Religious Liberty

Texas School Board To Decide This Week on Creationism in Science Texts

Back in September, we reported on attempts by non-biologist members of the Texas State Board of Education’s biology-textbook review committee to require textbook publishers to insert “creation science based on biblical principles” into high school textbooks used in the state.

People For the American Way joined a campaign led by the Texas Freedom Network to deliver 300,000 petitions to the state board urging them to keep creationism out of science classes.

The next month, TFN reported that none of the 14 major textbook publishers had bowed to pressure to include biblical lessons in the science textbooks they submitted for review to the school board. But the board of education still has to vote to adopt these textbooks, and as TFN notes, “In past years, ideologues on the state board have refused to adopt textbooks simply because they have political objections to factual content.”

The state board will hold hearings on the issue starting this afternoon, leading up to a final vote on the textbooks on Friday. We’re following along via livestream and TFN’s live blog, but in the meantime you can enjoy this video from September’s hearing of former Texas board of education chairman Don McLeroy explaining that including evolution in biology textbooks will actually “strike the final blow to the teaching of evolution” because students will see through the “weak” scientific argument:
 

Religious Freedom Anniversary Highlights Divisions Among Current and Former Allies

A symposium on the 20th anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act hosted by First Amendment advocate Charles Haynes at the Newseum in Washington D.C. on November 6 demonstrated one premise of People For the American Way Foundation’s 12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics – that people who support a core constitutional principle like religious liberty can disagree with how that principle should be applied. In recent years, religious conservatives have increasingly charged that those who disagree with them on this line-drawing are tyrannical enemies of faith and freedom.  The RFRA anniversary was a reminder that, as Bill Moyers wrote in his introduction to the 12 Rules, “We can simultaneously share a strong commitment to religious liberty, while disagreeing over the application of that principle in a given circumstance.”

In fact, an almost unimaginably broad coalition worked to pass RFRA in 1993, including People For the American Way and the ACLU, the National Association of Evangelicals and Concerned Women for America, and a huge array of religious and civil rights groups.  Also unimaginable in our political climate: RFRA passed the Senate 97-3 and the House unanimously by voice vote. But divisions within the coalition developed just a few years later and persist today.

RFRA was a response to the Supreme Court’s 1990 Smith decision in a case involving Native Americans who were denied unemployment benefits because they had violated state anti-drug laws through the sacramental use of peyote.  The Court ruled that as long as the law in question was applied generally and not designed to target a particular religious practice, there was no real recourse for people whose exercise of religion was restricted. The decision toppled long-standing precedent and left advocates for religious liberty deeply concerned that religious minorities would suffer if there were no legal requirement for reasonable accommodation of their beliefs.

RFRA states that if a law places a substantial burden on a person’s exercise of religion, the government must demonstrate that the law is serving a compelling interest and does so in the least restrictive way. In 1997, the Supreme Court upheld RFRA as it applies to the federal government, but not to the states.  Efforts to re-mobilize the RFRA coalition to pass a new law failed when civil rights advocates feared that a broad standard could be used to undermine state civil rights laws such as laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Oliver Thomas, a co-chair of the original RFRA coalition, said it is not surprising that RFRA gets less popular as it gets older and its “majestic generalities” get applied in contentious cases. Organizations that were allies in passing RFRA are now on both sides of political and legal disagreements about how its standards should apply in a variety of situations, including the mandate under the Affordable Care Act that insurance plans include contraception, the proposed Employment Non Discrimination Act that just passed the Senate, and the advance of marriage equality.  Even among ENDA’s backers there are disagreements about the nature and extent of religious exemptions in the bill.

The first part of the anniversary symposium, which included PFAW Foundation Board Member Rabbi David Saperstein, presented an insider view of RFRA’s history: the development of the RFRA coalition, the politics of writing the law and building congressional support.  One historical tidbit: coalition members had to work hard to overcome objections raised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who feared the law might somehow give a weapon to their opponents on abortion rights issues.  Rep. Henry Hyde told coalition members that the bill would not move until they addressed the bishops’ concerns.

