Newt Gingrich

GOP Candidates Line Up to Attend Huckabee's Anti-Choice Premier

Lately, Mike Huckabee has been making the rounds on right-wing radio promoting a new anti-choice documentary he produced with Citizens United called "The Gift of Life" which profiles anti-choice activists as well as those who were "saved from the abortionist":

Huckabee is scheduled to premier the film in Iowa next week and he invited the candidates seeking the Republican nomination to join him for the event where each would be given five minutes to address the audience and flaunt their anti-choice credentials ... and so far, four candidates have accepted the invitation:

Four of the Republican presidential candidates have committed to be at a pro-life forum in Des Moines, Iowa hosted by Mike Huckabee on December 14 to join more than 1,000 pro-life advocates for the unveiling of the new pro-life film Gift of Life.

Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum will come together for the event along with local pro-life Iowans as “The Gift of Life” will make its debut that night. The documentary was produced by Citizens United, the company made famous by a U.S. Supreme Court case that opened the door for unlimited spending on election ads by corporations.

Three other GOP presidential hopefuls, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman, have also been invited to the event and they, along with the attending candidates, have been invited to address the audience on pro-life issues before the screening.

Also taking part will be Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa Right To Life Executive Director Jenifer Bowen, Citizens United President David Bossie, and “Mickelson In The Morning” radio host Jan Mickelson, said Jeff Marschner, a spokesman for Citizens United. The event takes place at the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.

Gingrich Says Obama's "Ego" Will Force Him to Accept Lincoln-Douglas Debate Challenge

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich addressed some 60 conservative and Religious Right leaders suburban Washington, DC at a gathering organized by direct mail guru Richard Viguerie.

Yesterday afternoon, following the meeting, Viguerie's ConservativeHQ posted a report on the meeting, noting that Gingrich was "interrupted numerous times by applause" as he called upon those in the room to "be with me, not merely for me – because if you are merely for me that implies you can vote and go home and expect me to fix things, but for this level of change to occur I need you working with me every step of the way to make it happen."

Gingrich also talked about his plans for getting President Obama to agree to participate in several Lincoln-Douglas-style debates, predicting that Obama will eventually accept the challenge because of his ego

But if Obama won't accept his challenge, then Gingrich plans to just follow him around the country and "show-up within four hours to take apart whatever he said":

When asked about how he intended to win the general election Gingrich said he expected Obama to have $1 billion to spend, but that he would counter that by challenging Obama to a series of seven Lincoln – Douglas-style un-moderated debates, “…and he'll say yes. There are two reasons: The first is his ego. Can you imagine him looking in the mirror? Graduate from Columbia, Harvard Law, and editor of the Law Review. How is he going to say that he's afraid to be on the same podium as a West Georgia College teacher? Plus, if he says ‘no’ I’m going to say ‘the White House is now my scheduler’ and wherever he goes I will show-up within four hours to take apart whatever he said, that’s how Lincoln got Douglas to debate.”

Is Newt Gingrich America's King David?

With Newt Gingrich sharply rising in the polls, more and more Religious Right activists are saying that his personal background of serial adultery and multiple divorces will not be a deal breaker for social conservative voters. Bob Vander Plaats cited Gingrich’s “life transformation” and “Christian-historical worldview,” and Tony Perkins told Lou Dobbs that Gingrich is still viewed as more conservative and trustworthy than Mitt Romney, even though he is Romney’s “opposite” when it comes to their personal lives. “No one knows the story of redemption better than Christian evangelicals,” Perkins said.

Back in May, Michael Youssef used the analogy of King David to argue that Gingrich’s “personal struggles and successes will aid him in being not only a seasoned candidate but possibly one of the finest presidents since Ronald Reagan.” In 2 Samuel, King David had an affair with and impregnated Bathsheba, whose husband David later had killed by putting him on the frontlines of battle. Yesterday, conservative columnist Dennis Prager, without naming the presidential candidate, also used the King David analogy to make the case that Religious Right voters can still rally behind a politician with a sordid past:

But there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed first: What does adultery tell us about a person? For many Americans, the answer is: "Pretty much all we need to know." This certainly seems to be the case with regard to presidential candidates. The view is expressed this way: "If he can't keep his vows to his wife, how can we trust him to keep his vows to his country?"

I am a religious conservative, but I know this statement has no basis in fact. It sounds persuasive, but it is a non sequitur. We have no reason to believe that men who have committed adultery are less likely to be great leaders or that men who have always been faithful are more likely to be great leaders. To religious readers, I point to God Himself, who apparently thought that King David deserved to remain king – and even have the Messiah descend from him – despite a particularly ugly form of adultery (sending Bathsheba's husband into battle where he assuredly would be killed).

And while on the subject of leadership, another question for religious and/or conservative readers who believe that a man who sexually betrays his wife will likely betray his country: Who would you prefer for president? A pro-life conservative who had had an affair, or a pro-choice man of the left who had always been faithful to his wife?



Beyond that, I do not want to know anything about the sexual life of any candidate. Media reporting or questioning about candidates' sexual lives constitutes a form of hypocrisy so deep that the English language does not have a word for it. Media people report on the sexual lives of candidates – for virtually any public office – on the grounds that since these politicians have great power, the public needs to know all about them. Yet, they offer no insight into their own sexual lives, even though some in the news media are far more powerful than almost any politician except the president of the United States. If we cannot trust a candidate who committed adultery, then why can we trust a news reporter or editor who has committed adultery?

Newt Declares War on Christmas!

It’s as predictable as the change of seasons: even before shopping malls start playing Christmas muzak, Religious Right leaders and pundits like Bill O’Reilly are fulminating about the supposed “War on Christmas” and how retailers who choose to wish all their customers a “happy holidays” are part of an evil plot to purge Christianity from Christmas and American culture.  This year, the far-right Liberty Counsel has been promoting a “naughty or nice” list of companies based on things like the use of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” in advertising.   Just yesterday, Liberty Counsel breathlessly charged that Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee is waging “war” on Christmas because he said the state should refer to a “holiday” tree rather than a Christmas tree.

So we’re looking forward to the Liberty Counsel screed against Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich, whose busy self-promotional Gingrich Productions has just sent a “Holiday Dash” email encouraging people to buy one of Newt’s books. No mention of Christmas, no Nativity scenes, secular winter snowflake background – definitely “naughty” according to the Liberty Counsel’s criteria.  In fact, it looks a lot like a Walgreen’s ad whose “happy holidays” theme was sinister enough to encourage the American Family Association to call for a boycott.

How soon until Bryan Fischer notices that you can’t spell Gingrich without Grinch?

Land Calls On Gingrich To Apologize For His Multiple Marriages, Seek Forgiveness

Richard Land has penned an open letter to Newt Gingrich, warning him that his personal research reveals that "evangelical women are far less willing to forgive and let bygones be bygones" and won't just ignore his multiple affairs, divorces, and marriages.

As such, Land says Gingrich's only option is to find a "pro-family venue" where he can deliver a public speech where he will confess his sins, seek forgiveness, and assure these women of his respect for marriage: 

Even my own mother, a rock-solid Evangelical, was extremely uncomfortable voting for Sen. John McCain until he acknowledged to Rick Warren that the failure of his first marriage was the greatest regret of his life and it was his fault.

Mr. Speaker, if you want to get large numbers of Evangelicals, particularly women, to vote for you, you must address the issue of your marital past in a way that allays the fears of Evangelical women.

You must address this issue of your marital past directly and transparently and ask folks to forgive you and give you their trust and their vote.

Mr. Speaker, I urge you to pick a pro-family venue and give a speech (not an interview) addressing your martial history once and for all. It should be clear that this speech will be “it” and will not be repeated, only referenced.

