Seven Republican presidential candidates will be travelling to Iowa today to take part in a “presidential family forum” hosted by The Family Leader, a social conservative group led by activist Bob Vander Plaats, who is seen as a kingmaker in the Iowa caucus.
Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum will all be speaking at the forum, at which the candidates are arranged family-style around a Thanksgiving table. (At the 2011 forum, Michele Bachmann memorably took it upon herself to serve water to all of the male candidates.)
The endorsement of Vander Plaats, whose backing helped catapult Huckabee and Santorum to Iowa caucus victories in 2008 and 2012, is one of the most coveted in the state. While most observers think that Cruz will nab Vander Plaats’ endorsement, the activist is keeping his options open. Vander Plaats told a reporter that although Donald Trump was unable to make tonight’s forum, he told him, “If you can guarantee me your endorsement, I will turn the plane around and get there.”
As Vander Plaats’ previous endorsements of Huckabee and Santorum show, he has a powerful machine ready to push an ideologically pure social conservative. Back in 2010, Vander Plaats also led a successful effort to remove three Iowa Supreme Court judges who participated in the court’s landmark unanimous marriage equality decision.
But to get that endorsement, candidates must cater to an activist far the right of mainstream voters. Not only does Vander Plaats want to remove from office or defund the courts of judges who find in favor of marriage equality, he believes that anything, like gay marriage, that “goes against the law of nature” is by definition unconstitutional . He argues that the government is an institution of God and therefor its purpose is “to promote righteousness” and to apply “God’s principles and precepts.” He once warned that God might withdraw his blessing from America because of a Wiccan prayer at the Iowa state capitol.
Vander Plaats has suggested that marriage equality could lead to legal protections for pedophilia and “ a parent marrying their child” and compared the “public health risk” of homosexuality to second-hand smoke. He has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “decisive leadership” in preventing “homosexual propaganda” in his country.
Taking its anti-gay sentiment to a new level, The Family Leader was a sponsor of a conference earlier this month — at which Cruz, Huckabee and then-candidate Bobby Jindal spoke — whose organizer, Kevin Swanson, called for the death penalty for gay people and warned that God would judge America for liking the Harry Potter series too much. (The group later clarified that it does not support violence against gay people but declined to denounce Swanson.)
Speaking at an event last year, Vander Plaats played a video showing a gay pride event alongside the Boston Marathon bombing and mass shootings as illustrations of the “darkness” that has fallen over America:
Vander Plaats had also dabbled in birther conspiracy theories, implying in 2011 that the president’s birth certificate was missing and praising Trump for his “bold” crusade to uncover the truth about the president’s past.
A couple of weeks ago, we reported extensively on a conference in Iowa organized by extremist pastor Kevin Swanson, at which three Republican presidential candidates joined Swanson on stage shortly before he went off on a series of rants about how the biblical punishment for homosexuality is death, Harry Potter is bringing God’s judgment on America, and how if your gay child gets married you should show up to the wedding covered in cow manure.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow ran a segment on the conference, but other than that, as a number of commentators have noted, the media has been strangely silent on the Republican candidates’ participation in this event.
Today, Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu reports that she reached out to the campaigns of the three candidates, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal (who has since dropped out of the presidential race), and found them rather reluctant to talk about it.
A spokesperson for Huckabee, who at the event deflected a question about Swanson’s extremism, told Basu after viewing video of some of Swanson’s remarks that Huckabee “appreciated the opportunity” to speak at the conference. The Cruz and Jindal campaigns didn’t bother to reply at all. (Before the conference, Cruz had been asked about his participation by CNN’s Jake Tapper, but brushed off the question.)
Calls and emails seeking a reaction to Swanson's remarks by spokespeople for Cruz and Jindal (who suspended his campaign Tuesday) went unanswered. Huckabee’s spokeswoman Alice Stewart asked for documentation and was sent a video link. She responded the next day saying, "Gov. Huckabee appreciated the opportunity to speak with an audience in Iowa about the importance of standing up for our religious liberties."
Basu also reached out to The Family Leader, an influential Iowa conservative group that sponsored Swanson’s conference and will be hosting candidates for a “presidential family forum” later this week. A Family Leader spokesman at least went as far to say that the group doesn’t condone executing gay people, but didn’t comment on the wisdom of sponsoring Swanson’s conference:
Asked if Vander Plaats or the Family Leader condemn Swanson’s remarks, Drew Zahn, its director of communications wrote in an email: “The Family Leader absolutely condemns any call for violence against homosexuals. Our involvement with the conference was intended to advocate and preserve our First Amendment religious liberties and the rights of conscience for all Americans. The Family Leader consistently advocated the Bible's principle of treating others as you would be treated, a principle come to life in the friendship between TFL President Bob Vander Plaats and One Iowa's Donna Red Wing.”
But Zahn wouldn’t say whether the organization would express those views to Swanson, or would have withdrawn sponsorship from the program if they had known what he would say.
We really wonder how long Cruz and Huckabee will be able to continue to plead ignorance about Swanson’s extremism after being asked about it repeatedly.
In a press gaggle at last weekend’s National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee dismissed concerns about the extremism of its organizer, Kevin Swanson, telling a reporter that he didn’t “have any knowledge” that Swanson backs the death penalty for homosexuality.
Indiana broadcaster Joyce Oglesby ran audio of the interaction on her radio program on Friday.