That history is particularly interesting given that conservative Catholics are now using RFRA to challenge the contraception mandate.  A discussion of the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act featured Lori Windham from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents a number of companies, business owners, and organizations challenging the mandate, and Dan Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, which argues that the contraception requirement does not substantially burden the religious freedom of business owners, and that the Obama administration’s accommodation for religious organizations is more than sufficient.  Mach noted that while religious liberty is fundamental, it is not absolute, and should not be used to infringe the rights of others. 

Another issue discussed by the panelists was whether RFRA protects for-profit corporations – not the owners, but the corporation itself as an entity.  Some of the panelists discussing RFRA’s history agreed that conversation about violations of religious liberty were focused on individual people, not for-profit corporations, though some said the debate on RFRA and related laws assumed that companies would be covered.  The Becket Fund’s Windham made a case for including such corporations with RFRA’s protections, saying constitutional rights shouldn’t depend on your tax status. The Constitutional Accountability Center has argued otherwise.

Doug Laycock, a University of Virginia law professor, is among the most prominent legal scholars on religious liberty.  He finds himself positioned on differing sides in various culture war battles. Just a day before the anniversary symposium, Laycock argued before the Supreme Court, representing people who are challenging the practice of sectarian prayer at city council meetings in the Town of Greece case.  In that case he stood with advocates of strong church-state separation. On other issues, such as whether a business owner should have the right not to provide services related to a same-sex wedding, he stands with religious conservatives who are pushing for broad religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.

Laycock dismissed right-wing charges that the Obama administration is waging a war on religious liberty. He said the administration has gone to “remarkable lengths” to accommodate religious organizations on the contraception mandate and said he doubts that opponents will be able to convince judges that the current rule creates a substantial burden under RFRA. Obviously, the Becket Fund and other Religious Right legal groups and their clients strongly disagree. Later this month the Supreme Court will consider whether to accept for consideration four cases involving for-profit companies challenging the mandate. Cases involving non-profits have not advanced as far.

A panel on other current controversies placed them in the context of increasing religious pluralism in America, including the rapid growth of “nones” – people who claim to religious affiliation.  One panelist noted that religious and civil rights groups can still find common ground in opposition to laws targeting religious minorities, as many did in opposition to Oklahoma’s anti-Sharia law, which was found unconstitutional earlier this year. But it should be noted that some Religious Right groups have in fact backed such laws, and some opposed the building of the Islamic community center in New York that was deceptively dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Laycock worries that culture war battles are weakening Americans’ commitment to religious liberty.  He faults conservative religious groups for continuing to fight legal marriage equality for same-sex couples. But he also believes LGBT rights advocates should be more willing to accept broad religious exemptions. Laycock said that conservatives’ dug-in resistance to equality diminishes the incentives for gay-rights activists to accommodate them.  The challenge, as he sees it: on issues of sexual morality, one side views as a grave evil what the other side views as a fundamental right.  In that climate, tens of millions of Americans believe that “religious liberty” empowers their enemies, and neither side is willing to embrace what Laycock considers “live and let live” solutions.

Marc Stern of the American Jewish Committee agreed with Laycock’s concerns about a winner-take-all approach to religious freedom issues, which he said reflects the broader political climate.  But the courts will continue to undertake the balancing act required by the Constitution and by RFRA when constitutional principles come into tension.  And, he said, once the courts work through issues regarding contraception and LGBT equality, we will all still need to grapple more with larger cultural and legal questions, such as those involving the growing number of nonbelievers who are reshaping America’s religious landscape.

The anniversary symposium, “Restored or Endangered? The State of Religious Freedom,” was sponsored by The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Christian Legal Society, American Jewish Committee, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute.  

PFAW Foundation

New DC Circuit Decision Shows Why GOP Wants to Block New Judges

With starkly political language, the DC Circuit rules that the ACA's contraception coverage provision violates business owners' religious liberty.
PFAW

Former Texas School Board Chairman Gives Bizarre Speech Claiming Biology Books Disprove Evolution

Yesterday afternoon, the Texas State Board of Education held its first hearing on whether to require new high school biology textbooks to teach creationism alongside evolution. One member of the panel appointed by the Texas Education Agency to review potential textbooks –few of whom were actual biologists--  concluded by recommending that high school biology texts be rooted in “bibilical principles.”

