Please take a moment to watch this end-of-the-year thank you message for you and all of PFAW's wonderful supporters around the world from PFAW founder Norman Lear:
Please take a moment to watch this end-of-the-year thank you message for you and all of PFAW's wonderful supporters around the world from PFAW founder Norman Lear:
One of the most remarkable things about the Religious Right today is the amazingly widespread belief that any criticism or disagreement with their agenda is somehow a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The Religious Right seems to truly believe that the First Amendment protects their rights to say anything they wish while simultaneously rendering them immune from criticism or opposition, as if the very same First Amendment that protects their free speech rights does not protect the free speech rights of those who disagree with them.
Case in point: the day after the election, the American Humanist Association sent a letter to all the newly elected members of Congress, encouraging them not to join the Congressional Prayer Caucus. But to Rep. Randy Forbes, founder of the Prayer Caucus, this is nothing more than an attempt to "censor people" and prevent them from talking about their faith, as he explained on "Wallbuilders Live" today:
None of us, and no member of our caucus believes, that we want government to dictate what the church should do and we don't want the church dictating what the government should do.
But these extremist groups try to switch that around and they try to carry it to another dimension where they don't want anybody in government to have the right to even speak about their faith, or prayer, or God, or religion. And they don't want anyone in the church to be able to speak about government.
What they want to do is censor people from their faith and from their First Amendment rights.
Members of Congress have the right to join the Prayer Caucus if they want, just as others have a right to ask them not to do so. That is how the First Amendment works.
Disagreement is not censorship and the Constitution does not protect you from criticism.
Glenn Beck opened his program last night with a long segment responding to the recent controversy over a a painting that depicts President Obama in a Christ-like pose and wearing a crown of thorns that has gone on display at Boston's Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery.
Beck began by pretending to be a snooty art critic taking shots at several paintings he disliked by artists like Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh, and Peter Paul Rubens, before switching over a French artist character who went around "correcting" these paintings by covering up the nudity they contained or simply painting over them, all in order to make the point that the Constitution protects free expression and that while people are entirely free to get offended by certain works of art, they just have to learn to accept that as the price of freedom ... which he proceeded to demonstrate by submerging a bobblehead of President Obama in a mason jar supposedly filled with urine:
As a piece of performance art, it was all mildly entertaining, but the most interesting thing about it is that one of the underlying themes of the segment was how all of these piece of art, which he considers to be "crap," have sold for millions of dollars while he couldn't understand why people would waste good money on things like this.
So, of course, Beck has now put all of his own pieces up for sale on eBay, with the proceeds benefiting his Mercury One "Hope for the Holidays" charity effort, incuding his pièce de résistance, "Obama in Pee Pee," which had been bid up to nearly $12,000 ... before it suddenly disappeared from eBay:
UPDATE: Beck reports that the item was removed by eBay for violating the site's ban on "the sale of bodily waste."
Washington, DC – More than three-quarters of the young progressive candidates for state and local offices endorsed by People For the American Way’s Young Elected Progressives program won their election bids on Tuesday, People For the American Way reported today. The Young Elected Progressives program, in its first year, endorsed 79 candidates in general elections in 28 states and the District of Columbia, with 60 winning their bids.
“We started this program to boost promising young progressives, many of them making their first bid for elected office,” said Randy Borntrager, Political Director of People For the American Way. “We’re helping to build a lasting movement by providing young progressives with the resources they need to start their careers in public service. We are thrilled that our endorsed candidates did so well on Tuesday, and are looking forward to growing and strengthening the program in future elections.”
Eighteen of the endorsed candidates, many in particularly close races, were given extra attention through the new "On the Way" program. Fourteen of those candidates were successful on Tuesday, including:
For years, conservatives have claimed that liberals seek to criminalize Christianity and conservative opinions through imaginary hate speech laws. But today, WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush writes that the government should prosecute liberals and members of the press… in order to defend freedom, of course. He accuses journalists of “treasonous collusion” with the Obama administration and said the Founders would have wanted journalists to be “found guilty of high crimes.”
