Religious Liberty

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.

Michael Brown Joins List of Religious Right Endorsements for Ted Cruz

In August, we asked whether Ted Cruz was winning the Christian Nation primary, with fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks pumping $15 million into a pro-Cruz super PAC and political operative David Lane promoting Cruz’s anti-Planned Parenthood efforts. In September, Religious Right “historian” David Barton was tapped to take over a Cruz super PAC, and CNN reported that top officials of Online for Life are “playing a growing role in the super PACs backing Ted Cruz.” Yesterday, Glenn Beck declared that Cruz “was truly raised up for this purpose at this time.”

Now Cruz has announced the endorsement of another Religious Right activist, Michael Brown, a North Carolina preacher and author of “Revolution! The Call to Holy War.” Brown participated in the anti-gay “Stand4Truth” conference that was held as a lead-in to the World Congress of Families last week.

Brown is scheduled to appear, along with David and Jason Benham and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, at a Cruz-organized “religious liberty” rally at Bob Jones University on November 14. As we noted a few weeks ago, “the ‘religious liberty’ Bob Jones is most famous for defending was its long insistence that its segregationist policies were mandated in the Bible.”

Brown has already been portraying marriage equality as a dire threat to religious freedom in America. Back in June, when the Supreme Court released its decision affirming marriage equality nationwide, Brown wrote a snarky note to Justice Anthony Kennedy to thank him “for confirming what we have been saying for many years now, namely, that gay activism is the principle threat to our freedoms of speech, religion and conscience.” Brown also thanked Kennedy “for bringing unprecedented religious persecution to the shores of our nation,” adding, “Despite the darkness and pain ahead, this will only cause the Church to wake up and grow stronger.” 

Cruz, Huckabee And Jindal Joining 'Liberty' Conference Promoting Christian Reconstruction And Biblical Patriarchy

As we’ve reported, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are scheduled to speak at a “religious liberties” conference in Iowa this weekend organized by pastor and homeschooling activist Kevin Swanson. It’s bad enough that presidential candidates would want to associate with Swanson, whose record of wildly anti-gay, anti-women statements we have exhaustively chronicled. But the candidates will also be rubbing shoulders with an array of activists representing the extreme Christian Reconstructionist and Christian Patriarchy fringes of the Religious Right.

Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal likely agreed to join the conference because of its ostensible “religious liberty” theme, which has increasingly become the Religious Right’s unifying battle cry. Speakers include David and Jason Benham, who have become popular martyr figures on the right-wing speaking circuit after we reported on their vicious anti-gay activism and they lost a planned HGTV reality show; Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon couple who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in what Aaron later described as a battle with Satan; and Sgt. Phillip Monk, whose tale of being persecuted by a lesbian superior in the Air Force has been roundly debunked.

Interestingly, one actual victim of anti-Christian persecution, Naghmeh Abedini, whose pastor husband is imprisoned in Iran, was scheduled to speak but has since been removed from a list of confirmed speakers.

Behind this “religious liberty” veneer, however, is a gathering of some of the most extreme segments of the Religious Right, including those whose idea of “religious freedom” is the freedom to impose their specific scriptural interpretations on others. Swanson’s colorful rhetoric on the role of women and the biblical punishments for gay people comes out of an affinity with two controversial movements that will be on full display at his event: Christian Patriarchy and Christian Reconstructionism.

A number of speakers at this weekend’s conference have been associated with Vision Forum, the now defunct ministry run by influential Christian Patriarchy leader Doug Phillips, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to having an affair. That movement is closely bound with Christian Reconstructionism, the idea that America must return to its supposed foundations in a certain interpretation of biblical law. John Eidsmoe, one of the leading lights of Christian Reconstructionism will be speaking at the conference, as will Joel McDurmon, who now runs the Reconstructionist group Vision America.

One theme at the conference will be “interposition,” the idea that government officials have the duty to defy laws and court rulings that they believe are unconstitutional or unbiblical (for many those are the same thing), an idea that has returned to prominence in the midst of the Kim Davis saga.

Here is a brief introduction to some of the activists who will be sharing the stage with Huckabee, Cruz and Jindal this weekend:

Kevin Swanson

Swanson, a Colorado-based homeschooling activist, pastor and radio host, rejects the term “Christian Patriarchy” but says he ascribes to the passage in Ephesians that guides the movement’s view of male headship and female submission in marriage. Swanson also takes hardline Christian Reconstructionist positions, such as his view that the death penalty for gay people is just. Just a sampling of Swanson’s views includes:

John Eidsmoe

Eidsmoe gained wider name recognition when Rep. Michele Bachmann named him as her mentor , but he has long been an influential leader in Christian Reconstructionism. Eidsmoe has run into controversy in the past for ties to white supremacist and neo-Confederate groups . He now works for the Foundation for Biblical Law, a group established by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Eidsmoe has:

Phil Kayser

Christian Reconstructionist Nebraska pastor Phil Kayser first attracted the national spotlight in 2011 when he endorsed Ron Paul for president and it came out that he had “authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law .” Kayser confirmed to a reporter that this was indeed his position. He will be addressing the “religious liberty” issue with a talk on “Martyrdom, Civil Disobedience, Protest, and Flight” and another on “Can a County Clerk Refuse to Sign a Marriage License? Interposition by the Lesser Magistrate.”