Yesterday, People For the American Way sent a letter to the board urging them to reject attempts to inject creationism into science classes. PFAW also joined with the Texas Freedom Network and other groups to deliver 300,000 petitions urging the board to stand up for science.

While most of those who showed up to testify at the hearing supported teaching evolution– our friends at  TFN documented many of these on their great live blog of the proceedings – there were some notable exceptions.

One of the first people to speak was Don McLeroy, a former chairman of the State Board of Education who was prominently featured in the documentary The Revisionaries. While most people were allowed just two minutes to speak, the board let McLeroy go on for over ten minutes in a bizarre speech in which he argued that the current textbooks teaching evolution should be approved because their evidence is so “weak” that children will realize that the theory of evolution is just “words” and a “just so story," and thereby strikes a "final blow" to the theory.
 

People For the American Way Urges Texas State Board of Education To Reject Religious Doctrine in Science Textbooks

WASHINGTON – Today, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan sent a letter to Texas State Board of Education members urging them to reject attempts to pressure textbook companies to include the doctrine of creationism in public high school biology textbooks.

People For the American Way also joined with the Texas Freedom Network, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and CREDO Action in delivering nearly 300,000 petitions to the Board of Education before at its hearing on new textbooks today.

“Teaching creationism in public schools isn’t just unconstitutional: It also cheats Texas kids of the science education they need to compete in the world economy,” Keegan said. “The job of the Texas State Board of Education is to ensure that Texas students receive the best education possible, not to inject politics and religious doctrine into the classroom.”

As the Texas Freedom Network and People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch have reported, members of the review panel appointed by the Texas Education Agency to review high school biology textbooks have urged the Board of Education to pressure textbook companies to include “creation science based on biblical principles” in science books.  In 1987, the Supreme Court found that requiring the teaching of creationism in public school science classes is unconstitutional.

The full text of People For the American Way’s letter is below:


State Board of Education
1701 N. Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas, 78701

September 17, 2013

Dear Members of the Texas State Board of Education:

On behalf of People For the American Way’s 76,590 Texas members and activists, we urge you to reject attempts to pressure textbook companies to include religiously based and politically biased information in high school biology textbooks.

Recent reports by the Texas Freedom Network indicate that the majority of panelists the Texas Education Agency chose to review high school biology texts for the state do not possess post-secondary education in biological science and that many do not have any expertise in biology at all. These panelists, instead of preparing Texas students to compete in the biological sciences, have instead demanded that biology textbooks used in public schools incorporate “biblical principles” and undermine the foundational theory of evolution.

These demands run counter to the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, which found that requirements that public schools teach creationism in science classes present a clear violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. These efforts also undermine the ability of Texas public schools to prepare students to compete in the field of biological sciences.

Our public schools must be dedicated to providing a world-class education and equal opportunity to all children, regardless of their religious backgrounds.

We urge you to reject attempts to insert political bias and religious teachings into biology textbooks used in public schools. In addition, we hope that future textbook reviews will be conducted by those with expertise in the relevant fields.

Sincerely,


Michael Keegan
President, People For the American Way


###

Tell the Texas State Board of Education that science belongs in science textbooks, not religion.

Tell the TX State Board of Education: Creationism is religion and doesn't belong in a science textbook -- science does.

How Big Money Bought North Carolina for Extremists

In the years since Citizens United, North Carolina has provided a clear example of what happens when a small number of corporate interests, allied with a far-right base, are allowed unbridled influence over elections.

Rios and Gaffney Approve Egypt Massacre, Oppose First Amendment Rights for Muslims

Sandy Rios of the American Family Association today said she is “very grateful” for the action taken by the Egyptian military against the Muslim Brotherhood, including the massacre that left over 600 people in Egypt dead, and added that she also believes Muslims should not have First Amendment rights in the United States.

She denounced Muslim-Americans for “claiming our First Amendment rights here when Islam is much more than a religion” and said Islam should not be treated like Christianity, Buddhism or Hindusm. “It is a complete and total system that demands usurpation of whatever the local authority is, it demands to dominate, it demands to conquer, to kill or convert,” Rios charged.

The talk show host added that the massacre victims weren’t “innocent” and that she is “applauding” their actions against the Brotherhood.

