Church-State

'Prophets' Declare God Will Use Orlando To Put His Man In The White House

Self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ Cindy Jacobs was not physically present at last Saturday’s Awakening conference in Orlando, but her prophetic words about the state of Florida and the 2016 elections were read by Mario Bramnick, a south Florida pastor and board member for Samuel Rodriguez’s National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

“We have been called here strategically, as a strategic assembly, at a very critical juncture in time,” Bramnick told attendees as they ate their lunches and waited to hear from conservative activists David and Jason Benham.  Bramnick said that while we are standing at the precipice, “God is not through with America” and the country is about to be hit by a third Great Awakening.

“We’re not to give up on America,” he said. “We’re not to give up on Florida, and we have an authority in this room to declare God’s will for America, and God’s will for the White House.”

Bramnick cited Cindy Jacobs:

It’s time to awaken! Some trust in chariots, some trust in horsemen, but if there’s ever a day to trust in the Lord our God it is today, and God’s eyes are upon this conference, God’s eyes are upon Florida, God’s eyes are upon Orlando.

In the beginning of this year, Cindy Jacobs had a word for Florida. And the word was, from the state of Florida, in 2016, Florida is going to be in the eyes of the nation in a unique way. We were in the eyes of the nation in West Palm Beach, and it was Florida that determined George W. Bush’s election as we prayed and sought the face of the Lord. It’s going to be Florida, a tipping point state, and the Lord says, you are to take the points these days. I’m going to bring a new unity on the body of Christ. The enemy has unleashed division over the body of Christ, but if we arise today as one man and decree and declare the will of the Lord, God can shift Florida, and from Florida can shift our nation. It’s time to arise and shine, for our light has come.

Really, if we realize the authority that we have, the power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within us. A Daniel with three Hebrew slaves, Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, in the midst of the worst Babylonian captivity, had an authority, how much more 1500 people out of Orlando declare, God is not through with America, America’s greatest days are not over, and God by his Holy Spirit can appoint the president that God has ordained.”

Bramnick returned to Jacobs’ prediction about Florida’s impact in 2016:

Orlando is going to be a city where God is about to visit. Look around, we are here in Orlando, a few days away from the Florida primary, but I am here to tell you, God is on his throne, and he is looking throughout all the earth for those whose eyes are stayed upon him, that we might arise and declare, America shall be restored back to Jesus.

In his closing prayer Bramnick declared the God’s hand-picked candidate will be elected president and usher in a third Great Awakening:

Father, awaken the sleeping the church. Unite us. We come against the diabolic spirit of division in the body of Christ, that spirit that would put us to sleep, spirits of anti-Christ and witchcraft, and we declare out of Orlando, the church of Jesus Christ is arising, not by power, not by might, but by your spirit. And father we declare out of Orlando, shift for Florida, shift for the United States, and the man you have selected to be our next president, shall be elected president of the United States, and shall usher in the Third Great Awakening…

Cindy Jacobs’ mid-year “prophetic update” last summer predicted that marriage equality and persecution of Christians would bring about a second Civil War. 

Cruz Campaign Seeking Pastor Endorsements At Extremist Summit

Ted Cruz’s campaign has been clear from the start that its path to victory depends on the mobilization of conservative evangelical voters. In service of that goal, Cruz has pursued and welcomed the endorsements of a stunning array of extreme anti-gay and Christian-nation activists.

At last weekend’s Awakening conference in Orlando, Team Cruz was the only presidential campaign with a visible presence, hoping to boost support in the 10 days that were remaining before the crucial March 15 primary in Florida. Campaign volunteers staffed a table, selling t-shirts and bumper stickers, but what they were really looking for was pastors who would publicly back Cruz.

Religious Right leaders, including Ted’s father Rafael Cruz, often blame the decline of America on pastors who aren’t preaching aggressively enough. That message was also heard at the Awakening and the Cruz campaign gave pastors in attendance a way to do something about it. The campaign asked pastors to sign a commitment card allowing their names to be used publicly. It also encouraged pastors to host a voter registration drive and regularly address political and cultural issues from the pulpit.

“Your endorsement encourages members of your congregation and your community to vote for Ted Cruz,” said a flyer aimed at pastors. “It inspires courage in other leaders to endorse too, multiplying the influence.” 

James Robison: Christians Should Not Shun Trump Because God Can Use Him

Among the speakers at “The Awakening” conference, which was held in Orlando on Saturday, was televangelist James Robison. Robison’s main message  literally screamed at Awakening attendees  was that sitting out the election is not an option, even if Donald Trump is the nominee, as he derided those who suggest ways to manipulate the election process to deny Trump the nomination.

Robison mentioned David Green, head of Hobby Lobby and Religious Right folk hero, who recently endorsed Marco Rubio and said that Trump scares him to death. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich all love the Lord, said Robison, and “they would be my choice,” but it is unlikely that any of them will get the nomination.

It doesn’t seem like that may be the person we get. So what are you gonna do, throw your hands up? Are you gonna do what one of the bravest Christians I know in this nation said earlier this week he’s gonna do? ‘If it boils down to that person and the person on the other side, I’m staying home.’ DON’T DO IT! And I will go to David Green’s home and drive him to the poll. He’s a man of God. He’s an incredible example of Christ in a man and a man in Christ. We don’t opt out! We’re His ambassadors in Christ, more than conquerors in Christ, witnesses for Christ.

What happens, said Robison, is up to God, not would-be kingmakers. Robison drew an analogy to the 1980 election, when the Democratic candidate was Jimmy Carter, a Sunday school teacher and a born-again Christian who “truly loved the Lord” but could not provide the principled leadership that the country needed. “God miraculously gave us an actor that had an encounter with God,” said Robison.

Robison said he hopes that Christian leaders who are close to Trump like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Robert Jeffress will lead Trump to a “road to Damascus experience” that would demonstrate God’s power to the world even more effectively than the Religious Right successfully playing kingmaker. For the world to see God transform someone “who so obviously needs changing” would be, he said, like writing another chapter in the biblical book of Acts.

(Of course, Trump already claims to be a “big-league” Christian).

Robison said the U.S. is experiencing its most critical days since the nation’s founding: “We just lost a Catholic Supreme Court justice that was a gift from God. They need to be replaced by men who have an understanding of truth like him.” But, he said, there has also been good news.

Now, I want you to really listen up, because we’re seeing prayer answered, when you think about this…Do you agree that you heard more candidates running for the highest office in the land talking about the importance of life, standing for life, did they not? Did we not have more true Christians who know Christ personally running for office than you’ve ever seen in your lifetime?

Robison also used his remarks to promote The Stream, an online news site he publishes that is dedicated to “championing freedom, smaller government and human dignity,” and to attacking “the Left” for its views on government:

The ones of what is referred to as the Left, they say, ‘Depend on Pharaoh, depend on Caesar, depend on the government, depend on a source other than God, and Uncle Sam will now be Father God and take care of you.’ That’s what they’re saying. That’s the lie, and it came straight out of the pit of hell. Now you may be a wonderful person in that party, but that belief system is rotten to the core. It’s simply anti-biblical, anti-God, anti-truth and anti-people. It will not work. It will keep us in bondage.

Ted Cruz Gets Boost From Christian-Nation Activist David Lane And His Favorite Broadcaster

We’ve noted before that the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody often acts as a virtual press agent for Christian-nation political operative David Lane, promoting his matchmaking events for Republican politicians and conservative pastors in return for exclusive access.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Yesterday, Lane’s American Renewal Project promoted Brody’s recent interview with Ted Cruz, which was arranged while Cruz was in Spartanburg, South Carolina, “to meet privately with pastors at an event sponsored by the American Renewal Project.”

