Culture War

Manhattan Declaration: We're All Courageous Heroes

I realize that the Religious Right activists who produced and signed onto the "Manhattan Declaration" culture war manifesto view themselves as courageous voices standing against American's descent into Nazi-like totalitarianism, vowing never to forsake their beliefs even if it means exile, prison, or death.

Already they've compared themselves to Martin Luther and those who resisted the Nazis, and Chuck Colson even proclaimed that their press conference was like a gathering in Heaven and these sorts of over-the-top, self-aggrandizing comparisons, like this one from Jill Stanek, have really gone far enough:

In my mind, signing the Manhattan Declaration is the closest I'll come to understanding the thoughts and feelings of those signing the Declaration of Independence. Those men were willing to pay the ultimate price to stand against tyranny.

Manhattan Declaration Press Conference: A Little Glimpse of Heaven

I don't know about you, but the gathering of right-wing leaders for the Manhattan Declaration press conference last month is not my exactly my idea of "heaven" ... but then again, I'm not Chuck Colson:

There, in front of all those cameras and lights, Christian leaders lovingly, winsomely, and firmly took a stand. I will never forget the picture. I stood between Archbishop Wuerl of Washington and Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. I looked over at Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action.

To my left was the brilliant Bishop Harry Jackson, a man who has mobilized African American churches in the District to oppose gay “marriage.” And there was Fr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary. I was missing only one man, my dear friend, the late Richard Neuhaus.

It was a foretaste of what we’re all going to see in heaven, when those of us who can truly trust the Bible, who love Christ with all our hearts, minds, and souls, are re-united in the presence of our gracious and loving God.

Colson claims that while some are attempting to paint the Declaration as a political manifesto of the Religious Right "nothing could be further from the truth" because "this document is a clarion call to reach out to the poor and the suffering."

Really?  Because when I read it [PDF], most of what I see is a call to arms in the culture war over marriage, choice, and religion.  In fact, that Declaration itself all but admits that while "concern for the poor and vulnerable" is important, it is not the focus of the manifesto itself: 

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions. Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense.

Matt Barber: The Arbiter of All That Is Right

As I was going through my RSS reader today, I saw a headline from a OneNewsNow article on Will Phillips, the 10 year old boy in Arkansas who says he cannot pledge allegiance to the United States while it continues to deny equality to the LGBT community, and thought to myself "I'll bet that article quotes Matt Barber."

And sure enough, it does:

Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel believes the boy has been "utterly manipulated and exploited by adult moral relativists who are indirectly using him and other children as political pawns in the burgeoning culture war that is reaching a boil."

Barber further finds that "it's really a testament to the level of success that liberal and secular and homosexual activist propagandists in Hollywood and in our public schools and in much of our elitist establishment organizations have enjoyed."

The lesson this incident sends, according to Barber, is that it is time for parents to responsibly teach their children the correct, Christian message concerning homosexuality.

So not only has Barber taken it upon himself to determine who is and who is not a real Christian, he's also the one who decides just what constitutes proper parenting.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Sarah Palin says she's qualified to be President because she has "common sense" and "American values."  By that logic, isn't pretty much anyone qualified to be President?
  • Lou Dobbs for President? Are you kidding me?
  • Gov. Mark Sanford faces 37 charges of violating state ethics laws.
  • I have to admit that the absurd editing in this Newsmax interview with Richard Land just cracked me up.
  • Ralph Reed and Mike Huckabee: together at last.
  • Joseph Farah warns that "America is being judged by God."
  • Janet Jenkins has been granted custody of her daughter due to Lisa Miller's repeated refusal to provide her access.
  • Randall Terry is heading out on tour ... again.
  • Finally, I though the Manhattan Declaration was a vow by the Right to never give up in the culture war, but Jim Daly sees it differently: "What this declaration is saying is, if you want a fulfilling, rewarding, joyful, peaceful life then embrace Jesus Christ as your Savior."

Good News: You Too Can Save America From the Looming Obama-Nazi Dictatorship

Were you disappointed that you were unable to add your name to the newest Religious Right manifesto so that you could do your part to save America from its descent into Nazi-like totalitarianism?

Well, have we got good news for you - now you can:

This Friday, November 20, 2009, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., a seminal statement signed by over 125 Evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic leaders will be released. Known as the Manhattan Declaration, this document addresses the necessity of defending and advancing the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.

