Don Wildmon

Rick Santorum Presents Latest 'Religious Persecution' Movie

Two current Religious Right fixations — the “persecution” of American Christians and the need for conservatives to do more to influence the pop culture — have come together in movies like “Persecuted” and “We the People—Under Attack.” The latest entry, “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty,” was screened by Rick Santorum at the Heritage Foundation on Monday night.

Santorum said the movie will be released in September. His EchoLight Cinemas is trying to create an alternative to Hollywood distribution channels by building a network of thousands of tech-equipped churches who will sell tickets for "One Generation Away" and other movies. He says the long-term strategy is to bring more people into churches and put the church back at the center of the culture.

"One Generation Away" is described as a documentary, but it’s really a preaching-to-the-choir call to arms for conservative Christians and pastors to get more involved in culture war battles while they still have the freedom to do so. Among the film’s producers are Donald and Tim Wildmon from the American Family Association, which Santorum said is packaging a shorter version of the movie into more of an activist tool.

The title comes from Ronald Reagan – specifically from a speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1961, a time in which Reagan was working with conservatives to rally opposition to Medicare – “socialized medicine”:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

The thrust of "One Generation Away" is that religious freedom in the United States is disappearing fast, and if the church doesn’t fight for it now, it will soon be gone forever. Before running the film on Monday, Santorum quoted Cardinal Francis George, who said during the debate about insurance coverage of contraception, “I expect to die in my bed. I expect my successor to die in prison. I expect his successor to be a martyr.” That’s just the kind of hyperbolic “religious persecution” rhetoric we have come to expect from Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy.

At one point toward the end of the movie, it seems as if the filmmakers might be striking a more reasonable tone, with a couple of speakers saying that Christians should stand up for the rights of people of different faiths — even though the AFA’s chief spokesman opposes First Amendment protections for non-Christians— and others actually acknowledging that it is problematic for American Christians to be complaining of “religious persecution” over policy disputes when Christians and others are facing horrific, deadly persecution in many other parts of the world.

But that caution is quickly abandoned as the movie makes a direct comparison of the status of the Christian church in America with the church in Germany as the Nazis came to power. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who tried to mobilize German Christians to resist Nazi tyranny and was executed by the regime, is held up as the model that American Christians need to be willing to follow.

Eric Metaxas, a Bonhoeffer biographer who became a Religious Right folk hero when he questioned President Obama’s faith at a National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, warned that if the church doesn’t link arms to fight, all will be lost. “The good news,” he said, “is that the American church is slightly more attuned to the rumbling heard in the distance than the German church was in the 30s. The bad news is, only slightly, right?”

The movie cuts to Mike Huckabee saying that Bonhoeffer could have saved his life if he had been willing to soften his faith, but that instead he resisted and rebuked the Nazi regime. And then we’re back to Metaxas to complete the Nazi analogy:

 “The parallel today is simply that. You have a government, a state, which is getting larger and larger and more and more powerful, and is beginning to push against the church. There’s a window of opportunity where we can fight. If we don’t wake up and fight before then, we won’t be able to fight. That’s just what happened in Germany. And that’s the urgency we have in America now. And people that’s incendiary, or I’m being hyperbolic. I’m sorry, I wish, I wish, I wish I were. I’m not.”

Filmmakers said at the screening that they had conducted 75 interviews for the movie, and it sure feels like it.  It includes names that will be well-known to RWW readers, like Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Alveda King, Robert George, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration, and Ryan Anderson and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation.

Also appearing are Rep. Doug Collins; Rick Perry backer Robert Jeffress; Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, which sponsored the infamous and discredited Regnerus “family structures” study; Stephen McDowell of the dominionist Providence Foundation; Gregory Thornbury of Kings College; lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, the Beckett Fund, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund; and a number of pastors.

The film also includes interviews with some opponents of the Religious Right, including Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Princeton’s Peter Singer, and Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Santorum told the audience at Heritage that he wishes he had even more of his opponents included in the film because “they scare the hell out of me” and would help motivate the right-wing base.

In order to keep the movie from being one brutally long succession of talking heads, the filmmakers resort to a tactic of constantly shifting scenes, a couple of seconds at a time, in a way that feels like they got a volume discount on stock images of Americana: boats on the water, kids playing softball, families walking together. There are also odd random fillers, like close-ups of the pattern on a couch in the room in which a speaker is sitting. The endless, repetitive succession of images actually makes the film feel even longer than it actually is. (Zack Ford at ThinkProgress had a similar reaction to this technique.)

The meat of the film, or the “red meat,” mixes the personal stories of people being  victimized by intolerant secularists and/or gay activists with miniature David Bartonesque lectures on the Christian roots of America’s founding; the fact that the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the U.S. Constitution; the notion that the American government is trying to replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” and require any expression of faith to take place behind church walls; and the disgracefulness of making any analogies between the civil rights movement and the LGBT equality movement. The 1947 Supreme Court decision in which Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” phrase was invoked by the Court and “changed everything” is portrayed as nothing more than a reflection of Justice Hugo Black’s hatred of Catholics.

Featured “persecution” stories include:

  • a long advertisement for Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, which recently won its legal battle against the contraception mandate;
  • a baker and florist who ran afoul of their state’s anti-discrimination laws when they refused to provide services for a same-sex couple getting married;
  • cheerleaders at a public high school in Texas who were challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for creating football game banners featuring Christian scriptural quotes;  
  • Catholic Charities being “forced” to give up adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples;
  • an ACLU challenge to a large cross at the Mt. Soledad war memorial; and
  • the supposed frontal attack on the religious freedom of military chaplains as a result of allowing LGBT members of the armed forces to serve openly. On this issue, Tony Perkins declares, “The military is being used as a vanguard of radical social policy. And in order for that policy to permeate and to take root, you’ve got to take out the religious opposition.”

In spite of the parade of horrors, the movie tries to end on an upbeat note, saying that the early Christian church expanded while it was being suppressed, and that it will only take “one spark of revival” to change the nation.  A familiar theme at Religious Right conferences is that blame for America’s decline rests with churches that don’t speak up and pastors who don’t preach or lead aggressively enough. One Generation Away ends on this point, telling Christian pastors it is their responsibility to wake up and challenge their congregants to live their faith “uncompromisingly.”

During the Q&A after the screening, Santorum said the fact that Hobby Lobby was a 5-4 decision demonstrated the importance of the 2016 election. “Part of me almost wishes we’d lost,” says Santorum, because that would have made the threat clearer to conservative activists. “We are one judge away,” he said, adding that “if we get a Democratic president, our five, or four-and-a-half, justices are not going to hold out forever.”

“I just worry,” he said to the young people in the audience, “that the longer we delay, and America sleeps, and your generation is indoctrinated the way it is, the harder it will be to come back.”

Cruz, Huckabee & Abbott To Join Religious Right Leaders For Christian Nationalist Summit

The Texas state chapter of David Lane’s extremist American Renewal Project is set to host Sen. Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott, the state attorney general and GOP gubernatorial nominee, at a “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” next month. Cruz has also addressed the group’s chapters in Iowa and South Carolina, two early primary states.

Mike Huckabee, who like Cruz has also floated the possibility of running for president in 2016, will also appear at the event.

The Texas Freedom Network points out that at a Texas “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” in 2005, Dwight McKissic said that God used Hurricane Katrina “to purify our nation” from gay people.

Joining Cruz and Abbott will include Religious Right favorites including American Family Association founder Don Wildmon; pseudo-historian and anti-gay activist David Barton; anti-gay preacher Ken Graves; right-wing conspiracy theorist William Federer and Laurence White, who believes God is about to destroy America.

Cruz To Join Christian Nation Activists In South Carolina

Update, 10/30: The Dallas Morning News is now reporting that Mike Lee will not be attending the summit.

Ted Cruz and Tim Scott will be joining Religious Right leaders in South Carolina, an early primary state, in the beginning of November for a Renewal Project conference organized by David Lane.

Lane believes that the US may soon face car bombings as a form of divine retribution over gay rights and legal abortion, and believes that his Renewal Projects can activate enough pastors and conservative voters to save America.

Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News reports that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) will be attending as well. It is a tad ironic that Lee, a Mormon, would be addressing a summit hosted by Lane, who promoted attacks against “the false god of Mormonism” during the last primary campaign against Mitt Romney.

But Lane’s push to move the GOP towards embracing the Religious Right’s agenda has made him a weighty figure, as over the summer Republican leaders including Cruz, Rand Paul and Reince Priebus attended his Iowa summit.