At that “Pastors and Pews” event, to which Brody had “exclusive access,” Cruz told “hundreds of pastors and their wives” that “the men and women in this room have the ability to change the outcome of the South Carolina primary, and in doing that to change the outcome of the presidential election, and in doing that to change the outcome, the direction of this country.”  He told the pastors they could bring the country back to “the free market principles, the constitutional liberties, to the Judeo-Christian values that built this nation.”

From Brody’s coverage of his interview with Cruz:

In an exclusive interview with The Brody File down in South Carolina, GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz says believers in Jesus Christ must stand and vote biblical values rather than letting non-believers selected the leaders of our country.

"For far too long, Christians have been staying home, have been ceding the public square to non-believers and when we look at the state of the country, when our heart weeps at what's happening to the country and we wonder why is it that the federal government is waging war on life, is waging war on marriage, is waging war on religious liberty is it any wonder when 54 million evangelical Christians stayed home in 2012, did not vote?”

Cruz continues: "If we allow our leaders to be selected from non-believers we shouldn't be surprised when our leaders don't share our values. So what I'm working to do more than anything else is energize and empower the grassroots and do everything we can for Christians to stand up and vote biblical values."

As others have noted, Cruz’s assertion about 54 million evangelical voters sitting out the 2012 election is a dubious claim. And his assertion that “non-believers” are choosing America’s leaders is a dismissal of the faith of millions of Christians and other people of faith who voted for Barack Obama and who support other progressive candidates.

Brody has praised Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim comments in the past, but in this week’s coverage of the Cruz interview, Brody engages in barely veiled cheerleading for Cruz’s candidacy:

Look folks, evangelicals have an important decision to make. Ted Cruz is speaking their language and has a record that matches his rhetoric. You would think that would be a perfect match for evangelicals and so far, at least in Iowa, they have shown strong support.

Can evangelicals in South Carolina duplicate that effort? We’re going to find out. Cruz's team will need to work overtime because with Donald Trump being such a factor in this presidential race, he’ll need EVEN MORE evangelicals to show up.

It becomes a numbers game. You can easily make the argument that without significant turnout by evangelicals in Iowa, Cruz would have lost the Hawkeye state.

Brody seemingly ignores the fact that evangelical voters are quite divided and Trump has consistently drawn strong support from evangelicals in spite of his personal history and previous political positions. A poll released last Friday showed that Trump is actually outpolling Cruz among South Carolina evangelicals, 33 percent to 23 percent — with Rubio at 15 percent. That’s actually a slightly bigger lead than Trump showed in a late-January poll in which he led Cruz among South Carolina’s evangelicals by 33 percent to 25 percent.  Of course it is possible that Cruz’s investment in an actual ground game, with thousands of volunteers working on turnout, will give Trump an unpleasant surprise in South Carolina the way it did in Iowa.

Brody also interviewed Marco Rubio in South Carolina recently, but he posted that interview with none of the rah-rah commentary, perhaps because Rubio criticized Cruz’s “disturbing” willingness to “make things up out of whole cloth just to win an election.” 

Political Operative David Lane: U.S. Must Choose Jesus or ‘Pagan Secularism’

Political operative David Lane, who has worked to get Religious Right leaders to rally around a single Republican presidential candidate (Ted Cruz is their man), and who is trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 election by getting 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for office, is fixated on the idea that the United States of America has a national mission to advance the Christian faith. In his latest diatribe at Charisma magazine, Lane writes:

It looks as if America has come to her kairos, her moment in time—to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.

As we begin the New Year, pastors must begin to lay the prayer covering for the spiritual awakening and resurrection of America. We are asking the 100,000 American Renewal Project pastors to begin and lead one-hour, weekly prayer services asking God for mercy for what we, Christians, have allowed in our once Christian nation.

Of course, “secular humanists” are high on Lane’s enemy list, but so are Christian scholars who challenge Lane’s reading of American history. One of them, John Fea, teaches at Messiah College in Pennsylvania and is the author of “Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction” — a highly regarded book on religion and American history. Fea has written critically about both Lane and David Barton, who also promotes a bogus “Christian nation” version of American history.

Lane goes after Fea in his Charisma article. In his response to Lane, Fea writes, “Lane implies that anyone who does not believe that America was founded as a specifically Christian nation is a pagan. He cannot fathom another, more responsible, Christian approach to this material.” Fea also takes on some of Lane’s specific historical claims.

 

Religious Right: Bible Dictates Laws & Economic Policy But Islam Not a Religion Because It Is A Political & Economic System

Donald Trump’s call to bar all Muslims from entering the country was widely recognized as an appeal for explicit religious discrimination and generated significant pushback.  But many of Trump’s right-wing defenders have turned to an argument that has long bounced around Religious Right circles: that Muslims are not entitled to the religious liberty protections of the First Amendment because Islam is somehow not a religion. A few years ago, for example, retired Lt. Gen Jerry Boykin called Islam “a totalitarian way of life” that “should not be protected under the First Amendment.”

At this week’s Republican presidential debate, Rick Santorum explained why he believes Islam is not protected under the First Amendment, an argument made repeatedly by the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer. Here’s Santorum:

The fact of the matter is, Islam is different. I know this is going to come as a shock to a lot of people, and I mean this sincerely. Islam is not just a religion. It is also a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, it is also a civil government, it is also a form of government. And, so, the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.

Conservative columnist and radio host Andrew McCarthy has similarly defended Trump’s comments, saying that Islam is not merely a religion because it “has ambitions to be more than a religion, that is to say that it is an ideological, sweeping system that does not recognize a division between spiritual life on the one hand and political and civic life on the other.”

Back in September, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins defended similar comments by Ben Carson:

“Religious freedom and our liberty is ordered liberty under the Constitution,” Perkins said. “And as Dr. Caron pointed out, and I know this is driving the left crazy, that Islam is not just a religion, Islam is an economic system, it is a judicial system, it is a compressive system which is incompatible with the Constitution. That’s what Dr. Carson said and he happens to be correct.”

More recently, Perkins defended Trump with a dubiously specific statistic, saying that “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion — the rest is a combination of military, judicial, economic and political system.” Televangelist Pat Robertson also said this month that people should not view Islam as a religion but rather a “political system masquerading as a religion.”

Wait a minute. Aren’t these the same people who repeatedly insist that the Bible is the final authority on everything, from laws regulating personal relationships to economic and tax policy, and environmental protection? Anti-marriage-equality activists have insisted that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling was in violation of “God’s law” and therefore “illegitimate.” 

David Barton, an oft-discredited “historian” and Republican Party activist who is currently heading up a Ted Cruz super PAC, argues that the Bible opposes minimum wage laws, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, any progressive form of taxation and even net neutrality. He says the Constitution came right out of the Bible. If you applied Tony Perkins’ calculations to David Barton’s Bible, what percentage would come up as religion?

Many Religious Right leaders have embraced Seven Mountains dominionism, which is grounded in the belief that the right kind of Bible-believing Christians are meant to control all the important spheres of culture, including government, business, education, and entertainment. For example, the American Pastors Network’s Sam Rohrer says this:

Government leaders are charged with wielding the Word of God as an instrument of Justice, promoting God’s moral law as the foundation of right and wrong, encouraging those who do well biblically, and executing judgment on those who break the law.

