At a meeting with Iowa state legislators yesterday recorded by the Iowa conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts, Rick Santorum boasted that he proved himself as a strong leader when he opposed the 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down anti-gay “sodomy” bans. Without such leadership against LGBT rights, he warned, “life as we know it, particularly the family, is going to be on a very, very bad track over the long term.”
Addressing the controversy over so-called “religious freedom” measures in Arkansas and Indiana that were softened by legislators to make it more difficult to use them as a cover for discrimination, Santorum lamented that “what happened there was the media created a firestorm and leaders didn’t lead.”
“I’ve been through that firestorm,” he explained. “I go back 13 years to when I was in the Senate and stood up and said, ‘If the Supreme Court decides a case this way, then all these bad things are going to start happening.’ And I said we would have same-sex marriage in this country in ten years. I was wrong: it was five years. And I was put through a national wringer like no one had been put through and I have been put through over and over and over again because I am not going to back down from what I believe is the right course for our country.”
Although Santorum likes to claim that all of his dire predictions about the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas came true, that isn’t exactly accurate. He told CNN at the time: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
“I always say, whether it’s religious liberty now or the marriage issue or a whole bunch of other things, we’re losing these arguments simply because we’re not making them,” Santorum said in Iowa. “We’re not making them because we’re intimidated from them. If that continues, then life as we know it, particularly the family, is going to be on a very, very bad track over the long term.”
He added that he was a strong leader during the Indiana and Arkansas controversies because he was “fighting for the truth and not the perversion that we saw the media try to ram down the public’s throat about what Indiana and Arkansas were doing.”
Anti-marriage-equality activist Robert Oscar Lopez is out with another rambling column in the American Thinker, this time alleging that conservative supporters of marriage equality are being blackmailed or bribed and that the attorneys arguing on behalf of same-sex marriage bans at the Supreme Court this year will try to throw the case at the behest of powerful Republicans.
Lopez breaks down conservatives who support marriage equality into three groups: the “clueless,” the “scared,” and the “compromised… who are being blackmailed or threatened by pro-gay people close to them, but behind the scenes.” This group, he alleges, includes “well-known television personalities, lawyers in charge of defending traditional marriage in court, or leaders of pro-family organizations.”
While the vast majority of conservative Americans oppose gay marriage, the vast majority of conservative leaders have a vested interest in making sure gay marriage is legalized nationally. It is not the case that the latter group all support gay marriage in any intellectual sense, but they break down into diverse subgroups, all of whom share the same goal of making sure gay marriage becomes legal.
First, you have clueless conservatives who actually think gay marriage is about consenting adults loving each other, progress, and equality. These are rightists who read only the conservative news outlets that ban any editorials from dissident COGs, so they have never really seen the hard evidence that in fact gay marriage will harm children. They mostly don’t even think children are part of the issue at all.
Then you have scared conservatives who know that gay marriage is going to harm children but who do not want to face the blowback that is sure to follow a public stance against it. These folks will avoid discussing the topic. They must avoid being seen with people who have strong arguments against gay marriage – especially anyone who brings up the effects on children.
You also have compromised conservatives, who are being blackmailed or threatened by pro-gay people close to them, but behind the scenes. This is a much larger group than you know. These are people who mostly oppose gay marriage in principle and may even have a public identity as an opponent of gay marriage. I know of some cases where they are well-known television personalities, lawyers in charge of defending traditional marriage in court, or leaders of pro-family organizations. Even though they may technically be on “our” side, they have been bought off and are taking orders from bribers who tell them which arguments (the ones with a chance of winning) are off limits. They will go and defend male-female marriage in the public square, but mysteriously be tongue-tied after a career of sterling oratory. Such false Jeremiahs are consciously siphoning the energy and funding of anti-gay-marriage viewers toward dead ends that their controllers know will end in gays getting marriage and children anyway. This group of conservatives is actually the most dangerous, largely because you often discover their compromised status when it’s too late.
Later in the column, Lopez warns that if the Supreme Court issues a ruling in favor of marriage equality, it will usher in a “dystopian world where you lose everything.” He urges readers to contact the attorneys general of the states that are defending their marriage bans at the court, warning that the attorneys will attempt to throw the cases at the behest of “their governors and their political bundlers.”
If you have gotten this far, you probably oppose gay marriage. You may do so strictly for religious reasons. You may disagree with me about the effect of gay marriage on children. Cool – no problem. Here’s the deal: if gay marriage passes, you will lose. You will lose your freedoms. You will lose your voice. You will lose the conservative movement that you hold dear for any number of reasons not related to gay marriage. All the truces and compromises that are offered to sweeten gay marriage as a deal will be swiftly and mercilessly broken once it is the law of the land. Your churches will be watched and subverted. You will risk your job by speaking your mind on e-mail, on Facebook, or even over dinner talking to your own children.
If you are hoping to carve out some religious liberty provision in a post-gay marriage America, you are going to be too late.
You gain nothing by negotiating some special exception for yourself after gay marriage passes.
You must do everything you can to stop gay marriage itself. If you cannot name the reasons for opposing gay marriage in clear, fearless terms that apply to people of faith and non-believers equally, you will lose your faith. The Bible tells us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Don't forget the serpents in the mix.
Right now, all that stands between the world we know and the dystopian world where you lose everything is the Supreme Court case. The attorneys who have sole authority to represent traditional marriage for Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee may be good men, or not. I do not know; I have no inside information. Common sense tells me that their governors and their political bundlers are going to place enormous pressure on them to lose to the pro-gay marriage side, but as gracefully as possible. They cannot openly state that they do not want to argue the case. They may feel it is in their best interest to put on a show of defending male-female marriage, throwing out purposefully toothless arguments so that the gay marriage side wins, the world moves on, and they do not have to worry about suffering long-term blowback as the people who actually fought for marriage.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins was not impressed with New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s opinion piece this weekend on the growing body of theological work arguing for the acceptance of homosexuality within the church. In a column for the Christian Post yesterday (later approvingly reprinted in the anti-gay screed outlet BarbWire), Perkins argues that Bruni takes on “a tone of fascism” and that Christians who make biblical arguments for the acceptance of homosexuality are, in fact, committing “heresy.”
Perkins adds a dig at Protestant denominations that affirm same-sex relationships, saying that they are "becoming more like social clubs and liberal foundations than proclaimers of a faith delivered with clarity and finality, once for all.”
Woven throughout Bruni's comments is a tone of fascism, a barely-disguised warning that if Evangelical Protestants and orthodox Catholics don't bend in their theology and in their daily lives, they will be "made" to.
Theological history is repeating itself today with respect to homosexuality. Myriad scholars have demonstrated how fallacious are the arguments of those who wish to render clear biblical teaching obsolete.
In other words, heresy is not new. The first three chapters of the Book of Revelation are a series of indictments by Jesus Himself of churches that were already - at the end of the first century - falling away from the truth of the Gospel.
Bruni grants no possibility that there is a rich, articulate, persuasive, and sound literature by Christian theologians demonstrating how clear and unchanging is the Bible's teaching on same-sex intimacy, marriage, and human sexuality in general. He is disinterested in such, and instead appeals to outliers like David Gushee and Matthew Vines. And in a particularly desperate move, he notes that the "United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" have all affirmed same-sex relationships. True, but these historic denominations are no longer mainstream. They are dying, becoming more like social clubs and liberal foundations than proclaimers of a faith delivered with clarity and finality, once for all (those are biblical phrases, Mr. Bruni; Mssrs. Gushee and Vines would know them).
Furthermore, it is clear from two millennia of Christian history that the church has always been infiltrated by false teachers. The Savior warned of them, and the milieu of theological conflict intrinsic to the New Testament, a canon of books composed both to instruct as to the truth and warn as to its distortions, makes clear that error is omnipresent in a fallen world - even as the truth, attacked as it continually is, remains sure, fixed, and unchanging.
Mr. Bruni, my Evangelical and orthodox Catholic peers have a message for you: We will not be "re-educated," nor will we be silent. We are not going away. We love you too much to affirm sin in any fashion. We condemn any vitriol you receive from those who, outraged by your dismissive and hostile column, call you names or worse. And we love you too much to reduce Christian faith to simply being "nice" or affirming what the God of Creation and of the Bible says is un-affirmable.
Sin is sin. Our sin. Your sin. God sets the standard, not us. His standard is not unclear or subjective or ambivalent.
It's your decision as to how to respond to it. We've made ours.
Ted Cruz raised more than a few eyebrows last week when, barely a week into his presidential run, he proposed a radical plan to strip federal courts of the ability to decide cases involving marriage equality.
As Esquire’s Charles Pierce notes, Cruz is echoing a time-honored rallying cry of people who are losing a battle in the federal courts: “Previous attempts include trying to remove the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over cases in a number of instances, including those involving school prayer, school busing, abortion, and pornography.”
The bill, which would have barred federal courts from ruling on cases challenging officials who recognized "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government," never made it out of committee, but it managed to garner 37 cosponsors in the House and five in the Senate; when it was reintroduced the next year, it was up to 50 House cosponsors and nine Senate cosponsors.
Americans For Truth About Homosexuality’s Peter LaBarbera stopped by VCY America’s “Crosstalk” program on Wednesday to discuss the debate over legislation in Arkansas and Indiana that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers in the name of “religious liberty.”
At the end of the program, a listener called in to share her views on the Antichrist. “I believe that there are several Antichrists,” she said, “and I believe one is the gay liberation movement and another Antichrist, I believe, is some parts of the government in Iran that are always talking about destroying Israel.”
“Certainly the spirit of Antichrist is in the movement that is a very assault at how he designed man and woman to be,” Schneider agreed. “Thank you. That is indeed the spirit of Antichrist. And especially when we see the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Peter, the attacks against it, that is a spirit of Antichrist saying that we cannot act upon the convictions that God’s word provides for us.”
LaBarbera responded that this is “absolutely” the case and that there is now an Antichrist-driven situation in the U.S. in which “Christians have to go to the back of the bus.”
Soon afterwards, another listener called in with another biblical question, asking LaBarbera if he ever brings up the story of Sodom and Gomorrah when he’s giving anti-gay talks.
LaBarbera responded that he does sometimes bring up the story of the cities that were destroyed by God as punishment for sin, but that people are often “ignorant” about what that has to do with the United States, where “the things homosexuals do in private, the orgies, etc…are every bit as evil as what we’d done in Sodom.”
“Jim, I think we would both agree that in some aspects America has surpassed Sodom in the evil that it allows,” he said. “We can’t all talk about it on this show, but I mean I’ve been to events that are incredibly perverse in their public events in San Francisco. And the things that homosexuals do in private, the orgies, etc., I think are every bit as evil as what we’d done in Sodom. We don’t know exactly what we’d done but we have an idea from the word of God.”
“So we’ve reached that level and we’re wondering what punishment does God have for us since we’re allowing the promotion of this in our nation,” he warned.
Finally, LaBarbera and Schneider got a call from a listener who said that he was a barber who wasn’t “against homosexuals” but maintained that he had the right to refuse service to a gay person because they might have AIDS.
“I’m a barber by trade and I’m not against homosexuals, I’m just against the lifestyle, so I get a one in my chair, I have the right to refuse not to shave his neck or use any implement that might cause blood because I don’t know if he’s got AIDS or anything,” he said.
LaBarbera, who earlier in the program had said that Christians wouldn’t refuse service to gay people, just to their weddings, didn’t address the issue directly but agreed that gay people have brushed “the safety of people” aside in their “fanatical push for gay rights.”
Deliberately obfuscating the history of the bipartisan federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was skewed by the Supreme Court in its Hobby Lobby decision, Cruz claimed that Democrats have recently “decided that religious liberty is disposable, that it is unnecessary” and “accordingly, we have a vilification of people who are engaging in acting out their faith.”
Cruz declared that a “partisan leftist group” is now “demonizing the state of Indiana for acting to protect religious liberty there.”
Harkening back to the Pilgrims, who he said (inaccurately) wanted “a land where every one of us could seek out the Lord God Almighty free of government getting in the way,” Cruz said that “we really have gone through the proverbial looking glass that there is now a concerted effort targeting people of faith.”
Laws preventing businesses from discriminating against LGBT people in public services or requiring them to offer full health care coverage for female employees, he implied, are as much as an infringement on religious liberty as forcing a rabbi to eat pork.
“Nobody in their right mind would force a Catholic priest to perform a Protestant wedding. Likewise, nobody in their right mind would force a Jewish rabbi to perform a Christian wedding or, for that matter, to violate kosher and go consume pork,” he said. “We have long had a tradition from the beginning of this country of respecting religious liberty and accommodating and respecting the good-faith religious views of our citizens.”
“And it is only the intolerance of the current day of the far-left that views with which they disagree — the far-left is such a radical proponent of gay marriage that anyone whose faith teaches to the contrary, anyone whose faith teaches that marriage is a sacrament of one man and one woman, a holy union before God, the far-left views that religious view as unacceptable and they’re trying to use the machinery of the law to crush those religious views. And I think it is wrong, I think it is intolerant, and I think it is entirely inconsistent with who we are as a people,” he added.
Perkins also blasted Defense Secretary Ash Carter for a plan to ease some recruitment standards for service members, including accepting people with minor criminal records such as drug offenses for some positions. “In the U.S. military, it might soon be criminals in -- Christians out!” he warns.
Reports have shown that the military is facing difficulties in finding recruits due to a numberof factors, including a stronger economy, high obesity rates and college dropout rates. But Perkins suggests that the military would solve its recruiting woes if it simply ended progress toward LGBT rights and brought back “morality.”
“Our troops are tired of fighting two wars: America's and the culture's,” he writes.
In the U.S. military, it might soon be criminals in -- Christians out! That's the Pentagon's solution to the latest recruitment woes, according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Faced with low enlistments, the military is desperately looking for ways to attract new service members to replenish its ranks. With morale at a record low and the crackdown on values at an all-time high, recruiters have an even more challenging job these days.
Desperate for new sign-ups, Carter and others are advocating looser standards, including allowing some with minor criminal records to enlist. Blaming the numbers on the "competitive job market," Carter said the military is going to "have to work harder to compete." But the issue isn't so much a competitive job market as it is an unfriendly military. With the wars winding down, it should be even easier to meet those enlistment targets. Instead, the Pentagon is lowering the standards to meet their quotas, which will only accelerate the downward spiral of the military.
While the Left will throw a fit, the reality is no one should be surprised. In fact, FRC's General Boykin and other military experts warned this would be the result of the Obama administration's social experimentation with the military. In the wake of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the same doors that opened for homosexuals seemed to shut in Christians' faces, as the President's hostility toward men and women of faith seeped into every aspect of military life. In more evidence that the President's policies have fundamentally transformed America,chaplains have been ousted,Bibles expelled, crosses torn down, and rainbow flags hoisted in their place.
In the absence of morality, sexual assaults have skyrocketed, suicides are through the roof, and religious liberty has vanished. Our troops are tired of fighting two wars: America's and the culture's. Congress needs to get to the bottom of these problems and fast. It's time to undo the damage done by almost seven years of social engineering on our country's finest -- or face the national security consequences.
Over the last twenty years, 19 states have passed laws modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was enacted in 1993 with broad bipartisan support. But just this year, almost the same number, 15, have seen such bills introduced, generating enormous controversy across the country, particularly in Indiana where Gov. Mike Pence signed the new state RFRA into law.
Why the huge uptick now? As one of those involved in the original drafting and passage of RFRA in 1993, I think it's a combination of the perceived dangers to the far right from the move towards LGBT marriage equality and the perceived opportunity created just last year by the 5-4 Supreme Court's rewriting of RFRA in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
Even before the Supreme Court agreed to decide the marriage equality issue, the far right has highlighted the supposed dangers to small businesses like bakers and florists who do not want to serve LGBT couples because of religious objections. Under RFRA as passed in 1993, and under the protection from the First Amendment's Free Exercise doctrine that it was meant to restore, RFRA wouldn't have offered much help. First, neither had been applied to non-religious corporations, which had never been thought to have religious freedom rights. Second, it would have been very hard to argue that a neutral law banning discrimination against LGBT people would have created a "substantial burden" on actual religious exercise, which is required to qualify for a RFRA-type exemption. For example, in one case the Supreme Court rejected the claim that requiring federal welfare recipients to submit social security numbers was such a burden even when it conflicted with an applicant's religious beliefs. And even if such a burden were created by obeying an anti-discrimination or other general law, pre-Hobby Lobby law would not have helped a religious claimant: as the Court ruled in rejecting a religious exemption to a requirement that a religious farmer withhold social security taxes, such an exemption would improperly "operate to impose the employer's religious faith on the employees" and others.
But then came Hobby Lobby.
In that case, writing for a bare majority of the Court, Justice Alito ruled that religious objections by a corporation's owners exempted them under RFRA from providing contraceptive coverage through insurance to employees under the Affordable Care Act. As Justice Ginsburg explained in dissent, rather than interpreting RFRA to restore prior case law, the majority interpreted it as going beyond prior Court decisions to maximize benefits to religious claimants. In particular, she explained, the Court effectively re-wrote RFRA so that it could be invoked by for-profit corporations, and so that the original law protecting individuals against a "substantial burden" on the exercise of religion was transformed to allow claims by a business owner that complying with a neutral law offended their religious beliefs in some way. Under the majority's view, Justice Ginsburg suggested, RFRA could be interpreted to "require exemptions" in cases where religious beliefs were used to justify actions that discriminated on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Pointedly, Justice Alito responded only that "prohibitions on racial discrimination" would be safe from a RFRA exemption claim, but said nothing about gender or LGBT status.
So for far-right activists and legislators concerned about LGBT marriage equality and other rights, Hobby Lobby provided the perfect opportunity: pass state RFRA laws and effectively grant a religious exemption claim from LGBT anti-discrimination laws and local ordinances, based on the Court's re-writing of RFRA's language. Indeed, in communicating with supporters about the Indiana RFRA law, the far-right Family Research Council specifically called it the "Hobby Lobby bill."
Even better, rhetoric directed at outsiders could be cloaked in general language about protecting religious freedom, not attacking LGBT rights. Supporters could even invoke Democratic supporters of RFRA like President Clinton and claim that neither RFRA nor its state counterparts had been interpreted to allow discrimination, as Indiana Gov. Pence has tried to do. These claims ignore the fact that it wasn't until last year that the Supreme Court effectively rewrote the language in RFRA so that it was transformed from a shield for religious liberty into a sword against anti-discrimination protections. And previous supporters like President Clinton have made clear their opposition to this year's state RFRA proposals.
Under pressure, the neutral façade of recent state RFRA proposals has crumbled. When pushed to amend a state RFRA proposal in Georgia to make clear that it could not be used against anti-discrimination ordinances, a Georgia legislator admitted that one of the reasons for the bill was to allow it to be invoked by the small business owner who had religious objections to providing services to an LGBT couple. And when an amendment was added in the Georgia House Judiciary Committee to state that the RFRA bill was not to be used against discrimination laws, the bill was promptly tabled on March 26, with a supporter stating that the amendment would "gut" the bill.
As of now, the fate of RFRA bills in Georgia and elsewhere is uncertain and Gov. Pence has asked the legislature for an amendment to "clarify" that Indiana's RFRA law cannot be used to deny services to anyone. That would be a welcome step - one that flies in the face of the clear intent of some of the bill's backers, which was clearly to enshrine such a "right" for Indiana businesses. Language has been adopted elsewhere to make clear that state RFRAs cannot be used against anti-discrimination bills; such a provision is currently in Texas' RFRA, although there is a proposal to remove it. Before Hobby Lobby, such language might not have been necessary. After Hobby Lobby, it is crucial.
Anti-gay Presbyterian theologian Robert Gagnon stopped by the American Family Association radio program “Today’s Issues” today to discuss the decision of the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country, the Presbyterian Church (USA), to approve of same-sex marriage.
When the AFA’s Ed Vitagliano asked Gagnon “how in the world our culture has moved so rapidly” on acceptance of homosexuality, Gagnon responded that there were “lots of factors,” including a “full-court press” from elites and “natural concerns” about gay people wanting to form life-long unions.
Another factor, he asserted, is “heterosexual guilt.”
“A lot of heterosexuals have, you know, we’ve not done all that well in some areas of sexual ethics,” he said. “That includes issues of divorce, remarriage, that includes premarital sex, includes abortion. And if you can give a pass on the issue of homosexual practice, in effect it’s a way of exempting our own guilt, and it’s accommodating in a way that’s self-serving.”
Later in the interview, Gagnon cited a passage from Corinthians in which the Apostle Paul disciplines a man who has had sex with his father’s wife as evidence that gay people are “at high risk” of being left behind when the Kingdom of God is established.
“The repercussions for somebody living out of same-sex attractions such that they are actively entertaining those thought desires in their thought life without repentance at any point…or, even worse, engaging in it in the behavior, according to Paul, according to the united witness of scripture, they’re putting themselves at high risk of not inheriting the Kingdom of God,” he said.
Noting that homosexuality might be even more of a grievous sin than incest, Gagnon paraphrased the story: “Paul is very clear at the incestuous man, ‘Okay, if you engage in this behavior, you’re putting yourself at high risk of being excluded from the Kingdom of God. So the only last recourse we have as a church to wake you up, and also not to send a signal to the rest of the church that sexual purity doesn’t matter, is to put you on church discipline, not as a punitive measure, but as a remedial measure so that you will wake up, come to your senses and return to the church, the place of shelter and protection away from the wilds of the Enemy, the Satan, the Adversary.’”
“And that’s not Paul not loving the incestuous man,” he concluded. “It’s Paul showing he really loves the incestuous man. He cares enough for the offender to try to reclaim him to the Kingdom of God, which is what Jesus did in his ministry to sexual sinners and to exploitative tax collectors.”
Operation Save America, the radical anti-choice group that grew out of the original Operation Rescue, will be holding a multi-day event in Montgomery, Alabama, in June to express its support for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s activism against marriage equality and abortion rights.
OSA head Rusty Lee Thomas writes in a press release today that the event will bring together “hundreds of gentle Christians from across the nation” for a march drawing on “the historical lessons of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma.”
A description of the event on the group’s website boasts that “[f]or years, Operation Save America has stood faithfully with Chief Justice Roy Moore, a poet, warrior, statesmen [sic].” It specifically praises Moore’s work to develop a legal framework to support radical anti-choice “personhood” laws and his ongoing standoff with the federal courts over marriage equality.
We are praying for God to record His name in Montgomery and by His Spirit bid His people come to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to the gates of hell (Abortion mills in Alabama). They will not prevail against the Church of the living God (Matthew 16:18). They never have and they never will. Jesus is Lord!
For years, Operation Save America has stood faithfully with Chief Justice Roy Moore, a poet, warrior, statesmen. Through his many battles, we supported his righteous stands in the face of persecution and tyranny. Today, the Alabama Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Moore continues to stand against injustice and once again we are going to come alongside to help.
Moore, along with Justice Tom Parker, have rendered Decisions from the court that directly or indirectly have taken on Roe vs. Wade. Currently, Moore is acting faithfully as a Lower Magistrate to resist “Gay Marriage” in his state. He is taking another just stand and once again, we will stand with him.
Alabama is also working on establishing “Personhood” for the preborn child who is made in the image of God. Alabamians are willing to stand upon the self-evident truth established by God’s Word and we our coming to stand with them.
There are at least four death camps in Alabama still applying their grisly trade to murder babies made in the image of God. This evil defiles the land and invokes God’s judgments upon us. We are coming to stand in the gap and make up the hedge. We want to give God a reason to show mercy in the midst of the American holocaust.
It’s not surprising that Operation Save America, one of the most radical anti-choice groups in the country, would find ideological kinship with Justice Moore.
On Saturday, roughly 2,000 activists gathered at Faith Assembly, a megachurch in Orlando, for the Awakening, an annual “Prayer and Patriotism event” organized by the Christian Right legal group Liberty Counsel. The Awakening, which Liberty Counsel organizes under the auspices of an amalgam of Religious Right groups called the Freedom Federation, brings together activists from the evangelical Right with the GOP politicians who want their votes.
At this year's event, GOP politicians including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal (via video) and RNC faith director Chad Connelly shared a stage with far-right activists including "ex-gays," a phony ex-terrorist and at least two Religious Right leaders who insist that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality.
Here are five takeaways from a day with the core of the Religious Right.
1. Gay Marriage Will Send Christians To Jail
While some on the Right may be trying to shy away from the issue of marriage equality now that it could be on its way to a Supreme Court victory, the activists at the Awakening were not among them. Throughout the conference, marriage between gay and lesbian couples was portrayed as a demonic and existential threat to liberty, one that if allowed to proceed would end in Christianity being outlawed and Christians thrown in jail.
The Republican National Committee’s faith outreach director, Chad Connelly, who was moderating a panel on abortion rights, echoed the Religious Right’s rhetoric when he warned that LGBT rights activists are “coming for the church.”
Far-right pastor Rick Scarborough, who was sitting beside him, agreed that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, pastors will be forced to “participate in same-sex marriage ” or be thrown in jail. Liberty Counsel’s Harry Mihet, moderating a separate panel, issued a similar warning.
Scarborough repeated his warning when he told activists that a pro-equality Supreme Court ruling would outlaw anti-gay speech, thus undermining “the whole nature of America.”
Multiple speakers compared a potential Supreme Court decision on marriage equality to Dred Scott, the infamous pre-Civil War decision that barred African Americans from citizenship, declaring that it should be met with similar resistance.
2. Losing The Church on Gay Rights Issues
Although the Awakening took place in what appeared to be a generationally diverse, multiethnic church, the crowd at the conference was overwhelmingly older and white. Throughout the conference, speakers bemoaned the fact that the Religious Right was losing support among younger Christians for its political agenda, especially its opposition to LGBT rights.
Liberty University’s Rena Lindevaldsen told the audience at a breakout panel on “sexual rebellion” that when fellow conservative Christians ask her what the “big deal” is about LGBT rights, she responds “it’s a big deal because it’s a big deal to God.” Marriage equality, she told the enthusiastic audience, matters to God because it is “the heart of where Satan’s attacking”:
Evangelist Franklin Graham also lamented that “a lot of pastors have quit preaching against homosexuality” out of fear of offending people in their churches who might have gay relatives. He told the audience that “God will bless you and he’ll honor you” if you “don’t shut up” about gay rights and abortion:
This was a crowd that had not given up on discredited “ex-gay” therapy. An “ex-lesbian” activist, Janet Boynes, was given a main stage speaking slot and “ex-gay” activist Greg Quinlan earned a roaring round of applause from the audience at the “sexual rebellion” panel when he announced that he had been “out of homosexuality for 27 years.”
3. A Spiritual Battle Against Islam And Progressivism
Just as the crowd at the Awakening was upset that the conservative movement and the church have supposedly become less invested in fighting LGBT rights, they were also wary of any overtures between Christians and Muslims.
Graham declared that “Islam is a wicked system” and blasted Christians who say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Kamal Saleem, the self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist” whose personal story has never quite held up to scrutiny , also warned that churches are being “invaded by ‘Chrislam,’” lamenting that Americans are oblivious to the dangers of radical Islam: “We’re watching American Idol and they are doing jihad.” He also warned of what he called “jihad of the womb,” or Muslim immigrants giving birth in order to outnumber Christians.
What activists at the Awakening saw as a war against Islam was merely part of a larger “spiritual battle” between good and evil, God and Satan. In the panel discussion he led on LGBT rights, Matt Barber declared that there is an “Islamo-progressive axis of evil” with a “common enemy”: Christians.
Maine pastor Ken Graves repeated that theme when he declared that American Christians are fighting “militant Islam” and “militant homofascism” and secularists who want to establish a “secular humanist caliphate”:
4. Time Is Running Out On America, And It’s Up To The Church To Save It
Throughout the day, speakers warned that America is running out of time before it is lost forever, and that it is up to conservative Christians to get involved in politics to save the country.
Graham told the crowd that he is more politically outspoken than his father, Billy Graham, because America is in a more dire state of secularism. “When my father was born, the Ten Commandments were on the wall of every school in America. When my father was born, the teachers still led the class in the Lord’s Prayer. Our country is not that anymore,” he said, declaring that the 2016 election is the last chance for the Religious Right to save the country.
Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, delivered a similar message, warning that “we are heading down in a direction that, let’s be honest, no civilization has ever been able to recover from.” Conservative Christians, he declared, must reinvest themselves in politics in order, to among other things, put the Bible in public schools:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another likely GOP presidential hopeful, told the crowd that prayer was needed to bring about “spiritual revival” and change the political direction of the country: “If God’s people truly pray down a spiritual awakening, then the political landscape will change.”
“This country did not start because some people had some brilliant ideas, although they did. This country happened because God’s providence was the foundation of their brilliant ideas,” Huckabee said. “Because of his inspiration, this country has been sustained throughout all of its history because of God’s specific intervention in helping us to win battles we should never have one and in keeping us from losing battles we should have lost.”
5. The Religious Right And The GOP Still Need Each Other
One of the strangest moments of the day came when a George W. Bush impersonator walked onto the stage with Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver as he introduced Huckabee. Staver jokingly reassured the audience that it was not the former president’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has clashed with the Religious Right over gay rights issues. It seemed to be a spontaneous addition to the program, it was hard not to see it also as a reminder to the audience of the potential power of the evangelical vote.
Unlike the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which has become the flagship gathering of the GOP and the Religious Right, the Awakening tends to attract only true believers in the cause. This year, Santorum and Huckabee spoke, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a video message. Connelly, who heads the GOP’s outreach to evangelical voters, moderated a panel on abortion rights, but largely deflected difficult questions from the far-right crowd.
Connelly did not, however, shy away from right-wing conspiracy theories, responding to a question about the “culture of death” in end-of-life care by claiming that the Affordable Care Act’s mythical “death panels” are “a reality":
It was clear throughout the day that however wary the Religious Right and the GOP establishment may be of each other, they still need each other. Speakers like Graham urged conservative Christians to revive the powerful Religious Right pressure machine to win GOP politicians to their side, whether or not they agreed with their issues. Meanwhile, the presence of the GOP candidates and Connelly indicated that this is a voting bloc that is still important to the party, however extreme its priorities may be.
As we mentioned earlier, the mood at Saturday’s Awakening conference in Florida around the issue of gay marriage was utter panic, and nowhere was that expressed more clearly than in a panel titled “Same-Sex Marriage and Sexual Rebellion: Freedom Under Fire,” moderated by off-the-rails anti-gay pundit Matt Barber and featuring a pastor, two “ex-gay” activists, and Rena Lindevaldsen, the Liberty University dean who has murky ties with the case of an “ex-lesbian” who fled the country with her daughter to defy a court order giving the child's other mother custody.
Lindevaldsen set the tone for the discussion when she lamented that too many conservative Christians aren’t committed to fighting gay rights and instead ask her “why is this such a big deal and why does it matter?”
"It's a big deal because it's a big deal to God," she declared.
Quoting the late Chuck Colson , she told the audience, “In every action we take, we are either helping to create a hell on Earth, or bringing down a foretaste of heaven…We are either advancing the rule of Satan or establishing the reign of God.”
“There’s no middle ground, there’s no neutrality, there is no compromise,” she added, telling Christians who are on the fence about gay rights that “it’s not loving” to let gay people “go on not knowing that God has a better plan for their lives, this is not the way that God designed them to be.”
“This is the heart of where Satan’s attacking,” she said. “He is seeking to destroy human sexuality and marriage. Why? Because we are the reflection, marriage is the reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church. And so if you’re going to destroy the only human reflection we have of that, we’re going to destroy marriage.”
Later in the panel, “ex-gay” activist Greg Quinlan similarly warned Christians not to be taken in by LGBT rights, saying that the Human Rights Campaign’s famous equals sign bumper stickers are “not about equality” but “about dominance” and hide an effort to destroy the Constitution.
(Audio again via American Bridge):
When you see that blue bumper sticker with that bright yellow sign, it’s not about equality, it’s about dominance. It’s about silencing any voice that’s against what they want to do. And the real issue is this — I want you to understand this. The Constitution of the United States is a Calvinist document — I’m not a Calvinist — it’s a Christian document, it was written by reformers, based on the word of God. The problem that the secular left has, secular progressives, whatever label you want to put on them, the anti-God folks, our Constitution. And their goal is to undo it, if that means by reinterpreting it rewriting it, but it is to undo it.
So know this, especially the homosexual agenda, if I go down the list, I got a thing called “the big pink plan for a lavender culture,” another talk I do, which goes to what the agenda is. I was there when they were talking about what they want to do. It’s not about equality, it’s about dominance.
At a panel discussion on abortion rights at this weekend’s Awakening conference, the topic at one point turned to how abortion rights advocates are supposedly nasty and mean while anti-choice activists are kind and compassionate to their adversaries.
This caused Vision America’s Rick Scarborough to recall the time God disrupted a protest of “radical homosexuals” from the gay rights group ACT UP when the late Jerry Falwell was speaking at his church in Texas.
Falwell, Scarborough recalled, asked him to send pitchers of ice water out to the protesters outside those church, “and those radical gays were just astounded by the kindness.”
Then, Scarborough recalled, “God got involved” and in an apparent act of solidarity with Falwell’s magnanimity drove away the “radical homosexuals” with a torrential downpour.
Falwell was speaking in our church back in the days of ACT UP. Radical homosexuals showed up, I mean the police literally stood between them and our congregation. Rev. Falwell said, ‘Rick, while I’m preaching, send your men out there with pitchers of ice water because it was a roaring July day in Texas. And so our men when out there and those radical gays were just astounded by the kindness.
And then God got involved. This is really humorous to think about and remember. But right about halfway through Dr. Falwell’s sermon, with these radical gays outside, we heard a clap of thunder and lightning…and a torrential rain fell. By the time he finished, the sun was shining, but the gays were wet and gone.
So, sometimes when we radically live the faith, God gets involved.
Earlier this year, the restaurant chain Chipotle stopped selling pork at several hundred stores after cutting ties with one of its suppliers for violating the chain's animal welfare standards.
Today, Sen. James Lankford and Rep. Randy Forbes published a truly absurd op-ed in The Christian Post using Chipotle as an example of the importance of protecting the "corporate conscience" of Christian business owners who want to discriminate against gay customers.
Seemingly unaware of the very clear difference between a company refusing to do business with a particular supplier and one openly discriminating against an entire class of people, Lankford and Forbes argue that "protecting corporate conscience" is vital so that the right of Christians to discriminate against gays is protected in the name of religious freedom:
It is crucial that the same freedom enjoyed by the leadership of Chipotle remains equally available to business owners of faith. Indeed, much more so as freedom of religion is explicitly protected by the First Amendment. We cannot simultaneously laud the leaders of a business motivated by a commitment to environmental sustainability and discriminate against the leaders of a business motivated by religious belief.
If a decision based on moral convictions is celebrated, shouldn't a decision based on the free exercise of religion – a right guaranteed in the Constitution – be even more so?
To be sure, religious freedom is not just a choice of convenience – it is a fundamental right given to all Americans by the Constitution. As we recognize Chipotle's decision, let's remember that a clear constitutionally supported civil right of religious freedom should be cherished and respected in every corner of this nation.
We live in a country whose laws respect freedom and diversity, and our Constitution has always had robust protections for all Americans to live and work by their religious convictions. Americans do not check their religious freedom at the door when they leave their home or place of worship and enter the public sphere.
We must not fall prey to the hypocrisy of defending the freedom of operating a business on convictions of sustainability, but reject that same freedom when the convictions are based in faith.
At Saturday’s Awakening conference, an annual Religious Right confab organized by Liberty Counsel, the mood surrounding LGBT rights had reached full-blown panic.
Nearly two years after the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision let loose a cascade of federal court decisions legalizing marriage between same-sex couples in dozens of states, the Religious Right activists gathered in a megachurch in Orlando were bracing for a Supreme Court decision that could establish marriage equality nationwide.
At a panel titled “Activism in the Age of Lawlessness,” four Religious Right leaders — John Eidsmoe, Rick Scarborough, William Murray and Harry Mihet — gathered to suss out what the movement’s response should be to pro-LGBT court rulings that they find to be “lawless.”
John Eidsmoe, the influential Christian nationalist thinker who served as a mentor to Michele Bachmann, outlined the issue, explaining to the audience that “‘rule of law’ ultimately means ‘rule of the highest law,’” or God’s law.
Eidsmoe, who now works for the Religious Right group founded by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who is urging judges in his state to defy a federal court ruling on marriage equality, argued that you are only disobeying the law if you disobey “the law of God.”
“You disobey a law only when those who have that law are breaking a higher law, the law of God,” he said. “And in fact, if you follow the decree of a tyrant when he is defying the law, you are complicit in his defiance. Disobedience then becomes not only a right, it becomes a duty.”
Eidsmoe explained that the idea of civil disobedience had been perverted since biblical times, since the idea of not violating your conscience should only apply if “your conscience is in accord with the word of God.”
Rick Scarborough, the head of Vision America, warned that a Supreme Court decision for marriage equality would be worse for the Religious Right than Roe v. Wade because “with abortion, you can opt out, you don’t have to participate in that.”
He claimed that, in contrast, a marriage equality decision would outlaw anti-gay speech, the exact same erroneous prediction he made following the passage of the 2009 Hate Crimes Law.
“We’ll get up the day after that ruling, and in fact a few hours after that ruling when it’s widely disseminated, and you’ll find yourself, those of us who believe that homosexuality is a sexual sin — perversion if you will — those of us who believe that homosexual marriage is unnatural and forbidden by God and who have taught that our entire lives…when that law is passed you are then going to breaking the law when you preach or teach what you’ve always taught or what you’ve always preached,” he claimed.
“Fundamentally, it undermines the whole nature of America,” Scarborough concluded.
Liberty Counsel attorney Harry Mihet, who was moderating the panel, echoed Scarborough’s dire warnings when he declared that there would be “no way to escape this issue” and that it might “in the near future” land anti-LGBT pastors in jail… just like Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We have to draw the line in the sand and stand firm on the truth of the Word, and not to shy away from a fight, not to quit, not to be silent, but to actually speak truth and love to a society that has a desperate need to hear it,” he said. “And there may come a time when you will have to lose your job because that’s what you’ve done. There may come a time in the near future when you have to lose your liberty and go to jail like Martin Luther King did.”
When an audience member in a session about abortion rights asked what to do about a pastor who refuses to participate in politics, Connelly responded that “voting is not political, it’s spiritual” and urged pastors to violate rarely-enforced regulations that prevent churches from being involved in partisan politics in order to keep their tax-exempt status.
Referring to cases where businesses have run afoul of nondiscrimination laws by refusing service to gay and lesbian couples, Connelly said, “Who would have thought that a florist or a baker or a photographer or, for goodness sakes, a wedding chapel would be sued when there were competitors that they could have gone to? They’re coming for the church.”
Listen, voter registration is not political, it’s spiritual. Voting is not political, it’s spiritual. So witness and testimony to the community what you believe in. No wonder we get legislation we don’t agree with, no wonder we get candidates and elected officials we don’t agree with, because our people aren’t engaged.
So if your pastor’s saying, ‘It’s a legal issue, I can’t do this,’ ask them how many churches have lost their tax-exempt status. It’s a finite number: zero. By definition, you’re tax exempt. If there’s no freedom of speech in the pulpit, there’s no freedom of speech, brothers and sisters. And if we can’t say the truth from the pulpit, guess what, we can’t say the truth anywhere.
Who would have thought that a florist or a baker or a photographer or, for goodness sakes, a wedding chapel would be sued when there were competitors that they could have gone to. They’re coming for the church.
He ended by asking the audience to “please help us pressure your pastors” to get involved in elections, but adding that “it’s not a party or political issue.”
Later in the same discussion, far-right pastor Rick Scarborough warned that “every pastor is going to be directly assaulted” by the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on marriage equality, claiming that a pro-equality ruling would force churches to “participate in same-sex marriage” or face fines or imprisonment.
In a speech to this weekend’s Awakening conference in Florida, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver declared that a ruling in favor of marriage equality from the Supreme Court would deserve “no more respect than Dred Scott or Buck v. Bell,” court rulings that, respectively, denied citizenship to African Americans and allowed mandatory state sterilization of mentally disabled people.
“I say this: If the Supreme Court can’t get it right, or any judge get it right, on the fundamental, observable, natural created order of marriage as the union between a man and a woman, they can’t get it right on anything, that’s their own opinion, and it deserves no more respect than Dred Scott or Buck v. Bell,” he declared.
He warned the audience that a “clash is coming” between religious liberty and LGBT rights that is “unprecedented in American history.”
“Tax exemption, income tax exemption, property tax exemption, everything is going to be impacted,” he said. “You cannot navigate around this. This is a collision of two trains coming in opposite directions on the same track. We are on the precipice of a collision of unprecedented magnitude.”