Equality For All

Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom At UN 'Family' Event

Religious Right activists say they’re fighting to save religious liberty in America from the gay rights movement, but many of the same leaders are happy to partner with the most religiously repressive regimes in order to resist advances toward LGBT equality around the world.

Consider Monday’s “Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World” event at the United Nations. It was sponsored by anti-gay and anti-choice groups like the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam, formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) and Family Watch International, which work to keep LGBT-friendly language out of international documents and agreements. Their cosponsors included the 25 countries that make up the Group of Friends of the Family (GoFF), a coalition of UN member states created last year to “reaffirm that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Among the freedom-loving members of GoFF whose representatives spoke at Monday’s “high-level event” was Iran, which the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom has just accused of seeking to “eradicate” the country’s Baha’is.

In fact, there’s a lot of overlap between GoFF members and countries identified by the Commission, currently chaired* by social conservative strategist Robert George, as the worst in the world for religious freedom: Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Egypt, and Iraq. Also included in GoFF are countries where anti-LGBT religious and political leaders have been generating hostility and threatening the lives and freedoms of LGBT people, including Nigeria, Uganda, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan.

But there was no talk of that unpleasantness at Monday’s three-hour event, which featured GoFF delegates pushing to have the U.N. emphasize “pro-family” policies in the implementation of sustainable development goals. The GoFF “Statement in Support of the Family” was presented by Valentin Rybakov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Belarus, where, according to Human Rights Watch, authorities “pressure and arrest human rights activists and critics on spurious charges” and “regularly harass independent and opposition journalists.” Of course, there’s a similar situation in Russia, which doesn’t keep American Religious Right groups from swooning over Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay policies.

One of Putin’s defenders is C-Fam’s Austin Ruse. In a Monday email to his supporters, Ruse bragged that C-Fam “was asked by a number of Member States to organize this conference,” adding that “the family is under extreme pressure at the UN from those who want to redefine the family and to accept the notion that two people of the same sex can create a family and adopt children.”

At the UN, Ruse singled out Sudan and Saudi Arabia for praise, citing situations in which their representatives had “saved” UN documents from unwanted language on the family. For the record, the USCIRF calls Saudi Arabia “uniquely repressive” when it comes to religious freedom and says Sudan’s government “represses and marginalizes the country’s minority Christian community.”

During his remarks at the event, Ruse said the powerful force that “family” advocates are up against is the sexual revolution, which portrays family as a “patriarchal prison where pleasure and freedom go to die.” Without any apparent sense of irony, he declared that “tyrants have always known” that the family is “the real enemy to what they want” and its destruction is “how they get to the individual.”

Ruse announced the creation of a new coalition, Civil Society for the Family, which he said would be active in supporting GoFF’s work in defense of “traditional morality.”

The event also featured remarks from C-FAM’s Susan Yoshihara, Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater, the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg, Human Life International’s Shenan Boquet, CitizenGo and HazteOir’s Gregory Mertz, the Institute for Family Policy’s Lola Volarde, and anti-marriage-equality activists Sherif Girgis and Helen Alvaré. Religious leaders who spoke included California pastor and anti-gay activist Jim Garlow, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens and Catholic Bishop John O’Hara of the Archdiocese of New York, who assured the group that they have Cardinal Dolan’s “enthusiastic support.”

A few highlights from other speakers:

  • Sharon Slater, representing Family Watch International and the UN Family Rights Caucus, said she is deeply concerned about the “global assault” on the “health and innocence of children” from comprehensive sexuality education, which she called a “war on children and our families.”
  • FRC’s Peter Sprigg said that attempts to create a new definition of marriage that distances it from its roots in the “order of nature itself” are inconsistent with countries’ responsibility to protect and support the institution. Marriage, he said, “predates all other forms of government” and “it is not the place of government to redefine or interfere with the natural family.”
  • Gregory Mertz, representing what he said are the 4.3 million members of CitizenGo and HazteOir, online organizing platforms for social conservatives, said the definition of family is “routinely under attack” and that the U.N. ignores its obligation to protect it. Last year when GoFF’s creation was announced, CitizenGo asked people to sign a petition praising these “brave governments” in order to “show these courageous countries” that “we stand behind them 100 percent.”
  • Sherif Girgis, co-author with Robert George and Ryan Anderson of a book on marriage, said that undermining the “stabilizing norms of marriage” will hurt “every aspect of the common good that a stable marriage serves.”
  • Susan Yoshihara told a story about being shut down by school officials when she wanted to opt her young daughter out of a reading of a book that talked about families with two dads or two moms. She said there would have been more of a conversation before the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, but that officials’ attitude now is “we won, you lose” — which she said was an example of why the law matters, and why it is important to resist changes in international law.
  • Helen Alvaré described defense of the family as both a rational and noble calling and said one can simultaneously affirm the “radical equality” of men and women while also recognizing their intrinsic complementarity, the topic of a 2014 Vatican conference for which Alvaré served as spokesperson. 

The statements from GoFF representatives were short and often repetitive statements about the centrality of the family to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The Russian delegate discussed Putin’s promotion of “traditional family values” and noted that the Commonwealth of Independent States, a confederation of former Soviet republics, has named 2017 the Year of the Family. The Russian representative also said it is important to UN organizations to stay within their mandates and for countries that support traditional families to speak up so that silence isn’t considered an acceptance of “dangerous trends.” He made a reference to pro-LGBT stamps issued by the UN Postal Administration in February, which infuriated some “traditional family” supporters. He said supporters of the traditional values need to be more active at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The representative of Sudan also talked about the divinely created complementarity inherent in “the nature of each sex.” He complained that many international documents on women do not recognize the natural family but “deliberately seek to weaken and erode it.” Efforts to promote alternative forms of the family are incompatible with universal principles in human culture “which distinguish us humans from the rest of God’s creation.”

The event had a bit of theater as well. A short video from Family Watch International showed a succession of people saying nice things about families, including Janice Shaw Crouse and Alexey Komov — who are currently attending another global social conservative event, the World Congress of Families in Tbilisi, Georgia — among others. In addition, half a dozen children took turns reading “A Declaration on the Rights of Children and Their Families: A Call from the Children of the World,” a document promoted by the UN Family Rights Caucus that they say has been signed “by thousands of children from every continent of the world.” Among its claims: Every child has a right to a married mother and father and the “right to innocence and childhood”— which is cited to attack sex ed programs and could be used to defend the kind of anti-gay “propaganda” laws that Russia and other countries are using to squelch advocacy for equality in the name of protecting children.

* UpdateHouse Speaker Paul Ryan announced on May 18 that Robert George has completed his second term and has been replaced on the Commission by the executive director of the Becket Fund, Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz.

Family Research Council: DOJ Defending Trans Rights Is 'Fascistic'

This week the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over the now-notorious HB2, which overturned local civil rights protections for LGBT people and banned transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch explained that the law violates federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity, and creates state-sponsored discrimination against transgender people.

Lynch placed the current controversy in the historical context of other forms of state-sponsored discrimination, appealing to the people of North Carolina, “Let us write a different story this time. Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity and regard for all that make our country great.”

Not surprisingly, the Family Research Council doesn’t exactly see it that way. Senior Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder says in his “Social Conservative Review” this week that the Obama administration’s actions to “crush the government of North Carolina’s efforts to preserve privacy and security in public bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers” represent an “essentially fascistic approach to law and policy — the banning of dissent.”

Earlier in the week FRC praised North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s “political courage and moral clarity” for the state’s own lawsuit against the DOJ. Said FRC’s Tony Perkins, “It’s time for Republicans in Congress, who have the constitutional authority as a coequal branch of government, to bring the imperial White House under control.”