Joel McDurmon

As Kyle wrote last week, “Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision, which espouses the Christian Reconstructionist view that ‘men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God’s law’ as explicitly set out in the Old Testament.”

McDurmon says that "God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty." He also said that a proposal in Uganda to impose the death penalty for homosexuality didn’t go far enough because it should also impose “Old Testament law” by making adultery a capital crime as well.

After we reported on his views last week, McDurmon released a statement clarifying that he does not support the death penalty for “homosexuality in general” but merely “the ‘act’ of sodomy.”

UPDATE: McDurmon insists that he no longer holds these views.

Scott Brown

North Carolina pastor Scott Brown is the director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, a spinoff of Vision Forum. Articles on Brown’s website present an array of Christian Patriarchy views, including:

  • We “should counsel our Christian wives and daughters to rid their wardrobes of tight clothing and modern bathing suits” because there “ should be a sense of shame for distracting someone from purity” and having a “distracting appearance.”
  • Lamenting that “in the evangelical community, art and fashion have become exempt from biblical evaluation,” leading to reverence for Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, who operated under the “influence of homosexuality” and “some of our most revered artifacts of Greek sculpture” which “ were produced by homosexual, pagan artist.”
  • Husbands should be teaching their wives. The father is a key component of the delivery system for the news of the kingdom of God, and when you bypass him, you reject the biblical order for the church and the home.”

This is just skimming the surface. Also speaking at Swanson’s conference will be former Vision Forum activist Geoff Botkin; James Lansberry, who has been working to help conservative evangelicals bypass the Affordable Care Act; and Bill Jack, an occasional cohost on Swanson’s radio program who took the Cake Wars to a new low when he tried to get a baker to write “God hates gays” on a cake.

Along with Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal, a number of activists with a cozy relationship with the GOP have also been confirmed to attend, including Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley of the influential Iowa conservative group The Family Leader, Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute and Colorado Republican state senator Kevin Lundberg.

What the World Congress of Families Tells Us About the Global ‘Pro-Family’ Movement

The World Congress of Families — an organization that hosts an annual global gathering of “pro-family” advocates —  brought together more than 3,300 people in Salt Lake City last week. The summit included authors and counselors focused on strengthening marriages as well as academics talking about the social and economic consequences of later marriages, declining birthrates and widespread divorce. It also included and anti-reproductive-choice activists from around the globe, as well as hundreds of “emerging leaders” expected to lead the movement into the future.

We’ve reported on individual speakers and will continue to do so as we dig through a week’s worth of notes and recordings — and a shopping bag full of books and other swag. But what’s the big picture? What does the WCF tell us about the state of the global Religious Right?

There were differences in priorities and approaches among the participants, but among the themes that emerged:

They See Themselves at War with the Enemies of God

Warfare imagery was common at WCF and the preceding gay-focused Stand4Truth event organized by people who needed just a little more anti-gay intensity than the WCF schedule promised. The “natural family” and “complementary” male-female gender roles were ordained by God, and therefore proponents of feminist or gender ideologies or notions of LGBT equality are not only political opponents but spiritual ones, out to destroy both the natural family and religious freedom.

Francisco Tatad, a former senate majority leader in the Philippines, said the threat to the family and human society is not simply those who deny God, but those who actually hate God:

The global attack on human dignity, on the integrity of the human person, and the family, is ultimately an attack on God. The war of religions is over, but the war on religion has hardly begun. And the target is no longer any individual religion in particular, but God himself. He has become the arch-enemy.

American Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez:

So I can share with you the fact that there is a spiritual battle, a spiritual battle, to annihilate the idea, the construct, God’s ordained institution of la familia. It is a battle. It even, before it’s a political battle or a legislative battle, it is, above all things, a spiritual battle.

And, engaging biblical allusions, it’s the spirit of Pharaoh, once again attempting to force and prompt families to make bricks without straw and to maintain families in the Egypt of bondage and fear. It is the spirit of Goliath, of intimidation. It is the spirit of Jezebel, an attempt to destroy the family via the conduit of sexual perversion and manipulation. It is the spirit of Herod, killing families through abortion, killing families through sex trafficking and violence against our children, disconnecting the child from mom and dad. These spirits are alive and well today, not only in America but across the world.

Rafael Cruz, father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, declared, “What we see in America right now is an outright attack on Christianity.” Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, decreed that “a few rogue lawyers claiming to be the Supreme Court of the United States of America has no right to act in such a way as to restrict our freedom of religion.” Patterson told the story of a missionary doctor killed by Chinese communists in the 1950s, and declared about religious freedom, “Today the blood of thousands of martyrs calls out to all of us, ‘Do not squander the greatest and most costly gift bequeathed to you by the founders of this nation.’”

They’re Intensely Committed to Enforcing Traditional Gender Roles

The catch-all term used by the global Religious Right for just about everything it doesn’t like is “gender ideology” — something that can encompass opposition to sex education, contraception, abortion, cohabitation, marriage equality and legal recognition for LGBT people.

