One theme of this year’s Republican National Convention is the Religious Right getting fully on board the Trump Train. Even before he vanquished Ted Cruz, his final primary opponent, Trump has been aggressively courting the Religious Right, and he has recently sought to shore up support from the movement leaders who backed Cruz and other candidates.
Yes, Trump is a habitual liar whose Bible-waving and political use of religious is transparently cynical, but that isn’t stopping Religious Right leaders from rallying around him. And why not? He allowed the Religious Right to write anti-gay discrimination into the GOP's platform. His promise to fill the Supreme Court with right-wing justices gives them hope that marriage equality in the U.S. will be short-lived. And he is even promising to overturn the federal law that forbids churches, like other tax-exempt nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral politics, and to sign legislation defunding Planned Parenthood.
In Cleveland this week for the RNC, Religious Right political operative Ralph Reed spoke with Doug Wright, “Utah’s most listened to talk show host.” Polls show that many of Utah’s Mormon voters are resisting the call to unite behind Trump.
When asked why so many evangelicals are supporting Trump in spite of his “interesting” background, his use of “vulgarities,” and other things that might concern a conservative Christian, Reed said, “You’re not electing a pastor-in-chief, you’re electing a commander-in-chief.”
Reed reminded Wright that evangelicals backed Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election even though they had a different approach to faith, and even though Romney had previously held pro-choice and pro-gay views, something for which some conservatives have criticized Trump. “I thought we were members of a faith where we were supposed to welcome converts,” said Reed.
In fact, said Reed, he thinks Trump “has the potential to be the greatest advocate for our values, and do the most to advance that agenda, precisely because he doesn’t necessarily come from where we come from.” In other words, because people don’t view Trump as a Religious Right activist, they might be more receptive to his call for ending the ban on church politicking.
Here’s Reed’s basic case for Trump, starting with the fact that “he is a professing Christian.”
More importantly…he shares our values. He’s pro-life. He’s pro-traditional marriage, which is very important to us…He’s pro-religious freedom. He supported the Hobby Lobby Decision, supports Little Sisters of the Poor, has placed in the platform, at his insistence, at this convention, for the first time in the history of the Republican Party, a call for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment to the internal revenue code, which threatens churches that speak out politically with the loss of their tax-exempt status. That has been used to harass and persecute the Christian community for over half a century. Donald Trump will end it.
Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay British cultural provocateur, self-described “dangerous faggot” and senior editor at Breitbart, brought his anti-political-correctness, anti-Islam message to Cleveland this week, teaming up with conspiracy-spouting radio host Alex Jones, political dirty trickster Roger Stone, anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller and Gays for Trump.
At Monday’s America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos (simply “Milo” to his fans), took the stage wearing a bulletproof vest — a small group of protesters had gathered nearby but were being kept out of the park by a phalanx of police — but he theatrically peeled it off as he began his remarks. He performed the same routine at Tuesday night’s sold-out, Breitbart-supported Wake Up! party, organized by Gays for Trump, which Gateway Pundit called “the hottest ticket at the RNC.” Among the Trump supporters at the party were white nationalists Peter Brimelow and Richard Spencer, who chatted with guests and reporters.
The party venue was adorned with soft-core posters of skinny young men in Make America Great Again caps, some posing with guns, courtesy of Twinks4Trump. It gave a surreal feel to the event, which was appropriate given the surreal claims about Trump made by some of the speakers.
Chris Barron, a co-founder of GOProud, was among those welcoming people to the party, where he was also said to be acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. Barron said Trump is making the GOP and conservative movement more accepting of LGBT people, adding, “Donald Trump is a better friend to the LGBT community than Hillary Clinton could ever be.” Geller made a similar claim, saying, “If anyone is for gay rights, clearly it’s Trump.” Milo went even further, declaring, “Donald Trump is the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history.”
Really? The guy who couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger to keep the Religious Right from writing discrimination into the party platform? And who has promised Religious Right leaders the Supreme Court of their dreams? Such skeptical thinking is wrong-headed, according to the speakers at Wake Up!, because it is not focusing on the real threats to gay people: Islam and those who “mollycoddle” it.
Geller, resplendent in rainbow sequins, started her remarks with a characteristically tasteful joke: “A jihadi walks into a gay bar. And the bartender says, ‘What’ll you have?’ And the jihadi says, ‘Shots for everyone.’”
She decried gay rights activists for talking about access to bathrooms for transgender people, saying, “Gay rights in the 21st century is the persecution, oppression, execution of gays living in Muslim countries under the Sharia.”
Geller said she was making her first public appearance since two ISIS-linked gunmen attacked a contest for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed she had organized in Garland, Texas, last year, saying 25 events had been cancelled out of fear. “So you gotta love Trump!” she said, “Yes! Because he gives them all the middle finger!” As she acknowledged, Trump harshly criticized Geller for holding the Garland event, but, she said, “he’s come a long way.” She said Trump’s proposed “ban on Muslims from jihad nations is logical, sensible and reasonable.”
Like speakers at the Alex Jones rally on Monday, Geller tore into Republicans who have not fallen in line with Trump:
I’m one hundred percent behind Trump. Because if you’re not behind Trump, you’re for Hillary. Bill Kristol is for that criminal. George Will is for that criminal. We have got to overthrow the GOP elite. We have got to unite behind Donald Trump.
Joining Milo and Geller at the Wake Up! party was Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who said Islam has “no place in a free society” and said Western countries should “de-Islamize” their societies; he has called for banning the Quran and said, “I don’t want no more mosques in the Netherlands and I am proud to say so,” leading someone behind me to shout “throw them out!”
Wilders described Europe – or “Eurabia” – as having been turned into an imploding hellhole of violence and fear because of Muslim immigrants, and warned that France is on the brink of civil war. The reason, he said, is that “we have no real leaders in the Western world anymore. We have appeasers. We have Chamberlains instead of Churchills, ruling all our countries.” He called for democratic political change, saying that people feel that their leaders have abandoned them and that political parties like his are winning support all over Europe. The crowd responded to Wilders with chants of “Geert” and “Trump,” and went wild at the statement that Wilders could become the next prime minister of the Netherlands. He ended his speech with this promise: “We shall win. We must win. And we will win this war.”
Milo reprised many of the comments he made at the Alex Jones rally, talking about a culture war in which liberals have become “traitors to the gays” by accommodating Islam. He joked about having been banned from Twitter that very day, a day before he would have access to all the national media at the RNC’s radio row, and he said, “I am going to make their lives hell.”
But he struck a defiantly hopeful tone, saying “I am not the only person who is dedicated to the destruction of liberal media in this country. I am not the only person who recognizes that after a few decades of good work, these people have now thrown us under the bus.”
At both events, Milo denounced political correctness, Islam and the left, in his intentionally button-pushing way. “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left,” he told the crowd at the Jones rally, generating surprised laughter, and then cheers:
They do not represent me. They do not represent you. They do not represent tolerance. They do not represent understanding. They do not represent diversity, any of the things they claim to care about. The left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate because it is undermining the fundamental principles on which this country was founded, and for which everybody looks up to you guys.
Political correctness is not just a problem, he said at the Jones rally, it is deadly:
Political correctness killed at Sandy Hook. People knew about this guy, they knew what he was about, they knew what he was up to, and they were worried about saying anything for fear of being branded racist.
At that statement, I exchanged a puzzled look with the man standing beside me. I was puzzled because the killer of the children at Sandy Hook was white. If my neighbor was a loyal Alex Jones listener, he might have been puzzled because Jones promotes the theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax, staged as a “false flag” operation to give the government an excuse to try to seize people’s guns. Yiannopoulos may have been thinking about San Bernardino; he also said “political correctness killed” in Orlando, suggesting that the shooter hadn’t been apprehended sooner because people were afraid of being seen as racist or Islamophobic.
