They Can't Give an Inch

Last month, President Bush signed The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA), legislation designed to clarify a provision in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), which, as the Human Right Campaign explained, "made it possible for employers to allow any nonspouse beneficiary of an employee’s retirement plan—including an employee’s same-sex partner—to roll inherited retirement benefits directly to an individual retirement account (IRA) and avoid immediate taxation."

Prior to passage of the PPA, same-sex partners who inherited retirement plan savings were forced to pay taxes on the amount while married spouses could roll the savings over with no tax penalty. Provisions in the PPA were designed to remedy this inequity but, after passage, such provisions were interpreted to be optional for employers and thus WRERA was passed to clarify that companies are required to offer this protection to all employees.

Of course, now the Right is mad about this because ... well, if we start treating gays equally, they'll demand that they be treated equally

Peter Sprigg is vice president for policy at the Family Research Council in Washington, DC. He says the new law is an example of how homosexual activists have made many of their policy advances.

"Sometimes they throw the long ball, so to speak, and have these big court cases that declare same-sex 'marriage' to be the law of the state, like we've seen in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut," says Sprigg. "And other times it's the ground game, so to speak -- just grinding it out with these short little plays that advance their agenda a yard at a time."

Sprigg says the practical impact of the new law benefiting same-sex couples will be minimal, but it will have a troubling cumulative effect. He believes the more such benefits are accrued by same-sex couples, the more plausible it appears for them to argue they should be treated just the same as married couples in everything.

If we don't keep discriminating, next thing you know gays will be saying that "they should be treated just the same." And we can't have that now, can we?

Marriage Amendments Introduced in Wyoming and Indiana

Yesterday was a busy day for anti-marriage equality advocates, with constitutional amendments being introduced in two states. 

First in Indiana, where the Alliance Defense Fund, the Family Research Council, and the Indiana Family Institute joined state legislators in announcing their efforts to pass an amendment after a similar effort failed in 2007.  As FRC 's Tony Perkins explained:

Legislators in Indiana, one of the minority of states that has yet to pass a marriage protection amendment, renewed their effort today by introducing a new amendment to the state's constitution. I was on hand today in Indianapolis as lawmakers vowed to put the Hoosier state in the column with the 29 other states that have taken marriage out of the hands of activist judges. An amendment was narrowly defeated in the General Assembly in 2007. This afternoon, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) joined me for a private pastors briefing in the Indiana Supreme Court Chambers. Mike has been a good friend and solid ally on this issue in the U.S. House, and with his help, Indiana churches stand to bring a victory for marriage to his home state.

After a House and Senate meet-and-greet with key Indiana lawmakers, I joined amendment sponsors State Reps. P. Eric Turner (R-Marion) and Dave Cheatham (D-North Vernon), Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute, our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund, and Pastor Ron Johnson Jr. for a press conference in the state Capitol on the importance of the constitutional amendment to the state.

And trying to make up for another effort that also failed two years ago, a similar group of legislators and Religious Right activists in Wyoming are gearing up to pass their own amendment, all while absurdly trying to insist that the effort is in no way motivated by any animus toward gays:

Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, one of the bill's sponsors, said Monday that the issue came to the forefront in the last election cycle, when voters in California voted to ban same-sex marriage. Meier said many Wyoming residents approached their lawmakers to find the status of the law in Wyoming.

Meier said the proposal to change Wyoming's constitution isn't motivated by any dislike of gays and lesbians.

"I really think what we're trying to do is protect the institution of marriage, and trying to make the family unit as strong as it can be for the future," he said.

A newly formed group called WyWatch Family Institute is lobbying for passage of the proposed amendment. The group's Web site describes it as a "group of Judeo-Christian families who have a goal to preserve traditional family values in the great state of Wyoming."

The group is getting advice from Focus on the Family Action, and the Alliance Defense Fund, said Becky Vandeberghe, chairwoman and lobbyist with the Wyoming group. Focus on the Family is a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based evangelical group founded by evangelist James Dobson, while the Alliance Defense Fund is an Arizona-based conservative Christian legal group.

"We're trying to protect the children, because when you have a same-sex marriage, you're denying that child either a mother or a father," Vandeberghe said. "And the family unit is very, very precious to us, and we want to make sure that every child has that."

Asked whether her group is motivated by any religious conviction that homosexuality is wrong or immoral, Vandeberghe said, "It plays a small part in it. But a large part is just wanting to protect traditional marriage."

Huckabee Clarifies: I Hate Romney, Not Mormons

During the Republican primary, many Mitt Romney supporters came to resent Mike Huckabee for promoting “a religious test for office” by highlighting his Christian faith in order to raise questions about Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith and thereby secure the support of anti-Mormon voters.

The effort did not go unnoticed by Mormons in Utah who came to loathe him and now he is trying to make amends, telling Utah radio host David Wright that he has nothing but love for Mormons:

When "11 words were completely misconstrued" when spoken about the LDS religion in a long New York Times profile of him, Huckabee said he "immediately" apologized publicly to Romney and church members in general.

Huckabee said there is no religious test in running for office. "I defend Mormons running for office."

He said when he saw the backlash against the LDS Church following the bitter Proposition 8 race in California last November, he was one of the first to say "I was gratified and proud" to see the church stand up for what it believes in.

Saying he may visit Utah soon, he added: "It pains me" that some people think he has said "bad things" about the LDS Church. "It simply is not true."

Utahns' "misinformation (about him) were part of the presidential campaign -- and I wrote my book (to set the record straight) because that is totally not who I am. Utah is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I want to go there and not have eggs and rotten vegetables thrown at me."

But, of course, he still hates Romney:

Huckabee admitted that he saw a "different Romney" than the man he knew as a fellow GOP governor. (Romney served one term as governor of Massachusetts.)

During the presidential primary campaign Romney "was not the Mitt I knew," Huckabee said. "You could ask all the guys" who ran in the GOP primaries, said Huckabee, and they would agree that backstage, in public debates and campaigning, Romney acted differently than when he was governor or otherwise out of an intra-party race.

