Religious Liberty

Tony Perkins: 2015 'Most Dangerous Year' For American Christians

As readers of RWW are well aware, Religious Right leaders have adopted a strategy of portraying just about any policy they disagree with as a dire threat to their religious freedom. And they love to portray President Barack Obama as a sinister enemy of religious liberty. Today’s frantic email from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is a model of both the Obama-is-evil paradigm and frothing-at-the-mouth alarmism about threats to religious freedom in America.

This money beg has it all: President Obama scheming to turn America into a godless, totalitarian wasteland; ridiculous claims that the administration wants to silence the religious expression of its critics; conspiracy theories about Common Core; and flat-out lies that the administration did nothing to secure the release of Meriam Ibrahim from the Sudanese prison where she had been unjustly held.

Coming from Perkins, none of this is terribly surprising. After all, this is the guy who responded to a Colorado baker being required to abide by the state’s anti-discrimination law by wondering, “When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?”

To avoid any accusations that we’ve taken Perkins out of context, here’s today’s fundraising letter in full:

January 27, 2015

Dear Peter,

As I wrote to you earlier this month, 2015 could very well be the most dangerous year for Christians in American history!

President Obama seems willing to do anything to further his radical agenda—even if it means violating the Constitution to take away your religious freedom.

This President has clearly placed the religious freedom of millions of Christians like you in his sights. Why? You are among the people who are standing in the gap against his radical plans to transform America into a godless, secular country where government reigns supreme.

In these evil days it is more important than ever that you stand your ground for religious freedom!

Can I count on your continued prayers for FRC and our staff in 2015? And can I count on you to make a special financial contribution to the work of FRC?

2015 could very well be a make-or-break year for the future of religious liberty in America. Between now and 2016, President Obama, who knows his time to "leave his mark on history" is growing short, will go all-out. He will use the unlimited resources at his disposal in a drive to attempt to . . .

  • PUNISH Christians for opposing same-sex "marriage";

  • FORCE pro-life people to fund abortions through ObamaCare;

  • INDOCTRINATE your children with the help of Common Core;

  • BAN religious expression and free speech when it conflicts with federal speech regulations; and

  • STOP Christian-owned businesses from doing business with the government because they will not embrace the homosexual agenda.

President Obama and his supporters wrongly believe that our rights as Christian citizens are granted by, and can therefore be repealed, by government. They do not believe, as you and I do, or even as our Founding Fathers did, that . . .

Our rights are inalienable because they come from God.

We will never compromise on that truth. And that's why we can win so many of the showdowns. Truth has power when people of faith stand up for it. With God's help and your faithful support, FRC has been able to . . .

  • FREE persecuted overseas Christians, even when our own government would not—Christians such as Mariam Ibraheem who was imprisoned for her faith;

  • DEFEND the religious liberty of the brave servicemen and women in the U.S. military who are persecuted and punished because they publicly affirm their Christian values;

  • PROTECT employers and employees forced to leave their faith at the door when they enter public service;

  • UPHOLD natural marriage while countering the pro-homosexual agenda which wants to silence Christians and their objections to same-sex "marriage";

  • PRESSURE Congress to officially protect religious freedom and oppose the President's unconstitutional power grab; and

  • EXPOSE the relentless assault on religious liberty that has largely been ignored by the mainstream media.

Thanks to champions of freedom like you . . . No organization has done more to preserve religious freedom in Washington, D.C., than FRC!

But there is still much, much more that must be done to stop the assault on religious freedom that threatens the very future of our nation. I won't mince words: All of us must redouble our efforts to meet the incredible challenges ahead of us.

Your gift today is essential if we are to stop the assaults on religious freedom and reclaim those liberties already lost.

One of my heroes was 18th century conservative, Edmund Burke. In the British Parliament, he fought slavery and actually supported the American Revolution. A man of faith, he is credited with saying, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Today, I urge you to do something. Something great. Something lasting. Something having immediate yet ongoing impact. You achieve that when you financially stand with FRC. Thank you for refusing to sit by and "do nothing."

Standing (Ephesians 6:13),

Tony Perkins
President

P.S. Please renew your support to help FRC start 2015 strongly. Thank you. God bless you.

The Real Problems With Bobby Jindal And His Prayer Rally

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal skipped an Iowa stage crowded with Republican presidential wannabes on Saturday so he could host a prayer rally on the campus of Louisiana State University. Jindal and others have mischaracterized objections to the rally, suggesting that its critics were somehow out to silence people of faith. So let’s be clear about the real issue: Bobby Jindal used the power and prestige of his office to promote an event backed by some of the nation’s most religiously divisive and stridently anti-gay activists. And in a bid to boost his own political future, he sent a clear message of support for the Christian-nation views of the event’s extremist organizers.

Christians Only, Please

Let’s start with the invitation, sent on Jindal’s official state letterhead. “We are in need of spiritual and transforming revival,” he wrote, “if we are to recapture the vision of our early leaders who signed on the Mayflower, ‘In the name of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith.’” Leadership to solve the country’s problems “will not come from a politician or a movement for social change,” he wrote in this time of civil rights movement anniversaries. So how will we solve our problems? “Jesus Christ, Son of God and the Lord of Life, is America’s only hope.” In a separate letter he wrote to the other 49 governors inviting them to his rally to pray for “spiritual revival” and “heaven’s intervention” over the country. “There will only be one name lifted up that day – Jesus!”

What does all this suggest to non-Christian Americans (including non-Christian governors) about how Jindal views their contributions? Jindal’s letters reflect the attitudes of rally organizer David Lane, a political strategist who believes America was founded by and for Christians. The event was paid for by the American Family Association, whose chief spokesman, radio host Bryan Fischer, believes the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections apply only to Christians.