Yiannopoulos said he knew not everyone in the crowd was with him when it comes to homosexuality, but urged them to “stick up for your women and your gays.”
“Die on your feet or live on your knees,” he said, pausing with comic timing. “Well, I do live on my knees, but that’s alright. That’s alright. As long as I’m not facing Mecca I guess I’m alright with you guys. I mean, I might have been by accident…”
Yiannopoulos said he was appalled to find out that on American college campuses, which he thought would be the freest places in the world, people’s thoughts and language are being policed and restricted. “It seems to me as though the political left in this country is trying to destroy all of the things that made America great.”
Looking ahead, Milo said he’d be mocking criticism of concerns over “cultural appropriation” by lecturing to “the insane students at Yale” on famous cultural appropriators while dressed “in full Native American costume.” And next week, he said, he will be in Stockholm to “lead a gay pride march through the Muslim ghetto.”
The left is always telling us how homosexuals are stunning and brave. Well, the left-wing ones aren’t but ours are. And we’re going to take the fight to them. I’m taking the fight to American campuses. I’m fighting political correctness wherever I find it. I’m fighting hateful third-wave misandrist feminism wherever I find it. I am fighting Black Lives Matter, a hateful, destructive movement, wherever I find it. Donald Trump is going to fight the same things wherever he finds them, too.
Milo told the party crowd that the only thing that Breitbart ever cut from one of his columns was his response to people complaining that it was racist to put “whites only” in profiles on hook-up apps like Grindr. He asked whether his would be deemed racist for saying “blacks only.” But, he said, he wouldn’t actually put it that way. Instead he’d write, “Don’t contact me if you’re under seven inches or you know who your dad is.”
Which brings us to the end of the party and to the protesters outside with signs and flyers declaring, “There’s nothing fabulous about racism.”
For the past couple of months, Christian-nation advocate David Lane and dominionst Doug Stringer have been organizing a day-long prayer rally that will take place in Cleveland this Saturday. Timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention, the event will be the latest in the series of “The Response” rallies organized around Republican politicians. They are modeled after a series of “The Call” events organized by dominionist “apostle” Lou Engle.
The first Response, which was promoted by some of the most extreme and divisive Religious Right figures, served as the unofficial launch of Rick Perry’s doomed presidential bid in 2011. The Perry event reflected Lane’s perennial goal of uniting conservative evangelicals behind a single candidate. Other Response rallies have been hosted by Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Pat McCrory of North Carolina.
Stringer has been on the ground in Cleveland meeting with local clergy to promote Saturday’s event as a nonpolitical opportunity for Christians to come together across racial and denominational lines to pray for America. That was also the message delivered on a pre-Response conference call last week, on which Stringer and other organizers described the event as a time of unity and prayer so that the Christian church can be a source of healing and hope at this “providential time” in our nation.
That’s the bait part of the bait-and-switch nature of these events. The switch comes at the rallies themselves, which, along with prayer and praise music, promote the Religious Right’s political agendas on abortion, LGBT rights and separation of church and state.
As we noted when the Cleveland Response was announced:
Lane and Stringer took the Response to Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 2015. At this “nonpolitical” event, Religious Right rock star David Benham talked about gay rights groups who he said were out to “force” their agenda on the country, portraying a “spiritual battle that is now waging before us in this nation, the home of the brave and the land of the free.” Lane opened the “nonpolitical” North Carolina Response rally with a prayer that talked about the lack of prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, abortion, and “homosexuals praying at the inauguration.” Another speaker prayed for God to “help us be like Kim Davis, obeying the Constitution and defying federal criminals.”
Event sponsor David Lane is an intensely political operative who believes America’s mission is to advance the Christian faith. He has been trying to organize “an army” of conservative pastors to run for office in hopes that each of them will mobilize hundreds of volunteers to help turn out the evangelical vote.
While Lane’s dream of getting Religious Right leaders to coalesce around a single candidate was, to a significant extent, achieved this year with nearly unanimous backing for Ted Cruz, many evangelical voters did not follow the script. Lane is now putting his faith in Trump, who he believes “can be one of the top 4 presidents in American history.”
Another hint of the “nonpolitical” nature of the Cleveland event comes from its promotional materials, which included a video from E.W. Jackson, a failed Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia; Jackson has called the Black Lives Matter movement “demonic,” said promotion of LGBT equality is “spitting in the face of Almighty God,” and accused President Obama of being more interested in “defending Islam” than “defending America.”
Also gathering in Cleveland before the RNC is the Council for National Policy, a secretive network that brings together activist leaders from right-wing to far, far right. Politico reported this week that Ted Cruz is meeting with the group on Friday, which may act as a quiet launch for a 2020 White House run.
In the lead-up to and during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, we’ll be profiling some of the activists and politicians invited to speak at the event. Find more of our Meet the Speakers series here.
As Peter noted earlier today, speculation that Donald Trump may move the Republican Party into greater acceptance of LGBT people is hard to take seriously given the GOP platform committee’s approval this week of an exceptionally anti-LGBT platform, not to mention the anti-LGBT activists whom Trump himself has enthusiastically embraced in his quest for the presidency.
A preliminary list of this year’s Republican National Convention speakers should also put that idea to rest.
Along with the many businessmen and celebrity buddies of Trump who appear on the speakers list are a number of activists and politicians who have long records of anti-LGBT activism.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell and one of Trump’s earliest endorsers from the Religious Right, has a speaking slot. Falwell is the head of Liberty University, the school founded by his father, which is well known for itsanti-gay politics and student policies discouraging homosexuality. Liberty University is closely affiliated with Liberty Counsel, the anti-gay legal group that represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in her quest to defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.
Also speaking will be three former GOP presidential rivals to Trump who are known for their anti-LGBT politics.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who hooked his presidential campaign on an appeal to Religious Right voters, will have a speaking slot. As we previously wrote , Huckabee managed to cover plenty of extremist ground just in his 2016 campaign:
After all, Huckabee had vowed to outlaw abortion with a sweeping presidential decree,promised to defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling before it criminalized Christianity and destroyed America, and literally turned Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ release from detention into a campaign rally, volunteering to go to jail on her behalf. The former Arkansas governor even pledged to boycott Doritos because the company released rainbow-colored chips benefiting an LGBT suicide prevention group and starred in a bizarre anti-gay film.
Then there’s Ben Carson, who attracted plenty of attention during his presidential run forclaiming that prison rape proves that being gay is a choice. Carson insisted that “abnormal” LGBT people shouldn’t get “extra rights” and called for the impeachment of justices who back gay marriage. He also argued, as Brian has summarized, that the gay rights movement is “part of a wideranti-American, anti-God, anti-Constitution plot conjured up by communist subversives and the New World Order.”
Cruz and Huckabee were both so eager to win the votes of anti-gay extremists that they attended a conference last year at which the organizer, radical pastor Kevin Swanson, repeatedly declared that the Bible demands that gay people be put to death.
And there are many more. Newt Gingrich, when he was running for president in 2011, signed the National Organization for Marriage’s candidate pledge to support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and said that he would reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In 2008, Gingrich warned that "there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, is prepared to use harassment.” Mike Pence, who’s now being reported to be Trump’s vice presidential pick, has a long record of opposing LGBT rights, including signing a bill in Indiana last year that would authorize broad discrimination against LGBT people, before backing down under public pressure to amend the law.
While few sitting members of Congress are showing up to the convention, among those invited to speak are several with strongly anti-LGBT records. Just this year, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy personally twisted arms to ensure the last-minute defeat of a provision that would have protected LGBT people from employment discrimination from federal contractors, creating a chaotic scene on the House floor. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was instrumental in making the 2012 Republican platform reach new levels of anti-LGBT sentiment (although this year’s platform is even worse). Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, when she was a state legislator, tried to get a referendum on the ballot in an effort to overturn the state supreme court’s landmark marriage equality ruling. She has claimed she wants to leave the marriage issue to the states, but at the same time has said that she would support a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage.
