Right Plots to Wage Culture War During Obama Presidency

For those hoping that a victory by Barack Obama might somehow restrain or moderate the Religious Right … well, you are going to be disappointed since the Right is already looking ahead and planning on reconstituting itself by rallying around Sarah Palin and launching an all-out culture war: 

"An Obama victory will galvanize social conservatives for 2010 and 2012 and they will look for a standard bearer they can rally around," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of America's largest evangelical group.

Land told Reuters the candidate most likely to "rally the troops" under an Obama administration looked to be McCain's running mate Sarah Palin.

The Alaska governor has excited the evangelical base but her strident opposition to abortion rights and other hard-core conservative positions have alienated more moderate voters.

William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League which opposes abortion rights, said religious conservatives were bracing for a new phase in the "culture wars."

"I've been on the phone the last couple of days with some of my friends ... and we're getting ready for the biggest culture war battles ever," Donohue said.

"There is nobody in the history of the United States who has run for president who is a more enthusiastic supporter of abortion rights than Obama," he said.

"How McCain Shed Pariah Status Among Evangelicals"

That is the title of this good piece by NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty on how John McCain managed to go from reviled enemy of the Religious Right to panderer extraordinaire in just eight years.

Hagerty recounts who McCain openly attacked the Right with his "agents of intolerance" remark back in 2000 and how despite Gary Bauer's efforts to help him adjust the tone and direction of the attack, there was no confusion on the part of Religious Right leaders regarding what he meant: 

"It was very hurtful," recalls Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. "When you attack two of their leaders — and those two people were much more important leaders in 2000 than they are today – well, it damaged McCain with a lot of the grassroots."

And then McCain only compounded the problem this year when he sought the support of John Hagee and Rod Parsley only to reject them when he was forced to answer for their views, something that Richard Land points out only went to show how clueless McCain is about the GOP's right-wing base:

Land says the controversy showed how little McCain knew the constituency he was trying to woo. "Both of these guys hold positions which anyone who knows evangelical life well would know would be problematic for someone running for national office," Land says. "I think McCain and his advisers just didn't know the lay of the land."

The interesting thing about this, which Land doesn't mention, is the fact the Right was not mad at McCain for seeking the support of Hagee and Parsley because they held crazy views unrepresentative of the movement, but because he refused to defend them and their views when they came under attack and ultimately dropped them alltogether. 

But then McCain finally got his act together, started courting them, saying the things they wanted to hear, and finally gave them the VP nominee they had been dreaming of:

In May, McCain began to court the evangelical leaders he had once disdained, with the help of Bauer, his friend and religious insider. All summer, McCain met privately with leaders and stressed his credentials that he is strongly pro-life, anti-same-sex marriage, a religious conservative by record if not by countenance.

Then he threw the first of two punches.

On Aug. 16, McCain and his Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama agreed to be questioned, separately, by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. During the televised forum, McCain served up short, definitive answers, just as this evangelical audience wanted it.


Bauer was sitting in the front row.

"Even before the event was over during little breaks for TV," he recalls, "people were patting me on the shoulder, saying, 'Oh my gosh, Gary, he's so much better than I thought he would be. This is wonderful!'"

Two weeks later, McCain delivered his knock-out punch to Obama's hopes for winning traditional evangelicals when he announced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

At that moment, some 250 evangelical leaders were meeting in Minneapolis. Land, who was there, says they jumped to their feet and cheered.

"The first appointment in a supposed McCain admin is who he picked for vice president," Land says. "And he picked someone who is a rock star among pro-lifers, Catholic and Protestant. There's not a pro-life activist in the country who didn't know exactly who Sarah Palin was before John McCain ever picked her as his vice president."

And that is how John McCain shed his pariah status among Evangelicals - by completely caving to their demands. 

Palin Declares Herself "Hardcore Pro-Lifer" During Dobson Lovefest

Focus on the Family has put James Dobson's phone interview with Sarah Palin up on its website.  The mutual admiration between the two was quite palpable as they heaped praise upon one another, with Dobson telling Palin repeatedly that he and many others were praying not only for her but also for a "miracle" regarding the election.

Dobson likewise thanked Palin for her "powerful pro-life testimony" regarding the birth of her youngest son Trig, who was born with Down Syndrome, to which Palin admitted while she was scared after first learning of it during her pregnancy, she was a "hardcore pro-lifer" and it provided not only an "opportunity for me to really be walking the walk and not just talking the talk" but also an opportunity to "help us in our cause here allowing America to be a more welcoming nation for all of our children." 

Palin then thanked Dobson for all he has done for the movement, declaring that "if it were not for you, so many of us would be missing the boat in terms of hearing the message in understanding what we can do to further the cause of life."

Dobson went on to praise the Republican Party platform as the most pro-life, pro-family party platform in history, which Palin seconded, and when Dobson asked her if she thought John McCain would seek to implement it if elected, she said she did "from the bottom of my heart" and reiterated that it was important for Americans to know "that John McCain is solidly there on those solid planks in our platform that build the right agenda for America." 

When Dobson asked if she was discouraged by the current poll numbers showing them trailing, Palin insisted that she was not and that she had always been the underdog but always pulled out a victory when necessary and that she was just "putting this in God’s hands that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on November 4th." 

The interview concluded with Dobson telling Palin of a prayer call earlier in the day when those participating asked God for a miracle regarding the election and then invited Palin to visit them in person at Focus on the Family, promising to roll out the red carpet when she does. 

Rough transcript of the interview below.  Audio available: Part I and Part II

Disclaimer: Regarding the "hardcore pro-lifer" quote mentioned earlier, I am not sure if she called herself a "hardcore pro-lifer" or simply "hardcore pro-life." Either way, the point is the same. Also, I didn't transcribe Palin's words exactly as she spoke them because frankly I got sick of my spellchecker asking me if I meant "talking" every time I wrote "talkin'" and "looking" whenever I wrote "lookin'." Furthermore, some sections I didn't transcribe but did provide a short synopsis of what they were saying or the points they were making, especially in cases where Dobson's questions lead to a response from Palin that I did transcribe.

Dobson: I want to tell you that I’m one of those great fans too and I just want you to know that Shirley and I are praying for you, for your safety and for your health and that God’s perfect will will be done on November the fourth. Shirley just had a prayer event here – she’s Chairman of the National Day of Prayer – and we had 430 people here for the weekend. They prayed for the whole weekend. It was not a political event but we were sure asking for God’s intervention.

Palin: Well, it is that intercession that is so needed and so greatly appreciated. And I can feel it too, Dr. Dobson. I can feel the power or prayer and that strength is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation and I so appreciate it.

Dobson: Well, you hear that everywhere you do, don’t you?

Palin: I do, and that is what allows us to continue to be inspired and strengthened. And it’s just a great reminder also when we hear along the rope lines that people are interceding for us and praying for us; it’s our reminder to do the same, to put this all in God’s hands, to seek his perfect will for this nation and to, of course, seek his wisdom and guidance in putting this nation back on the right track.

