religious persecution rhetoric

Religious Right Backs Bill to Implement Trump’s Pledge to Make Churches More Politically Powerful

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.

Scalise and Hice were joined at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb, and anti-gay activist and pastor Harry Jackson. According to a handout, the bill or the policies represented in it are also supported by Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation, the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability, March for Life Action, Liberty Counsel and Liberty Counsel Action, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the Home School Legal Defense Association.

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.”

Religious Right Leaders Vow To Defy Laws On Abortion, 'Sexual Perversion' In 'Declaration Of Dependence Upon God'

A group of Religious Right activists, including prominent advocates of dominionism, have joined together to circulate a “Declaration of Dependence upon God and His Holy Bible” in which signers vow to “refuse any mandate by the government that forces us to fund or support abortion” and to “oppose same-sex marriage, polygamy, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion prohibited by Holy Scripture.

Colorado Springs pastor Andrew Wommack, who wrote the pledge, says that he will spend $500,000 promoting it online and in newspaper ads. On Sunday, Wommack’s ministry bought a pricey full-page ad in the New York Times that showed the full text of the “declaration” and some of its most prominent signers.

Among those who have signed Wommack’s pledge, according to the ad, is Religious Right activist David Barton, who has been teaching students at a Bible college run by Wommack to retake the “mountain” of government in accordance with the Seven Mountains dominionist belief that conservative Christians must take control of the seven areas, or “mountains,” of society.

Other signers are Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the Family Research Council; Focus on the Family founder James Dobson; prominent televangelist Kenneth Copeland; leading Seven Mountains advocate Lance Wallnau; prosperity gospel preacher Creflo Dollar; and Kelly Shackelford, whose First Liberty Institute has been at the forefront of the narrative that conservative Christians are losing their religious liberty in America.

Another notable signer is Oklahoma state Sen. Nathan Dahm, who earlier this year sponsored a bill to make abortion a felony in the state, which was vetoed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

Among the signers are some prominent supporters of Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Dobson and Copeland are members of Trump’s evangelical advisory board. Boykin was recently one of the retired military leaders to sign a letter supporting Trump, which was promoted by the GOP nominee’s campaign. Wallnau is a member of the “National Diversity Coalition for Trump” who has argued that Trump can help reclaim the “seven mountains” from Satan.

In a video message, Wommack says that he believes he was “divinely inspired” to write the declaration, warning that “Satan is fighting for the heart and soul of this nation.”

Another video promoting the declaration shows Fox News pundit Todd Starnes reacting to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, saying, “The Supreme Court’s decision means gay rights now trump religious liberty. If you think the cultural purging of the southern states has been breathtaking, wait until you see what the activists are about to release on American Christians.” In the video, a young girl turns to her grandfather and asks, “Grandpa, we’re Christians, aren’t we?”

Wommack’s declaration reads like a shorter version of the Manhattan Declaration, a 2009 document that joined conservative Catholic and evangelical leaders in a pledge to commit civil disobedience in the face of the supposed impending government persecution of Christians.

Here’s the full text of the “Declaration of Dependence upon God and His Holy Bible”:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Since our Creator gave us these rights, we declare that no government has the right to take them away. Among these rights is the right to exercise our Christian beliefs as put forth in God’s Holy Bible.

We therefore declare that God grants life at conception and no one has the right to take that life unless it is a direct threat to the life of the mother.

Marriage was instituted by God between one man and one woman. The Lord gave only this family unit the responsibility to have children and raise them in the fear of the Lord.

We therefore respectfully reserve the right to refuse any mandate by the government that forces us to fund or support abortion. We also oppose same-sex marriage, polygamy, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion prohibited by Holy Scripture.

We proclaim that Jesus has provided the cure for all sin and therefore reach out to the sinner in love, but do not embrace the sin, knowing its destructive nature.

Therefore, we, the undersigned—not only as Christians but also believing we have the constitutional rights as Americans to follow these time honored Christian beliefs—commit to conducting our churches, ministries, businesses, and personal lives in accordance with our Christian faith and choose to obey God rather than man.

Robert Maginnis: Witches 'Advise The Senior Leadership Of The Country'

Televangelist Jim Bakker hosted Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Family Research Council senior fellow on his program today, and questioned Maginnis about President Obama’s nomination of a Muslim-American attorney to be a federal judge.

