Religious Liberty

Barton: Cops Should Have Refused to Arrest Arizona Pastor for Illegally Building a Church

Yesterday on "WallBuilders Live," David Barton and Rick Green discussed the case of Arizona pastor Michael Salman who has recently become a Religious Right cause célèbre because he is  supposedly being persecuted simply because he wanted to hold Bible study meetings at his home. 

In reality, Salman had been attempting to illegally build a church in his back yard and had been holding multiple-weekly church services on his property until he was found guilty of dozens of code violations and sentenced to sixty days in jail.

Barton took up the case today and voiced his outrage, calling on voters in Phoenix to work to remove political leaders in that city for allowing something like this to happen. Barton went on to falsely claim that Salman's home was raided by a SWAT team sent to arrest him and said that law enforcement officers must refuse to participate in things like this because they have an obligation to uphold the Constitution:

And the one we have today, the one we're going to talk about today is a great example is a bunch of political leaders in a city who need to be seriously removed. The fact that they would even think about enforcing this particular ordinance against anybody means that we've got a bad set of leaders there that need to be gone.

...

There needs to be some changes in Phoenix and people really do need to let city hall hear it over this. And I'm really concerned about cops who are willing to go in as a SWAT team to arrest a pastor who's had Bible study. The cops should have said "no, we're not doing that. I mean, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution too; there's the right of assembly, the right of speech, the right of religion. We're not going to go arrest this guy with AR-15s and a SWAT team." At some point, citizens are going to have to say we're not going to be part of this and that should have happened at this point.

Raymond Raines and the Religious Right: The Myth That Will Not Die

Yesterday Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council released a new website and joint report entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America" which is billed as "collection of more than 600 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America."

And you can tell from the introduction just how trustworthy this report truly is:

The Obama administration no longer even speaks of freedom of religion; now it is only “freedom of worship.” This radical departure is one that threatens to make true religious liberty vulnerable, conditional, and limited. As some have said, it is a freedom “only within four walls.” That is, you are free to worship within the four walls of your home, church, or synagogue, but when you enter the public square the message is, “leave your religion at home.” President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly echoed this same message in international forums, acknowledging only a right to the “freedom of worship.” This is no accident, and it has huge ramifications.

This claim that Obama is systematically undermining "freedom of religion" seems to be one of the Religious Right's favorite claims ... which, of course, means that it is not true at all.

The report itself consists of 100+ pages of  short descriptions of seemingly every court case along with the various urban legends that the Religious Right trots out whenever they are trying to play the victim.  In fact, this one from the Executive Summary caught my eye:

A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.

That sounded a lot like the story of Raymond Raines and, sure enough, on page 74 we find this:

Elementary School Student Punished for Praying Before Meals
Joan Little, “City Schools Issue Rules About Students, Religion,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 11, 1996, at 2B

Elementary school student Raymond Raines was “caught” praying over his meal at his elementary school. He was lifted from his seat and reprimanded in front of all the other students, then taken to the principal who ordered him to cease praying in school.

As we noted just a few months ago, this myth has been around since 1994 when Newt Gingrich and various Religious Right leaders first started making Raymond's sorry tale the centerpiece of their campaign to pass a constitutional amendment protecting the right to expressions of faith ... despite the fact that it wasn't true:

The St. Louis case concerned 10-year-old Raymond Raines who, his mother said, was given detention because he sought to pray over his lunch. When lawyers for the Rutherford Institute heard about the case, they filed a lawsuit against the principal and issued a press release denouncing the school system.

"I know it sounds bizarre, but we have substantial evidence to believe it happened," said Timothy Belz, the St. Louis lawyer working with the Rutherford Institute.

On NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," Gingrich described the situation as "a real case about a real child. Should it be possible for the government to punish you if you say grace over your lunch? That's what we used to think of Russian behavior when they were the Soviet Union."

But school officials said the incident never happened. Rather, they said, Raymond was disciplined for fighting in the cafeteria.

