'Expelled' Inspires Anti-Evolution Legislation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a Difference One Month Makes

Just one month ago, Fidelis, a low-level right-wing organization always on the look-out for anything that might suggest anti-Catholic bigotry, especially as it pertains to Bush judicial nominees, was crowing that “social conservatives” had spoiled John McCain’s “campaign surge”:
A victory in Michigan would have locked in John McCain as the GOP front-runner, but conservatives suspicious of the Arizona Senator overwhelmingly voted against him Tuesday, handing the perceived front-runner a major defeat. “Social conservatives remain unconvinced whether John McCain is truly committed to the fundamental issues of life, faith and family. In the face of new developments on stem cell research, McCain continues to support using taxpayer dollars to fund embryo-killing research. On marriage, he not only voted against the federal marriage amendment, he has barely uttered a word on protecting the traditional family on the campaign trail. Values voters are looking for strong leadership in defense of life and family, and John McCain has yet to show how he will lead on these issues,” said Brian Burch, President of Fidelis. ... “Other conservatives are frustrated with McCain over immigration, his opposition to tax cuts, and his leading role in limiting the free speech of pro-life groups, and other advocacy groups during election campaigns. Put simply: John McCain hasn’t closed the sale with conservative voters,” continued Burch.
But apparently, in just one month’s time, McCain has managed to “close the sale with conservative voters” on all of these issues, because Fidelis has just endorsed him:

Fidelis Political Action, the political arm of the one of the fastest growing Catholic advocacy organizations, today announced that they have endorsed Senator John McCain in his bid for the Republican nomination for President. Brian Burch, President of Fidelis Political Action issued the following statement: “Fidelis is pleased to join a growing chorus of conservatives nationwide in supporting Senator John McCain in his bid for the presidency. As a Catholic based advocacy group, Fidelis believes McCain’s pro-life record, his commitment to selecting judges who will respect the Constitution, and even his controversial positions on immigration and torture merit the support of Catholics, and we are proud to stand with him as he prepares for a very difficult election ahead. … “The stakes of this election are too large to ignore. Abortion supporters are awaiting the opportunity to eliminate eight years of progress on pro-life legislation by electing a President who supports abortion. There are six justices on the Supreme Court over the age of 68, and granting a President Hillary or President Obama the opportunity to fill possible vacancies would be disastrous. Our endorsement of Sen. McCain is not simply a compromise endorsement. America needs the experienced leadership of John McCain.

What a miraculous turn of events! Do you suppose the presence of Joseph Cella - a former Fidelis president, Fred Thompson-backer, and anti-Rudy activist – on McCain’s newly announced Virginia Family Issues Leaders committee had anything to do with that?

More on the Huckabee Stool

Mike Huckabee’s loss in South Carolina’s Republican primary made clear his weakness in the race: his inability to expand his support beyond conservative evangelicals. For all the talk in the press about Huckabee’s broad, populist appeal, and for all his own efforts to convince the GOP base otherwise (most recently with exuberant stands on immigration and the Confederate flag), it could be those two narratives just cancel out, leaving him with a campaign built on second-string religious-right activists and church-based get-out-the-vote.

Like Gary Bauer, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has been critical of Huckabee for the candidate’s supposedly narrow appeal. This week, Perkins once again recalled the “three-legged stool” metaphor:

Perkins likens the coalition to a three-legged stool with Iowa winner Mike Huckabee representing the social leg, New Hampshire and South Carolina winner Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) the defense leg, and Michigan and Nevada victor Mitt Romney the economic leg.

"What's required is bringing those three together ... and I think we're seeing this," he continues. "We're moving closer to embracing all three of the components of the conservative coalition. Fiscal conservatism, defense conservatism, and social conservatism."

If that’s the strategy, Huckabee’s got his work cut out for him. His attempt to establish foreign-policy credentials entailed a visit to apocalyptic megachurch pastor John Hagee, but that only managed to alienate Catholics. His tax plan is so far to the Right that even the Right wants no part of it.

