Religious Liberty

Revealed: The Right-Wing Movement’s Agenda For Trump’s First 180 Days

The Conservative Action Project is a network of more than 100 right-wing leaders created in 2008 as “an offshoot” of the secretive far-right Council for National Policy, making it part of an array of conservative coalitions that bloomed around and after the election of Barack Obama. Originally chaired by Edwin Meese, the Conservative Action Project is now headed by Becky Norton Dunlop, Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. It includes leaders of all of what are often described as the three legs of the conservative movement: social, economic, and national security conservatives.

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 group has intensely opposed efforts to expand disclosure requirements for political “dark money,” portraying conservatives as “a persecuted class” who are “bullied to either conform or suffer retribution.”

Among its 2016 releases was a March memo urging Senate Republicans to be resolute in refusing to consider a nominee from President Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat that became vacant with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Here’s an excerpt from the group’s thoughtful and rational rhetoric:

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.

 

How Would Religious Right Respond To Pence As VP?

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 has been much beloved on the Religious Right. Early in the 2012 election cycle, he won the Values Voter Summit straw poll and won gushing praise from CBN’s David Brody. Even the American Family Association’s far-right radio host Bryan Fischer predicted that Pence would be the 2012 nominee. 

Pence has participated in Christian-nation advocate David Lane’s political events and he has been an aggressive proponent of defunding Planned Parenthood. He has connections with other Religious Right leaders through the National Day of Prayer task force.

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.

But having said that protecting discrimination wasn’t the law’s intent, he was not well positioned to resist demands by business leaders and media that he sign an amendment saying so. When he ultimately signed off on such an amendment, some Religious Right leaders were furious. Some compared his reversal to an act of betrayal like Judas selling out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

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.

FRC’s Weak Defense Of Its Skewed Idea Of ‘Religious Liberty’

We were delighted to see that Tony Perkins — or one of the Family Research Council writers who helps him put together his daily “Washington Update” email — has read People For the American Way Foundation’s recent report, “Who is Weaponizing Religious Liberty?” While Perkins declared that the report is “not perfect” — aww — he is proud that we recognized FRC as one of the leading groups pushing legislation that would give legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious liberty.

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 fundraising mail, model sermons and public pronouncements.

 

The Movers Behind The Anti-LGBT 'Religious Liberty' Movement

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.

These efforts are being promoted by “a network of national Religious Right organizations that oppose legal recognition for the rights of LGBT people,” notes the report, which profiles some of the leading organizations while noting that they “represent the tip of the iceberg of a much larger movement that is trying to eliminate legal access to abortion and roll back legal protections for LGBT people, couples, and families — and trying to do so in the name of religious liberty.”

The groups covered in the report include:

·         Family Research Council and FRC Action

·         Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action

·         National Organization for Marriage

·         Alliance Defending Freedom

·         Liberty Counsel

·         American Family Association

·         Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

·         American Principles Project

The report includes links to additional resources on the organizations behind the Right’s use of religious liberty as political strategy for resisting equality. 

Who Is Weaponizing Religious Liberty?

It takes a right-wing village to turn a cherished American principle into a destructive culture-war weapon.

RNC Faith Liaison: Supreme Court Will Bring Religious Right Voters To Trump

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.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd also cited the Supreme Court in defending his decision to meet with Trump in June:

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.

Trump Offers No Apologies For Rhetoric, But Some Conservative Latinos Warming To Him

As we reported last week, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) president Samuel Rodriguez gave Donald Trump a chance to “redeem the narrative” with Latino voters by showing a videotaped message from the candidate to attendees at an NHCLC gathering last Friday; a video from Hillary Clinton was also played. Rodriguez has criticized Trump’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric and mass deportation plan, but has also given him political cover, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network last month that Trump is not a racist and blaming such a characterization on “liberal media.”

Rodriguez has said he hopes Trump will apologize for his “hurtful, erroneous, and dangerous statements” about Latino immigrants. And he said earlier last week that he would only show Trump’s video if he deemed it sufficiently conciliatory and respectful.

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”

Before the NHCLC conference last week, Trump met privately with some evangelical leaders, in a meeting arranged by Frank Amedia, Trump’s “liaison for Christian policy.” Representing NHCLC at the meeting was Mario Bramnick, who praised Trump’s “genuineness.”

“Donald Trump showed a tremendous understanding and concern for the undocumented immigrants,” he said. “We all came out really sensing his genuineness.”

He added: “We didn’t get into specifics other than that he wants to work with us, work with the Hispanic community, Hispanic leadership on substantive policy regarding immigration.”

Bramnick also said Trump embraced the Religious Right’s “Christian persecution” narrative, telling Charisma:

"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."

In March, Bramnick spoke at Liberty Counsel’s “Awakening” conference, quoting Cindy Jacobs’ prophecy that Florida had determined that George W. Bush would be president and that God would use Florida to shift the nation again. “God by his Holy Spirit can appoint the president that God has ordained,” said Bramnick.

At the Awakening conference, Bramnick prayed:

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.

 

 

Samuel Rodriguez: Getting Conservative SCOTUS Trumps Immigration Reform

As head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Samuel Rodriguez has worked to get more Latino voters, especially evangelicals, to back conservative candidates, while at the same time trying to get Republicans to stop trash-talking Latino immigrants and back immigration reform.

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.

Rodriguez pushes the Religious Right line that religious freedom is threatened in America. There is an attempt to “silence Christians” in America, he says, and Christians cannot sit out elections because “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.” He also believes there is a spiritual battle under way to “annihilate” the family.

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.”

Although Rodriguez manages to cultivate a public image as a nonpartisan bridge-builder, he regularly partners with some of the most extreme voices within the Religious Right. The stridently anti-gay Liberty Counsel serves as NHCLC’s official “legislative and policy arm” and Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver serves as an NHCLC board member and its chief legal counsel. Last fall Rodriguez called Cindy Jacobs, who has predicted a new civil war between God-loving and gay-loving states,  “one of the most anointed voices, prophetic voices in the Kingdom of God.”

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.”

This is a very different message than Rodriguez conveyed in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in July, which he co-wrote with Southern Baptist official Russell Moore, where he described Trump as an unchristian, unethical and unelectable politician.

Trump tweeted earlier this week that Moore is “a terrible representative of Evangelicals” and a “nasty guy with no heart!”

Unlike Rodriguez, Moore is standing by his opposition to Trump.

 

Tennessee Senate Votes To Officially Honor Bible Alongside Sniper Rifle

On Monday the Tennessee Senate voted to make the Bible the state’s official book, even though the state’s attorney general argued that it conflicts with the state constitution, which says, “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.” That seems pretty clear cut.

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.

They haven’t gone that far yet. But there’s no telling how far the religious politicking might go. The American Bible Society recently reported that two Tennessee cities are among the nation's top five "most Bible-minded." More from Associated Press’s Erik Schelzig:

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.”

NOM's Brian Brown Rallies Support For Mississippi's 'Horrific' Anti-LGBT Legislation

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.

 

NOM's Brian Brown Asks For Money to Make Kasich 'Toxic'

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.”

Today the National Organization for Marriage, which endorsed Cruz in December, sent out a plea for money to go after Kasich, who NOM’s president, Brian Brown, describes as “a liberal Republican who has abandoned the fight for marriage, is extremely weak on religious liberty and who cannot be trusted to appoint strong, conservative constitutionalist judges to the US Supreme Court who would reverse the Court's illegitimate marriage ruling.”

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.

Boykin's Defense of 'Religious Freedom' Includes Violent Anti-Trans Rhetoric

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?

 

Rubio Faith Staffer Eric Teetsel: Marco Just As Extreme As Ted Cruz

Waves of far-right evangelical leaders have endorsed Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, especially after asecret endorsement meeting in Texas in December. But Marco Rubio still draws support from plenty of conservative Christian leaders, and last month announced a “Religious Liberty Advisory Board” that includes some big names like California pastor Rick Warren.

Heading into the New Hampshire primary, Rubio’s Faith Outreach Director Eric Teetsel, a culture warrior in his own right, did an interview with the Christian Post in which he assured voters that Marco Rubio is every bit as far-right as Ted Cruz when it comes to the social issues that rile Religious Right activists.

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.”

In the Christian Post interview, Teetsel took on the core belief guiding Ted Cruz’s campaign strategy — that he can win purely by mobilizing right-wing base voters.

"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.

 

Sen. Lankford SOTU Guest Everett Piper Denounces Opponents As Haters Of God

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.

Piper has appeared on Glenn Beck’s show and David Barton’s radio show. And at a conference organized by anti-gay activist James Garlow last summer, Piper suggested that secularists and radical Islamists are working together, aided by President Barack Obama.

“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.”

A week after the World Congress of Families wrapped up, Piper used his blog to slam WCF’s critics as haters of God.

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.

 

Tony Perkins' Selective Posturing on Religious Liberty

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’ familiar charge 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.”

