Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to make conservative Christians more politically powerful by eliminating legal restrictions on churches’ and other tax-exempt nonprofits’ ability to do electoral work. On Wednesday two Republican congressmen, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Georgia’s Jody Hice, introduced H.R. 6195, what they call the “Free Speech Fairness Act,” which would lay the groundwork for a President Trump to do just that.
Trump has said he decided to call for repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which dates to 1954, when he heard from pastors that it restricted their ability to help him get elected. He has made it clear that he sees its repeal as a way to build Christian conservatives’ political muscle. So it was a bit unconvincing to have Scalise and Hice portray their legislation not as a vehicle for turning churches into more effective political machines, but merely an effort to protect the trampled-upon free speech rights of pastors and nonprofits.
Scalise and Hice say their bill would allow churches and nonprofits to make political statements if those statements are in the ordinary course of their regular work and any expenses related to them are de minimis. In their example, a preacher could endorse a candidate as part of a sermon, and a church could do the same in its normal newsletter. Under their rules, they say, the church couldn’t launch a new political direct mail campaign that is outside the normal scope of its work. But given the massive communications networks that many megachurches and nonprofit religious broadcasters have, this seems like more of a fig leaf than an actual limitation.
Before coming to Congress, Hice was a pastor in Georgia. He said he was one of 33 pastors who challenged the Johnson Amendment back in 2008 with the help of ADF, a challenge that grew into “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an annual project that encourages pastors to violate legal restrictions by endorsing candidates from the pulpit and daring the IRS to come after them. Not coincidentally, this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday is this weekend, October 2.
Speakers at this week’s press conference portrayed the Johnson Amendment as a dire restriction on free speech and religious liberty. ADF’s Holcomb said it has had “devastating impacts on religious freedom and the freedom of speech.” Hice said it is “unconscionable that our government would force individuals to choose between their constitutionally protected rights or their faith.”
Perkins quoted Martin Luther King Jr. at the press conference, and his commentary on the new bill at the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal features a large photograph of King. Jackson also cited the civil rights movement. But the example of King actually undermines their hyperbolic claims about Johnson Amendment, which was in effect in the late 1950s and 1960s when African American pastors and churches served as moral and logistical focal points for the civil rights movement. They were not “muzzled” any more than conservative megachurches have been “muzzled” in speaking out about abortion for the past 40 years or rallying their members to vote against equality for LGBT people.
Under the existing IRS rules, the Family Research Council has no problem communicating on the issues of the day with the 11,000 pastors in its network. Indeed, there are currently multiple voter registration and GOTV operations being carried out by Religious Right networks through conservative evangelical churches. Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have appeared before gatherings of pastors brought together by Christian nationalist David Lane, who has recruited hundreds of pastors to run for office.
Their First Amendment freedoms are quite intact. But they’re looking for more—the ability of churches, religious broadcasters and other nonprofits to engage in direct electoral advocacy with tax-exempt funds. Speakers at Religious Right conferences routinely blame what they see as America’s moral decline on timid preaching, and they blame that on pastors who are intimidated by the IRS or hide behind the supposed threat of the IRS to avoid taking strong political stands. Charisma’s Bob Eschliman even said in praising the new bill that the Third Great Awakening—a national spiritual revival longed for by Religious Right leaders—cannot come about until the nation’s pulpits are “unshackled from the Johnson Amendment.”
Perkins, who is honorary chairman for Pulpit Freedom Sunday, bragged about the fact that he worked with the Trump campaign to get language calling for repeal of the Johnson Amendment into the Republican Party platform. He praised Trump for making it a campaign issue, adding, “I hope the next time that I’m talking about this could possibly be as he’s signing it behind his desk as president.”
Rodriguez also has a long track record of posturing as a political independent who is not wedded to, as he puts it, the agenda of the donkey or elephant, but of the lamb, Jesus Christ. Rodriguez, who had been critical of Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric earlier in the election process, now says he has had a “wonderful conversation” with Trump and has seen a “significant pivot” from the candidate when it comes to dealing humanely with people who have been in the country illegally for many years.
During the online interview and Q&A session for My Faith Votes, Rodriguez repeated Religious Right alarms about religious liberty, saying that there is a Jezebel spirit in the land, one that intimidates and threatens Christians based on fear and hatred of Christianity and the “biblical worldview.”
Rodriguez fielded a couple of questions from people who are not happy with either of the presidential candidates and were not feeling motivated to vote. He was not having it, telling one person, “In my personal opinion, the number one deliverable from the next president will be the Supreme Court.” Citing the potential for the next president to nominate three or four justices, he said, “Who I vote for has to be connected to which nominee…has committed to nominating justices on the court that will protect life and religious liberty and respect the image of God in every American. That’s what compels me to vote in 2016.”
In response to another discouraged voter, he argued that his very freedom to preach the gospel is at risk:
We have to rise up and look beyond the candidates. We have to look at the issues that are at play here. What’s at risk, truly? Will anything impact me? If I do not vote, will I personally suffer any consequences? Well, if you’re a Christian, if you’re a Bible-believing Christ follower, the answer is yes. There are legislative initiatives right now, that serve, that actually carry the great potential of limiting our expression of our Christian faith.
What if I tell you there are initiatives out there that would attempt to silence us from preaching about what the Bible may deem as sinful, and that speech may be deemed as hate speech, because it runs counter to a cultural narrative out there, a cultural thread or a cultural dynamic? Not only that; recently, as I alluded to in the beginning of this broadcast, in California there was an attempt to punish Christian colleges and universities for believing the Bible and preaching the Bible. It’s this sort of thing taking place, not only in California but across the nation.
So staying home may very well jeopardize my ability as a pastor to reach people with the loving gospel of Jesus Christ. Without a doubt, staying at home carries the potential of enlarging and increasing the number of abortions that take place in this country. How about this: and around the world, because there are candidates that are committed to funding abortions around the world. My taxpayer money going out and helping someone else terminate a life. So if you care about the sanctity of life, and if you care about religious liberty, then you should care about voting this election.
And again, if you can’t vote for a candidate, vote for the platform, vote for the party platforms, and the party platform that best will protect your right to be a Christian and reach others with the loving, grace-filled message of Jesus Christ.
And in response to a questioner complaining that church leaders are not willing to talk to people about how to vote, he said:
Elections have consequences. Because 25 million Christians did not vote in 2012, the institution of marriage suffered a radical transformation via the conduit of judicial and executive fiat. Elections have consequences. Because 25 million Christians did not vote in 2012, we have more and more children that were aborted, and we had an agency in America that sold aborted baby parts, and they were protected…This time, the stake is even higher and greater. The consequences are more egregious and more serious. So I would tell them, if you care about the future of America, if you care about the future of Christianity in America, you must vote. And you must vote righteousness and justice. And you must vote life and religious liberty. You must vote.