Yesterday, Frank Gaffney—who also backs restrictions on First Amendment rights for Muslims—told Rios that “this bloodshed was probably necessary to give Egypt a chance for a better future.”

Anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller also added her two cents:

The Egyptian government had to clean out the Muslim Brotherhood’s terror camps -- there were independent entities preparing for civil war where people were being tortured and murdered. Obama was wrong to criticize the Egyptian government while expressing no solidarity with the soldiers and police officers who were brutally murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood. Did anyone think the global jihadist Muslim Brotherhood was going to go quietly?

Anti-Muslim Activists Ask Government to Seize Tennessee Mosque

Conservative leaders from Herman Cain to Pat Robertson lauded anti-Muslim activists in Tennessee who tried to block the construction of a mosque in the city of Murfreesboro. Mosque opponents alleged that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM) would aid terroristsestablish Sharia law and increase the Muslim population. With the help of Frank Gaffney, they argued that their push to stop construction of the mosque didn’t violate the First Amendment since Islam is not a religion.

Even after losing their lawsuit and the completion of construction, anti-Muslim activists are now asking the government to seize the year-old mosque.

The appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court to shut down and confiscate the mosque follows a rash of attacks and threats that have been directed at the ICM.

Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press reports that ICM opponents refer to the mosque as a threat to public safety:

Mosque opponents in Murfreesboro, Tenn., want the county to seize a newly constructed Islamic Center and turn it over to someone else.

J. Thomas Smith, an attorney for citizens asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision that allowed occupancy of the new 12,000-square-foot Islamic Center of Murfreesboro last November, told The Tennessean there would be several acceptable remedies should his clients prevail.

“I think the county would step in and have someone else take it over," Smith said.

An application for appeal filed July 29 asks the state’s high court to overrule a May 29 opinion of the Tennessee Court of Appeals that notice of the May 24, 2010, meeting of the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission was adequate according to the state’s open meetings law.

That reversed a June 1, 2012, ruling by local Chancellor Robert Corlew III that The Murfreesboro Post, a free-distribution weekly newspaper that carried notice of the meeting in which the planning commission approved plans for the ICM to construct a mosque just outside the Murfreesboro city limits, did not meet the standard requiring that such legal ads be purchased in a newspaper with “general circulation.”

While the lawsuit’s main argument is that citizens were denied proper notice to voice their objections before the project’s approval, it also objects to Corlew’s refusal to allow the testimony by two expert witnesses called to testify about alleged “Sharia-Jihad” risks related to the Islamic congregation that had been meeting in a smaller facility within Murfreesboro for about 30 years.

“The issue of the risk to public safety from the Sharia/Jihad teaching and practices of a regional Islamic training center such as the ICM was the major factual issue dealt with by the Court in its November 2010 opinion,” the Supreme Court document says.

Corlew said testimony by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney about “red flags of terrorism” connected to the mosque was inadmissible, because Islam is a religion and entitled to the same right to construct a building as a church.

...

A spokesperson for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office said she was unaware of any criminal complaints against the new mosque.

Mosque members cannot say the same. Even before construction someone vandalized a sign at the future mosque site by spray painting it with the phrase "Not Welcome." A second sign vandalism occurred later, and finally somebody set fire to heavy construction equipment parked on the lot for site clearing.

In 2011, the Islamic Center received a bomb threat in a profanity-laced phone call threatening that a bomb would be placed in the facility on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In June, Javier Alan Corre of Corpus Christi, Texas, apologized to the imam and mosque leaders and pleaded guilty to a federal charge.

Corre, 25, said he had been drinking and wasn’t thinking clearly when he made the call, and that he understands that all Muslims are not terrorists.

Conservative Catholic C-FAM Wages 'War' on Choice, Gays, Free Speech

Conservative Catholics love to portray the advance of LGBT equality as an attack on religious liberty. And they feign a “live-and-let-live” philosophy by saying things like this poll-tested talking point used by everyone from NOM to Jim DeMint: “All Americans are free to live as they choose, but no one has the right to redefine marriage for all of us.” It’s not very believable, but it’s apparently the best they’ve got.

