Religious Liberty

Tennessee Senate Votes To Officially Honor Bible Alongside Sniper Rifle

On Monday the Tennessee Senate voted to make the Bible the state’s official book, even though the state’s attorney general argued that it conflicts with the state constitution, which says, “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.” That seems pretty clear cut.

The fate of the Bible bill is now in Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s hands. According to the Tennessean, Haslam has raised questions about its constitutionality. The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Steve Southerland, tried to mask the religious intention of the legislation by arguing that the Bible is “a history book.”

The legislation also seems to run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, though some  Religious Right figures, like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, do not believe the Establishment Clause applies at all to the states. They would argue that Tennessee lawmakers could go even further and declare Protestant Christianity the state’s official religion.

They haven’t gone that far yet. But there’s no telling how far the religious politicking might go. The American Bible Society recently reported that two Tennessee cities are among the nation's top five "most Bible-minded." More from Associated Press’s Erik Schelzig:

In solidly Republican Tennessee, heavy doses of God and guns are considered reliable election-year politics.

The Bible bill came to a vote just days before the candidate filing deadline, giving lawmakers pause about being portrayed by political rivals as being as opposed to the Bible if they voted against the bill.

State lawmakers recently made a .50-caliber sniper rifle the official state rifle. The Tennessean notes that if Haslam signs the bill, Christianity’s sacred scripture “would join a list of state symbols such as the raccoon as the state’s wild animal, the Eastern box turtle as the state reptile, the square dance as the state folk dance, milk as the official state beverage and the Barrett M82 sniper rifle as the official state rifle, which lawmakers approved earlier in the session.”

NOM's Brian Brown Rallies Support For Mississippi's 'Horrific' Anti-LGBT Legislation

The Religious Right’s ongoing effort to create special legal protections for anti-LGBT discrimination continues in Mississippi, where a “breathtaking” and “horrific” anti-LGBT bill — even worse that North Carolina’s recent law — is waiting final passage in the House. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown is urging NOM supporters to contact Gov. Phil Bryant and Republicans in the state house in support of legislation that passed the state senate last week.

In an email alert sent today, Brown asks activists to stand up for “the rights of Christians and people of faith to be free from recrimination and harassment from extremists who believe that religious liberty must be eliminated when it comes to the gay agenda.” Brown apparently has no sense of irony or shame, arguing for pro-discrimination legislation while complaining, “It is outrageous that gay and lesbian extremists have been allowed to discriminate against, harass and punish Christians and others when it comes to marriage.”

More from Brown’s urgent email:

All across America, LGBT extremists are working overtime to force devout Christians and other people of faith to personally participate in celebrating a same-sex 'marriage' even when doing so violates their deeply held religious beliefs. Those who have refused to abandon God's commands when it comes to marriage have been hit with lawsuits and huge fines, lost their jobs and even been put in jail. This must stop, and at least in Mississippi it will stop if you act today…

For years, LGBT activists lied to Americans about gay 'marriage,' claiming that redefining marriage to suit their demands would not hurt anyone. Instead, people's lives have been ruined and the sexual extremists are intent on forcing every person in America to genuflect at the altar of gay "rights."

…House Bill 1523 protects pastors, churches and individuals from having to solemnize a gay 'wedding' and protects individuals and small businesses like florists, bakers and photographers from being forced to perform services at a gay 'wedding' ceremony that violates their deeply held religious beliefs. The legislation also prevents LGBT extremists from forcing their gender ideology on Mississippi which would allow men to force their way into intimate facilities reserved for girls and women, including showers and restrooms, simply by claiming they "identify" as women. Biology determines gender, not "feelings!"

…Just as they have done in other states, LGBT extremists have orchestrated a campaign of "manufactured outrage" utilizing Hollywood celebrities, corporate giants and billionaire sports owners who wish to curry favor with gay activists. Their well-orchestrated play book threatens boycotts, companies threatening to leave the state and sports leagues hinting a state may be denied high-profile events like a Super Bowl or college bowl game. They are making identical threats and false claims of "discrimination" in Mississippi and we need people of faith and marriage supporters all across the nation to let the leaders of Mississippi know that we want them to lead by example and stand strong for people of faith.

 

Heritage List Gives Glimpse Of Far-Right Justices Sought By Trump And Cruz

One of the conservative establishment’s greatest fears about a Donald Trump presidency has been that he wouldn’t pick movement ideologues to sit on the Supreme Court. Trump attempted to put that concern to rest last week when he announced that he was working with the conservative behemoth the Heritage Foundation to shape a list of 10 possible Supreme Court picks from whom he would choose nominees if he were to become president. (Whether he would actually keep that promise, however, is an open question.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s main GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has promised to make nominating ultra-conservative justices a “priority” of his presidency. He has even made a point of criticizing past Republican presidents for appointing insufficiently conservative jurists.

Trump hasn’t released his list of candidates, but today the Heritage Foundation published a “non-exclusive” list of eight people that it said “illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider” for the high court — and who, it’s safe to assume, represent the kind of judges the conservative movement would pressure Trump and Cruz to pick for the federal courts.

Two of Heritage’s picks, federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, have been mentioned repeatedly by Trump on the campaign trail. The name of another, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has been brought up by Cruz, who even picked up the Utah senator’s endorsement.

In a profile of Sykes last month, ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote:

… Sykes, who currently sits on the Seventh Circuit, backed a voter ID law . She also wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston described as “ the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law.”

Millhiser noted that Sykes also ruled “that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination,” another troubling indication that she could support conservative groups’ attempts to justify discrimination.

Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, also has a history of right-wing activism. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade the “ worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that it created “ a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has claimed that with “the New Deal” and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that the federal government “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime .” Like Sykes, Pryor has upheld a voter ID law.

Lee, a Tea Party favorite who has been Cruz’s strongest ally in the Senate, has a legal philosophy that might be even more troubling, dismissing large swaths of the federal government’s work as unconstitutional. As Peter summarized recently:

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

Peter noted that Lee “dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a woman’s right to abortion” and has “called the court’s marriage equality ruling a ‘breathtaking presumption of power.’”

Also on Heritage’s list is Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is a colleague of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh, who before his career as a judge worked on the notorious “Starr Report” about President Clinton, is just one example of Bush’s effort to put ideologically motivated conservatives on the federal bench.

Kavanaugh’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit include striking down important EPA air pollution rules in an opinion that one columnist called “60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.” PFAW summarized the issue at hand:

Last summer, two Bush-nominated judges on the D.C. Circuit issued a much-criticized ruling in EME Homer City Generation, striking down important new EPA rules on air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2011, the EPA issued new regulations to limit the levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and crossing state lines. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. As if that weren’t important enough, the rules would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.

In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a ruling that found ExxonMobil was not immune from being sued by Indonesians who said they had been “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty" by the company’s security forces. Dissenting from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act the same year, Kavanaugh suggested that a president who thinks the ACA is unconstitutional could simply decline to enforce it.

Also on Heritage’s list are Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general in the Bush administration and is just 49 years old, and federal appeals court judges Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender. Another Heritage suggestion is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was nominated by then-Gov. Rick Perry after helping Bush run his faith-based initiatives in Texas and in the White House.

The Year Bryan Fischer Became 'Mainstream'

Back in 2011, when Mitt Romney was in the starting months of his presidential campaign, he accepted an invitation to speak at the Values Voter Summit, an annual event organized by the Family Research Council. The VVS always attracts an assortment of far-right activists, but that year Romney was scheduled to speak directly before Bryan Fischer, an inflamatory American Family Association official and radio host who had viciously insulted everyone from LGBT people to women to Muslims to Native Americans to medal of honor recipients to Romney’s fellow Mormons.

After facing a public outcry for choosing to appear beside Fischer, Romney called out Fischer in his speech — albeit not by name — decrying the “poisonous language” of “one of the speakers who will follow me today.”

After that year, Fischer was nowhere to be found at the Values Voter Summit, although his employer, the American Family Association, continued to cosponsor the event.