Dobson: You may not recall it, but in April, before all of this happened, before you were selected by Senator McCain to be his running mate, I wrote to thank you for welcoming little Trig into this world, your little baby with Down Syndrome. And I just wanted to express to you what a powerful testimony that was to the sanctity of human life. And you wrote me a very gracious letter back and there are just so many parents out there who also admire you for your love and care for that precious child.

Palin: Well, I so appreciated your words and yeah, when we found out I was about thirteen weeks along when I found out that Trig would be born with Down Syndrome. To be honest with you, it scared me though and I knew that it would be a challenge and I had to really be on my knees the entire rest of the pregnancy asking that God would prepare my heart. And just the second that he was born it was absolute confirmation that that prayer was answered with all of us just falling so in love with him. And then this whole new world has been opened up to me since then. I’ve always had near and dear to my heart the mission of protecting the sanctity of life and being pro-life, a hardcore pro-lifer, but I think this opportunity for me to really be walking the walk and not just talking the talk. There’s purpose in this also for a greater good to be met. I feel so privileged and blessed to have been, I guess, chosen to have Trig enter our lives because I do want it to help us in our cause here in allowing America to be a more welcoming nation for all of our children.

Dobson: One of the most touching and dramatic moments in the last year for me was when you were speaking at the Republican National Convention and little Trig was sitting on Piper’s lap and she wet her fingers and mashed down his hair that was sticking up in the back. I’m sure that she has seen you do that many times. Boy, that really grabbed my heart, I’ll tell you.

Palin: I know, that was kind of a nice manifestation there of our little mother hen there in Piper, but just of that innocent child-like love that kids certainly have for one another and truly that is that love that our country needs more of. And Dr. Dobson, you have been just on the forefront of all of this, of all of this good for so many years. And your reward is going to be in Heaven because I know that you take a lot of shots also but please know that on our end, kind of outsiders looking in at what you have accomplished all these years, if it were not for you, so many of us would be missing the boat in terms of hearing the message ann understanding what we can do to further the cause of life, and of ethics in our nation, those things that we should be engaged in. We owe so much to you.

Dobson: Well you are very kind in saying that, but we are on the same team in that regard. I’m just trying to serve the Lord like you are and listening to his voice. Wtih egard to the sanctity of human life, it just grieves me greatly how the blood of maybe forty-six, forty-eight million babies who have been aborted cries out to God from the ground. The pro-life and pro-family message is very much a part of who you are, isn’t it?

Palin: It is. It is. And again that’s just been a part of who I’ve been all these years but now with a greater opportunity that I feel blessed to be in this position. A greater opportunity to perhaps help others understand what we can do to usher in more of that respect for life. I’m very, very privileged.

[Dobson asks about media attacks on her and Joe the Plumber – she says that if she can’t handle the attacks, she shouldn’t have offered herself up as VP.]

Dobson: [He had doubts and concerns about McCain and Republicans but] The Republican Platform is the strongest pro-life, pro-family document to come out of a political party, even more so than the platforms during the campaigns of Ronald Reagan. There are principles there that I’ve been fighting for for thirty, forty years and you are tying to articulate those same principles, aren’t you?

Palin: Absolutely, and Dr. Dobson thank you so much for recognizing that. This is a strong platform [built] around the planks in this platform that respect life and respect the entrepreneurial spirit of this great country and those things, back to the social issues that are what Republicans, at least in the past, had articulated and tied to stand on. Now, finally, we have very solid planks in the platform that will allow us to build an even stronger foundation for our country. It’s all good and it’s encouraging. You would maybe have assumed that we would have gotten further away from those strong planks. But no, they're there, they're solid, we stand on them and again I believe that it is the right agenda for the country at this time. Very, very clear and contrasted tickets in this election November 4th. People are going to see the clear contrasts, you just go to the planks in our platforms and that’s where you see them.

Dobson: In your private conversations with Senator McCain, it is your impression that he also strongly supports those views? I know that he did not oppose that platform when it was written. Do you think he will implement it?

Palin: I do, from the bottom of my heart. I am such a strong believer that McCain believes in those strong planks and we do have good conversations about some of the details of the different planks and what they represent. I’m very heartened that John McCain … he doesn’t want a Vice President who will check the opinions … of me at the door and we talk about some of these and they’re very important. It’s most important though, as you’re suggesting, that Americans know that John McCain is solidly there on those solid planks in our platform that build the right agenda for America.

[Dobson asks what lessons she has learned. Palin says she can’t fight with the media, but has faith that their message will get out and faith that God will help them get that message out there. Dobson says millions of people are praying for her and asks if she is discouraged by the polls.]

Palin: I am not discouraged at all, even hearing those poll numbers because, for some reason, I have found myself over and over again in my life being put in these underdog positions and yet still when victory needed to be reached in order to meet this greater good, it’s always worked out just perfectly fine despite the fact that over and over again I’ve been, and I know John McCain has been, in underdog positions. To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder and it also strengthens my faith because I’m going to know at the end of the day, putting this in God’s hands, that the right thing for America will be done, the end of the day on November 4th. So I’m not discouraged at all, I’m just fine with the position that we are in today.

Dobson: [Talks about prayer call] “We were just asking for, rather boldly asking, for a miracle with regard to the election this year … let me just say that you that, regardless of the outcome of this election, we would love to have you come by and see us here at Focus on the Family sometime. I know that this is an extremely stressful time for you and we’re not asking you to come now, but when the time permits, we’ll roll out the red carpet for you.”

Palin: I don’t even need any kind of red carpet but I would absolutely love to. Dr. Dobson, Todd is sitting right next to me here in this vehicle before we get on an airplane, so Todd and I too, after I speak with you, I’ll share this conversation with him and we’ll be praying too for your ministry and for those pastors whom you have just mentioned also. Collectively, we can do all that we can within us to strengthen our country and to let Americans know that government has to be on their side, it’s their government and as we seek God’s wisdom and His will in this election, we have to have faith that it’s all going to be good at the end of the day there on November 4th as this country moves forward.

[Dobson and Tom Minnery gush about the interview.]

Palin’s Unbiblical Candidacy

Today, the LA Times takes a look at the issue, which we’ve mentioned here a few times, of the seeming conflict between the belief among some conservative evangelicals that women cannot be leaders of the church and that their proper role is to be submissive to their husbands all while enthusiastically supporting Sarah Palin’s candidacy for vice president.  

The consensus seems to be that biblical restrictions on women's roles only apply at church and at home, not out in the secular world and, provided that Palin's husband approves, she is free to have a career.  

But inevitably, there are those for whom even this seemingly restrictive view is too liberal: 

"The Palin selection is the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least," said Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry. "The unabashed, unquestioning support of Sarah Palin and all she represents marks a fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities -- of moms being at home with young children, of moms being helpers to their husbands, the priority of being keepers of the home."

