Georgia

Where Does Focus On The Family Stand On The "Ground Zero Mosque"?

While some Religious Right groups have made it very clear that they oppose the construction of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero in New York City despite their so-called commitments to religious freedom, other groups have remained rather silent. 

As far as I can tell, the only comment the Family Research Council has made on this issue came in the form of this radio commentary back in June:

Muslims are gaining ground all right--Ground Zero. Hello, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Nine years after terrorists forever altered the New York City skyline, an Islamic leader is threatening to do it again--this time, by building a mosque three blocks from where the twin towers collapsed. To the families of 9-11, this 13-story project is the ultimate insult. "This is a burial ground," said a dad who lost his son in the attack. The man who bought the land said his people's only goal was peace. But that'll be a tough sell in a city that lost 3,000 to his religion's extremists. Besides, if he really cared about harmony, he'd have picked a less offensive location. Instead, he's building a monument to Islam on a site where terrorists committed mass-murder in Allah's name. For years, Muslims have said we need to be sensitive to their needs, their customs, their rights. But is there anything more insensitive than creating a foundation for shar'iah law on the graves that its fanatics killed?

Other Religious Right groups don't appear particularly eager to take a position on the issue either:

The Becket Fund, which describes itself as a "public interest law firm protecting the free expression of all religious traditions," has been notably silent considering how outspoken it has been in the past. In addition to helping the Third Church of Christ, Scientist in Washington, DC sue the city using RLUIPA in 2008, the fund represented a New Jersey mosque in 2006 in a RLIUPA case claiming that the city of Wayne, N.J., was "improperly and arbitrarily delaying the mosque's land development application" due to "community anti-Moslem hostility." The group is normally not shy about wading into public debates, and recently caused a minor furor by reading nefarious intent into President Obama's use of the phrase "freedom of worship" instead of "freedom of religion." Its silence may be related to its conservative political backers. For instance, Newt Gingrich, who has loudly opposed Cordoba House, served as honorary vice chair of one of its annual black-tie dinners.

The Alliance Defense Fund, another conservative religious rights group that has made frequent use of RLUIPA cases, has also stayed out of the debate. "We've been asked by a few outlets," a spokesperson told The Upshot. "We're not commenting."

The Upshot spoke with just one person within this ecosystem of religious rights organizations who was neither silent nor contradicting past actions: Matthew Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a religious rights law firm associated with Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.

"The Constitution cuts both ways," Staver said. "I think you have to be principled from a legal perspective, because the First Amendment is a double-edged sword."

Which brings us to this new report from Stuart Shepard and Bruce Hausknecht of Focus on the Family's Citizenlink voicing their outrage over a church being shut down in Georgia for violating zoning regulations:

Hausknecht: Well here's the problem: for some reason, around the country cities and counties and other municipalities are hostile to churches, they don't want them for some reason or another. Usually its taxes ...

Shepard: The fact that they don't pay property taxes.

Hausknecht: They're usually exempt and so they try to zone them away or discourage them away. And by creating zoning laws the discriminate against churches, they're violating federal law and the First Amendment.

Shepard: What does this tell us about the state of religious freedom in the United States?

Hausknecht: Well, we're seeing first a hostility toward religion. You would think in this day and age of tolerance that there would be tolerance for religious views, religious people. There is not. We're seeing it in the zoning cases, we're seeing it in the schools. That is a definite wake-up call for people of all faiths to stand up and protect their rights.

So, does that mean that Focus on the Family supports the right to build this Islamic Center or does the organization, like seemingly so many others on the Right, really only believe in protecting and defending "religious freedom" when it involves Christians? 

ACLJ, Spiritual Warfare, and Zimbabwe's Constitution

For a while now, we've been covering the fact that Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice has set up offices in Kenya and Zimbabwe for the purpose of shaping the draft constitutions that are being prepared in both nations.

Today, Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches has an important new report on the intersection between the ACLJ, "Word of Faith" spiritual warfare, and the future of Zimbabwe's government as demonstrated by a recent "Women, Weapons of Warfare conference" that took place in Kentucky:

At the heart of this women’s conference is the concept of “spiritual warfare,” the idea that God has anointed his “generals” to defeat Satan and bring the world to Christ. During this pre-conference prayer session, the group prays for a “mega-breakthrough” and for God to “take down the enemy.” It’s not a war of flesh and blood, conference speakers are quick to point out, but against the evil evident everywhere around us: in the “total moral decay” of America; in the nearby “liberal” Indiana University; in the unexpected frog in the throat of a speaker from Georgia; in the angry outburst of a woman whose husband had left her; and in the fear of failure recounted by speaker after speaker—until they found Jesus, that is. It becomes evident, as the speakers give testimony about their relationship with Jesus, that for many he is not only their savior, but someone they converse with to obtain instructions for most details of their lives. Many call him “Daddy.”