Click here after noon on Friday, November 20. There you can read the Declaration and sign on in support of the statement. The goal is to have one million signatures by December 1.

FRC President, Tony Perkins, is a part of the core group which formulated the Manhattan Declaration and he is encouraging every pastor and church member in our network to sign it as well. Our friend Chuck Colson declares that this historic declaration of religious conscience is "probably the most important document I've ever signed."

We trust that you and your church members will join this movement to declare our absolute commitment to the defense of life, marriage, and religious liberty. Again, visit our website to sign the Declaration and please forward this message to your friends in ministry.

So if, like the original signers of this Declaration, you think that reproductive choice has lead to things like genocide and AIDS, then be sure to add your name: 

Our concern is not confined to our own nation. Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and “ethnic cleansing,” the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS. We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research.

Or if, like the original signers of this Declaration, you feel you must oppose marriage equality because otherwise it'll lead to incest, polygamy, and the destruction of your religious liberty, then be sure to add your name:

We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights. They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being “married.” It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it? On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand. Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? No. The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

And most importantly, if, like the original signers of this Declaration, you will never, ever surrender in your opposition to America's descent into Godless-immorality, then by all means be sure to add your name:

Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.

Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality, marriage, and the family.

Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.

The Right's New Manhattan Project

It seems that Chuck Colson has gathered together a group of right-wing activists and clergy for something called the "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience" in order to create a unified front in fighting the culture war

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

They say they also want to speak to younger Christians who have become engaged in issues like climate change and global poverty, and who are more accepting of homosexuality than their elders. They say they want to remind them that abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom are still paramount issues.

For some reason, the headline of the New York Times article is "Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues" instead of "Right Wing Activists Unite On Political Issues," which would have been far more accurate considering that a significant number of those who signed on to this declaration are standard Religious Right political activists:

Chuck Colson Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview

Jim Daly President and CEO, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, CO)

Marjorie Dannenfelser President, Susan B. Anthony List (Arlington, VA)

Dr. James Dobson Founder, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, CO)

Dr. William Donohue President, Catholic League (New York, NY)

Dinesh D’Souza Writer & Speaker (Rancho Santa Fe, CA)

Rev. Jonathan Falwell Senior Pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, VA)

Maggie Gallagher President, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and a co-author of The Case for Marriage (Manassas, VA)

Dr. Robert P. George McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)

Rev. Ken Hutcherson Pastor, Antioch Bible Church (Kirkland, WA)

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church (Beltsville, MD)

Dr. Richard Land President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC (Washington, DC)

Rev. Herb Lusk Pastor, Greater Exodus Baptist Church (Philadelphia, PA)

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY)

Tony Perkins President, Family Research Council (Washington, D.C.)

Alan Sears President, CEO, & General Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund (Scottsdale, AZ)

Mark Tooley President, Institute for Religion and Democracy (Washington, D.C.)

The Declaration can be found here:

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Exporting the Anti-Gay Culture War

Political Research Associates has released a new report, written by PRA Project Director Reverend Kapya Kaoma, entitled "Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia" [PDF] which explores how figures like Rick Warren and Scott Lively and organizations like the Institute on Religion and Democracy have been promoting "an agenda in Africa that aims to criminalize homosexuality and otherwise infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people while also mobilizing African clerics in U.S. culture war battles."

From the PRA press release:

[T]he U.S. Right – once isolated in Africa for supporting pro-apartheid, White supremacist regimes – has successfully reinvented itself as the mainstream of U.S. evangelicalism. Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools, and educational materials, U.S. religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals and present themselves as the true representatives of U.S. evangelicalism, so helping to marginalize Africans’ relationships with mainline Protestant churches.

The investigation’s release could not be timelier, as the Ugandan parliament considers the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Language in that bill echoes the false and malicious charges made in Uganda by U.S antigay activist and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively that western gays are conspiring to take over Uganda and even the world.

"We need to stand up against the U.S. Christian Right peddling homophobia in Africa," said Kaoma, who in recent weeks asked U.S. evangelist Rick Warren to denounce the bill and distance himself from its supporters. "I heard church people in Uganda say they would go door to door to root out LGBT people and now our brothers and sisters are being further targeted by proposed legislation criminalizing them and threatening them with death. The scapegoating must stop."