Along those lines, three Republican presidential candidates, including current Iowa frontrunner Ted Cruz, recently joined a “religious freedom” rally organized by a pastor who argues that the Bible requires the government to execute gay people.

And don’t forget David Lane, whose American Renewal Project is mobilizing conservative pastors to get more involved in politics — and who argues that America was founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith, and that the Bible should be a primary textbook in public schools.

So, a thought for Religious Right leaders: If you are going to argue for stripping Muslims of their First Amendment religious liberty protections based on your interpretation of Islam as an enterprise that is more political and ideological than religious, you may have to trim your own political sails quite a bit. Either that, or quit pretending you are proponents of religious freedom, and admit that you, like Bryan Fischer, believe the First Amendment applies only to Christians, or, like Tony Perkins, that gay-supporting Christians don’t deserve the same legal protections because a “true religious freedom” has to “come forth from religious orthodoxy.” Just don’t try to pretend your definition of “religious freedom” owes anything to Thomas Jefferson or the First Amendment. 

Religious Right Leaders Rally Around Ted Cruz At Secret Endorsement Meeting

Religious Right leaders are intent on being the ones to pick the Republican presidential nominee this time around and they’re throwing their collective weight behind Ted Cruz.

The movement’s leaders have been seething for eight years now that they were forced to rally behind Republican presidential candidates they weren’t excited about — John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.  After years of angling to prevent that from happening in 2016, “several dozen” Religious Right leaders met in secret in early December and voted to rally around Ted Cruz.

National Review’s Tim Alberta describes the event, which Cruz backers entered with the upper hand. It took five ballots for Cruz's supporters to browbeat backers of Marco Rubio into submission and give Cruz the three-quarters supermajority needed. Those who attended the meeting had vowed to either publicly support the eventual winner of the day’s balloting or to remain silent in the Republican primary. Reports Allen,

The impact was felt immediately on the 2016 campaign. Three prominent participants — direct-mail pioneer and longtime activist Richard Viguerie, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, and The Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats – announced their support of Cruz within 72 hours of the meeting at the Sheraton. 

Cruz, of course, had plenty of conservative evangelical support before this meeting. We noted back in the summer that he was consolidating support from the Christian Nation crowd, including discredited “historian” David Barton  —  who heads a Cruz super PAC  —  and billionaire fracking brothers Farris and Dan Wilks  —  who have pumped $15 million into the pro-Cruz super PAC effort. Since then, Cruz has been holding and attending “religious liberty” events  —  including one hosted by a pastor who calls for the execution of gays, and one at Bob Jones University, famous for claiming religious backing for its racial segregationist policies.

Cruz openly promotes the efforts of Christian-nation zealot David Lane to “take back” the country by using pastor-candidates to mobilize high evangelical turnout. Cruz told American Family Association’s Tim Wildmon this summer, “Nothing is more important in the next 18 months than that the body of Christ rise up and that Christians stand up, that pastors stand up and lead.”

Lane, who matches Cruz’s contempt for “establishment” Republicans, said back in 2013, “We’re going to try to eliminate the stuff that [GOP leaders] do to us every four years, which is picking somebody who has no chance of being viable and they kill us off and we have the McCains and the Romneys left.” Lane had cheered attacks on Romney’s faith and the “false god of Mormonism.”

Cruz has been courting Religious Right activists for years, even before the underdog, Tea Party-fueled victory in the GOP primary that propelled him into the U.S. Senate. Back before that election, he told the Freedom Federation’s Awakening conference, “we are engaged in spiritual warfare every day.” That message hasn’t changed: Just last week his campaign’s “prayer team” was told that “we’re in a spiritual battle today as never before.”

For the Religious Right, what’s not to like about Cruz? His anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-government bona fides are unquestionable. His father, Rafael Cruz, an unabashed Christian-nation extremist and anti-gay bigot who says that it is God’s plan for his son to be president, makes an effective ambassador for Cruz to the far right.

Is anyone not jumping on the Cruz bandwagon? A group of Latino Republicans held a press conference yesterday to denounce Cruz for his anti-immigrant positions  —  which they said were the same Romney “self-deportation” policies by another name  —  and for Cruz’s support of Donald Trump’s bigotry.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, a leader of the effort to get the Religious Right to rally around a single candidate, has tried this before, without much success. In 2012, Perkins and other conservative evangelicals had tried to create unity around a single alternative to Romney. Perkins declared after a January 2012 gathering that Rick Santorum had emerged with a “strong consensus.”

But the voting process and outcome were disputed by Newt Gingrich supporters, and the idea that evangelical leaders could deliver their followers to Santorum was undermined when Gingrich won the next event, South Carolina’s primary. Richard Viguerie, among others, urged Gingrich to drop out in order to boost Santorum’s chances. In the end, Santorum went on to win other southern primaries but couldn’t catch Romney.

In January 2012, after he won that supposed consensus endorsement for Santorum, Perkins dismissed suggestions that the meeting was too late to have an impact, even though it came after Romney had already won Iowa and New Hampshire and was building up a head of steam. Perkins clearly decided not to let that happen again.

Liberty Counsel Brags That Kim Davis Is Attending Matt Bevin's Inauguration

Liberty Counsel is crowing that its client, Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis, was “invited to attend the festivities” surrounding today’s inauguration of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

Bevin was an outspoken defender of Davis’s refusal to follow a federal court order that her office grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver has no doubts that Bevin’s “absolute” backing of Davis helped put him over the top in the election.

“There is no question that the case of Kim Davis and the issue of religious freedom played a role in the Governor’s lopsided win,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Kentuckians favor traditional values, and they are tired of the political elites represented by former Governor Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway. The voters sided with religious liberty,” said Staver. 

“On the night he won the election, Gov. Bevin tweeted that he would bring ‘Christian principles to Frankfort.’ During his campaign and following his election, Gov. Bevin promised he would issue an executive order respecting the religious liberty of Kim Davis and other Kentucky clerks. We look forward to a new day in Kentucky,” concluded Staver. 

Liberty Counsel reports that Davis will “attend the inaugural events, including the worship service, a parade, and the public swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps.”

It’s hard to know whether Davis’ invitation and attendance are really a further public embrace by Bevin or more like the “invitation” Liberty Counsel arranged for Davis during Pope Francis’s visit to DC, when she was smuggled into the Vatican embassy for what Liberty Counsel called a private meeting with, and endorsement from, the pontiff — and which Vatican officials characterized as more of a receiving line meet-and-greet.

Liberty Counsel’s efforts to get Davis chosen as TIME magazine’s person of the year were less successful.

David Lane Teams Up With Washington Times To Promote 'Lordship' Of Jesus

We’ve written before that the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody acts as a virtual publicity agent for Christian-nation political strategist David Lane, rewarding exclusive access to Lane’s American Renewal Project's political gatherings with fawning coverage. Now Brody is promoting another Lane project, “Jesus in the Public Square,” undertaken with the right-wing Washington Times newspaper.

“Today’s secular driven society seems intent on erasing the rich Christian history and influence in our country,” reports CBN, setting Lane up to make his oft-repeated claim that America was founded by and for Christians. The project began, Lane says, with a trip to a Washington, D.C., bookstore:

"You couldn't find a Christian book with a flashlight. And it hit me again, isn't this awful? A nation founded by people on a religious mission, The Mayflower Compact, for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith, and in the nation's capital and you can't find a book or Jesus anywhere," Lane remarked.