Well, now the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a militantly anti-abortion and anti-gay group that works through the UN and other international agencies, isn’t even bothering with that liberty-loving façade. C-FAM is celebrating the draconian anti-gay law in Russia that makes it a crime even to publicly advocate for LGBT equality – and cheering the spread of similar laws in places like Lithuania and Moldova, where anti-gay hate machine Scott Lively has been pushing his poison.

An article in C-FAM’s July 25 alert crows, “Bans on Homosexual Propaganda Advance Despite Western Outrage.” The article gloats thatEastern European countries are following Russia's lead to protect children by curbing advocacy for ‘non-traditional’ sexual acts.”

C-FAM is feeling its oats this week. It has repeatedly sent an alert with the subject line, “War is Coming. You are Called.” The letter from C-FAM President Austin Ruse, written from the now-infamous Moscow airport, talks about a “war council” of European parliamentarians and UN officials that he has been meeting with behind closed doors to declare war on pro-choice advocates.

Ruse complains that “pro-abortion” governments like Belgium and the U.S. have blocked C-FAM from getting official UN recognition. But he says it hasn’t impeded their work, becausewe still have UN access wearing the badges of good friends like Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom.”

Ruse is lining up his allies to win official UN recognition next January. But as of today, what he really needs is $22,000 to avert a “real financial catastrophe” and make this month’s payroll. Follow your heart.  

AFA Kentucky Affiliate Claims School Prayer Ban Led to AIDS Epidemic

The American Family Association of Kentucky sent out an appeal to its members today asking them to sign a petition calling for a law legalizing school prayer in the state, similar to “inspirational message” bills recently passed in Florida and Mississippi.

The petition asserts that the 1962 Supreme Court decision prohibiting government-led prayer in schools was pushed by “anti-God forces” and led to a myriad of social ills, including a rise in teen pregnancy and violent crime, and “the AIDS epidemic and the drug culture.”

Legalizing school prayer is “one of the best ways of returning God’s protection to America,” the petition adds.

One of the best ways of returning God’s protection to America
is by putting prayer back in our schools.

FLORIDA AND MISSISSIPPI HAVE ALREADY PUT PRAYER (RELIGIOUS SPEECH) BACK INTO THEIR SCHOOLS! STUDENTS PRAYING AGAIN WILL EVENTUALLY TURN OUR COUNTRY BACK TO GOD!

Children in Florida and Mississippi are now allowed to pray in school assemblies (give an inspirational message) because their governors signed bills into law in Florida in 2012 and in Mississippi in 2013. The media has made this fact one of the best kept secrets.

Prayer was in our schools for over 200 years before the anti-God forces took it out in 1962. After prayer was removed from our schools, teen pregnancy went up 500%, STD’s went up 226%, violent crime went up 500% and SAT scores went down for 18 years in a row, opening the door for the AIDS epidemic and the drug culture.

WE NEED PRAYER BACK IN SCHOOLS! Please sign this petition.

Sincerely,
Frank Simon, Director
American Family Association of KY

 

Chipping Away at Choice: Five Growing Threats to Women’s Healthcare Access and Autonomy

The “War on Women” currently being waged by conservatives in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures is well documented. From attacking contraception to insulting rape survivors to threatening funding for reproductive healthcare, anti-choice legislators and activists are staging an assault on women’s health, privacy and autonomy.

Thank TX State Sen. Wendy Davis for her Heroic Filibuster Against the War on Women!

Tell Sen. Wendy Davis: Pease keep up the fight. And know that we have your back!

Ohio School District Offering Summer Course in David Barton's Revisionist History

Warren Throckmorton reports today that Ohio’s Springboro School District is planning to offer a summer course on the Constitution…taught via video by revisionist historian David Barton and his Christian Reconstructionist pal John Eidsmoe, and sponsored by the extreme Christian-nation group Institute on the Constitution.

The announcement for the course offers families an opportunity to “learn your Godly American heritage and birthright”:

As RWW readers know, David Barton is the discredited “historian” whose most recent book on the nation’s “Christian heritage” was pulled by its conservative Christian publisher because it was riddled with factual errors. John Eidsmoe is a leading Christian Reconstructionist thinker and intellectual mentor of Michele Bachmann.

Springboro’s school board made national headlines last month when it debated adding creationism to its curriculum.

Gay Legislator Blocked from Speaking in 'Rebellion Against God's Law'

Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims, an openly gay legislator, was blocked from speaking on the floor of the state House on Wednesday by a colleague who believed Sims’ plans to speak about the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision would be in "open rebellion against God’s law.”

According to WHYY, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe raised a procedural objection to stop Sims from speaking during a part of the House session in which legislators often give wide-ranging remarks.

"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," said Metcalfe, R-Butler.

Metcalf is a far-right legislator who has sponsored a marriage amendment to the state’s Constitution and “birther” legislation, and called for overturning birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment in order to “bring an end to the illegal alien invasion.”

Sims, who said he appreciated the apologies and support he received from other Republican members of the House, has asked the legislature to reprimand Metcalfe for his comments. 

Tony Perkins: Totalitarian Obama Colluding with ‘Anti-Christian Extremists’ to ‘Neuter the Church’

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is out with his latest anti-Obama screed. In a fundraising letter dated July 17, Perkins slams the president and his administration for “colluding” with the Southern Poverty Law Center as part of a nefarious plan to create a totalitarian government. Perkins complains about the Justice Department utilizing SPLC’s expertise on extremist groups in training sessions; his letter includes a petition to congressional leaders calling for a formal investigation of the SPLC and its relationship with the Obama administration.

Perkins has been on the rhetorical warpath against the SPLC since it labeled FRC an anti-gay hate group for a history of false and denigrating statements about gay people. In addition, he blames the SPLC for an attack on FRC’s headquarters by a gunman last year. In the new letter, Perkins repeats those claims and ties the SPLC and the Obama administration together in a conspiracy to “sow discord, undermine the Constitution, and bully people of faith.”  Here are some excerpts from the four-page letter:

The anti-Christian crusade instigated by the SPLC has already resulted in an armed terrorist attack on Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C…

The President needs to be exposed for colluding with the SPLC to stifle debate on social policy issues by means of intimidation, fear-mongering, and spreading lies…

The majority of Americans do not agree with the President’s leftist agenda to remake our country into a socialist state ruled by a totalitarian government bureaucracy. And the President knows this. So he is using—and abusing—his presidency to steamroll the American people and implement his radical vision for America…

With less than four years left in office, President Obama is going for broke to accomplish his far-left agenda. In addition to the collusion between his administration and the SPLC, Planned Parenthood, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations, President Obama is using the bully pulpit and power of the presidency to promote abortion and same-sex “marriage” while stifling religious freedom at the same time…

This assault on religious freedom in the military is part of a wider plan to neuter the Church and its stand for the timeless values of faith, family and freedom in America…

Moreover, it’s no secret that President Obama is willing to spend your tax dollars to further his plans for legalizing same-sex “marriage”, increasing access to abortion, and silencing Christians...

We cannot side on the sidelines. We cannot close our eyes and hope this will go away. We must stand boldly, yet in love, against hate-filled anti-Christian groups who incite hatred and violence to intimidate us into silence.

Thank you in advance for standing with us in defense of what is right. With God’s grace, we will stop this pernicious evil against people of faith in America.

Given Perkins’ belief that Obama’s re-election was a symptom of “a deeper moral and spiritual problem” in America, and his willingness to promote rabid anti-Obama conspiracy theories, his new letter is not terribly surprising. But it’s good to keep in mind the next time you hear him or some other FRC spokesperson calling for more civility in the public arena.

Tea Party Senators Kick Off Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Conference

Four of the Tea Party’s favorite senators – Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida – addressed the kick-off lunch for this year’s “Road to Majority” conference, which is sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition.

Rand Paul made his case for a humbler foreign policy, suggesting that anti-abortion “pro-life” advocates should also think about the lives of 18- and 19-year old soldiers sent abroad before applauding a politician who talks with bravado about pre-emptive wars.  He said that even when American soldiers go to war with the best of intentions, the law of unintended consequences can be merciless.

Paul told activists that there is a worldwide “war on Christianity” that is being waged not only by “liberal elites” but also by American taxpayers through the country’s financial support of countries that persecute Christians. “American taxpayer dollars are being used to enable a war on Christianity in the Middle East.”

Paul took the requisite political shot at Barack Obama, saying the "scandals" surrounding the administration were causing the president to lose his "moral authority" to lead the country.

Johnson said the root cause of the country’s problem was that too many Americans were either never taught or have forgotten the “foundational premise” of the country. The nation’s founders, he said, understood that while government is necessary, its growth is something to fear. “Far too many Americans,” he said, “are willingly trading their freedom and ours for the false sense, the false promise of economic security.”

Johnson said he would like Americans to take their disgust about the IRS, or Benghazi, or the NSA, and apply it in a broader way to the federal government.  He said people who talked about restoring trust in government have the wrong idea.  What we should do, he said, is foster a healthy distrust of the government.

Lee said conservatives had not focused too much on families, but too little.  He said conservatives have to have an agenda that includes “forgotten” families at the bottom rung of the economic ladder, policies that address the effect of stagnant wages, rising costs of housing, etc. He called for a new “conservative reform” agenda that didn’t seem all that new: tax cuts to encourage entrepreneurship, school choice, and welfare reform, as well as an end to “corporate welfare.” 

Lee said conservatives are opposed to big government because a small government encourages a healthy civil society. Conservatives, he said, aren’t about a “you’re on your own” philosophy, but rather a “we’re in this together” one. But in his take, “in this together” does not involve the government. Without an intrusive government, he said, communities and churches would take care of people. Remember, Lee is the guy who believes the welfare state is unconstitutional, along with restrictions on freedom such as child-labor laws.

Marco Rubio has taken some heat from some of his fellow conservatives recently for his advocacy of immigration reform.  Reed is on record supporting comprehensive reform, but talking points for the activists’ post-lunch lobbying on Capitol Hill reflect tensions within the movement.  While it talked about the biblical basis for a compassionate immigration policy, it also talked about the rule of law and a so-called “enforcement trigger.”  One of the talking points says, “Alongside our principles, we vehemently oppose amnesty and guaranteed paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently residing in the country.”

Rubio revisited his campaign theme of American exceptionalism.  He used a biblical passage from Matthew chapter 5 to encourage activists to keep bringing their faith into their political activism, especially, he said, at a time when people are told they should silence their faith.

Rubio expanded on the notion that Christians should be the “salt of the earth” and a light unto the world to take on the foreign policy portion of Rand Paul’s remarks, without naming Paul specifically. A call to retreat from the world, he said, is a call for America to hide its light, and there is no nation that can replace the U.S. and its example of freedom:

“Our light must shine so that others will look to us and give glory to our heavenly father.”

Rubio made a couple of references to protecting marriage, but none of the senators explicitly addressed the battle over marriage equality. Talking points for activists’ afternoon lobbying visits on Capitol Hill were clearer. “Public polling overstates the support for same-sex marriage,” claim the talking points “The American people have overwhelmingly supported traditional marriage in votes on state referenda and initiatives.”

Also on the lobbying agenda: asking representatives to support the House of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which would allow churches and preachers to engage in explicit electoral politicking without consequences for their nonprofit tax status.

Geller Lashes Out at 'Enemy' Media, 'Toxic' Public Schools, Justice Department 'Tools'

An event in Eastern Tennessee last week sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council, meant to be a discussion of “public discourse in a diverse society,” was taken over by a crowd of anti-Islam protesters that spilled out of the building.

Among the protesters, of course, was Pamela Geller, who, according to a video posted this weekend, grabbed a bullhorn and warned the audience of the “enemy” media who “shill for Islamic supremecists,” public schools that “marinate” children’s “brains in leftist, toxic fumes” and the “tools” at the Department of Justice, which she claimed is a “de facto legal arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Geller went on to claim that her free speech rights were in danger, threatening, “Without freedom of speech, peace-filled men must resort to violence. And we don’t want to!”

As Little Green Footballs notes, pay close attention to the spelling of the sign behind Geller. 

Geller: What we’re seeing is a complete disinformation campaign, an obfuscation, a covering up by the ene-media. They are the enemy. They shill for Islamic supremecists and jihadist-aligned groups, and we have to leapfrog over that information superhighway.

Audience member: The Common Core curriculum is being shoved down our throats in this state!