“Trials for treason and the requisite sentences would apply,” Rush says, “and I would have no qualms about seeing such sentences executed, no matter how severe.” He claims that progressives’ “seditious, anti-American” speech is “excepted from protection under the First Amendment,” hoping that “the political disenfranchisement of liberals, progressives, socialists and Marxists can begin in earnest, and in the open.”
Assuming that all goes well and that we are rid of Obama in January, there will be a nation to repair – but what about the causes for this necessity? Yes, many Americans are now cognizant of the fact that progressives have “progressed” America dangerously close to being a Marxist-socialist nation and that we are collectively responsible for not having checked that progress. But aside from grass-roots efforts toward electoral and political reform, there are other widespread, organized threats to America’s ongoing concern as a representative republic with guaranteed personal liberties, free speech foremost among them.
Here, I am speaking of the press, the conglomeration of national broadcast, digital and print media organizations that has been incrementally packed with ideological liberals and socialists, and so has disqualified itself as the impartial government watchdog it once was. During my lifetime, I have seen the press become an advance force for social engineering and global socialism. The degree to which they have deceived Americans and enabled the agenda of radicals in recent decades is beyond shame. As former Democratic pollster Pat Caddell said recently, the press has become an enemy of the American people. In the matter of this president, the press largely facilitated the ascension of Barack Obama. The instances wherein they have promoted, shielded and aided him are beyond enumeration.
This goes beyond such things as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and his man crush on Obama – I’m talking about treasonous collusion. One particularly scandalous incident occurred during the second presidential debate, when CNN moderator Candy Crowley made an interjection that appeared to have been as spontaneous as Ambassador Chris Stevens’ murder, and which led to a solid point scored for Obama. Most recently, after Mitt Romney brought up Obama’s 2009 “Apology Tour,” the press did their best to support Obama’s claim that this never happened, despite boundless reams of footage that exist chronicling the event.
It is improbable that the framers of the Constitution anticipated a situation in which the press were entirely given over to seditious, anti-American policies. If they had, it is likely that their modus operandi would be similar to that for any faction found guilty of high crimes. Trials for treason and the requisite sentences would apply, and I would have no qualms about seeing such sentences executed, no matter how severe.
This is not likely to occur, however. Radio personality and nascent media mogul Glenn Beck has the intention of putting the establishment press out of business. While I wish him every success, it doesn’t seem likely that he will accomplish this through his organizations alone. In addition to the advent of powerful alternative media sources, I believe it will be necessary to codify – or reaffirm – the nature of crimes against the Constitution and the American people. In this manner, we can thwart the designs not only of the press, but all global socialists operating in America.
Those whose speech and actions impinge upon the God-given rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution are, by definition, excepted from protection under the First Amendment (as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment). This is a very important concept to consider, because it is based on these presumptions of protected speech and equal protection for all that progressives and socialists have engaged in their predation upon our liberties.
If these truths can be acknowledged and widely accepted as such (as opposed to progressives’ Orwellian interpretations), then the political disenfranchisement of liberals, progressives, socialists and Marxists can begin in earnest, and in the open.
Speaking today at the Values Voter Summit, Rep. Steve King declared that President Obama and "his leftist minions" are working every day "undermining the pillar of American exceptionalism, attempting to bring down the shining city on the hill [and] turn it into rubble."
But, he declared, "we are not going to let them do that" because "we're going to serve God and country, in that order" and defeat Obama in November, which will be a victory for God:
Concerned Women for America’s leading “scholar” Janice Shaw Crouse is defending the conviction of three members of the Russian band “Pussy Riot” on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The three women were sentenced by a Russian court to two years in a prison colony in a decision condemned by the U.S., the E.U. and human rights groups. Their crime was a performance staged in a cathedral in which they beseeched the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Vladimir Putin and denounced the increasingly close ties between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church.
