Freedom of Speech

America's History of Amending the Constitution to Expand Democracy (And Overturn the Supreme Court)

The 28th Amendment would overturn cases like Citizens United and enhance political democracy and the First Amendment.
PFAW Foundation

'Sharia Law Is Probably Preferable To What We Have Right Now'

Yesterday, Bryan Fischer penned a column in which he declared that Islam is a contagious disease that must be completely quarantined before it can infect America and done so by banning entry to any and all Muslims:

Islam is a contagious infection, a totalitarian ideology that threatens the social health of its infected host, the United States. This contagion needs to be contained by stopping Islamic immigration at our border. Just as we screen immigrants for contagious physical diseases, so we need to screen immigrants for contagious cultural diseases.

After Fischer read from his column during his radio program yesterday afternoon, he took calls from listeners, including one from Steven in Arkansas, who declared that, from a Christian perspective, "sharia law is probably preferable to what we have right now" in America where things like pornography and abortion are legal.

"They don't allow that in sharia law," Steven said, "so as far as that's concerned, they're probably a little bit more just than we are."

Fischer replied that Muslims "rightly accuse the United States of corrupting the morality of the entire world" because we allow the production and sale of pornography here.

"It's just embarrassing, it's humiliating that we have given them that" argument, Fischer declared. "When they go out and say the United States is the Great Satan because of all the pornography it produces, how do you argue against that because they are right. That is the work of Satan; we're producing it, we're distributing it all over around world, they have every right to complain about that":

The Persecution Myth: New Report Takes On The Right's Deceptive Rallying Cry

Every day we hear figures on the Religious Right declaring that conservative Christians in America are being persecuted by a government that has embraced, in the words of Samuel Rodriguez, “secular totalitarianism.”

This narrative has helped to feed the opposition to gay rights and reproductive rights, and has even been used to advocate against the rights of religious minorities. And it continues even as Christians and members of other minority faiths face real persecution throughout the world.

The Right has managed to gain traction with this narrative by providing a never-ending supply of martyrdom myths. These stories of children banned from praying and of Christmas celebrations curtailed are carried to a wide audience by people like Fox News’ Todd Starnes — and are often quickly proved to be completely apocryphal.

In a new report, "The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry," we look at the machine that produces those myths and how they are then used to influence public policy:

The tales of horror keep pouring in: Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program; an Air Force sergeant isfired because he opposes same-sex marriage; a high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory; a Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages ; a man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence; an elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch; a little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus.

None of these stories is true. But each has become a stock tale for Religious Right broadcasters, activists, and in some cases elected officials. These myths – which are becoming ever more pervasive in the right-wing media – serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country.

This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called “culture wars.” By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths.

Read the rest here .

Peter and I also discussed the report in a conference call with PFAW members a couple of weeks ago. You can listen to that here:

Ted Cruz And Rick Santorum To Join Iowa Pastor Who Predicted Marriage Equality Would Increase The Murder Rate, Destroy America

Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum are slated to appear at a September “American Heritage Summit” in Washington, D.C., hosted by a right-wing Iowa pastor Cary Gordon of Cornerstone World Outreach.

Along with Gordon and the pair of likely presidential candidates, the guests include conservative pseudo-historian David Barton, Iowa-based talk show host Steve Deace and Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King.

Gordon became heavily involved in politics during the 2010 campaign to remove Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality, and he endorsed Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, helping the former Pennsylvania senator to win the Iowa caucuses.

At an anti-gay marriage rally in 2011, Gordon described marriage equality as a demonic attempt that would bring about America’s destruction, warning that Iowans must “protect the virtue of true Americanism from our own mental barbarians who attack our minds with the God-hating secularism of Europe” or risk being “extinguished from the earth.”

Gordon even predicted that gay marriage would increase the murder rate: “The natural problem that causes is an overt immorality. The crime rates go up, people suffer, people are stealing and murdering and [doing] all the things morality tells you not to do.”

The pastor, insisting that it is a “glaringly obvious fact that being ‘gay’ is a behavior, and has nothing to do with civil rights,” charged in a 2010 blog post that the same-sex marriage ruling put Iowa on the road to Nazism: “True pastors, in the fashion of Christ, will not and cannot bow before the arrogance of Caesar and Herod. We have learned from our past mistakes. We will not repeat the mistake made by Lutheran pastors when confronted with German fascism.”

“[T]o the intelligent religious man, homosexuality will always be un-natural for a myriad of obvious reasons one shouldn’t have to explain,” Gordon wrote. “To the intelligent evolutionist, it will NEVER agree with the doctrine of ‘survival of the fittest.’”

Gordon’s church also released a video asserting that same-sex marriage would legalize incest, pedophilia and bestiality.

ACLJ: Blasphemy Laws For Me, But Not For Thee?

Yesterday, Miranda reported on the seemingly contradictory views of the American Center for Law and Justice’s European and Slavic affiliates when it comes to blasphemy laws. The ECLJ has been vocal in opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but the SCLJ supported passage of a new anti-blasphemy law in Russia. The law provides for fines, “correctional labor” and up to three years behind bars for “public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers.” SCLJ’s co-chairman Vladimir Rehyakovsky expressed some reservations about the final form of the law, but said it was “very important” to have such a law in place.

