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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last month, PFAW Foundation sent a letter to a school district review committee in Alamogordo, New Mexico urging them to reject attempts to remove Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from the English curriculum. Yesterday a local television station, KRQE News 13, reported that the book will indeed be put back into the Alamogordo High School curriculum. A district spokesperson told the School Library Journal that in the review process the book was found to be “educationally suitable, balanced, and age-appropriate for high school students.”
The School Library Journal’s Karyn Peterson provides the backstory:
Use of the novel, which had been a part of the AHS English department’s curriculum for nearly 10 years, was suspended from classrooms in early October after a mother complained to the school board about what she characterized as the book’s “sexual innuendos” and “harsh” language—occurring on a single page of the 400-page novel. The district then created a review committee and opened a public comment period...
PFAW Foundation was one of the groups that weighed in, encouraging the review committee to uphold the right of all students to “to receive a competitive, rigorous education free from censorship.”
The full text of our letter is below.
October 25, 2013
Dear Members of the Review Committee,
We urge you to reject attempts to remove Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from the English curriculum. We understand that the novel was temporarily removed from the curriculum following the complaint of a parent and will be reviewed by this committee.
Neil Gaiman, whose awards include the Newbery Medal for outstanding children’s literature, is an acclaimed author whose work has been taught in the district for many years. We recognize that school leaders often face difficult decisions that require balancing the concerns of parents with the educational development of students. However, according to English teacher Pam Thorp’s recent letter in the Alamogordo News, the child of the parent bringing the complaint was offered alternative reading material. While parents have every right to decline reading material for their own children, they should not be allowed to censor the curricula for all students.
Many works of literature tackle mature or challenging topics. Attempting to shield high school students from challenging works robs them of the opportunity to learn from and engage with literature, and sets a dangerous precedent.
We trust that as educators you will uphold the right of all students in Alamogordo public schools to receive a competitive, rigorous education free from censorship. For over 30 years we have worked with school districts to protect students’ right to learn, and are happy to serve as a resource for you in this and any future challenges to school curricula.
President, People For the American Way Foundation
The American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, the state-level chapter of the national AFA led by the husband and wife team Phillip and Cathy Cosby, lists as its number one priority: “Promoting sexual integrity and confronting the pornification of our culture in all venues, secular and sacred.”
As part of this mission, the Cosbys have taken it upon themselves to wage a years-long campaign to remove one statue owned and publicly displayed by the city of Overland Park, Kansas – a campaign that has included multiple public petitions and a change in state law, and has forced the city of Overland Park to rack up $35,000 in legal fees.
Now, the Cosbys are starting the process all over again, hoping to force the city to once again pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend its right to display the art in its collection.
The statue in question, called “Accept or Reject,” was given to the city in 2011 by a Chinese artist as part of a cultural exchange and is currently on display in the town’s arboretum. I’ll let Phil Cosby describe it: "It is a nine-foot-tall bronze statue of a totally nude woman. Her arm is extended, and she's taking a picture of herself, in essence sexting herself."
Here’s a picture of Phillip Cosby with the sculpture in question (the signage is his):
Last year, Cosby used a novel tactic to try to get the statue removed. Kansas is one of six states that allows for “citizens grand juries” – grand juries called by a petition of citizens rather than a prosecutor. The 1887 Kansas law has been revived in the last several years by right-wing activists to go after abortion providers and pornography.” In 2006 and again in 2008, anti-choice activists gathered enough signatures to launch a grand jury investigation of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller. Tiller’s attorney described the process as “a perfect example of a system which has virtually become active vigilantism.” The year after the second investigation, Tiller was assassinated by an anti-choice extremist.
So last year, Cosby returned to the “citizens grand jury plan, gathering enough signatures on a petition to convene a grand jury to investigate whether “Accept or Reject” was criminally obscene. The grand jury dismissed the case within a day, but that didn’t stop Cosby’s crusade. Instead, he contended that the jury dismissed the case because prosecutors didn’t pursue it with adequate zeal.
Earlier this year, Cosby worked with anti-abortion groups, with the support of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to change the citizen grand jury law to give more power to people who file the grand jury petitions, including letting the petition filer himself open the proceedings in the grand jury and let anybody who wants to apply to testify.
With the rules changed, Cosby’s now trying again to gather enough signatures to bring the sculpture before a new citizen grand jury, hoping that the new rules will produce a different outcome.