Writing in Human Events, Marvin Olasky—architect of faith-based government initiatives—suggests Huckabee adopt a fusionist argument: “Social conservatism makes possible fiscal conservatism.” Sounds simple, but the argument can get a little tricky:

The key is realizing that growth in governmental "human services" has come in part through the recognition of real problems. When a guy and a gal shack up, it's not purely a personal matter. That's because one result, a certain percentage of the time, is likely to be a child with a single mom, and that child at some point is likely to receive governmental support.

Olasky continues, arguing that equal rights for gays “also lead to bigger government”:

Ave Maria University Professor Seana Sugrue has pointed out that the same-sex marriage movement is a subset of a sexual revolution based in liberty, but liberty "achieved through the empowerment of a state with the strength to destroy sexual norms." Since referendum after referendum has shown that most people do not favor same-sex marriage, it requires overreaching courts to decree it, and propagandistic schools to get students to see as normal what most instinctively recognize as weird.

Libertarians rightly relish the theme throughout American history of government ordaining and individuals disdaining. But what happens when individuals or their churches believe that homosexuality is wrong? Gays need strong governmental action to keep people from speaking out against it. They need criticism of homosexuality to be declared "hate speech." They need government to force religious organizations to hire gays or facilitate adoption by gays. 

Huckabee may be in a tight spot now, but he may want to wait until he’s really desperate to try to pass off recycled anti-gay talking points as “libertarian” economic philosophy.

Huckabee: A New Kind of Evangelical?

Several articles have appeared in recent months suggesting that Mike Huckabee is some sort of “new breed” of evangelical – one who is not committed only to opposing abortion and gay rights, but also cares about the environment and the poor.  And Huckabee has worked hard to play up the idea that he is nothing like traditional demagoguing Religious Right preachers such as Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell.  

As Huckabee likes to say, while he may be conservative, he’s “just not angry about it” – or, to put it another way, he drinks “a different kind of Jesus juice. To the press, this seems to be enough to qualify Huckabee as a “different kind of evangelical,” and exempts him from having to explain himself when he proclaims that we need to “amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” 

An example of this sort of coverage appeared on the New York Times over the weekend:

Much of the national leadership of the Christian conservative movement has turned a cold shoulder to the Republican presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, wary of his populist approach to economic issues and his criticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. But that has only fired up Brett and Alex Harris.

The Harris brothers, 19-year-old evangelical authors and speakers who grew up steeped in the conservative Christian movement, are the creators of Huck’s Army, an online network that has connected 12,000 Huckabee campaign volunteers, including several hundred in Michigan, which votes Tuesday, and South Carolina, which votes Saturday.

They say they like Mr. Huckabee for the same reason many of their elders do not: “He reaches outside the normal Republican box,” Brett Harris said in an interview from his home near Portland, Ore.

The brothers fell for Mr. Huckabee last August when they saw him draw applause on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” for explaining that he believed in a Christian obligation to care for prenatal “life” and also education, health care, jobs and other aspects of “life.” “It is a new kind of evangelical conservative position,” Brett Harris said. Alex Harris added, “And we are not going to have to be embarrassed about him.”

The article noted how Huckabee’s rise in the polls has occurred “without the backing of, and even over the opposition of, the movement’s most visible leaders, many of whom have either criticized him or endorsed other candidates.”  While Religious Right powerbrokers like Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and Gary Bauer have credited Huckabee for energizing evangelical voters, all have made clear that they do not support his candidacy and seemingly have no intention of doing so.

But just because the most prominent right-wing activists are reluctant to climb aboard the Huckabee bandwagon doesn’t mean that those already on board are in any way moderates or representative of some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement.  In fact, most of Huckabee’s backers are even more radical.

Pastor in Chief

One of Mitt Romney’s standard talking points when seeking to assure potential evangelical voters who might be concerned about his Mormon faith is that he is running for commander-in-chief, not pastor-in-chief and that his religious views will take a backseat to his Constitutional obligations.  