Then, in January of last year, Fischer was, for a moment, edged further out of the conservative mainstream. When a group of 60 members of the Republican National Committee embarked on a trip to Israel organized by Christian-nation advocate David Lane and paid for by the AFA, the RNC was forced to answer why it was sending members on a junket financed by a group whose spokesman was one of the most vitriolic voices of hate in the country — and one who said the First Amendment applies only to Christians. Facing a diplomatic incident with the GOP, the AFA finally stripped Fischer of his title with the organization, although he kept his daily radio program with its affiliate, American Family Radio.

But that was then and this is now.

Earlier this month, we reported that Fischer was scheduled to join Sen. Ted Cruz at a campaign rally in Mississippi. The event was eventually canceled: not because of Fischer’s extremism but because Cruz was reportedly ill .

And, although Fischer remains one of the most hateful voices on the Right, he is hardly any more controversial than many of the figures with whom the leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves in 2016 — or even, in some cases, the candidates themselves. As soon as the GOP began to ostracize Bryan Fischer, it was taken over by Bryan Fischer’s ideology.

Fischer himself pointed this out on his radio program last week as he prepared to discuss a column in which he reiterated his long-held views that Muslims immigrants should be barred from the U.S., American Muslims should be shut out of the U.S. military and state governments should ban the construction of mosques. Things that he’s been saying for years, he said, that were once perceived as “outlandish” and “off-the-charts lunacy,” have now “become virtually mainstream.”

He’s right. In fact, when we began to look through some of Fischer’s most controversial statements — which are bad enough that he was publicly rejected by the 2012 Republican nominee — we found that they weren’t too different from things that Republican presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz say every day.

Although Fischer has campaigned for Cruz and openly despises Trump, his ideology and rhetoric is echoed by both campaigns. (Although, thankfully, neither candidate has called for stoning whales … at least not yet.)

On Muslim immigration...

Fischer: ‘Stop Muslim immigration into the United States’

Fischer was far ahead of the trend when it came to anti-Muslim bigotry,calling as early as 2010 for the U.S. to block all Muslim immigration, “repatriate” Muslims who are already here, ban American Muslims from serving in the U.S. military, and impose a policy of “no more mosques, period.” Fischer repeated these demands just last week.

Trump: ‘A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’

He was several years behind Fischer, but Trump called last year for a temporary ban on all of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims entering the United States and deporting Syrian refugees who have been resettled in America, which have since become central planks in his platform. Echoing Fischer, Trump has also said that if he were to become president, he would have “no choice” but to close some mosques and once flirted with the idea of setting up a government database to monitor all Muslims. Cruz, for his part, has called for banning the resettlement of Muslim refugees from Syria.

On religious freedom for Muslims ...

Fischer: ‘Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims’

Fischer justifies his anti-Muslim plans by claiming that the First Amendment does not apply to Muslims or any other non-Christian religion and asserts that any religious liberty rights extended to non-Christians are simply a “courtesy”:

Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment.

Cruz: ‘Patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods’

When Cruz called for the U.S. to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” in response to this week’s terrorist attacks in Belgium, it came as no surprise since he has surrounded himself with advisers who argue, like Fischer, that Muslims do not deserve the same civil rights and civil liberties as other Americans.

One Cruz adviser, the Family Research Council’s Jerry Boykin, has explicitly said that “Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections.” In an interview with Fischer, Boykin called for “no mosques in America.”

Trump, for his part, has repeatedly called for government profiling of Muslims.

On Mormonism and Mitt Romney ...

Fischer: ‘I’m more Mormon’ than Mitt Romney

Fischer has never been a fan of the Mormon faith, insisting that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Mormons and warning that a Mormon president like Romney would threaten the nation’s “spiritual health.” However, when Fischer deemed Romney to not be anti-gay enough, he declared that he himself was “more Mormon” than the candidate.

At one point, Fischer clarified that he had “love” for Mormons and just wanted them “to come into the full light of the truth” and abandon their faith.

Trump: ‘Are you sure he’s a Mormon?’

Although Trump may “love the Mormons,” he has been out on the campaign trail with Robert Jeffress , an extremist pastor who says that Mormonism and Islam are demonic faiths “from the pit of hell” (and that the Roman Catholic Church was created by Satan). It was in a radio interview with Fischer at the 2011 Values Voter Summit that Jeffress, who was stumping for Rick Perry, declared that Romney is not a “true” Christian because Mormonism is a “cult.”

Like Fischer, Trump has questioned Romney’s faith after Romney criticized him, asking a crowd in Utah: “Are you sure he’s a Mormon?”

On LGBT rights ...

Fischer: ‘Rainbow jihadists’ on the Supreme Court ‘blasted the twin pillars of truth and righteousness into rubble.’

Fischer reacted with predictable reason and restraint to the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell marriage equality ruling, comparing it to 9/11, Pearl Harbor and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and referring to the justices in the majority as “rainbow jihadists.”

Cruz: The gay community is waging ‘jihad’ against religious freedom

In this case, Fischer may have picked up a turn of phrase from Cruz, who several weeks before the Obergefell ruling accused LGBT rights activists of waging “jihad” against the religious freedom of Christians.

On the role of women ...

Fischer: God ‘designed’ women to be good secretaries

Fischer explained back in 2014 that he wouldn't consider male applicants for receptionist and secretary positions at his church because God “designed” women “to be warm, to be hospitable, to be open-hearted, to be open-handed, to have their arms open, to be welcoming, to be receptive, to create a nurturing, welcoming environment.”

Trump: ‘It really doesn't matter what they write, as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass’

Trump may have a different view of women in the workplace than Fischer, but it isn’t any more enlightened.

On science ...

Fischer: ‘Liberals are absolutely anti-science when it comes climatology and global warming’

Fischer contends that when it comes to climate change, it’s the scientists who are “absolutely anti-science,” citing God’s promise to Noah in the Bible that he would never again destroy the earth with floods. He also believes that the theory of evolution is “completely irrational and scientifically bankrupt ”and argues that people who believe in evolution should be “disqualified from holding public office.” Fischer has filled the vacuum left by actual science with some of his own creative theories, such as that dinosaurs were actually giant, 1,000-year-old lizards.

Cruz: ‘Climate change is not science, it’s religion’

Cruz similarly thinks that it’s climate scientists who are being illogical, telling Glenn Beck last year that “climate change is not science, it's religion.” Trump is also “not a big believer” in climate change, which he has dismissed as “bad weather” and a Chinese fabrication designed to destroy the U.S. economy.

While Cruz has deflected questions about evolution, his father and campaign surrogate, Rafael Cruz, has called the theory “baloney” and suggested that it was a communist plot to “destroy the concept of God.”

On the military ...

Fischer: We’ve ‘feminized’ the medal of honor by giving it to service members who haven’t killed people

In 2010, Fischer reacted to the awarding of the medal of honor to an Army sergeant who had rescued two of his fellow soldiers in battle by lamenting that we have “feminized” the military honor by awarding it “for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them."

Trump: ‘I like people who weren’t captured’

Trump, who, like Fischer, has never served in the military, made headlines last summer when he attacked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for his time as a prisoner of war, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Cruz Backer Bryan Fischer Calls For Ban On Mosques To 'De-Islamize' America

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, long a font of anti-Muslim bile and other bigotry, has posted a call to “de-Islamize” America.

Fischer’s “de-Islamization” program has three planks, one of which has already been promoted by GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump:

  1. Immediately suspend immigration by Muslims. Fischer says that “unvetted, untrammeled immigration of Muslims to the U.S. is a form of insanity.” Islam, he says, “is the Ebola virus of culture.” He says, “Preventing carriers of this cultural virus from entering America is simply common sense…”
  2. No More Mosques. Fischer says there is no constitutional problem with state governments banning mosques “if we use the Constitution given to us by the Founders and not the one mangled by the courts.” Fischer argues that the First Amendment’s establishment clause does not apply to the states, which he says “have unilateral authority to regulate religious expression within their borders.” In other words, he would see no constitutional barrier to Texas, for example, allowing only Baptists to worship openly.
  3. No more Muslims in the military. Fischer says Congress can and should bar Muslims from service in the armed forces.

