religious intolerance

PFAW Report Exposes Deceptive New Religious Right Strategy

WASHINGTON –  Right-wing groups that oppose advances in marriage equality and reproductive justice have increasingly embraced a new tactic to push their agenda: the claim that opposition to them on policy amounts to oppression of their religious beliefs. A new report from People For the American Way exposes how the anti-gay, anti-choice Religious Right uses false and misleading stories to portray itself as a victim of religious persecution and intolerance. 

The report, “The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry,” illustrates how Religious Right activists and elected officials have attempted to portray the increasing unpopularity of their stances on a number of cultural issues as evidence of oppression of their religious faith and represent themselves as the only holdouts in a society that is turning its back on moral values.

“Religious Right leaders hold themselves up as the victims,” stated People For the American Way’s President Michael B. Keegan. “This is a powerful talking point, even if not true. We need to expose these distortions for what they really are—an attempt to protect the Right’s ability to discriminate and push its policy preferences on the rest of us.”

The report explores a number of myths that have become widespread on the Religious Right, despite having little or no basis in reality:

  • Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program
  • An Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage
  • A high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory
  • A Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages
  • A man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence
  • An elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch
  • A little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus

None of these stories is true.

These unfounded stories feed into a narrative that portrays conservative Christians as the victims of LGBT rights, reproductive justice, religious pluralism and secular government. This narrative, in turn, has fueled the legislative and legal efforts to turn back any progressive advances.   

“Using the resonant rhetoric of religious persecution, bolstered by often-bogus stories of purported anti-Christian activities, the Religious Right has attempted to tip the balance away from pluralism and accommodation to a legal system that allows individuals and businesses to broadly exempt themselves from policies they disagree with,” the report states. “Even when that means trampling on the religious rights of others.”

Read the full report here.

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In Response To Uganda Documentary, IHOP Says It's 'Not Involved' in Politics

“God Loves Uganda,” a documentary about American evangelical involvement in inflaming anti-gay sentiment in that country, made its debut at last year’s Sundance Festival and reached a broader audience through this week’s broadcast on public television. The attention from this week’s broadcast has provoked a response from the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Filmmaker Ross Williams was given extensive access to IHOP leaders, including evangelist Lou Engle, who believes Uganda has a special prophetic destiny.  The documentary includes footage of Engle at a rally with supporters of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act, where he tells the crowd he was “called” to encourage the Ugandan church for standing up for “righteousness” in the face of international pressure to drop the bill.  IHOP now says it has never supported the anti-gay law.

Charisma Magazine’s Jennifer LeClaire writes that IHOP and Lou Engle are being “falsely accused of ‘demonizing’ homosexuals in Uganda.” IHOP’s response says that while it believes all sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman is sinful, “We honor the dignity and rights of all whose opinion differs from ours” and that IHOP is “open to civil dialogue and mutual respect.” The filmmakers, says IHOP, “pursued a deceptive means to achieve a hateful, polarizing result.”

In fact, Engle is a remarkably polarizing figure who has frequently describes those who disagree with him on abortion and marriage as being in league with Satan in a confrontation between good an evil. “God Loves Uganda” includes footage of Engle’s pro-Prop. 8 rally in California at which he warned that allowing same-sex couples to get married would unleash “sexual insanity” and a spirit “more demonic than Islam.” In 2011, he organized an event in Detroit that was pitched to local pastors as a unity event for people of faith to pray for Detroit’s economy when its actual purpose was to “invade Dearborn” and convert followers of “demonic” Islam to Christianity.

Perhaps the most laughable statement in IHOP’s response is this:

Our primary mandate as an organization is prayer and humanitarian action; it is not political. We are not involved in U.S. politics, let alone politics in another nation.

Not involved in US politics? Where do we begin?

Lou Engle, an IHOP co-founder, is a dominionist who believes the church’s role is to “rule history with God.”

"The church’s vocation is to rule history with God...The same authority that has been given to Christ Jesus for overwhelming conquering and dominion has been given to the saints of the most high....We’re God’s rulers upon the earth...We will govern over kings and judges will have to submit...We’re called to rule! To change history! To be co-regents with God!"

Engle has been intensely involved in US politics, hosting “The Call” prayer rallies in election years to denounce legal abortion and politicians that support it. He worked hard to mobilize support for anti-gay Proposition 8 in California.

In 2008 he passionately opposed the election of Barack Obama and declared that by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, McCain had “gone to war for America, for our families, and for our children. And this war, we cannot afford to lose.”

In 2009, Engle introduced Rep. Michele Bachmann and asked her to lead a prayer at an anti-health-care-reform “prayercast” organized by the Family Research Council.

More recently IHOP and its leader Mike Bickel were at the center of organizing dominionist leaders to put on “The Awakening,” a 2011 prayer rally that served as the launch of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign. Bickel served as the event’s MC. The head of IHOP’s Tallahassee branch, Pam Oslen, was on the Perry campaign’s Florida leadership team.

ACLJ: Blasphemy Laws For Me, But Not For Thee?

Yesterday, Miranda reported on the seemingly contradictory views of the American Center for Law and Justice’s European and Slavic affiliates when it comes to blasphemy laws. The ECLJ has been vocal in opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but the SCLJ supported passage of a new anti-blasphemy law in Russia. The law provides for fines, “correctional labor” and up to three years behind bars for “public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers.” SCLJ’s co-chairman Vladimir Rehyakovsky expressed some reservations about the final form of the law, but said it was “very important” to have such a law in place.

So, where does the ACLJ stand on blasphemy laws?  On one hand, it is proud of its opposition in international forums like the United Nations to blasphemy laws that are used by Islamist governments to restrict religious expression.  In 2011, the ACLJ said the UN’s Human Rights Committee endorsed an ECLJ-backed position that “no right exists to protect the reputation of an ideology, rather human rights belongs to individuals.”

But more than a decade ago, in response to an “Ask Jay” question posted on the ACLJ’s website, the group’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said it was “an unfortunate situation” that states no longer have laws against blasphemy, something he blamed on “the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people.”  Sekulow bemoaned the fact that “religion lacks protection in the law.”

Joe from Rhode Island asks: In Black’s classic law dictionary, blasphemy is illegal. When did it become legal to mock a person’s faith in God?

Jay answers: Black’s is the standard of legal definitions that law students are given around the country and Black’s is still cited in Supreme Court decisions. Not only in English common law but also in most states in the USA, blasphemy was prohibited speech. Clearly, the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people have changed that and that’s an unfortunate situation. But you’re absolutely correct, Black’s Law Dictionary is right. There are many definitions like that in Black’s, but religion lacks protection in the law. Not only is religion seen as irrelevant, but religion is trivialized and even mocked. This behavior has become an accepted part of who we are as a people and in some cases the Supreme Court hasn’t been particularly helpful in that context. The composition of the Supreme Court is obviously something we’re always watching because we know that with the more conservative court obviously some of our values will be more protected. Things have changed drastically if you look at our history, and it’s not even old history. Our country is still very young, but things are very different since our founding. We’re continuing to hope here at the American Center for Law and Justice that history will continue to change in a way that protects the rights of religious people across America. This is what we’re working toward. Selection of Supreme Court Justices is critical in the interpretation of these kinds of cases.

So it appears that the ACLJ is ready to champion free speech when it comes to opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but supports restrictions on blasphemy in place where Christians are in the majority.  Perhaps that double standard is not much of a surprise, given that the ACLJ, which portrays itself as a champion of religious liberty, helped lead opposition to the construction of a Muslim community center in New York that critics inaccurately called the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The ACLJ is a legal group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and run by Jay Sekulow and his son Jordan in a manner that is very lucrative for the Sekulow family.

BarbWire: Liberal Christians, Non-Christians, 'People Of The World' – Satanic, Satanic, Satanic!

Given Matt Barber’s own penchant for extremely harsh rhetoric, it’s not surprising that his newish website BarbWire has become a home for anti-gay hostility and Religious Right alarmism over the impending death of religious freedom in America.

Today’s offering comes from Gina Miller, who is described as “a conservative Christian political writer and radio/television voice professional.” Miller’s article, “Why Are Christians (Really) the World’s Most Persecuted Group?” was written in response to a column from Middle East Forum that BarbWire had linked to. Its author had argued that Christians are persecuted because Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, it seeks converts, and is a religion of martyrdom. No, Miller says, Satan is the reason Christians are persecuted. And Satan is operating through a lot of channels.

Islam, she says, is Satanic.

Islam is a demonic, militant-political-religious ideology born of the children of Ishmael, and like them, it has greatly proliferated.  It is one of Satan’s premiere deceptions, tyrannically ensnaring countless millions of people….

Those who adhere to Islam naturally have a demonically-inspired hatred for the people of the Lord, but as the Bible says, they hate everyone.  However, it is with the deepest of hatreds that they regard Christians and Jews, because their hatred is Satan’s hatred, and it goes well beyond simple dislike or disagreement on principles.  It goes to the heart of the spiritual essence of the foundational struggle, to the basic forces of darkness and light.

