Robert George

Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom At UN 'Family' Event

Religious Right activists say they’re fighting to save religious liberty in America from the gay rights movement, but many of the same leaders are happy to partner with the most religiously repressive regimes in order to resist advances toward LGBT equality around the world.

Consider Monday’s “Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World” event at the United Nations. It was sponsored by anti-gay and anti-choice groups like the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam, formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) and Family Watch International, which work to keep LGBT-friendly language out of international documents and agreements. Their cosponsors included the 25 countries that make up the Group of Friends of the Family (GoFF), a coalition of UN member states created last year to “reaffirm that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Among the freedom-loving members of GoFF whose representatives spoke at Monday’s “high-level event” was Iran, which the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom has just accused of seeking to “eradicate” the country’s Baha’is.

In fact, there’s a lot of overlap between GoFF members and countries identified by the Commission, currently chaired* by social conservative strategist Robert George, as the worst in the world for religious freedom: Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Egypt, and Iraq. Also included in GoFF are countries where anti-LGBT religious and political leaders have been generating hostility and threatening the lives and freedoms of LGBT people, including Nigeria, Uganda, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan.

But there was no talk of that unpleasantness at Monday’s three-hour event, which featured GoFF delegates pushing to have the U.N. emphasize “pro-family” policies in the implementation of sustainable development goals. The GoFF “Statement in Support of the Family” was presented by Valentin Rybakov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Belarus, where, according to Human Rights Watch, authorities “pressure and arrest human rights activists and critics on spurious charges” and “regularly harass independent and opposition journalists.” Of course, there’s a similar situation in Russia, which doesn’t keep American Religious Right groups from swooning over Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay policies.

One of Putin’s defenders is C-Fam’s Austin Ruse. In a Monday email to his supporters, Ruse bragged that C-Fam “was asked by a number of Member States to organize this conference,” adding that “the family is under extreme pressure at the UN from those who want to redefine the family and to accept the notion that two people of the same sex can create a family and adopt children.”

At the UN, Ruse singled out Sudan and Saudi Arabia for praise, citing situations in which their representatives had “saved” UN documents from unwanted language on the family. For the record, the USCIRF calls Saudi Arabia “uniquely repressive” when it comes to religious freedom and says Sudan’s government “represses and marginalizes the country’s minority Christian community.”

During his remarks at the event, Ruse said the powerful force that “family” advocates are up against is the sexual revolution, which portrays family as a “patriarchal prison where pleasure and freedom go to die.” Without any apparent sense of irony, he declared that “tyrants have always known” that the family is “the real enemy to what they want” and its destruction is “how they get to the individual.”

Ruse announced the creation of a new coalition, Civil Society for the Family, which he said would be active in supporting GoFF’s work in defense of “traditional morality.”

The event also featured remarks from C-FAM’s Susan Yoshihara, Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater, the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg, Human Life International’s Shenan Boquet, CitizenGo and HazteOir’s Gregory Mertz, the Institute for Family Policy’s Lola Volarde, and anti-marriage-equality activists Sherif Girgis and Helen Alvaré. Religious leaders who spoke included California pastor and anti-gay activist Jim Garlow, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens and Catholic Bishop John O’Hara of the Archdiocese of New York, who assured the group that they have Cardinal Dolan’s “enthusiastic support.”

A few highlights from other speakers:

  • Sharon Slater, representing Family Watch International and the UN Family Rights Caucus, said she is deeply concerned about the “global assault” on the “health and innocence of children” from comprehensive sexuality education, which she called a “war on children and our families.”
  • FRC’s Peter Sprigg said that attempts to create a new definition of marriage that distances it from its roots in the “order of nature itself” are inconsistent with countries’ responsibility to protect and support the institution. Marriage, he said, “predates all other forms of government” and “it is not the place of government to redefine or interfere with the natural family.”
  • Gregory Mertz, representing what he said are the 4.3 million members of CitizenGo and HazteOir, online organizing platforms for social conservatives, said the definition of family is “routinely under attack” and that the U.N. ignores its obligation to protect it. Last year when GoFF’s creation was announced, CitizenGo asked people to sign a petition praising these “brave governments” in order to “show these courageous countries” that “we stand behind them 100 percent.”
  • Sherif Girgis, co-author with Robert George and Ryan Anderson of a book on marriage, said that undermining the “stabilizing norms of marriage” will hurt “every aspect of the common good that a stable marriage serves.”
  • Susan Yoshihara told a story about being shut down by school officials when she wanted to opt her young daughter out of a reading of a book that talked about families with two dads or two moms. She said there would have been more of a conversation before the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, but that officials’ attitude now is “we won, you lose” — which she said was an example of why the law matters, and why it is important to resist changes in international law.
  • Helen Alvaré described defense of the family as both a rational and noble calling and said one can simultaneously affirm the “radical equality” of men and women while also recognizing their intrinsic complementarity, the topic of a 2014 Vatican conference for which Alvaré served as spokesperson. 

The statements from GoFF representatives were short and often repetitive statements about the centrality of the family to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The Russian delegate discussed Putin’s promotion of “traditional family values” and noted that the Commonwealth of Independent States, a confederation of former Soviet republics, has named 2017 the Year of the Family. The Russian representative also said it is important to UN organizations to stay within their mandates and for countries that support traditional families to speak up so that silence isn’t considered an acceptance of “dangerous trends.” He made a reference to pro-LGBT stamps issued by the UN Postal Administration in February, which infuriated some “traditional family” supporters. He said supporters of the traditional values need to be more active at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The representative of Sudan also talked about the divinely created complementarity inherent in “the nature of each sex.” He complained that many international documents on women do not recognize the natural family but “deliberately seek to weaken and erode it.” Efforts to promote alternative forms of the family are incompatible with universal principles in human culture “which distinguish us humans from the rest of God’s creation.”

The event had a bit of theater as well. A short video from Family Watch International showed a succession of people saying nice things about families, including Janice Shaw Crouse and Alexey Komov — who are currently attending another global social conservative event, the World Congress of Families in Tbilisi, Georgia — among others. In addition, half a dozen children took turns reading “A Declaration on the Rights of Children and Their Families: A Call from the Children of the World,” a document promoted by the UN Family Rights Caucus that they say has been signed “by thousands of children from every continent of the world.” Among its claims: Every child has a right to a married mother and father and the “right to innocence and childhood”— which is cited to attack sex ed programs and could be used to defend the kind of anti-gay “propaganda” laws that Russia and other countries are using to squelch advocacy for equality in the name of protecting children.

* UpdateHouse Speaker Paul Ryan announced on May 18 that Robert George has completed his second term and has been replaced on the Commission by the executive director of the Becket Fund, Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz.

Cruz Backer Robert George No Fan of Trump, But Group He Founded Is

Princeton University professor Robert George was a co-chair of Catholics for Cruz; when Cruz was a student at Princeton, George supervised his junior-year independent project and senior thesis. Along with George Weigel, George wrote an anti-Trump letter signed by other conservative Catholics that was published in National Review, part of the magazine’s failed effort to derail Trump’s campaign.

That letter declared Trump “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.” It decried his “vulgarity” and “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice” and his promises to order the American military to torture terror suspects and kill terrorists’ families — “actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country.”

The letter went on:

And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government….

Mr. Trump’s record and his campaign show us no promise of greatness; they promise only the further degradation of our politics and our culture. We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.

When Cruz dropped out, George tweeted “God help us.”

George expanded on that sentiment in a despairing interview with the Daily Princetonian:

Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George, who authored an endorsement for Cruz earlier this spring, said that with Cruz’s withdrawal from the race, it is now clear that voters will be choosing in November between Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“For many Americans, including myself, these are dreadful alternatives. We regard neither of these individuals as fit – morally or otherwise – to be president,” he said.

The two presumptive nominees have told appalling lies to advance or protect their political interests, George said.

“A number of people have written to me this evening asking, ‘Which should we support?’ I answer: If you believe that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, then vote for Trump. If you believe that the murders of Ambassador Stevens and the others at Benghazi were committed by a mob inflamed by a movie trailer, then vote for Clinton,” he said.

Since then, he’s continued tweeting criticism of both candidates, such as this one from May 4: “Dreadful Donald and Horrible Hillary are both products of the culture of narcissism which is the me-generation's true and lasting legacy.”

But in spite of all that, it is not clear whether George will remain in the #NeverTrump camp. George is connected to an extraordinary number of Religious Right groups, and it is difficult to overstate his role in shaping the anti-gay movement’s “religious liberty” strategy.  But at least one of those groups is on a different page.

George is the founder of the American Principles Project, which is embracing Trump based on a letter he sent the group last year saying he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act – the Religious Right-backed legislation to give special legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination – if Congress would send it to his desk.

On Thursday, APP put out a press release defending Trump against criticism from the Human Rights Campaign and saying that given a choice between Trump and the “extremist” Clinton, “the choice is incredibly easy – we have to, and will, back Trump.” APP President Frank Cannon’s statement said:

Donald Trump deserves credit from social conservatives for his principled position on protecting freedom of religion…Trump has demonstrated a commitment to the concerns of social conservatives on issues like life, marriage, and religious freedom, and he has promised to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia.

On Friday, APP’s communications director Jon Schweppe published “the moral case” for Trump in the Daily Caller. Schweppe says he votes on one issue – abortion – and that the election of Hillary Clinton would be “devastating to the pro-life cause.” Under a Trump presidency, Schweppe writes, “we have the opportunity to protect the court, replace Justice Scalia with a conservative justice, and eventually overturn Roe v. Wade…He is committed to getting this right.”

The APP bio of George ends with this disclaimer: “Views expressed by the American Principles Project and/or on this website are not necessarily those of Professor George.” Not necessarily.

 

'God Help Us': Religious Right Leaders Mourn Ted Cruz's Defeat

For years, Religious Right activists have dreamed about a presidential candidate like Ted Cruz. The Texas senator pledged to bring tens of millions of new evangelical voters to the polls by running on his hostility to abortion rights, Planned Parenthood and Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality and the separation of church and state.

He won nearly unanimous support from movement leaders, who hoped that by uniting behind Cruz, they would finally get their candidate of choice in position to win the GOP nomination. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson gushed that Heidi Cruz would be the country’s “very first pro-life first lady” and many leaders fawned over Cruz’s firebrand preacher father.

In the end, Cruz was defeated by Donald Trump, who questioned whether Cruz was a true Christian, threatened to “spill the beans” on his wife and accused his father of plotting the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

While Trump has won the support of several movement figures such as Phyllis Schlafly, Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell Jr., and was a regular presence at Religious Right events, he did not win many fans with his frequent flip-flops on abortion rights, kind words for Planned Parenthood or his sordid personal history.

When Cruz dropped out of the presidential race last night, Religious Right leaders were quick to express grief:

Robert P. George, one the movement’s intellectual leaders and the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, put it simply:

Conservative pundit Steve Deace reaffirmed that he’d never support Trump:

Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, joked about how he will likely write in a vote for Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse rather than back Trump:

American Family Radio host Bryan Fischer, however, suggested that people should write in Cruz in the general election:

Erick Erickson, the founder of the conservative website RedState, said that he’d leave the GOP over a Trump nomination because he is “not down with white supremacists.”

“You’ve got Klan members, David Duke, the Aryan Nation supporting Donald Trump,” he told The Daily Beast. “If the Republican Party is willing to go along with that, then I think it’s fair branding, I think it’s very fair. If Republicans aren’t going to stand up to having their party hijacked by a group of Aryan Nation-types, then they get what they deserve.”

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who has an off again, on again relationship with Trump, asked God to “have mercy on our nation” after hearing the news about Cruz:

But like many other conservatives, Starnes said he still hopes Trump will win in November: “[I]f we can survive eight years of President Obama, we can certainly survive a charlatan like Donald Trump. But I'm fairly certain we could not survive four years of Hillary Clinton.”

More than 50 Conservative Catholics Back Ted Cruz

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

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

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

Also on the list:

Ted Cruz Extends Anti-Gay Endorsement Bonanza With Religious Right Intellectual Leader Robert George

As we have noted repeatedly, Ted Cruz has enthusiastically welcomed the endorsements of and associated with a lot of extreme anti-gay activists, including the kind who scream from the stage that gay people should be executed. But not all anti-gay activists are of the ranting sort; some are prominent lawyers who draft legislation and devise legal strategies for restricting equality. Today, Cruz trumpeted the endorsement of the most prominent of these “respectable” anti-gay activists, Robert George.

George operates from Princeton University, where he teaches law and directs the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is a prime mover behind the effort to brand opposition to abortion and LGBT equality as religious liberty questions. He is a very busy man. In fact, it seems as if there are few anti-equality efforts that don’t bear his fingerprints in some way.

It goes on and on. According to his bio at the Witherspoon Institute, where he is a senior fellow:

Professor George serves on the boards of directors of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and the Center for Individual Rights. 

George’s dual role at the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation were noted during the controversy over the infamous Regnerus study, which has been widely discredited but it still cited by anti-equality advocates as “evidence” that gay people and couples should not be allowed to adopt or be parents. Witherspoon sponsored the research to the tune of nearly $700,000 and Bradley kicked in $90,000.

George’s influence extends beyond his own work. A former student and George protégé, the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, has become a leading voice in opposition to marriage equality; they co-authored with Sherif Gergis the book “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”

The Cruz campaign released a gushing endorsement from George, who says that Cruz was one of his most brilliant students and is among “the most principled and dedicated public servants” he knows. George’s endorsement of Cruz will come as no surprise to anyone who saw the mutual admiration society that passed for George’s interview of Cruz for EWTN last November. The two commiserated about the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, which George called “another tragic mistake in imposing same-sex marriage on the entire country.”

George recently joined other conservative Catholics in denouncing Donald Trump, who they said degrades our politics and culture and threatens their ability to use the Republican Party to promote Catholic social doctrine. Notably, George did not endorse Cruz until after Marco Rubio suspended his campaign. Rubio’s faith outreach director, Eric Teetsel, was formerly executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, and George is included in the acknowledgments section of Teetsel’s own book on (one man, one woman) marriage. 

Alliance Defending Freedom Brings Anti-Equality Former Australian P.M. Tony Abbott To US, To Plot Comeback With Rupert Murdoch?

The Alliance Defending Freedom, the huge Religious Right legal group that has been expanding its anti-gay, anti-choice work around the globe, is bringing former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the U.S. this week for a secretive meeting in New York, where he will talk about “the importance of family.” ADF, a sponsor of the World Congress of Families, sent an official to Australia last year to address the national conference of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Nick O’Malley, U.S. correspondent for Fairfax Media, asked ADF about Abbott’s visit:

A spokesman for the group told Fairfax Media in a statement that Mr. Abbott, who has “been a strong advocate for marriage and freedom throughout his career,” had “graciously agreed to address our private event.”

But the spokesman declined to explain the nature of the event, say where or when it was to be held, or say if Mr. Abbott was being paid for his attendance.

As prime minister, Abbott stubbornly blocked efforts to move marriage equality legislation forward. Australian media has reported that Abbott, who has announced his intention to run again in 2016, will be meeting with right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch while he is in New York. Abbott was removed from his post after members of his own party replaced him with a more moderate rival who supports marriage equality.

Last year, investigative reporters Sofia Resnick and Sharona Coutts of RH Reality Check noted  that the website for ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship stated that the  “Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th and 5th century” — ah, the good old days.  Robert George, intellectual leader of the anti-gay Religious Right, is on the fellowship’s advisory board.

 

Ted Cruz On Trans Rights: 'I Don't Want My Daughters Taking Showers With Little Boys'

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, responded last month to the Obama administration’s efforts to enforce transgender rights in public schools by declaring that he doesn’t want his young daughters “taking showers with little boys.”

Asked by Robert George in a November 25 interview on the EWTN network about a Department of Education ruling that an Illinois school district should have provided a transgender girl access to the girls’ locker room at her school, Cruz said it was a “ridiculous” decision made by “zealots.”

“Well, look,” he said. “This is ridiculous. It shows just how radical and extreme the current administration is. You know, I’m the father of two little girls. Caroline and Catherine are seven and five. I don’t want my daughters taking showers with little boys, I don’t want them when they’re in junior high or high school. And it’s absurd, no parents do. And these are zealots.”

He then pivoted to his pledge to do away with the Common Core standards initiative and abolish the Department of Education entirely.

Mike Huckabee: Ignoring Gay Marriage Ruling Is 'A Matter Of Saving Our Republic'

Mike Huckabee once again insisted that Supreme Court rulings are simply opinions that carry no legal authority if not for the “good will” and “assent” of the legislative and executive branches, this time making the case for defiance of the top court in an interview with Robert George on the Catholic television network EWTN this weekend.

If elected president, Huckabee said, he would “absolutely decline” to enforce the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision and order the Justice Department to “protect in every way the rights of those citizens who joined in disagreeing.”

“It’s a matter of saving our republic to say that as president, we’re not going to accept this decision, we will ignore it and we will not enforce it,” Huckabee said, adding that he would only recognize same-sex marriages in states that legalize same-sex marriage, or polygamy, for that matter, “by a vote of its people.”

When George asked if conservatives then “couldn’t criticize” President Obama for acting lawlessly “if he refused to enforce” recent Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance reform and gun control, Huckabee responded, “Well, no.” He said that if that were to happen, Congress should then exercise its power to impeach the president or defund the executive branch, seeming to open himself up to impeachment if he decided to defy the courts on same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz: President Can Ignore 'Fundamentally Illegitimate,' Nazi-Like Gay Marriage Decision

In an interview with influential social conservative commentator Robert George on the Catholic television network EWTN last month, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that the president should defy the Supreme Court’s “fundamentally illegitimate” decision striking down bans on same-sex marriage, which he compared to “Nazi decrees.”

George, the co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage and a mentor of Cruz’s, likened the court’s “tragic mistake” in Obergefell to infamous Supreme Court decisions including Dred Scott, asking Cruz, “Was Lincoln right to defy the court on [Dred Scott] and would you, as president, do that with the Obergefell decision?”

“Lincoln was absolutely right, I agree with President Lincoln,” Cruz responded. “And courts do not make law. That is not what a court does. A court interprets the law, a court applies the law, but courts don’t make law.”

Saying that it is “profoundly wrong” to refer to the gay marriage decision as the law of the land, Cruz said, “I think the decision was fundamentally illegitimate, it was lawless, it was not based on the Constitution.”

Cruz then brought up remarks that Justice Anthony Kennedy made recently at Harvard Law School, in which he discussed when it is the duty of public officials to resign rather than carry out laws that they think are unjust, such as in the case of opponents of marriage equality. Kennedy used the extreme example of judges who resigned under Nazi rule, saying that whether they can morally carry out their official duties is “a fair question that officials can and should ask themselves” and that “great respect … ought to be given to people who resign rather than do something they think is morally wrong in order to make a point.”

This, Cruz declared, amounted to Kennedy comparing “the Supreme Court of the United States to the Nazis.”

“This isn’t me calling them the Nazis,” he said, “this is Justice Kennedy calling the court on which he serves, calling the opinion that he wrote, analogizing that to the Nazi decrees that we must obey.”

George interjected: “Just to be clear, surely Justice Kennedy was not embracing Nazism.”

Cruz hesitated and smiled. “He drew the analogy,” he said, “and the obvious implication was just as you were forced to obey the Nazis, you’re forced to obey us as well … even if we are tyrannical and oppressive. Now, look, certainly he wasn’t embracing all of the horrible things the Nazis did but to make that analogy, that is essentially saying, we wear the jackboot and you must obey us.”

Ted Cruz: We Can 'Absolutely' Outlaw Abortion Without Overturning Roe

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said last month that Congress could “absolutely” criminalize all abortion by passing a law giving 14th Amendment protections to fetuses and zygotes, thus bypassing a constitutional amendment overturning Roe v. Wade.

This represents the Republican presidential candidate’s strongest endorsement yet of the radical anti-choice “personhood” strategy, which, based on a questionable interpretation of Roe, holds that Congress can simply outlaw abortion by classifying fertilized eggs as persons under the law. If successful, personhood would outlaw nearly all abortions and could even criminalize certain types of birth control.

Cruz made the comments in a November 25 interview with influential social conservative commentator Robert George as part of a series of candidate interviews that George is hosting on the the Catholic television network EWTN.

After outlining the personhood strategy, George asked Cruz, “Do you believe that unborn babies are persons within the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and, if so, will you call on Congress to use its authority under the 14th Amendment pursuant to Section Five, to protect the unborn? Or do you take the view, as some do, that we can’t do that until Roe v. Wade is overturned either by the court itself or by constitutional amendment? Where do you stand on that?”

“Listen, absolutely yes,” Cruz responded.

“I very much agree with the pope’s longstanding and prior popes’ before him longstanding call to protect every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death,” he added.

“And we can do that by Congressional action without waiting for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade?” George asked.

“Absolutely yes, under the 14th Amendment,” Cruz responded.

Cruz has on two separate occassions promised personhood groups that he would support their strategy, but has previously been eclipsed on the issue by his presidential rival Mike Huckabee, who has vowed to impose personhood by executive fiat if he becomes president. Another GOP presidential candidate, Rand Paul, has sponsored a personhood bill in Congress.

Marco Rubio Hires Culture Warrior Eric Teetsel as Faith Outreach Director

Largely unnoticed in the media coverage of the Republican presidential primary this week was Marco Rubio’s hiring of a major millennial anti-gay, anti-choice culture warrior. Eric Teetsel, who has been executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, has been hired to be Rubio’s faith outreach director. One who took notice was right-wing activist and pundit Erick Erickson, who gushed over the “huge and impressive hire.”

Where other candidates are hiring folks from the dying “Moral Majority” coalitions of the past, Eric Teetsel is plugged into those power centers, but has transcended them. He’s of a more youthful generation of Christian evangelicals who respects past contributions, but is also focused on the future and not nursing past grievances.

Teetsel is, indeed, well plugged in if not as well known to the public as his more visible counterpart at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Anderson. Like Anderson, Teetsel is part of the anti-equality crowd that orbits Robert George, a co-author of the Manhattan Declaration and a founder of the National Organization for Marriage. And like George and Anderson, Teetsel has written a book about (one man, one woman) marriage. The acknowledgments section of his book reads like a Who’s Who of the Religious Right, including George, Anderson, Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, Mark Tooley and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

And, as Igor Babic noted at the Huffington Post this week, Teetsel has also been a vocal part of the Religious Right chorus denouncing the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, complaining that the court “has bestowed its imprimatur to homosexuality as both an identity and a way of life.” Teetsel wrote:

"A significant cultural impediment has been removed, and so sin will spread. This is regrettable because sin, of course, leads to suffering. As our LGBT neighbors continue to experience the ravages of their sin, will anyone be there to explain to them its cause?"

The Manhattan Declaration brings right-wing Catholics together with their evangelical counterparts to advance their shared strategic goal of portraying opposition to LGBT equality, abortion and contraception in religious liberty terms. Signers and promoters of the Manhattan Declaration compare themselves to martyrs and pledge civil disobedience:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

Teetsel has appeared at numerous Religious Right political gatherings and shows up in Rick Santorum’s “documentary” about the “erosion” of religious liberty in America. More notably, he spoke at the recent World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City, which honored an activist who defends African laws that punish gays with long jail terms. In fact, Teetsel is listed in the WCF program as a member of the “SWAT Team” charged with “Strategic Planning for the Future” along with that activist, Theresa Okafor, and other anti-gay and anti-choice leaders from around the world.

Teetsel’s hiring is almost certainly a better reflection of Rubio’s commitment to anti-gay culture warriors than his much-ballyhooed endorsement by billionaire Paul Singer, who has backed gay causes but seems more interested in what Rubio can do for the profitability of his vulture capitalism.

Ryan Anderson's Road Map for Marriage Resisters

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, celebrated as the anti-marriage movement’s fresh young face, is promoting his new book Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, which promises to tell anguished opponents of marriage equality how to respond in to the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to be legally married. Anderson’s book will be available July 20, but there’s probably no need to order it, since he has been flooding the media with his analysis of the ruling and advice about what anti-equality Christians should do in its wake.

Anderson is a protégé of Robert George, the Princeton professor and current intellectual godfather of the anti-gay movement. Like George, Anderson has made the case that the dispute over marriage is not about discrimination but about definition. Same-sex couples cannot be married, they argue, because marriage is by definition a relationship between a man and a woman, “uniting comprehensively, creating new life, and uniting new human beings with their mother and father.”

Anderson repeats that argument in his legal analysis of the Supreme Court’s ruling at Public Discourse, complaining that Justice Anthony Kennedy did not seriously engage with the main arguments of anti-marriage-equality advocates in his majority opinion. Anderson is unmoved by analogies to bans on marriage by interracial couples:

The problem with the analogy to interracial marriage is that it assumes exactly what is in dispute: that sex is as irrelevant to marriage as race is. It’s clear that race has nothing to do with marriage. Racist laws kept the races apart and were designed to keep whites at the top. Marriage has everything to do with men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers and their children, and that is why principle-based policy has defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Anderson has previously pointed to the anti-abortion movement as the model for long-term resistance to marriage equality. Since the Court’s ruling in Obergefell, Anderson has been more explicit about what the strategy means. In a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation on June 30, Anderson declared, “The central thesis of my new book…is that the pro-marriage movement is in the same exact situation culturally that the pro-life movement found itself in 42 and a half years ago after Roe v. Wade.”  In the 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, that movement has been all too successful at getting legislatures to restrict women’s ability to access reproductive health care, and at convincing courts to go along. In the Boston Globe, Anderson explained how that happened:

The pro-life community stood up and responded to a bad court ruling. Academics wrote books and articles making the scientific and philosophical case for life. Statesmen like Henry Hyde, Edwin Meese, and Ronald Reagan used the bully pulpit to advance the culture of life. Activists and lawyers got together, formed coalitions, and devised effective strategies.

At Heritage, Anderson identified three steps taken by abortion foes that he says must now be pursued by anti-marriage-equality advocates.

  1. Identify the decision as illegitimate judicial activism.
  2. Act to protect the rights of “conscience.”
  3. Wage a long-term campaign of “rebuilding a truthful, strong marriage culture” to “bear witness to the truth” within a culture that has been told a lie, in this case about the nature of marriage. This will be a long-term, “generational” effort, “something our children and grandchildren will be responding to.”

Anderson and other right-wing leaders have certainly been ready to carry out his first piece of advice, denouncing the ruling as judicial activism and, in Anderson’s words, “a significant setback for all Americans who believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, democratic self-government, and marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” His mentor Robert George responded in kind, saying, “we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation. We must, above all, tell the truth: Obergefell v. Hodges is an illegitimate decision.” Anderson’s colleague Matthew J. Franck, called it an “appallingly illegitimate decision.”

As for the second step, acting to protect the “rights of conscience,” Anderson says, “There is an urgent need for policy to ensure the government never penalizes anyone for standing up for marriage. We must work to protect the freedom of speech, association, and religion of those who continue to abide by the truth of marriage as one man and one woman.”

Anderson and other anti-equality leaders are pushing for passage of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act in Congress, and for passage of similar laws at the state level. He says that the First Amendment Defense Act would allow individuals, organizations, and businesses to “act on the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman” – in other words, to discriminate against same-sex couples without facing any legal consequences.

Just as the pro-life movement ensured that no pro-life citizen would ever have to pay for an abortion or perform an abortion, so too must we work to ensure no one is coerced on marriage. Rather than forcing people and institutions of faith to go to court for their religious liberty, this bill would prevent the government from ever acting unjustly in the first place.

As we noted recently, this strategy has the potential to lead to increasing restrictions on the ability of same-sex couples and their families to experience the equal dignity the Court has said they deserve.

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v Wade, laws were passed to allow doctors who had religious objections to performing abortions to refuse to do so without experiencing negative professional consequences. There has been little opposition to such laws. But over the past few decades, at the urging of anti-abortion activists, the scope of that kind of religious exemption has been expanded wildly to include people ever-further removed from the actual abortion procedure, and expanded to include even marginal participation in the provision of contraception. In emergency situations these accommodation could come at high cost, including the life of a patient.

Exemptions have been extended to or claimed by nurses who don’t want to provide care to women after an abortion, pharmacists who don’t want to dispense a morning-after pill prescribed by a woman’s doctor, even a bus driver who refused to take a woman to a Planned Parenthood facility because he said he suspected she was going for an abortion.

Law professors Douglas NeJaime and Reva Siegel describe these as “complicity-based conscience claims” – claims that are about refusing to do anything that might make one complicit in any way with another person’s behavior that one deems sinful. They note that the concept of complicity has been extended to allow health care providers not to even inform patients that some potential care or information has been withheld from them based on the religious beliefs of an individual or the policies of an institution.

The resistance to complying with the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that insurance plans cover contraception takes the notion of complicity to almost surreal lengths.  Just days after the Hobby Lobby decision, the Court’s conservatives sided provisionally with religious conservatives who are arguing that it is a burden on their religious freedom even to inform the government that they are refusing to provide contraceptive coverage, because that would trigger the process by which the coverage would be provided by others. Cases revolving around the simple act of informing the government of an objection are working their way back toward the Supreme Court….

Given what we know about the intensity of the anti-gay movement’s opposition to marriage equality, it is not hard to imagine how far that movement could run with the principle that religious beliefs about “traditional” marriage are a legitimate basis for discriminating against same-sex couples.

As for Anderson’s final step, waging a generational culture war to promote the idea that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, he offers several strategies:

  1. Conduct “rigorous social science” on family structures, which he says could be used to sway future conservative justices to overturn Obergefell. Anderson is editor of Public Discourse, published by the Witherspoon Institute, which is probably best known for financing the notorious Mark Regnerus study on “family structures,” which anti-equality groups continue to cite even though the study and the way it has been used by marriage equality opponents have been thoroughly discredited.
  2. Use “better spokespeople.” Anderson says the movement should make more use of gays and people raised by same-sex couples who oppose marriage equality.  Anderson complained at Heritage that both groups filed amicus briefs but that the Court did not acknowledge either.
  3. Live out “the truth about marriage” by demonstrating the beauty, truth, and holiness of one-man, one-woman marriage. Anderson acknowledged that gay and lesbian people did not cause family breakdown, heterosexuals did that through contraception, divorce, and other aspects of the sexual revolution. “Justice Kennedy’s philosophy of marriage is the natural result, the logical result, of the past 50 years of the breakdown of the American family. It’s the natural, logical conclusion of the sexual revolution.” Anderson said "We have ourselves to blame” for 50 years of “failing to live out the truth about marriage.”  Still, he said, “redefining marriage will not do anything to strengthen the family; but it will likely make the family even weaker.”

Anderson has achieved folk-hero status among the anti-gay right and many are likely to follow his road map. The National Organization for Marriage is praising his “encouraging words and advice” on how to “continue the fight to defend marriage as it has always been defined – the union between one man and one woman.”

 

The Anti-Equality Movement's Favorite Laughably Disingenuous Talking Point

Anyone who has paid any attention at all to the marriage equality debate has heard an equality opponent speak some version of this line: “All Americans have the freedom to live as they choose. But no one has the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.”

There’s a reason for that. The National Organization for Marriage instructs its activists that it is the “most effective single sentence” the anti-marriage-equality movement has:

Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is the following: “Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose; they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.” This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage.

Not surprisingly, people like former NOM President Maggie Gallagher use that talking point. And even as the movement continues to lose public support and legal battles, they have maintained message discipline when it comes to using this sentence. You can find nearly endless examples of it with tiny variations, spanning more than a decade. Here are just a few examples:

  • Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson used the line in his speech at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference;
  • Kate Sweeney, assistant director of the Colorado-based Catholic women's group ENDOW, used it while opposing a state civil unions bill in 2013;

Of course, the line is not only ineffective, judging by the continued pro-equality swing in public attitudes, but it’s also ridiculously disingenuous coming from people who have tried so hard over the years to restrict the ability of LGBT people “to live as they choose,” as PFAW Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon recently documented.

That includes DeMint, who believes gay people should not allowed to be teachers and slams the Supreme Court for overturning sodomy laws that made gay people criminals. And it certainly includes the Heritage Foundation, which slams landmark equality cases Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans as examples of unacceptable “judicial activism.”

Heritage, also the professional home of the fresh-faced hope of the marriage equality movement Ryan T. Anderson, opposes the Employment Non Discrimination Act, which would protect people from being fired for being gay, and fought federal hate crimes legislation. Of course, Anderson frequently uses the same poll-tested phrase, as he did in a 2013 briefing paper for Heritage on the perils of “redefining marriage.”

While it is increasingly true that LGBT Americans are “free to live as they choose,” that goal is far from being accomplished nationwide. And whatever progress has been made, it has been over the opposition of people who now smile into the camera and hope to hide their anti-gay agenda with a little deceptive messaging. 

Rick Wiles: Obama Wants To Kill Millions Of Christians, Spread Ebola And Aid ISIS

Robert P. George, a founder of the National Organization for Marriage and vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, decided that it would be a good idea to appear on Rick Wiles’ “Trunews” yesterday. George may or may not have known that Wiles is an absolutely insane conspiracy theorist, but he might have gotten a hint when, during the interview, Wiles told him that the U.S. and its allies have been secretly training ISIS.

While George said he couldn’t confirm or respond to Wiles’ claims, the End Times broadcaster went on to claim that coalition airstrikes are “just dropping bombs” and deliberately “missing the strongholds” of ISIS.

Before the interview with George, Wiles shared his theory that “‘Ebola Barry’ is deliberately spreading Ebola inside America in a way that would have made Typhoid Mary blush with embarrassment over his brazen ways,” warning that “‘Ebola Barry’ is also ‘Jihad Obama,’ he is now militarizing the response to Ebola and I assure you he has plans for you and me.”

He went on to argue that the government wants to “release a highly contagious virus” that will “contaminate paper money and spread the plague” in order to “destroy the U.S. Dollar” and replace it with the “Amero.”

But Wiles wasn’t done just yet.

He ended the program by predicting that President Obama will stay on as president after his second term comes to an end and will murder millions of Christians just like Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong: “This is the warning for America, you have a dictator, you have a dictator in the White House who is waiting for the opportunity to bring his violence to this country.”

“If Mr. Obama gets his way, if he really is able to do what is in his heart, he will bring unspeakable violence and bloodshed to the soil of America, he will bring civil war, he will bring rioting, his assignment is to destroy the country, he is the destroyer,” Wiles said. “The damage he’s going to do in the next two years will be unbelievable and we have no idea whether he will leave after 2016 or whether there will be anything left for somebody else to govern.”

Becket Fund Pretends It's Not Fighting The Culture Wars

Politico is up with a profile of the Becket Fund, one of the Religious Right legal groups that has pushed, via Hobby Lobby and related cases, to expand the definition of “religious liberty” to allow corporations and individuals as well as religious institutions to opt out of laws they say violate their religious beliefs.

The article by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux quotes Stanford Law School professor Michael McConnell saying nice things about Becket, but it doesn’t mention that Becket steered $1.6 million to Stanford and McConnell for a religious liberty law clinic that opened at the school last year.

In Politico, McConnell attributes to Becket the idea that religious freedom “is not – in most contexts – a culture war issue.” At a forum on religious liberty at the Newseum last year, Becket’s Mark Rienzi also suggested that religious liberty is not a culture war issue.

In reality, redefining “religious liberty” has become the central culture war issue and the primary legal and public relations strategy chosen by conservative evangelicals and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy to resist the advance of LGBT equality and restrict women’s access to reproductive care. Becket is at the center of this strategy. A corollary strategy is portraying Christians in America as the victims of religious persecution; Becket lawyers appear in Rick Santorum’s latest movie, “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty.”

While it is true that support for religious freedom crosses political and religious lines, and it is admirable that Becket, unlike some other Religious Right legal groups, defends the freedom of religious minorities as well as conservative Christians, it is hard to accept with a straight face the idea that Becket’s lawyers are not culture warriors.

Let’s review some of Becket’s culture-war credentials:

  • In addition to Robert George, the intellectual force behind the Manhattan Declaration and the Catholic bishops’ “religious liberty” strategy, Becket’s board includes culture warriors like the Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell and right-wing mega-funder Sean Fieler.
  • Earlier this year, Becket celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway, in which the Court upheld sectarian prayer at official public meetings and narrowly defined what would amount to unconstitutional religious coercion of people attending those meetings. Becket signaled that it hoped the decision would lead to the further dismantling of court rulings that uphold church-state separation.
  • Last year a Becket blog post about a legal victory for a Colorado voucher program that diverts public education funds to religious schools was headlined “Needy Kids 1, Anti-Catholic Bigots 0.”
  • In the fall of 2012, Becket co-sponsored an event for the Manhattan Declaration — itself a call to the culture-war barricades. According to an admiring report by Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, Becket President William Mumma “noted that in today’s culture wars ‘religion is not an accidental victim, it is the target’ for radical secularists. ‘When government tries to murder religion it may murder religious liberty but not religion,’ he promised, as faith will survive amid persecution.”
  • Becket’s executive director Kristina Arriaga joined hard-core culture warriors in supporting the Pray and A.C.T. group created by dominionist Lou Engle in advance of the 2010 elections.
  • In 2008 Becket ran a full-page ad in the New York Times charging that anti-Prop 8 protesters were “thugs” engaged in a “religious war” of violence and intimidation against the Mormon church; founder Kevin “Seamus” Hasson responded to criticism with a comparison of “radical secularist” Prop 8 protestors to radical Islamist terrorists.

Winners of Becket’s Canterbury Medal over the past decade include Robert George; ultraconservative Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has waged what a local columnist called a “war on Obama” over the HHS mandate; Eric Mataxas, the author whose 2012 prayer breakfast speech delighted right-wing activists with its thinly veiled attacks on President Obama’s faith; and Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, a strong defender of the LDS Church’s anti-equality efforts.

One more quibble with the Politico story: its headline – “God’s Rottweilers” – does give a sense of the group’s intensity, but it also implies that Becket is working for God. Media coverage all too often portrays culture war issues as a struggle between religious people and “radical secularists” when in fact there are also many religious individuals and organizations actively opposed to the Religious Right’s agendas on LGBT equality, women’s access to reproductive care, and the relationship between church and state.

Steve Lonegan Gets Job Pushing Gold Standard With Anti-Gay Group That Supported His Campaign

The Star-Ledger reported earlier this week that Steve Lonegan, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Senate in last year’s New Jersey special election, has a new job: leading the anti-gay, anti-choice American Principles Project’s sideline effort to bring back the gold standard.

Lonegan told The Auditor he is now the director of monetary policy for the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy group. He plans to work to spread the gospel about what he says as the Federal Reserve’s “failed policy” and the need to bring back the gold standard.

“We will be working hard in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to see to it that the (presidential) primary candidates in both parties are forced to talk about this issue,” Lonegan said. “They can’t hide from it.”

The American Principles Project was started in 2009 by Robert George, the intellectual leader of the anti-gay movement, to pressure Republican politicians to embrace both fiscal and social conservative policies. APP currently employs Maggie Gallagher, who founded the National Organization for Marriage along with George and served as NOM’s first president.

In his new job, it seems that Lonegan will unite the main political interests of APP’s chairman Sean Fieler, a little-known hedge fund manager who has become a major donor to the Religious Right and to social conservative causes in New York and New Jersey.

As we noted in a profile of Fieler earlier this year, the gold standard seems to be a pet project of his, so much so that an idea that is widely dismissed among mainstream economists has become a major policy platform of the American Principles Project. The issue was mentioned nowhere in the group’s original mission statement and doesn’t seem to have appeared on the group’s website until Fieler came on board as chairman in 2010.

Fieler and the American Principles Project have a history with Lonegan. Fieler is the major funder of the American Principles Fund , a super PAC affiliated with APP, which last year spent nearly $100,000 running anti-choice ads against Lonegan’s Democratic opponent Cory Booker. Fieler himself has maxed out personal contributions to Lonegan’s recent campaigns, giving his candidate committee $10,400 over the past two years.

Now, Lonegan will bring his unabashed anti-choice and anti-gay politics (remember when he speculated about whether Booker was gay?) to help unite the American Principles Project’s social and economic policy priorities.

The Star-Ledger notes that until this year, APP employed Booker’s current Republican Senate opponent Jeff Bell.

Robert George: Marriage Equality Judges Ignore His Brilliant Arguments

Robert George, the reigning intellectual godfather of the Religious Right, complains in an interview with the Christian Post today that judges who recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry are not only ignoring the Constitution, they are ignoring his own brilliant arguments.

George, co-author of the Manhattan Declaration and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, published a law review article and book, “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense” with Sherif Gergis and the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson. George is quite proud that Justice Samuel Alito cited their arguments in his dissent to the Supreme Court decision overturning part of the Defense of Marriage Act. But he cannot accept that any judge with a commitment to the Constitution could possibly disagree with him.

George broadly renounces all judges who have ruled in favor of marriage equality as engaging in a “pure ideological power play.” He acknowledges that marriage equality rulings have come from judges nominated by both Republicans and Democrats, but portrays them all as “liberal judges who don’t like traditional morality and the traditional understanding of marriage and want to overturn it.”

“So they’re abusing their offices, they’re usurping the authority of the elected representatives of the people, and sometimes the people themselves acting through referendums and initiative, to impose their own vision, their own preferences, their own political policy preferences on the American people. It’s not right and it’s unconstitutional.”

George is incensed that judges are applying the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to same-sex couples, because he says the authors of that mid-19th Century amendment were not thinking about marriage equality.

“It’s just an offense against constitutionalism, against the rule of law, against the idea that the people rule themselves in a republican form of government, to seize on a provision like the Equal Protection Clause and to overturn the laws of marriage.”

But most of all, George cannot seem to accept that an ideologically diverse set of judges, in dozens of opinions, could have considered and rejected his arguments.

“It seems to me that the courts, if they’re going to strike down the marriage laws in the name of the 14th amendment, do have an obligation to at least engage the argument that we presented, but so far they haven’t. And I know the reason why they haven’t. The reason why they haven’t… is that they don’t have an answer for the argument.”

That is ridiculous. But don’t take my word for it. I ran Robert George’s claims by Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a major player in marriage equality advocacy. Here’s what he said:

Judges across the country have considered the arguments put forward by Professor George and others—that marriage is essentially tied to heterosexual procreation and to the alleged “sexual complementarity” of men and women—and have overwhelmingly concluded that they are not persuasive. In fact, most of those courts have held that such arguments are so tenuous and illogical that they fail even the lowest level of constitutional scrutiny.

 

Rick Santorum Presents Latest 'Religious Persecution' Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured “persecution” stories include:

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

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

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

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

Right Wing Leftovers - 5/13/14

Who's Worse: Feminists or Gays?

Robert George, the founder and chairman emeritus of the National Organization for Marriage, appeared on Saturday’s edition of Eagle Forum Live with Phyllis Schlafly to “explain why redefining marriage as merely an emotional bond is a very bad idea.” George warned that legalizing same-sex marriage “would be a disaster for children, for communities, for society as a whole” because marriage would lose its “direct link to procreation and children.”

Schlafly, the arch antifeminist, added that while gays are out to ruin marriage, it is actually the feminists who are the bigger threat. She said feminists are “the cause of most of our problems” because they don’t want men “to have any authority.”

George: What’s at stake is whether we’re going to retain that understanding of marriage with its link to procreation and children, its essential and direct link to procreation and children, or whether we are going to just ditch the idea of marriage altogether, replace it with a different way of organizing social relationships, transform what was known as marriage into mere sexual, romantic, domestic partnership, companionship, which the state would not have any interest in and then reassign the label marriage to that relationship. That would be a disaster for children, for communities, for society as a whole.

Schlafly: In the normal course of human behavior with men and women around these helpless little creatures do appear who could not possibly take care of themselves, isn’t marriage the answer for dealing with that problem?

George: Here’s the way I see it Mrs. Schlafly, I’m borrowing here a thought from my friend Maggie Gallagher who is a great pro-marriage campaigner, when a child is born it’s a pretty good bet that there’s going to be a mother somewhere in the vicinity. Nature provides for that. The real question, one that every culture has to face is: will there be a father around who will help that woman to raise the child? To raise the child in a bond of commitment between mother and father and who will provide the distinctive contributions to child rearing that fathers provide.

Schlafly: That’s exactly why I think the cause of most of our problems are the feminists who don’t want the father around, they want to kick him out, they don’t want him to have any authority and they just don’t think men are necessary.

Later, George responded to a caller asking how “this homosexual thing” will “bankrupt America” with warnings about “big government” and “financial catastrophe.”

Caller: I think that this homosexual thing is not to have equality of people but to bankrupt America by destroying the family.

Schlafly: Well it is true Professor George that when you get rid of the father and you break up the family, the welfare rolls increase and that contributes to destroying our system.

George: Yes it’s an invitation to big government, it makes big government inevitable for the two reasons I articulated: one, the provision of social welfare services; and two, the provision of security, both of which expand with the breakup of the family. Of course, big government eventually means financial catastrophe and bankruptcy because as Mrs. Thatcher famously said, ‘sooner or later you run out of other people’s money to spend,’ and that’s the condition that we find ourselves in and I again would broaden the blame here.
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Robert George Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 05/18/2016, 9:35am
Religious Right activists say they’re fighting to save religious liberty in America from the gay rights movement, but many of the same leaders are happy to partner with the most religiously repressive regimes in order to resist advances toward LGBT equality around the world. Consider Monday’s “Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World” event at the United Nations. It was sponsored by anti-gay and anti-choice groups like the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam, formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) and Family Watch International,... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 05/06/2016, 5:36pm
Princeton University professor Robert George was a co-chair of Catholics for Cruz; when Cruz was a student at Princeton, George supervised his junior-year independent project and senior thesis. Along with George Weigel, George wrote an anti-Trump letter signed by other conservative Catholics that was published in National Review, part of the magazine’s failed effort to derail Trump’s campaign. That letter declared Trump “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.” It decried his “vulgarity” and “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 05/04/2016, 11:20am
For years, Religious Right activists have dreamed about a presidential candidate like Ted Cruz. The Texas senator pledged to bring tens of millions of new evangelical voters to the polls by running on his hostility to abortion rights, Planned Parenthood and Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality and the separation of church and state. He won nearly unanimous support from movement leaders, who hoped that by uniting behind Cruz, they would finally get their candidate of choice in position to win the GOP nomination. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson gushed that Heidi Cruz would be the... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 03/18/2016, 3:13pm
The latest announcement in the Ted Cruz presidential campaign’s ongoing rollout of endorsements from right-wing leaders is a group of more than 50 “Catholic influencers” led by Robert George, the intellectual muscle for the Religious Right, and Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia and failed gubernatorial candidate. The campaign announced the endorsement of Robert George yesterday; some others on the list have also been announced previously. Not surprisingly, the list of Catholics for Cruz is heavy on culture warriors who have been fighting to criminalize... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 03/17/2016, 4:43pm
As we have noted repeatedly, Ted Cruz has enthusiastically welcomed the endorsements of and associated with a lot of extreme anti-gay activists, including the kind who scream from the stage that gay people should be executed. But not all anti-gay activists are of the ranting sort; some are prominent lawyers who draft legislation and devise legal strategies for restricting equality. Today, Cruz trumpeted the endorsement of the most prominent of these “respectable” anti-gay activists, Robert George. George operates from Princeton University, where he teaches law and directs the... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 01/28/2016, 5:08pm
The Alliance Defending Freedom, the huge Religious Right legal group that has been expanding its anti-gay, anti-choice work around the globe, is bringing former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the U.S. this week for a secretive meeting in New York, where he will talk about “the importance of family.” ADF, a sponsor of the World Congress of Families, sent an official to Australia last year to address the national conference of the Australian Christian Lobby. Nick O’Malley, U.S. correspondent for Fairfax Media, asked ADF about Abbott’s visit: A spokesman for the... MORE >
Miranda Blue, Monday 12/07/2015, 3:35pm
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, responded last month to the Obama administration’s efforts to enforce transgender rights in public schools by declaring that he doesn’t want his young daughters “taking showers with little boys.” Asked by Robert George in a November 25 interview on the EWTN network about a Department of Education ruling that an Illinois school district should have provided a transgender girl access to the girls’ locker room at her school, Cruz said it was a “ridiculous” decision made by “zealots.” “Well, look,” he said... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Monday 12/07/2015, 3:15pm
Mike Huckabee once again insisted that Supreme Court rulings are simply opinions that carry no legal authority if not for the “good will” and “assent” of the legislative and executive branches, this time making the case for defiance of the top court in an interview with Robert George on the Catholic television network EWTN this weekend. If elected president, Huckabee said, he would “absolutely decline” to enforce the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision and order the Justice Department to “protect in every way the rights of those citizens... MORE >