At WCF, speaker after speaker talked about the “complementarity” between men and women as something that was divinely ordained — grounded biblically in the Genesis creation story in which God made humankind male and female. God’s creation of two genders was cited as a sacred rationale for opposing gay couples being allowed to marry or be parents — and for denying the very existence of transgender people, who were portrayed as sick and pathetic. One of the most reliable ways to try to get a laugh at WCF was to make a joke about Caitlyn Jenner. Rafael Cruz even pulled out the old chestnut that God had created “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Glenn Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, said new findings on gender differences support his basic premise: “that men and women are different, and that men and women need each other in those differences.” As a scientist, he said, he believes there is evidence across cultures of a universal male and female nature. And as a Christian, he said, the issue is a theological one, grounded in the creation story declares humans male and female, who together “uniquely, mysteriously image the nature of God in the world.” He displayed a William Blake painting, “Satan Gazing Upon the Caresses of Adam and Eve” and said:

Satan came to attack humanity, not just by approaching Eve or Adam but what William Blake is telling us here is to attack a couple. He sees that man, he sees that woman, he sees them loving one another, and he says, ‘I know who loved one another, the Trinity, God, and I hate them, so I must break this up.’ The original attack was not on two human beings, it was on a man and a woman. And that attack continues today, because Satan knows what male and female represent.

Theresa Okafor, a WCF representative from Nigeria who was honored at the conference, said the complementarity of the sexes “comes from God.” She complained that Western feminist ideas threaten the family by demonizing patriarchy, blurring lines of gender and making women feel that they are autonomous from men. (In contrast, she cited as one positive example of strong cultural support for the family in Africa the fact that a woman who went to the police to report being beaten by her husband would be told to go home and settle with him.)

Every WCF participant received a copy of the Mormon Church’s 1995 Proclamation of the Family, which portrays men’s roles as providers and women’s as nurturers to be essential to God’s plan. It declares, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

Miriam Grossman is a psychiatrist whose blog identifies her as “One Hundred Percent MD. Zero Percent PC.” She insisted, “A man cannot be transformed into a woman, or a woman into a man. It is simply impossible” and decried that popular culture’s focus on transgender issues was perpetuating a “lie” and a “delusion.”

They Don’t Want To Be Called Anti-Gay While Being Anti-Gay

Well, at least some of them, anyway. Before the conference started, WCF responded to its critics by claiming that being pro-family was not the same as being anti-gay, and declared that it would never support policies that harm individual people. But in fact the program was full of people who have a record of demonizing LGBT people, including those who have actively supported laws that not only criminalize gay sexual activity but even make it a crime for gays to meet with each other or advocate for their rights.

Portraying LGBT people as a threat to children has a decades-long pedigree, including the activism of Anita Bryant, California’s Prop 8 and succeeding state constitutional amendment campaigns, and this week’s vote in Houston, where an anti-discrimination ordinance was rejected after an ugly, dishonest campaign portraying it as an open door to child molesters. Gwen Landolt, a Canadian who has been active in WCF, called it intolerable that innocent children are being “used as tools of social engineering” by being fostered or adopted by gay couples. And she said that children’s character is being deformed because schools are teaching that homosexual relationships are the equal of heterosexual ones.

As BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder pointed out, there’s division within the movement about the usefulness of strident rhetoric that, for example, equates gays with pedophilia. That division was clear at WCF. The opening keynote address was given by Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ballard explained that Mormon theology of the family is integral to the church’s defense of “traditional marriage,” but he also touted the church’s willingness to back the Utah compromise, an agreement reached earlier this year in which the church supported legal protections against housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in return for the inclusion of broad religious exemptions. Said Ballard,

We demonstrate our best humanity when we show love and kindness to all of God’s children. We demonstrate our discipleship when we refuse strident tones, when we refuse derisive labels, and when we enter the public square seeking fair outcomes through understanding and mutual respect.

Ballard’s standard was violated frequently at WCF, including during its closing keynote from Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma University, whose address was an angry rant against liberal “ideological fascism.” Piper angrily asserted that “the rainbow banner of tolerance has become the dark flag of tyranny almost overnight.” Some conference participants objected to the Utah compromise; Austin Ruse of C-Fam has called it “lunacy” for the Mormon Church to engage in a nonaggression pact with the LGBT movement.

Another voice heard on the opening day of the conference was that of Gov. Gary Herbert, who welcomed participants to Utah, declaring “We are a great state with wonderful people and wonderful families of different varieties in this state.” That was a nod toward the kind of inclusive definition of family that is being ferociously fought by WCF partner groups at the United Nations and other international bodies.  Activists like C-Fam’s Ruse and Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater bragged at WCF about their work to eliminate references to “various forms of the family” from international human rights documents.

They’re Not Going Anywhere: They’re Organized and Organizing and God is on their Side

There was some difference of opinion among WCF speakers, based on where they are from and whether they are more focused on abortion or LGBT issues, about the extent to which they are currently losing or winning the global culture war. But there was virtual unanimity that with God on their side and a commitment to collaborative organizing, they will ultimately be victorious in defeating the LGBT movement, resisting the advance of “gender ideology,” and resurrecting as a cultural norm, protected and promoted in law, the “natural family” — a mom and a dad and a whole lot of children.