Schwarzwalder appealed to a higher power — not Donald Trump:

The federal government is a servant, not a master. Americans are citizens, not subjects. The Tenth Amendment, reserving to the states those things not specifically assigned by the Constitution to the federal government, remains in force.

Those are the principles upon which conscientious men and women have always stood in our country. To abandon them is to abandon liberty. And to abandon liberty is to abandon America.

May God give us the grace and strength never to accede to such a sordid, tragic betrayal of our historic commitment to and movement toward liberty and justice for all.

 

NC Lt. Gov: Trans People Want To 'Trample On' The Rights Of '99.9 Percent' Of People

Dan Forest, the lieutenant governor of North Carolina and an outspoken advocate of the state’s new anti-LGBT law, joined American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer yesterday to discuss the Justice Department’s civil rights lawsuit against the state.

Forest alleged yet again that it is really the Justice Department and LGBT rights advocates who are being discriminatory in opposing the bill, which among other provisions bars transgender people from using the public restroom that matches their gender identity.

“In trying to appease that community and trying to say that they are trying to not discriminate against them, what they did was really open up the law and they’re discriminating against 99.9 percent of the people out there, all the women and children who don’t have a say in this,” he said.

“Vulnerable women and daughters and granddaughters, they have civil rights too,” Fischer responded, “and that seems to be what’s being forgotten by the Obama administration here, is the civil right of females to be safe in bathrooms and locker rooms and shower rooms.”

“Exactly,” Forest said, “you can’t have one person’s rights trample on top of another person’s rights, and that’s really what they’re trying to do here. In fact, it’s the vast minority who would be trampling on the vast majority of women and kids out there, so they have a real conflict on their hands, certainly, with these lawsuits.”

We can’t help but point out the irony that Forest chose Fischer’s program to claim that the LGBT rights movement is discriminatory.

The lieutenant governor told Fischer that he hopes that Congress will “get engaged on multiple fronts” in response to what he called the Obama administration’s “extortion” of the state and “holding our kids hostage with our own money.”

“I think Congress should get involved there because they create the purse strings, they’re the ones that give the funding, I believe they need to have hearings on this, into the Justice Department, the Transportation Department and HUD so that we can get this thing set straight,” he said.

Religious Right Activists Demand Disney Heroine Get A Boyfriend, Stop 'Homosexualizing Kids'

In response to a Twitter campaign urging Disney to “give Elsa a girlfriend” in the sequel to the popular children’s movie “Frozen,” the social conservative group CitizenGo is circulating its own petition demanding that Disney “follow its normal trend and create a Prince character to fall in love” with the movie’s heroine.

The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown is one of five board members of CitizenGo, which is meant to be sort of a global social conservative version of MoveOn.org.

In an email to CitizenGo members yesterday, Gregory Mertz wrote that the prospect of Elsa being a lesbian was “frightening” and urged members to tweet with the hashtag #CharmingPrinceForElsa:

Disney is facing fierce pressure from liberal groups who are demanding their writers turn Queen Elsa into a lesbian during the sequel, “Frozen 2.”

Please join the 37,000 who’ve already signed our petition against thisabsurd “movement.”

With our petition, we’re suggesting Disney with a much better idea… An idea that promotes solid family values to our children and represents the natural family.

Join the 37,000 -- sign our petition, now, to Disney asking that Elsa fall in love with a Prince. #CharmingPrinceForElsa:

Queen Elsa a Lesbian? Thinking about our children, this idea is frightening.

“We call on Disney to follow its normal trend and create a Prince character to fall in love with Queen Elsa,” reads CitizenGo’s petition, which has gathered 65,000 signatures.

“We ask that Disney find a nice and loving Prince for Queen Elsa to fall in love with,” it demands.

Treating the situation even less calmly, predictably, was far-right pastor Kevin Swanson, the extremist pastor who attracted national attention last year when he hosted a conference that was attended by three Republican presidential candidates. (At the conference, one speaker said the song “Let It Go” from “Frozen” was “Satan’s rebellion anthem.”)

Swanson, who warned that the first “Frozen” movie was a satanic plot to turn kids gay, returned to the theme on his radio program yesterday, saying that putting gay characters in children’s movies like “Frozen” is “the way you destroy an entire civilization.”

“Anybody who has the guts to stand up against the homosexualizing of kids in the present day will be shamed for it,” he said, “and that means that the homosexualizing of kids will be, I think, wholesale happening across this country in the next two, three, four, five, 10 years. Of course Elsa is going to get her girlfriend eventually. That’s the way you destroy sexuality. That’s the way you destroy an entire civilization. The entire social system of the United States of America is collapsing.”

“You have got to be sure that you have homosexualized four-year-olds and six-year-olds and eight-year-olds and ten-year-olds in order to destroy a civilization,” he added, “because the destruction of a civilization happens over two or three or maybe four generations max. In order to bring a civilization down, you’ve got to homosexualize the kids.”

Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality is also displeased with the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend campaign, telling the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow today that it shows “the LGBT activists will use any vehicle they can to indoctrinate children.”

Updated: George W. Bush To Receive Award From Anti-LGBT World Congress Of Families

The World Congress of Families, a loose alliance of organizations that seeks to stop advances in LGBT equality and reproductive rights throughout the world, announced today that former President George W. Bush will recieve an award at its annual event in Tbisili, Georgia, later this month.

Update: A spokesperson for Bush tells Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder that while the former president is “flattered,” he had previously declined an invitation to participate in the event and was “not aware of the award in question.”

Update II: Although he will not be attending the conference, Bush has penned a welcome greeting for the event:

Around the world, families provide that beacon of freedom and the source of help, hope, and stability for individuals and nations. As one of the pillars of civilization and the bulwark of liberty, families must remain strong and we must defend them. To ensure that future generations are prepared to face new opportunities and challenges, as President, I took steps to promote strong families, preserve the sanctity of marriage and protect the well-being of children. Laura and I have always believed in encouraging adoption and supporting the crisis pregnancy center programs to help us continue to build a culture of life.

I commend your efforts to recognize the importance of families in building nations. Your work improves many lives and makes the world better.

WCF, which is run out of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, an Illinois-based think tank, has been holding conferences since 1997. But it attracted greater attention two years ago when it planned to hold its annual congress at the Kremlin in Moscow, hosted by prominent allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and advocates of the country’s recent crackdown on its LGBT citizens . WCF’s leadership had supported Russia’s spate of anti-LGBT laws, including signing a letter in support of a law banning gay “propaganda” to minors. One WCF official, Larry Jacobs, said that the law was a "great idea” and that the “Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world.”

WCF eventually withdrew its official support from that conference after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although the event went ahead as planned , with the participation of officials from WCF and other U.S.-based Religious Right groups. Last year’s conference was held in Salt Lake City, where organizers attempted to deny the organization’s work promoting homophobia globally, even as Rafael Cruz, the father of then-presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, used the event to warn that the LGBT community will “try to legalize pedophilia.”

Bush is set to accept the award at an event whose speakers include Putin allies, anti-LGBT extremists and a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

Along with Bush, this year’s WCF will feature prominent U.S. anti-gay activists including the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, who coordinated with WCF to travel to Russia to support the country’s anti-gay policies in 2013. Also scheduled to speak is Natalia Yakunina, the wife of former Putin ally Vladimir Yakunin, who was instrumental in organizing and funding the Moscow event, and Vladimir Mischenko, a top official at a foundation run by Yakunin.

The Tbisili event will also feature several speakers from WCF’s global network, including the Howard Center and WCF’s founder Allan Carlson, who helped define the idea that the organization promotes of a “ natural family” based on traditional gender roles. Also speaking will be WCF spokesman Don Feder, who warned at a previous WCF event that the human race is financing “ its own extinction” through birth control and who sidelines as an extremist anti-immigrant columnist.

WCF’s Russian representative, Alexey Komov, will also be speaking. Komov, an enthusiastic supporter of Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law, was a main organizer of the WCF Moscow event, and has reportedly helped to direct funding to a pro-Putin propaganda effort in the U.S. At a memorable press conference in Washington leading up to the Moscow conference, Komov lost his cool and started spouting conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks and the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Also on the docket is WCF’s regional director in Africa, Theresa Okafor, who at a previous WCF gathering said that “you wonder if there’s a conspiracy” between Western governments that support LGBT rights and the terrorist group Boko Haram to “silence Christians.” Okafor, who has promoted repressive anti-LGBT laws in a number of African countries, was honored with WCF’s “Woman of the Year” award at last year’s conference. Joining her will be WCF’s French representative, Fabrice Sorlin, a far-right politician who once compared Russia’s defense of “traditional values” to its repelling of “the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan.”

Bush’s receipt of an award from the World Congress of Families makes some sense: The social conservative movement in the U.S. has been appalled by the Obama administration’s stated commitment to promoting protections for LGBT people around the world and is nostalgic for the Bush administration’s support for the Mexico City Policy, which blocked overseas aid to family planning groups that provide abortions.

But does the former president really want to be elevating the profile of a group that promotes repressive anti-LGBT policies like the Russian propaganda law?

Anne Graham Lotz: LGBT Rights Helping Lead To God's Judgment, End Times

Anne Graham Lotz, the evangelist daughter of Billy Graham, warned in an interview with Christian broadcaster Janet Mefferd last month that the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and San Bernardino and “things that are happening in our weather” are “wake-up calls” from God to Christians who have turned away from Him and failed to stop such things as advances in LGBT rights in America.

Lotz told Mefferd that conservative Christians have to “stop being judgmental and stop being self-righteous and stop pointing our finger at them” and instead take on some of the blame for what she sees as a turning away from God.

She pointed to the negative reaction to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT bill HB2, saying that it is “evidence of rebellion in the human heart against God.”

“When we look at our nation and we are just provoking God’s judgment,” she said, “and He is righteous and that’s how I know we’re coming under judgment, because His character demands that He would judge our sin. But at the same time, He’s loving and merciful and if we would just plead to him, He’s so tender-hearted, I believe that He would turn back to us and He would once again protect us and bless us and give us His favor.”

“So I don’t think it’s too late yet, Janet,” she said, “but I believe we’re reaching that tipping point. I honestly believe we’re dangerously close to reaching a point where there’ll be no return and judgment will fall.”

She went on to warn that terrorist attacks and “things that are happening in our weather or in our political situation” are God’s “wake-up calls” to the church as He prepares for the return of Christ and “the end of human history as we know it.”

“I pray for the revival of God’s people and that God would wake them up,” she said. “And that may be what San Bernardino is about, or Brussels, or Paris, you know, we can’t ignore these wake-up calls, or things that are happening in our weather or in our political situation, they’re wake-up calls. God is telling the church, I believe, to wake up and it’s time to hit your knees and pray because I believe we’re looking at the end of human history as we know it. I believe everything is ratcheting up, preparing for the return of Jesus, but before He comes back, it’s going to get very ugly.”

“I believe something is about ready to break and something’s getting ready to blow, and it’s time for God’s people to pre-prayer, it’s time for us to pray before that happens,” she said.

Attack On Gay-Straight Alliances Reveals Religious Right's Ugly Anti-Gay Heart

Many Religious Right activists and leaders feign hurt and indignation at being described as anti-gay. They’re not anti-anybody, they insist, they are just in favor of “traditional values” or “biblical marriage.” But others make it clear that they see homosexuality itself as the problem, and want to do anything they can to prevent LGBT people from gaining cultural acceptance and legal recognition, and their words and actions reveal the ugly anti-gay heart of the Religious Right movement.

One of these activists is Brian Camenker, a Massachusetts-based activist who operates the anti-gay hate group MassResistance. During a one-day anti-gay summit that preceded the World Congress of Families in Utah last October, Camenker disagreed with activists who call for “speaking the truth in love" to LGBT people and their allies. He said that there is scriptural justification for being “insulting and degrading” given that “we are in a war.” He said the Old Testament has a “very brutal” set of rules for treating “people who want to tear down society, who want to push immorality, who want to tear down the moral structure of society.” According to Camenker, “God says those people who want to do that must be destroyed.”

Now Camenker is praising the work of Liberty Counsel, one of the Religious Right legal groups pushing anti-LGBT and “religious liberty” legislation at the state level. This year, Liberty Counsel and MassResistance worked with parents and school board members in Franklin County, Tennessee, who opposed the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at the county high school. Some of those parents waved Christian flags at a school board meeting to counter the rainbow flags of GSA supporters.

Liberty Counsel helped the school board write new rules for school clubs that Camenker gloats will “severely restrict – and eventually cause to terminate – the activities of the ‘gay’ GSA club recently put into the high school.” OneNewsNow, a “news” site affiliated with the anti-gay American Family Association, called the new rules “a way of eliminating the club, while avoiding a costly lawsuit.”

Liberty Counsel’s press release was more circumspect, saying it had helped the school board update a policy that “was inadequate to provide the necessary supervision for this group that promotes homosexuality and gender confusion.” But the intent was clearly to interfere with the creation of a safe space for students who have been struggling with their sexuality or want to support LGBT friends.

The new Franklin County regulations require, among other things, written parental approval to participate in a club, sign-in sheets documenting every attendee at a meeting, school administrators attending meetings once a quarter – all things that might well discourage questioning or vulnerable students. “When forced to be completely accountable, open, and transparent with what they’re doing with kids, and not having free access for their adult activists, these ‘gay’ clubs don’t last long,” Camenker sneers.

The reason that the school board and Liberty Counsel have to go to convoluted lengths, rather than simply refusing to allow the creation of a GSA, is that federal courts have ruled that the Federal Equal Access Act – pushed into law by Religious Right activists to protect the rights of students to form Bible clubs – also protects the right of students to form GSAs if their school district allows other non-curricular clubs. In 1999 and 2000, People For the American Way Foundation, working with Lambda Legal and the law firm of Irell & Manella, represented students in Orange County, California, to win the first court order that applied the Equal Access Act to require a school district to allow a GSA to meet on the same terms that it allows other high school non-curricular clubs to meet.

Aside from the legal requirements, the positive benefits of Gay-Straight Alliances for schools and students have been well documented. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that high schools with GSAs “may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students.” According to a news release from the University of British Columbia:

LGBTQ youth and heterosexual students in schools with anti-homophobia policies and GSAs had lower odds of discrimination, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, primarily when both strategies were enacted, or when the polices and GSAs had been in place for three years or more.

UBC researchers had previously concluded that high schools with GSAs or other anti-homophobia polices reduced binge drinking and other problems with alcohol and drug use. 

A few years earlier, a study published in Applied Developmental Science found that middle and high school students with access to a GSA were less likely to experience depression and less likely to drop out. As ThinkProgress noted, “Participation in a GSA was associated with fewer problems with substance abuse, depression, and lifetime suicide attempts.”

This is what Camenker and his Religious Right friends are so proud of denying students.

 

Linda Harvey: LGBT Movement Helping Turn Kids Into 'Sexual Barbarians'

Back in March, Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign proudly announced the endorsements of "some of Ohio's top conservative leaders," including Mission America's Linda Harvey and Cleveland Right to Life's Molly Smith. Harvey is one of the most extreme anti-LGBT activists in the country, while Smith lastgarnered national attention when she a ngered some of her fellow anti-abortion activists by working against the reelection of Sen. Rob Portman when he came out in favor of marriage equality.
 
In January, Harvey joined Smith on her daily radio program for an interview thatSmith recently re-posted on her website, in which they discussed how LGBT rights will turn children into "selfish" "sexual barbarians" and repeated unfounded claims about a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.
 
Smith lamented that "we are destroying our children" by failing to "recognize the devastation that is happening to our children through promoting this unhealthy, abomination style of sexual contact." Harvey agreed that "we are looking at a generation of kids that are coming up who will have, who will be such, or at least a fair number of them will be such sexual barbarians."
 
Harvey said that when children are "sexualized early" they learn to toss "people away from your own pleasure," and that the same thing happens with homosexuality because "when you take pregnancy out of the mix, the opportunities are infinitely more and it seems as though the consequences are less."
 
Someone with that mindset, she said, "is just that much more selfish, that much more immediate-gratification-oriented, and there are so many character issues that are related to letting that happen."
 
Smith responded that it's important to "help" people when a "life incident that has turned them to homosexual behavior, we need to support them to turn back again and to become fully functional human beings." She added that she made her comments "with love."
 

The two then discussed an interview that Smith recently conducted with Walt Heyer, a man who formerly identified as a transgender woman and has written about being abused as a child, which Smith cited as proof that "the abuse that's going on within the homosexual community" is being covered up.
 
"So we are being told to be quiet about the abuse that's going on within the homosexual community, we're not allowed to talk about it unless it happens to be a pastor or a priest, and then it's all over the place about how they are pedophiles," she said. "I mean, yeah. The same thing is going on within the supposed mainstream homosexual behavior too."
 
"Right, and Christianity tends to put a lid on those human impulses," Harvey responded.
 

 

NC Lt. Gov. Complains Of 'Amazing Smear Campaign...Based On A Bunch Of Lies'

North Carolina’s Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, hit back at critics of his state’s new radical anti-LGBT law in a radio interview yesterday, saying that the state has been hit by “a pretty amazing smear campaign” when all legislators were trying to do was “protect women and children from predators and sexual offenders and so forth going into bathrooms freely.”

Forest responded earlier this month to PayPal’s decision to cancel a planned expansion in North Carolina in response to the law, which among other things blocks transgender people from using the public restroom of their identifying gender, by saying that if the law protects “the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it.”

He continued that theme in an interview yesterday with Relevant Radio host Drew Mariani, saying that North Carolina has been the victim of “a pretty amazing smear campaign” that’s “all based on a bunch of lies.”

The whole thing, he said, was the fault of LGBT rights activists and the Charlotte City Council, whose nondiscrimination ordinance was overturned by the state law.

“They knew that the General Assembly in North Carolina was going to have to do something about it,” he said, “they were going to have to fight it constitutionally, but more importantly they were going to have to protect women and children from predators and sexual offenders and so forth going into bathrooms freely.”

Of course, there have been zero cases of child predators using LGBT nondiscrimination laws to assault children.

North Carolina Activist Slams 'Social Terrorists' Opposing Anti-LGBT Law

Mark Creech, who as the head of the Christian Action League of North Carolina has been a leading proponent of the state’s new law mandating discrimination against transgender people , wrote on his group’s website this weekend that LGBT rights advocates opposing the law are “social terrorists” using “totalitarian tactics.”

North Carolina, Creech wrote, “has had its name maligned about as bad as calling a virgin a whore” when it was simply trying to “rise up and take the whip from the task masters [sic] hand.”

To smear someone means to sully, vilify, or soil a good reputation. It carries with it the idea of smudging or blurring the truth.

Since the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 2, my beloved state has had its name maligned about as bad as calling a virgin a whore. The state has certainly been as innocent.

But who is interested in the truth when a leftist media, celebrities, sports organizations, and various corporate entities are crying out, “bigot,” “hater,” “homophobe,” etc. When you sling mud it sticks. It doesn’t have to be true. People move away as fast as a Jew did in Bible times from possible contact with a leper whenever hearing, “unclean, unclean.”

Thank you. Well said, Governor. Still, figuratively speaking, don’t expect these social terrorists like the HRC to let-up on the pressure. There is no meaningful dialogue with them, only total domination. They are an unbending, immovable, aggressive, insistent force that would have every norm and moral turned on its head – every objection to their way vilified, penalized, fined, and criminalized by law.

Even though some big businesses have come out against the Tar Heel state, threatening to leave or not to bring their companies as promised because of HB 2, in a way they’re victims of HRC’s totalitarian tactics too.

Nevertheless, there is only so long one can get away with coercing people into submission. Eventually they will rise up and take the whip from the task masters hand. For the present, that appears to be happening in states like Mississippi and my own, North Carolina.

So call us names. Smear our state’s character. Listen to the parrots of political correctness. Heed the heavy hand of the HRC, if you will. Eventually, the truth will win out and the fog of a million lies will ebb away in the brightness of God’s light.

Gay People Don't Need Marriage If You Invite Them To Thanksgiving

Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has become a popular speaker at social conservative events because of his ability to voice opposition to marriage equality in a kinder, gentler and more reasonable-sounding way. He perfectly illustrated this tone in a speech to a Cleveland Right to Life convention last month, in which he urged audience members to invite gay people into their homes and families … as a way to show them that they don’t need marriage rights.

Holding up the model of “crisis pregnancy centers,” which attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions, Anderson asked what “the functional equivalent” would be “for people with same-sex attractions.”

“The question is going to be, if we’re not in favor of same-sex marriage, what are we in favor of for people with same-sex attractions and how are we helping them live out their vocations?” he asked.

He noted the work of groups like Courage, the Catholic organization that counsels gay people to remain chaste, but said that individuals also have a role to play.

“There’s a universal human desire for friendship, for companionship,” he said. “We all have a need for relationships that matter. So when Thanksgiving comes around, when Christmas comes around, are you inviting a same-sex attracted colleague or friend or member of your church who isn’t married and doesn’t have a family of his or her own, are you inviting them into your family to share Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner? Are you having them be big brother or big sister, godfather or godmother to your children if they’re not going to be married and have children of their own? Are there ways in which we can show that there are other forms of community that matter, that are important, that are meaningful, without having to redefine marriage?”

Referring to the last lines of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the Obergefell marriage equality case, Anderson said, “This is now an opportunity for people who believe the truth about marriage to show that Justice Kennedy is wrong, that we can meet people’s real needs without redefining what marriage is.”

FRC Spokesman: 'Un-American' LGBT Movement Just Wants To 'Punish People'

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, said last week that LGBT rights activist are “un-American” in their opposition to laws that permit anti-LGBT discrimination, claiming that these activists want to “punish people for holding traditional moral views.”

Sprigg joined the Alabama Christian radio station Faith Radio on April 8 to discuss a new law in Mississippi that allows businesses to refuse service to LGBT people if they do so because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

“The irony here,” he said, “is that for all the howling about discrimination against LGBT people, since this bill is about preventing government discrimination against religious believers and people of faith and people with traditional moral values, anybody who opposes this bill is essentially saying: ‘We think it’s okay for government to discriminate against those people. We think it’s okay for government to punish people for holding traditional moral views. In fact, we think that government should punish people in order to do everything it can to wipe those views out of existence.’”

“That’s basically the point of view of the LGBT movement at this point in history,” he claimed. “It’s shocking and it’s un-American, it’s contrary to our traditions, which are to protect the views of all people, including the people who agree with you and the people who disagree with you.”

Sprigg so cares about protecting the liberty of all people that he has said he wants to outlaw “homosexual behavior” and once opposed a bill that would allow gay people to be united with their foreign partners by saying that he “would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States.”

Ted Cruz Downplays Marriage Equality Opposition In California

In an interview yesterday with the “John and Ken Show,” a Southern California talk radio program, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, downplayed his opposition to marriage equality, saying that “of course” there should be no nationwide definition of marriage.

Cruz is currently sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban gay people from marrying and has repeatedly said that he believes marriage law should be a state issue. However, like he did when speaking to New York funders last year, in the California interview Cruz downplayed his culture-war rhetoric about marriage, saying that states are free to adopt marriage laws “that reflect the values of the citizens of that state.”

“Well, listen, I’m a constitutionalist, and under the Constitution marriage is a question for the states,” he said. “It shouldn’t be five unelected judges in Washington setting public policy for the whole country. If someone wants to change the marriage laws of their state, there’s a way to do it under the Constitution, which is you convince your fellow citizens to change the marriage laws.”

“But isn’t marriage so intrinsic and important that we should have a nationwide standard on it, don’t you think?” one of the hosts asked Cruz.

“Of course not,” he responded. “There are no nationwide marriage laws.”

As Brian noted last year after Cruz’s New York remarks, while the senator tells everyone that he wants to return marriage decisions to the states, he presents his case in remarkably different ways to different audiences:

The Texas senator also joined Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and then-presidential candidate Bobby Jindal in signing the group’s presidential pledge , vowing to work towards banning same-sex marriage, to order government offices to “restore our policies to be consistent with the proper understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman” and “prevent the promotion of a redefined version of marriage in public schools and other government entities.”

Cruz has told Religious Right outlets that gay marriage would pose a “real threat” to “our liberties,” usher in the end of free speech , and lead to such immense religious persecution that civil disobedience would be needed. He even once alleged that the gay rights movement is waging “jihad” against freedom and likened the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling to “Nazi decrees.”

During a November conference call with anti-gay activists, Cruz promised “to defend marriage on every front” against the “lawless” and “illegitimate” Supreme Court decision. Cruz even went as far as saying that he would direct the federal government not to recognize the Obergefell ruling: “We will not use the federal government to enforce this lawless decision that is a usurpation of the authority of we the people in this country.”

Cruz Tries To Rewrite History, Claims He 'Denounced' Radical 'Kill-The-Gays' Pastor

Last year, Sen. Ted Cruz, his father Rafael Cruz, and two of his then-rivals in the Republican presidential race attended a “religious liberty” conference in Iowa hosted by Kevin Swanson, a radical pastor who had a long record of viciously anti-gay rhetoric, which he continued at the conference itself by expounding at length about his view that the Bible commands governments to put gay people to death.

Before the conference, we publicized Swanson’s history — including his discussions of the death penalty for gay people — leading one Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, to drop out of the conference.

A few days before the conference, CNN’s Jake Tapper read Cruz a few of Swanson’s statements and asked him about the wisdom of appearing alongside Swanson. Cruz claimed ignorance about Swanson and then dodged the question.

Cruz went ahead to the conference, where he joined Swanson for one-on-one discussion. On the same stage that weekend, Swanson went on several unhinged rants about gay peopleHarry Potter and wildfires.

Immediately after the conference, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow ran a segment about Cruz’s participation. When a Des Moines Register reporter asked the Cruz campaign for a comment, she got no answer.

Then, three weeks later, Maddow ran another segment about Cruz’s participation in the conference and finally got a statement out of his campaign about it. A Cruz spokesman, in response to a video of Swanson screaming about the death penalty for gay people, told Maddow that Swanson’s calls for the execution of gay people were “not explicit" enough for the campaign to even bother commenting on or condemning him.

Then, finally, one full month after Swanson’s conference, a Cruz spokesman quietly told USA Today that “it was a mistake for Senator Cruz to appear at the event” given Swanson’s “offensive comments.”

But that is not the story that Cruz told the “John and Ken Show,” a California talk radio program, when he was asked about his attendance at the conference yesterday. Instead, Cruz claimed that he was unaware of Swanson’s views before attending and falsely asserted that he “denounced them at the time,” once he learned about them.

“He was an individual I didn’t know, I’d never met him,” Cruz said of Swanson. “I went to a conference on religious liberty because it is an issue I care very much about. After the conference, his comments were drawn to my attention and I denounced them at the time, I think they're wrong, I totally disagree with them. I didn’t know this fellow and when I saw what he said, I came out publicly and said I disagree with what he’s saying.”

“We need to be bringing people together and we need to be standing up for the rights of every American, that’s what I’ve done in the Senate and that’s what I’ll do as president,” he added.

For the record, here is a clip of Cruz’s conversation with Swanson in which he insisted that "any president who doesn't begin every day on his knees isn't fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation":

“I stand unequivocally with Kim Davis,” Cruz told Swanson, referring to the Kentucky county clerk who had attempted to prevent her office from issuing marriage licenses following the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision. He added that the Supreme Court's ruling was “fundamentally illegitimate” and lavished praise on Swanson for publicizing “the threat” it posed to Christians’ liberties.

Keep in mind that this conversation took place after Cruz had been repeatedly warned about Swanson’s views and after Swanson himself had on the same stage announced that homosexuality is “worthy of death." 

Equal Pay Day Shows How Far Women Still Have to Go

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post

Today marks “Equal Pay Day,” the day when women’s pay finally catches up to men’s pay from last year. You’ll have to forgive me for not cheering too loudly.

Each year Equal Pay Day highlights how far we still have to go in the fight for pay equity, and it’s striking how little headway has been made on closing the gap in recent years, with progress all but stagnating in the past decade. Across the board, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts — a fact that takes on new significance in an election year where the views of the Republican presidential candidates on the gender pay gap range from dismissive to downright hostile.

But the numbers speak for themselves: according to the latest data, women earn on average 79 cents for every dollar that men earn. When you consider a full lifetime of work, the scope of inequality becomes far more dramatic. A new report from the National Women’s Law Center on the “lifetime wage gap“ shows that across 40 years of working, based on the current figures, women lose more than $430,000. When you break down the numbers by race, it’s even more stark; African-American women lose over $877,000, and Latinas more than a million dollars. When women are making hundreds of thousands of dollars less than men over a lifetime, it affects not only women’s financial stability while working and during retirement, but also the financial stability of our families.

Not to mention that it’s spectacularly unfair.

A gender pay gap exists for women in almost all occupations, from teachers to lawyers to cooks to mail carriers, and even in the entertainment field. Demos reports that for retail salespeople, the most common occupation in the country, the gender pay disparity is “particularly stark,” with women who are working full-time earning just 68 cents for each dollar earned by their male co-workers. For women struggling financially, the earnings lost simply for being a woman can mean the difference between barely making ends meet and being forced to choose between basic necessities like food and rent.

When you look at the presidential candidates’ stances on pay equity, it’s clear that the 2016 election will be a pivotal moment for whether progress is possible in the near future. Trump claims to “love equal pay,” but says he won’t support the legislative efforts necessary to make it happen. At an event last year, he told a woman asking about the pay gap that “you’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Sen. Ted Cruz voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act and derided it as a “political show vote.” A 2014 newspaper investigation found that in Gov. John Kasich’s office, women were paid nearly $10 less per hour than men, yet on the campaign trail, Kasich blamed not discrimination, but paid leave laws, for causing the wage gap!

Despite Republicans’ dismissal of the issue, equal pay for equal work remains a goal rather than a reality for women across the country. And until we close the gap, Equal Pay Day will remain an unhappy reminder of this continuing inequality.

Kathleen Turner is an advocate and Academy Award-nominated actress, and serves on the board of People For the American Way’s affiliate, PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

If Republicans Get Their Wish On The Supreme Court, What Would Trump Or Cruz Do?

By Miranda Blue, Elliot Mincberg and Brian Tashman

Republicans in the Senate, pushed by outside conservative interest groups, are promising to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and arguing that the next president should fill the current vacancy, in the hope that a Republican president will name a conservative ideologue to the bench.

Even if the Senate does confirm Garland, the next president will likely be charged with nominating at least one person to the Supreme Court, and possibly more. Since it looks like either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the Republican presidential nomination, looking at both men’s past statements gives us an idea of the kind of justices that Republicans are hoping for.

Trump and Cruz have both signaled that they would appease their base by nominating justices who would shift the court far to the right. Cruz has lamented that some justices nominated by Republican presidents have strayed from the party line on issues like abortion rights and has vowed that he would appoint “rock-ribbed conservatives” who have a “long paper trail” to demonstrate their “conservative” bona fides.

Trump, dogged by worries among movement conservatives that he would betray them when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, has promised to pick any Supreme Court nominees off a list he develops in partnership with the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

Both candidates have indicated that they would nominate judges who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark abortion rights and marriage equality decisions. Trump, although he appears not to understand the central legal issue of Roe, has said that the decision “can be changed” through the right judicial nominations since “you know, things are put there and are passed but they can be unpassed with time.” Cruz has warned that unless a true conservative like him picks the next justice, the Supreme Court will soon be “mandating unlimited abortion.” Trump has said that Obergefell was wrongly decided, while Cruz has called the decision “fundamentally illegitimate” and said it can be ignored by the president.

Cruz has made the future of the court a centerpiece of his campaign, while Trump may not actually understand how the Supreme Court works. But both have made clear that as president they would work to shift the court even farther to the right on the issues important to social conservatives and to the corporate Right.

What would a court shaped by a President Trump or a President Cruz look like? Looking at a few of the possible judicial nominees whose names have been dropped by candidates or who have been recommended by the Heritage Foundation, we can get an idea of the kind of ideological conservatives whom Republicans are hoping to put on the bench.

William H. Pryor

One possible Supreme Court nominee whom Trump has specifically praised is William H. Pryor, selected by President George W. Bush to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Formerly Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor has a history of extreme right-wing activism, severely criticizing not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal.

Pryor has called Roe the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” He has claimed that with the New Deal and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that it “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime.” As a judge, he has helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined just one other judge on the 11th Circuit in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

Pryor came first on a wish list of Supreme Court picks that the Heritage Foundation published shortly after Trump promised to consult them before naming justices.

Diane Sykes

Trump has also repeatedly named Diane Sykes, a Seventh Circuit federal appeals court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Sykes, who previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a trial court, has also won high praise from the Heritage Foundation and from right-wing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In a series of dissents, Sykes has argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, including cases where she tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award, to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

She showed her anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; Sykes nevertheless praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

She asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under Wisconsin law; that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years; and that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional, in disagreement with all 10 other judges on the court of appeals. She voted in favor of a Wisconsin voter ID law and of a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

Steven Colloton

The third name on Heritage’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees is Judge Steven Colloton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, after previous service for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and as a U.S. attorney.

Colloton has been at the forefront of a number of troubling Eighth Circuit rulings, including writing decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. He also joined a ruling making the Eighth Circuit the only appellate court in the country that found that the Obama administration’s efforts to accommodate religious universities and other religious nonprofit objectors to the provision of contraceptive coverage under the ACA was insufficient, an issue now being considered by the Supreme Court.

Even more troubling, Colloton has dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies. He dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store, and then saw his view prevail by one vote when the full Eighth Circuit reheard the case. In another case, he dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans.

Colloton dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional. In three separate cases, he dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, he argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against for speaking out in violation of their First Amendment rights. Yet he also claimed in a dissent that the First Amendment rights of a candidate for state supreme court justice were violated by a state judicial code of conduct restricting solicitation and other campaign activity in order to promote judicial impartiality and ethical conduct by judges. Even the conservative Roberts Court that decided the Citizens United case has agreed that these concerns justify solicitation restrictions in state supreme court elections.

Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate and Cruz has said that Lee “would look good” on the Supreme Court. Lee also made the Heritage Foundation’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court justices.

Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the 10th Amendment to the Constitution radically restricts the authority of the federal government. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.” Among the areas that Lee has suggested it is unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

  • Social Security,
  • Medicare and Medicaid,
  • child labor laws,
  • food safety,
  • disaster relief,
  • food stamps,
  • the Violence Against Women Act,
  • and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.

Lee has criticized the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality, calling Roe v. Wade an “unconscionable decision” that “defied the spirit and the letter” of the Constitution and responding to Obergefell by introducing a measure that would protect anti-LGBT discrimination.

Ted Cruz

While we don’t expect Cruz to name himself to the Supreme Court, as recently as December Trump was receptive to the idea of extending an olive branch to his main Republican presidential rival in the form of a Supreme Court nomination.

A Justice Cruz would certainly align with Trump’s stated priorities of reversing the Obergefell marriage equality decision and making sure Roe v. Wade is “unpassed.” Cruz, who served as the solicitor general of Texas before his election to the U.S. Senate, has gone so far as to call for the U.S. government to defy Obergefell and to claim that Congress could ban abortion without overturning Roe. Before running for the Senate, Cruz proposed an unconstitutional plan to nullify the Affordable Care Act; last year, he said that a Supreme Court ruling rejecting a clearly meritless challenge to the ACA was the “lawless” work of “rogue justices.” Cruz is known for having politicized the Texas solicitor general’s office, filing dozens of Supreme Court amicus briefs defending conservative positions on hot-button issues such as gun rights and abortion. On the campaign trail, he frequently boasts of his work as an attorney fighting church-state separation.

If Cruz were to become a Supreme Court justice, however, we wonder if he would stick with his idea of subjecting justices to retention elections.

This post has been updated to clarify the circumstances of a case in which Sykes asserted in a dissent that a jury verdict should have been upheld despite evidence that one juror was disqualified from serving.

Heritage List Gives Glimpse Of Far-Right Justices Sought By Trump And Cruz

One of the conservative establishment’s greatest fears about a Donald Trump presidency has been that he wouldn’t pick movement ideologues to sit on the Supreme Court. Trump attempted to put that concern to rest last week when he announced that he was working with the conservative behemoth the Heritage Foundation to shape a list of 10 possible Supreme Court picks from whom he would choose nominees if he were to become president. (Whether he would actually keep that promise, however, is an open question.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s main GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has promised to make nominating ultra-conservative justices a “priority” of his presidency. He has even made a point of criticizing past Republican presidents for appointing insufficiently conservative jurists.

Trump hasn’t released his list of candidates, but today the Heritage Foundation published a “non-exclusive” list of eight people that it said “illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider” for the high court — and who, it’s safe to assume, represent the kind of judges the conservative movement would pressure Trump and Cruz to pick for the federal courts.

Two of Heritage’s picks, federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, have been mentioned repeatedly by Trump on the campaign trail. The name of another, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has been brought up by Cruz, who even picked up the Utah senator’s endorsement.

In a profile of Sykes last month, ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote:

… Sykes, who currently sits on the Seventh Circuit, backed a voter ID law . She also wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston described as “ the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law.”

Millhiser noted that Sykes also ruled “that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination,” another troubling indication that she could support conservative groups’ attempts to justify discrimination.

Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, also has a history of right-wing activism. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade the “ worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that it created “ a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has claimed that with “the New Deal” and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that the federal government “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime .” Like Sykes, Pryor has upheld a voter ID law.

Lee, a Tea Party favorite who has been Cruz’s strongest ally in the Senate, has a legal philosophy that might be even more troubling, dismissing large swaths of the federal government’s work as unconstitutional. As Peter summarized recently:

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

Peter noted that Lee “dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a woman’s right to abortion” and has “called the court’s marriage equality ruling a ‘breathtaking presumption of power.’”

Also on Heritage’s list is Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is a colleague of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh, who before his career as a judge worked on the notorious “Starr Report” about President Clinton, is just one example of Bush’s effort to put ideologically motivated conservatives on the federal bench.

Kavanaugh’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit include striking down important EPA air pollution rules in an opinion that one columnist called “60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.” PFAW summarized the issue at hand:

Last summer, two Bush-nominated judges on the D.C. Circuit issued a much-criticized ruling in EME Homer City Generation, striking down important new EPA rules on air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2011, the EPA issued new regulations to limit the levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and crossing state lines. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. As if that weren’t important enough, the rules would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.

In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a ruling that found ExxonMobil was not immune from being sued by Indonesians who said they had been “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty" by the company’s security forces. Dissenting from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act the same year, Kavanaugh suggested that a president who thinks the ACA is unconstitutional could simply decline to enforce it.

Also on Heritage’s list are Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general in the Bush administration and is just 49 years old, and federal appeals court judges Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender. Another Heritage suggestion is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was nominated by then-Gov. Rick Perry after helping Bush run his faith-based initiatives in Texas and in the White House.

Norman Lear: Why I'm a Man for Choice

Norman Lear

More than forty years ago, the writers and I on our TV show "Maude" did something which apparently no one had done before on television: We showed our main character making the decision to have an abortion.

This was 1972, the year before the Supreme Court affirmed the right for all women to make their own reproductive health-care decisions. Back then, abortion wasn't something that was being discussed on television. But, of course, millions of women, and men, and families were discussing it in their own homes. So, we wrote some episodes that included Maude's discovery that, at age 47, after her daughter was grown, she found herself pregnant. We explored her conversations with friends and family about that pregnancy, and her ultimate decision with her husband to end that pregnancy. To no one's surprise, the world continued to turn on its axis.

As with our character, Maude Findlay, the majority of women who have an abortion today are already mothers, and don't make the decision lightly. At that time, a woman's ability to make the decision to create or expand her family was dependent on the state she lived in and how much money was in her bank account.

I never would have thought that, more than 40 years later, we would still be waging these same fights over women's reproductive rights that we were facing in the 1970s.

Yet, in June, the Supreme Court will decide the most consequential abortion case in decades involving a Texas law that could force the closure of abortion clinics in the state.

As America celebrates Women's History Month this March, we recognize the incredible strides our country has been able to make because of the hard work, creativity and resolve of American women. Our country is stronger when all Americans are empowered to make their own decisions about their health, their bodies and whether to start and grow their families.

It is unfortunate that, in this heated political season, we are still debating whether women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. Seven in 10 Americans support a woman's right to an abortion. Congress and state legislatures should be following the will of the people and get out of the way.

Instead, states from Texas to Mississippi to Ohio are leaving millions of women without access to health-care clinics that provide the reproductive healthcare services they deserve. Women – particularly poor women, women of color, and those living in red states – are losing access to their constitutional right to abortion at a frightening pace.

The very same politicians who are closing clinics in the name of protecting women and families are actively harming them by cutting off funding for preventative health care, cancer screenings and HIV prevention as part of an ideological war against abortion. Putting up barriers to accessing health care is not the way to support and empower women in this country.

But really, this is not about abortion for the anti-choice movement. Cutting off access to health care is one tool in their playbook that pushes a worldview where women are kept out of positions of power.

We know that one in three women in the United States will have an abortion in their lifetime. Most women who choose to have an abortion are in their twenties — the same decade in which their careers are just starting to take off. By depriving a woman of her right to an abortion, we're boxing her into a world where she cannot choose her own destiny, take advantage of the career opportunities she wants, or simply live the life that's best for her and her family.

f we trust women to run businesses, fight for our country, raise children, and hold the highest political offices (and we all should), we need to also trust that they are capable of making their own decisions about what is best for their own body, family and future. When the anti-choice movement doesn't trust women to make these personal decisions, we can only assume they don't trust women to lead either.

I am proud to stand with NARAL Pro-Choice America and call myself a "Man for Choice" because I believe it is time for men to stop pretending that we know better what women's health-care needs are. Women have proven that they are up to any task set before them and are more than capable of deciding their own futures. We can't afford to wait another 40 years before politicians figure this out.

This post originally appeared on CNBC.

PFAW

The Year Bryan Fischer Became 'Mainstream'

Back in 2011, when Mitt Romney was in the starting months of his presidential campaign, he accepted an invitation to speak at the Values Voter Summit, an annual event organized by the Family Research Council. The VVS always attracts an assortment of far-right activists, but that year Romney was scheduled to speak directly before Bryan Fischer, an inflamatory American Family Association official and radio host who had viciously insulted everyone from LGBT people to women to Muslims to Native Americans to medal of honor recipients to Romney’s fellow Mormons.

After facing a public outcry for choosing to appear beside Fischer, Romney called out Fischer in his speech — albeit not by name — decrying the “poisonous language” of “one of the speakers who will follow me today.”

After that year, Fischer was nowhere to be found at the Values Voter Summit, although his employer, the American Family Association, continued to cosponsor the event.

Then, in January of last year, Fischer was, for a moment, edged further out of the conservative mainstream. When a group of 60 members of the Republican National Committee embarked on a trip to Israel organized by Christian-nation advocate David Lane and paid for by the AFA, the RNC was forced to answer why it was sending members on a junket financed by a group whose spokesman was one of the most vitriolic voices of hate in the country — and one who said the First Amendment applies only to Christians. Facing a diplomatic incident with the GOP, the AFA finally stripped Fischer of his title with the organization, although he kept his daily radio program with its affiliate, American Family Radio.

But that was then and this is now.

Earlier this month, we reported that Fischer was scheduled to join Sen. Ted Cruz at a campaign rally in Mississippi. The event was eventually canceled: not because of Fischer’s extremism but because Cruz was reportedly ill .

And, although Fischer remains one of the most hateful voices on the Right, he is hardly any more controversial than many of the figures with whom the leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves in 2016 — or even, in some cases, the candidates themselves. As soon as the GOP began to ostracize Bryan Fischer, it was taken over by Bryan Fischer’s ideology.

Fischer himself pointed this out on his radio program last week as he prepared to discuss a column in which he reiterated his long-held views that Muslims immigrants should be barred from the U.S., American Muslims should be shut out of the U.S. military and state governments should ban the construction of mosques. Things that he’s been saying for years, he said, that were once perceived as “outlandish” and “off-the-charts lunacy,” have now “become virtually mainstream.”

He’s right. In fact, when we began to look through some of Fischer’s most controversial statements — which are bad enough that he was publicly rejected by the 2012 Republican nominee — we found that they weren’t too different from things that Republican presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz say every day.

Although Fischer has campaigned for Cruz and openly despises Trump, his ideology and rhetoric is echoed by both campaigns. (Although, thankfully, neither candidate has called for stoning whales … at least not yet.)

On Muslim immigration...

Fischer: ‘Stop Muslim immigration into the United States’

Fischer was far ahead of the trend when it came to anti-Muslim bigotry,calling as early as 2010 for the U.S. to block all Muslim immigration, “repatriate” Muslims who are already here, ban American Muslims from serving in the U.S. military, and impose a policy of “no more mosques, period.” Fischer repeated these demands just last week.

Trump: ‘A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’

He was several years behind Fischer, but Trump called last year for a temporary ban on all of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims entering the United States and deporting Syrian refugees who have been resettled in America, which have since become central planks in his platform. Echoing Fischer, Trump has also said that if he were to become president, he would have “no choice” but to close some mosques and once flirted with the idea of setting up a government database to monitor all Muslims. Cruz, for his part, has called for banning the resettlement of Muslim refugees from Syria.

On religious freedom for Muslims ...

Fischer: ‘Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims’

Fischer justifies his anti-Muslim plans by claiming that the First Amendment does not apply to Muslims or any other non-Christian religion and asserts that any religious liberty rights extended to non-Christians are simply a “courtesy”:

Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment.

Cruz: ‘Patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods’

When Cruz called for the U.S. to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” in response to this week’s terrorist attacks in Belgium, it came as no surprise since he has surrounded himself with advisers who argue, like Fischer, that Muslims do not deserve the same civil rights and civil liberties as other Americans.

One Cruz adviser, the Family Research Council’s Jerry Boykin, has explicitly said that “Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections.” In an interview with Fischer, Boykin called for “no mosques in America.”

Trump, for his part, has repeatedly called for government profiling of Muslims.

On Mormonism and Mitt Romney ...

Fischer: ‘I’m more Mormon’ than Mitt Romney

Fischer has never been a fan of the Mormon faith, insisting that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Mormons and warning that a Mormon president like Romney would threaten the nation’s “spiritual health.” However, when Fischer deemed Romney to not be anti-gay enough, he declared that he himself was “more Mormon” than the candidate.

At one point, Fischer clarified that he had “love” for Mormons and just wanted them “to come into the full light of the truth” and abandon their faith.

Trump: ‘Are you sure he’s a Mormon?’

Although Trump may “love the Mormons,” he has been out on the campaign trail with Robert Jeffress , an extremist pastor who says that Mormonism and Islam are demonic faiths “from the pit of hell” (and that the Roman Catholic Church was created by Satan). It was in a radio interview with Fischer at the 2011 Values Voter Summit that Jeffress, who was stumping for Rick Perry, declared that Romney is not a “true” Christian because Mormonism is a “cult.”

Like Fischer, Trump has questioned Romney’s faith after Romney criticized him, asking a crowd in Utah: “Are you sure he’s a Mormon?”

On LGBT rights ...

Fischer: ‘Rainbow jihadists’ on the Supreme Court ‘blasted the twin pillars of truth and righteousness into rubble.’

Fischer reacted with predictable reason and restraint to the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell marriage equality ruling, comparing it to 9/11, Pearl Harbor and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and referring to the justices in the majority as “rainbow jihadists.”

Cruz: The gay community is waging ‘jihad’ against religious freedom

In this case, Fischer may have picked up a turn of phrase from Cruz, who several weeks before the Obergefell ruling accused LGBT rights activists of waging “jihad” against the religious freedom of Christians.

On the role of women ...

Fischer: God ‘designed’ women to be good secretaries

Fischer explained back in 2014 that he wouldn't consider male applicants for receptionist and secretary positions at his church because God “designed” women “to be warm, to be hospitable, to be open-hearted, to be open-handed, to have their arms open, to be welcoming, to be receptive, to create a nurturing, welcoming environment.”

Trump: ‘It really doesn't matter what they write, as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass’

Trump may have a different view of women in the workplace than Fischer, but it isn’t any more enlightened.

On science ...

Fischer: ‘Liberals are absolutely anti-science when it comes climatology and global warming’

Fischer contends that when it comes to climate change, it’s the scientists who are “absolutely anti-science,” citing God’s promise to Noah in the Bible that he would never again destroy the earth with floods. He also believes that the theory of evolution is “completely irrational and scientifically bankrupt ”and argues that people who believe in evolution should be “disqualified from holding public office.” Fischer has filled the vacuum left by actual science with some of his own creative theories, such as that dinosaurs were actually giant, 1,000-year-old lizards.

Cruz: ‘Climate change is not science, it’s religion’

Cruz similarly thinks that it’s climate scientists who are being illogical, telling Glenn Beck last year that “climate change is not science, it's religion.” Trump is also “not a big believer” in climate change, which he has dismissed as “bad weather” and a Chinese fabrication designed to destroy the U.S. economy.

While Cruz has deflected questions about evolution, his father and campaign surrogate, Rafael Cruz, has called the theory “baloney” and suggested that it was a communist plot to “destroy the concept of God.”

On the military ...

Fischer: We’ve ‘feminized’ the medal of honor by giving it to service members who haven’t killed people

In 2010, Fischer reacted to the awarding of the medal of honor to an Army sergeant who had rescued two of his fellow soldiers in battle by lamenting that we have “feminized” the military honor by awarding it “for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them."

Trump: ‘I like people who weren’t captured’

Trump, who, like Fischer, has never served in the military, made headlines last summer when he attacked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for his time as a prisoner of war, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Ted Cruz Extends Anti-Gay Endorsement Bonanza With Religious Right Intellectual Leader Robert George

As we have noted repeatedly, Ted Cruz has enthusiastically welcomed the endorsements of and associated with a lot of extreme anti-gay activists, including the kind who scream from the stage that gay people should be executed. But not all anti-gay activists are of the ranting sort; some are prominent lawyers who draft legislation and devise legal strategies for restricting equality. Today, Cruz trumpeted the endorsement of the most prominent of these “respectable” anti-gay activists, Robert George.

George operates from Princeton University, where he teaches law and directs the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is a prime mover behind the effort to brand opposition to abortion and LGBT equality as religious liberty questions. He is a very busy man. In fact, it seems as if there are few anti-equality efforts that don’t bear his fingerprints in some way.

It goes on and on. According to his bio at the Witherspoon Institute, where he is a senior fellow:

Professor George serves on the boards of directors of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and the Center for Individual Rights. 

George’s dual role at the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation were noted during the controversy over the infamous Regnerus study, which has been widely discredited but it still cited by anti-equality advocates as “evidence” that gay people and couples should not be allowed to adopt or be parents. Witherspoon sponsored the research to the tune of nearly $700,000 and Bradley kicked in $90,000.

George’s influence extends beyond his own work. A former student and George protégé, the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, has become a leading voice in opposition to marriage equality; they co-authored with Sherif Gergis the book “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”

The Cruz campaign released a gushing endorsement from George, who says that Cruz was one of his most brilliant students and is among “the most principled and dedicated public servants” he knows. George’s endorsement of Cruz will come as no surprise to anyone who saw the mutual admiration society that passed for George’s interview of Cruz for EWTN last November. The two commiserated about the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, which George called “another tragic mistake in imposing same-sex marriage on the entire country.”

George recently joined other conservative Catholics in denouncing Donald Trump, who they said degrades our politics and culture and threatens their ability to use the Republican Party to promote Catholic social doctrine. Notably, George did not endorse Cruz until after Marco Rubio suspended his campaign. Rubio’s faith outreach director, Eric Teetsel, was formerly executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, and George is included in the acknowledgments section of Teetsel’s own book on (one man, one woman) marriage. 

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