Institute on Religion and Democracy

Evangelicals Opposed To Evangelicals For Immigration Reform

Today’s Heritage Foundation event featured conservative evangelicals who are unhappy with other evangelicals who are promoting comprehensive immigration reform. Our “who’s who” of the speakers turned out to be a good guide to what they had to say.  Speakers repeatedly (falsely) characterized the Senate immigration bill as “amnesty.”

James Hoffmeier, author of a book on immigration and the Bible, said he objects to people using the Bible to talk about immigration “the wrong way” and “misuse the scriptures to advance a cause.” He argues that undocumented immigrants are not the kind of people referred to in Bible verses about being welcoming to strangers.

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy griped about mainline denominations demonstrating a lack of concern for border security.  He credited evangelicals endorsing comprehensive immigration reform for citing a need for border security, but criticized them for supporting the “mass legalization” in the Senate bill, which he characterized as legalization first, border security later.

Kelly Kullberg organized Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration as a counter to the Evangelical Immigration Table, which energetically backs the Senate bill.  She is also, like Tooley, a founder of Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE), a group that criticized Christians calling themselves the “Circle of Protection,” who had argued against cuts to federal programs that serve the poor.  (In a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders, CASE asked, “Whom would Jesus indebt?” and declared “The Good Samaritan did not use a government credit card.”) Kullberg made similar points about the immigration bill, saying America is a “near-bankrupt welfare state living on borrowed money” and cannot afford “amnesty” and “an influx of foreign labor.” She said “Kindness to foreigners should not be theft or injustice to citizens.” She also said that nowhere in scripture do we see “blanket amnesty or asylum.”

Carol Swain, right-wing author and law professor, argued that Christians should support respect for the rule of law. Swain warned “We’re welcoming people who totally reject who we are as a people,” and said we create problems for ourselves “if we bring in people who are not easily assimilated.” She declared, “There is no place in America for Sharia law in the U.S. Constitution.”  But Swain said she favors immigration reform if it is done the “right way” and encouraged people to read her book, Be the People, to find out how.

 

Who's Who at Heritage Foundation's Rebuke to Pro-Immigration Reform Evangelicals

In recent years, a growing number of conservative evangelicals have joined more progressive Christians to embrace comprehensive immigration reform.  Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table have been making the case for reform at Religious Right events in recent years; one prominent conservative evangelical, Sam Rodriguez, recently announced a 40-day fast to advance reform legislation.

As RWW has reported, getting conservatives on board has been a hard sell, particularly for the “Teavangelical” wing of the Religious Right, whose members tend to stand with hard-right anti-immigration politicians. In particular, some conservatives aren’t happy about having the Bible quoted by those lobbying for passage of the bill that passed the Senate earlier this year.  In response, conservative activist Kelly Monroe Kullberg started a competing group, Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration.  

This Friday, her group is getting a boost from the Heritage Foundation, which is hosting “Doing Good to the Stranger and the Citizen: Evangelicals Discuss Immigration Reform.”

Here’s a quick look at the speaker line-up:

Kelly Monroe Kullberg

Kullberg is a founder of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration. She accuses leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table of being “deceptive and manipulative.” She complains that reform backers are supported by “atheist globalist and open border advocate George Soros.” She says the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill “does not reflect balanced biblical teaching” and would “make asylum easier for people like the Boston Marathon bombers.”

Kullberg decries “easy sloganeering” by reform advocates and says the U.S. cannot afford more immigrants. She says Jesus and biblical passages encourage the welcoming of some, but not all, strangers – those willing to assimilate culturally and religiously – and “also remind us to love not only the foreigner who comes to us in need, but our neighbors, such as those in Arizona, whose needs are being ignored.”

In a June letter Kullberg wrote:

The ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill will increase debt and danger in America for both citizens and guests, thus further precipitating the decline of the America we love and steward. In Scripture we are taught to make wise distinctions between the well-meaning sojourner (the 'ger' in Hebrew) and the foreigner who does not advance a nation’s faith, values and story (the 'goyim').

Kullberg recently spoke to American Family Association talk show host Sandy Rios where she warned of the dangers that an immigration reform bill would case people of “other faiths” and “incompatible worldviews” to flood into the United States, diminishing respect for the value of human life and leading to an increase in human trafficking.

