Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who only a few years ago was lamenting the GOP’s decline into “the stupid party,” is now staking out a position on the party’s far-right fringe in preparation for an expected run for the presidency. Jindal has reached out to the party’s increasingly extreme base by undermining the teaching of evolution in public schools; promoting wild conspiracy theories about Common Core, an effort to adjust school standards that he supported before it became the target of the Tea Party’s fury; and hyping the purported persecution of Christians in America, specifically citing the plight of Christians with reality television shows.
Jindal, once hailed as the GOP’s top intellectual and reformer who denounced “dumbed-down conservatism” in an era of Tea Party populism, is slated to lead a prayer rally this weekend, “The Response: Baton Rouge,” organized and sponsored by some of the most extreme figures within the party.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry organized the original “Response” prayer gathering as a prelude to his 2012 presidential bid, allying with many of the same radical activists and organizations who are supporting Jindal’s version of the rally. While Perry’s campaign ultimately imploded, the people who helped put together his prayer rally credited it for various miracles. Jindal’s event has even recycled promotional materials from the Texas rally, including a “prayer guide” blaming marriage equality for Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Joplin tornado.
“The Response” is being organized by David Lane, a Religious Right activist who boasts of his great influence and low profile, and various conservative pastors, including several who claim to be modern-day prophets and apostles, who all kicked off the prayer rally with an event at the Louisiana governor’s mansion earlier this month. The American Family Association, so notorious for its apoplectic anti-gay rhetoric and opposition to the freedoms of non-Christians that its chief spokesman earned a rebuke from Mitt Romney, is putting up the funding.
David Lane, a self-styled “political operative” who gloats that he has “operated since 2005 largely under the radar” on behalf of conservative causes and Republican candidates, is serving as the organizational muscle behind Jindal’s prayer rally.
Jindal isn’t the only potential GOP candidate who is getting Lane’s help; Lane has also arranged various events focused on energizing conservative pastors in early GOP primary states that have featured appearances from potential presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee. He also organized overseas tours with various conservative activists for likely candidates including Huckabee, Perry and Paul. Lane has also teamed up with the Republican National Committee, whose chairman, Reince Priebus, sings his praises.
Lane hopes to use “The Response” as a launching pad for his effort to recruit 1,000 pastors to run for elected office.
Lane, who has connections to the top of the Republican Party, has views which are far out of the mainstream. He has:
- called on conservatives to attack Mitt Romney for worshiping “the false god of Mormonism”;
- warned that LGBT rights are creating an unparalleled “crisis” leading to “our utter destruction” as a nation;
- forecasted America’s destruction as a result of “the pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage” and “homosexual scouts”;
- declared that “our long-term strategy must be to place the Bible in Public Schools as the principle [sic] textbook of American education”;
- and predicted that “homosexuals praying at the Inauguration” in 2013 would lead to divine punishment in the form of “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa.”
The American Family Association, classified as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is providing the financial backbone for Jindal’s prayer rally, as it did for Perry’s 2011 event.
The group’s chief spokesman, Bryan Fischer, has won nationwide notoriety for his remarks about homosexuality and religious and ethnic minorities, which he shares on his daily program on the AFA’s radio network. Fischer has:
- called for the criminalizationof homosexuality, bans on pro-gay-rights speech, punishing gay people like people convicted of drug crimes and prohibitions on gay people from serving in public office;
- blamed gays for the 2008 financial collapse, the rise of the Islamic State, the sexual abuse of children and even the Holocaust;
- insisted that non-Christians have no First Amendment rights and non-Christian immigrants should be forcibly converted to Christianity, explaining that “counterfeit religions, alternative religions to Christianity, have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of the religion.” (This includes Hindus, whose adherents include Gov. Jindal’s parents, whom he believes practice “the doctrine of demons”);
- said African Americans are “people who rut like rabbits” as a result of welfare programs;
The latter half of Rick Perry’s “The Response” prayer rally was emceed by a self-proclaimed prophet who believes Oprah Winfrey is the harbinger of the Antichrist.
It looks like Jindal’s rally will be no different: Doug Stringer, who considers himself to be a modern-day apostle and who also worked on Perry’s rally, is spearheading the Louisiana event. Stringer has blamed American “[l]icentiousness or moral looseness to the degree that it is ‘in your face,’ including homosexuality,” for the September 11, 2001 attacks, which he described as a “wake-up call” from God.
Another self-proclaimed prophet, Cindy Jacobs, is also featured on “The Response: Baton Rouge” website. Jacobs has quite the prophetic record. She:
- suggested that legal victories for marriage equality advocates led to Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters;
- proclaimed that Rick Perry’s “The Response” prayer rally “broke the curses on the land” of Texas brought on by “the Native American people [who] were cannibals and they ate people”;
- and blamed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for freak bird deaths in Arkansas.
Jim Garlow, a prominent “The Response: Baton Rouge” endorser who is involved in the “apostolic” movement, has been a leader of the movement against LGBT rights. Garlow has:
- claimed his prayers helped secure the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which “saved us from the bondage and enslavement that would come upon us if gay marriage actually passed in a state”;
- described the “radical homosexual agenda” as a tool of Satan and “almost like an Antichrist spirit”;
- and warned that marriage equality will lead to America’s destruction, widespread persecution and even death.
One event sponsor, Jennifer LeClaire, has used her column in Charisma News to broadcast several “prophetic” warnings about the evils of homosexuality and the “gay agenda” that is “working overtime to send millions to hell.” LeClaire has:
- asserted that gay marriage is “part of Satan’s end-time strategy” to “outlaw traditional marriage”;
- and claimed that gay people are possessed by a demonic “spirit of immorality” that “often enters in through some sort of abuse and the lies of the enemy [Satan] that follow.”
“The Response: Baton Rouge” has also featured endorsements from a slew of conservative politicians. Tamara Scott, as a member of the Republican National Committee representing Iowa and leader of the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America, is a key political player in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. But her political clout doesn’t hide her unbridled extremism. Scott has:
- alleged that gay marriage will legalize marriage to objects such as the Eiffel Tower and usher in economic collapse;
- characterized young Central American immigrants as “highly trained warriors” who could “rise up against us as Americans”;
- and suggested that Muslim-Americans are waging a “stealth jihad” to overthrow the U.S.
Another official “Response” endorser, longtime conservative activist and failed Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia E.W. Jackson, has pushed similarly radical views, particularly on gay rights, saying that “homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of.” He has also:
- said of gay people: “Their minds are perverted, they’re frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally”;
- claimed that gay people “recruit” children into their “destructive” lifestyle and gay rights supporters “have done more to kill black folks whom they claim so much to love than the Ku Klux Klan, lynching and slavery and Jim Crow ever did”;
- warned that homosexuality will bring about a “torrent of wickedness,” including human-animal marriages;
- argued that God will stop blessing the U.S. military due to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which he called “a disaster of historic proportions”;
Gene Mills, leader of the Louisiana Family Forum and another key “Response” endorser, is a vocal ally of Jindal’s who helped push the governor’s policies undermining public education and promoting religious schooling. It’s no surprise that Mills leads the state’s foremost anti-LGBT group, as he has:
- asserted that homosexuality is not a sexual orientation but a “disorder”;
- falsely claimed that anti-gay speech is now classified as hate crimes;
- said that abuse shelters should turn away transgender victims of spousal abuse;
- and explained that anti-gay discrimination is a myth because “the reality is the shame and the guilt the homosexual feels is mistakenly reinterpreted as discrimination and what they attempt to do is to call it discrimination and prohibit it.”