What Persecution Looks Like

Nothing like putting things in perspective.

At the end of a week in which Religious Right leaders, cable TV pundits, and conservative politicians acted as if freedom were being destroyed because a rich TV star was suspended for making offensive racist and anti-gay comments, the Parliament in Uganda passed a bill that threatens gay people with life in prison.

And with that vote, all the alarmist bluster about persecution from Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal and every Religious Right leader who saw a chance to boost year-end fundraising by jumping on the martyrdom bandwagon was made to look ridiculous.

This week’s news gave us plenty of evidence about real persecution, and it had nothing to do with Duck Dynasty. The face of persecution is not Phil Robertson, but the terrified LGBT people in Uganda who fear that they are about to be hunted.  Persecution looks like gay teenagers in Russia being beaten by thugs, and by gay parents who have the ability to leave Russia fleeing because anti-gay political leaders are threatening to take their children from them. Persecution looks like LGBT people all over the globe whose lives and freedom are threatened by new laws that enshrine discrimination and define them as criminals. Persecution looks like LGBT teens in Jamaica facing vigilante violence.  And on and on.

Newsweek reported a week ago that Ethiopia had declared war on gay men this year, noting, “A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality announced that the council was making ‘promising’ progress in convincing the government to introduce the death penalty to punish ‘homosexual acts.’”

How do American conservative religious and political figures respond to this kind of persecution? Not with shouts of outrage but with enthusiastic cheering. It is no small irony that many of those most loudly screaming "persecution" over Robertson's suspension have been equally vocal supporters of international efforts to literally criminalize homosexuality. 

Brian Brown, Pat Buchanan, Matt Barber, and a sad parade of other religious conservatives fawn over Russia’s violently anti-democratic strongman Vladimir Putin as if he were Christendom’s new Defender of the Faith. Putin, in Barber’s words, is being allowed to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation.” (Of course many American Christians want nothing to do with Barber or his interpretation of the faith.)

And to their lasting shame, American Religious Right leaders’ financial and political support have been inflaming anti-gay passions in Uganda for years.  Lou Engle and Scott Lively actually traveled to Uganda and helped rally support for the bill. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who takes such umbrage at FRC’s designation as a hate group, dismissed criticism of the Uganda law in its earlier and more sinister incarnation, calling the proposed law an effort to “uphold moral conduct.”

There’s no indication that the Uganda bill’s passage is causing any noticeable soul-searching among the far right.  Far from it. The American Family Association’s always-repellant Bryan Fischer invoked the Duck Dynasty flap in celebrating the passage of the anti-gay law in Uganda: “Uganda stands with Phil. Makes homosexuality contrary to public policy. It can be done.”

Actually, as offensive as Phil Robertson’s statements were, they pale in comparison to Fischer’s. Robertson hasn’t suggested, as far as I know, that gay people should be arrested and put in prison for life. And I seriously doubt that Robertson has ever traveled to Russia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, or Australia to promote legal discrimination against and criminalization of LGBT people or anyone who advocates for equality, the way right-wing figures like Engle, Lively, Brown, Mat Staver, Peter LaBarbera, Paul Cameron, and others have.

No worries about the Olympics on the American Right.  In fact the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society is excited about having its 2014 “World Congress of Families” summit in Moscow, which they see as a new stronghold for “traditional values” against the secular moral squalor of Western Europe.

Conservative activists were prepared to see Phil Robertson as a victim of religious persecution because they’ve been primed for years with the “religious liberty” narrative being pushed by Religious Right leaders and their conservative Catholic allies. They portray criticism as persecution. They equate being on the losing side of policy debates with being under the heel of oppression. And when courts and legislatures struggle with the challenge of balancing religious liberty with other constitutional values like equality under the law, they see only black-and-white battles between good and evil.

Their rhetoric cheapens and distorts the meaning of terms like tyranny. Anti-religious persecution is a violent, heartbreaking reality for Christians in many parts of the world. But not for the privileged and powerful figures in the United States who wrap themselves in the mantle of martyrdom.

The next time you hear some talking head on Fox talk about persecution, think about people in the Central African Republic who are caught in sectarian violence verging on genocide. Or think about LGBT people whose lives and freedom are threatened every day in the name of Christian values.  

Trent Frank Agrees That Obama Is Either A Secret Muslim Or Acting Just Like One

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) appeared at a David Horowitz Freedom Center function last month where he agreed with a co-panelist who said Obama may be a secret Muslim, or is at least acting like one. Franks sat on the panel with anti-Muslim activists Robert Spencer, Erick Stakelbeck and Caroline Glick. A member of the audience asked Spencer — to laughter and applause — that if the Quran dictates that apostates must face execution, “If so, how does this apply to Obama? And if so, what should we do about it?”

Spencer replied that the president’s religion is “murky, probably intentionally so.” He went on to say that because you don’t hear Muslims “calling for Obama to be executed as an apostate” for leaving Islam for Christianity, then it is likely he is still a Muslim.

“With so many hotheads and firebrands and hardliners, you would think that somebody would say that, unless maybe they know something,” Spencer said.

He went on to argue that Obama’s Christian faith is further proof that he’s a Muslim, explaining that he can still be a Muslim while he identifies as a Christian. Spencer added: “Whatever his personal beliefs are, certainly if he were a secret Muslim, he wouldn’t be acting any differently from how he is anyway.”

“That’s exactly right,” Franks said. “He wouldn’t be any different.”

Fischer: Phil Robertson's Suspension Is 'The Mark Of The Beast'

Just in case the Religious Right's response to the "Duck Dynasty" controversy has not already been ridiculously over-the-top enough, Bryan Fischer decided to officially turn into a total farce by declaring on his radio broadcast today that Robertson's suspension is literally "the Mark of the Beast":

Creationists: Evolution Is For 'Gullible' People Who 'Rely On Silly Stories'

Dr. John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research thinks that “no truly helpful discovery has come from evolution” since evolution proponents, unlike Creationists, “rely on silly evolutionary stories to make us believe it.”

He told co-host Chris O’Brien in a radio bulletin today that evolution fails because it “ought to be obvious” and “people are not gullible enough to think that a frog change into a prince.”

O’Brien: Has evolutionary science been useful to the world?

Morris: Chris, you’d be surprised. Evolutionists say that evolution undergirds all of biology, and yet no truly helpful discovery has come from evolution. It is true that many evolutionists have made amazing discoveries, but these are based on scientific observation of the way things are—how they originated is a different question. It seems to me that if evolution were really a theory of everything, as they claim, then it ought to be obvious; they shouldn’t have to rely on silly evolutionary stories to make us believe it. Face it, evolution is unbelievable because it is simply not true. Most people are not gullible enough to think that a frog change into a prince. Creation is a much better answer and we learn that when we go back to Genesis.

O’Brien: Thanks Dr. Morris!

Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill Cheered By US Conservatives

An anti-gay law championed by evangelical Christians in Uganda with the enthusiastic backing of Religious Right leaders in the U.S. has passed parliament and is awaiting the president’s decision on whether to sign it.  The bill as passed apparently no longer includes the death penalty provision but makes homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison. LGBT activist Frank Mugisha says his colleagues are panicking, fearing that “there is going to be a hunt.”

Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan minister who has pushed the bill for years, and has been praised by Religious Right leaders like Matt Barber for his strident anti-gay stance, tweeted “Let Freedom Ring!” and posted a celebratory picture of himself with David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor.

Ssempa got plenty of help from American Religious Right figures like Lou Engle and Scott Lively, who is facing a human rights lawsuit brought by Sexual Minorities of Uganda. “This human rights crisis was made here in the United States,” says Tarso Luís Ramos, Executive Director at Political Research Associates.

Given that American Religious Right figures had praised the bill in its even more draconian form – Tony Perkins called it an effort to “uphold moral conduct” – it is sadly unsurprising to see some of them cheering.  American Family Association hatemonger Bryan Fischer connected the law’s passage to the controversy in America over Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. Fischer tweeted:

So much for “live and let live.” 

Dean: 'In New York City, They're Teaching Kids Bestiality In Public Schools'

Bradlee Dean was a guest on the "TruNews" End Times radio broadcast yesterday where Dean and guest host David Berman rambled on for half an hour about how this country is being destroyed by liberals and ungodly Republicans and everyone else that doesn't share their radical views.

Public education, in particular, is playing a central role in the destruction of America because, as Dean explained, liberals are a lawless "criminal population," so much so that teachers in New York City are now "teaching kids bestiality in public schools":

Berman: This is a demonic problem, isn't it, my friend?

Dean: Oh, there's no question about it. And, by the way, when we're talking about the left, and what they attempt to promulgate, attempt to advocate, we have to keep in mind that they're lawless. So when we talk of the left in this country, it's really what the right has tolerated. There wouldn't be a left if the right was doing the right thing all of the time. And I wish people in America would just come to the terms and to the facts that when we're talking about those that again are on the left, we're really talking about a lawless people, we're talking about a criminal population that is only complained about because the right is tolerating their crimes committed against the constitutional republic .

But going back to the schools again, you're dealing with an educational system - National Education Association -  they're so demoralized [sic], they're so irrational that now they have something called the homosexual caucus; that wasn't good enough, now they have a drag queen caucus. In New York City, they're teaching kids bestiality in public schools.