As you prepare that speech, you should picture in your mind a 40-something Evangelical married woman whose 40-something sister just had her heart broken by an Evangelical husband who has just filed for divorce, having previously promised in church, before God, his wife and “these assembled witnesses” to “love, honor and cherish until death us do part.”

Focus on her as if she were your only audience. You understand people vote for president differently than they do any other office. It is often more of a courtship than a job interview. I know something of your faith journey over the past 20 years. Do not hesitate to weave that into your speech to the degree that you are comfortable doing so. It will always resonate with Evangelical Christians.

You need to make it as clear as you possibly can that you deeply regret your past actions and that you do understand the anguish and suffering they caused others including your former spouses. Make it as clear as you can that you have apologized for the hurt your actions caused and that you have learned from your past misdeeds. Express your love for, and loyalty to, your wife and your commitment to your marriage. Promise your fellow Americans that if they are generous enough to trust you with the presidency, you will not let them down and that there will be no moral scandals in a Gingrich White House.

Such a speech would not convince everyone to vote for you, but it might surprise you how many Evangelicals, immersed in a spiritual tradition of confession, redemption, forgiveness and second and third chances, might.

Gingrich Tells Religious Right Audience They Must Take Power Back From The "Minority Elite"

Think Progress has posted a video of Newt Gingrich calling on President Obama to "repudiate the concept of the 99 and the 1," saying it is "un-American [and] divisive" and promising that, if he is elected, he will be "president of all the American people, not part of the American people, and I will seek to unify the American people, not to divide them against each other."

Yes, of course ... because Gingrich would never seek to divide Americans and pit the majority against the minority. 

So obviously his remarks at the recent "One Nation Under God" event where he told Religious Right activists that they are the majority in the country who must stand up and take this nation back from the anti-Christian "minority elite" who are ruining it was actually a message designed to "unify the American people":

Now the good news for all of you is you represent the vast majority. Ninety percent of the country believes the words of the Founding Fathers are relevant today. Eighty-five or ninety percent actually believes - over ninety percent of the country believes young people should be allowed to have a moment of silent prayer every morning. The country overwhelmingly believes that "one nation under God" should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance.

But we have allowed ourselves to be bullied, harassed, intimidated, and dominated by a tiny elite using the courts, using the news media, using the entertainment community, using the bureaucracy to coerce the American people against their will. It is fundamentally anti-freedom, fundamentally anti-democratic and the core meaning of the 2012 is to stand up and say "no, the eighty percent of the country that actually believes in classical America is now about to take back power from the minority elite."

Gingrich To Occupy Wall Street: "Go Get A Job Right After You Take A Bath"

At The Family Leader's Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, Newt Gingrich used his platform to once again attack Occupy Wall Street and dismiss concerns about economic inequality and corporate power in America. Gingrich said that the Occupy Wall Street movement proves "how much the left has collapsed as a moral system in this country, " telling demonstrators: "go get a job right after you take a bath."

Is Newt Gingrich The Religious Right Candidate By Default?

After Rick Perry jumped into the presidential race, the Texas governor quickly took the lead among Republican voters nationwide and in surveys in critical states like Iowa and South Carolina. Analysts reasonably predicted that the nomination would come down to a choice between Perry and Mitt Romney as other candidates like Michele Bachmann fizzled and Tim Pawlenty dropped out. Perry, who announced his candidacy following his The Response prayer rally, courted and won plaudits from Religious Right luminaries including James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Richard Land, David Barton, Don Wildmon, David Lane, James Leninger and Jerry Falwell Jr.

However, a number of disastrous debate appearances, including a painful fifty-three second brain freeze, have derailed Perry’s candidacy as Herman Cain has risen in the polls. But Cain’s nonsensical and inconsistent responses to standard questions on abortion rights and marriage equality, along with his dysfunctional and mismanaged campaign, did little to endear him tp Religious Right leaders.

New polls now have Newt Gingrich surging to second place behind Romney nationally, and second to Cain in Iowa and South Carolina. Rick Perry’s support in Iowa and South Carolina, on the other hand, dropped to four and six percent, respectively.

During Gingrich’s calamitous rollout, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association outlined why “social conservatives and all those in the pro-family movement must have grave reservations about his candidacy”:

But actions have consequences, and his pattern of infidelity is only made worse by the fact that he divorced diseased wives to whom he had pledged himself "in sickness and in health...til death do us part."

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

Even Gingrich’s answer to Fischer, who asked Gingrich how he would “slow down the homosexual agenda,” didn’t seem to satisfy him.

But with Perry’s collapse, Bachmann and Santorum’s single digit polling and Cain’s daily gaffes, does Gingrich have a chance at becoming Romney’s chief opponent and the Religious Right’s candidate by default? He has certainly tried to endear himself to social conservatives by participating in the “One Nation Under God” event and pastor policy briefings, and pledging to wage an all-out war on the judiciary, a favorite Religious Right punching bag. Gingrich has wooed activists and groups like John Hagee, Joseph Farah, Janet Porter, Liberty University, Liberty Counsel, The Family Leader and the Minnesota Family Council, and helped funnel money to the American Family Association’s campaign to defeat Iowa Supreme Court justices who favored marriage equality.

The Washington Times today trumpeted the new conventional wisdom that Gingrich is a top contender, emphasizing his potential to gain support among social conservative voters who are cold to Romney. The Times quotes California pastor Jim Garlow, who reporter Ralph Hallow accurately notes is “credited with organizing the evangelicals in the drive to pass a same-sex marriage ban in California,” to show Gingrich’s support in the Religious Right.

What the Times reporter does not mention is the fact that Garlow is a top spiritual adviser to Newt Gingrich and heads Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership (ReAL). Garlow tells the Times that conservative evangelical voters are far more forgiving of Gingrich’s serial adultery and multiple divorces than of Romney’s Mormon faith and flip flops:

Contrary to the beliefs of many in the party, voters on the Christian right have not written off Mr. Gingrich despite a personal history that includes multiple marriages and admitted infidelities.

“Evangelicals will definitely go for Newt if he is the nominee,” insisted Jim Garlow, credited with organizing the evangelicals in the drive to pass a same-sex marriage ban in California. “I used to hear them say, ‘He’s the smartest one in the room, but he has personal issues.’ I’ve seen an enormous shift in the past four or five months. They no longer talk about personal issues, but about intelligence and capability of being president.”

Mr. Garlow, senior pastor of the Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, said if the nomination fight came down to Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich, “I’m guessing 80 [percent] to 90 percent of the evangelical vote in America would go to Newt. Romney’s Mormonism may be a factor, but the reason I hear most is they don’t trust Romney on abortion, marriage, economics and health care.”

“I think, no question, evangelicals will go for Newt if it comes down to him and Romney,” said Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Director Steve Scheffler, credited with organizing support for Pat Robertson’s stunning second-place finish in the 1988 Iowa caucuses. “Evangelicals are concerned with personal conduct, but most will judge people on their present conduct, and they have concluded Newt’s present lifestyle is exemplary.”

Now that Gingrich is rising in the polls, will the Religious Right have to embrace him to stop Romney?

Values Voter Summit 2011 & America in 2013

As RWW readers know, the Values Voter Summit, the year’s biggest political gathering for the Religious Right, took place in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.  Every Republican presidential candidate with the exception of Jon Huntsman addressed the summit, evidence of the continuing importance of Religious Right activists and political groups to the GOP. Polls suggest that the Religious Right is about twice as big as the Tea Party, with significant overlap between the two movements. Ron Paul’s campaign packed in enough voters to win the straw poll, but it would be wrong to say he was the favorite of the Values Voter crowd. It was up-and-coming candidate Herman Cain who won the loudest cheers (and took second place).