Earlier this month, Fischer was scheduled to participate in a campaign rally with presidential candidate Ted Cruz. The Cruz campaign ended up canceling his visit to Mississippi, saying the candidate did not feel well.

There’s no reason to think, however, that Fischer’s most recent anti-Muslim comments will threaten his standing with the Cruz campaign, which recently named Frank Gaffney, one of the country’s most vitriolic anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists, to Cruz’s national security advisory team. Cruz himself, in his response to recent terrorist bombings in Brussels, called for empowering law enforcement “to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

 

Stand Against Anti-Muslim Bigotry and Religious Discrimination

In recent months, we’ve witnessed a dangerous uptick in ugly bigotry aimed at Muslim Americans, as well as Muslim refugees fleeing violence in Syria and other regions. No person should be singled out for discrimination or harassment because of their faith—or their lack thereof. This rhetoric isn’t just deeply un-American—it’s dangerous. We’ve seen that hateful rhetoric can lead to physical violence and intimidation. We won’t tolerate those who inflame anti-Muslim bigotry and we won’t stay silent. You shouldn’t either. Whether it’s in a presidential campaign or a personal conversation, we’re asking all Americans to stand up and call out hateful and offensive anti-Muslim rhetoric. Make it clear that you believe all people, regardless of faith, have a place in our nation and that you’re willing to speak up for that principle.

Ted Cruz Extends Anti-Gay Endorsement Bonanza With Religious Right Intellectual Leader Robert George

As we have noted repeatedly, Ted Cruz has enthusiastically welcomed the endorsements of and associated with a lot of extreme anti-gay activists, including the kind who scream from the stage that gay people should be executed. But not all anti-gay activists are of the ranting sort; some are prominent lawyers who draft legislation and devise legal strategies for restricting equality. Today, Cruz trumpeted the endorsement of the most prominent of these “respectable” anti-gay activists, Robert George.

George operates from Princeton University, where he teaches law and directs the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is a prime mover behind the effort to brand opposition to abortion and LGBT equality as religious liberty questions. He is a very busy man. In fact, it seems as if there are few anti-equality efforts that don’t bear his fingerprints in some way.

It goes on and on. According to his bio at the Witherspoon Institute, where he is a senior fellow:

Professor George serves on the boards of directors of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and the Center for Individual Rights. 

George’s dual role at the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation were noted during the controversy over the infamous Regnerus study, which has been widely discredited but it still cited by anti-equality advocates as “evidence” that gay people and couples should not be allowed to adopt or be parents. Witherspoon sponsored the research to the tune of nearly $700,000 and Bradley kicked in $90,000.

George’s influence extends beyond his own work. A former student and George protégé, the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, has become a leading voice in opposition to marriage equality; they co-authored with Sherif Gergis the book “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”

The Cruz campaign released a gushing endorsement from George, who says that Cruz was one of his most brilliant students and is among “the most principled and dedicated public servants” he knows. George’s endorsement of Cruz will come as no surprise to anyone who saw the mutual admiration society that passed for George’s interview of Cruz for EWTN last November. The two commiserated about the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, which George called “another tragic mistake in imposing same-sex marriage on the entire country.”

George recently joined other conservative Catholics in denouncing Donald Trump, who they said degrades our politics and culture and threatens their ability to use the Republican Party to promote Catholic social doctrine. Notably, George did not endorse Cruz until after Marco Rubio suspended his campaign. Rubio’s faith outreach director, Eric Teetsel, was formerly executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, and George is included in the acknowledgments section of Teetsel’s own book on (one man, one woman) marriage. 

Boykin's Defense of 'Religious Freedom' Includes Violent Anti-Trans Rhetoric

On Saturday retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, addressed the Awakening conference, an annual event sponsored by Liberty Counsel and the Freedom Federation. Boykin, known for his anti-Muslim and anti-gay rhetoric, dedicated his remarks in the plenary session to denouncing Bernie Sanders supporters for wanting free things, and to calling on Christians to do more to stand up for religious freedom and against LGBT equality.

Boykin quoted socialist Norman Thomas saying in 1927, “America will never vote for socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.” Boykin asked, “Is that where we are today?” He declared that support for Sanders is “an indication of the sad state of affairs in this country.”

I am absolutely, incredibly amazed at the number of young people, particularly young people, that are flocking to Bernie Sanders. My generation never would have believed we would have taken a socialist seriously. And here we have tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, flocking to Bernie Sanders, and when you pin ‘em down and say, ‘What is it about Bernie Sanders that you really like? it comes back to one thing. Oh, they’ll give you the pablum – ‘I like his policies, I like this and I like that.’ But listen to them very carefully they’ll eventually tell you it’s because he’s going to give them something for nothing. He’s going to give them something that’s free.

Boykin warned that American Christians are not fighting hard enough against what the Religious Right claims are efforts to narrow the concept of freedom of religion that the Founding Fathers placed in the First Amendment down into a more restrictive freedom of worship:

Folks, if you accept the concept of freedom of worship you are going down a dangerous path. They didn’t just give us freedom of worship, they gave us freedom of religion. What they said was you can believe what you want to believe, and you can live your faith. Today, that constitutional freedom is in the greatest jeopardy of any of our constitutional liberties. It is the freedom of religion and it is based on a radical agenda to tell you that you can believe what you want to believe but you cannot live your faith in the public square…

Boykin quoted Eric Metaxas, biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who was killed for his resistance to German Nazis, telling him that “if America accepts what Hitler forced the church in Germany to accept, which was freedom to worship, we’re going to wind up being just like Germany.” Added Boykin, “We’re in the same situation today. We’re being told that we can have freedom of worship but we cannot have freedom of religion and we’re going to have to pay a price … We’ve got to stand up to evil.”

As is customary at Religious Right events, Boykin and other speakers blamed the church for not doing enough to resist evil and stand up to the LGBT rights movement. Boykin praised Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver for his defense of Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis, who refused to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. And he took now-familiar Religious Right rhetoric targeting transgender people over their use of bathrooms to an ugly new low:

Where is the Christian world today? Where are the Christians of America today? They should be flocking to people like Kim Davis. They should be flocking to the city council and say, ‘No, you’re not going to let a man go in my daughter’s bathroom just because he feels like a man today.’ Where are the Christians that are standing up to this kind of evil?

And I’ve already said, and somebody’ll be recording this and this’ll be on YouTube before it’s all over with. But I will tell you what, the first man that walks in my daughter’s bathroom, he ain’t going to have to worry about surgery. That’s not right. That is not right. It’s not right. It’s ungodly. But it’s also just unnatural. This is crazy. Where are the Christians that are standing up?

 

“Hobby Lobby II” Distorts the Principle of Religious Freedom

The following is a guest blog by Rev. Faye London, a member of the VASHTI Women’s Initiative within People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council.

The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell case – which has now been consolidated with similar cases under the name Zubik v. Burwell – is a continuation of a strategy by the Right to gut the Affordable Care Act since they have been unable to repeal it. All of these cases are framed as "religious freedom" cases, yet trying to limit women’s reproductive freedom is based on a twisted understanding of what the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was meant to address.

Congress passed RFRA more than 20 years ago when the Supreme Court refused to protect native and indigenous individuals from being denied government benefits because of drug tests detecting peyote, a substance that was used in their religious ceremonies. RFRA was passed to protect people from having their free exercise of religion violated by the government.

Like so many others, this law has become a victim of targeted reinterpretation. In 2014, the Hobby Lobby decision made it legal for a corporation to act as an individual with regard to religious freedom. It also redefined religious freedom, so that people and corporations could use RFRA to avoid obeying laws that offend their religious beliefs, but don’t actually limit their free exercise of religion. Several states also considered laws intended to make it legal for any person or business to cite religion in order to ignore laws prohibiting discrimination against same gender loving people. And while that aspect of the debate was all over the news, the threat to women’s health posed by laws like this grew quietly in the background.