Pastor Who Claims He's Behind New South Carolina Abortion Bill Admits Goal Is To 'Get The Costs To Go Up,' Close Clinics

This week, South Carolina state senator Larry Grooms introduced a bill similar to the one recently passed in Texas that would require any doctor performing an abortion in the state to have “admitting privileges at a local hospital.”

Five states have recently passed similar bills. Publicly, advocates claim that the purpose of such bills is to protect women’s health; in unguarded moments, some activists have admitted that these provisions are actually meant to force abortion clinics to close by pressuring hospitals to deny the required privileges to abortion doctors.

According to one pastor who claims to have had a hand in the drafting of Grooms’ bill, that is the goal of the proposed provision in South Carolina. At an event in September at his church – which it appears that Sen. Grooms was attending -- pastor Bobby Eubanks explained that he planned to “help” the senator write a bill imposing a number of abortion restrictions so that he could “introduce it under his name.”

“My plan is to regulate the industry not to end it,” he said, explaining that regulations such as waiting periods and mandatory sonograms raise costs and therefore make abortions less affordable for the “girls” who are seeking them. “How you get the costs to go up is you regulate it,” he said, telling the story of a woman he met who said she was barely able to scrape up $500 for an abortion.

He also touted the admitting privileges provision, claiming that abortion clinics won’t help women who experience complications: “The girl, if she’s down there and she starts bleeding when she comes out, she’s on her own.”

But he also made clear the real reason he was pushing the provision, saying, “not a hospital in South Carolina” would actually grant the required privileges.

Eubanks then announced that he would track down any legislator who opposed his bill and “stand in front of their church and say, ‘You have a member of your church who promotes killing babies.’”

We left a message with Sen. Grooms’ office asking if Eubanks did in fact have a hand in writing the bill, and will update this post if we hear back from them.

It appears that the two are at least occasional collaborators. On the day that Grooms filed his bill, he joined Eubanks and his fellow state senator Lee Bright – currently the top-polling primary challenger to Sen. Lindsey Graham – at a protest in front of a Charleston hospital that provides reproductive medicine training to its residents.

Eubanks has some other notable views about abortion and other issues. At an event in July also attended by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and Sen. Bright, Eubanks declared that he would “be in jail” if Hillary Clinton became president, suggested that Clinton had Ambassador Chris Stevens killed in Benghazi “because he knew stuff he was trying to move up the ladder,” claimed that “abortion continues to be because people don’t want biracial children,” warned that marriage equality would lead to “Braveheart”-style government destruction of marriage, and explained that slavery was “not about racism” but instead was “an accepted way of economics throughout the world.” In fact, when it comes to slavery, he said, “the real fault lies with Africa for selling their people to slave traders.”

Phil Robertson Becomes Religious Right Hero

It seems that every Religious Right group has put out a petition this week defending Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty star who was suspended after he made racist and homophobic statements in an interview with GQ. We are not surprised that the Right has pounced on the opportunity to play the victim and grow their email lists.

  • This National Organization for Marriage’s petition claims Robertson was suspended merely for stating “his belief in the truth of the Bible,” insisting that “nothing that Phil Robertson said is hateful” and that A&E “succumbed to the demands of bullies like the HRC and GLAAD, which is disgraceful for an entity whose very existence depends on the free exchange of ideas.”
  • The American Family Association has its own petition thanking Robertson for “declaring the truth of God’s word” and charging that the network undermined the reality star’s “rights to religious freedom and freedom of speech”…because apparently the First Amendment says that no one can ever be disciplined in their job over things they say.
  • Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition is urging men to grow beards in “support for Phil and Christian Values,” while asking women to “lovingly tolerate the facial scruff” of men who grow their Phil-beards.
  • Even the ex-gay organization Voice of the Voiceless has its own petition, warning that America will soon “turn into a fascist society” if gay rights groups aren’t stopped.
  • Americans For Truth About Homosexuality head Peter LaBarbera complains that Robertson is a victim of “homo-fascism” while “Christians and moral-minded Americans must rally behind Phil Robertson.”
  • Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel salutes Robertson as “a breath of fresh air in this Miley Cyrus culture” who is bravely restoring America’s Christian heritage.

Clearly, making homophobic and racist comments is all it takes to become a Religious Right hero.

Update: Of course, the inevitable Rosa Parks comparison:

In a fundraising email to supporters, Ian Bayne, who is running in the Republican primary to challenge Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) in the 11th District, compared Robertson to Rosa Parks. The fundraising email began: "Today, Ian Bayne called Phil Robertson, star of the A&E series "Duck Dynasty," the 'Rosa Parks' of our generation."