Allan Carlson, retiring after years at the head of WCF’s sponsoring organization, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, talked about his forthcoming book, which portrays the weakening and strengthening of family systems in America since 1630 as following 50 year swings.  According to Carlson, we could be “on the cusp of a great wave of new family morality,” poised for a generational upswing— a return to early marriage, appreciation for the complementarity between men and women, and higher fertility. Carlson said the sexual revolution “regime” is “crumbling even at the point where it seems to be winning.”

Warren Cole Smith, a vice president of the Colson Center and co-author of “Restoring All Things,” recounted the story of a friend who received a call from someone nearly in despair after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, saying “it’s over.” Smith recalled his response:

What is over? What exactly is over? Has God left his throne? He has not. Is He not still sovereign? He is. When the Obergefell decision came down from the Supreme Court, did God say, ‘Wow, I sure didn’t see that coming.’? Friends, He did not say that….

The story of the universe God is still writing, the arc of history is still unfolding. Unlike what our friend said, it is not over. And I’ve read the last chapter of the book, and guess what? God wins.

That’s not to say that between now and then we won’t have lots of battles to fight and lots of problems so solve. But I want to be clear, I think we should be happy warriors in this process, knowing that God is indeed building the house. God is indeed on our side. And we have the great joy of participating in what God is doing in the world, if only we will.

The World Congress of Families, with its dozens of partner organizations and more than 3,300 participants from 65 countries, is a dramatic demonstration of the institutional cultural, legal, and political infrastructure that has been built by conservative religious organizations not only in the U.S. but around the globe, with financial and strategic support flowing in all directions. 

Seasoned activists and the hundreds of “emerging leaders” had the opportunity to get training in starting a new organization and raising money online from Ignacio Arsuaga, whose HazteOir and CitizenGo platforms have put social-media organizing techniques developed in the U.S. into the hands of conservatives in Europe and elsewhere with campaigns in an expanding number of languages. Conference attendees could take a workshop on messaging from Frank Schubert, the mastermind of fearmongering strategies used by campaigns against marriage equality in the U.S. They could study networking and coalition building with Alexey Komov, the Russian activist who says that Russia and Eastern Europe, having been helped by Western countries to throw off communism, can now return the favor by helping the West defeat the new totalitarianism of the sexual revolution.

 

World Congress of Families Culture Warriors Battle Repro, LGBT Rights In Europe With Help From US Friends

This is one in a series of posts about the upcoming World Congress of Families gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah. Read our introduction to the World Congress of Families here.

Americans have long viewed Europe as a stronghold of progressive social policies. But as BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reported last year, there is a resurgent Religious Right political movement in Europe whose advocates draw moral, strategic, and financial support from their allies in the United States, including the American Center for Law and Justice, Alliance Defending Freedom and Personhood USA.

In Europe the culture war is taking the form of attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights — even sex education — or what conservative Catholics and their allies collectively deride as “gender ideology.” Right-wing groups are active at the European Union, Council of Europe, European Parliament and other international institutions. The ACLJ’s European branch led the signature drive for the “One of Us” campaign — an anti-abortion effort that used a new European Citizens Initiative process. The initiative was rejected but the organizing that went into it has energized anti-choice activists — the Knights of Columbus called it “the revitalization of Europe.”The World Congress of Families facilitates this reactionary cross-fertilization with conservative groups from around the world.

Earlier this year, the Croatia-based Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI) released a report on the growing threats to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Union which also documented global connections among conservative groups and activists.  Also this year, voters in Slovakia passed a referendum to put a ban on marriage by same-sex couples in the country’s constitution, an effort supported by American groups including the WCF, Alliance Defending Freedom, CitizenGo, Personhood USA, and the World Congress of Families. Several years ago, many of the same people signed a petition supporting Romania’s constitutional amendment on marriage, which stated that “equating same-sex couples with families can only weaken the natural family — which does society’s vital work of procreation and childrearing.”

The World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City next week features a number of speakers who are intimately involved in this push to restrict access to abortion and prevent advances in LGBT equality.

As we noted in an earlier post, WCF will honor Luca Giuseppe Volonté of Italy’s Novae Terrae Foundation and Andrea Williams of UK’s Christian Concern. Williams, who allies with Alliance Defending Freedom, has encouraged Jamaica to continue criminalizing same-sex intimacy. Volonté, who is affiliated with a variety of right-wing groups, says conservatives in Europe are resisting marriage equality because they experience it as a “totalitarian” ideology.

Another speaker is Ignacio Arsuaga, the founder of CitizenGo and HazteOír, groups designed to bring online organizing techniques to European culture-war conservatives.  HazteOír made a name for itself mobilizing protesters against liberalized abortion legislation in Spain in 2010, and hosted the 2012 World Congress of Families in Madrid. In 2013 his group bused supporters into France to support anti-marriage-equality protests there.