Voddie Baucham, a Texas pastor who has criticized the Palin selection as anti-family in a series of blogs, said that the overwhelming evangelical support demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice biblical principles for politics. "Evangelicalism has lost its biblical perspective and its prophetic voice," Baucham wrote. "Men who should be standing guard as the conscience of the country are instead falling in line with the feminist agenda and calling a family tragedy . . . a shining example of family values."

In an interview, Baucham said the hundreds of responses he's received are running 20 to 1 in his favor. But he said he has also been castigated for "breaking ranks" by some, who argue the election is too important to raise divisive issues.

He and other like-minded pastors disagree. "It's more important for us to truthfully represent the priorities of Scripture than it is for us to win an election," Phillips said.

That view is obviously held by a very small minority of evangelicals, but overall this issue is leading to rather odd statements from Religious Right leaders as they try to reconcile this apparent contradiction:  

Although many conservative Christians agree that women should place homemaking over working outside, many are hesitant to apply those views to Palin. Christian author Martha Peace, whose book "The Excellent Wife" tells women to submit to husbands and be good homemakers, said she would not make the same choice as Palin.

Ditto for Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and recommended Palin to the McCain campaign. He also would not do as the Palins have done. "I'm not hard-wired to be the 'First Dude,' " he said.

But Peace and Land are two of many who say the public should stay out of what is a matter between the Palins and their pastor. "I wouldn't presume to make that judgment for another family," Land said.

That’s rich coming from Land, whose entire career has been based on passing judgment on others.

They Always Come Around

Because it seems like a week can’t go by without some right-wing figure who once said they could never support John McCain suddenly deciding that they will support him after all, we bring you this:

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum told a radio show in January that a Sen. John McCain presidency would be "very, very dangerous for Republicans" because McCain often sided with Democrats on domestic issues.

Santorum's perspective, however, has changed.

During an interview Tuesday Santorum pointed to two examples as turning points: the religion forum at Saddleback and the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate.

"Knowing McCain, he's choosing someone in whom he sees a lot of himself," Santorum said during a telephone interview with the Intelligencer Journal about his Senate colleague of 12 years. "He tries to find people who have a similar head as he does, and if he sees him in her … that gives me a better feel for him and a little more confidence in him."

Of course, that is pretty much to opposite of what he was saying last year:

Former Sen. Rick Santorum has drawn at least one conclusion about the Republican presidential primary field: Anybody but John McCain.

“The only one I wouldn’t support is McCain,” Santorum said during an interview in his office at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, where he is a senior fellow.

“I don’t agree with him on hardly any issues,’’ Santorum said. “I don’t think he has the temperament and leadership ability to move the country in the right direction.”

The Many Sides of Sarah Palin

Ever since John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, the central question has been “Who is Sarah Palin?”  The fact of that matter is that nobody really seems to know, especially Palin herself.

When the announcement came down, politicos of every stripe began scrambling to examine her thin record in an attempt to figure out just what McCain thought that she could bring to the ticket beyond crass electoral benefits.    Everyone, that is, except the Religious Right, which hailed the decision with a staggeringly over-the-top fervor considering that McCain had just named a one-term, relative unknown to fill out his ticket.

But as more becomes known about Palin, it is becoming increasingly clear just why the Right was so overjoyed.

Her militant opposition to abortion, going so far as to even refuse to support her own mother-in-law’s candidacy for Mayor because she was pro-choice; her efforts to oppose equality for gays and lesbians; her apparent affiliation with the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party; her support for teaching Intelligent Design; her reported efforts to censor library books and fire the town librarian – on and on it goes, with new details seemingly emerging by the hour, all suggesting that Palin is indeed the dream candidate the Right has been praying for.

Lost in all of this is Palin’s apparent willingness to utilize right-wing wedge issues when they suit her political needs and then downplay them when they don’t.

As John Stein, whom Palin defeated to become mayor of Wasilla, Alaska in 1996, recently told KCAW, Palin worked to inject the issue of abortion into the traditionally non-partisan mayor’s race and helped her pave the way for her own political aspirations: “The fundamental Christian values were very much a part of her background and the election, interestingly enough, tended to turn around the abortion issue.  John Stein: pro-choice.  Sarah Palin: anti-abortion.  That was heavily promoted by local, state, and I think even national anti-choice groups.”

When she ran for Governor in 2006, Palin was only one of two candidate to respond to the Eagle Forum of Alaska’s Questionnaire – a questionnaire that the organization is now trying to hide by taking it off of their website – in which she explained her opposition to abortion, providing benefits to same-sex couples, to sex-ed and contraception distribution in schools, to hate crimes legislation, and declaring that “Preserving the definition of ‘marriage’ as defined in our constitution” would be among her top priorities if elected.

So while Palin is clearly willing to exploit wedge issues when they serve her needs, she seems to prefer to do so on the down-low and somewhat away from the public eye.  When her opponent for Governor in 2006 tried to make an issue of her staunch anti-abortion views, Palin dismissed the issue, saying “I think it's a shame ... that anyone would try to make this issue a headline, banner issue in the campaign when it's not” and saying that she wouldn’t push for state constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion because “there is no law that I could sign in office that could ever supersede the Supreme Court's ruling.”  While standing by her militant views, she insisted that "I am not one to be out there preaching and forcing my views on anyone else."

When she was criticized for her views that creationism should be taught in science class, she backed off, saying that she wouldn’t "have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism" for members of the state school board.

In fact, it seems that when ever anyone tried to actually pin Palin down on her right-wing positions, her response was to dismiss the efforts as divisive and hypothetical:

A significant part of Palin’s base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).

Palin and her staff complained that efforts to raise these issues in public were divisive and hypothetical. The normally unflappable candidate seemed put-upon when she faced a string of such questions in the last debate, on public television and radio Thursday night.

“It’s interesting that so many questions do resolve around that centeredness that I have,” she said with a half-smile.

Palin said her reading of the Bible would not “bleed over into policy.”

In fact, Time Magazine suggests that central operating principle of Palin’s political career is the willingness to adopt a “new political identity” that suits her needs at any given moment:

By the time Sarah Palin was entering state politics, the hottest issue in Alaska wasn't gay marriage or even abortion. It was corruption and cronyism. … She needed a new political identity to make it to the next level, so ethics reform became her calling card. "She's a very savvy politician," says Halcro. "So wedge issues were not part of the portfolio."

"If anything," he says, "she got tired of answering questions about them." Halcro recalls one debate in October 2006 in which, after repeated questions about her opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest, she looked at the moderator with exasperation and asked if they were going to talk about anything besides abortion. It was detracting from her new message: cleaning up the capitol.