Bourland introduces special guest from Zimbabwe, Pastor Vicky Mpofu, her “spiritual mother” whom she likens to Moses, a figure “God has anointed” to “deal with an affliction on her people.” Mpofu is, says Bourland, “an oracle of God to bring a warning to our country.” She predicts that people, “will wake up and listen”; then she prays for there to be “more than enough to take care of all the children of Zimbabwe.”

...

Mpofu, who co-founded the WWW conference with Bourland, is the executive director of the African Centre for Law and Justice, a branch of the American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Pat Robertson in 1990 as a “Christian” answer to the American Civil Liberties Union ... The African Centre for Law and Justice is injecting itself into the political process of drafting a new constitution that will supposedly pave the way for new elections. The African Centre for Law and Justice is aiming to do in Zimbabwe precisely what the religious right seeks to accomplish in the United States: declare the country a “Christian nation” guided by biblical principles, outlaw abortion, and ostracize and criminalize LGBT people ... Together with the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the African Centre for Law and Justice is working to garner the support of religious leaders and activists for constitutional provisions that would “affirm that Zimbabwe is a predominantly Christian nation founded on Biblical principles,” and require application of “the Laws of God in order to prosper and avoid chaos and destruction,” according to a pamphlet prepared by the EFZ and supported by the ALCJ.

Backed by the ACLJ, Mpofu has been traveling Zimbabwe to rally religious support for the EFZ’s constitutional proposals. “We’ve had a lot of support from ACLJ in America because for me to be able to go around the country to visit the ten provinces we’ve received some help financially and also we’ve received some help from the teams from America visiting and working with us,” Mpofu said. “The support has been tremendous.”

...

The EFZ/ACLJ pamphlet also calls for constitutional prohibitions on both abortion, by defining life as “beginning at conception,” and on attempts to reform the country’s laws criminalizing homosexuality. It calls for defining marriage “as being between a man and a woman” and for “any and all definitions of a family or marriages or relationships or legal unions that seek to include or permit same sex unions to be prohibited,” as well as for “sexual relations between partners of the same sex, bestiality, and other perversions to remain a criminal activity.”

Posner also posted video highlights of the conference, which has a Lou Engle/Cindy Jacobs sort of familiarity to it:

Be sure to read the whole thing.

NEW PAC TO FUNNEL ANTI-GAY ‘WHITE SUBURBAN CHRISTIAN REPUBLICAN’ MONEY INTO DC POLITICS

The National Organization for Marriage and allies like Bishop Harry Jackson have been looking for some way to overturn marriage equality legislation that became law in the District earlier this year with overwhelming support from the city’s elected leadership. But NOM and Jackson haven’t been doing so well. On the legal front, they were handed one more major defeat this week. The DC Court of appeals rejected their claim that the Board of Elections and Ethics was wrong to prevent an anti-marriage initiative from going before voters, which the BOEE ruled would violate the city’s Human Rights Act. 

From a legal perspective, that leaves only the U.S. Supreme Court as a possible avenue for appeal, which Jackson’s lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund say they’re “strongly considering.”   But NOM is not leaving things to the courts. We’ve reported that in recent months that the National Organization for Marriage has been pouring money into DC elections. Turns out that was just a start.
 
Now they’re planning an even bigger investment in DC politics. In an email yesterday, NOM’s Brian Brown took a break from bragging about the launch of his anti-equality bus tour across America to announce this: 
One final bit of news: Something else big has just been birthed here in this country, the D.C. Values PAC. Bishop Jackson's heroic leadership has lead to something no one has ever seen before: a coalition of black Democrats leaders and white suburban Christian Republicans to help elect pro-marriage and pro-life black Democrats in the District of Columbia. 

On Monday I was at Georgia Brown's in D.C. in a room that was 80 percent African-American leaders, including two local commissioners and a candidate for the D.C. City Council. God is making amazing things happen. Old barriers are breaking down, new ideas are springing up--and you are the ones making all of this possible.

Is Religious Right’s Star Ex-Muslim a Serial Liar?

Dr. Ergun Caner, the president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, has been a rising star on the Religious Right, entertaining audiences at major Religious Right gatherings with his hip, irreverent stories about his upbringing as a radical Muslim and his conversion to Christianity. Just this week, his story was featured on Focus on the Family’s broadcast, “From Jihad to Jesus.”

Turns out, according to a growing chorus of critics – many of them Southern Baptists and other Christians – Caner has apparently been lying for years about his childhood and his life story. It’s hard to even summarize the extent of the deceptions being described by his critics, but they include his claims to have grown up in Turkey and to have personally involved in Islamic Jihad, when court records from his parents’ divorce place him in Columbus, Ohio when he was just a few years old. Check some of the critical websites for voluminous debunking of Caner’s colorful (and apparently fanciful) stories about  learning about America through TV broadcasts in Turkey and more. Some charges are even more directly related to his ministry, such as his claims to have debated top Muslim scholars around the world. Caner’s critics say there’s no evidence of those debates. 
 
