Supreme Court

Formerly Anti-Trump Catholic Adviser Says Trump's Court Promises Won Him Over

As we noted yesterday, conservative Catholic activist Joseph Cella, a member of Donald Trump’s new Catholic advisory committee and reportedly the new “chief liaison to the campaign for Catholic affairs,” joined other Catholic conservatives earlier this year in denouncing Trump as “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.”

Cella appeared on Ave Maria radio yesterday afternoon and told host Al Kresta that he is now “happily” supporting Trump. When Kresta asked what had changed since the “manifestly unfit” statement, Cella said he has had a “sincere change of heart and mind.” Trump, he said, had convened some Catholic leaders in June to “listen and learn.” He said Catholic voters are coalescing around Trump and predicted that trend will continue.

Cella praised Trump’s public commitment to nominating conservative Supreme Court justices in the mold of the “great Catholic jurist and thinker” Antonin Scalia. Clinton, he said, would do the opposite, and with the next president likely having the opportunity to fill three to five vacancies, “that alone will have far-reaching and long-lasting implications for the Catholic Church” on issues like religious liberty and health care.

Cella also mentioned Trump’s naming of Religious Right favorite Mike Pence to be his running mate and his “excellent” senior staff—he said the Trump campaign’s top three leaders are Catholic.  

Trump Gives Another Gift To Far Right With New Supreme Court List

According to news reports, Donald Trump is set to release today more names of individuals whom he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court if elected, a key part of his strategy to win over the Religious Right and the conservative establishment.

The new list includes Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who, as Peter noted earlier this year, is not only a staunch social conservative but also believes that large parts of the federal social safety net are unconstitutional:

Lee dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a women’s right to abortion . He called the court’s marriage equality ruling a “breathtaking presumption of power.” People For the American Way noted in a 2010 report that Lee “has denounced as ‘domestic enemies’ those who disagree with his radically limited view” of the Constitution.

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

Lee also has some ideas about how he’d like to change the Constitution. We wrote when Lee was running for Senate in the Tea Party wave of 2010:

He wants to eliminate capital gains taxes and make the current tax system more regressive – more reliant on lower income taxpayers – and says his favorite approach to taxation would actually be to repeal the 16th amendment altogether, strip the federal government of the power to tax income, and leave it to the states to determine how they would tax their own citizens to pay for the limited federal government that would be left.

He’s a constitutional lawyer who’d like to make lots of changes to the Constitution: he has said he supports repeal of the 17th Amendment, which calls for popular election of U S Senators; he wants to "clarify" the 14th Amendment through legislation to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are not citizens or legal residents; he wants to amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and to impose congressional term limits.

Other names on Trump’s expanded list are also sure to please those who are hoping to radically reshape American law.

The Trump campaign’s statement boasts that one potential pick, Michigan Chief Justice Robert Young, is part of a court majority that has “embraced originalism and led what one scholar described as a ‘textualism revolution.’” The article in question notes that much of the Michigan majority’s philosophy draws on the arguments of the late Justice Antonin Scalia (while differing with Scalia in some ways).

In 2007, Young wrote a majority opinion upholding Michigan’s voter ID law, writing that it was a “reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction designed to preserve the purity of elections and to prevent abuses of the electoral franchise."

The new list also includes Charles Canady, a Florida Supreme Court justice who served four terms as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s. In the House, Canady was the first to introduce the so-called ban on “partial-birth” abortion, a term that had been newly coined by anti-choice activists to stir up opposition to a specific abortion procedure and prompt a legal challenge to undermine Roe v. Wade.

Also on Trump’s list is Timothy Tymkovich, the chief judge of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, who wrote that court’s opinion in favor of Hobby Lobby’s attempt to cite religious objections to deny its employees health insurance coverage for contraception. That case later made it to the Supreme Court, resulting in a dramatic reinterpretation of the idea of religious liberty in America.

Trump’s new Supreme Court list is, like his original list released in May, clearly aimed at pacifying social conservatives who want assurance that his federal judges will uphold their policy priorities and by conservative legal groups intent on remaking American law.

People For the American Way Statement on Hillary Clinton’s Millennial Outreach

In response to Hillary Clinton’s speech at Temple University and her Mic.com piece reaching out to millennial voters, People For the American Way Press Secretary Laura Epstein released the following statement:

“During Hillary Clinton’s speech today, she outlined why she’ll be a strong advocate for millennials in the White House: She detailed her plans to make higher education more affordable, ensure women receive equal pay for equal work, and enact policies to support working families, like paid family leave and affordable child care. It’s Clinton’s stance on these issues, not Donald Trump’s campaign of racism and bigotry, that millennials will show up for at the ballot box. We’ll support Hillary Clinton because she embraces immigrants instead of pushing mass deportation, and she understands the importance of combatting racism, not enflaming it.