In the end, her political journey from banner-waving GOP social conservative to maverick reformer may simply be about good timing. It's what former journalist Bill McAllister, who now works for Palin's press staff, used to call "Sarah-dipity" — that uncanny gift of knowing exactly what voters are looking for at a particular moment. And, of course, the political will to give them what they want.

This ploy might have worked on the state-level, but Palin is now in the national spotlight and her “I’m-a-right-winger/I’m-a-moderate-independent-maverick” shtick is no longer going to fly.

While the McCain campaign is obviously pushing the narrative that Palin is a “co-maverick”, the GOP’s right-wing base is screaming that she is their dream come true and, it goes without saying, that both of those things cannot be true.  And considering that Palin had been scheduled to be honored by Phyllis Schlafly and Republican National Coalition for Life today at the convention but cancelled at the last minute, it looks like the McCain campaign hasn’t quite been able to figure out which way it wants to go.

SBC Electoral Prayer Vigil Seeks to Protect Candidates from the "Attacks of Satan"

The Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have announced a 40 Day Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal. Set to begin in late September, it is timed to conclude - wouldn't you know it - right on Election Day:
The 40/40 Prayer Vigil is set to begin Wednesday, Sept. 24, and conclude on the Sunday morning, Nov. 2, before Election Day. According to the website for the vigil,, the vigil begins with 37 days of daily prayer and concludes with a recommended 40 hours of around-the-clock intercession during the final three days of the initiative. ... It is not happenstance that the vigil ends just days before Election Day, the two Southern Baptist leaders confirmed. "As Election Day approaches, we as Christians know we need to be committed to praying for the outcome and for those who will be elected to lead us," Hammond said. "But milestone moments like this in our history should remind us of the importance of asking God for spiritual awakening in our land." "As Christians, we need God to give us wisdom as we select the next president of the United States," Land said. "People must realize that government at every level is a lagging social indicator," he added. "True and lasting change in our nation will come from spiritual renewal in the hearts of America's citizens, not from government programs."
As the AP reports:

Southern Baptists are organizing a nationwide prayer campaign to accompany their values-voter registration drive, seeking spiritual renewal for families and churches, and God's favor for public officials who are guided by the Bible.

The 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal will run from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2, two days before the general election. The daily prayers include requests for God's guidance in voting, for the election of more "godly Christians," for God to "help churches find ways to help Christians get to the polls" and for public officials to be protected "from the attacks of Satan." The effort is a companion program to the iVoteValues registration campaign, which began in 2004 and is jointly led this year by Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant group in the country, and the Family Research Council, a conservative Washington-based advocacy group.

McCain's Saddleback Bump

As we noted before, the Right was positively thrilled with both John McCain's performance and Rick Warren's faith forum as a whole. But even we didn't fully realize the extent to which this event seems to have fundamentally transformed the Religious Right's heretofore tepid support into a full-blown fever:

Several conservative activists identified McCain’s response to the question, “What point is a baby entitled to human rights?” as his finest moment of the evening.

McCain replied quickly: “At the moment of conception,” and continued: “I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president.”

“He was just right out of the box,” said Lynda Bell, the president of Florida Right to Life. “McCain was so incredibly decisive and he was so clear in his answers. There was no gray area.”

“They feel like this is the start of John McCain’s coming out, in terms of embracing the conservative evangelicals,” Andrews said, comparing the event to the 2000 primary debate in which George W. Bush named Jesus Christ as the philosopher who had influenced him most.

According to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Christian conservatives were especially eager to hear this message from McCain.

“I think they needed to hear it and they needed to hear it when the question was asked in that way, that protections need to come at the moment of conception,” Land said. “That removes all doubt.”


The importance of McCain’s performance at the Saddleback Church, then, was to show religious conservatives that the candidate genuinely cared about their issues.

“People were, before, just kind of wringing their hands thinking, what kind of mess do we have here, what kind of choice do we have,” Perkins said. “I think he stopped the … ambivalence that was out there toward John McCain.”

Andrews agreed, explaining: “When they see McCain’s actual position and him talking about it, it makes a difference, instead of looking at roll call tallies.”

“McCain’s performance was so genuine and so real,” Bell added. “This became clearly, no longer that, ‘This is the best of the two choices,’ and moved from that over to, ‘This is a great, great candidate that we need to get behind.’”

Of course, McCain's new-found support could still all be wiped out if he chooses a running mate who does not meet the Right's requirements:

“The party will just implode” if McCain makes such a choice, Perkins warned. “[Social conservatives] are going to have to know that he’s totally committed to these issues, and that’s going to require a running mate that has an even better ability to communicate with the base than John McCain has.”

Keyes Calls Out Dobson

For today’s edition of WorldNetDaily, Alan Keyes penned an 11,000+ word essay dedicated to laying out the religious, moral, and philosophical grounds upon which James Dobson has succumbed to moral relativism in suggesting a few weeks ago that he might consider supporting John McCain after earlier saying that he would never do so “as a matter of conscience.”   

In typical Keyesian fashion, he spends the first 1500 words comparing his essay to Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and explaining that its crushing length is necessary to wake the American public out of their intellectual stupor.  But when he finally gets down to business, he peppers his tome with the sorts of quasi-philosophic ramblings for which he is known, such as this explanation of the dangers of gay couples getting married and how “disregarding the natural basis of family leads to tyrannical government:  

By nature the child has the right to a kind of natural dominion over its progenitors, including the opportunity at least to try out the appeal that its helpless condition makes to their natural sensibility. Moreover, a child systematically deprived of any knowledge of at least one of its biological parents cannot fulfill the filial obligations that arise from the natural connection, or avoid the oedipal risks connected with such ignorance.

In this respect, just as abortion suppresses the child's right to life, homosexual marriage suppresses the child's natural belongings, the first rights of property in the primordial sense of the term. But once we abandon respect for the authority of nature as it establishes the rights of the child, we have in principle abandoned that respect when it comes to any human beings whose situation makes them as helpless or vulnerable as children with regard to their superiors in power. Thus the issue of homosexual marriage actually poses the question of our allegiance to the principle of natural human equality, the principle from which we derive the form of government meant to secure our liberty.

In light of the fact that we are “in the midst of the feverish crisis that marks either the recovery of the Republic, or its dissolution,” Keyes declares that both John McCain and Barack Obama are unqualified to fight the “insidious war [that] is being waged against the moral pillars of our freedom”

In light of such grim possibilities, can the issues involved in the assault on the natural family be treated as matters of political convenience or emotional whim, as John McCain and others like him do? McCain's statements on the issue of homosexual marriage, civil unions and the need to protect traditional marriage by constitutional means show no regard for the profound destruction of moral principle that will result from overthrowing the claims of the natural family. Like Barack Obama, he takes positions exclusively calculated to win votes from the constituencies he needs for political victory, no matter if they risk the soul and moral foundations of the republic. At the very least, he wants to harvest votes from people deeply concerned about the besieged moral foundations of our liberty even though he obviously lacks the understanding needed to defend them. He cannot see, or perhaps even conceive of, the connections between our moral ideas and practices and the survival of our institutions of self-government. Such a leader might be barely adequate in the "weak, piping time of peace." But when, on every front insidious war is being waged against the moral pillars of our freedom, his inadequacy is not just lamentable, it will be deadly.

