Operation Save America started crashing wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.
The North Carolina-based pastor, who is the father of Religious Right activists David and Jason Benham, reportedly disrupted several weddings at the Mecklenburg County and Courts Office in Charlotte last week.
Benham’s group, which in July disrupted a memorial service at a Unitarian Universalist congregation in New Orleans, “interrupted several couples’ weddings as supporters held up a large rainbow flag to block his view,” according to the North Carolina LGBT publication Q Notes. “Another protester waved a bible in the air as he screamed several profanities and vulgarities.”
The Charlotte Observer also captured Benham’s protest outside the courthouse:
Kathleen Thomas also posted a photo of Benham and other demonstrators outside of the wedding ceremonies.
— Kathleen Thomas (@kehthomas)
In an interview with Newsmax yesterday, former Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief Richard Land reacted to the controversy over subpoenas issued to Houston pastors , warning that the incident is a harbinger of a future shaped by the gay “agenda” in which pastors will be prosecuted under unconstitutional hate speech laws.
“Are you afraid at some point that your sermons are going to have to be dictated?” the Newsmax host asked Land.
“Well, I think that there’s certainly the danger that they’re going to try to make any biblical reference to homosexuality hate speech,” Land responded.
He added: “I think that this is a warning. This is an overreach by a group that, let’s make no mistake about it, their agenda from the beginning has been not only to have their lifestyle tolerated but to have it affirmed and have it paraded before our children as normal and healthy and to marginalize anyone who disagrees with that to the level of being Klansmen. They want to turn us into Klansmen.”
Eugene Delgaudio, a Loudoun County, Virginia Republican supervisor who heads the group Public Advocate of the United States is warning his supporters that gay people are preparing to “terrorize daycare centers, hospitals, churches and private schools” by teaching schoolchildren “perverted sex acts” and getting married, at which point “[y]ou’ll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to ‘pick out’ a little boy for themselves.”
In a fundraising email yesterday with the subject line, “They say you support homosexual ‘marriage,’” Delgaudio told supporters that he is the only one who can reverse the “Homosexual Agenda” in Congress.
You see, the radical homosexuals are storming through Washington demanding passage of their agenda.
And with the Democrats dominating the Senate and Barack Obama calling the shots in the White House, they say NOW is the time to push their perverse “lifestyle” on every man, woman and child in America.
And they insist YOU actually support them.
To make matters worse, more and more Republicans in Congress are coming out in favor of the Homosexual Agenda .
The Homosexual Lobby has already rammed through Thought Control and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I can only begin to imagine how much more damage the radical homosexuals will do now that they’ve broken the ranks of the opposition party.
As the President of Public Advocate of the United States, I’ve devoted thirty years to battling the radical homosexuals in Washington.
Backed by Hollywood celebrities, the media, and millions of your tax dollars, the radical homosexuals have many Congressmen, both Democrat AND Republican, quivering with fear -- and because of that they have a radical homosexual-friendly majority in control of Congress.
That’s why pro-Family Senators and Congressmen are counting on me to find out if you really support the Gay Bill of Special Rights and homosexual “marriage” as the radical homosexuals claim .
Frankly, if you really do support the radical Homosexual Agenda -- or if you just no longer care enough to stand up for the Family -- insiders in Congress say the entire Homosexual Agenda could pass in a matter of months.
Passage of the Homosexual Agenda will ignite a firestorm that will rip through families, communities and businesses:
* Special job rights for homosexuals. Businesses may have to adopt hiring quotas to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every homosexual fired or not hired becomes a potential federal civil rights lawsuit.
Radical homosexuals will terrorize daycare centers, hospitals, churches and private schools. Traditional moral values will be shattered by federal law.
* Same-sex marriages and adoptions. Wedding gown-clad men smooching before some left-wing clergyman or state official is just the beginning.
You’ll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to “pick out” a little boy for themselves.
* The Homosexual Classrooms Act, which pushes their agenda into our schools. Your children or grandchildren will be taught homosexuality is moral, natural and good. High school children will learn perverted sex acts as part of “safe sex” education.