These are no vague or reckless charges, but carefully documented exposes that draw from Caner’s sermons, speeches, and online videos, and other public records.  Liberty doesn’t seem to have responded publicly, but recently posted a revised version of Caner’s bio with disputed claims removed. 
 
Some of Caner’s critics are willing to forgive him, but only if he owns up to his massive deceptions.  Meanwhile, Caner and his supporters have been trying to get his critics to shut up. Caner himself has pulled the Religious Right’s favored religious persecution card, reportedly saying in a memo to his Liberty colleagues, “I never thought I would see the day when alleged ‘Christians’ join with Muslims to attack converts.”
 
Meanwhile, others are starting to raise questions about the extent to which Ergun’s brother Emir, who heads a Baptist college in Georgia, may have assisted in Ergun’s deceptions, whether actively or by passively allowing false claims to go unchallenged.
 
It doesn’t look like Liberty University is going to be able to shove this under the rug. Stay tuned.

Baptist Church to Be Cut Off Over Female Pastor

Back during the last presidential election, questions were raised about the Southern Baptist Convention's position that women are subservient to men, especially as it related to Mike Huckabee and his support for the belief that "a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."

The issue came up again when John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, with people like Tony Perkins and Richard Land saying it was perfectly acceptable for Palin to possible be VP, but not okay for a woman to serve in a leadership position within the church.

Well, the issue is coming up once more, as the Georgia Baptist Convention is considering cutting ties with a local church where a husaband and wife team have been serving as co-pastors:

A more than 95-year-old church in Atlanta may be ousted from the Southern Baptist Convention over a woman pastor.

The Rev. Mimi Walker has been serving as co-pastor at Druid Hills Baptist Church with her husband, the Rev. Graham Walker, since 2003. But earlier this month, leaders of the Georgia Baptist Convention recommended cutting ties with the local congregation.

...

Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Baptist Faith and Message does not state that "women are to be subservient to men." They are of equal worth before God, he stated earlier.

And though women are gifted for service in the church, Land says the New Testament teaches that "a woman is not to usurp authority over the man" and thus women are not to serve as pastors.

It was just last year that Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned that the SBC risked dying out if it did not find a way to stop losing members. 

Of course, that was said just weeks after the SBC had kicked out a church due to the fact that it was insufficiently hostile to gays.

It should also be noted that this would be the second time in a year that the Georgia Baptist Convention has severed ties with a local church over a female pastor.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Peter LaBarbera challenges the SPLC's Mark Potok to a debate over the SPLC's designation of LaBarbera's Americans for Truth as a hate site.
  • Carrie Prejean is being sued by a Christian PR firm over failure to pay for some nearly $65,000 in services.
  • Tony Perkins and Harry Jackson are headlining a Family Action Council of Tennessee "Stand for the Family" rally.
  • Apparently, the Presidential Prayer Team has issued an urgent appeal for funds, as several members have dropped out because they refuse to pray for President Obama.
  • Jerry Falwell, Jr. defends Liberty University's lawsuit against health care reform legislation, saying most of the students support it ... and even if they didn't, it doesn't matter because the board does.
  • The president of the Eagle Forum of Georgia was shot to death by her husband over the weekend in a murder/suicide.
  • It seems that being unemployed gives people a lot of time to focus on their Tea Party organizing.
  • Finally, do you remember Terry Kemple?  Well, he's running for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board in Florida.

Janet Porter Goes 9 for 9

You know how yesterday I was marveling at the fact that there it was seemingly impossible for any right-wing activist to be considered so radical that Republican members of Congress would refuse to be seen anywhere near them? 

Allow me to follow that up with this simple observation that, over her last nine radio program, Faith 2 Action's Janet Porter's has had nine different Republican members on Congress on as quests:

March 9 - Guest: U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska)

March 10 - Guests: Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming)

March 16 - Guests: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

March 17 - Guests: U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

March 18 - Guests: U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri) and U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona)

March 19 - Guests: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) and Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia)

Do I really need to recount all of the crazy things Porter has said?

And yet multiple Republican members of Congress have been making time to appear on her radio program on a regular basis. 

Right Wing Leftovers

  • VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says he will sue if Congress passes health care reform.
  • Pastor Don Hamer, founder of the right-wing "Better Courts Now" campaign, died of a heart attack yesterday.
  • Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition of Georgia is partnering with the Tea Partiers at Americans for Prosperity for a "Defending the American Dream Summit" which will feature Neal Boortz, Herman Cain, Erick Erickson, Jonathan Krohn, and others.
  • Apparently, Alberto Gonzales and several other former Texas Supreme Court Justices are preparing to endorse Debra Lehrmann in her run-off election against Rick Green.
  • Were gay soldiers responsible for the massacre at Srebrenica?
  • Finally, Mike Huckabee tells the Boy Scouts that the keys to America success are the "Judeo-Christian values system" and the Ten Commandments.