Bakker saw the nomination as a sign that the Obama administration gives “preferential treatment” to Muslims while “the cross is being degraded in America, the Christians are being—the very thing Jesus said would happen in the Last Days, that we would be, because we serve God, we would be attacked, we would be hated for the name of Christ’s sake. It seems like our nation is kinder to other faiths and Christianity is being put down further and further and further.”

Maginnis wholeheartedly agreed, claiming that “the persecution against Christians” is rampant in the Pentagon and that the Obama administration “is aggressive against Christians.”

He even said that he had “personally met” with witches who told him that they are advising high-ranking government officials in Washington, D.C. “I know that there’s demonic forces in that city,” he said. “I have personally met people that refer to themselves as witches, people that say they advise the senior leadership of the country. We invite within the federal government people to advise us and often some of those advisers, I think, have evil motivations, things that you and I would not approve of.”

Family Research Council: Vote For Trump & GOP To Put 'Religious Freedom' Above 'Sexual Unrestraint'

As this weekend’s Values Voter Summit got underway, Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the summit’s sponsor, the Family Research Council, said that he hoped the event would help conservative Christians become “comfortable” with the idea of voting for Donald Trump.

The event ended up being packed with references to the importance of voting for Trump over Hillary Clinton. And, on Saturday, FRC members received a direct mail piece from the organization making an argument for conservative Christians to support the GOP nominee and his fellow Republicans in order to fight Democrats who are trying to put “the priority of sexual unrestraint ahead of religious freedom in every area of our lives.”

While never mentioning Trump or Clinton by name, the mailing, signed by the group’s president, Tony Perkins, makes its point clear.

Perkins first boasts of the FRC’s role in shaping the ultraconservative Republican platform, contrasting it with the Democrats’ platform of “sexual unrestraint”:

[T]he major political parties have confirmed their nominees, and in spite of the understandable misgivings of many true conservatives, this election now presents America with a clear choice:

· One party has declared in its platform that they will continue putting the priority of sexual unrestraint ahead of religious freedom in every area of our lives.

· The other party has committed itself to the most strongly conservative platform of any we’ve seen in a century.

And you had a hand in this platform victory. Your support for FRC Action made it possible for us to bring maximum influence to bear on the Republican Party platform-development process.

With your strong support, I was able to add eight amendments to the platform and was able to work with other delegates on dozens more, many of them designed specifically to champion and protect religious liberty. Your investment in FRC Action produced a tremendous return.

He then moves on to a defense of Trump, citing the GOP nominee’s promise to appoint judges who will uphold the Religious Right’s priorities, his vow to repeal IRS restrictions on politicking by churches that receive nonprofit tax breaks, and his “support for the freedom to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in the public sphere.”

“This is not an evangelical Christian candidate,” Perkins writes, “but these are connection points with evangelical Christians who have seen their beliefs constantly attacked in recent years. These are starting points for a new administration with a renewed friendliness toward Christian values”:

The candidate of one party has consistently reached out to Christian groups. The other has opposed everything we believe and everything we’ve worked for.

· One of these candidates would continue to appoint liberal activist judges and justices who will deny religious liberty for families like the Stormans…continue to use the sexual revolution (new “genders,” redefining marriage, etc.) to attack religious freedom…and will continue allowing the killing of unborn children.

· The other candidate has committed to appointing judges who will adhere to the confines of the Constitution. This candidate has also embraced the cause of religious liberty.

This candidate has specifically called out the Johnson Amendment, which restricts the freedom of churches to address political issues. This candidate has even expressed support for the freedom to say “Merry Christmas” in the public sphere!

This is not an evangelical Christian candidate, but these are connection points with evangelical Christians who have seen their beliefs constantly attacked in recent years. These are starting points for a new administration with a renewed friendliness toward Christian values.

All emphases are from the original.

Tony Perkins: Obama's Attacks On Religious Liberty 'Just As Dangerous' As Terrorism

The Family Research Council has been one of the central groups playing up the Religious Right’s claims that conservative Christians are facing severe persecution in America today, a claim that relies on a constant stream of easily debunked tales of martyrdom .