"If the Lord does it, we're going to put Jesus right in the middle of the table in Washington, D.C. He will defend himself," Lane continued.

It’s often said the Lord works in mysterious ways, in this case through the Washington Times, whose management created a "Jesus in the Public Square" section for the newspaper’s website, which includes a daily “5 religion stories worth your time” feature. Brody reports that “biblical economics” is a popular topic.

The section is overseen by Scott Lamb of Reformation Press, whose thinking seems to be clearly in line with dominionists like Lane:

“Jesus in the Public Square at The Washington Times hopes to talk about and dialogue with people to show them that Jesus Christ and his lordship is a universal theme and they should submit to that,” Lamb told CBN News.

Brody says Lane believes the name of the feature “reminds us that all truth is God’s truth.  And for America to change course the people need to hear His word in a desperate way.” Says Lane, "God is in the business of resurrection. I believe there's going to be a resurrection of America. Literally."

 

God Requires Gov’t To Resist Gay Marriage & Abortion, Mark Tooley Tells World Congress of Families

Among the speakers at the World Congress of Families on Thursday was Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), who declared that too many Christians are being influenced by secular ideology and are clueless that God himself has ordered government to fight same-sex marriage and access to abortion.

Tooley’s group supports conservatives within mainline Protestant churches (he is a United Methodist) by attacking liberal elements within those denominations that promote progressive theology and public policy. For example, IRD has criticized the U.S. State Department for promoting the human rights of LGBT people and spoken out against evangelicals backing immigration reform.

At the World Congress of Families, Tooley decried the embrace of LGBT equality and reproductive choice among “once great” mainline denominations, and warned that the “errors” of mainline Protestantism have spread to evangelical and Catholic communities.

The problems that had originated in America’s mainline Protestant world unfortunately have spread and metastasized throughout American religion, and even once great and strongly orthodox religious institutions in America are now affected by these issues and are compromised on core topics related to marriage and family and the sanctity of all human life.

He blamed the shift on the institutions’ “elites and bureaucracies,” which he said no longer believe in ancient Christian teachings but have “actively joined secularism to advocate deconstruction of marriage and family.” Those ideas have spread to other Christian institutions, he complained, including the “evangelical left” and Christian colleges, whose leaders don’t want to engage on these issues because they believe it would interfere with evangelization.

Tooley complained that there weren’t enough Christian leaders defending Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for six days after she refused to abide by a federal court order to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Tooley predicted that more people will be intimidated into “virtual silence” as the government punishes other marriage resisters, but he hoped the opposite might also be true, and that the accumulating impact of those cases might inspire others to take a more public stand.

Tooley said that organized Christian political social justice advocacy aimed at young people has focused more on admirable but less controversial issues like fighting sex trafficking or carrying out humanitarian work. He complained that too many young Christians see marriage as passé as a public policy issue and religious liberty work as self-serving— and even think that work on abortion is too focused on therapeutic ministry rather than political advocacy to put abortion bans into law.

Tooley connected this to Christians’ lack of understanding that God himself has given the government a divine mandate to oppose marriage equality and abortion.

Indeed, all of the punitive aspects of the civil state, which are central to God’s vocation for government, have become unfashionable or at least uninteresting to much of Christian political witness in America today — except for possibly punishing perpetrators of discrimination against same-sex couples.

Yet historic Christian teaching says the state has a divinely ordained, ongoing permanent duty to uphold marriage, family, and to protect all human life, irrespective of fashion and fad.

There is a pervasive lack of awareness in current Christian discourse, not limited to the very young, about historic Christian understandings about the core responsibilities of government. Instead of providing for public order — jailing criminals and deterring or defeating external aggressors — government is now portrayed in Christian political witness as the all-powerful and maternal provider, who feeds, clothes, heals, educates and reaffirms, callings that Christianity typically had assigned to parents, families, churches, private philanthropy, civil society and therapists.

Even traditional Christians, he complained, often appear clueless about religious responses to these trends, resorting to libertarian arguments against big government “without describing the state’s core mandate assigned by no less than God himself. Addressing this collapse in Christian understanding about God’s purpose for the state is a wonderful, and important, but almost overwhelming challenge for groups like mine, but also all of us in this room and beyond.”

Tooley closed with a prayer for victory in the culture war:

We can hope and pray, in the fullness of Providence, that the Almighty will look back on these days that we’re living through and say to us who have tried to follow him, this was one of our finest hours, in a great social and cultural storm when his truths were most under assault. May he guide us to perseverance and victories ahead for the common good of all people.

World Congress Of Families Swag: Skousen's '5000 Year Leap'

It’s not surprising that the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City would have a particularly Mormon flavor, given that the city is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  The conference's opening session on Tuesday morning included a keynote by Mormon Apostle Russell Ballard during which he played a video of children singing a song about Mormon theology and explained how the church’s commitment to “traditional family” is grounded in its religious beliefs about eternal marriage.

WCF registration bags included a copy of the Church’s 1995 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which argues marriage is essential to God’s eternal plan. It also promotes conservative ideas about the complementarity of the sexes, saying, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” The proclamation states,

By divine design fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

Also included in the registration bag was a copy of right-wing Mormon author W. Cleon Skousen’s “The 5000 Year Leap,” a 1981 book that zoomed to the top of best-seller-lists in 2009 when Glenn Beck discovered it and began gushing about it on his show. Alexander Zaitchik wrote about it for Salon:

What has Beck been pushing on his legions? “Leap,” first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. “Leap” argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs — based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith — that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah’s George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year’s annual fundraiser).

But more interesting than the contents of “The 5,000 Year Leap,” and more revealing for what it says about 912ers and the Glenn Beck Nation, is the book’s author. W. Cleon Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen’s own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of “The 5,000 Year Leap.”

As Beck knows, to focus solely on “The 5,000 Year Leap” is to sell the author short. When he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen had authored more than a dozen books and pamphlets on the Red Menace, New World Order conspiracy, Christian child rearing, and Mormon end-times prophecy. It is a body of work that does much to explain Glenn Beck’s bizarre conspiratorial mash-up of recent months, which decries a new darkness at noon and finds strange symbols carefully coded in the retired lobby art of Rockefeller Center. It also suggests that the modern base of the Republican Party is headed to a very strange place.

Sarah Posner noted Skousen’s connections with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch:

When the elder Skousen died in 2006, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), paid tribute to him on the Senate floor, and even included a poem he wrote about his friend. Hatch detailed how Skousen helped launch his political career, sending a letter to 8,000 "friends," urging them to support Hatch's 1976 Senate candidacy. According to a 1980 account in the New York Times by the inimitable Molly Ivins, Skousen's Freeman Institute was active in several other Republican campaigns as well, including one to unseat Sen. Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who chaired the Church Commission that investigated intelligence abuses in the wake of Watergate.

"From that first campaign," Hatch went on in his tribute on the Senate floor, "to every day I have served in the U.S. Senate--Cleon has been there for me, through highs and lows--buoying me up, giving suggestions, discussing principles and issues, and above all else being a true, supportive friend. I can never overstate what his support has meant to me throughout my years of service." Hatch added that Skousen's writings, including The 5,000 Year Leap, "have been used by foundations, and in forums across America for many years. His writings and words leave an indelible legacy of knowledge and beliefs that have touched many people and will continue to inspire and educate generations to come."

The Hatch connection brings us full circle, as this morning’s session at the World Congress of Families ended with a, um, memorable rendition of a song written by Hatch

Did Newark Archbishop Just Declare Democrats Ineligible For Communion?

