Religious Liberty

“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.

Trump Spox: Muslim Ban 'Not Religious Discrimination' Because Any Muslim Can 'Flip Into A Jihadist'

Katrina Pierson, a national spokeswoman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, addressed concerns about Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim immigration on Friday by saying such a ban would not be “religious discrimination” because you don’t “have the freedom to kill Americans just because it’s based on your religion.” She added that any Muslim “can just flip into a jihadist” and that Americans victimized by Islamist terrorism are now being “criminalized.”

“It’s absolutely not religious discrimination,” Pierson told One American News Network’s Liz Wheeler , because one of the things that we keep hearing is that it’s not constitutional, it’s un-American, etc., etc., freedom of religion. But I have to tell you, I’m not sure that anyone in this country agrees that you have the freedom to kill Americans just because it’s based in your religion.”

Pierson then linked Trump’s proposal to the American lives lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “But more importantly,” she said, "this was a ban simply on immigration coming in as a Muslim. We all know that Muslims are not hostile, all of them. However, we also know that they are killing Americans in the name of Islam and we have to take that seriously. And what I don’t understand is that since 9/11, we have the Iraq War, we have the fight in Afghanistan, that’s 10,000 American lives, and we still have a porous border, we haven’t reformed the visa system, and just when we had the San Bernardino attacks, he was radicalized for a couple of years and she came in on a visa and passed with flying colors.”

“I’m not quite sure why there’s this real big push to sort of cover the hostility that comes within the faith of Islam,” Pierson added later in the interview. “We have two sides of this coin. We have the ‘Islam is a religion of peace,’ but, at the same time, all of the sudden the same people can just flip into a jihadist. We have to figure this out one way or another because one thing we can no longer continue to do is allow Americans to be attacked on their own soil and then be criminalized afterwards.”

Perkins: 'Only 16 Percent Of Islam Is A Religion' So Immigration Ban Not A 'Religious Test On Muslims'

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins jumped into the debate over Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. yesterday, citing the same shoddy Center for Security Policy poll as Trump to say that “we shouldn’t be embarrassed to say that we oppose those who want to come to the United States to destroy it.”

In an email to FRC members last night with the subject line “How Do You Solve a Problem like Sharia?,” Perkins did not mention Trump’s proposal directly, but alluded to the “national discussion” about “who should and shouldn’t be in the country.”

Warning that unlike previous generations today’s immigrants don’t want to “come to America and assimilate,” Perkins declared that the U.S. may soon “lose our identity in the shadow of muliticulturalism.”

He then addressed the debate about Muslim immigration, writing, “What most people either don't realize or willfully ignore is that only 16 percent of Islam is a religion — the rest is a combination of military, judicial, economic, and political system. Christianity, by comparison, isn’t a judicial or economic code — but a faith. So to suggest that we would be imposing some sort of religious test on Muslims is inaccurate. Sharia is not a religion in the context of the First Amendment.”

How Do You Solve a Problem like Sharia?

The word "contentious" doesn't begin to describe the American immigration debate over the last two decades. But in recent days, the lines are being redrawn -- and with it, the national conversation. The focus is no longer being dominated by illegal immigration south of Texas but "legal" immigration coming from across the Atlantic, where a bold new enemy is exposing weaknesses in the West's tolerance.

Attacks in Paris, followed by a mass shooting in California have made believers of Americans, who doubted that radicalized Muslims were one of the greatest threats to our nation. Now, with President Obama offering to throw open the door to more Syrian refugees, more voters from both parties are ready to put the brakes on the process until a better, safer vetting protocol is in place.

As the national discussion turns to immigration, people are starting to stake out positions on who should and shouldn't be in the country. But first, we need to consider one of the unfortunate realities -- in America and elsewhere -- which is that the purpose of immigration has changed. It used to exist for people who wanted to come to America and assimilate. Now, in a dramatic shift from even our grandparents' generation, the "sensitivity" and "diversity" doctrine of the modern age is suggesting that we create cultural enclaves, where outsiders come to our country and live as if they never left home.

That doesn't work, as Europe will tell you. Instead, we lose our identity in the shadow of multiculturalism. It's happened in France, and it's happening in Britain. Leaders are learning a painful message that if you tiptoe around the global realities, you'll pay for it. If people want to live in America -- including Muslims -- they need to embrace our Constitution and our culture. Others have said in less artful ways what conservatives have been warning for years: there is no such thing as coexistence between Sharia law and our constitutional republic. That isn't religious prejudice, but an ideological reality.

What most people either don't realize or willfully ignore is that only 16 percent of Islam is a religion -- the rest is a combination of military, judicial, economic, and political system. Christianity, by comparison, isn't a judicial or economic code -- but a faith. So to suggest that we would be imposing some sort of religious test on Muslims is inaccurate. Sharia is not a religion in the context of the First Amendment. Under the framework proposed by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Santorum, America wouldn't vet refugees based on religion but an ideology that's incompatible with American liberty. "I've proposed actual concrete things [like eliminating the visa lottery system] and immigration law that would have -- not the effect of banning all Muslims, but a lot of them," Santorum explained.

The bottom line is this: the U.S. Constitution is an agreement between people about how they'll be governed. What good is it if people immigrate to America with the sole purpose of undermining that contract? We shouldn't be embarrassed to say that we oppose those who want to come to the United States to destroy it. And while most Muslims are not radicalized, Sharia certainly encourages it. Based on polling from the Center for Security Policy, that's the system most would choose. The majority of Muslims in America believe they "'should have the choice of being governed by Sharia [law].' Sharia authorizes such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won't convert, beheadings, and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women."

In America, we have freedom under the construct of ordered liberty. Even the Wall Street Journal struggles with the clash of these ideologies. "Certainly Islam and the America way of life are compatible in as much as America is capable of welcoming Muslims who are not Islamic supremacists. On the other hand, it's always struck us that categorical statements to the effect that Islam [is peaceful] are far more hortatory than empirical -- which is to say that there is a gap between Islam as it actually exists and Islam as...President Obama would like it to be. How wide that gap is, and how dangerous, we do not know." Nor, I would argue, should we risk the future of our nation to find out.

CBN's David Brody Urges Trump To Go All In With Attack On Islam, Quran

We have been critical of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody for his fawning coverage of right-wing political figures and for acting as publicity agent for Christian-nation activist David Lane.  Turns out Brody was just warming up.

Yesterday, CBN's David Brody tweeted his admiration for Donald Trump’s “bravery” — later amended to “guts” and “moxie” — for arguing that the U.S. should stop all Muslims from entering  the country. And today, Brody takes his Trump promotion to a whole new level, setting aside his battered “journalism” hat and offering Trump advice on campaign strategy.

Brody taking a turn as a Trump political operative is less surprising than the content of his advice. Brody suggests — actually it’s more like pleading — that Trump turn his political campaign into a theological attack on Islam and its Holy Scripture, saying that “if Trump is going to come out with a statement like he did about all Muslims, then he might as well go for the whole enchilada, which is explaining the underlying theological problems with Islam and the Quran.”

Brody says Trump has “a real opening” to show leadership and “shed light in this area” the way he has on immigration.

And when it comes to evangelicals, Trump has a real opportunity here to thoughtfully delve into the taboo issues of what is in the Quran: that is, Sharia Law and Jihad. But it can’t be just shock value on stage. It can't be just for huge applause lines. To resonate with evangelicals, it will have to be deeper than that. He can forge a deeper connection with evangelicals if he’ll have the courage to be a truth-teller on the core issue, which lies in the teachings of the Quran. If he makes it about just banning Muslims into America then that is shortsighted and he will lose politically. But if he turns this into a movement to get Islamic leaders to denounce Sharia and Jihad (concepts that are in their own book) and moves the ball down the field in that regard, then he’ll resonate with evangelicals on this issue.

But Brody makes it clear that Muslims are not the real audience:

I'm not saying Islamic leaders will be listening to Trump on this because of his past statements but evangelicals are listening and they want to hear the unvarnished truth about the concerns regarding Islam spoken without a filter. Trump has no problem speaking without a filter, that's for sure.

The separation of church and state, which protects religious liberty in America, has taken plenty of hits from the Religious Right in recent decades. And we already know that Trump cares nothing for respectful pluralism or public discourse. That may be why it seems so shocking that Brody is urging Trump to ramp up his already rank religious bigotry. Brody’s call to turn our already divisive political climate into an explicit Holy War is an idea whose awful, terrible, badness cannot be overstated.

Tim Wildmon: People Think Obama's A Muslim Because He 'Identifies More With Islam Than Any Other Religion'

In a column for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on Sunday, American Family Association president Tim Wildmon speculated that a large number of Americans believe that President Obama is secretly a Muslim because “he is always so sensitive about criticism of Islam” and “clearly … identifies more with Islam than any other religion ‘for all practical purposes.’” This, Wildmon wrote, explains why the president “defends Islam any chance he gets.”

Wildmon went on to warn readers to be wary of their Muslim neighbors because terrorists “often blend into western countries well because an essential part of jihad is to deceive the infidels into believing you are a ‘nice guy’ until the day you are ready to strike.”

Given this strategy, he asked, “how in the world are Americans supposed to tell the good Muslims from the bad Muslims?”

According to a September CNN poll, 29 percent of the general American public believes that he is. Every time there is an act of Islamic jihad like in San Bernardino, California, this week and Obama pretends there is no connection to Islam and terrorism it only causes more people to consider this possibility.

Why he is always so sensitive about criticism of Islam? My view is clearly Obama identifies more with Islam than any other religion “for all practical purposes.” This would explain why he defends Islam any chance he gets. In fact, there were news reports on Thursday that his administration was putting pressure on the FBI not to label what happened in California “terrorism” despite all the evidence mounting that points to the fact that it was. Evidence like building bombs in their garage, subscribing to jihadi materials, etc.

It bears repeating that while all Muslims are not terrorists, almost without exception all the terrorists are Muslims. Why is that? There is rarely any context given to what is going on with the jihad movement wreaking havoc around the world. The news media just moves from one attack to the next. Many westerners are ignorant of why these people continue to do what they do. And if they are indeed perverting Islam – and Obama and others say that they are – then tell us exactly how and call on the true Islamic leaders and countries of the world to please stand up and join those of us trying to defeat these “radicals.” I’ve not heard Obama one time call for Muslim leaders to take the lead on confronting this ideology that has “hijacked” their religion.

Those committed to Islamic jihad are not crazy people and they often blend into western countries well because an essential part of jihad is to deceive the infidels into believing you are a “nice guy” until the day you are ready to strike. That is what happened with Farook. In fact, the L.A. Times interviewed some who worked with him and here is what they wrote: “Co-workers told The Times they were shocked to hear Farook’s name linked to the shooting. Two who were in the restroom when the bullets began to fly said he was quiet and polite, with no obvious grudges.” They also described him as “very religious.”

So given how these jihadists operate, as we saw in Boston, Chattanooga and other places – how in the world are Americans supposed to tell the good Muslims from the bad Muslims?

Maybe President Obama will call a conference of world-wide leaders to condemn jihad and hold the event in Mecca. He just did that in Paris to combat climate change. Maybe he will do that and rally the Islamic world to fight this jihadi ideology within its own societies. Yeah. Maybe…

David Lane Teams Up With Washington Times To Promote 'Lordship' Of Jesus

We’ve written before that the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody acts as a virtual publicity agent for Christian-nation political strategist David Lane, rewarding exclusive access to Lane’s American Renewal Project's political gatherings with fawning coverage. Now Brody is promoting another Lane project, “Jesus in the Public Square,” undertaken with the right-wing Washington Times newspaper.

“Today’s secular driven society seems intent on erasing the rich Christian history and influence in our country,” reports CBN, setting Lane up to make his oft-repeated claim that America was founded by and for Christians. The project began, Lane says, with a trip to a Washington, D.C., bookstore:

"You couldn't find a Christian book with a flashlight. And it hit me again, isn't this awful? A nation founded by people on a religious mission, The Mayflower Compact, for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith, and in the nation's capital and you can't find a book or Jesus anywhere," Lane remarked.

"If the Lord does it, we're going to put Jesus right in the middle of the table in Washington, D.C. He will defend himself," Lane continued.

It’s often said the Lord works in mysterious ways, in this case through the Washington Times, whose management created a "Jesus in the Public Square" section for the newspaper’s website, which includes a daily “5 religion stories worth your time” feature. Brody reports that “biblical economics” is a popular topic.

The section is overseen by Scott Lamb of Reformation Press, whose thinking seems to be clearly in line with dominionists like Lane:

“Jesus in the Public Square at The Washington Times hopes to talk about and dialogue with people to show them that Jesus Christ and his lordship is a universal theme and they should submit to that,” Lamb told CBN News.

Brody says Lane believes the name of the feature “reminds us that all truth is God’s truth.  And for America to change course the people need to hear His word in a desperate way.” Says Lane, "God is in the business of resurrection. I believe there's going to be a resurrection of America. Literally."

 

Ryan Anderson Takes Break From War On Marriage Equality To Target Nondiscrimination Laws

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson is one of the leading voices of the movement opposed to full legal equality for LGBT people. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, he rushed out a book designed to be a road map for a continuing culture war to resist and overturn marriage equality.

This week, he published another broadside against the LGBT movement — this one a Heritage Foundation “backgrounder” making the case that laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are unnecessary and “threaten freedom.” Given that Anderson is actively arguing for a generational culture war against marriage equality, it is somewhat difficult to take seriously the concern stated in his new paper that nondiscrimination laws “risk becoming sources of social tension rather than unity.”

Echoing the language of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Anderson starts by saying, “All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination,” adding, “but sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws are not the way to achieve that goal.” His claimed opposition to unjust discrimination may sound promising but, like the bishops, Anderson suggests that moral judgments about homosexual behavior are always legitimate justifications for discrimination.

Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities that people should accept instead of resist. Such views are inherently reasonable, even as people continue to disagree about them.

SOGI laws, he says, “do not protect equality before the law” but “grant special privileges.”

Anderson makes a libertarian anti-regulatory argument, charging that SOGI laws “expand state interference in labor markets, potentially discouraging economic growth and job creation,” though he offers no evidence that nondiscrimination laws have that economic impact.  (A 2015 study by a Colorado-based think tank found no evidence that anti-discrimination laws hurt small business growth.) Anderson says such laws “chip away at the at-will employment doctrine that has made the American labor market so much stronger than European labor markets.”

Anderson argues instead for “liberty under law,” saying employers should be allowed to fire employees for virtually any reason, and insists that nondiscrimination laws make that harder to do by making employers subject to legal action for violating those laws. Under Anderson’s conception of liberty under law, businesses as well as charities and civic associations “would be generally free to operate by their own values.” He argues that the free market will take care of problems with unjust discrimination:

Any business in the United States that posted a “no gays allowed” sign would soon find the power of public opinion expressed in the marketplace intolerably costly, without any need for the government to weigh in.

While that might be the reaction in gay-friendly locales, it is not hard to imagine pressure being applied the other way in some conservative communities, especially those where local churches and anti-marriage-equality activists have taken up Anderson’s charge to wage a long-term campaign to “bear witness to the truth” within a culture that he says has been told a lie about marriage.

Anderson’s 15-page paper summarizes its key points thusly:

  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws pose serious problems for free markets and contracts, free speech and religious liberty, and the health of our culture and pluralism.
  • SOGI laws threaten Americans with liability for alleged “discrimination” based on subjective identities, not objective traits.
  • SOGI laws mandate bathroom and locker room policies that undermine common sense in the schoolhouse and the workplace. They expand state interference in labor, housing, and commerce.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity are radically different from race and should not be elevated to a protected class in the way that race is.
  • Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities.
  • Market competition can provide nuanced solutions that are superior to coercive, one-size-fits-all government SOGI policy.

Anderson describes SOGI laws, including the proposed federal Equality Act, as if they are a secretive, nefarious plot by the LGBT movement:

Activist groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—an influential, sophisticated, and lavishly funded LGBT -activist organization—are pushing SOGI laws on unsuspecting citizens at the federal, state, and local levels.

First, it takes brass for Anderson to describe HRC as “lavishly funded” from his perch at the Heritage Foundation, whose 2013 income topped $112 million, with its political arm Heritage Action bringing in another $8.8 million — together more than double the combined income of HRC and its educational arm. Heritage has assets of well over $200 million and its already massive complex on Capitol Hill is in the midst of a major expansion. Lavishly funded, indeed.

Second, laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity are not being pushed invisibly “on unsuspecting citizens.” They are the result of decades of hard-fought advocacy by LGBT people and their allies. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws against discrimination in housing or on the job and almost as many have bans on discrimination in public accommodations. Protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are also in place in dozens of cities and counties.

Anderson, of course, does not mention that more than two-thirds of Americans – 69 percent – support laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination in workplaces, housing, and public accommodation, according to a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Even 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants support workplace nondiscrimination laws. “In fact,” reports PRRI, “fully three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans incorrectly believe workplace discrimination laws are already on the books.” In addition, 60 percent of Americans oppose allowing a small business owner to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs. 

Nevertheless, nondiscrimination protections are being actively fought by opponents of equality. Anderson praises Houston voters who recently overturned the city’s equal rights ordinance after a brutally bigoted campaign centered on the groundless, inflammatory charge that the law would give child molesters an open door to attack children in public bathrooms. Anderson’s paper raises similar “privacy and safety” concerns and says that allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms would defy “common sense.” What actually defies common sense is legislation that has been proposed in some states requiring transgender people to use only bathrooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth, which would mean requiring bearded trans men to use women’s restrooms.

Anderson devotes substantial time to criticizing what he calls a “false analogy” between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, wrongly claiming that such analogies are the primary justification for SOGI laws. In reality, advocates for LGBT equality have been pushing for legal protections against discrimination for many years, well before the organized marriage equality campaign of the past decade or two.  Anti-discrimination laws protect people on many grounds other than race, including religion, gender, disability, and marital status. They are not grounded in an analogy to the brutal history of race in America but in the principles of constitutional and civic equality.

Anderson repeatedly claims that nondiscrimination laws are vague and overly broad and do not make clear what actions might constitute discrimination. But in many, if not most, cases, sexual orientation and/or gender identity protections are added to existing civil rights laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and a range of other characteristics. Anderson does not explain why there should be any greater confusion about what constitutes discriminatory actions when applied to sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Marco Rubio Hires Culture Warrior Eric Teetsel as Faith Outreach Director

Largely unnoticed in the media coverage of the Republican presidential primary this week was Marco Rubio’s hiring of a major millennial anti-gay, anti-choice culture warrior. Eric Teetsel, who has been executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, has been hired to be Rubio’s faith outreach director. One who took notice was right-wing activist and pundit Erick Erickson, who gushed over the “huge and impressive hire.”

Where other candidates are hiring folks from the dying “Moral Majority” coalitions of the past, Eric Teetsel is plugged into those power centers, but has transcended them. He’s of a more youthful generation of Christian evangelicals who respects past contributions, but is also focused on the future and not nursing past grievances.

Teetsel is, indeed, well plugged in if not as well known to the public as his more visible counterpart at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Anderson. Like Anderson, Teetsel is part of the anti-equality crowd that orbits Robert George, a co-author of the Manhattan Declaration and a founder of the National Organization for Marriage. And like George and Anderson, Teetsel has written a book about (one man, one woman) marriage. The acknowledgments section of his book reads like a Who’s Who of the Religious Right, including George, Anderson, Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, Mark Tooley and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

And, as Igor Babic noted at the Huffington Post this week, Teetsel has also been a vocal part of the Religious Right chorus denouncing the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, complaining that the court “has bestowed its imprimatur to homosexuality as both an identity and a way of life.” Teetsel wrote:

"A significant cultural impediment has been removed, and so sin will spread. This is regrettable because sin, of course, leads to suffering. As our LGBT neighbors continue to experience the ravages of their sin, will anyone be there to explain to them its cause?"

The Manhattan Declaration brings right-wing Catholics together with their evangelical counterparts to advance their shared strategic goal of portraying opposition to LGBT equality, abortion and contraception in religious liberty terms. Signers and promoters of the Manhattan Declaration compare themselves to martyrs and pledge civil disobedience:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

Teetsel has appeared at numerous Religious Right political gatherings and shows up in Rick Santorum’s “documentary” about the “erosion” of religious liberty in America. More notably, he spoke at the recent World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City, which honored an activist who defends African laws that punish gays with long jail terms. In fact, Teetsel is listed in the WCF program as a member of the “SWAT Team” charged with “Strategic Planning for the Future” along with that activist, Theresa Okafor, and other anti-gay and anti-choice leaders from around the world.

Teetsel’s hiring is almost certainly a better reflection of Rubio’s commitment to anti-gay culture warriors than his much-ballyhooed endorsement by billionaire Paul Singer, who has backed gay causes but seems more interested in what Rubio can do for the profitability of his vulture capitalism.

'Death Penalty For Gays' Literature At Right-Wing Conference

Phillip Kayser is among the several speakers joining Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa this weekend, and as we've reported, he, along with the conference's chief organizer, Kevin Swanson, has called on the government to execute gay people. Kayser's views are so extreme that back in the 2012 election, Ron Paul's campaign tried to cover up his endorsement.

However, it seems that in today's GOP, calling for the execution of gay people isn't beyond the pale.

At the conference, where he is giving two speeches on how local officials and others can defy the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision, Kayser distributed the very pamphlet calling for the death penalty for gay people that caused a stir back when he endorsed Paul.

In the pamphlet, “Is The Death Penalty Just?,” Kayser unsurprisingly concludes that the death penalty is in fact just, and lists homosexuality among the offenses deserving of capital punishment. Ironically for a "religious liberties" summit, he also claims that the government should treat "breaking the Sabbath," "blasphemy and cursing God publicly," "publicly sacrificing to other gods" and "apostasy" as death penalty crimes as well.

He writes that government officials are "subject to Biblical statutes and judgments," claiming that "Christians should advocate the full implementation of all God's civil penalties in every age.... Every Old Testament statue continues on the books, and without those statutes, we could not have a consistent ethnical standard." Even "pagan" nations are obliged to follow biblical law, he writes, as "God held gentile kings accountable to these civil laws."

Kayser believes that the government should execute murderers, among whom he includes abortion providers: "What could be more pro-life than having the state pass laws establishing a certain date after which all doctors who continue to perform abortions will be executed? Certainly, a handful of doctors might be killed [pro-death for killers], but think of the millions of little lives that would be saved!"

He writes that the death penalty should also apply to those who commit acts of blasphemy; apostasy; breaking the Sabbath; sorcery and witchcraft; kidnapping; rape; adultery; prostitution; bestiality; and of course, homosexuality.

But don't worry, Kayser has good news for the gays who rather not be stoned to death or get "thrown off a cliff," methods he mentions as biblically approved ways to execute someone.

While "these crimes are so heinous that they deserve death in God's eyes," he writes, with cases "of sexual sins, people who kept these things to themselves could not be prosecuted because it would require two or three witnesses (depending on judicial discretion), the pressing of charges by a victim-citizen, the exclusion of government from spying, sting operations, etc., and other checks and balances."

Essentially, Kayser says that the government should put gay people to death, but only if they get caught.

"Even after a society implemented Biblical law and made homosexuality a crime, execution would be rare," he explains, because "the civil government could not round them up." What a relief!

"Only those who were prosecuted by citizen-victims could be punished, and the punishment could take a number of forms, analogous to the flexibility in dealing with adultery — which ranged all the way from forgiveness, to divorce, to death," he continues. "Some people characterize this as a victimless crime since homosexuals cannot get married. But there are plenty of circumstances (homosexual rape, homosexual incest, homosexual death threats against politicians, etc.) where victims might be motivated to bring charges."

Kayser writes that "natural knowledge" endorses the view that homosexuality is "worthy of death."

"It is not just the sinfulness of homosexuality that is known, but also the justice of the death penalty for homosexuality," he said. "The reason men have an innate sense of justice is because God's law reflects not only His holiness but also His justice and goodness (Rom. 7:12). Romans 13 says that magistrates are subject to all three."

And remember, this is the kind of literature being promoted at a "religious liberty" conference.

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