April 2010

Is Religious Right’s Star Ex-Muslim a Serial Liar?

Dr. Ergun Caner, the president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, has been a rising star on the Religious Right, entertaining audiences at major Religious Right gatherings with his hip, irreverent stories about his upbringing as a radical Muslim and his conversion to Christianity. Just this week, his story was featured on Focus on the Family’s broadcast, “From Jihad to Jesus.”

Turns out, according to a growing chorus of critics – many of them Southern Baptists and other Christians – Caner has apparently been lying for years about his childhood and his life story. It’s hard to even summarize the extent of the deceptions being described by his critics, but they include his claims to have grown up in Turkey and to have personally involved in Islamic Jihad, when court records from his parents’ divorce place him in Columbus, Ohio when he was just a few years old. Check some of the critical websites for voluminous debunking of Caner’s colorful (and apparently fanciful) stories about  learning about America through TV broadcasts in Turkey and more. Some charges are even more directly related to his ministry, such as his claims to have debated top Muslim scholars around the world. Caner’s critics say there’s no evidence of those debates. 
 
These are no vague or reckless charges, but carefully documented exposes that draw from Caner’s sermons, speeches, and online videos, and other public records.  Liberty doesn’t seem to have responded publicly, but recently posted a revised version of Caner’s bio with disputed claims removed. 
 
Some of Caner’s critics are willing to forgive him, but only if he owns up to his massive deceptions.  Meanwhile, Caner and his supporters have been trying to get his critics to shut up. Caner himself has pulled the Religious Right’s favored religious persecution card, reportedly saying in a memo to his Liberty colleagues, “I never thought I would see the day when alleged ‘Christians’ join with Muslims to attack converts.”
 
Meanwhile, others are starting to raise questions about the extent to which Ergun’s brother Emir, who heads a Baptist college in Georgia, may have assisted in Ergun’s deceptions, whether actively or by passively allowing false claims to go unchallenged.
 
It doesn’t look like Liberty University is going to be able to shove this under the rug. Stay tuned.

Wilderness Outcry Canceled, America Now Doomed

Last month we noted that Lou Engle, Dutch Sheets, Ron Luce, Jim Garlow* and various others associated with the prophetic intercessors movement were planning a 5-day prayer-fueled Woodstock in Missouri that was going to launch the Third Great Awakening, lift America from its "moral and spiritual crisis," and reverse God's judgments against our nation for having elected President Obama and the Democrats to office.

Sadly, this event has now been canceled, presumably dooming America to suffer the wrath of God:

We are very sorry to announce that due to a lack of funds, the large 5-day gathering called Wilderness Outcry will no longer take place this upcoming summer. We believe this vision is of the Lord, and certainly no one can deny the desperate need of our nation for prayer, but the reality is that provision for the high cost of doing an event like this - most of which must be paid in advance - has simply not materialized.

This was never intended to be a money-making event. Without charging a registration fee for attending, we knew our costs would be several hundred thousand dollars. We were confident we could raise this money. We were wrong. The line between true faith and presumption can be very fine sometimes, and our ability to truly discern God's will can be difficult. Obviously, we fell short in both areas.

We are saddened and grieved with this development and repent for any presumption on our part. We sincerely ask your forgiveness for any inconvenience this has caused you.

* UPDATE: Jim Garlow has informed us that he was in no way involved with this event.  Our apologies for mistakenly asserting that he was.

Peter LaBarbera's Sexual Orientation Test

We all know that the Constitution states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

But if Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth had his way, there certainly would be a sexual orientation test:

The president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) addresses whether a candidate for public office, including the Supreme Court, should declare their sexual preference or leanings.

LaBarbera has raised the question because of hints in the press that some of the possible picks for a Supreme Court vacancy are either homosexual or heavily favor special rights for homosexuals.

"I think it's time that the public be informed if a politician or a high court nominee has a special interest in homosexuality -- that is, they are practicing homosexuality or maybe they once practiced homosexuality," the AFTAH president contends. "I think the public has a right to know."

He explains that this information is important because the judges' decisions will impact all of society, not just one segment of it.

"They will affect Christians and people of faith who oppose homosexuality," he notes, pointing out that "we came within one vote on the Supreme Court of the Boy Scouts losing their freedom not to hire openly homosexual and atheist Scout masters."

LaBarbera is not only demanding that gay nominees openly "declare their sexual preference" so that he can oppose them because of it, but he also says any "heterosexual liberal" who holds "pro-homosexual" views must confess to that as well.

It was just a few weeks ago that Focus on the Family backed away from its previous stance that a nominee's sexual orientation would not matter under pressure from LaBarbera.  So perhaps next, Focus will adopt LaBarbera's "every SCOTUS nominee must declare their homosexuality" test.

Glenn Beck to Deliver Commencement Address At Liberty University

Back in 2007, students at Pat Robertson's Regent University were outraged when Mitt Romney, a Mormon, was invited to deliver the commencement address.

I wonder if we will see similar protests from students at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University now that it has been announced that Glenn Beck, also a Mormon, will be speaking at their graduation ceremony next month:

Well-known radio host Glenn Beck will address Liberty University’s Class of 2010 at Commencement on Saturday, May 15, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced today at Convocation. Joining Beck as a speaker will be Dr. Paige Patterson, the current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Patterson will also be the keynote speaker at Baccalaureate Service on May 14.

“Liberty University is blessed to have two national conservative leaders speak at our 2010 Commencement ceremony,” Falwell said. “Dr. Patterson is one of the patriarchs of Christian higher education, and Beck is one of the few courageous voices in the national media standing up for the principles upon which this nation was founded. Both speakers continue Liberty’s long tradition of Commencement speakers who are making a positive impact on society in all walks of life.”