The case now at the Supreme Court attacks a vital piece of the puzzle by which ACA protects women's health by requiring health insurance to include contraception coverage without charge. There is an accommodation already in the law that sets an alternative route to coverage for women who work for nonprofit religious organizations that disapprove of contraception. All the organization has to do is fill out a very short and simple form or write a letter stating that as an organization they do not want to provide contraception, and they are relieved from that responsibility and the government takes over, directing the insurance company to pay for the contraception rather than the religious nonprofit. The Little Sisters of the Poor organization and others are saying that signing a one-page form is an "undue burden" on them morally, as it still constitutes participation in opening the way for women to access "sinful" contraceptive care.

This new trend is just another way to strip rights from poor people who depend on these services for survival. It is not about religious freedom. The accommodation is sufficient to protect the Little Sisters' religious freedom. This is about controlling women's bodies (and particularly poor women's bodies, since women of means can afford to pay out of pocket), in order to make space for those who would relieve themselves of any responsibility for ethical treatment of their employees or the public.

PFAW Foundation

Meet A Law Professor Conservatives Turn To On Marriage, Immigration And The SCOTUS Blockade

Among the right-wing figures encouraging Republican senators to block any nominee President Obama might make to the U.S. Supreme Court last week was law professor John Eastman, who right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt calls “perhaps the most revered center-right specialist in America.” If that’s true, it may be because Eastman puts himself out there on so many issues that rile today’s far-right. He chairs the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and he is also one of the leading voices in opposition to birthright citizenship. His advocacy pretty much covers the right wing’s public policy wish list.

On Hewitt’s radio show on February 15, Eastman called Scalia’s death a “devastating loss” not only for Scalia’s family “but also for our understanding of the appropriate role of the court in constitutional adjudication.”  Eastman agreed with Hewitt’s assertion that it is “well within” Republican senators’ constitutional authority “not to give a hearing or a vote to President Obama’s nominee,” saying that Republicans “ought to oppose with every bit of their power” the kind of nominee he would expect from President Obama, someone who he believes will “try and nail the lid in the coffin on advancing his radical transformative agenda.”

Eastman said Scalia’s death will put the role of the high court at the center of the presidential campaign, declaring that “there is a fundamental difference” between the political parties on a central question: “Do we live in an autocratic, unelected regime run by nine black robed individuals, or are we the people the ultimate sovereigns in this country?”

That’s the kind of rhetoric that warms the hearts of far-right leaders like Sharron Angle, the Tea Party activist who lost a challenge to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid in 2010 and whose is encouraging an effort by a couple of state legislators to draft her for a 2016 Senate bid. “The U.S. Senate should absolutely put a hold on any nomination this President sends to the hill,” Angle said last week. “We have to stop the damage to the Constitution now!”  Angle went even further, declaring that Eastman would make the “perfect” Supreme Court justice.

If he ever did make it onto the court, Eastman would manage the remarkable feat of being to the right of the late Justice Scalia. Like Chief Justice John Roberts, Scalia opposed the Supreme Court’s infamous 1905 Lochner decision, which ushered in an era in which the court routinely rejected economic regulations, like a state limiting the hours employees could be required to work, and exhibited hostility to union activity. On Hewitt’s show, Eastman recalled Scalia turning a speaking invitation into a forum on Lochner, on which Scalia disagreed with Eastman, who is part of a pro-Lochner movement in right-wing legal circles.  Eastman also takes a fringe position, one held on the current Supreme Court only by Justice Clarence Thomas, that the First Amendment’s ban on the establishment of religion cannot be properly applied to the states.

Eastman is a professor  at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law in California and is the founding director of Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, affiliated with the conservative Claremont Institute. He stepped down as dean of the law school to run for California attorney general in 2010. National right-wing leaders, including Ed Meese, Ed Whelan, Bill Bennett, Michele Bachmann and others backed his bid, but he failed to win the nomination.  Eastman, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and 4th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Michael Luttig, worked at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during the Reagan administration. In 1990 he was the GOP nominee for Congress from the 34th District in California.

A few highlights (or lowlights) from Eastman’s activism and rhetoric:

Role of the Courts

Eastman, who chairs the National Organization for Marriage, appeared at a July 2015 Senate hearing convened by Ted Cruz after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, which Cruz called “the very definition of tyranny.”

Eastman agreed with Cruz’s call for Supreme Court justices to be subjected to judicial retention elections and term limits, and added his own proposals to keep the court in check. He said a simple majority of states should be allowed to override “egregiously wrong” Supreme Court decisions, and that Congress should be able to veto Supreme Court rulings by a two-thirds majority in both houses.  He also suggested that Congress should impeach judges whose rulings it considers unconstitutional.  And he interpreted Scalia’s dissent in the marriage case to be “an invitation to executive officials throughout the land to refuse to give their ‘aid’ to the ‘efficacy of the’ Court’s judgment in the case.”

I truly hope this Committee will give serious thought to these proposals, advancing them with your approval, first to the full Senate, then to the other House, and then ultimately to the people for consideration and hopefully ratification. But I encourage you to do that soon, as I sense in the land a strong feeling that our fellow citizens are about out of patience with the “long train of abuses and usurpations” that have emanated from an unchecked judiciary. They have demonstrated for a very long time now that they, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, have been “more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms [of government] to which they are accustomed.” We should not expect that the patience of our fellow citizens will last forever. Let us now, therefore, in good faith, advance solid proposals to restore and expand checks and balances on the judiciary before that patience runs out.

Marriage and LGBT Equality

In 2000, Eastman called homosexuality an indicator of “barbarism.” He called the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence decision, which overturned laws criminalizing consensual gay sex, a “despotic” decision.

Given his position at the National Organization for Marriage, which he has chaired since 2011, it is not surprising that Eastman’s rhetoric in opposition to marriage equality has been consistently hostile. When he took the position, he told the conservative National Catholic Register, “Evil will be with us always, and it requires constant vigilance to defeat.”

At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, Eastman attacked the Ninth Circuit decision overturning California’s Proposition 8 and warned that legalizing marriage for same-sex couple would hurt children and have “catastrophic consequences for civil society.” He said marriage equality “would destroy the institution that has been the bedrock of civil society since time immemorial.”

At the June 2014 March for Marriage in Washington, organized by NOM, Eastman said that Justice Scalia’s dissent from the court’s 2013 decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act was “a call to arms.” “Let the justices know that we will not tolerate them redefining marriage!”  he said. “The good of society and the wellbeing of our children depend on it!”

In 2014, after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a federal court ruling that made legalized marriage for same-sex couples in North Carolina, Eastman told North Carolina legislative leaders to defend the state’s marriage ban anyway — even though Attorney General Roy Cooper had said it would be a waste of taxpayer money. The Charlotte Observer later reported that the Claremont Institute, where Eastman serves as the director for the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, had billed North Carolina $78,200 for its work defending the law, a price that it said included a “public interest” discount.

In an April 2015 podcast for the Constitution Center following oral argument in Obergefell, Eastman said it was “perfectly legitimate” to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples due to their “unique procreative ability.”  He denounced the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling as “not only wrong, but illegitimate,” going so far as to encourage anti-equality groups in Alabama to resist the decision. 

In 2015, commenting immediately after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling for a Federalist Society podcast, Eastman called it “surreal beyond belief” to believe the people who ratified the 14th Amendment would believe that it mandated “the redefinition of a core social institution that is both religiously and biologically grounded.”

Eastman has praised Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis, who tried to stop her county office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying  “She confronted what I call a Thomas More moment, and she’s demonstrated her saintliness in how she’s responded to this.”

Outside of marriage equality, Eastman has said that a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s decision to treat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a form of sex discrimination was an example of the “utter lawlessness” of the way “these agendas are being pushed through.”  Last July Eastman said that some gay rights activists “in their candid moments … have admitted that they want to destroy the church, and they want to destroy the family…”

A few months ago, Eastman reacted to Hillary Clinton’s address to the Human Rights Campaign in a radio interview in which he denounced the LGBT equality movement as “fascist” and claimed that it was promoting pedophilia:

This is not about anti-discrimination laws any more. This is about forcing people to bend the knee to an agenda to say things that are inherently immoral are in fact normal and moral … It’s a very fascist movement that forces a viewpoint on other people that disagree ... We’re finding challenges to age of consent rules because a good portion of this movement seeks to remove age of consent so they can have sex with teenage boys.

He claimed that the LGBT movement’s actual goal was not to achieve the right to marry but to destroy the institution of marriage, because the family is a bulwark against unlimited and omnipotent government.

Support for Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

In 2015, Eastman gave a speech at the Family Research Council defending Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act and saying he hoped the law — rejected by the country’s Supreme Court over a procedural issue — would come back “in short order.”

He cited as justification for the law President Mouseveni’s claims that “western groups” were trying to use the schools to recruit children into homosexuality.  Eastman said that the law’s provision for lifetime in prison was only for “aggravated homosexuality,” which he defined as “homosexual acts” by someone with HIV/AIDS or “homosexual acts with minors.” In reality, the law’s definition of “aggravated homosexuality” also included serial offenders. As he noted, the law included prison terms for someone who “counsels” a person into homosexuality, a provision that seemingly did not bother Eastman. The law would even have imposed a prison term of up to seven years for attempting “to commit the offence of homosexuality.” Eastman denounced American opposition to the bill as “cultural imperialism.”

Eastman also joined Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater as a speaker at a “National Family Conference” in Nairobi in 2015; the conference was sponsored by Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, a group that not only supports the country’s law criminalizing homosexual sexual activity, but fought to prevent LGBT groups from even being allowed to legally register as advocacy organizations.

Immigration as Invasion

Eastman has also become one of the most visible advocates for eliminating the 14th Amendment’s protection of birthright citizenship. Actually, Eastman believes there’s no need to change the Constitution or law in order to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, just a court decision to correct what he thinks is an erroneous interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

In December 2014, Eastman testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which he said violated the Constitution. Eastman rejects the idea that the administration’s actions reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion.  Obama, he said, “has taken it upon himself to drastically re-write our immigration policy, the terms of which, by constitutional design, are expressly set by the Congress.” 

Eastman has been at this for a long time. He testified before a House subcommittee in 2005 in favor of reconsidering birthright citizenship in the wake of 9/11, and he published a paper for the Heritage Foundation in 2006 urging Congress to assert its authority and make clear that children born to people who are not in the country legally are not considered citizens.

In a 2006 Federalist Society exchange, he said:

Our current non-enforcement policy has fostered "outlaw" communities of non-citizens amongst our midst, who not only work illegally, but who are bankrupting our social services systems and who, tragically, are preyed upon by trans-border thugs well aware that their victims will not report crimes for fear of deportation. This is no way to treat fellow human beings. Why should we expect that the new spate of amnesty proposals, whether denominated "guest worker" plans or something else, will not also continue the incentive for illegal immigration that the 1986 Act provided?

In that same Federalist Society Q&A, he noted that the Constitution requires the president to protect the country against invasion, adding, “We have been invaded by more than 10 million people, and it is the president's duty, not just right, to defend against that invasion.” He also challenged the notion of dual citizenship, calling it “self-contradictory” and saying “it has no place in our existing law.”

In 2011, he co-authored an article for a Federalist Society publication defending Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, writing that “Arizona was well within its rights to adopt SB 1070. Indeed, given the border lawlessness that Arizonans are facing, it is not a stretch to argue that the Arizona government may well have been duty-bound to take some such action.”

Church-State

Eastman is critical of more than a half century’s jurisprudence on church-state issues. He says that under the modern view of church-state separation “we completely destroy the foundation for our entire constitutional system.” He has argued that a state taxing people to support an official church, as some states did early in the nation’s history, was not all that coercive and, as we noted earlier, he believes it is wrong to interpret the 14th Amendment as applying the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the states.

Eastman champions an expansive reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in line with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling and backs the passage of additional state RFRAs and religious exemptions. He has joined Religious Right leaders in portraying Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis as a heroine for refusing to marry same-sex couples.

Anti-Union

Eastman, not surprisingly, supports right-wing attacks on unions. In a July 2015 blog post, Eastman argued that it is “time to drive a stake through the heart of mandatory dues.” Eastman noted that Justice Samuel Alito, writing in an earlier decision, essentially invited the kind of lawsuit that the Court has agreed to hear this term in the Friedrichs case, which conservatives hope the Supreme Court will use to dramatically weaken the power of public employee unions.

Constitutional Limits on Spending

Eastman has also argued that the country’s view of the Constitution’s Spending Clause has been wrong ever since the Supreme Court’s 1936 decision in United States v. Butler. He believes Congress does not have the constitutional authority to make appropriations for “internal improvements,” citing, among other things, President James Buchanan’s veto of a bill that would have granted public lands to states for the establishment of agricultural colleges.

In 2014 he joined the advisory council of the Compact for America, a group whose goal is to have the states propose and ratify a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution through an “Article V” convention. Under the proposal, Congress could only increase the debt limit with the approval of a majority of the state legislatures; any new sales or income taxes would require two-thirds approval of both houses of Congress.

Reproductive Rights

At a Federalist Society debate, Eastman referred to Roe v. Wade as one of the Supreme Court’s “grievous mistakes” — like its affirmation of the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality — to which he would not give deference.  At a Federalist Society panel from 2014 on the ACA’s contraception mandate, he argued that there is basically no distinction between individuals and the corporate structure when it comes to freedom of conscience, a view adopted by the Court majority in Hobby Lobby, which has opened a door to corporations claiming exemptions from generally applicable laws based on the religious beliefs of company owners, such as complying with the requirement that insurance provided for employees include coverage for contraception.  

 

Rubio Faith Staffer Eric Teetsel: Marco Just As Extreme As Ted Cruz

Waves of far-right evangelical leaders have endorsed Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, especially after asecret endorsement meeting in Texas in December. But Marco Rubio still draws support from plenty of conservative Christian leaders, and last month announced a “Religious Liberty Advisory Board” that includes some big names like California pastor Rick Warren.

Heading into the New Hampshire primary, Rubio’s Faith Outreach Director Eric Teetsel, a culture warrior in his own right, did an interview with the Christian Post in which he assured voters that Marco Rubio is every bit as far-right as Ted Cruz when it comes to the social issues that rile Religious Right activists.

Voting for Marco Rubio over Ted Cruz for president would not require evangelicals to compromise their Christian beliefs and values, the Rubio campaign's director of faith outreach, Eric Teetsel, asserted Thursday…

Although Cruz has identified himself as the most conservative candidate in the race and has also attempted to energize and unite the conservative Christian voting base, Teetsel told The Christian Post that there "are few, if any, substantive policy differences" between Cruz and Rubio when it comes to issues that conservative evangelicals care most about — marriage, religious liberty, abortion, judicial activism, educational choice and parental rights.

"The National Organization for Marriage calls Marco, 'a champion of marriage' and the Family Research Council's political arm recently gave him a 100 percent score," Teetsel stated in an email statement. "So, since there's no need to compromise one principle, the question is 'Who can win a general election?'"

"The answer is clear," Teetsel, the former director of the Manhattan Declaration, asserted. "Marco's winsome message and vision for a new American century appeals to citizens from across the political spectrum."

Indeed, Rubio’s rhetoric and positions are reliably far-right. He wants to outlaw abortion with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. He supports the First Amendment Defense Act, the Religious Right’s bill to legalize anti-gay discrimination. In January Teetsel told World Magazine that Rubio doesn’t believe marriage equality is settled law and thinks that the Constitution “provides a path to fix bad decisions: win elections, nominate judges who understand both the law and the limits of their office, and bring new cases before the courts that provide opportunity to get it right.”

In the Christian Post interview, Teetsel took on the core belief guiding Ted Cruz’s campaign strategy — that he can win purely by mobilizing right-wing base voters.

"Cruz argues he can win by appealing exclusively to hardcore conservatives. That's a myth that has been thoroughly refuted. Even if there's a chance it's true, why gamble?" Teetsel asked. "Ted Cruz is all about dividing people; Marco is about uniting all sorts of different people who share in common the hope that America will reclaim its place as the one place that makes it possible for anyone to flourish."

The Christian Post notes that in January “Teetsel sent out an email touting a quote by leading Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore that reads ‘I would say that Ted Cruz is leading the Jerry Falwell wing’ of evangelicals, while ‘Marco Rubio is leading the Billy Graham wing and Trump is leading in the Jimmy Swaggart wing.’"

The magazine reports that Rubio has received a grade of 94 from Heritage Action and a grade of 100 from FRC Action.

 

Ted Cruz Out To Reflect God’s Love, Punish Supreme Court for Marriage Equality Ruling

Ted Cruz, his father Rafael, and supporters like Glenn Beck and David Barton all believe that Cruz is on a divine mission to save America. As we have been reporting, Cruz’s campaign has been celebrating near-dailyendorsements from some of the most extreme characters in the Religious Right. Just before yesterday’s Republican presidential debate, the Focus on the Family-affiliated group CitizenLink released audio clips of conference calls the group has been holding with conservative candidates. The clips of Ted Cruz’s remarks include repeats of much of his standard campaign rhetoric, with a particular focus on the religious rhetoric Cruz has made central to his campaign. He said, for example, that a president who does not begin each day on his knees in prayer is not fit to be commander-in-chief.

On the CitizenLink call, Cruz reiterated his campaign’s foundational premise that he can win the White House not by appealing to some mushy middle but by promoting conservative values with a “joyful spirit” that will energize the right-wing base. “There are more of us than there are of them and if we simply stand up and vote our values we can turn this country around.” Cruz said his prayer for his campaign was not “God help us win,” but that “God’s love will be reflected and seen in how we conducted this campaign.”

Cruz didn’t show much love for the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, using it as a way to distinguish himself from other candidates he said were all too willing to “surrender” to the Court.

Well, this gay-marriage decision was really, for people of faith, what Ronald Reagan would call a time for choosing…A number of the other leading candidates in the Republican field, when the gay-marriage decision came down said, essentially, ‘It is the settled law of the land, we surrender, we move on.’ …I could not disagree with that statement more strongly.

Now, what have I done in response? I’ve introduced a constitutional amendment to protect and restore the authority of the states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman...I also introduced legislation in the Senate stripping the courts of jurisdiction over challenges to marriage, stripping the U.S. Supreme Court of jurisdiction over marriage. And I publicly called for a constitutional amendment imposing judicial retention elections on Supreme Court justices periodically to throw them out of office. If they are going to behave as lawless politicians, they need to be accountable to the people.

Marriage was ordained by God, not by the U.S. Supreme Court, not by Congress. And indeed, marriage as the union of one man and one woman long preceded the United States of America. And we need a president who will defend marriage and defend the Constitution and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Cruz claimed that “attacks on religious liberty” have been “horrific” and “growing” over the past seven years. “I believe 2016 will be a religious liberty election,” he said. On his first day as president, he said, he would tell all federal agencies that “the persecution of religious liberty” ends today. (It will be a busy day; he’ll also put an end to Common Core and launch an investigation of Planned Parenthood.)

Cruz called 2016 the most important election of our lifetime, warning that “we are at the edge of the cliff” and risk “losing the greatest country in the history of the world.”

But Cruz said he’s optimistic that conservatives can win and turn the country around. “I think the longest lasting legacy of Barack Obama will be a new generation of leaders in the Republican Party who defend free-market principles, who defend the Constitution, and who defend the Judeo-Christian values that built America into the shining city on a hill.”

Sen. Lankford SOTU Guest Everett Piper Denounces Opponents As Haters Of God

Marriage-refusing county clerk Kim Davis and her lawyer Mat Staver aren’t the only Religious Right figures who will be attending tonight’s State of the Union address. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, will be attending as a guest of Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, according to the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the university’s legal challenge to the Obama administration’s accommodation for religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations that object to the contraception coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

Piper has appeared on Glenn Beck’s show and David Barton’s radio show. And at a conference organized by anti-gay activist James Garlow last summer, Piper suggested that secularists and radical Islamists are working together, aided by President Barack Obama.

“For 67 years, we’ve disparaged dead, white, European males in our college classrooms,” he said. “Are we surprised that we now have a president whose first action was to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House and send it back to the British ambassador’s home? For 67 years, we’ve sent our kids off to sit under faculty who have panned a Judeo-Christian ethic and praised its antithesis. Are we surprised that we now have a White House that is seemingly more aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the PLO than it is Benjamin Netanyahu and Franklin Graham?”

Piper made similar remarks in October as the closing speaker for the World Congress of Families, a gathering of Religious Right activists from around the globe. In that speech, Piper also slammed gay rights activists and other liberals for “ideological fascism” and decried a “war against Christians” within the academy and the broader culture. He closed with an ideological prayer asking God to forgive America for a long list of sins, including “worshiping government more than God.” He asked, “Please rescue us from the ugly hell of our own making and give us liberty within the bounds of your law and free us from the bondage of our licentiousness.”

A week after the World Congress of Families wrapped up, Piper used his blog to slam WCF’s critics as haters of God.

The bold-faced duplicity of those condemning those who love the family is indeed hateful. Intolerance in the name of tolerance. Bullying while decrying bullying. Exclusion in the name of inclusion. Dumbing down the human being while arguing for human rights. Pretending to be pro-woman while using women as pawns and products. Hate under the banner of anti-hate… These ideas do not come from love, but rather from disdain: Disdain for children, disdain for family, and disdain for truth. Such ideas come from a hateful people who hate anyone who dares stand in their way of hating God.

 

Tony Perkins' Selective Posturing on Religious Liberty

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins’ self-important “State of the Family” address on Monday was not just about chaos and blood in the streets caused by marriage equality and other “confusion” about the definition of the family. It was also about religious liberty, and Perkins’ familiar charge that the “far left” wants to deny religious Americans both their freedom of speech and their freedom of religion:

“Desperate to preserve its power, the far left now seeks to label all of its critics as extremists or haters and aggressively seeks to silence all who oppose its agenda. But we should take heart even from this. Our opponents seek to limit our freedom of speech because they fear its power. They seek to restrain the expression of our convictions because they are unsure of the truth of theirs. The freedom of expression is the very essence of liberty. But there can be no liberty in America without religious liberty. In our hearts we know this to be true.”

America’s founders, said Perkins, “believed that the best account of our personal and civic duties comes not from the whims of the political class but from the transcendent truths of scripture itself.”

“It is easy to see why we now sail such dangerous seas. Many of our nation’s leading politicians and jurists believe that religion is a toxin in public life, something to be quarantined within the four walls of our churches. They want our culture stripped of the guidance of faith, the centrality of family, and the liberties that are our divine birthright. Not only will it be impermissible to publicly acknowledge the God who made us. It will be unlawful to act on our deepest understanding of Him and His commandments. Acting on conscience will be a bar to public service. It’ll be a reason to be fined or fired.

In his speech, Perkins declared, “Religious liberty must become a priority again within our foreign policy.”

The history of the last century is clear. Totalitarians of every stripe have made suppression of all religious freedom or the liberty of some religions the target of their regimes. Especially dangerous are those who feed on religious hatred. We must promote and defend religious liberty as a human right for all faiths to be able to live freely wherever they are and whoever they are. Why? Because advocating for religious liberty lets the oppressed throughout the world know that they have a friend in America. And, it sends a message to the terrorists and the tyrants as well. That knowledge bears long-term fruit for our own security. And frankly, it’s simply the right thing to do for a nation whose national motto is In God We Trust.”

Much of this statement, coming from someone else, would be unobjectionable. But coming from Perkins, it is jaw-droppingly hypocritical.

Perkins and his Family Research Council colleagues have not consistently advocated for religious liberty for people of all faiths. For example, when Religious Right groups were rallying opposition to the misnamed “Ground Zero Mosque,” FRC’s Ken Blackwell was among them. Perkins said just last month that banning Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. would not be imposing a religious test because “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion.” He has said that people are free to make their own theological choices, but that our nation was founded on “Judeo-Christian principles” and that “those who practice Islam in its entirety” will “destroy the fabric of a democracy.”

Retired Gen. Jerry Boykin, now FRC’s executive vice president, has also pushed the idea that Muslims do not deserve the protection of the First Amendment because Islam “is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian way of life.” On Bryan Fischer’s radio show in 2011 Boykin declared, “No mosques in America,” explaining, “A mosque is an embassy for Islam and they recognize only a global caliphate, not the sanctity or sovereignty of the United States.”

Perkins has even argued that Christians who support marriage equality for same-sex couples don’t have the same religious liberty protections as Christians like him because “true religious freedom” applies only to those with “orthodox religious viewpoints.” He has dismissed as “supposed Christians” those who support reproductive choice.

And Perkins has also criticized the military for accommodating “fringe religions” and suggested that it is not the government’s role “to try to put all religions on the same plane.”

In his remarks about religious freedom in the military, Perkins claimed that Boykin had been forced to withdraw from a West Point prayer breakfast “because of the pressure from atheist groups.” In reality, the most influential protest against Boykin’s appearing at West Point probably came from dozens of the military academy’s faculty and cadets, most of them Christians, who thought Boykin’s remarks painting the U.S. as waging a holy war against Islam were irresponsible and could threaten the lives of service members overseas.

Perkins also urged Congress to pass the co-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would give legal protection to those practicing anti-gay discrimination. Perkins called the bill “a first and a vital step” and he celebrated the fact that candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum have pledged to sign FADA in their first 100 days if the legislation makes it to their desk. 

Cruz Rallies Christian Right, Slams 'Secular Agenda' At Campaign Stop With James Dobson

At an Iowa campaign stop with influential Religious Right activist James Dobson yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz warned that people of faith have consented to “allow nonbelievers to elect our leaders,” and now a “secular agenda” bent on doing away with the Ten Commandments and stifling religious liberty is on the rise.

Cruz repeated to the audience in Winterset, Iowa, his insistence that an atheist would be unfit to be president , saying, “If you don’t begin every day on your knees asking God for His wisdom and support, I don’t believe you’re fit to do this job.”

He also repeated his assertion that Republicans lost the last two presidential elections because millions of evangelicals stayed at home. “I believe the key to winning in 2016 is very simple,” he said. “We have to bring back to the polls the millions of conservatives who stayed home, we have to awaken and energize the body of Christ.”

“You know,” he said, “we look at our federal government now, and we have a federal government that is waging a war on life, a war on marriage, a war on religious liberty. We have a federal government that is advancing a secular agenda that puts the ability of Bible-believing Christians to live our faith more and more in jeopardy and that is appeasing radical Islamic terrorism, in fact refuses even to acknowledge its name. And if you look at the federal government, you might say, ‘Why do we have government attacking life, attacking marriage, attacking faith, attacking religious liberty?’ Well, is it any wonder, when a majority of believers are staying home? If we allow nonbelievers to elect our leaders, we shouldn’t be surprised when our government doesn’t reflect our values.”

Cruz also doubled down on his criticism of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling , calling both it and the King v. Burwell ruling preserving the Affordable Care Act “fundamentally illegitimate” and “lawless.” He warned that if Hillary Clinton were to become president, the Supreme Court would “tear down our constitutional liberties fundamentally” by ruling against Ten Commandments monuments on public grounds and reversing the Heller decision, which found an individual right to bear arms. (When Cruz said that this meant “the government can make it a felony for you to own a firearm and protect your family,” an audience member yelled out, “Come and take it!”)

Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council who recently endorsed Cruz, also said he was very impressed by the candidate’s wife, Heidi Cruz, saying that “there has never in American history been a pro-life first lady” and that with her we “have a chance to get one this time.”

The Iowa conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts recorded the event. Cruz and Dobson discuss prayer about 2 minutes into the video; the “missing” evangelical vote about 6 minutes in; the Supreme court around 13 minutes in; and Heidi Cruz about 24 minutes in.

Political Operative David Lane: U.S. Must Choose Jesus or ‘Pagan Secularism’

Political operative David Lane, who has worked to get Religious Right leaders to rally around a single Republican presidential candidate (Ted Cruz is their man), and who is trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 election by getting 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for office, is fixated on the idea that the United States of America has a national mission to advance the Christian faith. In his latest diatribe at Charisma magazine, Lane writes:

It looks as if America has come to her kairos, her moment in time—to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.

As we begin the New Year, pastors must begin to lay the prayer covering for the spiritual awakening and resurrection of America. We are asking the 100,000 American Renewal Project pastors to begin and lead one-hour, weekly prayer services asking God for mercy for what we, Christians, have allowed in our once Christian nation.

Of course, “secular humanists” are high on Lane’s enemy list, but so are Christian scholars who challenge Lane’s reading of American history. One of them, John Fea, teaches at Messiah College in Pennsylvania and is the author of “Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction” — a highly regarded book on religion and American history. Fea has written critically about both Lane and David Barton, who also promotes a bogus “Christian nation” version of American history.

Lane goes after Fea in his Charisma article. In his response to Lane, Fea writes, “Lane implies that anyone who does not believe that America was founded as a specifically Christian nation is a pagan. He cannot fathom another, more responsible, Christian approach to this material.” Fea also takes on some of Lane’s specific historical claims.

 

A Baker’s Dozen Idiocies From Rafael Cruz’s Elect-My-Son-President Book

Rafael Cruz, father of presidential candidate Ted Cruz, has become a popular figure among Religious Right activists with his unhinged rhetoric. Rafael is now out with a new book designed to help his son get elected president. Right Wing Watch published a review of "A Time for Action" of “A Time for Action” on Monday.

In the book, Rafael Cruz compares the USA to the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which crashed into rocks when the captain steered it to close to shore. “America, too, is headed straight toward a perilous reef,” writes Cruz. “If we don’t make an immediate change of course, the dream of our Founding Fathers and many conservative Americans today will perish." Here are a few highlights:

  1. The Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran will make it “quite literally, the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”
  2. “If the left wing continues their stranglehold on public policy, the day will soon come when speaking out against gay marriage will be a punishable offense.”
  3. “Educational elites can now brainwash our students through federally mandated curriculum that extols socialism, globalism, and immorality from a secular humanist worldview.”
  4. “The time has come for pastors to again fearlessly preach toward the political landscape, just like their predecessors centuries ago. If they don’t, Satan will rule without opposition in our halls of legislation.”
  5. “Our government mandates that teachers affirm alternative, nonbiblical lifestyles, teach evolution as incontrovertible “fact,” and mock the notion that God created the heavens and earth.”
  6. “The Obama administration has intensified our progression into an age of lawlessness.”
  7. President Obama’s “version of social justice is nothing more than collectivism and creating a society dependent upon the government, as espoused by Karl Marx.”
  8. The Democratic Party platform “promotes an ungodly socialist agenda that is destroying America. And unfortunately, there are those in the Republican Party who aren’t much different.”
  9. “…the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual marriage is one of the biggest signs of our country’s moral degradation.”
  10. “In the future, questioning the sexual preferences of any prospective pastor may well become off-limits. If you do, you could be slapped with a civil rights discrimination lawsuit.”
  11. “Interestingly enough, although many people think otherwise, the concept of separation of church and state is found nowhere in either the Declaration of Independence of the Constitution or the United States of America.”
  12. America today “is tragically following the same path that Cuba did a half century ago.”
  13. “Our country stands at a precipice, and if another radical Democrat gets elected as chief executive, the future of America as we know it is in jeopardy. We cannot afford four or eight more years of the socialist policies that are destroying America at such a fast pace. If we stop fighting for God’s dream for America, the dream will die.”