Arsuaga’s CitizenGo is affiliated with ActRight, created by Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. Brown joined CitizenGo’s board in 2013.  Brown has backed anti-gay efforts in France and Russia and participated in events designed to strengthen ties between Europe’s right-wing and Putin’s Russia. As BuzzFeed’s Feder reported last year,

Arsuaga, Volontè, and La Manif Pour Tous President Ludovine de La Rochère were all in Washington on June 19 to support the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage. Their more important business, however, might have been in a closed-door summit the next day, where representatives of around 70 countries met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage, according to Volontè and another participant. 

Also participating in the Salt Lake City WCF will be Lech and Ewa Kowalewski, anti-abortion activists affiliated with Human Life International and the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements. They denounce the “contraceptive mentality” — for them even “natural contraception” is a contradiction because “contraception is never natural.” In 2014 they toured the U.S. as part of a worldwide “pro-life pilgrimage.”  They were on the International Planning Committee for World Congress of Families VI in Madrid.

Another participant is Maria Hildingsson, Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe, which the Catholic News Agency said last year is “the only independent organization clearly registered in the EU as Catholic.” It rejects “an individualistic conception” of human rights that is says are supported by “hegemonic powers which tend to impose their partial views on developing countries within the international economic and political arena.”

Hildingsson opposes promotion of “gender ideology” and opposed the marriage equality referendum in Ireland. Her group worked with a global coalition of conservative groups to oppose an inclusive definition of family in the United Nations during deliberations on sustainable development goals. This summer, she met with Orthodox Church leaders from Europe and Russia to strategize against efforts by the European Union that aim, in the words of a report on the meeting, “to destroy the traditional notions of marriage and family and to legalize surrogate motherhood and abortion.”

Another speaker, Silvio Dalla Valle, works with the Association for the Defense of Christian Values, which is “inspired by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church” and works in Italy and Eastern Europe.  He was on the planning committee for Moscow meeting that took place last year without the formal sponsorship of WCF but with participation by WCF staff and allies,and spoke last year at a WCF regional event in Bolivia. Dalla Valle is a co-founder of and legal adviser to the Osservatorio della Cristianofobia (Observatory on “Christianphobia”) a project to lobby the United Nations and European institutions to take a strong stance against persecution and discrimination against Christians. He received a “Global Leadership Award” from the Howard Center, the World Congress of Families’ parent organization, in 2010.

Lola Volarde, director for UN affairs at the Institute for Family Policy, is also participating. Volarde’s group promotes “natural family” policies in Latin America in addition to its work at the European Union level, and it opened its delegation to the UN in 2013. You can see Velarde speaking in Mexico last year.

Arsuaga, Velarde and Brian Brown are all on board of the Political Network for Values, a group launched last year that brings together advocates and elected officials from around the world to work for legal protection for life “from its moment of conception” and advocate for policies the promote marriage as “an institution between a man and a woman.” The group also declares its opposition to “the tyranny of relativism” and euthanasia.

Last month, the Political Network for Values held a summit in Washington, D.C. which was sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Institute for Family Policy, CitizenGo and others. The network says the regional summit “brought together in Washington DC more than 70 policy makers from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Spain, Hungary, Kenya and the United States.” The group was addressed by three members of the U.S. Congress, Jeff Fortenberry, Chris Smith and Vicky Hartzler, who talked about the “fight for religious freedom in the U.S.”

 

Meet The World Congress Of Families, The International Conservative Network Meeting In Utah Next Week

by Miranda Blue, Isabel Carter-Kahn and Peter Montgomery

This is the first in a series of posts about the upcoming World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City, Utah. In this post, we provide an introduction to the event’s hosts and recipients of its awards for international activism. Subsequent posts will explore the World Congress of Families’ organizing against LGBT equality and women’s rights and its role in growing international social conservative networks.

Next week, hundreds of activists from around the world will gather in Salt Lake City for the ninth World Congress of Families, a gathering of individuals and organizations promoting what organizers call the “natural family.”

The World Congress of Families is a project of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, founded in 1997 by conservative historian Allan Carlson. The Howard Center has a relatively small budget — less than half a million dollars in 2013 — but works with organizers and funders in host countries to throw what it calls the “Olympics” of social conservatism. This is the first time the Congress has been held in the U.S. and will count as guests the governor of Utah as well as Rafael Cruz, father of Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. The event is set to honor activists who advocated for laws criminalizing homosexuality and even meetings between gay people, free speech in favor of gay rights and abortion.

The vision of the “natural family” promoted by WCF is one that excludes LGBT people and precludes reproductive rights. In 2005, Carlson and the Sutherland Institute’s Paul Mero released “The Natural Family: A Manifesto,” a call to arms against the societal changes that resulted from the twin developments of “industrialism and the assault of new, family-denying ideas.”

They offered instead a vision of a return to an economy run by large families operating as independent economic units — a potentially appealing thought until you realize what the economy they envision means for women. In Carlson’s and Mero’s “natural family” dream, they “envision young women growing into wives, homemakers, and mothers; and we see young men growing into husbands, homebuilders, and fathers.” For women, this involves rejecting what they call the “contraceptive mentality” and opening their homes to “a full quiver of children” — a nod to the “Quiverfull” ideology promoted by the self-proclaimed “Christian patriarchy” movement. They insist that “culture, law, and policy” should take into account that “women and men are equal in dignity and innate human rights, but different in function” — a separate-but-equal ideology that drives women out of public and economic life and rejects the rights of those who do not fit into this narrow view of gender roles.