Which brings Keyes to his key point – which is that James Dobson is a hypocrite and a failure as a Christian:

Rick Warren to Ask Candidates About Judges

Will John McCain and Barack Obama’s joint appearance next month at Saddleback Church be a friendly forum or a firing line? “Purpose Driven” megachurch pastor Rick Warren is a superstar among evangelicals, but he still drew heavy criticism from some Religious Right activists when he invited Obama (along with right-wing stalwart Sen. Sam Brownback) to a global AIDS conference at his church back in 2006.

“Why would Warren marry the moral equivalency of his pulpit - a sacred place of honor in evangelical tradition - to the inhumane, sick, and sinister evil that Obama has worked for as a legislator?” wrote Kevin McCullough, a radio talker now affiliated with the Family Research Council. “Obama's policies represent the antithesis of biblical ethics and morality,” complained Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council. “Having Senator Barack Obama speak on issues of social justice is like having a segregationist speak on civil rights,” said Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, who added that Warren “should realize the terrible signal he is sending by inviting a speaker who tramples on the historic teachings of Christianity and the Bible.”

But Saddleback Church defended that 2006 invitation, saying that the goal of the conference was “to put people together who normally won't even speak to each other” towards the goal of fighting AIDS. Although Warren retains positions against abortion and homosexuality, his emphasis on compassion and comity has been touted by some as a sign of a new evangelical politics.

As for the upcoming presidential forum, Warren seemed to suggest it will follow along the same lines. From the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow:

The author of The Purpose Driven Life says he does not believe the biblical gospel is compromised when he teams up with non-Christians in efforts to promote the "common good."

"Now, I don't happen to agree with Muslims and I don't happen to agree with Jewish people," states Warren, "and I don't even agree with all of the things Catholics believe. But I...can work with them on doing something like stopping AIDS because we all believe sex is for marriage only."

But what about issues where he doesn’t agree? Warren will be asking Obama and McCain questions about domestic policy, too, and the example he cited in OneNewsNow comes straight from right-wing talking points:

Warren says he plans to focus on issues that political reporters often ignore, including how the candidates view the Constitution. He suggests questions on that topic: "Is it a quote 'living document' that can be changed, that can be reinterpreted with each generation as things change? Or is it a truth written in granite that is a standard by which we evaluate everything else, and you don't change it unless we amend it?"

Religious Right Claims Obama's Faith Itself to be 'Attack' on Christianity

When James Dobson decided to begin a radio broadside against Barack Obama’s religious faith, he responded to criticism that he was “throwing stones” by repeating his attack—even implying Obama is “deceitful” when claiming to have become Christian—all while expressing outrage that anyone might take issue with his pronouncements.

Now Gary Cass, a former lieutenant of the late D. James Kennedy, is trying out the same reverse-umbrage. Cass started a group last year called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, which clumsily tried to equate gay-rights legislation, a TV report on the Religious Right, and a killing spree at a Colorado church under the general rubric “Christian-bashing.”

But Cass really seemed to hit his stride when he fine-tuned his “Christian-bashing” concept to focus on attacking the faith of his political opponents, starting with Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. He launched a “True Christian VP” campaign last month to advance the notion that those who disagree with his position on abortion and gay marriage are not “real Christians.” That included Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Responding to Dobson’s attack on Obama, Cass reiterates his claim that Obama is not Christian—and makes Obama out to be the “bully”:

"Like a typical playground bully, Obama takes the first swing then get's angry when the victim of his attack tries to defend themself.[”]

According to Cass, Obama’s “first swing” was to say he is Christian.

"In a calculated ploy to strip away votes from Christian pro-life / pro-family conservatives, Obama has made a concerted effort to make his faith a campaign issue. But when his faith and ethics are scrutinized and revealed not to be Christian, Obama then claims he is a victim of conservative Christians like Jim Dobson and organizations like CADC.

"If Obama is a victim, he is a victim of his own radical theology and policies. They are so radical in fact that faithful Christians cannot simply stand by and let Obama defame and attempt to redefine the Faith by associating it with his wildly aberrant beliefs and radical policies. …

"To the extent that Obama wants to make headlines by making his faith an issue, he should be required to define and defend his beliefs and actions. The mainstream media cannot or will not do it. Thank God for Dr. Dobson and others who will not sit back and watch the Christian faith be defamed by being associated with Obama's most radical beliefs and policies.

"CADC pleges be there to defend those who will oppose any politican like Obama who seeks to exploit the Faith by distorting and attacking the scriptures."

Dobson Parses 'Throwing Stones'

After James Dobson’s decision to launch an ill-tempered and tendentious attack on Barack Obama’s faith (with follow-up broadcasts), the Focus on the Family founder couldn’t have been surprised to hear criticism—even from his own side. “If Christian conservatives want to be taken seriously, they need to make serious arguments and speak with intellectual integrity,” wrote Peter Wehner of the right-wing Ethics and Public Policy Center. “In this instance, Dobson didn't. He has set back his cause and made some of us who are evangelicals and conservatives wince.”

But Dobson mustered an impressive showing of umbrage against a pro-Obama ad from a group called Matthew 25 Network. “You know it’s an election year when certain people start grabbing headlines by attacking the faith of presidential candidates,” the ad says. “With all these stones being cast at Senator Obama, it can be hard to know what to believe.” The ad then quotes Obama describing the power of faith, without discussing politics or particulars: “Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me.  I submitted myself to his will and dedicated myself to discovering his truth.”

Dobson, taking the ad to be directed at himself, responded with a segment at the beginning of his radio show yesterday.

DOBSON: For one thing, nobody is trying to grab headlines. Who needs ‘em? I get ‘em without even trying, even if I wanted them. And we are also not throwing stones at Senator Obama for his faith. That’s off the wall. We are responding to his comment about the Bible and about us and about the Constitution and that was the point of what we had to say.

TOM MINNERY: And it’s also true that the Bible has other things to say about how people speak, and the, the tongue, the tongue can be deceitful, and people don’t always speak the truth, and there’s some reasons to doubt what it is we’re about to hear.

According to Minnery, a vice-president at Focus, Obama’s description of his conversion is “deceitful” because the senator is “one left-wing liberal on the issue of abortion.” Furthermore, Minnery said “we have to question whether he’s even sincere as he speaks so lovingly about religion.”

Now, it may sound like Dobson and Minnery were once again directly denying the validity of their political opponent’s profession of Christianity. But Dobson, seconds later, took personal offense at such a notion:

DOBSON: Well we need to get to the program that we prepared for today, but we did want to make this statement, because we don’t want to leave it on the record that we’re throwing stones at Senator Obama to grab the headlines. That’s very offensive to me personally, and I’m sure it is to you as well.

MINNERY: And I appreciate your wanting to defend the evangelical beliefs in the Bible.

Dobson Attacks Lack “Intellectual Integrity”

Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center criticizes James Dobson’s attacks on Barack Obama: “There are certainly reasons for evangelicals to have concerns about Obama…But critics of Obama have an obligation to provide a fair and honest critique, and the attacks leveled by Dobson fall terribly short of that standard. If Christian conservatives want to be taken seriously, they need to make serious arguments and speak with intellectual integrity. In this instance, Dobson didn't. He has set back his cause and made some of us who are evangelicals and conservatives wince.”

The Return of the 'One-Day Crusade'

Nearly a year after Rick Scarborough began his ambitious “70 Weeks to Save America” to sign up thousands of “Patriot Pastors” and voters at church rallies across America, only to have it peter out due to money, mechanical problems, slim turnout, and Alan Keyes, and nearly three months since announcing the project’s triumphant comeback, Scarborough is finally holding a “Patriot Pastor” rally in Nashville, Tennessee, featuring disgruntled ex-chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, “National Statesman/Evangelist Dr. Rick Scarborough,” and a singer billed as the “Pavarotti of gospel.”

This “One-Day Crusade” will be held at Two Rivers Baptist Church, home of Rev. Jerry Sutton, who is no stranger to church-based politicking. In 2005, he hosted a rally in support of President Bush’s controversial judicial nominees (including future Chief Justice John Roberts). Billed as a protest against “activist judges” supposedly trying to “silence” people of faith, “Justice Sunday II” brought together some of the biggest names on the Religious Right, such as Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and then-National Evangelical Association President Ted Haggard, along with Robert Bork, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, Bishop Harry Jackson, and then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Sutton himself boiled down the message he hoped the audience would take home:

Number one, it's a new day.

Number two, liberalism is dead.

Number three, the majority of Americans are conservative.

Number four, you can count on us showing up and speaking out.

And number five, let the church rise.

Sutton, who is a research fellow with Richard Land’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and ran for president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006, has been involved in an imbroglio at his own church recently, when 71 members sued the church over financial mismanagement (along with Sutton’s “lavish lifestyle” and “authoritarian” leadership).

FRC Demands That McCain Talk Religion Like They Want

In its most recent “Washington Update,” the Family Research Council appears to be trying to call out John McCain on the fact that his website just isn’t religious enough:

A quick tour through the candidates' official websites may do more to predict who our next president will be than months of polling data. On one nominee's site, visitors can select from featured articles called, "When Faith Is Front and Center," "Reconciling Faith and Politics," and "Strengthening Families." In another section, they can scroll through the priority issues of "ethics," "faith," and "family" and read excerpts from speeches, watch video clips, and peruse editorials devoted entirely to this senator's religious conviction. If you attributed that content to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), guess again. The site belongs to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), whose party is vying for the "values void" created by the GOP's near-silence on its core issues. Unlike Obama's site, McCain's homepage is dedicated to "energy security," "global competitiveness," and "Iraq." Nowhere is faith or family referenced. With the exception of a blurb on human dignity, found on the bottom half of his issues menu, McCain's commitment to and record on social values are glaringly absent … Is it any wonder then that the gap of support between McCain and Obama is shrinking in the religious community? As of Friday, McCain was leading by only five percent among those who said that religion is an important aspect of their everyday life. The GOP's silence on marriage, particularly at this critical juncture in California, is deafening.

Oddly, if you actually bother to compare the two candidate’s websites, they don’t seem nearly as different as FRC makes them out to be.

Obama does have a “Faith” page consisting mostly of a link to a speech he delivered to Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America Conference in 2006 and a link to a document entitled “Barack's Faith Principles. Other articles FRC cites look to be run-of-the-mill campaign issues - concerns about the issues such as “Ethics” and “Family” certainly are not unique to the so-called “Values Voters” FRC claims to represent and the "When Faith Is Front and Center” article they cite is basically a link to an op-ed by Obama supporter Douglas Kmiec.  

It’s not clear why FRC is so high on Obama’s website relative to McCain’s. FRC praises Obama for having a “Family” page even though it contains proposals for a bunch of things FRC loathes, such as providing a living wage and universal healthcare. On McCain’s site, what FRC dismisses as a “blurb” is actually a long “values” page dedicated to Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life which is chalk full of the issues FRC and its ilk care about and even starts off by pledging to overturn Roe v. Wade which, for groups like FRC, has long been its top political priority:

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

The page goes on to set out McCain’s views on the importance of protecting marriage, protecting children from internet pornography, and restricting stem-cell research. It concludes with a declaration that “decency, human compassion, self-sacrifice and the defense of innocent life are at the core of John McCain's value system and will be the guiding principles of a McCain Presidency."

McCain’s website also contains articles such as “John McCain: Keeping Faith, On His Own Terms” as well as others about his efforts to reach out to the GOP’s conservative Christian base and even the text of his remarks to FRC’s own Values Voter Summit.

FRC’s one-sided review of the websites seems to be an exercise in pressuring McCain into publicly discussing his faith more openly. As FRC’s Tony Perkins explained back in February:

“[McCain] must make social conservatives feel that he, No. 1, understands their issues; No. 2, believes in their issues; and No. 3, will advance them as president.”

Apparently, the only way McCain can do that, despite all the pandering he has already done, is to spend a lot more time talking about religion in a manner that FRC deems acceptable.

Right Attacks California Marriage Ruling

Not surprisingly, the Right’s reaction to last week’s ruling by the California Supreme Court in favor of equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians was swift and negative.

Former Rep. Ernest Istook, now of the Heritage Foundation, evoked Nazi metaphors to blame those who supported civil unions as a compromise: “By trying to appease homosexual rights activists, those who have refused to stand up for traditional marriage helped to create this court ruling.  They are the Neville Chamberlains of the cultural wars.”

Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said he was "saddened for the people of California" but "especially for the children of that state."

"The California Supreme Court ruling not only overruled the very clear will of the people, it also proposes to overrule God's design," Duke said. "These judges may think they know more about marriage than the rest of us, but I am confident they don't know more about marriage than God. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Children need that environment to give them their best chance to fulfill their great potential. That's not only my opinion and the opinion of most of the people in this country, it's God's opinion, and His opinion overrules the opinion of any judges.

Indeed, the Right emphasized this “activist judges” angle; Gary Bauer, attacking the “four unelected robed radicals,” wrote:

It was an egregious exercise in judicial activism – of judges wielding raw political power to redefine our most basic values. But that is how the Left has succeeded. It cannot achieve its goals through the democratic process via the elected legislatures, so it ignores the people and goes to the courts, where it relies on political activists cloaked in black who answer to no one. The Left succeeds by using the most undemocratic methods possible.