The two days of speeches from presidential candidates, congressional leaders, and Religious Right activists painted a clear picture of where they’ll try to take the country if they are successful in their 2012 electoral goals.  In their America, banks and corporations would be free from pesky consumer and worker protections; there would be no Environmental Protection Agency and no federal support for education; women would have no access to abortion; gays would be second-class citizens; and for at least some of them, religious minorities would have to know their place and be grateful that they are tolerated in this Christian nation. 
 
Here’s a recap of some major themes from the conference.
 
Religious Bigotry on Parade
 
In one of the most extreme expressions of the “Christian nation” approach to government, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has stated repeatedly that the religious liberty of non-Christians is not protected by the First Amendment.  More specifically, he says Mormons are not protected by the First Amendment.  For whatever reason, VVS organizers scheduled Romney and Fischer back-to-back on Saturday morning. 
 
Before the conference, People For the American Way called on Romney to take on Fischer’s bigotry, which he did, albeit in a vague and tepid manner, criticizing “poisonous” rhetoric without naming Fischer or explaining why his views are poison.  Getting greater media attention were comments by Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, who in his introduction of Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted on the importance of electing a “genuine” follower of Christ. Reporters who accurately saw this as a swipe at Romney’s faith asked Jeffress about it, and he labeled Mormonism a cult.  (Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many Christians, including Southern Baptists, believe Mormon theology is anything but.)  Following Romney at the microphone, Fischer doubled down, insisting that the next president has to be a Christian “in the mold of” the founding fathers.  Fischer’s inaccurate sense of history is eclipsed only by his lack of respect for church-state separation and for the Constitution itself – even though he insisted that his religious test for the presidency was really a “political test.” Romney took only four percent in the VVS straw poll, even though he has been leading in recent polls of GOP voters.
 
Beating up on Obama
 
Religious Right leaders routinely denounce President Barack Obama, so it is no surprise that a major theme of the VVS was attacking the president and his policies.  Perhaps the nicest thing anyone said about the president was Mitt Romney’s snide remark that Obama is “the conservative movement’s top recruiter.”    Among the nastiest came from virtue-monger Bill Bennett, who said, “if you voted for him last time to prove you are not a racist, you must vote against him this time to prove you are not an idiot.” Rep. Anne Buerkle, one of the Tea Party freshmen, said flat out that the president is not concerned about what is best for the country. 
 
Health care and foreign policy were top policy targets.  Many speakers denounced “Obamacare,” and most of the presidential candidates promised to make dismantling health care reform a top priority. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Religious Right favorite who is leading a legal challenge to the health care reform law, said that if the Supreme Court did not overturn it, Americans would go from being citizens to subjects.  Just about every speaker attacked President Obama for not being strong enough in support of Israel, and repeated a favorite right-wing talking point by pledging to “never apologize” for U.S. actions abroad.
 
Gays as Enemies of Liberty
 
It is clear that a Republican takeover of the Senate and White House would put advances toward equality for LGBT Americans in peril.  Speaker after speaker denounced the recent repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers in the armed forces; many also attacked marriage equality for same-sex couples.  And many portrayed liberty as a zero-sum game, insisting that advances toward equality posed a dire threat to religious liberty. Rep. Mike Pompeo said “You cannot use our military to promote social ideals that do not reflect the values of our nation,” concluding his remarks with a call for the election of more Republicans, saying “ride to the sounds of the guns and send us more troops.”
Another member of the 2010 freshman class – Rep. Vicky Hartzler – attacked the Obama administration for “trying to use the military to advance their social agenda,” saying, “It’s wrong and it must be stopped.” Predictably, the AFA’s Fischer was the most vitriolic and insisted that the country needs a president “who will treat homosexual behavior not as a political cause at all but as a threat to public health.”
 
Loving Wall Street, Hating Wall Street Protesters
 
On the same day that moving pictures of Kol Nidre services at the site of Occupy Wall Street protests made the rounds on the Internet, Values Voter Summit speakers portrayed the protests as dangerous and violent.  Others simply mocked the protesters without taking seriously the objections being raised to growing inequality and economic hardship in America.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor denounced the “growing mobs” associated with the protests and decried “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” (Too bad he didn’t stick around to hear the rest of the speakers).  Glenn Beck denounced “Jon Stewart Marxism” and warned that the protests were the sign of an approaching “storm of biblical proportions” in which “the violent left” would smash, tear down, kill, bankrupt, and destroy.  Pundit Laura Ingraham simply made fun of the protesters and held up her own “hug the rich” sign.  Rising star Herman Cain defended Wall Street, blaming the nation’s economic crisis on policymakers, not reckless and irresponsible financiers.  Nobody wanted to regulate the financiers; speakers called for a repeal of the Dodd-Frank law. 
 
A number of speakers promoted Christian Reconstructionist notions of “Biblical economics,” with Star Parker declaring that “this whole notion of redistribution of wealth is inconsistent with scripture” and calling for the selection of a candidate with commitment to the free market according to the Bible.  Ron Paul also insisted “debt is not a political principle.”  The AFA’s Bryan Fischer said that liberalism is based on violating two of the Ten Commandments, namely thou shall not steal, and thou shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.  Liberalism, he said, is “driven by angry, bitter, acquisitive greed for the wealth of productive Americans.” 
 
No Love for Libertarians
 
A major theme at last year’s Values Voter Summit, as at other recent Religious Right political events, was an effort to make social-issue libertarians unwelcome in the conservative movement by insisting that you cannot legitimately claim to be a fiscal conservative if you are not also pushing “traditional family values.”  The same theme was sounded this year by the very first speaker, Tony Perkins.  Another, Joe Carter, took a shot at gay conservatives, saying it was not possible to be conservative and for gay marriage – it simply made you a “liberal who likes tax cuts.”  Carter said “social conservative” should be redundant. Ingraham echoed the theme, calling for an end to conservative modifiers (social, fiscal, national security) and, echoing popular Christian writer C.S. Lewis, called for a commitment to “mere conservatism.”  There were far fewer mentions of the Tea Party movement itself at this year’s VVS, perhaps owing to the movement’s unpopularity – or to the fact that the GOP itself has essentially become one big Tea Party party.
 
Crying Wolf on Religious Persecution
 
Religious Right leaders routinely energize movement activists with dire warnings about threats to religious liberty and the alleged religious persecution of Christians in America.  William Bennett said liberals are bigoted against “people who publicly love their God, who publicly love their country.”  Retired Gen. William Boykin said Christians are facing the greatest persecution ever in America.   The American Center for Law & Justice’s Jay Sekulow warned that the next president will probably select two Supreme Court justices, and that if it isn’t a conservative president, our Judeo-Christian values could be “eliminated.”  Crying wolf about persecution of Christians in America is offensive given the very real suffering of people in countries that do not enjoy religious freedom.  Several speakers addressed the case of a Christian pastor facing death in Iran.  That is persecution; having your political tactics challenged or losing a court case is not.
 
America is Exceptional; Europe Sucks
 
Republican strategists decided a couple of years ago that “American exceptionalism” would be a campaign theme in 2010 and 2012, and we heard plenty of talk about it at the Values Voter Summit.  Among the many who spoke about American exceptionalism was Rep. Steve King, who said “this country was ordained and built by His hand,” that the Declaration of Independence was written with divine guidance, and that God moved the founding fathers around the globe like chess pieces .  Liberals, said the Heritage Foundation’s Matthew Spalding, don’t share a belief in American exceptionalism or the American dream. Many speakers contrasted a freedom-loving, God-fearing America to socialist, post-Christian Europe.  Rick Perry said “those in the White House” don’t believe in American exceptionalism; they’d rather emulate the failed policies of Europe.  Gen. Boykin declared Europe “hopelessly lost.”
 
Smashing the Regulatory State
 
The anti-government, anti-regulatory fervor of billionaire right-wing funders like the Koch brothers was on vibrant display at the VVS.  Without the slightest nod to the fact that regulating the behavior of corporations’ treatment of workers, consumers, and the environment is in any way beneficial, a member of a Heritage Foundation panel said conservatives’ goal should be to “break the back” of the “regulatory state.”  Some presidential candidates vowed to halt every regulation issued during the Obama administration.  Michele Bachmann said her goal was to “dismantle” the bureaucracy.
 
Judging Judges
 
Many speakers criticized judges for upholding abortion rights, church-state separation, and gay rights. Newt Gingrich took these attacks to a whole new level, calling for right-wing politicians to provoke a  constitutional crisis in which the legislative and executive branch would ignore court rulings they didn’t like.  He called the notion of “judicial supremacy” an “affront to the American system of self-government.” Aside from Gingrich’s very dubious constitutional theory, the speech seemed out of place at a conference in which speakers had been calling for the Supreme Court to overturn the health care law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.
 
Deconstructing the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’
 
VVS speakers love quoting the Declaration of Independence, but some are clearly a little troubled with the notion that the “pursuit of happiness” is an inalienable right, one that might apply, for example, to happy, loving gay couples.  Rick Santorum said that the founders’ understanding of “happiness” meant “the morally right thing” and doing what God wants.  Steve King said the  pursuit of happiness was not like a tailgate party, but the pursuit of excellence in moral and spiritual development.  Michele Bachman has equated the pursuit of happiness with private property.
 
Notably weird speeches
 
Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel gave a meandering address that moved from U.S. policy on Israel to the war on Islamic radicalism to an attack on the United Nations to denunciations of sexologist Alfred Kinsey and humanist/educator John Dewey for undermining western civilization. He warned against conservatives using rhetoric that might push the growing Latino population into the maw of the “leftist machine,” making an aside about Latinos whose names end in “z” having a special connection to Israel.
 
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who ended up taking third place in the straw poll, seemed personally hurt that conservative evangelicals weren’t rallying around him given all that he had done for them and the price he had paid for it.  He whined, “Don’t you want a president who’s comfortable in his shoes talking about these issues?”
 
Rep. Steve King of Iowa said that people who support marriage equality or legal abortion don’t do so because they have a value system supporting those things, but because they want to spite the Religious Right – “because they know it’s precious to us.”
 
Former Fox TV personality Glenn Beck gave a trademark lurching speech contrasting visceral anger with his recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none.” The speech was long on mockery of Wall Street protestors and on the messianic narcissism that was on display at his Lincoln Memorial rally last year.  “We need to give America the same choice” that Moses gave Israel, he said: good or evil, light or dark, life or death, freedom or slavery.  He said America is in a religious war, a race war, a class war, and other wars.  In one breath he insisted that the nation “must return to God” and talked about the “country’s salvation” – and in the next he denounced the notion of “collective salvation,” which he has elsewhere attributed to President Obama and denounced as evil and satanic.
 

Who’s Who at the Values Voter Summit 2011

This weekend, nearly every major GOP presidential candidate, along with the top two Republicans in the House of Representatives, will speak at the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of the leaders of the movement to integrate fundamentalist Christianity and American politics.

The candidates – Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich – and the congressmen – House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor – will join a who’s who of the far Right at the event. The organizers of the Values Voter Summit and many of its prominent attendees are on the frontlines of removing hard-won rights for gay and lesbian Americans, restricting women’s access to reproductive healthcare, undermining the free exercise rights of non-Christian religions and breaking down the wall of separation between church and state.

In perhaps the starkest illustration of how far even mainstream Republican candidates are willing to go to appease the Religious Right, Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak immediately before the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, a man whose record of hate speech should be shocking by any standard. Along with regularly denigrating gays and lesbians, Muslims, and other minority groups, Fischer has no love for Romney’s Mormon faith. In a radio program last week, Fischer insisted that Mormons have no right to religious freedom under the First Amendment and falsely claimed that the LDS Church still sanctions polygamy.

People For the American Way has called on GOP presidential candidates appearing at the conference to denounce Fischer’s bigotry. Last year, PFAW issued a similar call to attendees, which was met with silence.

The following is a guide to some of the individuals with whom the leaders of the GOP will be rubbing shoulders at the Values Voter Summit this year.

Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer is the Director of Issues Analysis at the American Family Association, which is a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. Fischer acts as the chief spokesman for the group and also hosts its flagship radio program, Focal Point, on which he has interviewed a number of prominent figures including Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

On his radio program and in blog posts, Fischer frequently expresses unmitigated bigotry toward a number of minority groups, including gays and lesbians, Muslim Americans, Native Americans, low-income African Americans and Mormons.

Fischer has:

At a speech at last year’s Values Voter Summit, Fischer said that if Christians don’t get involved in politics, they “make a deliberate decision to turn over the running of the United States government to atheists and pagans.” Of the gay rights movement, he warned, “We are going to have to choose, as a nation, between the homosexual agenda and freedom, because the two cannot coexist.”

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, the main organizer of this weekend’s summit. Perkins leads the group’s efforts against gay rights, abortion rights and church/state separation.

The FRC famously expressed its hostility to religious pluralism in a 2000 statement blasting a Hindu priest who was invited to give an opening prayer in Congress: "[W]hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage…. Our Founders … would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference."

The FRC has one of the most anti-gay platforms of any major political organization, including expressions of support for the criminalization of homosexuality. Earlier this year, the group called on members to pray for the continuation of Malawi’s law prohibiting homosexuality , under which a gay couple was sentenced to fourteen years in jail. Senior fellow Peter Sprigg said he would “much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society.”

Perkins himself frequently reflects the extreme views of his organization. He:

At last year’s Values Voter Summit, Perkins managed to simultaneously insult U.S. servicemembers and several important U.S. allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that armies that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly “ participate in parades, they don’t fight wars to keep the world free .”

Mat Staver

Mat Staver is the head of the Liberty University School of Law and its legal affiliate, Liberty Counsel, both sponsors of the Values Voter Summit. Liberty Counsel vehemently opposes rights for gays and lesbians, and in July filed the lawsuit to overturn New York’s Marriage Equality Act . The group’s Director of Cultural Affairs Matt Barber has called marriage equality “ rebellion against God” and said LGBT youth are more likely to commit suicide because they know “ what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, [and] is immoral .” Barber has also described liberalism as “hatred for God” and said the president and Democrats “are anti-God.” In fact, Liberty Counsel claimed that Obama is “ pushing America to move under the curse ” of God and “ jeopardizing our nation” for purportedly not supporting Israel.

Through his role at Liberty Counsel and on his radio program Faith & Freedom, Staver has:

Staver aggressively promotes “ex-gay” reparative therapy and warns that gays and lesbians are “ intent on trampling upon the fundamental freedoms ” of others. He is also closely linked to the saga of Lisa Miller, a woman represented by Liberty Counsel who kidnapped her daughter and fled to Central America after a court granted custody to her former partner, a lesbian woman. Although Liberty Counsel denies involvement in the kidnapping, earlier this year Miller was reportedly staying at the house of Staver’s administrative assistant’s father in Nicaragua . Staver has also taught the Miller case in his law classes as an example of an instance where “God’s law” preempts “man’s law.”

Jerry Boykin

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin sparked a controversy when, as a high-ranking official in the Bush Defense Department, he framed the War on Terror as a holy war against Islam. He has since built a career as a Religious Right speaker, specializing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Obama conspiracy theories. Boykin rejects religious freedom for American Muslims, claiming that Islam “is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian way of life.” In an interview with Bryan Fischer, he called for “no mosques in America.”

Boykin is a leading member of the dominionist group The Oak Initiative. In a speech at the group’s conference in April, he declared that George Soros and the Council on Foreign Relations conspired to collapse the U.S. economy in order to help President Obama get elected. Last year, he told the group that President Obama was using his health care reform legislation as a cover to establish a private army of Brownshirts loyal just to him .