Carol M. Swain

Swain is a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who has edited books on immigration and white nationalism.  She has created a non-profit group to help her promote her conservative views. When she showered praise on a “documentary” film called “A Conversation About Race,” the Southern Poverty Law Center called her “an apologist for white supremacists.” She and her supporters at the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies lambasted SPLC – she calls it a hate group that “harasses conservatives” – but even her fans at the Wall Street Journal, which came to her defense, found parts of the film “inflammatory and invidious.”  And they noted that on immigration, Swain’s views “are closer to Lou Dobbs’s than to ours.”

Swain’s most recent book, 2011’s Be the People, places her firmly in the right-wing activist camp. She says the book is “a call to action for We the People to reclaim our nation’s faith and promise.”  The blurbs at the front of Be the People let you know what you’re in for. Among the right-wing stars praising the book are Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Tony Perkins, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Robert George, Harry Jackson, and Jesse Lee Peterson. 

No wonder they love Swain: she writes respectfully of those who question President Obama’s faith and about birthers – she calls the term itself “pejorative” and an “epithet. Part of the book is a Christian-nation screed that would make David Barton proud. “We are engaged in a battle for the soul of our nation,” she writes. She slams the Supreme Court’s rulings on separation of church and state, saying, “The expulsion of God from public schools was a blow to civil religion and a clear repudiation of what Jesus proclaimed to be the greatest commandment.”

She cites Stephen Keillor, who says the 9/11 attacks might have been God’s judgment against the United States, which we well deserve. “We are being confronted with numerous national disasters and freak weather patterns. Could some of these occurrences be related to our decision to reject biblical injunctions against abortion, greed, homosexuality, fornication, and adultery?” While Swain calls her book a “rallying cry” for people to get involved, she also says it may be too late for America to escape God’s wrath for having violated the covenant its founders made with God.  “Accept the fact that no matter what Christians and other believers do, it may be too late to save the United States of America….As it stands, we do not know if judgment has been determined for our nation.”

In the chapter on immigration reform, SWain mentions testifying on immigration before a congressional committee. She was outnumbered on the panel, she says, but was encouraged by friendly faces like those of Reps. Steve King and Lamar Smith. She writes, “In light of the high unemployment in the US, no sensible argument can be made for legalizing millions of undocumented persons currently holding jobs to which they are not entitled.”

Swain also takes on the interpretation of scripture by pro-reform evangelicals, saying that the “stranger” in Old Testament injunctions does not apply to people in the U.S. illegally. She even impugns Catholic leaders for supporting immigration reform efforts, suggesting they are motivated by a desire to boost church membership. Among the specific proposals in her definition of reform are that Congress should “flex its muscles” and legislatively close the “loophole” of birthright citizenship under the 14th amendment.

Mark Tooley

Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a rght-wing group dedicated to attacking progressive elements within mainstream and evangelical Christianity and resisting the advance of LGBT equality at home and abroad. IRD calls the Evangelical Immigration Table a front group for George Soros and derides the Evangelical Immigration Table's “I was a stranger” campaign as “a masterful piece of emotional blackmail.” IRD has suggested that EIT is trying to manipulate evangelicals, which would be “a sad betrayal of a flock by its shepherds.”

IRD has also  insinuated that religious backers of the Senate immigration reform bill are just eager to get their hands on a “slush fund” of taxpayer dollars the bill includes for organizations that assist immigrants.

Tooley has criticized pro-reform leaders’ “superficial ‘God-talk’” and suggested that religious leaders should not be spending their time on immigration reform, which he says is not of the same “moral order” as “marriage, human life, and religious liberty.” In speaking about immigration, Tooley says it is “very problematic when people of faith start to claim that the Bible gives them very direct guidance on a particular contemporary political issue.” Well, that will certainly be news to the folks at the Heritage Foundation and the conservative evangelicals who are presumably the target for Friday’s event.