Early Right Wing Round-Up

  • TPM: Court Martial Charges Brought Against Birther Army Doc.
  • Think Progress: Obama: ‘Irresponsible’ Arizona Immigration Bill ‘Threatens To Undermine Basic Notions Of Fairness’.
  • Crooks and Liars: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James tells us, "This is Alabama. We speak English."
  • Raw Story: Gingrich: Tea Party will become ‘militant wing’ of GOP.
  • Steve Benen: Back in the Kitchen.
  • Media Matters: Glenn Beck: A Vatican-approved, "wildly important" warrior against forces of "great darkness"?

Early Right Wing Leftovers

I'm going to be off until next Wednesday, starting this afternoon, so here is an early wrap-up of today's right-wing miscellany:

  • Jesse Lee Peterson declares Michael Steele to be a RINO for saying that Blacks do not have a reason to vote for the GOP.
  • Now Tom Tancredo going after the SPLC.
  • As is the Traditional Values Coalition's Andrea Lafferty, who also claims that PFAW is a "leftist hate group".
  • The Institute on Religion and Democracy is calling on churches to "confront Islamic law" here in America.
  • Finally, Tim Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos, which will make his future collaborations with Focus on the Family that much easier.

Graham's Disinvitation Proof That Our Military Is Run By "Fundamentalist Muslims and Homosexual Activists"

Yesterday, it was reported that the Army had rescinded its invitation to Franklin Graham to speak at a National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon due to his past attacks on Islam.

Not surprisingly, Religious Right activists are upset. 

While Gordon Klingenschmitt focuses his ire on Mickey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, TVC's Andrea Lafferty blamed CAIR

Nihad Awad, a founder of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its chief public spokesman, was the first to start taking a victory lap and announced that evangelist Franklin Graham was "disinvited" from a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the Pentagon.

"This attack on Franklin Graham and Christians was engineered by CAIR and it has the fingerprints of Barack Obama's White House all over it," said Traditional Values Coalition Executive Director Andrea Lafferty.

"Nihad Awad and CAIR offer us a preview of what America will be like if they are ever successful. Playing by their rules – shariah law—there is no separation of church and state. There is one state religion and Islam is it. There is zero tolerance for anything at variance with Islam, particularly if it's Christian or Jewish.

For  this part, FRC's Tony Perkins claimed the decision is an attack on the religious freedom of all Christians: 

The fact that he has theological differences with Islam, differences wholly in keeping with the teachings of the New Testament, and that he has expressed them publicly, is now being used by anti-Christian zealots in a manner offensive to the freedom of religion guaranteed by the very Constitution military leaders are sworn to uphold.

"This decision is further evidence that the leadership of our nation's military has been impaired by the politically correct culture being advanced by this Administration. Under this Administration's watch we are seeing the First Amendment, designed to protect the religious exercise of Americans, retooled into a sword to sever America's ties with orthodox Christianity.

"For those Christian leaders who have avoided the controversy of political issues, saying they just wanted to preach the gospel - this should be a wake up call!"

And never one to be outdone, the AFA's Bryan Fischer sees it as proof that our military has been taken over by "fundamentalist Muslims and homosexual activists": 

Bottom line: you want to know who's now running the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy and the Marines and calling the shots where it counts? Fundamentalist Muslims and homosexual activists.

In fact, I'll predict that there will be a day of prayer at the Pentagon on May 6, and it will feature a Muslim imam, a homosexual clergyman, and no conservative Christians of any kind.

This is not your father's military. It's not even your father's country anymore.

Hagee: Iceland Volcano Was God's Response To British Ad Ban

Last week, Rush Limbaugh said the eruption of the volcano in Iceland was "God speaking" in response to the passage of health care reform.

But John Hagee has a different explanation, saying it was God's response to the decision by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority that the Western Wall could not appear in tourism ads:

Television and radio evangelist Pastor John Hagee believes the recent eruption of the volcano in Iceland stems from Britain breaking God's covenant.

The day after Britain's Advertising Standards Authority said the Western Wall in Jerusalem could not be used in Israeli tourism ads in Britain because it is considered occupied territory, Hagee said, the volcano erupted, shutting down Britain's economy in one day.

"That's coincidence, like the flood was a coincidence. That's coincidence, like the Red Sea was coincidence. That's coincidence, like the earthquake and the Resurrection was coincidence," Hagee told about 3,200 people at Lancaster County Convention Center on Thursday night as part of John Hagee Ministries' Rally and Prophecy Seminar.

Hagee went on to warn President Obama for his treatment of Israel, saying "any country who tries to change [God's covenant with Abraham] will get the judgment of God. It's like sticking your finger in the eye of God."

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Texas Freedom Network: California Advances Anti-Texas Textbook Bill.
  • Think Progress: Rep. Brian Bilbray Says He Can Spot Undocumented Immigrants Based On The Shoes They Wear.
  • Sarah Posner: Family Research Council's Restoration Of "Christian" Morality.
  • Bruce Wilson: Christian Right Claims Both 2010 Hawaii Gubernatorial Candidates.
  • Alvin McEwen: How to scare the bejesus out of Christians with a failed game plan.
  • David Weigel: J.D. Hayworth disavows ALIPAC -- sort of.
  • Good As You: American Family Association viciously slurs 'sick queers'.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Janet Porter's May Day prayer rally will air live on GOD TV.
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann has confirmed her appearance at the next FRC Values Voter Summit.
  • Things continue to go downhill for Michael Steele.
  • Various right-wing groups are planning to spend millions targeting anti-choice Democrats who supported health care reform.
  • The Department of Justice is going to appeal the National Day of Prayer ruling.
  • Speaking of which, Franklin Graham has been disinvited from the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer event.  Commence right-wing freakout in 3, 2, 1, ...