Retired Gen. Jerry Boykin, now FRC’s executive vice president, has also pushed the idea that Muslims do not deserve the protection of the First Amendment because Islam “is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian way of life.” On Bryan Fischer’s radio show in 2011 Boykin declared, “No mosques in America,” explaining, “A mosque is an embassy for Islam and they recognize only a global caliphate, not the sanctity or sovereignty of the United States.”

Perkins has even argued that Christians who support marriage equality for same-sex couples don’t have the same religious liberty protections as Christians like him because “true religious freedom” applies only to those with “orthodox religious viewpoints.” He has dismissed as “supposed Christians” those who support reproductive choice.

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. 

Meet Marco Rubio's 'Religious Liberty Advisory Board'

Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign has announced its creation of a Religious Liberty Advisory Board that includes Religious Right legal and political activists, including academics and some big names, like Rick Warren of Saddleback Church.

The list could be seen as a response by Rubio’s campaign to last month’s closed-door meeting at which “dozens” of Religious Right leaders voted to rally behind his rival, Sen. Ted Cruz. But Rubio’s director of Faith Outreach, former Manhattan Declaration Executive Director Eric Teetsel, told World Magazine that “membership on the board doesn’t equal an endorsement of the GOP candidate, and the members could advise other campaigns if they wanted.”

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.

Rubio shaped and advocated for the so-called Gang of Eight immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013, but he later disavowed his own bill in the face of strong right-wing opposition. He is viewed with suspicion by some right-wingers but has said on the stump that he knows how to fix the immigration system better than anyone else in the race.

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.”

Formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, ADF is a heavyweight among Religious Right legal groups, and is spreading its anti-gay, anti-choice advocacy worldwide. Fiedorek argues that the “agenda to expand sexual liberty and redefine marriage” puts religious liberty in “great peril.” She has compared business owners who refuse to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples to Rosa Parks.

The Greens’ challenge to the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act was used by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to reinterpret the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and give owners of for-profit corporations the right to seek exemptions from laws that offend their religious beliefs. 

Another member of the Rubio board, law professor Michael McConnell, runs a religious liberty law clinic at Stanford University that was funded by $1.6 million steered to Stanford by the Becket Fund in 2013. Becket Fund attorneys appear in Rick Santorum’s 2014 movie, “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty.”

Advisory board member Wayne Grudem, an anti-gay seminary professor and author, argues that God will hold people accountable for shaping laws to meet biblical standards. Grudem has promoted a chart on how to “defeat the enemy’s plan” in politics. He has said that religious freedom makes it legal in the U.S. to have a Muslim mosque or a Buddhist temple, “but that doesn’t mean it’s morally right for people to seek to come to God that way….”

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. 

Ryan Anderson Takes Break From War On Marriage Equality To Target Nondiscrimination Laws

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson is one of the leading voices of the movement opposed to full legal equality for LGBT people. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, he rushed out a book designed to be a road map for a continuing culture war to resist and overturn marriage equality.

This week, he published another broadside against the LGBT movement — this one a Heritage Foundation “backgrounder” making the case that laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are unnecessary and “threaten freedom.” Given that Anderson is actively arguing for a generational culture war against marriage equality, it is somewhat difficult to take seriously the concern stated in his new paper that nondiscrimination laws “risk becoming sources of social tension rather than unity.”

Echoing the language of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Anderson starts by saying, “All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination,” adding, “but sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws are not the way to achieve that goal.” His claimed opposition to unjust discrimination may sound promising but, like the bishops, Anderson suggests that moral judgments about homosexual behavior are always legitimate justifications for discrimination.

Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities that people should accept instead of resist. Such views are inherently reasonable, even as people continue to disagree about them.

SOGI laws, he says, “do not protect equality before the law” but “grant special privileges.”

Anderson makes a libertarian anti-regulatory argument, charging that SOGI laws “expand state interference in labor markets, potentially discouraging economic growth and job creation,” though he offers no evidence that nondiscrimination laws have that economic impact.  (A 2015 study by a Colorado-based think tank found no evidence that anti-discrimination laws hurt small business growth.) Anderson says such laws “chip away at the at-will employment doctrine that has made the American labor market so much stronger than European labor markets.”

Anderson argues instead for “liberty under law,” saying employers should be allowed to fire employees for virtually any reason, and insists that nondiscrimination laws make that harder to do by making employers subject to legal action for violating those laws. Under Anderson’s conception of liberty under law, businesses as well as charities and civic associations “would be generally free to operate by their own values.” He argues that the free market will take care of problems with unjust discrimination:

Any business in the United States that posted a “no gays allowed” sign would soon find the power of public opinion expressed in the marketplace intolerably costly, without any need for the government to weigh in.