“And as Hillary Clinton has made clear, this election will dramatically affect our generation’s future because of the Supreme Court. While Trump has promised Supreme Court justices who’d overturn abortion rights and reject LGBT rights, Hillary Clinton will appoint justices who will protect fundamental Constitutional rights for all Americans, including protecting Americans’ right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections. The next President could nominate up to four Supreme Court justices, and that stark contrast between Clinton and Trump is a big reason why millennials will reject Trump’s campaign of hate and turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren Talks With PFAW Members About Judicial Nominations

Yesterday, Massachusetts senator and progressive hero Elizabeth Warren joined PFAW’s Michael Keegan and Marge Baker on a member telebriefing to discuss GOP senators’ unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominations at all levels, including their refusal to give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Sen. Warren noted on the call that Senate Republicans are now “setting new records for obstruction.” She suggested that they “might want to pull a copy of the Constitution out and take a look,” since the document is “crystal clear” about the Senate’s responsibility to confirm or reject the judges the president nominates. Instead, Warren said, GOP senators are trying to hold the Supreme Court seat open for a President Trump so that he can nominate judges who will bend the laws to suit their interests and the interests of their powerful friends.

Sen. Warren encouraged PFAW members and supporters to ask their senators why they won’t do their jobs and to keep up the pressure. “People For the American Way has done a fantastic job of putting pressure on Senate Republicans to give these judges timely consideration and an up-or-down vote,” she said. “This is a tough fight, but you don't get what you don't fight for.”

Marge Baker reviewed the work that PFAW is doing to make sure Republicans are held accountable at the ballot box on Election Day, including on-the-ground organizing targeting senators who have refused to do their jobs and PFAW’s massive Latinos Vote! campaign, designed to make sure Latino voters are ready to help deliver a progressive victory in November.

You can listen to a recording of the call here:

PFAW

Conservative Groups Urge Maximum Obstruction Of Hillary Clinton's Judicial Nominees

At a Values Voter Summit panel this weekend, top conservative legal groups promised that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, they will pressure GOP senators to obstruct her judicial nominees to the greatest extent possible, including attempting to prevent her from replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, Phillip Jauregui of the Judicial Action Group, and David Christensen and Mandi Ancalle of the Family Research Council discussed what they would urge the president and the Senate to do in the first 100 days of the next presidency. In the case of a Clinton presidency and a Republican-controlled Senate, they promised maximum obstruction of judicial nominees.

Severino, who once called Judge Merrick Garland “the best scenario we could hope for” in an Obama Supreme Court nominee and said that “of those the president could nominate, we could do a lot worse” than Garland, predictably changed her tune once Obama actually did nominate Garland to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. At the Values Voter Summit, Severino insisted that senators would “effectively nullify their oath to uphold the Constitution” by voting to confirm Garland.

“Say you’re in a state where there’s no chance on who’s going to win on the president’s side, it’s so important to remember how significant these senatorial races are, because the senators also had an oath to the Constitution,” she said. “They have to uphold and defend the Constitution. That means, when it comes to a vote for a nominee, so even if it is someone who is absolutely not going to uphold the Constitution as it is written, like Merrick Garland even, even if he does come to a vote—and I suspect that if he remains the nominee into the next presidency, he probably would come up for hearings and a vote at some point—our senators simply cannot be voting for someone that would effectively nullify their oath to uphold the Constitution. So I think we have to remember to remind our senators of that.”

Severino dismissed the idea of the Republican Senate confirming Garland in a lame duck session if Clinton wins the election, saying that if Clinton becomes president and renominates Garland or picks someone “more radical” for the court, GOP senators could stall proceedings and “maybe we'll have eight justices for awhile.” When asked how long she thought it would be realistic for a GOP senate to block a Clinton nominee to the court, she said, “I think the court could really function as long as it needed to with eight justices.”

She said that the “best case scenario” under a Clinton presidency would be if Clinton worked with Republicans in the Senate to pick a nominee who “did actually have a record of upholding the Constitution”; it’s unclear who she thinks such a nominee could be, since she previously called Garland the “best scenario” for a Democratic Supreme Court nominee.

Severino’s message that the Senate should obstruct just about any Hillary Clinton nominee contradicts the claims made by her group and others that they are merely blocking President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee because the decision on who to appoint to the Supreme Court should be left to the next president. (In the words of a Judicial Crisis Network ad: “This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about your voice. You choose the next president, the next president chooses the next justice.”)

The Judicial Action Group’s Jauregui impressed upon the activists in the room that they would also have to be prepared to “fight vigorously” on nominations to the lower federal courts under the next president, including closely monitoring a President Trump’s nominations. He praised the effort of Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to prevent President Obama’s filling of judicial vacancies in their home state by refusing to turn in “blue slips” giving the go-ahead for hearings on nominees, hinting at an obstruction strategy conservative groups might urge GOP senators to use under a Clinton presidency.

Jauregui urged the current Republican Senate to vow now to keep the current rules barring filibusters of lower-court judicial nominees if they stay in power, no matter who becomes president, saying it would be “foolish to say the best” to do otherwise.

Severino agreed that it would be “just as well” to see the judicial filibuster abolished for good after Senate Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option” in the face of entrenched GOP obstruction in 2013. She said that eliminating the filibuster on judicial nominees would probably help conservatives in the long run.