It is this vision that WCF aims to promote around the world, through government policies aiding the “natural family” and in resisting international efforts to protect the rights of women and LGBT people.

The U.S. event offers WCF an opportunity to reestablish itself after the debacle of the last Congress, which was meant to be held in Moscow — home of a spate of new anti-LGBT laws — but was abruptly “suspended” after Russia invaded Ukraine and some of the conference’s organizers were hit with U.S. sanctions. The conference went ahead, but without the official World Congress of Families label. Instead, WCF leaders attended in their personal capacities. The executive director of the Utah event is Janice Shaw Crouse, a former Concerned Women for America official who appears to have parted ways with her former employer over the wisdom of participating in the Moscow summit.

Hosting the World Congress of Families gathering in Salt Lake City is the Sutherland Institute, which describes itself as “a conservative public policy think tank” whose mission is “to shape Utah law and policy based on a core set of governing principles.” The Sutherland Institute, whose budget is about $1.5 million, is affiliated with the State Policy Network, a group of right-wing think tanks. While the Institute is not formally affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church), it promotes conservative views influenced by LDS theology, sometimes staking out policy positions to the right of the Church itself. The Institute is named for George Sutherland, a U.S. Supreme Court justice from Utah who joined other conservative justices to overturn progressive legislation in the 1920s and led a group known as “The Four Horsemen” who struck down FDR’s New Deal for several years.

Sutherland describes seven principles of “authentic conservatism” – personal responsibility as the basis of self-government; family as the fundamental unit of society; religion as the moral compass of human progress; private property as the cornerstone of economic freedom; free markets as the engine of economic prosperity; charity as the wellspring of a caring community; limited government as the essence of good government. The Institute brags about its work to weaken unions and calls for the abolition of the state income tax on corporations.

In other words, the Institute promotes both the Tea Party’s hostility to government regulation and the Religious Right’s desire to use government to promote “traditional” views of family, parenting, and marriage.Sutherland helped pay for the legal counsel hired by the state to defend its anti-gay-marriage amendment.

The Institute called the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling an “abdication” of the rule of law. Then-President Paul Mero, argued that freedom is incompatible with gay rights, because “bad behavior is the enemy of freedom.” Sutherland supports Sen. Mike Lee’s First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow broad anti-gay discrimination in the name of religious liberty. It also wants to do away with no-fault divorce laws.

In 2014 the Institute produced a 10-page defense of a Utah law requiring restaurants to erect a “Zion Curtain” or “Zion Wall” to prevent restaurant-goers from being able to witness the preparation of alcoholic beverages. Although Sutherland was criticized for supporting what many considered “nanny-state” legislation, former President Paul Mero said the law “disrupts a culture of drinking” and promotes a “culture of sobriety.”

The Sutherland Institute has strong ties with WCF’s sponsor, the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society. Mero, the founding executive vice president of the Howard Center, reportedly helped attract the WCF to Salt Lake City. After 14 years as Sutherland’s CEO he was asked to step down by the Institute’s board last August, for what were described as operational rather than philosophical differences. Mero reportedly agreed to continue to serve on executive committee for the WCF. Sutherland board chair and interim president Stanford Swim serves on the boards of the Howard Center and the State Policy Network.

This year, the World Congress of Families will present its Woman of the Year Award to Theresa Okafor, Familia Et Veritas awards to Luca Giuseppe Volonte and Andrea Williams and an International Pro-Life Award to Father Maxim Obukhov. The backgrounds of these four activists provide insight into the values that the World Congress of Families seeks to promote around the world.

Theresa Okafor

Okafor, from Nigeria, is the World Congress of Families Regional Director in Africa. In 2009, she was successful in bringing a World Congress of Families event to Nigeria. She is the CEO of Life League Nigeria and the director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage.

The Foundation for African Cultural Heritage is a coalition organization that encompasses 20 “family values” organizations such as Association of Concerned Mothers, Nigerian Association for Family Development, Doctors Health Initiative, Life League Nigeria, the Christian Association of Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Nigeria. Her groups have supported and lauded Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which banned all same-sex relationships and gay people gathering in groups of two or more. The act led to the arrest of dozens of people.

The Foundation for African Cultural Heritage releasedvideos of a press conference it organized to support the bill, during which speakers called homosexuality “abhorrent” and compared it to alcoholism. At a World Congress of Families annual gathering in Madrid in 2012, Okafor speculated in a speech that Western countries advocating for gay rights in Africa were involved in a “conspiracy” to “silence Christians” with the terrorist group Boko Haram:

Unfortunately, in Nigeria where I come from, we have these fundamentalists, the Boko Haram – I’m sure you’ve heard about them in the news – bombing churches. They seem to be helping some people in Western countries who are out to silence Christians. The Boko Haram are targeting Christians in Nigeria, so you wonder if there’s a conspiracy between the two worlds.

In the speech she also speculated that efforts to promote LGBT rights in Africa are “another ploy to depopulate Africa,” a sentiment she expresses repeatedly.