Not surprisingly, this is not a point being emphasized by Mike Huckabee, who has been explicitly using his faith to win over evangelical voters and differentiate himself from Romney and his Mormonism.  In fact, Huckabee seems to be hoping to become, literally, the nation’s first Pastor in Chief and has been regularly delivering sermons around the nations, especially in churches in primary states:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tiptoed around any mention of his run for the Republican presidential nomination. And the ex-Baptist minister assured 5,000 members of First Spartanburg North Baptist that that he'd come to their church Sunday to give a sermon, not a speech.

But if church protocol forbade Huckabee from overtly asking for their votes in South Carolina's hotly contested GOP primary on Saturday, he still managed to court them in code.

At the 9:30 a.m. service and again ate 10:50, preacher Huckabee talked about his ties to past Southern Baptist leaders, read a passage from Luke's Gospel, led the congregation in bowed-head, eyes-closed prayer, even mentioned the day he accepted Jesus — it was at Vacation Bible School, when he was 10 years old.

In other words, Huckabee said without having to say it: Unlike those other guys on the ballot, I'm one of you.

Huckabee has delivered sermons in Arkansas, Texas (in San Antonio, Irving, and Plano,) in New Hampshire, and Michigan. In both South Carolina and Michigan, Huckabee also sought to mobilize pastors to get out the vote in support of his campaign:

"I'm not going to ask you to get up in your pulpit and use your pulpit to endorse me, because I think the only person you ought to endorse from your pulpit is Jesus, and you don't need to endorse me there," Huckabee said at this morning's pastor's breakfast.

"But most of you have email lists or phone call lists or you have – as an individual, you are unrestricted in what you do as an individual, not using the facilities or the nuances of your church, but as an individual because you've got great influence.

"And I'm asking you to help get people to think about this election…in terms of direction of where this country's going to go and whether or not it's going to be led by people who share that Judeo-Christian value and ethic or whether they do not."

Huckabee sees his campaign, as the Washington Post put it, “chance for evangelical Christians to lead the Republican Party rather than just support its candidates.”  And should he end up in the White House, it looks like Huckabee would be open to carrying on his tradition of delivering Sunday sermons:   

It is also no accident that less than a week before the primary, Huckabee chose one of the largest congregations in upstate South Carolina, where he will need a significant evangelical turnout to win.

The more interesting question is this: What does it mean for America to have president who continues to semi-privately preach his personal religious views? At a press conference Sunday afternoon, Huckabee said he would be open to delivering sermons as president, even though he acknowledged it would be logistically tough.

You can get a sense of Huckabee’s sermons from these remarks he made to the “Iowa Renewal Project's Pastors and Pews Dinner” in June, where he claimed to be speaking “pastor to pastor” as he urged those in attendance to be active in politics because “pastors cannot be AWOL when it comes to establishing what is right, what is wrong, and what will make the difference in this country to establish the boundaries of good, decent, Godly living”

Huckabee's Non-Expanding Base

Now in the middle of a heated presidential primary race, Mike Huckabee seems to be trying to expand his base beyond the evangelical Christian voters who propelled him to victory in Iowa - or, more accurately, seems to be trying to convince himself and the press that his base of supporters extends beyond those who are seeking a "Christian Leader":
This morning, on a Detroit talk radio show, Huckabee said his candidacy is appealing to more than evangelical Christian voters. He said that national polls showing him ahead of the field prove he's reaching a broader audience. "This talk that it's just an Iowa thing or an evangelical thing has not proved to be true," he said.
If Huckabee has evidence that his campaign is making an effort to win over non-evangelicals, he should make that public because recent press coverage of his efforts in Michigan and South Carolina suggests otherwise: From the AP:
In the final campaign stretch in South Carolina, Huckabee backers will distribute voter guides and air radio announcements urging Christian pastors to speak out on moral issues and encourage people to vote, said Janet Folger, a Florida-based talk show host and co-chair of Huckabee's Faith and Family Values Coalition.
From CNN:
But as in Iowa, the biggest secret to Huckabee's Michigan success seems to be his depth of support among evangelical Christians. Typically, somewhere between one-fifth and one-third of Michigan's Republican primary voters are self-identified evangelicals. A few weeks ago, a Detroit News survey found that number may be as high as 40 percent this year. So pro-Huckabee organizers say they are focusing their entire effort on turning out evangelical church goers. They plan to call every evangelical pastor in the state over the next few days. Those ministers can't endorse any candidate from the pulpit -- but they can tell their parishioners that "it's their Christian duty," to turn out on primary day, said [Gary] Glenn. "And we know who they'll be voting for." To help drive that message home, thousands of volunteers will be dropping leaflets and waving signs in church parking lots across Michigan this Sunday. Glenn says there will also be several news conferences across the state through the January 15 vote featuring groups of pastors announcing their personal support for Huckabee, an organized wave of callers into Michigan's Christian radio stations, and phone trees targeting the state's largest churches from within.
From the American Prospect:
I've been told that Huckabee is slated to speak at the Pastors' Policy Briefing scheduled for this month in Orlando, Florida, which will also feature San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, who hosted Huckabee at his church in December. The Florida event is being facilitated by Orlando attorney John Stemberger, who was behind the drive to get a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the November ballot in Florida. ... The Pastors' Policy Briefings are secretive and closed to the press, and there's no evidence that any of the other presidential candidates spoke at them, or were even invited to speak at them.
From Bloomberg:
Huckabee recently moved his campaign into larger offices in Columbia and has been invited to preach in local churches on topics such as family values and parenting. Randy Page, president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, a Columbia-based advocacy group, said the invitations reflect Huckabee's appeal among evangelicals. "He's a preacher so it's easier for him to get into a pulpit," said Page, a Baptist who endorsed Thompson. "For a presidential candidate, it's unprecedented."

Can Romney Avoid the Noid in Michigan?

According to the Washington Times, the Republican primary in Michigan next week will be a “do-or-die” moment for Mitt Romney’s campaign. The candidate is polling ahead in the state, where he launched his campaign and where his father was governor. Hoping for a clean victory, Romney recently shifted resources to Michigan from South Carolina and Florida.

And now Romney can boast the support of a major religious-right force in Michigan: Thomas Monaghan, the billionaire founder of Domino’s Pizza, who created or funded groups such as the Ann Arbor PAC, Ave Maria List, and the Thomas More Law Center, along with Ave Maria School of Law, Ave Maria University, and an entire Ave Maria Town in Florida dedicated to his conservative Catholic vision. Previously, Monaghan had backed Sam Brownback, but the far-right senator dropped out of the race in October.

Although Monaghan has relocated his mini-empire to Florida, he may still carry enough influence to counteract Huckabee-backer Gary Glenn, the head of the American Family Association’s state affiliate, who has been an anti-Romney gadfly for over a year. Indeed, Glenn’s e-mail urging Huckabee supporters to mobilize churches all but cedes Catholics to Romney.

Says Monaghan,

As someone who values the importance of faith in one's life, I recognize in Mitt his deep religious convictions which will serve him well in facing the critical moral issues facing our society. I believe he will stand firm on the pro-life issues and for the traditional family values that our country was founded on and which are so critical to the future of our nation.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Romney, as the head of Bain Capital in 1998, made Monaghan a billionaire when it bought Domino’s.

Huckabee Stands Alone

Elaine Donnelly seemingly has no actual experience serving in the military, but that hasn’t stopped her from establishing a career as president of the Center for Military Readiness through which she crusades against women and gays in the military.  