Paranoia-Rama: War On Christmas Hoax, Obama's Gay Revenge & The Plot To Nuke Charleston

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

Apparently, we here at Right Wing Watch are receiving secret information on the American public courtesy of the NSA. This week we learned top-secret details about the War on Christmas, along with the Obama administration’s false flag attacks and plan to nuke South Carolina. It’s all here in this week’s Paranoia-Rama:

5. Student Suspended For Saying ‘Merry Christmas’?

The National Report strikes again! An article from the satirical site about a San Francisco school suspending a nine-year-old student for wishing a “Merry Christmas” to an atheist teacher went viral this week, enraging War on Christmas belligerents. A real school with a similar name to the fictional school mnamed in the National Report’s spoof has been inundated with nasty calls and violent threats from angry people across the country who didn’t realize the article was a hoax.

Judging by the source, we wouldn’t be surprised if the story eventually gets a mention on Fox & Friends.

4. Indian Diplomat’s Arrest A Gay Plot

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association believes that last week’s controversial arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York occurred not because of the diplomat’s alleged mistreatment of her housekeeper but as “payback” for an Indian supreme court decision recriminalizing homosexuality. “I think there is one simple reason: This is payback by President Obama because a week ago the supreme court in the country of India reinstated a law that bans homosexual sex, it criminalizes homosexual conduct,” Fischer said.

Legal disputes between the diplomat and her former maid have been going on for months and Secretary of State John Kerry expressed regret over the incident, but since Fischer is absolutely obsessed with gay issues it’s not like he needs any evidence to substantiate his case.

3. Obama Will Use NSA To Leak Information To Liberal Groups

Larry Klayman, the conservative attorney who successfully challenged the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, seems convinced that President Obama will leak information collected by the NSA to progressive organizations, including us (even though our parent organization, People For the American Way, is part of a separate legal challenge to the NSA).

Klayman believes this is part of a plan “to destroy conservatives, libertarians, people of faith and anyone else who believes in true freedom” that will concentrate power in the hands of Obama’s “wildly ultra-leftist, atheist, anti-Judeo-Christian, anti-white and Muslim benefactors, supporters and friends.”

2. About That Guy Who Stopped Obama From Nuking Charleston…

As we’ve been reporting, conservative activist Jim Garrow is insistent that three military officials dealing with nuclear arms were fired because they stopped President Obama’s plan to nuke Charleston, South Carolina. Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a report on the actual reasons the one of the generals responsible for nuclear weapons was fired, including his excessive drinking and misbehavior.

Not that any of Garrow’s followers know or care, as we expect Garrow — who recently predicted the emergence of an anti-Obama “guerrilla war” — to continue to claim that the general was a great hero who saved America from a malicious Obama-Soros scheme.

1. Obama’s ‘False Flag’ Actress?

Leave it to Erik Rush to promote a bizarre blog post from a fringe right-wing website about how young women photographed crying at the scenes of the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings and the Boston Marathon Bombing look similar, and therefore must be the same woman and an actress paid by President Obama.

The website, Moral Matters, says that the photos are proof that Obama is staging the violent events in order to distract from his “criminal scandals and his criminal ID fraud,” bolster gun control efforts and gut the Second Amendment. We wonder if Erik Rush will discuss this conspiracy theory the next time Fox News invites him on air.

Religious Right Myths Never Die

Earlier this year, Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk became a cause célèbre for the Religious Right after he was supposedly relieved of duty for opposing gay marriage; so much so that his tale of victimization was even the focus of an entire panel at the annual Values Voter Summit.

The only problem was that his tale of anti-Christian persecution was false:

The Air Force has found unsubstantiated the claim of a senior master sergeant who said he was reassigned after making known his religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, now assigned to the 59th Medical Wing, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, said he was relieved July 26 of his duties as first sergeant of the 326th Training Squadron and forced to take leave because he disagreed with his commanding officer’s position on gay marriage.

The investigation, initiated Aug. 15 by Col. Mark Camerer, 37th Training Wing commander at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, found the claim unsubstantiated. The investigation also concluded Monk made false official statements, but did not violate Articles 107 or 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“The weight of the evidence shows that religion was never discussed between the two,” Camerer said in an Air Education and Training Command release.

“In the end, this is a case about command authority, good order and discipline, and civil rights — not religious freedoms,” he said.

Monk was not removed from his position, but rather moved, as scheduled, to another Lackland unit, an assignment he was notified of in April, the release says.

Like so many other right-wing myths, the fact that the central claim is entirely untrue does not in any way stop the Religious Right from repeating it endlessly, as demonstrated by the fact that the Family Research Council has produced a new video featuring Monk claiming that "his punishment was intended to have a chilling effect on service members throughout the military."

"I was the victim here," says the man that a military investigation found repeatedly made false statements about his supposed victimization:

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