"I can tell you he was not reprimanded for praying," said Kenneth Brostron, the school's lawyer. "Do you think it makes sense that the teachers would look around the cafeteria and target the one student who was praying quietly at his seat?"

This incident took place nearly twenty years ago and the Religious Right is still citing it today as proof that Christianity is under attack in America despite the fact that it never happened.

Reason #7 Why Obama is not a Christian: He is too Nice to the Moo-slums

Late last year, Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission announced that his organization would be releasing a series of monthly videos leading up to the election detailing "ten new irrefutable proofs that Barack Obama is not a Christian."

Today, Cass released part seven of the series which lays out that Obama has been friendly to Islam while being hostile to Christianity, even though the Bible says that "Islam is the doctrine of demons and originates in Hell."  And the reason Obama doesn't believe that America is a Christian nation, the CADC explains, is because he had a "Moo-slum father and step-father":

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PHOTOS: Religious, Political Leaders Join Launch of People For Foundation Report, '12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics'

Last week, People For the American Way Foundation launched a new report, “12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics,” which offers guidelines for policymakers and advocates seeking to bring faith into political debates.

Joining us at a launch party for the report and a discussion of the issues it raises were Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress; Sister Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Here are some photos of the event from People For Foundation’s Dylan Hewitt:

Sister Simone Campbell talks with People For’s COO, Nick Ucci 


People For President Michael Keegan, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery 

Michael Keegan and Rep. Keith Ellison

Sister Simone Campbell and Rabbi David Saperstein

Rabbi David Saperstein 

Rep. Keith Ellison and Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Conference.
 

PFAW Foundation

The Right's Sudden Concern About Arpaio's Prison Camps

Over the last few weeks, Arizona pastor Michael Salman has become a Religious Right cause célèbre and the current poster boy for religious persecution. In the Religious Right's version of events, Salman has supposedly been harassed and persecuted by local officials for years simply because he wanted to hold bible study meetings at his home. 

In reality, Salman had been attempting to illegally build a church in his back yard and was found guilty of dozens of code violations, resulting in a sixty day jail sentence, which Salman is now serving ... and about which his supporters are now complaining:

Pastor Michael Salman is serving his 60-day sentence for holding a home Bible study in Tent City Jail, a prison compound in Maricopa County, Ariz. The Phoenix pastor’s attorney describes conditions there as similar to the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

“This is where you would put Osama bin Laden, not Michael Salman,” says Rutherford Institute founder and attorney John Whitehead in an interview yesterday with International Christian Concern (ICC).

“The temperature there has been around 140 degrees, and there is no air conditioning. They’re [living] in tents. They have stun fences … barbed wire … large German shepherds walking the perimeter, armed guards and facial recognition software so that the prisoners are studied all the time.”

According to Whitehead, Salman has reported being imprisoned with “really hardened criminals.” He is unsure why the pastor has been specifically sent to Tent City. In late June, the jail was the focus of thousands of protesters who gathered outside the Maricopa County Sherriff’s office to express their disapproval of the allegedly prison camp-like conditions.

It should be noted that this Guantanamo-like prison camp in which Salman is currently serving his time just so happens to be the system set up by the Right's hero, "America's Toughest Sheriff," and Birther extraordinaire Joe Arpaio.

Oddly, nobody on the Right seemed particularly concerned about the conditions in the compound until now. 

12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics – A People For the American Way Foundation Report with a Foreword by Bill Moyers

Washington, DC – The proper role of religion in American politics has been the subject of vigorous – and sometimes toxic – debate for over two centuries. Today, in the midst of campaign-season claims about America’s founding as a “Christian nation” and hyperbolic rhetoric about religious persecution, People For the American Way Foundation calls for a more constructive conversation with a new report, 12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics, authored by PFAW Foundation senior fellow Peter Montgomery with a foreword by journalist Bill Moyers.

"12 Rules" takes on a number of current debates, including those over required contraception insurance coverage, marriage equality, and the role of religion in the 2012 presidential campaign. This edition builds on earlier releases of "12 Rules" in 1984 and 1994.