The Detroit News profiled Donnelly back in November 2006 and explained that she initially got her start in politics working alongside Phyllis Schlafly in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment:

Donnelly has been expressing such opinions for more than two decades in an activist career that began alongside conservative anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly, fighting against the Equal Rights Amendment.

She was briefly involved in Michigan Republican politics during the 1980s, serving as first female chair of the state GOP's issue committee, and played an active role opposing the elder President Bush.

During years of debate on the ERA, Donnelly said, she became frightened by the possibility her two daughters could be forced to register for selective service, just as boys are when they turn 18. In 1984, the Reagan administration appointed her to a Pentagon committee on women in the armed forces, and eight years later, the first President Bush placed her on a presidential commission examining policies on assigning women.

Those experiences cemented, she said, the conviction that liberals are intent on imposing their social agenda on the military, even if the evidence says those policies hurt the military's ability to fight.

Since then, Donnelly has made it her mission to ensure that women do not serve in combat and that gays do not serve at all while making outrageous statements, such as her suggestion that retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili recent call for the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was somehow tied to a stoke he had suffered.

So when Donnelly sent out a survey to all presidential candidates demanding to know whether they will “promote inclusion and acceptance of homosexuals in the military” and “faithfully enforce the 1993 statute … which states that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military,” the candidates had enough sense to ignore her – except for one:

[Mike] Huckabee, was the only candidate who provided complete answers to the [Center for Military Readiness’] questions, Mrs. Donnelly said. Mr. Huckabee stated that he supports compliance with regulations and laws banning women in or near direct ground combat and he also opposes Selective Service registration of young women.

While Fred Thompson was the only other candidate to respond, he did so only with a statement saying he “supports current law regarding gays in the military and current Defense Department policies”  whereas the Huckabee campaign actually took the time to respond in full to her questions, thus reinforcing the growing sense that his willingness to engage and associate himself with fringe right-wing activists seems to know no bounds. 

Breaking News: Keyes Wasn't Invited to This Debate, Either

When Alan Keyes announced his latest quixotic campaign, someone might have thought he hit the ground running: He was featured just three days later at the Values Voter Debate alongside real, live presidential candidates. Granted, he may have benefited from the fact that the four Republican front runners all skipped that event, and in the end, he didn’t make too much of an impression, but none the less, it’s nice to be wanted. And he also scored a spot at Tavis Smiley’s black-oriented forum on PBS (although again, the four leading candidates skipped that debate).

But alas, “the Big Mo” would elude Keyes. He was left out of the GOP debate in Michigan; blaming NBC, Keyes called it a “sham.” (On the other hand, it did have those four candidates…) He was also left out of the next debate in Orlando. Worst of all, he wasn’t even invited to speak at the Family Research Council Values Voter Summit.

So at this point, it’s not too surprising that Keyes would be left out of last night’s CNN/YouTube Republican debate. Nevertheless, Keyes campaign chief Stephen Stone (who moonlights as a pro-Keyes editor of Keyes’s RenewAmerica website) is outraged. Stone, in a angry—and long-winded—e-mail exchange with CNN, threatens legal action and insinuates foul play:

How do CNN and YouTube intend to dispel the obvious appearance that their exclusion of Ambassador Keyes from the debate does in fact amount to an attempt to damage the Keyes campaign? In other words, explain why the behavior of CNN and YouTube is not intentionally self-fulfilling — since it presumes in advance that the Keyes campaign lacks viability, and then proceeds to ensure such lack of viability by excluding Dr. Keyes from the nation's consciousness — even though he is the most eloquent and persuasive Republican candidate in the race, a candidate who in 2000 was widely credited with winning the Republican presidential debates and came in third in the primaries, and whose candidacy, therefore, cannot objectively be considered less than viable.

