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Has Dobson Thrown In The Towel? Not Quite

I have already written a few posts this week trying to beat back the notion that the Religious Right is on the verge of collapse, pointing that that such declarations are made every few years and noting that right-wing leaders have repeatedly declared that they have no intention of giving up the fight.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this article in The Telegraph entitled "US religious Right concedes defeat":

Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle.

James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family - one of the largest Christian groups in the country - and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.

“We tried to defend the unborn child, the dignity of the family, but it was a holding action,” he said.

“We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”

...

Steve Deace, an evangelical radio talk show host in Iowa who broadcast a recording of Mr Dobson’s address, which he said had appeared on Focus on the Family’s website before disappearing.

Deace was at the center of Kathleen Parker's recent column in which she asked if "the Christian right [is] finished as a political entity” and seems to be the go-to person for any commentator or journalist looking for some right-wing voice to declare the Religious Right dead, which seems to be an awfully strange and rather counterproductive career move, if you ask me.

Regardless, the assertion that James Dobson's farewell speech to the staff at Focus on the Family headquarters is no longer on the website is wrong - it can be found in the Focus radio archives entitled "A Momentous Occasion at FOF 2" which aired on 3/3/09, about a week after Dobson announced his resignation as chairman of the organization.

In listening to the audio of his address we find that, contrary to the Telegraph's interpretation, Dobson was not so much conceding defeat as he was vowing not to give up:

The battles that we fought in the Eighties now, we were victorious in many of those conflicts with the culture, trying to defend righteousness, trying to defend the unborn child, trying to preserve the dignity of the family and the definition of marriage. We fought all those battles and really it was a holding action.

Dr. Mohler mentioned the pornography struggle; we made a lot of progress through the Eighties but then we turned into the Nineties and the internet came along and a new president came along and all of that went away and now we are absolutely awash in evil. And the battle is still to be waged. And we are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles, but God is in control and we are not going to give up now, right?

APPLAUSE

The world has turned colder for the family in recent years and there is such hostility to anyone who holds to a faith and we're going to take the heat. But I have been assured by the board and by many of you that we're not going to cow, we're not going to be discouraged. We're going to continue to express the love for the Scripture and the principles that we find there and if we are made fools for Christ, that's okay too because our purpose is to serve him and that he be pleased.

That seems to be rather different than how the Telegraph portrayed it.

If people want to write articles claiming that the Religious Right is conceding defeat and on its way to irrelevance, they ought to try and do so without misquoting statements in which the movement's leaders are vowing not to give up.

The Practical Sen. Brownback

Republican Kansas Senator Sam Brownback has received a lot of flack for his support of fellow Kansan Kathleen Sebelius's nomination to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services - it even caused the Family Research Council to pull out of "Values Action Team" that Brownback leads.

To date, Brownback hasn't offered much in the way of explanation for his stance, much to the dismay of anti-choice activists who once viewed him as a solid ally. Other than saying that getting Sebelius confirmed to HHS will get her out of the Kansas and thus away from a possible run for Brownback's open Senate seat in 2010, Brownback has been rather quiet about the whole thing ... though today he admitted to the Topeka Capital-Journal that his stance has hurt his reputation among anti-choice activists:

Sen. Sam Brownback is aware anti-abortion forces in Kansas remain baffled by his unwillingness to be the catalyst for a campaign against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination to lead the federal agency guiding abortion policy.

Brownback, a prominent national voice against abortion, said pragmatism guided his decision not to sound an alarm upon nomination of the abortion-rights Democrat as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“People have been pretty upset,” the GOP senator said. “I’ve been saying to them there’s a practicality to this.”

He said any HHS nominee put forward by President Barack Obama would be someone who believes abortion should remain a legal option for women.

“If you’re going to have a pro-choice person in that position, it’s better to have a Kansan,” Brownback said.

That is essentially Brownback's entire explanation: since whomever becomes HHS head is going to be pro-choice, it may as well be someone from Kansas.  Why that matters or how it is supposed to justify his stance on her nomination, he doesn't say.

I have to say that this has to rank among the single lamest explanations I have ever seen - it is almost as if he knows that he can't square his support of Sebelius with his well-establish anti-choice views and has just decided that he's not even going to try.