David Gibson at the Religion News Service reports on a new directive from Newark Archbishop John Myers, who “has given his priests strict guidelines on refusing Communion to Catholics who, for example, support gay marriage or whose own marriage is not valid in the eyes of the church.” The guideline was distributed as the Catholic Church's Synod on the Family is under way in Rome.

Gibson notes that Myers orders parishes and Catholic organizations not to host people or groups that disagree with church teachings. And the language of Myers’ memo actually goes even further:

Non-Catholics and any Catholic who publically rejects Church teaching or discipline, either by public statement or by joining or supporting organizations which do so, are not to receive the Sacraments.

By that definition, could any member of the Democratic Party receive communion in the Archdiocese of Newark?

A spokesman for Myers confirmed to Gibson that same-sex unions were part of the consideration in writing the memo to ensure that “Catholic teaching is adhered to in all situations.”

David Benham's Gay-Bashing Tirade At 'Nonpolitical' Prayer Rally

Last weekend’s Response rally in Charlotte, North Carolina was another in a series of supposedly nonpolitical gatherings organized by political strategist David Lane. Like other Response gatherings, the event served as a platform for culture warriors associated with Christian-nation dominionism to promote anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-church state ideology all while proclaiming that they are simply bringing Christians together to pray for the state and nation.

Among the culture warriors to take the microphone in Charlotte was David Benham, half of the Benham Brothers duo who have parlayed a cancelled television show into Religious Right folk-hero status.

David and his brother have a long record of anti-gay rhetoric and activism. They once urged Charlotte officials to deny permits for the city’s pride celebration. David has repeatedly linked gays with Satan, so it is not terribly surprising that he portrayed the LGBT equality movement as a force of darkness in a spiritual battle for the soul of America:

As we shift into individual repentance I want to provide a little context for where we’re meeting right now. Eight years ago, I came to the Charlotte convention center, and sat in a meeting with 1500 individuals in the room directly above this room. It was a meeting with the Human Rights Campaign. The president stood on the stage and said that we are going to take the key to Charlotte, we are going to take North Carolina, and we will force our agenda on this nation. And all of you bigots that think that you can stand against us, you can do nothing about it because you sit in your living rooms laughing at our humor on television.

And I listened to that from the Human Rights Campaign and I found it very interesting that just a few months ago I sat at a city council meeting with the transgender bill that sat and was about to be voted upon. And the city attorney was asked, who was in the meeting helping you craft this ordinance, and he said, the Human Rights Campaign.

At the time the nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte was being debated, Benham called it “depraved” and “craziness.”

Benham argued, as is customary among Religious Right leaders, that America’s biggest problem is that “the church” hasn’t been aggressive enough in the culture wars.

The problem today is not the presence of darkness. The problem is the absence of light. This is nothing new in America. The spirit of the age is the spirit of Babylon, the same spirit that Daniel spoke about in his book, and this Babylonian spirit that seeks to remove Christian influence, that seeks to demonize and come against those who hold the commandments of God and keep the testimony of Jesus Christ.

This is the spiritual battle that is now waging before us in this nation, the home of the brave and the land of the free. And it’s time for the church of Jesus Christ to get off the sidelines and to step into the game. We don’t have a second Chronicles 7:14 moment – if my people who are called by my name, and the healing of the land – we don’t have that moment if it does not first begin with 1 Peter 4:17.

It is time for judgment to begin in the House of God.

Benham went on to talk about the sins “manifest in Israel” before the captivity in Babylon:  

“…the worship of the goddess of Ashera, sexual perversion of all kind, and the worship of the god of Moloch, child sacrifice. That is what we are finding in America, and we see it in North Carolina, that the shedding of innocent blood – 60 million unborn babies – have been slaughtered while we grow church. C’mon!

And we are now watching, as God is allowing our sexual perversion, not just the homosexual agenda, but adultery and divorce and pornography that are rooted in the church and it is time for us to fall on our faces before God and to repent of our sins.

Benham said God had a purpose in placing The Response directly below the room where that HRC meeting had been held:

It is no coincidence that we are in a basement underneath the room where the Human Rights Campaign issued their secular declaration that they would take this nation. Now it’s time for us to issue our declaration, that God we are sorry, forgive us of our sins, heal our land, O God.

In Daniel chapter 9 in Babylon he says this, I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed my sins and said alas, Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant in loving kindness for those who love him and keep his commandments. We have sinned. We have committed iniquity. We have acted wickedly and rebelled. We have turned aside from your ordinances and commandments.

It’s time for us, as God has positioned us in this room, to get on our faces and to humble ourselves. We can point at our elected leaders. We can point at the secular media. We can point at Hollywood, and DC and New York City, but the finger points right to the church of Jesus Christ.

And we know that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but are divinely powerful for the destruction of strongholds, those strongholds that come to rob, to kill, and to destroy. So let’s enter in now, this is not something that you can just sit there and watch. We must get on our faces before God for the sake of this nation, for the sake of our children and for the sake of the kingdom of heaven…

God we have sinned. God we have concerned ourselves with our rights but have forsaken our responsibility to be salt and light. God we have turned our backs Lord and gotten comfortable with American Christianity. Bring us back to biblical Christianity, oh God. Forgive us Lord Jesus for the perversion that is in our own ranks, God. Forgive us Lord Jesus for turning a blind eye to the shedding of innocent blood. God we ask you Lord forgive us. We intercede on behalf of our land knowing that we are the ones responsible. So Lord Jesus forgive us now as we enter individual repentance knowing that the only ones that ascend the hill of the Lord is he who has clean hands and a pure heart.

 

Seven Mountains Dominionism At North Carolina's 'Response' Rally

Last Saturday’s five-and-a-half-hour “Response” rally in North Carolina was, like previous “Response" rallies, a culture war rallying cry disguised as a nonpolitical prayer gathering. The event, organized by Christian-nation activist David Lane and emceed by “apostle” Doug Stringer, promoted Seven Mountains dominionism, the idea that the right kind of Christians are meant to control every sphere – or “mountain” – of cultural influence: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family, and religion.

While laying hands on North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who Lane said was put in place by God, Lane prayed that God could give McCrory “courage to fight.” 

Lord, we pray that you would give him courage to fight. And Lord that the pastors of North Carolina would rise. And Lord that this would be the beginning. You say we war against not flesh and blood but principalities and powers. And like over the body of Moses in the book of Jude, the archangel Michael said, ’the Lord rebuke you. We’re asking the living God to intervene on what he have allowed in a nation founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith. Jesus help us, and begin with Pat McCrory, we’re asking in Jesus name.

Stringer continued the prayer over McCrory, saying that the Bible makes clear “that all authority, kingdom’s authorities, principalities and rulerships are subject to you, but your intention to give it to the church and through the church.”

Lord would you guide and protect and watch over the governor of this great state, all of our leaders across this nation, that they would come to renewed revelation of their need for you and that Lord as they submit themselves to you,  true reformation will take place and revival across this nation again.