Anti-Abortion Movement Split Spills onto Presidential Race

The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the reappearance of a somewhat rusty tactic in the anti-abortion movement’s tool belt: attempts to pass a “Human Life Amendment” to several state constitutions, which would purportedly grant full “personhood” rights beginning at conception. Such an end-run would circumvent a protracted political debate—which they could lose, as they did when South Dakota voters rejected an abortion ban last year—and likely end up in federal court, where activists hope new right-wing Supreme Court justices will take the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the major national religious-right groups have preferred a more incremental strategy of advancing less-sweeping restrictions and promoting Republican politicians who promise to appoint anti-abortion judges, leaving absolutist activists out in the cold, as the Times notes:

For the most part, the campaigns are run by local activists, with little support or funding from big national antiabortion groups. Similar efforts have failed in the past: Proponents in Michigan could not collect enough signatures to put a personhood measure on the ballot in 2006. The Georgia proposal stalled in the Legislature this year.

Indeed, Clarke Forsythe and Denise Burke of Americans United for Life—a legal group active since the 1970s—published an article in National Review today calling the HLA “a losing move for the pro-life movement.” While AUL is hardly an influential group in this decade, its anti-HLA commentary recalls the anti-abortion movement’s in-fighting in the 1980s and 1990s over militant clinic protests (and the occasional murder of doctors). Although AUL was happy to represent militant activist Joseph Scheidler and his Pro-Life Action League in court, at the same time it pooh-poohed the frenzied “Summer of Mercy” protest in Wichita in 1991. “[I]t is better to show the public that [the abortion provider’s] practices are unlawful than to engage in tactics that attract attention to the unlawfulness of pro-lifers,” cautioned AUL’s president.

Update: Donohue Declares End to Beer Beef

After a month—and 14 press releases—the Catholic League today announced the end of its mini-boycott against Miller Brewing Company.

Schlafly: Still Candidate Shopping, but a Tough Customer

Phyllis Schlafly, who has been fighting feminism and liberalism for decades, still appears on 460 radio stations daily. She said she is “still shopping” for a candidate and she made it clear it wouldn’t be easy to win her vote. She had a very long list of demands for any presidential candidate – not only prolife but willing to make a series of pledges (veto Freedom of choice act, veto stem cell research, ban cloning, keep GOP anti-choid plank); not just pro-traditional marriage, but promising to sign legislation banning judges from finding the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Among the many other topics to which she would demand purity from candidates: The rights of parents in public school to keep their kids from learning about homosexuality or Islam. Judges who will stand up against the organized campaign to banish God, the Ten Commandments, and the Pledge of Allegiance from public schools. Reject the kind of comprehensive immigration reform George W. Bush advocated – what she called the Bush-Kennedy amnesty. Back English as our official language.

42 Members of Congress Protest Recognition of Ramadan

The House passed a resolution this week recognizing the commencement of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, denouncing extremists of that faith, and praising moderates. No members of Congress voted against the symbolic measure, but—in a move reminiscent of protests when a Hindu chaplain gave an opening prayer in the Senate—41 Republicans and one Democrat declined to approve of the resolution, instead voting “present” in an act of protest.

"To offer respect for a major religion is one thing, but to offer respect for a major religion that has been behind the Islamic jihad, the radical jihad, that has sworn war upon the United States, its free allies and freedom in Iraq, is another thing,” explained freshman Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, who won his seat last year by defeating an incumbent of his own party in a right-wing primary challenge. Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn—who similarly captured the support of the far Right in a bitter primary, earning the repudiation of the retiring Republican who had held his seat—said, “I couldn't bring myself to vote 'yes' on that resolution,” adding that he “hope[s] that we have more and more moderate Muslims speaking out about the cause of peace in the future.”

Another argument made by opponents of the resolution is the claim that it represents an unfair treatment of Christianity. Rep. Tom Tancredo—who has suggested the U.S. threaten to bomb Mecca as a means “to deter them from attacking us”—claimed that the Ramadan resolution was “an example of the degree to which political correctness has captured the political and media elite … I am not opposed to commending any religion for their faith. The problem is that any attempt to do so for Jews or Christians is immediately condemned as 'breaching' the non-existent line between Church and State by the same elite."