The full report can be found online here. 

“Religious liberty is at the heart of what it means to be an American, but it is also at the center of some of our fiercest debates,” said Peter Montgomery. “How do we balance the constitutional principles of free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state when they come into tension with each other? And how can people of faith bring their religious values into the public arena without turning religion into a political club? As our religious landscape becomes increasingly diverse, it is important that we grapple with these issues in ways that are more constructive than divisive. We hope these Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics will launch many constructive conversations around these topics.”

“Our political climate is being poisoned by inflammatory charges of anti-religious and anti-Christian persecution,” said Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “We can look around the world to see what religious persecution looks like, and we think it’s wrong to cry wolf over political and policy disputes. We are strong advocates for First Amendment freedoms. But something can be legal without being wise. The principles in this report should be embraced by people of all religious and political beliefswho long for a more respectful and responsible debate in the public arena.”

This new edition of "12 Rules" will be launched at an event in Washington, DC featuring a discussion with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim American elected to Congress.

Read the full report, 12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics, here.  

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12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics

Religious liberty is at the heart of the American Way. In America, one’s standing as a citizen, member of the community, or candidate does not depend on a profession of faith.

The New York Times Sheds New Light on the Lisa Miller Kidnapping Case

New York Times reporter Erik Eckholm has a big front-page story in Sunday’s paper on a case that readers of RWW are familiar with: the disappearance of Lisa Miller. Eckholm traveled to Nicaragua to talk with the Mennonite communities that have helped harbor Miller and her daughter Isabella on their flight from United States law enforcement and from Isabella’s other legal parent, Miller’s former partner Janet Jenkins of Vermont. Miller, who kidnapped her daughter rather than allow her to have visitation rights with Jenkins, has become a cause celebre among the Religious Right, a supposed victim of anti-Christian persecution.

Eckholm supplies us with an illuminating and creepy anecdote about a family of hamsters left to die in Miller’s abandoned house, and casts some light on the thinking of those who helped harbor Miller in Nicaragua. But there’s one important piece of the puzzle that remains a mystery: did Miller’s attorneys at Liberty University have anything to do with Miller’s disappearance? LU Law School dean Mat Staver tells Eckholm that he was surprised as anyone when Miller disappeared, as he has since it first became known.

But Liberty University’s relationship with Miller has always been a little complicated. Rena Lindevaldsen, an LU Law School dean and Miller’s attorney before she disappeared, has now written a book arguing Miller’s case. And even before Miller kidnapped with Isabella, Lindevaldsen and Staver were teaching Miller’s case as an example of a situation where the demands of “God’s law” trump those of “man’s law.” Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner talked with several students who had taken a required class from the two deans and got her hands on a copy of an exam that quizzed students on what to do in Lisa Miller’s situation:

Students at Liberty Law School tell RD that in the required Foundations of Law class in the fall of 2008, taught by Miller’s attorneys Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, they were repeatedly instructed that when faced with a conflict between “God’s law” and “man’s law,” they should resolve that conflict through “civil disobedience.” One student said, “the idea was when you are confronted with a particular situation, for instance, if you have a court order against you that is in violation of what you see as God’s law, essentially... civil disobedience was the answer.

This student and two others, who all requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by Staver (who is also the law school’s dean), recounted the classroom discussion of civil disobedience, as well as efforts to draw comparisons between choosing “God’s law” over “man’s law” to the American revolution and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. According to one student, in the Foundations course both Staver and Lindevaldsen “espoused the opinion that in situations where God’s law is in direct contradiction to man’s law, we have an obligation to disobey it.”
...
That semester’s mid-term exam, obtained by RD [see excerpts of the actual exam here], included a question based on Miller’s case asking students to describe what advice they would give her “as a friend who is a Christian lawyer.” After laying out a slanted history of the protracted legal battle, the exam asked, “Lisa needs your counsel on how to think through her legal situation and how to respond as a Christian to this difficult problem. Relying only on what we have learned thus far in class, how would you counsel Lisa?”

Students who wrote that Miller should comply with court orders received bad grades while those who wrote she should engage in civil disobedience received an A, the three students said. “People were appalled,” said one of the students, adding, “especially as lawyers to be, who are trained and licensed to practice the law—to disobey that law, that seemed completely counterintuitive to all of us.”

Still, some knew what they needed to “regurgitate,” in order to get a good grade. “It was obvious by the substance of the class during the semester the answer that they wanted,” said one of the students. “The majority of people that I am acquainted with who did get As wrote that because that was expected of them.”

One of the students who got an A said, “I told them she needed to engage in civil disobedience and seriously consider leaving the country,” adding, “I knew what I needed to write.”

Given what was expected of them on the exam, and the tenor of the class, there is “not a lot of shock among the students about the current developments,” said one of the students, referring to the revelation that Miller is in hiding in Nicaragua. “Everybody semi-suspected that Liberty Counsel had something to do with her disappearance.”


Of course, we have no way of knowing what Liberty Counsel knew and when they knew it. But Posner’s reporting shows that it’s certainly worth looking into.

LaBarbera and Lindevaldsen Say No to Gay Judges, Sad Sally Ride ‘Fell into Lesbianism’

Americans for Truth About Homosexuality’s Peter LaBarbera continued his discussion with Liberty University Law School’s Rena Lindevaldsen on Friday. The two revisited the topic of openly gay judges, specifically the Virginia prosecutor who was rejected from a judgeship simply because he was gay. That discrimination was ok, Lindevaldsen said, because “if you’re engaged in a lifestyle of immorality, whether that be a homosexual lifestyle or an adulterous relationship or fornication, that’s not the type of moral character that I believe should be someone who’s being appointed to become a judge”:

Lindevaldsen: I think we can equate this not only with the judiciary, but the same debate is taking place, you know, who we want to serve as our schoolteachers, for example. We want moral, upstanding individuals to serve as judges, and this debate’s taking place with schoolteachers too. So if you’re engaged in a lifestyle of immorality, whether that be a homosexual lifestyle or an adulterous relationship or fornication, that’s not the type of moral character that I believe should be someone who’s being appointed to become a judge.

I think it goes to fit moral character and I think that the necessary qualification of any judicial appointment. And therefore it is relevant, based on your conduct, to judge and decide whether you should be allowed to sit in the judiciary.

Immediately after Lindevaldsen and LaBarbera made the case that gay judicial nominees should be defined by and excluded for their sexual orientation, they changed the rules when it came to another prominent example of an openly gay person in public life. Lindevaldsen and LaBarbera heaped scorn on gay rights activists who have had the nerve to call the late Sally Ride, who lived for 27 years with her same-sex partner, a gay pioneer. Emphasizing Ride’s sexual orientation, LaBarbera said -- expanding on a tweet from shortly after her death --would be like defining her as an alcoholic if she had a drinking problem:

LaBarbera: They’re always using opportunities to promote what their version of reality on homosexuality. And really quickly, Sally Ride, another great example. Sally Ride was the first female astronaut, the first…and she had many amazing accomplishments. Unfortunately she also fell into lesbianism and left her husband, she was married, she ended up living in a lesbian lifestyle. She was not public about it. Now gay activists, like Michelangelo Signorile, are using her homosexual, you know, the fact that she practiced the homosexual lifestyle, to say, ‘Hey, this is another gay hero.”

Kirkwood: She was a female astronaut, now she’s the ‘lesbian astronaut.’

LaBarbera: Now she’s the lesbian astronaut, and you better believe in textbooks like in California where they’re teaching gay history now, there’s going to be Sally Ride. So people are going to learn Sally Ride as a, and we’re going a bit over here, they’re going to learn Sally Ride, Rena, as a gay hero, even though she wasn’t even public about it in her life.

Lindevaldsen: Yeah, because they need to contort our history to show that we’ve accepted this all along and that it’s perfectly normal, and see you too can do this and become great things. And you can, you can accomplish things, but that’s not who she was, that doesn’t define who she was and what she accomplished.

