Boosting Membership By Thinning the Flock?

Yesterday I saw an article reporting that as the Southern Baptist Convention gathered for its annual meeting, one of its key priorities was how to "boost flagging membership and baptism rates."

If I may offer a suggestion, one easy way not to lose members is to avoid kicking out a church for being insufficiently hostile to gays, as the SBC is now considering:

The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee recommended in a unanimous vote Monday afternoon that the denomination cease its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church, a Fort Worth, Texas, congregation that has been the source of controversy over its stance on homosexuality.

The Executive Committee's recommendation will be considered by SBC messengers during the annual meeting Tuesday or Wednesday.

At issue is whether the church is in violation of Article III of the SBC Constitution, which states that churches "which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior" are not in friendly cooperation. Broadway Baptist has approximately five open homosexual members, including two male couples, according to church leaders. Some of the homosexuals serve on church committees.

The controversy over the church began last year when the question arose as to whether the homosexual couples should be pictured in a church directory. In the end, the church voted 294-182 to publish a directory without family portraits but with candid shots of members involved in various ministries and activities.


Stephen Wilson, a member of the Executive Committee and vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University, emphasized to Baptist Press that the denomination encourages churches to reach out to people struggling with homosexuality. The issue with Broadway Baptist, though, is over a church allowing members who are homosexual and unrepentant.

"If churches are ministering to homosexuals, they are doing nothing more than what our own convention's task force has asked us to do," Wilson told Baptist Press. "But in Broadway's case … the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals."

The Executive Committee's recommendation says that the committee "recommends that the cooperative relationship between the Convention and the church cease, and that the church's messengers not be seated, until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the Convention under Article III."

Apparently the controversy began back in 2007over the idea of including gay couples in the membership directly and then expanded to include several other issues, leading to pastor to resign in mid-2008.

For it's part, Broadway insists that "has never taken any church action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior" but members of the Executive Committee don't seem to buy that defense and have now recommended booting the church from the Southern Baptist Convention.

If the SBC is looking for ways to stem is declining membership, ousting churches for not being anti-gay enough seems like an odd first step.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is officially running for governor of Texas.
  • Phyllis Schlafly explains why women are unhappy.  Short answer: feminism.
  • Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber, Sally Kern, and others are hosting a press conference tomorrow with the intention of "drawing attention to Obama's emerging homosexual- and transsexual activist agenda."
  • Carrie Prejean seems to be fundamentally unable to live up to her commitments and has, as such, been fired from yet another job.
  • Wiley Drake is taking some time off from prayer for President Obama's death in order to take a lead role in organizing an "Official Tax Day TEA Party" on July 4.
  • Speaking of Drake, I somehow missed this quote about him from Richard Land: "Wiley Drake is far out of the mainstream, in fact he's in a drainage ditch somewhere."
  • Finally, here is the closing paragraph from Janet Porter's latest WND column: "This dictatorship must be stopped. And it must be stopped now. If we don't, we'll lose more than our strongest ally in the Middle East and the free market – we'll lose our lives." She is talking about President Obama.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Club for Growth has nominated Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for its Comrade of the Month Award for May. It's not meant as a compliment.
  • Speaking of Crist, Dennis Baxley has resigned his position as executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida in order to work full-time in promoting Marco Rubio, Crist's Republican primary opponent.
  • Promise Keepers is expanding its mission: "This event is going to honor women ... We’re going to honor the poor, the oppressed, and the needy. We’re going to honor the believing Jew."
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry has put his name on a fundraising letter for Grover Norquist's anti-tax group, Americans for Tax Reform, denouncing "an over-reaching liberal federal government."
  • Finally, Religion News Service reports that anti-marriage activists see ballot as their last hope for stopping the spread of marriage equality:
  • "The integrity of our most fundamental institutions is in question and needs to be in question," says Mike Heath, executive director of the Maine Family Policy Council, an evangelical Christian lobbying group.

    "I see our institutions as having become openly hostile (to religious views). They're responsive to the elite and moneyed interests that dominate our statehouse. ... The only hope here is the people."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Family Research Council has announced that Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, Maggie Gallagher, and others would be gathering for an anti-marriage rally tomorrow in Albany, NY.
  • Sen. David Vitter says that his prospects of being re-elected in 2010 are "very good," despite the revelations that he had been involved with a prostitution ring.
  • The Christian Defense Coalition erected a 16 foot cross, the Star of David and a sacred symbol for the name of Jesus in front of the White House on Sunday, June 7 because "the group is troubled and finds hypocritical that President Obama would highlight religious liberty and freedom at his recent speech in Cairo, yet here in America he chooses to cover up Christian religious symbols and trample on religious liberty."
  • Only in Texas is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a woman with a "near-perfect scores from anti-tax groups and the gun-rights lobby, and an 89.4 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union [while] NARAL Pro-Choice America, which advocates abortion rights, has given her a zero the past four years, the same score she gets from gay-rights advocates," considered insufficiently conservative.
  • In its coverage of George Tiller's funeral, the Christian Post notes that the service was being protested by Westboro Baptist Church, which it calls "a virulent cult that has terrorized funerals across the nation."
  • Finally, David Brody has posted a CBN segment on the Reclaiming God in America Conference, featuring quotes from Mike Huckabee saying that the only reason Prop. 8 passed was because of prayer and Newt Gingrich saying he was "compelled to get back into the arena to take on the secular fanatics who are trying to destroy our relationship with God."

SBC Distances Itself From Drake and His Ravings

Over the last few days, former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention has declared both that the murder of Dr. George Tiller was an answer to prayer and that he was likewise praying for the death of President Obama.