So, where does the ACLJ stand on blasphemy laws?  On one hand, it is proud of its opposition in international forums like the United Nations to blasphemy laws that are used by Islamist governments to restrict religious expression.  In 2011, the ACLJ said the UN’s Human Rights Committee endorsed an ECLJ-backed position that “no right exists to protect the reputation of an ideology, rather human rights belongs to individuals.”

But more than a decade ago, in response to an “Ask Jay” question posted on the ACLJ’s website, the group’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said it was “an unfortunate situation” that states no longer have laws against blasphemy, something he blamed on “the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people.”  Sekulow bemoaned the fact that “religion lacks protection in the law.”

Joe from Rhode Island asks: In Black’s classic law dictionary, blasphemy is illegal. When did it become legal to mock a person’s faith in God?

Jay answers: Black’s is the standard of legal definitions that law students are given around the country and Black’s is still cited in Supreme Court decisions. Not only in English common law but also in most states in the USA, blasphemy was prohibited speech. Clearly, the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people have changed that and that’s an unfortunate situation. But you’re absolutely correct, Black’s Law Dictionary is right. There are many definitions like that in Black’s, but religion lacks protection in the law. Not only is religion seen as irrelevant, but religion is trivialized and even mocked. This behavior has become an accepted part of who we are as a people and in some cases the Supreme Court hasn’t been particularly helpful in that context. The composition of the Supreme Court is obviously something we’re always watching because we know that with the more conservative court obviously some of our values will be more protected. Things have changed drastically if you look at our history, and it’s not even old history. Our country is still very young, but things are very different since our founding. We’re continuing to hope here at the American Center for Law and Justice that history will continue to change in a way that protects the rights of religious people across America. This is what we’re working toward. Selection of Supreme Court Justices is critical in the interpretation of these kinds of cases.

So it appears that the ACLJ is ready to champion free speech when it comes to opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but supports restrictions on blasphemy in place where Christians are in the majority.  Perhaps that double standard is not much of a surprise, given that the ACLJ, which portrays itself as a champion of religious liberty, helped lead opposition to the construction of a Muslim community center in New York that critics inaccurately called the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The ACLJ is a legal group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and run by Jay Sekulow and his son Jordan in a manner that is very lucrative for the Sekulow family.

Religious Right 'Freedom And Liberty' Group ACLJ Backed Russian 'Gay Propaganda' And Blasphemy Bans

The American Center for Law and Justice, the group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to be a right-wing counter to the American Civil Liberties Union, bills itself as a champion of the “ongoing viability of freedom and liberty in the United States and around the world.”

But the ACLJ – which has joined in the Religious Right chorus claiming that progressive policies are causing American Christians to lose their religious freedom – has never been so keen on the civil liberties of those with whom they disagree, especially in its work overseas. As we’ve noted in the past, the ACLJ led the fight to block the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan and through its African affiliate has backed efforts to prevent legalized abortion in Kenya and to keep homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

And in recent years, the ACLJ’s European and Russian branches have also supported key parts of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on gay rights and civil liberties, even as the group has served as a watchdog for Russia’s evangelical minority in the face of government persecution.

Both the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and the Slavic Center for Law and Justice (SCLJ) affiliates voiced support for Russia’s 2013 gag order on gay-rights advocacy. In addition, following the 2012 Pussy Riot protest, the SCLJ called for a law criminalizing religious blasphemy. One of its leading attorneys then helped draft one proposed version of the law.

In 2012, the last year for which records are available, the ACLJ directed $300,000 to funding the SCLJ with the “goal of protecting religious rights and freedoms of individuals and associations in Russia.” Its bigger overseas project is the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ), based in Strasbourg, France, to which it gave $1.1 million in 2012. The ACLJ’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, founded the SCLJ's overseas branches and serves as the chief counsel of the European affiliate. A handful of sources list him as the chief counsel of the Russian affiliate as well, although it is unclear if he still serves in that capacity.

The ACLJ did not respond to a request for comment on the work of its work in Russia.

Shortly after the feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a protest at a Russian Orthodox cathedral – for which they were ultimately sentenced to two years in a penal colony for “hooliganism” – the SCLJ issued a press release endorsing the efforts of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, an Orthodox Church official, to criminalize blasphemy, which at the time was punishable by just a small fine. The press release argued that “seemingly innocuous mischief of a few aggressive individuals led to real religious conflicts that posed a threat to people’s lives and health,” and recommending “harsh punishments” for people found guilty of blasphemy.

The press release called for Russian officials “to toughen laws against incitement of religious hatred and hostility, but also against insult to the religious feelings of the faithful and assaults against their shrines and temples. We also believe that there is an urgent need to introduce harsh punishments for disseminating such information on the Internet.”

The cynical, blasphemous actions in the Church of Christ the Savior that took place this week aroused a broad public outcry. The participants of the women’s feminist punk group Pussy Riot ran into the church wearing masks and performed a blasphemous song with a political subtext right before the altar. They recorded the “performance” on video. Based on these recordings, a video clip was put together and posted on social networks, after which a flood of blasphemous and anti-church comments appeared online.

SCLJ recently raised the issue of the danger of dissemination through social networks of blasphemous information that insults the religious feelings of the faithful, at times openly inciting interreligious conflicts. Today we see that this concern is becoming even more acute and urgent. Criticism of certain religious views and beliefs is undoubtedly possible; however, insult and humiliation of the dignity of individuals who hold them or profess any religion is simply unacceptable.

The main problem is that the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation does not currently contain adequate penalties for such acts. The maximum punishment that can be brought down upon the participants in this blasphemous act at the Church of Christ the Savior is that they will be cited for an administrative offense and required to pay a small fine. However, the consequences of their activities may be very serious.

It should be noted that such cases are not rare. SCLJ staff members have often come upon similar situations in other regions of the country. Moreover, in many cases, seemingly innocuous mischief of a few aggressive individuals led to real religious conflicts that posed a threat to people’s lives and health.

Law enforcement agencies typically respond to incidents of this nature by glossing over any anti-religious motives. No one wants crimes motivated by religious hatred and hostility. Therefore, officials strain to limit charges to “hooliganism” and sometimes refuse to open a criminal case at all.

In this regard, SCLJ supports the initiative of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin to toughen laws against incitement of religious hatred and hostility, but also against insult to the religious feelings of the faithful and assaults against their shrines and temples. We also believe that there is an urgent need to introduce harsh punishments for disseminating such information on the Internet.

In September of 2012, members of the Duma introduced a bill that would criminalize “insulting citizens’ religious views and feelings.”

Despite SCLJ’s initial call for an anti-blasphemy law, the group’s co-chair Vladimir Rhyakovsky was apparently not thrilled with the first draft of the law. Rhyakovsky, a member of Putin’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, joined with a fellow council member to propose a revised version of the bill that proposed more moderate penalties for violation and created “zoned” free speech areas, but also, disturbingly, would have made the definition of “insulting religious feeling” even vaguer to cover such beliefs as “patriotism” and “commitment to traditional values.”

In June, 2013, Putin signed the final version of the blasphemy ban. The Moscow Times summarized its provisions:

The blasphemy law will punish “public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers,” with potential punishment of up to three years behind bars, fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,430), and compulsory correctional labor, Lenta.ru reported.

It also stipulates fines of 80,000-300,000 rubles and a prison term of up to three months for hindering the activities of religious organizations and preventing religious rites from being conducted.

A fine of over 200,000 rubles can be levied for deliberate destruction of religious or theological literature.

Ryakhovsky – speaking in his capacity as a member of the human rights council – said after the Duma passed the bill that while he felt that it was “very important” to pass such a law and acknowledged that some of the human rights council’s proposals had been adopted, he was still concerned that “the problem of legal ambiguity remains,” which could “lead to arbitrary application and interpretation of the law, and willful use of it by law enforcement agencies.”

“Whenever the law, and especially criminal law, contains room for arbitrary interpretation, it is fraught with negative consequences,” he said. “I believe that this law is better than the one that was originally proposed, but on the other hand – it is not what it should be.”

That an ACLJ affiliate advocated for a blasphemy law – even if its leader offered only tepid support for the final product – is especially unsettling given that the group has strongly opposed blasphemy bans in its work at the United Nations. In a comment to the UN’s human rights committee in 2011, the ECLJ urged the committee to adopt a strong condemnation of blasphemy laws, such as those in Islamist countries. “Blasphemy prohibitions and laws regarding the defamation of religions violate the very foundations of the human rights tradition by protecting ideas instead of the person who hold those ideas,” the ECLJ wrote in a memo cosigned by its director, Gregor Puppink.

“Freedom of expression includes the right to be controversial, insulting, or offensive, even when such expression targets ideas that are devoutly held beliefs,” the group added.

The SCLJ and its leaders may have had mixed feelings about the final version of the blasphemy ban, but they offered more enthusiastic praise to another bill that Putin signed the same day: a ban on the distribution of “gay propaganda” to minors, essentially a gag order on gay-rights advocacy.

After the Duma passed the “propaganda” ban, Ryakhovsky’s fellow SCLJ co-chairman, Anatoly Pchelintsev, told Voice of America that although he would “refine” parts of the bill, it addressed an important problem. “You only have to turn on a few TV channels to become convinced: promotion of homosexuality is there in both direct and hidden forms,” he said.

Co-chair of the Slavic Center for Law and Justice Anatoly Pchelintsev told Voice of America that he believes there is such a thing as homosexual propaganda, and that it must be combated as much as possible. “You only have to turn on a few TV channels to become convinced: promotion of homosexuality is there in both direct and hidden forms.”

However, Pchelintsev believes there is no need to apply the law in all cases, since it is primarily minors who need protection against homosexual propaganda. “Adults are capable of understanding what is good and what is bad,” added Pchelintsev.

Pchelintsev says that he shares the opinion of Sergei Nikitin about the necessity of refining some of the terminology used in the bill. “You have to know what “propaganda” is before banning it.”

Pchelintsev told another outlet that he was “very pleased” about the move toward adopting the law because LGBT people should be allowed to “live as they want to, but without propagandizing their way of life.”

“I’m against homosexual propaganda, especially among minors. I am for strong families, but in this case I admit that there may be some kind of anomaly, it’s difficult to say in what way exactly—psychological, biological, or something else, but the problem exists—there are people like this. And let them live as they want to, but without propagandizing their way of life,” believes the scientific director of the Institute for Religion and Law, lawyer Anatoly Pchelintsev. “So I’m very pleased about the adoption of this law on the federal level. The key will be that it works and guarantees some kind of punishment. In my view, citation for an administrative offense is sufficient, violations like this do not fall under the purview of criminal law.”

