California

Discussing Lawrence King's Murder, Truth In Action Ministries Blames The Victim

After the tragic shooting of Lawrence ‘Larry’ King, the openly gay California student who was shot dead by a classmate in school three years ago, Religious Right activists pounced to defame King and gay rights advocates. Randy Thomasson of Save California blamed “social engineering” and said that King’s sexual orientation and gender expression and the shooting represented the “two wrongs” in the case. Anti-gay author Michael Brown said “gay activism” was responsible for the murder. The trial of King’s shooter ended in a hung jury and will be retried.

Now, in a recently-posted interview with the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, Karen Gushta of Truth in Action Ministries argues that King’s murder demonstrates that “affirming students” is “not a healthy trend.” OneNewsNow writes that attempts to “encourage children to ‘come out’ and experiment with alternate lifestyles causes physical and mental health risks,” and claims that Brandon McInerney, the defendant, “allegedly shot King,” even though neither party is contesting the facts of the murder.

Gushta told the conservative news site that hate crimes laws and education policy were to blame for King’s brutal death:

A research coordinator says the murder of a "gay" teenage student should serve as an example for why hate crime laws "do nothing to aid in administering justice."



Dr. Karen Gushta, research coordinator for Truth in Action Ministries, points out that hate crime laws did not protect King in this case.

"Hate crime laws do nothing to aid in administering justice," she explains. "They are a solution in the search for problems because what they in actuality do is criminalize thought."

Prosecutors dropped the hate crimes count, stating that they want to "slim the case down" and "narrow the focus." If convicted under the new charges, McInerney could face 50 years to life in prison. Had he been convicted in the first trial, he would have faced 53 years to life.

Gushta warns that policies that encourage children to "come out" and experiment with alternate lifestyles causes physical and mental health risks.

"The trend toward teaching gender identity and affirming students at a young age in transgender identity that's taking place in education, and specifically in California schools, that is not a healthy trend," she contends.

McInerney allegedly shot King once, and shot him again after he fell to the floor. A pretrial hearing is set for November 21.

Parker: God Will Judge Us For Abortion, Gay Marriage

Star Parker ended tonight's Values Voter Summit by mourning Roe v. Wade and marriage equality, declaring, "We are sick as a country, and we are going to have to recognize how deep this sickness is." She went on to compare legal abortion and gay marriage to slavery and the holocaust, warning that God in the same way "is going to answer the question of abortion and He is going to answer the question of marriage; He already defined marriage and God is true and man is the liar."

Watch:

Parker: He is going to answer these questions, and we've been yearning, and we've been begging, and we're 35 years, 36 years now with Roe v. Wade. And we're talking about all of the millions of people whose lives were touched, how deeply abortion has scarred this country. And now we're yearning, waiting, to protect the interest of marriage, such a most humble position God would put us in, the marital sacrament, to recognize how personal and private that is. It's absolutely under attack to the degree that in California they now have to stop a law, they have to form an initiative to stop a law, from teaching their children gay history. We are sick as a country, and we are going to have to recognize how deep this sickness is.

So that when we get to November 3rd, regardless of the outcome, the same way big moral questions were on the table before, God would answer what we are praying for. And as with slavery when He turned the history clock on and we saw pictures, and we said, 'what happened? We were founded on such principles? These founding fathers prayed. How did we go eighty years, 600,000 dead later to answer a simple question, that was just unlawful in God's eyes. The protection of innocent life, to give that life that liberty, and that opportunity to pursue their personal property and happiness.' We saw it again in the Holocaust, they turned the history clock on after He answered that big question and we said, 'How did this happen? What were we doing? How did the churches that were there just turn their music up and sing a little longer?' Well, He is going to turn the history clock on on today too, He is going to turn the history clock on because one day He is going to answer these questions. He is going to answer the question of abortion and He is going to answer the question of marriage; He already defined marriage and God is true and man is the liar.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Good As You: As Predicted: NOM Spins Request For Clerks To Do Their Jobs As If Its 'Defamation.'

Right Wing Leftovers

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

Right Wing Round-Up

  • PFAW: Pressure Begins to Yield Results as Senate Takes Steps to Confirm 10 Judicial Nominees.
  • Towleroad: Anti-Gay Activists Using Child Molestation to Fool People Into Signing Petition Against California LGBT History Bill.
  • Dallas Voice: Group says FW teacher was harassed by student he punished for saying homosexuality is wrong.

Barton: Congress Should Impeach Judges For Rulings It Doesn't Like

When you listen to David Barton on a regular basis, you learn all sorts of interesting things - a lot of them happen to be false and/or terrifying, but interesting nonetheless. 