While that might be the reaction in gay-friendly locales, it is not hard to imagine pressure being applied the other way in some conservative communities, especially those where local churches and anti-marriage-equality activists have taken up Anderson’s charge to wage a long-term campaign to “bear witness to the truth” within a culture that he says has been told a lie about marriage.

Anderson’s 15-page paper summarizes its key points thusly:

  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws pose serious problems for free markets and contracts, free speech and religious liberty, and the health of our culture and pluralism.
  • SOGI laws threaten Americans with liability for alleged “discrimination” based on subjective identities, not objective traits.
  • SOGI laws mandate bathroom and locker room policies that undermine common sense in the schoolhouse and the workplace. They expand state interference in labor, housing, and commerce.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity are radically different from race and should not be elevated to a protected class in the way that race is.
  • Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities.
  • Market competition can provide nuanced solutions that are superior to coercive, one-size-fits-all government SOGI policy.

Anderson describes SOGI laws, including the proposed federal Equality Act, as if they are a secretive, nefarious plot by the LGBT movement:

Activist groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—an influential, sophisticated, and lavishly funded LGBT -activist organization—are pushing SOGI laws on unsuspecting citizens at the federal, state, and local levels.

First, it takes brass for Anderson to describe HRC as “lavishly funded” from his perch at the Heritage Foundation, whose 2013 income topped $112 million, with its political arm Heritage Action bringing in another $8.8 million — together more than double the combined income of HRC and its educational arm. Heritage has assets of well over $200 million and its already massive complex on Capitol Hill is in the midst of a major expansion. Lavishly funded, indeed.

Second, laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity are not being pushed invisibly “on unsuspecting citizens.” They are the result of decades of hard-fought advocacy by LGBT people and their allies. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws against discrimination in housing or on the job and almost as many have bans on discrimination in public accommodations. Protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are also in place in dozens of cities and counties.

Anderson, of course, does not mention that more than two-thirds of Americans – 69 percent – support laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination in workplaces, housing, and public accommodation, according to a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Even 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants support workplace nondiscrimination laws. “In fact,” reports PRRI, “fully three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans incorrectly believe workplace discrimination laws are already on the books.” In addition, 60 percent of Americans oppose allowing a small business owner to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs. 

Nevertheless, nondiscrimination protections are being actively fought by opponents of equality. Anderson praises Houston voters who recently overturned the city’s equal rights ordinance after a brutally bigoted campaign centered on the groundless, inflammatory charge that the law would give child molesters an open door to attack children in public bathrooms. Anderson’s paper raises similar “privacy and safety” concerns and says that allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms would defy “common sense.” What actually defies common sense is legislation that has been proposed in some states requiring transgender people to use only bathrooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth, which would mean requiring bearded trans men to use women’s restrooms.

Anderson devotes substantial time to criticizing what he calls a “false analogy” between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, wrongly claiming that such analogies are the primary justification for SOGI laws. In reality, advocates for LGBT equality have been pushing for legal protections against discrimination for many years, well before the organized marriage equality campaign of the past decade or two.  Anti-discrimination laws protect people on many grounds other than race, including religion, gender, disability, and marital status. They are not grounded in an analogy to the brutal history of race in America but in the principles of constitutional and civic equality.

Anderson repeatedly claims that nondiscrimination laws are vague and overly broad and do not make clear what actions might constitute discrimination. But in many, if not most, cases, sexual orientation and/or gender identity protections are added to existing civil rights laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and a range of other characteristics. Anderson does not explain why there should be any greater confusion about what constitutes discriminatory actions when applied to sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Michael Brown Joins List of Religious Right Endorsements for Ted Cruz

In August, we asked whether Ted Cruz was winning the Christian Nation primary, with fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks pumping $15 million into a pro-Cruz super PAC and political operative David Lane promoting Cruz’s anti-Planned Parenthood efforts. In September, Religious Right “historian” David Barton was tapped to take over a Cruz super PAC, and CNN reported that top officials of Online for Life are “playing a growing role in the super PACs backing Ted Cruz.” Yesterday, Glenn Beck declared that Cruz “was truly raised up for this purpose at this time.”

Now Cruz has announced the endorsement of another Religious Right activist, Michael Brown, a North Carolina preacher and author of “Revolution! The Call to Holy War.” Brown participated in the anti-gay “Stand4Truth” conference that was held as a lead-in to the World Congress of Families last week.

Brown is scheduled to appear, along with David and Jason Benham and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, at a Cruz-organized “religious liberty” rally at Bob Jones University on November 14. As we noted a few weeks ago, “the ‘religious liberty’ Bob Jones is most famous for defending was its long insistence that its segregationist policies were mandated in the Bible.”

Brown has already been portraying marriage equality as a dire threat to religious freedom in America. Back in June, when the Supreme Court released its decision affirming marriage equality nationwide, Brown wrote a snarky note to Justice Anthony Kennedy to thank him “for confirming what we have been saying for many years now, namely, that gay activism is the principle threat to our freedoms of speech, religion and conscience.” Brown also thanked Kennedy “for bringing unprecedented religious persecution to the shores of our nation,” adding, “Despite the darkness and pain ahead, this will only cause the Church to wake up and grow stronger.” 

Ted Cruz Plans ‘Religious Liberty’ Rally At College That Claimed Bible Backing For Racist Policies

Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reported this week that Ted Cruz is planning a major rally on “religious liberty” at Bob Jones University in November.  Even though it has been clear for a while that framing opposition to LGBT equality, abortion and contraception as religious liberty issues is a core strategy of right-wing culture warriors like Cruz, Bob Jones is still a stunning choice. After all, the “religious liberty” Bob Jones is most famous for defending was its long insistence that its segregationist policies were mandated in the Bible.

Of course Cruz’s choice could be a cunning and calculated one based on the fact that his campaign’s roadmap to victory requires a big boost in turnout among conservative evangelicals who are disaffected with politics. Appearing at Bob Jones University, specifically to talk about religious liberty, is the granddaddy of all dog-whistles to the far right.

A bit of background: During the 1970s, the federal government began to crack down on segregation academies that had sprung up in response to the Brown v. Board of Education decision more than a decade earlier.  The IRS formally promulgated its policy that racially discriminatory private schools were not entitled to federal tax-exempt status in 1971. After years of fighting with Bob Jones, the IRS revoked the university’s tax-exempt status in 1976. The school kept fighting, ultimately losing at the Supreme Court in 1983 in an 8-1 decision.

Religion scholar Randall Balmer writes that it was the federal government’s move against segregationist schools, even more than the Roe v Wade decision, that gave Paul Weyrich the opening to create the Religious Right political movement. He tapped into conservative evangelicals’ anger at the federal government interference in segregationist religious schools. In his book about the Religious Right, “Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament,” Balmer wrote about a conservative 1990 conference at which Weyrich spoke:

Let's remember, he said animatedly, that the Religious Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision. No, Weyrich insisted, what got us going as a political movement was the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies.

Bob Jones University was one target of a broader attempt by the federal government to enforce the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, had sought to penalize schools for failure to abide by antisegregation provisions. A court case in 1972, Green v. Connally, produced a ruling that any institution that practiced segregation was not, by definition, a charitable institution and, therefore, no longer qualified for tax-exempt standing…

For his part, Weyrich saw the evangelical discontent over the Bob Jones case as the opening he was looking for to start a new conservative movement using evangelicals as foot soldiers. Although both the Green decision of 1972 and the IRS action against Bob Jones University in 1975 predated Jimmy Carter's presidency, Weyrich succeeded in blaming Carter for efforts to revoke the tax-exempt status of segregated Christian schools. He recruited James Dobson and Jerry Falwell to the cause, the latter of whom complained, "In some states it's easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school."

So what game is Cruz playing? Is he going to play up right-wing fears that the federal government will go after the tax-exempt status of schools with anti-gay policies? Is talking about religious liberty at Bob Jones some oddly aggressive way to make the right-wing argument that there are no parallels between racial discrimination and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

Cruz made that argument during a June interview on the Today show, when he declared that “there’s no religious backing” for denying marriage licenses to interracial couples. That, of course, is an absurd argument, as the federal judge who had upheld Virginia’s laws against mixed-race marriages in Loving v Virginia specifically cited the Bible in defense of the law. And as Brian noted in June:

Cruz should know better. After all, the Tea Party leader announced his presidential campaign at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell, one of the fathers of the modern Religious Right movement, who denounced both desegregation and interracial marriages in religious terms.

Indeed, the Southern Baptist Convention was created in a split with northern Baptists over slavery. Southern Baptists preached that the Bible endorsed slavery, citing “slaves obey your masters” verses that were still being used by the Christian Coalition in the 1990s to justify attacks on labor unions.

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