In a column today, Crouse defends the convictions, writing that Pussy Riot “insult[ed] Christians” and that the band members should “accept responsibility for your actions” and “repent.”
So next time Concerned Women for America complains about the Obama administration’s supposed threats to freedom, just remember that they have no problem with Russia imprisoning political activists.
Have the women repented or taken responsibility for their actions? Their formal statements about the incident reveal their utter lack of morality, embrace of a "blame-everyone-but-us" ideology, and disdain for capitalism and individual responsibility. Like their U.S. counterparts, they want "human rights, civil and political freedoms" for themselves but not for Christian believers or anyone else with different beliefs.
The media -- both in Russia and in the U.S. -- ignores the religious bigotry directed at Christianity and, instead, jumps to the defense of anyone who shows intolerance towards the church. It is apparent from the closing statements of the three Russian feminists on trial that they are not sorry for their actions and, in fact, view themselves as the victims, not the Christians that they denigrated. The punk rock group entered the sanctuary with the intent to insult Christians, and when they were held accountable, they claimed that it was someone else's fault.
If you want to rage against that which you perceive to be unjust or unfair, it would go a long way toward credibility to also accept responsibility for your actions.
Last week, People For the American Way Foundation launched a new report, “12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics,” which offers guidelines for policymakers and advocates seeking to bring faith into political debates.
Joining us at a launch party for the report and a discussion of the issues it raises were Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress; Sister Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Here are some photos of the event from People For Foundation’s Dylan Hewitt:
Sister Simone Campbell talks with People For’s COO, Nick Ucci
People For President Michael Keegan, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery
Michael Keegan and Rep. Keith Ellison
Sister Simone Campbell and Rabbi David Saperstein
Rabbi David Saperstein
Rep. Keith Ellison and Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Conference.
Washington, DC – The proper role of religion in American politics has been the subject of vigorous – and sometimes toxic – debate for over two centuries. Today, in the midst of campaign-season claims about America’s founding as a “Christian nation” and hyperbolic rhetoric about religious persecution, People For the American Way Foundation calls for a more constructive conversation with a new report, 12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics, authored by PFAW Foundation senior fellow Peter Montgomery with a foreword by journalist Bill Moyers.
"12 Rules" takes on a number of current debates, including those over required contraception insurance coverage, marriage equality, and the role of religion in the 2012 presidential campaign. This edition builds on earlier releases of "12 Rules" in 1984 and 1994.
The full report can be found online here.
“Religious liberty is at the heart of what it means to be an American, but it is also at the center of some of our fiercest debates,” said Peter Montgomery. “How do we balance the constitutional principles of free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state when they come into tension with each other? And how can people of faith bring their religious values into the public arena without turning religion into a political club? As our religious landscape becomes increasingly diverse, it is important that we grapple with these issues in ways that are more constructive than divisive. We hope these Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics will launch many constructive conversations around these topics.”
“Our political climate is being poisoned by inflammatory charges of anti-religious and anti-Christian persecution,” said Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “We can look around the world to see what religious persecution looks like, and we think it’s wrong to cry wolf over political and policy disputes. We are strong advocates for First Amendment freedoms. But something can be legal without being wise. The principles in this report should be embraced by people of all religious and political beliefswho long for a more respectful and responsible debate in the public arena.”
This new edition of "12 Rules" will be launched at an event in Washington, DC featuring a discussion with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim American elected to Congress.
It has been known for years that Chick-fil-A supports right-wing groups. The company has given out gift cards at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. At a recent Religious Right gathering, a speaker talked about how wonderful it was to live and work in Atlanta, where, he said, there’s a Baptist church on every corner and the streets are paved with Chick-fil-A.
So I am no fan of Chick-fil-A, but I’m a big fan of freedom, and that includes Chick-fil-A’s freedom to open its restaurants, even in cities where progressive political leaders don’t like the reactionary politics promoted by the company and its owners.