The FRC fell back again on these martyrdom stories in a fundraising email from the group’s president, Tony Perkins, in which Perkins lists a number of debunked tales of Christian persecution in the military in order to claim that President Obama’s focus on “undoing the foundation of faith” in the armed forces is “just as dangerous” as the rise of “a new terrorist group”:

There is a grave threat to America's military you won't hear about from the mainstream media. No, it's not a new terrorist group. But it's just as dangerous. President Obama is bent on undoing the foundation of faith that has been a source of strength to America's servicemen and women since Valley Forge. In the irony of ironies, those charged with defending your religious freedom are losing theirs.

Christian servicemen and women need you to stand with them NOW because the persecution they are suffering is going from bad to worse. All you have to do is look at the growing number of those serving our country in uniform who have been punished just for remaining true to their faith.

Army Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was issued a career-stopping reprimand for the "crime" of mentioning in a suicide prevention class how Scripture helped him through troubled times.

Chaplain Wes Modder was nearly drummed out of the Navy because he gave a biblical answer to a question a sailor asked him about same-sex marriage.

And the persecution of Christians in the military doesn't stop with chaplains whose very job it is to provide spiritual counseling.

Monifa Sterling, a Marine Lance Corporal, was court-martialed for daring to post a Scripture verse in her workstation.

When Air Force Sergeant Phillip Monk wouldn't affirm same-sex marriage, his commander threatened to ruin his career.

These aren't isolated incidences. Individuals in the service who dare to live their faith are being singled out and put in the crosshairs, not for doing anything wrong, but for what they believe. No one who puts on our nation's uniform should ever be forced to deny his or her faith to serve our country. And no organization in Washington does more to defend the religious freedom of our troops than FRC.

FRC is urging the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to make the religious freedom of our servicemen and women a top priority. We are pressuring the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to stop the persecution that is threatening the careers of so many dedicated service members. We are building a strong coalition of high-ranking military officers -- past and present -- to push back against President Obama's efforts to expunge faith from the military.

(Emphases are ours.)

Colorado's Demon-Hunting State Legislator Gordon Klingenschmitt Loves Mike Pence

One person who is unambiguously thrilled with Donald Trump's choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate is Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, the demon-hunting Religious Right activist who is currently serving out the end of his term as Republican member of Colorado's state legislature.

Klingenschmitt's activist career is grounded in his claim that he was fired from a post as a military chaplain because he prayed "in Jesus' name." In reality his lost the job because he violated military rules in appearing at a political event in uniform. When Klingenschmitt sued, a federal judge found that he had never been ordered not to pray in the name of Jesus and that along with defying orders by appearing in an official capacity at the political event he had been found to have an "unsatisfactory" job performance.

But those facts didn't stop Klingenschmitt from sending out an email to his followers on Sunday recalling how Pence, when he was the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee in Congress, had met Klingenschmitt in a "divine appointment" in the halls of Congress and championed his cause.

Klingenschmitt credits Pence with spearheading a letter from a few dozen conservative members of Congress objecting to a Bush administration Pentagon policy that The Hill described at the time as calling for "nonsectarian prayers" after the emergence of "allegations that evangelical Christians wielded so much influence at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment had become pervasive."

Not surprisingly, Klingenschmitt was also a big fan of the RFRA bill that Pence signed in Indiana that was meant to enable anti-gay discrimination.

From Klingenschmitt's email:

If you remember my story, you know in 2005 the U.S. Navy punished my chapel sermons in writing, then wrote a policy that banned praying "in Jesus' name" which cost my career.

That year I walked the halls of Congress, meeting any Members who'd defend religious freedom for Chaplains.  Friends told me "go see Mike Pence" the Congressman from Indiana who was then chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, composed of the 70 most conservative Congressmen. 

So I went to Congressman Pence's office.  I had just missed him, but I glanced at his official photo to get a visual impression of his face, (something I never did otherwise), and a half-hour later I turned a hallway corner, and literally bumped into him.  It was a divine appointment.

"You're Mike Pence!"  I said, immediately recognizing his face from the photo.

"Yes I am!" he smiled.

He was very attentive, and although he was on the way to another meeting Congressman Pence said to me, "walk with me and tell me your story."  We walked and talked for 10 minutes together.

I told Pence how 65 Chaplains were suing the Navy, all denied promotion for praying and preaching "in Jesus' name."  I showed him documents how they punished me for quoting the Bible in chapel.

He looked me in the eye and said "OK, I get it.  I'm with you 100%." 

Pence kept his word.  The next week every member of his committee, all 70 members led by Mike Pence and Walter Jones, signed a letter to the President on my behalf, demanding he let Chaplains pray "in Jesus' name." 