As we have noted, most Religious Right leaders supported Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential primary, while Trump’s “amen corner” consisted primarily of prosperity gospel preachers (like Paula White, who says Trump is “hungry in his heart” for God) and dominionist “prophets” and “apostles.”
And the Lord spoke very clearly to me, and he said to me, ‘This man is going to win the nomination and I want you to be ready to serve my cause when I call you.’…In this instance, it’s not because Donald Trump has heralded his faith or the name of God, but the Lord has put His favor upon him, and how amazing it is that the favor of God can overcome so many mistakes, so many bumbles, so many things that otherwise we would think would destroy somebody in business, destroy them in politics, destroy them in relationships. But yet it’s very evident it was the will of the Lord to do this and here we sit now.
2. God is using Trump to get pastors to fightfor religious freedom
Pastor Michael Anthony, president of Godfactor and founder of the National Week of Repentance, attended Trump’s June meeting with evangelicals and said he is convinced God is using Trump to move Christians to act to defend their religious freedom. “I think God was speaking through him at that moment, to the church, to tell us why are you being silent about the most important thing about your lives?”
3. Trump could make America worthy of God’s blessing
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was a big Ted Cruz backer and has publicly been a somewhat reluctant supporter of Donald Trump. He told radio host Sandy Rios that Trump has made plenty of mistakes, but that if he “walks in that grace that is available” and surrounds himself with good people, he could “cast a vision that moves America back to the country that honors God again and therefore would be a recipient of His blessing.”
4. Trump would make America friendlier to Israel
Many conservative evangelicals have embraced a theological approach to Middle East policy, interpreting Bible verses to suggest that in order to enjoy God’s blessing, America must unconditionally support the Israeli government. Says Pastor John Hagee, head of Christians United For Israel, “we have a mandate from the Bible and that mandate is to be supportive of Israel and the Jewish people.” Even though Trump said earlier this year that he would be “neutral” regarding the Israel-Palestine dispute (a position he later backed away from), right-wing leaders have long denounced Obama as an enemy of Israel. The Times of Israel notes that Hagee, “has all but endorsed Trump by name.” Indeed, Hagee told his viewing audience that God would hold them accountable for their vote, saying, “I’m not going to vote for the party that has betrayed Israel for the past seven years.” Hagee has complained that “three million evangelicals did not vote in the past election,” saying “God forbid that happen again. We are going to storm the voting booths of America this time around.”
Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, one of Trump’s strongest Religious Right allies and a member of the campaign’s evangelical advisory board, declared that it is “biblical” to support a “strongman” to lead the government. Jeffress said he would run “as far as possible” from a candidate who said he would govern according to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. “Nowhere is government told to forgive those who wrong it, nowhere is government told to turn the other cheek. Government is to be a strongman to protect its citizens against evildoers. When I’m looking for somebody who’s going to deal with ISIS and exterminate ISIS, I don’t care about that candidate’s tone or vocabulary, I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what I can find, and I believe that’s biblical.”
Wallnau: "Donald Trump's got this like Elijah mantle on him.” In the biblical book of 2 Kings, the prophet Elijah passed both his physical cloak and spiritual authority to his disciple Elisha when Elijah was taken to heaven in a flaming chariot. The reference to Elijah’s mantle is another way for Wallnau to express his belief that Trump is carrying out a divine mission. Elisha also seems to have had a Trumpish temperament when it comes to accepting criticism; the Bible reports that when some boys jeered at him and called him Baldy, he called down a curse on them and two bears came out of the nearby woods and mauled 42 of the boys.
9. Trump has a Cyrus anointing
“Donald Trump is more prophetic than people think,” Wallnau has said. “There is a Cyrus anointing on this man. He is like a Reformer in secular garb." In a video posted on his Facebook page following a meeting between Trump and religious leaders, Wallnau recounted telling Trump that he would become the 45th president of the United States because he has a "Cyrus anointing" upon him as proclaimed in Isaiah 45, referring to the Persian king who freed the Jews from captivity. “And I believe God had put His hand on you as a Cyrus to be a governor and that the Bible talks about this critical 45th chapter, as the 45th president, it is the decisive moment in American history for leadership,” Wallnau said. He has also explained his Cyrus theory in an interview with Steven Strang.
Trump shall become My trumpet to the American people, for he possesses qualities that are even hard to find in My people these days. Trump does not fear man nor will he allow deception and lies to go unnoticed. I am going to use him to expose darkness and perversion in America like never before, but you must understand that he is like a bull in a china closet. Many will want to throw him away because he will disturb their sense of peace and tranquility, but you must listen through the bantering to discover the truth that I will speak through him. I will use the wealth that I have given him to expose and launch investigations searching for the truth. Just as I raised up Cyrus to fulfill My purposes and plans, so have I raised up Trump to fulfill my purposes and plans prior to the 2016 election...
Note: In February Johnson said his prophecy had been misunderstood and that it did not mean Trump would become president, simply that it provided “prophetic insight and direction for the body of Christ,” something Johnson also said about the prophetic dream he had in which the Holy Spirit told him, “Marco Rubio is carrying a Thomas Jefferson anointing for this generation. He will break the back of tyrants and restore the patriotic spirit in America.” It must be said, the Holy Spirit gives Johnson a lot of messages about Republican politicians, telling him in May that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is “my Esther of the hour.”
10. Trump has a ‘breaker anointing’
Trump “Christian policy” adviser Frank Amedia told Steven Strang that there is “a skirmish going on” in the “heavenlies” right now that “is the beginnings of the preparation of the way of the coming of the Lord.” As part of this preparation for the Second Coming, he said, a “breaker anointing” has taken place, giving Trump the power to break up “established norms” that have not served the “Kingdom of God.” Amedia said, “I perceive that Donald Trump has been raised up with that breaker anointing to just begin to crush all of the strangleholds that have been placed upon this country.”
11. Trump is a divine ‘wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness’
12. God has picked Trump to ‘beat down the walls of the New World Order’
Rick Wiles aired his “Trunews” radio show from a Trump rally in Kissimmee, Florida, in August. Wiles was excited about Trump accusing President Obama and Hillary Clinton of having founded the terrorist group ISIS (this was before Trump described the comments as sarcasm). “Donald Trump is telling the truth: Obama and Clinton are behind ISIS. This is what ‘Trunews’ has said for years,” Wiles said, adding later in the show, “It’s like he’s a battering ram, it’s like God has picked him up and used him as a battering ram to beat down the walls of the New World Order.”