An unnamed reporter asked Huckabee, apparently directly after his speech to the conference, about “reports that there are a few pastors speaking her today that say that if you’re homosexual, you should be prosecuted, you should actually be killed.”
“Obviously, I don’t agree with that,” Huckabee responded. “I don’t think anyone’s ever accused me of saying that. And I don’t know, did anyone say that from this stage today?”
The reporter responded that while nobody had said such things from the stage yet that day, the organizer and other speakers had previously made such remarks.
“I can’t go with ‘there are some reports that,’” Huckabee responded. “Give me a specific, give me something to react to, that won’t work for me, because I don’t have any knowledge of that. All I know is what I said, I can’t be responsible for what anybody else said on that stage, and apparently nobody said that on that stage.”
If Huckabee had stuck around just a few minutes after his speech, he would have heard Swanson saying exactly that, bellowing to the audience that the biblically ordained punishment for homosexuality is death. If he had stuck around until the next day of the conference, he would have heard Swanson return to the theme, saying that he doesn’t want the government to impose the death penalty for homosexuality quite yet because he wants to give the culture time to change and gays time to repent before imposing his version of biblical law.
And if Huckabee or anybody on his staff had bothered to do any basic research before agreeing to attend the conference, these statements would not have come as a surprise. One of Huckabee’s fellow GOP candidates — likely Ben Carson — reportedly dropped out of the conference after we reported on Swanson’s extremist views. Likewise, People For the American Way called on Huckabee and his fellow candidates Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal to drop out of the summit a full week before it started, citing Swanson’s long history of extremism, including his defense of the death penalty for gay people. As the Cato Institute’s David Boaz writes today, showing up at Swanson’s conference showed “appalling judgment” on the part of Huckabee, Cruz and Jindal.
It seems that after this weekend’s conference, there are plenty of specific reports available for Huckabee to react to. He should be asked to explain himself.
In comments last week, the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios joined the many Religious Right figures who have heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin as he has attempted to paint himself as a hero of the Russian Orthodox Church, including backing a series of harsh anti-LGBT laws.
Rios told Mischenko how impressed she was by Putin’s embrace of “God’s way” and the “natural family,” even as President Obama is leading America “on a trajectory that many of us find extremely horrifying.”
“It’s interesting to me that your president, Vladimir Putin, of course was a high-ranking member of the KGB, thoroughly absorbed in the communist system,” Rios said. “And he, now, has emerged as one of the most strong proponents of this whole family movement, whether it’s that marriage is between one man and one woman, the sanctity of human life.”
“Well, whatever his motivation,” she later added, “I think on this stuff he’s got it right and he has been a good leader. These are strange times, that the American president would be leading America, I’ll just say to you, on a trajectory that many of us find extremely horrifying and that Vladimir Putin after Russia was officially, governmentally our enemy for so many years, and certainly on these issues, should now be leading his people to more of God’s way, the natural family. It really is one of the great ironies that I’ve lived to see in my lifetime.”
When three Republican presidential candidates decided to address a conference in Iowa this weekend organized by Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson — a radical activist who thinks that Girl Scout cookies and the movie “Frozen” are turning girls into lesbians and has defended the death penalty for homosexuality — it showed once again that the Republican primary seems to be a competition of who can move farther to the right.
Swanson cleverly focused his Iowa conference on the theme of “religious liberties,” warning that “persecution against Christians is on the rise in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, China, Oregon, and Kentucky.” It was apparently an invitation that Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal — who are constantly harping on the theme that American Christians are on the road to facing persecution on par with Christians living under oppressive regimes — couldn’t pass up.
Swanson made clear what he meant by anti-Christian persecution in interview at the conference with Seattle-based radio host Michelle Mendoza, when he complained that media reports on his anti-gay comments, including his recent remarks that AIDS is “God’s retribution” for homosexuality, is part of a larger attempt to “shut down Christian media.”
Saying that the “liberal media” had taken his AIDS remarks out of context, Swanson proceeded to repeat the very same point to Mendoza.
“Any kind of disease,” he said, “this is the point I made in one of my broadcasts, any kind of disease is God’s wakeup call to us and it points us to the basic problem — Hey, there wasn’t disease, there wasn’t death in the world until sin came into the world with Adam and Eve. So, it’s a basic theological concept, every Christian in America would agree with me. Obviously, non-Christians may disagree but the fact of the matter is God has given us a warning. He gives us something of a warning with disease and death, and we ought to turn to Jesus Christ because he is the overall solution to this.”
Swanson said that in a conversation with Cruz at the conference, the Texas senator “agreed that it’s very possible that the FCC may shut down Christian media in the future if they continue to hold to the position that homosexuality is a sin.”
“Christian colleges may go away very soon, Christian media may go away very soon, conservative media may not survive, so this is going to affect every single part of life since the Obergefell ruling,” he said.
In an interview promoting the conference on the Kentucky radio program “Just Ask Joyce” last month, Swanson made a similar argument, warning that “you can kiss your liberties goodbye” if the right person isn’t elected president in 2016.
Christians must “prepare to see our radio programs and our ministries, and our churches, our schools, completely wiped out by … the homosexual forces” as a result of the Obergefell decision, he said. “This is a decision of seismic proportions for the entire socioeconomic system, for entire social systems, for entire civilizations, for our religions in our country.”
At this weekend’s National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, which featured GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, conservative radio host Steve Deace revealed that a Republican presidential candidate had dropped out of the summit after learning of the extremism of the conference’s organizer, Kevin Swanson. (Although Deace didn’t name the candidate, Ben Carson was at one point named as a confirmed speaker but later disappeared from the event’s schedule.)