“If you’re not using a weapon, you might as well not have it anyway,” she said. “So now I say, move on, I think we’re living in a world, unfortunately, a post-nuclear world where 51 votes is all you need for a nominee, and that in the long term may actually help in terms of getting some of these constitutionally sound judges on the court.”

Trump: Scalia Will Be 'The Ultimate Example' Of My Supreme Court Picks

In a speech today to the Values Voter Summit, Donald Trump reiterated his promise to give the Religious Right the Supreme Court of their dreams while warning that if Hillary Clinton appoints new justices to the bench, “you have a country that is no longer your country, it will be a disaster.”

“Maybe we use Judge Scalia as the ultimate example of what we’re looking for, okay?” Trump continued.

Trump has often pointed to his commitment to put Scalia clones on the court as a way to shore up support from Religious Right activists.

“This will determine whether or not we remain a constitutional republic,” he said. “Frankly, that’s what’s going to happen. I have pledged to appoint judges who will uphold the constitution, to protect your religious liberty and to apply the law as written. We reject judges who rewrite the constitution to impose their own personal views on 300-million-plus Americans, not gonna have that.” (Ironically, Trump once said that as president he would order the military to follow his personal views rather than the law).

Clinton’s “extremist judges,” he said, “would allow her to completely take over the American health care, the American economy, the Americans’ religious liberty, not to mention your Second Amendment, which is on very thin ice right now, as you know, because of the fact that we’re at 4-4. If they even pick one judge who’s wrong, you can kiss the Second Amendment goodbye.”

Edit Memo: The Disastrous Consequences of a Trump Supreme Court

Trump has vowed to nominate right-wing Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. So what would a Trump Supreme Court actually mean for Americans’ rights and liberties?

Senate GOP Holding Dozens Of Federal Court Seats For Trump

It’s well known that the Senate GOP has been stalling President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland for months in the hope that Donald Trump will win the presidential election and eventually fill the vacant Supreme Court seat. This dynamic is playing out in the lower federal courts as well, as Senate Republicans stall confirmation proceedings in an apparent effort to leave as many vacancies as possible for a potential President Trump to fill.

People for the American Way’s Paul Gordon has crunched the numbers and reports in a memo today that by stalling district and appeals court nominations, Senate Republicans are leaving far more lower court vacancies at the end of President Obama’s term in office than Democrats did at the end of President Bush’s.

Gordon reports that there are 87 current circuit and district vacancies in the federal courts today, more than double the number that there were at the beginning of the year. Contrast that with the number of vacancies during the final two years of Bush’s presidency:

Gordon notes that these vacancies do not exist because of a lack of nominees:

Now, in September of 2016, Republicans have an opportunity and a responsibility to fill dozens of vacancies. In addition to Merrick Garland, there are 29 circuit and district court nominees still bottled up in the Judiciary Committee. Only six of them have even had hearings, let alone a committee vote; two of the nominees (both from Pennsylvania) had their committee hearings last year, but Grassley still has not brought them up for a vote.

In addition, there are 20 circuit and district court nominees who have been vetted and approved by Judiciary Committee and who could — and should — have confirmation votes as soon as the Senate returns to Washington. More than a third of these have been pending on the floor for more than six months, including four who advanced from committee back in 2015.

The fact that the Senate GOP is deliberately slow-walking President Obama’s nominees in the final year of his term in office is an open secret. A top anti-abortion lobbyist said this summer that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have “moved with very deliberate speed on those nominations and it's safe to predict that there will be quite a number of vacant seats on the federal courts, including that Supreme Court vacancy, when the election rolls around.”

"There certainly would be a lot more Obama-nominated federal judges if the Senate had remained in Democrat hands," he added.

Trump Cozying Up To Activists Who've Supported Criminalizing Homosexuality

Donald Trump is scheduled to speak this week at the Values Voter Summit, the annual confab hosted by the Religious Right powerhouse the Family Research Council. While Trump has claimed that he will be a better “friend of LGBT Americans” than Hillary Clinton (just “ask the gays”), his appearance at VVS shows the extent to which he has cozied up with some of the country’s fiercest opponents of LGBT equality, going so far as to offer them their pick of Supreme Court justices.

Many of the summit’s organizers and speakers have a long history of anti-LGBT rhetoric and promoting anti-LGBT policies, from denigrating gay and lesbian armed service members to falsely linking homosexuality with pedophilia. In fact, a glaring number of VVS participants have defended laws criminalizing homosexuality in the U.S. and around the globe.

While the Religious Right has changed its messaging in recent years to claim that conservative Christians in the U.S. are facing persecution from LGBT rights activists, it was not long ago that many of the same groups were fighting to preserve laws that made gay people criminals—and some still support enacting these policies at home and abroad.

The Family Research Council, which is the chief organizer of the conference, is a case in point. In 2003, when the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of Texas’ ban on “sodomy” in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, the FRC filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state. When the court ruled against Texas in the case, the FRC called it “a direct attack on the sanctity of marriage” and the group’s president, Tony Perkins, declared, “What’s at stake here is the very foundation of our society, not only of America but all Western civilization.”