Today, the Southern Baptist Convention, not surprisingly, distanced itself from Drake's rantings:

A Southern Baptist Convention spokesman said June 4 that a former official who is praying for the death of President Obama is out of the denomination's mainstream.

Roger "Sing" Oldham, vice president for convention relations with the SBC Executive Committee, said he believes most Southern Baptists are committed to praying for the well-being of the president as instructed in Scripture.


Oldham told Associated Baptist Press that Drake is not a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention and his comments do not reflect the actions, resolutions or positions of the denomination.

"I think it is a fair statement to say that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are committed to praying for the well-being of the president in accordance with the specific instruction given in 1 Timothy 2:1-3," Oldham said, quoting: "First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior.'"

In semi-related news:

A black Southern Baptist pastor is asking his denomination to acknowledge the historic first of President Barack Obama's election, despite their policy differences.

The Rev. Dwight McKissic of Texas wants the resolution put to a vote at the annual Southern Baptist Convention. The meeting starts June 23 in Kentucky.

This is especially interesting considering that McKissic is himself a right-winger who, back in 2006, told the audience at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit that the Anti-Christ would be gay:

The civil rights movement, he said, was grounded in moral authority, truth and righteousness, the impetus to freedom, constitutional authority, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, he said, the gay rights movement was inspired “from the pit of hell itself,” and has a “satanic anointment.” The gay rights movement was birthed and inspired by the anti-Christ. He suggested that the anti-Christ is himself gay, citing a verse from the book of Daniel saying the anti-Christ will have no desire for a woman.

“I don’t think there is any issue more important than how we are going to define the family,” said McKissic. Television shows portraying homosexuality in a positive light have put us “on the road to Sodom and Gomorrah,” and “God’s got another match…He didn’t run out of matches.”

Is The Right Suffering Collective Amnesia?

You really have to hand it to the Right: when it comes to hypocrisy, they seemingly know no limit.

Take this newest "Washington Update" from the Family Research Council demanding to know whether Sonia Sotomayor gave some sort of assurance to the White House about her views regarding reproductive choice:

In a 2007 debate, Obama said he "would not appoint somebody who doesn't believe in the right of privacy." After bobbing and weaving over the past few days, the White House now apparently believes it must make public its confidence that Sotomayor views abortion on demand as settled law. But that is exactly what Roe is not. The sweeping decision unsettled the nation's conscience in 1973 and caused a firestorm that continues to this very day.

It's imperative now that Judge Sotomayor address how the White House obtained its assurance about her views ... Does Sotomayor pick and choose what she regards as settled, and how and to whom did she give assurances?

If they are trying to gin up some sort of outrage, maybe first they could explain why, back in 2005, even before George Bush had nominated Harriet Miers, Karl Rove and others from the White House were explicitly reaching out to people like James Dobson to assure him that Miers opposed abortion:

Dobson also said he learned that President Bush was looking only for a woman to appoint to the position, which eliminated many of the top names that Washington observers had bandied about in the days leading up to Miers' nomination.

"But I was not gonna be the one to reveal this. I knew that people would eventually be aware of some of that information, but I didn't think I had the right to say it. And so, I made my comment," Dobson said.

"What did Karl Rove say to me that I knew on Monday that I couldn't reveal," Dobson explained. "Well, it's what we all know now, that Harriet Miers is an Evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life, that she had taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion, that she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life."

"In other words, there is a characterization of her that was given to me before the President had actually made this decision," Dobson concluded.

It didn't work, ultimately, because the Right eventually forced Miers to withdraw based largely on its concerns about this very issue.

This sort of amnesia seems widespread, judging by this Bobby Eberle piece lamenting the fact that Republicans didn't put up a big enough fight to get Miguel Estrada confirmed:

If Judge Sotomayor is confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic to sit on the Supreme Court, and Obama, the media, and the left-wing establishment are making sure everyone knows it ... All of this talk sends a sad reminder to me of how things could have been had Republicans stood up and fought for Miguel Estrada, one of President Bush's first judicial nominees. Estrada would have been the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The nomination was seen as a potential stepping stone for Estrada (not Sotomayor) to be the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court.

While it is quite possible that Estrada may have eventually ended up on the Supreme Court, this sort of finger-pointing and teeth-gnashing willingly ignores the fact that Bush wanted to name the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court by nominating Alberto Gonzales, but the Right would have none of it and essentially pre-emptively killed his nomination, as we chronicled in this report back in 2005:

Newsweek correctly states that “Gonzales is the only A-list contender who religious conservatives pledge, upfront, to fight.” The article quotes Tom Minnery of Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family saying outright about a potential Gonzales nomination: “We'd oppose him.”

In the same article, Manuel Miranda, head of the recently formed coalition of extreme conservative groups called the “Third Branch Conference” and a former Frist staffer fired for unethically reading internal Democratic judiciary staff communications, warned that a Gonzales nomination could doom the Republican Party in upcoming elections: “If the president is foolish enough to nominate Al Gonzales, what he will find is a divided base that will take it out on candidates in 2006.” Miranda went on to threaten retribution against Florida Governor Jeb Bush, if he decides to run for president. “We're not Republican patsies,” he said. “Jeb Bush can go sell insurance.”

The New York Times reported similar opposition to Gonzales: “Late last week, a delegation of conservative lawyers led by C. Boyden Gray and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III met with the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to warn that appointing Mr. Gonzales would splinter conservative support.”

Elsewhere in the article, the Times reported that Paul Weyrich was warning “administration officials that nominating Mr. Gonzales would fracture the president's conservative backers.” Weyrich also claimed to have held a conversation with Republican Party chairman Ken Mehlman to “let the administration know through whatever channels we have that Gonzales would be an unwise appointment because of the opposition of some of the groups.”

In the same article, Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime radical and extreme right leader, said “Bush was very clear, and certainly his constituents believed him, when he said he would appoint justices like Scalia and Thomas. We are not in favor of Gonzales.” One of the reasons for the intensity of the opposition to Gonzales is that the Right feels that they were betrayed by President Reagan with his nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor who was, according to Schlafly, “a terrible disappointment.”

The National Review made its opposition to a Gonzales nomination clear in an editorial entitled “No to Justice Gonzales”: “[The] president has to know that conservatives, his supporters in good times and bad, would be appalled and demoralized by a Gonzales appointment. It would place his would-be successors in the Senate in a difficult position, forcing them to choose between angering conservatives by voting for Gonzales and saying no to him. If Democrats attack Gonzales... conservatives will not rally to his defense.”

Robert Novak wrote a similar piece called “No, not Gonzales!”: “Gonzales long has been unacceptable to anti-abortion activists because of his record as a Texas Supreme Court justice. Beyond pro-lifers, he is opposed by organized conservative lawyers. Ironically, the same Bush supporters who have been raising money and devising tactics for the mother of all judicial confirmation fights are in a panic that Gonzales will be named. With the president's popularity falling among his conservative base as well as the general populace, a politically disastrous moment may be at hand.”

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council also voiced his opposition to a Gonzales nomination during a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country”: “I think what you would hear would be [what] sounds like slashing the tires of the conservative movement, because this has been a moment in time that has been anticipated for over a decade. And if there is someone who . . . appears along the same lines of an O’Connor, an unknown or someone who has a judicial philosophy that is less than a Scalia or Thomas, it`s a problem. There is no question about it.”

Targeting Sotomayor With Right Wing Myths

One thing that has always amazed me about the Right is its ability to discover obscure but outrageous anecdotes and quickly transform them into evidence that Christians and conservatives are under attack. 

Years ago, I remember reading an Ann Coulter column in which she related the sad tale of one Raymond Raines, who supposedly received a week's detention for simply praying before lunch in the school cafeteria.  The story hung around for years and was regularly trotted out by the likes of Newt Gingrich and David Limbaugh whenever it served their purposes, despite the fact that it was completely untrue.

Ever since then, I have been fascinated by how these stories pop up in right-wing news outlets and are immediately taken as gospel by the Right, which uses them to further their political agenda. 

As a prime example, take this new column by Sandy Rios, former president of Concerned Women for America, explaining why Sonia Sotomayor must be defeated:

It was Good Friday when the knock came on the door at the home of Pastor David Jones and his wife, Mary. San Diego County officials were hot on the trail of reportedly suspicious activities taking place inside the couple’s home each and every week.

Mrs. Jones, the co-conspirator, was interrogated vigorously. “Do you sing? Do you say ‘Praise the Lord?’ Do you say ‘amen?’” San Diegans can be relieved their county officials are in hot pursuit of major trouble makers. Especially on Good Friday. How could authorities possibly sit by and allow homes to be the centers of meal sharing and Bible Study in the midst of unsuspecting, at-risk neighbors?

The Joneses were warned that if they did not pay for an expensive Major Use Permit, normally used for the city to conduct studies on environmental impact, traffic patterns, etc., their weekly gatherings of 15 would have to stop. And if they did not stop, there would be escalating fines and “then it will get ugly.” Seems like it already has.

Meanwhile, down in Louisiana, a man was reportedly stopped by police and held for questioning and a background check for displaying the notoriously offensive “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker. Christopher Gadsen, a Revolutionary War era general designed “Don’t Tread on Me” for a flag representing the need to defend America’s rights from tyranny. Ben Franklin loved the symbolism Gadsen used of the rattlesnake and the rebellion. Good thing Franklin wasn’t traveling in Louisiana, bearing that flag on his carriage, when those police were out to catch “right wing extremists.” Imagine … Homeland Security urging the nation’s law enforcement to protect the homeland from those who want to protect the homeland. Is there a category for that?

Or for that matter, for this: Debbie McLucas is a hospital supervisor at Kindred Hospital in Mansfield, Texas. Her husband and sons have all served in the military. Her daughter is currently stationed in Iraq as a combat medic. In honor of Memorial Day, Debbie did the unthinkable: She hung a three-by-five foot American flag in an office she shares with three other supervisors. One was quite offended. So offended, she took down the flag all by herself. Take that, Debbie McLucas. The hospital refused to support the display, claiming other patients and visitors were also offended.


These three stories currently in the news represent the types of issues that may very well end up in the United States Supreme Court ... What’s at stake with the nomination of a judge like Sonja Sottomayor [sic] are real-life consequences for ordinary American citizens. What we don’t need is a justice taking the bench with the notion that somehow the Constitution doesn’t mean what it has always meant, who proceeds to twist it to reflect his or her own viewpoint—a justice like Sonia Sotomayor.

Of course, if you bother to track down some non-right-wing news coverage of these anecdotes, you inevitably end up with far more rational explanation of what actually happened.

Here is what happened with the Jonse' and their Bible Study:

Every Tuesday night about 15 people drive to Jones’ Bonita home to eat dinner and discuss the Bible. They usually park on Jones' property, he said, but sometimes that parking spills out into the cul-de-sac.

Last month, someone filed a complaint about the number of cars.

A county code enforcement officer visited the house and asked Jones' wife about the weekly Bible studies.

"She said, 'Do you say amen?' and my wife said, 'Well, yes,'" Jones recalled.

