people for the american way

Right Wing Watch In Focus: "Rogues' Gallery"

Today, People For the American Way released out latest Right Wing Watch In Focus report examining the slate of extremist GOP Senate candidates running for office this year.

Entitled "The Rogues' Gallery: Right-Wing Candidates Have A Dangerous Agenda for America and Could Turn the Senate," the report examines the radical agendas and views held by Joe Miller, Carly Fiorina, Ken Buck, Christine O'Donnell, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Roy Blunt, Sharron Angle, Kelly Ayotte, Richard Burr, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, and Dino Rossi, plus the role that Sen. Jim DeMint has played in dragging the GOP further and further to the right.

Here is the introduction:

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have already broken all records for unprincipled partisan obstructionism, preventing the administration from putting people into key positions in the executive branch, blocking judicial confirmations, and delaying and preventing Congress from dealing with important issues facing the nation, from financial reform to immigration. Now a bumper crop of far-right GOP candidates threatens to turn the "deliberative body"into a haven for extremists who view much of the federal government as unconstitutional and who are itching to shut it down.

Fueled by the unlimited deep pockets of billionaire anti-government ideologues, various Tea Party and corporate-interest groups have poured money into primary elections this year. They and conservative voters angry about the actions of the Obama administration have replaced even very conservative senators and candidates backed by the national Republican establishment with others who embrace a range of radically right-wing views on the Constitution, the role of government, the protection of individual freedoms, and the separation of church and state.

Recently, Religious Right leaders have been grousing that Republican candidates arent talking enough about abortion and same-sex marriage. But this report indicates that anti-gay and anti-choice activists have little to worry about, as the right-wing candidates profiled here share those anti-freedom positions even if theyre talking more about shutting down federal agencies, privatizing Social Security, and eliminating most of the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans. A number of these candidates oppose legal abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina is helping to lead the charge with his Senate Conservatives Fund. DeMint, an absolute favorite of both the Tea Party and Religious Right political movements for his uncompromising extremism on both economic and social issues, is at the far right fringe of the Republican Party and has committed himself to helping elect more like-minded colleagues. Sarah Palin, also popular among both Tea Party and Religious Right activists, has also injected her high-profile name, busy Twitter fingers, and PAC cash into numerous Senate races.

Among the right-wing insurgents who defeated candidates backed by national party leadership are Christine ODonnell of Delaware, Joe Miller of Alaska, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Ken Buck of Colorado, and Mike Lee of Utah. Others, like Carly Fiorina of California, came through crowded primaries where right-wing leaders split their endorsements, but have now coalesced around her candidacy.

And thanks to the conservative Supreme Courts ruling in the Citizens United case, which said corporations have the same rights as citizens to make independent expenditures in elections, right-wing candidates across the board will be benefitting from a massive infusion of corporate money designed to elect candidates who will oppose governmental efforts to hold them accountable, for example environmental protections and government regulation of the financial industry practices that led the nation into a deep recession.

This In Focus provides an introduction to a select group of right-wing candidates who hope to ride a wave of toxic Tea Party anger into the U.S. Senate. The potential impact of a Senate with even half of these DeMint-Palin acolytes would be devastating to the Senates ability to function and the federal governments ability to protect the safety and well-being of American citizens.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

PFAW’s Letter to NPR

Yesterday, Kyle pointed out Bryan Fischer’s appearance on Morning Edition, where he was billed simply as a representative of the American Family Association. If a respected media outlet like NPR is going to give a platform to someone like Fischer, it needs to make clear the long record of hate speech he brings with him. PFAW President Michael B. Keegan reached out to Alicia Shepard, the NPR Ombudsman with this note:

Dear Ms. Shepard:

I was surprised yesterday to hear the voice of Bryan Fischer, Director of Issue Analysis at the American Family Association, on Morning Edition. I wonder if the show's producers knew of Mr. Fischer's record of extremism and hate speech against Muslim Americans and gays and lesbians.

People For the American Way's RightWingWatch.org blog tracks Fischer in his roll as a blogger and radio host for the AFA, where he makes no attempt to disguise his extremism. Just in the past year, Fischer has:

Yesterday, in response to People For's call that GOP leaders distance themselves from Mr. Fischer, he repeated his comparison of gay men to domestic terrorists. On Tuesday, Mr. Fischer defended his call for deporting Muslim Americans, saying "we are doing them a favor by repatriating them to their homeland where an entire nation shares their values."

Of course, Mr. Fischer has the right to air his opinions, no matter how hurtful. However, he should not be given air time by a nonpartisan news organization without some disclosure of his record of hate speech.

I also hope that Mr. Fischer is not, as Morning Edition implied, representative of the Tea Party movement as a whole.

This weekend, he will be appearing this weekend alongside leaders of the Republican Party, including Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and 2012 presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Pence. We have alerted these public figures to Mr. Fischer's record and urged them to denounce Fischer's remarks lest they lend credibility to his extremism.

Similarly, I urge NPR to resist lending credibility to an extremist like Fischer by providing him with a national platform without alerting audiences to his record of vocal bigotry.

Thank you for your time,

Michael B. Keegan

President, People For the American Way

 We’ll keep you posted on the response.