LaBarbera: And Rena, I tweeted, and I knew this was going to get me in trouble, but I tweeted, ‘Did she have a drinking problem too?’ In my tweet, I said that she made great accomplishments. But she should not be, and I didn’t, of course she doesn’t, I don’t know if she had a drinking problem or not, but my point was the fact that she practiced homosexuality would be about as relevant as saying, ‘Sally Ride, hey people who drink can be great.’ I mean it’s still immoral behavior, it’s very sad to me that she was involved in that lifestyle. The fact that she was in that lifestyle doesn’t take away from the great accomplishments that she had. But the point is gay identity politics now wants to seize her as a hero.

 

Freedom for 'Phobes

It has been known for years that Chick-fil-A supports right-wing groups. The company has given out gift cards at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. At a recent Religious Right gathering, a speaker talked about how wonderful it was to live and work in Atlanta, where, he said, there’s a Baptist church on every corner and the streets are paved with Chick-fil-A.

So I am no fan of Chick-fil-A, but I’m a big fan of freedom, and that includes Chick-fil-A’s freedom to open its restaurants, even in cities where progressive political leaders don’t like the reactionary politics promoted by the company and its owners.

There’s been a robust campaign by advocates for LGBT equality to call more attention to Chick-fil-A’s contributions to “traditional family” groups, which total in the millions of dollars. But the feathers really flew when company president Dan Cathy made comments in an interview with Baptist Press bragging about his company’s position on marriage – “guilty as charged” -- and his comments to an Atlanta radio station.

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” said Cathy.

I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about,” he added.

It’s no surprise that Cathy’s comments have stirred supporters of LGBT equality to respond. Much of that response has been in the best traditions of free speech and protest. In Washington, D.C., this week, the Human Rights Campaign organized a protest in front of a Chick-Fil-A food truck. Other activists have rallied outside Chick-Fil-A stores and some students have protested the company’s presence on their campuses.

In addition, a number of political leaders have spoken out in defense of marriage equality and in opposition to the company’s support for discrimination. Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined elected officials taking the time to publicly criticize a business on behalf of the ability of same-sex couples to get married. It’s a good thing – a sign of amazing progress.

But a couple of politicians have gone too far – suggesting that the power of government should be used to prevent the company from opening restaurants based on its political donations and the positions of its owners. That’s not a good thing. As a matter of principle, the government shouldn’t treat individuals differently based on their political or religious beliefs, or companies based on the political activities and contributions of their owners.  As others have noted, we wouldn’t want cities or states to have the power to prevent the opening of stores whose owners support LGBT equality or other progressive causes. 

People For the American Way’s headquarters is located in the District of Columbia, where elected officials have recognized that LGBT people should be treated equally under the law. DC’s progressive public policies stand in stark contrast to the anti-equality work of groups like the Family Research Council, but we would never suggest that the DC government could or should have prevented FRC from planting its headquarters in the center of downtown DC. Our commitment to freedom and equality should extend to those who don’t share it.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Calls on Speaker Boehner to Remove Michele Bachmann from Intelligence Committee

Washington, DC -- People For the American Way is calling on House Speaker John Boehner to remove Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and two other members from their seats on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence after a series of irresponsible allegations against U.S. government employees.

Intelligence Committee members Bachmann, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and Rep. Thomas Rooney were among the five Republican representatives to sign a letter to federal agencies baselessly alleging that a number of public servants, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin, have ties to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The letter relied largely on phony information peddled by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney.

Last week, Speaker Boehner called the accusations “pretty dangerous,” but refused to say whether he’d remove Bachmann and the others from the Intelligence Committee. Abedin has reportedly been placed under police protection after receiving a threat over the weekend.

“Michele Bachmann has never been a model of responsibility, but this latest attack is one step too far,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Members of the House Intelligence Committee are entrusted with classified information that affects the safety and security of all Americans. That information should not be in the hands of anyone with such a disregard for honesty, misunderstanding of national security, and lack of respect for her fellow public servants.

“Speaker Boehner was right to call out Rep. Bachmann’s dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric. Now he should act on those words.”

PFAW’s Right Wing Watch has put together a brief history of Rep. Bachmann's conspiracy theories.

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PFAW Calls Out Chick-fil-A’s Hypocrisy

Under fire for anti-gay comments by its president, Chick-fil-A issued a statement this week saying its “culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect.” The statement failed to mention Chick-fil-A’s other tradition of treating millions of Americans like second-class citizens by contributing millions of dollars to anti-gay organizations.

People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement:

“Chick-fil-A said that ‘going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.’ Left unsaid is that the company pours millions of dollars into anti-gay groups that work in the political arena to change the government’s policy on same-sex marriage. But it gets worse. Many of these groups not only oppose marriage equality, they’re actively promoting bigotry and opposing efforts to end anti-gay discrimination and bullying.

“Chick-fil-A should either cut ties with these groups or own up to its bigotry. A shorter and more accurate version of today’s statement would’ve read, ‘We still don’t like gays, but we do like money, so going forward we’re doing this without any fingerprints.’”

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Don’t Forget Who John Roberts Is

Add this to the good news/bad news mix from the Supreme Court's healthcare decision: Because of the good news (Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act), we get the bad news that his standing among the nation's Democrats has significantly increased. This collective amnesia about who John Roberts is and what he has done is disturbing, especially since the direction of the Court is one of the most important issues upon which Democrats should be voting in November.

A new Gallup Poll shows wild fluctuations in Democrats and Republicans' assessment of Chief Justice John Roberts since their last poll in 2005, a change Gallup attributes to his role in upholding the Affordable Care Act. Roberts' approval rating among Republicans has plummeted 40 percentage points from 2005, falling from 67% to 27%. In contrast, his favorability among Democrats has risen from 35% to 54%. That the healthcare decision is a catalyst of this change is supported by a PEW Research Center poll last week showing that between April and July, approval of the Supreme Court dropped 18 points among Republicans and rose 12% among Democrats.

Yes, John Roberts upheld the ACA, but only as a tax. At the same time, he agreed with his four far right compatriots that it fell outside the authority granted Congress by the Commerce Clause, leaving many observers concerned that he has set traps designed to let the Court later strike down congressional legislation that should in no way be considered constitutionally suspect. He also joined the majority that restricted Congress's constitutional authority under the Spending Clause to define the contours of state programs financed with federal funds.

Just as importantly, Roberts's upholding the ACA does not erase the past seven years, during which he has repeatedly been part of thin conservative majority decisions bending the law beyond recognition in order to achieve a right wing political result. John Roberts cast the deciding vote in a number of disastrous decisions, including those that:

Oh, and then there's that little 5-4 Citizens United opinion that has upended our nation's electoral system and put our government up to sale to the highest bidder.

With a rap sheet like that – and this is hardly a complete a list – no one should be under the illusion that John Roberts is anything but a right-wing ideologue using the Supreme Court to cement his favorite right-wing policies into law.

Next term, Roberts is expected to lead the judicial front of the Republican Party's war against affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. Whether he succeeds may depend on whether it is Mitt Romney or Barack Obama who fills the next vacancy on the Supreme Court.

PFAW

Grudem: Freedom of Religion 'Doesn't Mean it's Morally Right for People' to be Non-Christians

For the last two days, James Dobson's "Family Talk" radio program has featured a discussion with Wayne Grudem, author of the book "Politics According to the Bible."

In between fretting that the United States was on the verge of permanent collapse due to the policies of President Obama and the poor moral/spiritual state of the nation in general, Grudem was asked by Ryan Dobson just what he should say to people who think that just because something is legal that makes it okay.  The question prompted Grudem to respond that just because something is legal, that doesn't make it moral ... just as our nation allows freedom of religion, but that doesn't mean it is "morally right" for people to be Muslims or Buddhists:

Ryan Dobson: When I speak around the country to all ages, I talk about the difference between legal and right; just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right. And oftentimes I hear from churchgoers "well, that's what the law is, what am I supposed to do?" And at what point can a believer say just because it's legal doesn't make it right and I'm going to do what's right even if it's illegal.