"And she said, 'Do you say praise the Lord?’ she said, 'Well, yes but what does that have to with it?'" Jones said.

10News asked the county official about the officer's line of questioning.

"Did the officer actually do that? Is that part of the requirements to ask those questions?" Reporter Joe Little asked.

"Obviously, I wasn't there, so I can't tell you exactly what was said. However, what our officer was trying to do is establish what the use is so that we know what regulations to actually utilize," explained Chandra Wallar of the county's land use and environment group.

Wallar said it's the officer’s job to determine what kind of event is hosted at Jones’ house to decide what part of county code the event falls under.

And here is what happened with McLucas and her flag:

A Texas hospital owned by Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare drew online criticism after a Dallas television station reported that it wouldn't let a supervisor display a large U.S. flag in her office.

But Kindred said yesterday that the incident has been portrayed inaccurately, giving the false impression "that we do not respect the flag or the sacrifice it represents."

According to the TV report, Debbie McLucas hung a 3-by-5-foot flag last week in the office she shares with the other three supervisors at Kindred's hospital in Mansfield, Texas. Later her boss told McLucas that an officemate found the flag offensive and that some patients' families had also complained, the report said.

Kindred said "this was simply a dispute between two employees who shared a small workspace, one of whom removed the flag because of its size." Both employees have had family in the military, the statement said.

As for the tale of some motorist being pulled over for having a "Don't Tread On Me" sticker on his car, that can't even be verified because it is based almost entirely on a WorldNetDaily article in which WND withheld "the driver's name and the relative's name at their request" and was itself largely based upon an American Vision blog post:

Our friends at The Patriot Depot just received a call from Rosemarie in Ball, Louisiana alerting Patriot Depot that her brother-in-law was stopped by small town Louisiana police and detained by the roadside for half an hour. A background check was conducted to determine whether he was a member of an "extremist" group. Why? Her brother-in-law (name not disclosed for privacy) had purchased and displayed a conservative "Don't Tread on Me" bumper sticker on his car.

So did this actually happen?  There is no way of knowing ... though, personally, I am not particularly inclined to give too much credence to fourth-hand hearsay that originated with the brother-in-law of "Rosemarie in Ball, Louisiana."

Yet, for the Right, these sorts of completely unverified and/or fundamentally misrepresented myths are  presented as established fact which are then used to explain why Sonia Sotomayor is unfit to sit upon the Supreme Court.

Porter Apologizes for America In Order to Save It

Remember a few weeks ago when the Right was outraged that President Obama had gone abroad and supposedly apologized for America?

How dare he, said Rush Limbaugh:

So Barack Obama goes on his world tour, apologizes for America. Everybody says, "Wow, it's great to have such a humble guy leading the country." Humble? It takes profound arrogance to go around the world, apologize for your country, to say that your country is lacking, but only now is your country worth anything, because you happen to be president. That's not humility. That's profound conceit and arrogance, which is part and parcel of Barack Obama.

For the Right, the idea that the United States would ever apologize for anything was ludicrous and downright offensive ...which makes this open letter Janet Porter has penned to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all the more confusing:

You are not alone. Christians in America stand with you and your right to exist.

Know, also, that there are 60 million Americans who did not abandon our core values or our allies for the empty rhetoric of "hope" and "change." We are the ones who did not support the Hamas-endorsed, Muslim-bowing White House occupant, who, until he was "corrected" on national television, said how proud he was of his "Muslim faith" ... We apologize for the undue pressure that has been put upon you to jeopardize your vital interests to carve up yet more land for promises of peace from people who want to obliterate you. We also acknowledge that this pressure did not begin with the current administration.

As it turns out, Porter's apology for the United States is really more about protecting this nation from God's wrath because, as she explains, whenever there is "U.S. pressure to divide Israel," we get hit by a natural disaster:

  • Hurricane Andrew (Aug. 23, 1992), when the Madrid Peace Conference moved to Washington, D.C., to pressure Israel to divide their land.

  • The 6.9 Northridge Earthquake in Southern California (Jan. 16, 1994), when Clinton met with Syria's president to discuss Israel giving up the Golan Heights where half of their fresh drinking water is found.

  • Hurricane George (Sept. 28, 1998) when Secretary of State Albright pressured Israel to give up parts of Judah and Samaria.

  • Texas Flood (Oct. 15-22, 1998) following a meeting with you, Mr. Prime Minister, and President Clinton with Yasser Arafat over Israel giving up 13 percent of the West Bank. On Oct. 21 of that year, a quarter of Texas was declared by Clinton a major disaster area.

  • A "super tornado" across Oklahoma and Kansas (May 3, 1999) with 316 mph winds – the highest winds ever recorded – the day Yasser Arafat was scheduled to declare a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital.

  • Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike (Aug. 25-Sept. 13, 2008) following Secretary Condoleezza Rice's pressure to sign a treaty for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

A 4.7 earthquake hit L.A. Sunday night when you, Mr. Prime Minister, arrived in the U.S. to meet with President Obama who is pushing to divide your land even further. Many are looking to the weather reports for what may follow.

Consequences. Elections have consequences. Abandoning our (and God's) best friend Israel has consequences. Dividing land has consequences. Consequences we don't want.