For instance, on "Wallbuilders Live" today he explained that federal judges are not appointed for life but simply "during good behavior,"  which means that any time any judge issues a ruling that Congress does not like, they simply have to convene a hearing, force the judge to defend the ruling, and then impeach them:

Rick Green: So where is the accountability if a judge is appointed for their whole life.

Barton: Well, the first part is they're not appointed for life. That's one of the things that people think today and this is one of the great judicial myths that's out there that's absolutely not accurate. If you go back and look at the Constitution, Article III deals with the judiciary; there's nothing in there about judges being appointed for life. They're not appointed for life.

What they did, and what they also did in the federal Constitution, when you read it it says federal judges are allowed to hold their appointments for the quote 'duration of good behavior.' That's not a lifetime appointment - that's as long as you act right you can stay there as a federal judge. But if you don't act right, we're going to take you out.

The best way to know is to go see the guys who wrote the clauses, see what they define as good behavior by who they throw off the court.

There was a federal judge thrown off the court because he cussed in the courtroom. Founding Fathers threw him off the court. Why'd they do that? Because the federal Constitution says "for the duration of good behavior," They said cussing in a courtroom is not good behavior for a judge, you're gone.

Another guy was thrown off the court because he got drunk in his private life. Whoa, it's his private life; had nothing to do with his job. No, it's not good behavior for a judge - you're gone.

Another guy got thrown off the court because he contradicted an act of Congress. Supreme Court does that all the time today. Congress pass something, ah we don't like that act, it's going to be unconstitutional. No, he did that - you're gone buddy.

...

There have been 97 impeachment investigations across history with judges; you've had 13 impeachments taken off the court. And the more often you have an impeachment investigation, the less often you have to remove a judge because, what Thomas Jefferson says, impeachment is a scarecrow - you sit out there in the middle of the field and that will scare them off.

Green: Because all the other judges are watching that, going 'I don't want that to be me.'

Barton: You betcha. For example, take the judge in California that says, oh no, having 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance, completely unconstitutional.

What you do is you convene a hearing in Washington DC, Congress says we want you to come appear before the judiciary committee and explain to us exactly what your thinking is that says we can't acknowledge God when that's in the Declaration and in the Constitution. What are you thinking?

And other judges see him getting called before Congress to be accountable and they go 'oh my gosh, we're not going to touch that.' Exactly!

Thomasson Suggests Larry King Provoked His Own Murder

Randy Thomasson of Save California spoke to Janet Mefferd yesterday, ranting about his usual claims that California public schools are “brainwashing” students and promoting “perversity” by offering anti-bullying programs and teaching students about historic LGBT figures. The anti-gay leader also addressed the case of Larry King, an openly gay student who was murdered by his classmate Brandon McInerney in 2008. After the murder trial ended in a hung jury earlier this month, the Ventura County District Attorney pledged to have the case retried.

According to Thomasson, King provoked his murderer into killing him. He went on to compare King’s sexuality and the shooting as the “two wrongs” in the case, and said that “indoctrination” and “social engineering” through school anti-bullying programs were responsible for allowing the situation to erupt.

Listen:

The homosexual activists are saying, ‘well we have to do this so that we won’t have another Larry King,’ now we’re not talking about the old former talk show host from CNN, we’re talking about a kid in Oxnard, California, who was about fourteen years-old and he was shot dead by a classmate. Now Larry King was saying he was homosexual but he also was a cross-dresser and he had a bad teacher who actually got him a girl’s dress and taught him how to put makeup on. And it came out in court that this boy was parading around in makeup and high heels in front of a classmate outside on a bench and the fifteen year-old Larry King was walking back and forth and saying, ‘you know you want me, you know you want me.’ And there was a lot of anger that another teacher saw on the boy’s face who was being tautened, I mean who’s harassing whom?

This was a very disturbed boy who was being harassed, who was sitting on the bench, so when he was being harassed by King he went home and he got his dad’s gun and he came back the next day and he killed Larry King. But the whole point is, why in the world would you let two wrongs to be done? Murder is wrong, but allowing reverse harassment to be done and allowing teachers to actually dress up boys as girls, this is causing tension, it’s causing sexual tension, it’s causing emotional tension and this is not anything that goes along with the purpose of academics. This is social engineering. So whenever you hear ‘bullying’ from the homosexual activists, think indoctrination. And it’s coming to all fifty states, I’m sorry but it is one way or the other, get your kids into godly schools and do the sacrifice of time or money and realize that you only have a few years with your children, otherwise they’re going to become liberal adults and call you bigots.