The ACLJ’s European affiliate also voiced support for the “propaganda” ban. In an essay last year, ECLJ’s director, Gregor Puppinck, wrote that the law was “intended to protect children from messages about LGBT practices” that portray homosexuality as “favorable to or equivalent to marital relationships.” He portrayed Russia’s suppression of gay rights as a beacon of hope to France and the rest of Western Europe, showing that the trend toward gay rights is “strong, but not inevitable.”

ECLJ has worked closely with a number of French groups that have been touting Putin’s social conservative crackdown as a model for Europe. Last month, Puppinck joined a delegation of French activists in a visit to Russia to meet with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and members of parliament to discuss partnering in “protecting traditional values.”

Although participants in the meeting said that they avoided foreign policy subjects, the visit by the delegation just a few weeks after Russia’s seizure of Crimea provoked some controversy in France, including criticism from a French Catholic leader who said, “If they think that Russia protects human rights, they should go for a tour of Crimea.” The magazine Nouvel Observateur accused the delegation of endorsing Putin’s propaganda of “Russia as a paradise of Christian values.”

In response to the Nouvel Observateur piece the president of the leading French anti-gay group Manif Pour Tous denied that anybody of authority in her group had participated.

But the ECLJ was far from shy about its own participation. According to the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative in Strasbourg, it was Puppinck who requested that he organize the delegation of French activists who support “the traditional concept of the family and oppose abortion, euthanasia, etc.”

We haven’t been able to find any detailed accounts of the visit, but one member of the delegation, the Russian Orthodox church’s representative in Strasbourg, repeated the idea of Russia as the moral protectors of Europe. “Russia is a unique country in Europe,” said Abbot Philip Rybykh. “It seeks to protect the natural order of life, and not the various deviations from it.”

Another report notes that the delegates reached the conclusion that “Western societies would do well to emulate” Russia’s “religious awakening.”

Puppinck reportedly said during the visit that he was “very impressed” by Russia’s newly established “moral” policies, specifically citing the drop in the country’s abortion rate. Russia’s anti-gay policies and protecting Europe from the “contagion” of gay rights were also reportedly objects of discussion.

Benham Brothers Reveal What Love And Liberty Mean To The Religious Right

Benham Brothers Reveal What Love and Liberty Mean To the Religious Right

Todd Starnes In Fantasy Land

We have been reading through Todd Starnes' latest book, "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values," which was released earlier this week and mainly it consists of the standard "Christian persecution" stories that fill most of his columns for Fox News.

But then we got to chapter 5, entitled "So Absurd It Could Be True: The Gospel Of Barack Obama," which consists entirely of Starnes imagining a meeting between himself and a fictional DC insider named Miles O'Leary who had just been put in charge of a project aimed at literally turning President Obama into a god.

Starnes imagines a conversation between himself and O'Leary as the latter explains that an "Office of Theological Repatriation" has been created in order to use the force of government and compliance of the media to compel all Americans to abandon their faith and worship Obama:

"You look at it as a problem, but the White House looks at it as an opportunity," he said. "We realized that we had a chance to truly make history—to change the world. Do you remember what happened at the Democratic National Convention, when the Democrats booed God?"

Who could forget? Delegates to the 2012 DNC meeting in Charlotte had voted God out of the party platform. "There's only room for one god in the Democratic National Convention," Miles said.

The Almighty was subsequently reinstated into the party, which resulted in a round of contentious jeers from the crowd full of atheists and God-haters. I was there. It was one of the most incredulous moments in American politics—a major political party giving God a Bronx cheer.

"We took an immediate flash poll of God's approval rating among Democrats, and we got a shocking wake-up call," Miles told me. "He was only polling at 10 percent—and that was mostly among Southern Blue Dog Democrats. So we decided to immediately implement a top-secret program—code name G-O-D"

GOD?

"It stands for Get Obama Deified," Miles said in a hushed voice. "We decided to create a national religion based solely on President Obama. Our internal polling data on the deification of the president is spectacular."

I was dumbfounded. How in the world could they do something like that—something so brazen, so blasphemous, so unconstitutional?

"Todd, we've already done it," Miles said. "I was just put in charge of President Obama's new Office of Theological Repatriation. We're in the process of destabilizing other religions so that we can recruit more followers. Why do you think we've been marginalizing Christianity within the armed forces and public schools?"

"But why make the president a god?"

"Let's face it, Todd," Miles explained. "He's a young man. He's going to need to do something to earn a paycheck after he leaves the White House."

"So when did you guys decide to go forward with this hair-brained scheme?" I asked.

"Ironically it was just a few hours before that earthquake hit Washington," he said. "About two minutes after President Obama signed the executive order declaring himself to be America's Lord and Savior, the earth started shaking."

"How does one even go about creating a new religion?" I wondered.

"Well, as I said, I head up the Office of Theological Repatriation," Miles said. "Once the Christians and Jews renounce their faiths, they are assigned to a six-month session of theological conversion therapy. After they complete the appropriate coursework, the new followers are then turned over to the Office of Spiritual Indoctrination."

"What about the Muslims?" I asked.

"Um, yeah, we're not going to touch the Muslims," Miles said.

"It's all about having a good back story," he said. "That's why we've employed the best screenwriters in Hollywood to create our version of the Bible. It's called The Gospel According to Barack."

Miles laid out some sample chapters for me, including Obama's version of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others before they do it to you."

And they've also started working on the origins story. Miles said the White House has pending legislation that would make December 25 "Barack Obama Day."