Okafor also has ties to the American group Family Watch International, which works to stop advances in LGBT equality and reproductive rights at the UN, cosponsoring the group’s Global Family Policy Forum in Gilbert, Arizona.

Luca Giuseppe Volonte

Luca Volonte is an Italian politician and the president of the Novae Terrae Foundation, which states on its website that it is committed to “promot[ing] human rights from the religious point of view.” The “Goals” section of the group’s mission page emphasizes its focus on contrasting Christianity with “Islamic culture.”

Volonte serves along with the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown on the board of trustees of CitizenGo, an international organization that promotes petitions backing conservative positions, including opposition tosame-sex marriage and abortion rights. In response to Target’s decision to stop segregating its toy aisles by gender, CitizenGo released a petition saying the new policy was a result of “sexual radicals ” who “want to erase distinctions between male and female, and promote transgenderism among children.”

In 2010, Volonte won the chair of the European People’s Party in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. As chair, Volonte led the successful effort to withdraw a report on "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Volonte was appointed chairman of the anti-LGBT Institute for Human Dignity, a Catholic NGO based in Rome, in 2013. The institute released a declaration defining human dignity as:

That man is made in the image and likeness of God; that this image and likeness proceeds in every single human being without exception from conception until natural death; and that the most effective means of safeguarding this recognition is through the active participation of the Christian faith in the public square.

This declaration was adopted by the European Parliament's Working Group on Human Dignity , a coalition that promotes Europe’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage, as their foundational document.

In 2015, Novae Terrae announced a partnership with the European Large Families Confederation.

Andrea Williams

Andrea Williams is the CEO of Christian Concern, a United Kingdom based group that promotes a “Christian voice” in government. In the “About” sections of Christian Concern’s website, the organization states that it pursues these goals because “ ...in the last few decades the nation has largely turned her back on Jesus and embraced alternative ideas such as secular liberal humanism, moral relativism and sexual licence. The fruit of this is rotten, and can be seen in widespread family breakdown, immorality and social disintegration.” The organization attempts to move policy on “abortion, adoption and fostering, bioethics, marriage, education, employment, end of life, equality, family, free speech, Islamism, religious freedom, the sex trade, social issues and issues relating to sexual orientation.” Christian Concern has campaigned against numerous pieces of LGBT anti-discrimination legislation, citing that they would create discrimination against Christians.

Williams encouraged Jamaica to keep same-sex intimacy (still referred to in the country’s legal code as “buggery”) illegal at a conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society and the Christian Lawyers’ Association in Kingston that she attended with extreme American anti-LGBT activist Peter LaBarbera. At the conference, she suggested Olympic diver Tom Daley is gay because his father died, and that “sometimes a level of abuse” is responsible for one becoming gay.

Williams is the director of the Christian Concern offshoot Christian Legal Centre, whose website says it “defend[s] many Christians who have suffered for their beliefs,” in a similar fashion to the American Alliance Defending Freedom. The Christian Legal Centre has provided legal support to a woman who sued an art gallery for displaying an image of Jesus with an erection and to a man who was relieved of his position as a police officer after sending homophobic emails.

In concert with Alliance Defending Freedom, Christian Concern also runs the Wilberforce Academy, which says its aim is to “train and equip the invited students on what it means to proclaim Christ in public life.” Williams has said this on the Alliance Defense Fund:

The ADF are a fantastic organization. We have been inspired by their work and that of the Blackstone programme, which seeks to raise a new generation of lawyers to defend Christianity in the public sphere. They've got some of the best attorneys in this field and we have the great privilege of hosting them, but they don't pay anything towards the academy.

In 2010, Williams was elected to a five year term as a member of the Church of England General Synod.

Maxim Obukhov

Father Maxim Obukhov is credited by Religious Right leaders as the founder of the pro-life movement in Russia and led the effort to bring the World Congress of Families to Moscow last year. He was instrumental in convening a World Congress of Families “demographic summit” in Russia, which resulted in a statement addressed to world leaders. Part of the statement read:

We call on the governments of all nations and on international institutions to develop immediately a pro-family demographic policy and to adopt a special international pro-family strategy and action plan aimed at consolidating family and marriage, protecting human life from conception to natural death, increasing birth rates, and averting the menace of depopulation.

In 2009, Obukhov drafted an official proposal for WCF to come to Moscow, and the plan was solidified. However, the conferencewas cancelled in response to backlash over President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea. An “International Family Forum” sprang up in its place, and many of the same pro-family leaders from the United States and around the world were in attendance.

Obhukhov created the Zhizn Center, an organization connected with the Russian Orthodox Church that dedicates itself to the “dissemination of Christian views on questions of family and marriage” and against abortion rights . He is also secretary of the Church’s bioethics committee and an expert on bioethical issues for the Moscow Patriarchate. World Congress of Families claims the Zhizn Center runs more than 30 crisis-pregnancy centers.

Obhukvhov was part of a group established by the Duma’s committee on family, women and children in 2010 for the purpose of drafting anti-choice legislation. Parts of the legislation drafted by the group, which included no medical professionals, were used in a health reform bill signed by President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011. Proposals that did not make it into legislation attempted to end federal support of all abortion services, require that women receive the approval of their spouses before having an abortion, and require prescriptions for the morning-after pill. Obukhov opposes hormonal birth control.

Obukhov has told LifeSiteNews that he believes the Obama administration’s sanctions on Russian lawmaker Yelena Mizulina, author of the infamous “gay propaganda” ban, following the Ukraine conflict were evidence of Christian persecution. Obuhkov said, "President Obama is using the economic sanctions against Yelena Mizulina to send a very clear message to Russian Christians. There is much talk about a cold war, but President Obama has openly declared war upon Christians who oppose the culture of death both at home and abroad."

Ted Cruz Plans ‘Religious Liberty’ Rally At College That Claimed Bible Backing For Racist Policies

Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reported this week that Ted Cruz is planning a major rally on “religious liberty” at Bob Jones University in November.  Even though it has been clear for a while that framing opposition to LGBT equality, abortion and contraception as religious liberty issues is a core strategy of right-wing culture warriors like Cruz, Bob Jones is still a stunning choice. After all, the “religious liberty” Bob Jones is most famous for defending was its long insistence that its segregationist policies were mandated in the Bible.

Of course Cruz’s choice could be a cunning and calculated one based on the fact that his campaign’s roadmap to victory requires a big boost in turnout among conservative evangelicals who are disaffected with politics. Appearing at Bob Jones University, specifically to talk about religious liberty, is the granddaddy of all dog-whistles to the far right.

A bit of background: During the 1970s, the federal government began to crack down on segregation academies that had sprung up in response to the Brown v. Board of Education decision more than a decade earlier.  The IRS formally promulgated its policy that racially discriminatory private schools were not entitled to federal tax-exempt status in 1971. After years of fighting with Bob Jones, the IRS revoked the university’s tax-exempt status in 1976. The school kept fighting, ultimately losing at the Supreme Court in 1983 in an 8-1 decision.

Religion scholar Randall Balmer writes that it was the federal government’s move against segregationist schools, even more than the Roe v Wade decision, that gave Paul Weyrich the opening to create the Religious Right political movement. He tapped into conservative evangelicals’ anger at the federal government interference in segregationist religious schools. In his book about the Religious Right, “Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament,” Balmer wrote about a conservative 1990 conference at which Weyrich spoke:

Let's remember, he said animatedly, that the Religious Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision. No, Weyrich insisted, what got us going as a political movement was the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies.

Bob Jones University was one target of a broader attempt by the federal government to enforce the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, had sought to penalize schools for failure to abide by antisegregation provisions. A court case in 1972, Green v. Connally, produced a ruling that any institution that practiced segregation was not, by definition, a charitable institution and, therefore, no longer qualified for tax-exempt standing…

For his part, Weyrich saw the evangelical discontent over the Bob Jones case as the opening he was looking for to start a new conservative movement using evangelicals as foot soldiers. Although both the Green decision of 1972 and the IRS action against Bob Jones University in 1975 predated Jimmy Carter's presidency, Weyrich succeeded in blaming Carter for efforts to revoke the tax-exempt status of segregated Christian schools. He recruited James Dobson and Jerry Falwell to the cause, the latter of whom complained, "In some states it's easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school."

So what game is Cruz playing? Is he going to play up right-wing fears that the federal government will go after the tax-exempt status of schools with anti-gay policies? Is talking about religious liberty at Bob Jones some oddly aggressive way to make the right-wing argument that there are no parallels between racial discrimination and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

Cruz made that argument during a June interview on the Today show, when he declared that “there’s no religious backing” for denying marriage licenses to interracial couples. That, of course, is an absurd argument, as the federal judge who had upheld Virginia’s laws against mixed-race marriages in Loving v Virginia specifically cited the Bible in defense of the law. And as Brian noted in June:

Cruz should know better. After all, the Tea Party leader announced his presidential campaign at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell, one of the fathers of the modern Religious Right movement, who denounced both desegregation and interracial marriages in religious terms.

Indeed, the Southern Baptist Convention was created in a split with northern Baptists over slavery. Southern Baptists preached that the Bible endorsed slavery, citing “slaves obey your masters” verses that were still being used by the Christian Coalition in the 1990s to justify attacks on labor unions.

Did Newark Archbishop Just Declare Democrats Ineligible For Communion?

David Gibson at the Religion News Service reports on a new directive from Newark Archbishop John Myers, who “has given his priests strict guidelines on refusing Communion to Catholics who, for example, support gay marriage or whose own marriage is not valid in the eyes of the church.” The guideline was distributed as the Catholic Church's Synod on the Family is under way in Rome.

Gibson notes that Myers orders parishes and Catholic organizations not to host people or groups that disagree with church teachings. And the language of Myers’ memo actually goes even further:

Non-Catholics and any Catholic who publically rejects Church teaching or discipline, either by public statement or by joining or supporting organizations which do so, are not to receive the Sacraments.

By that definition, could any member of the Democratic Party receive communion in the Archdiocese of Newark?

A spokesman for Myers confirmed to Gibson that same-sex unions were part of the consideration in writing the memo to ensure that “Catholic teaching is adhered to in all situations.”

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