PFAW Sends Letters to GOP Leaders Urging them to Denounce Fischer, Skip Values Voter Summit

People For's President, Michael Keegan, sent the following letter today to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, all of whom are scheduled to appear this weekend at the Values Voter Summit, alongside the virulantly anti-Muslim and anti-gay Bryan Fischer.

Dear ________:

I am writing to express my concern about your appearance this weekend at the upcoming Values Voter Summit. Among the participants this weekend will be Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. We urge you to publically denounce Fischer’s record of hate speech and extremism, and reconsider appearing beside him this weekend.

People For’s RightWingWatch.org blog has tracked Fischer’s career over the past several years. His long and prolific record of hate speech and extremism includes the following recent statements. Just in the past year, Fischer has:

I am attaching the names of over 6,500 concerned citizens who have signed the following letter regarding your participation in the summit:

Values Voter Summit Participants:

Reasonable people can, and do, have reasonable differences of opinion. Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, is not a reasonable person.

By sharing a stage with Fischer at this year's Values Voter Summit, public figures acknowledge the credibility of his shameless anti-Muslim and anti-gay propaganda. Any candidate thinking seriously of running for president in 2012 should think twice about standing alongside a man who has called for the deportation of all Muslims in America; insulted Muslim servicemembers; claimed that brave Americans died in vain because Iraq was not converted to Christianity; and called gay people deviants, felons, pedophiles and terrorists. Bryan Fischer is no mainstream conservative. And neither is any person who shares a platform with him while refusing to denounce his hate-filled propaganda.

We urge you to denounce Fischer's extremism and separate yourself from his comments.

For more background on Fischer’s extreme rhetoric, please click here.

Fischer’s appearance with conservative leaders such as yourself lends his extreme hate speech credibility. We urge you to publicly denounce Fischer’s record and to think twice about sharing the stage with him.

Sincerely,

Michael B. Keegan
President, People For the American Way

We Rest Our Case: Bryan Fischer Tries to Defend His Bigoted Record

Today, People For the American Way issued a statement calling out all those conservative leaders who will attending the upcoming Values Voter Summit and sharing the stage with notorious bigot Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association and chronicled the myriad of outrageously offensive things Fischer has said about gays and Muslims and others.

Needless to say, Fischer is not particularly pleased with our statement and dedicated a portion of his radio program today to "defending" himself ... and in doing so, only helped to make our point even clearer.

Fischer took particular exception to our point that "any candidate thinking seriously of running for president in 2012 should think twice about standing alongside a man who has called for the deportation of all Muslims in America," by claiming that he did no such thing (but, of course, he did when he claimed that Muslim citizens were, simply by being virtue of being Muslim, guilty of treason against the US.)

Fischer's "defense" is that he simply wants to deny entry to all Muslims because we are doing them a favor since they could not possibly handle or tolerate our freedoms:

"Any candidate thinking seriously of running for president in 2012 should think twice about standing alongside a man who has called for the deportation of all Muslims in America."

That, as a matter of fact is not true. What I has said is that if Muslims are here and they have citizenship status, we shouldn't do anything to them. They have citizenship status, it might have been a mistake to give it to them, but they have it and we need to respect it because we uphold the rule of law.

What I was talking about is when you have Muslims who are applying for permanent residency, for permanent legal residency, or applying for citizenship, my recommendation is that instead of granting them citizenship, we help them return to their homeland, to their native country, we help repatriate them to their country of origin where they can have the freedom to be Muslims without having to chafe against our religious liberty and our freedom of speech and first-class citizenship status for wives and for women.

This has got to be awkward for them, it's got to be painful for them, it's got to be uncomfortable for them to see so many people enjoying the fruit of Christianity, its liberty and its freedom, its respect for the individual, its respect for the freedom of individuals to think and make decisions for themselves, its got to chew them up because it is so the polar opposite of what Islam is all about.

So I say we are doing them a favor by repatriating them to their homeland where an entire nation shares their values.

We also pointed out that Fischer demanded a ban on Muslims serving in the US military which he "defended" by saying that he was merely telling the truth about how all Muslims are required to kill Christians and Jews:

So if telling the truth about Muslim service-members is an insult, then truth is now the new insult, truth is now the new hate speech.

All I have said about Muslims in the military is that their god commands them to kill us and it does not make sense to me that we would allow people to enlist in the body that is designed to protect our security and enable us to sleep peacefully in our beds at night, we should not invite into our military - the very organization that is supposed to protect us - invite into our military those who have a solemn and sacred obligation to kill us and kill their fellow soldiers.

Finally, Fischer explains that he doesn't "hate" gays or Muslims - he just hates the horrible, empty, disease-filled lives they lead:

 I am pro-gay; I am anti-homosexuality. I am pro-Muslim; I am anti-Islam. 

I am for homosexuals because I want them to be delivered from the bondage and the death sentence of homosexual conduct. So I am against homosexual behavior, I am against homosexual expression, I am against homosexual conduct because I want to see the people that are trapped in that lifestyle, I want to see them set free.

And the same is true when it comes to Islam: I am for Muslims; I am against-Islam. And, as I mentioned before, the primary victims of Islam are Muslims. I mean, it's got to break your heart when you visualize the life that these people lead in Muslim-dominated countries.