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) likewise said he was “troubled”:

"There were a number of members who, as we call it down here, 'stayed off' that vote and did not support it because I think that they looked at it as something that Congress really should not be doing, should not be picking one faith out and commending that faith."

Garrett says during his five years in Congress he does not remember the House ever approving a resolution commending Christians for celebrating Christmas or Easter.

Garrett may not have noticed that, among other acts, the federal government marks Christmas as an official holiday every year, a recognition significantly more substantial than a symbolic House resolution imparting “respect.” Similarly, Garrett might not remember voting less than two years ago for a resolution in favor of Christmas. One can almost understand Garrett’s difficulty in making the connection, because while the Ramadan resolution is designed to encourage moderate Muslims while condemning violent ones, the purpose of that Christmas resolution was to escalate a trumped-up “war on Christmas” charade then making the rounds on the Right.

Alan Keyes Needs a Miracle 

As Alan Keyes’ quixotic vanity presidential campaign moves forward, he’s busy making the rounds at the requisite right-wing venues:

Presidential candidate Alan Keyes spoke before a crowd of students at Liberty University’s Vines Center Monday morning, saying that true victory is only found through faith in God.

Keyes, who announced his candidacy Sept. 14, said Monday he lives his life based on Christian morals, and those who believe must also persevere.

“The truth is not just about what we believe,” he said. “It’s very much about how we live and what we do.”

But no amount of speaking engagements or debate appearances is going to help him overcome this basic obstacle:

The Michigan presidential primary is set for January 15, 2008. The law requires the state Democratic and Republican Parties (the only parties entitled to a presidential primary in Michigan) to submit a list of presidential candidates by September 11, 2007.

Alan Keyes declared for the Republican nomination on September 17, 2007, too late to be included on the Republican Party’s list. Therefore, if he wants to be on the ballot, he must submit 11,569 signatures by October 23, 2007. Any registered voter can sign. The formula is one-half of 1% of the Republican presidential vote in November 2004.

Considering that, to date, only 25 people from Michigan have pledged to support Keyes’ campaign, it is unlikely that he’s going to be able to get the 11,000+ signatures necessary in less than a month.  But who knows - maybe his campaign will be able to convince the Michigan Secretary of State that his handful of committed supporters really are "worth hundreds, if not thousands, of just nominal supporters.” 

How Do You Solve a Problem at Ave Maria?

The National Law Journal reports that the "decision to move Michigan's Ave Maria School of Law to Florida has touched off a firestorm of controversy" and that "three professors have resigned, including one last week. Also, two have taken leaves of absence, and one has been suspended."

Going There: Utah Voucher Group Takes Anti-Gay Tack

For wealthy backers of publicly-funded private school vouchers, Utah has been a crucial battleground. Last year, Amway heir (and 2006 candidate for governor of Michigan) Dick DeVos and others poured a hundreds of thousands of dollars of “seed money” into a Utah PAC, Parents for Choice in Education, which set about electing state legislators who would support a voucher plan. While the group has used heavy-handed tactics before – invoking the specter of “illegal aliens” during last year’s campaign – it’s hit a new low with a recent push poll it conducted in an apparent attempt to stir up anti-gay sentiment against opponents of vouchers:

Bill Lee, a Sandy resident, earlier this week received a call he described as "pretty nasty stuff." He took notes about a portion of the survey he said asks how someone's vote would be affected knowing the same group that opposes vouchers, the "liberal national teachers' union," supports same-sex unions along with higher taxes. Parents for Choice declined to release the survey questions. …

"Many Utahns would be shocked to know the policies and positions promoted by the National Education Association, the parent organization of the UEA," [Elisa Clements, Parents for Choice’s executive director] said, referencing the Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, which opposes vouchers.

The UEA's communications director described the tactic as "dirty politics." "There are absolutely no resolutions dealing with those issues that have been handled by the National Education Association," Mark Mickelsen said.

