Religious Right Activist Convicted In Ex-Gay International Kidnapping Saga

Back in 2009, we started covering the story of Lisa Miller, a self-declared former lesbian who had become a hero to the Religious Right for defying legal orders to allow her former partner, Janet Jenkins, to see their daughter. After the couple had separated, Miller had moved from Vermont to Virginia, where she joined Jerry Falwell's church, renounced her homosexuality and then refused to allow Jenkins to see the daughter they had had together. During the legal battle, Miller was represented by Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver and lawyers affiliated with Liberty University, both of which are connected to Falwell's church.

Eventually, due to her intransigence and refusal to follow visitation orders, a judge in Vermont ordered Miller to transfer custody to Jenkins, but Miller refused and disappeared with her daughter.

Anti-gay activists heaped praise upon Miller for defying the court order and absconding with her daughter, while Liberty Counsel immediately went silent and began to try and wash its hands of the case,insisting that it had no idea where Miller had gone and that it had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Eventually, it was discovered that Miller had fled the country and, according to an FBI affidavit, wound up at a home in Nicaragua owned by Philip Zodhiates, a Religious Right activist whose daughter just so happened to be an administrative assistant at Liberty University Law School, where Miller's Liberty Counsel attorneys, Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, both worked. Even more amazingly, Miller's attorneys reportedly just so happened to be teaching law students at Liberty University that Christian lawyers handling a case like Miller's have a religious duty to counsel their client that they have an obligation to ignore the law and engage in "civil disobedience" in order to uphold God's law.

In 2012, Liberty Law School was hit with a RICO lawsuit by Jenkins for allegedly playing a role in Miller's kidnapping of their daughter, while Zodhiates was charged with conspiracy and international parental kidnapping in federal court. 

Zodhiates' case concluded yesterday with a guilty verdict:

A Waynesboro businessman has been found guilty of international parental kidnapping after getting involved in a Vermont same-sex couple's child custody fight.

A federal jury in Buffalo returned the verdict against Philip Zodhiates (zoh-dee-YAH'-taze) on Thursday following a trial that began last week. Zodhiates was also found guilty of conspiracy.

He faces up to eight years in prison.

The verdict, which followed a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, is the latest development in a case that has captured the nation’s interest and cast a spotlight on issues such as same sex marriage and parental rights.

Prosecutors say the Waynesboro, Virginia, resident helped a woman - Lisa A. Miller - and her 7-year-old daughter leave the country in 2009 when it was clear the woman — who had renounced her homosexuality — was losing a custody battle to her former partner.

Prosecutors say that Zodhiates drove Lisa Miller and the child from Virginia to the Rainbow Bridge, in western New York, where they crossed into Canada on their way to Nicaragua.

Prosecutors say the kidnapping was Miller’s attempt at keeping Isabella away from Janet Jenkins, her former partner, and what Miller now calls “the homosexual lifestyle.

True The Vote's Latest Fail: Discovering That A Citizen Voted

True the Vote, the Texas-based Tea Party group that is on a mission to uncover widespread voter fraud in order to promote suppressive voting measures, thought it had a winning story earlier this week when it announced that it had discovered that Arcan Cetin, the man accused of shooting five people at a mall in Washington state last weekend, had illegally voted as a noncitizen in three elections.

The story was quickly picked up by conservative media hoping to fan the flames of the story that noncitizens—and even murderous noncitizens—are out in great numbers stealing our elections.

The only problem was that Cetin is in fact a naturalized U.S. citizen and therefore was legally eligible to vote.

Seattle’s King 5 yesterday updated a story in which it had questioned Cetin’s citizenship, confirming that he was indeed a citizen when he voted:

UPDATE: KING 5 learned Thursday that Arcan Cetin, the 20-year-old who killed five people at Cascade Mall on Sept. 23, is in fact a U.S. citizen.

For days after the shooting, Cetin was described by local and federal law enforcement as being a permanent U.S. resident. He immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey when he was a child, after his mother married an American citizen.

