Peter Montgomery's blog

Ted Cruz's War on Christmas: Ugly Sweater Puts Cruz's Political Ambitions at Center

One of the most ridiculous assertions at the heart of the Religious Right’s ludicrous claims that there is a “War on Christmas” in America is the notion that retailers and individuals who say “happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” are insulting Christians and participating in a nefarious plot to, in the words of the American Family Association, “eradicate anything that reminds Americans of Christianity.”

More likely they’re just being respectful of the fact that all their customers or neighbors may not share the AFA’s religious beliefs. But that doesn’t keep Religious Right activists from turning “Merry Christmas” from a friendly greeting into some kind of statement of political defiance. For example, the latest Ted Cruz campaign email comes with the subject line “We Say Merry Christmas” and a p.s.:

Set an example for the "tolerant left," and while wearing your festive Cruz for President gear, or any gear for that matter, make sure to say Merry Christmas every chance you get!

In between, Cruz offers a chance to win the world’s ugliest-ever ugly Christmas sweater featuring his face in a Santa hat floating over the White House and flanked by Tea Party “Don’t Tread on Me" snakes.

Plenty of political content on that sweater, along with secular snowflakes, which are the kinds of things that usually set off the AFA’s alarm bells.  Hey, AFA, doesn’t Cruz belong on your “naughty” list for not keeping Christ in Christmas?


Marco Rubio Hires Culture Warrior Eric Teetsel as Faith Outreach Director

Largely unnoticed in the media coverage of the Republican presidential primary this week was Marco Rubio’s hiring of a major millennial anti-gay, anti-choice culture warrior. Eric Teetsel, who has been executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, has been hired to be Rubio’s faith outreach director. One who took notice was right-wing activist and pundit Erick Erickson, who gushed over the “huge and impressive hire.”

Where other candidates are hiring folks from the dying “Moral Majority” coalitions of the past, Eric Teetsel is plugged into those power centers, but has transcended them. He’s of a more youthful generation of Christian evangelicals who respects past contributions, but is also focused on the future and not nursing past grievances.

Teetsel is, indeed, well plugged in if not as well known to the public as his more visible counterpart at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Anderson. Like Anderson, Teetsel is part of the anti-equality crowd that orbits Robert George, a co-author of the Manhattan Declaration and a founder of the National Organization for Marriage. And like George and Anderson, Teetsel has written a book about (one man, one woman) marriage. The acknowledgments section of his book reads like a Who’s Who of the Religious Right, including George, Anderson, Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, Mark Tooley and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

And, as Igor Babic noted at the Huffington Post this week, Teetsel has also been a vocal part of the Religious Right chorus denouncing the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, complaining that the court “has bestowed its imprimatur to homosexuality as both an identity and a way of life.” Teetsel wrote:

"A significant cultural impediment has been removed, and so sin will spread. This is regrettable because sin, of course, leads to suffering. As our LGBT neighbors continue to experience the ravages of their sin, will anyone be there to explain to them its cause?"

The Manhattan Declaration brings right-wing Catholics together with their evangelical counterparts to advance their shared strategic goal of portraying opposition to LGBT equality, abortion and contraception in religious liberty terms. Signers and promoters of the Manhattan Declaration compare themselves to martyrs and pledge civil disobedience:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

Teetsel has appeared at numerous Religious Right political gatherings and shows up in Rick Santorum’s “documentary” about the “erosion” of religious liberty in America. More notably, he spoke at the recent World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City, which honored an activist who defends African laws that punish gays with long jail terms. In fact, Teetsel is listed in the WCF program as a member of the “SWAT Team” charged with “Strategic Planning for the Future” along with that activist, Theresa Okafor, and other anti-gay and anti-choice leaders from around the world.

Teetsel’s hiring is almost certainly a better reflection of Rubio’s commitment to anti-gay culture warriors than his much-ballyhooed endorsement by billionaire Paul Singer, who has backed gay causes but seems more interested in what Rubio can do for the profitability of his vulture capitalism.

World Congress of Families Closer Everett Piper: WCF Critics Hate God

The closing keynote address at the recent World Congress of Families conference in Salt Lake City was given by Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. As we noted in our overview of WCF, Piper did not abide by the standard suggested by the conference’s opening keynoter, Mormon Elder Russell Ballard, who said, “We demonstrate our discipleship when we refuse strident tones, when we refuse derisive labels, and when we enter the public square seeking fair outcomes through understanding and mutual respect.”

Piper, by contrast, enthusiastically embraced strident tones and derisive labels in his closing keynote. Piper may have been trying to interest conservative Christian parents in sending their kids to his school, which commits itself to honoring “the Primacy of Jesus Christ, the Priority of Scripture, the Pursuit of Truth, and the Practice of Wisdom.”

Piper spent much of his time denouncing a culture and approach to education that promote bad ideas and sexual promiscuity, and values clarification rather than moral absolutes. Early in his speech he set the tone:

Imagine that we live in a time and a place where the wise and learned in our courts, and in our classrooms, and, unfortunately, even in our churches, actually work to remove a man’s soul and expect him to stay out of hell.