One year later Congress ordered the Navy to reverse their bad prayer policy and we won.

I know from personal experience, Mike Pence is a Christian, Conservative, Republican, as he freely admits "in that order" and I've seen him stand up for chaplains' rights.

John Stemberger Is 'Tired Of Seeing Special Interest Rainbow Flags' After Orlando Massacre

The Florida Family Policy Council’s John Stemberger wrote in an email to his group’s members today that in the wake of the massacre at a gay club in Orlando on Sunday, he wants to see greater “unity” among Floridians in the form of more American flags and fewer “special interest rainbow flags” in memory of the victims:

The Pulse nightclub is right next to a Dunkin Doughnuts, Wendy’s, Radio Shack and a 7-11 store where I often buy gas and get my children Slurpees. I ride my bike through this area of town often. This is in part why this tragedy has affected me so deeply. This is my community. These are our streets and neighborhoods. The people that were killed and injured are not just “gay.” They are human beings! They are my neighbors! They are fellow Americans! Honestly, I am really tired of seeing special interest rainbow flags and wish we could see more American flags, as we stand together in unity against our greatest mutual enemy, radical Islamic jihadists!

He responded to criticism of conservative Christian LGBT rights opponents in the wake of the attack, saying that “Christians should be prepared to be attacked and persecuted if they do not bow down and pledge allegiance to the gay pride flag and all it supposedly represents.” LGBT rights advocates’ strategy, he said, is to “manipulate and bully Christians into submission to the new orthodoxy of the moral revolution.”

Christians should be prepared to be attacked and persecuted if they do not bow down and pledge allegiance to the gay pride flag and all it supposedly represents. In stunned disbelief, I was listening to CNN at 1:30am on Sunday night and I heard the leading gay-rights activist from Los Angeles being interviewed. She openly said you don’t need to find a terrorist cell to find this kind of hatred. All you need to do is look right here in America at fundamentalist Christians. The CNN anchor did NOTHING at all to challenge her or question her about her outrageous claim.

We need to be prepared for the stunning and false narrative of the Left which is that all major world religions, including but especially Christianity, breed hatred and create a hostile environment which "causes" the kind of violence we saw in Orlando. The goal of gay-rights activists is to try and get Christians to stop proclaiming God's design for marriage, gender and human sexuality. And they are not playing fair. The goal to simple. If you disagree in any way, no matter how gentle, loving or respectful they will call you a "hater" and a "bigot." They will scream at you publicly and test how committed you are to your beliefs. Their strategy is to manipulate and bully Christians into submission to the new orthodoxy of the moral revolution. Please know that as for me and "our house" at the FFPC, we will never be moved by this attempt at intimidation.

Stemberger, who is the most prominent anti-LGBT activist in Florida and has launched an anti-gay alternative to the Boy Scouts, said that he received a personal call from Sen. Marco Rubio after the massacre.

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.


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.



Here We Go Again: Roy Moore Suspended For Defying Gay Marriage Rulings

On Friday, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended from his position after being charged with violating judicial ethics in his response to federal court rulings on same-sex marriage.

Despite a ruling by a federal judge in Mobile making same-sex marriage legal in Alabama last year, and in the face of a United States Supreme Court ruling last year making its legality the law of the land, Moore instructed probate judges throughout Alabama to ignore those higher courts and to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Moore's actions led the Southern Poverty Law Center to file complaints with the commission, which acts much in the same way as a grand jury. When it receives a complaint, the commission investigates and decides whether to forward charges to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

This isn’t the first time Moore has been in this situation.

Back in 2003, he was removed from the office of chief justice for flouting a federal court ruling ordering the removal of a Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the courthouse rotunda.

The episode turned Moore into a martyr in the eyes of right-wing activists, although his newfound celebrity wasn’t enough to help his two unsuccessful campaigns for governor.

But in 2012 Moore returned to the Alabama Supreme Court, where he was once again lauded by the Religious Right when he tried to block same-sex marriages from taking place in the state in defiance of the federal courts.

Moore himself has likened the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling to Nazi oppression and has tapped Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, the Religious Right activist who used bizarre legal arguments to defend Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her unsuccessful attempt to flout the Supreme Court on marriage equality, to represent him in the case.

Just as Staver likened Davis to victims of the Holocaust, expect him to turn Moore, once again, into a symbol of the supposed persecution of Christians in America.

Indeed, far-right pastor Dave Daubenmire is already planning to hold a rally in Montgomery, Alabama, to support Moore and challenge the “uncircumcised philistine of the federal court system.”

Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, who succeeded him in leading the Religious Right legal group Foundation for Moral Law, posted a song on her Facebook page yesterday comparing her husband to actual Christian martyrs.

FRC Spokesman: 'Un-American' LGBT Movement Just Wants To 'Punish People'

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, said last week that LGBT rights activist are “un-American” in their opposition to laws that permit anti-LGBT discrimination, claiming that these activists want to “punish people for holding traditional moral views.”

Sprigg joined the Alabama Christian radio station Faith Radio on April 8 to discuss a new law in Mississippi that allows businesses to refuse service to LGBT people if they do so because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

“The irony here,” he said, “is that for all the howling about discrimination against LGBT people, since this bill is about preventing government discrimination against religious believers and people of faith and people with traditional moral values, anybody who opposes this bill is essentially saying: ‘We think it’s okay for government to discriminate against those people. We think it’s okay for government to punish people for holding traditional moral views. In fact, we think that government should punish people in order to do everything it can to wipe those views out of existence.’”

“That’s basically the point of view of the LGBT movement at this point in history,” he claimed. “It’s shocking and it’s un-American, it’s contrary to our traditions, which are to protect the views of all people, including the people who agree with you and the people who disagree with you.”

Sprigg so cares about protecting the liberty of all people that he has said he wants to outlaw “homosexual behavior” and once opposed a bill that would allow gay people to be united with their foreign partners by saying that he “would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States.”

Donald Trump's Lawyers Debunk Donald Trump

Back in February, Donald Trump took the right-wing conspiracy theories that Christians in America are enduring severe persecution and that the Obama administration is using the IRS to target conservatives, and placed himself in the center of both, humbly declaring that he was facing an IRS audit “because of the fact I’m a strong Christian.”

Trump has said that he will not make his tax returns public because of the ongoing audit, a claim that tax experts have questioned.

Trump’s campaign shed some light on the issue yesterday when it released a letter from his lawyers confirming that the candidate is being audited.  But, at the same time, it undermined Trump’s claim that he is facing specific targeting for his well-known Christian beliefs:

As the political press focused on Donald Trump’s contradictory statements about abortion Wednesday, his campaign quietly released an unusual letter from his tax lawyers claiming the businessman has been under “continuous examination” by the IRS since 2002.

Trump’s tax returns have been under “continuous examination” by the IRS since 2002, “consistent with the IRS’ practice for large and complex businesses,” the lawyers wrote.

Seeing that the lawyers called the audits “consistent with the IRS’ practice for large and complex businesses,” we are not sure how Trump can continue to say with a straight face that the audit is actually an act of anti-Christian persecution.

Not that that will stop him continuing to repeat a claim that his own campaign has debunked.

Jim Bakker: Government Will 'Mow Down' Christians For Praying

Televangelist Jim Bakker yesterday equated the supposed persecution of Christians in America to the violent persecution of Mideast Christians by ISIS terrorists, telling his audience that the U.S. government may soon “mow down” Christians who pray in public spaces.

Bakker said that he himself is a victim of anti-Christian oppression and that people should prepare for massive starvation and beheadings.

“We can’t preach the Bible anymore,” Bakker said, warning that violence against Christians is imminent due to “political correctness.”

Bakker said that such anti-Christian brutality is seen in the War on Christmas, praising Donald Trump for his pledge to save Christmas as president. “It’s almost illegal to say ‘Merry Christmas,’” he said.

After guest Rick Wiles, the host of the End Times radio program “Trunews,” urged people to commit civil disobedience in cases where the courts block school-organized prayer, Bakker predicted that Christians will soon be gunned down for praying.

“So what happens if in that graduation most of the parents stand up and recite the Lord’s Prayer?” Wiles asked. “What are they going to do? Is the judge going to come over and arrest you? Let’s get an uprising going.”

Bakker replied: “They would threaten to arrest you, they would threaten to mow you down with a machine gun.”

“So what if they did? They’re going to come in and shoot 500 parents at a high school graduation for saying the Lord’s Prayer?” Wiles responded.

“Not right now,” Bakker said. “But eventually they will if we don’t stop it.”

