Don't Sue Me, Sue God

Somehow we missed this story a few months back about Central Alabama Pride suing Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford for discriminating against the group when he refused to allow city workers to hang Gay Pride Week banners.

For his part, Langford had a rather novel church-state defense:

Langford on Wednesday reiterated his position against signing a proclamation for the event because he said it is inappropriate for a government to endorse a lifestyle that God opposes.

"The bottom line is I don't condone the lifestyle and what they were asking me to do in my official capacity as mayor was to issue a proclamation which in essence endorsed the gay lifestyle," Langford said. "If I had issued such a proclamation, I would in essence be saying that God's position is wrong and I wouldn't dare take a position against God. So as opposed to suing me, they need to be suing God, and the last time I checked, he can defend himself. End of story."

Apparently, in Langford's view, the role of government is to please God and the determination of what is pleasing to God is made entirely by whether Langford personally approves of the the issue at hand. 

Presumably, Langford realized that that sort of defense wasn't going to stand up well in federal court, which is why he's now getting legal representation from Jerry Falwell's Liberty Counsel:

Stephen M. Crampton, a lawyer with Liberty Counsel, has filed notice that he will appear as an attorney of record for Langford. The Liberty Council is a nonprofit legal organization with ties to a fundamentalist Baptist University in Virginia.

TV Ad Drags Right-Wing Rift into the Open

The Religious Right conservatives and the Big Money conservatives usually stick closely to their own turf. Even within the right wing fraternity, good fences make good neighbors. But lately in Alabama, all bets are off (so to speak).

The state chapter of the Christian Coalition, which has split from the national group and calls itself Christian Action Alabama, has been sparring with Freedom’s Watch, a right-wing group funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson which has been spending big in the state. The reason is simple: gambling.

Political observers wondered how long the dispute could simmer before bursting into plain view of voters. The DCCC just answered that question with its new ad in the race for Alabama’s 2nd congressional district:

More on Gambling and the Religious Right

Just a few hours ago I wrote about the DNC efforts to highlight John McCain's ties to the gambling industry and target that message at Religious Right voters who vehemently oppose gambling and consider it a sin. 

Now, on a related note, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post has a piece up about Freedom's Watch, noting that "in the past 10 days, [it] has dropped more than $1.6 million on ads in six House races and two Senate contests" as part of its effort to help Republican candidates. The man behind the organization is Sheldon Adelson, the third richest man in America who just so happened to make his fortune as a Las Vegas casino mogul and, as Cillizza reports, the Religious Right is not happy about his efforts:

Democrats have sought to make Adelson an issue in their response to Freedom's Watch's activities and, in Alabama's 2nd district, got a boost from the state Christian Coalition today.

"Sheldon Adelson does not share our values as Alabamans, and Freedom's Watch's underhanded attack ads do nothing but cheapen the political discourse in this state," said Dr. Randy Brinson, president of the Alabama Christian Coalition. "Where Adelson has placed his treasure makes it quite clear where his heart is: in gambling and in backing the regime in China that persecutes Christians."

For the record, The Christian Coalition of Alabama broke with the national Christian Coalition last year and now goes by the name Christian Action Alabama. But before the name change, they were the ones who were duped into accepting gambling funds by Ralph Reed as mentioned in the previous post.  

According to the recent New York Times article on McCain's ties to the industry, there were concerns that his gambling forays might create the appearance of impropriety and alienate the base, which McCain dismissed:

For much of his adult life, Mr. McCain has gambled as often as once a month, friends and associates said, traveling to Las Vegas for weekend betting marathons. Former senior campaign officials said they worried about Mr. McCain’s patronage of casinos, given the power he wields over the industry. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We were always concerned about appearances,” one former official said. “If you go around saying that appearances matter, then they matter.”

The former official said he would tell Mr. McCain: “Do we really have to go to a casino? I don’t think it’s a good idea. The base doesn’t like it. It doesn’t look good. And good things don’t happen in casinos at midnight.”

“You worry too much,” Mr. McCain would respond, the official said.

Considering that the Religious Right is willing to publicly blast Adleson's political efforts because of the source of his wealth, it seems that it might have been prudent of McCain to have paid a little more attention to the concerns of the base on this issue.

