Fighting the Right

PFAW Convenes Panel on Globalizing Homophobia at Netroots Nation 2015

From anti-adoption rules in Russia to laws banning same-sex intimacy in the Caribbean, the right-wing global movement against LGBT rights – especially its U.S. leaders working transnationally – was under the microscope this weekend during a panel at Netroots Nation.



On Friday, People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery moderated a powerful session on the globalization of anti-LGBT activism featuring Urooj Ashad of Advocates for Youth, Gillian Kane of Ipas, Miranda Blue of PFAW’s Right Wing Watch, and Maurice Tomlinson of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

Gillian Kane kicked off the presentations by highlighting that those attacking the rights of LGBT people across the world are also often leading attacks on other rights, including reproductive freedoms. She noted that U.S.-based anti-LGBT activists working transnationally, like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), strategically frame themselves as victims of religious persecution rather than those working to undermine the rights of others. Kane recently published an article on ADF's expansion in Latin America.

Maurice Tomlinson gave a snapshot of the current status of anti-LGBT laws in Jamaica and across the Western hemisphere. He pointed out that Belize and Trinidad & Tobago both ban the entrance of gay people into the country, and that a total of 11 countries in the Western hemisphere still criminalize same-gender intimacy.  In Jamaica, Tomlinson noted, “our culture has been perverted” by the exportation of homophobia from the global North for many decades. He also highlighted some of the work happening in Jamaica to fight anti-gay laws, including everything from lawsuits to flashmobs.

Miranda Blue, who authored People For the American Way’s report on Globalizing Homophobia, highlighted the case study of the push for anti-LGBT legislation in Russia, a campaign which she pointed out "hasn’t come out of a vacuum.” She said that Putin is both trying to silence dissent and frame Russia as a bastion of traditional values. Many on the Right in the U.S., she said, have bought into this framing, cheering on the laws and saying that the U.S. should have similar ones. Blue noted that Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage even traveled to Moscow to testify in front of the parliament in support of an anti-gay adoption law.

Urooj Arshad focused on how to do solidarity work with LGBT activists based in the global South and warned against the conflation of the West with LGBT rights.  She urged U.S.-based LGBT rights activists to always be in communication with those working and living locally. Arshad, who grew up in Pakistan, noted that in many formerly colonized countries, the criminalization of homosexuality came with colonization, with many of the anti-sodomy laws from that era still on the books.

Peter Montgomery pulled all of the speakers' presentations together by framing the anti-LGBT attacks happening around the world as a unified right-wing movement rather than isolated campaigns. He pointed out the number of laws globally that have been directly supported by right-wing organizations in the U.S., and said that activists here can help support LGBT activists abroad by chipping away at the credibility of U.S. groups that are helping fuel this work internationally.

For more about the exporting of anti-gay activism transnationally, you can read PFAW’s 2014 report on Globalizing Homophobia here.
 

PFAW

Ben Carson: 'The Whole Purpose' Of Planned Parenthood Is To 'Eliminate Black People'

Ben Carson responded to a deceptively edited right-wing video about Planned Parenthood last week by accusing the group’s founder, Margaret Sanger, of trying to “eliminate black people.”

In an interview with Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson, Carson responded with outrage to an audio clip of President Obama saying “God bless you” during a speech to Planned Parenthood.

“You wonder if he actually knows the history of Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger, who was trying to eliminate black people,” he said. “That was the whole purpose of it.”

His allegation rests on a debunked claim that has circulated through right-wing circles for years that Sanger was using birth control to exterminate the African American community.

Carson also promised that he would use Hillary Clinton’s praise for Sanger and her relationship with Saul Alinsky against her in the presidential race, claiming that he would “educate the people” that the campaign is really about a divide between “American and anti-American things.” This led him to attack the Affordable Care Act, which he said was illegitimately “shoved down our throat” … even though it became a law just as any other law does through an act of Congress.

The GOP candidate later returned to the Planned Parenthood video.

“If we can’t defund Planned Parenthood after this, we’re lost, we’re just in the wilderness forever,” he said. “This is the smoking gun. We’ve always known the kind of organization this and how anti-life they are.”

He also claimed that the video will help him make the case that abortion should be banned: “We can also use this then to help women understand that they are being manipulated. They’re being told, ‘if you can’t kill your baby then somebody is against you,’ when in fact the woman is the protector of that baby, this is one of the sacred relationships of humanity.”

Jindal: In Abortion, The 'Patient' Is The 'Unborn Baby,' Not The Woman

In an interview with Iowa-based talk radio host Steve Deace on Friday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal discussed adeceptively edited video made by a right-wing group that falsely claims that Planned Parenthood is “selling aborted baby parts.”

Jindal, who reacted to the phony scandal by launching an investigation into Planned Parenthood in his state, repeated his call to defund the organization, saying that it’s not a health care organization because when a woman receives an abortion she is not a “patient.”

“They try to defend themselves by saying this is health care and patient-centered,” he said. “This is not health care. Abortions are not health care, and this is not about the patient. The patient in this case is that unborn baby. They’ve got no concern for the unborn baby, and you can see that in the video.”

Jindal also dismissed the famous Bill Clinton phrase calling for abortion to be "safe, legal and rare," saying, "Well, it's never safe for the baby, first of all."

Ted Cruz: I've Been Singing Donald Trump's Praises On Immigration

Ted Cruz has been more than happy to attack his Republican opponents for the presidency, save one: Donald Trump.

During an appearance on “The Jan Mickelson Show” last week, Cruz insisted that “the Democrats support illegal immigration,” which led him to praise Trump for his remarks describing immigrants as rapists.

“It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been so vocal in the past couple of weeks defending Donald Trump because you’ve had a whole slew of 2016 Republican candidates running out of their way to smack Donald Trump with a stick, and not only am I not going to do that but I’ve been singing his praises,” Cruz said, before adding: “He is absolutely right.”

Mike Huckabee: Gay Marriage 'Violates Nature And Nature's God'

Christian Broadcasting Network commentator David Brody interviewed Mike Huckabee in Iowa over the weekend and posted an excerpt from the interview today, in which Huckabee reiterates his pledge to undermine gay rights if elected president.

Huckabee said that the U.S. government should simply refuse to recognize the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, insisting that gay marriage can only be legal nationwide if Congress passes a law making it so.

Instead, Huckabee pledged to aggressively “defend religious liberty and the rights of people of faith and conscience whether they’re business owners acting as individuals, whether they’re hospitals, churches, schools, adoption agencies” so that “no one’s religious liberty will be trampled upon because they refuse to bow to something that violates nature and nature’s God. Words, that by the way, I borrowed right out of the Declaration of Independence”

Brody: I want to ask you another question about gay marriage and religious liberty. They go hand in hand. Now President Mike Huckabee, what would that 100 days look like under a President Mike Huckabee administration as it relates to gay marriage because a lot of people say ‘Hey, the train’s leaving the station. Oh well. Good luck to you in the future.' What’s a President Huckabee do?

Huckabee: When people say the train left the station, it’s the law of the land, there’s nothing we can do, let’s move on. I want to say, ‘Have you guys read the Constitution, did you pass 9th grade civics?' The court can’t make law. We pretend that it can and I’m convinced that a lot of people give that sort of response because they don’t want to have to deal with the complexities of the constitution, which says that there are checks and balances. If we surrender to the judicial branch as if it is the last, final and ultimate word, then we have surrendered to judicial tyranny which is what Jefferson warned us about and the reason that he rejected some Supreme Court arguments as simply being something he couldn’t accept and he didn’t…as did Jackson, as did Lincoln. This notion that the Supreme Court ruled it and therefore it’s the law of the land bypasses the only entity in our government that can make the law of the land: the legislative branch, and it’s not even law until the president signs it and agrees to enforce it. And first of all, a president, if he's not going to uphold that part of the constitution, get out of the race because you’re going to be lying when you take the oath and say you’ll uphold and defend the constitution because on its face, you’re not defending it, neither are you upholding it when you surrender to the god of judicial supremacy so we’ve got to start there and I certainly would start there.

Brody: Can you do something as it relates to some executive orders, are there certain things you can do?

Huckabee: Absolutely. You can reverse the executive orders as it relates to how the president has said you’re going to make this a mandatory issue throughout federal government but you also instruct the attorney general to defend religious liberty and the rights of people of faith and conscience whether they’re business owners acting as individuals, whether they’re hospitals, churches, schools, adoption agencies. It doesn’t matter what it is. That no one’s religious liberty will be trampled upon because they refuse to bow to something that violates nature and nature’s God. Words, that by the way, I borrowed right out of the Declaration of Independence. But I’d also order the Secretary of Defense on Day One that you will empower chaplains to perform their religious duties according to their conscience and you will further make sure that no military member is prohibited from the free exercise of their religious faith so long as it does not impose itself as a hazard to their duty or an imposition to their fellow military members, which means if the chaplain wants to put a Bible on his desk, do it. If the chaplain wants to pray in Jesus’ name or the name of Allah, he does it. If the chaplain wants to counsel according to his conscience and to what he believes about sexual behavior, then he’s free to do it. Otherwise you have told him what the limitations of his belief can be and unless those limitations somehow impede that soldier’s ability to be a soldier, or a sailor, or a marine, or an airman, or a coast guardsman, then it is not the purview of the government of the United States to prohibit the free exercise thereof of his or her religion.

World Congress Of Families Feigns Ignorance About Supporting Anti-LGBT Extremism

The World Congress of Families, a project run by a small conservative think tank in Illinois, which links social conservative groups around the world in an effort to promote what it calls the “natural family,” issued a report last week attempting to debunk what it contends are unfair smears about its anti-gay politics.

In particular, WCF has received criticism for its support of a spate of new anti-LGBT laws in Russia, as we outlined in our 2013 “Globalizing Homophobia” report. The group's work around the world has come under additional scrutiny since it began planning its first U.S. conference, scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City in October.

In its new report, WCF contends that it harbors no “animus toward people who choose a gay lifestyle,” and “only takes issue with LGBT activists in their attempts to undermine the natural family by redefining marriage in the law and to ignore or distort the overwhelming social science, psychological, medical, and demographic evidence that the two-parent, mother-and-father family is the optimal unit for social stability and raising children” (italics are theirs).

Yet, in its report, WCF acknowledges and reaffirms its support for laws that go far beyond stopping LGBT rights activists from “redefining marriage.” The report reaffirms the group’s support of a Russian law banning gay “propaganda” to minors:

The truth is WCF supports efforts in Russia, and anywhere else, to protect children from destructive activities and propaganda to engage in drug use, alcohol, pornography, gambling, prostitution and solicitations for “non-traditional sexual relations,” which are dangerous, as shown by statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

WCF then blames anti-gay sentiment in Russia on the LGBT rights movement itself and on the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were jailed after staging a performance in a cathedral:

As the homosexual activist movement in Russia became more visible and demanding, Russians became more aware that their most deeply held beliefs were under attack. The invasion of cathedrals by self-styled sexual radical groups like Pussy Riot have contributed to the public perception that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable.” A Pew Research survey shows that despite three decades of nonstop homosexual propaganda in the Western media, schools, and the corporate world that has moved public opinion in those nations toward acceptance or non-opposition to homosexuality, people in a large number of nations, including Russia, consider homosexuality immoral.

WCF also defends its role in organizing a letter objecting to the U.S. embassy’s participation in Prague’s Gay Pride parade in 2012 in which it stated, “We can not imagine a worse form of cultural imperialism than Washington trying to force approval of the ‘gay’ agenda on societies with traditional values.”

The group is also disingenuous about its role connecting "pro-family" activists around the world, claiming that it had “nothing to do” with a "large families" conference held in Moscow last year. The conference began as a World Congress of Families event, financially backed by a number of top allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. After facing a storm of criticism in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, WCF backed out of its official role in the conference, but little else seems to have changed . In fact, World Congress of Families officials Larry Jacobs and Don Feder, although they said they were there in their personal capacities, were on hand at an opening press conference along with the conference’s major Russian funders.

WCF runs into a similar problem when it disputes the Human Rights Campaign’s report that it “inflamed concerns” in Ukraine that “joining the European Union would force the country to accept marriage equality." WCF claims: "All statements in Ukraine were made by individuals in their personal capacities as experts."

HRC was presumably referring to these statements by WCF’s Don Feder, who introduced himself at a press conference in Kiev as “representing the World Congress of Families.”

WCF also tries to distance itself from Feder, who along with his work with the group has a sideline as far-right columnist, saying that he is merely an "unofficial spokesperson" for the WCF and is no longer the group's communications director.

This speaks to the difficulty of pinning down WCF's position. The group notes that it is very small, but that belies its important role in bringing together a global movement in opposition to reproductive rights and LGBT equality. WCF exists to bring together alliances of social conservatives around the world; it can’t feign ignorance when those alliances end up providing cover for bad policies.

WCF took a similar tone back in 2013 when Sen. Mark Kirk, who had provided them with a room for a press conference on Capitol Hill, withdrew the offer after he learned of the group’s support for anti-LGBT extremism. Provided with a room at the last minute by House Speaker John Boehner, the group’s founder Allan Carlson compared criticism of his work to fascism in the 1920s and 1930s. Speakers then proceeded to heap praise on Russia for its anti-gay crackdown.

Porter: Christians Will Be 'Carted Off To Jail' Due To Gay Marriage

As Brian noted earlier this month, Faith 2 Action's Janet Porter is currently leading an effort to pressure Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine "to file a Motion to Rehear Obergefell v. Hodges" with the Supreme Court, so that the recently decided gay marriage case can be reargued, this time without the participation of Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom Porter insists must recuse themselves.

The window for filing such a motion closes tomorrow and having received no support from DeWine, Porter is now getting increasingly desperate and has expanded her call to the attorneys general of Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky, sending out an email today warning that they will be responsible when "Christianity is criminalized" and Christians are "carted off to jail" because they failed to get the gay marriage decision overturned:

Donald Trump: King of Facebook (…and What That Means)

The reach of Donald Trump’s Facebook posts is more on pace with that of Justin Bieber than with any other politician.
PFAW

Right Wing Round-Up - 7/15/15

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 7/15/15

  • Ted Baehr says countries can reverse desertification if only they would embrace Christianity.

Religious Right Pundits Long For The Days When People Were Too Poor To Be Gay

Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace invited Florida Religious Right activist John Stemberger onto his program yesterday to push back against conservatives who are arguing that the government should just get out of marriage altogether after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, which Stemberger argues would actually expand government by destroying families and expanding the welfare state.

This is all what liberals want, he told Deace: “The left feeds on broken marriages and broken families. When families are strong, when there’s an economic system there, they start to understand the implications of taxes and all the economic implications of actually work and reward.”

This prompted Deace to share his theory that the sexual revolution was an outgrowth of the welfare state because before the expansion of the social safety net, most people were too poor to “act out immorally” by having “multiple wives” and “gay lovers” since “no one was subsidizing [their] depravity.”

“We have that today, which is why the sexual revolution came after the welfare state, because once it was obvious that people were not going to be held directly accountable for their actions, we removed the inhibitions against human nature that we already had,” he explained.

Stemberger agreed with Deace’s assessment, adding, “People who are hard-working and have to be self-sufficient and are not going to be propped up by the government don’t have the luxury of doing stupid, immoral things.”

BarbWire Pundit: United States Is 'A Spiritual Cesspool' Led By Satan

It’s been over two weeks since former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced that he has uncovered a “secret memo” from the Justice Department stating that bestiality and pedophilia will soon be made legal.

DeLay has still not released this supposed DOJ document, which he said will legalize “12 new perversions,” but BarbWire columnist A.J. Castellitto is already treating it as a point of fact.

Castellitto writes today that this “secret memo” that no one has seen (except for DeLay, of course) shows that Satan has now taken over the U.S. as the country has become “a spiritual cesspool.”

“I’m sorry to say this, but it’s over,” he writes. “Satan has control.”

Our eyes are wide shut…

But Satan likes it that way. He’s a liar from the beginning.

He will insist that all things are permissible (even taking a life). He will tell you there is nothing on the other side. He will tell you that you can be your own god.



Ultimately, he will enable you to be sexually ensnared and enslaved in a web of perverse bondage and spiritual peril. You will be a slave to Satan and his minions. You will be left empty, broken and destitute. This is where we are…

“We’ve … found a secret memo coming out of the Justice Department. They’re now going to go after 12 new perversions. Things like bestiality, polygamy, having sex with little boys and making that legal” ~ Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

I’m sorry to say this, but it’s over. Satan has control.

Tony Perkins: America's Enemies 'Very Happy' US Is Ending Transgender Service Ban

Family Research Council officials Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin are upset, unsurprisingly, about the Pentagon’s move to eventually lift its ban on transgender service members.

The two discussed the announcement on yesterday’s edition of “Washington Watch,” where Perkins wondered if military leaders should resign in protest of the policy. Boykin agreed that top military officials should quit over the matter and tell the president that “this is going to destroy our military and it’s the next thing in the chain of events that will ultimately destroy our readiness.”

Perkins added that “just a third of voters think it’s a good thing” to allow “homosexuals openly serving in the military,” despite the fact that polls taken before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell showed 75 percent of voters supporting allowing gay people to serve openly in the military.

“This is insane,” Boykin said of the move toward allowing transgender people to serve openly.

Perkins explained that “some of these individuals would not be in a state of readiness if their units were called up because they were getting certain hormone therapies or surgeries,” claiming that it is too expensive for the military to “be paying to rearrange the parts on service members.”

“They are in a situation where those hospitals are overworked, overloaded and it’s difficult for them to get the care they need and now we’re talking about spending money to have people be able to change their plumbing, that just doesn’t make sense to me,” Boykin said.

He continued: “What do you think our adversaries are thinking as they look at us and all of the stuff that we’re doing? We’re putting women in infantry units. What do you think they think of us? What is their impression of us? I think they believe we’re a bunch of clowns that have lost our way, we don’t know where we’re going or what we’re going to do when we get there. And I think that they see exactly what’s happening in this country that we’ve lost our focus on fighting and winning wars and protecting the nation and now we are all about appealing to special interest groups, that’s what it is about.”

Perkins concurred: “I think they are very happy with what they see — not the allies, our enemies are — because this degrades our military effectiveness and readiness.”

Tom DeLay Urges Congress To Fight Gay Marriage By Impeaching Judges And Cutting Court Budgets

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay joined “Wallbuilders Live” today to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision striking down bans on gay marriage, repeating his call for states to “defy” the “illegitimate” ruling.

DeLay was especially incensed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for calling the Supreme Court’s ruling the “law of the land,” urging fellow Republican members of Congress to “revolt” against McConnell and start punishing the entire federal court system for the gay marriage decision by cutting courts’ budgets, limiting their jurisdictions and impeaching judge.

“The members should revolt against that and go after McConnell for saying that, because there’s a lot that Congress can do,” he said. “Not just limited jurisdiction of the courts, they can pass a constitutional amendment, they can impeach judges, they can cut the budgets of the courts — they can’t cut the Supreme Court, but lower courts — they can express themselves that way, express their abhorrence to the ruling by cutting the budgets. There’s just a lot of things that they can do to invoke the separation of powers.”

Ben Carson Set To Join Pastor Who Wants Gays Put To Death At Iowa Conference

Update (8/25): The website has since labeled Carson as only an invited speaker.

Later this year, far-right Colorado radio host and homeschooling activist Kevin Swanson will be attempting to expand his national profile by organizing a “National Religious Liberties Conference” in Des Moines, Iowa.

Since Swanson believes that homosexuality should be punished by death and frequently claims that liberals are using things like the movie Frozen and Girl Scout cookies to make children gay, we hoped that even this year’s field of Republican presidential candidates would think twice before showing up at his conference.

But apparently that was too much to ask.

Steve Deace, a conservative Iowa radio host who frequently interviews GOP presidential candidates and is scheduled to speak at Swanson’s conference, spoke with Swanson about the conference last week and announced just that Ben Carson has already agreed to attend the event and that “Bobby Jindal is planning on being there.”

Deace’s statement followed a warning from Swanson that millions of American Christians will soon end up in prison because of advances in gay rights.

Indeed, the conference website lists Carson as a confirmed speaker.

We contacted the Carson campaign for comment but have yet to hear back.

As we’ve mentioned, Swanson’s record of extremism is truly unmatched.

Swanson, who hosts a daily “Generations Radio” broadcast from his basement in Colorado, not only believes gay people and their allies should be put to death, but also thinks that women are causing floods by wearing pants.

Swanson on homosexuality:

  • Defended a Ugandan measure to make homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty, saying he was glad the country was “standing strong” by adopting extreme anti-gay laws.

And there’s more!

  • Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina were divine punishments of “pro-homosexual” cities.
  • Homosexuality is a “disease.”

Swanson on women:

  • Helping women in Kenya own their own cows will “obliterate” the family.

Swanson on pop culture:

  • Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry sing “demon songs.”

Swanson on other topics:

Avi Lipkin: Satan-Worshiping Obama Hopes To 'Destroy The Human Race'

Far-right conspiracy theorist Avi Lipkin has become the Religious Right’s go-to expert on Islam and President Obama’s supposed effort to bring 100 million Muslims into the U.S., thus cementing the power of the Free Masons and Illuminati.

Lipkin spoke with Rick Wiles yesterday on “Trunews” about the Iranian nuclear deal, which he said is all part of Obama’s plan to make “Israel go to war against Iran.” Saudi Arabia will then emerge as the regional power since the two countries will “destroy each other.” (After all, Lipkin believes that Obama is a “Saudi plant.”) This Iranian-Israeli war will allow Obama to “free himself up for his real mission, which is to make America a Muslim country.”

“President Obama is a Muslim,” Lipkin continued. “If you’re a Muslim, your god is Satan; if you’re a Muslim, then you are criminally psychotic. This is the plan to destroy the human race. This is something that Allah wants.”

He added that Muslims believe that “the only way for Allah to be greater than the God of the Jews and the Christians is to kill every last human being on the face of the earth, that’s the plan of Islam.”

Jade Helm 15 Is Here! The GOP Politicians Who Encouraged Panic Over President Obama's 'Texas Takeover'

This spring, when far-right conspiracy theory websites started buzzing about Jade Helm 15, a planned military exercise in western states that they said was a cover for President Obama’s plans to impose martial law on Republicans states, we expected apoplectic reactions from the fringiest of right-wing circles. But who else was going to take it seriously?

Plenty of people, it turns out, including Republican politicians seeking to capitalize on anti-Obama fears in order to lift their profile in the increasingly far-right party — a poll in May found that a full one-third of Republicans believed that the government was “trying to take over Texas.”

Today, as the military exercise begins, we look back at five Republican politicians who, whether credulously or cynically, fed the Jade Helm 15 frenzy.

1. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was the first GOP politician this fringe conspiracy theory into the Republican mainstream, assuring concerned citizens that he had ordered the Texas Guard to monitor the potential takeover effort.

After he became the object of national criticism and ridicule, Abbott said that the actually thought the military exercise would “work out just fine” and blamed President Obama for stirring up suspicion:

“Frankly, I gotta tell you, I think the cause of the underlying concerns is that we see instances, like a shooting in Fort Hood by a terrorist, that the president labels workplace violence. We see the president come to the border in Texas and say it’s safer than it’s ever been,” said Abbott. “And so I think it was a misplaced perception by people in Texas who have problems with the Obama administration and connected that trust with the Obama administration to the military.”

2. Rick Perry

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry initially criticized Abbott’s fanning of the Jade Helm 15 flames, saying that while “you can always question” civilian leadership, “I think our military is quite trustworthy.”

But the presidential candidate quickly got the messaging memo, telling Glenn Beck that while President Obama invites unhinged conspiracy theories, when he’s president, everyone will trust the government:

3. Ted Cruz

Not to be outdone by his presidential rival Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz assured his flock that he had “ reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise ,” and although he had “no reason to doubt” the official line about the training exercise, “I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, “because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.”

4. Louie Gohmert

After Abbott ordered the Texas Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15, Rep. Louie Gohmert threw himself into promoting the conspiracy theory, releasing a statement saying that the conspiracy theorists were “legitimately suspicious” because “true patriots” and Christians were being persecuted in America.

Gohmert continued with some theories of his own:

Once I observed the map depicting ‘hostile,’ ‘permissive,’ and ‘uncertain’ states and locations, I was rather appalled that the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority, ‘cling to their guns and religion,’ and believe in the sanctity of the United States Constitution. When the federal government begins, even in practice, games or exercises, to consider any U.S. city or state in 'hostile' control and trying to retake it, the message becomes extremely calloused and suspicious.

Such labeling tends to make people who have grown leery of federal government overreach become suspicious of whether their big brother government anticipates certain states may start another civil war or be overtaken by foreign radical Islamist elements which have been reported to be just across our border. Such labeling by a government that is normally not allowed to use military force against its own citizens is an affront to the residents of that particular state considered as 'hostile,' as if the government is trying to provoke a fight with them. The map of the exercise needs to change, the names on the map need to change, and the tone of the exercise needs to be completely revamped so the federal government is not intentionally practicing war against its own states.

Like Abbott and Perry, Gohmert was insistent that the whole conspiracy theory was President Obama’s fault:

5. Rand Paul

We’ll give Rand Paul credit for seeming a little surprised when a popular Iowa talk radio host asked him about Jade Helm 15, although he said he’d been hearing about it from constituents and would “look into” it. If Paul ever did look into it and find that the conspiracy theory was completely bogus, however, he never bothered to say so.

Rick Santorum: 'Take Down Planned Parenthood' To 'Scrub All Racism From America'

Yesterday on “The Simon Conway Show,” Rick Santorum fielded a question about the heavily edited video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood official trying to sell fetal tissue. The unedited video makes clear that she was actually “discussing the reimbursement cost for consensual, legal tissue donations.”

Santorum, ignoring the fact that the video’s claims were quickly debunked, called for a full-scale government investigation into Planned Parenthood and criminal prosecution. He also linked his war against Planned Parenthood to the recent debate over the Confederate flag in wake of the Charleston church shooting.

“If you want to scrub all racism from America, let’s start with Planned Parenthood because it was started by a racist named Margaret Sanger,” he said, alleging that Sanger was bent on “culling out the ‘undesirables,’ including blacks, in America, so if you want to go back and take down the Confederate flag, let’s take down Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood has continued to do disgusting things.”

Santorum also criticized Hillary Clinton for receiving the Margaret Sanger Award — whose other honorees include Martin Luther King, Jr., who praised Sanger — claiming that it is “remarkable that she is able to get away with that.” Santorum vowed that if he were to be elected president he would use the bully pulpit to go after Planned Parenthood.

While Santorum is correct that Sanger was a supporter of the eugenics movement, as PolitiFact noted, the movement “had been widely accepted” at the time among political leaders including Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover: “In other words, supporting eugenics did not automatically equal racism.” Biographers have also found that Sanger strongly opposed racial segregation. Instead, her critics have relied on a single quote that they have badly distorted.

Anti-Gay Pastor Warns Of Contracting The 'Sodomite Demon' At Restaurants, On Dates

James David Manning, the anti-gay Harlem pastor who has struck up an alliance with the anti-government group Oath Keepers, took to his “Manning Report” YouTube program yesterday to explain his theory of how people become gay.

Just as various diseases are spread through sexual intercourse and saliva, Manning explained, so too is the “sodomite demon.” If you have had sex with or even kissed or been at the same restaurant as someone who has such “demons in their blood,” he warned, you may have been “introduced to these demons in your life, sodomy, when you had no defense.”

Federal Court Rejects Another Bogus 'Religious Liberty' Claim From Religious Right

The Tenth Circuit today released its opinion in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, becoming the latest federal appellate court to reject the claim that the Obama Administration’s contraception coverage accommodation for religious nonprofits violates their religious liberty.

This is the latest effort by the far right to redefine “religious liberty” and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to use as a sword to deprive third parties of their legal rights.  Under RFRA, no federal law imposing a substantial burden on religious exercise can be sustained unless it is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government purpose.

The Tenth Circuit now joins the DC Circuit, the Third Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, and the Seventh Circuit in rejecting this attack on the accommodation for religious nonprofits.  Notably, all these decisions came after the Supreme Court rewrote the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in the Hobby Lobby case, giving certain for-profit corporations and their owners greater latitude to exempt themselves from laws they find personally offensive.  (The Sixth Circuit also reached the same conclusion, but it is still in the process of reconsidering it to make sure it is consistent with Hobby Lobby.)

The Obama Administration created a process whereby religious nonprofits can exempt themselves from the federal requirement that its employees have certain contraception healthcare coverage: Fill out a form (or now, just send a letter) and let the Department of Health and Human Services know that you won’t be providing it and say who your insurance carrier is, so that officials can inform them of their legal requirements to provide the coverage.  The religious right has called even this accommodation a violation of the religious liberty rights of nonprofits, saying it makes them complicit in the provision of contraception that violates their religious beliefs.

The Tenth Circuit concluded that the accommodation does not substantially burden Plaintiffs’ religious exercise and therefore does not violate RFRA.  The court stated:

The accommodation relieves Plaintiffs from complying with the Mandate and guarantees they will not have to provide, pay for, or facilitate contraceptive coverage.  Plaintiffs do not “trigger” or otherwise cause contraceptive coverage because federal law, not the act of opting out, entitles plan participants and beneficiaries to coverage.  Although Plaintiffs allege the administrative tasks required to opt out of the Mandate make them complicit in the overall delivery scheme, opting out instead relieves them from complicity.

The court does not question the sincerity of the plaintiffs’ assertion that filling out the form violates their religious beliefs.  But it also pointed out that under RFRA, whether a burden is substantial is a legal question that is up to the court, not the plaintiff, to answer:

If plaintiffs could assert and establish that a burden is “substantial” without any possibility of judicial scrutiny, the word “substantial” would become wholly devoid of independent meaning.  Furthermore, accepting any burden alleged by Plaintiffs as “substantial” would improperly conflate the determination that a religious belief is sincerely held with the determination that a law or policy substantially burdens religious exercise.  (internal citation removed)

Whether it’s women’s ability to access their legal right to healthcare or same-sex couples’ ability to exercise their constitutional right to marry, imagine the chaos if people could simply exempt themselves from – and severely weaken – laws they disapprove of by citing their personal religious beliefs.

But that is a recipe for a Balkanized society, not a healthy pluralistic democracy.  Citing a previous case, the Tenth Circuit states: “Law accommodates religion; it cannot wholly exempt religion from the reach of the law.”

This post originally appeared on the blog of People For the American Way.

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