Geller: You’ve got to fight back, ma’am. You’ve got to get on the school boards. You’ve got to get involved. Let me tell you something, we are living on the fumes of the Greatest Generation that defeated evil. That’s what we’re doing. This generation has to fight, and our children have been completely compromised in the public school system, where they inculcate them, they marinate their brains in leftist, toxic fumes.

Geller: The freedom of speech is a line in the sand, because without freedom of speech, peace-filled men must resort to violence. And we don’t want to! They came and they want to criminalize speech that’s inflammatory. Really? So, the whole New York Times and the L.A. Times and ABC News, they gotta go to jail. Who decides what’s inflammatory? If you read my Twitter feed, if you read my Facebook comments, they call me the most vile names, and really the death threats, I have a file this big. You know what, it’s free speech.

Enough already. Enough already with the nonsense. It’s a way of silencing critics of Islam, it’s a way of imposing the Sharia. That’s what they do. And these tools, and that’s what they are, these tools in the Justice Department, which has become, by the way, in the Obama administration, a de facto legal arm of the Muslim Brotherhood…

Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Argues Income Limits on School Vouchers 'Penalize Married Couples'

Wisconsin state legislators are in the final days of negotiations on a plan that would expand private school vouchers statewide (they are currently only available in Milwaukee and Racine). The current deal on the program would cap voucher enrollment at one percent of a districts students, but Gov. Scott Walker and other lawmakers would like to expand them further. That includes Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who told Jack Craver of The Capital Times today that not allowing wealthy families who can already afford to send their children to private school to participate in the program would “penalize married couples.”

One of the major concerns in recent years about school vouchers is that they often benefit families who already have the money to send their kids to private schools.

At the same time, the Legislature expanded the state-paid voucher program to Racine. And now, data show that nearly half of the students receiving vouchers in that city were already enrolled in private schools before the program was put in place.

But Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, an outspoken advocate for expanding vouchers to all people and all school districts, says he believes there’s a good side to higher-income families participating in the program: It promotes marriage.

“I think the major thing is we cannot allow the voucher program to penalize married couples,” he told me in a brief phone conversation Monday morning. “In Milwaukee, we raised (the limit) to 300 percent of the federal poverty line and we began to get more married couples in the program, and I don’t want to back off on that.”

The veteran legislator is worried that current negotiations over a further expansion of vouchers to other districts may result in lower income thresholds for voucher recipients and thus reduce the number of two-parent families participating in the program.

Grothman is the same state senator who authored a bill last year to label single parenthood as “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

Boykin Claims Mythical Christian Persecution in Military 'Threatening the Future of America'

For a number of weeks, the Family Research Council has been shamelessly pushing a myth, concocted by Fox News contributor Todd Starnes, that the Obama administration is conducting a “Christian cleansing” of the military. Never mind that the “cleansing” story is totally untrue -- and that even Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has thoroughly debunked it – in a fundraising email today, FRC’s Jerry Boykin claims that it is part of a “shocking anti-Christian movement that is threatening the future of America.”

The military’s longstanding policy, which applies to members of all faiths, is that "service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization).” But according to Boykin, this means that Christians “could be prosecuted as enemies of the state” and that it will “destroy military recruiting across the services as Americans realize that their faith will be suppressed by joining the military.”

Tony has asked me, as a 36-year veteran of military service, to add my perspective to the shocking anti-Christian movement that is threatening the future of America.

Here is the situation: The very troops who defend our religious freedom are at risk of having their own taken away. Less than a month ago, anti-Christian and left-wing activists met at the Pentagon with military leaders. What issues would be of such importance to gain such a high-level hearing?

According to these far-left activists, religion is one of the chief problems plaguing our troops. As the Washington Post reported, some are saying that "religious proselytizing" is at the top of the list of problems in the armed forces--even on par with sexual assault.

As a result of such complaints from the Left, the Air Force has--according to the Post--published, but not yet distributed, a new document with the directive that leaders of all levels (including chaplains) may not "promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion."

The penalty these secularists are seeking for those who don't comply with their view of religious speech is court-martial.

If this policy goes forward, Christians within the military who speak of their faith could be prosecuted as enemies of the state. This has the potential to destroy military recruiting across the services as Americans realize that their faith will be suppressed by joining the military.

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious