Texas

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:  

HATE CRIMES AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

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."

Agenda:

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

Participants:

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.

ACLJ Out Front of Another Bogus Controversy

Last week I wrote a few posts about the utterly inane “controversy” over the recent Department of Homeland Security report “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” [PDF], pointing out how the Right was intentionally misrepresenting what it said and repeatedly lying about it in order to generate outrage and raise money. Then I went on vacation for a few days, fully expecting that the entire charade would blow over by the time I got back to work … but of course I was wrong:

Conservative House Republicans are calling on their leaders to ask President Obama for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s resignation.

And GOP Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas) became the first member of leadership to call for the secretary's resignation, saying Wednesday that Napolitano should be removed or resign.

“No search or arrest warrant should ever be issued on the pure speculative grounds contained in the DHS report, and this report should never have been issued either. The fact that it was, coupled with Secretary Napolitano’s failure to issue an unqualified retraction and apology, displays a level of contempt for a healthy democracy that demands she be removed from office immediately," the judge of 20 years said.

Conservative House GOPs think Napolitano should resign because of the release of a report that singled out conservatives as “right-wing terrorists,” according to several GOP lawmakers.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are set to meet with Obama at the White House on Thursday. It is unclear whether they will request Napolitano’s resignation, but several lawmakers said it was under discussion.

“I think leaders are going to bring it up with the president, maybe call for (her) resignation,” one conservative member told The Hill on Wednesday.

Predictably, the American Center for Law and Justice is once again at the forefront of this “controversy,” just as it was of the “controversy” over the stimulus legislation, with Jay Sekulow showing up on Fox News to voice his manufactured outrage that the DHS report made no mention of the “real terrorists” such as Al Qaeda, a point he also made on the ACLJ’s website:

Nowhere in this report is there any mention of Al Qaida cell groups operating domestically here in the United States.  DHS has taken its focus away from rooting out those people that are bent on causing harm to the United States.  Instead, they are using government resources to monitor pro-life citizens who are exercising their free speech rights by holding up a sign in front of an abortion clinic.  On FOX News today I stated that the government needs to be spending its time rounding up terrorists who are bent on the destruction of our government rather than focusing on grandmothers holding up a pro-life sign outside an abortion clinic.

The scope of this report is also dangerous.  In discussing rightwing terrorists, the report states that there is a phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States.  Pointing to those who are opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, the report envisions what it calls the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States as these pro-life groups, those opposed to immigration, and returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This complaint might make sense if the report was about something other than, you know, domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups.  And to make matters worse, the ACLJ is claiming that the report declares “pro-lifers [to be the] most dangerous domestic terrorists” when it does nothing of the sort.  In fact, the report never even mentions pro-lifers beyond one footnote explaining that individuals driven by a “single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration” may join up with hate-oriented or antigovernment right-wing groups.  

Now the ACLJ is demanding a retraction from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and, in an email to activists, bragging that it has taken the lead in fighting this “blatant attack on conservative America” and, of course, seeking donations:

Right Wing Round-Up

  • As Good as You says, you don't get to call your ad campaign a rousing success when all of the coverage of it has come in the form of mockery.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry really seems to be going off the deep end, as Daily Kos explains.
  • He's also being, as Steve Benen notes, something of a hypocrite.
  • On top of that, Perry also appeared on Michael Savage's radio program which, given Savage's long history of offensive statements, is truly remarkable.
  • Box Turtle Bulletin http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/04/15/10686 ">highlights a truly bizarre bill introduced in response to the Iowa marriage ruling that states "a person shall not be compelled to recognize a marriage solemnized in this state if such recognition conflicts with the person’s religious beliefs or moral convictions."
  • The ACLU says that two Tennessee public school districts are preventing students from accessing online information about LGBT issues while allowing them to access information from anti-gay groups.
  • Greg Sargent reports that DHS did, in fact, release a report on "left wing extremists," while Media Matters chronicles the continuing freak out by conservatives about the report on right wing extremists.
  • Finally AU's Rob Boston weighs in on the premature obituary being written about the Religious Right yet again, noting smartly that "the Religious Right is so closely identified with the Republican Party that its fortunes are now tied to that political unit. You might have noticed that the Republicans aren’t doing so well right now. That means the Religious Right isn’t doing so well either."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Gov. Rick Perry wants Rush Limbaugh to move to Texas.
  • Not content with getting its own ad audition footage yanked from YouTube, the National Organization for Marriage has now gotten a Rachel Maddow clip making fun of the footage yanked as well.
  • Richard Land declares Iowa to be the "poster child" for the need for a federal marriage amendment.
  • Of all the groups out there qualified to teach about "true tolerance," I'd say Focus on the Family ranks near the bottom.
  • The Religious Right continues to go after Harry Knox, one of the appointees to the White House's faith-based advisory council.
  • When the Department of Homeland Security released a report about a potential rise in violent right-wing extremist movement, nobody thought they were talking about conservatives ... except, apparently, for the conservatives.
  • Janet Porter unveiled her new Faith2Action website today and boldly proclaimed that it will become the epicenter for the right-wing effort to "take back America."
  • Alan Keyes is joining Randall Terry's on-going efforts to protest Notre Dame over President Obama's invitation to speak at the university.
  • Finally, Phyllis Schlafly declares that if the courts strike down DOMA "it would be the same type of judicial supremacy that occurred 152 years ago in the famous Dred Scott case."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Former Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola has been tapped as president of the anti-tax group Club for Growth to replace Pat Toomey who is expected to run again Sen. Arlen Specter.
  • Right-wing activists are upset with the new head of the Massachusetts Republican Party for saying that "social issues are personal issues ... I am not legislating anyone's personal views."
  • Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has joined the hate crimes scaremongering, saying that if the legislation passes pastors, rabbis, or imams could be charged with encouraging or inducing a "hate crime" if they preach against homosexuality.
  • The Susan B. Anthony List claims that its activists sent more than 25,000 letters to the Senate in opposition to Dawn Johnsen.
  • Steve Deace has a lot more questions than answers about how marriage equality came to his home state of Iowa.
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal knocked down rumors that he was going to run for the Senate in a challenge to Sen. David Vitter.
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church has merged with Gleaning for the World, an international relief organization.
  • Michael Steele will not be attending the Log Cabin Republicans' annual convention.
  • Finally, Alan Keyes appears to have ticked off a lot of Ron Paul supporters by claiming to have taught Paul everything he knows about the Federal Reserve.

The Judicial Nominations Fight, Through the Eyes of the Right

World Magazine has a good article on President Obama and the issue of judicial nominations ... and by "good" I mean an exhaustive listing of all of the complaints and concerns Republicans and right-wing judicial activists have about the process and the future of the judiciary:

Conservatives say Obama missed an opportunity to usher in a more conciliatory start to the often contentious judicial nominating process by naming [David] Hamilton ... In nominating Hamilton, Obama ignored a letter from all 42 Republican senators, asking the president to get the process off to a bipartisan start by renominating several of President George W. Bush's blocked nominees. Bush renominated two of President Bill Clinton's stalled choices soon after taking office ... GOP senators had also hoped to use the "blue slip" tradition, which holds that no judicial nominee can come before the Senate without agreement (in the form of a blue slip) from both senators representing that nominee's state. Republicans have at least one senator in 27 states. But the two GOP senators from Texas are already losing a battle to hold onto this privilege as the White House recently signaled its intention to include that state's 12 House Democrats in the screening process.

So it was Obama who missed the opportunity to be conciliatory by not nominating rather than, say, all the Republicans in the Senate who had pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of Obama's judicial nominees? Nice try.

Furthermore, Obama did not "ignore" their letter - in fact, he obviously took into consideration their demand that the White House "consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states" because he obviously did so with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who immediately praised the nomination:

"I enthusiastically support the Senate confirmation of David Hamilton for U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has served the Southern District of Indiana with distinction as U.S. District Court Judge," U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said.

Thirdly, how exactly are the Republican Senators from Texas "losing the battle" to use the "blue slip"?  As we pointed out before, in situations where the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other, tradition has generally dictated that opposing party Senators play a secondary role in the judicial nomination selection process - and that is what is happening in Texas. If they don't like Obama's nominees, they are still free to refuse to return their blue slips, so in no way can it be said that they at risk of losing this privilege.

In essence, as the article explains, all of these sorts of gripes are aimed primarily at ginning up opposition to Obama's judicial nominees in order to set the stage for a Supreme Court battle and rally Republican forces leading into the mid-term elections:

The ultimate hope among conservative lawmakers is that if Obama overreaches in his judicial picks, then Democrats may face a backlash in the polls during the 2010 Senate races. Such political costs could force Obama to make marginally more moderate picks in future openings, says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The article features quotes from a variety of right-wing groups that work on the issue, including Whelan, as well as representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, Judicial Watch, the Committee for Justice, and the Heritage Foundation ... so if you are looking for a good run-down of just about every right-wing talking point on the judiciary and judicial nominees, this article offers one-stop shopping.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Dan Gilgoff wonders why Religious Right groups were all but silent about Tony Dungy's invitation to join the Obama administration's faith advisory council.
  • Pam notes that Rick Warren is now coming under attack from right-winger for his "betrayal" on marriage.
  • Andrew Sullivan continues to hammer away at the National Review's anti-marriage equality editorial.
  • Think Progress reports that Texas State Rep. Betty Brown thinks Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce.
  • Steve Benen asks a good question: what is Newt Gingrich talking about?
  • Finally, as a follow-up to our earlier post about Morality in Media's Bob Peters, David Corn digs up this fascinating fact:
  • It might be tempting to dismiss Peters and Morality in Media as marginal, but this group did receive federal funding from 2005 through 2007. The money supported a Morality in Media project, ObscenityCrimes.org, which paid two retired law enforcement officers to review citizen complaints about obscenity on the Internet and to forward the best leads to the US Justice Department for possible prosecution. A total of $300,000 was provided to Morality in Media through two earmarks Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) placed into spending bills, according to Peters. And a portion of that money went to cover Peters' salary. As The New York Times reported in 2007, no obscenity prosecutions had resulted from the Morality in Media's obscenity-tracking work.

The End of Christian America?

In recent days there have appeared two pieces that have generated a lot of attention suggesting that the Religious Right days as a political and cultural force are coming to an end.

The first was Kathleen Parker’s column covering the recent skirmish between right-wing radio host Steve Deace and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family about James Dobson's and Focus on the Family’s support of John McCain’s presidential campaign. In this fight, Parker sees evidence that “the Christian right [might be] finished as a political entity”:

Deace's point was that established Christian activist groups too often settle for lesser evils in exchange for electing Republicans. He cited as examples Dobson's support of Mitt Romney and John McCain, neither of whom is pro-life or pro-family enough from Deace's perspective.

Compromise may be the grease of politics, but it has no place in Christian orthodoxy, according to Deace.

Put another way, Christians may have no place in the political fray of dealmaking. That doesn't mean one disengages from political life, but it might mean that the church shouldn't be a branch of the Republican Party. It might mean trading fame and fortune (green rooms and fundraisers) for humility and charity.

Deace's radio show may be beneath the radar of most Americans and even most Christians, but he is not alone in his thinking. I was alerted to the Deace-Minnery interview by E. Ray Moore -- founder of the South Carolina-based Exodus Mandate, an initiative to encourage Christian education and home schooling. Moore, who considers himself a member of the Christian right, thinks the movement is imploding.

"It's hard to admit defeat, but this one was self-inflicted," he wrote in an e-mail. "Yes, Dr. Dobson and the pro-family or Christian right political movement is a failure; it would have made me sad to say this in the past, but they have done it to themselves."

A somewhat similar article appears as the cover story of the upcoming issue of Newsweek in which author Jon Meacham predicts that the most recent American Religious Identification Survey showing a rise in the number of self-identified non-believers signals that the United States may be moving into a “post-Christian” era:

This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population.

Much of Meacham’s piece is predicated on concerns raised by Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who notes that, according to the survey, “the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified” which signals that “the historic foundation of America's religious culture was cracking:

"The post-Christian narrative is radically different; it offers spirituality, however defined, without binding authority," [Mohler] told me. "It is based on an understanding of history that presumes a less tolerant past and a more tolerant future, with the present as an important transitional step." The present, in this sense, is less about the death of God and more about the birth of many gods. The rising numbers of religiously unaffiliated Americans are people more apt to call themselves "spiritual" rather than "religious."

Evangelical Christians have long believed that the United States should be a nation whose political life is based upon and governed by their interpretation of biblical and theological principles. If the church believes drinking to be a sin, for instance, then the laws of the state should ban the consumption of alcohol. If the church believes the theory of evolution conflicts with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis, then the public schools should tailor their lessons accordingly. If the church believes abortion should be outlawed, then the legislatures and courts of the land should follow suit. The intensity of feeling about how Christian the nation should be has ebbed and flowed since Jamestown; there is, as the Bible says, no thing new under the sun. For more than 40 years, the debate that began with the Supreme Court's decision to end mandatory school prayer in 1962 (and accelerated with the Roe v. Wade ruling 11 years later) may not have been novel, but it has been ferocious. Fearing the coming of a Europe-like secular state, the right longed to engineer a return to what it believed was a Christian America of yore.

But that project has failed, at least for now. In Texas, authorities have decided to side with science, not theology, in a dispute over the teaching of evolution. The terrible economic times have not led to an increase in church attendance. In Iowa last Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage, a defeat for religious conservatives. Such evidence is what has believers fretting about the possibility of an age dominated by a newly muscular secularism. "The moral teachings of Christianity have exerted an incalculable influence on Western civilization," Mohler says. "As those moral teachings fade into cultural memory, a secularized morality takes their place. Once Christianity is abandoned by a significant portion of the population, the moral landscape necessarily changes. For the better part of the 20th century, the nations of Western Europe led the way in the abandonment of Christian commitments. Christian moral reflexes and moral principles gave way to the loosening grip of a Christian memory. Now even that Christian memory is absent from the lives of millions."

I have to say I find this temptation from commentators to write the Religious Right’s obituary after every Republican electoral setback rather remarkable.  For one thing, as we pointed out not too long ago, these sorts of pieces appear every few years, only to be overtaken a short time later with pieces marveling that the “sudden” and “unexpected” resurgence of the “values voters" crowd. In addition, despite the gloominess from the likes of Mohler and Deace, the Religious Right is more committed than ever to regrouping as a “resistance movement” to fight for its agenda and eventually regain its position as an influential and powerful political and social force.

And that day may come sooner than many realize. While it might seem at the moment that the Religious Right is on its way out, it is important to remember that the GOP has lost exactly one mid-term election and one presidential election and Democrats have controlled Congress and the White House for less than three months.  

Doesn’t anyone else remember all the talk following George W. Bush’s election, and especially his re-election, about the “values voters” and coming of a “permanent Republican majority” which would give the GOP ironclad control over the reigns of government for decades to come?

Remind me again: how did that all work out?  

The point is that political fortunes change … and often change rapidly. It is far, far too early to be declaring the Religious Right to be dead based on two elections and three months of Democratic government.

Frankly, the Religious Right’s political clout has never really been tested and so it is hard to know just if they are losing power because whenever the GOP wins elections, the Right is quick to claim credit for mobilizing grassroots support, but when the GOP loses the Right is quick to chalk the loss up to the party’s failure to embrace the right-wing agenda.

There are really only two scenarios under which predictions about the Right’s demise can reliably be made.  The first is a situation in which the GOP nominates a hard-line, right-wing true believer - someone like Rick Santorum - as its presidential candidate and sees that candidate get destroyed nationwide on Election Day.  The second is if the GOP can manage to actually nominate a presidential candidate who is fundamentally unacceptable to the Right – someone like Rudy Giuliani – and then have that candidate go on to win election to the White House.

But until the GOP nominates a true-believer and loses or right-wing heretic and wins, the Religious Right will continue to maintain a very significant amount of control of one of our nation’s two main political parties … and no amount of punditry announcing its demise will change that fact.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • At a rally for Bob McDonnell, Mike Huckabee trotted out his line urging McDonnell supporters to deflate the tires of Democrats to keep them from going to the polls on election day.
  • Speaking Huckabee, he spoke yesterday at Rider University where he unveiled two new proposals: "He said there should be term limits for members of Congress. And he said senators should once again be elected by state legislatures, not popular vote."
  • Newt Gingrich is predicting that “if the Republicans can’t break out of being the right wing party of big government, then I think you would see a third party movement in 2012.”
  • Mark Levin is refusing to use the term "liberal," insisting instead on the term "statist" for those with whom he disagrees: "These folks are not liberals, because liberal in its classical sense is the opposite of authoritarian. They are the authoritarians — if you listen to them, they constantly speak of the government doing this and the government doing that. They are government-centric, or Statists. They represent the power of a central heavy-handed government against the people."
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry has proclaimed April as Abortion Recovery Awareness Month.

The Unstoppable 77 Foot Cross

Today just seems to be day for weirdly confusing press releases, like this one from The Coming King Foundation that starts playing music as soon as you open the page.  The release announces that TCKF will soon install a "massive, 70 ton, multimillion dollar, 77'7" steel cross" in its Sculpture Prayer Garden but that the actual date of the installation won't be revealed because of "vandalism threats by atheists." Well, that and the fact that there is also a lawsuit:

TCKF Trustees held a meeting with their attorneys, Barbara Cole, Rit Jons and Ken Zysko to discuss a lawsuit that was filed in December of 2008 to prevent the non-profit, Christian arts organization (TCKF) from raising the giant cross in a 300' long, cross-shaped garden, at the highest point of their 23 acre property.

Neighbors of the TCKF property, living along a "one road" rural, unincorporated development, outside the City Limits of Kerrville, filed a Temporary Restraining Order in the 216th District Court of Texas, on 12/8/08, to stop the erection of the unique seven story, cross sculpture, in The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden, now under construction.

The lawsuit was filed just weeks before "The Empty Cross"® sculpture was to be erected on its $100,000 concrete foundation. In January 2009, other neighbors, as Interveners, living along Mesa Vista Rd. joined the lawsuit to seek a Permanent Restraining Order to stop the cross from ever being erected on its foundation.

TCKF is apparently building a 23-acre "Sculpture Prayer Garden" that "by the providence of God, is located half way between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on Interstate 10, at the same latitude as Israel. It also looks like the Holy Land, with its rolling hills, vegetation, vistas, and thousands of genuine, 2.25 ton limestone blocks."

TCKF reports that it has built the garden without borrowing any money or going into debt because "the Garden is being built entirely on faith in God" and the centerpiece will be the massive, $3 million cross in question:

"The Empty Cross"® design may be the most scripturally meaningful, monumental cross sculpture ever created because of its Biblical dimensions and symbolism.

The 140,000 pound (70 ton) Cor-tin steel cross measures 77'7" tall, with a 40' wide cross bar. It has a square footprint like the "Holy of Holies." The 7 foot wide space, in the center of the cross, will allow visitors look up seven stories and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, literally at the "foot of the cross", if they wish. The red/brown color of the Cor-tin steel represents the shed blood of Jesus. The open, hollow design symbolizes the "Resurrection", the "Light of the World", the "Iron Scepter" the "Door", and the "Narrow Gate" that all must enter to find God.

As for now, the installation of this sculpture is mired in litigation, but is seems that TKF has some pretty powerful and influential figures on its side:

Well-known Christians who have already prayed over the Kerrville Garden project include: Former Governor Mike Huckabee, US Senator, Dr. Bill Frist, Franklin Graham, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Rick Warren, Dr. Pat Robertson, Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. Paul Crouch, Josh McDowell, Ken Blanchard, Coach Bill McCartney, Tony Perkins, Bill Johnson, Rick Joyner, Dr. Mahesh & Bonnie Chavda, Joni & Marcus Lamb and Dr. Bill, Vonette and Brad Bright, to name just a few.

Cornyn's Power Grab

Yesterday I wrote a post noting that Republican Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas were refusing to relinquish control over the state's process of selecting judicial nominations, forcing state Democrats to go over their heads and get the White House to issue a statement declaring that "no federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. marshal will be nominated by the president ... unless that person has the confirmed support of the Texas Democratic delegation."

Yesterday, Cornyn and Hutchison both responded by saying that they were looking forward to working with the White House and the state delegation in the new process, but now Cornyn has changed his tune to "drop dead":

A day after the White House said it will consider only those Texas judicial nominees who get the nod from Texas Democrats in Congress, Sen. John Cornyn refused to be bypassed.

"The day that we elect a Democrat to the United States Senate in Texas, they are entitled to function as they would with a Democratic president," he said Thursday. "I'm not going to delegate my responsibility to anybody else."

Cornyn says he intends to have Obama’s judicial nominees be screened by the committee that he and Hutchison have always used in evaluating nominees – a committee he admits is "heavily stacked with Republican lawyers."

And why is that? Because he doesn't want the selection process "to be viewed as a partisan exercise" and this is the only way he can "depoliticize the nomination process."

So when there was a Republican in the White House, Cornyn, Hutchison, and a bunch of Republican lawyers controlled the judicial selection process because that is what the people of Texas elected them to do ... but now that there is a Democrat in the White House, Cornyn, Hutchison, and a bunch of Republican lawyers must maintain control over the process in order "depoliticize the nomination process."

Of course, a more effective way to "depoliticize the nomination process" would be for Cornyn to relinquish control of the process as dictated by custom, as the Congressional Research Service explained just last year [PDF]:

By custom, when neither of a state’s Senators is of the President’s party, the primary role in recommending candidates for district court judgeships is assumed by officials in the state who are of the President’s party. Historically, in the absence of a Senator of the President’s party, the state official or officials who most frequently have exercised the judicial “patronage” function have been the most senior member, or one of the most senior members, of the party’s House of Representatives delegation, the House party delegation as a whole, the governor, or state party officials. In any given state, one of these officials may exercise the recommending function exclusively, or share it with one or more of the others.

...

[A]t the start of presidency of George W. Bush, a Republican, in January 2001, the new Administration looked to other than senatorial sources for advice on judicial candidates in states having two opposition party Senators. The Legal Times reported that in “the 18 states where both senators are Democrats, Bush will be getting advice on potential nominees from a high-ranking Republican House member or the state’s Republican governor" ... By custom, the role of a state’s Senators in judicial candidate selection, when neither is of the President’s party, is secondary to the role of those officials discussed above, who actually choose candidates to recommend to the President. Customarily, in these circumstances, the state’s Senators, if they are consulted by state officials of the President’s party, are consulted for their reactions to candidates under consideration, but not for their own preferences. Where consultations of this sort are done in good faith, negative as well as positive feedback from the Senators would be welcomed, but typically they would not be called upon to make their own candidate recommendations.

 

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