But it’s not just Islam. Every non-Christian religion is Satanic, she says, and so are liberal Christians:

From the beginning of time, Satan and the other fallen angels (demons) have made war against the Lord and His creation.  It is their sole mission to steal, kill and destroy what God has made and to keep as many people as possible from the knowledge of salvation through Jesus.  In this mission, they have heaped deception upon deception for mankind.  They have created countless false doctrines and distractions to mislead and deceive people into taking the path to Hell.  The world’s false religions—all those whose foundation is not solely the Gospel of Christ—lead to one place:  eternal damnation and separation from God.  This includes false, so-called “Christian” religions that deny Christ as the only Way to salvation, and instead, rely on traditions of men and on works to “earn” salvation, something we could never earn.

The frenzied, irrational hatred people of the world have for Christians is inspired by, and based in, Satan’s hatred for God and His people.  It’s a demonic hatred found in people who have rejected the Lord.  Have you ever noticed that there is not the same deep hatred for non-Christians and non-Christian religions?  Satan doesn’t hate his own work; he aggressively promotes and supports it.  Supernatural hatred for Christians and Jews exists because they are God’s people, the real deal, chosen by Him from the foundation of the world to be miraculously reconciled to Him.  We simply remind Satan of his eternal defeat and the fact that his time as “the god of this world” is short and growing to a close.  He is furious in his great loss.

And, of course, supporters of church-state separation (described by Miller as people who want to “eradicate all vestiges of Christianity in America”) are Satanic:

At the same time, as we watch our world marching inexorably toward the horror of the very last days and the period of great tribulation, those of us who put our trust in the Lord must not lose courage or hope.  The Word of the Lord is true, and every bit of it will come to pass.  This is why we see such a feverish effort by satanically-inspired people to eradicate all vestiges of Christianity in America today.  The campaign has its source in the demonic realm.  

Barber himself is no stranger to such rhetoric.  He has said Satan is behind the marriage equality movement and the Obama administration’s support for LGBT equality

Klayman Rally Speaker: America Under God's Judgment, Must Repent

Among the speakers at Larry Klayman’s rally in Washington was Brooke McGowan, a Tea Party activist from North Carolina. She had also spoken at the “We the People” rally on Veteran’s Day. McGowan, who was introduced as a representative of the Tea Party News Network, devoted her remarks to the need for national repentance, declaring that “we are in dire trouble today in America. We are a nation under judgment.” Among the reasons McGowan cited were abortion, religious pluralism, and church-state separation:

“In this nation we have turned away from the God of the Bible, and we’ve told Him He’s simply not welcome here. We have welcomed pluralism, atheism, secular humanism, Wicca, and even Islam, but we’ve told the Holy God to stay away. Legally, we removed God from the public schools over 50 years ago, and then 40 years ago through a court of nine justices, though not unanimous, we determined that His very image, precious life in the womb, could now be legally torn apart, killed, and discarded. Legalized murder began our rapid moral downfall....Now, how can we expect as a nation to stay blessed or even prosper when we willingly stay under this curse?”

McGowan cited the theories of Jonathan Cahn, whose book The Harbinger and movie Isaiah 9:10 Judgment argue that America is experiencing the end-times wrath of God in ways that were foretold in the Old Testament. According to Cahn, the 9/11 attacks were a wake-up call from God, but America didn’t repent, so the 2008 financial crisis was sent our way, but still we as a nation have not repented. If we don’t repent now, we’re looking at a military takeover in 2015.

McGowan pushed right-wing “war on Christianity” themes and a couple of false myths meant to prove it. “Today there is a cold war on Christianity, a civil war,” McGowan said. “Will we repent? How far does it have to go before we give in to His call for repentance?”

“At Walter Reed hospital down the road where our broken and mangled servicemen and women lie, you can’t even speak the name of Jesus or take in a Bible,” she said. “This is a disgrace!”

Actually, it’s a lie.

PFAW Statement on Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast

Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin was on his best behavior at this morning’s Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. That’s not surprising given the heightened media scrutiny and promises by Mayor Rick Meehan that Boykin would not say anything inflammatory. However, that does not excuse Ocean City officials – Mayor Meehan in particular – for providing a platform to a man who travels the country spreading bigotry and divisiveness

PFAW Statement on Muslim Community Center Near Ground Zero

In response to controversy about whether to allow a Muslim community center to be built near Ground Zero in Manhattan, People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan said, "of course a Muslim community center should be allowed in lower Manhattan. This is not a close question."
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