The rally was also a showcase for the dominionist views of self-proclaimed “apostles” who promoted and spearheaded the event. One of those “apostles” was the event’s emcee. Doug Stringer has called the 9/11 attacks “a wake-up call” that happened because God was not around to defend America due to abortion, homosexuality, and kicking God out of public schools. While introducing Jindal, Stringer made a brief mention to “Seven Mountains” theology, which states that all the “mountains” in society – arenas like business, entertainment, and government – must be led by the right kind of Christian. A later speaker, Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum, spent more time on the “Seven Mountains.” Mills said these spheres of influence belong to God, but are currently occupied by the “enemy.” They therefore need to be evangelized and “occupied by the body of Christ.”

Not Political? Not Credible

Jindal and organizer David Lane declared, unbelievably, that the rally was not political. Lane is a self-described political strategist who works to turn conservative evangelical churches into voter turnout machines for right-wing candidates and causes. Lane is trying to get 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for public office, and he held a recruiting session the day before the prayer rally. Jindal and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma were among the speakers. Another example of the disconnect between rhetoric and reality: Stringer made the claim that the rally was not meant to lift up any politicians while he was standing in front of a huge screen featuring a quote from Bobby Jindal.

The “not political” claim was hard to take seriously given the amount of time devoted to making abortion illegal and declarations that what will tip the scales will be the “the voice of the church in the voting booth.” Jim Garlow, who led church organizing for California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, and who believes the marriage equality movement is demonic, dropped all “nonpolitical” pretense, railing against marriage equality and IRS regulations that restrict the involvement of churches in electoral politics.

Opponents = Enemies

One of the biggest problems with treating politics as spiritual warfare is that you turn your political opponents into spiritual enemies. People who disagree with you on public policy issues are not just wrong, but evil, or even satanic. That makes it pretty hard to work together or find compromise.

In daily prayer calls leading up to the rally, organizers prayed for God to forgive students who were organizing protests, as if disagreeing with Bobby Jindal were a sin – or a form of anti-Christian persecution. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” prayed call leaders, comparing their pleas to Jesus asking God to forgive those who crucified him, and Saint Stephen asking for mercy for those who were stoning him to death. On one call, a prayer leader decreed a “no-go zone for demons” over the sports arena where the event was to be held. At the rally, one speaker talked of storming the gates of Hell. Bishop Harry Jackson finished his remarks by leading the crowd in a chant he has used at anti-gay rallies: “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered!”

Jindal Unplugged, Unhinged, and Unapologetic

Jindal seems to have decided that his best chance in a crowded Republican field is to plant himself at the far right of an already far-right group. In the days leading up to the rally, he drew criticism for comments denigrating Muslims and for repeating bogus charges about Muslim “no-go zones” that Fox News had already apologized for spreading. During a radio interview a few days before the rally, Jindal said liberals pretend that jihadist terrorism isn’t happening and pretend “it’s a good thing to kill journalists, to kill teenagers for watching soccer, to kill over 150 schoolchildren, to treat women as second-class citizens…” He decried political incorrectness and multiculturalism and said of immigrants who do not embrace American exceptionalism, “that’s not immigration, that’s invasion.”

On “This Week” on Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos noted that Jindal had declared at his prayer rally that “on the last page, our God wins,” and asked him if that was appropriate in a religiously diverse country. Jindal praised religious liberty but ducked the question.

On the same show, Jindal said he would back a push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow states to discriminate against same-sex couples, all while saying “I am not for discrimination against anybody.” (Jindal describes himself as an “evangelical Catholic,” and his contradictory rhetoric parallels the language of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which says it opposes “unjust discrimination” against gay people, but defines the term “unjust discrimination” in a way that applies only to those people with “same-sex attraction” who remain celibate.)

Jindal has also promoted far-right policies as governor. As Brian has noted:

Jindal has reached out to the party’s increasingly extreme base by undermining the teaching of evolution in public schools; promoting wild conspiracy theories about Common Core, an effort to adjust school standards that he supported before it became the target of the Tea Party’s fury; and hyping the purported persecution of Christians in America, specifically citing the plight of Christians with reality television shows.

Whose Agenda?

Jindal’s rally was not an original idea. In fact Jindal’s “Response” recycled materials and themes from a similar event that Texas Gov. Rick Perry held in 2011 to launch his presidential bid. Here’s what I wrote about Perry’s event, which applies equally well to Jindal’s – not surprising since both were organized by the same groups of extremists:

Organizers argued (unconvincingly) that "The Response" was about prayer, not politics. But groups like the American Family Association (AFA), which paid for the rally and its webcast…are not designed to win souls but to change American law and culture through grassroots organizing and political power-building. They have a corrosive effect on our political culture by promoting religious bigotry and anti-gay extremism, by claiming that the United States was meant to be a Christian nation, and by fostering resentment among conservative evangelicals with repeated false assertions that liberal elites are out to destroy religious liberty and silence conservative religious voices.

Jindal, of course, has the right to talk about his faith. But it is wrong for him to use his public office to proselytize and denigrate the faith of others. Teaming up with anti-gay extremists and Christian-nation advocates gives them credibility they do not deserve. His actions speak volumes about his judgment, values, and commitment to religious pluralism and equality under the law.

Rachel Maddow Takes On 'Questionable Characters' At Jindal Prayer Rally

As we have been reporting, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has decided to hitch his apparent presidential hopes to a collection of Christian-nation extremists, teaming with the American Family Association, influential activist David Lane, and a collection of self-proclaimed prophets and apostles to host a prayer rally in Baton Rouge today meant to turn America “back to God.”