Star Parker

Parker is a long-time Religious Right activist who is particularly active in anti-gay and anti-abortion rights work. As Washington, DC was poised to legalize marriage equality, Parker warned that it would lead to more HIV infections in the city, which would “ transform officially into Sodom.” In a recent radio interview with Tony Perkins, Parker mused that black family life was “ more healthy” under slavery than it is today and has accused liberals of treating Justice Clarence Thomas and Gov. Sarah Palin like runaway slaves. She has called legal abortion a “genocide” on par with slavery and the Holocaust.

Ed Vitagliano

As the AFA’s research director, Ed Vitagliano helped co-produce the 2000 anti-gay documentary “It’s Not Gay,” which is riddled with misleading statistics about gays and lesbians and promotes “ex-gay” reparative therapy. The “documentary” starred ex-gay leader Michael Johnston, a self-described “former homosexual,” who was later revealed to have been secretly having sex with other men. Vitagliano’s anti-gay work has continued apace — on the AFA’s radio program this year, Vitagliano argued that gay men are “ abusing the nature of the design of the human body” and said homosexuality is not a “ natural and normal and healthy activity.” Vitagliano also scolded congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis for supporting marriage equality , saying that Lewis “thumbed [his] nose” at God and “needs to go back and read his Bible.”

Bishop Harry Jackson

Jackson, who built his career as an avowed opponent of rights for gays and lesbians, is a regular speaker at Religious Right conferences. He has called for a “SWAT Team” of “Holy Ghost terrorists” to work against hate crimes legislation that protects gays and lesbians, and said that black organizations that support gay rights have “ sold out the black community” and have been “ co-opted by the radical gay movement .” Jackson claims that gay marriage is part of “ a Satanic plot to destroy our seed” and that the larger gay rights movement is “ an insidious intrusion of the Devil.”

Along with his fierce opposition to LGBT rights, Jackson has compared legal abortion to “lynching” and urged the Senate to defeat Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court because she is not a Protestant (Kagan is Jewish). Jackson has even described his political efforts in apocalyptic terms, telling a Religious Right group before the 2010 elections, “God is saying to us ‘I want to pick a fight in which I can wipe out my enemies and cause them to be silenced once and for all.’ This is where America is; if we do not recognize and repent, we are going to see our way of life destroyed as we now know it.”

Lila Rose

Rose is the anti-choice activist responsible for carrying out a deceptive hit job against Planned Parenthood this year. Members of Rose’s group, Live Action, went to Planned Parenthood clinics around the country posing as clients seeking help with a child sex trafficking ring. Planned Parenthood alerted the FBI about the activity, and the one staffer who handled the supposed traffickers inappropriately was promptly fired. Nevertheless, Rose claimed that her hoax proved “beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws and covers up the abuse of young girls it claims to serve.”

Rose is no newcomer to the Values Voter Summit: in a speech at 2009’s summit, she called for abortions to be performed “in the public square.”

Glenn Beck

Until Beck’s Fox News program was canceled earlier this year, he was one of the Right’s most visible fear-mongers and conspiracy theorists. When his violent rhetoric inspired some real threats against progressive leaders, he laughed off the critics who urged him to choose his words more responsibly. Beck’s elaborate conspiracy theories include the idea that socialists and Islamists were planning a global caliphate, with the help of American progressives; an obsession with the progressive funder George Soros, at whom he leveled a number of anti-Semitic smears including a personal attack that the Anti-Defamation league called “horrific”; and a distrust of President Obama, who he once said was “racist” with a “ deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture .”

On air, Beck joked about killing prominent progressives (for instance, poisoning Nancy Pelosi’s wine), but frequently insisted that it is progressives who were urging violence, even predicting his own martyrdom. In one 2010 broadcast, he warned that "anarchists, Marxists, communists, revolutionaries, Maoists" have to "eliminate 10 percent of the U.S. population" in order to "gain control."

After a terrorist in Oslo killed dozens of young members of Norway’s Labor Party at an island summer camp, Beck attacked the victims , comparing the camp to “Hitler Youth” and calling it “disturbing.”

David Barton Likens Himself To Jesus

The ever so humble David Barton told listeners on a conference call for United In Purpose’s “ One Nation Under God” event today that the criticisms he faces for his erroneous, reliably wrong and consistently debunked portrayal of history are just like what Jesus endured. Bill Dallas of United In Purpose and Champion the Vote asked why the “secular press” always questions Barton’s faulty interpretations of history. In fact, Barton’s critics include historians from both Christian and secular institutions. Barton answered that his critics, like the persecutors of Jesus, don’t attack the content of his message but only lie about who he is.

Barton, who is currently suing three of his critics for libel and defamation, recommends that since “Jesus ignored those comments,” you “don’t worry about when they attack you, you don’t worry about what they say.”

Dallas: Well when the secular press tries to pigeonhole you as a historical revisionist, how does that make you feel? How do you combat that? How do we combat that? Because we use a lot of your materials, David, what do you say to that?

Barton: One of the things that I’ve found is that they like to go after me but they won’t go after the content because it’s documented so well, in our case we have 100,000 documents from before 1812. I have four law schools out there, secular law schools, who have entire websites smashing me, trashing me, but they’ve never been able to go after the content, they just don’t like what’s there. So what they’ll do is, and I don’t want to compare myself in anyway, but it’s the same tactic they used with Jesus. When Jesus had content that would change people’s lives they’d say ‘oh he’s a wine-drinker, he’s a glutton,’ and they would make things up about him and that’s designed to sever people from listening to him, ‘who wants to listen to a drunkard, who wants to listen to a glutton?’ So what you have to do is, you get by there, Jesus ignored those comment, you keep putting out the information so you don’t worry about when they attack you, you don’t worry about what they say, you get a whole bunch of people who will listen and you just overwhelm them with numbers.

Dallas also told listeners that Barton will give a two hour lecture during the “One Nation Under God” event, which will also feature Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, but which Dallas stressed is completely “nonpartisan.” Of course, having Gingrich, Perry, and Barton, the former vice-chair of the Texas Republican Party and a paid consultant of the Republican National Committee, shows that event organizers aren’t trying very hard to hide their pro-GOP message.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Following in Rick Perry's footsteps, Michele Bachmann went to Liberty University today to speak to the students at convocation.
  • Newt Gingrich will be joining the "Tea Party Cyber Tour tele-townhall" tomorrow night.
  • FRC is kicking off its "Faith, Family and Freedom Money Bomb."
  • The Parents Television Council declares that it is winning its battle against the NBC television show "The Playboy Club."
  • Looks like California will soon be getting its own "Personhood"-type of campaign in the form of the California Human Rights Amendment.

The Multi-Pronged Effort To Mobilize Millions Of Religious Right Voters

Ever since Rick Perry help his public prayer rally in August, we have been noting how organizers of that event have been hard at work promoting something called "Champion The Vote" which is a Religious Right voter mobilization effort designed to get "5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012."

The Champion The Vote effort is of project of a group called United in Purpose, which is an organization that seeks to "mobilize 40 million out of the estimated 60 million evangelicals in the United States to vote" over the next decade.

United In Purpose was the group responsible for the Rediscover God In America conference in Iowa earlier this year which was organized by David Lane ... who also happened to serve as the National Finance Chairman for Perry's prayer rally.

Now United In Purpose/Champion The Vote is organizing an event called "One Nation Under God" to be held in November:

We’ve lost sight of our great heritage as a nation founded on Biblical truth, and the consequences are dire: schools are failing, the divorce rate is climbing, and our society is rife with scandal and corruption. It’s time to reclaim our Biblical heritage and bring God back to the center of American life. Where do we start?

On Saturday, November 12, United in Purpose presents One Nation Under God – a national, three-hour premiere event featuring top American thinkers and political leaders who will bring the truth about God and America to people gathered in homes and churches across the nation.

And you will, no doubt, be surprised to learn that Rick Perry is listed among the speakers:

Organizers are promoting the event with this video:

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Fortunately for CAIR, Newt Gingrich will never be president.
  • Looks like John Boehner is getting his own Tea Party/Randall Terry acolyte primary challenger.
  • It is always amusing to watch people try to explain and/or defend the things Pat Robertson says.
  • Richard Viguerie has produced a pamphlet explaining that "government is the oldest, largest and most pervasive lawbreaker in America." Sounds fascinating.
  • Finally, Frank Pavone says that if he diocese won't let him pursue his anti-choice activism full time, he may have to transfer to a different one or found "a new religious order for priests seeking to be involved in full-time pro-life work."

Rick Perry Endorses Janet Porter's Radical 'Heartbeat Bill'

After passing the Ohio State House, Janet Porter’s ‘heartbeat bill’ is now poised to have a vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate. Porter, an avowed dominionist who thinks supporters of President Obama are destined to Hell and that legal abortion is responsible for tornadoes, has been leading the fight to pass the ‘heartbeat bill,’ a patently unconstitutional measure that would “ban abortion as early as 18 to 24 days after conception.” She told James Dobson yesterday on his program Family Talk that she thinks her bill will eventually lead to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. “We are so close that I can see the end of abortion from here, that’s how close we are,” Porter said, “everything we have prayed is happening…God has been in this from the beginning.”

Porter has lost some allies along the way, as the Ohio Right to Life Society opposes her extreme bill and one of its chief proponents, State Rep. Jarrod Martin, who called for the bill’s passage to help the U.S. compete with Chinese children, currently faces charges of drunk driving and child endangerment.

But she has picked up one major endorsement: Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He joins other presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Roy Moore in backing Porter’s extreme legislation. According to the statement from Porter’s group Faith 2 Action, Perry announced his support at his meeting with Religious Right leaders at James Leininger’s ranch in Texas where he spoke “before a group of 250 pro-life and pro-family leaders”:

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who recently announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for President, has announced his support for the Heartbeat Bill. He joins three other Presidential candidates in support of the bill: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

“We’re grateful to Governor Perry for his strong support of the Heartbeat Bill. I don’t think there’s a bill in America with more support,” declares Faith2Action President Janet (Folger) Porter. She adds, “Come to the Statehouse Atrium on September 20 and get a glimpse of the statewide support for the Heartbeat Bill!”

At a meeting in Texas, Governor Perry announced his support before a group of 250 pro-life and pro-family leaders. His response of support to a question about the Heartbeat Bill received an extended standing ovation.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Anti-Islam activist Robert Spencer wants to see Rick Perry "make some kind of public statement that he understands the jihad threat."
  • FRC says it delivered fifty-five thousand petitions to NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg to include clergy in the 9/11 memorial service.
  • Jim Garlow says he'll probably support Rick Perry once Newt Gingrich drops out.
  • I just find it funny to see anyone affiliated with the AFA complaining about "incendiary words."
  • Finally, quote of the day from James Robison: "I will expose evil, damaging practices, and bad policy. Since most media and many academics do not seem to believe in evil and obviously some lawmakers and even ministry leaders don’t seem to either. In other words, 'the three little pigs' and Red Riding Hood need to learn there is no big, bad wolf, and while at it chunk the Bible along with the children’s stories out the window and continue living in a failing, fantasyland dream world – nightmare!"

Perry, Prayer, Politics and the Presidency

Casual viewers of “The Response,” including some political reporters who don’t pay a lot of attention to the Religious Right, may have watched Texas Governor Rick Perry’s prayer rally on Saturday and wondered what all the fuss was about.  Most of the time was taken up with prayer and praise music.  Few of the speakers seemed overtly political.  Nobody used the occasion to endorse Perry’s pending presidential bid.

But context is everything, and the context for this event was remarkable: a governor launching a presidential bid by teaming up with some of the nation’s most divisive extremists to hold a Christians-only prayer rally that suggested Americans are helpless to solve the country’s problems without divine intervention. Some media coverage is missing the boat: the issue wasn’t whether it was ok for a politician to pray, or the size of the audience, but the purposes of the event’s planners and their disturbing vision for America.

Organizers argued (unconvincingly) that “The Response” was about prayer, not politics. But groups like the American Family Association (AFA), which paid for the rally and its webcast, and organizations like the Family Research Council, whose president was among the speakers, are not designed to win souls but to change American law and culture through grassroots organizing and political power-building.  They have a corrosive effect on our political culture by promoting religious bigotry and anti-gay extremism, by claiming that the United States was meant to be a Christian nation, and by fostering resentment among conservative evangelicals with repeated false assertions that liberal elites are out to destroy religious liberty and silence conservative religious voices.

By calling for this rally, and partnering with the far right of the evangelical world, Perry aligned himself with all these troubling strategies.  When he drew criticism for the event and the extremism of its sponsors, Perry suggested his critics were intolerant of Christians.  Speakers returned to the theme, with one of them declaring that “there is an attack on the name of Jesus.” Such claims of anti-Christian persecution are a tried-and-true strategy of the Religious Right for rousing conservative Christians to political activism.  And for those who actually believe that Christianity is on the verge of being criminalized in America, Perry’s event defined him as a defiant and courageous defender of the faith. 

As journalist Dave Weigel writes, “That's the brilliance of what Perry has done here…He doesn't need to talk about politics, or do anything besides be here and understand this event. The religion is the politics. These worshippers understand that if they can bring ‘the kingdom of God’ to Earth, economic problems, even macroeconomic problems, will sort themselves out.”

A major chunk of the day was given over to Mike Bickle, who runs the International House of Prayer (IHOP) movement, which recruits young people into “radical” devotion to prayer and fasting. Yes, he’s the guy who said that Oprah is paving the way for the Antichrist. Bickle’s associate Lou Engle has organized a series of stadium events pushing prayer, fasting, and politics under the banner of “The Call,” which provided the model for “The Response.”  Bickle and Engle are hard-core dominionists who believe they are ushering in a new Christian church which will take its rightful place of dominion over every aspect of government and society.  But in spite of their well-documented extremism, they are embraced by Republican leaders.  Engle, for example, took part in a Family Research Council prayer-a-thon against health care reform, at which he introduced Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The Christian-nation crowd, like Response speaker David Barton and AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer, who says the First Amendment protects only Christians’ religious liberty, shares a certain vision for America’s future.  Some of the political goals of “The Response” sponsors were brutally clear at the rally; a series of speakers prayed for an end to legal abortion.  While rhetorical gay-bashing was surprisingly absent at an event whose sponsors include the most vehemently anti-gay groups in America (including the AFA, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), it is clear that in the America envisioned by “The Response” planners, same-sex couples would have no chance at legal recognition or protection for their families.  Shortly before the event, Perry himself was forced to walk back from his very brief flirtation with a states’ rights defense of New Yorkers’ decision to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples -- and to vow his support for a federal constitutional amendment that would strip married same-sex couples of their rights and make sure that in the future gay couples could not get married anywhere in the U.S.
And lest anyone think that Perry’s religious agenda is limited to social issues, he made clear that a rigid conservative economic agenda was central to his spiritual mission. Just days before the rally, on “The 700 Club,” Perry said he’d be praying for “our country’s economic prosperity. There just so many people that can’t take care of their family because government’s over-taxed, over-regulated, over-litigated, it caused roadblocks to economic prosperity.” Those words echo the theology of activists like Barton, who have preached that the Bible condemns progressive taxation, the minimum wage and collective bargaining.
 
Perry is clearly positioning himself to enter the Republican presidential primary as a political savior to right-wing activists who are underwhelmed with their choices so far.  Yet, oddly for someone who wants to be president, he insists that America’s problems are beyond human ability to fix. (Sadly, that may only be true to the extent that enough legislators believe that God, like Grover Norquist, is opposed to any tax increases.)

Perry’s worldview and that of “The Response” organizers seems to see no useful role for non-Christian Americans, whose religious beliefs were denigrated at “The Response.”  When Perry told Americans on Saturday that we, “as a nation,” must return to God, it’s clear he meant God as understood by the event’s organizers.  Jim Garlow, who organized anti-marriage equality pastors in California before being hired by Newt Gingrich to run one of his political groups, told journalist Sarah Posner on Saturday that “The Response” was “not about whether Perry becomes president, it’s about making Jesus king.” Perry used the event to let right-wing religious voters and churches nationwide know that for those who see politics as spiritual warfare, he is the warrior they have been waiting for.

Fact Sheet: Gov. Rick Perry’s Extremist Allies

Updated 8/5/2011

On August 6, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will host The Response, a “prayer rally” in Houston, along with the extremist American Family Association and a cohort of Religious Right leaders with far-right political ties. While the rally’s leaders label it a "a non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting," the history of the groups behind it suggests otherwise. The Response is powered by politically active Religious Right individuals and groups who are dedicated to bringing far-right religious view, including degrading views of gays and lesbians and non-Christians, into American politics.

In fact, a spokesman for The Response has said that while non-Christians will be welcomed at the rally, they will be urged to “seek out the living Christ.” Allan Parker, a right-wing activist who participated in an organizing conference call for the event, declared in an email bearing the official Response logo that including non-Christians in the event "would be idolatry of the worst sort."

Perry told James Dobson that the rally was necessary because Americans have “turned away from God.

The following is an introduction to the groups and individuals who Gov. Perry has allied himself with in planning this event.

The American Family Association

The American Family Association is the driving force behind The Response. Founded by the Rev. Don Wildmon in 1977, the organization is based is best known for its various boycott campaigns, promotion of art censorship, and political advocacy against women’s rights and LGBT equality. The organization also controls the vast American Family Radio and an online news service, in addition to sponsoring various conferences frequented by Republican leaders, including the Values Voter Summit and Rediscovering God in America. The AFA today is led by Tim Wildmon, Don’s son, and its chief spokesperson is Bryan Fischer, the Director of Issues Analysis for Government and Public Policy and host of its flagship radio show Focal Point.

Fischer routinely expresses support for some of the most bigoted and shocking ideas found in the Religious Right today. He has:

Other AFA leaders and activists are just as radical:

  • AFA President Tim Wildmon claims that by repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell President Obama shows he “doesn’t give a rip about the Marines or the Army” and “just wants to force homosexuality into every place that he can.”
  • AFA Vice President Buddy Smith, who is on the leadership council of The Response, said that gays and lesbians are “in the clasp of Satan.”
  • The head of the AFA’s women’s group led a boycott against Glee because she accused it of indoctrinating children in homosexuality and idolatry.The editor of AFA Journal Ed Vitagliano said that gay pride months are an affront to the Founding Fathers and will usher in “a return to pagan sexuality.”
  • A columnist for the AFA demanded Christians stop practicing yoga because it was inspired by the “evil” religions of Buddhism and Hinduism.

International House of Prayer

The Response’s leadership team includes five senior staff members of the International House of Prayer (IHOP), a large, highly political Pentecostal organization built on preparing participants for the return of Jesus Christ. In a recent video, IHOP encouraged supporters to pray for Jews to convert to Christianity in order to bring about the Second Coming. IHOP is closely associated with Lou Engle, a Religious Right leader whose anti-gay, anti-choice extremism hasn’t stopped him from hobnobbing with Republican leaders including Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee. Engle is the founder of The Call, day-long rallies against abortion rights and gay marriage, which Engle says are meant to break Satan’s control over the U.S. government. One recent Call event featured “prophet” Cindy Jacobs calling for repentance for the “girl-on-girl kissing” of Britney Spears and Madonna. Perry's The Response event is clearly built upon Engle's The Call model.

Engle has a long history of pushing extreme right-wing views and advocating for a conservative theocracy in America. Engle:

IHOP’s founder and executive director, Mike Bickle, who is an official endorser of The Response, like Engle pushes radical End Times prophesies. In one sermon, he declared that Oprah Winfrey is a precursor to the Antichrist.

The International House of Prayer, incidentally, remains locked in a copyright infringement lawsuit with the International House of Pancakes.

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is a co-chairman of The Response. At the FRC, Perkins has been a vocal opponent of LGBT equality, often relying on false claims about gay people to push his agenda. He:

Jim Garlow

One of the most prominent members of The Response’s leadership team is pastor Jim Garlow. The pastor for a San Diego megachurch, Garlow has been intimately involved in political battles, especially the campaign to pass Proposition 8. Garlow invited and housed Lou Engle to lead The Call rallies around California for six months to sway voters to support Proposition 8, which would repeal the right of gay and lesbian couples to get married. He claims Satan is behind the “attack on marriage” and credits the prayer rallies for the passage of Prop 8. He said that during a massive The Call rally in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium “something had snapped in the Heavenlies” and “God had moved” to deliver Prop 8 to victory.

Most importantly, Garlow is a close spiritual adviser to presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and leads Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership (ReAL). Garlow is a principal advocate of Seven Mountains Dominionism, and wants to “bring armies of people” to bring Religious Right leaders into public office and defeat their political opponents.

Garlow has a long record of extreme rhetoric. He:

John Hagee

While Senator John McCain rejected John Hagee’s endorsement during the 2008 presidential campaign for his “deeply offensive and indefensible” remarks, Perry invited Hagee to join The Response. Hagee leads a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, and is a purveyor of End Times prophesies. Like members of the International House of Prayer, Hagee utilizes language of spiritual warfare and says he is part of “the army of the living God.” He runs the prominent group Christians United For Israel, which believes that eventually a cataclysmic war in the Middle East will bring about the Rapture.

John McCain was forced to disavow Hagee for a reason as the Texas pastor:

James Dobson


James Dobson, an official endorser of The Response, is one of the most prominent figures in the Religious Right. Founder of both Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council , Dobson has been instrumental in bringing the priorities of the Religious Right to Republican politics, including campaigning hard for President George W. Bush. But many of the views that Dobson pushes are hardly mainstream. Dobson:

  • is no fan of the women’s movement, writing that women are just “waiting for their husbands to assume leadership” ;
  • claims that marriage equality will “destroy the Earth”;
  • insists that the Religious Right’s fight against Planned Parenthood is “very similar” to that of abolitionists who fought against the slave trade.
  • Asked if God had withdrawn his hand from America after 9/11, Dobson responded: “Christians have made arguments on both sides of this question. I certainly believe that God is displeased with America for its pride and arrogance, for killing 40 million unborn babies, for the universality of profanity and for other forms of immorality. However, rather than trying to forge a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the terrorist attacks and America's abandonment of biblical principles, which I think is wrong, we need to accept the truth that this nation will suffer in many ways for departing from the principles of righteousness. "The wages of sin is death," as it says in Romans 6, both for individuals and for entire cultures.”

David Barton


David Barton, an official endorser of The Response, is a self-proclaimed historian known for his twisting of American History and the Bible to justify right-wing political positions. Barton’s strategy is twofold: he first works to find Biblical bases for right-wing policy initiatives, and then argues that the Founding Fathers wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, so obviously wanted whatever policy he has just found a flimsy Biblical basis for. Barton, “documenting” the divine origins of his interpretations of the Constitution gives him and his political allies a potent weapon. Opponents who disagree about tax policy or the powers of Congress are not only wrong, they are un-American and anti-religious, enemies of America and of God.


Barton uses his shoddy historical and biblical scholarship to push a right-wing political agenda, including:

  • Biblical Capitalism: Barton’s “scholarship” helps to form the basis for far-right economic policies. He claims that “Jesus was against the minimum wage,” that the Bible “absolutely condemned” the estate tax,” and opposed the progressive income tax.
  • Revising Racial History: Barton has traveled the country peddling a documentary he made blaming the Democratic Party for slavery, lynching and Jim Crow…while ignoring more recent history.
  • Opposing Gay Rights: Barton believes the government should regulate gay sex and maintains that countries which “rejected sexual regulation” inevitably collapse.


Other Allies


Among the other far-right figures who have signed on to work with Gov. Perry on The Response are:

  • Rob Schenk, an anti-choice extremist who was once arrested for throwing a fetus in the face of President Clinton, and who allegedly had ties with the murderer of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian.
  • Loren Cunningham, who is working to mobilize support for the rally is a co-founder of the radical “Seven Mountains Dominionist” ideology. Cunningham says that he received the “seven mountains” idea, which holds that evangelical Christians must take hold of all aspects of society in order to pave the way for the Second Coming, in a message directly from God.
  • Doug Stringer, The Response's National Church and Ministry Mobilization Coordinator, who blamed American secularism and the increased acceptance of homosexuality for the 9/11 attacks, saying “It was our choice to ask God not to be in our every day lives and not to be present in our land.”
  • Cindy Jacobs, self-proclaimed “prophet” and endorser of The Response, who famously insisted that birds were dying in Arkansas earlier this year because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
  • C. Peter Wagner, an official endorser of The Response, is one of the most prominent leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, a controversial movement whose followers believe they are prophets and apostles on par with Christ himself (other adherents include Engle, Jacobs and Anh). Wagner has advocated burning Catholic, Mormon and non-Christian religious objects. He blamed the Japanese stock market crash and later the devastating earthquake and tsunami in the country on a traditional ritual in which the emperor supposedly has “sexual intercourse” with the pagan Sun Goddess.
  • Che Ahn, a mentor of John Hagee and official endorser of The Response, who endorses “Seven Mountains” dominionism and compares the fight against gay rights to the fight against slavery.
  • John Benefiel, a self-proclaimed "apostle" and official endorser of The Response, who claims the Statue of Liberty is a "demonic idol" and that homosexuality is a plot cooked up by the Illuminati to control the world's population, and that he renamed the District of Columbia the “District of Christ” because he has “more authority than the U.S. Congress does.”
  • James “Jay” Swallow, official endorser of the rally, who calls himself a “spiritual warrior” and hosts “Strategic Warriors At Training (SWAT): A Christian Military Training Camp for the purpose of dealing with the occult and territorial enemy strong holds in America.”
  • Alice Smith, who advocates "spiritual housecleaning" because demons "sneak into" homes through everyday objects.
  • Willie Wooten, a self-proclaimed “apostle” who claims that God is punishing the African American community for supporting gay rights, reproductive freedom and the Democratic Party.
  • Pastor Stephen Broden – Broden, an endorser of The Response, has repeatedly insisted that a violent overthrow of the U.S. government must remain “on the table.”
  • Timothy F. Johnson – Johnson, a former vice-chairman of the North Carolina GOP, was elected to that post despite two domestic violence convictions and still unresolved questions about his military service and educational record.
  • Alice Patterson – Patterson, a member of The Response's leadership team, insists that the Democratic Party is controlled by a "demonic structure."

 

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Roll Call looks into the strategy sessions at the Family Research Council’s Washington headquarters.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Newt Gingrich is just such a monumentally different candidate that he can't seem to retain staff who understand his amazing vision.
  • I am sure we will be seeing the Religious Right repeatedly citing this new study that claims that "a Christian is killed every five minutes because of his or her faith."
  • Right wing pastor Frank Turek lost a consulting gig and is now set to become the latest Religious Right cause célèbre.
  • Reports say Rick Perry is going to announce a presidential run in August.
  • Given that Tim Pawlenty attends the church pastored by Nation Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson, nobody should be surprised that he "came out on top of a survey from the [NEA] this month."
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Newt Gingrich Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Friday 02/10/2012, 6:17pm
Newt Gingrich was the last of the remaining Republican presidential candidates to address the audience at CPAC  this year and during his speech, he brought them to their feet by declaring that 99 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who have lost their jobs violates the Declaration of Independence: MORE >
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 02/08/2012, 6:20pm
Yesterday on Family Talk, James Dobson and Daniel Lapin came to the conclusion that ‘the pill’ paved the way for the destruction of civilization by increasing sexual promiscuity and reducing masculinity. Today, Dobson blamed Bill Clinton for the growing acceptance of “illicit sexuality” among politicians. Dobson, a prominent endorser of Rick Santorum, even lamented that the public isn’t having serious problems with supporting “an admitted womanizer,” Newt Gingrich. The Focus on the Family founder earlier claimed that he wouldn’t support... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/06/2012, 3:43pm
Speaking at the "Pray for America" rally in Nevada on Friday night, Newt Gingrich called for passage of legislation requiring all schools and universities to teach the Declaration of Independence so that every student would learn that there is a Creator who has endowed us with certain unalienable rights and realize that government exists to serve the people, unlike President Obama who thinks the people exist to serve him: We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. This is really central to all of America. God gives every one of you personally sovereignty.... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/06/2012, 11:51am
As we noted last week, Newt Gingrich was scheduled to appear at a New Apostolic Reformation-affiliated church in Nevada with Jim Garlow on Friday evening for a "Pray for America" event ahead of the Republican caucus on Saturday. Gingrich, who was the only candidate on the bill, kicked off his address by inviting all the children under the age of twelve in the audience to join him and Callista on stage, explaining that they are the reason he is running for president because they are the future of America and Gingrich intends to make sure that they do not grow up in a secular nation... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 02/03/2012, 5:08pm
We have written several posts in the past about how Newt Gingrich's leading Religious Right supporter, Jim Garlow, manages to straddle the increasingly thin line between the more traditional Religious Right movement and the growing New Apostolic Reformation spiritual warfare movement. It was at a Cindy Jacobs' conference in 2010 that we first learned that Gingrich had tapped Garlow to run his Renewing American Leadership organization.  It was Garlow who brought Lou Engle in to lead the prayer and fasting as they pressed for passage of Prop 8, which might explain how Gingrich ended up in... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 01/31/2012, 3:12pm
David French is a Senior Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, home of both Jay and Jordan Sekulow, two of Mitt Romney's most high-profile Religious Right supporters.  French too is also a Romney supporter, having launched Evangelicals for Mitt with his wife Nancy. Today, French penned an op-ed for CNN calling on his fellow evangelicals to drop their support for Newt Gingrich and, in making his case, he certainly didn't pull any punches, calling Gingrich an arrogant, bullying serial adulterer: If character counts, then so do values like fidelity, honesty, humility... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 01/31/2012, 3:05pm
During a tele-townhall hosted by Personhood USA along with radio talk show host Steve Deace and Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, Newt Gingrich maintained that as president he will work to “undo the damage done in the ’60s and ’70s” to American society “by a movement that somehow thought it could reinvent being human.” The former Speaker of the House went on to claim that “elites have driven us towards a kind of paganism” similar to the pagan world of the Roman Empire the Apostle Paul found himself in. Cries of burgeoning “paganism... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Monday 01/30/2012, 6:45pm
After first endorsing “the people,” Herman Cain has now decided to throw his support behind Newt Gingrich. Meanwhile, Gingrich has no plans to drop out of the race after his expected drubbing in Florida. Conservative columnist Michele Malkin and publisher Steve Strang have endorsed Rick Santorum. Religious Right activist Jan Markell says “it’s time we start monitoring our mosques.” Concerned Women for America’s Mario Diaz warns [pdf] that America may lose its blessings from God if Maryland legalizes same-sex marriage. The... MORE >