13. Trump is fulfilling a 2011 prophecy that he will fight Satan
In April, “Trunews” host Rick Wiles invited self-proclaimed prophet Mark Taylor on to his End Times news program to discuss “his amazing 2011 prophecy that Donald Trump has been marked by God to lead America.” Taylor, a retired firefighter, explained that God told him that Donald Trump will be the next president and that anyone who criticizes him will be struck down, explaining that God has been preparing Trump for his entire life to become an extraordinarily successful president who will fight Satan. “The kingdom of darkness is attacking this man like never before,” Taylor said. “God is using this man—he’s not rattling the gates, because when you rattle the gates you don’t make entry—this man is literally splitting the kingdom of darkness right open.”
14. Trump is fulfilling a 2012 prophecy that he will bulldoze the White House
In January, Lou Comunale published a YouTube video (which now has more than 400,000 views) promoting a videotape he uncovered of late “prophet” John Paul Jackson interpreting a woman’s dream in 2012. A key element in the dream was a big bulldozer going “right through the White House just like it was a deck of cards.” “Only when you look at it now,” says Comunale “does it look like he’s actually talking about Donald J. Trump in the White House.”
16. Trump is like Jesus (and Martin Luther King and Jerry Falwell)
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is one of Trump’s strongest supporters on the Christian Right. When he introduced Trump on campus in January, Falwell compared Trump to his father, who was proud to be “politically incorrect,” and to Jesus and Martin Luther King, who said radical and unpopular things that upset the religious and political establishment.
17. Trump is like King David
During the primaries, Falwell responded to evangelicals who were critical of his endorsement by saying it’s wrong to be worried about electing the “most righteous” candidate. “God called King David a man after God’s own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer,” Falwell said. “You have to choose the leader that would make the best king or president and not necessarily someone who would be a good pastor. We’re not voting for pastor-in-chief. It means sometimes we have to choose a person who has the qualities to lead and who can protect our country and bring us back to economic vitality, and it might not be the person we call when we need somebody to give us spiritual counsel.”
18. Trump is like Saul/Paul
At Liberty Counsel’s “The Awakening” conference in March, televangelist James Robison literally screamed at participants that they must vote even if Trump was not their preferred candidate. Robison said he hoped that people who are close to Trump, like Falwell and Jeffress, will lead him to a “road to Damascus experience” like that described in the biblical story of Saul, who persecuted Christians but who became Paul the evangelist after an encounter with the risen Jesus. For the world to see God transform someone “who so obviously needs changing,” said Robison, would demonstrate God’s power even more effectively than if the Religious Right had been able to play kingmaker and get their preferred candidate the nomination.
19. Trump is like Samson
Anti-Islam extremist Walid Shoebat has decried Trump critics as “scum” and mocked Fox News’s Megyn Kelly as a “Delilah” sent by Trump’s enemies to try to take him down. “I thought that while this Samson (Trump) sinned, he must have God’s blessings since he is destined for a purpose.” Shoebat said Trump’s rejection of the GOP’s “autopsy report” was a sign that perhaps “God finally intervened.” Samson and Delilah are another scriptural reference, this time from the book of Judges. Samson was a warrior granted super-human strength by God; his unshaven hair was a sign of his commitment to God. But the duplicitous Delilah badgered him into revealing his secret and shaved his head while he was sleeping, allowing him to be captured by the Philistines. God eventually granted him the strength to bring down the pillars supporting the Philistines’ temple, killing himself and thousands of them.
20. Trump is like Churchill and Lincoln
Wallnau again: “When God wants to move in history, he doesn’t always pick the favorite evangelical.” He explained that God brought Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to power at crucial moments in history, and that God is now raising up Trump for our time. He knows this, Wallnau said, because God told him so.
21. Trump is like George Washington
Wallnau again, citing the apocryphal story of George Washington supposedly surviving in battle despite his coat and hat being riddled with bullet holes thanks to the protection of God, told Trump that he too is being protected by God. "You've said things and done things that should have put the equivalent of a bullet in your coat," Wallnau said that he told Trump, "but they've passed through you because of the anointing. God is really watching over you.”
22. Trump is like Oscar Schindler
“The thing is, Trump’s supporters know that Trump is an Oscar Schindler, who did not mind bribing the Nazis to get to do what is good,” says Walid Shoebat. “No President can get elected without playing the game. They know that like Obama, who said he ‘loves Israel’ to only gain votes, Trump has to kiss dogs to get to the seat of power. Smattering of moderate-to-liberal policy positions he will gain the votes from democrats. Just as Obama did it, Trump will do the same trick.”
23. 2016 is a battle between good and evil
In June, Jeffress declared of the 2016 election, “This is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It’s a battle between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness, and I think it is time for people who say they are conservative Christians to get off the fence and go to the polls and vote their convictions.” Jeffress said that unlike President Obama, who he said “hates” conservative Christians, Trump will be a “true friend in the White House” and “appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court.” Said Jeffress, “This isn’t about partisan politics. This is about good and evil.”
24. Hillary Clinton is motivated by the spirit of the Antichrist
American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer declared in August that Hillary Clinton must not be allowed to become president because she is driven by a “profound anti-Christ impulse.” Said Fischer, “Hillary Clinton is motivated by the spirit of the Antichrist because she is against Christ, she is against Christianity, she is against the free exercise of the Christian faith, she doesn’t want the Christian faith to be a part of the public square, to influence public policy in any way, she is against everything that Christianity stands for…She is an opponent of all that is good and right and noble.”
The latest fundraising email from the National Organization for Marriage is not a happy one; it starts with a graphic of the U.S. Capitol and the text, “This is pathetic.”
The chastising letter from NOM President Brian Brown complains:
NOM began our critical Summer Membership Drive on July 22nd. We're now three weeks into our drive — the halfway point — and we have only received 256 contributions from our members. We're only 17% toward our goal of receiving 1,500 membership contributions of at least $35.
That is pathetic.
Brown goes on to complain that with only a 17 percent participation rate, NOM can’t convince courts to uphold anti-gay “religious liberty” laws, fight President Obama’s “dangerous gender ‘identity’ agenda,” or “lobby the next President and the US Senate to only appoint and confirm Supreme Court justices who will reverse the illegitimate and anti-constitutional ruling redefining marriage.”