Deace said that the candidate’s campaign manager had called him up and asked him about Right Wing Watch’s reporting on Swanson, including Swanson’s support for the death penalty for gay people and his blaming of natural disasters in his home state of Colorado on such affronts to God as gay people marrying and feminist women who wear pants. Deace said that he laughed and assured the campaign manager that these were all lies made up by Right Wing Watch, but that the candidate dropped out anyway.
It might be more difficult for Deace to pretend that we fabricated all of these statements after this weekend’s conference, where Swanson repeated both views with great enthusiasm. After yelling quite a bit about Leviticus, Swanson clarified on Saturday that he does not actually want the U.S. to implement the death penalty for gay people at the moment, but instead to wait and give them time to repent first.
Then, in the same speech, Swanson declared that anyone who believes in God must see that there “might be a connection” between wildfires and flooding in Colorado and the state’s government refusing to enforce biblical law, and specifically a picture that ran on the front page of the Denver Post showing Colorado’s House speaker kissing his husband after a vote on civil unions.
“You see, when this happens, it is the most egregious, the most abominable, the most arrogant insult to Almighty God,” Swanson said of the Denver Post photo. “And then, the very same year, we had the very worst fires, the most devastating fires we ever did in the state and the worst floods. In the very same year, we had the most devastating floods and the most devastating fires and the worst possible legislature in terms of well, any standard of God’s laws as conveyed in [the Bible].”
“You’ve got to believe that God is the judge of the earth and indeed there might be a connection between the worst flood, the worst fires, and the worst government in the history of the state of Colorado,” he said.
He then defended his statement that thanks to gay rights and pro-choice laws, Colorado might be becoming worse than North Korea, saying, “Well, they murder. We put homosexuals on the front page of newspapers.”
America is held to a higher standard, he said, because of its “godly heritage” stemming from “white guys” like Irish immigrants.
“We’ve got a heritage, we’ve got a great heritage, goes back 2,000 years,” he said.
“Seems to me there’s a lot of white guys in America with a lot of heritage that goes all the way back to the 500s and 600s with Patrick and others. Friends, is America a more evil nation than North Korea in the eyes of God? And I say maybe. Maybe not, I don’t know. But I’d say we’re getting pretty close.”
Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson closed out his National Religious Liberties Conference today — following speeches yesterday by Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal — with an extended rant about the many reasons why America needs to repent in order to avoid God’s judgment, including legal abortion, birth control, immoral themes in country music and gay characters in “Harry Potter” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”
Warning that “we are on the very cusp of judgment as I see it and we need to call America to repent,” Swanson listed off the various sins of which Americans need to repent.
“America, repent of your rebellion against God!” he yelled. “America, repent of stumbling the little ones! America, repent of ‘Harry Potter’! America, repent of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’!
“America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter, that Hiccup’s mentor in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ emerged as a homosexual himself in order that history might repeat itself one more time, in order that little six- and seven- and eight-year-olds might stumble, in order that tens of millions of parents, it would be better that a millstone be hanged around their neck and they be drowned at the bottom of the sea than that there would be so many people stumbling so many children in public schools, in movie theaters, in homes in which children are raised to be stumbled by the Dumbledores and by the mentors of Hiccup in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’!”
Earlier in the same speech, Swanson explained that although the biblical punishment for homosexuality is death, he doesn’t want to implement it yet in the U.S. because he wants to give gay people time to repent as well .
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal all spoke this weekend at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, an event hosted by Kevin Swanson, a Colorado-based pastor and activist who frequently informs his followers that the biblical penalty for homosexuality is death and defended a proposed law in Uganda that would have imposed life imprisonment or capital punishment for homosexuality.
Two other speakers invited to the conference have similarly backed capital punishment for gay people, and one came prepared with a pamphlet he wrote explaining that view.
In a closing keynote address to the conference this evening, Swanson clarified that he is not encouraging American officials to implement the death penalty for homosexuality … yet.
Instead, he said, gay people first need time to repent of their sins, as do people who have committed adultery, gotten divorced or looked at porn, all of which he said are inviting God’s judgment on America.
In a speech today to the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, which also featured Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, Nebraska pastor Phillip Kayser warned that America risks “God’s intense wrath” for engaging in “sexual sins” such as the “abominations found in the radical LGBTQ movement.”
Kayser, who distributed at the conference a pamphlet arguing for the death penalty for homosexuality, blasphemy and witchcraft, was discussing “interposition,” the idea that “lesser magistrates” have the duty to stand against higher authorities when those higher authorities are disobeying God.
Kayser advised his audience that they must pick their battles in this area because “not every act of tyranny is equally heinous.”
For instance, he said, it isn’t necessary to defy certain unbiblical tax proposals, but it is absolutely necessary to defy same-sex marriage because it is “destructive to the family”; abortion because it is “murder” and will “inevitably lead to God’s judgment” on the land; and the “sexual sins” found in Leviticus 18 — which includes homosexuality, adultery and having sex with a woman who is menstruating — because “some sexual sins are so heinous that even pagan nations are eventually vomited out of the land for engaging in those sins.”
“And if we love our country and we don’t want to see God’s intense wrath falling upon it, we cannot ignore the abominations found in the radical LGBTQ movement,” he warned.