Grudem: Well, there are two questions. One is does God require of us more than the civil laws demand? Sure. Our nation, for instance, allows freedom of religion so it's legal to have a Muslim mosque or a Buddhist temple but that doesn't mean it's morally right for people to seek to come to God that way because you and I believe, Ryan, that we only come to God through knowing Jesus Christ as Savior. So there are things that are allowed that are not what God wants us to do.

Pat Robertson: Dump Your Muslim Girlfriend

A 700 Club viewer asked Pat Robertson today if he should marry his Muslim girlfriend of three years even though he is a Christian, to which Robertson responded, “no way.” “She wants to do her Muslim thing and you want to do your Christian thing,” Robertson said, “walk away.” He urged him to pray for her to become a Christian, “and if that doesn’t work say, ‘I’m sorry, good bye.’” Robertson, who is no fan of Muslims, explained that it isn’t necessarily Christ-like to be “nice and friendly” as “he’s not gentle Jesus, meek and mild, he really isn’t.”

Watch:

Representative Ellison Responds to Republican Islamophobia

Sharia law and the Muslim Brotherhood are coming! Clearly that idea is ridiculous. Not even Rep. Michelle Bachmann believes that. She believes they are already here! On June 13, Bachmann, along with fellow Republican congressmen Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney, and Lynn Westmoreland, sent a letter to the Inspectors General of the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood has “operatives” within the US government. The letter attempts to link Muslim governmental officials to the Muslim Brotherhood and defames a number of American Muslim organizations.

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, responded to the egregious accusations in an open letter today. Ellison points out that Bachmann and her allies took many of their claims from MuslimBrotherhoodinAmerica.com, a website run by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy. Gaffney has a history of making unsubstantiated claims about Muslims, a number of which Ellison lists in his letter. For instance, Gaffney has claimed that Muslim Americans who run for office do so to wage “stealth jihad” and has “accused New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of ‘corruption’ and ‘treason’ for appointing a Muslim lawyer to be a judge.” At the end of the letter, Ellison requests a list of all the sources Bachmann used to make these serious claims and asks that if the sources turn out to not be credible that the names of all accused be publicly cleared.

It would be nice if Ellison’s letter put an end to the fear tactics and Islamophobic statements that have become far too common in the Republican Party, but that’s sadly unlikely. Republicans, whose main focus is clearly the economy, somehow seem to find a new Sharia threat each election year. Has it really been two years since we first heard about the Park 51 Muslim Community Center?

PFAW

Schlafly Screed on Obama's 'Hostility'

As RWW readers know, there is no end to the Religious Right’s dishonest campaign to portray Barack Obama as an enemy of faith and freedom.  The latest salvo from Phyllis Schlafly on the president’s “record of hostility to religion” is a litany of the Religious Right’s favorite horror stories, half-truths, distortions, and outright falsehoods, wrapped up in a sweeping assertion:
When Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States” we could not have anticipated the extreme transformations he would seek. The evidence is rolling in that he is determined to transform America into a totally secular land where religion is permitted only within the walls of a church, but is banned in every public place, public gathering and public school….
Barack Obama is trying to morph our traditional religious liberty to the lesser scope of freedom of worship. That means worship only inside a church, or maybe a synagogue, but not any public affirmation of belief in God.
Schlafly must have missed Obama’s inauguration, not to mention the administration’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and ongoing federal funding of religiously affiliated social service organizations.   Or perhaps she cares less about the truth than about convincing conservative Christians that Obama is their enemy.

Celebrate the 4th with a Christian Nation Bible

Christian publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. is offering a July 4 special, with several books available at the patriotic price of $17.76.  Among them is the American Patriot’s Bible, edited by Atlanta-based pastor and Religious Right figure Richard Lee.  Nothing could better demonstrate the effort by Religious Right leaders to claim a divine blessing for their political views and their view of America’s founding.

The American Patriot’s Bible attracted some unflattering attention when it came out in 2009.  Ethics Daily reported that some critics charged that it “promotes idolatry and glorifies nationalistic violence.” One of those critics was theologian and pastor Greg Boyd, author of The Myth of a Christian Nation, who called the Patriot's Bible "one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed coming from a Christian publishing house.”  Boyd published an in-depth critique that ended this way:

In the Introduction Dr. Richard Lee promises that, "If you love America and the Scriptures, you will treasure this Bible." I truly love America and deeply love the Scriptures, but for just this reason, I was thoroughly appalled by this Bible.

But not everyone was appalled.  In 2010, Glenn Beck told viewers that he had a copy of the Patriot’s Bible at home and one at his office and said, “this should be in every person’s home.”  Lee was part of Beck’s show on the eve of his “Restoring Honor” rally, and has been active in Religious Right efforts to shape the 2012 campaign and defeat President Barack Obama. 

Spending a little time with the Patriot’s Bible makes it clear why the Gingrich campaign invited Lee to serve on its faith leaders coalition during this year’s presidential primary.   Religious Right political rhetoric appears in an introduction and in articles sprinkled throughout the Patriot’s Bible.  It complains that Supreme Court rulings against requiring prayer and Bible readings in the public schools amounted to “censoring religious activities long considered an integral part of education.” 

On abortion: “If people and nations do not grant ultimate respect and protection to both the born and the unborn, all other professed morals and values are meaningless.”

On marriage:  “The plan of God, nature, and common sense is a man and a woman producing children within the institution of marriage. What that plan is lost, “marriage” and “family” become meaningless, and a nation and its people will follow the road to ruin….”

The American Patriot’s Bible also promotes Religious Right propaganda about the supposed threat to religious liberty in America:

Our freedom to serve God and to promote the gospel in our land is disintegrating. We are engaged in a great spiritual battle that threatens our county, our families, and our lives. Only God’s intervention will return America to solid footing and restore a moral nation that righteousness will exalt.

And, for those who keep hoping that the Religious Right is going to fade away:

When fighting for the right, we must never cease until we prevail. The battle is not always won by the strongest, the smartest, or the most elite, but ultimately it comes to those who persist and persevere.

PFAW Welcomes Nuns On the Bus

PFAW staff and supporters welcomed home the Nuns on the Bus as they arrived in Washington, DC following a two-week tour through nine states. The Catholic sisters went on tour to stand in solidarity with those living in poverty and to push back against the Ryan Budget, which further enriches the wealthiest Americans while slashing vital programs that help our neediest citizens.

The nuns drove through nine states to help spread the word about how the Ryan Budget, which passed the House this year, harms the most vulnerable American families, and does so -- in the words of the nuns -- in violation of Catholic teaching.

Speakers at this afternoon’s rally condemned those in Congress who voted to perpetuate a political system that benefits the privileged few at the expense of the many, limits participation in our democracy in order to maintain an established system that protects the powerful and fails to show compassion for all people. They coined the slogan “Reasonable Revenue for Responsible Programs – the Faithful Way Forward” to illustrate the priorities they would like to see adopted by Congress to help make our communities and country more just for all.

PFAW

Boykin: Go To Dearborn, Michigan and 'You Would Think You Were in Beirut or Damascus'

Over the weekend, Jerry Boykin was interviewed on a radio program out of Bakersfield, California ahead of a scheduled appearance at a local church early next week where he will undoubtedly promote his anti-Islam conspiracy theories.

During the interview, Boykin warned that every serious Muslim was determined to enshrine Sharia wherever they lived and that they were making great progress in establishing it in America.  This prompted one of the co-hosts to ask Boykin about Dearborn, Michigan which he claimed was "almost one hundred percent Muslim and operating under Sharia law now," a statement with which Boykin agreed, adding that "if you walk down the streets, you would think you were in Beirut or Damascus": 

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