There is darkness, there is tyranny, there is repression, there is hatred, there is a complete absence of freedom, a complete absence of liberty, women are second-class citizens, they're considered as property, as chattel who can be beaten by their husbands according to Allah, according to the Holy Quran, according to the Prophet.

I mean the poverty, and the disease, and the emptiness and the sterility of life in a Muslim-dominated land, it ought to break our hearts. And that is why I am against Islam because I see what it does to people, I see what it does to cultures, I see what it does to entire nations when it is allowed to take root and flourish.

So I am pro-Muslims, but anti-Islam. I am pro-homosexual, I am anti-homosexuality. 

Let me point out again that this is Fischer defense against charges of being an anti-gay and anti-Muslim bigot.

So let us ask again why conservative leaders like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, Bob McDonnell, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann are so willing to share a stage with this man and attend an event being co-sponsored by the American Family Association, the group that has given Fischer a national platform?

Right Wing Round-Up

Peter LaBarbera's Warped Understanding of Civility

It seems that Peter LaBarbera is rather upset with me for saying that his upcoming "truth academy" was going to be "the gay-hatingest thing you have ever seen":

Oftentimes when activists on the Left have no evidence that something they disagree with is actually ”hateful,” they just label as such anyway, and then repeat themselves ad nauseam so that we’ll all get the message that said conservative activity is, well, “hateful.” Here is People for the American Way (PFAW) “Senior Fellow” Kyle Mantyla’s trenchant analysis of AFTAH’s Truth Academy curriculum:

“Peter LaBarbera has unveiled the instructor list and official curriculum for his upcoming three day anti-gay hatefest/”truth academy” … and it is pretty much going to be the gay-hatingest thing you have ever seen.”

Wow. “Gay-hatingest.” Reactionary liberals are expanding their smear-term lexicon. Seriously, though, most people on the Left are not quite willing, yet, to define anyone who disagrees with homosexuality as “hateful” — although they might call them “homophobic” (an artificial construct whose elastic definition has evolved to meet the needs of pro-”gay” liberals). I’m sure there are exceptions, but I suspect that most “gay”-affirming people would not automatically label anyone who believes that homosexuality is immoral — or that homosexual sex is unnatural – as “haters.”

LaBarbera apparently operates under the belief that opposition to all things gay which claims to be rooted in Judeo-Christian morality cannot possibly be considered hateful:

Morality is not “hate” and defending the historic Judeo-Christian sexual ethic is not “bigotry.” Homosexuality is wrong, and a controversial moral and religious issue involving behavior ... In a free society, we debate moral issues, and we discuss public health issues arising from dangerous behaviors. Does PFAW hold that it is OK to crusade for acceptance of homosexuality, but “un-American” and ”hateful” to oppose it civilly?

Maybe “Senior Fellow” Kyle, who edits PFAW’s “Right-Wing Watch” blog, and his pro-homosexual allies can explain it for us: Is every American who opposes homosexuality hateful — or just those who defend that position in public? When does moral disagreement become “hate”?

Civilly?  Is that how LaBarbera thinks his hand-picked line-up of "instructors" has engaged in the public debate? 

- Cliff Kincaid claims that gays are out to destory our military with disease-tainted blood.

- Laurie Higgins says Christians have to fight gays just like they fought Nazis.

- Rena Lindevaldsen has worked tirelessly representing a woman who fled the country rather than allow her former lesbian partner to see their daughter.

- Robert Knight comared gay marriage to Pearl Harbor.

- The only reason anyone even knows the name Ryan Sorba is because he launched into an anti-gay rant at CPAC.

- And Matt Barber is the sort of person who says there is nothing acceptable about "one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it 'love'" and whose career, from day one, has been rooted in his virulent animosity toward gays.

And Peter LaBarber is the man who personally invited all of these activists to come a "teach" at his conference - and he chose them specifically because of their unabashed militant hostility toward gays.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • PFAW: People For the American Way, Public Citizen Launch Constitutional Amendment Pledge Campaign to Undo Citizens United.
  • Steve Benen: Meet Shirley Sherrod.
  • Jonathan Chait: The Journolist Conspiracy Continues.
  • Evan McMorris-Santoro: Mosque Ado About Fear-Mongering: Right Wing Takes On Muslim Worship Anywhere And Everywhere.
  • John Aravosis: I just took DOD's confidential DADT survey of the troops - three times!
  • Think Progress: Washington Times Runs Another Picture Of Kagan In A Turban To Claim She Will Impose Shariah Law On America.
  • Andy Kroll: Sharron Angle's Racist Tea Partier Problem.
  • Media Matters: The right wing's convenient Mark Williams amnesia.
  • Jim Burroway: Mississippi School District Settles With Lesbian Student Over Canceled Prom.
  • Jillian Rayfield: Good As Goldline: Congress And CA Law Enforcement Probing Glenn Beck's Favorite Gold Seller.
  • Justin Elliot: Vitter opponent sleeping with stepson's wife.

Fox News: "Fair and Balanced"

On Tuesday, we received a media request from Fox News, asking if someone from People For the American Way would be willing to appear on their program "America’s Newsroom" the following morning to discuss what they are calling "Texas Textbook Wars."