While the American side of the story is known to LGBT activists and their allies witnessing struggles over LGBT clergy within Protestant denominations in the United States, what’s been missing has been the effect of the Right’s proxy wars on Africa itself. Kaoma’s report finally brings this larger, truly global, picture into focus.

“Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,” writes PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos in the report’s foreword. “Africa’s antigay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the U.S.A.”

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Alan Colmes: Louisiana Justice Of The Peace Who Wouldn’t Marry Interracial Couple Resigns.
  • Sarah Posner: How not talking culture war turned yesterday’s elections.
  • Could Michael Steele be a bigger embarrassment?
  • Sarah Palin sure does have an odd sense of what constitutes "variety."
  • Wendy Norris: Extremists Turn Focus to Carhart.
  • The New York Times Magazine profiles Dick Armey and his FreedomWorks activism.
  • Finally, Americans United says that it will be looking into Liberty University's use of official resources for seemingly partisan political purposes.

Barber Cops To His Con

Via Pam's House Blend, I see that Matt Barber has finally fessed-up to the fact that his new "book" is nothing but a collection of previously published columns: 

"The Right Hook – From the Ring to the Culture War" is a select collection of Matt Barber’s greatest hits: incisive and deeply thoughtful culture war commentaries he’s penned over the past few years. The book also recounts the fascinating series of events that launched Matt as one of America’s rising conservative stars. Barber – a former undefeated professional boxer and current Liberty Counsel attorney – pulls no punches. His thought provoking though often hysterically funny writing style tends to delight those who agree and infuriate those who do not. Liberals beware; you just may be the next conservative convert after reading “The Right Hook.” (Foreword by David Limbaugh.)

Of course, there is still no need for anyone to actually buy Barber's book, because all of the columns are readily available on-line, as are the "fascinating" introduction by Barber and foreword by Limbaugh.

Why anyone would drop $30+ for a collection of Barber's inane columns when they can easily get the entire thing for free is beyond me.

Porter, LaBarbera, and Gallagher Talk Marriage In Maine

Earlier today we mentioned that Peter LaBarbera was heading up to Maine, but before he left he made time for a check-in with Janet Porter, as did the National Organization for Maine's Maggie Gallagher.

LaBarbera explained that he was heading to Maine in order to expose the "radical agenda" of groups that are trying to influence the vote on marriage equality andy rally pro-family forces to defeat them to prevent them from brainwashing our children in the public schools.  LaBarbera and Porter urged listeners to donate money to the effort and LaBarbera twice issued a special call for financial assistance for Brian Camenker who is "in a severe financial pinch right now," pleading with listeners to make a donation.

Starting around the 4:00 mark, LaBarbera says he believes they will win in Maine and goes on to compare the fight against marriage equality to the fight against reproductive choice, saying those who oppose the "homosexual activist agenda" are on the front lines of the culture war and are standing up against this abomination, comparing homosexuality to child sacrifice and bestiality in the Old Testament and vowing never to back down against those who "are willing to rob our religious freedom in the name of promoting that perversion in the name of civil rights."

LaBarbera was then followed by Maggie Gallagher, who likewise sought to raise money from Porter's listeners, though she estimated that NOM would raise nearly $10 million this year, and spent most of her time claiming that those a who support marriage equality are "lying to the people of Maine about what gay marriage means":

The Big Con: How Matt Barber Swindled Me Out of $30

Yesterday, I wrote a post taking issue with right-wing outlets that were claiming that people were giving Matt Barber's new book, "The Right Hook: From The Ring To The Culture War," negative reviews without have read it, claiming that the book isn't even going to be released until next week.

As I noted, I already received a copy that I ordered from Amazon last week.  But now that I've started to read it, I made an interesting discovery: namely, that anybody who has read his columns doesn't need to actually read the book before they review it ... because they have literally already read it, since the book consists entirely of his republished columns! 

Nowhere on the publisher's website or the Amazon page is there any sort of disclaimer that this "book" is really just a collection of Barber's past columns.  Had that been made clear, I certainly would have saved myself the $32.00 I spent on this bound edition of his inane columns.