Brown, who recently gloated about NOM’s role in defeating a Missouri Republican state legislator who had voted against a constitutional amendment protecting anti-LGBT discrimination, fumed that unless his supporters start forking over cash, “It means that gutless, turncoat legislators who have betrayed marriage with their votes may get away with their treachery.”
Brown just doesn’t understand—he can’t imagine!—why people would be unenthusiastic about continuing to support NOM's anti-gay activism:
I really don't believe — I just can't imagine the thought — that NOM's members have quit fighting for the institution of marriage as a union between man and woman. And yet, only 256 of you have responded with an urgently needed membership contribution during this critical period.
I'm going to be blunt: we need 1,500 people to step up with a membership contribution of at least $35 in order to raise the $52,500 we're short so far this year. Without that type of response, we'll have no choice but to lay people off, cut programs and stop pursuing some of our most important work.
Regardless of what kind of response NOM’s shaming email brings in, Brown will have plenty of anti-equality work to keep him busy, as he recently became president of the World Congress of Families, a network of organizations dedicated to resisting LGBT equality and preserving anti-gay discrimination around the world.
The Washington Post reported in 2010 that the Conservative Action Project was helping fuel closer coordination across the multifaceted conservative coalition with its weekly Wednesday morning meetings at the Family Research Council. The group also promotes shared messaging and strategy with its “Memos for the Movement.” Now this collection of right-wing leaders has identified its policy priorities for the first 180 days of a new administration.
At a forum organized by the American Conservative Union Foundation at the Republican National Convention, participants were given of a set of pocket cards containing policy proposals, quick facts and “market tested messages” on the one dozen highest priorities selected by Conservative Action Project leaders. The 12 priorities are divided into four categories: Constitutional Issues and the Judiciary; Preserving and Protecting Our Culture; Freeing Our Economy so Everyone Can Win; and Defending Our Freedoms.
The package provides a clear picture of the ideas that right-wing organizations are pushing Trump to embrace. Some are vague, like, “The President should revive Public Diplomacy,” but others are quite specific. Taken together, they’re a pretty good indication of what we’d have in store on the policy front with Trump in the White House.
Among the proposals, which signal the intense desire of right-wing organizations to infuse their priorities throughout the federal government’s executive branch agencies:
Immediately rescind all Obama Executive Orders consistent with recommendations by Constitutional and trusted advisors such as The Federalist Society, The Heritage Foundation, and other conservative advisors and transition committees.
Terminate all executive branch individuals still within their probationary period and freeze hiring for all regulatory positions.
The President should eliminate taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood using executive action and seek a permanent legislative solution.
The President should freeze and withdraw all regulatory activity on the Obama energy and climate agenda.
Submit legislation to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.
The President should support the rule of law and reject amnesty proposals and fully enforce and strengthen interior enforcement measures in the United States.
The policy proposals listed under “Restore Religious Freedom” include calls for the president to ensure passage of the First Amendment Defense Act, which carves out exceptions from nondiscrimination laws for people who claim anti-LGBT religious beliefs, and to “issue an Executive Order requiring that the Executive branch respect the 1st Amendment and provisions of the First Amendment Defense Act.”
The package proposes a new tax code that is “simpler, fairer, flatter and stimulates growth,” insisting that all tax reform “should lower individual and business tax rates, particularly the top marginal rates, to encourage saving and investing.”
It says senators “should vigorously question judicial nominees about their intent to remain faithful to the original meaning of the Constitution and laws.”
On education, the movement’s priority is to “Advance School Choice,” and it calls on the president to appoint “a movement conservative” as secretary of education. It wants the president to “champion the policy of dollars following the children,” language used by advocates for private school vouchers and other forms of public school privatization.
The Conservative Action Project’s “memos for the movement” provide a further sense of the group’s worldview. For example, it responded to last year’s marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court in apocalyptic terms, saying, “The Court’s abuse of power is of such historic proportions that the conservative movement, and indeed every American who cherishes liberty must now address the serious damage done to the cause of freedom and the very foundation of our civil society.”
The president and his liberal allies know what is at stake and so do we. It is nothing short of their intent to eradicate precious constitutional rights. These leftists have made clear their first target is our 1st Amendment right to political speech and the silencing of conservative voices. They mock the 2nd Amendment right of the people to protect themselves and their families and are determined to take away our constitutional right to bear arms. They welcome the prospect of unleashing unaccountable federal agencies like the IRS and EPA to impose a liberal policy agenda that will harm Americans and punish any who dare to disagree with their worldview. And not least of all, they vow to use the Court’s power to impose an “unconditional surrender” in their cultural war against our fundamental institutions of faith, family, marriage, home, and school — and will wipe out any pro-life protections, instead imposing abortion on-demand, up to the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers.
According to some news reports, Donald Trump has settled on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate, though other reporters say their sources tell them the decision has not been finalized. Trump has said he will announce his decision on Friday morning.
Pence has a long record before becoming governor that includes time in nearly every branch of the country’s huge right-wing political infrastructure: He headed a state-level “free-market” think tank; had a career in talk radio; and served in Congress, where he led the right-wing Republican Study Committee.
That’s a lot of right-wingery that we and others will be exploring in depth if he is indeed Trump’s running mate. But here are a few initial points about Pence’s relationship with the Religious Right, whose leaders seem to be largely coming around to Trump’s candidacy despite initial skepticism.
Pence was unhappily in the national media last year when Indiana became embroiled in a high-profile controversy over a state “religious liberty” law pushed by anti-gay groups and signed by the governor. Pence seemed to have been caught completely off-guard when business and community leaders joined equality activists in a backlash to the law.
Pence tried to defend the law on national television, with disastrous results. Pence’s main problem is that he was essentially caught in a lie. He pretended the bill had nothing to do with legalizing anti-gay discrimination, when that was the clear purpose of the religious groups that pushed the law and gathered around him when he signed it.
It is not clear how warmly Religious Right leaders will embrace Pence as Trump’s running mate. Earlier this week, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera responded to rumors about Pence as VP by tweeting, “HOW ironic it wld be if Mike Pence ever became VP. Pence declined to run for president in part b/c he FAILED conservatives on relig liberty.”
Others may be more forgiving given Pence’s long track record, and may rationalize that his heart was in the right place but he was forced to back down when business leaders and the LGBT lobby — twin enemies of the Religious Right these days — ganged up on him.
We do have a few quibbles about Perkins’ response, in addition to its Trumpian and not-very-original headline, “People For the UnAmerican Way.”