The Judicial Nominations Fight, Through the Eyes of the Right

World Magazine has a good article on President Obama and the issue of judicial nominations ... and by "good" I mean an exhaustive listing of all of the complaints and concerns Republicans and right-wing judicial activists have about the process and the future of the judiciary:

Conservatives say Obama missed an opportunity to usher in a more conciliatory start to the often contentious judicial nominating process by naming [David] Hamilton ... In nominating Hamilton, Obama ignored a letter from all 42 Republican senators, asking the president to get the process off to a bipartisan start by renominating several of President George W. Bush's blocked nominees. Bush renominated two of President Bill Clinton's stalled choices soon after taking office ... GOP senators had also hoped to use the "blue slip" tradition, which holds that no judicial nominee can come before the Senate without agreement (in the form of a blue slip) from both senators representing that nominee's state. Republicans have at least one senator in 27 states. But the two GOP senators from Texas are already losing a battle to hold onto this privilege as the White House recently signaled its intention to include that state's 12 House Democrats in the screening process.

So it was Obama who missed the opportunity to be conciliatory by not nominating rather than, say, all the Republicans in the Senate who had pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of Obama's judicial nominees? Nice try.

Furthermore, Obama did not "ignore" their letter - in fact, he obviously took into consideration their demand that the White House "consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states" because he obviously did so with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who immediately praised the nomination:

"I enthusiastically support the Senate confirmation of David Hamilton for U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has served the Southern District of Indiana with distinction as U.S. District Court Judge," U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said.

Thirdly, how exactly are the Republican Senators from Texas "losing the battle" to use the "blue slip"?  As we pointed out before, in situations where the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other, tradition has generally dictated that opposing party Senators play a secondary role in the judicial nomination selection process - and that is what is happening in Texas. If they don't like Obama's nominees, they are still free to refuse to return their blue slips, so in no way can it be said that they at risk of losing this privilege.

In essence, as the article explains, all of these sorts of gripes are aimed primarily at ginning up opposition to Obama's judicial nominees in order to set the stage for a Supreme Court battle and rally Republican forces leading into the mid-term elections:

The ultimate hope among conservative lawmakers is that if Obama overreaches in his judicial picks, then Democrats may face a backlash in the polls during the 2010 Senate races. Such political costs could force Obama to make marginally more moderate picks in future openings, says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The article features quotes from a variety of right-wing groups that work on the issue, including Whelan, as well as representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, Judicial Watch, the Committee for Justice, and the Heritage Foundation ... so if you are looking for a good run-down of just about every right-wing talking point on the judiciary and judicial nominees, this article offers one-stop shopping.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Dan Gilgoff wonders why Religious Right groups were all but silent about Tony Dungy's invitation to join the Obama administration's faith advisory council.
  • Pam notes that Rick Warren is now coming under attack from right-winger for his "betrayal" on marriage.
  • Andrew Sullivan continues to hammer away at the National Review's anti-marriage equality editorial.
  • Think Progress reports that Texas State Rep. Betty Brown thinks Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce.
  • Steve Benen asks a good question: what is Newt Gingrich talking about?
  • Finally, as a follow-up to our earlier post about Morality in Media's Bob Peters, David Corn digs up this fascinating fact:
  • It might be tempting to dismiss Peters and Morality in Media as marginal, but this group did receive federal funding from 2005 through 2007. The money supported a Morality in Media project, ObscenityCrimes.org, which paid two retired law enforcement officers to review citizen complaints about obscenity on the Internet and to forward the best leads to the US Justice Department for possible prosecution. A total of $300,000 was provided to Morality in Media through two earmarks Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) placed into spending bills, according to Peters. And a portion of that money went to cover Peters' salary. As The New York Times reported in 2007, no obscenity prosecutions had resulted from the Morality in Media's obscenity-tracking work.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • WorldNetDaily breathlessly reports that "after 11 Sundays in office, [President] Obama still hasn't found a church – even with Easter just four days away."
  • Christopher Hitchens and Ken Blackwell debated whether the US is a Christian nation last night on "Hardball." As Diana Butler Bass report, Blackwell was badly over-matched.
  • The Right's opposition to Harold Koh continues to pick up steam.
  • Gordon Klingenschmitt is branching out from his work protecting the rights of Chaplains to pray in Jesus' name in order to weigh in on the nomination of David Hamilton, whom he calls "the worst of Obama's 15 new liberal appeals court appointees" ... which is a remarkable accomplishment considering that Obama has only made 3 nominations so far.
  • Pollster John Zogby has some advice for the GOP that it will surely ignore:
  • Stumping for God, guns and banning gay marriage ... just won't appeal to young people. However, none of this means that Republicans must turn on a dime against the beliefs of Christian conservatives and others on the right. Instead, Republican voters should allow candidates to hold some different policy positions, and it must involve cooling the rhetoric on divisive issues, including abortion, gay rights and the meaning of patriotism.