On her show last night, Rachel Maddow took a look at the array of “questionable characters” working with Jindal on his supposedly nonpolitical prayer rally:

Jindal For Christian Nation President?

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s upcoming prayer rally has been organized by David Lane, a Christian-nation absolutist who believes America was founded by and for Christians and demands that politicians make the Bible a primary textbook in public schools. The American Family Association, whose chief spokesperson believes the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections do not apply to non-Christians, is paying for the rally.

It’s clear that Jindal, a convert to Christianity, is positioning himself to win the support of conservative evangelicals for a potential presidential bid. (Lane for one has cheered Jindal’s recent remarks about Muslims.) But does Jindal see himself as a potential president for all Americans, or only American Christians?

Jindal’s initial letter inviting “friends and fellow patriots” to the eventon his official letterhead —declared, “We are in need of spiritual and transforming revival, if we are to recapture the vision of our early leaders who signed on the Mayflower, ‘In the name of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith.’” Jindal’s letter declared, “Jesus Christ, Son of God and the Lord of Life, is America’s only hope.” What does that say to non-Christian Americans about how Jindal views them and their contributions to America’s future?

Jindal also recorded a video promoting the event as the spark that would help bring the “spiritual revival” America needs.

This week the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody reported that Jindal sent a letter to the other 49 governors inviting them to attend. “We need an appeal to heaven for heaven’s intervention over us,” he wrote. “We need to pray to the Lord that He will send spiritual revival to our nation.”

“This gathering will be apolitical in nature,” Jindal writes unconvincingly to his fellow governors, adding, “There will only be one name lifted up that day – Jesus!”

Is Jindal unaware that not all his fellow governors are Christians, or does he just not care?

Jindal, of course, has the right as an American to participate in a rally like this. But it is wrong for him to use the power of his office to proselytize for his own faith and denigrate the faith of others. The critics of his prayer rally have the right, and good reason, to question what his promotion of this event says about Jindal’s judgment, values, and commitment to religious pluralism and other constitutional principles.

Bobby Jindal's Prayer Warriors Fret About Protests, Declare 'No-Go Zone For Demons'

Is protesting Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally a sin? Organizers seem to think so.

For the past few weeks, organizers of this weekend’s prayer rally with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have been sending out calls to prayer and fasting in support of the event. This week they’ve added daily prayer calls at which they have led participants in prayer for Jindal, for the event’s organizers, for those in charge of logistics like sound and security, and even for those who will be protesting the event. While there is a big rhetorical emphasis on rally leaders having a “posture of humility,” this week’s prayer calls have demonstrated what you might call spiritual arrogance regarding those who have been planning a protest. Protesters being organized by Louisiana State University students and progressive allies have been portrayed as spiritual enemies. During open prayer time, one call participant asked forgiveness for the protesters, saying “they hate us because they hated You first.” One participant prayed that God would “silence the mouths of those who would speak against You.”

On Tuesday, prayers for “those who would stand against us” asked that protesters would experience God’s love from rally participants. On Wednesday’s call, prayer leaders asked God to forgive the protesters,  saying “they know not what they do” — language used by Jesus asking God to forgive those who were crucifying him, according to the account in the Gospel of Luke.  Martyrdom and crucifixion returned on Thursday’s call, with a call leader praying that God “release” the protesters to God, the way Stephen asked forgiveness for those who were stoning him and Jesus did for those who were crucifying him.

Clearly, Response organizers have embraced the tendency of Religious Right leaders to portray disagreeing with them as a form of persecution. One prayer leader cited the biblical story of God appearing to Saul, who had been persecuting Christians but saw the light and become the evangelist Paul. A woman asked to lead prayer for the protesters prayed that God would similarly release “the angels of the harvest” over them.

Organizers are worried that the protesters, who are planning a rally and activist training, might be a threat. They prayed that God would help police and security officers see any “flanking” or “positioning” maneuvers. One prayed that God would “bind any demonic assignment” and one thanked God that He would send angels to guard the arena where the rally is being held, and declare it a “no-go zone for demons in the name of Jesus.” (That’s a clever reference to Jindal’s recent comments about Muslims, which according to call organizers have stirred up more “anger” and “angst” against Jindal.) “There is a confrontation in the heavenlies going on,” declared one prayer leader.

It seems that Response organizers are making a lot of awfully big assumptions about people who simply think it’s a bad idea for a governor and potential presidential candidate to lend the power of his office to an event promoting anti-gay bigotry and religious exclusion: namely, that all such protesters must not be Christians, must not be right with God and may in fact be demonic agents, and are in need of forgiveness for their audacity to “stand against” Jindal and his prayer warriors.

Response organizers might want to pray a little harder for a spirit of humility.

Jindal's Comments On Muslims Win Plaudits From Christian Nationalist Allies

As we have been reporting, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is currying favor with conservative evangelical voters by hosting “The Response,” a prayer rally at Louisiana State University on Saturday that has been organized by Christian-nation activist David Lane and paid for by the anti-gay American Family Association.  Yesterday, Lane’s American Renewal Project sent out an email rapturously praising Jindal for his recent comments about Muslims, in which Jindal insisted that it is not enough for Muslim leaders to denounce terrorist violence. They must, Jindal said, declare that those committing violence will go to hell.

“We need to understand the challenge we face in radical Islam...In many ways, you’re looking at folks who want to come, and in some ways, overturn our culture. They want to come in and almost colonize our countries. I think we’ve got to stop those people from coming into our country. But unfortunately, today the politically correct view is to say that anybody that says that is viewed as being culturally arrogant, as being insensitive, having a colonial perspective. I think that’s wrong.”

