A message to People For the American Way supporters from PFAW president Michael Keegan:
Fighting contraception. Stopping domestic violence protections. Extending tax cuts for the wealthy, while hiking taxes on the middle class. Welcoming white supremacists to a conference, but banning gay conservatives. The GOP has followed its extremist fringe off the deep end, leaving the rest of us back in the reality-based world befuddled. Their strategists warned them not to do this, but it appears that to the GOP, radical fringe issue positions are like catnip. In last night's Republican presidential debate in Arizona, the candidates even spent several minutes discussing which of them is least in favor of allowing rape victims to have access to emergency contraception.
Perhaps Bruce Bartlett, who was an economic policy official under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said it best on last night's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Discussing the obstacles to getting smart policies agreed upon and passed in government, he said, "the problem is purely political ... frankly, one of our political parties is insane, and we all know which one it is." (Hint: he was not talking about the Democrats.)
Standing Up for Women's Health -- We all heard about the War on Women's Health last year, when Tea Party-empowered state legislatures passed a record slew of anti-choice laws -- like Arizona's ban on "race-based abortions" and Virginia's attempt to shut down most abortion clinics in the state. These state legislatures were joined by an enthusiastic right-wing Congress that attempted to defund the entire $317 million federal family program, tried to redefine "rape" and eagerly promoted lies about their favorite bogeyman, Planned Parenthood. Well, the War on Women's Health is back, and it looks to be more an all-out War on Women. PFAW members spoke out when Susan G. Komen for the Cure threatened to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood because of internal influences from right-wing staff and board members. We're currently fighting an amendment in the U.S. Senate that would give employers the power to deny any health care to their employees that they take "moral" issue with personally. And we continue to track closely dangerous and extreme state legislation like the recent bill passed by Virginia’s right-wing Assembly that would force women considering abortions -- even rape victims -- to undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasounds.
Exposing the GOP Candidates' Extremism -- PFAW's Right Wing Watch last week uncovered the audio recording of a speech Rick Santorum gave to students at Ave Maria University in 2008 in which he said Satan, the "Father of Lies" was focusing all his attention on the United States of America. He said that academia had long ago fallen to this Satanic attack, derided mainline Protestant churches as no longer Christian and said that we are involved in a "spiritual war," as opposed to a political or cultural war -- a war in which we could only assume people with opposing views to Santorum's are on the side of Satan. The story took off like wildfire in both the blogosphere and the mainstream news media. It became the dominant storyline of the GOP debate for the two days leading up to the last debate and even had right-wing pundits like Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, and politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, asserting that Santorum's religious extremism is too much for a majority of Americans.
Fighting Judicial Obstruction -- A new PFAW fact sheet shows the extremity and unprecedented nature of Senate Republicans obstruction of judicial nominees, as well as its impact on Americans' access to justice. While a vacancy crisis persists on many of the nation's federal courts, our persistence is paying off and we're finally making headway in getting some of the president's qualified nominees confirmed. This month, the Senate confirmed Cathy Ann Bencivengo and Jesse Furman to U.S. District Courts in California and New York respectively, and Adalberto Jose Jordan to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom had been waiting months on the Senate calendar for a vote despite the fact that they came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without any opposition. But dozens of other qualified nominees, most of whom had little or no opposition in Committee, still await confirmation. We'll continue to hold Republicans accountable for their obstruction and keep the pressure on to confirm these judges as swiftly as possible, and one at a time if necessary.
Youth Spotlight: Young Elected Officials take on Citizens United v. FEC -- In state, city and municipal governing bodies in at least seven states, members of our affiliate PFAW Foundation's Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network have put forward resolutions that call for the end of corporate personhood and unlimited special interest money in politics. One of the first big victories in this coordinated national effort was that of Missoula, Montana Councilwoman Cynthia Wolken. After attending a session on Citizens United at the 2011 YEO National Convening, Councilwoman Wolken took a sample resolution and introduced a city-wide referendum calling for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that made it clear that corporations are not people. The referendum passed overwhelmingly, with over 75% of the vote, bringing an abundance of media attention to the issue and forcing leaders in Montana's state government to weigh-in as well.
As always, thank you for your support, without which none of our work would be possible.
Pastor Steven Andrew of USA Christian Ministries is leading a boycott of companies which endorsed a marriage equality bill in Washington state, including Google, Starbucks and Amazon, charging them with “working against Jesus and leading people to sin and to possibly go to hell.” Andrew, who previously claimed that “Starbucks hates God” over the company’s backing of gay rights, told the Christian Post that any company that favors marriage equality is “anti-God” and is “doing the devil's work.”
Andrew is currently involved in a boycott against Starbucks after the coffee company began supporting a gay marriage bill proposed in Washington State. He recently added a few others to the list as well, including Nike, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, asking Christians to no longer provide business to those corporations, which he claimed promoted homosexual sin.
For Andrew, his nonviolent protests did have a "biblical warrant." "Boycotting anti-God companies is one way a Christian lives out the First Commandment," the author of Making a Strong Christian Nation, told The Christian Post. "If you love Jesus, you won't give your money to those working against Jesus, our Savior."
He believed that if the stores in Sodom and Gomorrah that openly mocked God were boycotted, they could have possibly been saved. "God calls Christians and churches to not share in the sins of others. To love God is to flee sexual immorality. If we help the wicked, then God's Word says God judges us (2 Chronicles 19:2). God calls Christians to 100 percent love Him and to 100 percent oppose sin."
God also called the United States to have the fear of God as a nation, but complacency with sin did not indicate fear of God, Andrew asserted.
"Ungodly politicians, Starbucks, Nike, Amazon and others are doing the devil's work ... trying to 'change' our Christian laws into non-Christian laws ... Every Christian and church should boycott companies making light of Jesus Christ. It is unwise for a Christian to give their money to those working against Jesus and leading people to sin and to possibly go to hell."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins today appeared on the American Family Association’s Financial Issues with Dan Celia, where he said that President Obama’s eventual Republican opponent must try to “dial back the decay” in the culture. Perkins, who has claimed in the past that Obama has a “disdain for Christianity” and demanded Christian supporters of the president “repent,” said that the administration has pushed “anti-family, anti-religious, anti-Christian policies,” most notably the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which overturned the military’s ban on openly gay service members.
Perkins said Obama is “forcing open homosexuality on the military” which he said would lead to “not only cultural impacts upon this nation but from a national security standpoint it’s going to undermine our military.” While military leaders, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Perkins claimed that they actually opposed the repeal. Maybe Perkins was confusing real military leaders with himself, who said that the elected officials who voted to repeal the policy would have blood on their hands.
Perkins: When we look historically at what has happened in elections we see that like in this administration where the push of anti-family, anti-religious, anti-Christian policies from this administration, and I know people are criticized for saying that, but the evidence is there. Historically what happens is when the Republicans are elected on the heels of an administration like this we see them babysitting the decline and not going back and retaking territory that has been lost in the culture.
For instance, let me talk about very solid issues here, the issue of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, forcing open homosexuality on the military, that is going to have very significant not only cultural impacts upon this nation but from a national security standpoint it’s going to undermine our military. That’s what the military leaders testified before Congress, that didn’t matter to Congress, they were pushing this through in the wee hours of the lame duck session of Congress. I guarantee you, normally, the Republicans when they’re re-elected, if they were to recapture the White House, they wouldn’t touch that, they would just say ‘we wouldn’t advance that anymore.’ I’m telling you we’re at a point where we got to dial back the decay, we’ve got have somebody that’s bold enough to come in and undo some of these radical policies from this administration.
Yesterday, the New Jersey Assembly joined with the State Senate and passed a bill endorsing same-sex marriage in a 42 to 33 vote. If marriage equality becomes law, New Jersey will become the eighth state to destroy what the Assembly speaker called one of the “last legalized barriers to equal rights.”
In a pivotal moment, New Jersey lawmakers did more than stand up for the institution of marriage; they chose to begin legally recognizing and protecting the civil rights of every resident of their state. They showed that no matter who one loves, the state should not limit the ability to fully commit to that person. As Newark Assemblywoman Cleopatra G. Tucker put it, “I came to the conclusion that the people sent me here from my district, here to protect what’s right…To protect the rights of everyone.”
Unfortunately, Governor Chris Christie has sworn to veto the new legislation, insisting that the legislature subject the basic civil rights of their fellow citizens to a referendum.
Proponents of marriage equality are not accepting this alternative, and are preparing to form even stronger coalitions to override Gov. Christie’s impending veto. Polls indicate growing support for same-sex marriage among voters, a trend that will likely continue over the next two years, providing the support the legislature needs to override the veto.
New Jersey’s legislature made history by passing a marriage equality bill. Governor Christie should do the same by signing it into law.
Following up on the Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast controversy -- In today’s Daily Times, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and Council members Knight and Ashley attempted to distance themselves from the prayer breakfast but said that Boykin would speak as planned:
People for the American Way today called on the Mayor and City Council of Ocean City, Maryland to cancel the invitation to retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin to headline this week’s Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.
Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement:
DEARBORN, MI -- On Saturday, December 17 at 11:00 a.m., Christian and Muslim faith leaders, elected officials and community activists will hold an interfaith protest at a Lowe’s store near Dearborn, Michigan Saturday to protest the company’s decision to cave to anti-Muslim extremists and pull advertising from the TLC show “All-American Muslim.”
Lowe's pulled its advertising from the show after the Florida Family Association, a small right-wing fringe group, complained that it showed American Muslims "as ordinary folks just like you and me."
On Friday, Nov. 11, right-wing activist Lou Engle and the group Transformation Michigan will host The Call: Detroit, a prayer rally whose stated purpose is to convert Muslims to Christianity to prevent what Transformation Michigan calls “the advance of the enemy.”
When speaking with mainstream news outlets, The Call: Detroit’s organizers have attempted to downplay their anti-Muslim rhetoric, painting the rally as an inclusive gathering for people of faith to pray for Detroit’s depressed economy. However,Engle and Transformation Michigan’s statements to supporters show that The Call will present something much more harmful and divisive: an attempt to stir up misunderstanding and fear of Detroit and Dearborn’s Muslim populations while promoting a view of government exclusively by and for conservative Christians.
Rev. Charles Williams II, Pastor of Detroit’s Historic King Solomon Baptist Church and a member of People For the American Way's African American Ministers in Action , urged people of faith to reject the divisive and politically charged extremism of The Call, and to join together in prayer for a future that lifts up all the people of Michigan, regardless of faith and ethnicity.
“All of us in Detroit have been praying hard for the future of our city and everyone in it,” said Rev. Williams. “We need to keep on praying and we need to keep on working hard for economic and social justice that lifts up every person, rich and poor. What we don’t need is more divisiveness and fear.
"Religious leaders who support this event should really take a look at what its undertones are all about. As a Christian pastor I support prayer, but not to bash another religion, nor to hide behind the subterfuge of political gamesmanship.
“Our Muslim neighbors in Detroit and Dearborn want the same things that all of us want – jobs to support our families and the freedom to live our lives as we choose. Those like Rev. Engle who come into the state stir up fear about a mythical ‘Muslim takeover’ and set us against each other, distract from the real problems that we face. We can’t face our problems and lift ourselves up if we are busy tearing each other down. Let’s work, and pray, together for the future of our city.”
More information about The Call: Detroit is available at People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/fact-sheet-call-detroit
North Carolina Voters Reject Resegregation; African American Ministers Applaud Commitment to Diversity