Republican Party

Bad News For Republicans Hoping For A Platform Less Hostile To LGBT Equality

The platform approved at the Republican National Convention in 2012 was, we said at the time, “a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing, and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP.” Every attempt at moderating language — whether on equality for LGBT people or the right of D.C. residents to congressional representation — was shot down by the far-right activists on the party’s platform committee.

At the convention that year, supporters of the LGBT-friendly Log Cabin Republicans vowed that things were changing, and that never again would the Republican platform include anti-equality language about “preserving and protecting traditional marriage” as “a union of one man and one woman” that “must be upheld as the national standard.” A group called Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry launched a million-dollar “Reform the Platform” campaign, which has since been absorbed by American Unity Fund, a pro-marriage-equality group affiliated with hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer, a major Republican Party donor.

But the road to a more gay-friendly Republican platform is going to be a rocky one. Earlier this month, the Louisiana Republican Party chose its two delegates to the platform committee: stridently anti-gay Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and Sandy McDade, political chairman of Eagle Forum, which “adamantly opposes” marriage equality.

Four years ago, FRC and Eagle Forum teamed up to make anti-equality language in the platform even stronger. Perkins bragged at the time:

With a presence in the committee meetings, the FRC Action staff has been able to help delegates hold the line of social issues.

Just this morning, our efforts made what was already a good document even better. Before this week, the GOP’s draft platform included solid language defending the family – and FRC Action, in tandem with Eagle Forum, made it even stronger.

In a press release celebrating his re-selection to the platform committee this month, Perkins again boasted about the role he had in shaping 2012’s anti-gay platform:

In 2012, my role as a delegate gave me the opportunity to play a key role in amending the marriage plank, which led to the committee approving a much stronger version than 2008's. We also tightened language on obscenity and pornography, protected conscience rights, explained how abortion hurts women, and supported the Second Amendment in D.C.

Both Perkins and McDade are backing Ted Cruz, even though Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly is in the Trump camp. Perkins is a member of Cruz’s Religious Liberty Advisory Council, which suggests that he’ll also be pushing for anti-gay platform language under the banner of religious liberty.

Cruz Backer Bryan Fischer Calls For Ban On Mosques To 'De-Islamize' America

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, long a font of anti-Muslim bile and other bigotry, has posted a call to “de-Islamize” America.

Fischer’s “de-Islamization” program has three planks, one of which has already been promoted by GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump:

  1. Immediately suspend immigration by Muslims. Fischer says that “unvetted, untrammeled immigration of Muslims to the U.S. is a form of insanity.” Islam, he says, “is the Ebola virus of culture.” He says, “Preventing carriers of this cultural virus from entering America is simply common sense…”
  2. No More Mosques. Fischer says there is no constitutional problem with state governments banning mosques “if we use the Constitution given to us by the Founders and not the one mangled by the courts.” Fischer argues that the First Amendment’s establishment clause does not apply to the states, which he says “have unilateral authority to regulate religious expression within their borders.” In other words, he would see no constitutional barrier to Texas, for example, allowing only Baptists to worship openly.
  3. No more Muslims in the military. Fischer says Congress can and should bar Muslims from service in the armed forces.

Earlier this month, Fischer was scheduled to participate in a campaign rally with presidential candidate Ted Cruz. The Cruz campaign ended up canceling his visit to Mississippi, saying the candidate did not feel well.

There’s no reason to think, however, that Fischer’s most recent anti-Muslim comments will threaten his standing with the Cruz campaign, which recently named Frank Gaffney, one of the country’s most vitriolic anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists, to Cruz’s national security advisory team. Cruz himself, in his response to recent terrorist bombings in Brussels, called for empowering law enforcement “to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

 

Trump Turns To Far-Right Heritage Foundation For Future Supreme Court Nominees

While many Americans grimly wonder which would be worse for the country, President Donald Trump or President Ted Cruz, one issue isn’t providing much help: Both candidates are making it clear that their potential nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court would be terrible.

We reported yesterday on Cruz’s suggestions that he would nominate his best friend in the Senate, Utah’s Mike Lee. Under his extreme views of the Constitution, much of what the federal government does is unconstitutional, including Social Security and Medicare.

What about Trump? Last year, Trump called Clarence Thomas his favorite justice. This year, he declared Justice Antonin Scalia’s death a “massive setback” for the conservative movement and joined right-wing conspiracy theorists in raising suspicions that Scalia had been murdered.

Last month Trump tossed out the names of two right-wing appeals court judges, William Pryor and Diane Sykes, as two potential nominees from a Trump administration. Pryor calls Roe v. Wade and Miranda v. Arizona, two landmark cases protecting the rights of women and criminal defendants, respectively, “the worst examples of judicial activism.” Sykes, like Pryor, has upheld damaging voter ID laws. She also argued that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to receive government subsidies regardless of whether they engage in discrimination.

Now, Trump is pledging to release a list of seven to 10 potential justices from which he commits to choosing a nominee – and that list is being put together with help from the far-right Heritage Foundation. Heritage is a massively funded right-wing powerhouse that is home to, among others, anti-marriage-equality activist Ryan Anderson, who is urging social conservatives to resist the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

Heritage and its more explicitly political arm Heritage Action have demanded even greater obstructionism from congressional Republicans. Even before Scalia’s death, the group had urged the GOP to refuse to confirm any executive branch or judicial nominations except for appointments dealing with national security. Heritage senior fellow Hans von Spakovsky has even demanded that Scalia be allowed to “vote” – even though he is dead – on a case that right-wing activists were hoping the court would use to destroy public sector unions.

Trump met in Washington yesterday with congressional Republicans, and at a press conference he pushed back against accusations by Cruz that he couldn’t be counted on to name a conservative to the court. “Some people say maybe I’ll appoint a liberal judge,” he said. “I won’t.” He promised that his nominee would be “pro-life” and “conservative.”

Trump also explicitly warned (or taunted, depending on your view) Republicans opposed to his nomination that if they support a third-party candidate against him, they will allow a Democrat to name Supreme Court justices who “will never allow this country to be the same.”

Among the Republicans huddling with Trump? Heritage Foundation president and former Sen. Jim DeMint.

NOM's Brian Brown Asks For Money to Make Kasich 'Toxic'

Religious Right leaders who back Ted Cruz for president are beginning to turn their fire on Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose continued presence in the race they believe is preventing Cruz from defeating Donald Trump. Last week Glenn Beck slammed Kasich as a delusional “son of a bitch” who might go down in history as the guy who “possibly destroyed the republic.”

Today the National Organization for Marriage, which endorsed Cruz in December, sent out a plea for money to go after Kasich, who NOM’s president, Brian Brown, describes as “a liberal Republican who has abandoned the fight for marriage, is extremely weak on religious liberty and who cannot be trusted to appoint strong, conservative constitutionalist judges to the US Supreme Court who would reverse the Court's illegitimate marriage ruling.”

Brown suggests that Kasich, who cannot mathematically win a majority of delegates prior to the Republican convention, is hoping either that “the GOP power brokers” will hand him the nomination or that he can at least build enough bargaining power to cut a deal for himself at the expense of the country.

“If you liked John Boehner, you’ll like John Kasich – lot’s [sic] of talk but no guts to actually fight for conservative principles like preserving marriage,” writes Brown, who complains that Kasich would “do nothing” to help business owners who run into trouble for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples. “That is why NOM is committed to ensuring that the American people learn the truth about Kasich and make him toxic as a potential vice presidential pick.”

More from Brown:

I'm asking for your immediate financial help so that we can get the truth about John Kasich out to voters and the media and stop any consideration of him as the GOP nominee, or even the vice presidential selection. Your membership contribution of at least $35 will go a long way toward helping us shine the light of truth on the Kasich record.

NOM is one of the few groups willing to take on the politically-correct yet powerfully wrong elite in America, which is what John Kasich represents. But to be effective, we need to increase our membership dues from grassroots supporters like you. Please act today to make a membership contribution of at least $35 which will allow us to take the fight to Kasich and others who disrespect the importance of marriage and refuse to protect the rights of average Americans to live out their beliefs about marriage in their daily lives.

Please make your membership contribution of at least $35 today so that we can ramp up our efforts to derail Kasich, the last remaining establishment Republican who has abandoned us when we needed him most. If you can afford to give more than the minimum $35, please do so.

Thank you for standing strong for God's design for marriage, and for helping us fight the PC crowd that refuses to stand with us for the truth of marriage and religious liberty.

What Would It Look Like If Ted Cruz Put His Pal Mike Lee on the Supreme Court?

Back in December, Kyle reported that Glenn Beck, who believes Ted Cruz is anointed by God to be president, suggested that a President Cruz should nominate Utah Sen. Mike Lee to the Supreme Court. This weekend, while campaigning in Utah, Cruz himself floated the prospect, saying Lee “would look good” on the court.

“Good” is not really the right word. “Terrifying” is more like it.

Lee, who calls Cruz his “best friend at work,” has perhaps the most extreme view of the Constitution of anyone in the Senate. Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution radically restricts the authority of the federal government. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.”

Lee dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a women’s right to abortion. He called the court’s marriage equality ruling a “breathtaking presumption of power.” People For the American Way noted in a 2010 report that Lee “has denounced as ‘domestic enemies’ those who disagree with his radically limited view” of the Constitution.

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

This list helps explain why right-wing law professor Jonathan Adler, a force behind the King v. Burwell challenge to the Affordable Care Act, has also suggested that the next Republican president should put Lee on the court.

For an ardent self-described constitutionalist, Lee has a lot of problems with the Constitution as amended over the years and as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Lee published a book last year called “Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document.” He believes the 16th amendment, allowing the federal government to collect income taxes, should be repealed, leaving it to the states to determine how they would tax their own citizens to pay for the extremely limited federal government that would fit his vision of the constitution. He also thinks the 17th Amendment was a mistake and thinks the power to elect U.S. senators should be taken away from voters and returned to state legislatures. He also wants to "clarify" the 14th Amendment through legislation to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are not citizens or legal residents and wants to amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and to impose congressional term limits. He supports a campaign by some right-wing activists for state legislators to convene an “Article V” convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution.

As a Senate candidate he said he would like to abolish the federal Departments of Energy and Education, dismantle the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and phase out Social Security altogether. As a senator, Lee orchestrated shutting down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare, even though Cruz took most of the blame for it.

Cruz and Lee share a sort of gleeful pride in playing the outsiders who have contempt for “the establishment.” Lee is reportedly the guy who suggested that Cruz run for Senate; he was among those who endorsed Cruz in his long-shot primary for his Senate seat. This month, he became the first of Cruz’s Senate colleagues to endorse his presidential run.

More than 50 Conservative Catholics Back Ted Cruz

The latest announcement in the Ted Cruz presidential campaign’s ongoing rollout of endorsements from right-wing leaders is a group of more than 50 “Catholic influencers” led by Robert George, the intellectual muscle for the Religious Right, and Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia and failed gubernatorial candidate. The campaign announced the endorsement of Robert George yesterday; some others on the list have also been announced previously.

Not surprisingly, the list of Catholics for Cruz is heavy on culture warriors who have been fighting to criminalize abortion and resist legal equality for LGBT people and same-sex couples. Although Cruz is not Catholic, he made a reference to the Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis, saying “we have an opportunity to protect the most vulnerable and safeguard the truth revealed through Scripture and the tradition of millennia.”

One eyebrow-raising name on the list is Anne Schlafly Cori, president of Missouri Eagle Forum and daughter of Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, who endorsed Donald Trump last week

Also on the list:

Right-Wing Radio Host Mark Levin Joins Team Cruz

Over the last few months Ted Cruz has repeatedly celebrated the endorsements he has received from an array of far-right, anti-gay, Christian-Nation activists. Now, with Marco Rubio’s campaign crumbling, Cruz is picking up more support from Republicans who want to keep Donald Trump from getting the nomination. Last night right-wing author and radio host Mark Levin jumped on the Cruz bandwagon, predicting that Cruz would “wipe the floor” with Hillary Clinton in a debate.

In a long and winding explanation that took about half an hour to finally get to his announcement that he is supporting Cruz, Levin talked about his studies of the founding era and about the changes that have taken place throughout American history to bring us to the point where the two political parties are both part of “the modern centralized socialist state.” And he used the opportunity to promote his books, including "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America," "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, Ameritopia," the "Liberty Amendments," and, most recently, "Plunder and Deceit."

When you consider the totality of a candidate’s life and career, Levin said, “it really is a simple decision, is it not? If you’re a conservative, if you’re a constitutionalist, if you’ve been a Tea Party activist, if you’re a Reaganite or a Reagan Democrat, it really is in the end a simple decision. At least it is for me.”

We need somebody who actually understands and comprehends America’s founding, why it’s important. We need somebody who understands how to get it back. Again, it’s not a put-down of Donald Trump. He has different strengths. But right now, we need to get our country back, our Constitution back, our civil society back, our families back. We need to defend our faith. And there’s only one person right now who understands that, and that’s Ted Cruz.

Levin also criticized “the Republican establishment” for their “outrageous” treatment of Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Rand Paul. “But the one they despised the most, and the one they despised the longest,” he said, “is Ted Cruz.” Members of the establishment hate Cruz, said Levin, for the same reason they hate movement conservatives who push elected officials to be true to conservative principles.

“The Republican establishment is as diabolical as it’s ever been,” he said. “Maybe even more so. Mitt Romney coming out and giving the speech he gave, was awful. It was cheap … If I have to choose between Donald Trump and the establishment, that’s not a hard choice, I choose Donald Trump,” who he said has more integrity than any congressional leaders. Republican insiders are attacking Trump because they want to impose their will, he said.  And there’s nobody who’s more anti-establishment than Cruz.

“We live in a post-constitutional period for the most part,” he complained. He has spent years railing against “entrenched Republicans,” he said, because they’re perfectly willing to go along with the direction of the country as long as they have some power. “The Republican ruling class stands in the way of us being able to nominate for president of the United States somebody who will begin the long road toward reversing course, somebody who can be relied on as a serious, principled, thoughtful, substantive conservative who has the courage, who has the motivation, who has the willpower to lead this nation, to lead this nation in a totally different direction.”

Here’s a sampling of Levin’s own “serious, principled, thoughtful, substantive” conservatism:

  • Levin suggested in 2013 that President Obama was organizing a Brownshirt paramilitary to defend and promote the Affordable Care Act.
  • He said in 2014 that President Obama’s Jewish donors are “self-haters” who “despise their own country.”
  • At the 2013 Values Voter Summit, Levin said President Obama, Congress and the Supreme Court were engaged in “tyranny” and said that Obama needs to “sit down and shut up.”
  • In 2014 he talked about a poll that asked people what would be the most positive thing about a Hillary Clinton presidency; more people mentioned the potential to elect a first woman president than anything else. Levin’s response:

"Hillary Clinton's gender? Do they mean her genitalia is her top 2016 selling point? Is that what that means?" Levin later said "But the key is it's her genitalia. That's why so many people would vote for her. I wonder if Bill Clinton would vote for her because of that. He seems to -- well, he likes genitalia but maybe not hers."

 

On Eve Of Super Tuesday Religious Right Continues To Split

On the eve of Super Tuesday, the dream of Christian-nation advocates like David Lane to get evangelicals to coalesce around one of their own in the Republican primary is fading away as Donald Trump pulls ahead of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in national polling, and among evangelical voters in particular.

The ongoing split is reflected among right-wing political leaders.  Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach both endorsed Trump for his anti-immigrant policies. But first-term Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, the former president of a Christian college, wrote a public letter explaining why he would not vote for Trump in the general election if he became the party’s nominee.

And while Ted Cruz, his father, and Glenn Beck are frantically making the case that Cruz is God’s chosen candidate for the presidency, one of the country’s most prominent Christian business leaders has endorsed Marco Rubio.

David Green is the founder of the Hobby Lobby arts & crafts empire.  Green and his family have become right-wing folk heroes for successfully arguing that their massive for-profit company deserved a religiously-based exemption from the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that its insurance plans include contraception. Over the weekend, Green declared Rubio “a man who is prepared to be president.”

Cruz continues to build his own list of often-extreme Religious Right backers.  Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, put out a video endorsement of Ted Cruz, who he called the most conservative candidate who can win the election. Johnson said Cruz will fix the economy by cutting taxes and regulation, “and he’s going to eliminate the IRS, and I like that.” Johnson also focused on the future of the Supreme Court.

Ted Cruz will make the right appointments on the Supreme Court. He’ll make conservative appointments. He’ll appoint justices that defend the sanctity of innocent human life and oppose abortion. He’ll appoint justices that protect your First Amendment freedom to believe and to live out your faith. He’ll appoint justices that will protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Johnson added that Cruz will rebuild the military, secure the border, and defeat and destroy ISIS. He said the fact that Cruz can’t get along with politicians in Washington, D.C. is a “badge of honor.”

Phyllis Schlafly Praises Jeff Sessions, Trump & Cruz, Warns GOP 'Kingmakers'

In her February newsletter,  which came out just after Sen. Jeff Sessions’ endorsement of Donald Trump, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly reproduced a column she wrote earlier in the month gushing about a round of interviews Sessions had given in which he said 2016 “is the last chance for the American people to take back control of their government.” Sessions helped Trump craft his immigration platform and previously backed his call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Here’s Schlafly:

“To win, Republicans need to demonstrate that they care about the average person who goes to work every day,” he added. Average Americans are tired of paying billions in welfare handouts to immigrants who are undermining U.S. wages. “People should have total confidence and a clear commitment on those issues. If they don’t, then they don’t have my vote,” he said…

Our immigration policy has been anti-American, decade after decade, and the voters need to know that 2016 might be our last chance to elect a president who can reduce this tide of illegals crossing our borders. The interests of working Americans must “be put first,” Sessions urged. “We need a president with the credibility to tell the world that the time of illegality is over. Do not come to this country unlawfully,” he said.

In the same column, Schlafly praised “outsider” candidates like Trump and Ted Cruz, and warned against “the Washington-based Republican Establishment” who she said are plotting to “take back control of the party from the outsiders and grassroots.” Among those she names as would-be “kingmakers” are House Speaker Paul Ryan – “who is openly contemptuous of Trump and has little use for Cruz” – and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who offended Schlafly by using her response to the State of the Union Address “to slam the ‘angriest voices’ in the presidential campaign and disavow the Republican front-runner’s popular call for a temporary pause in Muslim immigration.”

Schlafly vows that the Republican platform will be written by GOP delegates who are disappointed with the ineffectiveness of congressional Republicans and who “will have no use for Ryan’s open-borders ideology, which holds that anyone who can find a low-wage job should be allowed to settle in the United States.” Schlafly warns that a deadlocked convention could make  someone like Ryan the nominee. “Such an outcome,” she writes, “could destroy the Republican Party and guarantee a Democratic victory by causing disheartened grassroots voters to stay home and tempting an aggrieved candidate to mount a third-party or independent presidential campaign.”

In January, Schlafly declared that Donald Trump was “the only hope” to defeat the GOP’s “Kingmakers.”

Religious Right Leaders Let Mike Huckabee Down -- Again

As we noted earlier this week, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins recently helped lead an effort to get Religious Right leaders to rally around a single Republican presidential candidate in order to maximize the movement’s ability to get a nominee to their liking. Earlier this month, dozens of Religious Right leaders agreed to back Ted Cruz over Marco Rubio. Mike Huckabee, a favorite of many Religious Right activists in 2008, wasn’t even a finalist.

The National Review’s Tim Alberta reports that Mike Huckabee is disappointed by the development:

“For reasons I don’t fully understand, years and years of actually doing something and getting things done didn’t matter,” Huckabee said of the group’s deliberations. ”And I don’t understand that.”

…Huckabee, according to sources, has often reminded Perkins and his fellow influencers that a major reason he gave up his Fox News show and launched a 2016 campaign was because he expected to have their backing. Their decision to instead support Cruz, then, seemed to sting Huckabee personally as much as politically. “You know, everybody has a right to do what they want to do. But it was disappointing to me. These are guys I’ve worked with for years and years. Many of them I’ve helped with their projects and their various endeavors,” Huckabee says, shaking his head. A moment later, he adds, “But you know, that’s life.”

It’s not the first time evangelical leaders have disappointed Huckabee. In the 2008 Republican primary race, Huckabee surprised many when he won the Iowa caucus, eventually winning victories in eight states. But many Religious Right leaders at the time weren’t initially convinced he could win and were slow to rally around him. James Dobson didn’t endorse Huckabee until after McCain’s successes on Super Tuesday. Huckabee did not keep his frustrations to himself when he eventually dropped out of the 2008 race.

The Southern Baptist minister said leaders who stood behind pulpits and shared biblical stories of faith were far less likely to put faith in Huckabee’s candidacy. 

“Some people really worshipped at the altar of electability rather than to be faithful and loyal to the principles they were supposed to be committed to,” Huckabee said on a telephone conference call sponsored by Charisma magazine. 

“When it gets to their own political realm, they think more secularly than even the secular people. That was very troubling,” he said. 

Right-wing activist Paul Weyrich said at the time that he regretted not having backed Huckabee when it might have made a difference. It seems likely that Huckabee could have made a strong case for Religious Right backing in 2012; in fact he had strong poll numbers in 2011 and the New York Times suggested that if he had entered the race he would have become the “presumed candidate of evangelicals.” But he seems to have missed his chance when he decided, after sending lots of contradictory signals, to sit that one out.

Religious Right Leaders Rally Around Ted Cruz At Secret Endorsement Meeting

Religious Right leaders are intent on being the ones to pick the Republican presidential nominee this time around and they’re throwing their collective weight behind Ted Cruz.

The movement’s leaders have been seething for eight years now that they were forced to rally behind Republican presidential candidates they weren’t excited about — John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.  After years of angling to prevent that from happening in 2016, “several dozen” Religious Right leaders met in secret in early December and voted to rally around Ted Cruz.

National Review’s Tim Alberta describes the event, which Cruz backers entered with the upper hand. It took five ballots for Cruz's supporters to browbeat backers of Marco Rubio into submission and give Cruz the three-quarters supermajority needed. Those who attended the meeting had vowed to either publicly support the eventual winner of the day’s balloting or to remain silent in the Republican primary. Reports Allen,

The impact was felt immediately on the 2016 campaign. Three prominent participants — direct-mail pioneer and longtime activist Richard Viguerie, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, and The Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats – announced their support of Cruz within 72 hours of the meeting at the Sheraton. 

Cruz, of course, had plenty of conservative evangelical support before this meeting. We noted back in the summer that he was consolidating support from the Christian Nation crowd, including discredited “historian” David Barton  —  who heads a Cruz super PAC  —  and billionaire fracking brothers Farris and Dan Wilks  —  who have pumped $15 million into the pro-Cruz super PAC effort. Since then, Cruz has been holding and attending “religious liberty” events  —  including one hosted by a pastor who calls for the execution of gays, and one at Bob Jones University, famous for claiming religious backing for its racial segregationist policies.

Cruz openly promotes the efforts of Christian-nation zealot David Lane to “take back” the country by using pastor-candidates to mobilize high evangelical turnout. Cruz told American Family Association’s Tim Wildmon this summer, “Nothing is more important in the next 18 months than that the body of Christ rise up and that Christians stand up, that pastors stand up and lead.”

Lane, who matches Cruz’s contempt for “establishment” Republicans, said back in 2013, “We’re going to try to eliminate the stuff that [GOP leaders] do to us every four years, which is picking somebody who has no chance of being viable and they kill us off and we have the McCains and the Romneys left.” Lane had cheered attacks on Romney’s faith and the “false god of Mormonism.”

Cruz has been courting Religious Right activists for years, even before the underdog, Tea Party-fueled victory in the GOP primary that propelled him into the U.S. Senate. Back before that election, he told the Freedom Federation’s Awakening conference, “we are engaged in spiritual warfare every day.” That message hasn’t changed: Just last week his campaign’s “prayer team” was told that “we’re in a spiritual battle today as never before.”

For the Religious Right, what’s not to like about Cruz? His anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-government bona fides are unquestionable. His father, Rafael Cruz, an unabashed Christian-nation extremist and anti-gay bigot who says that it is God’s plan for his son to be president, makes an effective ambassador for Cruz to the far right.

Is anyone not jumping on the Cruz bandwagon? A group of Latino Republicans held a press conference yesterday to denounce Cruz for his anti-immigrant positions  —  which they said were the same Romney “self-deportation” policies by another name  —  and for Cruz’s support of Donald Trump’s bigotry.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, a leader of the effort to get the Religious Right to rally around a single candidate, has tried this before, without much success. In 2012, Perkins and other conservative evangelicals had tried to create unity around a single alternative to Romney. Perkins declared after a January 2012 gathering that Rick Santorum had emerged with a “strong consensus.”

But the voting process and outcome were disputed by Newt Gingrich supporters, and the idea that evangelical leaders could deliver their followers to Santorum was undermined when Gingrich won the next event, South Carolina’s primary. Richard Viguerie, among others, urged Gingrich to drop out in order to boost Santorum’s chances. In the end, Santorum went on to win other southern primaries but couldn’t catch Romney.

In January 2012, after he won that supposed consensus endorsement for Santorum, Perkins dismissed suggestions that the meeting was too late to have an impact, even though it came after Romney had already won Iowa and New Hampshire and was building up a head of steam. Perkins clearly decided not to let that happen again.

Culture War Politics At David Lane's 'Nonpolitical' Prayer Rally

Last Saturday, while the Values Voter Summit drew Religious Right activists and pandering politicians together in Washington, D.C., a group of Christian dominionists was holding an all-day political prayer rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, featuring Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory had objected to the way Response organizers used his name to recruit participants, but it didn’t keep him away.

This was the fourth “Response” rally headlined by a state governor. The first, in 2011, served as the unofficial launch to Rick Perry’s disastrous 2012 presidential bid. Since then, Response rallies have been hosted by Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to host the next “Response” on October 24. The North Carolina Response was the smallest to date; one speaker referred to “hundreds” of participants, while the Charlotte Observer reported that it attracted “more than 1,000” people.

The rallies are in effect a series of bait-and-switch events. They are disingenuously promoted as non-political gatherings to create Christian unity by bringing people together across denominational and racial lines to pray for the state and the country. And while that promise of ecumenical prayer and worship is undoubtedly what brought many people to the event in Charlotte, the “non-political” veneer was discarded almost immediately.

The organizers are a group of Christian-nation zealots who believe every sphere of influence in society – including business, government, education, media, and entertainment – is meant to be controlled by the right kind of Christians. And they’re intent on electing politicians – and a president – who share that vision. The events are sponsored by Christian-nation extremist David Lane, a favorite of GOP presidential hopefuls whose American Renewal Project organizes and funds The Response rallies as well as other efforts to get conservative evangelicals more involved in politics. The American Renewal Project operates under the umbrella of the American Family Association, home to the notorious font of bigotry, radio host Bryan Fischer.

Here’s how Lane opened his prayer at the unifying, non-political Response rally:

The problem is us, a Christian nation founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith that has left God. So Lord, we start here. We’re so sorry what we’ve allowed to happen to a once-Christian nation, Lord. We deserve judgment. We pray for mercy, the mercy of God. A nation founded on the Bible; fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And Lord, they removed prayer and Bible from the public schools in 1963 after 350 years as a principal component, as the fixed point in order to judge society. We did this, we allowed this to happen. We pray for mercy. Fifty-five million babies dead, homosexuals praying at the inauguration, red ink as far as the eye can see -- judgment is on us. We need mercy Lord. We deserve judgment.

Like other Response events, it was emceed by “apostle” Doug Stringer, who announced that the day would follow the five-theme Response formula: repentance, reconciliation, revival, reformation, and refreshing. As the Response moved through its five segments, Religious Right speakers took turns at the microphone, interspersed with praise music and prayers from locals. Some prayed for the church to be filled with God’s love, and some shouted out culture war rhetoric about abortion, homosexuality, and separation of church and state:

Lord, you’ve called us to be salt and light, and Lord, salt is flavoring, salt is an irritant, and salt is a preservative. Lord, it is sin for us to not study your word, and know it, and obey it. Oh, God, it is sin for us to not know our Constitution, our liberties, and it is sin for us to not know how to be good citizens, preserving our liberties and our freedoms. Change us, oh God, and help us be like Kim Davis, obeying the Constitution and defying federal criminals. In Jesus’ name.  

Jeb Bush Touts Voucher Program That Funds Christian Schools, Religious Right Ideology

At Wednesday night’s presidential debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went out of his way to tout “a voucher program that was created under my watch, the largest voucher program in the country, where kids can go to a Christian school” — a phrase he sandwiched into a conversation about Donald Trump criticizing him for speaking Spanish in public.

Julie Ingersoll, a religious studies professor at the University of North Florida, tweeted a reminder that her book on Christian Reconstructionism, which was recently released by Oxford University Press, mentions Bush’s voucher program. “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism” includes chapters on the enormous influence of Christian Reconstructionism in the homeschooling and Christian school movements, which have succeeded in getting states like Florida to funnel taxpayer money to their religious education efforts

Christian Reconstructionism, grounded in the teachings of 20th-century writer R.J. Rushdoony, has greatly influenced both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its doctrine of “sphere sovereignty,” which states that God has given government, church, and family specific responsibilities over different “spheres.” Reconstructionists argue that there is no biblical authority for the government to take on a duty that is given to church or family – for example, they argue that the government has no role in caring for the poor because charity is the job of the church.

Reconstructionism teaches that education is the duty of parents, and that the state therefore has no role in or legitimate authority over the education of children. Reconstructionists led legal and political battles to win the right of parents to homeschool their children, and continue to resist efforts at regulating homeschoolers. As Ingersoll notes, “Reconstructionists are unabashedly committed to the dismantling of public education, and their strategies and solutions have gained a hearing far beyond the boundaries of the small groups explicitly affiliated with them.” In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott named a right-wing homeschooler to chair the state’s Board of Education.

The organized and intensely active network of evangelical homeschooling families in Iowa is credited, in part, with Mike Huckabee’s win in the 2008 Iowa caucus, and the Associated Press reported this year that presidential candidates have been jockeying for its leaders’ support.

Ingersoll also explores how central creationism is to the Christian Reconstructionist worldview; as others have noted, creationism also forms the basis of “science” education in books and curricula used by some Christian schools and homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about the independent, Reconstructionism-inspired Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville, Florida, which was founded in the 1970s. In addition to the hundreds of students in its K-12 program, the school offers a program allowing homeschoolers to participate in courses and activities. Writes Ingersoll, “RCBS also has a program designed to take advantage of Florida’s school voucher plan. The plan, put into place by former Governor Jeb Bush, permits students at ‘failing public schools’ to obtain vouchers that can be used at any school.”

According to Ingersoll, the Bush voucher program “has become such a significant revenue stream” for Rocky Bayou Christian School that “it would have a major impact on the school if the state were to decide to discontinue the controversial program….”  But, she notes, “the conservative legislature took up the effort to expand the state’s privatization of public education with vouchers and the expansion of charter schools.”

Indeed, legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year expanded voucher and tax-credit programs; it also, according to the Orlando Sentinel, created state-funded “personal learning scholarship accounts” that “parents of students with certain disabilities can use to pay for private school, buy home-school curriculum or pay for needed therapies, among other services, if their child is not in public school.”

Florida is not the only state where proponents of privatization have won victories. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal used the Katrina disaster to push through a radical privatization scheme and has battled the Obama administration over its efforts to monitor the state’s voucher program’s effect on racial segregation. Proponents of “school choice” had a major victory in Nevada this year, where a law pushed by an education foundation created by Jeb Bush would allow parents of any income level to “pull a child from the state's public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling.” While some Christian homeschoolers want no part of voucher programs, because they believe taking voucher money would bring more intrusive government regulation, laws like Nevada’s could prove a windfall for Religious Right and Christian Reconstructionist groups that provide curricula to homeschoolers.

Ingersoll writes about a 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit hosted by the Christian Home Educators of Colorado at an Indianapolis facility of Bill Gothard’s Institute for Biblical Life Principles, a troubling organization in the news recently for its connection to the Duggar family. The purpose of the summit, writes Ingersoll, was the development of a “Christian Education Manifesto,” which is no longer public, but whose goals included the elimination of public education and dismantling of government agencies that regulate the rights of parents, such as child welfare and child protective service groups.

There have been some setbacks for the privatization movement. In June, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that its state’s Choice Scholarship Pilot Program violates the state Constitution by channeling public money to private religious schools, contrary to an explicit constitutional prohibition on doing so.

But, as Ingersoll notes, the massively funded privatization movement is advancing the dream of the Christian Reconstructionists:

Florida’s efforts mirror attempts across the nation to shift the delivery of public education to the private sector; a shift of tax money from a public endeavor intended to educate and foster a shared sense of what it means to be American to sectarian efforts, including efforts at schools like Rocky Bayou which seek to transform society according to biblical law. The long-standing goal of the Christian Reconstructionists to defund, and ultimately eliminate, public education has come as close as it has ever come to being a reality.

Ted Cruz Seeks To Solidify Christian Right Support With Attacks On Planned Parenthood

As we have noted recently, there’s evidence that Ted Cruz is consolidating support from influential Religious Right leaders. That includes pseudo-historian David Barton, billionaire fracking brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, and anti-choice activists behind the group Online for Life.

But Cruz is still well back in the polls, and evangelical voters are currently showing a preference for Donald Trump and Ben Carson, whose support has been rising since the first Republican debate.

Carson is now polling second to Donald Trump and ahead of Jeb Bush, with the New York Times reporting this weekend his growing support from Religious Right activists. Earlier this month, a Quinnipiac survey of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa had Carson leading Trump 27-20 among born-again evangelicals; Cruz was in third at 12 percent.

Cruz is hoping to boost his support among evangelicals by leading an effort in Congress this month to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Last month Cruz partnered with GOP political operative and Christian-nation extremist David Lane to encourage pastors to preach sermons against Planned Parenthood.

Lane has argued that conservative evangelicals need to unite behind a single candidate to prevent the nomination of an unacceptably establishment figure along the lines of John McCain and Mitt Romney — and he has organized many events for pastors to meet GOP presidential candidates. Cruz backers like Barton and the Wilks brothers are close allies of Lane —  and the Wilks brothers are big funders of Lane’s organizing projects as well as Online for Life.

Lane, who has had kind words for Donald Trump, has not publicly endorsed a candidate, but he has previously been dismissive of Ben Carson’s candidacy. He told the Washington Post’s Sebastian Payne last year, “Anyone who votes for Ben Carson has no idea what they are doing politically. He’s got zero chance of becoming president or getting the Republican nomination.”

Is Ted Cruz The 'Evangelical and Constitutional Warrior' the Right Has Been Waiting For?

We reported yesterday that Ted Cruz may be winning the “Christian nation primary” by building support among conservative evangelical funders, leaders and voters. It turns out others have been noticing the same trend.

Messiah College Professor John Fea, a reputable Christian historian who has challenged the inaccurate Christian-nation history of David Barton, wrote yesterday that Cruz may be the candidate “best suited to consolidate the votes of the powerful evangelical wing of the GOP.”

Among the factors Fea cites:

  • Cruz sees the world in black and white, with little room for nuance, and knows how speak “with a fierceness informed by his deeply held Christian faith”;
  • Cruz “speaks evangelical,” and is comfortable talking about the Bible and using terms like “revival”;
  • Cruz promotes David Barton’s view of American history and will be speaking at Barton’s “ProFamily Legislators Conference” in November.

Right-wing blogger Terresa Monroe-Hamilton also weighed in yesterday, declaring, “Ted Cruz is the evangelical and constitutional warrior we have waited for.” Earlier this month Monroe-Hamiltion praised Cruz as a “rock star” in the south and called him a “statesman” with “a spine of steel.” In her new post, she praises Cruz’s rhetoric about the “war on faith in America today” and his attacks on Planned Parenthood.

Ted Cruz is not only appealing to the evangelical vote, he’s fighting for Christians and for the lives of the unborn. His honest and obvious devotion to his Christian faith is one of the things that appeals to so many Americans. Approximately 1 in 4 voters have identified themselves as evangelical in exit polls since the 2004 election cycle. In key Republican contests such as Iowa and in some of the Southern states that Cruz has said are critical to his run, that figure was higher during the last presidential campaign — nearly 50 percent. The evangelical vote is key to Cruz’s campaign goals and strategies. He is gifted at motivating and mobilizing voters. He’s also the favorite son of the Tea Party conservatives. Cruz is just the warrior we have waited for.

 

Is Ted Cruz Winning The Christian Nation Primary?

Christian-nation activist David Lane has been fuming for years that conservative evangelicals divided their Republican primary votes in 2008 and 2012, allowing John McCain and Mitt Romney to capture the GOP presidential nominations even though neither was a favorite of the party’s Religious Right activists. Lane, who believes America was founded by and for Christians, has vowed to prevent that from happening again, and has been hosting events in early primary states giving conservative pastors a chance to hear from and evaluate GOP presidential candidates.

Lane has also been working to recruit and train an “army“ of pastors to run as candidates and bring thousands of conservative evangelical volunteers into the 2016 race. Those events have been attended by several GOP hopefuls, including Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal. But while Lane has not publicly thrown his support to a candidate, evidence suggests that Ted Cruz is being anointed to carry the hopes of Lane and his supporters.

One big sign came late last month, when news that broke that Farris and Dan Wilks had given $15 million to Keep the Promise, a pro-Cruz super PAC. Not coincidentally, David Lane told NBC News last year that, “With Citizens United…you can have somebody who gives $15 or $20 million into a super PAC and that changes the game.” The billionaire Wilks brothers from Texas have become sugar daddies to right-wing groups generally, and to David Lane’s Pastors and Pews events specifically.

A couple weeks later, Cruz stopped by the headquarters of the American Family Association. Lane’s American Renewal Project operates under the AFA’s umbrella, and Cruz sounded like he was reading Lane’s talking points. Cruz told AFA President Tim Wildmon that mobilizing evangelical Christian voters is the key to saving America, saying, “Nothing is more important in the next 18 months than that the body of Christ rise up and that Christians stand up, that pastors stand up and lead.”

Cruz has been positioning himself as the champion of religious liberty and defender of the conservative Christians he says are the targets of a “jihad” by gay-rights activists and an “atheist Taliban.” On Friday night he held a “Rally for Religious Liberty” in Iowa highlighting victims of “religious persecution” — in other words, business owners who have refused to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples and gotten into trouble for violating anti-discrimination laws.

Iowa-based Religious Right radio host Steve Deace was rapturous, declaring the Cruz rally “the best candidate event I’ve ever attended” and saying Ted Cruz is the first candidate he has seen actually put on an event designed to ignite a “revival.” The rally, said Deace, was a reminder “that God’s not dead” and confirmed Deace’s decision “to support Cruz and do so early.”

And yesterday, the Washington Post’s Katie Zezima and Tom Hamburger reported that Cruz “will take a lead role in the launch this week of an ambitious 50-state campaign to end taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood” – a campaign announced via an email from Cruz that was distributed by Lane’s American Renewal Project.

David Carney, a Republican strategist who worked on that recall effort with David Lane, who leads the American Renewal Project, a group sponsoring this week’s pastor outreach effort. The two are joined by Wayne Hamilton, a Texas-based organizer who has worked in the past with Perry and was campaign manager in 2014 for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The effort appears to be funded through American Renewal, which officials said spent about $10 million supporting candidates in 2014 and is considered likely to spend $15 million or more this year organizing opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

In addition, religious broadcast organizations have pledged to air public service spots urging Christian viewers to contact their members of Congress. Carney said the effort has received commitments of support from the Bott Radio Network, which has 100 Christian radio stations in the Midwest, and from American Family Radio, which owns 190 Christian radio stations in 20 states as well as national religious-television broadcasters.

The Post reports that the anti-Planned Parenthood campaign will include conference calls for pastors this Tuesday. The calls will begin with a message from Cruz followed by Doug Stringer, a dominionist who has emceed Lane-organized prayer rallies for Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Nikki Haley, with more planned in the coming months, including one in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 26.

Cruz said at his rally on Friday that the reason Americans have a federal government that “comes after” free speech, religious liberty, life, and marriage is that 54 million evangelicals did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. “I’m here to tell you,” Cruz said, “we will stay home no longer.”

Cruz’s Iowa campaign chair, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, told the crowd at Friday’s rally that “Ted Cruz is the man who God has prepared for this moment.” He’s hardly the first. Cruz’s father Rafael, whose far-right rhetoric on the campaign trail has made him a Religious Right folk hero in his own right, says God has “destined” his son for “greatness.” And the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who calls Lane a “good friend” and often functions as a promoter of Lane’s activities, has called Cruz’s political career “a thing of God.” 

 

Alan Keyes: No Self-Respecting Conservative Would Vote For 'Socialist' Trump

Far-right activist and perennial candidate Alan Keyes is fuming about conservatives’ embrace of Donald Trump. Writing in BarbWire, Keyes warns, “Trump stands for socialism, competently imposed.” Discussing Trump’s onetime support for single payer healthcare, he declares, “Trump doesn’t oppose socialism. He opposes what he sees as the incompetent administration of socialism.”

Keyes urges conservatives to pay more attention to Trump’s record than to his campaign rhetoric, calling Trump “a leftist Democrat” who “is not now nor has he ever been a conservative — in principle or in the policies of the candidates he has supported.” He says conservatives have been “mesmerized” by Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.

I’ve often told people that the only thing worse than the incompetent socialism we’ve seen around the world would be socialism, competently imposed. As someone like Solzhenitsyn well understood, the real objection to the socialist ideology isn’t just its failure to deliver “the goods.” It’s the fact that it invites people to understand those goods in strictly materialistic terms. By doing so socialism denies the spirit God shares with humanity, thereby endangering our living souls.

But exactly what significance do spirit and soul have for someone like Donald Trump, who professes to be a Christian, yet frankly admits that he has never seriously sought God’s forgiveness. Instead, he says, if and when he has sinned, he just fixes it himself. This is precisely the delusion that lies at the heart of the socialist ideology– the delusion of God-denying self-sufficiency that obscures the intangible essence of human being, so that people may be regarded as nothing more than complex arrangements of soulless matter, no more intrinsically significant than the dust. The literally atrocious aspects of the socialist regimes of the 20th century were not a function of the incompetence with which they were administered. They were the inevitable result of the degraded view of human personality the socialist ideology entails and inculcates.

Even though Keyes ran for the U.S. Senate three times as the Republican Party nominee (twice in Maryland and once in Illinois), he left the GOP after his second failed bid for the presidential nomination in 2008. It seems clear that he has lost faith and patience with Republican leaders and voters:

I’m tempted to believe that no self-respecting conservative could possibly be that thoughtless, but then I remember that many “conservatives” who still accept the GOP delusion are self-professed, not self-respecting. If they were the latter, they would cast aside the elitist faction’s sham two-party con game, and devote all their energy to building an authentically conservative political vehicle, compatible with the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the liberty of the American people. They would also reject, out of hand, whichever candidate the elitist faction sham sends forth to beguile us into surrendering it. Donald Trump is such a candidate. So in fact are all the men and woman who have “made their bones” in either of the elitist gangs now masquerading as opposing political parties.

 

Ben Carson's Bible-Based Tax System and Other GOP Adventures In 'Biblical Economics'

In last night’s Republican presidential debate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said he would base a new tax system on the biblical system of tithing. “I think God is a pretty fair guy,” he said.

And he said, you know, if you give me a tithe, it doesn’t matter how much you make. If you’ve had a bumper crop, you don’t owe me triple tithes. And if you’ve had no crops at all, you don’t owe me no tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about that.

And that’s why I’ve advocated a proportional tax system. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. And everybody gets treated the same way. And you get rid of the deductions, you get rid of all the loopholes, and…

Carson has plenty of company on the far right. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has declared, “God believes in a flat tax.” On his radio show last year, Fischer said, “That’s what a tithe is, it’s a tax.”

Of course, that kind of flat tax would amount to a massive tax cut for the richest Americans and a tax hike on the poorest. So it’s not terribly surprising the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity has teamed up with the Religious Right to promote the idea that progressive taxation is an un-Christian idea. AFP joined Religious Right groups to create the Freedom Federation, one of the right-wing coalitions that sprung up in opposition to Barack Obama’s election as president. The coalition’s founding “Declaration of American Values” declares its allegiance to a system of taxes that is “not progressive in nature.”

David Barton, the pseudo-historian, GOP activist, and Glenn Beck ally, is a major promoter of the idea that the Bible opposes progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, and minimum wage. Barton’s views are grounded in the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, a movement whose thinking has infused both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its notion that God gave the family, not the government, responsibility for education — and the church, not the government, responsibility for taking care of the poor. 

That’s how we have Republican members of Congress supporting cuts in food stamps by appealing to the Bible. And how we get Samuel Rodriguez, the most prominent conservative Hispanic evangelical leader, saying that a desire to “punish success” — i.e. progressive taxes — “is anti-Christian and anti-American.”

This notion that laissez-faire economics, small government, and flat taxes are divine mandates, and that taxation is theft, is also how we end up with the Heritage Foundation promoting the idea that “[t]hose who esteem the Bible should also applaud St. Milton Friedman and other Church of Chicago prelates, because their insights amplify what the Bible suggests about economics.” And the idea that unions and collective bargaining are unbiblical is how we get Religious Right groups celebrating Scott Walker’s war on unions.

Fox And Its GOP Friends Stick With Offensive ‘Illegals’

At last night’s presidential debates hosted by Fox News, it was jarring to hear Fox personalities and Republican presidential candidates alike using the derogatory term “illegals” to refer to undocumented immigrants.

Fox and other conservative media outlets have rejected efforts — including Colorlines’ the Drop the I-Word campaign —  to stop using terms like “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien.” Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who “came out” as an undocumented immigrant in 2011, started the following year to challenge media outlets’ use of the term “illegal immigrant.” In January, FoxNews.com said its policy is to describe immigrants who are in the U.S. without authorization as “illegal immigrants,” but Fox News Latino reportedly does not use the term.

Last November, Fusion’s Felix Salmon published an overview of the policies various news organizations have adopted. Some, including the Associated Press, no longer use the term “illegal immigrant.” Some, like the New York Times, still do while encouraging reporters to also consider alternatives in a given context. Some find alternatives like “undocumented” or “unauthorized” to be confusing or bureaucratic.

But the sneering shorthand “illegals” is worse and there is a stronger consensus against its use — but not a universal one. In January, the Santa Barbara News-Press generated controversy, including vandalism of the paper’s building, when it used the term “illegals” in a headline. Fox ran a story about the vandalism with screen text declaring “Trouble with Illegals.”

A copyediting blog, commenting on the Santa Barbara controversy, declared it is no longer possible for journalists to “claim that the word illegal [used as a noun] can be neutral or objective.” Even the Wall Street Journal, whose stylebook says “illegal immigrant” is its preferred term, instructs, “Don’t use illegal or illegals as a noun.”

Despite having low expectations for Fox and the Republican candidates, it was striking to hear so many uses of “illegal” or “illegals” as a noun. Scanning through transcripts of the debates, I confirmed that Fox’s Bill Hemmer used the term twice in the also-rans debate, and Chris Wallace used it three times in the top ten debate. The term was also used by Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, the latter in his sadly memorable formulation about “illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people that are freeloading off the system now.”

This week, New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin wrote a follow-up piece to an article he published last month about immigration policy. In his new commentary, he reflects on feedback he received in opposition to his use of “illegal immigrant.” He says he will no longer use the term because it has become so widely regarded as pejorative.

Toobin says it is “clearly wrong” to use the term as a noun — to call someone “an illegal.” Former New York Times editor and columnist Bill Keller came to the same conclusion in late 2011, with help from readers and colleagues, after a column in which he had used “illegals” as shorthand for “illegal immigrants.”

Of course, given the state of the Republican Party on immigration, there were also plenty of uses of the term “amnesty” by candidates, including Jeb Bush making sure to qualify his support for a path to legal status for people now in the country —  “not amnesty” — and Ted Cruz, who slammed the other candidates for having supported “amnesty.” Bobby Jindal had another of the evening’s most memorable lines, declaring “immigration without assimilation is an invasion.” 

Evangelical Leaders Far From Consensus On Presidential Candidate

Religious Right leaders have been intensely frustrated that their inability to coalesce around a single candidate in the 2008 and 2012 GOP primaries helped John McCain and Mitt Romney, neither of which were evangelical favorites, secure the Republican presidential nomination. Strategists like Tony Perkins and David Lane dearly hoped that things would be different in 2016. As we have previously noted,

Although Perry’s tanking disrupted Lane’s plans to get conservative evangelicals to coalesce around a single candidate in 2012, it seems clear that he has similar intentions for 2016. He told the Houston Chronicle in June [2013], “We’re going to try to eliminate the stuff that they [GOP leaders] do to us every four years, which is picking somebody who has no chance of being viable and they kill us off and we have the McCains and Romneys left.”

But a survey of 94 evangelical “leaders and insiders” — as identified by World Magazine —suggests that they are not even close to a meeting of minds on a favored presidential candidate. Four candidates had the support of more than 10 leaders – Rubio (18), Bush (14) and Cruz and Walker (13 each) – all below 20 percent of the leaders who responded to World’s survey.  

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Republican Party Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Monday 07/11/2016, 10:30am
The Republican Party’s platform committee started meeting in Cleveland this morning to hash out final language that will be presented to delegates at the Republican National Convention next week. Religious Right activists have been gearing up for months to make sure that the platform keeps the anti-gay and anti-abortion language they say will be needed to secure social conservatives’ loyalty to the GOP in November. A draft shared with members of the platform committee on Sunday night reportedly keeps the party’s anti-abortion position intact and continues the party’s... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 07/06/2016, 11:58am
Christian-nation extremist and political operative David Lane declared in TIME this week that Newt Gingrich would be Donald Trump’s “Dream Veep,” calling Gingrich “Churchillian” and “still the most feared Republican in America.” It might seem strange that Christian Right figures would rally around Gingrich, the thrice-married former speaker of the House who abandoned that office nearly two decades ago after an ethics scandal and clear signs that his colleagues were about to drive him from the office. But here’s why: Gingrich has spent the past... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 06/22/2016, 1:17pm
One legacy of the 2016 presidential campaign may well be a divide between religious and political conservatives who took a principled stance against the racist campaign of the apparently amoral Donald Trump, and those who jumped on board the Trump train in spite of his long record of lies, abusive and divisive rhetoric, and his shameless, transparently cynical use of religion to promote his candidacy. Those divides may be clarifying in the wake of Trump’s meeting with hundreds of religious conservative leaders on Tuesday in what organizers had laughably described as a nonpolitical... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 06/01/2016, 3:46pm
Desperation can lead people to do desperate things. Bill Kristol has been pleading for major Republicans like Mitt Romney to enter the presidential race as an independent to give conservatives an alternative to the unserious, unbelievable, unpredictable huckster at the top of the ticket. Over the weekend Kristol tweeted, “There will be an independent candidate — an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.” The prospect was titillating to political junkies, but the reality has been far less so. Turns out, according to some news reports, that all the political... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 05/26/2016, 5:34pm
The Republican Party’s faith outreach director, former South Carolina GOP chair Chad Connelly, says conservative Christians will vote for Donald Trump based on the future of the Supreme Court. The biggest thing on evangelicals’ minds, I think, is the fact that we’re gonna be looking at a Supreme Court that could be vastly different going forward. And electing somebody like Hillary Clinton, who is obviously biased against the things that most evangelicals, Christians believe in, would be disastrous for religious liberty, for property rights, gun rights, religious freedom and... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 05/20/2016, 4:57pm
Christian-nation advocate David Lane and dominionist Doug Stringer have organized a series of prayer rallies with Republican governors, starting with the 2011 event in Houston that served as an unofficial launching pad for Rick Perry’s failed 2012 presidential bid. Now they’re planning their next one in Cleveland, Ohio, just before the Republican convention. On Thursday, Stringer and other organizers held a conference call to discuss plans for the Cleveland rally — like others it is going by the name “The Response” — and to ask pastors to get their... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Monday 05/09/2016, 3:09pm
While Ted Cruz had the backing of most Religious Right leaders in his now-suspended presidential campaign, Donald Trump has had his own amen corner among preachers of the God-wants-you-to-be-rich prosperity gospel, including a group  who laid hands on him last fall. At that meeting, Florida-based prosperity preacher Paula White prayed that "any tongue that rises against him will be condemned according to the word of God.” It’s not really surprising that preachers who tout wealth as a sign of God’s favor would line up with a blustery billionaire like Trump, who says... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 05/06/2016, 4:36pm
Religious Right leaders believed this was their year. In Ted Cruz they had a candidate unquestionably committed to their agenda. Cruz was anointed the movement’s candidate at a secret endorsement meeting in Texas, followed by a wave of public endorsements by movement leaders. With only a couple of notable exceptions like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Phyllis Schlafly, Cruz had the overwhelming backing of the Religious Right’s institutional leaders.  But it wasn’t to be. David Gushee, a Christian ethicist and author who has ruffled a lot of feathers with his move to an LGBT-... MORE >