Lane was beside himself with excitement. “This is E-P-I-C,” he gushed. “Bobby Jindal speaks the truth.” Lane went on to complain that previous presidents have not been willing to say that Islam itself – not just radical or extremist Islam – “opposes Western values.”

Lane, who believes America was founded by and for Christians, goes on to slam both secularism and religious pluralism:

America’s predicament in 2015 is driven by the fact that we have “Forgotten the name of our God”, the first step toward apostasy; then we adore the false. Secularism is paganism clothed in tolerance, its ubiquitous chant, “We are a pluralistic society,” is not the same nation bequeathed to us by our Founders.

Jindal’s other prayer rally partner, the American Family Association, is also not big on religious pluralism. The AFA’s chief spokesman, radio host Bryan Fischer, insists that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections apply only to people he considers Christians, not to Muslims, Hindus, or Mormons.

Jindal has also recently decried supposed Muslim-only “no-go zones” in Europe even after Fox News retracted and apologized for similar claims. 

How The 'No-Go Zones' Myth Traveled From The Anti-Muslim Fringe To The Mouths Of GOP Politicians

Shortly after terrorist gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris earlier this month, conservative commentator Steve Emerson went on Fox News and claimed that Europe was being taken over by “no-go zones” controlled by Islamic law to such an extent that non-Muslims were not allowed to enter Birmingham, England’s second-largest city.

Emerson’s claim was met with ridicule, including by British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Emerson and Fox quickly retracted the claim.

But at the same time, the “no-go zone” myth gained traction among conservative activists and Republican leaders, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who mentioned it in a speech in London despite refusing to offer the names or locations of the purported no-go zones, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who claimed last week that France has “like 700 no-go zones where authorities have allowed Sharia law to be imposed,” something that he claimed is also beginning to happen in the United States.

The “no-go zone” myth didn’t spring out of nowhere two weeks ago. Instead, it has been percolating for years in fringe media, perpetuated by anti-Muslim activists warning that Europe was being overtaken by Sharia law, soon to be followed by the United States.

Bloomberg pinpoints the beginning of the myth at a 2006 article by conservative pundit Daniel Pipes, who gave the name “no-go zones” to a list of French “sensitive urban zones,” some with large populations of Muslim immigrants, that were, in reality, nothing more than areas hit by high crime and poverty that were actually targeted by the government for urban renewal projects. A few years later, Pipes had the opportunity to visit a few of these “no-go zones” and reported that they were “very mild, even dull” compared to high-crime neighborhoods in the U.S. and that “immigrant areas are hardly beautiful, but buildings are intact, greenery abounds, and order prevails.” He wrote, “Having this first-hand experience, I regret having called these areas no-go zones.”

But Pipes’ retraction came too late to stop the “no-go zone” story from becoming an established fact in fringe right-wing media.

The far-right outlet WorldNetDaily mentionsno-go zones” frequently, often warning that the United States will soon face the same fate. Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller told WND last year:

The Muslim population, for example, in France is over 10 percent,” she said. “You see outside of Paris … it can be very frightening. The no-go zones, the Shariah zones, where firefighters and police cannot go. They are many times lured by particular criminal activity into these zones, only to be ambushed. We see it in the U.K., increasingly, the imposition of Shariah law. And people think it can’t happen here, but it is happening here.

A search for the term “no-go zones” in Geller’s blog before the Charlie Hebdo attack produces 10 pages of results. Prominent anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney has also perpetuated the myth, warning repeatedly on his website and radio program of such zones “where authorities dare not enter” and “Shariah rules instead of the laws of the host government.”

Last year, the Clarion Project’s Ryan Mauro similarly warned in a FrontPageMag article that European “no-go zones” would provide “precedent” for such “Muslim enclaves” in the U.S. The publication has been another prominent generator of the myth, frequently citing Pipes since-rejected claim about French “no-go” neighborhood.

The myth percolated to the top of the news cycle briefly in 2010 when Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle claimed that Dearborn, Michigan, and the made-up town of Frankford, Texas, were ruled by “Sharia law.” She didn’t use the term “no-go zone,” but was clearly influenced by the myth that had by then become established fact in fringe media.

As recently as last month, Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt was citing the myth to warn that U.S. protests against police brutality would create “no-go zones.”

“It’s like in England and Scandinavia and I guess in Paris and a lot of Europe, perhaps in a lot of their metropolitan areas, the Muslims have come to a preponderant population in those areas that the police do not dare go into the urban areas controlled by Muslims,” he said.

The myth, propagated by a few voices in fringe media, is too wild for Fox News. But it is now apparently perfectly acceptable in the Republican Party.

Rafael Cruz Joins Religious Right Group In Effort To Repeal Plano Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, spoke at a press conference in Plano, Texas, today on behalf of an effort to repeal that city’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. Soon after Plano’s city council approved the ordinance last month, a new group sprung up to oppose it, apparently coordinated by Houston pastor Dave Welch, who also led the opposition to a similar ordinance in his city.

Welch and his allies are hoping to gather enough signatures to either force the council to repeal the ordinance or to put repeal on the ballot.

The Plano-based Liberty Institute, which said that it will file a lawsuit against the measure, organized today’s press conference with a number of area pastors. Cruz’s participation was not announced in advance, but a reporter who was present posted to Twitter a photo of him speaking:

 

 

The elder Cruz has been active in the effort to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio, falsely claiming that the law allows pastors to be fined for preaching from the Bible.

We’ll update this post with video of Cruz’s speech when it becomes available.

UPDATE: The Plano group, Plano Citizens United, has posted an excerpt from Cruz’s speech in which he urged his supporters to run for office and oust “wicked” politicians who are violating the country’s “Judeo-Christian heritage.”