Piper had harsh words for the educational establishment, which he said “is known not for pursuing truth, but rather for celebrating tolerance, and in the name of tolerance they then tell us that our intolerance is intolerable.” Citing a litany of examples of ideological intolerance against conservatives on campus, he declared it undeniable that there is a “war against Christians” in the academy and the broader culture.

Piper slammed gay rights advocates and other liberals for “ideological fascism,” declaring, “The result of this nonsense is that the rainbow banner of tolerance has become the dark flag of tyranny almost overnight.” And he went after President Obama harshly:

Where is our president in the midst of this? Where is the leader of the free world? Christians are losing their jobs, losing their businesses, losing their tenure, losing their education, and losing their freedom and he says nothing. He lectures us about the crusades rather than defend us in the courts. Christians are being enslaved and burned alive and beheaded across the Middle East and he is silent. Christians are being threatened and intimidated and sued and sequestered in the middle of America and mum’s the word.

For decades, Piper said, “we’ve sent our kids off to sit under the tutelage of faculty who have panned the Judeo-Christian ethic and praised its antithesis.”

“Why are we surprised now,” he asked, “that we have a White House that’s seemingly more aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood than Franklin Graham?”  The Muslim Brotherhood zinger was recycled from Piper’s appearance at the “Future Conference” organized by anti-gay activist Jim Garlow in June.

More from Piper’s WCF rant:

Our judges can’t find the word ‘marriage’ in the dictionary. Our State Department thinks the way to stop terrorists is to give them jobs. Our president says he appreciates the legitimate grievances of the terrorists who are crucifying children. Why are we surprised to see tens of millions of women buying the lie of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ when colleges have been promoting Sex Weeks on their campuses across the land, teaching these same women the virtue of bondage and dominance for the past several decades.

Piper concluded with a prayer, in which he asked God to forgive America for a long list of the kind of things he spent his speech blaming the liberal establishment for, among them “the foolishness of expecting cultural sanity while removing a culture’s soul” and “worshiping government more than God.”

“Please,” he asked, “rescue us from the ugly hell of our own making and give us liberty within the bounds of your law and free us from the bondage of our licentiousness.”

Piper repeated some of his gripes about education on Glenn Beck’s show, which was recorded the day before his WCF speech and broadcast a few days later. One of Piper’s talking points is that “opinions are dangerous; truth sets us free.” Among the dangerous people who had opinions, he notes, were Pol Pot, Mao, Robespierre, Chavez, Hitler and Mussolini. Piper has also appeared on David Barton’s radio show.

The week after the World Congress of Families wrapped up, Piper took to his blog to decry WCF’s critics, especially those who labeled the WCF a hate group.

The bold-faced duplicity of those condemning those who love the family is indeed hateful. Intolerance in the name of tolerance. Bullying while decrying bullying. Exclusion in the name of inclusion. Dumbing down the human being while arguing for human rights. Pretending to be pro-woman while using women as pawns and products. Hate under the banner of anti-hate… These ideas do not come from love, but rather from disdain: Disdain for children, disdain for family, and disdain for truth. Such ideas come from a hateful people who hate anyone who dares stand in their way of hating God.

If you like what Everett Piper has to offer, you’ll probably get plenty of opportunities to hear more of it. In the program book for the WCF gathering, he is listed as chair of the “SWAT Team” in charge of “Strategic Planning for the Future.”


Michael Brown Joins List of Religious Right Endorsements for Ted Cruz

In August, we asked whether Ted Cruz was winning the Christian Nation primary, with fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks pumping $15 million into a pro-Cruz super PAC and political operative David Lane promoting Cruz’s anti-Planned Parenthood efforts. In September, Religious Right “historian” David Barton was tapped to take over a Cruz super PAC, and CNN reported that top officials of Online for Life are “playing a growing role in the super PACs backing Ted Cruz.” Yesterday, Glenn Beck declared that Cruz “was truly raised up for this purpose at this time.”

Now Cruz has announced the endorsement of another Religious Right activist, Michael Brown, a North Carolina preacher and author of “Revolution! The Call to Holy War.” Brown participated in the anti-gay “Stand4Truth” conference that was held as a lead-in to the World Congress of Families last week.

Brown is scheduled to appear, along with David and Jason Benham and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, at a Cruz-organized “religious liberty” rally at Bob Jones University on November 14. As we noted a few weeks ago, “the ‘religious liberty’ Bob Jones is most famous for defending was its long insistence that its segregationist policies were mandated in the Bible.”

Brown has already been portraying marriage equality as a dire threat to religious freedom in America. Back in June, when the Supreme Court released its decision affirming marriage equality nationwide, Brown wrote a snarky note to Justice Anthony Kennedy to thank him “for confirming what we have been saying for many years now, namely, that gay activism is the principle threat to our freedoms of speech, religion and conscience.” Brown also thanked Kennedy “for bringing unprecedented religious persecution to the shores of our nation,” adding, “Despite the darkness and pain ahead, this will only cause the Church to wake up and grow stronger.” 