There’s been a robust campaign by advocates for LGBT equality to call more attention to Chick-fil-A’s contributions to “traditional family” groups, which total in the millions of dollars. But the feathers really flew when company president Dan Cathy made comments in an interview with Baptist Press bragging about his company’s position on marriage – “guilty as charged” -- and his comments to an Atlanta radio station.
I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” said Cathy.
I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about,” he added.
It’s no surprise that Cathy’s comments have stirred supporters of LGBT equality to respond. Much of that response has been in the best traditions of free speech and protest. In Washington, D.C., this week, the Human Rights Campaign organized a protest in front of a Chick-Fil-A food truck. Other activists have rallied outside Chick-Fil-A stores and some students have protested the company’s presence on their campuses.
In addition, a number of political leaders have spoken out in defense of marriage equality and in opposition to the company’s support for discrimination. Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined elected officials taking the time to publicly criticize a business on behalf of the ability of same-sex couples to get married. It’s a good thing – a sign of amazing progress.
But a couple of politicians have gone too far – suggesting that the power of government should be used to prevent the company from opening restaurants based on its political donations and the positions of its owners. That’s not a good thing. As a matter of principle, the government shouldn’t treat individuals differently based on their political or religious beliefs, or companies based on the political activities and contributions of their owners. As others have noted, we wouldn’t want cities or states to have the power to prevent the opening of stores whose owners support LGBT equality or other progressive causes.
People For the American Way’s headquarters is located in the District of Columbia, where elected officials have recognized that LGBT people should be treated equally under the law. DC’s progressive public policies stand in stark contrast to the anti-equality work of groups like the Family Research Council, but we would never suggest that the DC government could or should have prevented FRC from planting its headquarters in the center of downtown DC. Our commitment to freedom and equality should extend to those who don’t share it.
Add this to the good news/bad news mix from the Supreme Court's healthcare decision: Because of the good news (Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act), we get the bad news that his standing among the nation's Democrats has significantly increased. This collective amnesia about who John Roberts is and what he has done is disturbing, especially since the direction of the Court is one of the most important issues upon which Democrats should be voting in November.
A new Gallup Poll shows wild fluctuations in Democrats and Republicans' assessment of Chief Justice John Roberts since their last poll in 2005, a change Gallup attributes to his role in upholding the Affordable Care Act. Roberts' approval rating among Republicans has plummeted 40 percentage points from 2005, falling from 67% to 27%. In contrast, his favorability among Democrats has risen from 35% to 54%. That the healthcare decision is a catalyst of this change is supported by a PEW Research Center poll last week showing that between April and July, approval of the Supreme Court dropped 18 points among Republicans and rose 12% among Democrats.
Yes, John Roberts upheld the ACA, but only as a tax. At the same time, he agreed with his four far right compatriots that it fell outside the authority granted Congress by the Commerce Clause, leaving many observers concerned that he has set traps designed to let the Court later strike down congressional legislation that should in no way be considered constitutionally suspect. He also joined the majority that restricted Congress's constitutional authority under the Spending Clause to define the contours of state programs financed with federal funds.
Just as importantly, Roberts's upholding the ACA does not erase the past seven years, during which he has repeatedly been part of thin conservative majority decisions bending the law beyond recognition in order to achieve a right wing political result. John Roberts cast the deciding vote in a number of disastrous decisions, including those that:
Oh, and then there's that little 5-4 Citizens United opinion that has upended our nation's electoral system and put our government up to sale to the highest bidder.
With a rap sheet like that – and this is hardly a complete a list – no one should be under the illusion that John Roberts is anything but a right-wing ideologue using the Supreme Court to cement his favorite right-wing policies into law.