Perkins says we are wrong to describe FRC as “anti-gay,” explaining, “What we are is a Christian organization that refuses to accept as moral any behavior God declares is immoral and damaging to individuals and society.” Now some might take Perkins’ declaration that gay people are per se immoral and dangerous, like FRC’s support for laws that punish homosexuality with prison terms, to be at least a little bit anti-gay.
Perkins does call us “anti-Christian,” without offering any evidence. It's rather ironic that FRC would label us "anti-Christian" for daring to highlight the bigotry of individual conservative Christian activists and Religious Right organizations, but insist that they are not in any way "anti-gay" even though they openly advocate for discrimination against an entire class of people based solely on their sexual orientation.
It’s good to remember that when Religious Right leaders use the word “Christian,” what they usually mean is “Christians who share my right-wing political beliefs.” Perkins should be careful throwing around the term anti-Christian. After all, he doesn’t believe that gay-affirming Christians deserve legal protection because their views are not sufficiently orthodox.
On the question of religious liberty: We support it. We encourage progressive people of faith to make their voices heard in the public arena so that Perkins and FRC and their allies cannot credibly claim — though they try — to speak for all Christians or people of faith. As FRC’s own actions make abundantly clear, the First Amendment protects their right to preach, publish, broadcast, and advocate for their beliefs about the immorality of homosexuality. We support the Family Research Council’s right to celebrate, as it recently did, the launch of an international “pro-family” group that includes some of the world’s most religiously repressive regimes. And we support Perkins' right to define and defend religious liberty in very selective ways.
But here’s where we differ. We don’t think that supporting religious freedom is the same thing as allowing individuals or corporations to use religious beliefs as a blanket justification for ignoring laws that promote the common good or taking actions that restrict the rights of other people. Religious liberty is a cherished constitutional principle; so is equality under the law.
Oddly, the last paragraph of Perkins’ response to our report is devoted to quoting research that going to church is good for a person’s health, as if our report had somehow suggested that people should not be part of a religious community. As part of his litany, Perkins suggested that being a churchgoer “is one of the greatest ways to treat the modern culture’s disease — of incivility, hostility and general pessimism.” Perkins and his group don’t exactly provide a lot of support for that theory. In fact, incivility, hostility and general pessimism are a pretty good description of the rhetoric FRC uses about LGBT people and their other perceived enemies in fundraisingmail, model sermons and public pronouncements.
In the first few months of this year, for the second year in a row, more than 100 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures, many of them promoted under the banner of protecting religious liberty. A new report by People For the American Way Foundation, “Who is Weaponizing Religious Liberty?,” explains that “it takes a right-wing village to turn a cherished American principle into a destructive culture-war weapon.”
The report makes clear that the wave of anti-equality legislation promoted in the name of religious liberty is not an outgrowth of local conflicts but the latest step in a long-term campaign by national Religious Right legal and political groups to resist legal equality for LGBT people. As Americans have come to know and embrace their LGBT family members and friends, harsh anti-gay rhetoric has become less effective, says the report, leading social conservatives to try to reclaim the moral and political high ground by reframing debates over marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections as questions of religious liberty.
The Republican Party’s faith outreach director, former South Carolina GOP chair Chad Connelly, says conservative Christians will vote for Donald Trump based on the future of the Supreme Court.
The biggest thing on evangelicals’ minds, I think, is the fact that we’re gonna be looking at a Supreme Court that could be vastly different going forward. And electing somebody like Hillary Clinton, who is obviously biased against the things that most evangelicals, Christians believe in, would be disastrous for religious liberty, for property rights, gun rights, religious freedom and stuff like that. I think it’s gonna settle out just fine and our folks will go our way.
Connelly told CBN’s Heather Sells that his friends and fellow church members had been split among Republican candidates, but that voters have now “given us two choices.” Trump’s plans to meet with Religious Right leaders and activists next month are, said Connelly, a sign that Trump knows you “don’t leave anybody out, especially not the base.”
Connelly travels the country encouraging pastors to register their congregants to vote and convince them to cast ballots based on a “biblical worldview.” Like speakers at virtually every Religious Right gathering, he said that what’s happened to the country “is literally our fault” because pastors haven’t preached aggressively enough. “Voting is not political,” he said, “it’s spiritual. It’s our witness and testimony to the community of what we believe in.”
He said he doesn’t think conservative pastors going to sit on the sidelines any more. He tells pastors, “Get your people registered and talk to them about the issues of the day and then make sure they go vote those issues in the voting booth.”
I spoke at a church…not long ago where the pastor kind of apologized to his congregation before he introduced me. He said he’d been preaching for 39 years and had never tried to connect the dots of the things going on with biblical worldview, and he said, “that’s gonna change.”
Asked whether Trump should apologize to Latino Christians who have been offended by his rhetoric, Connelly said, “I’ll leave his campaign decisions to him” and pivoted back to the Supreme Court.
I’ve been with Latino and African American and Anglo pastors all over the nation and they see this Supreme Court deal as a very big thing. You know the next president’s gonna probably appoint two, maybe three, and potentially four Supreme Court justices. That’s a 50-year decision for Christians out there.
To those conservative Christians who aren’t happy with their choices, Connelly says, “no man’s perfect.” But he says that people who are upset about Planned Parenthood and “judges rewriting God’s definition of marriage” should realize that “the Republican Party is the natural home for people of faith.”
Says Connelly, “I mean, let’s face it...it may be 100 years before the other party swings back and pays any attention to Christian values and biblical values like you and I care about.”
This election is about who will appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices. This election is about the dignity of human life from the womb to the tomb. This election is about the most significant religious freedom concerns in American history. I'm not about to sit at home on Election Day because I'm accountable to God and, I believe, I am accountable to my fellow Americans to vote. This is why I am meeting with Donald Trump, and why I would be willing to also meet with Hillary Clinton.
Conciliatory and respectful are clearly in the eyes of the beholder. Trump’s two-and-a-half minute video, apparently shot on a cell phone while he sat in his private jet reading from a piece of paper, included no apologies for any of the harsh rhetoric that Rodriguez has complained about.
Instead, Trump made the kind of broad promises that have characterized his campaign — creating good schools, safe communities and providing “massive tax cuts” for the middle class — without many details about how he would do so, other than controlling immigration and making “great trade deals.” Hillary Clinton’s video did address Trump’s rhetoric without mentioning him by name, saying, “That is not who we are as a people.”