Of course, Bauer may not realize that, while appointed at first, justices on California’s Supreme Court face voters at the next general election; each of the justices in the majority for this case has been retained by voters at least once. Bauer is probably aware, though, that the “elected legislature” in California passed marriage equality in 2005 and 2007, only to have it vetoed both times by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Nevertheless, right-wing activists hoped the decision would energize opponents of gay rights into action. “The good news is that I believe this will re-ignite the debate over a federal constitutional amendment,” according to Concerned Women for America’s Matt Barber. Jan LaRue called on Californians to recall members of the state’s Supreme Court in the way they recalled the governor several years ago. “Are you going to sit by and do nothing while four black-robed despots take away your right to govern yourselves?”

Meanwhile, the effort to put on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the California ballot continues—now, apparently, with more funding.

And, in spite of a beleaguered GOP’s effort to keep a low profile on social wedge issues during this election cycle, the Right is hoping the decision will push John McCain to “speak out more strongly in support of defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” as Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council put it.

Pharmacist's 'Conscience' in Holding Woman's Birth Control Hostage

Efforts to expand the emerging, nebulous concept of anti-abortion health-care providers’ “right of conscience” were dealt a setback this week, as a Wisconsin appeals court upheld the state Pharmacy Examining Board’s rebuke of Neil Noesen. Noesen, a “traveling pharmacist,” was working temporarily at a Menomonie Kmart when he refused to fill a woman’s prescription for birth control pills—and refused to transfer her prescription elsewhere.

Noesen, 34, of St. Paul, Minn., told regulators that he is a devout Roman Catholic and refused to refill the prescription or release it to another pharmacy because he didn't want to commit a sin by "impairing the fertility of a human being."

The Pharmacy Examining Board ruled in 2005 that Noesen failed to carry out his professional responsibility to get the woman's prescription to someone else if he wouldn't fill it himself.

The board reprimanded Noesen and ordered him to attend ethics classes. He was allowed to keep his license as long as he informs all future employers in writing that he won't dispense birth control pills and outlines steps he will take to make sure a patient has access to medication.

Noesen, whose “conscience” about the woman’s “fertility” told him he had to keep the prescription slip away from her, is an extreme case, but the line between respecting the religious observance of health providers and maintaining individuals’ access to health care is being disputed in a variety of cases. Last year we wrote about a “conscience” case where doctors refused to provide artificial insemination to a lesbian. But for the most part, the movement is focused on birth control and abortion.

Last week, a federal court dismissed a lawsuit by the state of California challenging the Weldon Amendment, which denies funds to states that “discriminate” against health services that do not refer patients for abortions, and which Casey Mattox of the Christian Legal Society described as “a critical protection for the rights of conscience of pro-life healthcare workers.”

And the Bush Administration is wading in to the debate: Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is leaning on the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology to rescind a report he claimed “would force physicians to violate their conscience by referring patients for abortions or taking other objectionable actions.”

Will They or Won’t They?

Ever since James Dobson declared that he would never vote for John McCain, the big question has been whether the Republican Party’s Religious Right base would follow suit or whether they would support McCain simply as the lesser of two evils.  

While there appear to be some efforts underway to threaten to abandon the GOP altogether,  McCain has been making inroads with various Religious Right leaders and slowly securing endorsements from the likes of Gary Bauer and Fidelis.  And while some on the Right, such as Tony Perkins, are perfectly happy to see Mike Huckabee stay in the race in order to remind McCain that the Religious Right is not dead and force him to cater to the “voters who are passionate about the issues that Mike Huckabee addresses,” others conservative leaders predict that, for all the public grumbling and gnashing of teeth, the Right will eventually come around.  

As Haley Barbour put it:

If people like that don't vote for John McCain, it means Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is going to be President. It's one thing in February or May or even August to say that you're not willing to support John McCain. But life is a series of choices, and inevitably the choice in November is going to be between McCain and either Clinton or Obama. Now, those people will look into their hearts and decide what to do. But for an incredibly high percentage of conservatives and Republicans, they'll vote for John McCain.

Others are making the same point – and even militant McCain-hater Rick Santorum says he’ll suck it up and vote for McCain:

Less than a week after Romney withdrew from the race, Santorum told WORLD he's still rankled by McCain, but won't avoid the ballot box in November if he's the GOP pick: "When you look at the [Democratic] alternatives, it makes the choice of whoever the Republican nominee is that much easier to vote for."

Ultimately, pointing out the alternative may be the key to McCain's hopes of wooing conservatives. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says McCain could take several steps to reach out to evangelicals, but adds: "In the end, there's not anything that John McCain can do to unite conservatives that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can't do better."

The prospect of a Democratic presidency looms large in Gary Bauer's support of McCain. The Christian conservative and former presidential candidate formally endorsed McCain in early February and told WORLD he's baffled by evangelicals who say they won't vote for the senator if he's the Republican nominee.

Bauer points out that the next president may nominate as many as three Supreme Court justices. "If those justices are appointed by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, we will have abortion for another 35 years and we will have same-sex marriage," he says. "We will have lost the two main things on the social agenda, probably forever."

And just in case the wavering right-wing voters needed any more convincing, Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina weighs in to say that sitting out the election would be an affront to God:

Most troubling, however, is that many conservative evangelicals are now acting as though God were not sovereign in the political process. Have we become more focused on the process than on the God who controls it? Granted, we must diligently seek to influence the culture for righteousness sake. Nevertheless, evangelicals are not sailing the ship politic and never were. There is but one Captain - the Lord - and He raises to power whomever He wills. Infighting and laying blame is counterproductive to advancing the kingdom.

These experiences test our faith in God’s mysterious ways. And they strain our commitment to Christian liberty - the very foundation of our belief in political freedom. Let us lay aside the attacks on our brethren.

Neither is this a time to withdraw. Only a straining of the facts makes John McCain equal to or worse than the godless direction a Clinton or Obama ticket would take the nation. Such would not only imperil the social agenda of conservative evangelicals, but jeopardize one of the greatest of family values - protection of the American people from the violence of its enemies. If America bails out on the war effort before the job is finished, the United States will not only be dishonored, but the terrorists will follow our troops home.

Moreover, to disengage - worse still, not to vote - I believe is a grievous mistake. Though a person certainly has the right to adhere to his/her conscience in such action, it should be noted that to do so is to walk away from one's place at the table. With what credibility can one possibly speak to those serving in office when one was previously unwilling to even vote? At that point, one's credibility as a part of the discussion - now or later - becomes significantly compromised.

For whatever it's worth, having served as a lobbyist in the North Carolina General Assembly since 1999, there are two great truths constantly before me when seeking to influence the politics of those sacred halls: (1) God is sovereign over everything and ultimately His will cannot be defeated; and (2) no person or group involved in politics ever gets all they want all of the time. But for Christ's sake, one must ever be vigilant in victory and defeat. And one must always find positive ways to stay engaged in the process.