Tony Perkins Wrongly Blames Shooting On LGBT Rights Ordinance

Before any facts of the case were known, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins quickly linked the recent shooting of an Idaho pastor to a nondiscrimination ordinance in the city of Coeur d’Alene that prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination. Perkins wrote yesterday:

Like the rest of the country, we were stunned and saddened to hear about the shooting of Pastor Tim Remington in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The beloved church leader, who was known throughout the community for his outreach to the addicted and incarcerated, was gunned down at church a day after opening a Ted Cruz rally with prayer.

While his family and congregation celebrate the good prognosis, disturbing questions still linger. Coeur d’Alene had already grown increasingly hostile toward Christians, as we know from Donald and Evelyn Knapp, a husband-and-wife pastor team that ran a wedding chapel called The Hitching Post. After declining to marry a same-sex couple, Idaho city officials had warned that the decision could send them straight to jail and/or bury them in debilitating fines.

Obviously, the environment toward Christians and pastors preaching the Gospel has made a turn for the worst in the small northern town. How can it not when you have the government ordering believers to participate in things that violate their faith? Whatever the shooter’s motivations, until the policies change, tensions like these will not. In the meantime, we continue to pray for the Remingtons, Tim’s full and complete healing, and for the man responsible to be brought to justice.

First of all, the nondiscrimination ordinance Perkins mentioned did not force Donald Knapp’s for-profit chapel to host same-sex couples’ weddings, as it was exempt under the ordinance.

But even more egregiously, Perkins went out of his way to blame the ordinance for the shooting on the grounds that it was creating an environment of anti-Christian hostility, even though the suspected shooter claimed that he shot the pastor because he thought he was from Mars.

In a Facebook post, the alleged shooter, who “has a history of mental illness,” wrote that he believed Remington was a Martian:

Things are not what they appear to be. The world is ruled by ancient civilization from Mars. Pastor Tim was one of them, and he was the reason my life was ruined. I will be sharing my story with as many people as possible. I don't have time right now, they are chasing me. I shot Pastor Tim 12 times, there is no way any human could have survived that event. Anyway, I have sent my story to all the major news organizations. I have no time, I have to go.”

He was later apprehended at the White House:

He admitted to plotting to shoot Remington. He also claimed that the pastor was part of a vast alien conspiracy to enslave the human race — a conspiracy that Odom believed extended to Congress.

“My last resort was to take actions to bring this to the public’s attention,” Odom wrote in the manifesto. “I hope that something good comes of it. Just realize that I’m a good person, and I’m completely innocent. Also realize that the ‘people’ I killed are not what you think.”

You can read his manifesto about the Martian overlords here.

Nonetheless, Perkins claims this was a case of left-wing anti-Christian bigotry.

Ben Carson Vows To End Nonexistent 'Ban On Christianity' In Public Schools

While speaking today with Pat Robertson at Regent University, Ben Carson said that he would work “very hard on eliminating the ban on Christianity in our public schools” if elected president.

Carson, who has repeatedly claimed that he would direct the government to monitor the speech of professors and withhold federal funding from schools that demonstrate “bias,” revived the myth that Christianity and religious expression are banned at public schools. (Students are allowed to pray in school, but government-sponsored and compulsory prayers are prohibited.)

The GOP presidential candidate also explained what he meant by his mystifying “fruit salad” remark regarding judicial nominees at the last presidential debate.

'Christianity Is Under Siege': Donald Trump Vows To Stop Christianity From Becoming 'Weaker, Weaker And Weaker'

After vowing to go after journalists who write critical stories about him at a rally in Texas today, Donald Trump bragged about the support his presidential campaign has received from conservative evangelical voters, touting endorsements from televangelist Paula White, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Sarah Palin.

Trump even brought Robert Jeffress, the conservative televangelist notorious for his anti-gay, anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon preaching, onto the stage to sing his praises. Jeffress called Trump a patriot “who is truly pro-life,” unlike Hillary Clinton, whom he warned would be “the most pro-abortion president in history.”

“God bless Donald Trump,” Jeffress declared. Trump had a much bleaker message: “Christianity is under siege. Every year it gets weaker and weaker and weaker.”

He said he would restore Christianity to greatness by scrapping IRS regulations pertaining to church engagement in partisan political activity on behalf of candidates or campaigns.

It makes you less powerful than a man or woman walking up the street. You actually have less power, and yet if you look at it, I was talking to someone, we probably have 250 million, maybe even more, in terms of people, so we have more Christians than we have men or women in our country and we don’t have a lobby because they’re afraid to have a lobby because they don’t want to lose their tax status.

So I am going to work like hell to get rid of that prohibition and we’re going to have the strongest Christian lobby and it’s going to happen. This took place during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and it has had a terrible chilling effect.

When I said that there has to be a temporary ban on certain people coming into this country, we have no choice, there’s something wrong, there’s something really wrong. And when I said ‘Muslim,’ I was met with furor. If I would’ve said ‘Christian,’ people would’ve said, ‘oh we can’t do anything about it.’ That’s going to end folks.

We’re going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ now on Christmas. We’re going to start going to department stores and stores and you’re going to see big beautiful signs that say, ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.’ And we’re going to have a big, big, big lotta fun.

There is a lot to unpack here.

First, it is difficult to know what Trump means when he says that “we have more Christians than we have men or women in our country.”

Second, the part of the tax code Trump is speaking of was put into effect in 1954, not “during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson,” although as a senator he was behind the amendment instituting the policy.

Third, there are hundreds of interest groups who claim to represent Christians and even specific Christian denominations in America, proving that the IRS regulations did not have “a terrible chilling effect.”

Fourth, it is hard to square Trump’s claim that he is a defender of religious freedom when also boasting that he wants to ban all of the world’s Muslims — over 1.6 billion people — from entering the U.S.

Fifth, it seems unlikely that people would have shrugged if Trump said he wanted to ban Christians from the country.

Sixth, people still say “Merry Christmas” on Christmas.

Lastly, what?

Georgia 'Religious Freedom' Bill Could Protect KKK, Sponsor Admits

Georgia’s state senate is considering a “religious liberty” bill that would make it easier to discriminate against LGBT people by, as Americans United explains, allowing “any individual or ‘faith-based’ business, non-profit entity, or taxpayer-funded organization to ignore any law that conflicts with their religious beliefs about marriage.”

This means, according to AU, that “any person, business, or taxpayer-funded organization could refuse anyone else rights, services, and benefits because they are part of an interracial couple; are part of an interfaith couple; are a single mother; are part of a same-sex couple; are divorced; are remarried; live or have lived with a partner without being married; or have had sex outside of marriage at any time in their life.”

The broad scope of the bill, which combines a House-passed measure with an even broader Senate bill, has alarmed many observers, including state Sen. Emanuel Jones.

In a debate over the bill today, Jones asked its sponsor, Sen. Greg Kirk, if the Ku Klux Klan would count as a faith-based organization protected under the law.

“I guess they could,” Kirk answered, adding, “I don’t know what would stop them.”

When Jones asked Kirk if that seemed like a problem to him, Kirk responded that it did not because the bill “certainly isn’t directed” at the KKK.

Kirk then compared the KKK to Beyoncé’s “tribute to the Black Panthers” at the Super Bowl, saying that the Black Panthers would also be protected under the legislation.

Georgia Equality captured the video:

Meanwhile, another Georgia GOP lawmaker, state Rep. Tommy Benton, has been under fire for claiming that the KKK “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”

h/t reader Erik

Benham Brothers Back Cruz

It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the string of endorsements for Ted Cruz from Religious Right political activists, including some of the most extreme activists in the movement. It started in the summer, when we asked, “Is Ted Cruz Winning the Christian-Nation Primary?” but it really got going after dozens of Religious Right leaders anointed Cruz as their candidate at a secret endorsement meeting in Texas in December.

Now that we’re just days from the Iowa caucus, the Cruz campaign is picking up the pace. Today it announced endorsements from Jason and David Benham. According to the Cruz campaign statement, the Benhams declared that “Ted Cruz is the convictional leader we desperately need in America today.”

The Benham brothers have been regular speakers on the Religious Right circuit ever since their planned real-estate reality show was cancelled amid controversy about their far-right political activism. The Benhams emceed Cruz’s religious liberty-themed event at Bob Jones University last fall.