On Thursday, a federal official told KING that further investigation revealed that Cetin is a naturalized U.S. citizen. That means he was legally registered to vote.

KING's initial story on Sept. 28 questioned state officials about how Cetin could register and vote without being a citizen.

Flip Benham Blames Unrest In Charlotte Following Police Shooting on Passage of LGBT Rights Bill

Radical right-wing activist Flip Benham showed up at another Charlotte, North Carolina, city council meeting this week, this time to blame the unrest in the city that followed the recent shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police on the passage of a measure aimed at protecting LGBT rights earlier this year.

After reading a passage from Isaiah 1, Benham thundered that "the Lord Almighty has spoken to you on July 25th these very words, that if you continue this rebellion against Almighty God, blood is going to course down the corridors of our schools, our workplaces and our streets!"

"You need to turn back to Him," Benham bellowed. "It is you who unleashed hell in our city when you tried to say that boy and girls are not that ... You did it! Now repent [Charlotte mayor] Jennifer Roberts, in the name of Jesus Christ!"

The Trump Campaign's Latest Tactic Is Straight From The Conservative Echo Chamber

NBC News is reporting that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, in an effort to regain momentum following the candidate’s poor performance in Monday night’s debate, has begun distributing talking points to surrogates encouraging them to talk about ‘90s era sex scandals.

Putting aside Donald Trump’s own philandering history, these new attacks demonstrate the GOP’s inability to pull themselves out of the right-wing echo chamber and have a broader conversation with voters.

In 2012, Mitt Romney fell victim to conservative insistence that the polls were skewed and that he was therefore all but certain to win the presidency. This belief was ultimately contradicted by voters, who it turned out did not need to be unskewed.  Now, Trump and his allies in the conservative media are doing something similar, pretending that unscientific online polls are the real authoritative sources on public opinion.

Trump’s campaign was born in the far-right media. His ascent to the top of the Republican Party was driven by birtherism and seeded in the deepest, dankest of fever swamps. Then in 2014, while he was preparing to run for president, it has been widely reported that Trump received daily memos outlining the issues and views raised by callers to conservative radio shows. Thus, harsh and often racist anti-immigrant rhetoric became a central tenet of his campaign.

From Rush Limbaugh to Ann Coulter to Michael Savage, many of the leading conservatives now supporting the Trump campaign built their careers on the impeachment of Bill Clinton and spent years attempting to use sex to toxify the president’s public image.

What seems to be forgotten by many in the media and the conservative movement is what a miserable failure their efforts were. Clinton was reelected in 1996 and Democrats gained seats in Congress that year and again in 1998. Republicans lost two House speakers, Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston, and completely extinguished the flame of their 1994 “revolution” in pursuit of prurient details that would take down the president. And the cumulative effect of this entire period was the elevation of Bill Clinton’s approval ratings.

Despite this failure, two decades later conservatives are once against returning to this same old playbook, but with a new twist. Now they would like to blame Hillary Clinton for the alleged foibles of her husband and use them to convince the American people that she is not suited to hold public office.

Along with the obvious strategic shortcomings of this plan, there is an even more obvious dose of sexism behind these latest attacks—blaming a wife for the actions of her husband. Yet the Trump campaign presses forward, beginning the week with the too-cute-by-half notion that their candidate was courageous for not raising these issues during the debate.

The right-wing echo chamber has been demanding for months that these issues be discussed and Trump is happy to once again oblige, now through his surrogates in the media.

While the symbiotic relationship between Trump and the right-wing media is perhaps greater than with any other Republican candidate in history, it is not wholly unique. That’s why it’s no surprise that in the seven presidential elections since Rush Limbaugh’s radio program was syndicated nationally, the Republican candidate has only been able to win a plurality of the popular vote twice.

Right Wing Round-Up - 9/29/16

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 9/29/16

  • Busted! "A comprehensive video has surfaced that rather convincingly shows Hillary Clinton using hand signals like a third base baseball coach to prompt moderator Lester Holt to quickly call on her to counter comments by opponent Donald Trump during Monday’s first Presidential Debate."
  • Jerry Boykin says that Clinton cannot be elected president because she "will complete the Obama agenda of the complete destruction of America's armed forces by continuing and even accelerating the pace of the destructive policies of President Barack Obama. Consequently, my grandchildren will have a dubious future and America's enemies will grow in strength and boldness while Mrs. Clinton panders to her socialist allies who would love nothing more than to see this nation become a third-rate military power."
  • William Gheen says that "the chances are there that Donald Trump could be in a landslide win situation with American voters, yet still have the election stolen from him by the legal and illegal immigrant voter registration drives currently in progress."
  • FRC prays for the end of the Johnson Amendment: "May God’s pastors preach like never before this Sunday! May His people press their elected representatives to end this unconstitutional muzzle on our pulpits – a muzzle that leads to more evil. May God’s pastors be loosed to exercise their responsibilities to God, their duties to His people, and their rights under the U.S. Constitution – to speak the whole truth regarding the qualifications of those who wish to be our civil leaders."
  • Finally, dozens of Religious Right activists have signed a letter warning that progressive Christian groups are little more than front groups for George Soros: "They use the Marxist-Alinsky tactic of funding 'ministers' who cherry-pick faith language to confuse and divide the Church’s morality, mission and vote."

Religious Right Backs Bill to Implement Trump’s Pledge to Make Churches More Politically Powerful

Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to make conservative Christians more politically powerful by eliminating legal restrictions on churches’ and other tax-exempt nonprofits’ ability to do electoral work. On Wednesday two Republican congressmen, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Georgia’s Jody Hice, introduced H.R. 6195, what they call the “Free Speech Fairness Act,” which would lay the groundwork for a President Trump to do just that.

Scalise and Hice were joined at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb, and anti-gay activist and pastor Harry Jackson. According to a handout, the bill or the policies represented in it are also supported by Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation, the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability, March for Life Action, Liberty Counsel and Liberty Counsel Action, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Trump has said he decided to call for repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which dates to 1954, when he heard from pastors that it restricted their ability to help him get elected. He has made it clear that he sees its repeal as a way to build Christian conservatives’ political muscle. So it was a bit unconvincing to have Scalise and Hice portray their legislation not as a vehicle for turning churches into more effective political machines, but merely an effort to protect the trampled-upon free speech rights of pastors and nonprofits.

Scalise and Hice say their bill would allow churches and nonprofits to make political statements if those statements are in the ordinary course of their regular work and any expenses related to them are de minimis. In their example, a preacher could endorse a candidate as part of a sermon, and a church could do the same in its normal newsletter. Under their rules, they say, the church couldn’t launch a new political direct mail campaign that is outside the normal scope of its work. But given the massive communications networks that many megachurches and nonprofit religious broadcasters have, this seems like more of a fig leaf than an actual limitation.

Before coming to Congress, Hice was a pastor in Georgia. He said he was one of 33 pastors who challenged the Johnson Amendment back in 2008 with the help of ADF, a challenge that grew into “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an annual project that encourages pastors to violate legal restrictions by endorsing candidates from the pulpit and daring the IRS to come after them. Not coincidentally, this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday is this weekend, October 2.

Speakers at this week’s press conference portrayed the Johnson Amendment as a dire restriction on free speech and religious liberty. ADF’s Holcomb said it has had “devastating impacts on religious freedom and the freedom of speech.” Hice said it is “unconscionable that our government would force individuals to choose between their constitutionally protected rights or their faith.”

Perkins quoted Martin Luther King Jr. at the press conference, and his commentary on the new bill at the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal features a large photograph of King. []Jackson also cited the civil rights movement. But the example of King actually undermines their hyperbolic claims about Johnson Amendment, which was in effect in the late 1950s and 1960s when African American pastors and churches served as moral and logistical focal points for the civil rights movement. They were not “muzzled” any more than conservative megachurches have been “muzzled” in speaking out about abortion for the past 40 years or rallying their members to vote against equality for LGBT people.

Under the existing IRS rules, the Family Research Council has no problem communicating on the issues of the day with the 11,000 pastors in its network. Indeed, there are currently multiple voter registration and GOTV operations being carried out by Religious Right networks through conservative evangelical churches. Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have appeared before gatherings of pastors brought together by Christian nationalist David Lane, who has recruited hundreds of pastors to run for office.

Their First Amendment freedoms are quite intact. But they’re looking for more—the ability of churches, religious broadcasters and other nonprofits to engage in direct electoral advocacy with tax-exempt funds. Speakers at Religious Right conferences routinely blame what they see as America’s moral decline on timid preaching, and they blame that on pastors who are intimidated by the IRS or hide behind the supposed threat of the IRS to avoid taking strong political stands. Charisma’s Bob Eschliman even said in praising the new bill that the Third Great Awakening—a national spiritual revival longed for by Religious Right leaders—cannot come about until the nation’s pulpits are “unshackled from the Johnson Amendment.”

Perkins, who is honorary chairman for Pulpit Freedom Sunday, bragged about the fact that he worked with the Trump campaign to get language calling for repeal of the Johnson Amendment into the Republican Party platform. He praised Trump for making it a campaign issue, adding, “I hope the next time that I’m talking about this could possibly be as he’s signing it behind his desk as president.”

Jonathan Cahn Knows We're In The End Times Because 'We're Seeing Things That Even Sodom And Gomorrah Didn't See'

When End Times Messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn appeared on Glenn Beck's radio program last year, it was to warn that America was going to suffer a massive calamity—possibly an economic meltdown, possibly a terrorist attack, possibly a natural disaster—on September 13, 2015.

Obviously, that didn't happen, but that hasn't rattled Beck's faith in Cahn's prophetic gifts, so he brought him back on his radio program today to promote his latest book, "The Book of Mysteries," and to warn that the world is now living in the End Times.

In the last days, Cahn said, the Bible warns that "before the end comes, there will be a great falling away from the faith, now we see that ... It's a civilization falling away from the ways of God. Well, we're watching it, we're talking about it."

"In the same days when you see culture falling away from the ways of God," he said, "you're going to see ... man departing from the state of manhood, women departing from womanhood, marriage departing from the state marriage, family from the state of family, all of these things we are watching. You want to know the reason why we're hearing all these things, why the news, the blending of gender, all of these things? It goes right to the word that was hidden 2,000 years ago."

When Beck pointed out that just about every generation of Christians throughout history has been convinced that it was living in the End Times, Cahn insisted that this time is different because "we've never seen a falling away to this degree. I mean, we're seeing things that even Sodom and Gomorrah didn't see. So we're seeing things that are unprecedented."

Another Trump Adviser Appears On Radio Network That Features White Nationalists

Earlier this year, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign landed in hot water when the candidate’s son, Donald Trump Jr., agreed to be interviewed by notorious white nationalist radio host James Edwards. Edwards hosts a show called “The Political Cesspool,” which is syndicated by Liberty News Radio; his interview with Trump Jr. was aired on another Liberty News Radio program called “Liberty Roundtable,” which is hosted by the network’s owner and Edwards friend Sam Bushman.

The Trump campaign received widespread criticism for the interview, especially given Trump’s reluctance to disavow support from white nationalists, but apparently didn’t learn its lesson, because yesterday another Trump aide, economic adviser Stephen Moore, appeared on “Liberty Roundtable” to spin Trump’s abysmal performance in the first presidential debate.

Edwards wasn’t on the program this time, but Moore spoke with Bushman, who grilled him on the false rumor that Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe whom Trump has repeatedly insulted, used to be a “porn star,” which Bushman recommended that Trump focus on in the next debate.

The allegation caused Moore to erupt in laughter as he claimed that Machado was “lying through her teeth.”

A commercial break during Moore’s appearance on the program included an advertisement from Edwards touting his book “Racism Schmacism” and his show on Bushman's network.