Next term, Roberts is expected to lead the judicial front of the Republican Party's war against affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. Whether he succeeds may depend on whether it is Mitt Romney or Barack Obama who fills the next vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Although he voted to block the Senate from considering the DISCLOSE Act yesterday, Senator John McCain is usually a supporter of campaign finance reform. In an interview on PBS Newshour, McCain said that the astronomical contributions of Mitt Romney’s major financier, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, are particularly problematic because those contributions amount to foreign money influencing U.S. elections:
MCCAIN: Mr. Adeleson [sic], who gave large amounts of money to the Gingrich campaign and much of Mr. Adeleson’s casino profits, that go to him, come from this casino in Macau.
WOODRUFF: Which says what?
MCCAIN: This which says that obviously, maybe in a round-about way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign, political campaigns.
Regardless of where Adelson acquired his billions, a new report by ProPublica and PBS reveals that Adelson’s business dealings may have been improper or even illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, complete with shady dealings with the Chinese mob and crooked politicians. As Think Progress summarizes, Adelson’s operation in Macau may have been made possible because of payments to Chinese organized crime figures:
Among the junket companies under scrutiny is a concern that records show was financed by Cheung Chi Tai, a Hong Kong businessman.
Cheung was named in a 1992 U.S. Senate report as a leader of a Chinese organized crime gang, or triad. A casino in Macau owned by Las Vegas Sands granted tens of millions of dollars in credit to a junket backed by Cheung, documents show.
Cheung did not respond to requests for comment.
Another document says that a Las Vegas Sands subsidiary did business with Charles Heung, a well-known Hong Kong film producer who was identified as an office holder in the Sun Yee On triad in the same 1992 Senate report. Heung, who has repeatedly denied any involvement in organized crime, did not return phone calls.
Because Nevada gambling authorities forbid doing any business with organized crime, Sands’s Las Vegas gambling licenses could hang in the balance. (Adelson and his company refused to comment for the PBS story.) But Adelson has other issues with his China operations.
Sheldon Adelson has pledged to give up to $100 million to unseat President Obama. But according to one of Adelson’s friends, he could spend far more than that: “We think ‘$100 million, wow!’ But it’s a meaningless amount of money to [Adelson].”
The system we have today allows for single individuals to give as much potentially money – clean or dirty – as they want to buy an election. This isn’t how democracy is supposed to work. Some sunlight is beginning to shine through on how Mitt Romney is benefitting from Sheldon Adelson’s shadowy dealings, but the extent of unaccountable money in our elections runs even deeper. Without a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the people will be unable to stop secret contributions by special interests, no matter where the money comes from.
Today, Senate Republicans voted to block the DISCLOSE Act, legislation designed to bring some basic but essential transparency to the electoral system in response to the Supreme Court’s flawed Citizens United decision. First proposed in 2010, the DISCLOSE Act would shed light on the secretive outside groups who aim to influence our elections. The Act would require the identification of individuals who give over $10,000 to outside groups that spend money on politics.
“The DISCLOSE Act would help the American people understand who is behind the political messages we’re bombarded with every day,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way.“Apparently, GOP senators would rather keep the public in the dark about who is bankrolling their campaigns. What do they have to hide? It’s telling that even Senators who previously supported strong disclosure laws would today let special interests buy our elections from the shadows instead of standing up for open and honest elections.
“Citizens United opened up the floodgates to unaccountable, unrestricted spending by corporations and special interests to influence our elections. But even the conservative Supreme Court majority that gave us that decision acknowledged that robust disclosure is necessary to preserve the integrity of our elections.
“Today, the Senate had a chance to protect the American people’s right to know who is trying to sway their vote. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans chose to protect the anonymity of the wealthy few at the expense of the American public. Considering Mitt Romney’s refusal to release years of tax returns and his secret foreign bank accounts, it’s beginning to look like the GOP’s top priority is keeping money in the shadows. Instead, the Republican Party should embrace transparency – from personal records to political contributions – and bring greater integrity to the democratic process. ”