So, to save prevent anyone else who was thinking of buying this "book" from getting conned and ripped-off, here is the entire Barber book in links:

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Think Progress: Uninformed Hannity Tries To Provoke Culture War Over NYC Subway Atheist Ads.
  • Good As You provides a multi-part look at NOM, the biggest donor to the Yes on 1 campaign in Maine.
  • Emptywheel: Mark Sanford Goes Galt.
  • Joanna Brooks: Mormonism’s Black Issues.
  • Alan Colmes: Anti-Abortionists Using E-Bay To Raise Funds For Tiller Killer.
  • David Weigel: How To Burn Pelosi and Reid In Effigy.
  • AMERICAblog: GOP candidate for AG in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, thinks "homosexual acts are wrong" and there should be "policies that reflect that."
  • Raw Story: RNC keeps racist pics on Facebook for nearly a week:

Barber's Defenders Spoke Too Soon

Over the last few days, we've seen articles cropping up on right-wing news sites claiming that people have been "fraudulently" reviewing Matt Barber's new book, "The Right Hook: From The Ring To The Culture War" without having read it. 

Both WorldNetDaily and OneNewsNow have run these articles recently:

Reviewers are being highly critical of a book on the culture war -- a book they couldn't possibly have read yet.

The book entitled The Right Hook - From the Ring to the Culture War is authored by Matt Barber, who is well known for his analysis of the homosexual agenda. Although the book is on Amazon.com, it will not be available until November ... "The homosexual activist blog has turned people loose doing fraudulent reviews, negative one-star reviews of my book, ostensibly to try to discourage people from buying the book and reading it," reports Barber.

According to the author, this is taking place even though the book is one they could not have read in advance.

Well, I ordered the book from Amazon late last week ... and guess what just showed up in my mail today:

One interesting thing to note is that while the publisher's website contains a glowing blurb for Barber's book from Mike Huckabee, the blurb from him does not appear anywhere on the book jacket itself, though it does contain blurbs from other right-wing leaders like Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, Joseph Farah, and Mat Staver.

Anyway, stick around for the next few days as I plow through Barber's book and bring you all the highlights.

Pots Calling Kettles "Radical"

It is amazing to see militantly anti-gay right-wing extremists like Peter LaBarbera and Elaine Donnelly claiming that President Obama's upcoming speech at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner will somehow "alienate" people because he is associating with "radicals."

But, once again, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel takes the cake, slamming Obama for forcing "taxpayers" to foot the bill and adding an attack on his Noble Peace Prize just for good measure:

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak Saturday night at a fundraising event for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a far-left lobbying group that promotes forcing Americans to accept and applaud homosexual behavior. The group regularly lobbies to force Americans to affirm homosexuality and targets youth with weekly "Queerly Speaking" YouTube videos to advance its agenda. Obama's appearance at the fundraiser raises questions about the propriety of a President speaking at such an event, when taxpayers must pay the cost for his travel and security.

...

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "Obama is the most divisive President in American history. He seems to relish in promoting radical policies and ideas that drive a wedge between people who hold contrasting beliefs and values. Obama will be known as President of the Divided States, because he has taken a radical stance in the culture war. He is on the wrong side of life, morality, and liberty. Although Obama was recently given the Nobel Peace Prize, he has done nothing to advance peace in this Nation or abroad. When abroad, he apologizes for America and is embarrassed by American exceptionalism. Domestically, Obama promotes a culture war. He is not the symbol of peace."

God Commands You To Kill Gays

I spend a lot of time here mocking Religious Right groups and activists for their views of homosexuality, but as Jeremy says about these audio clips he posted the other day, "this 'culture war' is all fun and games until someone wants to execute you."

And he's not joking. Just listen to these rants from Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ, explaining to his audience how gays are out to rape their children in order to recruit them and says that the only way to stop them is to kill them:

You want to know who the biggest hypocrite in the world is? The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not for homosexuals. Hypocrite. The same God who instituted the death penalty for murderers is the same God who instituted the death penalty for rapists and for homosexuals - sodomites, queers! That's what it was instituted for, okay? That's God, he hasn't changed. Oh, God doesn't feel that way in the New Testament ... God never "felt" anything about it, he commanded it and said they should be taken out and killed.

You know why God wanted the sodomites in the Old Testament to be killed? You know why every good king of Israel, the Bible says they got rid of the sodomites in the land? You know, the good kings that came after the bad kings who had allowed the sodomites to infest their land, they had infiltrated ... King Asa got the sodomites out of the land, Jehoshaphat exterminated the sodomites that were left from the days of his father, Asa. Why? Because the sodomites are infectious, that's why. Because they're not reproducers, that goes without saying, they're recruiters.

How are they multiplying? Do you not see that they're multiplying? Are you that blind? Have you noticed that there's more than there were last year and the year before, and the year before that? How are they multiplying? They're reproducing right? No, here's a biology lesson: they're not reproducers, they're recruiters! And you know who they're after? Your children. Remember you dropped off your kids last week? That's who they're after. You drop them off as some daycare, you drop them off as some school somewhere, you don't know where they're at. I'll tell you where they're at: they're being recruited by the sodomites. They're being molested by the sodomites. I can tell you so many stories about people that I know being molested and recruited by the sodomites.

They recruit through rape. They recruit through molestation. They recruit through violation. They are infecting our society. They are spreading their disease. It's not a physical disease, it's a sin disease , it's a wicked, filthy sin disease and it's spreading on a rampage. Can't you see that it's spreading on a rampage? I mean, can you not see that? Can you not see that it's just exploding in growth? Why? Because each sodomite recruits far more than one other sodomite because his whole life is about recruiting other sodomites, his whole life is about violating and hurting people and molesting 'em.

So how many sodomites is one sodomite going to produce? A lot, and that's why it's just exploding. The only way to stop it, you say "how do we stop it?" ... You want to know why sodomites are recruiting? Because they have no natural predators.

Amazingly, that is the more sane of the two clips Jeremy posted - I'm not even going to bother transcribing this second clip in which Anderson screams about the "faggots running this country" because you simply have to listen to it: 

Pam's House Blend has more.

Norquist To The Religious Right: Stop Whining

There has been some discussion lately of the bubbling tension within the Republican Party's base between the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives.  Frankly, this tension has always existed but only tends to surface when the GOP is out of power and the two sides are wrangling for influence, with the fiscal conservatives claiming that the social conservatives' focus on culture war issues is driving away potential Republican voters while the social conservatives claim the the only reason the GOP is even a viable party is because of the loyalty of the Religious Right base.  

Grover Norquist undoubtedly comes down on the fiscal conservative side and so it's no surprise to see him sit down with Dan Gilgoff to offer the social conservatives a little "tough love":

[Religious Right] leaders sometimes who announce that they want to make everybody be one religion or make everybody think one way ... Some religious right leaders do that, acting as if everybody of their faith persuasion votes on their command, which is insulting, not true, and ridiculous. They shouldn't talk like that.

...

James Dobson made some comment that 40 percent of the votes for George W. Bush in 2004 came from evangelical Protestants, therefore you owe the presidency to us and you need to do what we want. It's missing why they voted for Bush. They didn't vote for him because they're evangelical Protestants. They voted for Bush because they wanted to be left alone in their faith and family commitments, which are evangelical Protestant. But the orthodox Jews and the Muslims who voted for Bush voted for the same reason, so you can't go to Bush and say, "Govern as a Baptist."

...

Why is a guy who wants to go to church all day in a room with a guy who wants to make money all day and the guy who wants to fire guns all day? What is it we have in common? We all want to be left alone in the zone that is most important in our lives. And if you don't understand why people are in the room, you don't understand how you can piss off people who should be your friend.

...

Traditional-values conservatives who thought the Republicans weren't doing anything the last eight years remind me of that old joke where the guy is leaning up against the building and a policeman comes over and says, "Move along." And the guy says, "I'm holding the building up." And the cop goes, "Don't be an idiot, get out of here." And the guy walks away, and the building falls down. The Republicans in the House and Senate were stopping a whole flood of left-of-center social issues on abortion, gay issues, everything. They weren't winning those issues because the votes weren't there to pass stuff. But they were stopping bad stuff.

You do have some leaders, not just social conservatives, who want other people to do their work for them. I never insist that a congressman and or a senator go out and lead on the tax issue. I lead on the tax issue. I make it easy for congressmen and senators to do the right thing. There are some social conservatives, like some other guys, who want the president to be point man on their issue. And presidents don't do that. They want congressmen and senators to jump on the hand grenade for them. No. Make it necessary for candidates to vote X, and they will.

Whining is not a way to change policy or make you beloved by elected officials. Some social conservatives think, "How come the Republican leadership hasn't done X?" The real question is: Why haven't you made it the easy and smart thing for any elected official to do?