With condoms already handed out in many schools, radical homosexuals will have little trouble adopting today’s “if it feels good do it” sex-ed curriculum to their agenda.
But the email doesn’t stop there. Delgaudio goes on to tell the harrowing story of a recent “stormy night” in which he drove to a deserted warehouse where “long-haired, earring-pierced” men were printing gay-rights petitions until they spotted him and chased him away, shouting, “This time, Delgaudio, we can’t lose!” [UPDATE: Joe points out that this story is a favorite of Delgaudio's.]
One stormy night, I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses. I’d heard something was up and wanted to see for myself.
As I rounded the final turn, my eyes nearly popped. Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses.
Trembling with worry, I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined.
Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling .
My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press.
Suddenly a dark-haired man screeched, “Delgaudio, what are you doing here?” Dozens of men began moving toward me. I’d been recognized.
As I retreated to my car, the man chortled, “This time, Delgaudio, we can’t lose !”
Driving away, my eyes filled with tears as I realized he might be right. This time the radical homosexuals could win.
You see, even though homosexuals are just 1% of the population, if every one sent a petition to Congress, it would generate a tidal wave of two or three million petitions or more.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-homosexual petitions will soon flood Congress , and my friends in Congress tell me there’s virtually nothing on Capitol Hill from the tens of millions of Americans like you who oppose the radical Homosexual Agenda and the Gay Bill of Special Rights.
I made up my mind that night to write to you and as many other patriotic Americans as possible. To stop the radical homosexuals and protect marriage, there must be an immediate outpouring of support from folks like you.
Delgaudio then repeats his fundraising plea to reach “twice as many” families as “all the homosexuals in America” so that he can finally let Congress know that the “radical homosexuals are lying.”
I’ve identified nearly 10 million families I believe would join our struggle for morality if only I can reach them. That’s more than twice as many as all the homosexuals in America ... and most of these families represent two or three voters each. But without your financial help, I’ll never be able to reach them.
My hope is you care enough to contribute sacrificially so I can reach these families.
A generous gift of $25 will let Public Advocate reach 45 more families. $50 will help us rally more than 97 homes. And a special gift of $100 will generate over 215 contacts.
Only you know whether chipping in $10, $20, or more is best suited to your budget.
I ask you to do what you can.
The radical homosexuals boast you support same-sex marriage, special job rights and the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
Please let Congress know the radical homosexuals are lying.
H/T RWW reader Erik
The Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell, formerly the secretary of state of Ohio, was a guest on FRC’s “Washington Watch” program yesterday, where the exclusive topic was, of course, the subpoenas of a number of pastors in Houston.
“There are two things throughout human history that welfare states, totalitarian states, utilitarian states have done to maintain their control and to force their worldview on all who are under their governance, and that is they have destroyed the family and they have silenced the church,” Blackwell told guest host Craig James.
The Houston subpoenas, he said, are part of “the big welfare state’s attempt to silence the church, to marginalize the church, to silence Christians so that they can actually concentrate power on reshaping not only their cities, their towns, their states, but also the country.”
He then urged Christians to speak out or else “buy into a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country” who think “America is evil.”
Conservative Christians must fight back against the “political powers that ride roughshod over us when we relegate ourselves to the sidelines and fall into silence in the face of this sort of abuse of power and cultural attack on what has made us not only the freest country in all of human history, the most prosperous country in all of human history, but has also made us the most diverse country in all of human history,” he said. “So for folks to buy into this ‘blame America first,’ ‘America is evil,’ to buy into a domestic version of the terrorists outside of our country is ridiculous and cannot stand.”
Elsewhere in the program, Blackwell called the subpoenas “a blatant attempt to criminalize Christianity” and alleged that city officials are “engaging in a good, old-fashioned inquisition.”
“Just as the inquisition of old, it wasn’t arrested until good people overtook evil,” he added.
Peter LaBarbera appeared on the "Point of View" radio program yesterday where he proclaimed that America must embrace "Christian oriented law" so that groups like his Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, the Family Research Council, and the America Family Association will no longer be smeared as "hate groups" because of their anti-gay activism.