So if the US gets hit by a natural disaster some time soon, it will be all President Obama's fault.  But if we don't, it'll be because Porter managed to save us by apologizing.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Is it true that some Republicans are getting tired of the militants at the Club for Growth?
  • Mike Huckabee: Poet.
  • Governor Rick Perry finally declares "I'm not in favor of Texas seceding."
  • Michael Steele seemingly doesn't know how to deal with efforts by some RNC members to label the Democrats as "socialists" ... and apparently has even less of an idea of how to sell opposition to marriage equality to the younger generation.
  • Sean Hannity told Alan Keyes he would have gladly bailed him out of jail had Keyes needed to money.
  • Seriously, what on earth is Rep. Michelle Bachmann doing on a Worldview Radio program, along with Gary Cass, no less?
  • Tony Perkins, Richard Land, and Bishop Harry Jackson are unveiling something called The Call2Fall, which is "is a public commitment for Christians to set aside some time on July 5, 2009 to pray for the healing of our nation. The day after Americans celebrate their 'independence,' they will pray for 'dependence' upon God."
  • Speaking of Perkins, for $2 the Family Research Council will mail you a copy of their document "Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married Couples":
  • The evidence is overwhelming that homosexual and lesbian "committed" relationships are not the equivalent of marriage. In addition, there is little evidence that homosexuals and lesbians truly desire to commit themselves to the kind of monogamous relationships as signified by marriage. What remains, then, is the disturbing possibility that behind the demands for "gay marriage" lurks an agenda of undermining the very nature of the institution of marriage.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • AU notes the irony of Pat Robertson blaming the economic crisis on greed considering his own questionable business dealings.
  • Think Progress reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has again refused to reject the idea that his state might secede from the US.
  • Logan Murphy at Crooks and Liars reports that former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave is not done embarrassing herself or her party.
  • Speaking of C&L, The American Prospect reviews David Neiwert's new book.
  • Steve Benen says that if we are judging Nancy Pelosi by her enemies, then she must be doing a good job.
  • Pam notes that Chuck Colson is getting a little hysterical about marriage equality.
  • Finally, John Aravosis notes that Bill O'Reilly seems to have changed his tune rather dramatically regarding marriage equality since 2002.

The Notre Dame Protests Get Even Fringier

Just when it seemed like the fringe right-wing protesting at Notre Dame couldn't get any more ridiculous, we come to find out that some anonymous donor has now handed Rick Scarborough a thousand dollars so that he could join the fray as well:

Today a gentleman entered my office and donated the $1,000 needed to pay for my trip to South Bend, IN to join Alan Keyes and Randall Terry in protest of Obama's commencement speech on Sunday at Notre Dame. This came after much prayer seeking God's direction and financial provision concerning whether or not I was to say yes to their request to join them and many others facing potential arrest tomorrow for standing for life on the Notre Dame campus.


I will be arriving in South Bend Thursday to join them. It is my privilege to stand for truth and with courageous men and women, going to jail if called upon, to bring awareness to our nation that this madness must stop. Please be in prayer as we choose to take our stand for the sanctity of life.

Now, it was at least understandable that Keyes and Terry would target Notre Dame with protests claiming that the Catholic University is violating Catholic teachings by inviting President Obama to speak, because both men are Catholic.

But Scarborough is a Baptist, so what exactly warrants his participation in these protests? 

The whole "controversy" here is that a Catholic University had invited a pro-choice president to address its graduating class ... and it is predominantly right-wing Catholics who are upset about it (while most other Catholics hadn't even heard about it and those that had largely support it.)

Scarborough seems to be going to just protest Obama's pro-choice views ... but why he needed a $1000 to fly from Texas to Indiana to do that is beyond me because he probably could have saved himself considerable time and money if he had just gone and protested at Arizona State University where Obama spoke last night.

For A Change of Pace, Noted "Historian" Barton Vows To Be "Accurate"

A few weeks ago, we pointed to a Texas Freedom Network post reporting that the Texas State Board of Education was going to appoint David Barton to a social studies curriculum “expert” panel, which was absurd given Barton’s flagrant lack of expertise on anything other than misrepresenting history in order to further his own right-wing political agenda.  

But perhaps nothing better sums up the absurdity of this move than this article from OneNewsNow, considering that just about every claim and statement it contains is laughable, starting with its title: “History scholar hopes to revamp Texas curriculum”:

WallBuilders is a Texas-based conservative organization "dedicated to presenting America's forgotten history and heroes." Organization president David Barton has once again been selected by the Texas State Board of Education to review proposed history curriculum and prepare a report as the board reviews new standards for history in The Lone Star State. He says the new curriculum currently proposed for the state is in shambles.
"For example, the panel managed to eliminate all references to free enterprise out of our history, social study, government textbooks, and that's the type of things we find. The religious bigotry that's there, preference for secular stuff, ignoring the religious foundations," he notes.

"There's a mis-description of the types and forms of government that we have. There's no mention of American exceptionalism -- the fact that we are the most successful nation in the history of the world with a government that bears fruit to that."
Barton expects outside groups to "holler and scream" about his recommendations to fix those errors due to the fact that he is a Christian and a conservative. But he adds that he and other members of the panel will give recommendations that are so historically accurate that board members will have a hard time refuting them.

Seriously, the assertion that Barton’s recommendations will be “so historically accurate that board members will have a hard time refuting them” made me laugh out loud considering that being accurate has never been a particular concern for Barton in the past.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Pat Robertson says that gay marriage is "the beginning in a long downward slide" toward legalized child molestation.
  • Is Joe the Plumber really so fed up with the GOP that he's going to leave the party?
  • Richard Viguerie dismisses the entire GOP "listening tour" because it being driven by all "the people who caused the problem in the first place."
  • It looks like all the efforts to ideologically purify the Republican Party are not quite going according to plan.
  • Finally, it appears as if a bunch of right-wing leaders are gathering this week to plot strategy on fighting left wing media bias:
  • The invitations to the event came from the invitation committee of the “Conservative Leadership Summit to Confront Media Bias.” The committee is made up by a high-powered group of nationally known figures that include Mr. Irvine, mentioned above; Gary Bauer, American Values; Bill Donohue, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; Wendy Wright, Concerned Women for America; Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum; Morton Blackwell, The Leadership Institute; Brent Bozell, Media Research Center; and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Harry Jackson Fails to Sway DC Council

The D.C. Council voted 12-1 today to recognize marriages performed legally in other states.  The lone vote in opposition was that of former Mayor Marion Barry, who struck a more conciliatory tone than he did at last week’s anti-marriage rally, at which he led chants and urged preachers to speak out against “immorality.”  Today, Barry recounted his long support for efforts to advance LGBT equality during his years of leadership in the District, and asked people not to make this one vote a litmus test.

Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander had a different story to tell, noting that the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club (the city’s gay Democratic club) had endorsed her even though she had taken a stand in opposition to same-sex marriage in D.C.  On the other hand, she said, since she voted with her colleagues last month to have the District recognize legal marriages performed in other states, she’s had some pastors questioning her Christianity.  In response to those who have threatened to run a “Christian candidate” against her, she said, “I am a Christian candidate.”

A number of other Councilmembers spoke movingly on behalf of the legislation; we’ll have some video highlights available later.

The crowd organized by Bishop Harry Jackson was a different story.  Marriage opponents cheered Barry’s statement and shouted when Alexander spoke.  As soon as the vote was final and the capacity crowd moved into the hallway, raucous shouting broke out among those threatening to vote out every councilmember who had voted for marriage recognition.

Jackson spoke to reporters (describing himself as a D.C. resident) then headed across the street where an anti-marriage rally had been going on during the filled-to-capacity council meeting. Jackson led chants of “It’s not over” and vowed to pursue a legal strategy, a congressional strategy, and a strategy of continuing to organize at the grassroots. 

Oddly, the post-vote rally ended with a religious “marriage” ceremony for a young man and woman from Texas who came to DC and decided to go through the motions of a wedding ceremony presided over by Jackson to make a statement about “right marriage.”  

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry continues his efforts to woo the Religious Right ahead of his primary battle with Kay Bailey Hutchison, agreeing to speak at this year's Values Voter Summit.
  • Politico profiles anti-immigration activist Chris Simcox who is planning his own primary challenge against Sen. John McCain.
  • Sarah Palin's standing within the GOP seems to be dropping by the day.
  • SunTrust Banks Inc. is suing Pat Robertson for more than $3.6 million from Robertson stemming from a failed business venture back in the 1990s.
  • Rob Schenck kicked off the 20th annual U. S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon on Sunday night and it is set to continue to 90 consecutive hours.
  • Finally, the Cornwall Alliance has hired Shannon Royce to fight the efforts by Christians to make climate change an issue for grassroots activists:
  • Royce, who formerly worked on Capitol Hill for the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm and was founding executive director of the Arlington Group, a coalition of "pro-family" organizations, said environmentalism began making inroads into evangelical Christianity a number of years ago "with some on the left deliberately courting and engaging some of our Christian friends and brothers on issues like this, and unfortunately I think at times co-opting them, with their concerns."

    "I don't question the motives of those who have gotten engaged on that, but I think unfortunately the science just doesn't support this," she said.

Barton Named to Texas School Board "Experts" Panel

We don't pay that much attention to the ins-and-outs of goings-on regarding the Texas State Board of Education, but the Texas Freedom Network certainly does and they report this latest development:

The Texas State Board of Education is set to appoint a social studies curriculum “expert” panel that includes absurdly unqualified ideologues who are hostile to public education and argue that laws and public policies should be based on their narrow interpretations of the Bible.

TFN has obtained the names of “experts” appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists will guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. They include David Barton of the fundamentalist, Texas-based group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality.

The two have argued that the Constitution doesn’t protect separation of church and state and hold a variety of other extreme views related to religion, education and government, TFN President Kathy Miller said.


Barton, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is a self-styled “historian” without any formal training in the field. He argues that separation of church and state is a “myth” and that the nation’s laws should be based on Scripture. He says, for example, that the Bible forbids taxes on income and capital gains. Yet even such groups as Texas Baptists Committed and the Baptist Joint Committee have sharply criticized Barton’s interpretations of the Constitution and history.

Barton also acknowledges having used in his publications and speeches nearly a dozen quotes he has attributed to the nation’s Founders even though he can’t identify any primary sources showing that they really said them.

Some state board members have criticized what they believe are efforts to overemphasize the contributions of minorities in the nation’s history. It is alarming, then, that in 1991 Barton spoke at events hosted by groups tied to white supremacists. He later said he hadn’t known the groups were “part of a Nazi movement.”

In addition, Barton’s WallBuilders Web site suggests as a “helpful” resource the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education, an organization that calls public schools places of "social depravity" and "spiritual slaughter."

The Peter Marshall Ministries Web site includes Marshall’s commentaries sharply attacking Muslims, characterizing the Obama administration as “wicked,” and calling on Christian parents to reject public education for their children.

Marshall has also attacked Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. In his call for a spiritual revival in America last year, he called traditional mainline Protestantism an “institutionally fossilized, Bible-rejecting shell of Christianity.”

TFN also provides informative links to these documents containing more info about both Barton and Marshall, and so I'll just add links to all of our posts on Barton as well as a link to our report on him, "Propaganda Masquerading as History," for good measure.

The Washington Times' False Popularity Contest

I’m just going to flat-out steal this great post from Eric Boehlert at Media Matters on this insane Washington Times editorial, which declares President Obama to be historically unpopular:  

President Obama's media cheerleaders are hailing how loved he is. But at the 100-day mark of his presidency, Mr. Obama is the second-least-popular president in 40 years.