We have lost count of how many times the Religious Right has been declared spent as a political force. Those declarations have always been wrong, and this year’s Republican Party platform is the latest sign of the movement’s continued power.
Four years ago, we called the GOP platform “a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing, and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP.” Yet this year’s platform is even further to the right.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2012, Religious Right leaders spent the entire week in Tampa bragging about how they had essentially written the platform. But pro-LGBT Republicans were remarkably confident that it would never happen again. At the time, the Log Cabin Republicans vowed that never again would the party platform be hostile to LGBT equality. Former member of Congress Jim Kolbe said the anti-gay sentiment in that year’s platform was “the last gasp of the conservatives.” The upbeat attitude had us wondering about “the fine, fuzzy line dividing optimism from delusion.”
Well, there’s nothing left to wonder about. In spite of an organized and well-funded campaign by LGBT-friendly conservatives, Religious Right activists made sure that they dominated the platform committee. During the committee’s deliberations on proposed amendments on Monday and Tuesday, every effort to moderate the language on LGBT rights was rejected, including tame language that would have acknowledged growing support within the party for marriage equality. The Log Cabin Republicans are calling this year’s document “the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.”
Even an amendment that would have recognized the LGBT victims of ISIS terror was deemed too much. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is bragging that he and fellow Louisiana delegate Sandy McDade, Eagle Forum’s political chairman, watered that language down so that it refers generically to all people terrorized by ISIS.
The platform includes Religious Right-approved language opposing marriage equality and endorsing legislation to give legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious liberty. And it calls for eliminating the IRS provision that prevents churches, like other nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral advocacy — one of the promises Donald Trump has made to win Religious Right support.
A seemingly last-ditch effort by LGBT-friendly delegates to require a vote on a “minority report” to replace the long platform with a short statement of principles is now being denounced by Perkins and Religious Right activist David Barton as an attempt by gays to hijack the platform process. Its odds of success seem vanishingly small.
Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory Angelo says he’s “mad as hell” about the new platform, but in the same email he tries to distance the document from Donald Trump, who Angelo praised last December as “one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency.”
Not long after that, as journalist Michelangelo Signorile noted, Trump accepted the endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr. and promised to put right-wing justices on the Supreme Court. In January he promised to make Christianity (read right-wing Christianity) more powerful. More recently, Trump reiterated his promises in a closed-door meeting with hundreds of conservative Christian leaders, where he told them, “I’m on your side.”
Trump may be willing to let Caitlin Jenner use the bathroom of her choice at his office building, but he was unwilling to lift a finger to keep the party from supporting states that pass laws preventing transgender people from using bathrooms that match their identity — or from declaring in many ways that the party remains officially opposed to legal equality for LGBT people.
The presumptive Republican nominee is all bluster and toughness when he is denouncing political correctness, but he turns meekly obliging when dealing with the Religious Right leaders he is counting on to turn out the vote.
During Monday and Tuesday’s Republican platform committee deliberations, an already right-wing draft was pushed even further to the right by activists on the platform committee. But now Religious Right activist David Barton and other delegates are complaining that they were duped by pro-LGBT activists into signing a minority report that could force a floor vote on replacing the entire platform with a much shorter statement of principles.
Through endless hours of amendments — some substantive and some petty wordsmithing — attempts by libertarian-leaning delegates to introduce more moderate language on LGBT equality, the drug war and other issues were routinely voted down, even an amendment that would have acknowledged the LGBT victims of ISIS terror.
Throughout the grueling process, a few delegates repeatedly complained that the platform should be seen as a vehicle for marketing Republican Party principles, and should not be something so long and so deep in the weeds on policy disputes that nobody will bother reading it. One of those voices was Utah’s Boyd Matheson, who had proposed an alternative approach that would simply lay out a set of principles, based on the platform on which Abraham Lincoln ran for the presidency in 1860.
That could have saved everyone a lot of time, but the committee didn’t go for it. The committee wrapped up its deliberations on Tuesday evening, voting to approve the amended draft, which will get final up-or-down approval by the committee on Monday before going to the convention as a whole for approval.
But that’s not the end of the story, because 37 delegates signed a “minority report,” which The Dallas Morning News’ Lauren McGaughy describes as “a sort of petition by those who couldn't muster a majority for their proposals.”
“In this case,” McGaughy writes, “it supports doing away with the whole platform and replacing it with something shorter and simpler.” Among those who signed the petition were Matheson and Barton, the Religious Right activist who played an active role in shaping this year’s platform as well as the 2012 version.
Now, however, Matheson and Barton are among those claiming that they were “duped by a group of pro-gay rights delegates” into signing something that could be a source of division on the floor of the convention:
Boyd Matheson of Utah wrote the language in the minority report, but he said he did not support doing away with the whole platform and replacing it with his mission statement. In fact, he withdrew support of his own proposal Tuesday afternoon amid the fight.
"A minority report is a divisive issue that some people are trying to use to air their issues on the floor for the convention," Matheson said late Tuesday.
David Barton, a Texas delegate who helped him edit the language, went a step further, saying "someone hijacked the process."
He added: "It looks to us like they created a controversy."
Matheson and Barton allege that a group of LGBT-friendly Republicans who had tried -- unsuccessfully -- to include some positive mention of the gay community in the party's platform was behind the scheme.
The two said they would send an email to the other 35 delegates who also signed the report on Wednesday morning saying just this. Texas' other platform committee delegate, Diana Denman, also signed the minority report, and expressed her interest in removing her name.
Other delegates suggest that Barton and Matheson knew exactly what they were signing but “got cold feet afterward when they feared being associated with a gay rights push.”
Family Research Council Action, whose leader Tony Perkins was another active member of the platform committee, pushed out an alert yesterday warning that LGBT activists were attempting to “hijack” the platform.
Perkins and the Family Research Council are delighted with the far-right platform, saying the GOP’s support for “traditional family values” is “stronger than ever.”
In another message to FRC supporters yesterday, Perkins celebrated the Religious Right’s platform victories:
I am very happy to say that the final platform document overwhelmingly approved by the delegates may be the strongest statement of conservative principles by a GOP platform to date. As Gayle Rozika, a Utah delegate for whom this was the 6th platform, told me this is the most conservative platform in her experience. Her efforts, along with those of delegates like Carolyn McLarty (Okla.), Len Munsil (Ariz.), David Barton (Texas), Jim and Judy Carns (Ala.), Kris Kobach (Kan.), Sandy McDade (La.) and a host of other conservative leaders were effective in ensuring the GOP platform provides a clear and compelling understanding of the core conservative principles that those associated with the Republican party prioritize and pursue.
Our coalition of delegates -- including FRC Action and other groups like the March for Life Action, Eagle Forum, and Concerned Women for America -- proved invaluable. The platform is an important document, showing the Party of Lincoln continues to respect freedom, and the rule of law, the idea that all humans deserve respect, not because of some category, but because we have inherent dignity and are made in the image of our Creator. The platform is a useful document -- a standard for the party in local, state, and federal elections, use in town halls, and it provides standards to which we should hold our elected officials. Platform Chairman Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), led by co-chairs Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.) and Governor Mary Falin (R-Okla.) all did an excellent job allowing delegates to offer amendments and debate the issues with sincerity and respect. They deserve much respect for their efforts.
We noted yesterday that Religious Right leaders had spent months making sure that the Republican platform committee would be stacked with “strong conservative voices” in order to resist an organized effort by pro-equality Republicans to replace anti-gay language in 2012’s far-right platform with something more inclusive. Yesterday’s platform committee session made it clear that the Right Wing was successful, as efforts to amend the draft platform language were repeatedly batted down.
Instead the committee affirmed the party’s support for marriage only for one man and one woman. The platform specifically rejects the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and calls for its reversal “whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.”
A delegate from D.C., Rachel Hoff, identified herself as the first openly gay member of the platform committee and joked that as she hadn’t been raised in a Republican family, she wasn’t “born this way” and chose to be a Republican. But her colleagues were unmoved by her heartfelt plea for a more inclusive platform and rejected language that would have encouraged a “thoughtful conversation” and recognized the growing support among Republicans for marriage equality (a 2014 Pew poll found more than 60-percent support for marriage equality among Republicans under 30).
There were a few libertarian-leaning voices on the committee, and they tended to appear younger than the average member, but they were out-gunned on LGBT issues as well as challenges to drug war orthodoxy and support for medicinal marijuana. Perhaps in deference to the twice-divorced and thrice-married Donald Trump, platform committee members did vote down an amendment condemning no-fault divorce. The committee voted to keep in language calling on government officials to encourage schools to teach the Bible as literature.
Some of the debate was spirited even if the results were ultimately one-sided. When a conservative delegate proposed inserting “traditional” before “two-parent families” in a section about what is best for children, a couple of delegates called it an extra slap in the face to LGBT people and an insult to single parents, but the amendment passed. When a New York delegate challenged language supporting the First Amendment Defense Act — a federal bill to give legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination — a Virginia delegate accused her of calling the bill’s supporters bigots, language she had not used.
Among the members of the committee who have worked to make sure the platform keeps the party’s social conservatives happy: the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins; discredited Christian-nation “historian” David Barton; former Texas Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar; Eagle Forum political chair Sandy McDade; right-wing attorney James Bopp; and Center for Arizona Policy founder Len Munsil.
Munsil, who now heads Arizona Christian University, gave the prayer to open today’s platform committee session, which began a little after 8 a.m. with a discussion of the platform’s economic policy section. Munsil’s prayer had echoes of the Christian-nation rhetoric of activists like Barton and David Lane; he referenced the Mayflower Compact, said God has blessed America because “we have honored You and Your word,” and prayed, “in the mighty name of Jesus,” for “an awakening among our leaders.”
In response to the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling this week, People For the American Way Foundation President Michael Keegan released the following statement:
“On behalf of the staff and board of People For the American Way Foundation, we offer our sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. We are committed to being in solidarity with them and all people who are systematically targeted. It is unacceptable that we live in a world where an African American is shot and killed when pulled over for a broken tail light, as Philando Castile was last night, or another is shot and killed while working to provide for his family, as Alton Sterling was on Tuesday.
“This year alone, at least 136 African Americans have been killed at the hands of the police. This violence cannot be allowed to continue. Police brutality and systemic racism must be eradicated.
“It’s up to every one of us to fight for a world and a society where Black lives matter. Far too many people in our country are systemically targeted, demonized, and forced to fear for their own safety and that of their families. We must fight for a very different future. We have to hold our elected and appointed officials, as well as police officers, accountable for excessive use of force that all too often targets people of color.”
People For the American Way Foundation 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.
The Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins is not pleased with President Obama’s recent designation of a national monument commemorating the Stonewall uprising, writing today that the recognition of the gay rights turning point “dishonors” the National Park Service and promotes “the celebration of wickedness.”
“Was Obama’s unseemly act a proclamation of social and political liberation from unjust oppression,” she asks, “or was it the ordination of a gnostic/neopagan monument to the unyoking of sex from truth?”:
Obama Dishonors National Park Service
… During this centennial year, President Barack Obama has decided that what the world needs now is a national park dedicated to sexual deviance. In his unbiblical belief that homoeroticism is something to be publicly celebrated, on June 24 President Obama proclaimed that the 1969 Stonewall riot that took place outside a seedy homosexual bar in NYC and which officially marks the start of the social and political revolution to normalize sexual deviance should be commemorated[.] …
This proclamation follows as expectedly as dark night follows day from a president who has defaced the White House in the garish and misappropriated colors of the rainbow to honor the destruction of marriage by the five Supreme Court justices. About this defacement, Obama was pleased to say “how good the White House looked in rainbow colors.”
The rainbow, the symbol of God’s promise never to destroy the world for our iniquities, is now the appropriated symbol of the celebration of iniquity. The rainbow has been purloined by the perverse to represent the wholesale rejection of God’s order for maleness, femaleness, sex, and marriage. And our president, who claims to be a follower of Christ, not merely shares in the celebration of wickedness but uses the office established by God-fearing men to promote it.
Does Obama know something St. Paul did not, because while Obama celebrates faux-marriage, the creation of intentionally motherless and fatherless children, and riots in support of body- and soul-destroying sexual acts, St. Paul warns of the eternal consequences of homoeroticism:
“The men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27).
“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Was Obama’s unseemly act a proclamation of social and political liberation from unjust oppression, or was it the ordination of a gnostic/neopagan monument to the unyoking of sex from truth?
Last month the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in a case about equal educational opportunity for all people, regardless of their race. In a 4-3 decision, the Court upheld the University of Texas’s diversity admission policies, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion. Justice Kennedy remarked that “courts must give universities substantial but not total leeway in designing their admissions program.”
Some backstory on the case: in 2008, Abigail Fisher applied to the University of Texas-Austin undergraduate program and was denied admission. Fisher, who is white, filed a lawsuit against the university claiming that she was denied admission based on her race. In 2014, the conservative Fifth Circuit Court affirmed the District Court’s decision in the case, in which it sided with the University of Texas. Fisher then filed a petition to the Supreme Court to hear the case, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments for the case in 2015.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Fisher v. University of Texas case was a crucial victory for racial justice in America. The Supreme Court upheld the right of the University of Texas to use race as part of the admissions policy for prospective students. The decision not only reflected the need for equality of opportunity for all people, it was also a step toward addressing the deep-seated racism that unfortunately is still present in our society. As PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan put it: “From universities to the workplace, diversity policies are among the many needed programs to combat structural racism and strive towards equal opportunity for every American.”
In a 4-3 decision today, the Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s equal opportunity admissions policy.
“The Court’s Fisher decision today is an important win for the Constitution, for students, and for all Americans,” said Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “By upholding the admissions policy at the University of Texas, the Court made clear that programs designed to further equal opportunity serve a critical role in addressing the racism that continues to permeate our country. Students from all backgrounds deserve a fair shot in our education system.
“From universities to the workplace, diversity policies are among the many needed programs to combat structural racism and strive towards equal opportunity for every American.”
People For the American Way Foundation 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.
After President Obama’s decisive reelection in 2012, the Republican National Committee commissioned an “autopsy report” to examine how the party could perform better among demographic groups that had overwhelmingly rejected Republicans that year. One of the groups the RNC was concerned about was women, many of whom had become alienated by the GOP’s “war on women,” a steady crusade of regressive policies paired with mind-bogglingly insensitive and out-of-touch remarks.
That project hasn’t exactly been a success. GOP-led state legislatures have continued their assault on safe and legal abortion, enacting 288 abortion restrictions in the past five years, more than a quarter of all of those enacted since Roe v. Wade. And some have considered drastic anti-abortion measures like a bill passed in Oklahoma that would have made providing an abortion a felony and so-called “personhood” measures that would ban all abortion and even threaten legal birth control that were considered in several states this year.
Further cementing the GOP’s continued problem with women voters is the success of Donald Trump, who is now the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
Not only does Trump have a long history of making insulting and dehumanizing comments about women, he has suggested that there should be “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, conceding that if abortion is recriminalized, as he would like, some women will be forced into the back alleys to obtain the procedure.
But the GOP’s war on women goes far beyond Trump and beyond the contentious issue of abortion rights. The party has shown few signs of relenting on key policy proposals that affect women’s economic freedom.
Paid family and sick leave, fair wages, access to child care, and the ability of women to start families without facing discrimination in the workplace are matters that affect millions of women every day.
These are causes that should unite those who identify as “pro-life” and those who call themselves “pro-choice.”
The right to reproductive freedom includes the right to choose to have a child without risking your livelihood or your economic future. And, while women should be free to obtain a safe and legal abortion for any reason, a truly “pro-life” approach would alleviate the economic risks around childbearing rather than putting women at risk by criminalizing abortion. As a 2005 study by the Guttmacher Institute found, three-quarters of women who sought abortions cited economic concerns or the pressures of work, school and caring for dependents.
What’s more, these policies are broadly popular with the American public. A 2015 poll found that 81 percent of voters, including 65 percent of Republicans, agreed that “workplace rules to ensure equal pay, paid time off to care for family members and affordable child care ‘is good for our nation.’”
Candidates running in both parties for all levels of office — especially those who identify as “pro-life” — should be asked where they stand on efforts to give women a true choice in their futures.
The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers. In fact, when the International Labor Organization looked at maternity leave policies in 188 countries, just the U.S. and Papua New Guinea lacked such a policy.
This means that even as companies like Google and Facebook earn headlines as they attempt to woo highly educated, high-earning men and women with offers of more and more generous parental leave, millions of parents are left behind. According to the Department of Labor, just “12 percent of U.S. private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer.” Public sector employees don’t fare much better. According to 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, only 18 percent of state government employees and 15 percent of local government employees had access to paid family leave.
Although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 requires many employers to offer new parents an option to take unpaid leave without risking their jobs, as the Labor Department notes, “Too many workers still cannot afford to take unpaid leave because of the loss of income it entails, or have to cut their leave short because of financial or workplace pressures.” A 2015 analysis of a 2012 Labor Department survey found that nearly one in four women returned to work within two weeks of giving birth; while 80 percent of women with college degrees were able to take at least six weeks of maternity leave, only 54 percent of those without college degrees did so.
Five states have enacted their own paid family leave laws, although two have yet to take effect, and five have paid sick leave requirements, one of which is set to take effect next year. One study of California’s family leave law, which was implemented in 2004, found that “87 percent of employers surveyed noted that family leave did not result in any cost increases, and about 9 percent of employers noted that the program had generated cost savings due to coordination of their own benefits with the family leave program and reduced employee turnover.”
Even as municipalities across the country work to enact their own paid parental and sick leave laws, a countertrend has emerged among states with conservative leadership, which have begun passing “preemption” laws blocking localities from guaranteeing paid leave.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, this strategy “first appeared in 2011 in Wisconsin, where the state legislature passed, and Governor Scott Walker signed, legislation to effectively void a Milwaukee paid sick days measure that passed in 2008 with the approval of nearly 70 percent of voters.” Behind that bill was the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive group that helps corporate interests feed policy to legislators. The National Restaurant Association and a local chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also lobbied for the bill. ALEC and the Restaurant Association then helped to push preemption laws to at 16 other states, with even more states considering similar legislation this year.
The American Prospect notes that “The National Federation of Independent [Business], a Washington-based group that has received large donations from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers’ American Prosperity Foundation (yet calls itself the ‘voice of small business’), has waged campaigns against at least 21 paid-sick-leave bills, issuing local reports with high estimates of the cost to businesses.”
Efforts to strengthen federal family and sick leave protections have also met resistance.
The Healthy Families Act, a bill that would allow “workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year to be used to recover from their own illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability,” has failed to become law in the more than a decade that it has been proposed. In 2015, a filibuster-proof majority of the Senate, including 14 Republicans, approved a largely symbolic budget amendment backing a similar plan, showing a possible path forward. Unfortunately, the already nonbinding language was watered down further before a final budget was passed by Congress.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has introduced a bill called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) that would provide eligible workers with up to 12 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their wages “for a personal or family member’s medical emergency, including those arising from service members’ deployment, or to care for a newborn or adopted baby.” The leave would be funded by a small payroll tax, split evenly between employees and employers, which the National Partnership calculates would come out to about $1.50 per worker per week.
Both candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination support expanding family leave; Sen. Bernie Sanders supports the Gillibrand bill while Hillary Clinton has proposed a similar plan with a different funding mechanism.
In 2015, President Obama ordered federal agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave to their employees to care for a new child and urged Congress to pass legislation granting federal employees an additional six weeks of paid administrative leave after a birth or adoption. Before the president took action, the federal government offered no specifically designated paid family leave, a situation that New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney has called “embarrassing.” Maloney’s Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Act, which would grant six weeks of paid family leave to federal employees, passed the House in 2009 with the support of most Democrats and 24 Republicans but was not acted on in the Senate. The bill has gone nowhere since Republicans gained control of the House.
Trump has signaled his resistance to federal paid family leave protections, calling pregnancy an “inconvenience” to businesses and saying that “there are a lot of people discussing it” but “we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful of it.” Trump’s closest competitor in the GOP presidential race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, said of paid family leave: “I think maternity leave and paternity leave are wonderful things. I support them personally. But I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of mandating them.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan has taken a similar tone, speaking frequently about the importance of spending time with his family but saying that doesn’t translate into support for a paid family leave law: “I don’t think that sticking up for being a person with balance in your life, for wanting to spend your weekends in your home with your family… I don’t think that means signing up for some new unfunded mandate.”
One 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, did technically propose a paid family leave plan. However, his plan to offer tax credits to companies that provide leave rather than requiring it would have exacerbated the inequalities that already exist in family leave policies.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has said that expanding paid family leave will “reduce” Americans’ “freedoms.”
The National Federation of Independent Business, a Koch-funded group, has come out against expanded leave requirements. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the behemoth lobbying group that claims to represent American business interests as a whole but is instead largely funded by a handful of companies, lists as policy priorities opposing efforts to “make FMLA leave paid or to mandate paid sick leave.” This stance, however, runs against the priorities of many business executives, who, according to leaked documents from a conservative polling firm, overwhelmingly support increasing paid parental leave and requiring paid sick leave. Sixty-three percent of those polled were members of local, state or federal chambers of commerce.
According to the latest data from the American Association of University Women, women who work full time, year round still earn just 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gap that is even worse for Latina and African American women. Gaps persist even among those with equal educational attainment and those working in the same industry. Childbirth can exacerbate the gap: One 2014 study found that while men’s earnings increased when they had children, women saw their pay drop.
The National Partnership for Women and Families notes that “mothers are primary or sole breadwinners in more than 40 percent of families, and about 31 percent of female-headed households have incomes that fall below the poverty level.”
Trump has said that the solution to the pay gap is for women to “do as good a job” as men. One of Trump’s prominent supporters, anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly, has claimed that “the pay gap, really, is something that women like” because women “like to marry a man who makes more than she does.”
From 2011 to 2014, Senate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act four times. The act, which Clinton and Sanders both support, would eliminate loopholes in and add enforcement tools to the 1963 Equal Pay Act.
Threats to equal pay go beyond legislative inaction. In 2008, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter, a longtime employee of a Goodyear Tire plant who found out late in her career that she had been being paid less than her male colleagues for decades. After a jury awarded Ledbetter the back pay she had earned, Goodyear appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Ledbetter had run out the statute of limitations for filing suit before she had even known that she had been the victim of discrimination. The Ledbetter decision was remedied in 2009 when President Obama signed a bill, passed over Republican opposition, that clarified the statute of limitations for pay discrimination claims.
The case highlights the importance of the court system in ensuring economic justice for women. The opinion in the Ledbetter case was written by George W. Bush appointee Justice Samuel Alito, whose ultra-conservative ideology is similar to many of the judges whom Trump has said he would consider elevating to the Supreme Court and those he would be likely to nominate to lower federal courts.
As the courts continue to determine the limits of workplace protections for women including, recently, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, it is important to have courts that will give fair consideration to working people, including women.
The National Women’s Law Center calculates that women make up “nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers and two-thirds of tipped workers.” According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would result in a raise for 27 percent of working moms and 40 percent of single moms.
The National Women’s Law Center calculates, “A woman working full time at minimum wage earns just $14,500 annually, more than $4,500 below the poverty line for a mother with two children.”
What’s more, the Law Center has found that states with higher minimum wages also have lower gender pay gaps. An Economic Policy Institute study found that in states that increased their minimum wage in 2015 (either by legislation or a scheduled index increase), wages grew faster for low-wage workers as a whole.
The last time the federal minimum wage was increased was 2009, when it was bumped to $7.25 an hour; the tipped minimum wage has remained at $2.13 per hour since 1991. Periodic increases in the minimum wage have failed to keep up with inflation; in fact, adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968.
President Obama backs a plan in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. Clinton also backs raising the federal minimum wage to $12 and has supported some state and local efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15; Sanders has called for a $15 federal minimum wage.
Both of these plans would phase out the tipped minimum wage so that all workers are entitled to the same minimum wage before tips. The National Women’s Law Center has found that eliminating the tipped minimum wage narrows the wage gap and lowers poverty rates for women working full time jobs. According to a study by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, “Women living off tips in states with a $2.13 an hour tipped minimum wage are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment than women in states that pay the full minimum wage to all workers.”
Donald Trump, meanwhile, said last year that not only would he not raise the minimum wage, but that American wages are “too high.” He later seemed to express openness to a minimum wage hike, only to clarify that he meant that the matter should be left to the states.
Many states and localities have indeed stepped in to fill the gap left by federal inaction on the minimum wage: 29 states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above the federal minimum and the National Employment Law Project counts dozens of municipalities with their own minimum wages, 18 of which have been passed in 2015 and 2016 alone. Still, this leaves 21 states, including a swath across the Deep South, that still rely on the baseline federal minimum wage.
A backlash against the recent wave of municipal minimum wage laws has come in the form of “preemption” bills similar to those used to stop sick leave protections, which prevent municipalities in a given state from enacting their own minimum wage protections. As of March, 19 states had enacted these laws, which have been promoted by ALEC and sometimes copied verbatim from ALEC model legislation. One such law recently enacted in Alabama was targeted at undoing a Birmingham ordinance that hiked the city’s minimum wage to $10.10.
At the federal level, resistance to minimum wage increases is led in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which says one of its policy priorities is to “oppose efforts to increase the minimum wage and to index the minimum wage to inflation or any other factor that will automatically increase labor costs.” Like with paid family and sick leave, the Chamber is out of step with many business leaders on the minimum wage issue: the leaked poll of executives found that 80 percent supported a minimum wage increase and just eight percent opposed it.
Another major player in the efforts to oppose minimum wage hikes, including a long-overdue increase in the tipped minimum wage, is the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying group for the restaurant and food service industry which, according to Pew, is “the single biggest employer of near-minimum-wage workers.” Women make up 52 percent of restaurant employees and 66 percent of tipped restaurant workers. According to a 2014 report by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, “The median wage for tipped workers hovers around $9 an hour including tips.”
The Restaurant Association has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars opposing minimum wage increases at the state and federal level. The group spent $4.25 million lobbying at the federal level just last year. The Restaurant Association’s PAC has already contributed more than $400,000 to federal candidates this election cycle, the bulk of it to Republicans.
Corporate Accountability International notes that many candidates get additional contributions from major corporate members of the Restaurant Association. It’s these powerful transnational corporations like McDonald’s and Darden Restaurants — not small mom-and-pop businesses — that are “the driving force behind the [National Restaurant Association’s] policy agenda,” the watchdog group says.
According to a 2015 report from the Economic Policy Institute, average child care costs exceed 30 percent of a minimum-wage worker’s income in every state. Child Care Aware has found that in 2014 in 28 states and the District of Columbia, the cost of center-based care for an infant was more than the in-state tuition at a public college. The group found that “In all regions of the United States, average child care fees for an infant in a child care center are more than the average amount that families spend on food.”
Clinton has proposed capping child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income using a combination of tax credits and subsidized care, while Sanders has called for greatly expanded investments in child care. Trump, meanwhile, has suggested leaving child care to the whims of employers, saying that it’s “not expensive” for businesses to provide on-site child care for employees — even though only seven percent of employers currently provide on-site or nearby child care. Trump responded to one question about child care affordability by saying “I love children,” before telling his female questioner, “It’s a big subject, darling.” Trump revealed his lack of personal experience in this area in 2005 when he said that he doesn’t “do anything to take care of” his children, adding that men who participate in child care are acting “like the wife.”
As the American Prospect noted last year, “American child care policy has faced two uphill battles: opposition by economic conservatives to increased public spending and opposition by social conservatives to government policies they see as disadvantaging families with stay-at-home mothers.”
However, in recent years there has been some bipartisan progress made toward expanding access to affordable child care. In 2014, the Senate passed 97-1 and the House passed by voice vote legislation reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides federal funding (matched by state contributions) to states to help low-income families afford child care and improve the quality of care. The reauthorization increases health and safety requirements for child care, encourages greater improvements to the quality of care, and aims to make it easier for families to get and keep child care assistance. (Unfortunately, Congress has not provided the significant new funding necessary to cover the increased costs entailed in meeting the law’s requirements.) When President Obama proposed expanding the child care tax credit in his State of the Union speech the next year, then-House Speaker John Boehner seemed receptive to the idea, saying that it was “certainly something we’d look at.”
Measures that give all women and families a true choice in shaping their futures should appeal to Republicans and Democrats, pro-choicers and pro-lifers. These are a few places to start.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
As People For the American Way wrote in a report on ALEC, the organization “is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced.” Corporations pay dues to the organization and earn the privilege to meet with state legislatures and present them with corporate-friendly model legislation.
ALEC bills that have spread across conservative state legislatures have included voter ID restrictions, tax cuts for the wealthy, attempts to undercut the Affordable Care Act, and so-called “right to work” laws that are meant to weaken labor unions.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a behemoth lobbying group that, while claiming to represent the interests of American businesses as a whole, is sometimes at odds with its local chapters and its individual members.
The Chamber is one of the largest spenders in U.S. elections. In the 2014 election cycle, the group spent more than $35 million in independent expenditures, mostly on behalf of Republican candidates. Already in 2016, the Chamber has spent $13 million in independent expenditures — again, mostly on behalf of Republicans. The Chamber also spends an enormous amount of money lobbying Congress and federal agencies, $124 million in 2014 and $84 million in 2015.
While the Chamber says it represents members ranging “from mom-and-pop shops and local chambers to leading industry associations and large corporations,” in reality much of its funding comes from large corporate interests and political groups. An Open Secrets analysis has found multimillion dollar contributions to the Chamber from Freedom Partners, the main group through which the billionaire Koch brothers funnel their considerable political spending, and Crossroads GPS, a political group started by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove. In fact, half of the money that the Chamber took in in 2012 came from just 64 large donors.
The Chamber is an ever-present force in efforts to stop paid family leave and sick leave and raising the minimum wage, all of which it lists as among its 2016 policy priorities. The group also opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act and it opposed the bill undoing the Ledbetter decision.
National Restaurant Association (NRA)
Known as “the other NRA,” the National Restaurant Association is a lobbying group funded by some of the largest U.S. restaurant chains that has worked to fight restaurant regulations including menu labeling requirements and guidelines on marketing junk food to kids. The Restaurant Association has been a leading opponent of minimum wage hikes across the country, along with opposing paid sick leave legislation and working to limit the scope of the Affordable Care Act. In one extreme example, the group spent $100,000 to defeat a paid sick leave ballot measure in Denver. The Restaurant Association has worked with ALEC to push for state “preemption” laws that prevent municipalities from enacting their own minimum wage and paid sick leave laws.
So far this year, the Restaurant Association has spent $1.5 million on federal lobbying and its PAC has contributed $400,000 to federal candidates, 87 percent of it to Republicans. This is on top of hefty contributions from some of the association’s largest members.
National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
While the NFIB describes itself as “the voice of small business,” it has received millions of dollars “in secret contributions from groups associated with Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers” according to the Huffington Post, and uses the vast majority of its political spending to back Republican candidates.
As Mother Jones noted in 2012, “few among the legions of small business owners that [NFIB] represents will benefit from its lobbying,” which has skewed toward the priorities of the ultra-rich, including opposing tax hikes on the wealthy. NFIB has fought to stop drinking water protections and climate change action and was the lead plaintiff in NFIB v. Sebelius, a major challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The NFIB has used its status as the supposed “voice of small business” to oppose paid family leave and sick leave policies and minimum wage increases.
While Donald Trump has been laughably trying to claim that he is the real champion of LGBT rights in the presidential race, just this week the man who he has recruited to help him build bridges with the Religious Right said that Christians must be willing to face death fighting Obama administration guidelines on transgender rights in schools.
Televangelist Frank Amedia, a volunteer “Christian policy liaison” for Trump who arranged a recent meeting for the candidate with conservative Christian leaders, addressed the transgender guidelines on the most recent episode of his Daystar program “Deep Calls to Deep.”
Amedia has said that Trump was “raised up” by God as part of a “breaker anointing” that is breaking down “established norms” in preparation for the return of Christ. He returned to this theme on the program, saying that this “breaker anointing” is “happening everywhere,” including politics, science and the schools.
This led him to the president’s “decree” on transgender students, which he likened to a story in the book of Daniel in which King Nebuchadnezzar demands that all local officials worship a huge gold statue of himself or be thrown into a furnace. Three Jews named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to do so and are thrown into the furnace, but are unharmed thanks to the protection of God.
“I liken it to the same decree that happened to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in their day, and it said, ‘You will bow down to this false god and if you don’t, I will destroy you,’” Amedia said. “Well, what this decree said to our schools is, ‘You will bow down to the fact that we don’t care anymore about gender and if you don’t, we’re going to take your money from you.’ It’s no different, beloved. It was done with the stroke of a pen.”
“We will not tolerate this,” he added. “We will not stand for it. You may be persecuted, you may be punished, and some of you who are educators, wherever you are, you may have to pay a price. Well, what about the price that you’re going to pay if you don’t stand up to it. So we need to say ‘No more.’ We need to be a people of God that’s strong. We need the people that have the Daniel spirit inside of us and we say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate it, we’re not going to stand for it, and we don’t care what you wrote, we don’t care if you put us in a furnace, we’re going in, because our God shall take care of us.”
American Pastors Network president and former Pennsylvania lawmaker Sam Rohrer linked Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando to Supreme Court decisions securing rights for LGBT people, telling conservative talk radio host Steve Deace this week that Supreme Court decisions involving marriage equality and “God’s order for human sexuality” have helped to cause God to remove “His hand of protection” from the country.
Rohrer told Deace that he has a “great deal of compassion for those who are involved” in the shooting and also believes that “these kind of events are only going to be increasing” for a number of reasons, including that “the Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood folks, they have made it clear that they’re going to do that”; that “our president and those in office are soft, refuse to even identify the enemy ideology of Islam as the enemy”; and, finally, “it’s a large part because I believe God has removed his hand of blessing on this country because we’ve turned our back upon him, and when he removes his hand of protection, these kinds of things come forth.”
“God has made very clear,” Rohrer explained, “that every nation that He has established — and He establishes all nations, we’re told that all nations are established by God, even the very geographical boundaries of the nations are determined — that when a nation, any nation, does what God says, meaning that they fear Him, that they uphold and enforce God’s moral law and God’s design for the family and for the family and for civil government, all of those are His, when those things are done, then God will bless a nation.”
“One of those blessings are the increase of wealth, one of those things is a security and protection from the neighbors around them,” he continued, “even the enemies will be at peace with them, we’re told in a number of places in Scripture. But when a nation backs off of that, particularly a nation such as ours that has a very biblical basis in an understanding of biblical principles — that’s where our Constitution came from, Declaration of Independence before that came out of that. When those things were there and put in place, when a nation turns their back on those things as we have and [are] increasingly, arrogantly doing, then at that point the justice of God says ‘I cannot any longer bless’ and these things which you’re doing will lead to not His lack of blessing, but insecurity and so forth.”
Deace returned to the theme later in the interview, saying that America’s current standing with God is “essentially like when a parent has an unruly child that persists in a behavior or an addiction that is destructive and has tried repeatedly to reach them, has tried repeatedly to intervene, they will not listen, and so they reach a point where you essentially have to allow them to hit rock bottom on their own in order to get the message and just kind of pray that they don’t kill themselves in that process.”
Rohrer agreed that this was a “fairly accurate representation” of what is going on and outlined a number of ways that he believes that Americans have “turned their back on” God, including marriage equality and a redefinition of “God’s order for human sexuality.”
“You know,” he said, “God has established, and made it very, very clear, that He’s established the family, He’s established the church, He’s established the institution of civil government … But when a nation, when a family, when the church fails to employ, fails to do and, even worse, turns their back on God’s moral law and His design, there is nothing but difficulty and trouble that comes and follows from that.”
“And, unfortunately, as a nation, we’ve once known God,” he said, “‘In God we trust’ is our motto. But … Congress wouldn’t even pass that motto now, they wouldn’t even bring it up and the president wouldn’t sign it. And our courts declare to be immoral what is moral, we redefine God’s institution of marriage, we redefine God’s order for human sexuality and we expect God to sit back and continue to bless? He can’t.”
Panelists at the conference “Money in Politics: A Barrier to a 21st Century Civil Rights Agenda?” on Thursday last week, including PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker, held an important conversation about how big money in politics today is impeding crucial civil rights progress. Baker was joined on the panel — which was moderated by The American Prospect’s Eliza Newlin Carney — by Rashad Robinson of ColorOfChange.org, Spencer Overton of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Janai Nelson of the NAACP, and Heather McGhee of DEMOS. Their dialogue explored the socioeconomic and racial implications of the way we fund elections, and how big money in politics serves as a barrier to a working and representative democracy in the United States. As the panelists made clear, in today’s political system, people of color, women, and low-income people often do not have an equal voice in our democracy.
Heather McGhee remarked that “the campaign finance system currently has inherent racial bias,” and noted that the money coming into our political system is overwhelmingly from wealthy white communities. Baker elaborated on this by discussing how many of the policies now in place are those favored by these wealthy interests, and highlighting the lack of adequate disclosure of political contributions as a barrier to organizing against these discriminatory policies. Robinson picked up that theme, discussing how the lack of timely disclosure becomes a barrier for activists trying to connect the dots between political contributions and political outcomes. Overton, who has direct experience with fundraising for campaigns, discussed the pressure to court super-rich donors who have the capacity to give massive sums, rather than reaching out to larger numbers of more modest donors. And Nelson tied money in politics reform to voting rights and outlined the need for a “deliberative democracy” that is responsive to the people.
As the panel drew to a close, panelists discussed how to address this issue moving forward. Baker made the point that currently there aren’t enough elected officials who are fighting for solutions to counteract big money in politics. McGhee reiterated that, despite a few notable exceptions, there has not been sufficient attention given to this issue from politicians serving in office.
It is time for a campaign finance system and a political system no longer run only by those with money and power. To achieve equitable public policies we need a fully representative democracy where all people, no matter their race or socioeconomic status, have an equal voice in the democracy, and that currently is simply not the case.
At last week’s Road To Majority conference sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America, anti-gay pundit and Liberty University law school associate dean Matt Barber promoted his new book, “Hating Jesus: The American Left’s War on Christianity.”
Barber’s remarks were a typically toxic mix, portraying Christians in America as being under assault from the “secular left, so-called progressives, orthodox Islamists and other pagan traditions, as well as fanatical atheists and others.”
Mankind’s enduring culture war, this is something we did not start. It’s nothing new. It first began in a garden, long ago, and today has reached a fever pitch worldwide, and right here in America in our own backyard. The battle lines are drawn, not so much as between conservative and liberal, as many presume, but rather between biblical and unbiblical, between truth versus deception, and in its most distilled form, the culture war is really a worldly manifestation of an otherworldly battle between good and evil.
Barber admiringly quoted Catholic Cardinal Robert Sarah, who has equated “atheistic secularism” and Islamic fundamentalism with Nazism and communism, “almost like the beasts of the apocalypse.” These two movements, he said, have “the same demonic origin.”
Barber said the progressive left is overwhelmingly anti-Semitic and anti-conservative-Christian, and called President Obama an “apologist for radical Islam.” And he repeated the Religious Right’s charge that the LGBT equality movement is somehow allied with radical Islamic jihadists in a war against Christian civilization:
Liberals and Islamists seem to have forged a bizarre and notably incongruous partnership that I call the Islamo-progressive axis of evil. You ever notice? It just defies logic that secular leftists will trip over themselves to make excuses for radical Islamists who, believe me, they’re coming for them too. The only explanation that I can see for this strange connection is best illustrated by the old adage, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ And the common enemy, of course, is who? Christ Jesus. It is the person of Christ Jesus who is truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through him. He is the personification, the embodiment of truth, and so they align against him. And so, Christians in America, ladies and gentlemen, are under attack…
Is this George Washington’s America or is this Joseph Stalin’s Russia? It’s starting — the lines are becoming pretty blurred ... We American Christians are now struggling to maintain our fundamental constitutional freedoms, and are now living under the daily threat of legal, reputational and even physical abuse simply for exercising our faith. Now let me be clear here. We are moving from a soft persecution to a hard persecution here in the United States. Now we’re not being beheaded. No, we’re not being burned alive … but we need to be praying for our brothers and sisters around the world. We are on that trajectory.
Like many speakers at Road to Majority, Barber denounced efforts to protect the ability of transgender people to use facilities appropriate for their gender identity, portraying the issue in apocalyptic terms:
There are wicked sacrileges being forced upon the American people today, things we couldn’t even imagine five years ago, by our own godless government in the name of so-called progress. Things like utterly evil and insane presidential edicts that open up little girls’ bathrooms and showers to grown men terrorizing themselves, violating their privacy and threatening their safety … Things like the sin-centric and oxymoronic notion of genderless marriage; forced taxpayer funding of child sacrifice and forced participation by Christ’s followers in all of the above sins, under penalty of law, to name but a few of these travesties that are being foisted upon us.
Amid the sprint to the election 2016, the secular left’s utter disdain for both Christ and his followers is reaching a fever pitch. Self-styled progressives, and that is America’s cultural Marxist agents of ruin … they typically disguise their designs on despotism in the flowery and euphemistic language of — and you have heard all of these — reproductive health, anti-discrimination, civil rights and their favorite, of course, multiculturalism. But their ultimate goal here is to silence all dissent and force Christians to conform to their pagan demand or, potentially, face even incarceration.
In addition, said Barber, the U.S. has become “a global force for evil” whose chief export is immorality.
On top of this, the United States has become, in many ways, a global force for evil. Once the moral authority of the world, our chief export now is immorality. We are evangelizing against Christianity as a government, official government policy, pushing radical homosexualism, pushing the transgender agenda worldwide, and using the power of the purse to blackmail countries, poor countries, into acquiescing and casting aside their Christian history and beliefs and embracing this evil …
And also like other speakers, Barber promoted the importance of electing Donald Trump to the White House without mentioning him by name, calling the upcoming election “absolutely critical” to the future of the nation. Christians are called to be salt to the culture, said Barber, and when the culture is an open wound, salt is going to burn. America is “ripe for revival,” he said. “We are going to burn people.”
We must fight back as Christians. It’s time to stop being nicer than Jesus … there is such a thing as righteous anger. We need to be angry because righteousness is being trampled and evil is being promoted to your children …
We can set this nation back on a path toward peace and prosperity and, most importantly, a deep love for God, both individually and, as our founding fathers intended, corporately. We can take America back for Christ, but we can only do it with and through Jesus Christ himself.
In response to this morning’s mass shooting in Orlando, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement:
“On behalf of all the members of People For the American Way, I want to express my deepest sympathy to all those affected by today’s shooting. The victims, their families and the entire Orlando LGBT community are in our thoughts.
“But our sympathies are not enough. This tragedy, the worst mass shooting in American history, is the result of a toxic brew of intolerance and easy access to firearms. Today is a heartbreaking reminder that despite decades of progress, anti-LGBT hatred and violence is still a deadly reality, and it’s crucial that we recommit ourselves to challenging bigotry in all its forms. It’s a reminder, too, that a nation awash in guns isn’t inevitable. It’s the result of policy choices driven by pro-gun extremists and enabled by politicians who refuse to stand up to them. Our elected leaders could take sensible steps to keep weapons of war away from those who would use them to murder innocent people. They’ve simply chosen not to.
“As we mourn the victims of this horrible tragedy, it would be inexcusable to ignore the steps we can take to prevent the next one.”
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson invited Faith 2 Action’s Janet Porters on to his “Family Talk” radio program this week to discuss transgender-inclusive facilities policies in schools and stores like Target, which Dobson said violate the Levitical prohibition against selling your daughter into prostitution.
“Let me share a Scripture with you all that I came across that speaks to this issue,” he said. “It’s addressed directly to parents, I think. It’s Leviticus 19:29. Listen to this: ‘Do not degrade your daughters by making them a prostitute or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.’ That comes right to the heart of this. It sort of feels like that’s where we are. We’re taking our little, vulnerable kids and we’re saying in the name of political correctness, ‘Here are our children. Do with them what you want.’ And I’m here to say that I’m going to fight that as long as I have breath in my body.”
He added that he was worried not only about children but also about his wife, Shirley, “being in a bathroom where some grungy guy comes in there and zips down the zipper and does things that she will remember the rest of her life.”
“I mean, where is manhood that we don’t stand up and defend our own families?” he asked. “And I think that we’re going to be responsible before the Lord if we don’t do it.”
Porter heartily agreed, saying that while some are staying out of the issue because they’re “afraid of being called a mean name,” it’s time for “men of courage” to “stand and fight.”
Dobson’s cohost, Meg Meeker, chimed in to say, “Woe to us who do not intervene on behalf of our kids, that’s all I can say.”
“They’re sitting ducks,” said Dobson.
Porter then invoked another Bible verse, the passage in Luke where Jesus tells his disciples that "it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”
“You know, the Bible says it’s better to have a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble,” she said. “And I think … that this applies not just to those in the schools that are doing this, those in the White House and the Target corporation, but I think it applies to parents. Because if you don’t vigilantly watch what they’re teaching your children, if you don’t stand now, school administrators, if you don’t stand now and fight this, then this verse, I believe, applies to you. Because these children are being led astray, they’re being harmed, they’re being violated and the only thing that can protect them is for those adults in authority to stand now and fight.”