Right Wing Round-Up

Perkins Blasts California HPV Vaccination Plan, Fails To Mention Perry

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins dedicated his radio alert today to blasting a plan to help girls receive the HPV vaccine…in California. The issue of HPV vaccination has been dominating the Republican primary since Michele Bachmann attacked Rick Perry for his executive order mandating the vaccine for Texas schoolgirls and for his close ties to the vaccine manufacturer Merck. While the executive order was ultimately overturned by the state legislature, Perry’s decision is facing more scrutiny on the national level.

Curiously, Perkins doesn’t mention Perry’s decision as he attacks legislation in California that, unlike Perry’s plan, isn’t a mandate. According to Capital Public Radio, the bill would ensure that “adolescents 12 and older would be able to receive the HPV vaccine and an HIV exposure medication without parental consent.” Perkins decries the bill as “a shot at parents’ rights,” but is strangely silent the Perry plan, which would have gone even farther:

In California, leaders are using a vaccine to take a shot at parents' rights. Hello, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Out in California, the state legislature just passed a bill that would let kids get vaccinated without their parents' knowledge or consent. Leaders argue that children should be protected from sexually transmitted diseases like HPV. But parents don't think that's the government's decision to make. Now, don't get me wrong. We're thrilled that scientists might have found a drug to stop cervical cancer. But this debate isn't about whether we want to protect our children from disease, but whether we want the government making decisions for our kids. The bill's been squeaking by without much media attention, but now that it's just a signature away from becoming law, families are outraged. Parents--not arbitrary politicians--should be the ultimate authority on their child's health. Check our pamphlet, "Gardasil: What Every Parent Should Know" at frc.org. The last thing we need in the vaccine debate is to inject more government interference!

Joyner: "Very Soon, God's Judgment Is Going To Come Upon Hollywood"

Yesterday on Prophetic Perspectives, Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries and the Oak Initiative discussed how American sins are bringing God’s judgment, and particularly focused on Hollywood for producing “spiritual and moral pollution.” Joyner, who once claimed that Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment for homosexuality, said that “very soon, God’s judgment is going to come upon Hollywood.” Joyner previously urged people to “get out” of California because God will soon use an earthquake to punish Californians for their “depravity.”

Watch:

Joyner: Hollywood’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and I believe it is at the point that very soon, God’s judgment is going to come upon Hollywood, and it will be God’s judgment. The spiritual and moral pollution that is filling the earth has filled up the bowls of Heaven, as you see in the Book of Revelation, once these certain things get filled in heaven they come out, they come back upon the earth.

Thomasson: Legal Protections for Children of Gay Parents are "Absolute Insanity"

Last month California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that makes sure courts can consider non-biological parents when determining a child’s legal parents, safeguarding the rights of families led by opposite-sex and same-sex couples who adopt children or conceive via a sperm donor or surrogate. Naturally, Randy Thomasson of the militantly anti-gay group Save California is outraged that the state would move to keep families intact. He told the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow that same-sex couples cannot be “natural role models” and that rights for gay and lesbian parents represent “absolute insanity”:

"AB 1349 -- giving non-biological parents, homosexuals, the right in court for kids in their custody -- that is not good, because children do best with a married mother and father and with natural role models ... not unnatural," contends Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com.

Another bill, SB 651, was recently introduced by homosexual Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco. That legislation would remove the requirement that a couple must live together in order to be recognized as domestic partners.

"This is basically exploding the domestic partnership thing to make it a homosexual relationship with a child, to make a homosexual relationship with people who don't even live together equal to marriage," the pro-family leader argues. "It's absolute insanity, and it is erasing all distinctions between natural and unnatural [and] marriage and non-marriage. It's sad, but this is what you get with Democrats," he concludes. "Elections have consequences."

Brown: Gay Activism Responsible For Murder Of Lawrence King

Michael Brown has been hard at work establishing himself among the Religious Right's cadre of militant anti-gay activists with the publication of his book "A Queer Thing Happened to America" and by writing pieces, published by the American Family Association's OneNewsNow, in which he asserts that "gay activism" was responsible for the brutal murder of 15 year-old openly gay eight grader Lawrence King in 2008:

After all, it is gay activists who constantly remind us that LGBT kids are bullied and even beaten up at school. They tell us how dangerous the school environment is for kids who identify as LGBT, and yet at the same time, they praise kids like Larry for coming out at 10. They even want more Gay Straight Alliances in our middle schools, where pre-teens can declare their gay identity to their peers and faculty advisors without their parents' knowledge. Why? So they can become targets of hatred and potential violence? If our schools really are so "homophobic" and dangerous, why not encourage these kids to keep their sexual orientation to themselves until they're in a safer environment?