According to Gallup's April survey, Americans have a lower approval of Mr. Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969. The only new president less popular was Bill Clinton, who got off to a notoriously bad start after trying to force homosexuals on the military and a federal raid in Waco, Texas, that killed 86. Mr. Obama's current approval rating of 56 percent is only one tick higher than the 55-percent approval Mr. Clinton had during those crises.

As the attached chart shows, five presidents rated higher than Mr. Obama after 100 days in office. Ronald Reagan topped the charts in April 1981 with 67 percent approval. Following the Gipper, in order of popularity, were: Jimmy Carter with 63 percent in 1977; George W. Bush with 62 percent in 2001; Richard Nixon with 61 percent in 1969; and George H.W. Bush with 58 percent in 1989.

As Boehlert points out, this would be true if it were, you know, true … which it isn’t, since Obama’s approval rating is actually 65%, not 56% as the Washington Times claims.  Thus:

Compared to previous presidents at the 100 day mark, Obama is more popular than Bush, Clinton, and Bush. Only Reagan polled better, and that was right after he survived an assassination attempt in March of his first year in office. So if you set aside Reagan's rather extraordinary circumstances, Obama is more popular at the 100 day mark than any president since Lyndon Johnson.  

Here is what Gallup itself says:

As President Barack Obama concludes his first 100 days on the job, Gallup Poll Daily tracking for the week of April 20-26 finds 65% of Americans approving of how he is doing and only 29% disapproving. Obama's average weekly job ratings have varied only slightly thus far, ranging from 61% to 67%.

The new president's approval rating at the 100-day mark is notable in that nearly all major demographic categories of Americans are pleased with his job performance, as evidenced by approval ratings above the majority level. Only in terms of political and ideological categories does Obama have a significant proportion of detractors; a majority of Republicans and self-described "conservatives" disapprove of his job performance.

Bottom Line

Obama's weekly job approval ratings in the Gallup Poll have been running at 61% or better since he took office, and register 65% at the conclusion of his first 100 days. According to a recent Gallup review of the average first-quarter approval ratings of all elected presidents since Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, Obama's mid-60s approval level is solidly positive, although not extraordinary in historical terms.

And if you follow the “recent Gallup review” link, here is what you find:

Obama's 63% first-quarter average matches the historical average of 63% for elected presidents' first quarters since 1953. However, it is the fourth highest for a newly elected president since that time, and the highest since Jimmy Carter's 69% in 1977. The historical first-quarter average includes two presidents whose scores exceeded 70% (John Kennedy's 74% and Dwight Eisenhower's 71%).

From a broader historical perspective, Obama's 63% quarterly average is well above the historical norm for all approval ratings, regardless of presidential quarter. It ranks in the 74th percentile of all presidential quarters since 1945, and is significantly better than the 54% average rating for all presidential quarters.

So Gallup itself says that Obama’s approval rating “is well above the historical norm for all approval ratings,” but the Washington Times, citing Gallup’s poll, declares Obama to be “the second-least-popular president in 40 years.”

Allow me to second Boehlert’s amazement at this editorial and his declaration that “I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't read it with my own eyes” because I honestly didn’t believe it until I clicked through his post and read it with my own eyes.

The Facts, Well They're Sort of Irrelevant Here

The news from today’s right-wing press conference on the Hate Crimes legislation: no news at all, in case you were expecting any. GOP Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas and Trent Franks of Arizona joined by Bishop Harry Jackson and spokespeople from other groups including the Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women for America for another opportunity to spread lies about the intent of hate crimes legislation. Even with explicit First Amendment protections for clergy and religious communities written into the Hate Crimes legislation, the right wing’s dishonest talking points remain the same: The Hate Crimes bill will threaten religious teachings on morality and First Amendment rights as pastor’s sermons could be considered “hate speech.” And, of course, pastors could be prosecuted for “conspiracy to commit a hate crime.”

We got a copy of the talking points handed out by Rep. Louie Gohmert’s people:

“The Hate Crimes bill creates a new Federal “Thought Crime.” The Hate Crimes bill will require criminal investigations of a suspect’s philosophical beliefs, politics, biases, religion, membership in organizations, activities of those organizations, and any past statements.”

And perhaps one of the most ridiculous talking points comes from the Traditional Values Coalition, who says “the ‘moral’ of this law, if it has one, is that child molesters and those who only ‘date’ dead people need to be protected but is open season on pastors and churchgoers:”

“Ensures that crimes against a transgender, drag queen or a gay man are treated more harshly than a sexual assault on a child. It will make pedophiles a protected class who can claim federal protection if they are injured by a parent as a result of molesting a child.” Read more

Who needs facts when you can just make stuff up (and when you’re getting paid to do it). For the real facts on hate crimes, People For the American Way and the African American Ministers in Action put together a helpful 2-pager on the legislation.

Franks and Gohmert Team Up With the Religious Right

It what seems to be becoming a regular occurrence, Rep. Trent Franks has decided to hold a press conference where he will once again be surrounded by a gaggle of right-wing leaders. 

Just last month Franks held a press conference on the need for the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act where he was joined by Rep. Michell Bachmann and people like Wendy Wright, Rob Schenck, and Clenard Childress.

Today, he's participating in an anti-hate crimes press conference where he will again be joined by Wright, Harry Jackson and, of all people, Lou Sheldon:  


1:30 p.m. April 28, Terrace, Cannon Bldg. New

GOP Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Trent Franks of Arizona hold a news conference to discuss their opposition to hate crimes legislation (HR 1913), which they say would "pose frightening threats to religious freedom."