"We've even got a few passages of the origins scripture ready for Hallmark cards," Miles said. "'For unto you is born this day in a city of undetermined origin—a savior who is Barack the Lord.'"

Suddenly the skies outside the coffeehouse darkened. I could hear the distant rumbling of thunder and an occasional flash of lightning. Miles said they'd also commissioned choirs to perform some new holiday anthems with lyrics such as, "Joy to the world / Barack has come / Let earth receive her king." They also created the new songs "Jingle Bell Barack" and "Michelle, Did You Know?"

"We've recently acquired the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which we've renamed the Obama Tabernacle Choir, and they are going to be producing our signature song, a new rendition of the 'Hallelujah Chorus,'" Miles said. "Instead of 'Hallelujah,' they sing `Barack Obama."

But what about the inner workings of the religion? What about the doctrine?

Miles conceded that to be a bit more problematic. He said there'd been fierce debate over who gets to sit at the right hand of Obama. "Valerie Jarrett wants to sit at the left and the right hand," he said. "Michelle's not too happy about that, but we may have a solution. We're contemplating making Michelle the Holy Mother."

What about the sacraments?

"Well, we require followers of Obama to drink the Kool-Aid at least once a week," Miles said. "We've also got the folks over at the Food Network developing a wafer made in the president's likeness from organically harvested wheat."

As for confessional booths, Miles said there aren't going to be any.

"That's what we've got the NSA for," he said. "They already know your darkest secrets."

And how does one become a follower of Obama?

"We believe in predestination," Miles said. "All Americans are predestined to follow the president and do his bidding."

Last rites, he said, were being outsourced to the Department of Health and Human Services death panels.

I still wasn't totally convinced this wild scheme would work. How in the world could they indoctrinate so many people?

"We bought ourselves a cable television network," Miles crowed, proudly. "We're calling it MSNBC—the Messianic Savior Named Barack Channel."

Well, that explained a lot.

Bryan Fischer Urges US To Adopt Russian-Style Profanity Ban

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer has found yet another policy of Russian President Vladimir Putin that he loves.

Fischer devoted a column and a segment of his radio show today to praising the law Putin signed this week banning profanity at “at arts, cultural and entertainment events.”

“Could a similar ban be instituted in the United States without violating the First Amendment?” Fischer asks. “Of course.”

Speaking on his radio show, "Focal Point," Fischer argued that “states are perfectly free under the Constitution to ban profanity if they choose to" because the First Amendment was designed “to protect political speech” and not “profanity, obscenity, vulgarity, or pornography.” In fact, Fischer said, the Founders would “would be absolutely aghast” at the thought “that they were crafting a document that would allow the unlimited use of the F-bomb in polite society.”

Linda Harvey Wants School To Fire Transgender Teacher For Her 'Bizarre, Destructive Behavior'

Linda Harvey is outraged that a transgender teacher at Yosemite High School in Oakhurst, California, will still be teaching after undergoing gender reassignment surgery. According to the Mission America head, the teacher, Karen Adel Scott, has “lost touch with objective reality” and is now “a sad caricature” of “a man with long hair and makeup trying to appear to be a woman.”

“The result is just as freakish in appearance as it is in reality,” Harvey said on her radio show today, lamenting that “the school must go along with such nonsense.”

Harvey also said that counselors who have worked with Scot should “choose a different profession” because they affirmed “this bizarre, destructive behavior” that pushes America “into chaos,” “paganism” and “tribalism.”

If he’s lost touch with objective reality, then those around him owe it to him and those effected by his choices to not let him go down this incoherent path. Counselors who affirm this bizarre, destructive behavior are themselves doing harm, not being helpful to patients and they need to choose a different profession. God never designed people to try to change their biological masculine or feminine identity, and those who do so walk rebelliously and deliberately away from God.

The newspaper story features two photos, a before picture of a nice looking man, science teacher Gary Sconce, the after picture identified with this man’s preferred new name, Karen Scot, is a sad caricature of exactly what he is: a man with long hair and makeup trying to appear to be a woman. The result is just as freakish in appearance as it is in reality. Far from being ‘who he really is,’ it is overwhelmingly obvious he is trying to become something he definitely is not.

By California law, the school must go along with such nonsense, at least until the voters hopefully get a chance to change the new law that forces students to endure such pathetic behavior by adults. The school said it is going to focus on educating students and that ‘gender identity and gender expression are protected under the law.’ But such laws are further evidence that we as a culture are losing it. We’re losing touch with common sense and it’s one more attempt to normalize deviance while calling what is normal a disorder.

With each step we take down this road of mythology, we descend into chaos and we regress into tribalism. This is what pagan cultures do, not enlightened ones. Such profound darkness can only be dispelled by the light of God. Let’s play for Yosemite, for the student misled and confused by this man’s actions and for him, that he wakes up one morning and recovers his vision of the truth.

World Congress Of Families Suspends Kremlin Summit, Still Supports Russia's Anti-Gay Crackdown

The World Congress of Families announced in a press release today that it is suspending planning on an upcoming summit at the Kremlin due to concerns about “travel, logistics, and other matters” related to “the situation in the Ukraine and Crimea.”

The WCF’s planned Moscow summit – which was funded in part by advocates with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin –  came under increased scrutiny after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine, with one American group, Concerned Women For America, publicly announcing that it would pull out of the event .

Adding another layer of complication, two of the primary Russian organizers of the event were put under US economic sanctions last week in response to the Ukraine invasion.