A Reverse Religious Test?

What does Mike Huckabee need to get Religious Right leaders and voters to rally around his candidacy?  Apparently, all he needs is to have his right-wing views and record criticized by “elite secularists”:

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, DC, says Huckabee is being subjected to the same reverse religious litmus test that was applied during judicial confirmation hearings between 2003 and 2005.

"Senator Charles Schumer of New York said that he was opposed to some of these nominees of the president because of their 'deeply held personal beliefs' and those beliefs coming from their faith -- in particular, regarding abortion and seeing it as wrong," Perkins points out. "So we see a reverse religious test being applied [saying essentially] that anyone who has a vibrant Christian faith that impacts their life will have to choose between that faith and serving in public office -- and that, simply, is wrong."

Perkins says "elite secularists" are trying single out Huckabee because of his evangelical Christian faith, and are attempting to "make him look scary" to the public because he, among other things, rejects evolution, believes in the Bible, and trusts in Jesus Christ. But such efforts, the evangelical leader suggests, may only serve to generate more support for Huckabee in the conservative Christian community.

"I think there's a clear understanding and an attitude [about this] among Christians," says the FRC president. "They're simply tired of the elites who belittle their beliefs and attempt to rob them of every public reflection of their faith -- and I think this could backfire."

As always, whenever a Republican is questioned about his or her views and record, the Right’s immediate response is to impugn the motives of those who dare to point them out and accuse them of harboring everything from anti-Latino prejudice and flagrant anti-woman bias, to anti-Catholic bigotry and basic racism.

If Perkins was professionally invested in seeing anti-Christian persecution at every turn, he’d know that it is not “elite secularists” who are making Huckabee look scary – it is Huckabee’s own views that those with HIV should be quarantined and that “homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle” that is doing that.   

But if Perkins thinks that this sort of thing will help Huckabee with voters, Huckabee himself doesn’t seem to hold out much hope that the Religious Right elite will ever get over their reluctance to endorse him, even though he is a “true soldier for the cause”:

[Huckabee’s ads] also caught the attention of big-time figures in evangelical Christianity, many of whom have refrained from supporting Huckabee’s candidacy. This failure has puzzled and angered the governor. At the Olive Garden he spoke with bitterness about Richard Land, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. ‘‘Richard Land swoons for Fred Thompson,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t know what that’s about. For reasons I don’t fully understand, some of these Washington-based people forget why they are there. They make ‘electability’ their criterion. But I am a true soldier for the cause. If my own abandon me on the battlefield, it will have a chilling effect.’’

The following week, at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Huckabee won the roomful of grass-roots evangelicals but failed to gain any significant endorsements from evangelical leaders. ‘‘The evangelical leadership didn’t, and perhaps still doesn’t, perceive Governor Huckabee as a winner,’’ Charles Dunn, dean of the school of government at Regent University, told me. ‘‘But more and more, it appears that the leadership is not in touch with its followers.’’

This indictment extends to the founder of Dunn’s own university, Pat Robertson, who has endorsed Rudy Giuliani. It applies equally to the National Right to Life Committee, which is with Fred Thompson; and to the Rev. Bob Jones III, Jay Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law and Justice (the evangelical counterpart of the A.C.L.U.), and Paul Weyrich, the conservative activist who helped build the evangelical movement, all of whom are supporting Mitt Romney. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is still on the fence. ‘‘I just don’t understand his neutrality,’’ Huckabee told me one day at the end of October in Des Moines. ‘‘I’d be an obvious choice for his endorsement. We’re old friends. I love him and I love his wife, Shirley. I just don’t know how to explain it.’’

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:

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ethics Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 08/05/2010, 11:11am
Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission responds to the Prop 8 ruling by asserting that Judge Vaughn Walker is gay, therefore his mind is utterly warped and he is unable to reason clearly, so of course he ruled against traditional marriage ... oh, and now sodomites are going to surround your house and demand to rape your children: Let’s not be shocked that Judge Walker cannot comprehend the self-evident rational basis for prohibiting homosexual marriage, after all, he is a practicing homosexual. The Bible plainly tells us that once a person has seared his conscience to... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 07/30/2010, 2:42pm
On September 11, the folks at Dove World Church in Gainesville, Florida (perhaps best known for their "No Homo Mayor" signs a few months back) will be hosting "International Burn A Quran Day." And this move it apparently so extreme that even some Religious Right leaders are denouncing it: "Dove World Outreach Center, shame on you," responded Angel Nuñez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "If I want to win a Muslim to Christ, I surely won't do it by burning the Qur'an in public and provoking them to hate us... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 07/29/2010, 11:12am
On Monday, a federal judge ruled in favor of Eastern Michigan University in a case brought by the Alliance Defense Fund of behalf of a former student in the university's counseling program who was dismissed from the program after she refused to counsel a gay client.  The student contended that her religious views prohibited her from counseling such a patient and sued the university for discrimination while the university contended that it adheres to the American Counseling Association's code of ethics which requires counselors to provide nonjudgmental assistance to patients. The court... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/28/2010, 10:23am
Last week, when Newt Gingrich came out in opposition to the "Ground Zero Mosque," I noted that his position seemed rather hypocritical considering that he had recently founded an organization called Renewing American Leadership that has, as its mission, the protection and encouragement of the free exercise of religion in America. But the hypocrisy at the root of that piece pales in comparison to the hypocrisy at the root of his latest piece: Radical Islamism is more than simply a religious belief. It is a comprehensive political, economic, and religious movement that seeks to... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 07/26/2010, 1:52pm
Last week we noted that, since losing her radio show due to her growing involvement with Dominion theology, Janet Porter appears to have decided to double down by further aligning herself with those who advocate this theology. Her initial reaction upon losing her show was to lash out at those who accused her of embracing Dominionism, though without much success as her own words and history undermined her defense.   But months have passed since then and Porter is now seemingly aware that any future she hopes to have in Religious Right activism is going to involve a full-embrace of both... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/21/2010, 3:42pm
It is important to remind ourselves occasionally that right-wing anti-choice groups don't just want to control the rights of women in America, they want to control the rights of women everywhere. Case in point: Pat Robertson's ACLJ has been deeply involved and spent tens of thousands of dollars in trying to keep abortion out of the constitution being drafted in Kenya ... and now it looks like dozens of other Religious Right leaders are backing the effort: With just two weeks to go until Kenyans vote on a new Constitution, World Congress of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Friday 07/16/2010, 10:40am
The National Organization for Marriage and allies like Bishop Harry Jackson have been looking for some way to overturn marriage equality legislation that became law in the District earlier this year with overwhelming support from the city’s elected leadership. But NOM and Jackson haven’t been doing so well. On the legal front, they were handed one more major defeat this week. The DC Court of appeals rejected their claim that the Board of Elections and Ethics was wrong to prevent an anti-marriage initiative from going before voters, which the BOEE ruled would violate... MORE