Cosby’s crusade is far from universally popular. Last year, Overland Park spent $35,000 defending the statue. And as the Kansas City Star’s editorial board pointed out last week, it’s far from the only nude sculpture publicly displayed in the area.
But Cosby claims that if allowed to call his own witnesses before a grand jury, he can present “a solid case on the harms to minors.” As part of his case, he’s been circulating this audio recording of a boy reacting to the sculpture with a loud “Whoa!” and claiming that “a city agency putting in front of children an act, that if they mimicked, would be the illegal manufacture of child porn by children”
Cosby must gather about 4,000 signatures to convene the grand jury.
Last week, People For the American Way Foundation joined a campaign to fight book censorship in a Colorado school district. The censorship battle began when a group of parents launched a petition to keep Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye out of the Legacy High School curriculum. Legacy High student Bailey Cross started a counter-petition emphasizing the dangerous precedent that this censorship would set and encouraging the school district to keep the book on the approved reading list.
PFAW Foundation sent a letter to the Adams 12 Five Star School District Board of Education showing support for the student’s campaign and urging the district to reject the attempts at censorship.
The efforts of the Foundation were highlighted by the Denver Post yesterday. Staff writer Yesenia Robles wrote that the parents involved claim the book is “developmentally inappropriate” and should be kept out of the classroom.
People For the American Way Foundation disagrees. Robles reports,
"We do understand this book has themes and content that are really challenging, but that's why it should be taught," foundation spokesman Drew Courtney said. "An important role of classrooms is to help students and young adults deal with that, to have those conversations in an intelligent way in the classrooms. Offering an alternative assignment is appropriate, but banning a prize-winning novel isn't prudence. It's censorship."
See the full Denver Post article here.
Conservative Catholics love to portray the advance of LGBT equality as an attack on religious liberty. And they feign a “live-and-let-live” philosophy by saying things like this poll-tested talking point used by everyone from NOM to Jim DeMint: “All Americans are free to live as they choose, but no one has the right to redefine marriage for all of us.” It’s not very believable, but it’s apparently the best they’ve got.
Well, now the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a militantly anti-abortion and anti-gay group that works through the UN and other international agencies, isn’t even bothering with that liberty-loving façade. C-FAM is celebrating the draconian anti-gay law in Russia that makes it a crime even to publicly advocate for LGBT equality – and cheering the spread of similar laws in places like Lithuania and Moldova, where anti-gay hate machine Scott Lively has been pushing his poison.
An article in C-FAM’s July 25 alert crows, “Bans on Homosexual Propaganda Advance Despite Western Outrage.” The article gloats that “Eastern European countries are following Russia's lead to protect children by curbing advocacy for ‘non-traditional’ sexual acts.”
C-FAM is feeling its oats this week. It has repeatedly sent an alert with the subject line, “War is Coming. You are Called.” The letter from C-FAM President Austin Ruse, written from the now-infamous Moscow airport, talks about a “war council” of European parliamentarians and UN officials that he has been meeting with behind closed doors to declare war on pro-choice advocates.
Ruse complains that “pro-abortion” governments like Belgium and the U.S. have blocked C-FAM from getting official UN recognition. But he says it hasn’t impeded their work, because “we still have UN access wearing the badges of good friends like Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom.”
Ruse is lining up his allies to win official UN recognition next January. But as of today, what he really needs is $22,000 to avert a “real financial catastrophe” and make this month’s payroll. Follow your heart.
On Monday, a brand new group called the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) will be holding a march on the National Mall in opposition to a new immigration policy. Michelle Cottle at the Daily Beast today explains that BALA, far from being the grassroots group it claims to be, consists of “a dozen or so…seasoned activists who have long been conducting this same anti-immigration crusade by means of an evolving series of similar groups.” Last month, when BALA first emerged, we profiled some of its leaders and their deep connections to the anti-immigrant network stemming from white nationalist John Tanton.
As Cottle puts it: “As a result of the many links between BALA’s leaders and the Tanton network, hate-group watchdogs have expressed concern that the organization is merely the latest in a series of minority front groups providing anti-immigration extremists cover from charges of racism.” We wrote about the anti-immigrant movement’s persistent but largely unsuccessful attempts to drive a wedge between black and Latino communities in this 2011 report.
Unsurpisingly, anti-immigrant congressional leaders are jumping to associate themselves with BALA and take part in its rally. The speakers list so far includes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Iowa Rep. Steve King, former Rep. Allen West, and, somewhat ironically, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.