Trump told Hispanics that poor people would pay nothing under his tax plan: “You’re going to start paying taxes after you’re making a lot of money, and hopefully that is going to be soon.” Other tidbits from his video:
“The world is taking our jobs and we’ve got to stop it. We’re going to take care of minority unemployment. It’s a huge problem, it’s really unfair to minorities, and we are going to solve that problem.”
“National. Hispanic. Christian. Three great words. We’re gonna to take care of you, we’re gonna work with you, you’re gonna be very happy, you’re gonna like president Trump.”
“I’m going to win and we’re going to take care of everybody. Our country is going to be unified for the first time in a long time”
"He told us in the meeting that he's very, very concerned that Christians are losing their rights in America, that we no longer can even speak or express what we believe," Bramnick said. "And he did say that if he becomes president, he's going to change things to make sure that we as Christians have our religious liberties restored. He said he's concerned about Christians, he's concerned about Jews, and he wants to help."
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…
It’s not just the NHCLC giving Trump another look. Some other Latino conservatives are showing some willingness to rally around him. The Hill’s Ben Kamisar noted over the weekend that last October, Alfonso Aguilar, a former Bush White House official who now heads the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said Trump was “done” in the eyes of the Latino community. Aguilar declared, “If Donald Trump is the GOP candidate, we won’t work to support him and we are sure he will lose the general election because there’s no way a GOP candidate can win the White House if they don’t get more support from Latino voters.” But now that Trump is the nominee, Aguilar is singing a different tune, saying that if Trump were to “seek my support and show he’s willing to change his tone and be open to some form of legalization, I would be willing to reconsider my position.”
BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo recently noted that there are a lot of major conferences coming up. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have both sent formal invitations but “have had difficulties getting responses from the Trump campaign.” The National Council of La Raza has not yet decided whether to invite Trump to its July conference.
But it appears that Rodriguez has thrown his lot in with Donald Trump, the very candidate who kicked off his campaign by trash-talking Latino immigrants and calling for mass deportations.
While he may be an outspoken advocate of immigration reform, when push comes to shove, as it has with Trump’s all-but-certain nomination, Rodriguez makes it clear that he is first and foremost a Religious Right culture warrior.
In the end, his advocacy for immigrant families takes a back seat to his opposition to legal abortion and marriage equality. He said as much at an Evangelicals for Life event in January, telling Latinos that it’s fine to march for immigration reform —“as long as it’s not amnesty or illegal immigration; we need to stop that” — but “we must be above all things pro-life.”
In a story last week by right-wing pundit Todd Starnes of Fox News, Rodriguez dismissed talk by some evangelical leaders that Christians should, in the words of pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Of evils choose none.” Rodriguez says not voting is “sacrificing your Christian worldview on the altar of political expediency. It is silly to talk about not voting for either candidate. Every single Christian should vote.”
And while Rodriguez doesn’t mention Trump by name, it is clear that he will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders:
“I will vote my Christian values,” Rodriguez said. “It’s life, the family ethos, it’s religious liberty, it’s limited government. That’s the person I’m going to vote for.”
Rodriquez conceded that the 2016 candidates are not his “dream team” – but he’s only concerned about one issue – the Supreme Court.
“I’m going to vote for protecting the Supreme Court from judges that are activists – that run counter to our Judeo-Christian value system.”
The fate of the Bible bill is now in Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s hands. According to the Tennessean, Haslam has raised questions about its constitutionality. The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Steve Southerland, tried to mask the religious intention of the legislation by arguing that the Bible is “a history book.”
The legislation also seems to run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, though some Religious Right figures, like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, do not believe the Establishment Clause applies at all to the states. They would argue that Tennessee lawmakers could go even further and declare Protestant Christianity the state’s official religion.
In solidly Republican Tennessee, heavy doses of God and guns are considered reliable election-year politics.
The Bible bill came to a vote just days before the candidate filing deadline, giving lawmakers pause about being portrayed by political rivals as being as opposed to the Bible if they voted against the bill.
State lawmakers recently made a .50-caliber sniper rifle the official state rifle. The Tennessean notes that if Haslam signs the bill, Christianity’s sacred scripture “would join a list of state symbols such as the raccoon as the state’s wild animal, the Eastern box turtle as the state reptile, the square dance as the state folk dance, milk as the official state beverage and the Barrett M82 sniper rifle as the official state rifle, which lawmakers approved earlier in the session.”
The Religious Right’s ongoing effort to create special legal protections for anti-LGBT discrimination continues in Mississippi, where a “breathtaking” and “horrific” anti-LGBT bill — even worse that North Carolina’s recent law — is waiting final passage in the House. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown is urging NOM supporters to contact Gov. Phil Bryant and Republicans in the state house in support of legislation that passed the state senate last week.
In an email alert sent today, Brown asks activists to stand up for “the rights of Christians and people of faith to be free from recrimination and harassment from extremists who believe that religious liberty must be eliminated when it comes to the gay agenda.” Brown apparently has no sense of irony or shame, arguing for pro-discrimination legislation while complaining, “It is outrageous that gay and lesbian extremists have been allowed to discriminate against, harass and punish Christians and others when it comes to marriage.”
More from Brown’s urgent email:
All across America, LGBT extremists are working overtime to force devout Christians and other people of faith to personally participate in celebrating a same-sex 'marriage' even when doing so violates their deeply held religious beliefs. Those who have refused to abandon God's commands when it comes to marriage have been hit with lawsuits and huge fines, lost their jobs and even been put in jail. This must stop, and at least in Mississippi it will stop if you act today…
For years, LGBT activists lied to Americans about gay 'marriage,' claiming that redefining marriage to suit their demands would not hurt anyone. Instead, people's lives have been ruined and the sexual extremists are intent on forcing every person in America to genuflect at the altar of gay "rights."
…House Bill 1523 protects pastors, churches and individuals from having to solemnize a gay 'wedding' and protects individuals and small businesses like florists, bakers and photographers from being forced to perform services at a gay 'wedding' ceremony that violates their deeply held religious beliefs. The legislation also prevents LGBT extremists from forcing their gender ideology on Mississippi which would allow men to force their way into intimate facilities reserved for girls and women, including showers and restrooms, simply by claiming they "identify" as women. Biology determines gender, not "feelings!"
…Just as they have done in other states, LGBT extremists have orchestrated a campaign of "manufactured outrage" utilizing Hollywood celebrities, corporate giants and billionaire sports owners who wish to curry favor with gay activists. Their well-orchestrated play book threatens boycotts, companies threatening to leave the state and sports leagues hinting a state may be denied high-profile events like a Super Bowl or college bowl game. They are making identical threats and false claims of "discrimination" in Mississippi and we need people of faith and marriage supporters all across the nation to let the leaders of Mississippi know that we want them to lead by example and stand strong for people of faith.