If the righteous, if the people of faith are not running for office, all that is left is the wicked ruling the wicked, the wicked electing the wicked. It is about time that our people of faith become involved in the political arena. We need to send a clear message, not just to the city council members, but to every politician that violates our Judeo-Christian heritage: we will primary you, we will get you out of office. Only that way will we see righteousness prevail and make America again that shining city on the hill to the glory of God.

 

 

 

Ken Ham Demands Taxpayers Pay For 'One Of The Greatest Evangelist Outreaches Of Our Day'

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis was a guest on American Family Radio today, where he discussed with Tim Wildmon his new project building a Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky. Ham insisted that the theme park, a complement to Ham's Creation Museum, has come under attack from “intolerant” liberals who want to deny it taxpayer funding.

Last month, Kentucky’s tourism board announced that the Noah’s Ark park wouldn’t be eligible for an $18 million tourism tax break because Answers In Genesis intends to use the site to proseletize and refuses to promise not to discriminate based on religion in its hiring. The board noted that “[s]tate tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion," but Ham cried persecution, complaining that Kentucky had violated his “fundamental rights” by witholding the tax break.

In the American Family Radio interview, Ham continued to portray himself as the victim of “intolerant” liberals (like Bill Nye) while also inadvertently bolstering the tourism board’s case by announcing that the Noah’s Ark park will be “one of the greatest evangelist outreaches of our day, of our period in history.”

Boykin: 'Defeat Islam' By Telling Muslims They're Sinning

Last week, the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios interviewed Family Research Council vice president Jerry Boykin and self-proclaimed ex-terrorist Kamal Saleem about their new novel, “The Coalition.”

Boykin — who as a high-ranking Pentagon official was rebuked by President George W. Bush for giving speeches framing anti-terrorism efforts as a holy war between Christianity and Islam — told Rios that American Christians are God’s “warriors” in an effort to “defeat Islam” by “bringing the light of the Gospel to the Islamic world.”

He said that Christians have to tell Muslims that they are “sinning” just as one would tell a son living with his girlfriend that he is not “okay with God”:

“We have to stand against evil. It’s like when your neighbor is sinning and do you love him, do you love him enough to tell him he’s sinning? Do you love him enough, one of your children, to tell them that what they’re doing is wrong, living with his girlfriend is a sin? Do you love him that much or are you going to take the easy way out and not tell him and let him go on thinking that he’s okay with God because he really loves this girl he’s living with?”

“We’ve got to love the Muslims enough to stand up against the evil that we see them perpetrating in the name of Allah, but at the same time we’ve got to offer them the Gospel of Jesus Christ in one way or another,” he added.

Jindal Rally Organizers Remove Controversial Prayer Guide, Still Think Gays Are Responsible For Natural Disasters

Last week, we reported that the anti-gay, Christian nationalist organizers of a supposedly nonpolitical prayer rally that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is hosting next month had reused some materials from a similar rally hosted by Texas Gov. Rick Perry back in 2011, including a prayer guide blaming LGBT rights and legal abortion for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Blaming Hurricane Katrina on gay people and abortion, it turns out, didn’t go over so well in the state that was hardest hit by the 2005 storm, and after reporters in Louisiana started asking the organizers and Jindal’s office about the prayer guide, it was scrubbed from the rally’s website.

But disappearing one document can only do so much to hide the fact that Jindal is partnering with some pretty extreme organizations to put on his "The Response" event. In fact, the offending document was replaced on the event’s website by a letter from organizer Doug Stringer which only slightly more vaguely blames “earthquakes, floods, fires, and an escalation of natural disasters across the country and the world” on “the continued moral failures of our leaders.”

And when the New Orleans Times-Picayune approached Bryan Fischer, a spokesman for the event’s main funder the American Family Association, about the controversial prayer guide, he told them that his group stood by the original content. "We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God's judgment on an unrepentant nation,” Fischer told the Times-Picayune, before explaining that it’s “fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance."

Still, the AFA initially issued a prayer guide that has offended many Louisiana residents. It implied legal abortion, same-sex marriage and pornography use contributed to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. Though the prayer guide has been taken down, Fischer reiterated that sentiment on Wednesday. He said Louisiana should be especially concerned about the morality of the country, given its vulnerability to natural disasters.

"We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God's judgement on an unrepentant nation," Fischer said, "It's fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance."

Texas School Board Let Anti-Muslim Group Pressure Publishers To Rewrite Religion Textbooks

Last month, the Texas State Board of Education approved a set of social studies textbooks after some disputes between Christian Right members of the board and scholars who had reviewed the texts. Although experts recruited by the Texas Freedom Network to review the proposed texts managed to convince textbook companies to remove some objectionable material, some claims demanded by conservative members of the board remained, including assertions that Moses was a direct influence on the founding of the U.S.

In an article for Religion Dispatches today, one of TFN’s reviewers, David R. Brockman, who teaches religious studies at Southern Methodist University, writes about his experience as a textbook reviewer and his frustrations with the board’s process for reviewing curricula on world religions. “The curriculum standards and the adoption process in Texas don’t simply lack balanced and accurate coverage of the world’s religions; they work against it,” he writes. “And while textbook publishers generally struggle against this tide, they are sometimes dragged along with it.”

In one example, Brockman writes that the Christian Right bloc on the school board “insisted that the publishers address” a last-minute set of comments submitted by Truth in Texas Textbooks, a group associated with the anti-Muslim organization ACT! for America, whose reviewers, with one exception, had no “relevant social studies credentials” and demanded that the textbooks include hostile and sometimes false comments about Islam. Although the textbook companies mostly refused TTT’s requests (many with clear exasperation), a few were successful, including a redefinition of the word “jihad”:

The problem is that, in 2014 at least, the conservative majority on the SBOE quite clearly gave comments from ideologically-driven pressure groups (such as Texas Eagle Forum and Texas Values Action) greater weight than comments from credentialed field specialists (such as myself and my fellow reviewers).