What the World Congress of Families Tells Us About the Global ‘Pro-Family’ Movement

The World Congress of Families — an organization that hosts an annual global gathering of “pro-family” advocates —  brought together more than 3,300 people in Salt Lake City last week. The summit included authors and counselors focused on strengthening marriages as well as academics talking about the social and economic consequences of later marriages, declining birthrates and widespread divorce. It also included and anti-reproductive-choice activists from around the globe, as well as hundreds of “emerging leaders” expected to lead the movement into the future.

We’ve reported on individual speakers and will continue to do so as we dig through a week’s worth of notes and recordings — and a shopping bag full of books and other swag. But what’s the big picture? What does the WCF tell us about the state of the global Religious Right?

There were differences in priorities and approaches among the participants, but among the themes that emerged:

They See Themselves at War with the Enemies of God

Warfare imagery was common at WCF and the preceding gay-focused Stand4Truth event organized by people who needed just a little more anti-gay intensity than the WCF schedule promised. The “natural family” and “complementary” male-female gender roles were ordained by God, and therefore proponents of feminist or gender ideologies or notions of LGBT equality are not only political opponents but spiritual ones, out to destroy both the natural family and religious freedom.

Francisco Tatad, a former senate majority leader in the Philippines, said the threat to the family and human society is not simply those who deny God, but those who actually hate God:

The global attack on human dignity, on the integrity of the human person, and the family, is ultimately an attack on God. The war of religions is over, but the war on religion has hardly begun. And the target is no longer any individual religion in particular, but God himself. He has become the arch-enemy.

American Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez:

So I can share with you the fact that there is a spiritual battle, a spiritual battle, to annihilate the idea, the construct, God’s ordained institution of la familia. It is a battle. It even, before it’s a political battle or a legislative battle, it is, above all things, a spiritual battle.

And, engaging biblical allusions, it’s the spirit of Pharaoh, once again attempting to force and prompt families to make bricks without straw and to maintain families in the Egypt of bondage and fear. It is the spirit of Goliath, of intimidation. It is the spirit of Jezebel, an attempt to destroy the family via the conduit of sexual perversion and manipulation. It is the spirit of Herod, killing families through abortion, killing families through sex trafficking and violence against our children, disconnecting the child from mom and dad. These spirits are alive and well today, not only in America but across the world.

Rafael Cruz, father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, declared, “What we see in America right now is an outright attack on Christianity.” Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, decreed that “a few rogue lawyers claiming to be the Supreme Court of the United States of America has no right to act in such a way as to restrict our freedom of religion.” Patterson told the story of a missionary doctor killed by Chinese communists in the 1950s, and declared about religious freedom, “Today the blood of thousands of martyrs calls out to all of us, ‘Do not squander the greatest and most costly gift bequeathed to you by the founders of this nation.’”

They’re Intensely Committed to Enforcing Traditional Gender Roles

The catch-all term used by the global Religious Right for just about everything it doesn’t like is “gender ideology” — something that can encompass opposition to sex education, contraception, abortion, cohabitation, marriage equality and legal recognition for LGBT people.

At WCF, speaker after speaker talked about the “complementarity” between men and women as something that was divinely ordained — grounded biblically in the Genesis creation story in which God made humankind male and female. God’s creation of two genders was cited as a sacred rationale for opposing gay couples being allowed to marry or be parents — and for denying the very existence of transgender people, who were portrayed as sick and pathetic. One of the most reliable ways to try to get a laugh at WCF was to make a joke about Caitlyn Jenner. Rafael Cruz even pulled out the old chestnut that God had created “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Glenn Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, said new findings on gender differences support his basic premise: “that men and women are different, and that men and women need each other in those differences.” As a scientist, he said, he believes there is evidence across cultures of a universal male and female nature. And as a Christian, he said, the issue is a theological one, grounded in the creation story declares humans male and female, who together “uniquely, mysteriously image the nature of God in the world.” He displayed a William Blake painting, “Satan Gazing Upon the Caresses of Adam and Eve” and said:

Satan came to attack humanity, not just by approaching Eve or Adam but what William Blake is telling us here is to attack a couple. He sees that man, he sees that woman, he sees them loving one another, and he says, ‘I know who loved one another, the Trinity, God, and I hate them, so I must break this up.’ The original attack was not on two human beings, it was on a man and a woman. And that attack continues today, because Satan knows what male and female represent.

Theresa Okafor, a WCF representative from Nigeria who was honored at the conference, said the complementarity of the sexes “comes from God.” She complained that Western feminist ideas threaten the family by demonizing patriarchy, blurring lines of gender and making women feel that they are autonomous from men. (In contrast, she cited as one positive example of strong cultural support for the family in Africa the fact that a woman who went to the police to report being beaten by her husband would be told to go home and settle with him.)

Every WCF participant received a copy of the Mormon Church’s 1995 Proclamation of the Family, which portrays men’s roles as providers and women’s as nurturers to be essential to God’s plan. It declares, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

Miriam Grossman is a psychiatrist whose blog identifies her as “One Hundred Percent MD. Zero Percent PC.” She insisted, “A man cannot be transformed into a woman, or a woman into a man. It is simply impossible” and decried that popular culture’s focus on transgender issues was perpetuating a “lie” and a “delusion.”

They Don’t Want To Be Called Anti-Gay While Being Anti-Gay

Well, at least some of them, anyway. Before the conference started, WCF responded to its critics by claiming that being pro-family was not the same as being anti-gay, and declared that it would never support policies that harm individual people. But in fact the program was full of people who have a record of demonizing LGBT people, including those who have actively supported laws that not only criminalize gay sexual activity but even make it a crime for gays to meet with each other or advocate for their rights.

Portraying LGBT people as a threat to children has a decades-long pedigree, including the activism of Anita Bryant, California’s Prop 8 and succeeding state constitutional amendment campaigns, and this week’s vote in Houston, where an anti-discrimination ordinance was rejected after an ugly, dishonest campaign portraying it as an open door to child molesters. Gwen Landolt, a Canadian who has been active in WCF, called it intolerable that innocent children are being “used as tools of social engineering” by being fostered or adopted by gay couples. And she said that children’s character is being deformed because schools are teaching that homosexual relationships are the equal of heterosexual ones.

As BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder pointed out, there’s division within the movement about the usefulness of strident rhetoric that, for example, equates gays with pedophilia. That division was clear at WCF. The opening keynote address was given by Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ballard explained that Mormon theology of the family is integral to the church’s defense of “traditional marriage,” but he also touted the church’s willingness to back the Utah compromise, an agreement reached earlier this year in which the church supported legal protections against housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in return for the inclusion of broad religious exemptions. Said Ballard,

We demonstrate our best humanity when we show love and kindness to all of God’s children. We demonstrate our discipleship when we refuse strident tones, when we refuse derisive labels, and when we enter the public square seeking fair outcomes through understanding and mutual respect.

Ballard’s standard was violated frequently at WCF, including during its closing keynote from Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma University, whose address was an angry rant against liberal “ideological fascism.” Piper angrily asserted that “the rainbow banner of tolerance has become the dark flag of tyranny almost overnight.” Some conference participants objected to the Utah compromise; Austin Ruse of C-Fam has called it “lunacy” for the Mormon Church to engage in a nonaggression pact with the LGBT movement.

Another voice heard on the opening day of the conference was that of Gov. Gary Herbert, who welcomed participants to Utah, declaring “We are a great state with wonderful people and wonderful families of different varieties in this state.” That was a nod toward the kind of inclusive definition of family that is being ferociously fought by WCF partner groups at the United Nations and other international bodies.  Activists like C-Fam’s Ruse and Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater bragged at WCF about their work to eliminate references to “various forms of the family” from international human rights documents.

They’re Not Going Anywhere: They’re Organized and Organizing and God is on their Side

There was some difference of opinion among WCF speakers, based on where they are from and whether they are more focused on abortion or LGBT issues, about the extent to which they are currently losing or winning the global culture war. But there was virtual unanimity that with God on their side and a commitment to collaborative organizing, they will ultimately be victorious in defeating the LGBT movement, resisting the advance of “gender ideology,” and resurrecting as a cultural norm, protected and promoted in law, the “natural family” — a mom and a dad and a whole lot of children.

Allan Carlson, retiring after years at the head of WCF’s sponsoring organization, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, talked about his forthcoming book, which portrays the weakening and strengthening of family systems in America since 1630 as following 50 year swings.  According to Carlson, we could be “on the cusp of a great wave of new family morality,” poised for a generational upswing— a return to early marriage, appreciation for the complementarity between men and women, and higher fertility. Carlson said the sexual revolution “regime” is “crumbling even at the point where it seems to be winning.”

Warren Cole Smith, a vice president of the Colson Center and co-author of “Restoring All Things,” recounted the story of a friend who received a call from someone nearly in despair after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, saying “it’s over.” Smith recalled his response:

What is over? What exactly is over? Has God left his throne? He has not. Is He not still sovereign? He is. When the Obergefell decision came down from the Supreme Court, did God say, ‘Wow, I sure didn’t see that coming.’? Friends, He did not say that….

The story of the universe God is still writing, the arc of history is still unfolding. Unlike what our friend said, it is not over. And I’ve read the last chapter of the book, and guess what? God wins.

That’s not to say that between now and then we won’t have lots of battles to fight and lots of problems so solve. But I want to be clear, I think we should be happy warriors in this process, knowing that God is indeed building the house. God is indeed on our side. And we have the great joy of participating in what God is doing in the world, if only we will.

The World Congress of Families, with its dozens of partner organizations and more than 3,300 participants from 65 countries, is a dramatic demonstration of the institutional cultural, legal, and political infrastructure that has been built by conservative religious organizations not only in the U.S. but around the globe, with financial and strategic support flowing in all directions. 

Seasoned activists and the hundreds of “emerging leaders” had the opportunity to get training in starting a new organization and raising money online from Ignacio Arsuaga, whose HazteOir and CitizenGo platforms have put social-media organizing techniques developed in the U.S. into the hands of conservatives in Europe and elsewhere with campaigns in an expanding number of languages. Conference attendees could take a workshop on messaging from Frank Schubert, the mastermind of fearmongering strategies used by campaigns against marriage equality in the U.S. They could study networking and coalition building with Alexey Komov, the Russian activist who says that Russia and Eastern Europe, having been helped by Western countries to throw off communism, can now return the favor by helping the West defeat the new totalitarianism of the sexual revolution.


Religious Right Activist At World Congress Of Families: Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Africans Will 'Save the World'

In our advance reporting on last week’s World Congress of Families conference — the first time this annual global gathering of social conservative activists was held in the U.S. — we contrasted the organizers’ public disavowal of homophobia with their well-documented anti-gay record, such as their decision to honor Theresa Okafor of Nigeria with the “Woman of the Year Award.”

Throughout last week’s conference, Okafor, who serves as WCF’s regional director in Africa, defended harsh anti-gay laws in her own country and others, including Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act. And she drew cheers for noting that in most African countries, doctors and nurses would go to jail for performing an abortion. “We in Africa see the family, as well as marriage, as something divine, and ordained towards life and love, and so we’re very protective over anything that seeks to undermine the family, religion, and culture,” she said. Okafor said repeatedly that family was so important to Africa that it justified “drastic measures” against threats to it from the “Trojan Horse” of the sexual revolution.

At a session devoted to Africa, Okafor was joined by Nigerian Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, who is a spokesman for Africa’s Catholic bishops, and Ann Mbugua, director of the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF).

Okafor slammed efforts by the Obama administration and other western countries to promote LGBT rights internationally.

“My interest in all of this started when I got fed up with this phenomenon known as paternalism. And paternalism is that phenomenon whereby people in authority feel that they should limit the freedom and responsibility of people they consider to be subordinates in the interest of the subordinates…

“…some people in the West felt that Africa needed to legalize abortion, Africa needed to suppress its population, Africa needed to yield to sexual orientation and gender identity and what-have-you, and the interests of Africans weren’t being served by these things.”

Bishop Badejo has been a strident critic of the Obama administration’s promotion of LGBT human rights. This summer he panned the appointment of Randy Berry as the State Department’s special envoy on LGBT issues, saying it “just shows how little the current U.S. administration respects the democratic values it seems to preach, especially when they preach them abroad.” 

At the World Congress of Families, Badejo made a surprisingly direct call for American Christians to reject the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton. In response to a question about what people in the West can do to support social conservatives in Africa, Badejo said, “choose the right kind of government.” He recalled an interview in which he had said “there are only three types of people that I know — those who believe in God, those who don’t believe in God, and those who think they are gods.” He said he thinks Hillary Clinton is one of the latter. “I called on the people of the United States to pay good attention to the kind of people they are trying to elect to be their president and the kind of values they will be pushing in the whole world.”  Okafor seconded that idea, saying, “America is more powerful than you actually can imagine. This is why we are following American politics.” She told Americans that who they elect “changes everything.”

Of course, for all her talk about paternalism, Okafor and her allies have no problem limiting the freedom and responsibility of women and LGBT people. Okafor criticized the “anti-family” influence of western media as “almost like an infiltration.” And she bragged about getting the Nigerian government to ban the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” from being shown in the country.

Speaking of freedom, Mbugua spoke about resisting the “gay agenda,” which sat atop her list of threats to the family. Mbugua said that thanks to a strong anti-gay caucus in Kenya’s parliament, she’s not worried about legislation advancing LGBT rights. But she is concerned that the country’s 2010 constitution grants the constitutional court the power to declare new rights. In doing so, the court is to be guided by the values that underline an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom. She fears the court might use those values as a rationale for recognizing LGBT rights, especially since the constitution, while not mentioning sexual orientation, forbids discrimination on all grounds.

Mbugua’s group is not only supporting the sodomy law in a legal challenge, it is also defending the government’s refusal to allow a gay organization to even register as a lobbying group. A judge ruled earlier this year that it is not proper to limit minorities’ rights to free association based on public opinion or religious dogma, but the judge allowed KCPF to file an appeal. The Christian professionals’ group complained about the ruling, saying “this is one case that called for limitation to the exercise of certain freedoms.” A lawyer for the group said the ruling showed contempt for the constitution and people of Kenya and was a back-door way to legalize homosexuality.

American religious right leaders have, of course, expressed support for other laws that restrict LGBT advocacy, including Nigeria’s 2014 law, which includes a 10-year sentence for anyone who supports the sustenance of “gay societies,” and Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law

The WCF was a love-fest between African activists and their American allies. Okafor said she had invited Sharon Slater of Family Watch International to Nigeria four times and taken her to meet some of the country’s senators. Mbugua said her group’s member had their eyes opened by a visit from Slater and now they are strongly opposing comprehensive sex education.

Austin Ruse, who like Slater works to keep reproductive choice and LGBT rights out of international agreements through his leadership at C-Fam, gushed about Okafor and her colleagues. “We like to say that with regard to family, Africa is the First World, and we are the Third World,” he said. Recounting the ways African countries had withstood pro-choice and pro-LGBT pressure at the United Nations, and the way African bishops presented a conservative front at the recent Catholic bishops’ synod on the family, Ruse said, “I think the Africans are going to save the world.”


God Requires Gov’t To Resist Gay Marriage & Abortion, Mark Tooley Tells World Congress of Families

Among the speakers at the World Congress of Families on Thursday was Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), who declared that too many Christians are being influenced by secular ideology and are clueless that God himself has ordered government to fight same-sex marriage and access to abortion.

Tooley’s group supports conservatives within mainline Protestant churches (he is a United Methodist) by attacking liberal elements within those denominations that promote progressive theology and public policy. For example, IRD has criticized the U.S. State Department for promoting the human rights of LGBT people and spoken out against evangelicals backing immigration reform.

At the World Congress of Families, Tooley decried the embrace of LGBT equality and reproductive choice among “once great” mainline denominations, and warned that the “errors” of mainline Protestantism have spread to evangelical and Catholic communities.

The problems that had originated in America’s mainline Protestant world unfortunately have spread and metastasized throughout American religion, and even once great and strongly orthodox religious institutions in America are now affected by these issues and are compromised on core topics related to marriage and family and the sanctity of all human life.

He blamed the shift on the institutions’ “elites and bureaucracies,” which he said no longer believe in ancient Christian teachings but have “actively joined secularism to advocate deconstruction of marriage and family.” Those ideas have spread to other Christian institutions, he complained, including the “evangelical left” and Christian colleges, whose leaders don’t want to engage on these issues because they believe it would interfere with evangelization.

Tooley complained that there weren’t enough Christian leaders defending Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for six days after she refused to abide by a federal court order to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Tooley predicted that more people will be intimidated into “virtual silence” as the government punishes other marriage resisters, but he hoped the opposite might also be true, and that the accumulating impact of those cases might inspire others to take a more public stand.

Tooley said that organized Christian political social justice advocacy aimed at young people has focused more on admirable but less controversial issues like fighting sex trafficking or carrying out humanitarian work. He complained that too many young Christians see marriage as passé as a public policy issue and religious liberty work as self-serving— and even think that work on abortion is too focused on therapeutic ministry rather than political advocacy to put abortion bans into law.

Tooley connected this to Christians’ lack of understanding that God himself has given the government a divine mandate to oppose marriage equality and abortion.

Indeed, all of the punitive aspects of the civil state, which are central to God’s vocation for government, have become unfashionable or at least uninteresting to much of Christian political witness in America today — except for possibly punishing perpetrators of discrimination against same-sex couples.

Yet historic Christian teaching says the state has a divinely ordained, ongoing permanent duty to uphold marriage, family, and to protect all human life, irrespective of fashion and fad.

There is a pervasive lack of awareness in current Christian discourse, not limited to the very young, about historic Christian understandings about the core responsibilities of government. Instead of providing for public order — jailing criminals and deterring or defeating external aggressors — government is now portrayed in Christian political witness as the all-powerful and maternal provider, who feeds, clothes, heals, educates and reaffirms, callings that Christianity typically had assigned to parents, families, churches, private philanthropy, civil society and therapists.

Even traditional Christians, he complained, often appear clueless about religious responses to these trends, resorting to libertarian arguments against big government “without describing the state’s core mandate assigned by no less than God himself. Addressing this collapse in Christian understanding about God’s purpose for the state is a wonderful, and important, but almost overwhelming challenge for groups like mine, but also all of us in this room and beyond.”

Tooley closed with a prayer for victory in the culture war:

We can hope and pray, in the fullness of Providence, that the Almighty will look back on these days that we’re living through and say to us who have tried to follow him, this was one of our finest hours, in a great social and cultural storm when his truths were most under assault. May he guide us to perseverance and victories ahead for the common good of all people.

From Salt Lake City, Many Eyes On Houston For HERO Vote

Early voting is already under way in Houston, where anti-gay activists forced a new nondiscrimination law onto the ballot next Tuesday. During a legal fight over the validity of signatures gathered for the effort, lawyers for the administration of Mayor Annise Parker issued broad subpoenas to five ministers asking for sermons and other communications about homosexuality and the law, which gave the ministers and their allies an opening to cry "religious persecution." Even though the subpoenas were quickly withdrawn in the face of criticism from across the political spectrum, the city’s anti-gay activists are running with it, vowing to overturn the law and run conservative Christians for every city office.

On Wednesday, Rafael Cruz, pastor and father of presidential candidate Ted Cruz, told a gathering at the World Congress of Families that if “the righteous” are not voting or running for office, what is left is “the wicked electing the wicked.” He then launched into a discussion of Parker and Houston’s nondiscrimination law, which he grossly mischaracterized as “the bathroom ordinance,” saying “the ordinance basically said, depending on how you feel on a particular day, you can walk into any bathroom.” If your daughter objected to a man entering her bathroom, he said, she could be sued. “The opportunity for sexual abuse, for sexual attacks, for rape, is incredible.” Later that day, Cruz alleged that the LGBT community’s goal is to “legalize pedophilia.”

The five pastors who faced subpoenas have not only mobilized churches for the referendum to overturn the nondiscrimination law, Cruz said, but they have also “recruited strong, committed Christian men and women to run for mayor, and for every position…”

In response to a questioner who accused the LGBT movement of partnering with pedophiles, Cruz urged people to be on the watch for nondiscrimination ordinances protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, which he said are being promoted “stealthily” to be part of school curricula. He urged conservative activists to run for city council and school board to prevent such policies from being put into place, saying, “We need to take control of city councils and school boards and reverse these laws.”

Houston Pastor Dave Welch, one of the five pastors subpoenaed, gave the evening keynote at the anti-gay Stand4Truth conference that took place the day before the World Congress of Families opened in Salt Lake City this week. Welch echoed the militaristic rhetoric of other speakers, saying it’s necessary to recognize that “we are in a war. War is very real. War has casualties…It’s a spiritual war…ultimately, eventually, a political war.”

Welch said the subpoenas have energized religious conservatives, saying, “As always, God takes what the enemy meant for evil and used for good.”

Welch portrayed Mayor Parker, a lesbian, in sinister terms:

The mayor, who lies about everything from the beginning. And she’s still lying about this. It’s just who she is. She literally is one of those who is caught in the snare, in the web of her darkness and her condition. I pray, we do pray for her, that God delivers her and sets her free from that. But we’re going to make sure…that she’s not mayor of Houston anymore.

And he blamed churches for being “asleep” and allowing a lesbian to get elected in the first place, comparing it to “the old ‘peace in our lifetime’ catastrophe” when “you didn’t stop the evil when it was cheap.”

“They didn’t understand the consequences of putting somebody in political power, with the authority of the sword, who has literally rejected every element of the created order of God and his word and his moral truths. Why would we expect somebody to act lawfully when they are living lawlessly?”

Welch portrayed LGBT people as pawns of Satan, part of a cosmic war between good and evil:

Here’s the bottom line for us today, I believe as we go forward in what we do next. We need to remember as we are facing the enemy, if you will, that the enemy that we are really up against we can’t see. Those that we can see are caught in the snares of deception and are being used as pawns for the real enemy. We must love them enough to speak truth to them, with clarity, with consistency, with boldness, and with love. That is the only hope they have to be free…

Also speaking at the event was Rev. Bill Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors, who organized a press conference of pastors opposing the Houston subpoenas. Owens said he and Welch have worked together for 20 years and are “unsung heroes.” Owens has been a fierce critic of President Obama on marriage equality and has opposed protections for transgender people with the same kind of inaccurate and alarmist fearmongering about bathrooms that is now the focus of ugly ads by the opponents of Houston’s nondiscrimination law.

Owens’ group is associated with the National Organization for Marriage and has been supported by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and the American Principles Project — an organization founded by anti-gay Catholic leader Robert George and backed by right-wing funder Sean Fieler. Earlier this year, CAAP honored Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for defying federal courts on marriage equality. Owens said on Monday that social conservatives will never get to the “promised land” on marriage and other issues until they build a movement that includes Black people.

Marriage & 'Natural Family' Day At World Congress of Families

The sun had barely risen in Salt Lake City yesterday when the first panel of “natural family” day at the World Congress of Families got started with a discussion about life after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.

Pastor Greg Johnson, an evangelical who was raised as a Mormon and now sponsors “convicted civility” dialogues between evangelicals and Mormons, recounted an experience with his daughter at the Creation Museum. Looking at the diorama of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, he was struck by the sacred nature of marriage. Johnson declared that the church needs to revive its commitment to the sacred and holy nature of marriage.

Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council began her remarks with a declaration that, as a Catholic, there is nothing that could change her belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Like many speakers, Ruse focused on the complementarity of men and women. “No man can be a mother,” she said. “As a mother, I know two fathers is not the same as a mother and a father.”

The fact that “men and women make babies, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident,” is the only reason government is involved in marriage, Ruse said. Government has to encourage men and women who become mothers and fathers to raise their children. The government has no interest in a person’s feelings, she said. “Who you love is not the government’s business, until now.” Of course, that claim ignores the historical fact that the U.S. government did, until quite recently, punish gay people for who they loved, denying them a livelihood and even taking away their children. And the fact is that many governments around the world, including in some countries represented at the World Congress, continue to do that and worse.

Ruse recounted all the states where voters banned marriage for same-sex couples, neglecting to mention the four more recent victories marriage equality advocates had at the ballot box in 2012. Ignoring those, and dismissing the huge and well-documented shifts in public opinion, Ruse portrayed marriage equality as something “a handful of liberal judges” forced “on the rest of us” and she called for continued resistance:

Above all, we must fight for the right to live and work according to our beliefs. Our enemy in this fight is not our neighbor, not even the 1.6 percent of our neighbors who identify themselves as gay. No. Our enemy are those who would be our masters — the judge who jails a clerk for failing to give her signature, the magistrate who takes the house of a baker for want of a cake. These are our enemies in the fight ahead. No government official can force us to bend the knee at the altar of a foreign god. If we cannot secure this freedom in law, then we must live it in civil disobedience of the law.

Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage followed Ruse and matched her tone of defiance against “our unelected masters.” The Supreme Court didn’t change the definition of marriage, he said, it “put a lie into the law” — just like slavery and the Dred Scott decision. Brown said that there’s no time for activists to be depressed. Citing the history of Christian martyrs, abolitionists and civil rights activists, he mocked people who don’t want to take a stand because some of their Facebook friends might say mean things about them. 

“Instead of being depressed, we should savor the fact that we live at a point in history, like those times before, in which we can stand for the truth, make a difference, and God has put us here for some reason. This fight is not over. It has just begun.”

Brown proposed four goals for the anti-marriage-equality movement:

  1. Affirm continually and publicly that marriage is by nature a union of a man and a woman
  2. Reject the Supreme Court’s decision as illegitimate
  3. Overturn the decision, perhaps through decades of struggle or perhaps with new Supreme Court justices appointed by a Republican president elected in 2016
  4. Contain the damage in the meanwhile by passing laws that allow public officials and businesspeople to refuse to have anything to do with gay couples’ marriages

Rafael Cruz, speaking in the second morning session, picked up the baton with the kind of David Barton-inspired speech he gives on the campaign trail for his son Ted Cruz. America was founded on the word of God, he said, but its foundations have been undermined by communists, humanists and Supreme Court decisions on organized prayer, Bible reading in the public schools, abortion and marriage equality.

Cruz railed against the church for having been silent in the face of “abominable” Supreme Court decisions on church-state separation and abortion. The church he said has been “duped” into believing in the separation of church and state, and too many preachers are hiding behind their pulpits, scared to death of losing their tax exemptions. “God is going to judge us for our silence,” he said.

Cruz declared, “What we see in America right now is an outright attack on Christianity.” The court’s marriage equality decision declared homosexuality a civil right, he said, asserting (falsely) that “under that basis, it will be possible for some homosexual to come to your church demanding to be hired, whether as pastor or janitor is immaterial.” Cruz told a BuzzFeed reporter that the next item on the LGBT agenda will be pushing to legalize pedophilia.

At World Congress of Families, Anti-Choice Activists Celebrate Victories & Map Strategy To Overturn Roe v Wade

The first day of the World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City was focused on restricting access to abortion — the program described the day’s theme as “the value of life in all its stages and conditions.” 

During one anti-abortion panel, Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life — which Miranda once described as a sort of ALEC of the anti-choice movement —  celebrated the movement’s recent successes and mapped out a cultural and legal strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade, a strategy grounded in portraying abortion as harmful to women and the pro-life movement as pro-women.

Yoest told the audience to be encouraged, citing a graph from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute showing that “more abortion restrictions have been enacted since the tidal wave election of 2010 than were enacted in the entire previous decade.” Said Yoest, “I’m really proud of this progress, because it comes from a deliberate strategy that we have enacted as a movement to concentrate on state legislatures.”

Yoest said after the 1983 failure to pass a constitutional amendment in Congress, activists convened their own congress and strategized.

“We came up with a strategy and emerged with a plan: focus on the statehouses and test the limits of Roe v. Wade. The story of the next several decades is one of trench warfare and gaining ground under the radar.”

This summer, she said, the Planned Parenthood videos have provided an “earthquake” which gives anti-abortion movement an opportunity to move forward strategically. [See PFAW’s report on the anti-Planned Parenthood attacks.] The legal strategy is aimed at Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s writing that overturning Roe would come with a “certain cost” to women who rely on it. “As pro-lifers, we need to understand that that’s the way he thinks, and his fellow justices on the court,” said Yoest. “But they are ignoring that there is a certain cost to the culture of death.”

Yoest said abortion brings women grief and dramatically increases a woman’s suicide risk. “What an Alice in Wonderland world that we live in where the defenders of so-called women’s health are the promoters of abortion. Let’s call them abortion harm deniers.”

Yoest cited Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing in dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart that “women cannot enjoy equal citizenship status” without access to abortion. And she quoted a feminist author telling women who have had abortion that she hopes they will begin to know their own power.

Ladies and gentlemen, our strategy for the next decade must engage this debate. Abortion for women is not power; it is poverty….

This is our way forward. We must engage a mother-child strategy. The mother-child strategy is rooted in a very careful study of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. The court has told us pretty clearly what they think about abortion. Going back again to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, they told us that the state has two areas of legitimate interest: one is protecting the health of the woman and two is protecting the life of the fetus that, according to them, may become a child. Anything that we bring before two courts – the court of public opinion and the Supreme Court — must engage both of these elements, both the mother and the child.

We must keep coming back to what we know to be the truth: pro-life is pro-woman.

Yoest paraphrased a saying by G. K. Chesterton —  seemingly the most quoted conservative at the conference — saying that fairy tales are “more than true,” not because they tell us dragons are true, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten. “The culture of death,” she concluded,” is a dragon that must be beaten.” 

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