Religious Right leaders who back Ted Cruz for president are beginning to turn their fire on Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose continued presence in the race they believe is preventing Cruz from defeating Donald Trump. Last week Glenn Beck slammed Kasich as a delusional “son of a bitch” who might go down in history as the guy who “possibly destroyed the republic.”
Brown suggests that Kasich, who cannot mathematically win a majority of delegates prior to the Republican convention, is hoping either that “the GOP power brokers” will hand him the nomination or that he can at least build enough bargaining power to cut a deal for himself at the expense of the country.
“If you liked John Boehner, you’ll like John Kasich – lot’s [sic] of talk but no guts to actually fight for conservative principles like preserving marriage,” writes Brown, who complains that Kasich would “do nothing” to help business owners who run into trouble for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples. “That is why NOM is committed to ensuring that the American people learn the truth about Kasich and make him toxic as a potential vice presidential pick.”
More from Brown:
I'm asking for your immediate financial help so that we can get the truth about John Kasich out to voters and the media and stop any consideration of him as the GOP nominee, or even the vice presidential selection. Your membership contribution of at least $35 will go a long way toward helping us shine the light of truth on the Kasich record.
…NOM is one of the few groups willing to take on the politically-correct yet powerfully wrong elite in America, which is what John Kasich represents. But to be effective, we need to increase our membership dues from grassroots supporters like you. Please act today to make a membership contribution of at least $35 which will allow us to take the fight to Kasich and others who disrespect the importance of marriage and refuse to protect the rights of average Americans to live out their beliefs about marriage in their daily lives.
… Please make your membership contribution of at least $35 today so that we can ramp up our efforts to derail Kasich, the last remaining establishment Republican who has abandoned us when we needed him most. If you can afford to give more than the minimum $35, please do so.
Thank you for standing strong for God's design for marriage, and for helping us fight the PC crowd that refuses to stand with us for the truth of marriage and religious liberty.
On Saturday retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, addressed the Awakening conference, an annual event sponsored by Liberty Counsel and the Freedom Federation. Boykin, known for his anti-Muslim and anti-gay rhetoric, dedicated his remarks in the plenary session to denouncing Bernie Sanders supporters for wanting free things, and to calling on Christians to do more to stand up for religious freedom and against LGBT equality.
Boykin quoted socialist Norman Thomas saying in 1927, “America will never vote for socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.” Boykin asked, “Is that where we are today?” He declared that support for Sanders is “an indication of the sad state of affairs in this country.”
I am absolutely, incredibly amazed at the number of young people, particularly young people, that are flocking to Bernie Sanders. My generation never would have believed we would have taken a socialist seriously. And here we have tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, flocking to Bernie Sanders, and when you pin ‘em down and say, ‘What is it about Bernie Sanders that you really like?’ it comes back to one thing. Oh, they’ll give you the pablum – ‘I like his policies, I like this and I like that.’ But listen to them very carefully they’ll eventually tell you it’s because he’s going to give them something for nothing. He’s going to give them something that’s free.
Boykin warned that American Christians are not fighting hard enough against what the Religious Right claims are efforts to narrow the concept of freedom of religion that the Founding Fathers placed in the First Amendment down into a more restrictive freedom of worship:
Folks, if you accept the concept of freedom of worship you are going down a dangerous path. They didn’t just give us freedom of worship, they gave us freedom of religion. What they said was you can believe what you want to believe, and you can live your faith. Today, that constitutional freedom is in the greatest jeopardy of any of our constitutional liberties. It is the freedom of religion and it is based on a radical agenda to tell you that you can believe what you want to believe but you cannot live your faith in the public square…
Boykin quoted Eric Metaxas, biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who was killed for his resistance to German Nazis, telling him that “if America accepts what Hitler forced the church in Germany to accept, which was freedom to worship, we’re going to wind up being just like Germany.” Added Boykin, “We’re in the same situation today. We’re being told that we can have freedom of worship but we cannot have freedom of religion and we’re going to have to pay a price … We’ve got to stand up to evil.”
As is customary at Religious Right events, Boykin and other speakers blamed the church for not doing enough to resist evil and stand up to the LGBT rights movement. Boykin praised Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver for his defense of Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis, who refused to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. And he took now-familiar Religious Right rhetoric targeting transgender people over their use of bathrooms to an ugly new low:
Where is the Christian world today? Where are the Christians of America today? They should be flocking to people like Kim Davis. They should be flocking to the city council and say, ‘No, you’re not going to let a man go in my daughter’s bathroom just because he feels like a man today.’ Where are the Christians that are standing up to this kind of evil?
And I’ve already said, and somebody’ll be recording this and this’ll be on YouTube before it’s all over with. But I will tell you what, the first man that walks in my daughter’s bathroom, he ain’t going to have to worry about surgery. That’s not right. That is not right. It’s not right. It’s ungodly. But it’s also just unnatural. This is crazy. Where are the Christians that are standing up?
Voting for Marco Rubio over Ted Cruz for president would not require evangelicals to compromise their Christian beliefs and values, the Rubio campaign's director of faith outreach, Eric Teetsel, asserted Thursday…
Although Cruz has identified himself as the most conservative candidate in the race and has also attempted to energize and unite the conservative Christian voting base, Teetsel told The Christian Post that there "are few, if any, substantive policy differences" between Cruz and Rubio when it comes to issues that conservative evangelicals care most about — marriage, religious liberty, abortion, judicial activism, educational choice and parental rights.
"The National Organization for Marriage calls Marco, 'a champion of marriage' and the Family Research Council's political arm recently gave him a 100 percent score," Teetsel stated in an email statement. "So, since there's no need to compromise one principle, the question is 'Who can win a general election?'"
"The answer is clear," Teetsel, the former director of the Manhattan Declaration, asserted. "Marco's winsome message and vision for a new American century appeals to citizens from across the political spectrum."
Indeed, Rubio’s rhetoric and positions are reliably far-right. He wants to outlaw abortion with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. He supports the First Amendment Defense Act, the Religious Right’s bill to legalize anti-gay discrimination. In January Teetsel told World Magazine that Rubio doesn’t believe marriage equality is settled law and thinks that the Constitution “provides a path to fix bad decisions: win elections, nominate judges who understand both the law and the limits of their office, and bring new cases before the courts that provide opportunity to get it right.”
"Cruz argues he can win by appealing exclusively to hardcore conservatives. That's a myth that has been thoroughly refuted. Even if there's a chance it's true, why gamble?" Teetsel asked. "Ted Cruz is all about dividing people; Marco is about uniting all sorts of different people who share in common the hope that America will reclaim its place as the one place that makes it possible for anyone to flourish."
The Christian Post notes that in January “Teetsel sent out an email touting a quote by leading Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore that reads ‘I would say that Ted Cruz is leading the Jerry Falwell wing’ of evangelicals, while ‘Marco Rubio is leading the Billy Graham wing and Trump is leading in the Jimmy Swaggart wing.’"
The magazine reports that Rubio has received a grade of 94 from Heritage Action and a grade of 100 from FRC Action.
Marriage-refusing county clerk Kim Davis and her lawyer Mat Staver aren’t the only Religious Right figures who will be attending tonight’s State of the Union address. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, will be attending as a guest of Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, according to the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the university’s legal challenge to the Obama administration’s accommodation for religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations that object to the contraception coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
“For 67 years, we’ve disparaged dead, white, European males in our college classrooms,” he said. “Are we surprised that we now have a president whose first action was to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House and send it back to the British ambassador’s home? For 67 years, we’ve sent our kids off to sit under faculty who have panned a Judeo-Christian ethic and praised its antithesis. Are we surprised that we now have a White House that is seemingly more aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the PLO than it is Benjamin Netanyahu and Franklin Graham?”
Piper made similar remarks in October as the closing speaker for the World Congress of Families, a gathering of Religious Right activists from around the globe. In that speech, Piper also slammed gay rights activists and other liberals for “ideological fascism” and decried a “war against Christians” within the academy and the broader culture. He closed with an ideological prayer asking God to forgive America for a long list of sins, including “worshiping government more than God.” He asked, “Please rescue us from the ugly hell of our own making and give us liberty within the bounds of your law and free us from the bondage of our licentiousness.”
The bold-faced duplicity of those condemning those who love the family is indeed hateful. Intolerance in the name of tolerance. Bullying while decrying bullying. Exclusion in the name of inclusion. Dumbing down the human being while arguing for human rights. Pretending to be pro-woman while using women as pawns and products. Hate under the banner of anti-hate… These ideas do not come from love, but rather from disdain: Disdain for children, disdain for family, and disdain for truth. Such ideas come from a hateful people who hate anyone who dares stand in their way of hating God.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins’ self-important “State of the Family” address on Monday was not just about chaos and blood in the streets caused by marriage equality and other “confusion” about the definition of the family. It was also about religious liberty, and Perkins’ familiarcharge that the “far left” wants to deny religious Americans both their freedom of speech and their freedom of religion:
“Desperate to preserve its power, the far left now seeks to label all of its critics as extremists or haters and aggressively seeks to silence all who oppose its agenda. But we should take heart even from this. Our opponents seek to limit our freedom of speech because they fear its power. They seek to restrain the expression of our convictions because they are unsure of the truth of theirs. The freedom of expression is the very essence of liberty. But there can be no liberty in America without religious liberty. In our hearts we know this to be true.”
America’s founders, said Perkins, “believed that the best account of our personal and civic duties comes not from the whims of the political class but from the transcendent truths of scripture itself.”
“It is easy to see why we now sail such dangerous seas. Many of our nation’s leading politicians and jurists believe that religion is a toxin in public life, something to be quarantined within the four walls of our churches. They want our culture stripped of the guidance of faith, the centrality of family, and the liberties that are our divine birthright. Not only will it be impermissible to publicly acknowledge the God who made us. It will be unlawful to act on our deepest understanding of Him and His commandments. Acting on conscience will be a bar to public service. It’ll be a reason to be fined or fired.
In his speech, Perkins declared, “Religious liberty must become a priority again within our foreign policy.”
The history of the last century is clear. Totalitarians of every stripe have made suppression of all religious freedom or the liberty of some religions the target of their regimes. Especially dangerous are those who feed on religious hatred. We must promote and defend religious liberty as a human right for all faiths to be able to live freely wherever they are and whoever they are. Why? Because advocating for religious liberty lets the oppressed throughout the world know that they have a friend in America. And, it sends a message to the terrorists and the tyrants as well. That knowledge bears long-term fruit for our own security. And frankly, it’s simply the right thing to do for a nation whose national motto is In God We Trust.”
Much of this statement, coming from someone else, would be unobjectionable. But coming from Perkins, it is jaw-droppingly hypocritical.
Perkins and his Family Research Council colleagues have not consistently advocated for religious liberty for people of all faiths. For example, when Religious Right groups were rallying opposition to the misnamed “Ground Zero Mosque,” FRC’s Ken Blackwell was among them. Perkins said just last month that banning Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. would not be imposing a religious test because “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion.” He has said that people are free to make their own theological choices, but that our nation was founded on “Judeo-Christian principles” and that “those who practice Islam in its entirety” will “destroy the fabric of a democracy.”
And Perkins has also criticized the military for accommodating “fringe religions” and suggested that it is not the government’s role “to try to put all religions on the same plane.”
In his remarks about religious freedom in the military, Perkins claimed that Boykin had been forced to withdraw from a West Point prayer breakfast “because of the pressure from atheist groups.” In reality, the most influential protest against Boykin’s appearing at West Point probably came from dozens of the military academy’s faculty and cadets, most of them Christians, who thought Boykin’s remarks painting the U.S. as waging a holy war against Islam were irresponsible and could threaten the lives of service members overseas.
Perkins also urged Congress to pass the co-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would give legal protection to those practicing anti-gay discrimination. Perkins called the bill “a first and a vital step” and he celebrated the fact that candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum have pledged to sign FADA in their first 100 days if the legislation makes it to their desk.
Among the members of Rubio’s advisory board are two Latinos who have urged conservatives to adopt a more welcoming approach to immigration: Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Carlos Campo, president of Ashland University and former president of Pat Robertson’s Regent University.
Rodriguez has been pushing the Republican Party to take a more constructive tone on immigration in order to open the door for more effective outreach to Latino voters, a tough sell on the right, even before the era of Donald Trump. Rodriguez has participated in recent Religious Right gatherings with Cruz, but has been quoted as saying he’s not in Cruz’s camp.
Also on Rubio’s advisory board are people affiliated with legal groups promoting Religious Right efforts to portray LGBT equality and religious liberty as incompatible, including Doug Napier and Kellie Fiedorek of Alliance Defending Freedom and Kyle Duncan, lead counsel for the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, and former general counsel of the Becket Fund, which was once described in Politico as “God’s Rottweilers.”