Also speaking at the event are some lesser-known African-American conservative activists, including Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who has said he thanks God for slavery, accused the NAACP of being “no different than the KKK” and frequently claims that President Obama is “racist” against white people. Joining him on the podium will be radio host Kevin Jackson, who claims that feminists are waging “a war against beautiful women” and that President Obama “has taken America back into the 1960’s except now whites are enslaved to blacks.”
And we just noticed the addition of another fringe speaker to the list: Florida pastor O’Neal Dozier. Dozier made national headlines last year when, while serving as state chairman of Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, he announced that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism would “taint the Republican Party.” A profile of Dozier by Mother Jones’ Adam Weinstein highlights some of the pastor’s worst anti-gay, anti-Islam rhetoric, dominionist rhetoric, which ultimately caused him to lose favor with the state's Republican establishment:
As Republicans courted him, Dozier continued to express some of his most extreme views. At a Reclaiming America convention in 2003, Dozier declared that "We should take control of every facet of society." He added that God was "100 percent for capital punishment. Oh, yeah, God knew some were going to slip through, a few innocent ones. He knew that. But you cannot have a society without capital punishment."
He reserved his greatest fervor for that "paramount of sins," homosexuality—which he declared was "something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit."
In 2006, he declared war on a local Islamic group trying to build a mosque in the neighborhood. "One day," he intoned, "our grandchildren will live under the grips of sharia law. It's coming our way. Islam has a plan, a 20-year plan, to take over America from within. And they're doing it." The feds charged a charity that Dozier and local Republican activists had supported with swindling $3 million from Haitian immigrants. And Dozier started asking Florida judicial nominees if they were "God-fearing" and in favor of anti-sodomy laws. The GOP establishment began to sour on Dozier. By the summer of 2006, Crist and Jeb Bush had both dumped him.
Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims, an openly gay legislator, was blocked from speaking on the floor of the state House on Wednesday by a colleague who believed Sims’ plans to speak about the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision would be in "open rebellion against God’s law.”
According to WHYY, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe raised a procedural objection to stop Sims from speaking during a part of the House session in which legislators often give wide-ranging remarks.
"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," said Metcalfe, R-Butler.
Metcalf is a far-right legislator who has sponsored a marriage amendment to the state’s Constitution and “birther” legislation, and called for overturning birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment in order to “bring an end to the illegal alien invasion.”
Sims, who said he appreciated the apologies and support he received from other Republican members of the House, has asked the legislature to reprimand Metcalfe for his comments.
Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt is upset that just because President Obama “got 50-plus percent of the vote,” he thinks can now carry out his policy agenda. In one of his frequent interviews with conspiracy nut Alex Jones recently, Pratt alleged that the president is a “communist,” a “full-bore Marxist” and a “Mr. Dictator” who is “grabbing ahold of every bit of power and centralizing in his hands.”
Pratt also agreed with Jones that Democrats “had to steal the election” and urged supporters to take jobs as election monitors because “it’s either that or the republic.”
Pratt: In his view, evidently, the fact that he barely got 50-plus percent of the vote means he can do anything he wants, that he’s not the president in a constitutional republic where the president can do certain things and most things the president cannot do. According to the president’s view now, Barack Obama thinks he can do just about any bloody thing he can get away with. And that’s a gross misunderstanding of the office of president. But it’s apparently not the misunderstanding that a communist has. And that’s really the way the president thinks. He was educated that way. He is a full-bore Marxist. And this guy is after and grabbing ahold of every bit of power and centralizing in his hands. And as he said even before the election – we should have been listening – ‘If the Congress won’t go along with me, than I’m just going to have to take action myself.’ Well, hello, Mr. Dictator. I guess you will.
Jones: They stole the election, that’s what I’m worried about, Larry. There’s so much election fraud now. They’re about to legalize the 30 million illegals. But they know this is their last shot, because America is starting to wake up. I’m not just saying that. But that’s why we’re in so much danger, folks, because we can beat the collectivists and so now they are like cornered zombies.
Pratt: That’s right, they had to steal the last election or they could not have won. And it’s up to us to become part of the election machinery, to become part of those officials that are sitting there. It’s a long day, it’s like five in the morning to seven or eight at night, maybe nine or ten at night, it’s a killer day. But it’s either that or the republic, take your choice.
This week, the Associated Press reported that the Department of Justice had seized two months of phone records for its editors and reporters without any prior notification to the news organization, thereby denying it the opportunity to negotiate or challenge the seizure in court.
While it's true that there are complicated issues at stake in balancing the right to privacy and First Amendment protections for the media against the government’s obligation to protect national security, the Attorney General’s office has in place its own guidelines on subpoenas of news media for evidence and testimony – guidelines that they apparently failed to follow in this case. If true, the actions taken by the Department of Justice are beyond the pale of our Constitutional system. The right of all persons to feel secure that their privacy is protected is fundamental to our nation's character; we should pay special heed to that guarantee when it involves the freedom of the press, an essential bulwark of our democracy.
Any government requests for media records should be subject to automatic judicial review, and whatever exceptions to that principle that may exist should be extraordinarily limited in scope. According to reports, neither was true in this instance.
In response to this revelation, the White House has appropriately reiterated its support for more robust shield laws to protect journalists from undue government intrusion. Even without those laws in place, the Department of Justice should have understood that its actions in this instance were a gross violation of important Constitutional principles.
The Center for Immigration Studies, a leading anti-immigrant group that was invited to testify at last month’s Senate immigration reform hearings, has been making it very clear why it opposes comprehensive reform. In an interview last week, CIS director Mark Krikorian said that Republicans shouldn’t bother courting Latino voters or “importing more of them” through immigration reform because “generally speaking, Hispanic voters are Democrats.”
In an interview yesterday with VCY America’s Jim Schneider, the group’s research director Steven Camarota, piled on, calling GOP supporters of immigration reform “useful idiots” who “have no idea of the political preferences of the people who they’re trying to turn into voters.”
Schneider: I think it’s Politico, this week Monday, talked about this mega GOP donor, Paul Singer, making a six-figure donation to a group that’s involved with marshaling conservatives to support an overhaul of our federal laws on this issue. I mean, is there, it sounds like there’s tons of pressure that’s going on legislators at this time.
Camarota: Yeah, well, you know, what did Lenin, the leader of the Soviet revolution say, ‘There’s a lot of…the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him.’ Well, you know, there’s just a…and he also talked about the concept of ‘useful idiots.’ These are people who help you inadvertently with your revolution. Well, that’s kind of a harsh statement but the reality is there are lots of conservatives who never actually looked at the voting data, who have no idea of the political preferences of the people who they’re trying to turn into voters.
And so, when you press them on this, a lot of times they’ll say, well, ‘I didn’t know,’ or, ‘We’ll fix that, somehow we’ll change their minds,’ as if they were malleable piece of clay and not human beings entitled to their own opinions. The fact is that if immigration continues, the United States will continue to move in a more left or progressive direction. That’s not necessarily bad or good, but it is a fact, because the new immigrants and their children, based on all the polling that we have, tend to favor expansive government. Again, in a democracy, you change the voters, the political system has to respond. That’s just the reality of the situation.
Elsewhere in the interview, Camarota went all out on the racial dog whistles, taking on Attorney General Eric Holder’s defense of the civil rights of immigrants and non-English speakers. “Unfortunately, there’s a whole industry designed to balkanize the country and remind people of their backgrounds and ethnicity and their race,” Camarota said. “And there’s a lot of what you might call ‘professional ethnics’ out there whose job it is to keep the country divided.” This "identity and grievance politics," he adds, is “one of the downsides of immigration in modern America.”
Schneider: He also used this term, ‘language minorities,’ and that sounded rather peculiar to me. Can you define, what is he meaning by ‘language minorities?’
Camarota: Well, this is something that’s evolved since the 1960s, not surprisingly, that if you don’t speak English you’re entitled to certain protections, including things like have voting ballots printed up in your language. Now, of course, a moment’s reflection reveals that basically that makes no sense. Because when you naturalize, when a legal immigrant becomes a full citizen of the United States, they have to display a knowledge of English, so they should be able to read English. And people born in the United States should also be able to have learned English. They lived here, they grew up here.
So who exactly are these foreign language battles for? Well, what it’s for is to preserve ethnic identity. And unfortunately, there’s a whole industry designed to balkanize the country and remind people of their backgrounds and ethnicity and their race. And there’s a lot of what you might call ‘professional ethnics’ out there whose job it is to keep the country divided, because if people assimilate, well, they have no one they can claim to represent. And that’s one of the downsides of immigration in modern America, identity and grievance politics.