HR 1913 — Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009


Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.

Harry Jackson, chairman, High Impact Leadership Coalition, and senior pastor, Hope Christian Church

Louis P. Sheldon, chairman, Traditional Values Coalition

Wendy Wright, president, Concerned Women for America,

Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention

Maureen Wiebe, legislative director, American Association of Christian Schools

This list of participants is a real doozy - just yesterday, Wright was speculating that the timing of the swine flu scare was "a political thing to push the [Kathleen] Sebelius nomination through," and Jackson will just be coming off his role in leading the anti-marriage rally in DC today.  

But it is Sheldon's inclusion that is the real head-scratcher because, generally, members of Congress (and frankly most other leaders of the Religious Right) go out of their way not to be seen in public with the likes of him. 

And given the types of things he and his organization say, it is not hard to understand why:

The main purpose of this “hate crime” legislation is to add the categories of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” “either actual or perceived,” as new classes of individuals receiving special protection by federal law. Sexual orientation includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality on an ever-expanding continuum. Will Congress also protect these sexual orientations-zoophiles, pedophiles or polygamists?

Gender identity includes such gender confused behaviors as cross-dressing, she-male, drag queen, transvestite, transsexual or transgender. Under the Act, neither “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” are really defined. How can a law be enforced if the new classes receiving special protection remain undefined?

The sexual behaviors considered sinful and immoral by most major religions will be elevated to a protected “minority” class under federal law.

Once “sexual orientation” is added to federal law, anyone with a bizarre sexual orientation will have total protection for his or her activities by claiming that Congress sanctions their appearance, behavior or attitudes.

Inevitably this will negatively affect the performance of co-workers who are forced to work alongside of individuals with bizarre sex habits. Imagine working next to a person who gets sexual pleasure from rubbing up against a woman (Fronteurism) or enjoys wearing opposite sex clothing. These are “sexual orientations.”

Apparently this is the sort of language and anti-gay militancy with which Reps. Franks and Gohmert will willingly associate themselves. 

I'm just surprised that they didn't get Mat Staver to join them because if they are rounding up anti-gay fear mongers to oppose hate crimes legislation, Staver would have fit in perfectly:

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "Sexual orientation and gender identity include pedophilia and every imaginable deviant fetish. Cross-dressers and pedophiles find refuge in this so-called hate crimes bill, while veterans and grandmas are left to fend for themselves. Obviously, this bill is not about the prevention of crime but is all about pushing a radical sexual anarchy. This bill will crush free speech and trample free exercise of religion."

Rick Perry: The True Believer

There are few politicians in office today that can rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s willingness to publicly associate himself with the Religious Right – and not just the “mainstream” groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, but with fringe, B-list figures like David Barton and Kelly Shackelford and groups like the Texas Restoration Project.

To this ever-growing list we can now add people like Rick Scarborough of Vision America and groups such as the US Pastor Council:

Today, Perry will continue his appeal to evangelicals at a closed-door session with Texas pastors in Austin. That event is being sponsored by the US Pastor Council, which wants to get preachers more involved in politics.

Headlining the event will be East Texas evangelist Rick Scarborough, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and abortion. Scarborough is backing Perry and has denounced Hutchison, who supports the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

It's exactly the kind of group that Perry has been trying to woo in advance of next year's GOP primary. Four years ago, when Hutchison was making noise about challenging him, Perry actively helped the Texas Restoration Project, another network of evangelical ministers that the governor's political team saw as potentially helpful.

Scarborough’s support for Perry is rooted largely in his opposition to the primary challenge being mounted by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and, considering that Perry’s chances of beating her are looking a little questionable, this appears to be part of his effort to do all he can to sew up support from the Religious Right heading into the primary.

Still, it is rather remarkable that anyone running for public office would willingly associate themselves with the likes of Scarborough – did he learn nothing from Mike Huckabee?

Scarborough, a self-described “Christocrat” heads Vision America and, when he’s not out palling around with Alan Keys, has a penchant for suggesting that evangelical leaders are dying off because the nation has turned its back on God, suggesting that Christians will have "the blood of martyrs on [their] hands"if they don't oppose hate crimes legislation, blaming "the church" for just standing by and allowing the election of "unrighteous leaders" in 2006, saying that opponents of the War in Iraq are committing treason, organizing conferences designed to highlight the “War on Christians and Values Voters,” and penning books entitled “Liberalism Kills Kids” among other things.

But if Perry is going to associate himself with people like Barton and Scarborough, it only makes sense that he’d willingly affiliate himself with the US Pastor Council as well – maybe he’ll even sign their “Pastors’ Declaration of Godly Citizenship” [PDF]:

I believe that all authorities are subordinate to God, including family, church and government authorities, therefore the actions and decisions of each will be accountable to Him.

I believe that the church has a unique and sacred role in proclaiming God’s principles to leaders of a city, state and nation, with government limited to its Biblical and Constitutional purpose.

I believe that all innocent life from conception to natural death must be protected and valued by the people and our government to the fullest extent of the law as the highest priority of government.

I believe that marriage is a God-created relationship as the lifetime union of one natural man and one natural woman for the blessing of both, the good of the people and the foundation of the family for legitimate procreation.

I believe that the traditional, nuclear family of a married father and mother raising their children in a nurturing and protective environment is the essential building block of a stable community and a nation; it therefore must be promoted and protected by both church and state.

Most politicians seeking re-election wouldn’t be caught dead rubbing shoulders with these types of fringe right-wing groups, but Rick Perry does so openly and willingly – and not because he is pandering and merely seeking their support, but because he is a true believer who actually shares their agenda.
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