Huckabee said that Romney's "attitude and atmosphere" around him was perhaps caused because "he was surrounded by people who gave him very bad advice" during Romney's presidential run.

"Boy, do I ever know" that he is not well-liked in Utah, said Huckabee. But, he added, "I have never said anything unkind about Mormons."

Of course, back when he was running, he and his allies where quick to assert that any attack on him was really an attack on his Christian faith, but apparently Huckabee’s own attacks on Romney and insinuations about Romney’s faith were in no way to be conceived as attacks on Mormonism.

Huckabee’s mantra seems to be “hate the Mormon, love the Mormons.”

Rick Warren: The Goldilocks Pastor

Last week when we first noted that Rick Warren had been tapped to deliver the Invocation at Barack Obama's Inauguration, we complained that, despite the fact that we and others continually point out that "Rick Warren is really just a friendlier version of James Dobson, his media-driven reputation as some sort of 'moderate' evangelical preacher continues to win out."

Case in point: this new article by the AP's Rachel Zoll. In it, she explains that Warren really is different from the traditional Religious Right leaders because his "biggest critics [are] other evangelicals" ... and then proceeds to fail to name even one of those supposed critics while suggesting that the mere existence of this unspecified criticism proves Warren's centrism and moderation: 

Rick Warren is in a place he never expected to be: at the center of a culture war.

The pastor chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to give the inaugural invocation backed Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his home state of California. But he did so belatedly, with none of the enthusiasm he brings to fighting AIDS and illiteracy.

When other conservative Christians held stadium rallies and raised tens of millions of dollars for the ballot effort, there was no sign of Warren. Neither he nor his wife, Kay, donated any of their considerable fortune to the campaign, according to public records and the Warrens' spokesman.

In fact, his endorsement seemed calculated for minimal impact. It was announced late on a Friday, just 10 days before Election Day, on a Web site geared for members of his Saddleback Community Church, not the general public.

For gay rights advocates, that strategy was nothing more than an attempt to mask Warren's prejudice. They were outraged that Obama decided last week to give a place of honor to a pastor they consider a general for the Christian right.

Lost in the uproar was the irony of Warren's plight. Ever since he began his climb to prominence in the 1980s, he has battled complaints from fellow evangelicals that he isn't nearly conservative enough.


It is no surprise that he and Obama have become friendly. Each tries to operate outside a strict liberal-conservative divide, and has risked angering his supporters to do so.

"You can't have a reformation without somebody opposing it," Warren says. "If I wasn't making a difference, nobody would be paying attention."

Of course, as we pointed out last week, both the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family were thrilled with the announcement that Warren was to be part of the Inauguration ... that that list we can also add Richard Land:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Obama for choosing Warren.

"I'm encouraged that President-elect Obama would select Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration," Land told Baptist Press. "First, it is a signal that President-elect Obama is going to employ a big-tent philosophy in his administration's approach to people who may disagree with them on some issues, but not others. His selection of Rick Warren indicates that people who disagree with the president-elect on sanctity of life issues are not automatically persona non grata at the White House in an Obama administration. It also indicates that the president-elect is not buying the radical homosexual activists' argument that anyone who opposes them on the gay marriage issue should be ostracized as a bigot."

If Zoll is going to write an article claiming that Warren is moderate because he has received criticism for not being conservative enough, the least she can do is actually include some examples of people leveling that criticism ... maybe from someone like fringe crackpot Joseph Farah:

I'm writing to share my profound and abject revulsion at your agreement to offer the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as president Jan. 20.

I understand you want this to be a time of "healing" for our nation. I understand you consider Obama to be your "friend." I understand your desire to bring "civility" to our society.

However, when we read the Bible, we see there are times for men of God to stand up to leaders, like Nathan did to King David, and confront them with the absolute truth of God's word and His laws. That's what all Christians should do when confronted with leaders embracing evil.


I'm sure you would not want to invoke God's blessing on the inauguration of a figure like Adolf Hitler, whose rise to power brought the destruction of millions of lives.

So, in principle, you agree there is a time for believers to stand up to elected leaders and rebuke them – even publicly. Apparently, you don't believe that time is now – that the deaths of untold numbers of born and unborn babies is not justification enough for such a stance.

Obviously, Farah and his ilk who have criticized Warren in the past hail from the far-right fringes of the Religious Right movement, but apparently that is enough for Zoll to declare that it proves Warren's moderation - so much so that she can completely ignore the fact that current Religious Right leaders like FRC, FOF, and Land see Obama's decision to include Warren as a welcome sign for their own political agenda.

If Warren really did represent some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement, presumably the current Religious Right powerbrokers would be throwing a fit over Warren's role in the Inauguration, rather than welcoming it as an encouraging sign.

Religious Right, "Heartened" by Warren Pick, Accuses Us of Trying to Silence the Church

David Brody posts this statement from Tony Perkins, proclaiming himself heartened by Barack Obama's decision to have Rick Warren deliver the invocation during his unpcoming inauguration:

I'm heartened by his choice of one of America’s leading evangelical pastors who is pro-life and pro-marriage for this honor. It was magnanimous of Obama, in light of the fact that his debate with John McCain at Warren’s church in August was one of the high points of the campaign for McCain. (This was the event where Warren asked, When does life begin? and Obama replied that the question is above my pay grade.) Warren has distanced himself from the religious right by emphasizing issues more popular with liberals, such as AIDS relief and global warming. But he has also been consistent in his support for the unborn and for the natural definition of marriage, and late in the campaign Warren did endorse California’s marriage amendment, Proposition 8 (which Obama opposed).

Perkins then goes on to cite our opposition to this decision, as well as the opposition from the Human Rights Campaign, which he sees as proof that we are trying to silence the church: 

Joe's desire to exclude Pastor Warren from the inaugural, based upon his religious convictions, proves the concerns over the homosexual desire to silence the Church. Let’s hope that Rick Warren will use his channel of communication to the new President to press him for more pro-family policies*rather than simply being used by Mr. Obama to make political inroads with evangelicals.

Focus on the Family is pleased as well:

"It's nice to see a conservative evangelical pastor play such a prominent role in such an important event," said Tom Minnery, a senior vice president at Focus on the Family, which has fiercely criticized Obama over his support for abortion rights and other issues. "I think what it does is it underscores the importance of evangelicalism in the country."

If the goal here was to excite the Religious Right and allow them to play the victim while angering the progressive base, then mission accomplished.  But that is probably not a particularly good strategy since, as Michelle Goldberg notes: "insulting your supporters to win the support of your opponents is no way to build unity."

Dueling Over DOMA

A few weeks ago, we here at People For unveiled our Dump DOMA campaign, asking those who care about equality to contact Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and urge them to pass legislation repealing the Defense of Marriage Act:

It’s time to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). At this moment of change and progress, it’s time to undo a serious mistake made by Congress 12 years ago. The federal government has no business discriminating against loving families by selectively withholding the 1,300 or so legal protections that only legal civil marriage affords.

It’s time for Congress to show leadership on this issue and send President-elect Obama legislation repealing DOMA which he has said he would sign.

Now, via On Top Magazine, we see that the Alliance for Marriage has unveiled their own Protect DOMA website to press for just the opposite:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation, the group who drafted the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) in Congress, has begun a national campaign to protect the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the upcoming 111th Congress.

The diverse coalition has also unveiled a new online resource to protect DOMA – and the marriage laws of every state where voters have spoken on the issue of marriage – from attack at the federal level.

“The repeal of DOMA is the legislative Holy Grail for activists who want to impose their radical social agenda upon America through the courts,” said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., an AFM Advisory Board Member and President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

“As demonstrated in California, over 70% of the African-American community rejects the utterly false argument that gay activists have a ‘civil right’ to redefine marriage for our entire society,” said Niger Innis, an AFM Advisory Board Member and National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality.

The AIM initiative announced that it is going to be especially focused on mobilizing Latinos:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation will work to continue to expand our education and mobilization efforts – especially within the Latino community – so that both marriage and freedom of conscience will remain protected in our nation.

The prize in this historic struggle is nothing less than the future of our children and grandchildren.


Groups on the Left generally take Latino votes for granted. But the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is the latest research foundation to document that this dynamic does not apply with respect to marriage and the family. On the contrary, support for marriage and family within the Latino community runs deep. This support is expressed when Latinos are given an opportunity to vote on the issue of marriage itself.

U.S. Census data shows that Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group, representing the largest minority in the country. According to data from 2005, there are approximately 42 million Latinos in the United States, which represents approximately 1 in every 8 residents. In fact, a majority of children entering high school, workers entering the workforce and newly-eligible voters will be Latino by 2020.

In the years ahead, the will continue to build a broad movement – with a positive message that has mainstream appeal --- in order to deliver the margin of victory in the struggle to protect marriage for the sake of our children and grandchildren. At the same time, we will also continue to develop leaders who can give winsome expression to the timeless values that are essential to the well-being of our nation.

Maybe now would be a good time to add your signature to our Dump DOMA petition.

Rick Warren Walks the Line

Last week, Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman sat down for an interesting discussion with Rick Warren during which Warren worked hard to maintain the image he has created for himself as a moderate, nonpartisan religious figure (rather than the James Dobson-lite he actually is) but struggled to explain himself when asked to clarify some of his seemingly contradictory positions.

For instance, when the topic of the discussion turned to reproductive choice, Warren made no bones about his opposition to it, referring to it repeatedly as a “holocaust” and proclaiming that he has, and will continue, to press Barack Obama on the issue: 

Of course I want to reduce the number of abortions. Barack Obama is a friend of mine. We totally disagree on this issue. I’ve actually talked to him privately about this before and intend to again in the future. It’s not something I protest out on the street about. It’s something you deal with individually as rational civil people. The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it. In Psalm 139, David says “you formed me in my mother’s womb. You planned every day of my life before I was born.” To me that means God had a purpose driven life for you before you were even born. He already knew in advance. To me, abortion short circuits that plan … [T]o me it is kind of a charade in that people say we believe abortions should be safe and rare. Why do you believe it should be rare? If you don’t believe life begins at conception, it shouldn’t be rare. That’s an illogical statement. Don’t tell me it should be rare. That’s like saying on the Holocaust well maybe we could save 20% of the Jewish people in Poland and Germany and get them out and we should be satisfied with that. I’m not satisfied with that. I want the Holocaust ended.

When the conversation then turned to the subject of torture, Warren proclaimed that he was “totally against torture,” but when Waldman asked if he had ever made that position clear to President Bush, Warren said that he had not because it was not his place and stating that presidents “don’t need me to be a political advisor. I’m not a pundit. I’m not a politician and that’s why I don’t take sides.”

When Waldman then smartly asked Warren why he was pressing Obama on choice but not pressing Bush on torture, Warren hemmed and hawed, explaining that “everybody has a single issue that they care about” and that for him that issue is the “America holocaust” of abortion:

I just didn’t have the opportunity. It’s actually when Barack, the first time I’d invited Barack-before he’d even decided to run-when I’d invited him to our AIDS conference and we came out and we were just sitting around and we were talking about different issues and that one came up. Actually, that’s not true, it even started before that. I was invited, before I invited Barack out, to speak to the Democratic Senate Caucus and it was Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Harry Reed and Chuck Schumer--all of these guys in the room. And Barack actually brought it up. And he said, “Hey Rick, let’s talk about the big elephant in the room.” And he said, ‘When we Democrats, we do stuff for the poor and we do stuff for the sick, we don’t get many letters about it. But when we vote to support abortion we get thousands and tens-of-thousands of letters. What’s the issue here?” And I had to say, “Well, let me just explain this. Almost everybody has a single issue that they care about. You know, it may be gay rights, it may be farm aid, it may be- everybody has some issue that they care about the most. And I said, “let me just go around the room.” I said, “Hillary, when you were growing up, you were probably a single issue voter because it was during the civil rights movement. And to me-uh, to you-a candidate could be right on everything else; foreign aid, jobs, economy, but if they were wrong on civil rights, there’s no way you were going to vote for them OK. That’s understandable.” And I went around the room and when I came to Chuck Schumer I said, “Chuck, how bad, if you had a candidate and he was right in EVERY SINGLE AREA that you agreed with but he’s a holocaust denier, there’s no way you’re gonna vote for a holocaust denier. That’s a single issue issue for you. And I said, “For these people who believe life begins at birth, alright--at conception--it’s an America holocaust. They believe that there’s 40million people who should be here. And to them that’s an issue.”

Likewise, when Waldman raised the issue of Warren’s support for Prop 8, Warren again danced around, saying that he fully supports equal rights before likening gay unions to incest, polygamy, and pedophilia, claiming that defeating Prop 8 would have limited free speech, and then finally playing the tired “I-have-gay-friends-so-I-can’t-be-a-homophobe” card: 

One controversial moment for you in the last election was your support for proposition 8 in California. … Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?

I don’t know if I’d use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don’t believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.

What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?

You know, not a problem with me. The issue to me, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

Oh , I do. For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews – historically, marriage is a man and a woman. And the reason I supported Proposition 8, is really a free speech issue. Because first the court overrode the will of the people, but second there were all kinds of threats that if that did not pass then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships, and that would be hate speech. We should have freedom of speech, ok? And you should be able to have freedom of speech to make your position and I should be able to have freedom of speech to make my position, and can’t we do this in a civil way.

Most people know I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church. Kay and I have given millions of dollars out of Purpose Driven Life helping people who got AIDS through gay relationships. So they can’t accuse me of homophobia. I just don’t believe in the redefinition of marriage.

There you have it. The kinder, gentler face of the same old Religious Right.

Boone’s Defense: Some Of My Best Friends Are Unfortunately and Unhappily Gay

As we noted last week, Pat Boone has recently taken to trying to explain the dangers of the gay menace by comparing those activists who have been protesting the passage of Prop 8 in California to the terrorists who carried out the attacks of September 11th, as well as those responsible for the recent attack in Mumbai that killed nearly 200 people.

Today Boone is back in the pages of WorldNetDaily to defend himself and to clarify his views, proclaiming that he couldn’t be anti-gay because, you guessed it, some of his friends are gay: 

I need to say right here, honestly and unashamedly – I love gays. I always have, always will. I have proved it, over and over.

I met my first homosexual friend while I was in high school. He was a Navy veteran who had come back to finish his schooling. He put his hand on my thigh while we were parked at a fast food drive in. I was a cow milker with a vise-like grip, and after I nearly squeezed his wrist off, letting him know he had the wrong guy, he said, "I guess you'll tell everybody, and I'll get kicked out of school." I assured him I wouldn't, and I told nobody. I really felt empathy for him, because he obviously was not a happy man.

I've been in the entertainment business for over 50 years now, and I've had many dear and close friends, guys (and some gals) I have loved who were practicing homosexuals. How could I not? We forged real friendships, never strained or awkward. We each knew the other's perspectives and respected them. Every one of them can tell you that I've never condemned or made them uncomfortable, in my home or theirs, though they knew I couldn't approve their sexual practices. So what? We were friends, and we could be honest with each other.

Of course, it turns out that the gays Boone seems to have befriended seem to be mostly of the “ex-gay” sort:

Later (you may be surprised to learn), I really went out on a limb and wrote two books, about and with homosexual friends. The first was "Joy: A Homosexual's Fulfillment," and the second "Coming Out: True Stories of the Gay Exodus." They were written with a longtime lesbian, a former very promiscuous male homosexual and with a transsexual man who had emasculated himself in an effort to be a woman. They'd been down the whole road and back again, and they told me their stories and how they'd each been able to leave the homosexual lifestyle. This was not expedient for me as an entertainer, but I did it out of real love for gays. I do care.

Plus, he was also close to Rock Hudson, thus proving once and for all that, while he may regularly compare them to terrorists, allegations that Boone is homophobic are “ridiculous” because, as he declares, “I love my homosexual friends.”

Our Delusions Will Undermine Obama’s Presidency

Yesterday we mentioned the gaggle of fringe figures who are currently pushing the “Barack Obama is not a citizen” conspiracy, but forgot to include Alan Keyes and his running mate Wiley Drake who are being represented by the United States Justice Foundation in their own lawsuit.  Unlike the other kooks, the USJF is claiming that Keyes and Drake actually have standing to bring a lawsuit because they were on the ballot in California and have therefore been personally harmed by the fact that a man ineligible to hold the presidency has been elected to serve in that office.  

But the USJF is not merely concerned about remedying the wrongs that have befallen its clients, it is dedicated to preventing the “irreparable harm” that will befall the nation is Obama is allowed to take office, as it explains in its own convoluted way:

To explain the implications of not resolving the eligibility question before Inauguration Day, USJF gives several possible examples: "If President Obama issues an executive order to rescind the Mexico City Policy and allows the tax dollars of Americans to fund organizations that promote abortions overseas, the door to question the legitimacy of that executive order remains open."

"If President Obama signs a treaty with an unfriendly power or the United Nations, the door to question the legitimacy of that treaty remains open.

"If President Obama signs a bill granting amnesty to illegal aliens, the door to question the legitimacy of that law remains open.

"If President Obama appoints new commissioners to the FCC who bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, the door to question those appointments and the legitimacy of the actions taken by his appointees remains open."

Thus, contends USJF in its lawsuit: "Should Senator Obama be discovered, after he takes office, to be ineligible for the office of president of the United States of America and, thereby, his election declared void, petitioners, as well as other Americans, will suffer irreparable harm in that an usurper will be sitting as the president of the United States, and none of the treaties, laws, or executive orders signed by him will be valid or legal."

"In other words, as long as this case is in the courts, a cloud hangs over Sen. Obama's head. For the sake of our Constitution and our Republic, the issue MUST be resolved!" the legal group said.

So a group of right-wing loons are convinced that there is a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the next president is really a foreigner who is prohibited from holding the office and that it must be exposed and rectified to their satisfaction immediately, or else there will be a “cloud” hanging over Obama’s entire presidency that will ultimately imperil the well-being of the entire nation.  

And they wonder why nobody takes them seriously.

Six Degrees of Mike Huckabee

We haven't really written much about the fringe figures alleging a conspiracy to cover up the fact that Barack Obama is not a natural-born US citizen and is therefore ineligible to be President of the United States other than to note that Janet Porter, former co-chair of Mike Huckabee's Faith and Family Values Coalition, was among them because, frankly, the whole thing was ridiculous and driven by borderline lunatics. 

But Porter has resolutely maintained her ties to them and dedicated her last six WND columns to pressing her case and has turned her daily radio program into a gathering place for the conspiracy theorists to expound upon their delusions, hosting the likes of Philip Berg, Shelli Baker, and Bob Schulz on multiple occasions in recent weeks.

Just yesterday, the Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit on the issue and Slate covered a press conference held by the citizenship-deniers which offers a telling look at just what sort of people make up this movement:

On Friday, about two dozen of them gathered outside the Supreme Court to talk to reporters, wave flags, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Some of them questioned whether they could prosecute Obama for spending "foreign money" they alleged had been donated to his campaign. One questioned whether Barack Hussein Obama Sr. was the president-elect's real father or whether his real filial relationship to Frank Marshall Davis or Malcolm X had been covered up.

"There aren't a lot of people out here today," admitted Steve Brindle, a Pennsylvanian huddling in the cold. "There are a lot of people talking about this back home. Really, everyone's asking questions."

Robert Schulz, whose We the People Foundation had bought full-page newspaper ads questioning Obama's citizenship, was ready for the high court outcome. On Monday afternoon he asked Donofrio and two other lawyers with outstanding suits about Obama to come to the National Press Club to discuss their next steps. Donofrio didn't show, but Pennsylvania attorney (and occasional 9/11 skeptic) Philip J. Berg joined California attorney Orly Taitz at the podium of the club's Murrow room.

The room filled up early: About half of the small room's overflow crowd consisted of worried Obama skeptics who gasped and nodded at the testimonies of the attorneys and their litanies of facts that the press had covered up. Most members of the media were, themselves, part of the Obama Truth squad. Shelli Baker, the host of AM radio's Morning Song, spent five minutes unspooling a theory that tied Obama to Arab sheiks and world government. "I would be willing to testify," said Baker, "that, indeed, the media has been corrupted by foreign oil money."

Thus corrupted, reporters spent two full hours listening to Schultz, Berg, and Taitz describe their allegations accusing Obama of document forgery, arrogance, radical ties, and "foreign allegiance" to Kenya. "This is the largest hoax in 200 years," said Berg. "Obama knows where he was born. He knows he was adopted in Indonesia. Obama places our Constitution in a crisis situation, and Obama is in a situation where he can be blackmailed by leaders around the world who know he is not qualified."

Slate goes on to report that, after the lawyers had had their say, they turned the podium over to some of their more colorful supporters, at which point an already bizarre press conference when completely off the rails:

Schultz recognized Rev. James David Manning, the Harlem preacher who has called Obama a "long-legged mack daddy," and a member (alongside Jeremiah Wright and Oprah Winfrey) of the "Trinity of Hell." For some reason, Shultz gave Manning a microphone to talk about Obama's parents.

"It is common knowledge," explained Manning, "that African men, coming from the continent of Africa—especially for the first time—do diligently seek out white women to have sexual intercourse with. Generally the most noble of white society choose not to intercourse sexually with these men. So it's usually the trashier ones who make their determinations that they're going to have sex."

Manning grew more intense as he went on. Berg and Taitz seemed to squirm in their chairs; Berg started taking quiet cell phone calls before Manning evoked the memories of Africans who lost their lives "packed like sardines" onto slave ships, now in "a watery grave." "Do you think we want to wake those people up and tell them that the womb of a 16-year-old white girl has produced your redeemer? Has produced your savior? I don't think they want to wake up to that. I think they want to keep sleeping in that grave until true justice might be given."

Not to go all "guilt by association" here, but just keep in mind that Janet Porter willingly associates herself with these people ... and Mike Huckabee willingly associates himself with Porter, praising her in his new book as "one of the main catalysts" for his success in the Republican primary and haling her as among a "new wave of leaders" who will remake the Republican Party in their own image.  

Just something to keep in mind should Huckabee decide to make another run for president down the road.

What Is The Right Complaining About Today?

Yesterday we noted, without much surprise, that the Religious Right leaders like Tony Perkins and Richard Land did not react favorably to Newsweek's latest cover story, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage."

To that mix we can now add the American Family Association which, of course, has now launched a letter-writing campaign encouraging its activists to contact Newsweek and cancel their subscriptions:

At least I know where Newsweek now stands on the issue. I ask for accuracy and fairness in your reporting on homosexual marriage in the future. Considering your strong support for homosexual marriage, I very much doubt your ability to be fair and accurate.

Likewise, Al Mohler of the southern Baptist Convention has weighed in to complain that it is just another example of the media carrying water for the gay agenda:

The national news media are collectively embarrassed by the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Gay rights activists are publicly calling on the mainstream media to offer support for gay marriage, arguing that the media let them down in November. It appears that Newsweek intends to do its part to press for same-sex marriage. Many observers believe that the main obstacle to this agenda is a resolute opposition grounded in Christian conviction. Newsweek clearly intends to reduce that opposition.

Newsweek could have offered its readers a careful and balanced review of the crucial issues related to this question. It chose another path -- and published this cover story. The magazine's readers and this controversial issue deserved better.

Nor is Concerned Women for America happy with the article:

Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, said, “The Newsweek article is breathtaking in the audacious ways that it distorts and misinterprets the Bible and traditional Christianity. It is astounding that a news magazine would publish an article on theology that is so far off base in its theological credibility.”

Then, just for good measure, OneNewsNow asked militantly anti-gay activist Matt Barber to share his thoughts on the piece and he was predictably was outraged as well:

"This is biblical relativism on steroids," he contends. "You know, scripture says woe to those who call evil good and good evil, and I say woe to Newsweek for even printing this drivel."

He adds that the notion that the Bible somehow condones or approves homosexuality, much less so-called same-sex marriage, is patently absurd and borders on blasphemy.

This has been yet another installment of our emerging series "What Is The Right Complaining About Now?" 

Washington State’s One-Man Right-Wing Army

Last week, we made a few mentions of the kerfuffle brewing up in Washington over the sign placed in the state Capitol by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that reads "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

And you just knew that if there was some right-wing battle brewing in the state that Ken Hutcherson was going to show up … and so he did:

Several hundred people rallied at the state Capitol on Sunday to protest a holiday display inside that provoked a national outcry by disparaging religion and declaring there is no God.

Organizers pleaded with Sunday's crowd to keep their messages positive, but there were still signs portraying Gregoire as a Grinch. Even scheduled speakers took political pot shots.

"You have led the state of Washington to be the armpit of America. And I'm afraid that our governor is the one adding the offensive odor to the armpit," said the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, a Christian preacher known in the region for his commentary on social issues.

One of Hutcherson’s latest rallying cries is for Evangelicals to stop being “Evan-jellyfish” and start standing up for themselves and declare that they are not going to take it anymore:

“We want to be respected also, and it looks as though Christianity and religious people are the only ones that you can be intolerant against and everyone thinks it’s OK,” he said. “The only reason why that’s going on is because we have allowed it, and I think it’s time for us to say enough’s enough.”

And speaking of Hutcherson, it looks as if he is still committed to his one-man crusade to take over Microsoft so that he can dictate how the company donates to charity:

Last year Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington, asked concerned Christians to purchase shares in Microsoft and send him a share so he could address the company at its annual shareholders meeting about its support for homosexual causes. During the annual meeting last month, Hutcherson was able to address Microsoft executives, including founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer. Hutcherson says he brought up the recent protests by homosexuals against California's voter-approved Proposition 8.< /p>

And my question to Microsoft this year was, our company is supporting, with millions and millions of dollars, a group that has proven to be intolerant, that has proven to be hateful, violent, and [prejudiced] towards African Americans," he explains. "[Opponents of the voter initiative] are now calling African Americans who voted for Prop. 8 by 'the N-word.'"

The outspoken pastor and former NFL player calls reaction from Microsoft executives lukewarm. "You know what they said afterward? It was all quiet and they said, 'Well, we have voted to continue our charitable gifts,'" Hutcherson points out. "That's why I'm saying I'm not going to stop because they have proven to be hypocrites. And if it was any other group, they would have stopped it immediately."

Still, Hutcherson is urging concerned Christians to purchase shares in companies like Microsoft who support the pro-homosexual cause and to request that they stop supporting intolerant groups.

Don't Get Any Ideas Romney

Last week we noted that several high-profile Religious Right leaders were part of an effort to express thanks and support to the Mormon Church for its efforts to help pass Proposition 8 in California. But just because the Right is appreciative of the role that Mormons played in the effort doesn't mean that they are necessarily ready to actually vote for a Mormon for president, as Christianity Today points out:

Evangelicals were content to partner with Mormons on Proposition 8 because the groups agreed on the end goal, said Gerald R. McDermott, professor of religion at Roanoke College and coauthor of Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate.

"The outcome is to have a marriage policy that is completely agreeable to evangelicals. Before, the outcome was someone in office who, to a lot of evangelicals, represented a theology that was completely disagreeable," McDermott said. "They agree on these horizontal issues while they disagree with the vertical issues, which are theological."

While some, like early Mitt Romney supporter Jay Sekulow, are trying to tie the two issues together, saying that the cooperation between evangelicals and Mormons on Prop 8 will only strengthen Romney's chances should he choose to run again, the militantly anti-Mormon activists in the movement want to make it clear that that is not going to be the case at all:

During Romney's candidacy, Robert Jeffress, pastor at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, told his congregants that they should prefer Christian candidates to Mormon candidates, but he is grateful for Mormon involvement in helping pass Proposition 8.

"I think there has been a strain in the relationship with Mormons, but I think Christians need to understand that Mormonism is not Christianity," Jeffress said. "The differences between Mormonism and Christianity aren't just minor theological differences that can be erased just because we agree on moral issues."

Of course, Jeffress was far more radical in his opposition to Romney than were most right-wing leaders, repeatedly declaring that "Mormonism is a cult" and that they "worship a false god," so it is not very surprising that he is still opposed to Romney.  But still, it should serve as a warning to Romney and any of his backers who are hoping that the Right's gratitude for the Mormon's cooperation in furthering their anti-gay agenda will somehow overcome their deep distrust and opposition to his faith.

Heads We Win, Tails You Lose

The Religious Right is understandably concerned about what a Barack Obama administration will mean for their influence and agenda in the coming years and its leaders are already hard at work trying to reign him in by suggesting that, despite his clear victory, he doesn't have any sort of mandate: 

Wasting little time, conservative Christian groups have already drafted open letters to Obama stressing their opposition to abortion, and are taking steps to reassure supporters that they will fight any attempt to give the new administration a blank cheque -- especially on social issues.

"Barack Obama can clearly claim a mandate from the American people on the economy, maybe even our standing in the eyes of the rest of the world, but he cannot claim a mandate to impose or to advance a liberal social agenda," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council ...

Though conservative Christians won't have "the same type of relationship we had with the Bush administration," Perkins said the passage of amendments in three states that banned same-sex marriage shows their values have staying power.

"This was, I think, more of a referendum on the Republican Party than conservative values," he said. "We focused upon the marriage amendments in the three states ... They passed in two states (California and Florida), which Barack Obama carried handily."

Fair enough, but what about the various anti-choice issues that were also on the ballot and all lost? Those apparently don't count:  

None of the state referenda on abortion -- including one on parental consent in California and a "personhood" amendment in Colorado -- passed on Election Day, but [Richard] Land said conservative Christians will be undeterred by those losses at the polls.

"Pro-life Catholics and pro-life evangelicals aren't going anywhere," he said.

So the anti-gay amendments that passed prove that Obama has no "mandate to impose or to advance a liberal social agenda," but conversely nothing at all can be concluded about choice issues even though every such initiative failed just because the anti-choice forces say so?  

Anti-Gay Forces Pretend to Rise "Above the Hate"

Via Good as You we find out that the National Organization for Marriage has launched a petition drive to thank the Mormon Church for its deep involvement in the passage of Prop 8 and to declare solidarity with them:

We write firstly to express our deep gratitude to you and the entire LDS community for the large and impressive contributions of your church and its members in protecting marriage in California and Arizona.

Anyone who participated in this process has come to admire the competence, diligence and moral courage that so many members of your faith community displayed as part of this coalition effort—as Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, and people of other faith communities all came together to fight this great battle for marriage.

But we write for an even more important purpose: to express our outrage at the vile and indecent attacks directed specifically and uniquely at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members because of your courage in standing up for marriage.

The best thing about this is the name they have chosen for their new effort - Above the  Its name is especially ironic considering the list of those who rushed to add their signatures to the letter:

Maggie Gallagher

Donald E. Wildmon

James C. Dobson, Ph.D.

Charles W. Colson

Tony Perkins

Paul Weyrich

Dr. Gary Bauer

Bishop Harry Jackson

Richard Land

Tom Minnery

Ron Prentice

John Stemberger

Phil Burress

Kelly Shackelford

Regina Griggs

Wendy Wright

Janice Crouse, PhD

That's right - the leaders of the professional anti-gay lobby are "rising above the hate" to thank the Mormon Church for helping them deny gays and lesbians their basic equality.

Prop 8 Proponents Try to Distance Themselves From Their Allies

The San Francisco Chronicle has a good article on how the folks behind Yes on 8 are trying to bar the Campaign for California Families, Randy Thomasson, and Mat Staver from getting involved in the on-going legal dispute because of the latter’s extreme anti-gay views, which Yes on 8 fears will make them all look bad: 

The group, now known as the Campaign for Children and Families, is run by Randy Thomasson, who for years has been one of California's most visible opponents of gay rights and what he bills as "the homosexual agenda."

The people behind Prop. 8 have been butting heads with Thomasson for years, arguing that his efforts to outlaw same-sex marriage and curb domestic partnership arrangements are a long step further than a majority of California voters is willing to go.

In 2005 and again in January, Thomasson and his allies proposed initiatives that not only would bar same-sex marriage but that also "voids or makes unenforceable" rights conferred by California law on couples, gay or heterosexual, registered as domestic partners, including community property, child custody, hospital visitation and insurance benefits.

"It was like the nuclear option to obliterate the entire domestic partners law," [Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign] said. "We were constantly hassled by that organization, who thought we weren't aggressive enough."

But the disputes between the groups have grown in the past few days, with Thomasson launching an all-out attack against the Supreme Court for accepting the challenge to Prop. 8, a court decision Pugno and others from had welcomed.

"If the court disobeys the constitution by voiding Prop. 8, it will ignite a voter revolt," Thomasson said in statement released after the court agreed Wednesday to hear arguments over the validity of the constitutional amendment. "The court is playing with fire by threatening to destroy the people's vote on marriage."

Pugno and others from the Prop. 8 campaign want to avoid such fiery challenges and threats to the court and keep matters on a quiet legal level until the court rules on same-sex marriage sometime after March.

"What we are not doing is discussing the possibility of recalling justices who oppose us," Ron Prentice, chairman of the Yes on Prop. 8 effort, said in an e-mail to supporters Wednesday. "Making threats to recall justices from office is counterproductive and harmful to our chances of winning in court."

So the “moderates” who want to deny equality for gays are afraid that people like Thomasson, who’s been busy freaking out about everything the use of “Party A” and “Party B” on marriage licenses and proposals for Harvey Milk Day, are going to make them look too extreme?  I think that, considering that they just spent tens of millions of dollars to getting California voters to strip gay couples throughout the state of their constitutional right to marriage, it’s a little late for the Yes on 8 troops to start worrying about looking like of bunch of anti-gay extremists.

Rick Warren Partners With Reader’s Digest

Fresh off of urging his millions of supporters to protect “traditional marriage” by passing Proposition 8 in California, evangelical guru Rick Warren announces a new partnership with Reader’s Digest to spread his personal brand of “Purpose Driven” Christianity across the nation: 

The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., and Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church and the author of the worldwide best seller, "The Purpose Driven Life," today announced a partnership to produce an inspirational multimedia platform called The Purpose Driven Connection.

Together the organizations will pool their international resources to produce and publish this Purpose Driven platform to help people who are seeking their purpose in life and wish to interact with others on their spiritual journeys. The platform will provide a suite of bundled multimedia tools: "The Purpose Driven Connection," a quarterly magazine; Small Group study materials delivered in DVDs, workbooks and downloadable discussion guides; and a state-of-the-art Christian social networking website.

"We are excited about this new partnership and its unprecedented potential for international impact," said Warren, who will serve as Editor-in-Chief and be heavily involved in the conception of each element. "The Purpose Driven Connection represents more than simply integrated multimedia resources; it will become a platform for a movement of people to change the world."

"We are delighted to be working with Rick Warren and the Saddleback team," said Alyce Alston, President of RDA's Home & Garden and Health & Wellness affinities. "This is one of our company's most important and far-reaching ventures ever. Together we will create a category-busting multimedia suite that will help millions of people in their daily lives, including those who already follow the Purpose Driven principles as well as seekers everywhere looking for greater fulfillment."

Apparently, while Reader’s Digest would presumably never agree to a partnership with someone like James Dobson, they have no problem partnering with Warren, even though he admits that the only difference between himself and Dobson is a question of tone.

It’s Only Discrimination if Skulls Are Cracked

Mike Huckabee has been on quite a roll lately.  While he’s out hawking his latest book, he’s also been weighing in on the issue of Prop. 8’s passage in California.  

Yesterday, he told “The View” that gays haven’t really been seeing their rights violated because they haven’t been getting the skulls cracked:

HUCKABEE: It’s a different set of rights. People who are homosexuals should have every right in terms of their civil rights, to be employed, to do anything they want. But that’s not really the issue. I know you talked about it and I think you got into it a little bit early on. But when we’re talking about a redefinition of an institution, that’s different than individual civil rights.

BEHAR: Well, segregation was an institution, too, in a way. It was right there on the books.

HUCKABEE: But here is the difference. Bull Connor was hosing people down in the streets of Alabama. John Lewis got his skull cracked on the Selma bridge.

And today he told Bill Bennett that Prop. 8 didn’t actually take away anyone’s rights at all:

HUCKABEE: The very people who voted for Barack Obama in California…also voted to sustain traditional marriage. I refuse to use the term, “ban same-sex marriage.” That’s not what those efforts did. They affirmed what is. They did not prohibit something. They simply affirmed something that which has and forever has existed.

Of course, as Think Progress pointed out, that is exactly what Prop. 8 did – it was right there in the description of the amendment: “Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.”

Focus on the Family Eliminating 200 Positions

Last week I speculated that Focus on the Family was undertaking its stealth ad campaign as an attempt raise money because it had been forced to lay off staff several times over the last few years.  Now, it looks like they are about to eliminate even more positions:

Focus on the Family is announcing in an hour that it is eliminating 202 jobs in the coming weeks -- 149 through layoffs and 53 by not filling vacant positions. The layoffs are on top of 46 announced in October that will take effect at the beginning of 2009.

The employees were notified today, spokesman Gary Schneeberger said.

"We've been trying to take care of our family here first," he said. "We notified those affected, and they'll come back this week to find out more about their transition packages."

The Colorado Springs-based Christian nonprofit's budget will be reduced from $160 million this year to $138 million in 2009.

The Colorado Independent has more:

Focus on the Family is poised to announce major layoffs to its Colorado Springs-based ministry and media empire today. The cutbacks come just weeks after the group pumped more than half a million dollars into the successful effort to pass a gay-marriage ban in California.

In all, Focus pumped $539,000 in cash and another $83,000 worth of non-monetary support into the measure to overturn a California Supreme Court ruling that allowed gays and lesbians to marry in that state. The group was the seventh-largest donor to the effort in the country. The cash contributions are equal to the salaries of 19 Coloradans earning the 2008 per capita income of $29,133.


This is the third year that Focus has laid off employees due to budget cuts. In its heyday, the ministry, which relocated to Colorado Springs from Arcadia, Calif., in 1991, employed more than 1,500 people. Many of those employees worked in mailroom and line assembly jobs, processing so much incoming and outgoing correspondences that the U.S. Postal Service gave Focus its own ZIP code.

In September 2005, nearly 80 employees were reassigned or laid off in an effort to trim millions of dollars from its 2006 budget. In addition, 83 open positions were not filled in the layoff, which included eliminating some of the ministry’s programs. At the time, Focus employed 1,342 full-time employees.

“To the extent that we can place them within the ministry, we will try to do that,” said then-spokesman Paul Hetrick. “Most of them will not be able to be placed.”

In September 2007, amid a reported $8 million in budget shortfalls, Focus on the Family laid off another 30 employees; 15 more were reassigned within the company. Most of the layoffs were from Focus’ constituent response services department (i.e. the mailroom).

James Dobson: Gay, Crazy, or Wife Killer?

I don’t write much about Michael Savage here, mainly because Media Matters covers him so well but also because I think he’s an insufferable jerk and a fraud.  But today Media Matters has a typically stupid quote from him that is actually kind of relevant to the things I write about here:

Discussing "children" on the November 14 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage stated: "I'm as good an expert as any. I have found in my life that most of the Ph.D. experts on children are either gay or crazy and were never married. Or if they were married, they either tried to kill their wife or were in rehab for a few years, and then came out and went into psychotherapy to find out why they killed, or attempted to kill. And then they washed it all away, and suddenly they're experts on childrearing."

Interesting.  Which category would James Dobson fall into?

James C. Dobson, Ph.D., is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family … [and] a licensed psychologist in the state of California and a licensed marriage, family and child counselor in both California and Colorado. Dobson was for 14 years an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, and served for 17 years on the Attending Staff of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in the Division of Child Development and Medical Genetics. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (1967) in the field of child development.

And since I’m already writing a post about Savage, I guess I may as well just go ahead and mention this as well:

Nationally-syndicated talk show host Michael Savage is set to interview former German member of the Hitler Youth, Hilmar von Campe this Tuesday, November 18

The program will focus on similarities, which von Campe sees between the rise of totalitarianism under Hitler and the current social and political trends inside the United States.

"Every day brings this nation closer to a Nazi-style totalitarian abyss," writes von Campe, now a U.S. citizen, and author of "Defeating the Totalitarian Lie: A Former Hitler Youth Warns America."

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