“Our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and their sacred honor to resist the tyranny of King George and Parliament,” he said. “And I think what we are facing today is a whole lot worse.”
Phillip Kayser is among the several speakers joining Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa this weekend, and as we've reported, he, along with the conference's chief organizer, Kevin Swanson, has called on the government to execute gay people. Kayser's views are so extreme that back in the 2012 election, Ron Paul's campaign tried to cover up his endorsement.
However, it seems that in today's GOP, calling for the execution of gay people isn't beyond the pale.
At the conference, where he is giving two speeches on how local officials and others can defy the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision, Kayser distributed the very pamphlet calling for the death penalty for gay people that caused a stir back when he endorsed Paul.
In the pamphlet, “Is The Death Penalty Just?,” Kayser unsurprisingly concludes that the death penalty is in fact just, and lists homosexuality among the offenses deserving of capital punishment. Ironically for a "religious liberties" summit, he also claims that the government should treat "breaking the Sabbath," "blasphemy and cursing God publicly," "publicly sacrificing to other gods" and "apostasy" as death penalty crimes as well.
He writes that government officials are "subject to Biblical statutes and judgments," claiming that "Christians should advocate the full implementation of all God's civil penalties in every age.... Every Old Testament statue continues on the books, and without those statutes, we could not have a consistent ethnical standard." Even "pagan" nations are obliged to follow biblical law, he writes, as "God held gentile kings accountable to these civil laws."
Kayser believes that the government should execute murderers, among whom he includes abortion providers: "What could be more pro-life than having the state pass laws establishing a certain date after which all doctors who continue to perform abortions will be executed? Certainly, a handful of doctors might be killed [pro-death for killers], but think of the millions of little lives that would be saved!"
He writes that the death penalty should also apply to those who commit acts of blasphemy; apostasy; breaking the Sabbath; sorcery and witchcraft; kidnapping; rape; adultery; prostitution; bestiality; and of course, homosexuality.
But don't worry, Kayser has good news for the gays who rather not be stoned to death or get "thrown off a cliff," methods he mentions as biblically approved ways to execute someone.
While "these crimes are so heinous that they deserve death in God's eyes," he writes, with cases "of sexual sins, people who kept these things to themselves could not be prosecuted because it would require two or three witnesses (depending on judicial discretion), the pressing of charges by a victim-citizen, the exclusion of government from spying, sting operations, etc., and other checks and balances."
Essentially, Kayser says that the government should put gay people to death, but only if they get caught.
"Even after a society implemented Biblical law and made homosexuality a crime, execution would be rare," he explains, because "the civil government could not round them up." What a relief!
"Only those who were prosecuted by citizen-victims could be punished, and the punishment could take a number of forms, analogous to the flexibility in dealing with adultery — which ranged all the way from forgiveness, to divorce, to death," he continues. "Some people characterize this as a victimless crime since homosexuals cannot get married. But there are plenty of circumstances (homosexual rape, homosexual incest, homosexual death threats against politicians, etc.) where victims might be motivated to bring charges."
Kayser writes that "natural knowledge" endorses the view that homosexuality is "worthy of death."
"It is not just the sinfulness of homosexuality that is known, but also the justice of the death penalty for homosexuality," he said. "The reason men have an innate sense of justice is because God's law reflects not only His holiness but also His justice and goodness (Rom. 7:12). Romans 13 says that magistrates are subject to all three."
And remember, this is the kind of literature being promoted at a "religious liberty" conference.
Earlier today, Republican presidential candidates Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee spoke at a conference in Iowa organized by Colorado pastor and activist Kevin Swanson, who takes such hardline Christian Reconstructionist views as supporting the death penalty for gay people . (Ted Cruz is also expected to speak at the conference.)
Swanson introduced Jindal by declaring that whoever becomes president, Jesus Christ will rule over them “whether they recognize it or not.”
“Let’s acknowledge right now that Jesus Christ is king over the president of the United States, whether he recognizes it or not,” he said. “Jesus Christ is king over the Supreme Court of the United States, whether they recognize it or not.”
Jindal then gave a version of his “Christian persecution” stump speech, warning that the government is “coming after those of us who want to live our lives according to our Christian faith” and declaring, “No earthly court can change the definition of marriage; no federal government, no ACLU should be able to take away our religious liberty rights. We were given those by God almighty.”
This morning, Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal joined radical right-wing pastor Kevin Swanson on the stage of Swanson’s “National Religious Liberties Conference” in Iowa to hawk their candidacies to a crowd that includes several Christian Reconstructionists.
Huckabee knew just how to appeal to this group, using his short time on stage to repeat his promises to simply ignore the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality if he were to become president.
“Here’s what the president should do, and if I were president this is what I would do,” he said. “On the same-sex marriage decision, I would simply say, ‘It is not law.’ It is not law because the people’s elected representatives have not made it law and there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court power to make a law. They are the Supreme Court, they are not the supreme branch or the Supreme Being.”
“And so,” he added, “when people say, ‘What can we do? Let’s introduce a constitutional amendment, let’s propose a — .’ No. Let’s just exhibit and exercise the power that is already within the constitutional authority and structure and the president simply say, ‘Thank you for your opinion, but we shall ignore it because there’s nothing in the Constitution that affirms that and we are not going to impose upon all 50 states something that the federal government has no control over, which is the definition of marriage.’”
On the topic of abortion rights, Huckabee repeated his support for radical “personhood” proposals that seek to bypass a constitutional amendment overturning Roe by simply granting full constitutional rights to zygotes.
“I don’t know how we honestly can pray ‘God bless America’ when we have acted like a savage, uncivilized country in relationship to unborn children,” Huckabee said.
“But once again,” he said, “instead of us wringing our hands and maybe pretending that we’re going to change the Constitution or overturn Roe v. Wade — which, by the way, overturning Roe v. Wade does absolutely nothing to stop abortion, it simply turns it back to the states, they can have all the abortions they want. But what we have not done is what we should be doing and what I would do, which is to say we would invoke the Fifth and 14th Amendment as it relates to this issue. Because here’s the fact: We don’t have to pass a constitutional amendment. We already have two of them.”
As we have been reporting this week, three Republican presidential candidates — Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal — are scheduled to appear this weekend at an Iowa “religious liberties” conference organized by wildly anti-gay pastor and activist Kevin Swanson. To give you a flavor of this event, three speakers, including Swanson, have advocated or defended imposing the death penalty on gay people.
So we were relieved yesterday when one of these candidates finally had to answer for his participation in Swanson’s conference. At the end of an interview with Cruz yesterday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the Texas senator how he reconciles his constant cries of liberal “intolerance” against Christians with appearing alongside such an intolerant figure as Swanson.
Cruz, predictably, dodged the question by claiming ignorance of Swanson’s record and launching into his standard stump speech about the supposed persecution of Christians in America.
You can watch the exchange starting about 15 minutes into this video:
Tapper ran out of time to press Cruz on the issue, but we hope that Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal will continue to face questions about their participation in this event.
In August, we asked whether Ted Cruz was winning the Christian Nation primary, with fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks pumping $15 million into a pro-Cruz super PAC and political operative David Lane promoting Cruz’s anti-Planned Parenthood efforts. In September, Religious Right “historian” David Barton was tapped to take over a Cruz super PAC, and CNN reported that top officials of Online for Life are “playing a growing role in the super PACs backing Ted Cruz.” Yesterday, Glenn Beck declared that Cruz “was truly raised up for this purpose at this time.”
Now Cruz has announced the endorsement of another Religious Right activist, Michael Brown, a North Carolina preacher and author of “Revolution! The Call to Holy War.” Brown participated in the anti-gay “Stand4Truth” conference that was held as a lead-in to the World Congress of Families last week.
Brown is scheduled to appear, along with David and Jason Benham and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, at a Cruz-organized “religious liberty” rally at Bob Jones University on November 14. As we noted a few weeks ago, “the ‘religious liberty’ Bob Jones is most famous for defending was its long insistence that its segregationist policies were mandated in the Bible.”
Brown has already been portraying marriage equality as a dire threat to religious freedom in America. Back in June, when the Supreme Court released its decision affirming marriage equality nationwide, Brown wrote a snarky note to Justice Anthony Kennedy to thank him “for confirming what we have been saying for many years now, namely, that gay activism is the principle threat to our freedoms of speech, religion and conscience.” Brown also thanked Kennedy “for bringing unprecedented religious persecution to the shores of our nation,” adding, “Despite the darkness and pain ahead, this will only cause the Church to wake up and grow stronger.”
As we’ve reported, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are scheduled to speak at a “religious liberties” conference in Iowa this weekend organized by pastor and homeschooling activist Kevin Swanson. It’s bad enough that presidential candidates would want to associate with Swanson, whose record of wildly anti-gay, anti-women statements we have exhaustively chronicled. But the candidates will also be rubbing shoulders with an array of activists representing the extreme Christian Reconstructionist and Christian Patriarchy fringes of the Religious Right.
Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal likely agreed to join the conference because of its ostensible “religious liberty” theme, which has increasingly become the Religious Right’s unifying battle cry. Speakers include David and Jason Benham, who have become popular martyr figures on the right-wing speaking circuit after we reported on their vicious anti-gay activism and they lost a planned HGTV reality show; Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon couple who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in what Aaron later described as a battle with Satan; and Sgt. Phillip Monk, whose tale of being persecuted by a lesbian superior in the Air Force has been roundly debunked.
Interestingly, one actual victim of anti-Christian persecution, Naghmeh Abedini, whose pastor husband is imprisoned in Iran, was scheduled to speak but has since been removed from a list of confirmed speakers.
Behind this “religious liberty” veneer, however, is a gathering of some of the most extreme segments of the Religious Right, including those whose idea of “religious freedom” is the freedom to impose their specific scriptural interpretations on others. Swanson’s colorful rhetoric on the role of women and the biblical punishments for gay people comes out of an affinity with two controversial movements that will be on full display at his event: Christian Patriarchy and Christian Reconstructionism.
A number of speakers at this weekend’s conference have been associated with Vision Forum, the now defunct ministry run by influential Christian Patriarchy leader Doug Phillips, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to having an affair. That movement is closely bound with Christian Reconstructionism, the idea that America must return to its supposed foundations in a certain interpretation of biblical law. John Eidsmoe, one of the leading lights of Christian Reconstructionism will be speaking at the conference, as will Joel McDurmon, who now runs the Reconstructionist group Vision America.
One theme at the conference will be “interposition,” the idea that government officials have the duty to defy laws and court rulings that they believe are unconstitutional or unbiblical (for many those are the same thing), an idea that has returned to prominence in the midst of the Kim Davis saga.
Here is a brief introduction to some of the activists who will be sharing the stage with Huckabee, Cruz and Jindal this weekend:
Swanson, a Colorado-based homeschooling activist, pastor and radio host, rejects the term “Christian Patriarchy” but says he ascribes to the passage in Ephesians that guides the movement’s view of male headship and female submission in marriage. Swanson also takes hardline Christian Reconstructionist positions, such as his view that the death penalty for gay people is just. Just a sampling of Swanson’s views includes:
Eidsmoe gained wider name recognition when Rep. Michele Bachmann named him as her mentor , but he has long been an influential leader in Christian Reconstructionism. Eidsmoe has run into controversy in the past for ties to white supremacist and neo-Confederate groups . He now works for the Foundation for Biblical Law, a group established by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Eidsmoe has:
Christian Reconstructionist Nebraska pastor Phil Kayser first attracted the national spotlight in 2011 when he endorsed Ron Paul for president and it came out that he had “authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law .” Kayser confirmed to a reporter that this was indeed his position. He will be addressing the “religious liberty” issue with a talk on “Martyrdom, Civil Disobedience, Protest, and Flight” and another on “Can a County Clerk Refuse to Sign a Marriage License? Interposition by the Lesser Magistrate.”
As Kyle wrote last week, “Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision, which espouses the Christian Reconstructionist view that ‘men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God’s law’ as explicitly set out in the Old Testament.”
McDurmon says that "God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty." He also said that a proposal in Uganda to impose the death penalty for homosexuality didn’t go far enough because it should also impose “Old Testament law” by making adultery a capital crime as well.
After we reported on his views last week, McDurmon released a statement clarifying that he does not support the death penalty for “homosexuality in general” but merely “the ‘act’ of sodomy.”
North Carolina pastor Scott Brown is the director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, a spinoff of Vision Forum. Articles on Brown’s website present an array of Christian Patriarchy views, including:
This is just skimming the surface. Also speaking at Swanson’s conference will be former Vision Forum activist Geoff Botkin; James Lansberry, who has been working to help conservative evangelicals bypass the Affordable Care Act; and Bill Jack, an occasional cohost on Swanson’s radio program who took the Cake Wars to a new low when he tried to get a baker to write “God hates gays” on a cake.
Along with Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal, a number of activists with a cozy relationship with the GOP have also been confirmed to attend, including Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley of the influential Iowa conservative group The Family Leader, Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute and Colorado Republican state senator Kevin Lundberg.
The World Congress of Families — an organization that hosts an annual global gathering of “pro-family” advocates — brought together more than 3,300 people in Salt Lake City last week. The summit included authors and counselors focused on strengthening marriages as well as academics talking about the social and economic consequences of later marriages, declining birthrates and widespread divorce. It also included and anti-reproductive-choice activists from around the globe, as well as hundreds of “emerging leaders” expected to lead the movement into the future.
We’ve reported on individual speakers and will continue to do so as we dig through a week’s worth of notes and recordings — and a shopping bag full of books and other swag. But what’s the big picture? What does the WCF tell us about the state of the global Religious Right?
There were differences in priorities and approaches among the participants, but among the themes that emerged:
They See Themselves at War with the Enemies of God
Warfare imagery was common at WCF and the preceding gay-focused Stand4Truth event organized by people who needed just a little more anti-gay intensity than the WCF schedule promised. The “natural family” and “complementary” male-female gender roles were ordained by God, and therefore proponents of feminist or gender ideologies or notions of LGBT equality are not only political opponents but spiritual ones, out to destroy both the natural family and religious freedom.
Francisco Tatad, a former senate majority leader in the Philippines, said the threat to the family and human society is not simply those who deny God, but those who actually hate God:
The global attack on human dignity, on the integrity of the human person, and the family, is ultimately an attack on God. The war of religions is over, but the war on religion has hardly begun. And the target is no longer any individual religion in particular, but God himself. He has become the arch-enemy.
American Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez:
So I can share with you the fact that there is a spiritual battle, a spiritual battle, to annihilate the idea, the construct, God’s ordained institution of la familia. It is a battle. It even, before it’s a political battle or a legislative battle, it is, above all things, a spiritual battle.
And, engaging biblical allusions, it’s the spirit of Pharaoh, once again attempting to force and prompt families to make bricks without straw and to maintain families in the Egypt of bondage and fear. It is the spirit of Goliath, of intimidation. It is the spirit of Jezebel, an attempt to destroy the family via the conduit of sexual perversion and manipulation. It is the spirit of Herod, killing families through abortion, killing families through sex trafficking and violence against our children, disconnecting the child from mom and dad. These spirits are alive and well today, not only in America but across the world.
Rafael Cruz, father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, declared, “What we see in America right now is an outright attack on Christianity.” Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, decreed that “a few rogue lawyers claiming to be the Supreme Court of the United States of America has no right to act in such a way as to restrict our freedom of religion.” Patterson told the story of a missionary doctor killed by Chinese communists in the 1950s, and declared about religious freedom, “Today the blood of thousands of martyrs calls out to all of us, ‘Do not squander the greatest and most costly gift bequeathed to you by the founders of this nation.’”
They’re Intensely Committed to Enforcing Traditional Gender Roles
The catch-all term used by the global Religious Right for just about everything it doesn’t like is “gender ideology” — something that can encompass opposition to sex education, contraception, abortion, cohabitation, marriage equality and legal recognition for LGBT people.
At WCF, speaker after speaker talked about the “complementarity” between men and women as something that was divinely ordained — grounded biblically in the Genesis creation story in which God made humankind male and female. God’s creation of two genders was cited as a sacred rationale for opposing gay couples being allowed to marry or be parents — and for denying the very existence of transgender people, who were portrayed as sick and pathetic. One of the most reliable ways to try to get a laugh at WCF was to make a joke about Caitlyn Jenner. Rafael Cruz even pulled out the old chestnut that God had created “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
Glenn Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, said new findings on gender differences support his basic premise: “that men and women are different, and that men and women need each other in those differences.” As a scientist, he said, he believes there is evidence across cultures of a universal male and female nature. And as a Christian, he said, the issue is a theological one, grounded in the creation story declares humans male and female, who together “uniquely, mysteriously image the nature of God in the world.” He displayed a William Blake painting, “Satan Gazing Upon the Caresses of Adam and Eve” and said:
Satan came to attack humanity, not just by approaching Eve or Adam but what William Blake is telling us here is to attack a couple. He sees that man, he sees that woman, he sees them loving one another, and he says, ‘I know who loved one another, the Trinity, God, and I hate them, so I must break this up.’ The original attack was not on two human beings, it was on a man and a woman. And that attack continues today, because Satan knows what male and female represent.
Theresa Okafor, a WCF representative from Nigeria who was honored at the conference, said the complementarity of the sexes “comes from God.” She complained that Western feminist ideas threaten the family by demonizing patriarchy, blurring lines of gender and making women feel that they are autonomous from men. (In contrast, she cited as one positive example of strong cultural support for the family in Africa the fact that a woman who went to the police to report being beaten by her husband would be told to go home and settle with him.)
Every WCF participant received a copy of the Mormon Church’s 1995 Proclamation of the Family, which portrays men’s roles as providers and women’s as nurturers to be essential to God’s plan. It declares, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
Miriam Grossman is a psychiatrist whose blog identifies her as “One Hundred Percent MD. Zero Percent PC.” She insisted, “A man cannot be transformed into a woman, or a woman into a man. It is simply impossible” and decried that popular culture’s focus on transgender issues was perpetuating a “lie” and a “delusion.”
They Don’t Want To Be Called Anti-Gay While Being Anti-Gay
Well, at least some of them, anyway. Before the conference started, WCF responded to its critics by claiming that being pro-family was not the same as being anti-gay, and declared that it would never support policies that harm individual people. But in fact the program was full of people who have a record of demonizing LGBT people, including those who have actively supported laws that not only criminalize gay sexual activity but even make it a crime for gays to meet with each other or advocate for their rights.
Portraying LGBT people as a threat to children has a decades-long pedigree, including the activism of Anita Bryant, California’s Prop 8 and succeeding state constitutional amendment campaigns, and this week’s vote in Houston, where an anti-discrimination ordinance was rejected after an ugly, dishonest campaign portraying it as an open door to child molesters. Gwen Landolt, a Canadian who has been active in WCF, called it intolerable that innocent children are being “used as tools of social engineering” by being fostered or adopted by gay couples. And she said that children’s character is being deformed because schools are teaching that homosexual relationships are the equal of heterosexual ones.
As BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder pointed out, there’s division within the movement about the usefulness of strident rhetoric that, for example, equates gays with pedophilia. That division was clear at WCF. The opening keynote address was given by Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ballard explained that Mormon theology of the family is integral to the church’s defense of “traditional marriage,” but he also touted the church’s willingness to back the Utah compromise, an agreement reached earlier this year in which the church supported legal protections against housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in return for the inclusion of broad religious exemptions. Said Ballard,
We demonstrate our best humanity when we show love and kindness to all of God’s children. We demonstrate our discipleship when we refuse strident tones, when we refuse derisive labels, and when we enter the public square seeking fair outcomes through understanding and mutual respect.
Ballard’s standard was violated frequently at WCF, including during its closing keynote from Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma University, whose address was an angry rant against liberal “ideological fascism.” Piper angrily asserted that “the rainbow banner of tolerance has become the dark flag of tyranny almost overnight.” Some conference participants objected to the Utah compromise; Austin Ruse of C-Fam has called it “lunacy” for the Mormon Church to engage in a nonaggression pact with the LGBT movement.
Another voice heard on the opening day of the conference was that of Gov. Gary Herbert, who welcomed participants to Utah, declaring “We are a great state with wonderful people and wonderful families of different varieties in this state.” That was a nod toward the kind of inclusive definition of family that is being ferociously fought by WCF partner groups at the United Nations and other international bodies. Activists like C-Fam’s Ruse and Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater bragged at WCF about their work to eliminate references to “various forms of the family” from international human rights documents.
They’re Not Going Anywhere: They’re Organized and Organizing and God is on their Side
There was some difference of opinion among WCF speakers, based on where they are from and whether they are more focused on abortion or LGBT issues, about the extent to which they are currently losing or winning the global culture war. But there was virtual unanimity that with God on their side and a commitment to collaborative organizing, they will ultimately be victorious in defeating the LGBT movement, resisting the advance of “gender ideology,” and resurrecting as a cultural norm, protected and promoted in law, the “natural family” — a mom and a dad and a whole lot of children.
Allan Carlson, retiring after years at the head of WCF’s sponsoring organization, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, talked about his forthcoming book, which portrays the weakening and strengthening of family systems in America since 1630 as following 50 year swings. According to Carlson, we could be “on the cusp of a great wave of new family morality,” poised for a generational upswing— a return to early marriage, appreciation for the complementarity between men and women, and higher fertility. Carlson said the sexual revolution “regime” is “crumbling even at the point where it seems to be winning.”
Warren Cole Smith, a vice president of the Colson Center and co-author of “Restoring All Things,” recounted the story of a friend who received a call from someone nearly in despair after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, saying “it’s over.” Smith recalled his response:
What is over? What exactly is over? Has God left his throne? He has not. Is He not still sovereign? He is. When the Obergefell decision came down from the Supreme Court, did God say, ‘Wow, I sure didn’t see that coming.’? Friends, He did not say that….
The story of the universe God is still writing, the arc of history is still unfolding. Unlike what our friend said, it is not over. And I’ve read the last chapter of the book, and guess what? God wins.
That’s not to say that between now and then we won’t have lots of battles to fight and lots of problems so solve. But I want to be clear, I think we should be happy warriors in this process, knowing that God is indeed building the house. God is indeed on our side. And we have the great joy of participating in what God is doing in the world, if only we will.
The World Congress of Families, with its dozens of partner organizations and more than 3,300 participants from 65 countries, is a dramatic demonstration of the institutional cultural, legal, and political infrastructure that has been built by conservative religious organizations not only in the U.S. but around the globe, with financial and strategic support flowing in all directions.
Seasoned activists and the hundreds of “emerging leaders” had the opportunity to get training in starting a new organization and raising money online from Ignacio Arsuaga, whose HazteOir and CitizenGo platforms have put social-media organizing techniques developed in the U.S. into the hands of conservatives in Europe and elsewhere with campaigns in an expanding number of languages. Conference attendees could take a workshop on messaging from Frank Schubert, the mastermind of fearmongering strategies used by campaigns against marriage equality in the U.S. They could study networking and coalition building with Alexey Komov, the Russian activist who says that Russia and Eastern Europe, having been helped by Western countries to throw off communism, can now return the favor by helping the West defeat the new totalitarianism of the sexual revolution.
Earlier this year, President Obama announced his support for state measures aimed at banning ex-gay therapy for minors. The Family Research Council predictably reacted quite reasonably, sending a fundraising letter that arrived yesterday urging supporters to help them stop “sexual brainwashing of our children by our government” and thwart Obama’s plan “to get as many American children into the funnel of the sexual revolution as possible and make sure there’s no possible escape.”
Along with the letter, FRC enclosed a “Comprehensive List of LGBTQ+ Definitions” that it pulled off the internet, labeling it “a glossary of the President’s sexual agenda for your children and grandchildren.” The list was folded up and marked with an “offensive content” trigger warning:
In the fundraising letter, FRC president Tony Perkins tells readers that they can feel free to destroy the list without reading it:
This is not a single narrow line of fire we’re being subjected to. This is a massive, multi-front onslaught. The LGBTQ+ agenda specifically endorsed by the White House means our President wants to “normalize” an astonishingly broad range of what you and I would call “perversions” by supporting laws that make it illegal to obtain counseling to avoid unwanted same-sex and other attractions.
I debated whether to enclose a complete list — because it is repulsive — butI am folding the offensive material to the inside, so you can simply destroy the list without reviewing it if you prefer. Ultimately I decided to send it to you to demonstrate clearly that we are not overstating the severity of this issue.
Elsewhere in the letter:
I wasn’t sure whether to send you this letter.
I didn’t want to offend you, or shock you.
But in the end, I decided to err on the side of keeping you informed — because this is too important — to our children, to our grandchildren and to the future of our nation.
The problem: President Barack Obama is now promoting a sexual revolution more extreme, more perverse, more bizarre than anything you or I have ever imagined possible.
Specifically, he is backing legislation that would ban parents — including Christian parents — from arranging counseling to help their own children from engaging in a variety of forms of sexually immoral behavior.
We will fight this — with your help. We need your strong financial and prayer support today to push back on this outrageous “home invasion” with everything we’ve got … because the welfare of our children is at stake.
In fact, this President intends to get as many American children into the funnel of the sexual revolution as possible and make sure there’s no possible escape — none whatsoever. He intends to close off every avenue from parents committed to biblical morality.
We cannot stand by and allow the President to force his radical sexual agenda on our children.
You need to understand the reality of this situation: You are in the way.
You are an obstacle.
Christianity is actually seen as a speed bump in the Left’s pursuit of sexual liberty and “fulfillment.” They are intent upon a redefinition of God’s order of Creation.
Ultimately, this movement is about rebelling against the Creator.
Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 19, Verse 4, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” This is what we want our children to learn and understand. Not the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup of perversion. Not the deluded distortions of the Left.
We must not allow the federal government to capture our children at puberty and remake them in their own image, with the outcome predetermined according to the Left’s deviant agenda. Please help us fight back with your gift today.
These are just the lowlights. We’ve uploaded a scanned copy of the full letter here.
Phyllis Schlafly reacted yesterday to a Department of Education finding in favor of a transgender girl in Illinois by saying that advocates for transgender rights are “trying to turn our boys into peeping Toms.”
“They’re trying to turn our boys into peeping Toms,” Schlafly declared in an interview on Newsmax TV. “I can’t imagine why else they would want to go into their girls’ restrooms.”
She added this cryptic bit of analysis: “The word used is ‘sex’ and ‘sex’ is a word that has a lot of meanings, and they want to use it for this.”