Kathleen Sebelius: "Queen of the Abortion Clinic Cockroaches"

We've written several posts in recent years about the various incarnations of Operation Rescue over who rightfully owns the name, but one of the themes of these battles has been that the organization run by Troy Newman has been fighting with OR founder Randall Terry, claiming that Terry is fleecing donors and giving the organization a bad name.

I think it is safe to say that the days of blaming Terry for giving OR a bad name are officially over, as Newman is fully capable of doing that on his own:

Roachy, the national spokes-roach for abortion clinic cockroaches has released the first of a video series entitled "Mr. Roachy Goes To Washington." In this first installment, Roachy explains why abortion clinic cockroaches are being called to march on Washington, DC in support of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

"As abortion clinics, our natural habitat, continue to close at an alarming rate nationwide, our only hope for survival is our heroine, Kathleen Sebelius, who has worked so hard to keep our favorite filth-infested abortion clinics open in Kansas. We know that, if confirmed, she will redouble her efforts nationwide," said Roachy. "Now is the time for abortion clinic cockroaches to unite! Join me as I march on Washington to save Sebelius' nomination, which will be taken up by the Senate after the spring break."

Notre Dame No Longer Catholic?

Until today, I had never heard of "The Official Catholic Directory" (apparently also known as the "Kennedy Directory") but according to its publisher its "the most authoritative resource available" on all things Catholic:

For over 192 years, The Official Catholic Directory™ has served as a vital research and reference tool for anyone interested in the Catholic community. First published in 1817 by P.J. Kenedy & Sons, The Official Catholic Directory™ is the most authoritative resource available today on the Catholic Church. Each edition provides complete information on the Church's hierarchy, its institutions, schools, special care centers, and affiliated facilities. It offers the most comprehensive and detailed profiles on each (arch) diocese in the United States and hundreds of (arch) dioceses around the world.

Because the Catholic Church recognizes The Official Catholic Directory™ as the single authoritative directory, it achieves 100% verification and participation from each and every Catholic institution within the 208 (arch) dioceses.

And now the American Life League is calling for the University of Notre Dame to be removed from the book because of the school's invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement:

American Life League wants the University of Notre Dame removed from the Official Catholic Directory (Kennedy Directory) - the official list of Catholic institutions in the United States.

Removal from the Kennedy Directory by Bishop John D'Arcy will cut the school off from much Catholic foundation funding.

...

"We found a tragic attitude at the University of Notre Dame -- apathy, if not hostility, toward the faith," said Judie Brown, president of ALL. "In the service of truth, we ask Bishop D'Arcy to acknowledge what the entire nation and Notre Dame itself already know: The university is backing away from the Catholic Church."

"In light of Notre Dame's past in the service of Our Lady, what is now keeping Notre Dame Catholic? Not the president who honors a man guilty of promoting an intrinsic evil; not the faculty -- notoriously liberal. The hope of Notre Dame lies with the students faithful to the mission of the Church," Brown said. "For their sake we hope and pray Notre Dame rescinds this honor to President Obama and upholds the Catholic identity that made the school one of the glories of the Catholic Church. If the university will not do this, then it should be removed from the Official Catholic Directory."

Apparently, when one of the nation's preeminent Catholic insitutions invites the President of the United States to address its students, it automatically forfeits its right to consider itself Catholic.

Waldman Sets Warren Straight

Rick Warren is currently on something of a media rehabilitation tour, trying to recover from the controversy that arose when he was tapped to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration, giving interviews to Larry King, Hugh Hewitt, Neil Cavuto, and Christianity Today insisting that his support of Prop. 8 and his statements equating homosexuality with pedophilia and incest were wildly overblown.

But one person he hasn't sat down with is BeliefNet's Steve Waldman, to whom he first made the incest and pedophilia comparisons.  And now Waldman has weighed in to set the record straight as Warren tries to gloss over his previous statements and re-write history:

After the interview ran, Warren wrote me a note asking if he could clarify some things he said. I gladly printed those clarifications. Interestingly, though, it was not this gay marriage comment he wanted to clarify. Rather he wanted to be clear that he didn't believe civil unions were a constitutional right. ("No American should ever be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Period. But a civil union is not a civil right. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the "right" to claim that any loving relationship identical to marriage.")

After the controversy exploded, he issued a video clarifying that he did not equate homosexual relationships with those other kinds. Here's his full statement. He suggested that the misunderstanding happened because the "media loves to create conflict" and bloggers "who really need to get a life" aspire to practice rudeness from the safety of their homes.

He went on to mischaracterize the interview in another subtle but meaningful way:

"In that interview I named several other relationships. In fact I've done it several other times. I've named other relationships such as living together or a man with multiple wives or brother-sister relationships or adulterous relationships or adults with children, common law partnerships. Or all kinds of other relationships. I don't think any of them should be called marriage."

Actually, in my interview, the only relationships he mentioned were the most nefarious ones, between siblings (incest), an older man and a child (pedophilia) and polygamy. He did not mention people living together or common law partnerships, and if he had, it would have entirely changed the implication of his comment.

In his Larry King and Christianity Today interviews he said he'd privately apologized to gay friends. That's interesting because, as far as I know, he's never done that in public.

This whole controversy could have been easily avoided if he'd taken a modicum of responsibility and said, "I'm sorry. I did accidentally imply that homosexuality and these other relationships were morally equivalent. That's not what I believe, and I apologize for implying that." Instead, he's blamed other people for distorting his words.

If It Is Not Hyperbole, What Is It?

Today seems to be one of those days where right-wing activists and commentators are just letting loose over their fears of seeing America destroyed by the gay marriage gains in Iowa and Vermont - how else do you explain pieces like this one from Eric Schumacher, pastor of Northbrook Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which showed up on Baptist Press?

The Flood of 2008 is arguably the most destructive disaster that the state of Iowa has seen -- at least, that is, until last Friday.

On April 3, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a state law limiting marriage to one man and one woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. Licenses will be issued to homosexual couples April 27.

It is not hyperbole to say that this ruling has the potential to be the worst disaster to strike the state of Iowa.

Flood waters destroy houses, ruin offices buildings and displace families. Yet, recovery happens. Houses are rebuilt. Businesses relocate. Families eventually find housing.

Legalized "homosexual marriage," on the other hand, does far more pervasive and irrecoverable damage. Civilization itself is eroded as marriage, the central building block of culture and society, is redefined. Soon, our sons and daughters are confused about what it means to be male and female, as "homosexual marriage" gains both legal status and visibility in neighborhoods and the classroom.

Far worse, the Gospel message is confused. Marriage is established by God to be a living picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the husband representing Christ and the wife representing his church. "Homosexual marriage" presents a distorted picture, a false Gospel, promoting a blasphemous message.

Flood waters erode the soil. "Gay marriage" erodes the soul. A flood impacts for a decade. "Same-sex marriage" destroys generations. A flood draws a community together. "Homosexual marriage" tears the family apart. Communities recover from floods. The promotion of un-natural unions has an eternal consequence.

The Religious Right really is in a full-blown panic at the moment.  If you need more proof, head over to Good as You and listen to the audio posted of Mat Staver responding to the Vermont vote in which he declares that "it is a sad day in America when elected officials are absolutely clueless about the definition of marriage [and] if they can't understand this basic human relationship between a man and a woman, then they absolutely are not competent for public office." He goes on to call upon the people of Vermont to "rise up in revolt" and says that "what we are seeing in America is literally the beginnings of another revolution" from the "silent majority" who will draw a line in the sand, leading to "another American Revolution."

A Good Rule of Thumb

Personally, if I had to write a disclaimer saying "it most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement," I'd think long and hard before publishing whatever preceded or followed that statement.

But I'm not Morality in Media President Bob Peters, who notes that, on April 4, the New York Times "ran adjacent front-page articles on the Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing 'gay marriage' and the gunman who murdered 13 people in New York" and uses that to argue that "the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality ... that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders":

"The underlying problem is that increasingly we live in a 'post-Christian' society, where Judeo-Christian faith and values have less and less influence. Among other things, Judaism and Christianity taught that murder was wrong and that included murder motivated by anger, hatred and revenge. Both religions also taught that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and to forgive others.

"For many citizens, what has replaced Judeo-Christian faith and values is the secular value system that is reflected in films, rap/music lyrics, and videogames and on TV and now the Internet, where the taking of human life for just about any reason is commonplace and is often portrayed in an appealing manner and in realistic detail. Murder motivated by hatred and revenge is also justified.

"This secular value system is also reflected in the 'sexual revolution,' which is the driving force behind the push for 'gay marriage;' and the Iowa Supreme Court decision is another indication that despite all the damage this revolution has caused to children, adults, family life and society (think abortion, divorce, pornography, rape, sexual abuse of children, sexually transmitted diseases, trafficking in women and children, unwed teen mothers and more), it continues to advance relentlessly.

"It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement! It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality (and the faith that so often under girds it) that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders.