Civil Liberties

Tales From the DART Side

Last week we noted that Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority has yanked advertisements from local buses that had been purchased by Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers after complaints from residents.

And apparently it wasn't just "residents" who were outraged by the ads reading "Don't believe in God? You are not alone" - so was the Governor:

Gov. Chet Culver weighed in on the controversial Des Moines bus ad that has been yanked after multiple complaints.

“I was disturbed, personally, by the advertisement and I can understand why other Iowans were also disturbed by the message that it sent,” Culver said.

The question will likely become a legal battle, Culver said. He deferred questions of whether the group deserves the same free speech rights as Christian organizations to advertise on the buses to the Iowa Attorney General.

Culver also declined to answer if he would also have gotten off the bus had he been a rider, but noted that he would have been offended by the ad’s message.

Despite the fact that they ads personally disturbed the Governor's delicate sensibilities, it looks like they are going back up:

An advertisement promoting a Des Moines atheist group will be put back on buses, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority officials said Friday night.

"By honoring the freedoms protected through our shared civil liberties, DART, like other businesses that accept advertising, will be in the position of displaying messages and images that may be controversial or uncomfortable to some, but legal and protected by civil rights," DART General Manager Brad Miller said in an e-mail.

The decision was made after DART officials met with representatives from the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers group Friday afternoon to discuss the removal of the group's ads from buses earlier this week.

The transit authority had asked the group to consider reviewing an alternate bus advertisement, but the group refused.

...

DART will also be updating advertising policies to clearly communicate its position to uphold both civil liberties and the protection of citizens from material that is obscene or profane, Miller said.

"The Des Moines region and the state of Iowa (are) developing a positive reputation as a place that accepts diversity, new ideas and is civil in its discourse of even the most controversial of topics - for example same-sex marriages. ... It is altogether appropriate for our policies to keep pace with this progress," Miller wrote in the e-mail.

Wisconsin Book Burner Makes His Case

Last month I wrote a post regrading a group of people in West Bend, WI who are trying to get books that they considers to be obscene moved from the section of the library designated "Young Adults."

That fight caught the attention of Robert Braun, head of something he calls the Christian Civil Liberties Union, who then filed a lawsuit seeking $120,000 in damage for having been allegedly caused emotional distress by the book being in the library and the right to publicly burn the library’s copy of the book "Baby Be-Bop"

The entire bizarre battle was picked-up by CNN the other day and so Alan Colmes invited Braun onto his radio program to discuss his lawsuit.

It was, needless to say, highly entertaining.

Braun apparently doesn't understand the difference between racism and censorship, because when Colmes accused him of engaging in the latter, Braun's response was, and I quote:  

Let me tell you who's involved in this suit.  One of the gentleman with me is Black, his wife is Indian, she's a Comanche, the other one is ... I have Jewish blood in me.

And it just went downhill from there, with Braun declaring that he's going to burn a copy of "Baby Be-Bop" no matter what - not the library's copy, because that would be illegal, but the copy which, for some reason, he apparently owns.  Considering that he is suing the library for causing him emotional damage by simply having it in the stacks, it seems odd that Braun would have a copy of the very same book in his own house. Braun went on to admit that he doesn't even live in West Bend and that his Christians Civil Liberties Union has a grand total of zero members.

At one point, Braun accused Colmes of not being a good Christian, which Colmes readily admitted (he's Jewish,) and claimed that Colmes was now causing him emotional distress as well.  When Colmes asked him to explain how anyone has been "damaged" by this book's inclusion in the library, Barun responded that he and the other plantiffs "are elderly and it has damaged our moral views."

Frankly, I think the entire thing can be summed up by simply noting that this interview might just contain a world record for the greatest number of mispronunciations of the word "library" in any seven minute interval:

We're Offended, So Give Us $120,000 and the Right to Burn Books

Last week, the Library Board in West Bend, Wisconsin rejected efforts by a local couple to remove book they found objectionable:

The Library Board on Tuesday night unanimously rejected efforts by a local citizen group to restrict access of young adults to books depicting sex among teenagers or those describing teenage homosexual relationships.

...

Ginny and Jim Maziarka of West Bend earlier this year asked the community board to remove books that the couple considers to be obscene or child pornography from a section of the library designated "Young Adults." The couple formed an organization, West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, to promote their views.

The Maziarkas requested such books to be reclassified and placed in a restricted area requiring parental approval before being released to a child. The books also should be labeled with a warning about content, the couple said.

Ginny Maziarka in past interviews described two of the targeted books - "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "The Geography Club" - as explicitly sexual. She considers a third book, "Deal With It! a whole new approach to your body, brain and life as a gURL" to be pornographic.

"Sexually explicit content should not be on the teen shelf in the West Bend Library," Ginny Maziarka said.

Now the American Library Association reports that the board is facing a lawsuit seeking $120,000 in damages from people claiming to have been personally harmed by the fact that the books are in the library and who are demanding the right to burn said books:

[B]oard members were made cognizant that same evening that another material challenge waited in the wings: Milwaukee-area citizen Robert C. Braun of the Christian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU) distributed at the meeting copies of a claim for damages he and three other plaintiffs filed April 28 with the city; the complainants seek the right to publicly burn or destroy by another means the library’s copy of Baby Be-Bop. The claim also demands $120,000 in compensatory damages ($30,000 per plaintiff) for being exposed to the book in a library display, and the resignation of West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss for “allow[ing] this book to be viewed by the public.”

...

Describing the YA novel by celebrated author Francesca Lia Block as “explicitly vulgar, racial, and anti-Christian,” the complaint by Braun, Joseph Kogelmann, Rev. Cleveland Eden, and Robert Brough explains that “the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library,” specifically because Baby Be-Bop contains the “n” word and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”

The complaint points out that library Director Michael Tyree has “publicly stated that it is not up to the library to tell the community what is appropriate.” Citing “Wisconsin’s sexual morality law,” the plaintiffs also request West Bend City Attorney Mary Schanning to impanel a grand jury to examine whether the book should be declared obscene and making it available a hate crime.

On a related note, the ALA also reports that the West Bend Common Council voted not to reappoint four library board members because they failed to remove the books, accusing them of “stonewalling.”

It's Not All Gays and Abortion

Sometimes it is just important to remind ourselves that the right-wing groups we monitor here do sometimes care about issues beyond gays and abortion ... issues like preventing the use of fluoride in our drinking water:

Unless it’s the gold standard, few issues draw out the hard-core libertarians like the issue of fluoride in the water.

And Nevada, particularly the older and more settled northern part, has a strong contingent of those individuals who tend to liberally connect the dots on issues.

So the hearing room for testimony on Senate Bill 311, which would require the fluoridation of water in Washoe County, filled up quickly Monday.

...

Janine Hansen, head of the libertarian group Nevada Eagle Forum and president of the Independent American Party, testified about the dangers of fluoride, saying they include a risk of suicide. “Brain function is vulnerable to fluoride,” she said. “This is about civil liberties, medicating people through their water,” she said.

And thus the crux of the issue — this is government ordering you to ingest something even if you don’t want it.

Bogus Stimulus Outcry Grows as Liberty Counsel and TVC Hop on the Bandwagon

It looks like the ACLJ’s entirely bogus attack on the stimulus bill is making its way around the right-wing hemisphere – in addition to Sen. Jim DeMint, the “drop the anti-Christian provision” call has now been taken up by the Liberty Counsel:

The highly controversial "stimulus" package is a monolithic spending bill containing language designed to stimulate the narrow interests of extreme left-wing activist organizations. The latest political payback tucked away in the estimated 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill will prove stimulating to religious censors and anti-faith groups like the ACLU.

Both the House and Senate versions contain anti-faith language that will censor religion and force people of faith from the public square … President Obama supports the package, but he could still request that Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi stop this blatant attack on people of faith.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "The so-called stimulus bill will lead to the banning of all religious activity from all public facilities by forbidding the use of funds to improve any facility where religious instruction or worship occurs. In order to receive stimulus money our public schools will have to expel after-school Bible clubs and weekend religious meetings. People who want to speak about their faith will be unwelcome in public places. Apparently, President Obama's idea of faith-based initiatives is to remove faith from all initiatives."

The Traditional Values Coalition has also come out against the provision, citing the same bogus reasons:

Among the prohibited uses of “greening” funds is the “modernization, renovation or repair” of higher learning facilities where sectarian religious activities or services may be conducted. “The economic crisis is being used as a pretext to curb religious liberty at institutions of higher learning.  Religious activity is already scarce at most of our colleges, the Obama people want to make sure it is extinct.

The ultimate impact will be to drive religious activities out of public education altogether. If higher education institutions worry about not getting part of this federal grab bag, they’ll simply eject religious activities from their campuses so they can easily get the money.

By rejecting religion, these educators can also avoid costly ACLU lawsuits that will inevitably be filed. This section of the bill should be called the ACLU Full Employment Act since it will be a boon for their anti-Christian litigation.

Interesting, isn’t it, how the ACLJ’s false initial claim that religious groups would be barred from using university facilities under this provision has now expanded into a warning that Bible clubs would be expelled entirely and “all religious activity [at] all public facilities” would be forbidden.

It was a lie when the ACLJ said it, and it's even more of a lie now that Liberty Counsel and TVC are piling on with their own misrepresentations. 

It’s like watching a game of Telephone gone horribly awry as one right-wing group unleashes an absurd fabrication and then other right-wing groups pick it up and mangle it further. 

And now this "controversy" has worked its way up to Fox News:

Democrats in Congress have declared war on prayer, say conservative groups who object to a provision in the stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week.

The upside of this, at least, is that it affords those who actually know what they are talking about the opportunity to point out that the right-wing outcry is fundamentally ridiculous:

The American Civil Liberties Union also defends the constitutionality of the restriction, which they say has been the law since 1972.

"It's almost a restatement of what the Constitution requires so there's nothing novel in what the House did in its restriction," said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel to the ACLU. "For 37 years, the law of the land is that the government can't pay for buildings that are used for religious purposes."

It's Going to be a Long Four Years

It was just last week that I noted that the prospect of passing hate crimes legislation was making various Religious Right leaders even crazier than normal and among those I cited as evidence was Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission proclaiming that passage of such legislation would lead to Christians being imprisoned.

It seems that in the intervening days, Cass's paranoia has not abated ... in fact, it seems to actually gotten worse:

When is the last time you saw $10 Million dollars being spent on special programs in schools that taught school-age children about Judeo-Christian values and why they are important in our laws today? Better yet, funded by the Government? Well, I can answer that for you. Never!

But, the Government sure is interested in getting some bills passed that will do just that for certain select minority groups such as homosexuals while putting Christians in prison. $10 Million dollars in funding will be allocated annually for the administration of hate crime prevention including special programs about this in our schools. IF...the most recent David Ray Richardson Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 262) coupled with the David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 256) are passed!

So, besides the double-standard, why should you be fuming and taking action before you even finish reading this? Because these two bills that are going to be sent to President Barack Obama's desk will silence Christians from speaking against homosexuality or teaching our children that it is wrong. You would quite literally be committing a Federal crime and convicted. If these bills get passed, not only will Christians be silenced -- but, the government is scheduled to swoop in with $10 Million dollars to drive a stake right into the heart of Christians by making sure your children hear and are taught everything against Judeo-Christian beliefs ... These two bills CANNOT get to President Obama's desk! No way Christians! You must act now if you want to continue practicing your Christian faith and teaching it to your children.

And, as if that wasn't over the top enough, Cass then goes off for some reason against the Anti-Defamation League, calling it one of "the most anti-Christian proponents in the public square today":

It is quite possible that this "$10 Million dollar giveaway" will go to liberal, anti-Christian groups like the Jewish Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL). The ADL describes itself as "the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice, and bigotry." But that's not all they do. The ADL is also one of the most anti-Christian proponents in the public square today. Allied with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has done more harm to Christian liberties in America than any other group, I shutter to think what will happen to our children, our families, our churches, and our freedom of speech at the hands of these two groups and their well-funded regime.

Considering that Barack Obama has been president for exactly two days and right-wing leaders are already going off the deep end, I think it is safe to assume that it is going to be a long four years.

Decrying the "Coup" in Texas

For the last several days, the Texas Freedom Network had been chronicling the battle taking place in the Texas House of Representatives, as right-wing activists from around the state swung into action in order to try and save Rep. Tom Craddick's position as House Speaker - as TFN noted:

Craddick has alienated Democrats and a number of Republicans with his autocratic rule of the House and by forcing controversial votes on hot-button issues like private school vouchers. The religious right has strongly supported Craddick’s speakership, seeing him as an important tool in the far-right’s ongoing and deeply divisive culture war on mainstream values like strong public schools, religious freedom and civil liberties in Texas.

Eleven House Republicans have moved to support state Rep. Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, as speaker after the new legislative session begins on Jan. 13.

TFN explained how people like David Barton and the Cathy Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum were hard at work rallying their grassroots activists to save Craddick's position, but it looks like it was all for naught:

Straus, a moderate Republican from San Antonio, swept into the speaker's race Friday night and by Sunday had enough pledges, the great bulk from Democrats, to assure his election as the next House leader. As his list of supporters continued to grow Monday, his chief Republican rivals dropped their campaigns, leaving him all but assured of election when the 150 House members vote on a speaker when they gather Jan. 13.

Conservative activists and legislators expressed anguish over losing Craddick, a partisan warrior, as speaker. Craddick, who ended his campaign for a fourth speaker's term, saw his base crumble when virtually all Democrats and a dozen key Republicans abandoned him. He was also hurt by the November elections, which left the GOP with a thin 76-74 majority.  

Needless to say, right-wingers in the state are not happy, with Rick Scarborough decrying it as a nothing short of a "coup":

“Values voters in Texas will be outraged to hear the news that a small band of Republicans and 64 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives have conspired to name Representative Joe Straus of San Antonio, the most liberal returning Republican Representative in the House, as Speaker, replacing conservative Tom Craddick,“ said conservative activist, Dr. Rick Scarborough of Nacogdoches, Texas. “This is a deliberate and carefully calculated plan to undermine and halt progress on the issues we care about the most, ESPECIALLY the rights of the unborn child and traditional marriage” ... “This is nothing short of a coup and we will not take it laying down! We have worked hard for two decades in Texas to elect principled conservatives, but today it is clear we have far too many whose only guiding principle is power!” said Scarborough.

The Nazi Thing

Zirkle and the Nazi PartyTony Zirkle’s 15 minutes of swastika-draped fame were widely reported last month, when the Indiana congressional candidate spoke at an American Nazi Party celebration of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Zirkle, whose campaign warns of a link between Jews and pornography, offered the comical explanation that, despite the oversize Hitler portrait and Nazi flags directly behind him, the swastika armbands of the men on either side of him, and the words “Seig Heil” on the cake, “he didn't believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn't Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party.” The candidate was duly reviled by his opponent in the Republican primary race, as well as by everybody else, as an isolated racist crackpot.

However, the report on the matter by the right-wing WorldNetDaily—a product of the anti-Bill Clinton Arkansas Project that now hosts columnists such as Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Chuck Norris—offered an unusual twist. After reviewing the story and printing a number of random comments from other websites (a common journalistic technique at WND), the article tried to put it in a kind of context: "Other congressional candidates have raised eyebrows with their speeches, too," it stated. But its only example was a quote from Rep. Keith Ellison comparing the time after September 11, 2001, when the Bush Administration asserted new executive privileges, to the time after the burning of the Reichstag, when Hitler consolidated his powers.

While Ellison took heat for using the metaphor, there is, to put it mildly, a pretty obvious distinction between making a rhetorical comparison of your opponents' tactics to historical events in Nazi Germany, and actually forging an alliance with present-day Nazis based on apparently shared values. So why did WND choose this as its only attempt at context?

Ellison, of course, was the first Muslim member of Congress, and after his election in 2006, the Right launched an effort to portray his presence in Washington as a dire threat to the nation. WorldNetDaily offered obsessive coverage through dozens of flimsy, paranoid articles with titles such as “Doubts grow over Muslim lawmaker's loyalty” and “Muslim congressman called 'security' issue.”

Since WND is so desperate for an example of an anti-Semitic political figure, it’s fortunate that Ted Pike provided a timely reminder. Pike, head of the National Prayer Network, has been a frequent source of quotes for WND whenever the site covered proposed federal hate-crimes protections, most recently in December.

Pike is best-known, however, for pushing out anti-Semitic propaganda along with his father, a radio talker in the 1980s. As People For the American Way reported in a press release from 1989, Pike was warning that there was “a tendency toward Jewish domination of society,” that “Jewish international bankers” were behind the Bolshevik Revolution, and that the state of Israel was “the first stage in Satan’s plan to take this world from Christ and give it to the Antichrist.” Twenty years ago, Pike was warning that the Jewish motivation behind hate-crimes legislation was to silence churches; today, he warns of the “homosexual agenda.”

We were reminded of Pike—and his place as a privileged WorldNetDaily commentator—after he sent out an e-mail alert two weeks ago complaining that the Southern Poverty Law Center had cited the National Prayer Network as a hate group:

Jewish activist groups want to increasingly broaden the terms "hate" and "anti-Semitism" to include evangelicals. …

Jewish activists thus display a truly hateful intent—to harm Christians and deprive them of freedom. Such activists work to warp public and government perceptions of Christian conservatives—demonizing us as potential sources of “homophobic,” anti-Semitic bigotry and possible violence. SPLC alleges a 48 percent increase of threat from the "radical right" since 2000. Jewish attack groups such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the American Way, smear “homophobic” evangelicals as being part of this “threat.”

After defaming Christians as "haters," Jewish supremacists want to actually outlaw Christian political activity and evangelism. The ADL created hate crime laws that will particularly outlaw reproof of sodomy and evangelism of non-Christians, especially Jews.

(Photo: The Times of Northwest Indiana.)

Gingrich Games Surveillance Survey

The imaginary Newt Gingrich presidential campaign is an idea that just won’t die. Now that John McCain has earned enough delegates to secure the GOP nomination for 2008, Robert Novak is taking Gingrich 2012 seriously:

Newt Gingrich's efforts to restore his standing among Republican conservatives for a possible future presidential bid have suffered a self-inflicted setback because of the former House speaker's support for liberal Rep. Wayne Gilchrest's unsuccessful attempt to save his seat in Congress representing Maryland's Eastern Shore. …

But even if the prospect of Gingrich running for president is illusory, his bid to be the GOP’s futuristic guru—with a steady stream of book deals and media appearances—seems to be progressing just fine. Gingrich’s “527” advocacy group recently announced it will be opening an office in Menlo Park, California to focus on “[o]nline political technology.”

If Gingrich is hoping to make inroads in Silicon Valley, he would be well advised to cool his over-the-top rhetoric on domestic spying and telecom immunity. Gingrich has focused on the issue in his online commentaries over the last few weeks, accusing Democrats of tendering a “declaration of unilateral disarmament in the War on Terror” and of perpetrating “the most amazing anti-national security action by Congress in decades.”

Huck’s God Talk

As we noted last week, Mike Huckabee has been complaining that he has been subject to an “unusual level of scrutiny” because of his religious beliefs.  But since his current campaign strategy seem to be largely based around playing up his standing as a “Christian Leader” it only seems fair – even his ideological allies admit as much:

Huckabee sometimes has bristled at questions about whether he would use the presidency to impose his religious views. But even some of Huckabee's longtime friends say he invited such questions by running an ad that promotes him as a Christian leader.

"If a candidate makes his faith a part of his campaign, it is fair game," said Richard Land, who has known Huckabee for 28 years and is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  

So it should come as no surprise to him that people are taking a look at his record and finding this like this:  

"I didn't get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives."

With that sort of approach to government, it only makes sense that Huckabee would use his use his government position to promote his religion, as he did when he was lieutenant governor – though he had to wait until then Governor Jim Guy Tucker was out of the state to do it:

Clerics, ACLU hit 'Christian' week in Ark.

The Commercial Appeal

3 February 1994

Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee's proclamation of a Christian Heritage Week cheapens and trivializes the true meaning of being a follower of Christ, several theologians said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the proclamation part of a national attempt by the religious right to prove America was founded as a Christian nation, but the group said it will take no action.

Huckabee, acting governor during Gov. Jim Guy Tucker's absence, signed documents in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday declaring the week of Feb. 27 to March 2 Christian Heritage Week in Arkansas. He said he was "somewhat surprised if not startled" that anyone would oppose the action.

"When I took the oath of office in this state, my hand was placed on a Bible, my oath was made, 'so help me God,' the very document we sign here says 'in the year of our Lord,' " Huckabee said. "I don't think any of us need to fear there is some inappropriate action taken when we simply acknowledge that which our forefathers did when they created this country and declared our independence that . . . all men and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights."

Tucker distances self from Christian week

The Commercial Appeal

4 February 1994

Gov. Jim Guy Tucker said he rejected a request to proclaim a Christian Heritage Week but had no authority to stop Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee from doing it.

"We were asked to make such a proclamation several months ago, and I declined to do it because I didn't think government should be in the business of promoting any one religion over the other," Tucker said Thursday.

"This is obviously something Lt. Gov. Huckabee feels very strongly about. But under our state constitution, as we know from painful experience a year ago, the lieutenant governor is free to do what he wants to do."

When the governor of Arkansas is out of the state, the lieutenant governor is acting governor and has all the governor's power.

Christian Heritage Week wasn’t the only time Huckabee invoked God to push his political agenda – in fact he had a tendency to do so on a variety of public policy issues – as he did when he dismissed those who care about the environment:

Anti-Abortion Movement Split Spills onto Presidential Race

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

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

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

Raising Money Off a 20 Year Old Study

Following the death of its longtime leader, D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries decided to focus it efforts on "increasing its worldwide audience to 30 million by 2012, mainly by expanding its Internet, TV and print presence.”

But in order to do that, CRM needs money and so they have sent out this email seeking donations:

I invite you to follow in the footsteps of the Pilgrims . . . to consider those who huddled inside the Mayflower and faced an icy winter that would claim half their number. I’m asking you to honor the heritage they handed down to us at such tremendous cost.

You see, the freedoms you and I enjoy today were born aboard their dimly lit ship, as 102 stalwart souls signed the Mayflower Compact. They began with these words— “In the name of God, Amen.” They wrote of making their voyage “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith….”

Thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and modern revisionists, the faith of the Pilgrims is disappearing from our textbooks . . . and being erased from our national consciousness.

Want proof? New York University professor Paul C. Vitz studied 90 of the most used public school history textbooks. He found up to 30 pages devoted to the Pilgrims, yet not a word about their devout faith in God. “It is common in these books to treat Thanksgiving without explaining to whom the Pilgrims gave thanks,” Vitz writes. One textbook even described Thanksgiving as a time “when the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians.”

Americans are forgetting who we are—and drifting from our Creator. That is why Coral Ridge Ministries intends to broadcast the truth on The Coral Ridge Hour. We want to reveal that our freedoms have their roots in the Bible and Christianity . . . and expose the false claim that this nation is not and never was a nation under God.

With your support, we’ll use television, radio, the Internet, and our vast library of print and multimedia resources. We will share the truth that God has blessed and guided our country since her earliest days . . . and still longs to bless her today if we will only return to Him. Armed with the facts, Christians can help teach America her godly roots . . . and guide her destiny. By God’s grace, you—like the Pilgrims—can help make history . . . and God may still bless America!

In his book “Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity,” David Limbaugh likewise cites this study by Vitz and helpfully provides an endnote explaining that the information was taken from Vitz’s book “Censorship: Evidence of Bias in Our Children's Textbooks” … which came out in 1986.  

If CRM is going to try and raise money by scaring it supporters with tales of “modern revisionists” erasing the religious heritage from our national consciousness, it might be useful for them to actually find some “modern revisionists” who are doing that instead of relying on a 20 year old study based on textbooks that are most likely no longer in use.  

The Right’s Concept of “Inclusive”

The American Civil Liberties Union has reportedly filed a lawsuit in Louisiana over a painting of Jesus that hangs in the lobby of the Slidell City Courthouse, saying it violates the First Amendment. 

Not surprisingly, the anti-ACLU (aka the Alliance Defense Fund) has stepped in to defend the painting:

The painting clearly delivers an inclusive message of equal justice under the law,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson … “The ideas expressed in this painting aren’t specific to any one faith, and they certainly don’t establish a single state religion,” Johnson explained.  “The reason Americans enjoy equal justice is because we are all ‘created equal, endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights.’  This painting is a clear reflection of the ideas in the Declaration of Independence.”  
 

All well and good, but since we as a nation are governed by the Constitution rather than the Declaration of Independence, that is not really the issue.

As for the claim that the “painting clearly delivers an inclusive message” that isn’t “specific to any one faith”:

Jesus-Court.bmp Jesus-Court%20II.bmp

Barton and Brownback: BFF

As we noted last week, pseudo-historian and right-wing propagandist David Barton was traveling around Iowa with Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback.  

Further, [Barton] said, "you can also tell a guy by his enemies," and cited [Brownback’s] 19 percent rating from the American Civil Liberties Union and an "F" grade from the National Education Association, which drew applause from the crowd.

"Socialists just don't care for Sam much," said Barton, president of the Texas-based WallBuilders group, which seeks to give insight into the Christian values the founders of America possessed.

Brownback is likewise infatuated with Barton:  

"David is well known across the country for his research and his knowledge on really the heritage, and particularly the spiritual heritage, of the country. His support I think is a signal to a number of people that this is somebody that understands the Constitution and also understands the role of faith in the United States ... and doesn't try to run it out of the public square," Brownback said.

Barton is indeed known across the country for his research – research that is often staggeringly slanted, openly partisan, and tellingly incomplete.

For good measure, Brownback also discussed his own views on the intersection of faith and politics:

While Brownback thinks faith belongs in government, he said he does not want the church to control the government, or vice versa.

“I’m opposed to a theocracy. I think it would be bad for religion. I also think it would be bad for government,” he said.  

So Brownback is opposed to theocracy mainly because it is bad for religion … and, oh yeah, not so good for the government either. 

With views like that, it’s not hard to understand why Barton would be out there stumping for Brownback:

Barton said the United States’ Christian heritage is one of the reasons for the country’s stability, while other countries get new governments every 20 to 30 years.

“You’ve got to have God-fearing leaders to have God-honoring leaders,” he said.

Barton also seemed to have an ominous warning to those who might be considering sitting out the upcoming election:

Barton said evangelical Christians number nearly 60 million and they should be engaged politically. "We get to choose our leaders, and we'll answer to God," he said.

This was the same message Barton was delivering last year before the mid-term election. At least he hasn’t begun threatening to break fingers in order to get people to vote for Brownback yet.  

Rev. Jerry Falwell Dies

Rev. Jerry Falwell died today in Lynchburg, Virginia. People For the American Way President Ralph Neas issued this statement:

We extend our condolences to Rev. Jerry Falwell’s family and friends. He was an effective advocate for his vision of America, a vision with which we strongly disagreed.

PFAW has been monitoring and responding to Falwell for over 25 years. The pastor often returned the favor – as, for example, when he cited us as a factor in causing the September 11, 2001 attacks:

I really believe that the 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 - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

The Carpetbagger Report revisits some significant moments from Falwell’s career, from Larry Flynt to the Clinton tapes to Tinky Winky. Falwell remained an outspoken and controversial figure until the end, but below are some more memorable quotes from the early years.

Two GOP Candidates Suggest Gonzales Should Resign

While Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been under attack from politicians from both sides of the aisle over the firing of the U.S. attorneys, and while groups ranging from People For the American Way to the conservative American Freedom Agenda have called for his resignation over the abuse of civil liberties and other issues, the Republicans running for president have, for the most part, stayed mum. Now, two long-shot candidates are speaking out against Gonzales – albeit for different reasons.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested Gonzales should resign so as to “not force the president” to make the decision, since the attorney general “is clearly creating a major distraction for the president and for the administration and for the Republican Party.”

And anti-immigrant firebrand Rep. Tom Tancredo said Gonzales should go because he “didn't fire enough” prosecutors – in particular, the U.S. attorney in Texas who “went after” border-patrol agents involved in the shooting of a fleeing Mexican.

Hazleton Mayor Has Trouble Backing up Claims of Immigrant Crime Wave: 'The People in My City Don't Need Numbers'

Hazleton, Pennsylvania Mayor Lou Barletta made national headlines last year when he pushed through an ordinance cracking down on undocumented immigrants, not only setting penalties for employers who hire them but also fining landlords who rent to them $1,000 per day. “Illegal immigrants are destroying the city,” declared the self-styled “small town defender,” who also signed an English-only measure. “I don't want them here, period.” As this blog pointed out, this was a sudden transformation for Barletta, who just months before had cited “the region’s new ethnic and cultural diversity” as cause for Hazleton’s unprecedented economic boom and “urban rejuvenation.” As Barletta testified before Congress and appeared on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs,” while cutting robocalls for Sen. Rick Santorum’s failed reelection campaign, his ordinance and copy-cat measures in other small cities began to tear apart communities.

How did Barletta come to decide on this dramatic course of action? Well, he poked around the Internet and found the website of Save Our State, run by Jim Turner, a “proud nationalist” who unsuccessfully pushed the measures in San Bernadino, California in order to ward off the threat from inferior cultures who would turn ours into a “Third World cesspool.”

This governance technique of finding model legislation by lurking on nativist Internet forums was one interesting fact revealed Wednesday during Barletta’s testimony in a federal lawsuit challenging the ordinances. Far more damning was Barletta’s inability to support his rhetoric accusing undocumented immigrants of “destroying the city”:

During five hours on the witness stand, Mr. Barletta said Hazleton is being ruined by violent crime, crowded schools and a clogged emergency room at the city's private hospital. He attributed many of the problems to what he called "illegal aliens," even though he admitted he had no idea how many such immigrants are in his city.

Lawyer Witold Walczak, of the American Civil Liberties Union, got the mayor to concede that he could not name a single instance where illegal immigrants had received service from Hazleton's fire department or health offic[e]. Mr. Barletta also was forced to admit he had no proof that illegal immigrants were the source of schools so crowded that numerous classes have to be taught in trailers. …

Mr. Barletta said crimes committed by illegal immigrants led to the controversial ordinances.  … Mr. Walczak, though, said Hazleton's own statistics show that illegal immigrants have committed only a handful of serious crimes. Of the 8,575 felonies in the city since 2000, about 20 were linked to illegal immigrants, Mr. Walczak said.

Barletta came back yesterday to face evidence of the lack of an immigrant crime wave:

 “When you have violent crimes committed, it takes away and chews at our quality of life. I don’t need numbers. These people,” he said, motioning to the opposing attorney, who have criticized his lack of statistics, “need numbers. The people in my city don’t need numbers.”

For Fired Attorneys, Loyalty Was a One-Way Street

Amid the ever-widening scandal surrounding the purge of several U.S. attorneys, now involving everything from subpoenas to bipartisan calls for Attorney General Gonzales’s resignation, one interesting bit of information has so-far gone unnoticed:  the fact that several of the fired attorneys had previously been involved in supporting White House and Justice Department efforts to secure passage and renewal of the Patriot Act.  

As Legal Times reported back in August 2004:

The Justice Department launched an unprecedented nationwide campaign in 2003 to boost support for the USA Patriot Act and beat back opponents. Recently obtained internal DOJ documents reveal just how organized and aggressive that push has been.

"Your role is educational only. You must not encourage citizens or public officials to make congressional contacts or to attempt to influence any vote concerning the USA Patriot Act," one DOJ memo states.

To avoid ethical pitfalls, Main Justice instructed the 93 Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys, who are exempt from the Anti-Lobbying Act, to contact Congress members personally, not through staff.

Apparently, not every Attorney was eager to participate: 

REAL ID Debate in Maryland Mixes 9/11, Day Laborers

Since Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, which (among other things) mandates that all states require drivers prove their legal immigration status in order to get a license, several states have balked at the cost and myriad civil liberties issues stemming from the bill. Maine and Idaho have passed laws rejecting the new guidelines, and a number of other state legislatures are considering joining them, including Maryland. This week, however, the Maryland Senate debated a competing bill that would implement at least one part of the REAL ID rules – the proof of immigration status requirement. And although REAL ID was passed as part of emergency funding for the War on Terror, some are trying to refocus the debate away from civil liberties and on to anti-immigrant “quality of life” complaints. From The Washington Times:

Bill supporters told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee they were concerned about public safety and potential terrorist attacks because one of the September 11 hijackers obtained a Maryland driver's license.

"I live in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which has been in [newspapers] quite recently, and is really on its way to becoming the first authentic barrio in the county," said Susan Payne of Citizens Above Party. "The poison that's coming out of this state, known as the Maryland driver's license, has to be stopped because it's infecting the entire country."

Payne was also quoted in the Annapolis Capital, warning “You are driving people like me out of our home state.” She co-founded Citizens Above Party in response to the building of a day-laborer center in Gaithersburg, a prosperous D.C. suburb known for its New Urbanist planned communities.

The other founder of the anti-day-laborer group was Demos Chrissos, a veteran producer of Republican political ads who, like Susan Payne, is frequently quoted in the local media. Chrissos is also a professional anti-immigration activist on a national scale: He produced a TV ad for WeNeedAFence.com that included a shot of the World Trade Center being hit, and more recently produced ads around a campaign to pardon border agents convicted in a shooting. According to the online bio from his video marketing firm, Chrissos co-founded Citizens Above Party to “investigat[e] the suspected link between illegal immigration and widespread voter fraud across the nation.”

Of course, there’s no sign of “widespread voter fraud” by illegal immigrants anywhere except in the press releases of anti-immigrant groups and the politicians who court them, or of a link between suburban day laborers and anti-American terrorists. But press coverage of Payne’s rhetoric does demonstrate how easily the anti-immigrant movement can “infect” the REAL ID debate in Maryland and elsewhere. And while Payne comes off in the media as a typical concerned citizen, her partner’s work as a professional media consultant suggests that this confusion is part of their strategy.

Leading Anti-Gay Activist Allegedly Assaults Protester in Massachusetts

Loy after fallingThe Worcester Telegram and Gazette is reporting that Larry Cirignano, head of Catholic Citizenship and a leading activist against same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, assaulted a pro-gay rights activist at a rally against gay marriage:

Tempers boiled over at an anti-gay marriage rally yesterday when the executive director of the Boston-based Catholic Citizenship emerged from behind a lectern outside City Hall, rushed toward a female counter-demonstrator, and pushed her to the ground.

Sarah Loy, 27, of Worcester was holding a sign in defense of same-sex marriage amid a sea of green “Let the People Vote” signs when Larry Cirignano of Canton, who heads the Catholic Citizenship group, ran into the crowd, grabbed her by both shoulders and told her, “You need to get out. You need to get out of here right now.” Mr. Cirignano then pushed her to the ground, her head slamming against the concrete sidewalk.

“It was definitely assault and battery,” said Ronal C. Madnick, director of the Worcester County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Police interviewed Mr. Madnick and several others moments after the incident.

As Ms. Loy lay motionless on the ground, crying, Mr. Cirignano ran back behind the lectern, where moments before he had opened the afternoon rally by leading a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Loy, protesting the anti-gay event alongside her husband, was holding a sign reading, “No discrimination in the Constitution.” Cirignano denies pushing her very hard:

In a telephone interview last night, Cirignano acknowledged guiding the woman away from the event with his arm on her back, but said he had a portfolio in his left hand and did not knock her down.

He said he did not see her fall. "I promise you, I did not throw her to the ground."

Photograph of Loy from Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

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Civil Liberties Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Tuesday 03/08/2011, 4:23pm
Rick Green of WallBuilders hosted Elizabeth Swanson of the Protect Kids Foundation, a virulently anti-gay group that opposes programs to protect children from bullying and harassment in schools. Like other groups such as Focus on the Family, the California Family Council, Mission America, and the Family Research Council, the so-called Protect Kids Foundation claims that gay-rights proponents “indoctrinating kids to accept and adopt LGBT lifestyles, starting in kindergarten.” David Barton, the head of WallBuilders, himself said that public school students “are getting... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 11/23/2010, 12:55pm
A few weeks back we took note of the on-going the controversy in King, North Carolina over the presence of a Christian flag that had been flying at a veteran's memorial in the city's Central Park. City officials removed the flag as they tried to work out a constitutionally acceptable policy with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund.  The proposed solution that they hit upon is to create a lottery through which residents can request to fly any flag approved by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at one week intervals.  But, of course, the idea of allowing a non-Christian flag to... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 11/10/2010, 12:07pm
For months now, controversy has been raging in the town of King, North Carolina ever since a local veteran objected to the fact that a Christian flag was being flown at a veteran's memorial in the city's Central Park. City officials eventually received letters from both the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and decided to remove the flag until they could work out a policy that was constitutional with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund. And the decision to remove the flag in the interim set off protests: ... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 08/02/2010, 11:41am
For a while now, we've been covering the fact that Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice has set up offices in Kenya and Zimbabwe for the purpose of shaping the draft constitutions that are being prepared in both nations. Today, Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches has an important new report on the intersection between the ACLJ, "Word of Faith" spiritual warfare, and the future of Zimbabwe's government as demonstrated by a recent "Women, Weapons of Warfare conference" that took place in Kentucky: At the heart of this women’s conference is the concept... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/30/2010, 11:33am
Last week we noted that Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was outraged by the New York Times continuing coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, declaring that the recent article reporting that "top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys" was "the last straw." Today, Donohue struck back ... with an ad in the New York Times: As indicated in our New York Times op-ed page ad today, the pope is innocent. Indeed, he is being framed. No one has any evidence that he even... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/02/2010, 12:29pm
I am actually surprised that it took the Religious Right this long to file suit: A conservative civil liberties group is challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 ... The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center says it elevates people engaged in deviant sexual behaviors to a special, protected class of persons under federal law. The lawsuit naming U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of three pastors and the president of the American Family Association of... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 01/12/2010, 4:39pm
Today, the Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs released a document entitled "Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law." The document's drafting committee included everyone from former staff members of the ACLU and People for the American Way to Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and representatives from Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice.  The document seeks to explain church-state law as it stands today: The... MORE