peter montgomery

Right Wing Round-Up

New Religious Right Video: Secularism Means Doom For America

One of the sessions at the recent Values Voter Summit featured a showing of a new half-hour video produced by the American Family Association called “Divorcing God: Secularism and the Republic.” (Back in the summer it was being promoted as "Divorcing God: Secularism, Sexual Anarchy, and the Future of the Republic.") The video features an array of Religious Right leaders and academics, whose argument can be summarized this way:  America, whose greatness is decaying because the country has turned its back on the God who inspired the founding fathers, is doomed if it continues to allow secularists to push religion into the closet.  It's time for Christians to fight back.

And just to be clear, the God in “one nation under God” isn’t any old generic God, but the same Christian God who made western civilization possible.  It’s familiar to anyone who has followed the Religious Right’s “Christian nation” rhetoric, filled with founders’ quotes about religion and  attacks on the Supreme Court’s rulings on church-state separation.

Among the stars of the video is Princeton University’s Robert George, the Religious Right’s favorite intellectual. George, a leader of the National Organization for Marriage, is one of the authors of the Manhattan Declaration, whose signers fancy themselves potential martyrs for opposing abortion and LGBT equality in America. Others include Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute; Michael Farris, homeschooling advocate and chancellor of Patrick Henry College; and Matthew Spalding, of the Heritage Foundation. The founders clearly believed that God punishes nations, says Dacus, and when countries allow their societies to become amoral, there’s a price to be paid, not just by those individuals but society as a whole.  The video suggests that the current fight between secularists and those who want to preserve the country’s divine foundation is the last stand for the future of freedom on planet earth.

Another DVD being handed out at the Values Voter Summit hit similar themes about the importance of the nation’s foundation on biblical principles.  It features a 2010 “State of the Nation” speech delivered by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.  Ham argues that the nation is threatened by the teaching of evolution and by the Supreme Court. “There really is no such thing as separation of church and state,” says Ham, who warns that “Christianity in this nation is becoming outlawed more and more in various quarters.”  Ham blames the decline more on church leaders than on secularists.  The Bible is the “absolute authority,” he says, but too many Christians have undermined the authority of scripture by compromising on the truth of the 6,000 year-old earth and great flood described in Genesis.  And that means quoting the Bible in policy debates on abortion and gay marriage has lost its effectiveness.

Meanwhile, French scholar Denis Lacorne has just published Religion in America: A Political History (Columbia University Press, 2011), in which he examines two competing narratives about American identity.  One derives from the secular values of the Enlightenment and reflects a desire to preserve liberty by freeing it from the power of an established church.  The second ties American identity to the Puritans and Protestantism.  These two narratives are reflected in competing notions of church-state separation evident today in our politics and on our Supreme Court.  At a presentation at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. this week, Lacorne suggested that what he calls the neopuritan narrative was developed in the first half of the 19th century by historians who wanted to resurrect the influence of the Puritans, who he says were generally ignored by the founding fathers in their debates over religious liberty and whether or not to make the Constitution an explicitly Christian document.  (They chose not to.)

 

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.
 

Religious Right Hoping to Exploit Hispanic Frustration with Obama

Even before the opening bell at the Values Voter Summit, the Liberty Counsel hosted a breakfast on messaging and outreach to Hispanic Americans. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver shared the stage with Tony Calatayud, a Miami-based activist who works for the Spanish language arm of Christian radio Salem Communications.   Calatayud, who helped Marco Rubio get elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida, now travels the country helping to identify and support conservative Hispanic candidates with the group Conservadores.

Staver said that Hispanic unhappiness with Barack Obama is “a really good thing going into 2012.” Calatayud agreed. The growing Hispanic community could be a huge electoral force for conservatives, he said, if only Republicans would stop alienating Hispanic voters with “idiotic” anti-immigrant rhetoric. He said “the Hispanic evangelical movement in this country is exploding” and said repeatedly that Hispanics are “conservative in nature” and share the Religious Right’s values on social issues. Polls suggest, in fact, that Latinos are pro-LGBT equality, but also that Latino evangelicals are more politically conservative than Latino Catholics.
 
Calatayud argued that conservative leaders need to make a “covenant” with “Kingdom-minded” Latino leaders and support an approach to immigration that includes four points: border security first; family reunification; a guest worker program; and “just integration” (a term he attributed to Sam Rodriguez) of the 12-15 million undocumented people already in the country. Calatayud said he didn’t want to hear the word “amnesty” ever again; he and Staver complained about Republicans who use the word “amnesty” to describe anything short of mass deportation. Calatayud got a polite but quiet hearing from the audience for his presentation on immigration; the only applause came when, in response to a question, he affirmed his belief that everyone must learn English.
 
Calatayud also insisted that the eventual Republican candidate must build a “covenant” relationship with Latino evangelical pastors and devote real money to campaign outreach. He said he had hoped Marco Rubio would run this time around; he predicts Rubio will not accept a VP slot this year, but believes he will be the GOP nominee in 2016 or 2020.

WallBuilders Enlists Christopher Columbus & Reconstructionist Eidsmoe in Christian Nation Crusade

David Barton’s WallBuilders is tireless in pushing its “Christian nation” version of American history.   Today it encourages its supporters to “Celebrate Columbus Day!” and to read John Eidsmoe’s Columbus and Cortez: Conquerors for Christ.  

Eidsmoe is the Christian Reconstructionist cited by Michele Bachmann as her mentor and major influence.  He is also a colleague of Roy Moore, who lost his job as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court when he refused to obey federal court orders to remove a Ten Commandments memorial he had installed in the state courthouse.

As we have reported, Eidsmoe believes that feminists “violate the normal order” that God put in place for husbands to head households, that “homosexuality invites the judgment of God upon all of society,” that gays will turn the military into a “cesspool of immorality,” and that public education is brainwashing students to believe in secularism and evolution.  Ryan Lizza recently reported that Eidsmoe was uninvited from a Tea Party event last year after addressing an event in Alabama commemorating Secession Day and telling an interviewer that it was the state’s “constitutional right to secede,” and that “Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster.”

Eidsmoe’s book on Columbus has an introduction by Peter Marshall, another “Christian Nation” advocate who served with Wallbuilders’ founder David Barton as an “expert” to Religious Right members of the Texas Board of Education pushing massive revisions to social science textbooks.  Marshall writes:

In his customary careful and thorough manner, John Eidsmoe has pierced through the obfuscating fog of twentieth-century humanist bias and judgments that have obscured the truth about two of the most controversial figures in American history, Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortez. Using earlier sources, he has presented us with a well-researched, even-handed, and fair treatment of both their Christian motives for their incredible exploits, and the very real mistakes they made .This is a valuable contribution toward restoring a true Christian perspective on our American past.

WallBuilders’ Columbus Day email celebrates Columbus’ belief that he was being led by the Holy Spirit and complains that modern scholarship has denigrated Columbus specifically because of his religious motivation:

It is especially because of Columbus’ religious motivations and convictions that today he has become a villain for most modern educators and writers, who regularly attack and condemn him.

That echoes Eidsmoe’s book, which claims, “A scholarly desire to correct the historical record is not the primary reason [for modern criticism of Columbus]…No, the attack is directed toward values – biblical values and the Christian civilization that is based on biblical values.”

Eidsmoe writes:

The reason may of us find history boring is that we fail to see the sovereign hand of God at work as history unfolds. The way you look at history depends in large part upon your world view….For the Christian, history is, or should be, the unfolding of God’s plan for the human race. For the Christian, the discovery, exploration and settlement of the Western Hemisphere takes on a whole new dimension of meaning as God works through imperfect vessels like Columbus, Cortez….and others who bring salvation to the inhabitants of the Western world through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

He decries the effort to “move this nation away from its Christian foundations” in order to “remake America into a secular or pagan society….If the Christian professions of Christopher Columbus and others can be proven insincere, if their deeds can be downplayed and their sins and shortcomings magnified, then this element of America’s Christian past can be discredited and set aside.”

Right Wing Round-Up

Right Wing Round-Up

Robertson: "What In Heaven's Name Is A Dominionist?"

As we've been noting, it sure is amazing how all of these journalists and Religious Right activists are suddenly telling everything that dominionism doesn't exist and that, even if it does, it is really just a left-wing scare tactic.

Just last week, Lisa Miller wrote a piece in the Washington Post where, as our colleague Peter Montgomery noted, she dismissed any concerns about dominionism as little more than an attempt to raise "fears on the left about 'crazy Christians" in order to "paint them as freaky and dangerous."

Miller admitted that "extremist dominionists do exist," but said she views are relegated to fringe figures like Pat Robertson:

Christian conservatives in America are not more militant than ever. Pat Robertson, a Christian minister, ran for president in 1988. Robertson was, actually, a dominionist. “There will never be world peace until God’s house and God’s people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world,” he wrote.

On today's broadcast of "The 700 Club," Robertson was asked if he was a dominionist and, like seemingly everyone else these days, claimed that he had never even heard of it and asserted that, whatever it was, he most certainly wasn't one:

It is rather remarkable how we seem to know so much about the tenets of dominionism while the Religious Right claims to be universially ignorant about it ... especially given that pretty much everything we have learned about it has come from studying them.

If Dominionism Doesn't Exist, Someone Forgot To Tell The Dominionists

Thanks to the presidential campaigns of Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, there has been a lot of attention focused lately on dominion theology and its role within the Religious Right political movement.

This, in turn, has led to a number of pieces asserting that there is no such thing as "dominionism" and claiming that it is nothing more than a conspiracy-theory/scare-tactic dreamed up by the Left.

Our colleague Peter Montgomery addressed this effort to downplay dominionism in an excellent piece he wrote for Religion Dispatches yesterday, but Religious Right activists continue to claim that there is no cause for alarm whatsoever.

Today, John Aman, Director of Communications at Truth in Action Ministries, went a step further, writing a piece for the Christian Post claiming that dominionism doesn't even exist:

I had never even heard the term until 2005 when a Christian Science Monitor reporter asked me about it in connection with our Reclaiming America for Christ conference.

The reason I was so clueless is because, as Joe Carter explains in First Things, it’s a label used exclusively on the left. Berkeley-educated sociologist Sara Diamond, the author of several critiques of Christian civic engagement, including Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right, invented the term in the 1980s.

Dominionism, Carter explains, is a term “never used outside liberal blogs and websites. No reputable scholars use the term for it is a meaningless neologism that Diamond concocted for her dissertation.”

It is, however, a handy way to smear evangelicals like Bachmann and Perry who bring biblically informed moral convictions into public debate.

...

The truth is that dominionism is a sham charge-one reserved for Christians on the right.

Really? Maybe someone ought to tell that to all the dominionists who have suddenly started downplaying their dominionism. 

And I guess someone ought to really tell C. Peter Wagner to change the name of his book:

And perhaps Aman ought to talk to Janet Porter, since she lost her radio program because of her well-documented dominionism

As it happens, Porter was once the National Director for the Center for Reclaiming America, the sister organization to Coral Ridge Ministries ... which just so happens to be the former name of Truth in Action Ministries, where none other than John Aman serves as the Director of Communications.

Right Wing Round-Up

Tim Pawlenty's Short-Lived Post-Straw Poll Bravado

On Sunday, after a disappointing defeat in Iowa's Ames Straw Poll, Tim Pawlenty withdrew from the presidential race, saying that "the audience, so to speak, wanted something different." What Iowa Republicans want, at least according to the straw poll results, is Michele Bachmann, who many pundits agreed had bested Pawlenty in a harsh exchange at last week's GOP debate. Just hours before he dropped out of the race, Pawlenty's campaign emailed supporters with a claim that he was eager to continue the fight, a fundraising pitch, a new video title "The American Comeback Begins," and a bravado that seems to have lasted about 12 hours:

Hello Friends -

I want to congratulate Congresswoman Bachmann on her victory in today's straw poll. I'm also very proud of the work my campaign has done, and I appreciate their hard work. As I've said all along, we needed to show progress to do well, and we did just that. This is a long process to restore America -- we are just beginning, and I'm eager for the campaign.

I'm encouraged by our progress, and I'm so thankful for the thousands of Iowans who showed their support for my candidacy by voting for me in Ames. Don't miss my remarks at the straw poll earlier today including our latest video
 
We are now moving onto the next phase of our campaign. Over the coming weeks we will be visiting New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida while continuing to grow our already strong ground game in Iowa.
 
Mary and I will never forget your continued support, words of encouragement, and friendship. But we need YOUR help to take the message that resonated in Iowa to the rest of the country. Can I count on you for a special “Victory Contribution” of $25, $50, $100 or even $250, to commemorate our strong showing in Ames?
 
We’ve completed an important first step on the road to the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the White House.  We can’t do it alone, and I need your support to continue the journey.

 
Sincerely,


Tim Pawlenty

Unearthing Right-Wing Treasure

People For the American Way is preparing to move its headquarters to another location in Washington, D.C. , after more than 20 years in the same space. That has meant a monumental effort to sort through decades of accumulated paper and figure out what to do with video recordings in more formats than you could imagine – and endless save-or-toss decisions.

Fortunately, earlier this year PFAW’s huge library of primary source materials on the Religious Right political movement was transferred to the University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements, where it will be more accessible to scholars and journalists. But even still, preparing for the move has meant weeks of memory-triggering moments while plowing through file cabinets and finding hidden stashes of materials.
 
Among the random bits of right-wingalia I stumbled across:
  • a letter from Jerry Falwell urging his supporters to call Congress and oppose sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa in order to prevent a Communist takeover (an  accompanying 16-page “Fundamentalist Journal – Special Report” included a Falwell interview with the foreign minister saying that the West “has been doing the work of Moscow.”);
  • a 1990 Christian Coalition leadership manual that includes the assertion that the relationship between employers and employees should be based on Bible verses telling slaves to obey their masters, no matter how harsh;
  • a 1982 PFAW report on the Religious Right’s efforts to use the Texas textbook process to foist their ideology on American students nationwide (sound familiar?);
  • books and campaign plans for the takeover of America by once-obscure Christian Reconstructionist figures who are now in the news thanks to the frightening ascension of followers like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann;
  • candidate questionnaires from Religious Right groups in the 1980s demanding to know whether politicians would support across-the-board tax cuts, a reminder that the Religious Right has been pushing Tea Party economics for a long time;
  • a lavishly produced press kit for the 2006 opening of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, where a disturbing number of Americans have flocked to be mis-educated about biology, geology, and history; and
  • in honor of Rick Perry’s recent prayer rally in Houston, a 1985 campaign flyer from the "Straight Slate" of candidates for Mayor and City Council, warning that Houston “has become the Southwest capital for homosexuality and pornography” and insisting that “We must not allow Houston to become another San Francisco!” (Current Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who was sworn in last year, is a lesbian who parents three children with her partner.)
It’s also been a reminder that the Religious Right has been declared dead more often than Freddy Krueger, usually by someone who is focusing on one organization in disarray or one election defeat for conservatives. But as our current political climate makes clear, the Religious Right and its political and economic allies have built a massive infrastructure of national and state-level think tanks, legal and political organizations, radio and TV networks, universities and law schools, and elected officials they have helped put into office at all levels of government.  They aren’t going anywhere. And neither are we – well, just a few blocks across town.

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.

Lies and the Lying Liars who Despise Them

Among the most remarkable sections of the long email sent to participants in advance of this weekend’s The Response event suggesting thoughts for contemplation and preparation was this section on lying:

Jesus tells us that all lies come from the devil (John 8:44). Lies come in many variations. Oftentimes people use truth to perpetrate lies. For instance, when only part of the truth is told to make the hearer believe something other than what is actually true, it is a deception, a lie. Satan used this method in his temptations of Jesus.
 
Lying in all its forms is the work of the enemy and in opposition to the Lord. Jesus is truth incarnate. He in no way agrees with falsehood. Therefore, when we speak words that are dishonest or deceptive, we are no longer operating by the Spirit of the Lord, but rather by the influence of the enemy. We must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us times when we have been dishonest or deceptive and in turn repent of this sin. In some cases it will be necessary to confess the lie to individuals who have been wronged by it. Deal with this sin in the way the Holy Spirit leads you.
 
I literally do not know where to start. If Religious Right groups and leaders were really opposed to lying, they would have almost nothing to say about same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, threats to religious liberty, U.S. History, or any of the other topics on which they routinely spread outrageous and damaging falsehoods.

More on Gov. Rick Perry's "Apolitical" Prayer Rally

The Response, a day of prayer and fasting called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and hosted by the American Family Association, will take place at Houston’s Reliant Stadium this Saturday. Perry has tried to deflect criticism of his sponsorship of this religiously exclusionary event by claiming (unconvincingly) that it is meant to be unifying and apolitical, even though it is sponsored by a dizzying array of divisive, bigotry-promoting individuals and groups, including those encouraging him to enter the presidential race.
 
It is true that participants recently received instructions not to wear shirts with political messages. But an email that arrived today with suggestions for daily contemplation in preparation for The Reponse sounded suspiciously like an action alert from the far-right AFA:
In Joel's day Israel experienced the destruction of a massive locust plague. The nation's economy was crippled because of the decimation of the agriculture. The reason these plagues came was because of the people's negligence to worship and serve God with their whole heart. Because the people grew cold and eventually departed from God, they experienced incredible hardships. The result of their inner departure was multiple external crises.
 
In America today we face a similar crisis. We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle. Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. Pornography is available on-demand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes. While the United States still claims to be a nation "under God" it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity.
 
This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many and crippled entire cities, such as Tuscaloosa, AL & Joplin, MO. And let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, which rendered the entire Gulf Coast powerless.
 
Furthermore, because of mismanagement and greed, our national economy is in incredible disarray, with our national debt topping 14 trillion dollars. We have effectively mortgaged our children's future, while spending money we do not have on entitlements as we search in vain for "the American dream". The first "wave of locusts" has begun to descend upon us and many are oblivious to the fact that destruction has come and is still coming.
 
God destined America to be a gospel beacon to the rest of the earth a nation under God who declares His goodness, truth and mercy to a world desperately in need. How we have strayed from God's original intent for us! The crisis is extreme and the hour is urgent.

The Response email includes several days' worth of items to consider.  And while Religious Right groups like the AFA often blame secularists, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, environmentalists, and President Obama for the nation’s problems, today's email suggests the real problem is that the Church has not been fervent enough:

Often the church imagines that it is the wickedness of unbelievers that causes the deterioration of a nation. While unbelievers do contribute to a nation's moral state, Scripture is clear - God holds His people responsible for their actions and identifies their sin or obedience as the key contributor to the blessing or cursing of a nation. . . .
 
There is much at stake for the church in America. In many ways we are at a crossroads of two divergent paths. Either the church will turn to the Lord with her whole heart, sparking a great revival and reformation in our nation, or she will continue in compromise, keeping the status quo as we watch our nation turn to debauchery, sin and ultimately destruction.
 

Coming Soon: AFA 'documentary' could save the Republic from secularists and gays

Another reason to get your tickets for this year's Values Voter Summit: a fundraising letter from the American Family Association promises that its new "documentary" -- Divorcing God: Secularism, Sexual Anarchy and the Future of the Republic -- will debut at the VVS, the major annual political gathering for the Religious Right movement.

The letter from AFA President Tim Wildmon indicates that the group is eager to maintain its status at a top source for over-the-top anti-gay rhetoric and religious bigotry. Wildmon writes that Divorcing God "connects the dots" among three movements that have "contributed to America's moral decline" -- the secular/humanist movement, the sexual revolution, and the homosexual movement. But it's really about the latter.  "In the relentless drive to convince our society that homosexuality is the moral equivalent of heterosexuality, we see the convergence of all three movements. The New York [marriage equality] vote is a potent case-in-point."

Wildmon cites a verse from the biblical book of Jeremiah in which he says God complains about humanity's rebellion against His law, and then Wildom writes:

Doesn't this describe the past 60 years of America's attempt to run from God?

It began when the humanists insisted that God be driven from the public square through the so-called 'separation of church and state.'

It continued into the 1960s with the transformation of the marital embrace from an act of love and creativity to an act of mere self-pleasure and self-worship that ultimately led to the legalization of abortion.

Now our nation's rebellion has reach [sic] the point that homosexuality is seen as normal, and same-sex marriage is embraced as a civil right.

In Romans 1, Paul uses homosexuality to describe the ultimate idolatry and rejection of God and His dominion over us, since it is a violation of the natural law that God wrote on the hearts of all mankind.

Fortunately, says Wildmon, God hasn't abandoned America...yet.  God is "calling us back to Himself," says Wildmon, "And one way He is doing so is through the voice of the AFA, especially the message of Divorcing God: Secularism, Sexual Anarchy and the Future of the Republic."  And if the AFA can raise "literally hundreds of thousands" of dollars to get Divorcing God onto cable networks and into churches across America, it just might be possible to save the Republic.

Fox News Targets Media Matters with Strange Spokesperson

Fox News is apparently getting tired of media watchdog Media Matters  pointing out the network’s inaccuracies and right-wing bias. How else to explain the recent even-less-fair-and-balanced-than-usual attack  on Media Matters and its tax status?

While flashing phrases like “Tax-Paid Propaganda” and “Gov’t Funded Group Launching Media ‘War’” on the screen, Fox News’ Steve Doocy complains about Media Matters’ nonprofit status “subsidizing their agenda and their war on Fox News” and asking why the IRS and the Federal Government lets Media Matters “get away with it.”
 
Doocy sought out Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), a Religious Right legal group created when Pat Robertson wanted a legal arm for the Christian Coalition. Sekulow gave Fox what it was looking for:
You cannot be a wing of the Democrat Party and get 501 c3 status. The terminology that they’re using, their founder and their directors are using, is very dangerous if you’re trying to keep your tax exempt status, saying that Fox news has now taken over the Republican Party and that they’ve declared a guerilla war on Fox News means that they are a purely partisan organization. That doesn’t qualify under 501 c3 status.
There’s a huge basic flaw in this argument. Engaging in a public battle of ideas, like calling out Fox for its demonstrated bias, is not the kind of electoral work that is off-limits for 501 c3 groups, even if you accept, as Sekulow seems to be saying, that Fox has indeed become simply an arm of the Republican Party. 
 
Moreover, Sekulow was an extremely odd choice to be making accusations about partisanship. “I’m a pretty partisan guy, as you know,” he told attendees at the recent Faith & Freedom Coalition summit, where he represented ACLJ. “If we actually want to beat this administration, which has been the most aggressive on these issues, we still have to vote Republican, we still have to unite….Let’s get ready to unite, whoever the GOP nominates, and stop this administration.” He also bragged that the Religious Right had taken over the Republican Party and “made it ours.”

As Sekulow acknowledged, the ACLJ is itself a 501 c3 organization. So by Doocy’s logic, shouldn’t the “government-funded” ACLJ and the “tax-paid propaganda” put out by Sekulow and the ACLJ warrant a federal investigation? How about the “federal subsidies” going to support the lavish multiple-homes-and-private-jet lifestyle reportedly  enjoyed by Sekulow’s father, Jay, thanks to the tax-exempt dollars that flow into the ACLJ and connected organizations?

Fischer: Right Wing Watch Is Waging Jihad Against Me!

Last week, we released a new report on the unrelenting torrent of bigotry that is spread by the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer on a daily basis and an accompanying video chronicling some of his "highlights," while our colleague Peter Montgomery discussed Fisher and the AFA in the context of Gov. Rick Perry's prayer rally with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC.

Fischer has already made it clear that he does not particularly appreciate all of the attention we have devoted to covering him here, so it was not surprising that he spent nearly a half-hour of his program on Monday discussing the new report and the O'Donnell segment and accusing us of waging "jihad" against him and committing a "slow motion hate crime":

Ladies and gentlemen, right now out on the left wing there is a jihad that has been launched against me and against Focal Point and against the AFA. It is holy war. This is, in spiritual terms, a jihad. They are trying to destroy me, destroy Focal Point, to destroy AFA.

Now People For the American Way, and I've mentioned this before, I've played some soundbites of what they've done, they have been cyberstalking me for I don't know how long. It's just like a creepy obsession, they same kind of creepy obsession that the left has had with Sarah Palin. I mean, it's just weird, it's just bizarre. And so they have been monitoring everything I write, everything I say, everything we do here on Focal Point, keeping a list and checking it twice.

Here is a piece on Right Wing Watch referring to me as "The GOP's Favorite Hate-Monger: How the Republican Party Came to Embrace Bryan Fischer." And this puppy is seventeen pages long!

Remember, we are watching the unfolding of a hate crime against yours truly. You are watching a slow motion hate crime being engineered against yours truly.

Now, if we managed to put together a report chronicling Fischer's bigotry and that reported ended up being seventeen pages long, that probably means Fischer has a absurdly long record of engaging in insane bigotry. But to Fischer, it means we are cyberstalking him while waging jihad and committing a hate crime.

For those that are interested, here is the nearly half-hour segment Fischer dedicated to discussing our report and O'Donnell segment:

Huntsman Backer Seeks Gay Money with False Claim on Civil Unions

PFAW President Michael Keegan's recent Huffington Post commentary pointed out that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, the latest to throw his hat in the GOP presidential ring, is more conservative than his media-generated image as a moderate. Here’s more evidence supporting Keegan’s claim that Huntsman’s campaign strategy is to try to be all things to all people: Huntsman supporters are making a big play for campaign contributions from LGBT donors -- but they aren't telling the truth about his record. 

According to Politico, California Log Cabin Republican official Charles T. Moran has sent a fundraising email that makes this claim:“Governor Huntsman signed into law Utah’s first Civil Unions legislation – a politically courageous move on his part given that state’s politics.”

That claim is simply false.  It is true that in 2009, Huntsman declared his support for civil unions, five years after he backed a state constitutional amendment that bans marriage and forbids recognition of any "other domestic union" that has the "same or substantially equivalent legal effect" as marriage. But civil unions never became law in Utah.

In 2008, Huntsman did sign a law, SB 299, that allowed local governments to have something like a domestic partnership registry as long as they did not describe it as a domestic partnership registry. That’s a far cry from a state civil unions law, which is still prohibited by a constitutional amendment that Huntsman supported.

PFAW Exposes Bryan Fischer With Lawrence O'Donnell

Last night, People For the American Way senior fellow Peter Montgomery went on MSNBC's The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss the American Family Association's chief spokesman Bryan Fischer and his organization's work with Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Make sure to read our new Right Wing Watch: In Focus on Fischer here.

And watch the interview with O'Donnell:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Syndicate content

peter montgomery Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 10/20/2011, 5:48pm
Peter Montgomery @ Religion Dispatches: Jeffress is Both Right and Wrong on Religion & Politics.   Rachel Tabachnick @ Dome: Spiritual Warfare.   Ashley Lopez @ Florida Independent: Hasner ally says Muslim Brotherhood is behind Occupy Orlando.   Towleroad: Right-Wing Group Airs Gay Marriage Attack Ad in Iowa.   Zack Ford @ Think Progress LGBT: Herman Cain Doubles Down That Being Gay Is A Choice, ‘Washes Off.’   Michael E. Miller @ Miami New Times: Ave Maria University: A Catholic project gone wrong... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 10/13/2011, 10:53am
One of the sessions at the recent Values Voter Summit featured a showing of a new half-hour video produced by the American Family Association called “Divorcing God: Secularism and the Republic.” (Back in the summer it was being promoted as "Divorcing God: Secularism, Sexual Anarchy, and the Future of the Republic.") The video features an array of Religious Right leaders and academics, whose argument can be summarized this way:  America, whose greatness is decaying because the country has turned its back on the God who inspired the founding fathers, is doomed if it... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 10/12/2011, 11:04am
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... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 10/07/2011, 9:59am
Even before the opening bell at the Values Voter Summit, the Liberty Counsel hosted a breakfast on messaging and outreach to Hispanic Americans. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver shared the stage with Tony Calatayud, a Miami-based activist who works for the Spanish language arm of Christian radio Salem Communications.   Calatayud, who helped Marco Rubio get elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida, now travels the country helping to identify and support conservative Hispanic candidates with the group Conservadores. Staver said that Hispanic unhappiness with Barack Obama is... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 10/06/2011, 1:03pm
David Barton’s WallBuilders is tireless in pushing its “Christian nation” version of American history.   Today it encourages its supporters to “Celebrate Columbus Day!” and to read John Eidsmoe’s Columbus and Cortez: Conquerors for Christ.   Eidsmoe is the Christian Reconstructionist cited by Michele Bachmann as her mentor and major influence.  He is also a colleague of Roy Moore, who lost his job as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court when he refused to obey federal court orders to remove a Ten Commandments memorial he had... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 09/09/2011, 5:32pm
Peter Montgomery @ Huffington Post: Lasting Harm, Lingering Hope. Towleroad: Tennessee HS Students Threatened with Suspension for Trying to Start Gay-Straight Alliance. Igor Volsky @ Think Progress LGBT: North Carolina Lawmaker: ‘We Need To Reach Out To Gays, Get Them To Change Their Lifestyle.’ Rachel Tabachnick @ Talk To Action: C. Peter Wagner's Response to Increased Exposure of the New Apostolic Reformation. Warren Throckmorton: Christian Post blog removed over reaction to article on Mitt Romney; Can Romney get fair coverage from Christian... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 08/31/2011, 5:56pm
Peter Montgomery @ Religion Dispatches: Historic Pro-Gay Equality Shift Led by Millennials—Evangelicals Included. Chip Berlet @ Talk To Action: How We Coined the term "Dominionism." Nick @ Bold Faith Type: Catholic Right Leader Robert George Funds Anti-Islam Extremists. Towleroad: Equality California Rips Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council and its Ties to the KKK. Amanda Peterson Beadle @ Think Progress: Virginia Anti-Abortion Lobbyist Married To Top State Health Official Who Helped Draft Clinic Regulations. Equality Florida:... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 08/25/2011, 4:06pm
As we've been noting, it sure is amazing how all of these journalists and Religious Right activists are suddenly telling everything that dominionism doesn't exist and that, even if it does, it is really just a left-wing scare tactic. Just last week, Lisa Miller wrote a piece in the Washington Post where, as our colleague Peter Montgomery noted, she dismissed any concerns about dominionism as little more than an attempt to raise "fears on the left about 'crazy Christians" in order to "paint them as freaky and dangerous." Miller admitted that "extremist dominionists do... MORE >