Not only has Perkins defended state laws criminalizing same-sex relations, he once defended a notorious anti-gay bill in Uganda that at the time he discussed it proposed life in prison or even the death penalty for people who have sex with someone of the same sex. Perkins lauded this bill as an effort to “uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable,” criticizing President Obama for opposing it. The FRC even spent $25,000 to lobby Congress about a resolution denouncing the Ugandan bill—the group later claimed that it didn’t oppose the resolution, it just wanted to make its language less friendly to gay rights. In 2011, FRC asked its members to pray to give Malawi the “courage to withstand U.S. coercion” and maintain its ban on homosexuality.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the FRC who will have a speaking slot at this weekend’s summit, has perhaps been the most clear about the organization’s views on the subject. Asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in 2010 if he thinks “we should outlaw gay behavior,” Sprigg replied, “Yes.” In a 2008 television interview, Sprigg mused, “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society.”

The American Family Association, another sponsor of the Values Voter Summit, likewise backed Texas in the Lawrence case, writing in the amicus brief that a law like Texas' could prevent the “injury caused to the public by same-sex sodomy” and would even protect the gay people it targeted by sparing them “illness, disease and death resulting from [their] conduct.” That same year, the AFA published an essay lamenting that the disappearance of sodomy laws showed that “Judeo-Christian views” were being abandoned in favor of “moral relativism.” In 2011, then-AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer said that homosexuality should be a “criminal offense.”

First Liberty, another sponsor of the event, likewise backed Texas in the Lawrence case (under its previous incarnation as the Liberty Legal Institute), with the group’s leader Kelly Shackelford—also a speaker at this year’s VVS—declaring that there is “no constitutional right to engage in homosexual sodomy.”

Other figures at the Values Voter Summit have also supported criminal bans on homosexuality.

Rick Santorum, who will have a speaking slot, has boasted of his opposition to the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision. Family Watch International, which is sponsoring a booth at the event, frequently works with some of the world’s most repressive governments to keep LGBT-friendly language out of UN documents and has supported harsh anti-gay legislation in Nigeria. Liberty Counsel, which will also be sponsoring a booth in the summit’s exhibit hall, backed Texas in the Lawrence case and defended a homosexuality ban in Malawi. Radical anti-LGBT activist Matt Barber said on a Liberty Counsel radio program he co-hosts that the U.S. should adopt a ban on “homosexual activist propaganda” similar to Russia’s. Fischer, the former AFA spokesman, also advocated enacting a similar law in the U.S.

Many Religious Right leaders have rallied behind Trump because he has promised to give them their ideal Supreme Court justices and lower court judges. Very recent history shows that these groups aren’t just interested in using the courts to reverse marriage equality—which would be harmful enough on its own—but also to severely roll back years of hard-won legal protections for LGBT people. Trump says that he’d be better for the LGBT community than Hillary Clinton—but we doubt that he’ll bring that message to the Values Voter Summit.

PFAW and Granite State Progress Bring the "Supreme Court" to Sen. Ayotte

In light of Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s continued refusal to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, members of People For the American Way and Granite State Progress donned Supreme Court justice robes Wednesday in front of her Nashua office to demonstrate that Granite Staters will be watching the Supreme Court vacancy when she returns to DC from Congressional recess. Members of both groups also brought a symbolic empty chair and a sign reading “fill this seat.”

scotus justice protest

“We’re bringing the Supreme Court to Sen. Ayotte today, since she’s tried so hard to ignore it,” said Linds Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way,  “Obstruction that results in leaving the seat open for Trump to fill is neither independent nor bipartisan, as she likes to call herself, and she’s ignoring the majority of her constituents who understand filling this vacancy is crucial in bringing forth justice for millions of people.”

scotus justice protest

Ayotte has remained in lockstep with her party leadership on this vacancy, forcing the highly qualified Merrick Garland to wait more days than any nominee in history. Recently Ayotte called Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist a “good start,” apparently ignoring the many extreme rulings from these judges. One judge on Trump’s shortlist, Steven Colloton, said that a woman who reports sexual harassment cannot take legal action if her employer retaliates by firing her.

scotus justice protest

Participating activists took photo petitions amplifying this message -- Margaret and Rocco Femia and Carol and Karl Stamm called out Ayotte’s hypocrisy and so-called independence, while Marcel ‘Dusty’ Liberge and Steven Goldstein focused on the lack of justice from an 8-member court.

PFAW

Video: Chuck Grassley Just Doesn’t Think The Confirmation Process Is That Important  

It is common for members of the Senate to cite the process of confirming Supreme Court justices as one of their most important responsibilities. These judges receive lifetime appointments and their impact on the law lasts for decades. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s continued obstruction of Merrick Garland’s confirmation, though, reveals his lack of respect for his constitutionally mandated responsibility.

Previously, Grassley explicitly spelled out his belief that the confirmation process should not be taken as seriously as other functions of the Senate, such as yearly squabbling over budgets and appropriations.