Saying that gay activists no longer believe in tolerance, LaBarbera declared that such activists are intent on destroying anyone who will not embrace the "fiction" that gay relationships are acceptable by attacking them as haters.
Lamenting that a number of Religious Right groups have been classified as anti-gay hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is costing them access to the media and undermining their credibility, LaBarbera said that the solution is "to return to a basic law, a Christian oriented law that does not try to grant civil rights status to a sin, which is homosexuality."
Think about that: LaBarbera advocates repealing all laws that ensure equal rights and protections for gays and then complains about the fact that his organization is considered to be an anti-gay hate group:
The Institute on the Constitution’s Michael Peroutka was a guest on Steve Deace’s radio program on Wednesday, where the two obviously discussed the latest Religious Right controversy brewing in Houston.
Deace declared that nondiscrimination laws like the one in Houston and transgender nondiscrimination laws being considered throughout the country are ultimately meant to “silence the church” and elevate government to the level of God.
Lawmakers, Deace argued, are “using sexual perversity and immorality as the means to silence the church so that there is no institution capable of challenging the supremacy of the state.”
Peroutka — who is also a GOP candidate for a county office in Maryland — agreed, saying “If you believe that you are God, as government has proved over and over again that it believes it is…you don’t want there to be another God, you don’t want anybody to have an allegiance to the one true and living God, the God of the Bible whose son is Jesus Christ, because if that exists it is the enemy of your own idolatry.”
Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, visited Janet Mefferd’s radio program yesterday to discuss his call for “civil disobedience on a massive scale” to protest marriage equality and “the gay thought police.” The two agreed that the anti-gay movement is ready for its own Rosa Parks to spark a national outcry with an act of civil disobedience…against marriage equality.
“One of the watershed moments, if not the watershed moment, of the civil rights movement was when Rosa Parks just said, ‘I’m not giving up my seat on the bus, I’m not doing it,’” Mefferd said. “And this sweet woman ended up becoming this massive hero and she didn’t have any other idea behind it other than she didn’t think it was right and she was correct in that. Seems to me we need a Rosa Parks moment and I know we’ve had some of those already where they’ve gone to court over it, but just say, ‘Do your worst, I’m not doing this, I’m not going to do this because this is against my conscience.’”
LaBarbera insisted that governors should flout court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans and urged anti-gay activists to emulate anti-abortion “sidewalk counselors,” who protest abortion by approaching women entering clinics.
We’re not sure what exactly LaBarbera proposes doing. Maybe he envisions approaching same-sex couples as they walk to their weddings?
LaBarbera also complained that gay rights groups such as GLAAD and HRC are “censoring” him by quoting his extreme rhetoric verbatim and took issue with people who compare anti-gay activists to racists.
If anything, LaBarbera explained, gay people and racists have more in common: “I wouldn’t mind debating David Duke on racism. He’s a racist, I’m not. I think that would be a fun debate. Racism is a sin, just like homosexual practice is a sin.”
LaBarbera added that “the most discriminated against group are the ex-gays, the people who left homosexuality, who are routinely the victims of dehumanization and demonization.”
Joe Jervis points us to a debate on C-SPAN this weekend between the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown and Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson, where things got a little contentious when Wolfson confronted Brown about his anti-gay activism in Russia.
Brown has never explicitly advocated for repressive Russian anti-gay policies, including the infamous “gay propaganda” ban, but he has acted as an outside validator for Russian politicians imposing the harsh new policies.
Last year, for instance, he spoke to a Russian parliament committee about the supposed dangers of gay adoption just a few days before the legislature voted to tighten its prohibition on the adoption of Russian orphans by same-sex couples or by couples in countries where same-sex marriage is legal.
And this year, Brown was a member of the planning committee for a World Congress of Families event in Moscow that was to take place at the Kremlin and was financed by members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Although the World Congress of Families dropped its official sponsorship of the event under pressure from some of its member groups, the event went ahead as planned, with Brown as a featured speaker. That conference ended with delegates issuing a resolution calling for more countries around the world to pass “gay propaganda” bans like Russia’s.