As for the issue of marriage equality, Norquist refused to say whether he supports it, saying simply that he hasn't focused on it and saying that the government shouldn't even be involved in the marriage business anyway:

Churches, synagogues, and mosques should write marriage contracts, and the state should enforce contracts. You shouldn't have sacraments organized, managed, and defined by the states.

Communities of faith ought to be into denationalizing marriage, just as I want to denationalize healthcare and education, rather than trying to get the federal government to run the post office correctly or manage marriage correctly.

Of course, "denationalizing marriage" is exactly what the Religious Right doesn't want because it could lead to states granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, which is why they are insisting on the need for a federal marriage amendment.

Needless to say, efforts to repair the rift between the social and fiscal conservatives are probably not going to be helped much by the fact that one of the leading fiscal conservatives more or less accused the Religious Right of being a bunch of whiners who have no idea how politics actually works.

Is Dobson Calling for the Right to Disengage?

Yesterday, I wrote a post, based largely on this post from Dan Gilgoff, about James Dobson and company lamenting their relative inability to influence the political culture at the moment, now that Democrats are in control of both the White House and the Congress.

There is certainly a sense of panic gripping the Religious Right at the moment, but I think that Gilgoff is reading a bit too much into Dobson's admission that his forces can't stop things like hate crimes legislation and urging his followers to simply pray:

[I]t's important to note that Dobson is entirely serious about prayer as a real strategy to effect change, as are tens of millions of other American Christians. That's why I wrote that Dobson has surrendered politically for the moment, not that he's surrendered entirely.

But to encourage Christian disengagement from politics, at least until Republicans return to power in some branch of the federal government, is no small thing. That's especially true because evangelicals had been politically disengaged for much of the 20th century. Their return to the political arena in the late 1970s was a hard-won victory for culture warriors like Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell.

To encourage evangelical Christians to sit on the political sidelines until a better day arrives sounds like a call to return to that previous era, when the public humiliation of 1925's Scopes "monkey trial" scared evangelicals out of politics for the next half century.

...

Is he just facing the facts about the Democrats' monopoly in Washington? Or has he given up too easily?

Dobson is, if anything, a political realist and while I suspect that he is genuinely alarmed by the current political environment, he's not about to give up - and he certainly isn't calling for his followers to "disengage" from politics.  In fact, he has made that abundantly clear in recent weeks, and his organization's action center is still working on everything from hate crimes to executive nominations.

It must be remembered that, during the eight years George W. Bush was in office, Dobson was hailed as king of the "values voters," he was hobnobbing with Senate leaders like Bill Frist and Rick Santorum, his organization had easy access to the White House, and he was being personally courted by the administration when it came to things like generating support for Harriet Miers.

Once upon a time, Dobson had a seat at the right hand of the President of the United States:

But those days are over and now, with Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, Dobson's influence in Washington DC has plummeted, he's being shut out of events he used to control, and he's reduced to sharing his program with right-wing back-benchers like Reps. Louie Gohmert and Steve King.

Dobson realizes that his influence, and the influence of his movement as a whole, is at its nadir at the moment and that, given the lack of allies they have in power, all that they can really do is pray.

But this is not any sort of call for "disengagement" on the part of those who share his views, a point he made very clearly just a few weeks ago when the last round of "is Dobson calling it quits?" punditry was taking place:

It would not be accurate not to admit that we lost the White House, we lost the House, and we lost the Senate, and we probably will loose in the courts, and we lost almost every department of government with this election. But the war is not over - pendulums swing and we'll come back. We're gonna hang in there and, you know, it's not going to be a surrender.

It was, after all, just two years ago that Gilgoff himself was writing about "how James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are winning the Culture War."

As a person who has spent years covering the Right, Gilgoff ought to know better than anyone that Dobson is not the kind of man who throws in the towel on these issues, no matter how dire the prospects may seem at the moment.

Will The Right, Unwilling to be Turned Aside, Turn to Huckabee?

Last week Steve Benen wrote a post about the National Council for a New America and its agenda for re-branding the Republican Party.  As he noted, the agenda covered issues like tax cuts, healthcare, energy, and national security while social issues were noticeably missing:

[W]hat may be the most interesting thing about this new group's "policy framework" is what it doesn't say. There's no mention of gays, abortion, state-sponsored religion, guns, or immigration. It's almost as if Republicans don't feel like fighting a culture war anymore.

Hey, activists in the GOP base, is sounds like the Republican Party is trying to throw you under the bus. Are you going to take this lying down?

As it turns out, the Religious Right isn’t about that take this lying down, judging by this Washington Update from the Family Research Council:

In another step away from its conservative roots, Republican members of the House unveiled The National Council for a New America in hopes of recasting the Party's ailing identity. The effort only underscores the Republicans' present identity crisis, as the GOP leadership kicked off the campaign devoid of the values that once caused voters to identify with the party.

The group's priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas. (Yes, because that worked so well for Republicans in 2006 and 2008!) Bush ignored the fact that abandoning the array of principles that Reagan espoused is exactly what got the GOP into this mess. No one is suggesting that we try living in the past, but President Reagan's principles are the ones that guided our nation from its very inception. Turning away from those fundamental truths would be a death knell for the GOP as little would be left to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

Too many Republicans leaders are running scared on the claims of the Left and the media that social conservatism is a dead-end for the GOP. If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? The Republican establishment doesn't draw a crowd. Governor Sarah Palin does. Also, take a look at the recent Pew Research poll, which showed overall support for abortion in America has dropped eight percentage points in the last year and support for it among moderate and liberal Republicans has dropped a whopping 24%. Based on that, how can the GOP suggest that life is a losing issue? If there were a road sign for the GOP on this new journey, it would read: Welcome to the wilderness. You're going to be there for awhile.

The interesting side-note here is that FRC is, for the first time that I can recall, approvingly citing Mike Huckabee. During the GOP primary campaign, they and pretty much every other “mainstream” Religious Right group were decidedly unexcited about him and conspicuously unsupportive of his candidacy – something which Huckabee repeatedly complained about during the campaign and continues to complain about even today.

Since then, Huckabee has been working to position himself as the champion of the social conservatives within the party and now it is looking as if his efforts might be starting to pay off.  The Religious Right, growing concerned that the GOP could start shoving them aside in an effort to start winning elections, might soon find that the man for whom they had no love the last time around to be the one to whom they’ll have to turn to try and save their place in the party.

Newt Gingrich: The New Face of the Religious Right?

The latest issue of Americans United's "Church and State" has a lengthy cover story by Rob Boston analyzing just who might step up to lead the Religious Right in the years to come, now that many of its well-known leaders have passed away and others are aging and scaling back their workloads.

Boston takes a look at a variety of potential candidates - including Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Tony Perkins, Rick Warren, Rod Parsley, and Rick Scarborough - but he starts off his list with Newt Gingrich:

The idea of Newt Gingrich as the next leader of the Religious Right is not as odd as it sounds. During his tenure as speaker of the House of Representatives, Gingrich was known mainly for his promotion of small government, low taxes and libertarian ideas, but a lot has changed since 1999; in recent years Gingrich has increasingly been stressing Religious Right themes.

The new push began in 2006 when Gingrich published a book titled Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History, a tome that promotes a “Christian nation” history that’s always popular with the Religious Right.

In a recent interview with Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News & World Report, Gingrich talked about his desire to unite conservative evangelicals with traditionalist Roman Catholics in support of a broad conservative agenda.

Gingrich, Gilgoff reported, is traveling around the country speaking to clergy on behalf of David Barton, a Religious Right pseudo-historian who has written books promoting the theocratic “Christian nation” viewpoint.

“In the last few years I’ve decided that we’re in a crisis in which the secular state, if allowed, will fundamentally and radically change America against the wishes of most Americans,” Gingrich told Gilgoff. “You’ve had such rising hostility to religious belief that I wanted to reach broadly into the country and dramatically raise public awareness of threats to religious liberty.”

The ex-speaker added, “It’s time to challenge head-on secular domination in the West.”

Gingrich has formed a new organization, Renewing American Leadership, that partnered with the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association to sponsor anti-tax rallies around the country on April 15. Although taxation is not traditionally a Religious Right issue, the push is a good example of Gingrich’s efforts to add to the “culture war” agenda and unite the various factions of the conservative movement.

I'd like to second Boston's assertion that Gingrich could very well become a leading figure within the Religious Right and I'll offer this recent email from the American Family Association up as evidence:

We fully expect someone like Huckabee to gladly associate himself with people such as Barton, Staver, Engle, and Falwell, becuase he has done so before and they were all big supporters of his presidential bid.

But, until recently at least, one person you would never see at a third-tier Religious Right event such as this was Gingrich.  His partnering with the AFA and Barton and now his participation in events like this all suggest that Gingrich is making a serious play to establish himself as a respected and influential player within the Religious Right, perhaps as part of his effort to unify the conservative movement ahead of his own potential presidential run.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Pam reports that Rep. Virginia Foxx is now trying to walk back from her claim that the murder to Matthew Shepard was a "hoax."
  • The Box Turtle Bulletin has a good analysis of Carrie Prejean, her views, and her role as a martyr for the Religious Right.
  • Good as You has the audio of Prejean's appearance on Matt Barber and Mat Staver's radio program (also, Jeremy has always had a fondness for puns and plays on words, and this post was exceptionally clever.)
  • Publius predicts that Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's stock will rise as the GOP's fortunes grow dimmer and they eventually need to recover from the descent into crazy base land.
  • Steve Benen notes that, in the latest effort to re-brand the GOP, there is no mention of culture war issues and says it looks like the Republican Party is trying to throw social conservatives under the bus and asks them if they are "going to take this lying down?"
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Culture War Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/23/2011, 3:06pm
Earlier today it was reported that President Obama had ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. So far, reactions from the Religious Right have been few and far between but we are going to post them here as they trickle in: National Organization for Marriage: “We have not yet begun to fight for marriage,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM. “The Democrats are responding to their election loss with a series of extraordinary, extra-constitutional end runs around democracy, whether it’s fleeing the state in... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/23/2011, 3:06pm
Earlier today it was reported that President Obama had ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. So far, reactions from the Religious Right have been few and far between but we are going to post them here as they trickle in: National Organization for Marriage: “We have not yet begun to fight for marriage,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM. “The Democrats are responding to their election loss with a series of extraordinary, extra-constitutional end runs around democracy, whether it’s fleeing the state in... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/09/2011, 3:14pm
With CPAC kicking off tomorrow, Metro Weekly profiles GOProud, the gay conservative group that has set off a culture war within the conservative movement and whose participation in the conference led to a boycott by several Religious Right organizations.  And while we don't agree with most of GOProud's agenda and believe their sense of smug self-satisfaction is annoying and entirely undeserved, we do whole-heartedly support their effort to drive a deep wedge into the conservative movement in order to marginalize the "nasty, anti-gay bigots" who make up the Religious Right... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/09/2011, 3:14pm
With CPAC kicking off tomorrow, Metro Weekly profiles GOProud, the gay conservative group that has set off a culture war within the conservative movement and whose participation in the conference led to a boycott by several Religious Right organizations.  And while we don't agree with most of GOProud's agenda and believe their sense of smug self-satisfaction is annoying and entirely undeserved, we do whole-heartedly support their effort to drive a deep wedge into the conservative movement in order to marginalize the "nasty, anti-gay bigots" who make up the Religious Right... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 01/13/2011, 2:05pm
In a new fundraising letter asking for help to “restore our nation to its Christian roots,” the American Family Association asks its supporters to pray for House Speaker John Boehner, who AFA says is leading a war against the “powers of evil” – meaning pro-equality and pro-choice members of Congress. After recounting the biblical story of Moses relying on the help of Aaron and Hur to keep his arms raised and help the Israelites defeat Amalek, the AFA letter says this:   We are at war with the powers of evil no less than Moses was. In the physical realm of... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 01/13/2011, 2:05pm
In a new fundraising letter asking for help to “restore our nation to its Christian roots,” the American Family Association asks its supporters to pray for House Speaker John Boehner, who AFA says is leading a war against the “powers of evil” – meaning pro-equality and pro-choice members of Congress. After recounting the biblical story of Moses relying on the help of Aaron and Hur to keep his arms raised and help the Israelites defeat Amalek, the AFA letter says this:   We are at war with the powers of evil no less than Moses was. In the physical realm of... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 01/11/2011, 11:56am
As we have been noting over the last several week, more and more right-wing groups are dropping out of CPAC, angry that organizers have allowed the gay conservative group GOProud to participate. Many of these same groups have also been angry at Gov. Mitch Daniels ever since he called for a "truce" in the culture war, so I guess it was only a matter of time before groups like the American Principles Project (which kicked off the boycott of CPAC) would start attacking Daniels for agreeing to participate in CPAC: "Unfortunately, while Governor Daniels is slated to speak at CPAC's... MORE