The Resurrection of Ralph Reed

Religion Dispatches' Sarah Posner has a really good article on Ralph Reed and his miraculous resurrection through his Faith and Freedom Coalition which contains a lot of useful information, a lot of which I was totally unaware of, like the fact that Tim Phillips, which whom Reed c0-founded Century Strategies after leaving the Christian Coalition, is now the president of Tea Party activist firm Americans for Prosperity and that Reed's new organization is apparently cannibalizing his previous organization to create his new organization:

Reed’s FFC is essentially a retread of the Christian Coalition which, under Reed’s leadership, was investigated by Congress, the Federal Election Commission, and ultimately (after Reed’s departure) had its tax-exempt status denied over its engagement in electoral politicking. But Reed, who has managed to survive the Christian Coalition meltdown, his two-timing of evangelicals through his business association with Abramoff, and his 2006 loss in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor of Georgia, is sifting the remnants of the Christian Coalition infrastructure to build FFC.

O'Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, and a Christian Coalition of Florida board member, said that the board voted last year to “come under the umbrella of” the FFC. For an organization that was low on funds, said Dozier, it was “a great opportunity that we felt we couldn’t pass up.”

Now Dozier also serves on the FFC board, and says that the affiliation brings “more fundraising capabilities. With Faith and Freedom and with Ralph being known as he is, we can get more conservatives involved and coming to functions that we have in order to raise funds,” both locally and nationally. “It costs a lot of money to print voter guides,” he chuckled.

Also rather amazing is the fact that nobody in the movement is particularly concerned about Reed's Jack Abramoff-related double-dealings:

Yet Reed continues to elicit effusive praise from fellow evangelicals. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody claims FFC “is indeed poised to be a major player in the 2010 and 2012 elections.” About Reed’s association with Abramoff, [Iowa Christian Alliance president Steve] Scheffler told RD, “if you look at the whole explanation it was a nonissue, it was the press that made something out of nothing that was there.” He added that Iowa activists were “excited” that Reed was the master of ceremonies for the Iowa Christian Alliance’s fundraiser this week, at which Rick Santorum was the keynote speaker.

Cindy Costa, the Republican National Committeewoman for South Carolina and former Christian Coalition activist, told RD that Reed is a “fine gentleman” and “helpful to the conservative movement.” After an FFC organizing event in Tennessee last week, Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the FFC “one of the most important forces for sound public policy in America in the coming years.” And GOP operative Chip Saltsman, forced to pull out of the race for Republican National Committee chair last year after he distributed a “Barack the Magic Negro” CD, added that FFC “has already been effective in identifying and turning out conservative voters and we’re pleased to bring it to Tennessee.”

But rest assured that even though Reed might be seeking to tie his current activism to the Tea Party movement, he isn't abandoning his Religious Right foundation:

Reed went on to claim that not running the country on a Judeo-Christian moral code is actually contrary to democracy. “So really, when you really get right down to it, James,” he said, “democracy doesn’t really work at all unless there is a citizenry animated by a moral code that derives from their faith in God. That’s what makes the whole thing work because otherwise, the government has to tell everybody what to do.”

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Ralph Reed Will Not Run for Congress

It looks like Ralph Reed has decided not to run for Congress in order to focus on growing the influence of this Faith and Freedom Coalition:

Dear Friend:

I wanted you to be among the first to know of my decision regarding running for Congress in the Seventh District of Georgia. The following statement will be released to the public shortly but I wanted you to have it first:

"After much thought and prayer, I have decided not to be a candidate for Congress in Georgia's Seventh district in 2010. I believe I can best advance conservative principles by continuing to serve as CEO of Century Strategies, LLC, and founding chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Century's voter contact subsidiary and grassroots team will be involved in a number of races in 2010. FFC is growing rapidly, with over 150,000 members and supporters already, currently adding one new state chapter a week and 1,000 new members a day.

In 2010 and 2012, FFC will register an estimated one million new faith-based voters and make tens of millions of voter contacts in what may be the largest conservative get-out-the-vote effort in modern political history. These nationwide efforts offer a much better prospect for changing the direction of the country than winning a Congressional race myself. In the end, I concluded I cannot run for Congress and carry out the plans I have for Century Strategies and Faith and Freedom Coalition at the same time. I had to make a choice. I believe electing 50 to 100 men and women of character and conservative beliefs to Congress and statewide office over the next two election cycles is a more efficacious way to advance the conservative agenda than seeking public office myself in 2010.

Should that door open in the future, perhaps I will arrive at a different decision, but I know this is the right decision at this time for me and the Reed family. Jo Anne and I have been deeply moved and encouraged by the expressions of support we have received from so many. We are proud to call Georgia our home and we look forward to continuing to be involved in the civic life of our state and the nation. God bless you as we work together for an historic victory in 2010."

Actually, it seemed pretty clear that Reed was going to pass on running for office after he showed up in Iowa yesterday and vowed that, with a half-million dollars, his Faith and Freedom Coalition would help conservatives completely take over the state:

Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and a veteran Republican strategist, told a Des Moines crowd Tuesday night that he was helping establish an Iowa-based Christian political organization, and if he could raise $500,000, Hawkeye State politics would be changed for the better.

With that money, Reed said his organization — the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition — can promise results like the nation saw in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as the U.S. Senate campaign in Massachusetts. Reed said the national version of his organization was highly involved in those campaigns, each of which saw Republican victories on Election Night.

“We need to raise about a half a million dollars to execute that program,” he said. “The program that I just described to you that made history in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, if you want to see it happen in Iowa we need to raise a half a million dollars.”

Reed, who was speaking at an Iowa Christian Alliance event, then instructed staff to pass buckets around for people to donate money, promising that any funds raised Tuesday night will be matched by his national organization.

“Tonight, when you give, we’re not a PAC and we’re not a candidate,” he said. “Therefore, there is no limit to what you give here tonight.”

...

“We’re not going to leave the express advocacy during an election to the radical left, MoveOn.org and labor unions anymore,” he said. “We’re going to do it, and we’re going to get people who share our values elected to office, from governor all the way down to the statehouse and school boards all across the state of Iowa.”

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Tomorrow, Ralph Reed will announce whether or not he has decided to run for Congress in Georgia.
  • Last week, Marco Rubio joined Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, and others for a Watchmen on the Wall event in Florida entitled "iMPACT 2010: Unleashing the Voice of the Church."
  • It looks like WorldNetDaily's conference is out to bring all of the right-wing crazies together under one roof.
  • Someone is running robocalls in Iowa accusing Rick Santorum of being a "pro-life fraud."
  • Ken Hutcherson blasts Focus on the Family for supposedly forcing James Dobson out and for not hiring him to take over, even though he wouldn't have taken the job anyway.
  • Quote of the Day I from the Liberty Counsel's Steve Crampton regarding LC's fight to prevent a lesbian high school student from taking her girlfriend to the Prom: "In all candor, while we know nothing about the complaining student here, we believe this is part of a larger agenda to implement homosexual rights in the schools."
  • Quote of the Day II from Janice Crouse on gay marriage: "In actuality, homosexual unions have a very short lifespan; many of the same-sex “marriages” in Massachusetts are already being dissolved. Further, the health risks associated with homosexual practice are very real and very much in evidence in the emergency rooms of hospitals. There is no denying: Homosexual sex is dangerous and destructive to the human body. Both HIV and HPV are epidemic among homosexual men. Domestic violence is a common problem — twice as prevalent among homosexual couples as in heterosexual ones. Indeed, legally creating a union does not enable two men or two women to become “one flesh,” nor does a legal ceremony give the union sanctity. Instead, the ceremony creates a sham that will devalue all marriages."

The Unsinkable Ralph Reed

While Ralph Reed may be contemplating running for Congress in his home state of Georgia, his work with the Faith and Freedom Coalition continues to move forward around the country. 

Yesterday, he was in Tennessee plotting strategy with the likes of Richard Land and Rep. Marsha Blackburn:

FFC Chairman Ralph Reed held an organizational meeting with key grassroots visionaries, pastors, and former and current elected officials in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 1st to launch the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Tennessee. Everyone left the meeting energized about the great promise and potential of the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Tennessee

“I believe that the Faith and Freedom Coalition is going to be one of the most important forces for sound public policy in America in the coming years,” said Dr. Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “I’m excited that the Faith and Freedom Coalition has come to Tennessee. It will help concerned Tennesseans to give voice to their convictions in the public policy arena.”

“In its short existence, The Faith and Freedom Coalition has already been effective in identifying and turning out conservative voters and we’re pleased to bring it to Tennessee,” said Chip Saltsman, former Chairman of the Republican Party of Tennessee. “With the help of our grassroots team here, Faith and Freedom will be a force in Tennessee conservative politics for a long time to come.”

Apparently Reed's deep ties to Jack Abramoff's corruption hasn't undermined his political standing in any way among conservative activists and members of Congress.  Amazing.

It's especially amazing that Land would join with Reed in this effort, considering that Land believes that "gambling is a violation of two, possibly three of the 10 commandments," while Reed took tens of thousands of dollars to dupe his former Religious Right allies into supporting efforts that would benefit Abramoff's clients' gambling interests.

Rep. Ralph Reed?

When I saw reports last week that Rep. John Linder had announced his retirement that listed Ralph Reed as among those who might be potentially considering running to fill his seat, I dismissed them as fundamentally absurd.  

And, of course, every time I do that, I turn out to be wrong, as David Brody reports:

Sources close to Ralph Reed tell The Brody File that the former Executive Director of the Christian Coalition is “seriously” considering running for Congress in Georgia. According to one well-placed source, Reed has talked to key grassroots leaders and local elected officials in Gwinnett county and other parts of the district, but has not made a decision yet.

18 year veteran Congressman Rep. John Linder announced over the weekend that he's retiring. This seat is in a big time Republican district in the Atlanta suburbs. Reed would be positioned well.

It'll be interesting to see what Reed does. His grassroots Faith and Freedom Coalition is taking off but it's kind of hard to pass up this opportunity considering openings like this don't happen often.

Back in 2006, Reed lost his bid to win the GOP primary for Lieutenant Governor thanks to his deep ties to Jack Abramoff's corruption [PDF]. But apparently, he's convinced himself that voters have either forgotten about that or forgiven him for it ... at least enough "seriously" consider making another run for public office.

Meet The Oath Keepers

Justine Sharrock has a long article on The Oath Keepers in the latest issue of Mother Jones that notes the organization's ties to Tea Party and 9/12 activists and, by extension, figures like Ralph Reed, groups like the Eagle Forum, and members of Congress: 

Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both Georgia Republicans.

There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey "unconstitutional" orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government.

...

It was while volunteering for Ron Paul's doomed presidential bid that Rhodes decided to abandon electoral politics in favor of grassroots organizing. As an undergrad, he had been fascinated by the notion that if German soldiers and police had refused to follow orders, Hitler could have been stopped. Then, in early 2008, SWAT received a letter from a retired colonel declaring that "the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are gravely endangered" and that service members, veterans, and police "is where they will be saved, if they are to be saved at all!"

Rhodes responded with a breathless column starring a despotic president, "Hitlery" Clinton, in her "Chairman Mao signature pantsuit." Would readers, he asked, obey orders from this "dominatrix-in-chief" to hold militia members as enemy combatants, disarm citizens, and shoot all resisters? If "a police state comes to America, it will ultimately be by your hands," he warned. You had better "resolve to not let it happen on your watch." He set up an Oath Keepers blog, asking soldiers and veterans to post testimonials. Word spread. Military officers offered assistance. A Marine Corps veteran invited Rhodes to speak at a local Tea Party event. Paul campaigners provided strategic advice. And by the time Rhodes arrived in Lexington to speak at a rally staged by a pro-militia group, a movement was afoot.

...

Rhodes has become a darling of right-wing pundits. In a column last October, Pat Buchanan predicted that "Brother Rhodes is headed for cable stardom." Glenn Beck has cited the group as a "phenomenal" example of the "patriot revival movement," while Lou Dobbs declared that its platform "should give solace and comfort to the left in this country." Conspiracy-radio king Alex Jones even put an Oath Keepers segment, including footage of the Lexington speech, on his hit DVD Fall of the Republic. "I can't stress enough how much your organization is scaring the globalists," he told Rhodes on his show.

...

On the conference's final day, National 912 Project chairman Patrick Jenkins stepped up to talk about the National Liberty Unity Summits his group was organizing in cooperation with Oath Keepers. They would provide a chance, he said, for patriots to forge a common agenda and a plan to carry it out. At the first summit, in December, attendees included representatives of groups from FairTax Nation to the Constitution Party to Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. On hand were Ralph Reed Jr. (former director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition and recent founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition), Larry Pratt (head of Gun Owners of America), and Tim Cox (founder of Get Out of Our House, an organization praised on Fox News for its goal of replacing business-as-usual incumbents with "ordinary folks"). Most notable were representatives Broun and Gingrey, who according to summit organizer Nighta Davis have expressed willingness to introduce legislation crafted by summit attendees. (So, Davis says, have Steve King [R-Iowa] and Michele Bachmann [R-Minn.]. None of the representatives agreed to comment for this story.)

As they say, read the whole thing.

Why Does The Right Oppose Efforts To Help Exploited Children?

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that a variety of Religious Right groups have come out in opposition to a bill in Georgia that would offer young sex trafficking victims therapy and rehabilitation instead of prosecuting them as prostitutes. 

Since then, I have been trying to figure out just what would make conservative Christian groups oppose such an effort, but all I have been able to find is insane explanations such as this:

"Only pimps, traffickers and johns believe children should be in prostitution, so why make it legal for minors under the age of 16 or 18?" said Tanya Ditty, Director of Concerned Woman for America.

Ditty and her group agree that child prostitutes are victims who need help, but don't think decriminalizing their behavior is an answer.

Her group claims it would only tie the hands of police.

"Upon arrest, victims of trafficking can be identified and placed in diversionary programs designed for rescue and rehabilitation or provided with an affirmative defense to criminal charges," Ditty argued.

"The arrest is the action that allows for identification, education and rehabilitation of these children," she added.

And this:

Georgia Christian Coalition President Jerry Luquire called the bill “horrible,” but said it opens the door for discussion on the issue now that “teenage prostitute” has become acceptable language.

“We can now do something about it,” Luquire said, adding that the proposal decriminalizes prostitution for both parties. “The solution is to go after the buyer. If you eliminate the market, you’ve eliminated the crime.”

Judy Craft of the Georgia Christian Alliance praised the effort as well-intentioned, but misplaced. She said the bill would give “immunity” to young offenders.

“Young, vulnerable and afraid, getting arrested may be the only way these young girls can get off the street and away from their pimps,” Craft said.

She said such a law could open the door for pornography featuring children with no consequences.

The legislation is not going to "decriminalize" prostitution; it would merely change the law to prevent prosecution of those under the age of 16. Since state laws against the sexual exploitation of children and age of consent laws remain in place, those who expolit children in this manner would still face prosecution but the victims would not, which is something these right-wing groups would know if they bothered to actually read the bill:

The inability to prosecute any person involved in an alleged act of prostitution shall not bar prosecution of any other party charged with a violation of this chapter nor serve as a defense to such crime.

The whole point of this effort is to get the young victims of this sort of sexual exploitation away from those who can harm them and offer them therapy and rehabilitation instead of prison terms. 

But for some reason, the Religious Right is opposed to it and is defending its position by claiming that the legislation is designed to protect pimps and pedophiles.

Things The Religious Right Opposes

It never fails to amaze me the types of state-level legislation that local chapters of Religious Right organizations will mobilize to defeat - things like a $10 tax on marriage licenses to fund domestic violence shelters

A bill that would have made a $10 donation to domestic violence shelters automatic when people apply for a marriage license failed in a House committee vote Monday, after the measure was opposed by the Utah Eagle Forum.

...

Utah Eagle Forum Vice President Dalane England called Johnson's proposal "an undue burden on marriage."

But that is nothing compared to this report on the fact that Religious Right groups are mobilizing in Georgia to fight a bill that seeks to offer young sex trafficking victims therapy instead of prosecuting them as prostitutes: 

A state lawmaker and hundreds of child advocates are calling for young girls to be treated as victims and not criminalized as prostitutes.

Sen. Renee Unterman is proposing a bill that would set the minimum age at 16 for prosecuting sex-for-hire ... Unterman says the bill does not decriminalize prostitution but aims to make people aware that young children are not responsible for sexual acts and need rehabilitation and therapy, not jail time.

...

But conservative and Christian groups banned together to oppose the bill. They say it would lead to more prostitution.

"All we would do is be inviting into our state pedophiles and panderers looking for children," says former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer, now president of Eagle Forum of Georgia.

She says correction can also turn a child around and that discipline should not be removed when it comes to children engaging in illegal activity.

For the record, it's not just the Eagle Forum which thinks that the state should be prosecuting 10 year-old sex trade victims because failure to do so would be akin to decriminalization and a boon to pedophiles - so do the Georgia Christian Alliance, the Georgia Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Georgia Baptist Convention.

The Least Useful Report Ever

Today, the Liberty Counsel released a "72-page report today detailing information on each of the nominations and appointments of President Barack Obama" with the aim of exposing just how "radical" this administration has been:    

This report documents the beliefs, words, and actions of the radical group Obama has hand-picked to “change” our nation. The document provides information on more than 100 of Obama’s appointments and nominations. It includes more than 850 citations to articles, websites, and cases regarding these individuals and took weeks to compile.

...

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “President Obama has nominated and appointed the most radical group of ideologues ever assembled by an American President. The list of individuals, their comments, and backgrounds demonstrates that President Obama uses a radical ideological litmus test to select his nominees, which clearly takes preference over experience or qualifications. Obama’s nominations are neither moderate nor merely left of center. They can best be described as radical. They are clearly out of touch with all but a radical fringe. Obama’s pattern of choosing radical ideologues raises serious concern about the competency of the government.”

The report itself [PDF] contains all of the standard right-wing attacks on people like Kevin Jennings, Chai Feldblum, Dawn Johnsen, and David Ogden (whom it claims "supports abortion on demand, child pornography, and the homosexual agenda") but also covers people like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and even Tom Daschle. 

Oddly, for a report aimed at proving that President Obama has filled his administration with "radical ideologues," it dedicates an inordinate amount of space to covering arcane appointees who seemingly have no ideology at all:

Earl Devaney
o Appointed: Head of the White House's Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board – February, 2009.
o Former police officer, Secret Service Agent, Inspector General of Department of the Interior, and head of EPA’s Enforcement Division.
o Currently tasked with monitoring spending of the administration's $787 billion stimulus plan.

Why Liberty Counsel saw fit to include Devaney among the list of Obama's "radical" appointments is anyone's guess - and the same goes for John Laub and Stephen Smith:

John H. Laub
o Appointed: Director of the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice – October, 2009.
o Career academic, focusing on criminology, juvenile delinquency, and juvenile justice.

Stephen James Smith
o Appointed: United States Marshal for the Southern District of Georgia – September, 2009.

For page after page, Liberty Counsel lists people like Kim N. Wallace ("Managing Director and head of the Washington Research Group at Barclays Capital") and Ashton Carter ("Former Chair of the International & Global Affairs faculty at the Kennedy School") as if it demonstrates that the Obama administration is filled with radicals when it does nothing of the sort.

Take, for instance, this listing: 

Rosanna Malouf Peterson
o Appointed: United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington – October, 2009.
o First female judge on the bench for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
o Former president of the Federal Bar Association for Eastern Washington and the Woman Lawyers State Bar Association.
o Practiced general litigation, employment and education law, as well as criminal defense at several private law firms in Spokane.

Apparently, Peterson is one of those "radical ideologues" whose nomination "raises serious concern about the competency of the government" ... which is why her nomination was confirmed by the Senate 89-0 two days ago.

Anti-Immigration Activists On The Warparth

Though the topic has fallen off the radar since 2006, it is widely expected that the Obama administration and congressional leaders will try to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform legislation sometime this year.

As such, we can expect to hear more from right-wing anti-immigration groups like Americans for Legal Immigration, which are still active around the country as demonstrated by the group's response to the failure of legislation in New Jersey that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain in-state tuition rates at public universities. 

AILPAC is rejoicing that it has defeated this "globalist plan to restructure America" and vows to "go on offense" and "fire more politicians in D.C. than you can count": 

"This makes about the 20th time we have helped to defeat this aspect of the Globalist plans to restructure America since 2005," said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. "Citizen activism has helped defeat in-state tuition for illegals in every state except for two in the last five years, since we defeated the measure in North Carolina."

In-state tuition for illegal immigrants is part of a Globalist plan to build an economic block in North America that integrates populations and suppresses Americans using hyper legal immigration and rampant illegal immigration as a nation building tool.

"Tonight we celebrate our latest victory in New Jersey and we thank and congratulate our supporters and activists," Gheen said. "Tomorrow we will announce plans to go on offense to reverse in-state tuition for illegals in the states of Nebraska and Texas using legislation and court challenges."

The defeat of in-state tuition for illegal aliens in New Jersey creates an opportunity for the pro-immigration enforcement Americans to return to strategic positions of political offense. After every battle, each side must decide to advance, dig in, or retreat.

"Tomorrow, we go on offense," said Gheen. "Time for the illegal aliens and their supporters to start playing defense in the states and the elections. Tomorrow we advance in Texas and Nebraska!"

ALIPAC plans to release plans to support legislation in Nebraska that will rescind in-state tuition in the state, after some lawmakers sneaked the provision through without significant public knowledge or input two years ago.

ALIPAC also plans to launch support for a lawsuit that has been filed in Texas to rescind in-state tuition and other taxpayer benefits for illegals.

Other plans are being made to circulate and file strong state level comprehensive immigration enforcement legislation such as the laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

"We are going to launch a major initiative in the states as part of our plans to defeat the Amnesty legislation in Washington," said Gheen. "And then we are going to fire more politicians in D.C. than you can count!"

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Not surprisingly, right-wing groups are not happy with Sen. Ben Nelson or the Senate's health care bill.
  • On a related note, Mike Huckabee headlined a hastily organized anti-health care reform rally in Nebraska where he compared Sen. Nelson to Judas.
  • Ralph Reed has big plans for his Faith and Freedom Coalition as he launches its Georgia chapter.
  • Dick Cheney has been named Human Events' "Conservative of the Year." What an honor.
  • On a similar note, I can't wait to find out who will win Peter LaBarbera's "Gay Grinch of the Year Award."
  • Finally, anti-choice groups are outraged that activist Lila Rose was supposedly "attacked" by a Planned Parenthood, though said "attack" seems to have consisted of having anti-choice literature knocked out of her hand.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Are you anxiously awaiting the return of Norm Coleman?
  • Georgia's Republican House speaker resigned today after a suicide attempt and allegations by his ex-wife of an affair with a lobbyist.
  • I, for one, am shocked: "The report represents a comprehensive review of the [Civil Rights] division’s litigation activity in the Bush administration. When compared with the Clinton administration, its findings show a significant drop in the enforcement of several major antidiscrimination and voting rights laws."
  • Peter LaBarbera: Meredith Baxter Became a Lesbian, Let’s Pray She Becomes a Christian.
  • CWA is concerned what marriage equality in Washington DC will mean to "those with moral beliefs, children, and the poor."
  • Finally, enough with the Reagan worship already:
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