As we have been following the issue closely, we felt prepared to discuss it while being fully aware that Fox's coverage of the issue has been, top date, somewhat less than objective. Nonetheless, we agreed to appear on this segment, only to be informed shortly thereafter that the segment would have to be bumped from Wednesday's program, due to the need to cover the results of Tuesday's various primary elections. 

That seemed entirely reasonable and when Fox asked if we'd be willing to re-schedule the segment for the same time on Thursday, we agreed.  But then, late on Wednesday, we were informed by Fox that the segment was being dropped entirely and that we wouldn't be appearing on the program to discuss this topic. 

Again, that was perfectly understandable as these things happen. 

But all of that took place behind the scenes at PFAW, leaving me was unaware that our participation in the segment had been canceled.  As such, I tuned into Fox's "American's Newsroom" yesterday morning expecting to see our Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery on the program discussing this issue ... but instead, this is what I saw:

Fox had dropped us from this segment and instead decided to just give "concerned parent" Terry Ann Kelly three minutes to explain how conservatives simply want to add some "balance" to the curriculum by teaching children about their religious freedoms.  

Of course, Kelly is a bit more than just some "concerned parent":

Terry Ann Kelly has an expansive background in public speaking, radio and television. Over the past twenty years she has been the host for numerous local, regional and nationally syndicated radio programs. She has taught public speaking and Business Communication classes at the university level for Baylor and Dallas Baptist University.

Inspiring audiences to impact their world, Terry Ann enjoys speaking to organizations and women’s events across the country on topics varying from home and family life to moral and social issues. She has appeared on programs such as Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, seen by over 5 million viewers. She is the co-author of the book, The Power of a Positive Friend (Howard Publishing) and writes articles for magazines and newspapers. She founded Students Standing Strong in 2004.

So after asking us to come on to debate this issue, Fox canceled on us, telling us that they weren't going to run the segment ... and then proceeded to still run the segment, with only the conservative side represented.

Preparing For the Inevitable Fight Over Immigration Reform

Yesterday, People For the American Way released our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus entitled "(P)reviewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration Reform" which lays out the attacks the Right used to fight efforts at immigration reform in the past and will undoubtedly deploy again the issue is taken up by Congress in the near future: 

The public debate over comprehensive immigration reform in 2006 and 2007 was marked by appalling anti-immigrant rhetoric and was accompanied by a rise in anti-Latino hate crimes tracked by the FBI. In a report last year, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights called "the legitimization and mainstreaming of virulently anti-immigrant rhetoric" one of the "most disturbing developments of the past few years." Among the pundits promoting "fear and loathing" on cable television was Glenn Beck, who said "our country is on fire, and the fuel is illegal immigration." Since then, the swine flu scare and the deep economic recession in the United States have given right-wing opponents of comprehensive immigration reform new fuel for inflaming anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. In September 2008, for instance, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin even blamed "illegal immigrants" for the mortgage crisis.

The 2006-2007 push for comprehensive immigration reform was supported by the Bush administration, much of America's business and labor establishments, and congressional leaders from both parties. But in spite of that broad support, the passage of reform was derailed by right-wing pundits who inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment, some members of Congress who gleefully participated in the fearmongering, and others who were simply afraid to resist it.

In October 2008, the Anti-Defamation League criticized anti-immigrant groups for utilizing the strategies of hate groups and "resorting to hateful and dehumanizing stereotypes and outright bigotry to demonize immigrants." To the categories identified by the ADL we can now add demagoguery over the swine flu virus and exploitation of the nation's economic woes.

Here is a review of the rhetorical strategies used to inflame anti-immigrant sentiment and build political opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.

The report lays out nine specifc attacks the Right has used in the past to kill immigration reform legislation:

1: Appeal to Racial Fear and The 'Brown' Threat to 'White' America - "What is happening to us? An immigrant invasion of the United States from the Third World, as America's white majority is no longer even reproducing itself." - Pat Buchanan

2: Appeal to Racial Resentment by Portraying Immigrant Rights Advocates as Racists -- "[NCLR is] the Ku Klux Klan of the Hispanic people" - Michael Savage

3: Portray Immigrants and Their Supporters as Invaders, Conquerors, Enemies of the U.S. - "The homegrown multiculti-mau-mau-ers know exactly what they believe, and they know exactly what they are doing. They aim to mainstream the 'Stolen Land' mantra and pervert history. They aim to obliterate America's borders by sheer demographic and political force." - Michelle Malkin

4: Portray Immigrants as Criminals and Terrorists - "Illegal immigration" is a "slow-motion Holocaust," and a "slow-motion terrorist attack on the United States." - Congressman Steve King

5: Portray Immigrants as Carriers of Disease and Weapons of Bio-Terrorism - "The next time you eat in a restaurant or sleep in a hotel or motel....just remember to bring your own food, dishes, untensils [sic], glasses, towels, and maybe your own water. The person who cooked your meal or made your bed may very well be the one who picked your fruit and vegetables, yesterday....and we've heard the stories about what they do in the fields....haven't we?" - Mothers Against Illegal Aliens

6: Stop Reform by Shouting 'Amnesty' - "'Comprehensive' is the code word for amnesty." - Pat Buchanan

7: Denigrate Reform Efforts as Vote-Buying -- "The Democrats know it's to their advantage to bring in Third World hordes who will one day become Democratic voters." - Rick Scarborough

8: Portray Anti-Immigrant Stance as 'Pro-Worker' (While Voting Against Worker Interests) -- "If they were not in the country, we wouldn't have to worry about emergency room or health insurance costs at all. And Americans would have these jobs." - Congressman Virgil Goode

9: Push Divisive Black-Brown Wedge - "[Illegal immigration is] the greatest threat to black people since slavery." - Ted Hayes

For those who are committed to passing much-needed immigration reform, it is vital to know the various strategies used by anti-immigrant, right-wing activists in the past ... and that is exactly what our latest report seeks to chronicle and analyze.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Statement: People For the American Way Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Undo Supreme Court Decision.
  • Yes, we should all be focusing on slavery's good old days.
  • Here's something you don't hear everyday:  a Senator boldly declaring "I believe in racial and ethnic profiling."
  • Did Prop 8 supporters drop two witnesses because said witnessed feared the repercussion of testifying, as they claimed?  Doesn't look like it.
  • Finally, did newly minted Senator Scott Brown endorse a Birther candidate for Congress or did said candidate go rogue?

David Barton: "Expert"

It is no secret that we have not been overly impressed with David Barton's various titles or his accuracy or his "expertise" over the years, which is why we were rather confused when the Texas State Board of Education named him to serve on its panel of "experts" to redesign the state's social studies curriculum.

Want to know why?  Well, today Barton provides a perfect example in an email he sent out defending his role in the process in which he makes this patently false claim:

Groups such as the Texas Freedom Network (the state arm of the radical People for the American Way) joined with other radicals in the Religious Left to denounce my mentions of Christianity. They nationally distributed a press release of outrageously false claims that were soon parroted by ABC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc.

I have no idea where Barton got the idea that TFN is in any way affiliated with PFAW, much less a "state arm" of this organization.  

TFN is a great organization that does great work, especially covering the very issue Barton is writing about. And while we do share their mission to advance "a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right," the two organizations are in no way affiliated.  

If Barton has some actual evidence that PFAW and TFN are affiliated, I'd love to see it because I 've been working here for ten years and I know nothing about it.  

Good work on your choice of "experts" there, Texas Board of Education.

A Useful Explanation of Current Church-State Law

Today, the Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs released a document entitled "Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law."

The document's drafting committee included everyone from former staff members of the ACLU and People for the American Way to Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and representatives from Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice.  The document seeks to explain church-state law as it stands today:

The drafters’ purpose in crafting this statement is to help foster an accurate understanding of current law and improve our national dialogue on these issues. While there is disagreement among the drafters about the merits of some of the court decisions and laws mentioned in the document, the drafters agree that current law protects the rights of people to express their religious convictions and practice their faiths on government property and in public life as described in the statement. In other words, while this diverse group often disagrees about how the law should address issues regarding the intersection of religion and government, it agrees in many cases on what the law is today. More broadly, the drafters also agree that religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, is a fundamental, inalienable right for all people, religious and nonreligious, and that there is a need to correct misunderstandings about this right. The joint statement, which is formatted in a Q and A style, seeks to provide accessible and useful information for Americans about this area of law.

The document itself can be found here [PDF].  And here is the press release announcing the statement:

As the role of religion in public life continues to spark intense political debate and high-profile court cases, a group of diverse leaders from religious and secular organizations has issued the most comprehensive joint statement of current law to date on legal issues dividing church and state. Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Christian leaders from the evangelical, mainline and Catholic traditions joined with civil liberties leaders to draft Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law, released Tuesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.

Are persons elected or nominated to serve as government officials required to place their hands on the Bible when making oaths or affirmations? May elected officials reference religious ideas and discuss their personal religious beliefs while operating in their official capacities? Are individuals and groups permitted to use government property for religious activities and events? Must secular nongovernmental employers accommodate employees’ religious practices? These are just a few of the questions that the diverse group of leaders sought to answer in the 32-page document.

“The role of religion in public life has long been a source of controversy and litigation,” said Melissa Rogers, director of Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, which produced the document. “We have brought together a diverse group of experts on law and religion to clarify what current law has to say about some of these matters.”

...

The 35 questions and answers that comprise the joint statement address religion and politics; religious gatherings on governmental property; religious expression in the workplace; and chaplains in legislative bodies, prisons and the military; and other issues.

It's Pat! -- Vintage Pat Robertson, In His Own Words

People For the American Way was founded in the early 80s to counteract the nascent Religious Right -- Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in particular. Through the 80s and 90s, PFAW staff recorded virtually every episode of the 700 Club.

In the lead up to Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign, we released a compilation of clips highlighting his controversial and outlandish views on the issues of the day. The compilation came to be known as the "Pat Robertson Film Festival." We recently posted all seven segments on YouTube.

Robertson on the Family and Women's Rights:

Robertson on Armageddon and Hurricane Gloria:

Robertson on Running for President:

Robertson on PFAW, His Opponents, and Freedom of Speech:

Robertson on Public Education:

Robertson on the Courts and Constitution:

Robertson on Social Security and Banking System:

PFAW to Americans for Limited Government: "What Are You Talking About?"

Last week, we released our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus entitled "Rise of the New McCarthyism: How Right Wing Extremists Try to Paralyze Government Through Ideological Smears and Baseless Attacks" which contained this one passage that mentioned Americans For Limited Government:

Among the most recent targets is presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett, a longtime associate of the president’s. A group calling itself Americans for Limited Government has launched a campaign against her, claiming that her role is “to enforce Barack Obama’s will inside and outside the Obama White House” and saying:

A radical leftist with a ruthless agenda, she is the Obama advisor most responsible both for originating and orchestrating his most egregious attempts to impose a socialist regime upon the American people.

But apparently that passing reference really chapped ALG's hide, so the organization has now called us out

Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today directly challenged People for the American Way Chair Lara Bergthold to substantiate her organization’s claims that ALG had engaged in a “McCarthy-era” attack against top advisor to Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, on the ALG website, StopJarrett.com.

“We ask you to find one factual error on StopJarrett.com,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Bergthold. “Unlike the People for the American Way, whose website is riddled with inaccuracies, StopJarrett.com is meticulously researched. Perhaps the reason you don’t like it is because Ms. Jarrett is a radical who should have never achieved her position of power.”

Give us a break! We said in our report that ALG and others on the Right are behaving like Joseph McCarthy, "who frightened many Americans with charges that the government was infested with communist sympathizers."  The fact that ALG declares that Jarrett is "responsible both for originating and orchestrating [Obama's] most egregious attempts to impose a socialist regime upon the American people" is proof of our claim.  End of debate.

After all the Bluster, Religious Right 'Rally' on Hate Crimes a Bust

For weeks, the most anti-gay fringe of the Religious Right has been building up Monday's "rally” in front of the U.S. Department of Justice as an in-your-face challenge to the hate crimes law and the Obama administration.  Organizers like Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission promised some fire and brimstone in order to see whether the DOJ would have the cojones to arrest them: 

"We're basically going to defy the law, and challenge it," Cass told WND. "We're going to declare the whole counsel of God, including those parts that some may consider 'inciting a hate crime' to see if the attorney general is going to come down and arrest a group of peaceful clergy exercising their First Amendment rights."
 
The parade of players on the far anti-gay fringes of the Religious Right grew seemingly by the day. Among those whose participation suggested some fireworks were Scott Lively, author of The Pink Swastika and supporter of anti-gay repression in Uganda; Rick Scarborough, a self-described “Christocrat” who railed against “Sodomites” at the recent How to Take Back America conference, and Gordon Klingenschmitt, who had responded to the signing of the hate crimes law by quoting Bible verses that call homosexuals worthy of death. Before the event started, Klingenschmitt saw my People For the American Way pin and said he wanted to make sure I had a copy of his statement. It included these verses:
 
Romans 1:32 – “Men with men working that which is unseemly…who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.”
 
Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a  woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
 
But Klingenschmitt didn’t utter any of these verses. Neither did anyone else.   Maybe someone  decided that footage of Religious Right leaders reading scripture calling for death for gays was not, perhaps, a great public relations move. Or perhaps the presence of a dozen or more college-age counter protestors holding up signs saying “My love is legit” threw them off message.
 
Indeed, a number of speakers seemed to be tailoring their remarks to the counterprotestors, welcoming them to the event, inviting them to pray and repent along with the speakers.   Speaker after speaker insisted that they were motivated only by love for gay people and their desire to protect their right to offer homosexuals hope and God’s word.
 
Sure, we heard many of the Religious Right’s standard lies about the hate crimes bill being an effort to silence Christians, and, of course, Janet Porter waving her book about “the criminalization of Christianity.” We heard the inflammatory and inaccurate characterization of the bill as the “Pedophile Protection Act.” We heard from a Philadelphia grandmother with Repent America who in the Right’s inaccurate retelling, was arrested only for sharing the gospel with attendees at a gay pride event. We heard essentially irrelevant examples of anti-gay preachers being suppressed in other countries which don’t have the First Amendment protections Americans enjoy.  And we heard some preaching that God and the Bible say homosexuality is wrong. In other words, we heard standard and typically false Religious Right talking points about the hate crimes law, and a bit of standard anti-gay theology that is unquestionably protected by the First Amendment.
 
But there was nothing that anyone could remotely consider incitement to a hate crime, and nothing that even these speakers could say with a straight face had any chance of getting them arrested. Even Matt Barber, who typically does not shy away from disparaging comments about gay people and their supporters, gave a relatively dry recitation of the Liberty Counsel’s assertions that the law is unconstitutional.
 
So, what happened?  Did these culture warriors essentially chicken out? Did they feel outnumbered? In spite of the event being billed as a “rally,” the number of speakers gathered behind the microphone seemed to outnumber the number of people attending in support of their message. The “love is legit” folks had the most visible presence. Maybe the organizers just figured out that a “we love the homosexuals” message would play better than “God wants them dead.” 

We'll have some video posted soon.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • People For The American Way has sent a letter to the Maine Ethics Commission regarding the National Organization of Marriage's refusal to release its 990 tax form.
  • How many people attended the anti-marriage "People's Rally"? The number keeps getting inflated.
  • Think Progress: McConnell: The Public Option ‘May Cost You Your Life.’
  • Minnesota Independent: Bachmann endorses conference featuring speaker who links Obama, Hitler.
  • Washington Monthly: President Honors Troops, Cheney Attacks President.
  • Good As You: The Maine Family Policy Council wants evangelicals to rest up and prepare to battle gays over Question One. Ya know, so that we "abnormal" gays don't kill them while they sleep.
  • Finally, Alan Colmes declared this his Wingnut of the Day, and with good reason.

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated

Catholic San Francisco reviews Bill Donohue's latest book, "Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America" and I have to say there is a sense of pride in finding out that we rank among the groups and people that he hates:

About saboteurs, for whom he uses “extremists,” “radicals” and “nihilists” as synonyms, Donohue writes, “The goal is not reform: it is an attempt to gut core beliefs and practices. And to a disturbing extent, the secularists have succeeded in turning things upside down and inside out.”

Among those he views as “the radical secular activists out to disable America” are the American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League, People for the American Way, National Abortion Rights Defense League, Catholics for Choice and the Democratic Party. Lawyers and Hollywood are named, too. Regarding the latter, he uses films such as “Priest,” “Dogma,” “The Golden Compass” and “The Da Vinci Code,” and refers to the short-lived 1997 TV show “Nothing Sacred.” That chapter also includes an examination of the controversy that surrounded “The Passion of the Christ.”

RWWIF: Religious Right Targets Maine & Marriage Equality

Our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus has been posted, entitled "Religious Right Targets Maine & Marriage Equality with Money, Anti-Gay Swat Teams and Reprise of Prop-8’s False Fearmongering Strategies":

National Religious Right organizations that bankrolled the effort to put Proposition 1 on the ballot in Maine descended on the state this past weekend with a SWAT team of anti-gay leaders and veterans of last year’s Prop 8 battle in California . The Religious Right’s collective targeting of Maine ’s new marriage equality law demonstrates the huge importance right-wing leaders have placed on reversing gains by marriage equality advocates in the northeast. Religious Right activists must not be allowed to set back this achievement with another massively funded campaign of deception. People For the American Way urges its members and activists to lend support to the excellent Mainer-led campaign No on 1/Protect Maine Equality.

...

Earlier this year, after hard work by local organizers, Maine legislators passed, and the governor signed, marriage equality legislation. Religious Right leaders responded by pouring money into the state to help gather signatures for a veto initiative, and they have imported the strategist and strategies that fueled the dishonorable Prop 8 campaign in California . It’s urgently important to prevent the Religious Right from turning the milestone in Maine into yet another victory in a nationwide war against equality. Equality in Maine must stand. Non-Maine residents can support the No on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign with donations, participation in phone banking, or even by spending a week in October volunteering for the campaign.

Joseph Farah Fights Back

Yesterday I wrote a post about Jon Henke's call for a boycott for any conservatives that "choose to support [WorldNetDaily] through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration."

In response to this call, I pointed out that WND founder Joseph Farah has been a staple at right-wing events and that if you plan on boycotting anyone who "collaborates" with WND, you'd have to boycott pretty much the entire conservative movement.

Today, Farah shot back at Henke and those who have taken up his call, as well as Media Matters and yours truly:

Last, but not least – because more will surely be coming on this epic journalistic scandal committed by WND – the always thoughtful folks at People for the American Way got their two cents in by suggesting the out-of-context quote picked up by the Boston Herald should require an all-out boycott of any organization that "will not renounce any further support of WorldNetDaily."

Am I scared?

No, folks. I'm not.

I didn't found WorldNetDaily to be esteemed by my colleagues.

I didn't found it to make People for the American Way or Media Matters happy.

I didn't found it because I wanted to be part of the "conservative" movement.

I founded it because there was a crying need for an independent brand of journalism beholden only to the truth.

And we will continue to pursue the truth no matter where it leads.

I hope you appreciate that WorldNetDaily difference.

First of all, we did not suggest a boycott of "any organization that 'will not renounce any further support of WorldNetDaily'," Henke did:

I think it's time to find out what conservative/libertarian organizations support WND through advertising, list rental or other commercial collaboration (email me if you know of any), and boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily.

Secondly, Farah blames the call for a boycott on this recent article:

Is the federal government building secret camps to lock up people who criticize President Barack Obama?

Will it truck off young people to camps to brainwash them into liking Obama’s agenda? Are government officials planning to replicate the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, using the guillotine to silence their domestic enemies?

...

In a second warning, the Web site Worldnetdaily.com says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents.

Jerome Corsi, the author of "The Obama Nation," an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress "appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."

Farah insists that the article took Corsi's quote out of context:

Notice the partial quote. What's left out are some key words. Let's look at the full, unexpurgated sentence in Corsi's original story: "The proposed bill, which has received little mainstream media attention, appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."

Apparently, Farah thinks that the words "the proposed bill, which has received little mainstream media attention" somehow make Corsi's assertion about government concentration camps less crazy.

And, it should be noted, it is not just Corsi who is making these sorts of outlandish claims in the pages of WND - Janet Porter is making them as well. Heck, just a few weeks ago, Porter's entire WND column was dedicated to furthering her belief that there is some conspiracy afoot to kill millions of Americans via a flu vaccine.

Farah says he founded founded WND "because there was a crying need for an independent brand of journalism beholden only to the truth."

And it is thanks to Farah's deep commitment to the truth that we have been graced with some of WND's most amazing revelations ... like the fact that soy makes you gay.

Why Can't Peter Read?

In a post I wrote yesterday about the Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ Conference, I pointed out that Peter LaBarbera is calling for a "comprehensive federal study on the health risks of homosexual sex," because gay sex is, among other things, more dangerous than smoking. 

Today, LaBarbera responded with a new post claiming that he never made such a claim:

Here’s a People for the American Way report attacking AFTAH that says that I have called homosexual sex more dangerous than smoking, which I did not claim in our original report. In fact, I think some “gay” behaviors like sodomy are more dangerous than cigarettes — although there are many variables here that make comparisons difficult.

Well, here is the original report:

The very first line says "More Dangerous than Smoking?" next to a photo of an ashtray.  What else could that mean? And later, LaBarbera's post says this (emphasis added):

LaBarbera read from a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) report explaining why “men who have sex with men” (MSM) cannot donate blood due to the high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases linked to MSM. He noted that since government agencies and politicians are active in confronting the health risks of smoking (using taxpayer dollars), they should do the same for homosexual sex — especially between men — which appears to be as dangerous or more so than smoking cigarettes.

How can he claim that he never suggested that gay sex was more dangerous than smoking when he did so repeatedly? 

And then, not content with falsely accusing us of lying, he also declares that our post advocated for something entirely unrelated: 

It’s utterly beyond me as to how LaBarbera concluded that my post criticizing his effort to declare gay sex more dangerous than smoking by relying solely on a document pertaining to restrictions on blood donations was, in reality, a call by this organization "for [an] end to gay blood donation ban."

So not only did LaBarbera accuse us of claiming he said something he never said (though, in fact, he did) , he in turn accused us of saying something we never said.

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people for the american way Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Wednesday 08/24/2011, 5:48pm
Americans for Legal Immigration PAC’s William Gheen is out in force after we at People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported on an interview with Janet Mefferd in which he said that “extra-political activities” that he described as “illegal and violent” might be the only way for people to stop the "Dictator Barack Obama." Gheen told Mefferd that the Obama administration is “putting out videos and propaganda telegraphing what I believe to be a conflict with White America they’re preparing for after they get another 10 or 15... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 08/12/2011, 2:48pm
People For the American Way is preparing to move its headquarters to another location in Washington, D.C. , after more than 20 years in the same space. That has meant a monumental effort to sort through decades of accumulated paper and figure out what to do with video recordings in more formats than you could imagine – and endless save-or-toss decisions. Fortunately, earlier this year PFAW’s huge library of primary source materials on the Religious Right political movement was transferred to the University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Comparative Study of... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 07/26/2011, 1:40pm
Today during Faith and Freedom, Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel said that liberalism is a “rebellion and a hatred toward God.” Barber will find himself in good company in the conservative movement, as Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) similarly declared that “at the heart of liberalism is really a hatred for God” and the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer argued that “liberals hate God.” While Barber tried to explain that he was only referring to liberal beliefs rather than liberals themselves, he went on to say that “their hearts are hardened,... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Monday 07/25/2011, 6:19pm
Frank Graffney says the terrorist attacks in Norway demonstrates the urgency to fight…you guessed it, Sharia law. Live Prayer’s Bill Keller says that while a Christian who commits acts of violence is an apostate, “a Muslim commits acts of terror, killing innocent people, they are simply following the teachings of their false religion.” Conservatives defend Herman Cain for saying communities can ban mosques; claim states' rights trump freedom of religion. Meanwhile, Cain is skipping an interview with Stephen Colbert. Michael Brown, author... MORE >
Miranda Blue, Wednesday 07/20/2011, 5:30pm
Cross-Posted on the People For blog Here at People For the American Way, we’ve spent the last several weeks marveling as Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans a blockbuster Christian prayer rally in Houston, gathering around him a remarkable collection of Religious Right extremists – from a pastor who claims that the Statue of Liberty is a “demonic idol” to a self-described “apostle” who blamed last year’s mysterious bird deaths in Arkansas on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Perry claims the event is apolitical, but it is conveniently... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 07/13/2011, 10:25am
Last night Rachel Maddow looked into the radical views of the preachers and activists that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is partnering with to put on his The Response prayer rally. Utilizing research from People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, Maddow featured video of Mike Bickle, John Hagee, Bryan Fischer, Cindy Jacobs, John Benefiel and C. Peter Wagner, and discussed Perry’s attempts to win support from the Religious Right as he weighs a run for the presidency. Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 06/22/2011, 11:14am
Last week, we released a new report on the unrelenting torrent of bigotry that is spread by the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer on a daily basis and an accompanying video chronicling some of his "highlights," while our colleague Peter Montgomery discussed Fisher and the AFA in the context of Gov. Rick Perry's prayer rally with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC. Fischer has already made it clear that he does not particularly appreciate all of the attention we have devoted to covering him here, so it was not surprising that he spent nearly a half-hour of his program on... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 06/21/2011, 5:36pm
Newt Gingrich’s campaign continues to implode. Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel thinks People For the American Way and other members of the “intolerant left” are going to purge religion from the US. Focus on the Family is, ironically, upset that gays are political. Abby Johnson has signed on as a blogger for Life News, even though her story about leaving Planned Parenthood falls short of reality. Finally, the Family Research Council pleads that we pray against marriage equality in New York. MORE >