In the press release, WCF makes clear that it still supports Russian president Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on LGBT people. “At a time when Western governments are moving backward to a pagan worldview, Russia has taken a leadership role to advance the natural family,” it says.

As we have documented extensively, WCF has been active in pushing anti-gay laws in both Russia and Ukraine, aiding Putin’s effort to use anti-gay politics as a wedge issue against American and European influence.

ROCKFORD, Ill., March 25, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- Planning on World Congress of Families VIII - the Moscow Congress (scheduled for September 10-12, 2014) -- has been suspended for the time being. The situation in the Ukraine and Crimea (and the resulting U.S. and European sanctions) has raised questions about the travel, logistics, and other matters necessary to plan WCF VIII.

The foregoing is not meant to reflect negatively on the Russian people, churches or individuals who have taken a leadership role in the fight to preserve life, marriage, and the natural family at home and as part of the international pro-family movement.

We are proud of the accomplishments of our Russian Partners, and applaud the moves of the Russian people, through their elected representatives, to protect life, the family and the innocence of children. At a time when Western governments are moving backward to a pagan worldview, Russia has taken a leadership role to advance the natural family.

The World Congress of Families takes no position on foreign affairs, except as they affect the natural family. The family is above national concerns and should unite all people of good will who recognize the centrality of the family as the foundation of civilization. Our Russian Partners and others we have worked with in the Russian Federation have our prayers and encouragement in their pro-family work.

American Family Association Cuts Ties With Austin Ruse After He Called For Professors To Be Shot

UPDATE: Even though Austin Ruse spent yesterday’s broadcast insisting that wouldn’t back down from his comments that left-wing professors should be “taken out and shot” because he wasn’t serious and his critics are all “dumb” “pajama boys,” today he told Talking Points Memo that he is now sorry: “I deeply regret and apologize for using the expression 'taken out and shot' on the Sandy Rios Show this week. It was not intended to be taken literally. I have dedicated my life and career to ending violence. I regret that these poorly chosen words are being used to attack my friends at American Family Radio and American Family Association.”

Austin Ruse, who regularly filled in as a guest host for American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios, has lost his gig after we reported Wednesday on his call for liberal professors to be “taken out and shot.” Ruse is a leading Religious Right activist who heads the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) and is a writer for conservative outlets such as Breitbart News and The Daily Caller.

The day after we posted the audio, Ruse lashed out at Right Wing Watch and defended his comments, which you can listen to here:

Yesterday, Ruse deactivated his Twitter account “due to leftist swarm” and the American Family Association, which runs American Family Radio, removed audio episodes of the Wednesday and Thursday broadcasts from its website. On today’s edition of Sandy Rios In The Morning, AFR host Dan Celia filled in.

On its Facebook page today, AFR said that Ruse “is no longer on the air with us and will not be filling in on AFR in the future.”

The group also said, “AFR condemns such comments, no matter who makes them.”

The American Family Association’s decision to break with Ruse is unusual since it claims that its radio show hosts – including Bryan Fischer, who is the group’s own spokesman and hosts AFR’s flagship talk showdo not speak on behalf of the group.

AFA insists that Fischer’s commentary, including racist remarks and a defense of Native American genocide that the group tried to expunge from its website, do not reflect the AFA’s views.

While the AFA cut loose Ruse, who was only a guest host, it appears to have no problem allowing Fischer to continue to serve as the public face of the organization while insisting that his bigoted views should in no way reflect upon the AFA.

UPDATE II: AFR also said his comments were “un-Christian.”

PFAW Applauds Feinstein’s Stand Against CIA Surveillance and Obstruction

WASHINGTON – In response to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein’s historic speech on the Senate floor accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of obstructing congressional oversight and unlawfully searching committee computers, People For the American Way president Michael Keegan released the following statement:

“We applaud Sen. Feinstein for voicing publicly her serious concerns about the CIA’s alleged obstruction of congressional oversight. Congress’s ability to provide oversight for our nation’s intelligence gathering operations isn’t incidental to the work they do—it’s essential. If information was withheld and intimidation tactics were used to deter investigations, this would be a gross abuse of power.

“We depend on Congress’s ability to conduct these investigations in order to protect the separation of powers in our government as well as the fundamental civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. We commend Sen. Feinstein for speaking out and calling on the CIA to cooperate rather than obstruct congressional oversight."

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Book Wars: The Right’s Fight to Redefine America

For decades, the Religious Right in the United States has used public school students as pawns in its "culture wars," fighting to impose a political agenda on textbooks and curricula in school districts across the country. This campaign has included fights over sex education, school-led prayer, publicly funded vouchers for religious institutions, and much more. In this report, we examine recent developments in one aspect of this campaign: the fight to shape what children learn by controlling their access to books in school libraries and curricula, and the content of their textbo

North Carolina School Board Votes to Keep ‘The House of the Spirits’ in Curriculum

Last October, a parent at Watauga High School in Boone, North Carolina asked the local school board to remove Isabel Allende’s internationally-renowned The House of the Spirits from the curriculum. After making its way through a multi-step county review process, last week the school board voted 3-2 to uphold the teaching of the book.

The fight to keep the book in the curriculum was backed by many supporters – including the author herself. In a letter to the Watauga County Board of Education, Isabel Allende wrote,

Banning books is a common practice in police states, Like Cuba or North Korea…but I did not expect it in our democracy.

PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan also spoke out against censorship to the school board. In his letter, Keegan wrote:

We trust that as educators you will uphold the right of all students in Watauga County to receive a competitive, rigorous education free from censorship. While individual parents have every right to decline reading material for their own children, they should not be allowed to censor the curricula for all students in the county.

The House of the Spirits is not the first book PFAW Foundation has fought to protect. In addition to speaking out about Allende’s novel, in the past year PFAW Foundation has advocated against censorship attempts aimed at Invisible Man, Neverwhere, and The Bluest Eye.
 

PFAW Foundation

Scott Lively's New Anti-Gay Coalition: Governments Should Suppress LGBT 'Propaganda'

Anti-gay activists Scott Lively and Peter LaBarbera held a press conference today to announce the formation of a new Coalition for Family Values to fight the “destructive” LGBT agenda around the world. They were joined by “ex-gay” activist Greg Quinlan and Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania. Linda Harvey of Mission America sent a supportive statement.

And don’t worry about calling these guys anti-gay. The rationale behind their new coalition seems to be that too many other Religious Right leaders will only speak out against marriage equality but not against homosexuality itself for fear of being labeled a hater or bigot. That approach, said Lively, is “unprincipled.”

The coalition’s statement says:

“…the vast majority of the people of the world do not accept the notion that sexual deviance should be normalized. It is time that these voices are heard on the world stage before the so-called elites of the Western powers impose their inverted morality on everyone through the manipulation of international law, which they clearly intend to do.”

To explain why a new coalition was needed – after all, it’s not as if there aren’t already plenty of groups pushing anti-gay policies overseas -- Lively said:

“We believe that the pro-family movement is not being well represented at the moment. Because most of the people that are in the leadership positions are afraid to speak the plain truth because of the media….We’re not against gay marriage and gay adoption because they’re just bad public policy. We’re against them because homosexuality itself is harmful to the people who practice it and to society. 

The organizing statement written by Lively and signed by his new coalition partners says,

“Let us pray for healing for those who choose the LGBT path, and (within reason) respect their right to be wrong in their private lives. But let us not allow the LGBT political movement to transform the world in its own distorted image.”

For Lively, respecting “within reason” people’s right to be “wrong” seems to be limited to society not persecuting gay people who have sex in private. He says he doesn’t believe people should go to jail for what they do in their own bedroom, as long as they aren’t trying to move society away from what he believes is a biblical approach to sexuality – what he calls the “one flesh paradigm.” He said, “And that if you’re going to be engaged in that kind of behavior, then stay in the privacy of your home and not try to transform the mainstream culture according to your sexual values.”

Another point of the press conference was to praise Russian anti-gay laws. Says the coalition statement, “we want to praise the Russian Federation for providing much-needed leadership in restoring family values in public policy, and to encourage the governments of the world to follow the excellent example that the Russian government has set in 2013 and 2014 by banning LGBT propaganda to children and limiting the adoption of children to natural families only.” Peter La Barbera cited a poll saying that 74 percent of Russians say homosexuality should not be accepted in society, adding, “Good for the Russians.” 

Lively said his goal is not the criminalization of homosexuality. But, he said, the government has “an affirmative duty to protect the natural family and to discourage all sex outside of marriage.” He says he’d like to return to the days “when adultery was a criminal act.” Such laws, he says, would be lightly enforced, but would help discourage sex outside marriage. What really bothers Lively, he says, is that pro-LGBT ideology has “infiltrated” the government; there needs to be a “separation of LGBT and state” so that the government is not allowed to advocate for “the homosexual perspective.”

Pushed by conservative activist Cliff Kincaid about the ways the anti-gay “propaganda” law in Russia is being used to suppress free speech and freedom of the press, Lively said he didn’t favor that. But he said he was “torn.”

“There is a zero sum equation here – that you’re either going to have society that believes that sex belongs inside of marriage only, or that it’s really anything goes within the principle of mutual consent. Those two ideas are mutually contradictory. In Russia, the Russian policy is to favor the pro-family perspective and suppress the speech of those who are against it. In the United States, it’s the pro-gay perspective that’s favored and anything against that is being suppressed.”

When Kincaid challenged that claim, noting that Lively was holding a news conference and, unlike gay rights advocates in Russia, he wasn’t been arrested or beaten, Lively said, “I wish there was a good balance that could be struck.”

“I try to make all of my policies based on principle, and my principle is, the most important thing in dealing with this issue is that we need to affirm the biblical standard of one-flesh sexuality. All sex outside of marriage is harmful to society. Now, right now, the challenge to the Russians is how far are they going to let aggressive homosexual propagandists get a foothold in their society. And they’re looking at the United States, and they’re seeing what’s happening here.

When we started extending tolerance to these activists -- you know in the 1950s, Dale Jennings of the Mattachine Society said the goal of the gay movement was the right to be left alone – that’s a direct quote. And as soon as we extended tolerance, then they began demanding more, and more, and more. You give ‘em an inch and they take a mile.

If there were some balance we could have, in which people who want to live discretely in a gay subculture can articulate their views in context, in which it’s not going to be tearing down the fabric of society, then I’m all for that. But if the only choice is suppressing a harmful propaganda, and giving it free reign, I’m going to choose the suppression of the harmful propaganda. Because we’ve seen in our country the consequences of not doing that.