When confronted with all of this from Wolfson, Brown simply denied that any of it had taken place, calling Wolfson’s accusations “absolute lies and slurs.”
Brown can hardly be blamed for Russia’s anti-gay crackdown, which was going on far before he set foot in the country. And we would welcome a clarification from him on whether he knew anything about the closing resolution of the conference he attended this month. But he can’t avoid scrutiny for his work in Russia and elsewhere, in which he has lent credibility to politicians and activists whose goals are far more severe than stopping marriage equality…and it certainly won’t work for him to deny that any of this is taking place.
Conservative legal advocates from throughout the country have been quietly pouring money into a Montana state supreme court race, hoping to topple a court majority that has bucked the U.S. Supreme Court on campaign finance issues and could soon have a voice in cases with national implications involving abortion rights and LGBT equality.
The Right’s chosen candidate is Lawrence VanDyke, a former state solicitor general with a perfect pedigree for pro-corporate and Religious Right donors. Not only has VanDyke indicated his support for the U.S. Supreme Court’s dismantling of campaign finance laws and lamented that the current Montana high court is insufficiently “pro-business,” but, in his position as solicitor general, steered the state government toward taking positions against abortion rights, marriage equality and gun restrictions in other states.
What's more, in his writings as a law student, VanDyke was unguarded in his social conservative views, fretting about same-sex marriage, endorsing discredited “ex-gay” therapy and defending the teaching of anti-scientific “Intelligent Design” in public schools.
The Right Sees An Opportunity In Montana
At last month’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, the Family Research Council’s political action committee hosted a private $100-a-head reception featuring conservative luminaries including Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, GOP congressmen Steve King, Vicky Hartzler and Mark Meadows, and congressional candidate Dave Brat of Virginia, who unseated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an upset primary election this year.
A flyer for the event announced that along with those national Republican politicians, FRC would be “showcasing a very important State Supreme Court candidate, Lawrence VanDyke of Montana, who we hope can flip the court in that state.”
VanDyke’s presence on the fundraiser’s roster was telling. As FRC’s flyer made clear, a VanDyke victory would change the ideological balance on a court that has been a thorn in the side of opponents of campaign finance reform and could soon be facing nationally watched cases on abortion rights and marriage equality.
VanDyke has not yet submitted a campaign finance report showing how much money, if any, FRC was able to bundle for him at the fundraiser, and his campaign did not respond to our inquiry about whether he was personally present at the Values Voter event. But a review of VanDyke’s campaign finance reports shows that his candidacy has attracted keen interest from out-of-state donors, including some of the country’s leading conservative legal activists.
[UPDATE: VanDyke's Oct. 20 fundraising report revealed some of the contributions from FRC and its allies.]
Since filing for the race to unseat sitting Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat in March, VanDyke has raised about $78,000, more than one-third of which — roughly $29,000 — has come from 114 individual out-of-state donors. By contrast, Wheat has raised just under $85,000 for his reelection bid, only $1,100 of which came from just five out-of-state donors.
Among those who have contributed to VanDyke’s campaign are recognizable names in conservative legal circles. Kelly Shackelford, president of the right-wing legal group Liberty Institute (a major sponsor of the Values Voter Summit) contributed $100, while another top Liberty Institute official, Hiram Sasser, gave $320, the maximum gift allowable as of VanDyke's last fundraising report. Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network and a Harvard Law School classmate of VanDyke’s, and her husband Roger also each maxed out with $320 contributions. Thomas Spence, an official at the conservative Regnery publishing house also sent the maximum contribution to VanDyke’s campaign. Two employees of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom have together contributed $370. Christopher Murray, a lawyer who served on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, also contributed $320.
Nearly $7,000 of VanDyke’s contributions have come from employees of the law firm Gibson Dunn, where Vandyke worked before entering public service. That includes $320 each from Theodore Olson, the conservative attorney argued the Citizens United case (but who has become better known as a marriage equality advocate), and controversial Bush appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada. VanDyke’s campaign also received $320 each from Eugene Scalia — the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and a Wall Street reform-buster in his own right — and his wife.
Montana’s Cowgirl Blog notes that prominent Montana social conservatives Greg and Susan Gianforte — who fund creationist efforts and support anti-gay policies — have also each contributed the maximum amount to VanDyke’s campaign. He has also received the maximum contribution from the Montana Gas & Oil PAC and — in the form of an in-kind gift of catering — from the PAC’s treasurer, Dave Galt.
Cowgirl Blog also notes that VanDyke got a major assist last month from a newly created group called Montanans for a Fair Judiciary, which sent a statewide mailer in favor of his candidacy. The group, which was registered last month, is staffed by a former Montana GOP official and a corporate lobbyist for oil and gas clients, among others.
And just last week, a Washington, D.C.-based group called the Republican State Leadership Committee Judicial Fairness Montana PAC — an offshoot a national group funded by big business interests including the Reynolds tobacco company and Koch Industries — bought $110,000 worth of television ads supporting VanDyke and slamming Wheat as soft on crime. The group has also been mailing out leaflets accusing Wheat of siding with “environmental extremists.”
All of this attention from national activists and corporate backers has caught the attention of a group of six retired Montana Supreme Court justices, who signed a letter last week calling VanDyke an “unqualified corporate lawyer,” adding, "Given [his] background, Mr. VanDyke is an excellent corporate pick although that is obviously not good news for Montanans.”
The letter from the judges notes that VanDyke has received the maximum allowable campaign contributions from numerous out-of-state lawyers who represent major corporations, including more than 20 at the Gibson firm - including at least one who represented Citizens United.
"Corporations are buying judicial races because they want judges who will not hold them accountable," the draft letter from the retired justices says. "If the disinformation they are spreading successfully manipulates Montanans into electing an unqualified corporate lawyer, we will lose our fair and impartial court."
‘Changing The Face of the Montana Supreme Court’
While VanDyke’s personal connections seem to behind quite a bit of his financial support from out-of-state conservative leaders, his featured spot at the Values Voter Summit hints that the conservative legal movement and the Religious Right see an opportunity in his candidacy.
Montana conservatives have made no secret of their desire to pack the state Supreme Court with justices in their ideological mold. Last year, the Great Falls Tribune published leaked emails between conservative Republicans in the state senate discussing a “long term strategy” for displacing more moderate Republicans in the state legislature and “changing the face of the Montana Supreme Court.”
One lawmaker wrote of the need to “purge” the party of moderates, after which “a new phoenix will rise from the ashes.”
In 2012, Montana conservatives were able to elect the likeminded Laurie McKinnon to the state Supreme Court thanks in part to a dark money group called the “Montana Growth Network” run by a Republican state senator that spent at least $42,000 on her campaign — more than the candidate spent herself. The “Montanans for a Fair Judiciary” group that has been campaigning for VanDyke is linked to the firm that was employed by the “Montana Growth Network” to boost McKinnon.
National conservative groups have good reason to take an interest in the race as well.
Montana’s Supreme Court gained national attention in 2011 when it bucked the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of campaign finance regulation, ruling that the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United did not invalidate Montana’s century-old ban on corporate spending in elections. The 5-2 decision, in which Justice Wheat joined the majority, openly defied the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling. One of the two dissenting justices wrote that the state court must follow the high court’s precedent but used the opportunity to excoriate the Supreme Court for its Citizens United logic. On appeal, the Supreme Court summarily reversed Montana’s opinion, ending the state’s corporate spending ban.
Montana’s Supreme Court may soon also be in the center of the legal debates on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. State anti-choice groups have indicated that they might challenge Montana’s abortion clinic buffer-zone bill in the wake of the Supreme Court’s striking down of a similar bill in Massachusetts. In addition, marriage equality cases are working their way through both state and federal courts in Montana.
A Movement Candidate
Although Montana’s judicial elections are ostensibly nonpartisan, VanDyke’s resume makes him seemingly a perfect candidate for conservative activists hoping to drag the state's high court to the right. At Harvard Law School, VanDyke was active in the conservative Federalist Society and wrote an article for the school’s law review favorably reviewing a book arguing for allowing public schools to teach anti-scientific Intelligent Design.
In an article for another school publication, VanDyke lamented that courts in Canada had been “forcing same-sex marriage on the populace” and warned of a “trend of intolerance towards religion as homosexual ‘rights’ become legally entrenched.” In the same article, he cited a study supporting debunked “ex-gay” therapy to support the “view that homosexuals can leave the homosexual lifestyle.” (The author of that study has since recanted.)
After graduating from law school, VanDyke clerked for D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, perhaps the most stridently conservative of that court’s activist pro-corporate wing, known for her extreme opposition to government regulation and her writing of a prequel to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. After a stint at Gibson Dunn, VanDyke became an assistant solicitor general in Texas and was named solicitor general of Montana early last year.
In public statements, VanDyke has indicated that he would have sided with the U.S. Supreme Court on Citizens United, defending the decision in a debate last month. And although his race is officially nonpartisan, VanDyke has made it very clear which side of the aisle he falls on, accusing his opponent of judging “like a liberal Democrat” and being “results-oriented” in his rulings — a loaded accusation favored by conservative activists.
VanDyke has also hinted that he would be more favorable to business interests on the court, touting an endorsement from the Montana Chamber of Commerce and saying, “I don’t think anybody who follows our court thinks it’s a pro-business court.” On his website, he backs efforts to “produce and preserve” natural resources, which he contrasts with his opponent's siding with preservationists in a dispute over drilling gas wells. In September, he spoke at a “Coal Appreciation Day” sponsored by a coal industry group.
VanDyke’s website also touts his support for the death penalty and an expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment, noting his work as state solicitor general defending a bill that would have invalidated federal firearms regulations on weapons manufactured and kept in Montana. (The law was ultimately struck down in federal court). In that position, VanDyke also pushed for Montana signing on to Alabama briefs in favor of overturning semiautomatic weapon bans in New York and Connecticut. At the time, he bantered over email with Alabama’s solicitor general, Andrew Brasher, about shooting elk with semi-automatic firearms, attaching a picture of himself hunting with “the same gun used by the Navy Seals.”
VanDyke recently announced that he had been endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
In his role as solicitor general, VanDyke also worked on efforts to oppose same-sex marriage and abortion rights, including signing on to amicus briefs filed in other states.
VanDyke, meanwhile, is running on the message that he will follow “the law, not politics” and accusing Justice Wheat of being overly partisan. In the same interview in which he lamented that the current state supreme court was unfavorable to business interests, he said, “I have not promised anybody that I’m going to be a pro-business judge or that I’m going to be a conservative judge...I’m going to be a fair and balanced judge.”
Judicial Elections Draw More And More Big Money
Last year, Justice at Stake reported on the fast increase of spending in judicial elections, leading to judicial races seeming “alarmingly indistinguishable from ordinary political campaigns” and blurring “the boundaries that keep money and political pressure from interfering with the rule of law.”
Part of this increase was attributable to the 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed outside groups to spend unlimited amounts supporting and opposing candidates. In the case of judicial elections, those candidates could be the ones deciding on the future of that very campaign spending.
It’s no wonder that the corporate right and the Religious Right have joined forces to back VanDyke’s candidacy. A little-noticed nonpartisan race in Montana could prove to be an effective long-term investment for a movement that’s trying to solidify a pro-corporate grip on the courts and win back lost legal ground abortion rights and LGBT equality.
This post has been updated to clarify the status of marriage equality cases in Montana.
An action alert from American Family Association President Tim Wildmon today warns of a plague of “mandatory gay brain-washing” sweeping the nation. Such brainwashing, he reports, is being done by people like a gay public official in Kentucky whose Twitter account is “flaming with pro-gay hype” — such as news of his engagement. The only thing to do, Wildmon says, is to watch AFA’s new movie about anti-Christian persecution and "pray for America" because “I am convinced that the survival of America as the greatest nation in history rests on whether the nation turns away from its slide into secularism and once again seeks the true God.”
Two more Christian business owners face fines, mandatory gay brain-washing
Tuesday, October 13, 2014
Christian-owned Hands on Originals was asked to print the shirts for the Lexington Pride Festival but politely declined because of the owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs. Instead, he found a printer willing to do the job and for the same price. (See full story at OneNewsNow )
Lexington Human Rights Commission Executive Director Raymond Sexton told FoxNews’ Todd Starnes that Christian business owners should leave their faith at home and is recommending that the HRC fine the owner and force him to attend mandatory “diversity training” conducted by the commission.
Ironically, the commission’s vice-chairman is a rabid homosexual activist, whose Twitter account is flaming with pro-gay hype, including his own “gay” engagement announcement.
Liberty Ridge Farms, located in New York, was recently fined $10,000 and ordered to pay two lesbians $1,500 each. That's because the Gifford family, which owns the farm, refused to rent its facilities for a lesbian wedding because of their religious beliefs.
The New York Division of Human Rights found the owners guilty of violating New York's human rights law, in particular public accommodations and sexual orientation. You can read the full story at OneNewsNow .
These are not made-up stories. They are real…and becoming more and more frequent.
Homosexual activists are now intentionally seeking out Christian business owners for the sole purpose of attacking and destroying religious liberties.
Concerning A Time To Speak, I am praying that you will undertake these five actions:
2) Pass it on or show it to as many friends and family as you can. DVDs can be ordered from the website.
3) Visit ATimeToSpeak.com for a wealth of information about how you can help preserve America’s religious freedoms, including a comprehensive online voter guide on where candidates stand on issues that matter most.
4) Vote your biblical values on Tuesday, November 4. The upcoming midterm elections are critical. Imagine the impact Americans of faith can have on the future of our nation, the character of its leadership, and the health of its families if we all applied biblical principles to every aspect of our lives – including committing to vote and to vote wisely.
5) Pray for America. If you watch the news you know that America is facing threats from without and within the nation. I am convinced that the survival of America as the greatest nation in history rests on whether the nation turns away from its slide into secularism and once again seeks the true God.
Linda Harvey of Mission America knows who is really behind the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s Ally Week: Satan.
She said during her radio bulletin yesterday that Ally Week “peddles deviance and immorality” that will lead to “discrimination” against Christians in schools.
“No responsible parent,” Harvey added, would let their children become “endorsers of homosexuality.”
“Here’s the real trick of Satan: It’s especially children like yours and mine, raised as Christians, raised to want to be kind to others as God has been merciful to us, who are more vulnerable,” she said.
Later, Harvey said that gay rights supporters are the real bullies while the true allies and friends of LGBT children would tell them that they are sinners who will continue to offend God unless they change and repent.
On his radio program yesterday, Bryan Fischer ran through a list of supposed tales of anti-Christian persecution in which individuals and businesses have been disciplined or sanctioned for voicing anti-gay views or refusing to serve gay customers and cited them all as proof that "the Mark of the Beast today is the rainbow flag."
Fischer was particularly upset that a t-shirt company in Kentucky had recently been found to have discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington by refusing to print up shirts for the group back in 2012.
Businesses like this are now "not allowed to engage in commerce because they would not take the Mark of the Beast on their hands or on their foreheads," Fischer said. "They would not allow the Beast to dictate to them what they did with regard to the homosexual agenda, what they did or what they thought."
Saying that the owners of this company are literally being turned into slaves by not being allowed to discriminate against gay customers, Fischer declared that they have now been forced to "take the Mark of the Beast on their hand, they've got to make the t-shirts that they gay lobby says you have got to make, and they have to take the Mark of the Beast on their foreheads, even the way they think has to be realigned with what is politically correct":
Linda Harvey of Mission America warned on her radio bulletin yesterday that America has entered “a time of possible civil disobedience” following the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality announcement, telling listeners that “we must not serve the interests of sin and darkness” and “this court’s inaction is an act motivated by evil and deception and ultimately will not stand.”
“This is attempted theft of what God has ordained and our Lord will not honor this lawlessness,” Harvey said. “Allowing homosexuality to become normal in America may certainly be part of God’s judgment on our once-Christian nation for our irresponsible sexual practices and for turning our back on what the Lord has taught us. Even so, God will at some point allow the consequences of such defiance to play itself out and that will be a very tragic day indeed for those who have thumbed their noses at the Lord as they celebrate sin.”
Harvey hoped the court’s action will actually give a boost to the work of anti-gay activists: “Those of us who know the truth about homosexuality are far from finished, and in fact, God will use this cowardly act by the majority in our high court to bring a new zeal and fervor to the pro-family movement.”
Last year, University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus — author of a widely panned study on same-sex parenting that is nonetheless frequently cited on the Religious Right — helped launch a new group called the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, which has since been publishing his research on topics including pre-marital sex, divorce, religion among college students and masturbation.
According to tax records filed this summer, the Austin Institute receives much of its funding from one donor: New York hedge fund honcho and social conservative mega-donor Sean Fieler.
The 2013 tax return for Fieler’s Chiaroscuro Foundation reports two grants to the Austin Institute, totaling $250,000. Although the public copy of Chiaroscuro’s tax return obscures the dates of its fiscal year, the organization’s 2010 return indicates that its tax year runs from January through December.
Meanwhile, the Austin Institute’s return reports that it took in just $205,000 in contributions between February and June 2013, indicating that a significant portion of its initial funding came from Fieler’s charity.
Fieler’s funding of the Austin Institute shouldn’t come as a surprise. To begin with, he is a trustee of the Witherspoon Institute, the Princeton-based think tank that kicked in $700,000 for Regnerus’ now infamous “New Family Structures” study. The study claimed to show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents suffer all sorts of harmful consequences like drug use and abuse, despite only actually studying two people raised by same-sex couples.
According to the Austin Chronicle, the new group was quickly dubbed “Witherspoon Institute South” — a name stemming from its staff’s plentiful ties to the Witherspoon Institute and the Religious Right.
The Austin Institute grants were among the biggest expenditures last year by Fielder’s Chiaroscuro Foundation, many of which went to groups fighting marriage equality and abortion rights. This year, recipients include Americans United for Life ($20,000), the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty ($260,000), the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which fights pro-choice and LGBT rights initiatives at the U.N. ($20,000), the National Abstinence Education Foundation ($50,000) and the Susan B. Anthony List ($40,000). As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, Fieler’s foundation also gave $50,000 last year to Morality in Media for its increasingly quixotic anti-porn campaign.
In 2012, the foundation gave $20,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, but seems to have snubbed the group in 2013.
The Chiaroscuro Foundation is just the beginning of Fieler’s influence: Last month, RH Reality Check delved in detail into Fieler’s political spending, including his funding of the American Principles Project and his hand in political races across the country.
While Regnerus’ research at the Austin Institute has so far made less of a splash than his faulty same-sex parenting study, he has continued to lend his voice to the effort to stop marriage equality, including testifying on behalf of a same-sex marriage ban in Michigan this year. (That move caused some of his UT colleagues to distance themselves from his work.)
The Austin Institute’s most noticeable contribution so far is a viral YouTube video applying a pop-economics veneer to the Religious Right’s favorite target, the sexual revolution. The video explains (in economic terms, of course) how contraception led to women turning against each other while men became video-game playing slobs — the only solution to which is for women to band together to withhold sex until marriage.
And the Austin Institute seems primed to provide more research to conveniently reinforce the Religious Right’s policy views — a solid investment for a donor like Fieler.
UPDATE: A reader points out that the Bradley Foundation, a conservative group that includes the Witherspoon Institute's Robert George on its board and that also helped to fund Regnerus' "New Family Structures" study, also reported a $100,000 grant to the Austin Institute last year.