Trump Names 'Pro-Life Advisory Council' In Attempt To Reassure Anti-Choice Movement

Donald Trump’s campaign has given the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody a sneak peek at the members of a “pro-life advisory council” that the candidate is set to introduce today. Earlier this month, Trump sent a letter to “pro-life leaders” laying out a number of promises that he would make to their movement and announcing that Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the anti-choice electoral group Susan B. Anthony List, would spearhead the new anti-abortion coalition for his campaign.

Trump has given the anti-abortion movement some serious heartburn during his campaign as he’s continually reshaped his position on the issue and bungled their talking points, including at one point saying that women should face “some form of punishment” for abortion if the procedure is recriminalized. But since earning the Republican nomination, he’s started to win over many skeptical anti-abortion leaders with promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who share their views and to help them dismantle Planned Parenthood.

Brody writes that the full list released today “may indeed give comfort to those remaining evangelicals who are having a tough time making their way to the voting booth this Election Cycle.” Indeed, while Trump has attempted to say different things about abortion rights to different audiences, this new coalition shows that he is ready to go all-in with a movement that ultimately wants to ban the procedure without exception.

On the new list of Trump’s anti-choice allies are a number of legislators who have taken the lead on fighting abortion rights in Congress, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who led the House select committee investigating Planned Parenthood, Rep. Diane Black, Rep. Trent Franks and Rep. Chris Smith. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is on the list, as is Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

Also joining the new coalition are Religious Right activists including Tony Perkins and Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council; Gary BauerRalph Reed; the American Principles Project’s Frank Cannon; Bill Dallas of United in Purpose; Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance; C-FAM’s Austin Ruse; and Ed Martin, head of the late Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, who is apparently sympathetic to many of Trump’s views.

The list also includes anti-abortion activists Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union, Kristan Hawkins of Students for LifeAlveda King and Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and former Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest, who now works for Bauer’s American Values.

Dannenfelser has made no secret of the fact that she eventually wants to ban abortion without exception (except for a narrow exemption for saving a woman’s life) and her group opposes some common forms of birth control, claiming that they cause abortions. Many of the activists in Trump’s new coalition have similarly extreme views and are confident that Trump will let them have their way.

Ruse, who works at the United Nations to attempt to stop the adoption of language friendly to LGBT equality and reproductive rights, has declared, for instance, that “comprehensive sexuality education” is “a phrase created in the pits of hell by wicked individuals who wanted to undermine the family and ultimately destroy any institution that stands between the family and the state.” After meeting with Trump earlier this year, Ruse said that the GOP candidate “doesn’t care about” reproductive rights and therefore will “let our side do exactly what we want to do.”

Others have presented different reasons for supporting Trump. Priests for Life’s Pavone, who has said that legal abortion is worse than terrorism, has been somewhat lukewarm about Trump but has argued that Trump’s promises on abortion overcome any other faults he might have.

In response to a caller to a Catholic radio program who said that Trump’s stances on things like nuclear warfare and going after the families of suspected terrorists aren’t exactly pro-life, Pavone said that the potential of Trump dropping an atomic bomb is less dangerous than the certainty of Hillary Clinton continuing the “raging holocaust” of legal abortion. On another radio program, Pavone argued that it is more important that a candidate be “right on abortion” than on “poverty, immigration, war and peace, homelessness [and] health care.”

Pavone, after Trump said he supported punishing women who have abortions, floated the possibility of legal punishments for abortion “accomplices,” such as the person who brings a woman to a clinic.

Pavone’s Priests for Life colleague, Alveda King, also has some extreme views on reproductive rights, including alleging that “chemicals and things” in birth control make women infertile and that Planned Parenthood gives women contraception in order to give them breast cancer.

Other activists in Trump’s coalition have been leaders of the effort to chip away at abortion access by attempting to regulate abortion providers out of existence. When Yoest was at Americans United for Life, she was at the forefront of what she called this “stealth strategy” of “trench warfare and gaining ground under the radar.”

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