In 1991, during the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas, he explained, “Some have stated that the Senate’s advice and consent role in the elevation of Supreme Court justices, of any Supreme Court justice, for that matter, is the most important power that we in the Senate here exercise.” Grassley continued, “Now, I don't happen to share that view, as important as I take my responsibilities today and through this process, because I happen to feel that confronting the issue of war—as we did only last January, and attempting to bring government spending under control are among the more significant responsibilities that we have.”

“And, of course, I think the Constitution doesn't elevate the confirmation process quite this high. The Constitution shows this because the ‘advise and consent’ role is spelled out in Chapter 2 with executive powers, and not with the legislative powers in Article 1. So I think the Constitution itself indicates it is not a preeminent legislative power,” Grassley concluded.

If the chairman of the Judiciary Committee does not recognize that vetting and voting on the confirmation of Supreme Court justices is one of his greatest responsibilities, perhaps he should relinquish his gavel to someone who does.

Kevin Swanson: 'It's Amazing That God Has Not Judged America' For Gay Rights & Legal Abortion

Kevin Swanson, the Colorado pastor and homeschooling activist who last year hosted three GOP presidential candidates at a conference in Iowa, hosted an event near Cincinnati over the weekend to help families prepare their children to avoid cultural pitfalls and be prepared to enter the metaphorical Noah’s ark of Christianity. Among the speakers were Ken Ham, the Creationist activist who just completed a life-sized replica of Noah’s ark near the site of the conference, and GOP favorites David, Jason and Flip Benham.

Swanson started things off by impressing upon attendees the need to prepare their children to fend off and avoid God’s wrath by declaring that it’s “amazing that God has not judged America” already for gay rights and legal abortion.

“It’s amazing that God has not judged America in 1973,” he said, “hard to believe that God didn’t judge America in 2001 [sic] with the Lawrence v. Texas decision, it’s hard to believe that God didn’t judge America with Obergefell.”

“It is amazing that God has not brought judgment upon this world shortly after [the Obergefell decision] happened in July [sic ]of 2015 or in August of 2015 or even in September of 2015 or maybe even October,” he added.

“So be assured, my friends,” Swanson said, “judgment is coming. I have no idea when it will come. Will it be 120 years from 1900? Will it be 120 years from 1890? Will it be 120 years from 1973, Roe v. Wade, the decision to eliminate hundreds of millions of babies in America and of course all around the world, same thing has happened since the 1960s? Will it be 120 years from 2015, the day on which the most powerful court in the world ruled against God’s institution of marriage in one of the most radical, arrogant insults against Almighty God? When will God’s judgment come? I have no idea, but I will tell you, it will come.”

(It took Noah 120 years to build his ark before the Flood came, thus the 120-year delay in judgment that Swanson is suggesting.)

Marco Rubio: Vote For Donald Trump To Have More Scalia-like Justices On The Supreme Court

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio may stand by his belief that Donald Trump is a dishonest “con man,” but in an interview last week with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said that pastors should support Trump anyway, noting that “Donald Trump is committed” to appointing Supreme Court justices in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia.

“I just don’t believe there’s any chance at all that Hillary Clinton will ever appoint someone to the Supreme Court with the views that Scalia had,” he added.

Happy Birthday, Phyllis Schlafly!

Today is the 92nd birthday of Phyllis Schlafly, the godmother of the right-wing movement in America. Schlafly broke onto the national scene with “A Choice Not an Echo,” her 1964 book making the case for Barry Goldwater, and she solidified her leadership with her successful campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment. Decades later, she helped rally right-wing opposition to President Obama, hosting a “How To Take Back America” conference during his first year in office. She’s still hard at work, leading Eagle Forum and publishing her Phyllis Schlafly Report newsletter, whose June issue argued for putting Trump’s wall—“and yes, Mexico will pay”—in this year’s Republican platform. Mission accomplished.

It hasn’t been the happiest year for Schlafly, who has been embroiled in a power struggle with a group of Eagle Forum board members, including her own daughter. She also lost a trademark lawsuit against her nephew, who makes Schlafly beer.

On the other hand, Schlafly was an early and ardent backer of Donald Trump, standing up for him in the primaries against many of her Religious Right allies and Eagle Forum colleagues. At this year’s Republican National Convention, Schlafly hosted a “Life of the Party” event celebrating that the GOP has been officially anti-abortion since 1976; she told attendees that she endorsed Trump after he pledged loyalty to a pro-life platform. Party attendees were given copies of the most recent of her more than two dozen books, “How the Republican Party Became Pro-Life.” It’s a short paperback that feels as if it was thrown together after having Schlafly tell war stories about her GOP platform battles over the years.

Schlafly spends most of the book recounting stories of pro-life activists’ efforts to strengthen and protect anti-abortion language at every Republican convention since 1976. It includes the successful resistance led by Schlafly, Ralph Reed, Bay Buchanan and Gary Bauer to Bob Dole’s efforts to soften the anti-abortion language in 1996. (I was in San Diego with a People For the American Way team covering that convention; Reed was gleeful about demonstrating his power to humiliate Dole, which may well have contributed to his November defeat.)

After the quick march through convention history, Schlafly moves into a denunciation of “judicial supremacy,” calling on Republicans to repudiate the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. She also calls for nullification of 2015’s marriage equality ruling:

When supremacist judges presume to rewrite portions of our law, most especially if it is a law that we have had for millennia such as our law defining marriage, it’s time for the American people to speak up and say “No” just as Abe Lincoln did when supremacist judges ruled that blacks could be considered another man’s “property.” … All Americans must use every tool in the political process to reject judicial supremacy and return to government by “we the people.”

The book includes a short afterword by Kristan Hawkins, presidents of Students for Life, who calls Schlafly “a great American hero” and celebrates that, thanks to Schlafly and “her army,” there is today “no national Republican candidate who dares be anything other than pro-life!” The final 70 pages of the book, more than half its total length, is devoted to an appendix of anti-abortion and anti-marriage-equality references in Republican platforms and resolutions and excerpts from the 2012 platform.

Earlier this year, Schlafly urged Republican senators to hold firm in refusing to consider a Supreme Court nominee “until we have a Republican who will appoint somebody of the nature of Scalia,” telling her interviewer that the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency made her “scared to death.” Republican senators have done as she asked, and Schlafly got her wish in Cleveland with a solidly right-wing platform and the nomination of Donald Trump. But given what current polls suggest that November will bring, she may want to do her celebrating now.

 

PFAW Members Catch Up to Kelly Ayotte in Manchester 5K to Ask if She Trusts Donald Trump to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

kelly ayotte

Yesterday, at the Cigna/Elliot 5K Road race in downtown Manchester, Sen. Kelly Ayotte revealed a level of trust in Donald Trump’s ability to choose a qualified Supreme Court justice when questioned by a Manchester voter.

Watch her response:

Ayotte, who has repeatedly ignored the vast majority of Granite Staters who want her to do her constitutional duty and support moving forward with hearings and a vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, seemed unconcerned with the particulars of Trump’s judgement regarding the next Supreme Court justice, but said she’d looked at the list and thinks it’s a “good start.”

PFAW

NOM To Its Supporters: You're Pathetic

The latest fundraising email from the National Organization for Marriage is not a happy one; it starts with a graphic of the U.S. Capitol and the text, “This is pathetic.”

 The chastising letter from NOM President Brian Brown complains:

NOM began our critical Summer Membership Drive on July 22nd. We're now three weeks into our drive — the halfway point — and we have only received 256 contributions from our members. We're only 17% toward our goal of receiving 1,500 membership contributions of at least $35.

That is pathetic.

Brown goes on to complain that with only a 17 percent participation rate, NOM can’t convince courts to uphold anti-gay “religious liberty” laws, fight President Obama’s “dangerous gender ‘identity’ agenda,” or “lobby the next President and the US Senate to only appoint and confirm Supreme Court justices who will reverse the illegitimate and anti-constitutional ruling redefining marriage.”

Brown, who recently gloated about NOM’s role in defeating a Missouri Republican state legislator who had voted against a constitutional amendment protecting anti-LGBT discrimination, fumed that unless his supporters start forking over cash, “It means that gutless, turncoat legislators who have betrayed marriage with their votes may get away with their treachery.”

Brown just doesn’t understand—he can’t imagine!why people would be unenthusiastic about continuing to support NOM's anti-gay activism:

I really don't believe — I just can't imagine the thought — that NOM's members have quit fighting for the institution of marriage as a union between man and woman. And yet, only 256 of you have responded with an urgently needed membership contribution during this critical period.

I'm going to be blunt: we need 1,500 people to step up with a membership contribution of at least $35 in order to raise the $52,500 we're short so far this year. Without that type of response, we'll have no choice but to lay people off, cut programs and stop pursuing some of our most important work.

Regardless of what kind of response NOM’s shaming email brings in, Brown will have plenty of anti-equality work to keep him busy, as he recently became president of the World Congress of Families, a network of organizations dedicated to resisting LGBT equality and preserving anti-gay discrimination around the world. 

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on the Supreme Court and 2016

Even as GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump hits new lows in his campaign—from attacking Gold Star parents to suggesting gun violence as a way to stop Hillary Clinton—Republican senators continue to hold open the vacant Supreme Court seat for Trump to fill.

Yesterday People For the American Way held a telebriefing for members and supporters about the critical role the Supreme Court plays in 2016 and beyond, and how progressive activists can hold GOP senators accountable for their unconscionable blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. PFAW’s Marge Baker, Drew Courtney, and Elliot Mincberg were joined by Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen to discuss how to make the Supreme Court a winning issue in the election.

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

PFAW

Pennsylvania Elected Officials Denounce Trump Over Khan Comments, Call On Toomey to Reject Trump

During a press call today, Pennsylvania elected officials denounced Donald Trump for his attacks on the Khan family following their appearance at the DNC. Speakers also called on Sen. Pat Toomey to pledge to vote against Trump given his disgraceful attack on the fallen soldier’s family and Trump’s clear history of bigotry and xenophobia throughout the campaign.