DNC Wedges McCain on Gambling

It is well-known that one of the things that stopped right-wing wunderkind Ralph Reed's political hopes dead in their tracks was his ties to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff and it was Reed's work with Abramoff in protecting gambling interests that was particularly harmful to his relationship with the Religious Right, especially since Reed had ended up corrupting them in the process:

In 1999, Abramoff subcontracted Reed’s firm to generate opposition to attempts to legalize a state-sponsored lottery and video poker in Alabama, an effort that was bankrolled by the Choctaw Tribe in order to eliminate competition to its own casino in neighboring Mississippi. Reed promised that Century Strategies was “opening the bomb bays and holding nothing back” and his firm ultimately received $1.3 million from the Choctaws for this effort, which included engaging the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, as well as influential right-wing figures such as James Dobson, to work to defeat the proposals.

The strategy had one small problem: the Alabama Christian Coalition had an explicit policy that it “will not be the recipient of any funds direct or in-direct or any in-kind direct or indirect from gambling interests.” (Emphasis in original.) Knowing this, Reed and Abramoff worked to hide the source of the $850,000 paid to the Christian Coalition for its anti-gambling efforts by funneling money from the Choctaws through Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, DC anti-tax organization headed by their old College Republican friend Grover Norquist. When asked why the tribe’s money had to be funneled through conduits such as ATR, a Choctaw representative stated it was because Reed did not want it known that casino money was funding his operation: “It was our understanding that the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns.”

Now it looks like the Democratic National Committee is trying to do the same to John McCain by seizing on this recent article regarding McCain's affinity for gambling and his ties to the gambling industry and its lobbyists:

Mr. McCain portrays himself as a Washington maverick unswayed by special interests, referring recently to lobbyists as “birds of prey.” Yet in his current campaign, more than 40 fund-raisers and top advisers have lobbied or worked for an array of gambling interests — including tribal and Las Vegas casinos, lottery companies and online poker purveyors.

The DNC has even produced a web ad highlighting the connection and, in what is certainly not a coincidence, released it exclusively to the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody:

The Brody File has learned that the Democratic National Committee is now going after John McCain and what they believe are his questionable ties to gambling lobbyists. The web ad begins Monday but later this week they will start putting the ad up on political, conservative and yes get this….religious websites.

Given the Religious Right's long-held and deep-seated opposition to gambling, these revelations probably aren't going to make McCain's efforts to win its support any easier. 

Gary Bauer's Million Dollar PAC

In this CQ article about how much members of Congress raised for their respective PAC in August is this odd little nugget:

With little time left before the Nov. 4 election, lawmakers whose PACs had the largest amounts of cash on hand include Alabama Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby with more than $2.3 million; Gary Bauer, a social conservative activist who bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, with $1.6 million; and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer , a Maryland Democrat, with $1.4 million.

When the Family Research Council announced its own PAC a little over a week ago, they budgeted $250,000 - and they are among the biggest, most influential right-wing groups in the nation.  So how has Bauer, who heads the relatively unknown American Values and hasn't run for office in eight years, managed to pull in more than five times that amount for his PAC

McCain Refuses to Cancel Reed Fundraiser

Take a stroll around John McCain’s website and you’ll see that he is no fan of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  In fact, he seems to view him as a symbol of what is wrong with Washington DC and himself as the one man who can fix it:

I led the Abramoff investigation. I can bring about the necessary changes. Are we going to hand off to the next generation these problems? Of course we shouldn't. Have to regain the trust that dollars they send to Washington are being wisely and carefully spent. I know these people (in Congress) well and I know how to reach across the aisle to solve these problems.

McCain says he gets angry when “I uncover a guy like Abramoff ripping off Indian tribes” and when, just last week, his campaign unveiled its “Broken” ad, it cited McCain’s role in leading “the Congressional investigation into Jack Abramoff” as proof of the ad’s assertion that he “fought corruption in both parties.”

Yet, despite his pose as a crusading maverick, McCain has committed himself to attending a fundraiser with Ralph Reed, one of Abramoff’s closest friends and associates who was repeatedly and directly implicated in the very investigation that took down Abramoff:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain so far is ignoring calls from several watchdog groups to cancel an Atlanta fundraiser promoted by Ralph Reed, a longtime friend and business partner of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Reed lost his 2006 campaign for Georgia lieutenant governor in large part because of details about his relationship with Abramoff — much of the information uncovered by McCain’s Indian Affairs Committee investigation into the wide-ranging lobbying corruption scandal.

The Senate probe discovered $4 million in payments Reed accepted to run a bogus anti-casino campaign aimed at reducing gambling competition. An Indian tribe with a competing casino made payments to Reed, which according to the Senate investigation’s final report, were “passed through” Abramoff’s firm, Preston, Gates, Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, and another organization, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

In our report on Reed written back in 2006, we explained just how deeply involved he was in Abramoff’s shady dealings:     

In 1999, Abramoff subcontracted Reed’s firm to generate opposition to attempts to legalize a state-sponsored lottery and video poker in Alabama, an effort that was bankrolled by the Choctaw Tribe in order to eliminate competition to its own casino in neighboring Mississippi.   Reed promised that Century Strategies was “opening the bomb bays and holding nothing back” and his firm ultimately received $1.3 million from the Choctaws for this effort, which included engaging the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, as well as influential right-wing figures such as James Dobson, to work to defeat the proposals. 

The strategy had one small problem: the Alabama Christian Coalition had an explicit policy that it “will not be the recipient of any funds direct or in-direct or any in-kind direct or indirect from gambling interests.” (Emphasis in original.) Knowing this, Reed and Abramoff worked to hide the source of the $850,000 paid to the Christian Coalition for its anti-gambling efforts by funneling money from the Choctaws through Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, DC anti-tax organization headed by their old College Republican friend Grover Norquist.  When asked why the tribe’s money had to be funneled through conduits such as ATR, a Choctaw representative stated it was because Reed did not want it known that casino money was funding his operation: “It was our understanding that the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns.”

Perhaps the most audacious of all of Abramoff’s efforts on which Reed worked was the successful attempt on behalf of the Coushatta Tribe to shut down a rival casino in Texas.  After doing so, Abramoff then sold his lobbying services for $4 million to the same Texas tribe – the Tiguas - vowing to reopen the very casino he had just managed to shut down.

Reed was instrumental in the initial effort, building public support for then-Texas Attorney General, now a US Senator, John Cornyn’s drive to close the casino.  Reed organized a group of Texas pastors to “provide cover” for Cornyn’s effort to shutter the casino, at one point pledging to send “50 pastors to give him moral support” when it appeared as if Cornyn was going to be confronted by protestors.

Reed also developed close ties with sources in Cornyn’s office who kept him informed on developments, which he shared with Abramoff.  When Reed found out from Cornyn’s office that a court decision shutting down the casino was expected soon, he emailed Abramoff.  Thinking ahead, Abramoff was already preparing to fly to Texas to meet with the tribe whose casino was about to be closed thanks, in large part, to his handiwork.  In an email he sent to Reed just before his trip, he wrote “I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I’d love to get my hands on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out.”

Just days after the Tigua’s casino was closed, Abramoff met with them and offered to work to reopen the casino at no charge, though Scanlon’s PR work was going to cost them more than $4 million.  Abramoff declared himself outraged by the “gross indignity perpetuated by the Texas state authorities” – an “indignity” that he had helped orchestrate and for which he had been well paid.

Of the four men identified in this photo, all were implicated in Abramoff's corruption and three received prison sentences – McCain is attending a fundraiser with the fourth:


Ralph Reed: Jack of All Trades

If you are Fox News and looking to do a segment related to the Olympics on the issue of China and religion, who better to invite on than a noted expert on the subject … maybe someone like Ralph Reed:

Well, China has always been something of a paradox and a riddle for Americans. I mean, it's an officially communist country that is increasingly embracing capitalism and free enterprise. It is, as you said, an officially atheist country that has arguably one of the most robust churches anywhere in the world. You mentioned the figure of 70 million Christians in China. Some figures go as high as 130 million.

And I think what we're really seeing, Heather, and the Olympics are really putting a spotlight on it, you cannot put the genie back in the bottle once you allow some measure of any kind of liberty. And when you allow cultural exchanges and we have hundreds of thousands of Chinese students who have come here, and then gone back home, there's an exchange of ideas. There's an exchange of Democratic values. The Internet is exploding, and Christianity is part of that flowering of liberty that I don't think the communist government is going to be able to snuff out.

In fairness, it is not as if Reed is completely unqualified to discuss the issue of Christianity and China – after all, he did once shill for Jack Abramoff in his efforts to fend off regulation of the Northern Marianas Islands by citing the fact that the Chinese slave laborers working there were “exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ”: 

The promise of eternal salvation for Chinese peasants proved to be a useful tool for Reed. In 1999, Abramoff hired him to help lobby on behalf of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth that is exempt from federal wage and labor laws, a loophole that allows garmentmakers to stitch MADE IN THE U.S.A. into their products without having to follow any U.S. rules. It’s also a hellhole for migrant workers: sweatshop labor, sex slavery, forced abortions for imported peasants. None of that was a secret: By the time Reed signed on as Abramoff’s subcontractor, there’d been years of studies and media reports documenting the conditions.

But in August 1999, Reed’s direct-mail subsidiary sent a pamphlet to conservative Alabama Christians urging them to call a Republican congressman and thank him for opposing the imposition of federal rules on the Northern Marianas. The mailer, sent under the auspices of the Traditional Values Coalition, claimed that “the radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas islands” and that they “have spread vicious lies about this U.S. territory to silence the gospel.” The pamphlet’s grotesque logic: Many of those sweatshop seamstresses and bullied prostitutes “are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ…are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand, ready to spread the gospel and start home churches.”

Christian Coalition of Alabama "Expands Focus"

In an unlikely partnership, Christian Coalition of Alabama Chairman Randy Brinson joined forces with a Democratic state senator “to call for better health care for the state's uninsured.” Brinson: "Yes, we're ardently pro-life. Yes, we're ardently for marriage. But beyond just that, there's other moral failings that are having (an) impact. ... Not enough emphasis is put on that."

'Expelled' Inspires Anti-Evolution Legislation

After a month, “Expelled”—the anti-evolution film starring Ben Stein—is fading from the scene with disappointing sales (although associate producer Mark Mathis says he’s pleased). The movie’s efforts to portray Intelligent Design creationism as a valid scientific field being persecuted by the authorities probably never had a chance with academics familiar with these dubious creationist arguments, but then again, it probably wasn’t the movie’s intention to convince scientists that ID was a legitimate scientific theory. Instead, “Expelled” took its battle against evolution to the political arena.

This was apparent in the film’s marketing strategy of reaching out to right-wing media outlets and activists, who embraced the half-baked Darwin-Hitler connection at the center of “Expelled.”

And—regarding the strange subplot of Yoko Ono suing over the film’s use of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” without getting the rights—a lawyer for the movie recently argued that the film’s message is pegged toward influencing this year’s presidential election, according to the AP:

A lawyer for the movie's distributors has warned that the litigation could wreck the movie's political message by preventing it from impacting viewers in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential campaign.

While it’s too early to say how creationism will figure into the presidential race, the political impact of “Expelled” can be seen more directly in state legislatures, with a rash of new legislation challenging science education in public high schools. “I think Expelled definitely has played a role,” said ID-advocate Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute.

According to the National Center for Science Education, anti-evolution bills were recently introduced in Florida, Missouri, and Alabama, but the legislative sessions in those states ended before the bills could pass. Versions in South Carolina and Michigan also appear to be stalled for now. But a bill in Louisiana to undermine classroom teaching on the topics of “evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” was passed unanimously in the state Senate and has already passed through a committee in the House.

The major claim of “Expelled” is that scientists working to provide some—any—legitimacy to Intelligent Design are facing persecution. The stories told in the movie don’t seem to pan out, but as Stein and company are surely aware, the debate over creationism is not taking place at research universities but at school boards, state legislatures, and public high school science classes. A newly published survey of high school teachers found that 25 percent address creationism or Intelligent Design in the classroom, and 12 percent call creationism a “valid scientific alternative” to evolution. Ben Stein’s rants about Nazis seem unlikely to chance the basic course of scientific inquiry into the natural world, but the legacy of “Expelled” may be bills, like Louisiana’s, to put the supernatural world into the science classroom.

Hutcherson and the Legacy of MLK

It appears as if Ken Hutcherson's crusade against his daughter's school continues. As we noted previously, Hutcherson was invited to speak at his daughter's high school on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which did not sit too well with some staff because of his anti-gay views. The school apologized for the controversy but Hutcherson was having none of it and demanded that the teachers involved lose their jobs. And that was the last we had heard of it until Hutcherson showed up on the Wallbuilders Live radio program today to discuss his on-going feud with the school, which has now broadened to include attempts to shut down the school's Gay-Straight Alliance and end the school's participation in The Day of Silence. On and on Hutcherson and host Rick Green went, complaining about supposed double standards and anti-Christian bigotry, leading Hutcherson to declare that the teachers at the school who oppose his anti-gay views and activism ought to thank their lucky stars that he has found Christ and is no longer violent:

What it shows is the power of God to control his son. Before I became a Christian, if a white guy looked at me wrong, he was beat up. That's the reason I went out for football, so I could hurt white people legally there in Alabama. I was a much better baseball player than football, but you hit someone with the baseball while they're running to first base, people didn't like that. But you could hit them on the football field and knock them out and they patted you on the back.

But those days are past - supposedly:

If they don't fire these teachers, I'm going to sue 'em and I'm going to ask them for their dreams. And then they're going to mess around and laugh and I'm going to take their tongue out.

Considering that Hutcherson is the sort to threaten to tear out tongues and rip the arm off of any man who dares to hold the door open for him and "beat him with the wet end," it is a bit of a mystery as to why anyone would think he would be a good choice to discuss Martin Luther King and his legacy of non-violence.

Alabama County Gives Money to Far-Right Group

The government of Jefferson County, Alabama is making some sharp budget cuts to deal with a $30 million shortfall, but commissioners have scrounged up resources for at least one new priority: subsidizing a far-right activist group:

The Jefferson County Commission voted Tuesday to spend $15,000 to help a conservative group host a forum next month on global warming, immigration, education policy and other politically charged topics.

Eagle Forum of Alabama is part of the national Eagle Forum, an organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime conservative political activist.

According to county commission president Bettye Fine Collins, the money is to help the Eagle Forum “work with the state school board and work with the local school system.” The Eagle Forum’s “leadership conference,” however, hardly sounds like an after-school program:

Eagle Forum of Alabama will hold its Twenty-Seventh Annual Leadership Conference on February 22-23, 2008 at the Birmingham Marriott on Highway 280. This years speakers include: Gary Palmer of the Alabama Policy Institute, Kris Kobach of the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law K.C. McAlpin of ProEnglish, Phyllis Schlafly and many more! We will be covering a variety of topics including: "Press One for English"; "What States Are Doing About Illegal Immigration"; and "What America Needs From Its Next President."

Collins had participated in an Eagle Forum event in the past, and another commissioner received an award from the group for his “leadership in working for God, Family, and Country.”

Twenty-two years ago, PFAW urged an investigation when the Eagle Forum was awarded a $600,000 grant from the Reagan administration Justice Department to counteract "the feminist agenda" on the issue of domestic violence.

AL County Gives Eagle Forum $15,000

Money well spent - from The Birmingham News: "The Jefferson County Commission voted Tuesday to spend $15,000 to help a conservative group host a forum next month on global warming, immigration, education policy and other politically charged topics. Eagle Forum of Alabama is part of the national Eagle Forum, an organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime conservative political activist. Jefferson County's appropriation comes after the county last year approved a $660 million budget that cut $18 million in vacant positions, $5 million in cultural arts funding and $4 million in worker overtime in an effort to close a $30 million shortfall."

Hijacking the Language of Faith

Yesterday, The Press Register in Alabama ran an op-ed by Randy Brinson entitled “Language of Faith Hijacked.”  In it, Brinson complained that all of the talk of faith in the current presidential election is confusing voters:

In this presidential cycle, nearly every campaign, both Democrat and Republican, has developed a faith outreach component to facilitate communicating to the faithful. The 2008 presidential election will focus on the faith and values of the individual candidates more than any in modern history.

While this may give solace to many faith-oriented political activists, it only makes it difficult for voters to decipher which candidate truly understands the link between personal faith and policy.

Despite this onslaught of personal spirituality, it has been even more difficult for voters to determine whether some of the candidates even understand the particular faith they profess to embrace.

Brinson went on to criticize Barack Obama, saying that his talk of faith, “may be losing the audience he seeks to engage,” and Mitt Romney, questioning “if his Mormon faith guided his present moral convictions, what guided him when he was pro-choice and pro-gay-rights?”

Brinson concluded by seemingly urging these candidates, and presumably others, to focus less on faith and more on “candor, integrity, honesty and character,” as that is what voters are looking for in a candidate.  

Of course, nowhere in the piece does Brinson bother to mention that he has been actively involved in assisting Mike Huckabee:

The Values Voter barnstorm [through Iowa] will be led by Pastor Rick Scarborough, an early Huckabee endorser. Participants include R. Randolph "Randy" Brinson, an iconoclastic social conservative doctor from Alabama who possesses a huge list of Iowa pastors and Christian conservatives. He's also the head of ReedemTheVote, which was active in 2004 and 2006 as a voter registration vehicle for young evangelicals.

As the Washington Post explained last month:

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's surge in Iowa, from single digits in the polls to a virtual tie for the lead among Republicans, has captivated the political world and prompted speculation about just how he did it.

The Fix may have found the answer: a physician from Montgomery, Ala., named Randy Brinson.

Brinson is the keeper of a massive e-mail list of much-coveted Christian voters that Huckabee is using to reach and organize people in early-voting states such as Iowa.

Brinson's list numbers about 71 million contacts, with 25 million identified as belonging to "25 and 45 years old, upwardly mobile, right-of-center, conservative households," he said. In other words, a target-rich environment for a candidate such as Huckabee, who is preaching a compassionate conservative message heavily infused with religious sentiment.

In fact, this op-ed appears to be an outgrowth of an email Brinson sent around not too long ago attacking Mitt Romney for … you guessed it, hijacking the language of faith

Brinson wrote an e-mail distributed widely in Iowa that questioned the changed views of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on abortion and gay rights and that asked whether Romney was really being led by his Mormon faith.

Some political commentators have credited that e-mail with being one of several factors that helped turn out conservative Christians for Huckabee.

Brinson said Friday he sent the e-mail because he was concerned that some candidates had "hijacked the language of faith."

Since he’s backing Huckabee, who has made his faith the center of his campaign, Brinson is obviously not worried about political candidates using faith for political purposes.  But like many other religious right activists, he seems to think the “language of faith” is reserved for the “right” kind of “Christian Leader.”

'Patriot Pastors' ... for Huckabee?

Rick Scarborough, a pioneer in organizing churches around partisan politics, has seen his national stature rise dramatically in the last few years—the Texas ex-pastor even starred on CNN’s “God’s Warriors” series—but he’s also faced some setbacks. His “Patriot Pastors” strategy was dealt a blow last November when voters in South Dakota rejected an abortion ban and Missourians voted in favor of embryonic stem cell research, despite non-stop church-based organizing by Scarborough in both states up to Election Day. He also discovered the fact, known by most other political advocacy groups, that full-time lobbying or organizing for or against legislation is not tax-deductible—a sad day for him.

And his latest “Patriot Pastors” campaign—the ambitious70 Weeks to Save America” tour that was to culminate on Election Day 2008—has apparently suffered from a lack of media coverage, spotty participation, and finally abandonment by Scarborough’s partner, Alan Keyes, who is running for president again. “Needless to say, this created a serious reevaluation of our whole program to register voters and to educate Christians through our Seventy Week campaign,” wrote Scarborough, who announced that sparser church events would be “augment[ed]” by voter registration drives and rallies at state capitols, “followed by an all out effort to move Values Voters to vote their values on Election Day '08.”

But sometimes opportunity knocks. Joining Randy Brinson, head of the embattled Christian Coalition of Alabama as well as a voter-registration outfit, Scarborough is bringing his “Patriot Pastors” act to the Iowa caucuses:

Beginning December 6, Vision America will be joining forces with in an effort to mobilize thousands of Values Voters all over Iowa as we barnstorm the state for ten days. We have been offered the use of a bus that has been especially designed for rallies, complete with a roll out stage, satellites on the roof to connect with the worldwide media, loud speakers and spotlights.

We will be working with the Iowa Family Policy Institute as well as the Iowa Christian Alliance, two very aggressive and effective pro-family organizations. Our goal is to host three rallies a day as we crisscross the state, registering thousands of voters and mobilizing tens of thousands to vote their values during the Iowa caucuses in January.

"Fox News," "US News and World Report," and other national media have expressed interest in covering this groundbreaking event as we travel the length and breadth of this important state.

Scarborough’s “One Day Crusades” this year have so far been focused on next year’s general election. Why the sudden interest in the Republican presidential primary? Well, Scarborough has heartily endorsed his former seminary classmate, Mike Huckabee, as has Brinson. And media are reporting that Huckabee has a shot of winning the Iowa caucus.

While Scarborough’s help may or may not push Huckabee over the edge in Iowa, the activist is still hedging his bets. After all, Rudy Giuliani still leads in national polls, and some have speculated that Huckabee’s surge ultimately benefits Giuliani by siphoning off far-right support for Mitt Romney. Scarborough has publicly waffled over whether he would support Giuliani were he nominated, but while he’s said Giuliani’s stance on abortion is unacceptable, he’s also been giving himself some wiggle room. Radical Islam, he said recently, is “the ultimate life issue."

Romney Faith Impediment to 'Christian Nation' Vision?

In the past, Mitt Romney has blamed the media (along with those “who would like to establish a religion of secularism in this country to replace all others”) for raising questions about whether his Mormonism will hurt his electoral chances—a claim that doesn’t hold water, as we pointed out. A Bloomberg article today makes clear that he might start with his own friends:

“I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, ‘I am a Christian just like you,’” said Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, which is scheduled to hold the first primary among the Southern states. “If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences.”

So it should be no surprise to see those on the Religious Right who are not on Romney's side kicking up dust. Richard Land, who leans toward Fred Thompson, said Romney is “picking a fight” when he states a basic tenet of his beliefs. “When he goes around and says Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, he ticks off at least half the evangelicals. He's picking a fight he's going to lose,” Land said. In Max Blumenthal’s entertaining video report on the Values Voter Summit, Huckabee booster Janet Folger is heard excitedly denouncing Romney: “I mean take a look at really what he believes. He believes that Jesus Christ is Satan’s brother—are you kidding me?”

“Mitt Romney … is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult,” one prominent Dallas pastor said earlier this month. “It's a little hypocritical for the last eight years to be talking about how important it is for us to elect a Christian president and then turn around and endorse a non-Christian.”

But if Romney can convince the Religious Right that he’ll fight for their political causes, why does it matter what else he believes?

One answer to that is provided by Roy Moore, a staunch proponent of government endorsement of sectarian religion:

“We need more injection of an understanding of God in our political life,” said Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and a potential third-party, anti- abortion presidential candidate. “I am looking for a candidate that understands that this nation is established on a particular God.”

Huckabee Supporters Demand a Recount

“Religious Right Divides Its Vote at Summit” was the headline of the New York Times article on the Values Voter Summit, and indeed, Mitt Romney only edged out Mike Huckabee by a few votes in the straw poll, 1595 to 1565, with other candidates trailing significantly. But that headline had to be a real disappointment for Huckabee boosters, dreaming of pushing him up from the second-tier, who believe that official tally is illegitimate because it allowed FRC members to vote online. Among actual conference-goers, Huckabee, the crowd favorite, walked away with a majority vote, besting Romney 488-99.

Janet Folger, who endorsed Huckabee soon after he won the straw poll at her Values Voter Debate, accused Romney of “ballot-box stuffing”:

Efforts to try and skew the results of the Internet poll, such as the e-mail sent by Mark DeMoss (now on the Romney campaign), complete with a link and instructions to stack it, gained Romney a .5 percent edge for his prominently announced "win." By the way, when that announcement was made following fanfare, including a drum roll, the audience (who were 5-to-1 Huckabee supporters) sat stunned. Had they announced the results of the real grass-roots activists who actually attended the event, we would have heard explosive applause instead of the sound of crickets and the clapping of a few Romney shills.

A harsh allegation, to be sure, but hardly out of character: Romney managed to win the CPAC straw poll last spring solely on the basis of students he sponsored, and he similarly paid for votes at the straw poll in South Carolina. After announcing that he was scaling back his efforts at the Ames, Iowa straw poll, Romney’s campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the best tent and the most buses to ferry Republicans to the event, presumably with their tickets paid in exchange for a vote commitment (as is common at Ames). Considering that membership to FRC Action and the code to vote in that straw poll could be purchased for a $1 donation, this latest effort was a steal. Then there’s money Romney pays to prominent right-wing figures, such as $25,000 to a company owned by Jay Sekulow, who endorsed Romney.

Alabama activist Randy Brinson, head of the state’s reconstituted Christian Coalition chapter as well as a voter mobilization effort and an ally of Huckabee, thinks it’s that kind of cash that keeps people like Tony Perkins pooh-poohing Huckabee’s prospects. From U.S. News:

[Brinson] says he believes that "gatekeepers" like Bauer, Perkins, and Dobson are more interested in Romney or Thompson because their campaigns have money to pay for consultants from the big conservative evangelical organizations, ensuring them access to the White House if either of them wins.

Who's Who At the Values Voter Debate

Below are short biographies of those who have been mentioned as participating in tonight's "Values Voter Presidential Debate" in Fort Lauderdale, Florida:

Poll Finds 'Christian Nation' Notion Catching—Thank the Far Right's Marketing Effort

USA Today reports on a new poll from the First Amendment Center, showing that a disheartening 55 percent of Americans believe that “The Constitution establishes a Christian nation.” For this we can no doubt thank, in part, the efforts of pseudo-historian David Barton and other religious-right activists who have made “Christian nation” a catchphrase, meant by them to signify that the separation of church and state is a “myth.”

Just today, in fact, Roy Moore rebuked those who consider the Constitution to be “a ‘secular’ document.” Moore is scheduled to question Republican candidates for president at the Values Voter Debate on Monday, and he added, “The recognition of the sovereignty of God is an essential prerequisite for liberty. … If presidential candidates do not clearly understand that God is the source of liberty, they will not protect those liberties from intrusive bureaucracy.”

Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama, has his own version of the First Amendment: He lost his position on the state’s Supreme Court and became a right-wing hero for refusing an order to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse, placed there to instruct petitioners that the Bible formed the “foundation” of U.S. law. He also called on Congress to prevent the first Muslim member from assuming office, and when a Hindu chaplain gave a guest convocation in the U.S. Senate, Moore asserted, “Our senators must acknowledge that one, true God in Whom America has trusted.”

Ailing Televangelist and Religious-Right Pioneer Retires

D. James Kennedy

D. James Kennedy, who built up Fort Lauderdale, Florida megachurch and television empire over the last half-century, has officially retired, eight months after he was first hospitalized following a heart attack. Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church has nearly 10,000 members, and his broadcast ministry claims 3.5 million listeners and viewers, but he is best known as one of the founding figures of the Religious Right in the early 1980s, known as the “Ivy League Jerry Falwell.”

Kennedy, who once said that “the diabolical mission” of People For the American Way was “to crush the influence of the Christian religion in American society,” became active in political issues from battling pornography, “secularized” education, abortion, and civil rights for gays to supporting Reagan administration policies like SDI, Iran-Contra, and the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. His involvement grew in the 1990s and 2000s, as he organized national conferences for religious-right activism and expanded his influence in Washington.

The 76-year-old Kennedy’s retirement comes just a few months after the death of Jerry Falwell, and again heralds the inevitable passing of the older generation of religious-right leaders -- Falwell, Kennedy, 71-year-old James Dobson, 69-year-old Don Wildmon, and others who built the infrastructure and set the pattern for fundamentalism-charged politics.

Much more on D. James Kennedy’s political career below.

“God’s Warriors”: Rick Scarborough – “Christ-Ocrat”

CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewed Vision Americas’ Rick Scarborough for her series "God's Warrirors" amidst his seventy-week “crusade” to save America and rally right-wing voters ahead of next year’s election. In this clip, Scarborough rails against sex education, hate crimes legislation, and gay marriage while calling for the impeachment of federal judges. Transcript after the jump
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