American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, Religious Right historian William Federer and pastors Laurence White and Ken Graves are also listed as featured speakers.

Wildmon for decades has preached the virtues of censorship and supposed evils of homosexuality, while Federer believes that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are advancing Sharia law and has predicted that the military will be used to oppress gay rights opponents (along with several Obama “October surprises” which never materialized).

Not to be outdone, White has regularly predicted America’s imminent doom and Graves made a name for himself by offering his special insights on gay family dynamics.

Republican Presidential Hopefuls' Favorite 'Christian Nation' Extremist

Senators and presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz will head to Iowa this week as featured speakers at a closed-door event for conservative pastors that has been organized by David Lane, an anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Mormon, Christian-nation absolutist who has declared war, not only on secularism and separation of church and state, but also on establishment Republicans who don’t embrace his vision of an America in which the Bible serves as “the principle textbook” for public education and a “Christian culture” has been “re-established.” He decries Supreme Court rulings on prayer and Bible reading in public schools, and says, “It’s easily defended that America was founded by Christians, as a Christian nation.”

Cruz and Paul may be motivated by the fact that a similar David Lane-organized pastors briefing is credited with Mike Huckabee’s win in the 2008 Iowa caucus.  Evangelical political strategist Doug Wead has described Lane as “the mysterious, behind the scenes, evangelical kingmaker who stormed into Iowa in 2008 and tilted the whole thing from Romney to Huckabee,” even though subsequent renewal projects failed to deliver South Carolina and Florida to Huckabee.

Still, Lane, a self-described “political operative,” has plans that go well beyond Iowa.  The “Rediscovering God in America” event scheduled for July 17 and 18 is just one of an ongoing series of pastors briefings that are central to the American Renewal Project’s 12-state strategy to turn out conservative evangelical voters in the 2013-2014 election cycle.  (Those states: Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Nevada, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia.) 

In December, Lane described his project’s goal this way: “to engage the church in a culture war for religious liberty, to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and to re-establish a Christian culture.” And he has a clear message to representatives and senators: “Vote to restore the Bible and prayer in public schools or be sent home. Hanging political scalps on the wall is the only love language politicians can hear.”

Lane is abundantly clear about his belief that the choice facing America is a return to its founding as a Christian nation or a continued descent into what he describes as paganism. He wrote  in December:

America was a Christian nation. The Mayflower Compact declared, “In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, having undertaken – for the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith…”

Let’s decide if America is a Christian nation or a pagan nation – and get on with it; the sooner the better.

Lane told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody that “America has left God” and that “unrighteousness” is “the greatest threat to freedom.” Brody says Lane “believes it’s time to remove politicians from office who have led America down this immoral and unsustainable broken path.” 

A Christian-Nation Warrior Within the GOP

To be fair to Paul and Cruz, they are only the latest Republican presidential hopefuls who have allied themselves with the zealous David Lane in order to tap his network of politically engaged pastors. Lane has been holding “pastors briefings” in 15 states since the mid-1990s. He wrote last year that state Restoration and Renewal projects had hosted more than 10,000 pastors and spouses in ten states since 2005 alone, in events that have been used to engage pastors in anti-gay initiative battles and introduce them to politicians favored by Lane. Pastors’ expenses are covered with money from the American Family Association and other religious right mega-donors. The American Renewal Project operates as a project of the AFA; Lane also operates the California-based Pastors and Pews. 

Texas Governor Rick Perry is also reportedly scheduled to participate in this week’s Iowa gathering, which may confirm his apparent interest in another run for the presidency.  Perry has a long-term relationship with Lane.  In 2005 and 2006, Lane and his network played a huge role in mobilizing support for Perry’s re-election as governor. Six pastors briefings were held around the state, and all six were addressed by Perry.  As Governor, Perry hasn’t disappointed Lane and his friends.

Heading into the 2012 election cycle, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Haley Barbour, and Newt Gingrich spoke to 600 pastors, ministry leaders and spouses at a March 2011 Iowa Renewal Project Pastor’s Policy Briefing. But as the primaries approached, Lane was not satisfied with the field. He played a key role in organizing conservative religious leaders to push Perry into the presidential race.  And he masterminded and served as national finance chair for “The Response”, an August 2011 prayer rally that served as Perry’s unofficial campaign launch.

Lane enthusiastically applauded anti-Mormon attacks on Mitt Romney made by Perry backer Robert Jeffress at the Values Voter Summit in October 2011.  The Daily Beast revealed emails between Lane and religious broadcaster Dick Bott in which Lane praised Jeffress, saying the message “juxtaposing traditional Christianity to the false god of Mormonism, is very important in the larger scheme of things.”

After Perry’s candidacy imploded, Religious Right leaders split between Gingrich and Santorum, dooming last-ditch efforts to prevent Romney from becoming the GOP nominee.  Lane backed Gingrich.  He organized a conference call in Florida in late January 2012 to which he said he invited some 125,000 Florida evangelicals, including 2,400 pastors; the call reportedly had 1,000 participants and a recording was emailed to the other 124,000. But obviously he failed to prevent Romney from becoming the nominee.

During the flap over Perry backers’ attacks on Romney’s Mormonism, Lane had actually told broadcaster Bott that he would sit out the 2012 elections rather than vote for Romney. But whether or not Lane actually cast his personal vote for Romney, he continued mobilizing conservative Christians in an effort to defeat Barack Obama.  In Ohio, for example, Lane was part of a major effort by Republican evangelicals to put Romney over the top in that state.  Lane organized “several glitzy mass rallies for the state’s churchgoers featuring high-profile religious and political leaders,” the Washington Times reported last November. Lane and Ralph Reed each produced voter guides for “Ohio’s faithful.”

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, “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.”

At War With the GOP

Lane’s comment about “the McCains and Romneys” is just the tip of the iceberg of contempt that he has for what he sees as a cowardly, compromising Republican establishment. He denounces moderate Republicans who are “bound and determined to deposit homosexuality – and homosexual marriage – into the Grand Old Party.” And he insists, “Those doing this to our country must be removed from office and from leadership.” (These aren’t necessarily idle threats: Lane was at the center of the successful 2010 campaign to remove from office three Iowa Supreme Court justices who had been part of a unanimous ruling in favor of marriage equality. “Lane called the judges “Judicial Gods” who believe they have the “right to rule a free people” and “impose their will” however they see fit.”)

Lane was outraged last year when many Republican Party leaders abandoned Senate candidate Todd Akin in the wake of his infamous comments about “legitimate rape”— Lane was especially indignant because at the same time the GOP was backing openly gay Senate candidate Richard Tisei in Massachusetts.  Lane mobilized support for Akin among conservative pastors and complained loudly about the GOP. “Following the pounding of Todd Akin by the GOP kings and lieutenants in the last 36 hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real issue is the soul of America,” he wrote in an email to activists. In October, almost 400 pastors who had gathered for a Pastors’ Policy Briefing in Missouri prayed over Akin, whose cause Lane said was “the opening battle for the soul of the Republican Party.” After all, he argues, “someone’s values must reign supreme.”

After the 2012 elections, Lane drew his battle lines:

The moderate GOP chieftains and lieutenants’ philosophy of government and set of values – in the long run – are incompatible with Christian morality and principles. As these secular “pastors” – the GOP chieftains and lieutenants – seek to bully and dictate their worldly, amoral ethics – according to their importance, omnipotence and power of the purse – there can be no amicability and meeting of minds….

Christian conservatives are coming to their moment of truth within the Republican Party. Be friendly and disarm, or annoy and aggravate the GOP kings and lieutenants by laying down the law on Christian principles and Christian values.

….

Another way to put it is: I don’t think that “restoring America” is a Christian imperative. Being a witnesses [sic] to the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the imperative. If that restores America, wonderful; if it means that America collapses – like Rome – the byproduct of the Permanent Republican Majority or a decadent, sinful, immoral culture and people, the church is God’s permanent “nation.” 

Lane writes that after launching a public fight for putting the Bible, Jesus, the Ten Commandments back into public schools, “then we will watch Providence call for ‘punishment executed by angels‘ to those who oppose His word.”

Lane says he believes there is “good news in the current Republican collapse and failure – brought about as a byproduct of the amoral, empty philosophy of the Permanent Republican majority” – and that is a political opening for evangelicals. In February, Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody said that Lane’s battle against Republicans who are more worried about the party than “sustaining a moral and righteous nation” is “the next confrontation to watch.”