Key statements from today’s call:

Matt Stehman, Royersford Borough Councilman:

“As a former United States Marine in addition to serving as a City Councilman, as someone who has lost friends in war, someone who has seen friends struggle with coming home from war, I take Donald Trump’s latest attacks deeply personally. His attacks on the Khan family are an attack on all veterans and military families. It’s an attack on their sacrifice and on the values that our military has instilled in generations of Americans. No one who shows that disrespect to military families should be our commander-in-chief. I know that, Pennsylvanians know that, and Pat Toomey should know it too.”

Kate Abel, Dormont Borough Councilwoman:

“Donald Trump’s comments attacking the Khan family were unconscionable—but they shouldn’t be surprising. Trump has made clear that he doesn’t value the contributions of Muslim Americans—the same way he’s dismissed the contributions of Mexican Americans, of immigrants, of women and of so many other groups. People in Pennsylvania and around the country have real concerns and face real challenges, but instead of proposing solutions, Trump has just pointed to scapegoats and enflamed racial resentment. That’s why Pat Toomey’s tepid criticism of Donald Trump isn’t enough. He needs to make clear that someone who has displayed this record of bigotry and prejudice has no place in the White House.”

Shamaine Daniels, Harrisburg City Councilwoman:

“This week, Donald Trump called Harrisburg, Pennsylvania ‘a war zone.’ He decided to disparage it because he glanced out the window of his airplane. So my question is: where is Pat Toomey’s line? Apparently, he’s willing to let Donald Trump disparage the people of Harrisburg and Pennsylvania. Apparently, he’s willing to let Donald Trump attack and smear the parents of a soldier who gave his life for his country. Apparently he’s willing to let Donald Trump attack immigrants and Muslims and women.

“What will it take for Pat Toomey to say enough is enough? What will it take for Pat Toomey to stop holding a Supreme Court seat for Donald Trump to fill? If Pat Toomey won’t stand up against these attacks now, what would he do if Donald Trump were to become President?  We don’t need someone who gets pushed around by bullies. I don’t think we need Pat Toomey.”

Marita Garrett, Wilkinsburg Borough Councilwoman:

“Donald Trump has shown that he can’t respond to criticism with anything but arrogance and rage. Even putting everything else aside, no one with this little self-control should be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office. Pat Toomey should recognize that fact. But instead he continues to put his party ahead of his country. Pat Toomey needs to stop playing politics and say loud and clear that Donald Trump doesn’t have the temperament to be President. He doesn’t have the temperament to appoint our next Supreme Court Justice. He doesn’t have the temperament to have his finger on the button.”

For more information or follow-up interviews, please email lepstein@pfaw.org.

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Oak Initiative Wonders If Satan Is Behind The 'Never Trump' Movement

The latest missive, or “Oak Leaf,” from the dominionist Oak Initiative is a scolding “Message to the Never Trump Voters!” from Rick Warzywak, head of Transformation Michigan and state co-director of the Michigan Oak Initiative. Warzywak chastises, “If even the Supreme Court was the only issue to vote for him that should be enough — the  future of your children and grandchildren are at stake. He has given us his pro-life constitutional sound [sic] nominations!”

The Michigan Oak Initiative sponsored a three-day event in June with the theme “America Hanging in the Balance  Election 2016,” which featured the Family Research Council’s Jerry Boykin, a founding board member of the Oak Initiative, as the keynoter.

Warzywak, who identifies himself as a supporter of Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, peppers Never Trump conservatives with a long, long series of questions, among them:

What has Donald Trump personally done to you to not vote for him? Have you picked up an offense from someone? Why are you so critical of this man? … Do you consider him your enemy? Do you believe he hates you; has he cursed you; has he spitefully used you; do you have bitterness in your heart toward him? How should one respond if you are a Christian conservative?

Warzywak uses these questions as set-ups for Bible verses about loving your enemies and forgiving those who have done you wrong. (Of course, Donald Trump’s personal theology is a little different, as he told Liberty University students in 2012: If someone does you wrong, you’ve got to “get even!”)

Warzywak warns, “Accusations, slander, and criticism is what nurtures division, especially in the body of Christ,” and suggests that Never Trump conservatives may be being led astray by Satan: “As a Christian have you ever considered that the enemy of our souls may be deceiving and using those who have hardened their hearts against Trump?”

He never explains why all these same questions might be asked about people who have hardened their hearts against Hillary Clinton, whose Christian faith is well-known, which is also the case with running mate Tim Kaine. Warzywak does say he will continue to pray that Hillary Clinton’s “eyes would be opened,” though he says she and President Obama “have chosen to harden their hearts it appears.”  But he has more hope for Trump, who may be “a babe in Christ.” Writes Warzywak, “With Donald Trump I can see a veil being lifted and his eyes being opened. If we diligently pray for him and stop the accusations, the Scripture below will manifest because he is open to a biblical worldview paradigm.”

Warzywak has more than a few questions for those who say they will vote their conscience:

1.    Does my conscience stand for a conservative pro-life U.S. constitutionally-based Supreme Court (Trump gave us a list of pro-life constitutionally sound judges that he would nominate)?

2.    Does my conscience allow a candidate to take office who would most assuredly nominate liberal judges that would impact my children and grandchildren’s lives for the next forty years (look at Trump’s nominations)?

3.    Does my conscience agree with restoring the rule of law and order in our nation (Trump will restore that)?

4.    Does my conscience agree with protecting Christian liberties, our freedom of speech, and eliminating the 501(c)3 tax status so pastors could speak freely (Trump said he would do all of these)?

5.    Does my conscience realize that our present open borders is allowing in gang cartels, ISIS, and Muslim extremists that endanger all American lives, including my own family possibly (Trump understands)?

6.    Does my conscience allow NO vetting of refugees from nations who are predominantly Muslim (Trump will vet and stop this illegal immigration—Hillary will not and increase immigration)?

7.    Does my conscience see radical Islam as a threat and realize it must be addressed? (According to Ret. Lt. General Jerry Boykin a Cruz campaigner said we must vote for Trump and has Generals advising Trump.)

8.    Does my conscience see the plight of people in our inner cities and jobs needed to bring hope back to all minority groups (policies of last eight years have failed)?

9.    Does my conscience support police, our military, and border agents who need our help and they overwhelmingly support Donald Trump?

10.   Does my conscience realize that Common Core in our educational system is detrimental to our children (Trump would eliminate)?

11.   Does my conscience see that Obamacare is destroying our health care system in America (Trump will repeal and reinvent new strategy)?

12.   Does my conscience see a need to preserve our second amendment as it was designed to stop oppressive government (Trump said he would protect—endorsed by NRA)?

13.   Does my conscience favor Socialism/Globalism or freedom (Hillary is a pure progressive socialist and globalist)?

14.   Does my conscience value having a Christian on the Presidential ticket and Christians advising the President (Pence and a Christian advisory team has been assembled)? Hmmmmmmmmmmm

15.   Does my conscience allow me to judge another person’s heart (Trump) when the Bible says only God looks at the motive and intents of the heart?

Warzywak is a close associate of Lou Engle and organized one of Engle’s “The Call” rallies in Detroit in 2011 to target the Muslim population in nearby Dearborn and the rest of the state. Warzywak is “Prayer Strategy Coordinator” for one of Engle’s projects, the “Moravian Night Watch.” The project recruits teams of people around the country to sign up for time slots between midnight and 6:00 a.m. when they will gather by conference call to pray for a Great Awakening and divine intervention for the nation.

A website about the project’s statement of purpose praises the International House of Prayer movement for promoting a global prayer movement around “the bridal paradigm” emphasizing “lovesick adoration for Jesus” and “the surrendered posture of the heart to God’s love as such” — which the Moravian Night Watch website calls “primarily a feminine mode of prayer.” That needs to be balanced, they say, with a more “aggressive” and “masculine” form of “contending” prayer:

Other dimensions of prayer are also vital, including more masculine expressions that wield the authority of Christ for the sake of war against dark powers, bringing transformation to society by breaking through in heavenly dimensions…Contending prayer is focused and aggressive. It realizes there is a mission and mandate to prayer, conflict to overcome, battles to engage, and victory to secure. This is done in a spirit of humility (not elitism!) and submission (not fleshly domination!) to advance the kingdom of God on earth.

Steve Crampton: US Risks Becoming 'Slave Nation' Because Of Marriage Equality Ruling, 'Religious Freedom' Attacks

Steve Crampton, a Religious Right activist who is running for a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court , said last month that the U.S. is at risk of becoming a “slave nation” if attacks on “religious freedom” and the “rule of law” continue. He in particular praised the Alabama Supreme Court’s resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down gay marriage bans.

Crampton told Cleveland Right to Life’s Molly Smith that the federal government is “running roughshod over states and their rights” and that “it’s essential, if we’re going to preserve our liberties as our founders intended, that states reassert themselves.”

“One of the seminal issues, I believe, in our day, in our state of Mississippi as elsewhere, is how far does the federal government go constitutionally in basically ordering the states around,” he said. “And I think the big example that we have, maybe the most glaring one nationally right now, is what’s going on in Alabama, where the state Supreme Court has issued very fine opinions and very studied analyses of the issue of same-sex marriage and whether the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell opinion is actually binding on a state that was not a party to that lawsuit and that had, as Mississippi has, its own state marriage amendment that unequivocally protects marriage as between one man and one woman.”

“So, long and short of it is,” he continued, “all of our freedoms, I think, today are grave risk, in particular religious freedom. I believe it is under attack as never before in our nation’s history. And because religious freedom is the first freedom, it’s foundational, if it goes, everything goes. So it’s a time when either we stand up or we shut up and become almost a slave nation. Because the rule of law is at grave risk.”

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