American Way

Conference Recap: Far Right Leaders Vow to 'Take Back America' from 'Evil' Obama and Democrats

The How To Take Back America conference held in St. Louis September 25 and 26 drew some 600 activists and, according to organizers, 100,000 online viewers. The gathering was an expanded version of the annual conference held by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, co-hosted this year by radio personality and far-right activist Janet Folger Porter and promoted by other right-wing bloggers and radio shows.

Conference leaders and participants were both fearful and optimistic: fearful that if the Obama administration gets its way, freedom in America will give way to servitude to a tyrannical socialist government; and optimistic that Americans are angry enough to resist that tyranny and will sweep Democrats out of power in House elections in 2010.

Joining conference participants and echoing the themes were presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and several Republican Members of Congress, including Michele Bachmann (MN), Trent Franks (AZ), Steve King (IA), and Tom McClintock (CA).

Among the themes of the conference:

  • a continued merging of messaging and organizing among the Religious Right and “teabagger” right
  • the fervent belief that America is at a tipping point between freedom and fascist power: President Obama and his congressional allies are on the verge of delivering America into Socialism, Communism, and/or Nazi-style tyranny, and that government is therefore to be feared and resisted
  • optimism that the tea bag movement and anti-health-reform town halls are a sign that Americans are prepared to resist that tyranny
  • extreme opposition to Democratic health care reform efforts, with some support for the congressional Republican alternative and some demands for a no-compromise approach that would involve ending all government involvement in health care, including Medicare
  • recent attacks on ACORN are just part of a larger effort to target progressive community organizing groups and their religious supporters and “defund the left”
  • hostility not only to same-sex marriage but also to any legal protections for LGBT Americans and same-sex couples
  • a new push to use “abortion as black genocide” as a wedge between African Americans and pro-choice progressives built around a new “documentary” portraying abortion as 21st century genocide
  • American exceptionalism – the belief that America’s founding was divinely inspired and the nation has been uniquely blessed by God – is alive and well, though America is now living under a curse for having elected Barack Obama
  • activists don’t need a majority to take back America; if their minority or “remnant” is committed enough God will use them
  • the apparent passing (or grabbing) of the torch from Phyllis Schlafly to Janet Folger Porter

The most widely read book among these activists may not be Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny or Glenn Beck’s Common Sense but Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, which was invoked repeatedly by speakers and participants.

A Coalescing of Right-Wing Themes

The wide range of issues covered by workshops indicated the ongoing merging of Religious Right and far-right anti-government rhetoric that has been a hallmark of anti-Obama organizing. In this, you could say that Phyllis Schlafly has been ahead of her time: for decades she has combined Religious Right opposition to abortion, feminism, reproductive choice, and gay rights with concerns about a far-ranging list of threats to the American way of life, including federal judges, international treaties, the United Nations, and supposed secret plans to merge the U.S. with Mexico and Canada in a North American Union.  

Former and probably future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee won a cheering standing ovation from this crowd when he adopted its anti-UN stance, demanding that the organization leave the U.S. and not get one more dime in American funding. Huckabee complained about giving a platform to “murderous thugs” and said, “Enough! It’s time to get a jackhammer and to simply chip that part of New York City and let it float into the East River never to be seen again.” Huckabee managed to combine a couple of the far right’s favorite targets by declaring that the UN “has become the international equivalent of ACORN and it’s time to say enough.” (This from the man who said minutes earlier that the conservative movement was at its best when it was built on a strong intellectual grounding.)

Ferocious hostility toward the Obama administration is a unifying force in bringing together social and religious conservatives, a trend also evident at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. the week before. At How To Take Back America, for example, a session on health care reform focused less on the threat of publicly funded abortion and more on the “fascist” government “takeover” of the economy as a “power grab” by the president. The proposed “cap and trade” energy legislation was described as an effort to tax and control every American’s energy usage. 

President Obama: ‘He’s just evil.’

The depth of hostility toward President Obama -- described by a representative of the American Family Association as “a scary, scary individual” -- cannot be overstated. Rep. Trent Franks called Obama “an enemy of humanity” who “has no place in any station of government.” Another speaker, anti-gay activist Matt Barber, strung together as many insults as he could in describing the president as “a secular humanist, a radical socialist moral relativist.” 

Obama’s push for health care reform is not about health care, said Rep. Tom Price, it’s about power. A representative from Oregon Right to Life said “it’s not about health care, it’s about subjugation and control…He is a statist. He believes in control by government and its dear leaders, fascism by any other name.”  During a session on how feminism is destroying society, a questioner asked if President Obama’s push for women to go back to college was a precursor to women being forced into hard labor like they were in Russia. 

In fact many speakers and participants suggested parallels between the Obama administration’s actions and the rise to power of the Nazis. (One favored technique is to list a set of policy actions that sound like Democratic proposals and then spring the surprise that they were all actions taken by Hitler.) 

Similar hostility was directed toward Democratic congressional leaders. Speaker after speaker accused the president and his allies of pursuing a Marxist agenda, and one dubbed Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid the “new axis of evil.”

Several people suggested that armed resistance to tyrannical government may be needed. A speaker who drew parallels between America today and her experiences growing up under Nazis and Communists urged activists to buy more guns and ammunition; someone suggested that “the Second Amendment” would be the answer to threats by state governments to impose forced vaccination and quarantines during a flu pandemic.

Stopping Health Care Reform

Blocking Democratic health care reform proposals (Rep. Price called House Democrats’ HR 3200 a “monstrosity”) was among the hottest topics at the conference. As noted above, rhetoric focused on the issue less as a policy disagreement and more as a last-ditch battle against a power-hungry president to preserve freedom in America. One speaker said dramatically that if this “diabolical change” were not defeated, government of the people, by the people, and for the people would perish from the face of the earth.

Among the most extreme anti-Obama and anti-government speakers were three doctors who led a workshop session on “How to Stop Socialism in Health Care,” which moderator Andy Schlafly called “the most important issue we’re facing.” 

Lawrence Huntoon, representing the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (which bills itself as a conservative alternative to the AMA), argued that any governmental “interference” in the practice of health care is unconstitutional, and that the Obama administration is really only interested in power. “Just like the fraud and deception of socialism itself,” he said, proposals for reform have more to do with government gaining control over the lives of individuals than of health care. 

The second speaker, Dr. Frank Rosenbloom of Oregon Right to Life, lashed out at President Obama’s policies and at suggestions that opposition to his administration reflected racism. Obama, he said, is a supporter of Planned Parenthood and therefore responsible for genocide against black children. “Liberals are the true racists in this society,” he proclaimed. But he was just warming up.  Rosenbloom compared Obama to Adolf Hitler, saying “fascism is happening here and now.” Recalling President Obama’s statement that if his daughter mistakenly became pregnant, he would not want her to be punished with a baby, Rosenbloom said that is the sort of “moral sewage that is running our country.”

Rosenbloom, who said Obama is “not stupid,” but “just evil,” rejected Rep. Price’s plug for HR 3400, a Republican alternative bill, demanding that government get out of health care completely. He called for an end to Medicare and Medicaid, saying that people could be provided for through tax subsidies for buying insurance. 

A third speaker,Dr. Allen Unruh, said “we either live in freedom or in servitude, there is no middle ground.”  Unruh said Obama health care plans would result in dismantling the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th, and 13th amendments and said it would turn all doctors into “slaves of the state” and result in "slavery reenacted by our first black president."

Abortion: No Compromise, New Wedges

While anti-Obama and anti-government fervor felt like the energizing force of the conference, the intensity of opposition to legalized abortion was also undiminished. 

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, citing Obama’s pro-choice policies, called him an “enemy of humanity:”

Obama’s first act as president of any consequence, in the middle of a financial meltdown, was to send taxpayers’ money oversees to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries…there’s almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that….we shouldn’t be shocked that he does all these other insane things….A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can’t do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity.

Huckabee also called for “no compromise” on the issue:

That’s why the position that I believe that we must uncompromisingly hold toward the sanctity of human life is an absolute and cannot be negotiated and cannot be given away. And I will never support anyone for public office who does not believe that we should protect every single human life. It’s better to lose elections than to lose our culture and to lose civilization.

Huckabee added that he didn’t believe an uncompromising anti-choice stance would lead to lost elections, saying he was encouraged that younger women are more anti-choice than their mothers and grandmothers.

Anti-choice activists are mounting a renewed effort to use abortion as a wedge issue, portraying legaliized abortion as “black genocide” and promoting Maafa 21, a new “documentary” meant to help stir anti-abortion sentiment in African American churches. Janet Porter told of attending a showing of the movie in Arizona, after which a speaker urged people to confess if they had voted for pro-choice candidates like President Obama. An African American woman, Porter says, rose and prayed, “Forgive me Lord, for putting race over you.”

Along the same lines, Rep. Franks touted his “Susan B. Anthony – Frederick Douglass Pre-Natal Non Discrimination Act,” which would ban abortions carried out on the basis of race or sex. He bragged that the bill would put members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other liberals in a box, because they don’t want to support discrimination, but that if they do vote for the bill, they will be acknowledging that “there’s a person involved.” 

Freedom with an Asterisk

An overriding theme of conference speakers was that the nation is poised on losing its freedom. Rep. Tom Price said that in Washington “we see a crowd in charge that is not too fond of freedom.” 

Of course, freedom to these conference-goers does not extend to LGBT Americans who want to live their lives free from discrimination or serve the nation in the armed forces. Several workshops focused on the dire threat to children and communities posed by the prospect (and reality) of gay couples getting married. And for this crowd, stopping marriage equality is not enough: they are out to prevent civil unions and domestic partnerships as well. They believe the Employment Anti-Discrimination Act is a grave threat to religious liberty. They believe that allowing gays to serve openly in the military would threaten national security. And please don’t get them started on transgender people.

Gay rights advocates, like Obama, were described by Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber as bullies who get their way with propaganda and “goose-stepping” intimidation of those who oppose equality.

Attacking Progressives

Conference participants were downright gleeful about the troubles facing ACORN, which they claim has been routinely engaged in voter fraud. They were warned, however, that congressional action to deny funding to ACORN is only a first step in attacking funding for organizations affiliated with ACORN and more broadly, groups doing community organizing in poor communities like the Industrial Areas Foundation.

A group of participants from Wisconsin, for example, distributed materials attacking the state’s Catholic bishops for supporting social justice-oriented religious coalitions like Common Ground, which they argue has a “Radical Left Agenda” -- which in their mind includes things like government support for day care. 

In her address, Rep. Michele Bachman said liberalism is repulsive to the American people and called for a renewed effort to “defund the left,” something she criticized Republicans for failing to do when they were in power. “Defunding the left is going to be so easy and it’s going to solve so many of our problems,” she said.

Franks touted his “pre-natal discrimination” bill as a way to “completely defund Planned Parenthood,” which is high on the Right’s agenda.

Taking Back Congress in 2010

Many speakers shared Phyllis Schlafly’s optimism that the anti-Obama, anti-government anger evident in the health care town halls, the tea bag parties, and the conference itself is spreading like wildfire and will make it possible for the Republicans to reclaim the House of Representatives in 2010 and bring a screeching halt to the Obama administration’s plans to drive America into socialist subservience.

Porter announced plans for a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on May 1, 2010, and she’s already got several members of Congress, including Reps. Franks and King signed up. Porter claimed that the event was not about impressing the media or Washington elite, but about touching the heart of God with a show of national repentance for having elected such wicked leaders. She said attendees would be able to give God a sign of their readiness to turn from their wicked ways by putting money into barrels that would be given to the opponents of targeted Democratic congressional leaders.

Passing the Torch

The entire conference had the feel of a generational passing of the leadership torch from Phyllis Schlafly to Janet Folger Porter. Photographic tributes to Schlafly’s life were capped with a long “surprise” recounting of her career by Porter during the final evening program. Porter presented Schlafly with the “American Hero of the Century” Award. For her part, Schlafly praised Porter repeatedly throughout the weekend, saying, “there aren’t extravagances enough to praise Janet for the role she’s played in taking back America and rebuilding the conservative movement.”

Although they don’t agree about everything (Porter argued that Mike Huckabee was God’s chosen candidate in 2008, while Schlafly disparaged his conservative credentials), Porter is in many ways a perfect successor to Schlafly. She shares many of her characteristics, including a no-compromise approach to politics, a strategy of promoting the most extreme and fantastical claims about opponents’ aims and goals, seemingly limitless energy for the fight, and a talent for self-promotion.

Porter has a documented record of promoting even the wildest right-wing conspiracy theories, including “birtherism” and claims that the Obama administration is planning to round up conservatives into internment camps and exterminate millions of Americans through a flu vaccine plot. None of that apparently can diminish her shine in the eyes of the public officials hoping to gain or keep her favor. Both Rep. Franks and Mike Huckabee credited Porter for getting them to the conference. Huckabee went a little further, saying there are two Janets he answers to, his wife and Porter. Porter co-chaired the Faith and Values committee of Huckabee’s presidential campaign. So if Porter does indeed become the new leader of Schlafly’s loyal followers, that’s good news for Huckabee’s future political ambitions.

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated

Catholic San Francisco reviews Bill Donohue's latest book, "Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America" and I have to say there is a sense of pride in finding out that we rank among the groups and people that he hates:

About saboteurs, for whom he uses “extremists,” “radicals” and “nihilists” as synonyms, Donohue writes, “The goal is not reform: it is an attempt to gut core beliefs and practices. And to a disturbing extent, the secularists have succeeded in turning things upside down and inside out.”

Among those he views as “the radical secular activists out to disable America” are the American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League, People for the American Way, National Abortion Rights Defense League, Catholics for Choice and the Democratic Party. Lawyers and Hollywood are named, too. Regarding the latter, he uses films such as “Priest,” “Dogma,” “The Golden Compass” and “The Da Vinci Code,” and refers to the short-lived 1997 TV show “Nothing Sacred.” That chapter also includes an examination of the controversy that surrounded “The Passion of the Christ.”

RWWIF: Religious Right Targets Maine & Marriage Equality

Our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus has been posted, entitled "Religious Right Targets Maine & Marriage Equality with Money, Anti-Gay Swat Teams and Reprise of Prop-8’s False Fearmongering Strategies":

National Religious Right organizations that bankrolled the effort to put Proposition 1 on the ballot in Maine descended on the state this past weekend with a SWAT team of anti-gay leaders and veterans of last year’s Prop 8 battle in California . The Religious Right’s collective targeting of Maine ’s new marriage equality law demonstrates the huge importance right-wing leaders have placed on reversing gains by marriage equality advocates in the northeast. Religious Right activists must not be allowed to set back this achievement with another massively funded campaign of deception. People For the American Way urges its members and activists to lend support to the excellent Mainer-led campaign No on 1/Protect Maine Equality.

...

Earlier this year, after hard work by local organizers, Maine legislators passed, and the governor signed, marriage equality legislation. Religious Right leaders responded by pouring money into the state to help gather signatures for a veto initiative, and they have imported the strategist and strategies that fueled the dishonorable Prop 8 campaign in California . It’s urgently important to prevent the Religious Right from turning the milestone in Maine into yet another victory in a nationwide war against equality. Equality in Maine must stand. Non-Maine residents can support the No on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign with donations, participation in phone banking, or even by spending a week in October volunteering for the campaign.

Joseph Farah Fights Back

Yesterday I wrote a post about Jon Henke's call for a boycott for any conservatives that "choose to support [WorldNetDaily] through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration."

In response to this call, I pointed out that WND founder Joseph Farah has been a staple at right-wing events and that if you plan on boycotting anyone who "collaborates" with WND, you'd have to boycott pretty much the entire conservative movement.

Today, Farah shot back at Henke and those who have taken up his call, as well as Media Matters and yours truly:

Last, but not least – because more will surely be coming on this epic journalistic scandal committed by WND – the always thoughtful folks at People for the American Way got their two cents in by suggesting the out-of-context quote picked up by the Boston Herald should require an all-out boycott of any organization that "will not renounce any further support of WorldNetDaily."

Am I scared?

No, folks. I'm not.

I didn't found WorldNetDaily to be esteemed by my colleagues.

I didn't found it to make People for the American Way or Media Matters happy.

I didn't found it because I wanted to be part of the "conservative" movement.

I founded it because there was a crying need for an independent brand of journalism beholden only to the truth.

And we will continue to pursue the truth no matter where it leads.

I hope you appreciate that WorldNetDaily difference.

First of all, we did not suggest a boycott of "any organization that 'will not renounce any further support of WorldNetDaily'," Henke did:

I think it's time to find out what conservative/libertarian organizations support WND through advertising, list rental or other commercial collaboration (email me if you know of any), and boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily.

Secondly, Farah blames the call for a boycott on this recent article:

Is the federal government building secret camps to lock up people who criticize President Barack Obama?

Will it truck off young people to camps to brainwash them into liking Obama’s agenda? Are government officials planning to replicate the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, using the guillotine to silence their domestic enemies?

...

In a second warning, the Web site Worldnetdaily.com says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents.

Jerome Corsi, the author of "The Obama Nation," an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress "appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."

Farah insists that the article took Corsi's quote out of context:

Notice the partial quote. What's left out are some key words. Let's look at the full, unexpurgated sentence in Corsi's original story: "The proposed bill, which has received little mainstream media attention, appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."

Apparently, Farah thinks that the words "the proposed bill, which has received little mainstream media attention" somehow make Corsi's assertion about government concentration camps less crazy.

And, it should be noted, it is not just Corsi who is making these sorts of outlandish claims in the pages of WND - Janet Porter is making them as well. Heck, just a few weeks ago, Porter's entire WND column was dedicated to furthering her belief that there is some conspiracy afoot to kill millions of Americans via a flu vaccine.

Farah says he founded founded WND "because there was a crying need for an independent brand of journalism beholden only to the truth."

And it is thanks to Farah's deep commitment to the truth that we have been graced with some of WND's most amazing revelations ... like the fact that soy makes you gay.

Military Fatigues and Guns Optional At Church-Held Political Rally

Let us offer some advice to anyone planning on attending a future "A Call to Arms" rally hosted by a right-wing radio host by the name of Ralph Bristol and TEA Party activists: even though it is being held in a church, be sure to wear your best military fatigues if you want to fit in .... and bring your gun:

An old-fashioned God and country revival broke out at Cornerstone Church in Madison [Tennessee] on Friday night, complete with patriotic songs, flag waving, and a dose of fire and brimstone about the dangers of socialism.

There was even an altar call.

But the 600 or so Christian conservatives gathered for "A Call to Arms," organized by talk show host Ralph Bristol, weren't asked to give their heart to Jesus. Instead, they were asked to sign up for conservative causes like the Tea Party Nation and the Eagle Forum, and to donate to charities like the Nashville Rescue Mission.

"You must get involved," said Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation. "The time for sitting on the sidelines is over."

Phillips urged the crowd to fight what he called the "Obama-Pelosi-Reed axis of evil," which he believes threatens the American way of life.

"Tonight we are doing a different kind of altar call," he said. "Tonight's altar call is not for God. It's for country."

...

Toward the end of his program, Bristol replaced the Hawaiian shirt with a green army jacket and baseball cap with the American flag on it, to play a character called Sgt. Bristol. He gave his audience marching orders to slay the socialist monster.

One thing Bristol didn't carry was a firearm. He had thought about bringing one to church as part of his uniform but decided against it.

"Sergeant Bristol gets pretty angry, and to be up there, wearing a gun, didn't feel right," he said.

Some of the audience wore similar uniforms, and brought their guns.

Sobota and his wife, Cindy, said they have permits to carry handguns, and brought them along to church on Friday.

"There's been a lot of fear-mongering about that," he said. "I'm probably the safest person out there, because I don't want to do anything to jeopardize my permit."

Why Can't Peter Read?

In a post I wrote yesterday about the Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ Conference, I pointed out that Peter LaBarbera is calling for a "comprehensive federal study on the health risks of homosexual sex," because gay sex is, among other things, more dangerous than smoking. 

Today, LaBarbera responded with a new post claiming that he never made such a claim:

Here’s a People for the American Way report attacking AFTAH that says that I have called homosexual sex more dangerous than smoking, which I did not claim in our original report. In fact, I think some “gay” behaviors like sodomy are more dangerous than cigarettes — although there are many variables here that make comparisons difficult.

Well, here is the original report:

The very first line says "More Dangerous than Smoking?" next to a photo of an ashtray.  What else could that mean? And later, LaBarbera's post says this (emphasis added):

LaBarbera read from a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) report explaining why “men who have sex with men” (MSM) cannot donate blood due to the high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases linked to MSM. He noted that since government agencies and politicians are active in confronting the health risks of smoking (using taxpayer dollars), they should do the same for homosexual sex — especially between men — which appears to be as dangerous or more so than smoking cigarettes.

How can he claim that he never suggested that gay sex was more dangerous than smoking when he did so repeatedly? 

And then, not content with falsely accusing us of lying, he also declares that our post advocated for something entirely unrelated: 

It’s utterly beyond me as to how LaBarbera concluded that my post criticizing his effort to declare gay sex more dangerous than smoking by relying solely on a document pertaining to restrictions on blood donations was, in reality, a call by this organization "for [an] end to gay blood donation ban."

So not only did LaBarbera accuse us of claiming he said something he never said (though, in fact, he did) , he in turn accused us of saying something we never said.

A Remembrance of CFJ Ads Past

In honor of the Committee for Justice's most recent ad basically accusing Sonia Sotomayor of being a terrorist, I thought I'd dust off the ol' archives and take a look back at the ads CFJ put together during the Bush administration.

Like these newspaper ads they ran accusing Democrats of blocking Bill Pryor for religious reasons:

And the accompanying radio ad:

Why are some in the U.S. Senate playing politics with religion?

As Alabama Attorney General, Bill Pryor regularly upheld the law even when it was at odds with his personal beliefs. Raised a Catholic, those personal beliefs are shared by Rhode Islanders all across the Ocean State.

But some in the U.S. Senate are attacking Bill Pryor for having “deeply held” Catholic beliefs to prevent him from becoming a federal judge. Don’t they know the Constitution expressly prohibits religious tests for public office?

Bill Pryor is a loving father, a devout Catholic, and an elected Attorney General who understands the job of a judge is to uphold the law – not legislate from the bench. It’s time for his political opponents to put his religion aside and give him an up or down vote. It’s the right thing to do.

Thank Senators Chafee and Reed for making sure that the Senate stops playing politics with religion.

Paid for by the Committee for Justice and the Ave Maria List

And who can forget this great ad in support of Miguel Estrada:

America is a monument to the willing, where we can dream and build, despite race creed or color. But there's still intolerance.

President Bush nominated Miguel Estrada to be the first Hispanic ever to serve on the Federal Appeals Court in Washington. But the radical left says he's not liberal enough. For the first time in history they're blocking his nomination with a filibuster.

Call your senators. Tell them it's time for intolerance to end. Anything less is offensive, unfair and not the American way.

Or this one in support of Janice Rogers Brown:

When Janice Rogers Brown, the daughter of a sharecropper, said she'd become an honor student and finish high school, some people said no way.

When Janice went to college and said she'd work her way through law school as a single mother, again they said no way.

Today President Bush wants this highly qualified Judge on the DC Federal Court of Appeals, the second highest court in America, and now John Edwards says no way.

Shame on you, Sen. Edwards.

Support the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown.

So, in summary, the Committee for Justice's positions seems to be:

Bill Pryor - loving father, devout Catholic, terrific judicial nominee.

Miguel Estrada - conservative, Hispanic, epitome of the American dream, terrific judicial nominee.

Janice Rogers Brown - daughter of a sharecropper, honor student, single mother, terrific judicial nominee.

Sonia Sotomayor - terrorist. 

Note to Jackson: Obtaining Public Records is Not "Hacking"

For the last week, Lou Chibbaro Jr. of the Washington Blade has been trying to figure out if Bishop Harry Jackson, who has been leading the fight against marriage equality in Washington, DC, actually lives in the District.

Using public records, Chibbaro discovered that Jackson registered to vote in DC on April 22 and then followed that up by reporting that the address Jackson used in registering is actually a one-bedroom condo owned by another man and that, as far as residents of the building as well as neighbors of Jackson's Maryland home know, he's not actually residing at the DC address. 

Not surprisingly, instead of clarifying questions regarding his residency, Jackson has decided to play the victim by going on Bill O'Reilly to declare that his opponents have "hacked" into his records and are endangering his family, as the Washington City Paper reports:

“Well, Bill,” he started, “they hacked into my records, found out when I registered to vote in the District of Columbia. They printed in two newspapers my home address and the addresses of houses I own in the Maryland region, outside D.C. And there have been e-mails that have gone forth saying they want to destroy my church. Kind of amazing, isn’t it?”

“It isn’t,” O’Reilly replied. “I’m not amazed by it.” He then brought up his own recent troubles, where he’s come under fire for his years of vitriol toward Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller, leading some to suggest culpability in his brutal murder. Hypocrisy, he said: “You don’t hear a word about people like you, and they’re printing your name in the paper!”

Jackson continued: “You know, Bill, people are looking for privacy, and they say their rights need to be protected. And on the other side, unlike the civil rights movement…[which] operated with a Christian spirit, this minority is going to rise up and impose their will on the majority. And they don’t care that I’ve got young adult daughters and a wife. They don’t care what happens to my family. They just want it their way, and they’ll intimidate you or me into submission if they can.”

“How are you handling all this, as a man of God?” O’Reilly asked. “Are you forgiving them? Are you angry with them?”

Replied Jackson: “Well, I am praying for them and forgiving them. Bill, this is very much a spiritual battle in my view, and I look at Martin Luther King Jr. as the ultimate model in terms of his public resistance to oppression, and I think that this is going to deepen our faith roots if you will. But very sincerely, I cannot answer back, obviously, with the same kind craziness that they’re operating with. But I’m glad that you’ve had me on tonight so that we can expose the fact that folks are saying one thing then doing something totally hypocritical on the other side.”

Cue Bill O’Reilly, tough guy: “I know you can’t do anything, but I can. And if anybody bothers you or your family, and if you believe that anybody’s putting you in danger or doing anything against you church, I want you to call me immediately. And we will deal with those people, because we are going to defend people like you.”

Then O’Reilly gave Jackson “the last word”: “Thing that I’m so concerned about is that this kind of thing has a chilling effect on people standing up for their rights. Once people see what’s happened to me, they say, ‘Shoot, I’m not going to get involved. I’m not going to say my piece.’”

“That’s why they do it to me! That’s why they do it to you!” O’Reilly interjected. “And it’s not the American way. It’s un-American.”

As for the claims that his records had been "hacked," the City Paper points out that such records are public:

Obtaining the address and date of registration for a District voter by no means requires any “hacking.” Any person is free to visit the offices of the Board of Elections and Ethics (441 4th St. NW, 2nd floor, south wing), walk into the waiting area, log in to a public computer terminal, and look up that information for any voter in town. In fact, call 202-727-2525, ask real nice, and they might even look it up for you. And land records? Those are public, too.

If Jackson is so outraged about people trying to figure out if he actually lives in DC, why doesn't he just explain how and why he came to register to vote in the District at an address of a one-bedroom condo owned by another man that is unable to be rented out? 

It's a relatively simple question, so why doesn't he just answer it?

What Year Is This?

On April 15, 1995, Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

A little over a week later, President Bill Clinton delivered a speech in which he defended the First Amendment while raising concerns about the impact of violent and hateful rhetoric:

[W]e hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. You ought to see—I'm sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today.

Well, people like that who want to share our freedoms must know that their bitter words can have consequences and that freedom has endured in this country for more than two centuries because it was coupled with an enormous sense of responsibility on the part of the American people.

If we are to have freedom to speak, freedom to assemble, and, yes, the freedom to bear arms, we must have responsibility as well. And to those of us who do not agree with the purveyors of hatred and division, with the promoters of paranoia, I remind you that we have freedom of speech, too. And we have responsibilities, too. And some of us have not discharged our responsibilities. It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of reckless speech and behavior.

If they insist on being irresponsible with our common liberties, then we must be all the more responsible with our liberties. When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them. When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it. The exercise of their freedom of speech makes our silence all the more unforgivable. So exercise yours, my fellow Americans. Our country, our future, our way of life is at stake.

For this, Clinton was pilloried by the Right, which prompted People For the American Way to release a memo [PDF] on "free speech, irresponsible speech, and the climate of intolerance" which, remarkably, we could probably release today after making only a few small changes:

Language that attributes heinous motives and goals to individuals and organizations -- such as accusations that liberals are out to destroy Christianity or that advocates for civil rights for gays and lesbians want to molest young children -- destroys any recognition of common interest and any hope of finding common ground among political opponents. That is a terribly dangerous situation in a democratic society.

It is tempting to reassure ourselves by saying that hate speech is the denizen of only the furthest fringes of American political life. Unfortunately, that assertion is clearly not true. Elected officials and highly visible political leaders are among those who spread messages of fear and suspicion, over and over, day in and day out. The repetition of such messages cannot contribute to the well-being of our communities or the health of our society at large. Regardless of whether such messages "cause" violent behavior, they clearly serve to legitimize those who do violate the law.

Pat Robertson is a former Presidential candidate, the patriarch of a political movement, a television broadcaster, and an author. His television show and his books reach millions of Americans. Unfortunately, the message he preaches is often this: Christians are under attack in America by liberals and by a government that wants desperately to destroy their faith and their families. "I do believe this year that there's going to be persecutions against Christians. I think the government is going to step up its attacks against Christians," he told television viewers last year. "The government frankly is our enemy and we're going to see more and more of the people who have been places in office last year ... getting control of the levers of power and they will begin to know how to use them to hurt those who are perceived as their enemies."

...

Last year, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proposed regulations -- originating with the Bush administration -- to protect American workers against religious bigotry and harassment on the job, Religious Right political groups portrayed the effort in apocalyptic terms, telling members that the Clinton Administration was so hostile to the Christian faith that the government was planning to make it illegal to wear cross-shaped jewelry, carry a Bible to work, or talk about religion with a co-worker. "Why is the Clinton Administration doing this?" asked Jerry Falwell. "Because they do not want God in American society." It was all patently untrue, and the EEOC offered to clarify that the regulations were designed to protect, not inhibit, workers' religious liberty. Nevertheless, the regulations were killed.

The war against the EEOC regulations was an ideal operation for political organizations willing to trade short-term gain for long-term damage to American society. By claiming (falsely) that the end of religious liberty was near, groups could motivate supporters to call and write elected officials. By refusing to acknowledge government officials' willingness to cooperate toward reaching a solution, and demanding instead withdrawal of the regulations, the organizations' leaders could flex their political muscle for members of Congress and brag to their own members that they had prevented the arrival of tyranny. Meanwhile, millions of Americans were convinced that the government was out to destroy their faith and freedom.

Some of the most incendiary invective is directed against gay and lesbian Americans and their allies in the effort to win legal protection from discrimination. Gays and lesbians are routinely portrayed - by individuals at or near the center of conservative politics in America - as evil individuals who prey on children and want to destroy the institutions of church and family. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has parroted the assertion of the Traditional Values Coalition's Lou Sheldon that teaching about homosexuality in public schools amounts to an effort to "recruit" teenagers into homosexuality. Gingrich has promised Sheldon that the House will hold hearings on the gay "influences" in the schools. Last year Sheldon told his supporters that "President Bill Clinton has quietly put into place homosexual special rights regulations that will devastate our freedom of religion, speech and association, not to mention destroy our society's cultural and moral fiber. AND ALL THIS IS BEING DONE BEHIND OUR BACK."

...

Randall Terry, one of the founders of Operation Rescue, has told followers, "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good. ... We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this county. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."

...

When President Clinton, unequivocally declaring his support for unbridled freedom of speech, called for Americans to respond to hateful rhetoric, his political opponents were quick to twist his words. Pat Robertson told viewers that the President and "those on the left" wanted to use the tragic Oklahoma City bombing "to still the voices of legitimate protest." Oliver North, Rush Limbaugh and others leapt at the chance to glean short-term political gain. When the President in fact called for more speech and more American voices, he was accused of trying to silence voices of dissent. That is precisely the kind of untruth that feeds the current dangerous levels of cynicism and distrust toward the government. And it is ironic to see politically powerful individuals, with powerful voices, claiming the role of victim in order to breed fear and resentment among their supporters.

Good News: "Baby Girl C." Can Stay With Her Parents

Back in January I wrote a post about Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess, who had had the 2-year-old girl who had been in their foster care since she was born in December 2007 removed from their home by Fayette County Circuit Judge Paul Blake, who had ruled that the state's Department of Health and Human Resources had failed to seek a "traditional family-like setting with a mother and father."

Blake ordered the child removed and the DHHR placed her in a second foster home and Kutil and Hess sued.  Today the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled in their favor:

By means of this original jurisdiction action, Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Petitioners”) seek a writ of prohibition to bar enforcement of the November 21, 2008, order (See footnote 1) of the Circuit Court of Fayette County. Petitioners specifically are seeking to prevent the female infant, Baby Girl C. (hereinafter “B.G.C.”), (See footnote 2) from being removed from their foster home. B.G.C. was placed in Petitioners' home as a foster child by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (hereinafter “DHHR”) (See footnote 3) shortly after the child's birth. Petitioners are a same sex couple whose home had been approved by DHHR for both foster care and adoption. The removal of the infant was ordered at the conclusion of an abuse and neglect permanency hearing at which the lower court accepted the recommendation that B.G.C.'s case be transferred to the adoption unit of DHHR. In its removal order, the lower court directed that B.G.C. be moved from her temporary foster home and placed in a household interested in adoption that is a “traditional family” having a mother and a father rather than a household headed by a same sex couple or single person.

...

Summary

Central to our deliberation in this case is the reason or motivation underlying Respondent's decision to remove a child from her foster care home. The motion to remove the child was not supported by any allegation that B.G.C. was receiving improper or unwise care and management in her foster home, or that she was being subjected to any other legally recognized undesirable condition or influence. W.Va. Code § 49-2-12 (1970) (Repl. Vol. 2004); see also W.Va. Code § 49-2-14 (2002) (Repl. Vol. 2004) (criteria and procedure for removal of child from foster home). Likewise, no evidence supporting a legal reason for removing the child was presented at the hearings. As a matter of fact, the court was never presented with any actual evaluation of the home or evidence of the quality of the relationship B.G.C. had with Petitioners. Moreover, Respondent deferred hearing testimony from Petitioners' witnesses regarding their parenting abilities. Nevertheless, there also was no indication that Petitioners provided B.G.C. with anything other than a loving and nurturing home. As Respondent observed from the bench at the November 21 hearing, “there has been absolutely no allegation that these women have not cared for [B.G.C.] or the other kids and, in fact, all of the evidence indicates that they have done very well and have provided very well for the children.” Without any information that the foster care placement with Petitioners was not proceeding well, there was no legal reason for the court to remove B.G.C. from the only home she has known.

It is more than apparent that the only reason why Petitioners were being replaced as foster care providers was to promote the adoption of B.G.C. by what Respondent called in his November 12, 2008, order a “traditionally defined family, that is, a family consisting of both a mother and a father.” It was only by addressing issues he anticipated would develop and believed would be problems at a later point in this case that Respondent was even able to reach the subject of this conclusion. The conclusion itself thus represents a blurring of legal principles applicable to abuse and neglect and adoption. Moreover, even if our current statutes, rules and regulations could somehow be read to support the adoption preference proposed by Respondent, such a newfound principle would need to be harmonized with established law. Under our current law which encourages adoption by qualified foster parents, one of the Petitioners seeking to adopt B.G.C. individually would at the very least need to be considered if not favored in the selection of the prospective adoptive home. (See footnote 22)

In the present case, all indications thus far are that B.G.C. has formed a close emotional bond and nurturing relationship with her foster parents, which can not be trivialized or ignored. State ex rel. Treadway v. McCoy; In re Jonathan G. As such, it serves as a classic example of a case in which the permanency plan for adoption should move quickly to the desired result of a permanent home for B.G.C. One of the Petitioners who has already adopted a child (See footnote 23) and appreciates the tremendous responsibility adoption entails, has recently expressed the desire to adopt B.G.C. Clearly, that Petitioner should not be excluded from consideration for the reason stated by Respondent. These factors all should serve to facilitate the selection process, which needs to be completed as expeditiously as possible in order to further the best interests of B.G.C. and in recognition and support of the parenting investment which has been made.

IV. Conclusion

For the reasons stated in this opinion, the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioners is granted.

People for American Way Foundation filed an amicus brief in this case, along with the ACLU and the ACLU of West Virginia.

SCOTUS Round-Up

Americans United for Life has sent a letter to the Senate demanding exhaustive hearings on President Obama's nominee to replace Justice David Souter:

When the Senate Judiciary Committee gathers to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee, one pro-life group tells the panel's chairman it wants a full discussion of where the nominee stands on abortion. The letter comes from Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life.

"The most important question a nominee for the Supreme Court must answer is to articulate their judicial philosophy: will they advance an agenda that limits the right of the people to determine the content of abortion-related laws through the democratic process?" she writes.

"In the days ahead, we look to our Senators to uphold their duty to raise serious questions on the nominee’s judicial philosophy and reject any nominee who places personal preference over upholding the Constitution," the AUL leader adds.

Should her organization not like the answers, Yoest promises an immediate response.

"We will oppose any nominee to the Court who believes social activism trumps interpreting the Constitution," she says.

David Weigel of the Washington Independent profiles several of the right-wing judicial activist groups:

Curt Levey sometimes wears a lapel pin with the faces of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito and the legend “Thanks, W.” Once in a while he swaps that out for another button, with the same portraits of George W. Bush’s two high court appointments, but a more forward-looking slogan: “The kind of change we can believe in.”

“I used to work to confirm good judicial nominees,” Levey told TWI this week. “Now I’m trying to limit the damage Barack Obama can do.”

Levey is the executive director of the Committee for Justice, one of the hubs of a far-flung but close-knit group of conservatives who plan on holding President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court pick up to a magnifying glass. During the Bush years, Levey worked at the Center for Individual Rights, a libertarian law firm that made its biggest impact with the landmark Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger affirmative action cases. Levey went on to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, then left to work on Supreme Court confirmations with conservatives who had prepped for these fights ever since the failed 1987 nomination of Judge Robert Bork.

Movement conservatives are in a position to oppose the nomination of almost any nominee that the president puts forward. In conversation with TWI, activists portrayed the coming confirmation hearings as a chance to peel the bark off of the president’s bipartisan image, to unite the conservative movement, and to learn lessons for future hearings with higher stakes. Few imagined that the president could get a much more liberal pick than retiring Justice David Souter through the Senate. Their focus was not so much on defeating this pick — an incredibly difficult task with only 40 Republican senators — but on carving out an election issue for the 2010 midterms and on building capital for a theoretical future battle to replace one of the court’s conservatives.

“This can be an educational moment for the American people,” said Gary Marx, the executive director of the Judicial Confirmation Network. “This is a chance to reaffirm the meaning of judicial restraint and explode the myth that Barack Obama is trans-partisan leader.”

They have some strength in numbers. While Levey cautioned that “the groups on the right are smaller than the groups on the left,” such as People for the American Way, he put together one of the first intra-movement conference calls on the coming Supreme Court fight days after the 2008 election, bringing on around 50 people. In the months since, he has collected around 30 short dossiers (averaging three pages each) on possible Obama nominees. The quiet coalition that’s ready to scrutinize Obama’s nominees includes several people who faced Democratic wrath during the Bush years, such as Tim Goeglein, a former White House aide who is now a vice president at the political arm of Focus on the Family, and Manny Miranda, a one-time aide to former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who spent the Roberts and Alito confirmation battles at the head of his own effort, the Third Branch Conference.

“A lot of the old Bush people went on to law firms,” Levey explained. “No one group has the resources to do 30 research memos, but by pooling out work to people and recruiting pro bono help, we’ve got more than we need at this point.”

Finally, there is lots of speculation about how Republicans and the Right would respond to a gay SCOTUS nominee, with Sen. Jeff Session saying that it wouldn't be "an automatic disqualification" while Sen. John Thune is not so sure:

“I know the administration is being pushed, but I think it would be a bridge too far right now,” said GOP Chief Deputy Whip John Thune. “It seems to me this first pick is going to be a kind of important one, and my hope is that he'll play it a little more down the middle. A lot of people would react very negatively.”

The interesting this about Thune's statement is that it sounds an awful lot like the statement Tony Perkins made earlier this week:

"I think that would be a bridge too far for him to be honest because that would enter a whole new element into the debate that I don't think he's ready for," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. "A parallel to that would be Bill Clinton's gays in the military battle, which really hurt his agenda from that point forward."

Perkins said his group would not investigate anyone's sexual preferences and planned to focus on a nominee's judicial views. "The issue is the ideology," he said.

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.

Report From Harry Jackson's Anti-Marriage Rally in DC

Bishop Harry Jackson, the point man for the Religious Right’s anti-gay outreach to African Americans, hosted a rally in downtown Washington D.C. across the street from the District building where the D.C. Council meets.  Jackson and his outraged entourage repeatedly threatened political retribution against Mayor Adrian Fenty and openly gay Councilmember David Catania for the Council’s preliminary vote to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed legally in other states. 

Jackson had a much smaller crowd than the thousands he had hoped for.  As the rally began, there were well under 100 people; by the end there may have been close to 200. They were an enthusiastic bunch, shouting “the Devil is a liar” and other encouragement to the speakers.  Jackson made excuses about how little time they had to mobilize, but promised to pack the Council chambers on May 5 for the next vote.  Jackson said his group would be distributing inserts for churches to include in their bulletins this Sunday.

Jackson was joined at the podium by representatives of the Missionary Baptist pastors’ network as well as several Hispanic pastor group representatives, as well as the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who made a few unremarkable remarks.  Focus on the Family’s James Dobson sent a letter supporting Jackson and attacking the members of the D.C. Council.  To this D.C. resident, the most disappointing moment was former Mayor and current Councilmember Marion Barry leading the crowd in chants against marriage equality (though he noted that he supports civil unions).

For those who have watched Jackson or read People For the American Way Foundation’s new report on him, there was expected rhetoric, such as Jackson criticizing gay rights supporters for “usurping” and “hijacking” the civil rights movement.  He of course had no problem using iconic civil rights songs (Lift Every Voice and Sing, We Shall Overcome) as part of his effort to deny equality to a group of their fellow Americans.

There was also some edgier anti-gay rhetoric.  Jackson compared marriage between gay couples to marriage between close relatives, or between “a man and a three-year old.”  One of the final speakers was a Rev. Daniels, who Jackson recruited for the rally from Florida.  He was fixated on gay sex acts, repeatedly urging people to “explain the act” because it would turn people’s stomachs and turn them against marriage equality.

Jackson ended by sending part of the crowd across the street to stand on the sidewalks in front of the District Building and lift their hands toward it while he prayed, “Washington, D.C., we call you into alignment with the word of God.”

We’ll get some video highlights up later today.

UPDATE: Here is the video of Marion Barry declaring himself a "moral leader":

How I Almost Became a Bircher

I grew up in Appleton, WI and when I was seeking employment after I graduated from college, I diligently searched through the local newspaper for possible positions.  One day, I saw a listing for an organization needing a political researcher and immediately submitted my resume.  A few days later, I received a call asking me to come in for an interview with a local organization whose name I had heard before but didn’t know much about, so I headed to the library to do a bit of research about them and quickly realized that I was probably not what they were looking for but I still went to the interview nonetheless, open-minded and hopeful.

Needless to say, it did not go well and degenerated into a bit of a shouting match, after which I was escorted from the building.  Today, that same newspaper where I first saw the job listing, The Post Crescent, has profiled that very organization and you can probably understand why I didn’t get the job:

The young couple sipped chocolate milkshakes in a front-window booth at Culver's, unaware that the low-slung brown office building across the street was command central in the war to save America from a godless conspiracy.

By summer, the leafy lower branches of a maple tree will obscure some of the building's silver letters, but on this spring evening the sign was clearly visible.

"The John Birch Society," it read.

20 years ago this spring, when the John Birch Society moved its headquarters to the current location west of Appleton, home of then-chief executive officer G. Allen Bubolz, the group was hard to overlook — its unassuming small-town base notwithstanding.

In Grand Chute, the society's new headquarters shared a hometown with one of its best-known heroes, U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Like McCarthy, the Birchers achieved notoriety for an obsession with exposing communist infiltrators during the Cold War.

The organization is named for John Birch, a missionary and Army Air Force surveillance officer killed by communists in China 10 days after the end of World War II, making him the first American casualty of the Cold War.

During the Cold War, the John Birch Society branded President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, as a "dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy."

Years later, the group derided President Ronald Reagan, also a Republican, as a "lackey" of the perceived communist conspiracy.

Communist agents infiltrated or manipulated every level of the American government, John Birch Society founder Robert Welch claimed.

Art Thompson, the organization's 70-year-old chief executive officer, believes the John Birch Society saved America.

Eventually I moved to Washington DC and ended up here at People For the American Way.  So now, instead of helping the Birchers save America from a “godless conspiracy,” I became part of that very godless conspiracy that is, to hear them tell it, resolutely seeking to destroy this great country.

Go figure.

Our Compliments to The Chef

In his most recent video update, Faith and Action's Rob Schenck reports that among the things he has on his schedule today is a "prayer service in the office of one of the better known US Senators," but that is all the information he is able to give because ... well, we're watching (fast forward to the 2:00 mark):

"This very video blog is followed by People For the American Way, which finds reason to criticize just about everything that anybody does who has any belief in God or morality.  And you can see that they actually track me and these reports for their constituency and they do it always in a critical manner.  I can't recall ever being complimented ... well, maybe once."

Now, in our defense, we are not criticizing Schenck because he has a "belief in God or morality" (which is itself a rather offensive insinuation that we are a bunch of immoral God-haters) but rather because of his actions, his ties to other hard-line right-wing groups, and especially his rather radical past

But in fairness to Schenck, he is correct to note that we have probably never complimented him, so let me take this opportunity to do so by saying that the omelet he is making looks delicious.

The Religious Right's New Demand: Stop Calling Us the Religious Right

It seems that leaders of the Religious Right are tired of being associated with the Religious Right because nobody likes the Religious Right.  Unfortunately for them, they are the Religious Right and that is what we are going to keep calling them, especially now that they are saying we should stop calling them that:

[S]everal politically conservative evangelicals said in interviews that they do not want to be identified with the "Religious Right," "Christian Right," "Moral Majority," or other phrases still thrown around in journalism and academia.

"There is an ongoing battle for the vocabulary of our debate," said Gary Bauer, president of American Values. "It amazes me how often in public discourse really pejorative phrases are used, like the 'American Taliban,' 'fundamentalists,' 'Christian fascists,' and 'extreme Religious Right.' "

...

Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family, said that when writers include terms like "Religious Right" and "fundamentalist," they can create negative impressions.

"Terms like 'Religious Right' have been traditionally used in a pejorative way to suggest extremism," Schneeberger said. "The phrase 'socially conservative evangelicals' is not very exciting, but that's certainly the way to do it."

...

[M]any groups would rather distance themselves from the Religious Right, even though they may agree on several political issues. Richard Land said he corrects numerous reporters who call him a leader of the Religious Right, explaining that he represents a group of Southern Baptists who would probably consider themselves conservative evangelicals.

"When the so-called 'Religious Right' agrees with us, we applaud their good taste and good judgment," said Land, who is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Some phrases need to be eliminated from journalists' vocabulary entirely, he said. "Until Tony Perkins or Jim Dobson puts a pistol on the table and threatens to kill someone, they shouldn't be called ayatollah of the Right or the Jihadists of the Right."

...

Organizational leaders like Tony Perkins of Family Research Council want a term that includes other religious groups like Catholics, Jews, and Mormons so that they can see themselves as fighting for the same cause.

"It's not accurate to say that the Christian Right or the Religious Right is simply a narrow slice of evangelicals," Perkins said. "Will everyone identify themselves as part of the Religious Right? No, but they do share a portion of values."

If the phrase "Religious Right" has negative connotations, it probably stems primarily from the fact that the people who have traditionally represented the Religious Right have caused it to, you know, have negative connotations.  

When people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson go on television and blame the 9/11 attacks on "pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, [and] all of them who have tried to secularize America," that is the sort of thing that tends to create negative impressions about the Religious Right. 

And even if they were called "socially conservative evangelicals," this type of rhetoric would still create negative impressions about the term "socially conservative evangelicals" ... and then "socially conservative evangelicals" would be telling everyone to stop calling them "socially conservative evangelicals."

You see, it is not the term that it is problem - it is the Religious Right's agenda and rhetoric.

Does Anyone Understand the Meaning of "Used"?

Anyone who have been reading this blog over the last week knows, I have spent a great deal of time trying to knock down the misinformation swirling around regarding a provision in the stimulus bill that would prohibit funds for being used to upgrade or repair university facilities when said facilities function is primarily religious.

But, despite my efforts, this fraud keeps cropping up on right-wing website, with the Christian Coalition now spreading it and the Family Research Council continuing to peddle it:

First, we know that the current stimulus legislation in Congress is a disaster for the free market economy. But, did you know that there are limitations in the legislation against religious liberty? David French of Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online finds some disturbing facts restricting religious liberty within the stimulus legislation.

The Higher Education, Modernization and Renovation component of the bill requires that the money allocated in the stimulus would not be spent on religious instruction, worship, or any department of divinity, or any building that would be devoted for religious purposes on college campuses.

So, this leaves the question: where will religious groups meet on campus? I guess this means it will be back to dorm rooms or nearby churches. However, this ban would not apply to groups, like Amnesty International, College Feminists, Greenpeace, etc., who can meet in any room on campus. Seems odd, doesn't it? I guess it is 24/7 liberal indoctrination...thanks to the Obama's stimulus plan.

FRC doesn't provide a link to French's post ... but if they did send their readers there, they'd find out that French, who happens to be Senior Legal Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, links to our first post about this whole issue and says that we are right:

One clause indeed prohibits funding for buildings only when a "substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission." (emphasis added). The meaning here is obvious, and it clearly applies to buildings like chapels, or perhaps divinity schools, or many facilities at religious universities. It has no real application to secular, public universities that open up classroom buildings to student groups.

Another clause, however, prohibits funding for buildings that are "used" for "sectarian instruction" or "religious worship." It does not say "primarily used." It simply says "used." For People for the American Way's reading to be correct, one has to assume that the drafters intended "used" to be read as "primarily used."

I have to give French credit, as his post on this issue is the only one that I have seen that actually seeks to understand the provision instead of simply proclaiming it anti-Christian.  And he raises an interesting point regarding the meaning of the word "used" in the section that proclaims that "no funds awarded under this section may be used for ... modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity."

French is correct to note that the provision does not say "primarily used" ... but neither does it say "occasionally used" and yet, for some reason, that is how the Right is interpreting it.  Despite the fact that, as Sen. Dick Durbin pointed out last week, this sort of language "has been in the law for 40 years [and] is the result of three Supreme Court decisions," the Right's interpretation of this standard, boilerplate language is that it means that any building on campus that is ever occasionally "used" for religious worship (i.e., a student group meets in their dorm for a Bible study) would be prohibited from using stimulus funds, as opposed to the more straightforward and logical interpretation that "used" refers to a building's primary function (i. e., a church is occasionally "used" for potluck dinners and Bingo nights, but its primary function is religious worship).

The language of this provision is clearly concerned with facilities in which a "substantial portion of the functions ... are subsumed in a religious mission" and it is within that context that the word "used" must be understood.  

Only an intentionally obtuse reading of this provision could lead one to conclude that the word "used" in this context was intended to mean "occasionally used" rather than "primarily used." Yet that is exactly what the Right is claiming ... and I, in turn, have had to spend hours of my life rebutting false claims that hinge entirely on their nonsensical understanding of the meaning of the word "used."

I feel so used.

NOM Seek to Save DOMA

In that last month, I've written a couple of posts about the Alliance For Marriage's "Protect DOMA" efforts and now, via Americablog, we see that the National Organization for Marriage has launched their own DOMA Defense Fund:

We invite you to stand with millions of Americans in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is under attack from gay marriage activists. In the wake of repeated setbacks at the ballot box, and with an increasingly receptive audience in Washington, gay marriage advocates are now seeking to impose same-sex marriage on the entire nation with a single stroke of the pen.

Last September, President Barack Obama told the Washington Blade: "I have long been on record opposing DOMA, and an Obama-Biden administration will work hard to ensure that we can pass a repeal of that law as soon as possible." And within minutes of his inauguration, the White House website had been updated to reflect President Obama's radical agenda regarding DOMA.

It's DOMA that prevents four judges in Massachusetts from imposing same-sex marriage on the entire nation. It's DOMA that protects the right of 45 states to enforce their own marriage laws instead of the law handed down by a narrow majority of the Connecticut court. And it's DOMA on which gay marriage activists have now set their sights -- seeking to turn back our legislative victories over the past decade in one fell swoop.

If we don't act now, DOMA will soon be repealed -- quickly, quietly and with little fanfare. It's up to us -- you and me -- to make sure the American people know that DOMA is under attack, and that our elected officials know how deeply we believe in marriage. Together we can make a difference even in Washington!

John Aravosis asserts that "this is indicative of the difference between conservatives and liberals: The right organizes years on an issue years in advance, the left organizes after we've lost." But that is not the case here and now seems like a good time to remind you about People For the American Way’s Dump DOMA petition - please add your name to the effort today.

Exposing My Own Ignorance

I have to admit that when I saw this post on the Box Turtle Bulletin about David Hill being fired from his job simply for being gay, my first thought was "this can't possibly be legal":

A man said he was fired from his hotel job for his sexual orientation and claims the owner who let him go dared him to sue.

David Hill is looking for a new job after he said he was fired Tuesday from a former Brentwood Holiday Inn, which now goes by the name Artee Hotel.

"They literally said to me because of my orientation and my alternative lifestyle, that I was not a fit for the hotel," said Hill.

Hill said he used to be the human resources director and is shocked at the owner's decision to dismiss him because of his sexual preference.

"The owner (Tarun Surti) said, 'I don't give a damn. They can sue me. I will not have any of the gays in leadership roles in my hotel.' And that's a quote," said Hill. 

Embarrassingly, it took a co-worker to point out that, in fact, this is entirely legal thanks to the consistent failure to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) offers Congress the opportunity to ensure workplace equality by protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination. ENDA is pending federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation. The bill protects workers from discriminatory hiring, firing, promotion or compensation practices, as well as retaliation for reporting such practices.

Considering that I work at People For the American Way and have actually mentioned ENDA numerous times in my writings, it's extra shameful that I never realized this ... but I didn't.  

And since I am probably not the only one who has never made this connection, I offer up this post exposing my own ignorance in an effort to point out that this sort of thing can and does happen and hopefully debunk the Right's claims that ENDA is little more than a nefarious effort to grant "special rights" to gays in the workplace:

A U.S. House vote is just around the corner on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — a bill that gives homosexuals special rights in the workplace. ENDA would add "sexual orientation" to a list of federally protected classes that includes race and religion.

“My race is being compromised, in that gays are saying that they need protected status just like someone who’s of a race that they can’t change," said Bishop Harry Jackson, president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is a moral values issue, and it’s an issue of the integrity of the civil rights movement.”

Dueling DOMA Petitions

Yesterday, the Alliance for Marriage announced that it was launching its own "Protect DOMA" petition designed to counter our own "Dump DOMA" efforts:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation today launched a national petition drive to Protect DOMA in response to the People for the American Way's (PFAW) efforts to encourage Congressional Leadership to "Dump DOMA."

In November, the Alliance for Marriage Foundation began to lay the foundation for our Protect DOMA campaign on Capitol Hill, with the public launch of www.ProtectDOMA.org. AFM's campaign is deliberately designed to build on AFM's diverse and centrist coalition and to reach both Democratic and Republican members of the Congress.

Since we now find ourselves in the middle of a signature-gathering arms race with AFM, perhaps it would be a good time for those who have not already done so to sign on to our efforts and help us spread the word.

Syndicate content

American Way Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Wednesday 07/13/2011, 10:25am
Last night Rachel Maddow looked into the radical views of the preachers and activists that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is partnering with to put on his The Response prayer rally. Utilizing research from People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, Maddow featured video of Mike Bickle, John Hagee, Bryan Fischer, Cindy Jacobs, John Benefiel and C. Peter Wagner, and discussed Perry’s attempts to win support from the Religious Right as he weighs a run for the presidency. Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 06/27/2011, 10:40am
Following the successful passage of marriage equality in New York, Mission America’s Linda Harvey was sure to speak out. In a ranting essay for WorldNetDaily against equal marriage rights, hate crime laws, pride parades, and anti-bullying initiatives, Harvey yet again makes clear her antipathy towards gay and lesbian Americans and their families, lamenting that Americans “are selling ourselves into bondage” by supporting LGBT equality: New York now has "gay" marriage. The back-slaps and celebration will go on for weeks. The day before this historic vote ( a.k.a... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 06/22/2011, 11:14am
Last week, we released a new report on the unrelenting torrent of bigotry that is spread by the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer on a daily basis and an accompanying video chronicling some of his "highlights," while our colleague Peter Montgomery discussed Fisher and the AFA in the context of Gov. Rick Perry's prayer rally with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC. Fischer has already made it clear that he does not particularly appreciate all of the attention we have devoted to covering him here, so it was not surprising that he spent nearly a half-hour of his program on... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 06/21/2011, 5:36pm
Newt Gingrich’s campaign continues to implode. Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel thinks People For the American Way and other members of the “intolerant left” are going to purge religion from the US. Focus on the Family is, ironically, upset that gays are political. Abby Johnson has signed on as a blogger for Life News, even though her story about leaving Planned Parenthood falls short of reality. Finally, the Family Research Council pleads that we pray against marriage equality in New York. MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 06/17/2011, 11:58am
Last night, People For the American Way senior fellow Peter Montgomery went on MSNBC's The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss the American Family Association's chief spokesman Bryan Fischer and his organization's work with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Make sure to read our new Right Wing Watch: In Focus on Fischer here. And watch the interview with O'Donnell: Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy MORE
Brian Tashman, Thursday 05/05/2011, 4:00pm
The Daily Show - Exclusive - David Barton Extended Interview Pt. 2 Tags: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook The Daily Show - Exclusive - David Barton Extended Interview Pt. 3 Tags: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook David Barton tells Jon Stewart that he never took President John Adams’ ideas on the relationship of church and state out of context. First Barton lies about Adams’ faith, positing that he was a 'Trinitarian Unitarian.' Unitarianism, however, is based on... MORE
Brian Tashman, Thursday 05/05/2011, 1:50pm
The Daily Show - David Barton Pt. 2 Tags: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook In the second part of the televised interview on The Daily Show, David Barton claims that the Constitution contains “four references to God” in Article VII. Article VII reads: “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.” That’s it. Barton is presumably referring to the following line: “Done in Convention by the... MORE