Some of the teachers in Larry's school, along with his adoptive father, specifically accused former assistant principal Joy Epstein, an open lesbian, of encouraging Larry's flamboyant behavior in order to promote her "agenda." If there is any truth to this, it is not just irresponsible, it is reprehensible. (At the least, there is no indication that she discouraged his pushy, sexual behavior.) How could an experienced educator act in such a way, especially with a boy who had such a troubled history? And is it possible that Larry could have benefited from ongoing counseling about his sexuality? Yet gay activists adamantly oppose any form of counseling that does not affirm homosexuality.

What about the other administrators? Why didn't they prevent Larry from dressing up like a girl when teachers reported to them that it was causing disruption among the students? The official school answer is that California law, passed at the urging of gay activists, prevents discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and so Larry was able to come to school wearing women's accessories and makeup. Was it fair to push this on Larry's classmates, themselves young teenagers sorting through their own issues of sexual identity? Was it fair to Larry?

And what is to be said of this memo sent out to the entire eighth grade? "We have a student on campus who has chosen to express his sexuality by wearing make-up. It is his right to do so." In eighth grade? His "right?" What a travesty! Yet this is a "right" gay activists aggressively fight for, as if this somehow makes our schools "safer" and provides a better learning environment for all the kids. Nonsense.

It is true that Brandon McInerney murdered Larry King in cold blood, but gay activism is complicit in his death.

Focus on the Family Doubles Down On Their Fight Against Anti-Bullying Programs

Focus on the Family has been one of the foremost opponents of anti-bullying initiatives that address the problem of bullying against LGBT youth, often working through its affiliate True Tolerance. True Tolerance organizes parents to fight “pro-homosexual curriculum” and holds an annual “Day of Dialogue” to counter the anti-bullying Day of Silence. Candi Cushman of True Tolerance joined Carrie Gordon Earll, the Senior Director of Issues Analysis of CitizenLink (Focus on the Family’s political arm), on yesterday’s CitizenLink Report. On the program, Cushman warned against “one-sided promotion of homosexuality to kids” and Earll lamented that anti-bullying programs are “flooding [students] with adult themes and messages.”

“It just seems irresponsible and possibly even damaging for school officials just to open up their doors to messages from homosexual activist groups, political activist groups, that might push students to prematurely embrace a sexual identity that they’re not really equipped to handle,” Cushman tells Earll. “If we really want students to be safe we shouldn’t be allowing groups to come in and sexualize our children.”

Right Wing Round-Up

Gingrich's Lone Religious Right Supporter Being Wooed By Perry

As we noted last week, Rick Perry gathered with a whole range of Religious Right leaders at the ranch of right-wing megadonor James Leininger over the weekend and details continue to emerge about what took place during the event, like Perry vowing to them that there would be no revelations about his past that would ever embarrass them.

We are also seeing more reports about which leaders were in attendance:

The meeting received little public attention, though the 200 or so in attendance included luminaries of the Christian right such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, California pastor Jim Garlow, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Washington-area Bishop Harry Jackson, who presides over one of the largest African American churches on the East Coast.

It is especially interesting to see that Garlow was present at the gathering, given that he had pretty much been the only Religious Right leader supporting Newt Gingrich's presidential bid.

The fact that Garlow traveled to Texas to participate in this meeting with Perry seems to suggest that even Gingrich's most ardent supporters know that his campaign is dead in the water.

Right Wing Round-Up

Huckabee To Keynote Fundraiser For Personhood Mississippi

Mike Huckabee is scheduled to be the featured speaker at a fundraiser for Personhood Mississippi, the group running the campaign to pass Amendment 26, which would criminalize abortion with no exceptions by giving rights to zygotes. In addition to banning abortion, the personhood amendment would also make certain forms of birth control, in-vitro fertilization and the treatment of problem pregnancies a crime. The American Family Association, which is based in Mississippi, committed $100,000 to fund the effort to pass Amendment 26 in November.

By supporting Amendment 26, Huckabee places himself even to the right of the National Right to Life Committee, which refused to back Colorado’s failed personhood amendment because they thought it was counter-productive and likely to be struck down as unconstitutional.

Moreover, the founder and director of Personhood Mississippi is far-right extremist Les Riley. Riley used to be a featured blogger for the Christian separatist group Christian Exodus, until his posts were conspicuously removed from the group’s site. But luckily, he left a paper trail:

According to Christian Exodus’s mission statement, “The initial goal was to move thousands of Christian constitutionalists to South Carolina to accelerate the return to self-government based upon Christian principles at the local and State level. This project continues to this day, with the ultimate goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire.”

The group, which is closely tied to the neo-confederate League of the South, attempted to set up an independent, theocratic state in South Carolina by 2016 but has since moved on to creating theocratic settlements in Panama and Idaho.

Riley is also chairman of the Constitution Party of Mississippi and stated that its goal is to “restore American government to its Constiutional [sic] limits and American jurisprudence to its Biblical presuppositions.” According to their platform, “The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law.”

But for Huckabee, it seems no activist is too radical to work with.

Meet The Religious Right Extremists Behind The Pro-Bachmann Super PAC

A secretive ‘Super PAC’ tied to an Ohio political operative is planning to aid congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign after working to defeat South Carolina congressman John Spratt in the last midterm election. Chris Cillizza writes that “Citizens for a Working America, as the group is known, will be chaired by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Ed Brookover, a longtime political consultant and adviser to Bachmann, will be involved as will conservative lawyer and economist Marc Nuttle.”

Ken Blackwell’s ties to the Religious Right are well known, but Nuttle’s activism has flown below the radar.

Blackwell was Ohio’s Secretary of State from 2002-2006 whom after leaving office, unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006 and chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2009. He is now a senior fellow with the ultraconservative Family Research Council, a senior fellow with the far-right American Civil Rights Union, and a board member the pro-corporate Club for Growth. Columbus-based televangelist Rod Parsley vigorously backed his failed gubernatorial campaign and Religious Right activists endorsed his abortive bid for RNC chair. His staunchly anti-gay views will serve him well in the Bachmann camp, as Blackwell once compared gay people with arsonists and kleptomaniacs and same-sex couples with farm animals.

Nuttle is a Republican adviser and economist with deep ties to an extreme movement within the Religious Right composed of advocates of Seven Mountains Dominionism. Nuttle is in fact Chairman of The Oak Initiative, a far-right organization dedicated to promoting the Seven Mountains ideology. The group claims in its mission statement, “The Oak Institute is being developed to raise up effective leaders for all of the dominant areas of influence in the culture, including: government, business, education, arts and entertainment, family services, media, and the church,” otherwise known as the Seven Mountains of society that Dominionists think should be controlled by fundamentalist Christians.

The Oak Initiative’s president Rick Joyner, the founder of MorningStar Ministries, has claimed that God is planning to destroy California and that God used Hurricane Katrina to punish America for tolerating homosexuality. The Oak Initiative’s board is filled with leading proponents of Seven Mountains Dominionism, including Jerry Boykin, Janet Porter, Lance Wallnau and self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs. Lou Sheldon, the head of the Traditional Values Coalition who described LGBT activism as “the very face of evil,” is also a board member.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (Blackwell’s boss) and 2000 GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes addressed the Oak Initiative’s 2011 Summit alongside Nuttle, where Perkins called gays and lesbians “hateful” people who are “pawns” of Satan and Keyes urged Congress to impeach President Obama before he seizes power with the help of foreign countries. At the Summit, Boykin said that Obama is creating his own Brownshirt army to usher in Marxism and Joyner suggested that a secretive cabal crashed the economy to help Obama win the presidential election.

Nuttle spoke to Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries on how to “apply proper biblical principles to the marketplace and the workforce” and that God “has a plan and a solution for this current world crisis we find ourselves in.” Nuttle said that people “don’t have to figure” out all the economic solutions, “all you have to do is be obedient” to God. He also claimed that the United States is the only country with a government subservient to God: “Every other government in the world is some sort of government authority, it’s a dictatorship, or Islam where government is God, or where the dictator is God, or the Constitution is God, over the constituents.” Nuttle argued that “the fight is against the 30% [of politicians] who don’t care” about the decline of the economy, “because then there’s more room for government. Government’s what they want, socialism is the goal.” He ended his speech by saying, “lock your shields with each other against the enemy.” 

Earlier this year he addressed Liberty University’s Awakening 2011, the Religious Right political event hosted by Mat Staver of the LU-affiliate Liberty Counsel. Nuttle also appeared on God Knows with Jacobs, where he shared with the 'Prophet' his plan to solve the nation’s debt troubles.

As heads of the pro-Bachmann Super PAC, Blackwell and Nuttle will surely help Bachmann link her far-right economic views with her deep-seated social conservative activism.

Unearthing Right-Wing Treasure

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

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

Perry, Prayer, Politics and the Presidency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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