A mere two weeks before the SBOE was to take its final vote on the textbooks, and long after other public groups had filed their comments, Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT), which has allies on the SBOE, presented their reviews—469 pages of material. Two days before the final adoption vote was to take place, Christian Right members of the SBOE made much of the TTT criticisms and insisted that publishers address them.

To judge from its website, the only TTT reviewer with relevant social studies credentials was a professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. However, he reviewed only one world history textbook, and quite appropriately restricted his comments to his areas of expertise.

The other reviewers on TTT’s list appear to have no academic credentials in history, geography, economics, or religious studies (though they do include a Ph.D. in “educational leadership,” and a professor of foreign languages). Despite a lack of pertinent credentials, the TTT reviewers weighed in on a wide range of topics, including prehistory, climate change, economics, political science, and U.S. government.

But they directed special vitriol at the alleged “dangers” posed by Islam. One reviewer wrote of Islam’s “threat to the Western world,” while another lumped Muslims together with communists and socialists commenting, bizarrely, that “The greatest fear for a communist, a socialist or a Muslim is Truth.”

Other TTT comments were just plain false: “Islam is spread by the sword while monotheistic religions are not.”

(Try telling that to an Aztec or Inca—not to mention the fact that Islam is a “monotheistic religion.”)

Yet despite TTT’s lack of credentials and the obviously biased and tendentious nature of their critiques, conservative SBOE members insisted that publishers give them the same level of attention they gave comments from credentialed scholars.

Sadly, in some cases, publishers actually changed their text to suit TTT, as when Pearson Learning ( see page 16) removed from its world history text the factually correct statement that jihad “is most frequently used [by Muslims] to describe an inner struggle in God’s service.” In its place Pearson inserted more ambiguous wording: “For some Muslims, [jihad] means a struggle against one’s evil inclinations. For other Muslims, it refers to a struggle or violent holy war to defend or spread Islam.”

While this change may please TTT and other anti-Islam groups, it deprives students of the important fact that the “holy war” interpretation of jihad is held by only a small minority in the Muslim community today.

Geller: Obama Imposing Islamic Jizya Tax On Non-Muslim Americans

Anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller said last week that the Obama administration’s actions on behalf of civil rights for Muslim Americans amount to the imposition of the jizya, a tax on non-Muslims.

In an interview with Rick Wiles of “TruNews,” Geller fumed about a New Jersey town’s $7.75 million settlement with an Islamic group that sued after the township denied its request to build a mosque, a decision that a judge ruled [PDF] was made in part as a result of “anti-Muslim prejudice.”​

While the Brennan Center for Justice and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund represented the Islamic center in the lawsuit, Geller blamed the Department of Justice, which according to one of the center’s attorneys had opened an investigation into the case.

“That’s the jizya, that’s the poll tax we see all through Islamic history imposed upon Christians and Jews living under Islamic law,” she said of the settlement, accusing the Department of Justice of becoming the “de facto legal arm of many of these Muslim Brotherhood groups in the country.”

Later in the broadcast, Geller claimed that there is “no question” that America has been “overthrown” by progressives who hate all things good, ushering in “terrible” and “catastrophic” consequences for the country.

“The coup is complete, this is the left and this is the war that they’ve had,” Geller said. “The coup is complete, the left’s war on morality, on the good, is complete.”

She said President Obama’s re-election victory in 2012 represented the fulfillment of the left’s anti-American coup and lashed out at the voters who voted for him:

We have absolutely crossed the line. We’ve crossed the threshold. I think the coup was complete when the American people chose to be bamboozled after the second term. I wrote the Obama book, ‘The Post-American Presidency: The Obama’s Administration’s War on America,’ in 2009, but I understood how he was elected, I understood the love affair. It was unforgiveable, it was unforgivable after Benghazi, it was unforgivable.

Creationist Group Fights For Its 'Fundamental Rights' To $18 Million In Tax Incentives

Yesterday, Kentucky’s tourism board announced that the state would not be granting an estimated $18 million tax break to the Creationist group Answers In Genesis (AIG) for its construction of a Noah’s Ark theme park, after learning that AIG intended to discriminate based on religion in its hiring.

Now, AIG’s CEO Ken Ham is crying religious persecution, claiming that Kentucky is violating his “fundamental rights” by failing to provide millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to his project. Ham told WorldNetDaily that he intends to sue the state for discriminating against him, saying, “We are fully prepared to defend our fundamental rights in court if necessary, as this issue is of huge importance, not only to us, but to every religious organization.”

Answers in Genesis, which is building the life-size version of Noah’s Ark – 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and three stories high – announced Thursday it was informed by the state that it could participate in the tourism program on two conditions.

The organization is required to “waive its right to include a religious preference in hiring” and “affirm that it will tolerate no ‘proselytizing’ at the theme park.”

Not possible, AiG responded, on billboard messages and elsewhere.

AiG said Kentucky officials bowed to pressure from secularist groups when it denied the Ark Encounter theme park an opportunity to participate in a popular tax rebate incentive program offered by the state’s tourism office.”

The restrictions demanded by the state are “unlawful,” AiG asserted.

“It is well-established under both federal law (Title VII) and state law (KRS 344.090) that religious organization and entities like AIG are specifically permitted to utilize a religious preference in their hiring,” the organization said.

“Moreover, the government cannot show hostility toward religion or discriminate against persons or organizations who express religious viewpoints.”

Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham explained his organization’s position.

“We have been working on this project with Kentucky for more than two years, so this just-received denial announcement is as disappointing as it is costly for our ministry without the expected rebate,” he said. “Our construction has already begun at the Williamstown, Kentucky, site, and it must proceed. We are fully prepared to defend our fundamental rights in court if necessary, as this issue is of huge importance, not only to us, but to every religious organization.”

He said two law firms, Freedom Guard and the Center for Religious Express, already have agreed to represent AiG in the matter.

Institute On The Constitution: Of Course There Should Be A Religious Test For Public Office!

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the efforts of a group of church-state separation activists, led by Todd Stiefel, who are trying to remove long-forgotten articles in seven state constitutions that require people holding public office to believe in God.

This did not sit well with Jake McAuley, the chief operating officer of Michael Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution, who writes in BarbWire today that it is “impossible” for an elected official who doesn’t believe in God to fulfill his or her duties. “This isn’t about discrimination or bigotry,” he writes. “ It’s about ensuring that those holding office in America are committed to the true, lawful, American philosophy of government.”

Peroutka, who was recently elected to a county office in Maryland, has declared all laws passed by his state legislature null and void because the body violated "God's law" by legalizing gay marriage.

Now, let’s be clear. Mr. Steifel may not believe that there is a God. And no one is forcing him to do so.

But if he doesn’t believe that God exists, it follows that he doesn’t believe that God-given rights exist either.

And if he doesn’t believe that God-given rights exist, then how would you expect him, if elected, to defend and protect those rights?

You see, when someone is elected to office he swears an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the God-given rights that are secured thereby. To elect someone who does not believe that God exists, is to ask them to do that which is impossible for them to do.

The drafters of our state constitutions understood this simple logic and so they included these provisions designed to protect us from officeholders who do not share the American philosophy of law and government.

Think of it this way.

Suppose instead of not believing in God, Mr. Stiefel informs us that he does not believe that there exists a city called Cincinnati, Ohio.

By not believing in Cincinnati, Mr. Stiefel breaks no law that we can punish him for.

But now suppose that a few of us have decided to take a bus trip to visit Cincinnati. We advertise for a driver for the bus and Mr. Stiefel answers our advertisement.

Is Mr. Stiefel qualified to drive us to Cincinnati?

Do you see the problem? Once he started the bus, what would Mr. Stiefel do next? How would he get us to a place the existence of which he denies?

Of course he is not qualified. He not only doesn’t know the way. He doesn’t even believe that there is a way. He is not qualified to take us to a place that, in his own mind, does not exist.

So this constitutional requirement that an office holder must believe in God is a logical and consistent protection against those who might drive our constitutional republic in a bad direction.

This isn’t about discrimination or bigotry. It’s about ensuring that those holding office in America are committed to the true, lawful, American philosophy of government.

Bobby Jindal's Prayer Rally Materials Blame Gays & Legal Abortion For Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is following in the footsteps of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and kicking off his possible presidential campaign next month with a stadium prayer rally organized by radical religious right activists. As Brian reported on Monday, the virulently anti-gay Christian nationalist American Family Association, influential Religious Right leader David Lane and Doug Stringer, a self-proclaimed “apostle” from Texas who has blamed America’s rejection of God for the September 11 attacks, are spearheading Jindal’s Baton Rouge rally.

These activists are the perfect ambassadors for the Christian nationalists that Jindal appears to be courting. In a letter introducing the rally — printed on official governor’s mansion stationary — Jindal warns of “a new world order of chaos…being driven by militant Islam seeking to impose Sharia Law worldwide” and domestic epidemics of “fatherless homes,” “drugs and crime in our inner cities” and “a saturation of pornography, abortion, racism,” problems for which Jesus Christ “is America’s only hope.”

Jindal’s prayer rally appears to be so closely modeled after Perry’s that its organizers are even reusing materials from the 2011 Texas event, including a prayer guide contending that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, were the result of God’s displeasure with the “alternative lifestyle” of homosexuality, marriage equality, legal abortion, and Internet pornography.

The prayer guide listed on the “resources” page of the website for Jindal's rally includes suggestions for seven days of prayer leading up the event. It appears to be exactly the same as the guide disturbed to participants in Perry’s event in 2011  it hasn't even been updated to include the increased number of states that are bringing God’s judgment on America by allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry:

Day 2 - Locust plagues

CONSIDERATION

In Joelʼs day Israel experienced the destruction of a massive locust plague. The nationʼs economy was crippled because of the decimation of the agriculture. The reason these plagues came was because of the peopleʼs negligence to worship and serve God with their whole heart. Because the people grew cold and eventually departed from God, they experienced incredible hardships. The result of their inner departure was multiple external crises.

In America today we face a similar crisis. We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle. Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. Pornography is available ondemand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes. While the United States still claims to be a nation “under God” it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity.

This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many and crippled entire cities, such as Tuscaloosa, AL & Joplin, MO. And let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, which rendered the entire Gulf Coast powerless.

Furthermore, because of mismanagement and greed, our national economy is in incredible disarray, with our national debt topping 14 trillion dollars. We have effectively mortgaged our childrenʼs future, while spending money we do not have on entitlements as we search in vain for “the American dream”. The first “wave of locusts” has begun to descend upon us and many are oblivious to the fact that destruction has come and is still coming.

God destined America to be a gospel beacon to the rest of the earth – a nation under God who declares His goodness, truth and mercy to a world desperately in need.

The Jindal rally’s prayer guide also includes the 2011 guide’s plea to conservative Christians to save the United States from “debauchery, sin and ultimately destruction.”

There is much at stake for the church in America. In many ways we are at a crossroads of two divergent paths. Either the church will turn to the Lord with her whole heart, sparking a great revival and reformation in our nation, or she will continue in compromise, keeping the status quo as we watch our nation turn to debauchery, sin and ultimately destruction.

(Emphases are ours.)

Both “Response” rallies are modeled after the “Call” rallies organized by Religious Right leader Lou Engle. The leadership team of Perry’s rally included a number of officials from the International House of Prayer, a ministry closely associated with Engle that promotes the dominionist theology that calls for evangelical Christians to gain control of all parts American culture and government. 

Will Evangelical Right Cry 'Persecution' At Mormon Public School Prayer Case?

It is an article of faith among Religious Right activists that the supposed persecution of Christians in America is rooted in a series of Supreme Court decisions banning government-sponsored prayer in schools, rulings which they blame for everything from school shootings to crime and HIV/AIDS.

But the mostly fundamentalist Protestant leadership of the Religious Right rarely talk about the possibility that if such bans were lifted, the state could require prayer not to their liking.

As Think Progress reports today, one varsity softball coach at a Mesa, Arizona, public school has been hit with a lawsuit for requiring his players to participate in Mormon-led prayers…and, unsurprisingly, we have heard no evangelical conservatives complaining that the lawsuit represents religious persecution of the coach.

Three athletes alleged in a complaint against the school district [PDF] that they “were penalized for not conducting ‘team prayer’ in accordance with the directive of Joseph Goodman,” the team’s Mormon coach.

They argued in their complaint that the coach took disciplinary actions against them for “not being members of the LDS Church” and their unwillingness to “accede to having and allowing student-led group ‘team prayer.’

Mesa was founded by Mormons and has a large Mormon community, so it is no surprise that when a team decided to have a prayer, it was skewed toward the Mormon tradition. Even generic, non-sectarian generic prayers organized by public schools can undermine the free exercise of religious and non-religious students alike.

This case provides yet another reminder that if the Religious Right gets its wish of lifting the constitutional prohibition of official public school prayers, not all schools would adopt the prayers that they themselves would choose.

25. Terry Richardson, along with another parent, Kelly Roberts (also an LDS Church member) expected that ‘team prayer’ would be part of the activities of the team prior to the games.

26. The expectation that there would be ‘team prayer’ was communicated to Joseph Goodman by LDS parents.



38. The Plaintiffs in fact were penalized for not conducting ‘team prayer’ in accordance with the directive of Joseph Goodman, acting for himself and at the behest of certain parents that were part of the LDS Church.

39. The Plaintiffs in fact were penalized because the parents of certain LDS students on the team complained to Joseph Goodman about the speech and expressive speech of the Plaintiffs, which actual and expressive speech events were perfectly acceptable and within the bounds of a secular society and that of a public school system.

40. The Establishment Clause provides a right of freedom from religion in the public school system, whether during academic sessions, or, during extra-curricular activities.

41. By Defendants treating Plaintiffs in the foregoing manner, dismissing them from the Team for not conducting ‘team prayer,’ for utilizing certain speech and expressive speech through pop music, social media, and otherwise, the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the Plaintiffs were violated.



62. The actions of the Defendant, Joseph Goodman, were based upon the Plaintiffs not being members of the LDS Church and who did not accede to having and allowing student-led group ‘team prayer.’

Beck: Allowing Satanic Display Is A Sign That 'Destruction Is Coming Our Way'

Among the five displays approved for the Florida Capitol this holiday season will be one produced the Satanic Temple and Glenn Beck is not pleased, warning that "destruction is coming our way."

Even though the Satanic Temple does not actually worship or even believe in a literal Satan, Beck's co-host Pat Gray was particularly upset by the news, insisting that the Constitution does not guarantee Satanists the right to equal treatment.

"There's nothing in the Constitution that says every religion is equal," he said. "There just isn't."

"I have news for ya," Beck chimed in, "destruction is coming our way."

Gray then returned to his cogent legal argument as to why other religions are not entitled to equal treatment under the law by explaining that "when Satanists come to you and say 'well, we want equal time,' you tell them 'tough, you're not getting it!'"

And why don't Satanists deserve equal time, according to Gray?

"Because you don't deserve it" ... unlike Christianity.

"Christianity has earned the right," Beck added, "not in the Dark Ages, but in this country, they have earned the right to be at the table":

Michigan House of Representatives Passes ‘Right To Discriminate’ Bill

The Michigan House of Representatives today passed a bill explicitly designed by its sponsor to allow discrimination against LGBT people. The proposed law, the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) at issue in the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby case, would allow individuals to cite their own religious beliefs to bypass state anti-discrimination laws.

“Religious liberty is a core American value,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, “but this law isn’t written to defend an individual’s right to practice his or her own religion: it’s designed to legalize discrimination. Even more disturbing is the fact that the sponsor of this law explicitly says that he proposed it in order to weaken anti-discrimination protections for gay people that are under consideration. That’s a gross perversion of what religious liberty actually is.”

In addition to allowing individuals to ignore essential anti-discrimination laws, the law potentially permits individuals to exempt themselves from other laws they disapprove of on the basis of their religion. As a result of the Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of the federal RFRA in Hobby Lobby, and provisions of the bill itself, individuals could effectively claim exemption based on general offense to their religious beliefs without showing a truly substantial burden on their actual exercise of religion. The results could range from pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, to hotel owners refusing to provide rooms to unmarried couples, to landlords refusing to rent homes to single parents.

“Laws that truly defend religious liberty serve as shields to prevent the government from impinging on our essential First Amendment rights,” said Keegan. “This law is a sword that allows individuals to harm others.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment with an expert on religious liberty issues, contact Layne Amerikaner at 202-467-4999 or media@pfaw.org. 

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