James Hoffmeier

Hoffmeier is Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is author of The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, a book that seems to be the basis for other speakers’ claims about the Old Testament. Hoffmeier summarizes his book in “The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Immigration Debate,” which is published on the website of the Center for Immigration Studies, which along with FAIR and NumbersUSA form a trio of anti-immigrant groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the core of the nativist lobby in America.” He says the Old Testament makes a distinction between strangers – equivalent to a resident alien who agreed to abide by the law – and foreigners, who did not have the same legal protections. Hoffmeier criticizes the “sanctuary” movement in America, saying, “So when American cities offer their cities as sanctuary from federal law, or when churches offer their facilities as a refuge for illegal immigrants who have been tried and order deported, they are neither following the letter or spirit of the OT law.” Or in other words, “American cities that use their communities to circumvent the law to help the illegal alien in the name of justice are doing a gross injustice to the letter and spirit of the biblical law.”

From a Publisher’s Weekly review of his book:  

“The book offers little in the way of sociological, political or economic insight into the circumstances surrounding modern-day illegal immigration, beyond advocating for a law-and-order approach. Missing from this analysis is an understanding of the Bible as a prophetic document more concerned with larger issues of justice. Still, Christians looking for a biblical justification for strict federal enforcement of immigration laws may find much to like.”

Religious Right Activists Attack Jon Stewart For (Hypothetically) Discriminating Against Christians

Wendy Wright and Chelsen Vicari co-hosted Sandy Rios In The Morning this week, and used the opportunity to attack The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart for discriminating against Christians… in a hypothetical scenario that the two Religious Right activists invented.

Wright, the former head of Concerned Women for America who is now vice president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), was upset about a Daily Show segment from 2005 that poked fun of the “Christian persecution complex,” noting Christianity’s ascendency in the West following the conversion of Constantine I. Wright said she couldn’t understand why Stewart thinks “we are in charge and we are the oppressors,” referring to the Crusades as an instance in which Christians faced persecution. “I guess he never heard of the Crusades; the Crusades were actually defensive against the Muslim hordes,” she said.

Yes, that’s right, she cited the Crusades as an example of anti-Christian persecution.

She also spoke to Vicari, who like Wright used to work for CWA but now is with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, about Stewart’s recent interview with Malala Yousafzai.

Vicari was upset because she imagined that while Stewart and President Obama lauded Yousafzai, they wouldn’t have done so if she was shot while defending the rights of Christians.

I couldn’t, I just couldn’t see why there was such a disconnect between the way Jon Stewart was treating Malala for something very admirable, a girl’s right to an education, but he couldn’t stand up for the right to believe in Jesus Christ,” she said. I had this thought, Wendy, I thought, you know if Malala Yousafzai was a Christian standing up for girls’ rights to believe in Jesus Christ, would we still know her name? Would she receive all this praise that she’s getting from the international community? From our national leaders? The president just invited her to the White House on Friday. Would Jon Stewart have had her on his show? The answer is probably not and I have to ask the question, why that is?

Of course, Vicari has no idea if Stewart would have interviewed a girl who survived a shooting over her defense of Christians’ freedom of religion, but nevertheless she maintained that Stewart hypothetically discriminated against Christians.

IRD Slams State Department for Backing Gay Rights Abroad

Writing for the American Spectator, Jeff Walton of the Institute on Religion and Democracy condemned the State Department for advancing the rights of gays and lesbians abroad. The IRD is a far-right group with a two-pronged strategy to advance its opposition to gay rights: dividing and decrying churches, particularly Mainline Protestant denominations, which favor LGBT equality, while at the same time aiding and promoting groups in Africa and the U.S. that attack gays and even support the criminalization of homosexuality. Most recently, the IRD vilified a North Carolina church group for electing an openly gay layman as the President. In addition to the group’s militant stance on gay rights, the IRD also works against the rights of women and immigrants, and criticizes the environmental movement, and the IRD has ties to major right wing organizations like the Heritage Foundation, Concerned Women For America, Numbers USA, and the American Enterprise Institute.

Walton, the Communications Manager for the IRD who previously alleged that the Episcopal Church could be held responsible for the deaths of Christians abroad because it allows gays and lesbians to serve as Bishops, now is taking to the ultraconservative Spectator to reproach the State Department for “promoting homosexuality overseas.” He blasts Secretary Hillary Clinton for allegedly wanting to “legitimize homosexual practices in those socially traditional countries,” like those in Africa, and maintains that efforts to protect gays from discrimination are affronts to “religious freedom.” Walton denounces the State Department’s work to document anti-gay laws and violence, and the pressure it puts on countries like Uganda to improve the rights of gays:

Although the language of some U.S. officials begins with the legitimate concern for personal safety and freedom from the threat of violence, it often ends by demanding acceptance of homosexual acts as a human right.

"We've come such a far distance in our own country, but there are still so many who need the outreach, need the mentoring, need the support, to stand up and be who they are, and then think about people in so many countries where it just seems impossible," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a speech in June as part of "Pride Month" celebrations at the U.S. State Department.

At the event, which was organized by the group "Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies," Clinton said the State Department is supporting efforts to advance homosexual rights around the world. "We celebrate the progress of advancing the rights of LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] in our country, as we continue to advance the rights of all people around the world," Clinton gushed before the receptive audience, adding that the "struggle for equality is never, ever finished."



During her June address, Clinton stated that her department has formalized reporting on homosexual rights for the first time in the 2009 annual human rights report that was issued in February on every country in the world. But the top U.S. diplomat quickly honed in on Africa, saying that U.S. embassies there had been directed to ask their host government about the status of LGBT rights. A special panel discussion on LGBT rights in Africa was also held later in the day.

He goes on to rebuke Assistant Secretary of State Michael H. Posner, openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, an Anglican Bishop who worked in Ugana to improve the livelihoods of marginalized gay Ugandans and diligently opposed a bill in Uganda’s Parliament that “would make homosexuality illegal, in some cases punishable by death.” Walton says:

In March, Posner introduced the State Department human rights report to Congress, emphasizing what was termed a growing crisis in abuse directed against LGBT people worldwide, and urging the use of diplomacy to counter the alleged trend.

In introducing the report, Posner singled out the case of Uganda, where he alleged that introduction of anti-homosexuality legislation has resulted in abuse. The report further documents LGBT-related incidents in almost every country in the world.

Posner's report met agreement with Robinson and Senyonjo during their conversation at CAP.

“[The] time is coming when we should not work on just one bill, but towards decriminalization," Senyonjo said, adding that he was "very grateful for voices all over the world that work against oppression."

"It is wrong to say, 'Don't interfere, it's a domestic thing,'" the former Anglican bishop said. He compared foreigners working for decriminalization of homosexuality in Africa to aid workers providing earthquake relief in Haiti.



In that commissioning, Senyonjo seems to have found a partner in the U.S. State Department. For them, seemingly sexual freedom is more important than religious freedom. Look for more developments in 2011.

Walton never explains how defending gays from violence and discrimination undermines “religious freedom,” and dismisses Bishop Senyonjo’s religiously-grounded defense of LGBT equality. Just as the IRD demonized many US churches who worked in social justice and anti-apartheid activism in South Africa because they also supported rights for gays and lesbians, Walton and the IRD are criticizing the State Department for working to document and prevent the persecution and oppression of gays outside of the U.S.

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.

Lesbian Bishops Get Africans Killed

Back in 2004, Chuck Colson warned that failing to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment would lead to more terrorism by "inflaming radical Islam" and "handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers."

That seems to be the sort of logic at work here as Jeff Walton of The Institute on Religion and Democracy warns that the Episcopal Church's election of a lesbian bishop, Mary Glasspool, will endanger the lives on Christians in Africa:

According to Jeff Walton with the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), Glasspool's election will make it tough for Christians in certain countries.

"Last week there were over 500 people who were killed in three villages surrounding Jos Nigeria," he shares. "These Christian villagers were killed for their faith. The people who attacked them were yelling 'God is great' in Arabic, and one of the charges against the Christians was that they were immoral."

Walton explains the rationale behind that accusation. "When a Muslim sees the newspaper headline, 'Anglican elects partnered lesbian bishop,' they don't draw a distinction between African Christians and European or American Christians," he says.

 

Exporting the Anti-Gay Culture War

Political Research Associates has released a new report, written by PRA Project Director Reverend Kapya Kaoma, entitled "Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia" [PDF] which explores how figures like Rick Warren and Scott Lively and organizations like the Institute on Religion and Democracy have been promoting "an agenda in Africa that aims to criminalize homosexuality and otherwise infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people while also mobilizing African clerics in U.S. culture war battles."

From the PRA press release:

[T]he U.S. Right – once isolated in Africa for supporting pro-apartheid, White supremacist regimes – has successfully reinvented itself as the mainstream of U.S. evangelicalism. Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools, and educational materials, U.S. religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals and present themselves as the true representatives of U.S. evangelicalism, so helping to marginalize Africans’ relationships with mainline Protestant churches.

The investigation’s release could not be timelier, as the Ugandan parliament considers the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Language in that bill echoes the false and malicious charges made in Uganda by U.S antigay activist and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively that western gays are conspiring to take over Uganda and even the world.

"We need to stand up against the U.S. Christian Right peddling homophobia in Africa," said Kaoma, who in recent weeks asked U.S. evangelist Rick Warren to denounce the bill and distance himself from its supporters. "I heard church people in Uganda say they would go door to door to root out LGBT people and now our brothers and sisters are being further targeted by proposed legislation criminalizing them and threatening them with death. The scapegoating must stop."

While the American side of the story is known to LGBT activists and their allies witnessing struggles over LGBT clergy within Protestant denominations in the United States, what’s been missing has been the effect of the Right’s proxy wars on Africa itself. Kaoma’s report finally brings this larger, truly global, picture into focus.

“Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,” writes PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos in the report’s foreword. “Africa’s antigay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the U.S.A.”

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Institute on Religion and Democracy Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Friday 11/15/2013, 5:09pm
Today’s Heritage Foundation event featured conservative evangelicals who are unhappy with other evangelicals who are promoting comprehensive immigration reform. Our “who’s who” of the speakers turned out to be a good guide to what they had to say.  Speakers repeatedly (falsely) characterized the Senate immigration bill as “amnesty.” James Hoffmeier, author of a book on immigration and the Bible, said he objects to people using the Bible to talk about immigration “the wrong way” and “misuse the scriptures to advance a cause.” He... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 11/14/2013, 11:57am
In recent years, a growing number of conservative evangelicals have joined more progressive Christians to embrace comprehensive immigration reform.  Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table have been making the case for reform at Religious Right events in recent years; one prominent conservative evangelical, Sam Rodriguez, recently announced a 40-day fast to advance reform legislation. As RWW has reported, getting conservatives on board has been a hard sell, particularly for the “Teavangelical” wing of the Religious Right, whose members tend to stand with hard-right anti-... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Friday 10/18/2013, 1:50pm
Wendy Wright and Chelsen Vicari co-hosted Sandy Rios In The Morning this week, and used the opportunity to attack The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart for discriminating against Christians… in a hypothetical scenario that the two Religious Right activists invented. Wright, the former head of Concerned Women for America who is now vice president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), was upset about a Daily Show segment from 2005 that poked fun of the “Christian persecution complex,” noting Christianity’s ascendency in the West following the... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Monday 01/03/2011, 2:49pm
Writing for the American Spectator, Jeff Walton of the Institute on Religion and Democracy condemned the State Department for advancing the rights of gays and lesbians abroad. The IRD is a far-right group with a two-pronged strategy to advance its opposition to gay rights: dividing and decrying churches, particularly Mainline Protestant denominations, which favor LGBT equality, while at the same time aiding and promoting groups in Africa and the U.S. that attack gays and even support the criminalization of homosexuality. Most recently, the IRD vilified a North Carolina church group for... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 04/23/2010, 11:24am
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... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 03/19/2010, 10:25am
Back in 2004, Chuck Colson warned that failing to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment would lead to more terrorism by "inflaming radical Islam" and "handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers." That seems to be the sort of logic at work here as Jeff Walton of The Institute on Religion and Democracy warns that the Episcopal Church's election of a lesbian bishop, Mary Glasspool, will endanger the lives on Christians in Africa: According to Jeff Walton with the Institute on Religion... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 11/19/2009, 9:40am
Political Research Associates has released a new report, written by PRA Project Director Reverend Kapya Kaoma, entitled "Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia" [PDF] which explores how figures like Rick Warren and Scott Lively and organizations like the Institute on Religion and Democracy have been promoting "an agenda in Africa that aims to criminalize homosexuality and otherwise infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people while also mobilizing African clerics in U.S. culture war battles." From the PRA press release: [T... MORE >