Voucher advocates see Utah’s new plan – which will face a referendum this fall – as a potential model for the rest of the nation.

Catholic League on Religious Leaders in Politics

Suppose several prominent Catholic leaders endorsed a candidate for a local office, and that candidate advertised the endorsements as a way to get the support of Catholic voters. His opponent, however, objected, calling the tactic “insulting.”

Now normally, the Catholic League would pounce on purported attempts to “silence” Catholics in politics, so one would expect Bill Donohue’s right-wing group to side with the first candidate.

But in this case, Grand Rapids, Michigan Mayor George Heartwell is pro-choice. “Even if Heartwell were Catholic and pro-life, it would smack of demagoguery for him to sell himself to Catholics in such a crass manner,” said Donohue. “But the fact that he is the darling of the pro-abortion community makes his ploy all the more despicable.”

Club for Growth President: Movement 'All About Protecting Our Christian Heritage'

In 2004 and 2006, the Club for Growth emerged as a major factor in a number of Republican primary races, specializing in challenging incumbents from the Right. The group spent millions in direct contributions and independent advertising to nearly unseat Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004 and Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee in 2006, and they succeeded in ousting Michigan Rep. Joe Schwarz. Chafee, who narrowly survived the brutal primary challenge only to lose in the general election, accused the Club of backing a hidden social agenda, but the group insisted it was strictly business, with a public focus on advocating for policies like tax cuts on investment income.

But Club for Growth President Pat Toomey struck a different chord speaking at a recent meeting of a Christian conservative group in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he said the Club continues to “scour” for right-wing challengers:

The featured speaker was former U.S. Congressman Pat Toomey, who provided the crowd with an update on the conservative movement.

Toomey lost in the primary Senate race against U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. He is also the president of the Washington-based conservative group The Club for Growth, which promotes economic freedom and raises funds for conservative candidates.

"It's all about protecting our Christian heritage," Toomey said. "And, a culture that is under assault."

Romney Hit for Porn

Adding to charges by MassResistance and others that Mitt Romney “bungled” gay marriage when he was governor of Massachusetts, the candidate is now getting grief about his business career. Romney, in his effort to secure support from social conservatives, has cited pornography as among the things he stands against, but some religious-right activists are questioning his anti-porn credentials.

Eneff is Eneff

After nine months, Janet Neff has been confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.  As we’ve chronicled here several times, Sen. Sam Brownback opposed her nomination simply because she attended the commitment ceremony of a family friend who is a lesbian back in 2002.

Over the past nine months, Brownback’s explanations as to why he was delaying her nomination, as well as the demands he made in order to let the nomination move forward, have been constantly shifting and “possibly unprecedented.”

But yesterday, with Neff scheduled to receive a vote on the Senate floor, Brownback took one last opportunity to make his opposition known: 

Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to vote against Judge Neff going onto the bench for a lifetime appointment. I have met directly with her. I have been present for two hearings where she has spoken on the controversial issue of same-sex marriage, which we all agree should be decided by legislative bodies and by the people, not by the courts. She has an activist view on this issue. She participated in a ceremony herself. Then, when asked about her view toward same-sex unions, she said she considers it a continuing legal controversy. Her words: I really don't have an understanding of it, concerning the Michigan law. In Michigan, the State has defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, both by the legislature and the people. She says it is not entirely settled. Here is an activist on a core issue, a difficult issue, one I think we all believe should be decided by legislative bodies and not by the courts. She would be one who would have a tendency to rule from the bench.

I urge my colleagues to vote against Judge Neff.

Exactly four Senators voted against Neff – all Republicans: Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Kyl (R-AZ), Martinez (R-FL).  

It is extraordinarily rare for any Republican to vote against any judicial nomination made by President Bush, especially to the lower-profile district court seats.  But apparently, for these four Republican Senators, anti-gay hostility runs deeper than the tradition of defending and supporting their own President’s judicial nominees.

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