The Cruz campaign announcement plays up the Religious Right’s narrative portraying the Benhams as religious liberty martyrs who have been persecuted for their faith. But it’s worth recalling that the Benhams, like many of their Religious Right colleagues, are quite selective in whose freedom they champion. The brothers and their Religious Right activist father, Flip, were all part of a group of people who went to a Charlotte, North Carolina, city council meeting in 2004 to complain about a gay pride event that had taken place in a city park:

“This is filth, this is vile and should not be allowed in our city,” said David. Jason urged city council members to reject future permits for Pride celebrations – and seemingly for any LGBT-themed event.

They have a right to apply for this permit, but you have a right and responsibility to deny it. I [implore] you not to be governed by the fear in which you feel. If you deny them this permit you will open a can of worms but you in your leadership position have to take that responsibility and you have to not allow the fear of making this homosexual community mad. You have to accept that responsibility and deny them every permit that they ask for.

In the words of Charlotte Pride organizers, “The Benham brothers once tried to silence us. They failed.”

The Benham twins have repeatedly attacked gay people as pawns of Satan while comparing themselves to people murdered by ISIS.

Also today, former Concerned Women for America official Janice Shaw Crouse, who was the executive director of the World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City last fall, released a gushing endorsement of Cruz, comparing him to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and crediting him for “the shift to faith-based campaigning” in the GOP presidential campaign. 

Louie Gohmert: Conservative Christians Back Trump Because They're Being Persecuted

Yesterday, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, spoke with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council about Donald Trump’s appeal to evangelical voters.

While both Gohmert and Perkins have endorsed Ted Cruz and were campaigning for the Texas senator in Iowa before the “Washington Watch” interview, the two said that Trump is winning over some conservative evangelicals because they are fed up with anti-Christian “persecution” and “sick of the nation being fundamentally transformed away from being a Christian nation.”

How a sitting member of Congress can possibly believe that he is facing persecution for being a member of the country’s largest religious group shows just how absurd Religious Right’s persecution narrative has become. And, ironically enough, these conservative leaders are now worrying that their manufactured paranoia of religious persecution may end up sinking their preferred candidate and help Trump.

Gohmert: I understand where so many believers, so many Christians have been in the past seven years, we now are experiencing something I never thought I would experience in my life, I never experienced it growing up and it’s what Jesus promised us would happen, and that is, ‘You will be persecuted for my sake.’ I never got persecuted growing up in Texas and I bet you didn’t in Louisiana, but we’re being persecuted now, Christians are being persecuted here for our religious beliefs and I think people are so sick of the nation being fundamentally transformed away from being a Christian nation.

You know, it reminds me maybe of the children of Israel. They had not been as faithful to God as they should have and things weren’t going like they wanted so they said, ‘God, give us a king and he can fix all this,’ and God said, ‘That’s not what’s going to fix it and it’s not a good idea.’ But I get the feeling people are thinking, if we can just have somebody that is as narcissistic and self-centered and will stand up to anybody as Obama is, then that person can go back and fix it. That’s a problem.

Perkins: What I see as I travel the country is there’s a fear, a fear that the country has changed, that we’re losing the country, just a fear of the loss of religious freedom. But we have to operate in faith, not fear. Fear causes us to make the wrong choices and go the wrong direction.

Kim Davis: SOTU Ignored The Christians Being 'Mashed Down, Literally' By Obama

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, a hero of the Religious Right because of her attempt to prevent her county office from issuing marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, got a spot at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, thanks to the Family Research Council and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Davis was initially unresponsive about her reaction to President Obama’s address, telling a reporter simply that “it was a speech,” but went into a little more detail in an interview with EWTN’s Jason Calvi after the event.

Davis did have some words of praise for the president, telling Calvi, “I did agree with one remark that he made about how we have to stand strong, help those that are less fortunate, and I think that is the basis of the Christian faith is the brotherly love, you know?”

But she was less impressed with Obama’s reference to marriage equality. “He had made the statement that everybody was free to marry who they love, and, of course, that’s the stand that I stood again,” she said. “And it’s not, for me, it never was a gay or a lesbian issue. It’s about standing up for the word of the God and as God had defined marriage from the very beginning as between one man and one woman, and that’s what I stood for.”

When Calvi asked Davis about the president’s caution against anti-Muslim bigotry and prejudice, Davis responded that he should have instead talked about Christians like her who “are being so tried and tested and being mashed down, literally” by his policies.

“One of the things that he focused on was that we should not discriminate against Muslims or persecute them, but he never once said anything about the people of the Christian faith who are being so tried and tested and being mashed down, literally, with his agenda,” she said.

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious