In an interview with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins this weekend, Rep. Trent Franks acknowledged that his 20-week abortion ban, which passed in the House last week, is meant to “completely undermine” Roe v. Wade, and hoped that it would help Americans “realize that as a country, we’ve been here before,” when “African Americans were considered property.”
Franks, an Arizona Republican, lamented that the bill that passed last week included a limited exception for survivors of rape and incest. The exception was first added to the bill in 2013 after Franks implied in a hearing that rape rarely results in pregnancy; a planned vote on the bill in January was scuttled after a group of Republican women raised concerns that the rape exception required women to report assaults to the police. After months of negotiations, the reporting requirement was removed from the bill but a 48-hour waiting period and other hurdles were restored in its place.
“Now, many of your listeners, including this one, Tony, would do everything that we could to protect all unborn children, and the only thing that we would ever say should be an exception to taking the life of a child would be to save another life, which is, you know, a very, very unusual situation,” Franks told Perkins.
“But the point is, if we protect these children, now we begin to really examine, once again, the development and the humanity and the pain-capable nature of these children to where I think it gives us a chance to completely undermine the Roe v. Wade structure and to realize that as a country, we’ve been here before,” he said.
“We were here, African Americans were considered property, and somehow we rose up as a nation and turned back that evil. And now by the grace of God we’re going to turn back the evil of killing little children before they’re born.”
Franks has previously insisted that African Americans were better off under slavery than with legal abortion.
As the House prepares to vote on a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a top priority of the biggest anti-choice groups in the country, a leader of the “personhood” movement is urging members of Congress to vote against the bill because it includes an exemption for survivors of rape and incest.
On Monday, Daniel Becker, head of the new Personhood Alliance, called into the radio program hosted by Cleveland Right to Life’s Molly Smith, telling her that he was in Washington lobbying lawmakers to oppose the bill because of the rape exceptions, which he said some Georgia representatives had already agreed to do.
The last time the bill was put up for a vote, in 2013, Becker — then the head of Georgia Right to Life — did the same thing, openly defying the national groups that were pushing for the bill’s passage. A rape exception had been hastily added to the bill before it was put up for a vote in because of controversial remarks on pregnancy by rape made by the bill’s sponsor, Arizona Republican Trent Franks. The House was scheduled to vote on the bill again in January on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but the vote was cancelled as another dispute over the rape language erupted in the GOP caucus.
Becker told Smith that “behind closed doors,” anti-choice groups acknowledge that there is no chance for the bill to be enacted during Obama’s presidency, meaning that it is “a messaging bill” — one which he argued was sending the wrong message.
Becker emphasized that while no-exceptions anti-choice advocates like himself share the same ultimate goal, the criminalization of abortion, leaders of the major national groups have shown themselves willing to compromise on issues like rape exceptions. The two sides of the movement just differ on strategy, he said.
“The message that we send should comport completely with our policy objectives, beginning at the beginning of the pro-life movement itself,” he said. “We as a movement have never disagreed on our policy objectives. We have merely bickered and disagreed over strategy, what can be accomplished, what should be tried, what this will accomplish if we do this, that or the other. But as far as our objectives, it’s to stand for the sanctity of life, man created imago dei, in the image of God, and that sanctity of life should be protected at its earliest biological beginning all the way to natural death. So we’re seeing a message bill being crafted in Washington, DC, that has no chance of saving a single life.”
He insisted that such a no-exceptions message would play well with voters: “When we bring it down to a baby’s rights, a child’s rights, as opposed to the mother’s rights, the baby always wins in the mind of the public in most cases.”
Smith lamented that the vote merely presented an opportunity for members of Congress to get “a tick beside their names form some of these larger pro-life organizations” in election-year candidate guides.
“Molly, you’ve lifted the covers on an ugly secret,” Becker responded, “and that is the pro-life leadership are electing moderates into positions of influence that are undermining our efforts behind closed doors.”
Renee Ellmers, the North Carolina congresswoman who led the revolt against the version of the bill that exempted rape survivors only if they filed a police report, “was projected to be the darling child of Susan B. Anthony List,” Becker said.
“She was going to be the future of the pro-life movement, and she was the one who shut down the bill, much to their chagrin, who they later demonized. How do you take the future savior and demonize them at the same time? It’s because they’re electing moderates with rape and incest exceptions. If we were electing conservatives who knew what the value of human life entailed, they’d be right on the marriage issue, fiscal policy and government issues across the board.”
Back in January, House Republican leaders cancelled a vote on a 20-week abortion ban, the top legislative priority of anti-choice groups, shortly before it was scheduled to take place on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A group of more moderate anti-choice Republicans, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers, had objected to language that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they had reported the assault to law enforcement first, which Ellmers said “further victimized the victims of rape.”
Anti-choice groups were furious and have been holding protests outside the offices of House Republican leaders demanding a new vote on the bill. It seems that they have now gotten their wish.
A number of outletsare reporting that the House leadership has scheduled a vote next week on the 20-week ban after months of negotiations about the rape exception. According to news reports, while the requirement that rape survivors file a police report is no longer in the bill, they are now required to present evidence that they “have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling at least 48 hours prior to the late-term procedure.”
According to LifeNews, the bill also includes an “informed consent” requirement that notifies women “of the age of her baby and the requirements under the law” and includes language making it easier to sue abortion providers.
The Weekly Standard reports that National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List are both behind the new version of the bill:
In 2013, the House passed the bill, called the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which included exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and when a physical health issue endangers the life of the mother. But an effort to pass identical legislation in the new Congress was scrapped in January on the eve of the annual March for Life because some GOP members, led publicly by Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, objected to the bill's reporting requirement for late-term abortions in the case of rape. The bill required the crime to be reported to law enforcement officials at any point prior to performing a late-term abortion.
According to House Republicans, that requirement has been removed from the bill. Instead, the legislation requires abortion doctors to ensure that victims have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling at least 48 hours prior to the late-term procedure. With that change, the bill has assuaged the concerns of those Republican members while still garnering strong support of national pro-life groups, including the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List.
“I’m proud we’ve gotten to a point where we found a consensus between our members and the pro-life groups out there,” said Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee.
The fact that there was a rape exception in the bill at all was the result of last-minute negotiations on a previous version of the bill after its sponsor, Trent Franks, made a Todd Akin-like remark about pregnancy from rape being rare. As we explore in our recent report on the “personhood” movement, rape exceptions are extraordinarily divisive within the anti-choice community. The National Right to Life Committee’s decision to support the Franks bill even with the narrow rape exception caused a number of state anti-choice groups to form a rival organization that pushes for “no exceptions” anti-choice policies.
Blogger Jill Stanek reports that one person involved in the negotiations on the current version 20-week ban told her, “This is the most complicated bill I’ve ever worked on.”
C-FAM’s Austin Ruse has hit on a new fundraising tactic for his organization, which pushes socially conservative policies at the UN: warning his supporters that “sexual weirdoes” [sic] like those of us at Right Wing Watch are “reading your mail.”
By “reading your mail,” he apparently means subscribing to his public email alerts, which Ruse writes in a fundraising email today is all part of our “sexually crazed” plan to impose our “crazed sexual ideas on the rest of the world”… and which can only be stopped by giving C-FAM money.
He kindly asks supporters to, as they are sending their donation to C-FAM, “say a prayer for all those sexual revolutionaries, that they will realize how unhappy they really are, that they will leave the world alone, that they will see the light of Christ.”
Subject Line: The Sexual Weirdoes are Reading Your Mail!
Dear Friend of the Friday Fax,
Right this second the sexually crazed boys and girls at places like Media Matters, Right Wing Watch, Joe.My.God, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and RH Reality Check are reading these words.
They monitor every word we write. They monitor everything we say, too.
Why do they do this?
Because they know we are a real threat to their agenda to impose their crazed sexual ideas on the rest of the world. They shake in their boots because they know the reach and powerful effect of C-Fam and the Friday Fax. This is why they have tried to shut us down. This is why they have tried to shame us from the public square. This is why they call us names and would really like to see us jailed (a UN apparatchik actually said that not many years ago).
The thing is, the brave staff of C-Fam and the Friday Fax don’t care! The crazed sexual revolutionaries cannot touch us and it drives them nuts.
The only thing that can stop us is money. Yep. Filthy lucre. We cannot do this work without it. We cannot be a thorn in their side without it. We cannot block their agenda without it.
Did I tell you that we have successfully blocked an international right to abortion at the UN for the past 18 years? Did I tell you that we’ve blocked a redefinition of the family at the UN for the past 18 years? Did I ever tell you how we have built a global army of pro-life and pro-family activists, scholars and policy makers who use our information to block the sexual radicals on the ground around the world? Well, we have and the sexual radicals know it. That’s why they monitor everything we do and say and they would love it if we did not have enough money to keep going. If they prayed, which they don’t, this would be one of their main prayers.
So, here is my question to you. Shall we continue ruining the days of the sexual revolutionaries who want to enslave your children to their warped ideology? Shall we continue blocking an international right to abortion and a redefinition of family? Yes? Then please go to www.c-fam.org/donate and give as much as you can.
Can you afford $100? Then, please do it now. How about $50? Don’t be shy!
Please go to www.c-fam.org/donate and give as much as you can. And as you hit the donate button, say a prayer for all those sexual revolutionaries, that they will realize how unhappy they really are, that they will leave the world alone, that they will see the light of Christ.
The “personhood” movement — those who seek sweeping bans on all abortion and common types of birth control in an effort to confront Roe v. Wade head-on — is hugely divisive within the anti-choice community. Groups like National Right to Life Committee, which have been pushing a more careful, incremental approach toward ending legal abortion, worry that the personhood movement risks undermining their progress toward the ultimate goal. Meanwhile, personhood advocates accuse groups like NRLC of selling out the ultimate goal in the service of small steps that they claim will never lead to the full criminalization of abortion.
As the national debate over a NRLC-backed federal bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy have shown, one of the major sticking points between the two factions is whether the anti-choice movement should accept “compromises” that exempt women who have been raped from abortion bans. From the report’s introduction:
In seeking mainstream approval for anti-choice politics, personhood advocates believe, groups like the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and Americans United for Life (AUL) have adopted a secular tone and downplayed their Christian origins. In focusing on drawing attention to issues like late-term abortion, they may have won some support for the cause but have done little to end the procedures they targeted. In seeking incremental successes, personhood advocates argue, the movement has given up on making a moral argument for the humanity of fertilized eggs and fetuses and lost sight of its larger goal of eliminating legal abortion entirely.
But the greatest betrayal in the eyes of these personhood advocates is the willingness of major anti-choice groups to endorse legislation that includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. The personhood movement’s leaders contend that these political concessions are not only immoral and intellectually inconsistent, but also threaten to undermine the movement’s goals in the long term.
The personhood movement provides an interesting look into the bitter “incrementalist vs. immediatist” divide that has split the anti-choice movement since before Roe v. Wade. Both sides want an end to legal abortion; neither trusts the other to get there. But in the meantime, each is making progress in making it more difficult and more dangerous for women to access safe and legal reproductive care.
In an interview with the Iowa conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts on Saturday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker repeated his call for a constitutional amendment to preserve state-level bans on same-sex marriage if the Supreme Court strikes them down, immediately before dodging a question on an anti-choice “personhood” amendment by saying that if he were president he wouldn’t “handle any constitutional amendments.”
Walker told Caffeinated Thoughts’ Shane Vander Hart that he is “still hoping” the Supreme Court will preserve state-level marriage bans. “If they don’t,” he added, “the only other viable option out there is to support a constitutional amendment, again, believing, I believe in not just in marriage being defined as one man and one woman, but I also believe in states’ rights. I think that’s an issue that appropriately belongs in the states.”
When Vander Hart asked Walker “what kind of pro-life legislation would a President Walker sign,” and if that would include a “personhood law,” Walker responded. “Well, the personhood would require an amendment and the president, no matter who it is, doesn’t handle any constitutional amendments, so that would be something that people who are passionate about that in the Senate need to have leaders there.”
Republican leaders may want Rep. Steve King of Iowa to make himself scarce during the 2016 presidential election season, but the vocal far-right congressman made it clear in a speech to the Susan B. Anthony List’s gala last week that he intends to do nothing of the sort. Instead, he said, he would work to pressure the party’s candidates to take strong stances against abortion rights and LGBT equality in order to assure that the next president can “restore the soul of America” that was destroyed by President Obama.
“There are some of the candidates that think if they don’t come to Iowa, they don’t have to deal with Steve King,” the congressman told the anti-choice group. “But tomorrow morning at six o’clock I’m going to get on a plane and go to New Hampshire and next May 9, I’m going to be in South Carolina. And we are going to push full-spectrum constitutional conservatism — life and marriage — all the way through this.”
King told the group that the candidates were “good people” and that Republicans are “going to have a good nominee.” But he said that likeminded conservatives still need to pray “that God raises up a president whom he will use to restore the soul of America” after the country has been “deconstructed from the White House” by “a man who is taking on the pillars of American exceptionalism with…a procedural jackhammer.”
Last month, when a pregnant woman in Colorado was brutally attacked and her unborn child cut from her womb, the state’s influential fetal “personhood” movement saw a grisly opportunity.
Over the past few weeks, the Colorado-based Personhood USA has been touting a recent YouGov poll finding broad support for allowing prosecutors to press murder charges in similar violent attacks on pregnant women that lead to the death of a fetus. Although Colorado imposes heavy penalties on crimes against pregnant women, it has stopped short of adopting a “fetal homicide” law categorizing such attacks as murder.
The problem for personhood advocates is that while the general public is ready to throw the book at people who attack pregnant women, they do not share the personhood movement’s goal of criminalizing abortion. While 76 percent of respondents in YouGov’s poll wanted to charge a pregnant woman’s attacker with murder, only 17 percent wanted a complete ban on abortion.
As we explored in a recent series on the personhood movement, anti-choice groups have attempted to use fetal homicide laws as a back door to imposing abortion restrictions, using them to build up a body of law establishing “personhood” for fetuses. After two unsuccessful attempts to establish fetal personhood by ballot measure in Colorado, last year Personhood USA pushed a modified measure focusing on crimes against pregnant women. The measure failed, but less badly than had the group’s previous attempts.
This conflict is playing out once again in Colorado, where the Republican state senate president has introduced a fetal homicide bill with an explicit exemption providing for abortion rights. The state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) supports the bill, but Personhood USA and Colorado Right to Life — which was kicked out of NRLC in 2007 — oppose it, saying that language preventing the prosecution of pregnant women and medical professionals undermines the ultimate anti-abortion goal.
Personhood USA, an organization that pushed the ballot initiatives, opposes the bill because the language protects abortions — aligning it with the state's Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro Choice groups, which are concerned that it could threaten the legality of abortions.
And two prominent Colorado anti-abortion organizations are split on the measure.
"We believe that we want to protect every baby we can," said Sarah Zagorski, the executive director of Colorado Citizens for Life, which is an affiliate of the National Right to Life organization. "I don't think (the bill) says anything about how we view abortion right now."
But Colorado Right to Life's Rosalinda Lozano sees it differently.
"It was an opportunity for (Cadman) to really stand strong on life, and the way it is written he is actually affirming abortion," she said. "The Republican Party is really trying to get away from the life issue. ... They are preparing for 2016 and this is not an issue they want to fight about in a presidential election."
Every year, millions of taxpayer dollars go toward funding Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), organizations that often use misleading information to draw women away from seeking abortions. Yesterday in Cosmopolitan, Meaghan Winter published an inside account of the annual conference of one of the biggest coalitions of CPCs, Heartbeat International, revealing the extent to which CPCs are willing to mislead their clients in order to prevent them from accessing abortion.
[A]t least 10 conference sessions focused on the "risks" of premarital sex, contraception, and abortion. During the panel "What's So Bad About Abortion?" Janet Morana and Father Frank Pavone, of the organization Priests for Life, asserted that abortion causes an array of spiritual, psychological, and medical problems.
Pavone said, "Abortion poisons everything" because after an abortion, a woman thinks, "Others can't possibly esteem me, child-killer that I am." Those women, he said, suffer a "failure to bond" with future children, often thinking, "I killed one child; I'm afraid that something bad will happen to the next one." He and the other speakers in the session said abortion increases a woman's risk of miscarriage, cancer, substance abuse, suicide, and domestic violence, among other problems.
"The fact that [abortion] dismembers a child, the fact that it goes against everything the human body and human psyche are meant to do when a woman is pregnant is the cause, is the root of all of these other physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual problems," Pavone said.
Conference speakers also gave false information about the supposed risks of contraception:
The importance of framing abortion and contraception through "risks" also came up in the talk given by Bri Laycock, the director of Option Line. In her session, "Answering the Hard Calls and Tough Questions," Laycock recommended that staff answer callers' questions about medical and surgical abortions by saying, "Both options can pose risks to your health," without saying the center is against abortion. She recommended pregnancy center staff present select medical information and disclaimers from the fine print on pharmaceutical packaging to present using contraception as a high-risk gamble. When callers ask about emergency contraception, for example, even if there might be an opportunity to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, Laycock said staff can just say it's "not 100 percent effective." She recommended telling callers, "You might not be at a fertile time in your cycle, and it's not worth taking hormones for no reason."
Throughout the conference, I asked at least a dozen pregnancy center staff if seeing so many unplanned pregnancies ever tempted them to suggest birth control pills or IUDs. Again and again, they mentioned claims, which have been debunked, that abortion sterilizes and birth control pills cause cancer. "All those chemicals can be dangerous," one staff person told me, and she seemed to believe it.
One piece of advice given to attendees was to maintain two websites for their CPCs, one for potential donors touting their anti-choice credentials, and another for potential clients obscuring them:
In her session, "Do I Really Need Two Sites?" [Heartbeat International’s Lauren] Chenoweth explained that, yes, in fact, pregnancy centers do. She recommended that centers operate one that describes an anti-abortion mission to secure donors and another that lists medical information to attract women seeking contraception, counseling, or abortion. An audience member offered that her center swapped out an anti-abortion-seeming name for Pregnancy Options. "That is an excellent point," Chenoweth replied. "Use a more attractive name to someone who is seeking services."
Finally, Winter writes, the CPC leaders at the conference put a strong emphasis not just on luring women away from abortion, but on bringing them into the church:
Over the course of the three days of the conference, I chatted with a few dozen pregnancy center workers. Multiple women told me it was their job to protect women from abortion as "an adult tells a child not to touch a hot stove." Another oft-repeated catchphrase was, "Save the mother, save the baby," shorthand for many pregnancy center workers' belief that the most effective way to prevent abortion is to convert women. In keeping with Evangelicalism's central tenets, many pregnancy center staff believe that those living "without Christ"— including Christians having premarital sex — must accept Christ to be born again, redeem their sins, and escape spiritual pain. Carrying a pregnancy to term "redeems" a "broken" woman, multiple staff people told me.
One conference attendee, a center volunteer in her early 30s, told me that she has protested outside her state's only surgical abortion clinic for several years. "I don't think it's disrespectful to shout, 'You're killing your baby,'" she said. "That's not saying, 'You dirty whore.'" But she prefers counseling at the center: "When I started, I remember thinking, This is so awesome! I don't have to feel mean, but I can still talk to women!"
Deliberately obfuscating the history of the bipartisan federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was skewed by the Supreme Court in its Hobby Lobby decision, Cruz claimed that Democrats have recently “decided that religious liberty is disposable, that it is unnecessary” and “accordingly, we have a vilification of people who are engaging in acting out their faith.”
Cruz declared that a “partisan leftist group” is now “demonizing the state of Indiana for acting to protect religious liberty there.”
Harkening back to the Pilgrims, who he said (inaccurately) wanted “a land where every one of us could seek out the Lord God Almighty free of government getting in the way,” Cruz said that “we really have gone through the proverbial looking glass that there is now a concerted effort targeting people of faith.”
Laws preventing businesses from discriminating against LGBT people in public services or requiring them to offer full health care coverage for female employees, he implied, are as much as an infringement on religious liberty as forcing a rabbi to eat pork.
“Nobody in their right mind would force a Catholic priest to perform a Protestant wedding. Likewise, nobody in their right mind would force a Jewish rabbi to perform a Christian wedding or, for that matter, to violate kosher and go consume pork,” he said. “We have long had a tradition from the beginning of this country of respecting religious liberty and accommodating and respecting the good-faith religious views of our citizens.”
“And it is only the intolerance of the current day of the far-left that views with which they disagree — the far-left is such a radical proponent of gay marriage that anyone whose faith teaches to the contrary, anyone whose faith teaches that marriage is a sacrament of one man and one woman, a holy union before God, the far-left views that religious view as unacceptable and they’re trying to use the machinery of the law to crush those religious views. And I think it is wrong, I think it is intolerant, and I think it is entirely inconsistent with who we are as a people,” he added.
Right-wing megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress spoke at Liberty University's convocation this morning, where he told the student audience that America's complete collapse was unavoidable, thanks to Supreme Court rulings banning organized prayer and Bible study in public schools, legalizing abortion, and striking down bans of gay sex.
These rulings, Jeffress declared, have "so weakened the moral and spiritual infrastructure of our nation that our collapse is inevitable," explaining that the 9/11 terrorist attack was God's judgment upon America for the sin of abortion.
"All you have to do is look in history to see what God does with a nation that sanctions the killing of its own children," he said. "Just look at the nation of Israel ... Because they got involved in the worship of Moloch, the pagan god, and they sacrificed their children on the altar, what did God do? He raised up the godless Babylonians and Assyrians to bring judgement on his own people."
"People ask me all the time," Jeffress continued, "'Well, I just don't understand why God wouldn't protect our nation and he would allow these radical Muslims in 2001 to kill 3,000 of our citizens and why God doesn't protect us. Surely, God doesn't use pagans to bring judgment upon his own people, does he?'"
"Just read the Bible," he said. "God will not allow sin to go unpunished and he certainly won't allow the sacrifice of children to go unpunished":
Operation Save America, the radical anti-choice group that grew out of the original Operation Rescue, will be holding a multi-day event in Montgomery, Alabama, in June to express its support for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s activism against marriage equality and abortion rights.
OSA head Rusty Lee Thomas writes in a press release today that the event will bring together “hundreds of gentle Christians from across the nation” for a march drawing on “the historical lessons of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma.”
A description of the event on the group’s website boasts that “[f]or years, Operation Save America has stood faithfully with Chief Justice Roy Moore, a poet, warrior, statesmen [sic].” It specifically praises Moore’s work to develop a legal framework to support radical anti-choice “personhood” laws and his ongoing standoff with the federal courts over marriage equality.
We are praying for God to record His name in Montgomery and by His Spirit bid His people come to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to the gates of hell (Abortion mills in Alabama). They will not prevail against the Church of the living God (Matthew 16:18). They never have and they never will. Jesus is Lord!
For years, Operation Save America has stood faithfully with Chief Justice Roy Moore, a poet, warrior, statesmen. Through his many battles, we supported his righteous stands in the face of persecution and tyranny. Today, the Alabama Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Moore continues to stand against injustice and once again we are going to come alongside to help.
Moore, along with Justice Tom Parker, have rendered Decisions from the court that directly or indirectly have taken on Roe vs. Wade. Currently, Moore is acting faithfully as a Lower Magistrate to resist “Gay Marriage” in his state. He is taking another just stand and once again, we will stand with him.
Alabama is also working on establishing “Personhood” for the preborn child who is made in the image of God. Alabamians are willing to stand upon the self-evident truth established by God’s Word and we our coming to stand with them.
There are at least four death camps in Alabama still applying their grisly trade to murder babies made in the image of God. This evil defiles the land and invokes God’s judgments upon us. We are coming to stand in the gap and make up the hedge. We want to give God a reason to show mercy in the midst of the American holocaust.
It’s not surprising that Operation Save America, one of the most radical anti-choice groups in the country, would find ideological kinship with Justice Moore.
On Saturday, roughly 2,000 activists gathered at Faith Assembly, a megachurch in Orlando, for the Awakening, an annual “Prayer and Patriotism event” organized by the Christian Right legal group Liberty Counsel. The Awakening, which Liberty Counsel organizes under the auspices of an amalgam of Religious Right groups called the Freedom Federation, brings together activists from the evangelical Right with the GOP politicians who want their votes.
At this year's event, GOP politicians including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal (via video) and RNC faith director Chad Connelly shared a stage with far-right activists including "ex-gays," a phony ex-terrorist and at least two Religious Right leaders who insist that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality.
Here are five takeaways from a day with the core of the Religious Right.
1. Gay Marriage Will Send Christians To Jail
While some on the Right may be trying to shy away from the issue of marriage equality now that it could be on its way to a Supreme Court victory, the activists at the Awakening were not among them. Throughout the conference, marriage between gay and lesbian couples was portrayed as a demonic and existential threat to liberty, one that if allowed to proceed would end in Christianity being outlawed and Christians thrown in jail.
The Republican National Committee’s faith outreach director, Chad Connelly, who was moderating a panel on abortion rights, echoed the Religious Right’s rhetoric when he warned that LGBT rights activists are “coming for the church.”
Far-right pastor Rick Scarborough, who was sitting beside him, agreed that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, pastors will be forced to “participate in same-sex marriage ” or be thrown in jail. Liberty Counsel’s Harry Mihet, moderating a separate panel, issued a similar warning.
Scarborough repeated his warning when he told activists that a pro-equality Supreme Court ruling would outlaw anti-gay speech, thus undermining “the whole nature of America.”
Multiple speakers compared a potential Supreme Court decision on marriage equality to Dred Scott, the infamous pre-Civil War decision that barred African Americans from citizenship, declaring that it should be met with similar resistance.
2. Losing The Church on Gay Rights Issues
Although the Awakening took place in what appeared to be a generationally diverse, multiethnic church, the crowd at the conference was overwhelmingly older and white. Throughout the conference, speakers bemoaned the fact that the Religious Right was losing support among younger Christians for its political agenda, especially its opposition to LGBT rights.
Liberty University’s Rena Lindevaldsen told the audience at a breakout panel on “sexual rebellion” that when fellow conservative Christians ask her what the “big deal” is about LGBT rights, she responds “it’s a big deal because it’s a big deal to God.” Marriage equality, she told the enthusiastic audience, matters to God because it is “the heart of where Satan’s attacking”:
Evangelist Franklin Graham also lamented that “a lot of pastors have quit preaching against homosexuality” out of fear of offending people in their churches who might have gay relatives. He told the audience that “God will bless you and he’ll honor you” if you “don’t shut up” about gay rights and abortion:
This was a crowd that had not given up on discredited “ex-gay” therapy. An “ex-lesbian” activist, Janet Boynes, was given a main stage speaking slot and “ex-gay” activist Greg Quinlan earned a roaring round of applause from the audience at the “sexual rebellion” panel when he announced that he had been “out of homosexuality for 27 years.”
3. A Spiritual Battle Against Islam And Progressivism
Just as the crowd at the Awakening was upset that the conservative movement and the church have supposedly become less invested in fighting LGBT rights, they were also wary of any overtures between Christians and Muslims.
Graham declared that “Islam is a wicked system” and blasted Christians who say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Kamal Saleem, the self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist” whose personal story has never quite held up to scrutiny , also warned that churches are being “invaded by ‘Chrislam,’” lamenting that Americans are oblivious to the dangers of radical Islam: “We’re watching American Idol and they are doing jihad.” He also warned of what he called “jihad of the womb,” or Muslim immigrants giving birth in order to outnumber Christians.
What activists at the Awakening saw as a war against Islam was merely part of a larger “spiritual battle” between good and evil, God and Satan. In the panel discussion he led on LGBT rights, Matt Barber declared that there is an “Islamo-progressive axis of evil” with a “common enemy”: Christians.
Maine pastor Ken Graves repeated that theme when he declared that American Christians are fighting “militant Islam” and “militant homofascism” and secularists who want to establish a “secular humanist caliphate”:
4. Time Is Running Out On America, And It’s Up To The Church To Save It
Throughout the day, speakers warned that America is running out of time before it is lost forever, and that it is up to conservative Christians to get involved in politics to save the country.
Graham told the crowd that he is more politically outspoken than his father, Billy Graham, because America is in a more dire state of secularism. “When my father was born, the Ten Commandments were on the wall of every school in America. When my father was born, the teachers still led the class in the Lord’s Prayer. Our country is not that anymore,” he said, declaring that the 2016 election is the last chance for the Religious Right to save the country.
Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, delivered a similar message, warning that “we are heading down in a direction that, let’s be honest, no civilization has ever been able to recover from.” Conservative Christians, he declared, must reinvest themselves in politics in order, to among other things, put the Bible in public schools:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another likely GOP presidential hopeful, told the crowd that prayer was needed to bring about “spiritual revival” and change the political direction of the country: “If God’s people truly pray down a spiritual awakening, then the political landscape will change.”
“This country did not start because some people had some brilliant ideas, although they did. This country happened because God’s providence was the foundation of their brilliant ideas,” Huckabee said. “Because of his inspiration, this country has been sustained throughout all of its history because of God’s specific intervention in helping us to win battles we should never have one and in keeping us from losing battles we should have lost.”
5. The Religious Right And The GOP Still Need Each Other
One of the strangest moments of the day came when a George W. Bush impersonator walked onto the stage with Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver as he introduced Huckabee. Staver jokingly reassured the audience that it was not the former president’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has clashed with the Religious Right over gay rights issues. It seemed to be a spontaneous addition to the program, it was hard not to see it also as a reminder to the audience of the potential power of the evangelical vote.
Unlike the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which has become the flagship gathering of the GOP and the Religious Right, the Awakening tends to attract only true believers in the cause. This year, Santorum and Huckabee spoke, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a video message. Connelly, who heads the GOP’s outreach to evangelical voters, moderated a panel on abortion rights, but largely deflected difficult questions from the far-right crowd.
Connelly did not, however, shy away from right-wing conspiracy theories, responding to a question about the “culture of death” in end-of-life care by claiming that the Affordable Care Act’s mythical “death panels” are “a reality":
It was clear throughout the day that however wary the Religious Right and the GOP establishment may be of each other, they still need each other. Speakers like Graham urged conservative Christians to revive the powerful Religious Right pressure machine to win GOP politicians to their side, whether or not they agreed with their issues. Meanwhile, the presence of the GOP candidates and Connelly indicated that this is a voting bloc that is still important to the party, however extreme its priorities may be.
Easily the biggest round of applause at this weekend’s The Awakening conference in Orlando came when evangelist Franklin Graham walked on stage. Although the Religious Right event took place at a seemingly generationally and racially diverse megachurch, the attendees were largely older and white, and Graham — the son of evangelist royalty Billy Graham — represented a link to an era of a powerful, politically connected evangelical leaders.
Graham captured the spirit of the crowd when he railed against pastors and churches for giving up on condemning homosexuality and abortion for fear of offending congregants, telling the audience of activists that “God will bless you and he’ll honor you if you speak up and you tell the truth” about those issues.
“Let me tell you something. A lot of pastors have quit preaching against homosexuality. You know why? I’ll tell you why. Because they are afraid that there may be some man or woman in the congregation whose son or daughter is gay,” he said, lamenting that some pastors are tempted to “just shut up” about homosexuality.
“Don’t shut up, guys,” he said to wild applause. “You don’t shut up. If the people that are coming after you, ‘yak, yak, yak,’ and they want to run you out of church, then let them run you out of church. Go to another church, let them have that church. I’ll tell you what, God will bless you and he’ll honor you if you speak up and you tell the truth.”
He added that it was “the same with abortion”: "Don’t shut up. It’s a sin against God, okay? It’s murder.”
“Young people in the church today don’t know that homosexuality is wrong because pastors aren’t speaking up, but they go to school and teachers in the school tell them that it’s okay, that it’s all right, God made them that way, that’s the way they are and it’s a choice,” he warned.
Graham declared that there is a “spiritual battle” to be fought in government as well as the church.
“There’s a battle to fight,” he said. “And the battle, listen, it’s not against flesh and blood, all right? This is a spiritual battle. We’re fighting Satan and his demons and let me tell you something, they have got their way into government, they have got their way into every level of our government.”
After defeating communism, Graham said, “we just began to relax” as “secularism began to make its way into our government, into our churches.”
“There is no difference” between secularism and communism, he added, because “they’re both godless.”
He declared that Christians must run for office at every level of government in order to take back the country from this “godless system.”
As the GOP embraces the reactionary politics and anti-government zealotry of the Tea Party, it is steadily purging “moderates” and empowering extremists. Nothing shows this trend more clearly than the lineup of potential Republican presidential candidates. In this new series, we’ll be looking at the records and promises of the Republican Party’s leading presidential prospects. Next up is Rick Perry:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry quickly won support from conservative activists, especially from the Religious Right, when he made a late entry into the 2012 presidential election, unofficially launching his campaign with a prayer rally packed with Religious Right extremists. Perry came into the race midway through his third term as governor, armed with a record of right-wing economic policies; close ties to the oil industry and opposition to regulations on polluters; antagonism to the federal government; and hostility to LGBT equality and abortion rights. Portraying himself as a candidate to the right of Mitt Romney but more electable than the rest of the GOP field, Perry gained traction until his campaign self-destructed thanks to a series of horrific debate performances and unforced errors.
Perry, who has floated the idea of secession from the United States and signed constitutionally dubious legislation defending the right of states to nullify federal laws, wants to repeal the amendments to the U.S. Constitution allowing for a progressive income tax and requiring that U.S. senators are elected directly by voters.
Perry has played with the conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama’s birth, citing Donald Trump as his source of information on the legitimacy of the president’s citizenship and saying that the conspiracy theory surrounding the president’s birth certificate is “a good issue to keep alive.”
The Texas governor has also dabbled in other anti-Obama conspiracy theories, including alleging that the Obama administration orchestrated a humanitarian crisis on the southern border for political purposes. He made waves with his decision to send the National Guard to patrol the border against Central American children, a plan he unveiled while campaigning in Iowa.
While he will likely ground his candidacy in issues relating to immigration and the economy, Perry is also a social issues warrior. As governor, Perry championed Texas’ law criminalizing consensual sex between adults of the same gender, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case. He made anti-gay animus a central part of his presidential campaign, running a desperate TV ad attacking gay military service members. After his presidential campaign, Perry became an outspokenopponent of a policy change allowing gay youth to join the Boy Scouts, likening that fight to the fight to end slavery. Earlier this year, he defended his state party’s decision to endorse pseudo-scientific ex-gay therapy by comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.
As governor of Texas, Perry enacted some of the most sweeping anti-abortion rights laws in the country, even going so far as to call an emergency session of the state legislature to pass a bill to force the closure of most of the state’s abortion clinics, though a federal judge has temporarily blocked portions of the new restrictions. Perry mocked one of the bill’s principal opponents, state Sen. Wendy Davis, saying “it is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example” of being a teen mother.
Perry was recently indicted on charges that he abused his power as governor to defund an investigative unit that was looking into a project that he had championed. Despite his best effort to portray himself as the victim of a political witch hunt, a judge declined Perry’s attempt to have the indictments thrown out.
On today's "Faith and Freedom" radio program, Mat Staver and Matt Barber praised an anti-choice effort to outlaw a specific abortion procedure in Kansas by defining it as a "dismemberment abortion," with Barber declaring that anyone who supports reproductive choice is a "modern-day Nazi."
"There are very few things you can directly compare to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust," he said. "This is one of them. Modern-day pro-aborts, pro-abortionists who support this and other gruesome procedures are the modern-day equivalent — if they are doing it, they are the Nazis, and if they're supporting it, they're the equivalent of the German people who looked the other way, allowed it to happen, even rationalized it in their mind. This is as black and white, it is as cut and dry ... and they use the same tactics. They dehumanize these little people just like the Nazis dehumanized the Jews so that it would blunt the impact of what they're actually doing; murdering them, torturing them. Pro-aborts are modern-day Nazis":
Matt Barber joined Steve Deace on his radio program yesterday to discuss the actions of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who’s urging judges in his state to defy a federal judge and refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Barber told Deace that whether or not the United States Supreme Court has “the authority to redefine the institution of marriage, which cannot be done, it’s contrary to reality to say that it’s anything other than the male and female,” Moore is on “solid legal ground” in claiming that the Alabama Supreme Court takes precedence over the federal district court that issued the marriage ruling.
Deace asked Barber why the conservative movement was less willing to defy the federal courts during Judge Moore’s 2003 standoff over placing a Ten Commandments monument in his courthouse or after Roe v. Wade, “when the court said, ‘We’re going to start just massacring, dismembering little innocent babies.’”
Barber agreed that states should have simply ignored the court’s ruling in Roe: “Why, back when the courts issued their ridiculous, non-scientific ruling in Roe v. Wade, why didn’t states like Texas and other states say, ‘Okay, well thank you for your opinion, but nope, here in the state of Texas, you kill an unborn child, you’ve committed murder, we’re going to throw you in jail for it’?”
Later in the interview, Deace repeated his prediction that a sweeping marriage ruling would ignite an even greater culture war battle than Roe did.
Barber agreed, saying the “goal all along” of the “sin-based, sodomy-based marriage” movement has been to persecute Christians.
“Religious liberty and so-called gay marriage cannot coexist in harmony,” he said. “If the Supreme Court goes Roe v. Wade on this decision and divines a new-fangled right to sin-based, sodomy-based marriage, Christians will be being persecuted across the country. They will be told, ‘You either put your stamp of approval on sin or you will be pushed to the fringes and marginalized and you will not be able to carry a job or function in society.’ That’s been their goal all along anyway.”
Personhood USA, the group that has pushed fetal personhood measures in states including Colorado, Mississippi and North Dakota, told supporters in an email today that its next target will be South Carolina.
The group’s president, Keith Mason, boasted to supporters of the “victory” of a nonbinding resolution supporting a personhood amendment on last year’s Republican primary ballot in South Carolina. He did not specify if the group will be advocating for a state-level ballot initiative or a legislative approach, or both. A personhood amendment currently pending in the state legislature is sponsored by Lee Bright, who was a Tea Party-supported U.S. Senate candidate in 2014.
The recent failures of state-level personhood measures led former Personhood USA official Gualberto Garcia Jones to declare last year that the strategy was “dead for now.” Evidently, Mason disagrees.
Right now, Friend, we need your help to publicly launch our South Carolina initiative.
We've identified 250,000 pro-life voters in South Carolina that we want to activate to support personhood, and vote in upcoming primaries and elections.
This initiative follows on the heels of a personhood victory this summer, in which 79% of South Carolina GOP primary voters called for a personhood amendment to the state constitution. Right now, there's personhood legislation in the state legislature that needs our support!
South Carolina is a vital state in the lead up to 2016. We need to engage and activate the pro-life voters we've identified so that they turn out to support pro-life candidates!
In an interview on American Family Radio today, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman claimed that low-income women use abortions “like birth control pills” and compared abortions to “Obama phones,” the name given by a racist meme to a decades-old program that provides low-cost or free phone service to some people in poverty so they can access things like emergency services.
When AFR host Ed Vitagliano asked Newman why “abortions are three times more likely to be performed on a woman with Medicaid,” he responded, “It’s free.”
“These $400 abortions, when they’re free through Medicare [sic], women just go and get them and they use them like birth control pills,” he said, adding that if abortions were more expensive, women would go instead to a “Christ-centered pregnancy counseling center” that doesn't provide abortion as an option.
In fact, the Hyde Amendment currently bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Only 17 states use their own tax dollars to fund all or most “medically necessary” abortions for women who are enrolled in Medicaid.
“It’s just like anything else, when you hand out things for free, the system becomes overwhelmed,” he said. “Look at the Obamacare, all the people who are getting it are getting subsidized, the Obama phones, etc. So as soon as you start giving something out you’re going to get more of it.”
In an interviewlast month with Gary Cass on the “Defending a Christian Worldview” webcast, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman outlined his group’s strategy of targeting individual abortion providers in order to shut off “the supply side of the abortion industry,” thereby cutting off “the Enemy’s ability to make war on the children.”
“Let’s be honest, we’ve passed hundreds and hundreds of bills, possibly thousands of bills in all 50 states and on the federal level, and in the end we do not have an abolition to abortion,” he said.
He told Cass that his group’s local-level agitation is what really works in cutting off access to abortion.
“The other side is always talking about access. They don’t want to talk about choice any more, they never use the A-word — abortion — now their buzzword is ‘women’s health care’ or ‘access,’” Newman told Cass.
He depicted his fight as a battle against Satan, or “the Enemy”: “And because what we’re doing and have done over the past decade or so is destroy, literally destroy, the Enemy’s ability to make war on the children by taking out the supply side of the abortion industry.”