Lively complained about businesses being punished for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples. “This is what the homosexual activists do. They are the worst bullies in society. If you dare to stand up to them, even if all you say is that I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, they try to destroy you.”

Lively made a similar point about the anti-gay law in Uganda. He claimed to have encouraged parliamentarians there to focus on “prevention” and “treatment” of homosexuality rather than punishment, and said he believes the law is overly harsh. He even said he had turned down a Ugandan who wanted to join the new coalition. But, he said, he was asked, “If you could only choose between the Ugandan law minus the death penalty, or complete freedom for the homosexual agenda in Uganda, which one would you go with?” His answer: “And I said, well, I would have to with the restriction, because you have to put the children ahead of the adults. And that’s what Russia is doing…it’s the lesser of two evils.”

Both Lively and LaBarbera were contemptuous of the notion that same-sex couples with children could be considered a family. In response to a question about children with gay parents, Lively said he rejects the premise that they are a family.

“I think there’s a false premise in your question, that these are families. I don’t believe that they are families. I think when two people who define themselves by a type of sexual behavior put their own sexual interests ahead of the interests of children, that that is not a family.”

Lively said same-sex couples are “posing” as mothers or fathers.  LaBarbera denounced “the bizarre concept of subjecting innocent children to households that are intentionally motherless or intentionally fatherless.”

Gramley from the Pennsylvania AFA affiliate said that children exposed to “homosexual propaganda” in schools, books, video games, and entertainment are like “lab rats” or “guinea pigs.” Said Gramley, “We recognize the outcome of this war on the family will determine the very future of humanity itself.”

Linda Harvey’s written statement sounded a similar tone:

“To be a faithful Christian in many of today’s U.S. public schools means for many students that they walk into a daily atmosphere of sexual anarchy, institutional bigotry and widespread deceit….Our next generation in the U.S. is being deliberately corrupted through such wayward guidance from deviant adults. We applaud the steps Russia is taking to ensure this is not the path for their students, and we encourage more countries to make the same wise choice, to say ‘no’ to homosexual activism.”

Lively seems unwilling to entertain the idea that his years of travelling the world to denounce LGBT people as threats to children could be in any way responsible for violence against LGBT people. “We unequivocally condemn any violence against anyone, including homosexuals,” he said. LaBarbera chimed in to say neither Lively or other activists he works with have ever espoused violence or hatred. Really. 

Lively said he only put out the word to get coalition members two days ago and that responses are flooding in from around the world. Among the recognizable Religious Right figures who signed up are Matt Barber, Tim Wildmon, Bryan Fischer, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Janet Porter, and Sally Kern. No haters there. 

NC Committee Upholds Teaching of Challenged Allende Novel

After Isabel Allende’s internationally-renowned novel The House of the Spirits was challenged by a parent this October, PFAW Foundation wrote to members of the Watauga County, North Carolina Board of Education, urging them not to remove the book from the county’s high school curriculum. Now, following a sustained outcry at both the local and national level – including from Allende herself – a county appeal committee has unanimously voted to uphold the teaching of the book.
PFAW Foundation

Tell YouTube to reinstate Right Wing Watch's account and to stop abusers of its takedown policy.

Gordon Klingenschmitt -- whose outrageous assertions about President Obama, demons and the “homosexual agenda” are a regular focus of Right Wing Watch -- has exploited YouTube’s policy to get Right Wing Watch’s YouTube account taken down not once but twice.

Isabel Allende Fights Against Banning of Her Own Book

When the teaching of Isabel Allende’s internationally renowned novel The House of the Spirits was challenged in a North Carolina school district last month, advocates from all corners spoke out in its defense, including PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan and North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti. Now, Isabel Allende herself has joined the conversation.

Yesterday the School Library Journal reported that Allende has mailed a letter, along with copies of her book, to the Watauga County school board, superintendent, and the principal of Watauga High School.

After acknowledging that being in the position of defending her own book is “unusual and awkward,” Allende points out in her letter that The House of the Spirits is “considered a classic of Latin American literature and it is taught in high schools, colleges, and universities in all Western countries, including the USA for more than two decades.” She expresses concern about the practice of book censorship in general:

Banning of books is a common practice in police states, like Cuba or North Korea, and by religious fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, but I did not expect it in our democracy.

Allende’s letter comes as the book undergoes a multi-step review process in the county. Last month an advisory committee comprised of teachers, students, and parents voted unanimously not to remove the book from the curriculum, but that decision has been appealed.

PFAW Foundation

Remembering Bobbie Handman

Barbara “Bobbie” Handman, a former Vice President of PFAW and PFAW Foundation, died on Thursday. For years, Bobbie’s creative energy and fierce commitment to the First Amendment shaped the organizations’ free expression work from New York City, where she was based. Bobbie’s long record of advocacy for free expression and the arts was recognized in 1998 when she received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton, Bobbie Handman, Bill Clinton

Bobbie’s years at PFAW were part of a long life of political activism. Time after time she responded to would-be censors by rallying well-known actors and writers to participate in public events that affirmed the value of artistic freedom. You can read more about Bobbie’s life and work in the obituary that appears in today’s New York Times. It ends with this quote from Norman Lear: “Bobbie was a lifelong lesson in perseverance. She made New York happen for People For the American Way. And she made everything grander. She dealt in grand.”

People For the American Way extends its heartfelt condolences to Bobbie’s husband Wynn Handman and the rest of their family.

PFAW Foundation
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