Pastors as Cause of and Solution to America’s Descent into Hell

It is a recurring theme at Religious Right gatherings that the real reason for America’s slide from greatness into moral decay is that its preachers aren’t preaching aggressively enough. Lane is also in this camp. The relatively media-shy Lane told the New York Times in 2011, “From my perspective, our country is going to hell because pastors won’t lead from the pulpits.”

He complains that the “the Church didn’t even shudder when the Bible, prayer, Jesus, and the Ten Commandments were removed from the public schools in 1963.” And he says there was “not a peep from the Christian Church” in response to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, when the church “should have initiated riots, revolution, and repentance.”

Lane is fond of quoting Peter Leithart’s Between Babel and Beast. Last fall he included this segment in one of his frequently repetitive online commentaries: 

American churches have too long discipled Christians in Americanism, and that makes Christian involvement in the American polity far smoother than it ought to be. Churches must repent of our Americanism and begin to cultivate martyrs—believers who are martyrs in the original sense of ‘witness’ and in the later sense of men and women ready to follow the Lamb all the way to an imperial cross.

In a different commentary, this one for WND, Lane also quotes from Between Babel and Beast:

Until American churches actually function as outposts of Jesus’ heavenly empire rather than as cheerleaders for America – until the churches produce martyrs rather than patriots – the political witness of Christians will continue to be diluted and co-opted.

Lane also quotes Leithart in a June 2013 commentary that seemed to be too much even for the virulent WND, which has removed the post. Here’s part of the Leithart he approvingly quotes:

Americanists cannot break Babelic or bestial power because they cannot distinguish heretical Americanism from Christian orthodoxy. Until we do, America will lurch along the path that leads from Babel to Beast. If America is to be put in its place – put right – Christians must risk martyrdom and force Babel to the crux where it has to decide either to acknowledge Jesus [as] imperator and the church as God’s imperium or to begin drinking holy blood.

To that bracing section Lane adds his own words:

Where are the champions of Christ to save the nation from the pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage, homosexual scouts, 60 million babies done to death by abortion and red ink as far as the eye can see on America? Who will wage war for the Soul of America and trust the living God to deliver the pagan gods into our hands and restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture?...

As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the ‘Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning, and pagan media….

Christian America is in ruins…

You ask, “What is our goal?” To wage war to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage with all of our might and strength that God will give us. You ask, “what is our aim?” One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, America will ultimately collapse.

He sees the solution as the political organizing he does among pastors.  “Bible-believing pastor,” he wrote last fall, “without overstating it, the survival of America is on your shoulders.” According to the New York Times, at a 2011 briefing in Iowa Mike Huckabee “lavished praise on Mr. Lane for ‘bringing pastors together so they go back to their pulpits and light them on fire with enthusiasm, to make America once again the greatest country on earth under God.’”

Lane’s increasingly war-like rhetoric has given people pause. Lane frequently closes his commentaries – including the one recently pulled from WND -- with the question, “Will a Gideon or Rahab the Harlot please stand.” In the Old Testament, Gideon is called by God to defeat the armies of enemies of the Israelites and end the worship of false gods. Rahab the Harlot is another Old Testament character: she enabled the Israelites’ conquest of the city of Jericho by helping two spies sent into the city by Joshua. She and her family were the only ones spared when the city was destroyed and every other man, woman and child was killed. Politicians who stand with Lane might consider asking him just what he means by his frequently repeated calls for a Gideon or Rahab to stand up among American evangelicals.

This IS the Religious Right – and the GOP’s Dominant Right Wing

Sadly, Lane’s extremist views and rhetoric do not make him much of an outlier among today’s hard-right political figures. He is closely allied with major Religious Right leaders and has no problem attracting current and former members of Congress and Republican presidential aspirants to his closed-door gatherings.  Among those scheduled to take part in this week’s Iowa event are Christian-nation “historian” David Barton, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, and the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon.  In 2010, Lane joined Barton and anti-gay activist Jim Garlow, and Lane offered a 12-day, $4000, Next Great Awakening Tour of historical sites in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington.

Also part of this week’s program in Iowa is Lane’s friend Laurence White, who says “if we do not stop abortion then God will destroy and God should destroy America.” Another participant is Ken Canfield, who ran for Governor of Kansas in 2006 on a platform calling for a “no exceptions” ban on abortion; he came in second in a crowded GOP primary .

Lane, like other Religious Right leaders, sees the acceptance of homosexuality as a sign that America has turned its back on God. In one column he approvingly cites an author who describes gays and lesbians as “parasites, depending for their cultural survival on couples that birth the next generation.” Last summer he asked pastors to “exhort the flock, entrusted to you by the Living God, to refrain from shopping at Target Stores until its leadership ends pushing homosexual marriage in America.”

He’s even got the Tea Party’s anti-big-government rhetoric down. He wrote in February as sequestration approached,  “we should immediately begin the mobilization of pastors and pews to contact—read tongue-lash and rail against – local Congressman and U.S. Senators to decry the immoral debt being piled on our kids and grandkids because Congress lacks the guts to make hard, painful decisions and cut spending.”

In fact, Lane covers all the issues important to the modern day right, connecting them to court decisions upholding the separation of church and state, which he says created a religion of secularism:

This ‘religion of secularism’ has produced red ink as far as the eye can see, homosexuals praying at the Inauguration, tax-funded abortion, homosexual marriage in several States, Evangelicals held in contempt, and God expelled from the classrooms of America – and the public square.

Lane is connected to Champion the Vote, a project of United in Purpose, which had aimed to unseat President Obama with an effort “to mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012.” United in Purpose produced DVDs of Lane’s 2011 event in Orlando to distribute for house parties. In the wake of Rick Perry’s supposedly non-political “Response” rally, the American Family Association sent out emails to those who registered for the event  to engage them in Champion the Vote.  It said the Response “was just the beginning of a nationwide initiative to return America to the principles on which she was founded, with God at the center of our nation.”

Politicians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul should be held to account for partnering politically with David Lane. But given the increasingly small differences between the GOP’s right wing and its really right wing, we probably shouldn’t expect politicians cozying up to Lane to show any discomfort with his extremism. As Ted Cruz said in another context, “If standing for liberty , if standing for free market principle and the Constitution makes you a wacko bird, then, then I am a very proud wacko bird.”

Chick-fil-A Declares War on Christmas

For many Religious Right groups, Christmas is not so much a time to celebrate Immanuel than it is to raise money by fomenting outrage when shops use slogans like “happy holidays.” The American Family Association has a “Naughty or Nice” list to stir up consumers to boycott companies which are “against Christmas” and yesterday Liberty Counsel announced its “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” targeting public spaces which “censor” Christmas and selling their “Help Save Christmas Acton Pack.”

As Jeremy Hooper noted yesterday, it appears that the Religious Right’s most beloved fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, has indeed declared war on Christmas. In their horrific assault on Christmas, the company released a statement celebrating the “holiday season” that doesn’t once include the word “Christmas” and also pushed out a press release about “holiday gift giving,” again failing to mention “Christmas.” Even their online ads are clear affronts to Christmas!

We will wait to see whether LC or the AFA decide to be consistent with their boycott calls and paint Chick-fil-A as the season’s latest Grinch, but we won’t hold our breath, especially since Newt Gingrich, a proud foot soldier in the “War on Christmas,” escaped judgment when his company Gingrich Productions declared war on Christmas, and both LC chairman Mat Staver and AFA founder Don Wildmon endorsed him.

Don Wildmon says America chose 'Chaos' by Re-Electing Obama

Last week, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon appeared on AFA Today with Buster Wilson, where the conservative leader was mourning the re-election of President Obama. He said that the election represented the beginning of the end for Western civilization and that the U.S. will “end up in chaos” as “ultimately we’re going to change the Constitution or do away with it.”

What happened is what we didn’t want to happen, there may be some people who will disagree and who may even be upset with what I’m about to say but in this election we tipped Western civilization, it’s no longer going up, it’s going down. Now you won’t see a drastic change in three months, you won’t see a big change in three years, but in thirty years from now you’re going to see a real big change. It’s going to be different, absolutely different. The Christian value system, the Christian view of man, will be replaced. With what? With whatever somebody else has enough gunpowder to make it work. That’s the tipping point and from here on out we’re simply going downhill. Hate to say that and I wish I didn’t have to say that, but if I want to be honest with you, I’ve got to say that. I’ve been looking at this for thirty years and the people spoke yesterday and Americans have nobody to blame except themselves, we’ve become a society where we expect you to give me something or do something for me.



Changes like this come over a period of years, scores of years sometimes, but ultimately we’re going to change the Constitution or do away with it. We’ll end up in chaos. I remember a sermon years ago by a preacher, ‘Christ or Chaos.’ That’s the choice and we made the choice.

Mitt Romney in 2006 Blasted Same-Sex Marriage as a 'Blow to the Foundation of Civilization'

Prior to launching his first run for president, Mitt Romney in 2006 addressed an event called “Liberty Sunday” at Boston’s Tremont Temple Baptist Church where he spoke alongside anti-gay activists and attacked marriage equality as harmful to children and civilization itself.

Watch:

Warning against the “homosexual agenda,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins introduced Mitt and Ann Romney and lauded the former Massachusetts governor for understanding “the threat that this imposes to our nation.”

Romney condemned people, especially activist judges, whom he accused of “trying to establish one religion, the religion of secularism” and “reject traditional values” and “reject the values of our Founders.”

“Here in Massachusetts, activist judges struck a blow to the foundation of civilization—the family—they ruled that our constitution requires people of the same gender to marry,” Romney said. “The principal burden of this court’s ruling doesn’t fall on adults, it falls on children.” He continued, “The price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children, our fight for marriage then should focus then on the needs of children, not the rights of adults.”

Romney called for the adoption of a Federal Marriage Amendment to block the “spreading secular religion and its substitute values” that he said “weaken the foundation of the family” and dishonor the Founders.

Other speakers included Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, American Family Association president Don Wildmon, and preacher Wellington Boone, who reminisced about the time when sodomy was a capital offense in America, joked about “sodomite island,” and said the push for LGBT rights represents the “rape of the civil rights movement.”

Gingrich: Gay Marriage a 'Perfect Example of What I Mean by the Rise of Paganism'

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich held another conference call for Religious Right supporters, seeking to mobilize them ahead of the Republican primary in Florida.

The call was hosted by Jim Garlow and featured several other of the Gingrich campaign's Faith Coalition leaders explaining why they had decided to support Gingrich ... and the consensus was that if President Obama wins re-election, it means the end of Western Civilization:

Mat Staver: I believe that if Speaker Gingrich wins Florida next Tuesday, he wins the nomination. If he wins the nomination, he beats President Barack Obama and we have not a cloud hanging over us in November and December of 2012 but we begin to see the clouds dissipating and some ray of sunshine of hope return to this land.

Jim Garlow: At the risk of sounding melodramatic, the United States as we know her will cease to exist as will, then, Western Civilization. Those who are discerning, those who are intuitive to what is happening morally and economically in our nation understand the truth.

George Barna: As you mentioned Jim, for the last twenty years I have steadfastly refused to endorse any individuals or organizations or products. But as I've analyzed the severity of America's situation today, I've come to believe that such self-restrictions are a luxury that we can no longer afford. So after carefully studying all the candidates in regards to the needs I just described and assessing their ability to win in November, I concluded that Newt Gingrich is the best man for the job.

Jim Garlow: We are in a situation that is so crisic in America, I'm actually stunned that President Obama could do this much destruction to the nation in a three year span. I never anticipated that this much harm in the moral and economic arenas of our nation could be brought on by one particular president.

Don Wildmon: This is not a typical election. This is an election unlike any ever held in our country. We're not just voting for a president; we're voting for the continuation of Western Civilization. If those who are listening think that what we enjoy, the freedoms we enjoy, the right to practice our Christan faith, is merely an accident and is there, it's not, people paid for it. And we can lose it, and we will lose it, if we lose this next election. What's at stake is everything that the human race, Western Civilization, has fought for for the last two thousand years.

When Gingrich joined the call, the thrice-married candidate served up some red meat to the audience by declaring that efforts to grant equal marriage rights to gays and lesbians are "pagan behaviors":

It's pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it's a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.

Finally, Gingrich explained that he didn't really have any interest in being president but decided that he had to do so because all the other Republicans are so terrible so that he had a moral obligation to step up and save this nation and that he would just magnanimously have to suffer the insults that come his way:

I want people to understand, I'm a volunteer. Callista and I had very long talks for over a year and then we talked with our two daughters and our two son-in-laws because we knew if we tried to offer help the country that we would be subjected to news media assaults, we'd be subjected to vicious gossip, we'd be subjected to people on the web saying horrible things and we'd be subjected to negative ads from our opponents. And we concluded that we are in so much trouble and we are in such grave danger of losing the America that we grew up in and the lack of Republican ability to articulate and communicate and defend is so great that both of us - this was a dual decision - we both concluded that we had a moral obligation to endure whatever comes and to at least offer, as citizens, to try and be of service.

Will Gingrich's Religious Right Backers Denounce his Funding from a Gambling Mogul?

With news that gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife have now both contributed $5 million each to the pro-Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future, on top of the millions of dollars the Adelson’s have contributed to Gingrich’s organizations before he entered the presidential race, Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton is wondering if social conservatives know—or care—about Gingrich’s close ties to the “billionaire casino owner.” Adelson, who is believed to be worth $26.5 billion, made his money through casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau, China, and is one of Gingrich’s longtime financers.

Ironically, members of Gingrich’s Faith Leaders Coalition have strongly denounced the gambling industry.

Beverly LaHaye, a Gingrich coalition co-chair, founded Concerned Women for America, which explicitly calls for the “elimination of gambling in all its forms” and education about “the detrimental effects of gambling on the family.” CWA actively works against the legalization of casinos and Janice Shaw Crouse, head of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, said that “gambling” is one of the ways people “are destroying their lives.”

Another Gingrich coalition co-chair, evangelical pollster George Barna, listed gambling as one of the top causes of society’s “moral decay.” Barna’s work on gambling is frequently used by casino opponents like Focus on the Family and Barna himself has written about the dangers of the growing gambling industry.

One of Gingrich’s first Religious Right endorsers and a coalition co-chair, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, is also an outspoken opponent of the gambling industry. In his native Mississippi, Wildmon condemned then-governor Haley Barbour for betraying the “moral people” who voted for him by siding with the “money people” in his move to liberalize gambling laws. The AFA has consistently opposed the legalization of casinos and said [pdf] that “a federal commission to study the impact of gambling in America” should only include “people with sound Judeo-Christian values and no ties to the gambling industry,” while attacking congressmen who have taken “big gambling bucks.” In fact, that was the very same commission Gingrich tried to weaken to the chagrin of gambling opponents and AFA Journal noted that Gingrich “used one of his two choices to appoint the chairman and CEO of a Las Vegas casino company” to the commission. Wildmon himself wrote in 2005:

But the truth is that all our fine talk about personal freedoms in the U.S. can be nullified by the freedom we take with the moral laws of God. … Our consciences have become blunted and dulled with an overdose of pseudosophistication and broad-mindedness. We have become so tolerant of sin and sinfulness that we have lost our capacity to protest and rebel against plain indecency and moral rottenness. In many quarters we are so accustomed to violence, licentiousness, the glorification of sex, the shady deal, and the fast dollar — to say nothing of the gambler’s passion for something for nothing — that old-fashioned righteous indignation is regarded as a corny exercise for squares.

The tragedy is that modern Christians too often go along with the tide. We try to convince ourselves that drunkenness is illness, that filthy writing is realism, that obscenity is social comment, that perversion, adultery, cynicism, and gambling are the folkways of our time. … The cause of our problem does not lie altogether in poverty or slums or ignorance. … The truth is, the human mind is being poisoned, not by common immorality, but by an amoral, humanistic, nihilistic, cynical outlook on human behavior, wholly divorced from any concept of right or wrong.

Seeing as that Ralph Reed continues to be a leading Religious Right figure despite his past funding from casinos, Gingrich may still be able to balance his campaign focus on attracting “values voters” while his Super PAC is bankrolled with casino money.

While Santorum wins Religious Right Support, No Signs of 'Strong Consensus'

Did social conservative leaders come together and jointly endorse Rick Santorum at the Texas retreat over the weekend? That is the way Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and many in the media interpreted the meeting of leading Religious Right luminaries, where on the second ballot Santorum led Gingrich 70 to 49, and on the third ballot 85 to 29. Perkins claimed there was a “strong consensus” behind Santorum, who has won the backing of Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Young Nance, former National Organization for Marriage president Maggie Gallagher, American Values president Gary Bauer and the expected endorsement of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

But have Religious Right leaders really coalesced around Santorum?

Gingrich has locked in the support of prominent social conservative leaders: Concerned Women for America founder and chairman Beverly LaHaye; Council for National Policy founder and author Tim LaHaye; American Family Association founder and chairman Don Wildmon; Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver; California pastor and Proposition 8 organizer Jim Garlow; evangelical pollster George Barna; Restoration Project organizer David Lane and pastor and former congressman J.C. Watts.

Gingrich supporters have even claimed that the third ballot, which showed Santorum winning handling, occurred after many leaders left the meeting and that some Santorum boosters were involved with “ballot-box stuffing.” Bob Vander Plaats, an early Santorum endorser, told Bryan Fischer on Focal Point that the Texas gathering only showed “divided support” between Santorum and Gingrich, and Red State’s Erick Erickson, who attended the meeting, said that “it was divided with many thinking Gingrich is the only one who can win.”

The real loser of the meeting was Texas Governor Rick Perry, who won just three votes in the first ballot. Major Religious Right leaders gathered in Texas last summer where they urged Perry to run for president. Dobson, Perkins, Garlow, Nance and other Religious Right figures all appeared with Perry at his The Response prayer rally and after Perry announced his candidacy, he courted a group of social conservative activists including Perkins, Dobson, Garlow at the Texas ranch of mega-donor James Leininger. John Stemberger, the head of the Florida Family Policy Council who was a Perry campaign chairman, has now even switched his support from Perry to Santorum.

While it remains to be seen if social conservatives will really “coalesce” behind Santorum, it is clear that the Religious Right leadership that begged Perry to enter the race has now utterly abandoned him.

Tim and Beverly LaHaye and Mat Staver Endorse Newt Gingrich

Is the Religious Right beginning to coalesce behind Newt Gingrich? Yesterday, the former Speaker hosted a conference call with the members of his Faith Leaders Coalition: American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, Religious Right pollster George Barna and pastor Jim Garlow. Now, Gingrich is racking up additional endorsements from Religious Right figures just days before conservative activists are set to meet in Texas to see if they can get behind one of the presidential candidates.

Tim LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind series on the End Times and founder of the Council for National Policy, and his wife Beverly, the founder and chairman of Concerned Women for America, endorsed Gingrich, warning that America may “end up being like the godless socialist countries of Europe,” as did Mat Staver, the chairman of Liberty Counsel, one of the country’s most stridently anti-gay groups, and the dean of the Liberty University School of Law. “America will be unrecognizable if Obama is elected for four more years,” Staver said. “We need a strong leader with domestic, international and political experience who can inspire a new conservative resurgence in the line of Ronald Reagan. Speaker Gingrich is the clear choice.”

Tim LaHaye has claimed that President Obama is a socialist and not a Christian who is bringing America “closer to the Apocalypse,” and Staver has referred to Obama as a tyrant who is making the U.S. “one of the world’s immoral leaders” by opposing countries that criminalize homosexuality. 

Gingrich even appeared in TV advertisements for Liberty University School of Law, and LU ran ads featuring Gingrich in Iowa right before the caucus. While appearing on David Barton’s radio program WallBuilders Live, Gingrich said he would look to graduates of Liberty University when making appointments to the judiciary.

The LaHaye’s, Staver and Wildmon all endorsed Huckabee in the 2008 election. While Rick Santorum has picked up the support of social conservative figures such as Gary Bauer, Maggie Gallagher and Bob Vander Plaats, it appears that Gingrich is winning over Religious Right leaders who are desperate to defeat Mitt Romney.

UPDATE: The Gingrich campaign released this statement from Tim LaHaye:

“During the last three years our nation has been led by liberal secularists who have tried their best to remove God from our public square and the elimination of the Biblical principles our founding fathers built this nation on” said LaHaye.

“Please prayerfully consider going to the polls on January 21 and help elect Newt Gingrich, a proven conservative who has the best chance of replacing the present occupant of the White House with a man with a proven record of appointing conservatives to office that can return this country to the constitutional principles that God has chosen to bless for over two hundred years” he said.

Pastor LaHaye also pointed to Speaker Gingrich’s qualifications as the best candidate to defeat President Obama as one of the reasons for his endorsement.

“It seems apparent the Republican candidates have come down to two possible winners,” LaHaye said. “As my friend, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell told me personally, ‘Speaker Newt Gingrich is the most qualified man in America to run as president of the United States”… We agree!’”

"I am honored to have Tim's endorsement. His work as both a minister and author is truly unmatched," said Gingrich. "Tim will be a terrific partner for the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition as we work to combat the influence of radical secularism and activist judges."

Gingrich Calls for the Restoration of the 'Church Militant'

Newt Gingrich today joined a conference call with members of his campaign’s Faith Leaders Coalition including Pastor Jim Garlow, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, and Religious Right pollster George Barna where he urged social conservative voters to coalesce behind his candidacy. During the call, Gingrich repeated his claim that religious charities are losing their rights because they refuse to follow codes that prevent taxpayer-funded services from discriminating against people such as married same-sex couples. He even warned that America might go the way of Europe where Gingrich claimed that reading parts of the Bible regarding homosexuality would be a “hate crime”:

Gingrich: The state governments, for example in Massachusetts, which has literally driven Catholic adoption services out of the state, the District of Columbia, which has literally driven Catholic services out of taking care of the poor, the degree to which if you aren’t pro-gay, pro-abortion and pro-secular, you don’t have any rights. If you watch Europe right now, there is an increasing risk of speech becoming illegal, there are sections of the Bible you can’t read anymore in some European countries because it involves homosexuality and the act of reading it from the pulpit would be considered a hate crime.

As he told John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church that America may soon become “a secular country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” Gingrich argued that atheists and Islamists are both waging war against Western civilization by trying to “drive God out of our lives” and “make America safe for Islam and militant religion.” He went on to call for the restoration of the “Church Militant” so civilization can “survive”:

Gingrich: We’re in a two front war for our civilization. At one front are the secular atheists who would seek to drive God out of our lives, and on the other front are radical Islamists who would seek to make America safe for Islam and militant religion. I think that we have to recognize how truly serious a crisis this is for our civilization, I find when I talk that there is a need for the Church Militant once again if we are going to survive. I really do believe that we are in a two front war over the very potential of our society being preserved.

Later, Garlow and Wildmon ended the call by warning that Mitt Romney would inevitably lose to President Obama if nominated because he would have lukewarm support among evangelical voters, which would doom America and “be the beginning of the end for Western civilization as we know it”:

Garlow: I really, truly believe that this nation is on a very short fuse and the reason I threw my lot in beside, behind Newt Gingrich is that I believe what he brings in the table is what is needed in this particular moment to break through and to be able to keep us from having a candidate like Romney. If we have a candidate like Romney, the evangelical participation will drop, probably from a 2010 level to a 2008 level, that would be from 28 percent to 23 percent, and that would result in the reelection of President Obama and our country cannot possibly, morally and economically, survive that. It would spell, in my opinion, the end of the United States of America as we have known her and consequently the end of Western civilization. Don Wildmon, you’ve heard me say these words, am I overstating the case Don Wildmon or do you believe that is within the range of accuracy?

Wildmon: Jim, I’ve been thinking in the last few weeks, about forty years ago I’ve became travelling a good bit in Europe and I saw what was happening in Europe and the shape that they’re in now and that’s where we’re headed. Let me say this, this is not just another election, and I’m not one to try to blow things out just to get attention. If we lose this election, then it will be the beginning of the end for Western civilization as we know it.

Divided Religious Right Leaders may ask Presidential Candidates to Withdraw

Divided Religious Right Leaders may ask Presidential Candidates to Withdraw With Religious Right leaders set to meet in Texas about the GOP presidential primary, divisions within the movement may hinder efforts to put on a united front. Just as in 2008, when many social conservatives were divided and John McCain was able to win the Republican nomination, it looks like discord and delay will doom any chance that this meeting will be a game-changer.

Elizabeth Dias of TIME reports that Don Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association who was an early supporter of Rick Perry but has since endorsed Newt Gingrich, told invited guests that they must be prepared to switch which candidate they support so as not to “not divide our strength.” Dias also reports that there “is a rumor among several invitees that the leaders may ask a candidate to withdraw” from the race:

Some 125 evangelical leaders and their spouses will gather this weekend at a Texas ranch to discuss the latest iteration of Operation What To Do About Mitt Romney. While organizers say it is not a meeting to stop the GOP front runner, the invitation is urgent: “This coming election could prove to be the most critical of our lifetime,” it reads. The real kicker: Event sponsor and former American Family Association chairman Don Wildmon has asked invitees if they would be “be willing to compromise and change your choice to one that the body as a whole supports in order to not divide our strength,” according to someone who has received the invitation. The implication? Time’s running out to anoint a consensus candidate for social conservatives.

Getting all the members of this group, let alone the voters of South Carolina, behind this proposition in the middle of January will likely require an act of God. Evangelical votes and donations are already splintered between Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. (Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, despite their second and third place finishes in New Hampshire, will not be under consideration at the ranch outside Houston this weekend.) There is a rumor among several invitees that the leaders may ask a candidate to withdraw, but entrenched loyalties will make it difficult to settle on one or possibly two contenders to take to the fall. Wildmon financed Perry’s “Response” prayer rally this summer, and event organizer Gary Bauer, a former Family Research Council president and a U.S.-presidential hopeful in 2000, endorsed Santorum at a South Carolina campaign event this past Sunday.

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times found that Religious Right leaders are trying to make sure that they don’t come across as hostile to Mitt Romney as he inches closer to winning the nomination, noting that Romney’s evangelical supporters will be present:

Gary L. Bauer, president of American Values and one of the organizers, said Tuesday in an interview, “We’re not forming some alliance to stop somebody else that’s competing for the nomination,” adding, “the only person in that room the people want to stop is Barack Obama from having a second term.”

Mr. Bauer, it happens, will be supporting Mr. Santorum, whom he endorsed and campaigned with last week. But Mr. Bauer said the meeting would include advocates “for all of the candidates, including Romney.” Mr. Romney’s advocates are expected to be working the room aggressively.

For some insider knowledge, AFA spokesman and Perry-cheerleader Bryan Fischer urged his allies to all rally around the Texas governor despite his extraordinarily low place in the polls and beyond-terrible debate performances:

The only alternative to this scenario is if social conservatives are able to rally around Rick Perry. Newt Gingrich is fatally flawed and bleeding from too many self-inflicted wounds, including morphing into Michael Moore in his attacks on free enterprise. Rick Santorum, despite his unapologetic and vigorous social conservatism, does not have the infrastructure, the organization, or the money to run a nationwide campaign. He will not even be on the ballot in four or five states.

Only Rick Perry combines effective executive experience, a proven record of economic vitality, a consistently conservative set of social values, and the structure and fund-raising capacity to defeat Romney in the primary and Obama in the general. He or Santorum could blunt some of the Ron Paul mania and keep many conservatives from defecting to Paul. But Perry finished fifth in Iowa, was barely a blip in New Hampshire, and is polling at five percent in South Carolina.

Religious Right Leaders to Meet and Plot Strategy on How to Stop Romney

Last summer, James Robison convened a meeting of dozens of leading Religious Right activists for the purpose of unifying the movement behind a Republican candidate that could defeat President Obama, presumably Rick Perry.

But following last night's vote in Iowa in which Perry finished a distant fifth, causing him to return to Texas to "assess" the future of his campaign, activists will be meeting again next weekend to plot how to stop Mitt Romney:

A group of movement conservatives has called an emergency meeting in Texas next weekend to find a "consensus" Republican presidential hopeful, POLITICO has learned.

"You and your spouse are cordially invited to a private meeting with national conservative leaders of faith at the ranch of Paul and Nancy Pressler near Brenham, Texas, with the purpose of attempting to unite and to come to a consensus on which Republican Presidential candidate or candidates to support, or which not to support," read an invitation that is making its way into in-boxes this morning.

The meeting is being hosted by such right-leaning figures as James Dobson, Don Wildmon and Gary Bauer. Many of the individuals on the host list attended a previous closed-door session with Rick Perry this summer.

Movement conservatives are concerned that a vote split between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum among base voters could enable Mitt Romney.

A source who shared the invitation said the meeting was about how to avoid such a possibility.

Given that Michele Bachmann will reportedly be dropping out and Newt Gingrich's campaign is floundering after his dramatic failing in Iowa, it looks like it will only be a matter of time before the Religious Right finally begins to unify behind Rick Santorum. 

Garlow Warns Religious Right Voters That Only Gingrich Can Defeat Romney

Yesterday, leading Religious Right activist and Gingrich-surrogate Jim Garlow appeared on The Steve Deace Show, where he joined former congressman J.C. Watts in praising Gingrich. Deace, who recently endorsed Gingrich, asked Garlow why evangelical voters should back Gingrich when many feel there are candidates who are more ideologically pure and do not have Gingrich’s personal baggage. Garlow commented that Religious Right voters continue to be “defeated and frankly humiliated” by “hyper-spiritualizing” elections, when they should be backing candidates who have a chance at winning. He said Bachmann, Perry and Santorum do not stand a chance against “the Romney machine,” and that Christians need to start using a “healthy, biblical, biblically-founded pragmatism” and that “the Holy Spirit can show us” in order to win political fights:

Garlow: The second component is that we do not as Christians assess the problem quickly enough with a healthy, biblical, biblically-founded pragmatism. For example, I see people hyper-spiritualizing this election, they say, ‘well God parted the Red Sea,’ well he did it once! But he told Noah to build a boat, in other words, get in there and float on this thing. So we’re being out-fought, unfortunately, because we hyper-spiritualize way too much. Let me make it real, ground-tested and practical, and this will probably disturb some people. Michele Bachmann is wonderful but she has no cash and no traction; Rick Perry is wonderful, I think he’s absolutely fabulous, I hope he has strong influence in the nation in the future along with Michele Bachmann, he has lots of cash but his articulation skills have harmed him seriously and he cannot overcome them, not now; Rick Santorum is wonderful but he has no cash and no machinery, if he wins Iowa he needs to be spending $3 million a week minimum to carry him through to try keep up with the Romney machine, so Romney’s best interest is to land Rick Santorum right up there at the top. People are not thinking through a strategy and by lack of a biblically-founded pragmatism that the Holy Spirit can show us, the lack of a strategy, we are being defeated and frankly humiliated and our biblical rights are being robbed from us.

Last week, Garlow interviewed Gingrich on a conference call with Iowa pastors that also featured American Family Association founder Don Wildmon and “Restoration Project” organizer David Lane, both of whom previously supported Rick Perry but have since endorsed Gingrich. On the call, Wildmon warned conservatives against splitting their vote (2:45). Gingrich criticized abortion rights (8:15), marriage equality, which he called “a violation of the core framework of our civilization” (9:20), and the judiciary (10:50), warning that “the Obama, European secular socialism is fundamentally different and in a key way threatens our rights as citizens” by turning Americans into subjects of the state:

Gingrich, Wildmon and Garlow Hold Conference Call with Iowa Pastors as Caucus Approaches

Facing a barrage of negative ads and a severe drop in support among Iowa voters, Newt Gingrich today held a conference call with Iowa pastors to build up his support among the state’s social conservative voters. Religious Right leaders Don Wildmon and Jim Garlow, both of whom have endorsed Gingrich, were featured on the call, and David Brody of CBN News obtained Wildmon’s letter sent to Iowa pastors. In the letter, Wildmon stressed Gingrich’s “thrust to remove elitist judges,” including the Iowa justices who “voted in 2009 to impose homosexual marriage on all Iowans;” in fact, Gingrich helped bankroll a campaign led by Wildmon’s American Family Association to remove three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court. Wildmon says that Gingrich is “the one person who can lead us out of the awful environment created by the present occupant in the White House”:

Dear Iowa pastors and friends:

I am inviting you (and select Christian Iowa Leaders) to join me on a Conference Call with Former Speaker Newt Gingrich this Friday, December 30, 12 Noon (CST).

Dr. Jim Garlow will emcee the call, pastor Skyline Church San-Diego, founder of the California Pastors Rapid Response Team, a group of several thousand pastors who led the successful charge for Prop. 8 in 2008, a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California.

These are important and critical days in which to live and serve the Lord. I'm praying that the Lord is doing something dramatic in our time, and Iowa is leading the way on January 3rd.

Newt is leading the thrust to remove elitist judges who ignore the American people, like the 3 Iowa Supreme Court Justices who voted in 2009 to impose homosexual marriage on all Iowans.

On the call we will hear directly from Newt about this historic undertaking and hopefully have a chance to ask him about his plans for his "21st Century Contract With America."

I have been impressed with Newt and have come to the conclusion that Newt is the one person who can lead us out of the awful environment created by the present occupant in the White House. As Newt has expressed it, "America’s exceptional nature is based on the self-evident truths contained in the Declaration of Independence. Our rights are endowed by our Creator and they are unalienable." This is the type of understanding and strong leadership America needs.

Our Nation requires courageous, principled conservative leadership now more than ever.....from someone who understands that our rights as Americans are a gift from God, not government.

Please join me on this conference call with Newt Gingrich. Your participation is important to our future.

Thank you for your active participation in these critically important times.

Don Wildmon

American Family Association

Wildmon Urges Evangelicals to Forgive and Support Gingrich or America may be 'Gone Forever'

On Tuesday, the founder of the far-right American Family Association Don Wildmon endorsed Newt Gingrich for president, citing Gingrich’s stringent attacks against the judiciary and the need to stop Mitt Romney from winning the Republican nomination as reasons for his endorsement. Wildmon told AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer, who has harshly criticized Gingrich, that he was originally “ecstatic” about Rick Perry but decided against supporting him due to his poor debate performances and said that only Gingrich can stop “the homosexuals and the liberals” from their plot to “destroy the family” and “the whole of Western Civilization.”

Yesterday, Gingrich and Wildmon appeared together on The Steve Deace Show, where Gingrich praised the rabidly anti-gay, pro-censorship leader of the ultraconservative AFA and called the endorsement a “very important signal” to social conservative voters that “Newt Gingrich is the one candidate who could potentially stop Mitt Romney.”

Deace: Newt, tell me what you think this endorsement means and what you want this endorsement to say to undecided voters out there?

Gingrich: No one has been a more consistent fighter for Christian freedom to actually practice our religion, for the right to life, stopping abortion, for the protection of marriage between a man and a woman, and I think the degree to which the Rev. Wildmon has been a national leader in these areas, the 2.5 million people who recognize his leadership through his association, this is a very important signal that if you are a social conservative and you’re interest is making sure that we have a social conservative as the Republican nominee, the Rev. Wildmon from his many years of experience is telling you that Newt Gingrich is the one candidate who could potentially stop Mitt Romney. I think that is a very, very powerful and a very important message, and I think it will make a big impact not just in Iowa but across the country. Having watched his work for a number of years, I am very grateful for this kind of support and the courage he’s shown standing up in the public arena for the values that we believe in.

Wildmon said that the election is so serious that if either President Obama or Mitt Romney wins we will “lose this country”:

Wildmon: If we don’t have a strong leadership that knows and believes in maintaining our Judeo-Christian heritage, we’re going to lose it. And let me tell you, don’t load up any buses because there’s nowhere else in the world that what we have can be replicated. It’s gone and it is gone forever if Obama or Romney wins the presidency, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. That’s a strong statement, I’m not trying to scare anybody, I’m not trying to say I got any kind of intellect, but I just see it and it’s there and if we lose this country, it’s gone and it can never again be replicated.

When Deace asked Wildmon how the Religious Right leader came to terms with a supporting a candidate whose last two marriages ended following extramarital affairs, Wildmon pointed to his own conversations with Gingrich where he repented for his past indiscretions and to California pastor Jim Garlow, who has pressed evangelicals to forgive and support Gingrich. Wildmon also reminded Deace that “Paul was a murderer, Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer and for all intents and purposes a murderer,” and were still forgiven and lifted up by God:

Deace: I keep getting questions about someone that has had the past on a personal level that Newt has had, with even Newt has himself described as moral failings in his past, and whether or not we as evangelicals can support somebody like that and do we look hypocritical, I know you obviously wrestled with this, so let me ask you that question.

Wildmon: Yes I think that is a legitimate question, my friend Jim Garlow could answer that more in depth, but let me answer what I can. Go back four years ago, I was sitting in a room in Washington and we asked Newt to come out and discuss the situation, and we did and he said that he had repented, at that time this was four years ago now and if I remember there was a tear or two, I think the man was genuine, I think he was honest, I think he meant what it said. Now and I say this with Newt sitting there, only Newt knows Newt’s heart other than God, I think that he has paid his dues, I think he has accepted his forgiveness, God has forgiven him, I forgive him, let’s go on to do what’s best for the country.

I am supporting Newt because I think he’s the best fellow for the job, as far as sin, we know what’s in Newt’s past, Paul was a murderer, Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer and for all intents and purposes a murderer, the man has paid his dues, he’s been forgiven by God. Am I supporting him? Yes I am. Why? I’ll say it again; I think that everything considered he is the best candidate for the office. Look—I’m taking a lot of heat, a lot of people already tell me ‘I’m not going to support you anymore’—you only live once and you got to do what you believe to be right and best, and you suffer the consequences thereof, and I think this is the right and best what I did. I hope some of my influence in the state of Iowa will help the Speaker carry the state.

Don Wildmon, Founder of American Family Association, Endorses Gingrich

Newt Gingrich today nabbed the endorsement of Don Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association, which is now under the leadership of his son, Tim. Wildmon praised Gingrich’s aggressive attacks on the judiciary, saying, “Newt Gingrich recognizes the threat to our country posed by judges and lawyers imposing values upon the country inconsistent with our religious heritage, and has proposed constitutional steps to bring the courts back in balance under the constitution,” and Gingrich welcomed the endorsement by calling Wildmon “one of the most important leaders in the country in the battle to uphold our founding principles.”

Wildmon endorsed Gingrich, who has admitted that extramarital affairs were reasons that ended his first two marriages, despite previously arguing that “adultery is destructive to relationships, to families, and to society.”

Wildmon’s endorsement will undoubtedly come as a disappointment to Rick Perry, who teamed-up with Wildmon to launch The Response and embraced him at the prayer rally, and Michele Bachmann, who has courted Religious Right figures like Phyllis Schlafly and Tamara Scott.

After founding the National Federation for Decency, which later became the AFA, Wildmon led censorship campaigns against shows like Seinfeld and Murphy Brown, along with other movies, television programs and music he found objectionable.

Wildmon also has claimed that “liberals” and those who support the “homosexual agenda” all “hate Christians,” and in his recent book Speechless, he claimed that “homosecularists” are trying to “persecute Christians” and “insert homosexual propaganda into the schools.” He warned that the “homosecularist elite” is using “the schools to indoctrinate children” through “pro-homosexual and anti-Christian” programs to combat school bullying. Wildmon also praised the Boy Scouts for not wanting to “expose its young members to lonely sodomites.”

But Wildmon’s endorsement doesn’t mean others in the AFA have had less than kind words for Gingrich.

Matt Freideman said that Gingrich’s extramarital affairs could disgrace the GOP:

Recently in a phone interview I challenged former Speaker Newt Gingrich with the query If the men of the Republican Revolution and their Speaker couldn't keep their marriage vows why should we now entrust, say, that Speaker who looks to be making a run for the presidency?

It wasn't much of an answer he gave. Evangelicals in power must do better in the future, and cultural conservatives in particular must surely know that the public will hold them to higher standards.

And Gingrich has faced tough criticism from AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer, who called his extramarital affairs a “show-stopper” and charged that “social conservatives and all those in the pro-family movement must have grave reservations about his candidacy”:

John the Baptist famously rebuked a politician of his day for his problematic marital history, and Mr. Gingrich rightly comes in for similar censure.

King David of the ancient kingdom of Israel kept his throne after his adulterous liaison with the beautiful Bathsheba, but a consequence of his unfaithfulness was that the sword never left his house, never left the dynasty he left behind nor the nation his descendants ruled. There were lasting consequences to the body politic for his moral failures, no matter how repentant he was and no matter how forgiven by God.

Fischer even warned that a Gingrich presidency could undermine American families:

A candidate or president with such a troubled past would have little or no credibility in talking about the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity and importance of the intact family unit. “Who are you,” folks would say, “to be lecturing us about the importance of family?”

And there certainly would be fallout for the American family and the institution of marriage if such a flawed individual served as our nation’s leader.

UPDATE: Wildmon today appeared on Focal Point with Bryan Fischer where he explained that while he was initially “ecstatic” about Rick Perry’s candidacy, he decided that because of the Texas governor's disastrous debate appearances his candidacy “cannot recover.” Wildmon said that electability matters because “we are facing the most critical election this nation has ever seen, the stake in this election is Western civilization.”

When discussing Gingrich’s extramarital affairs, he said that Gingrich “seemed genuinely repentant,” telling Fischer, “we are voting for a president, not a pope, and there is a difference.” He added that his endorsement was personal and does not reflect an endorsement by the American Family Association.

Later in the show, Wildmon and Fischer praised Gingrich’s fight against “judicial tyranny” and Wildmon cited Gingrich’s attacks on judges as one of the major reasons he endorsed him: Wildmon said “the whole of Western Civilization” is in jeopardy because “when you destroy the family, which the homosexuals and the liberals now are trying to do, then you've destroyed the foundation here. All of this business about homosexual marriage, well let’s go to Massachusetts where it started, did the people vote on it? No they didn’t. What happened? Judges, judges, liberal judges passed the law, made the legalization of homosexual marriage in Massachusetts.”

Rick Perry's Gay-Baiting Ad Lauded by Anti-Gay Leaders

Rick Perry’s desperate ad attacking openly gay service members and criticizing President Obama’s purported “war on religion” has quickly become one of the most disliked videos on YouTube, but it has found a few unsurprising fans: anti-gay zealots in the Religious Right. The ad even divided Perry’s own campaign staff with one pollster calling it “nuts”:

But vilifying gay soldiers and stoking fears about the administration’s supposed hostility to religion is common currency in the Religious Right.

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer said that the ad’s hostile reception on YouTube proves that Perry is a good candidate for Christian conservative voters: “Perry’s ad had triggered an astonishing 637,738 dislikes to just 19,792 likes by 10:53 Eastern time this morning, clearly stamping him as the candidate the vengeful, hate-filled, vitriolic homosexual lobby wants to destroy,” Fischer wrote today. “If you’re looking for your values candidate, conservatives, you may have just found him.” On his radio show last week, Fischer even said that AFA founder and chairman emeritus Don Wildmon, who led The Response prayer rally with Perry, called the ad “the best political ad he’s ever seen.”

Wildmon’s son Tim, the current head of the AFA, agreed with Todd Starnes of Fox News that the ad might help Perry consolidate support among conservative voters and propel Perry to the top of the polls. Starnes predicted “that we are going to see a bump in the poll numbers as the result of this ad, they may not give this ad credit but if you see a rise in the numbers I think it is because of this ad,” saying that it “articulated” how evangelical Christians in America feel:

The Family Research Council even promoted the ad to members and dismissed concerns that it would backfire on the Texas governor, whom they claim is in touch with “everyday Americans”:

Rick Perry's latest ad was intended for Iowa, but thanks to the national media, it's airing on every network in America. A number of pundits are panning the spot for its bold social conservative themes, which they insist will hurt the Texas Governor's chances. "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian," Gov. Perry says, "but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." The ad is called "Strong," and that's the kind of message it sends on issues like religious freedom. "As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage." True, Gov. Perry probably wouldn't win the media's vote with that kind of platform--but he does stand to benefit with everyday Americans who are tired of seeing their values in the line of fire under this administration.

AFA Using Perry's Prayer Rally Mailing List To Mobilize Christian Voters

One of the standard claims from organizers of Rick Perry's "The Response" prayer event was that the event was going to be non-political, so that any criticism about mixing church and state was totally unfounded.

So maybe they can explain why the American Family Association is now sending out this email to everyone who registered to attend "The Response," urging them to get active politically and "imagine the impact we could make on the future of America if these Christians made their voices heard in the voting booth":

Thank you for registering for The Response on August 6 in Houston. I hope you were able to attend or participate online as it was certainly a day to remember. I was especially encouraged to see so many youth and young adults in attendance. In addition to the tens of thousands who were in attendance at Reliant Stadium, over 2,000 churches and groups gathered together and joined the event via a live web stream, and hundreds of thousands participated via a live web stream from their homes. If you were not able to participate live, we encourage you to watch the video archives of The Response that will be available at the website (http://www.theresponseusa.com) until the end of August.

The Response was just the beginning of a nationwide initiative to return America to the principles on which she was founded, with God at the center of our nation. All of us in attendance in Houston were moved by the overwhelming call to repentance, prayer and action.

Today, I want to introduce you to Champion the Vote (CTV), a friend of AFA whose mission is to mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012. Only half of the Christians in the United States are registered to vote. Imagine the impact we could make on the future of America if these Christians made their voices heard in the voting booth!

CTV’s research has shown that it takes only 5 million voters to influence the outcome of an election. This is a do-able goal, and Champion the Vote is seeking Champions – an army of volunteers -- to help with the effort. A Champion is simply a Christian talking to other Christians about registering and voting.

If you would like to be involved in this important initiative, go to the CTV website (http://www.ChampionTheVote.com) for complete details. We can make a difference, one by one, multiplied across the nation.

Sincerely,

Don Wildmon, Founder
American Family Association

Champion The Vote is a initiative of United in Purpose, the group responsible for the Rediscover God In America conference, which was organized by David Lane ... who just so happened to also serve as the National Finance Chairman of The Response.

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Don Wildmon Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Thursday 07/31/2014, 11:28am
Two current Religious Right fixations — the “persecution” of American Christians and the need for conservatives to do more to influence the pop culture — have come together in movies like “Persecuted” and “We the People—Under Attack.” The latest entry, “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty,” was screened by Rick Santorum at the Heritage Foundation on Monday night. Santorum said the movie will be released in September. His EchoLight Cinemas is trying to create an alternative to Hollywood distribution... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 03/11/2014, 4:30pm
The Texas state chapter of David Lane’s extremist American Renewal Project is set to host Sen. Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott, the state attorney general and GOP gubernatorial nominee, at a “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” next month. Cruz has also addressed the group’s chapters in Iowa and South Carolina, two early primary states. Mike Huckabee, who like Cruz has also floated the possibility of running for president in 2016, will also appear at the event. The Texas Freedom Network points out that at a Texas “Pastors’ Policy Briefing” in 2005,... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 10/29/2013, 4:25pm
Update, 10/30: The Dallas Morning News is now reporting that Mike Lee will not be attending the summit. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott will be joining Religious Right leaders in South Carolina, an early primary state, in the beginning of November for a Renewal Project conference organized by David Lane. Lane believes that the US may soon face car bombings as a form of divine retribution over gay rights and legal abortion, and believes that his Renewal Projects can activate enough pastors and conservative voters to save America. Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News reports that Sen. Mike Lee... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 07/17/2013, 11:02am
Senators and presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz will head to Iowa this week as featured speakers at a closed-door event for conservative pastors that has been organized by David Lane, an anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Mormon, Christian-nation absolutist who has declared war, not only on secularism and separation of church and state, but also on establishment Republicans who don’t embrace his vision of an America in which the Bible serves as “the principle textbook” for public education and a “Christian culture” has been “re-established.” He... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Thursday 11/15/2012, 12:30pm
For many Religious Right groups, Christmas is not so much a time to celebrate Immanuel than it is to raise money by fomenting outrage when shops use slogans like “happy holidays.” The American Family Association has a “Naughty or Nice” list to stir up consumers to boycott companies which are “against Christmas” and yesterday Liberty Counsel announced its “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” targeting public spaces which “censor” Christmas and selling their “Help Save Christmas Acton Pack.” As Jeremy Hooper noted yesterday... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 11/13/2012, 5:00pm
Last week, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon appeared on AFA Today with Buster Wilson, where the conservative leader was mourning the re-election of President Obama. He said that the election represented the beginning of the end for Western civilization and that the U.S. will “end up in chaos” as “ultimately we’re going to change the Constitution or do away with it.” What happened is what we didn’t want to happen, there may be some people who will disagree and who may even be upset with what I’m about to say but in this election we... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 05/15/2012, 2:10pm
Prior to launching his first run for president, Mitt Romney in 2006 addressed an event called “Liberty Sunday” at Boston’s Tremont Temple Baptist Church where he spoke alongside anti-gay activists and attacked marriage equality as harmful to children and civilization itself. Watch: Warning against the “homosexual agenda,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins introduced Mitt and Ann Romney and lauded the former Massachusetts governor for understanding “the threat that this imposes to our nation.” Romney condemned people, especially activist... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 01/26/2012, 5:09pm
Yesterday, Newt Gingrich held another conference call for Religious Right supporters, seeking to mobilize them ahead of the Republican primary in Florida. The call was hosted by Jim Garlow and featured several other of the Gingrich campaign's Faith Coalition leaders explaining why they had decided to support Gingrich ... and the consensus was that if President Obama wins re-election, it means the end of Western Civilization: Mat Staver: I believe that if Speaker Gingrich wins Florida next Tuesday, he wins the nomination. If he wins the nomination, he beats President Barack Obama and we... MORE >