In the session on “reformation,” Stringer talked about the development of “seven mountains” theology by people like the late Bill Bright of Campus Crusade. Another speaker fleshed out the concept:

Jesus gave a parable of a man, a certain nobleman who went into a far country, and he said, he gave 10 pounds to ten servants, and he said, “Occupy until I come.” Reformation is about occupying the places of influence in our nation, the places of influence in our culture. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. And God has commissioned the church to occupy until he comes…

There are 7 major issues or arenas in which we believe that God has appointed and assigned the church to occupy. We believe that the church, or the faith and religious community, must experience a time of reformation. The word tells us in Matthew the fifth chapter that the church, the body of Christ, is the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Let us pray that there would be an awakening in the faith community. Pray that the church would experience a revelation of holiness, righteousness, love and justice. Pray that the church would occupy every arena in our society. Pray that the church would be salt and light.

A number of speakers prayed for various mountains. Regarding the family, “that the unborn would be protected” and “that the family would have true biblical marriages” – which speakers made clear is not just about one-man, one-woman marriage, but about wifely submission.

Prayers for the government sphere included:

Pray for the government, that it would be, that we would have god-appointed leaders, men and women who would serve him and humanity. Pray for government that we would have voters who are informed, knowledgeable and insightful in how to vote righteously and biblically.

On education, one speaker prayed, “Restore prayer to our schools, O Holy God, restore one educational system to the biblical principles of Jesus Christ, in Jesus’s holy and mighty name, amen.” Another said this:

I repent for the folly of expelling you from our halls of learning. We have considered ourselves wise in our own eyes, when in reality wisdom in this world is foolishness before you. As a person working in the academic realm, I invite you back into the education system, to take your rightful place, as the foundation and the compass for learning. You are the only true source of knowledge and wisdom. I cry out to you to reform and transform the education system in this state and in this nation. Apart from you we can do nothing. In Christ we can do all things AMEN!

On the media:

“We are going to ask God to reform this mountain of media, we are at the point in this country where it is either reformation or revolution – the first is of the spirit, and the latter is of the force of the flesh, so God, we call upon you to reform the mountain of media for your kingdom purposes. Lord, you know that there’s a saying in the newsroom, that if it bleeds, it leads. My God, you bled for us. I know of no other way for mountain reformation to come than by the precious blood of the lamb. So Lord, we recognize you as our risen Lord and savior, and we ask for you to invade the news media. We ask you to loose skilled laborers to come into that mountain, to repossess the land where the enemy has taken up residence. God, we call for truth.…We ask for the truth of the gospel to go forth in the media…for the people of God to meet today in the city of intercession that you would begin a massive reformation in the mountain of media….

One of the final speakers made clear what the day was about – spiritual warfare against “the enemy.”

I thank you father for the reminder from your word and from the remarks that have been made throughout this day that this is war, and that we’re not looking for refreshing in order to be relieved of our responsibilities, but father we’re coming here today as a people of God, an army of God, seeking to be refreshed in order to renew the fight against the enemy. And today father, the people that are in this place, pick up the world-class weapon of prayer and we take it father against the enemy in the name of Jesus Christ. And we come against every obstacle, we come against every foe. 

Culture War Politics At David Lane's 'Nonpolitical' Prayer Rally

Last Saturday, while the Values Voter Summit drew Religious Right activists and pandering politicians together in Washington, D.C., a group of Christian dominionists was holding an all-day political prayer rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, featuring Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory had objected to the way Response organizers used his name to recruit participants, but it didn’t keep him away.

This was the fourth “Response” rally headlined by a state governor. The first, in 2011, served as the unofficial launch to Rick Perry’s disastrous 2012 presidential bid. Since then, Response rallies have been hosted by Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to host the next “Response” on October 24. The North Carolina Response was the smallest to date; one speaker referred to “hundreds” of participants, while the Charlotte Observer reported that it attracted “more than 1,000” people.

The rallies are in effect a series of bait-and-switch events. They are disingenuously promoted as non-political gatherings to create Christian unity by bringing people together across denominational and racial lines to pray for the state and the country. And while that promise of ecumenical prayer and worship is undoubtedly what brought many people to the event in Charlotte, the “non-political” veneer was discarded almost immediately.

The organizers are a group of Christian-nation zealots who believe every sphere of influence in society – including business, government, education, media, and entertainment – is meant to be controlled by the right kind of Christians. And they’re intent on electing politicians – and a president – who share that vision. The events are sponsored by Christian-nation extremist David Lane, a favorite of GOP presidential hopefuls whose American Renewal Project organizes and funds The Response rallies as well as other efforts to get conservative evangelicals more involved in politics. The American Renewal Project operates under the umbrella of the American Family Association, home to the notorious font of bigotry, radio host Bryan Fischer.

Here’s how Lane opened his prayer at the unifying, non-political Response rally:

The problem is us, a Christian nation founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith that has left God. So Lord, we start here. We’re so sorry what we’ve allowed to happen to a once-Christian nation, Lord. We deserve judgment. We pray for mercy, the mercy of God. A nation founded on the Bible; fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And Lord, they removed prayer and Bible from the public schools in 1963 after 350 years as a principal component, as the fixed point in order to judge society. We did this, we allowed this to happen. We pray for mercy. Fifty-five million babies dead, homosexuals praying at the inauguration, red ink as far as the eye can see -- judgment is on us. We need mercy Lord. We deserve judgment.

Like other Response events, it was emceed by “apostle” Doug Stringer, who announced that the day would follow the five-theme Response formula: repentance, reconciliation, revival, reformation, and refreshing. As the Response moved through its five segments, Religious Right speakers took turns at the microphone, interspersed with praise music and prayers from locals. Some prayed for the church to be filled with God’s love, and some shouted out culture war rhetoric about abortion, homosexuality, and separation of church and state:

Lord, you’ve called us to be salt and light, and Lord, salt is flavoring, salt is an irritant, and salt is a preservative. Lord, it is sin for us to not study your word, and know it, and obey it. Oh, God, it is sin for us to not know our Constitution, our liberties, and it is sin for us to not know how to be good citizens, preserving our liberties and our freedoms. Change us, oh God, and help us be like Kim Davis, obeying the Constitution and defying federal criminals. In Jesus’ name.  

Ken Starr Not Rushing To Join Religious Right's Kim Davis Fan Club

Lawyers for Kim Davis are trying to piggyback on the popularity of Pope Francis by revealing that Davis was “sneaked into the Vatican embassy by car” to meet the pope when he visited Washington, D.C., recently. Not exactly a red-carpet welcome, but Davis and Liberty Counsel can use all the P.R. help they can get these days.

Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver says the visit, grudgingly confirmed by the Vatican, wasn’t arranged through the American bishops. But it would not have been terribly surprising if it were enabled by Archbishop William Lori, point man for the U.S. bishops’ strategy of using religious liberty claims to resist LGBT equality and the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act.

On the Friday before the pope’s arrival in Washington, D.C., Lori gave the keynote to a day-long “Religious Freedom Summit” at the Catholic University of America’s law school. Much of the day was devoted to discussion of horrific religious persecution in other parts of the world, including anti-Christian persecution in Syria and China. Those harrowing first-person accounts made it hard to consider claims of “religious persecution” by people like Kim Davis as even remotely in the same category.

Even among the conservative lawyers who filled the room, support for Davis wasn’t unanimous. The closing address at the conference was given by Ken Starr — yes, that Ken Starr — who is now president of Baylor University, a Texas-based Christian college with Baptist heritage.

Starr talked about how courts have wrestled with the words of the First Amendment for some 80 years, and proposed some key principles that he said should guide the law: non-coercion in matters of conscience; nondiscrimination against religion; government’s ability, within limits, to provide affirmative protections for religious belief; and government noninterference with the mission and governance of religious organizations.

Starr acknowledged that in implementing many of these principles there are lines that must be drawn. For example, he explained, the majority and dissenters in the Hobby Lobby case gave different weight to the religious liberty claims of the company’s owners and the potential for demonstrable harm to the company’s employees. How we identify and measure recognizable harm to third parties, and weigh it against free exercise, will continue to be wrestled with in the courts, he said, suggesting that there were probably differing opinions even among the people in the room.

Which brings us to Kim Davis, and other Religious Right martyrs-in-the-making such as bakers and florists who refuse service to same sex couples.

First, Davis:

I don’t think that this question is easy. Others may, and the freedom of conscience simply trumps all. But the reason I think it’s not easy is because she is a public official who has taken an oath to uphold the law. I know, I heard the panel saying, look at all the exceptions to individuals who’ve been sworn to uphold the law and who have chosen not to do it. I personally find that a little uncomfortable. Oh, you’re going to pick and choose which laws to enforce.

He asked whether people in the room would be okay with a sheriff or chief of police deciding which laws to enforce based on their personal beliefs.

Starr then addressed conversations about accommodations for bakers and florists who refuse to serve gay customers:

Not a public official like Kim Davis, a private citizen. But at the same time I’m going to suggest that we really think hard on this. She is one who has opened her bakery or catering service or floral shop to business. She has a license from the state to do business. And in carrying out a commercial business, the general rule is one akin to principle two of nondiscrimination. That rule is deeply anchored in the common law. You’ve got to serve people who come in to you. And also the public accommodation provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when folks were excluded from service on grounds of race. The very idea and ideal of the common law rule is equality — you take care of every customer who comes to you unless you have a very substantial — they’re trying to tear up my shop.

Starr noted that there’s plenty of litigation in these areas, and that some “creative” arguments are being mounted by those suggesting that wedding services such as cakes and flowers are protected as a freedom of speech issue. (That kind of claim was made unsuccessfully by a photographer in New Mexico, discussed in PFAW’s “Religious Liberty: Shield or Sword?”)

Starr also noted that “we are an increasingly diverse community of men, women and children who come from so many cultures and traditions …The world we inhabit is a pluralistic one.” He acknowledged that his four principles won’t magically resolve differences on these issues, suggesting that those involved should adhere to another organizing principle, the Golden Rule, and treat those with whom they disagree with kindness, dignity, and respect.

Starr isn’t the only conservative lawyer taking issue with the claims of Kim Davis and her supporters. Ken Klukowski said earlier this month that Davis was on “very shaky legal ground” and that her refusal to allow deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses was an indefensible effort to force other civil servants to act in conformity with her religious beliefs.

 

Jeb Bush Touts Voucher Program That Funds Christian Schools, Religious Right Ideology

At Wednesday night’s presidential debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went out of his way to tout “a voucher program that was created under my watch, the largest voucher program in the country, where kids can go to a Christian school” — a phrase he sandwiched into a conversation about Donald Trump criticizing him for speaking Spanish in public.

Julie Ingersoll, a religious studies professor at the University of North Florida, tweeted a reminder that her book on Christian Reconstructionism, which was recently released by Oxford University Press, mentions Bush’s voucher program. “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism” includes chapters on the enormous influence of Christian Reconstructionism in the homeschooling and Christian school movements, which have succeeded in getting states like Florida to funnel taxpayer money to their religious education efforts

Christian Reconstructionism, grounded in the teachings of 20th-century writer R.J. Rushdoony, has greatly influenced both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its doctrine of “sphere sovereignty,” which states that God has given government, church, and family specific responsibilities over different “spheres.” Reconstructionists argue that there is no biblical authority for the government to take on a duty that is given to church or family – for example, they argue that the government has no role in caring for the poor because charity is the job of the church.

Reconstructionism teaches that education is the duty of parents, and that the state therefore has no role in or legitimate authority over the education of children. Reconstructionists led legal and political battles to win the right of parents to homeschool their children, and continue to resist efforts at regulating homeschoolers. As Ingersoll notes, “Reconstructionists are unabashedly committed to the dismantling of public education, and their strategies and solutions have gained a hearing far beyond the boundaries of the small groups explicitly affiliated with them.” In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott named a right-wing homeschooler to chair the state’s Board of Education.

The organized and intensely active network of evangelical homeschooling families in Iowa is credited, in part, with Mike Huckabee’s win in the 2008 Iowa caucus, and the Associated Press reported this year that presidential candidates have been jockeying for its leaders’ support.

Ingersoll also explores how central creationism is to the Christian Reconstructionist worldview; as others have noted, creationism also forms the basis of “science” education in books and curricula used by some Christian schools and homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about the independent, Reconstructionism-inspired Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville, Florida, which was founded in the 1970s. In addition to the hundreds of students in its K-12 program, the school offers a program allowing homeschoolers to participate in courses and activities. Writes Ingersoll, “RCBS also has a program designed to take advantage of Florida’s school voucher plan. The plan, put into place by former Governor Jeb Bush, permits students at ‘failing public schools’ to obtain vouchers that can be used at any school.”

According to Ingersoll, the Bush voucher program “has become such a significant revenue stream” for Rocky Bayou Christian School that “it would have a major impact on the school if the state were to decide to discontinue the controversial program….”  But, she notes, “the conservative legislature took up the effort to expand the state’s privatization of public education with vouchers and the expansion of charter schools.”

Indeed, legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year expanded voucher and tax-credit programs; it also, according to the Orlando Sentinel, created state-funded “personal learning scholarship accounts” that “parents of students with certain disabilities can use to pay for private school, buy home-school curriculum or pay for needed therapies, among other services, if their child is not in public school.”

Florida is not the only state where proponents of privatization have won victories. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal used the Katrina disaster to push through a radical privatization scheme and has battled the Obama administration over its efforts to monitor the state’s voucher program’s effect on racial segregation. Proponents of “school choice” had a major victory in Nevada this year, where a law pushed by an education foundation created by Jeb Bush would allow parents of any income level to “pull a child from the state's public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling.” While some Christian homeschoolers want no part of voucher programs, because they believe taking voucher money would bring more intrusive government regulation, laws like Nevada’s could prove a windfall for Religious Right and Christian Reconstructionist groups that provide curricula to homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about a 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit hosted by the Christian Home Educators of Colorado at an Indianapolis facility of Bill Gothard’s Institute for Biblical Life Principles, a troubling organization in the news recently for its connection to the Duggar family. The purpose of the summit, writes Ingersoll, was the development of a “Christian Education Manifesto,” which is no longer public, but whose goals included the elimination of public education and dismantling of government agencies that regulate the rights of parents, such as child welfare and child protective service groups.

There have been some setbacks for the privatization movement. In June, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that its state’s Choice Scholarship Pilot Program violates the state Constitution by channeling public money to private religious schools, contrary to an explicit constitutional prohibition on doing so.

But, as Ingersoll notes, the massively funded privatization movement is advancing the dream of the Christian Reconstructionists:

Florida’s efforts mirror attempts across the nation to shift the delivery of public education to the private sector; a shift of tax money from a public endeavor intended to educate and foster a shared sense of what it means to be American to sectarian efforts, including efforts at schools like Rocky Bayou which seek to transform society according to biblical law. The long-standing goal of the Christian Reconstructionists to defund, and ultimately eliminate, public education has come as close as it has ever come to being a reality.

Christian Reconstrucionist Michael Peroutka Joins Kim Davis Fan Club

Michael Peroutka, a neo-confederate whose Institute on the Constitution promotes a far-right Christian Reconstructionist view of religion and government, has joined the chorus of right-wing voices that have gathered to defend Kim Davis, the county clerk jailed for contempt of court after refusing to obey a court order that she issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples.

Peroutka appeared at a rally with other Davis supporters over the weekend, declaring, “Kim Davis has given all believers a lesson in faithfulness.”

Peroutka ran as a Republican and won a seat on the county council of Ann Arundel County, Maryland, last year, once declared that the Maryland General Assembly had no legitimacy after passing gay-rights legislation that he said violated God’s law. Peroutka is also a long-time funder of the right-wing activism of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has also been promoting resistance to the “tyranny” of judges who rule for marriage equality.

An NBC News story on Peroutka’s support for Kim Davis quoted him saying, “There is no law that requires her to grant a marriage license to people of the same sex. The Court has had many opinions ... but they are not law."

Earlier this year, Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution warned U.S. Supreme Court justices that striking down state bans on marriage equality “could bring God’s judgment on the Nation.”

Pat McCrory Tries To Have It Both Ways On Political Prayer Rally

North Carolina’s Pat McCrory is the fourth Republican governor to agree to host a “Response” prayer rally organized by Christian-nation extremist David Lane and other dominionist activists. Rick Perry used a “Response” rally to launch his doomed 2012 presidential bid; since then Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley have hosted rallies in their states.

As we have repeatedly explained, there are serious problems with governors lending their name and the power of their office to events that are built on the premise that the only answer to the nation’s problems is for the country to “return” to Jesus. They are exclusionary events that suggest only Christians — more specifically, Christians who share the Religious Right’s views — can be part of solving the nation’s problems. And, while pretending to be nonpolitical, they use politicians to give credibility to their anti-gay, anti-choice, America-as-Christian-nation agenda. They turn politics into spiritual warfare and political opponents into enemies of God.

The North Carolina “Response” event is scheduled for September 26 at the convention center in Charlotte. On Monday, organizers placed a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer, featuring a photo of McCrory and the invitation, “Come Join Me in a time of worship, prayer, fasting and repentance.”

McCrory is getting some negative feedback, and the Observer reported yesterday that McCrory has distanced himself from the ad, with a spokesman saying the governor had agreed to speak but had not given permission to use his name in inviting people to the event. McCrory reportedly said he’s “proud to attend the event and be a part of what hopefully will be a constructive dialog.”

But either McCrory hasn’t done his homework or he’s being disingenuous. Response events are not meant to be a dialogue. They are part of a strategic public relations and political strategy being advanced by men like David Lane, who is trying to mobilize an “army” of conservative Christians to turn the 2016 elections and to remake the United States along the lines of what Lane sees as the country’s covenant with God. America, Lane says, is a nation founded by Christians “for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”

This event, like other Response rallies, will be hosted by “apostle” Doug Stringer and paid for by David Lane’s American Renewal Project, which operates under the umbrella of the viciously anti-gay American Family Association. In advance of the rallies kicking off Perry’s and Jindal’s presidential bids in Texas and Louisiana, organizers distributed materials that blamed supposed national sins like the acceptance of homosexuality for Hurricane Katrina.

Is Ted Cruz Winning The Christian Nation Primary?

Christian-nation activist David Lane has been fuming for years that conservative evangelicals divided their Republican primary votes in 2008 and 2012, allowing John McCain and Mitt Romney to capture the GOP presidential nominations even though neither was a favorite of the party’s Religious Right activists. Lane, who believes America was founded by and for Christians, has vowed to prevent that from happening again, and has been hosting events in early primary states giving conservative pastors a chance to hear from and evaluate GOP presidential candidates.

Lane has also been working to recruit and train an “army“ of pastors to run as candidates and bring thousands of conservative evangelical volunteers into the 2016 race. Those events have been attended by several GOP hopefuls, including Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal. But while Lane has not publicly thrown his support to a candidate, evidence suggests that Ted Cruz is being anointed to carry the hopes of Lane and his supporters.

One big sign came late last month, when news that broke that Farris and Dan Wilks had given $15 million to Keep the Promise, a pro-Cruz super PAC. Not coincidentally, David Lane told NBC News last year that, “With Citizens United…you can have somebody who gives $15 or $20 million into a super PAC and that changes the game.” The billionaire Wilks brothers from Texas have become sugar daddies to right-wing groups generally, and to David Lane’s Pastors and Pews events specifically.

A couple weeks later, Cruz stopped by the headquarters of the American Family Association. Lane’s American Renewal Project operates under the AFA’s umbrella, and Cruz sounded like he was reading Lane’s talking points. Cruz told AFA President Tim Wildmon that mobilizing evangelical Christian voters is the key to saving America, saying, “Nothing is more important in the next 18 months than that the body of Christ rise up and that Christians stand up, that pastors stand up and lead.”

Cruz has been positioning himself as the champion of religious liberty and defender of the conservative Christians he says are the targets of a “jihad” by gay-rights activists and an “atheist Taliban.” On Friday night he held a “Rally for Religious Liberty” in Iowa highlighting victims of “religious persecution” — in other words, business owners who have refused to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples and gotten into trouble for violating anti-discrimination laws.

Iowa-based Religious Right radio host Steve Deace was rapturous, declaring the Cruz rally “the best candidate event I’ve ever attended” and saying Ted Cruz is the first candidate he has seen actually put on an event designed to ignite a “revival.” The rally, said Deace, was a reminder “that God’s not dead” and confirmed Deace’s decision “to support Cruz and do so early.”

And yesterday, the Washington Post’s Katie Zezima and Tom Hamburger reported that Cruz “will take a lead role in the launch this week of an ambitious 50-state campaign to end taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood” – a campaign announced via an email from Cruz that was distributed by Lane’s American Renewal Project.

David Carney, a Republican strategist who worked on that recall effort with David Lane, who leads the American Renewal Project, a group sponsoring this week’s pastor outreach effort. The two are joined by Wayne Hamilton, a Texas-based organizer who has worked in the past with Perry and was campaign manager in 2014 for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The effort appears to be funded through American Renewal, which officials said spent about $10 million supporting candidates in 2014 and is considered likely to spend $15 million or more this year organizing opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

In addition, religious broadcast organizations have pledged to air public service spots urging Christian viewers to contact their members of Congress. Carney said the effort has received commitments of support from the Bott Radio Network, which has 100 Christian radio stations in the Midwest, and from American Family Radio, which owns 190 Christian radio stations in 20 states as well as national religious-television broadcasters.

The Post reports that the anti-Planned Parenthood campaign will include conference calls for pastors this Tuesday. The calls will begin with a message from Cruz followed by Doug Stringer, a dominionist who has emceed Lane-organized prayer rallies for Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Nikki Haley, with more planned in the coming months, including one in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 26.

Cruz said at his rally on Friday that the reason Americans have a federal government that “comes after” free speech, religious liberty, life, and marriage is that 54 million evangelicals did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. “I’m here to tell you,” Cruz said, “we will stay home no longer.”

Cruz’s Iowa campaign chair, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, told the crowd at Friday’s rally that “Ted Cruz is the man who God has prepared for this moment.” He’s hardly the first. Cruz’s father Rafael, whose far-right rhetoric on the campaign trail has made him a Religious Right folk hero in his own right, says God has “destined” his son for “greatness.” And the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who calls Lane a “good friend” and often functions as a promoter of Lane’s activities, has called Cruz’s political career “a thing of God.” 

 

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