Bonus from Ted Cruz’s epilogue: “If our nation’s leaders are elected by unbelievers, is it any wonder that they do not reflect our values? … If the body of Christ arises, if Christians simply show up and vote biblical values, we can restore our nation.”

Religious Right Leaders Head To Farris Wilks Ranch To Plot How To Make Ted Cruz President

As we have been reporting for several months, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has been consolidating support from Religious Right leaders by enthusiastically embracing their anti-gay, anti-choice views. The momentum shifted into high gear after a secret meeting on December 7 at which dozens of Religious Right leaders voted to back Cruz – and a flood of endorsements has followed.

Now, the Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger reports that the group will gather again a few days after Christmas “at a remote ranch in central Texas, where Cruz, his wife and several key financial backers will visit with some of the country’s most prominent evangelical leaders for private conversations and a public rally.”

The ranch is owned by Farris Wilks, who with his brother made billions in the fracking business and has since become a major funder of far-right, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-church-state separation organizations. The Wilks brothers have already given at least $15 million to the effort to elect Ted Cruz. Farris Wilks is also a pastor who portrays gays as child predators and mocks environmentalism. He preached after Barack Obama’s re-election, “I do believe that our country died that Tuesday night, to all that’s honorable, all that’s good, that’s ambitious, and that has justice.”

The Wilks brothers have also been big funders of Christian-nation zealot David Lane, a political operative who has been working hard to get conservative pastors to run for office and to convince Christian conservatives to rally behind a single Republican candidate. Lane is driven by the desire to get the reins of government in the hands of people who share his belief that America was founded by and for Christians and has a national mission to advance the Christian faith.

Lane and other Religious Right leaders are now publicly trashing Marco Rubio for not working hard enough to get conservative evangelical support.

 

Religious Right: Bible Dictates Laws & Economic Policy But Islam Not a Religion Because It Is A Political & Economic System

Donald Trump’s call to bar all Muslims from entering the country was widely recognized as an appeal for explicit religious discrimination and generated significant pushback.  But many of Trump’s right-wing defenders have turned to an argument that has long bounced around Religious Right circles: that Muslims are not entitled to the religious liberty protections of the First Amendment because Islam is somehow not a religion. A few years ago, for example, retired Lt. Gen Jerry Boykin called Islam “a totalitarian way of life” that “should not be protected under the First Amendment.”

At this week’s Republican presidential debate, Rick Santorum explained why he believes Islam is not protected under the First Amendment, an argument made repeatedly by the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer. Here’s Santorum:

The fact of the matter is, Islam is different. I know this is going to come as a shock to a lot of people, and I mean this sincerely. Islam is not just a religion. It is also a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, it is also a civil government, it is also a form of government. And, so, the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.

Conservative columnist and radio host Andrew McCarthy has similarly defended Trump’s comments, saying that Islam is not merely a religion because it “has ambitions to be more than a religion, that is to say that it is an ideological, sweeping system that does not recognize a division between spiritual life on the one hand and political and civic life on the other.”

Back in September, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins defended similar comments by Ben Carson:

“Religious freedom and our liberty is ordered liberty under the Constitution,” Perkins said. “And as Dr. Caron pointed out, and I know this is driving the left crazy, that Islam is not just a religion, Islam is an economic system, it is a judicial system, it is a compressive system which is incompatible with the Constitution. That’s what Dr. Carson said and he happens to be correct.”

More recently, Perkins defended Trump with a dubiously specific statistic, saying that “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion — the rest is a combination of military, judicial, economic and political system.” Televangelist Pat Robertson also said this month that people should not view Islam as a religion but rather a “political system masquerading as a religion.”

Wait a minute. Aren’t these the same people who repeatedly insist that the Bible is the final authority on everything, from laws regulating personal relationships to economic and tax policy, and environmental protection? Anti-marriage-equality activists have insisted that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling was in violation of “God’s law” and therefore “illegitimate.” 

David Barton, an oft-discredited “historian” and Republican Party activist who is currently heading up a Ted Cruz super PAC, argues that the Bible opposes minimum wage laws, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, any progressive form of taxation and even net neutrality. He says the Constitution came right out of the Bible. If you applied Tony Perkins’ calculations to David Barton’s Bible, what percentage would come up as religion?

Many Religious Right leaders have embraced Seven Mountains dominionism, which is grounded in the belief that the right kind of Bible-believing Christians are meant to control all the important spheres of culture, including government, business, education, and entertainment. For example, the American Pastors Network’s Sam Rohrer says this:

Government leaders are charged with wielding the Word of God as an instrument of Justice, promoting God’s moral law as the foundation of right and wrong, encouraging those who do well biblically, and executing judgment on those who break the law.

Along those lines, three Republican presidential candidates, including current Iowa frontrunner Ted Cruz, recently joined a “religious freedom” rally organized by a pastor who argues that the Bible requires the government to execute gay people.

And don’t forget David Lane, whose American Renewal Project is mobilizing conservative pastors to get more involved in politics — and who argues that America was founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith, and that the Bible should be a primary textbook in public schools.

So, a thought for Religious Right leaders: If you are going to argue for stripping Muslims of their First Amendment religious liberty protections based on your interpretation of Islam as an enterprise that is more political and ideological than religious, you may have to trim your own political sails quite a bit. Either that, or quit pretending you are proponents of religious freedom, and admit that you, like Bryan Fischer, believe the First Amendment applies only to Christians, or, like Tony Perkins, that gay-supporting Christians don’t deserve the same legal protections because a “true religious freedom” has to “come forth from religious orthodoxy.” Just don’t try to pretend your definition of “religious freedom” owes anything to Thomas Jefferson or the First Amendment. 

Jesse Lee Peterson: Only 'Traitors' Like Obama Disagree With Trump On Muslim Immigration

Conservative activist Jesse Lee Peterson is coming to the defense of Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, writing in WorldNetDaily over the weekend that only “traitors” like President Obama disagree with Trump’s plan.

Peterson laments that just seven years after the 9/11 attacks, Americans elected “a man with a Muslim name and sympathies” who “sides with the enemy.”

“Knowing the administration’s desire to overrun us with Muslims, Trump’s position makes a whole lot of sense,” he writes … unless, of course, you’re a traitor.

For many American citizens, the murder of nearly 3,000 of our own on 9/11 by Muslim fanatics was a wake-up call. The naïve way many of us had viewed the world melted under shattering reality in the space of one chilling morning.

Unfortunately, after the immediate shock passed, most went back to sleep and stayed asleep. Just seven years later, a man with a Muslim name and sympathies, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected president, and four years later, was re-elected. Now after Paris and San Bernardino, it couldn’t be clearer that he sides with the enemy. God help us.

Paris and San Bernardino brought some of the post-9-11 reality back to us – that Muslims represent a clear and present danger. It was another wake-up call for some, and for others, another opportunity to deny their country’s need for self-preservation by siding with the enemy.

The deniers are cowards – and traitors.

After San Bernardino, Americans rejected Barack Hussein Obama’s call for gun control and massive Muslim immigration. The people instead clamored for Muslim control.

In this environment, one man, Donald Trump, dared to voice what was on the minds of millions of Americans, and called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., until we can get a grip on our nation’s security. Knowing the administration’s desire to overrun us with Muslims, Trump’s position makes a whole lot of sense.

Unless you’re a Quran-believing Muslim, liberal or RINO Republican.

This all points to the insanity of today’s world, where Muslim savages follow a seventh-century madman who grew up without his father, and waged bloody jihad against Jews, Christians and other “infidels.” And yet, almost all of our leaders – instead of standing against the atrocities committed by members of the “religion of peace” – are actually supporting their reign of terror by doing nothing to stop it. Worse, they’re actively working against the few who – like Donald Trump – are standing up for the American people.

They are cowards, and they are traitors.

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