First Amendment

Fighting For Their Right To Discriminate

A few weeks ago we noted that an organization called NotMyBathroom.com was formed in Missoula, Montana in order to oppose a proposed city ordinance that would protect people from discrimination in their jobs and homes based on "actual or perceived ... sexual orientation, gender identity or expression."

The organization is associated with Concerned Women for America and the focus of its campaign is on the claim that the ordinance will make it legal for men to use women's restrooms, thereby leading to assaults on women and children.

While the group's effort is obviously aimed at stirring up fear in order to defeat the measure, CWA's Wendy Long admits that they have absolutely no evidence that anti-discrimination ordinances lead to such assaults and that their real mission is to fight the anti-discrimination out of fear that it'll eventually lead to marriage equality:

Even one of the most staunch opponents of those laws can't point to increases in frivolous lawsuits or sexual predation. Still, Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright said such ordinances lead the country down the wrong track.

"We have a constitutional protection for religious freedom in our First Amendment," Wright said. "There is not a constitutional protection for sexual orientation, and yet judges and city councils and others are acting as if sexual orientation trumps religious freedom."

The Concerned Women aim to bring biblical principles to public policy, and the Montana office opposes the Missoula ordinance. It's one member of Notmybathroom.com, a group that formed to defeat the local ordinance in large part because of fear sexual offenders will prey on women and children in bathrooms and locker rooms.

Wright couldn't point to places that have counted increases in sexual offenses because of such laws, but she said such data is beside the point.

"It doesn't go back to numbers," Wright said. "It goes back to the issue that people will have legal rights that will trump other people's rights. The right of a woman or a girl to feel safe in a fitting room, a locker, a restroom, their rights will be trumped by a person who is claiming their sexual orientation right has legal protection."

She noted as troubling a couple of specific examples where transgender women fought for access to dressing rooms. In one Philadelphia case in 2008, a woman denied access to a fitting room planned to file a complaint against the department store, whose manager agreed to train employees to grant equal access.

Wright said one big reason Concerned Women opposes such laws is because the group does not want local ordinances to be used as stepping stones toward making gay marriage legal and teaching it in the public schools.

In essence, the less society tolerates discrimination against gays, the more likely gay marriage becomes ... and so groups like CWA must fight to protect the right to discriminate.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Utah Senator Bob Bennett is trying to use health reform legislation to stop Washington, DC's marriage equality law.
  • Oklahoma state Rep. Lewis Moore admitted that he removed a portrait of President Obama's from the House chamber because he disagrees with "the liberal policies coming from the Obama administration," stating that "I absolutely respect the office of the president, but disagree vehemently with our current president's policies."
  • Is it any surprise that Elaine Donnelly would support the claim that the Srebrenica massacre was due to gay soldiers? 
  • Is Tommy Thompson going to run against Sen. Russ Feingold?
  • It's getting increasingly difficult to separate Liberty University, the School from Liberty University, the political organization.
  • Finally, the quote of the day from the AFA's Bryan Fischer: "As a result, we have now been told by a hyperactive federal judge that students who engage in sexually abnormal practices have a First Amendment right to bring their sexually abnormal dates to a high school dance, and there's not a thing schools can do about it. This is not your mother's senior prom."

Colorado's Religious Right Seeks Extra First Amendment Protections

I always thought that the First Amendment's free exercise of religion provision provided for, you know, the free exercise of religion.  But apparently that protection is not enough for right-wing groups in Colorado who are now pushing an amendment to the state's constitution that would guarantee them some sort of vague religious liberty exemption, presumably to bolster their belief that they should not be required to comply with or recognize things like hate crimes laws, marriage equality, or anything else that does not reflect their religious views:

A coalition that includes Colorado Family Action and the Colorado Catholic Conference has taken the first step toward amending the state constitution to prohibit the government from infringing on the religious liberty of an individual or a religious organization.

"We have heard in our work in the state that many Catholics and other people of faith are growing uneasy as they sense a loss of religious freedom," said Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the state's three Catholic dioceses.

Kraska, also a representative of a coalition called Coloradans for Liberty, said a ballot initiative to amend the constitution is being considered because of a general sense that religious freedom is eroding under governmental pressure.

Another coalition representative, Jessica Langfeldt, director of Colorado Family Action, a Focus on the Family affiliate, said taking the first step Monday — filing language with the Colorado Legislative Council — gives the coalition several weeks to determine whether its concerns are widely shared.

The ballot question asks whether the state constitution should include a section stating that government may not burden the right of a person or organization to act or to refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief unless the government has a compelling interest in infringing the act.

"People want the freedom to express their religious beliefs in all aspects of community life, not just in the privacy of their homes," Kraska said.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Sarah Palin is writing another book, one that will "reflect on the key values—both national and spiritual—that have been such a profound part of her life and which continue to inform her vision of the future." I can hardly wait.
  • The Arizona Republic looks at the behind-the-scenes influence the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy has in shaping public policy in the state.
  • Do you ever get the impression that Mat Staver just doesn't like gay people?
  • Thanks to the AFA, the Chairman of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors has been inundated with more than 40,000 emails protesting the NCAA's decision to drop the Focus on the Family ad from its website.
  • The Traditional Values Coalition pretty much loses it over DADT.
  • Finally, the quote of the day from Don Feder in a lengthy attack on CPAC: " Gay rights is about indoctrinating your children in behavior that would make a proctologist gag. It’s about criminalizing dissent via speech codes and hate crimes laws. It’s a frontal assault on First Amendment free speech and religious freedom. This is freedom only in the sense that killing unborn children is choice."

Repealing DADT = Gov't Establishment of Religion

Here is a rather novel argument as to why Don't Ask, Don't Tell cannot be repealed:  doing so would be a violation of the separation of church and state and amount to an establishment of religion.

Even more amazingly, this line of argument is being put forward by the Alliance Defense Fund, the Religious Right legal organization founded by James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and others, which has traditionally focused its efforts on claiming that there is no separation of church and state and defending government expressions of religion.

But not any more

A team of top-drawer civil and religious rights lawyers is accusing President Obama of establishing a religion for the U.S. military through his demand to promote open homosexuality in the ranks.

"If chaplains with beliefs that contradict the proposed policy are kept from roles that are likely to generate conflict – like preaching or counseling – then they, the faith groups the represent, and the soldiers whose religious beliefs they serve will all be marginalized," a letter today from the Alliance Defense Fund to Obama said.

"The military would effectively establish preferred religions or religious beliefs," the letter said. "That is a constitutional offense that carries a very pragmatic consequence: just what will happen to recruiting efforts if Christians become second-class soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines."

The letter, addressed to President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, referenced Obama's campaign to allow open homosexual behavior in the U.S. military. While that behavior is formally forbidden under current law, the military acts under a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy adopted by President Clinton.

The letter was signed by Gary McCaleb, senior vice president and senior counsel; Jordan Lorence, senior vice president and senior counsel; Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel; and Kevin Theriot; senior counsel.

...

"Military chaplains who have volunteered to defend the liberties protected in our Constitution shouldn't be denied those very same liberties," said Theriot. "Forcing chaplains to deny the teachings of their faith in order to serve in the armed forces is a grave threat to the First Amendment and to the spiritual health of Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who depend on them."

He said if the military is forced to promote homosexual behavior, "for the first time in American history there will be open conflict between the virtues taught by chaplains and the moral message delivered by the military."

"In such a conflict, it's obvious who will win and who will lose. If the state favors the demands of the homosexual activists over the First Amendment, it is only a matter of time before the military censors the religious expression of its chaplains and marginalizes denominations that teach what the Bible says about homosexual behavior," he said.

Meet The Right-Wingers Drafting Your Textbooks

The New York Times Magazine has a long article on the battle over textbooks in Texas and the related question of just how religious were the Founding Fathers and how much of a role they intended religion to play in our government. 

The article is quite long, but I just wanted to highlight a few sections about the views and agendas of Texas Board of Education members Don McLeroy and Cynthia Dunbar:

I met Don McLeroy last November in a dental office — that is to say, his dental office — in a professional complex in the Brazos Valley city of Bryan, not far from the sprawling campus of Texas A&M University. The buzz of his hygienist at work sounded through the thin wall separating his office from the rest of the suite. McLeroy makes no bones about the fact that his professional qualifications have nothing to do with education. “I’m a dentist, not a historian,” he said. “But I’m fascinated by history, so I’ve read a lot.”

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McLeroy is a robust, cheerful and inexorable man, whose personality is perhaps typified by the framed letter T on the wall of his office, which he earned as a “yell leader” (Texas A&M nomenclature for cheerleader) in his undergraduate days in the late 1960s. “I consider myself a Christian fundamentalist,” he announced almost as soon as we sat down. He also identifies himself as a young-earth creationist who believes that the earth was created in six days, as the book of Genesis has it, less than 10,000 years ago. He went on to explain how his Christian perspective both governs his work on the state board and guides him in the current effort to adjust American-history textbooks to highlight the role of Christianity. “Textbooks are mostly the product of the liberal establishment, and they’re written with the idea that our religion and our liberty are in conflict,” he said. “But Christianity has had a deep impact on our system. The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible. Our idea of individual rights comes from the Bible. The Western development of the free-market system owes a lot to biblical principles.”

For McLeroy, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberals. “There are two basic facts about man,” he said. “He was created in the image of God, and he is fallen. You can’t appreciate the founding of our country without realizing that the founders understood that. For our kids to not know our history, that could kill a society. That’s why to me this is a huge thing.”

...

In 2008, Cynthia Dunbar published a book called “One Nation Under God,” in which she stated more openly than most of her colleagues have done the argument that the founding of America was an overtly Christian undertaking and laid out what she and others hope to achieve in public schools. “The underlying authority for our constitutional form of government stems directly from biblical precedents,” she writes. “Hence, the only accurate method of ascertaining the intent of the Founding Fathers at the time of our government’s inception comes from a biblical worldview.”

Then she pushes forward: “We as a nation were intended by God to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world.” But the true picture of America’s Christian founding has been whitewashed by “the liberal agenda” — in order for liberals to succeed “they must first rewrite our nation’s history” and obscure the Christian intentions of the founders. Therefore, she wrote, “this battle for our nation’s children and who will control their education and training is crucial to our success for reclaiming our nation.”

After the book came out, Dunbar was derided in blogs and newspapers for a section in which she writes of “the inappropriateness of a state-created, taxpayer-supported school system” and likens sending children to public school to “throwing them into the enemy’s flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.” (Her own children were either home-schooled or educated in private Christian schools.) When I asked, over dinner in a honky-tonk steakhouse down the road from the university, why someone who felt that way would choose to become an overseer of arguably the most influential public-education system in the country, she said that public schools are a battlefield for competing ideologies and that it’s important to combat the “religion” of secularism that holds sway in public education.

Ask Christian activists what they really want — what the goal is behind the effort to bring Christianity into American history — and they say they merely want “the truth.” “The main thing I’m looking for as a state board member is to make sure we have good standards,” Don McLeroy said. But the actual ambition is vast. Americans tell pollsters they support separation of church and state, but then again 65 percent of respondents to a 2007 survey by the First Amendment Center agreed with the statement that “the nation’s founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation,” and 55 percent said they believed the Constitution actually established the country as a Christian nation. The Christian activists are aware of such statistics and want to build on them, as Dunbar made clear. She told me she looks to John Jay’s statement that it is the duty of the people “of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers” and has herself called for a preference for selecting Christians for positions of leadership.

Pagan Prayer Circle Daring God to Unleash Haiti-Like Destruction Upon Our Nation

Last week, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs announced that it had set aside an outdoor worship area for Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and other believers.

Today, via AU, we see that Robert Jeffress (best known for his militantly anti-Mormon opposition to Mitt Romney) has penned a response for the Washington Post's "On Faith" in which he warns that such accommodation of the "worship of pagan deities is an open invitation for God to send His harshest judgments against our nation":

What we label today as "pluralism," God called "idolatry." The first commandment from God was, "You shall have no other gods before Me." There is no evidence that God has changed His mind on the subject. To openly violate this most basic law is to invite God's judgment upon our nation. God has judged idolatry in the past through military invasions, earthquakes, a flood, and a mixture of fire and brimstone. The book of Revelation prophesies that God will employ the same agents of His wrath during the final seven years of earth's history. There is no reason to think God is on hiatus during this present age.

"But doesn't our Constitution demand that all religions be treated equally?' you might ask.

Since God is not an American, there is no reason to think He has a particular affinity for our ideas about the separation of church and state. Nevertheless, although the First Amendment guarantees the right of every American to worship however they choose, it does not require government to provide a stone monument to facilitate that worship - even if the same government provides a chapel for Christians.

...

I don't know the cause of the Haitian earthquake, the Indonesian tsunami or 9/11. But I can say without hesitation that any nation that officially embraces idolatry is openly inviting God's wrath.

This past week government officials testified they are "certain" of another terrorist attempt on our soil within the next three to six months. One would think this would be a good time to seek God's protection rather than kindle His anger.

Liberty University Hosting Two Day Anti-Gay Conference

Mat Staver, Matt Barber, Elaine Donnelly, Alan Chambers, Robert Knight and various other anti-gay activists will be gathering at Liberty University for two days next week to discuss all things gay ... or rather, the threat that the "homosexual agenda" poses to this nation:

Liberty University School of Law will host a one-day conference followed by a one-day symposium addressing homosexuality and its consequences. The Friday, February 12, conference is entitled “Understanding Same-sex Attractions and Their Consequences.” On Saturday, February 13, the Liberty University Law Review will host a legal symposium entitled “Homosexual Rights and First Amendment Freedoms: Can They Truly Coexist?”

The first day of the conference will focus on the issues underlying same-sex attractions with personal and ministry insights shared by Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International. Conference leaders will then discuss the American Psychological Association Task Force Report on counseling people with same-sex attractions. Current research and therapies will be discussed by experts from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and the American Association of Christian Counselors. The first day is designed for lay people, counselors, pastors, educators, attorneys, and those interested in learning more about the subject. The second day will focus on the legal implications arising from the clash between the quest for homosexual rights and freedom of speech, religion and association.

This two-day long symposium begins at 10:00 a.m., Friday, February 12, in the Vines Center of Liberty University at Liberty’s convocation service during which Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, will speak. The afternoon event, titled “Understanding Same-Sex Attractions and Their Consequences,” begins at 2:00 p.m. in the Supreme Courtroom of Liberty University School of Law. Speakers include Alan Chambers; Julie Harren-Hamilton, President of NARTH; Tim Clinton, President of the American Association of Christian Counselors; Rena Lindevaldsen, Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and Mathew Staver, Dean of Liberty University School of Law.

The symposium reconvenes at 9:00 a.m., Saturday, February 13, at the School of Law, and ends with a banquet held in the Grand Lobby of Liberty University, located in DeMoss Hall, at 5 p.m. Saturday speakers include: Professor Lynne Marie Kohm of Regent University School of Law; Professor Lynn D. Wardle of Brigham Young University and J. Reuben Clark Law School; Elaine Donnelly, Founder and President of the Center for Military Readiness; Robert H. Knight, Senior Writer for Coral Ridge Ministries and Senior Fellow for American Civil Rights Union; Matt Barber, Associate Dean at Liberty University School of Law, and others.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “The clash between free speech, religious and homosexual rights is a like the grinding of two tectonic plates. It is imperative to understand the implications of same-sex attractions and the broader homosexual agenda. Those struggling with same-sex attractions need understanding and hope for a life without conflict. The politicized radicalism of the homosexual agenda on the other hand is aggressive and intent on trampling upon the fundamental freedoms of anyone who may disapprove. That is why this conference at Liberty University is vitally important.”

Citizens United: A Win For The "Regular Guy"

Yesterday's Citizens United ruling [PDF] by the Supreme Court has has now made it possible for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose candidates ... and to hear the Religious Right tell it, it's a victory for the little guy:

Kelly Shackelford, president of the Free Market Foundation, tells OneNewsNow the decision is a great victory for freedom for every citizen.

"The government has no right to control the speech of citizens speaking out as a group during elections -- and these types of campaign finance laws are pure evil and destructive to any free society," he comments.

Shackelford notes that wealthy individuals such as George Soros are having a huge impact on elections, and he adds, "The idea that a group of citizens can't come together in some sort of corporate entity and speak their mind is really discrimination against the regular guy in this country" and against smaller businesses that want to take part in the election process.

The Family Research Council hails it as a victory for all of those oppressed "corporate citizens":

"Under the principles established by the First Amendment, nothing is more foundational than free speech. This is a win for free political speech and the right of corporate citizens to join the political process.

"The court's decision is a step toward restoring open political discourse in this country. Speech should not be truncated by government regulation; rather, transparency should be pursued. The standard of accountability must be full and prompt disclosure, not unconstitutional prohibitions on financial contributions.

While Focus on the Family rejoices, because apparently up until now, they too were having their voices silenced:

Tim Goeglein, vice president of external relations for Focus on the Family Action, said the pro-family movement will benefit.

"Organizations like Focus on the Family Action, the family policy councils, all of our allies," he said, "this will give us an incredible voice in the great issues of our time."

And Concerned Women for America declares that "Americans are the real winners today" and says the decision is the first step toward reclaiming "the ideals our Founders believed in when they fought and died to establish a country where we can be truly free to speak and worship our God without government interference":

Penny Young Nance, Concerned Women for America's (CWA) Chief Executive Officer, said, "The Court correctly concluded that judges should stop playing semantics with our Constitution and read the text as it is written. The government should not be limiting political speech because someone is rich or poor, or because they disagree with a particular point of view. Americans are the real winners today. Further, I recall upon the passage of the legislation that Members of Congress openly admitted voting in favor of the McCain-Feingold knowing it was unconstitutional. Those days have to end."

CWA President Wendy Wright said, "CWA joined an Amicus brief asking the Court to overrule these laws that serve only to chill political speech and open the door for those in power to choose favorites. We applaud the Court for listening to the voices of millions of Americans who believe in those foundational principles embodied by the First Amendment.

"We hope this is just the first in a series of steps to reclaim the ideals our Founders believed in when they fought and died to establish a country where we can be truly free to speak and worship our God without government interference."

You know, I wonder what these groups will be saying if the makers of Plan B were to now start pumping their $11 Billion into taking out conservative candidates who oppose their product.

Prop 8 Is Putting Christianity On Trial

Apparently, the right-wing talking point of the day is that the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 is really an attempt to put Christianity on trial.

So says Maggie Gallagher:

What do Olson and Boies think they are doing? Watching accounts of this trial unfold this week I had a big “aha” moment. It’s now clear: Ted and David think they are conducting the Scopes trial!

When this trial began I told you: gay marriage activists were putting 7 million Californians on trial. (Ed Whelan over at National Review has a brilliant series “Judge Walker’s Witch Hunt“ . . . explaining how intellectually absurd it is to conduct a “trial” into the subjective motivations of 7 million voters, constitutionally speaking.). But this week it got worse: They are clearly putting Christianity itself on trial. Why else have an expert read statements of Catholic and Southern Baptist doctrines into the record?

And why put a Stanford Prof. named Gary Segura on the stand to testify “”religion is the chief obstacle for gays’ and lesbians’ political progress.”

Could the zero-sum nature of the game be any clear? Rights for gays and lesbians, in their minds, depends on invalidating the voting rights of religious people when it comes to gay marriage, because their votes are influenced by their religion–i.e. bigotry.

Here’s their brilliant legal strategy: Ted and David want the Supreme Court to rule that Catholicism and Southern Baptism and related Christian denominations are bigotry.

So does Bill Donohue:

Yesterday, the judge allowed Boies and Olsen to submit e-mails they obtained between the director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the bishops. Allowing such communication in a trial is unusual enough, but the purpose was even more invidious: to show that Catholics played a major role in passing Proposition 8. The lawyers did the same thing to Mormons, offering more e-mail “proof” of their involvement.

...

Their goal is not to contest the First Amendment rights of Catholics and others—their goal is to put religion on trial. What they are saying is that religious-based reasons for rejecting gay marriage are irrational, and thus do not meet the test of promoting a legitimate state interest. That is why they have trotted out professors like Gary Segura of Stanford and George Chauncey of Yale to testify to the irrationality of the pro-Proposition 8 side. Chauncey was even given the opportunity to read from a Vatican document that rejects homosexual marriage.

Society cannot exist without families; families cannot exist without reproduction; reproduction cannot exist without a sexual union between a man and a woman; and every society in the history of the world has created an institution called marriage to provide for this end. In short, it is nothing but irrational to challenge such a timeless verity. No matter, what is going on in the courtroom smacks of an animus against religion.

And A Nazi New Year

One of the most notable responses to the election of Barack Obama has been the virtually endless parade of right-wing warnings that his administration is leading the nation down the path to communism, socialism, Nazi tyranny, or somehow all the above. The latest example is the eye-catching cover of the January 2010 issue of the American Family Association Journal. It’s a large bright red Nazi flag against a dark cloudy sky, with the headline, “THE EVIL LIVES.” The cover points to two related stories inside, one on secularism and another on abortion:

The secularism story, “What Hitler Knew,” is punctuated by a picture of the dictator in a stiff-armed salute. The article attacking church-state separation is essentially a reprint of the speech given by AFA’s “director of issues analysis” Bryan Fischer at last fall’s Values Voter Summit making the case that the First Amendment does not apply to the states or any entity other than Congress:

It is constitutionally impossible for a governor, a state legislature, a mayor, a city council, a principal, a teacher or a student speaking at graduation to violate the First Amendment, for one simple reason: they’re not Congress.

Perhaps Fischer apparently failed to take into account the 14th Amendment which makes the First Amendment applicable to the states.

Fischer equates Hitler’s efforts to silence Christian opponents of Nazi evils with American church-state separationists:

Secular fundamentalists in the United States know the same thing that Hitler knew. The only thing that stands in their way of the total takeover of our culture, the final removal of any mention of God from the public arena, and the shredding of the last remains of our Judeo-Christian value system, is the church of Jesus Christ.

Fischer also has an extremely narrow interpretation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause as it applies to Congress. He writes that the only way Congress can violate the First Amendment would be “to select one Christian denomination, make it the official church of the United States, and compel citizens to support it with their tax dollars.”

Apparently, according to Fischer’s dubious constitutional analysis, there would be no federal constitutional problem with a state government declaring itself a Baptist state and requiring state taxpayers to support a particular denomination. (In fairness, it should be noted that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also believes the First Amendment's establishment clause does not apply to the states.)

According to Fischer’s analysis, it would seem that the First Amendment’s protections for free speech would also apply only to Congress and not to governors or state or local governments. If Fischer finds that the least bit troubling, he doesn’t let on.

Michele Bachmann's Perfect Timing

What can better sum up the current state of the Republican Party and its ties to the Religious Right than the fact that the day after Pat Robertson declared that Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake due to the fact that the nation "swore a pact to the Devil," Rep. Michele Bachmann is profiled on The 700 Club, where Robertson introduces her as "one of the leading conservatives in America":

Now, just three years into the job, Bachmann is a major voice against what she believes is an out of control government threatening the freedom of Americans.

"What we are seeing now is the rise of big government, and so, big government is now oppressing the American people with too much spending, too much taxes, too much regulatory burden," she said. "We just saw the hate crimes law pass...really that bill is more about restricting free speech and free expression of American citizens, in contradistinction to the First Amendment that wants free speech and expression for all of Americans."

Bachmann says the United States is blessed with a unique form of government, but the current administration is straying from what the founding fathers intended.

"Jefferson warned us over 230 years ago, be prepared. The natural way of government is to enslave you," she explained. "And Jefferson said again, bind down big government with the chains of the Constitution. That's what the effort was. Use these beautiful documents to limit man, not to grow man's influence and oppress mankind."

Bachmann believes the current growth of government's influence will backfire.

"We have the most left-leaning, radical president we've ever had in the history of the United States. The most radical, left-leaning speaker of the House than we've ever had in the history of the United States and one of the most radical, left-leaning majority leaders in the Senate," she said. "We have never had this type of radical view of government."

The congresswoman has proven she's not about to be silenced and she relies on God as her source of strength to endure the battle.

However, Bachmann isn't the only one speaking her mind. Much like Sarah Palin, Bachmann has her share of critics who lash out against her in the media, online and on TV.

"Women are very competent, very intelligent. They can be very successful and make it on their own," Bachmann said about why she's under attack. "And I think that the left is very concerned [about] the message that myself and other women would be able to deliver. And I think that's part of the reason why you see the attack to silence us as messengers."

In fairness, Bachmann apparently sat down for this interview with CBN back in early December, around the time that she joined Robertson on-air for the first time, and the segment was finally ready to air today. 

AFA: Religious Tests Are Perfectly Acceptable

Last week we mentioned the situation in North Carolina where conservatives are threatening to sue in an effort to keep an atheist out of office, citing the state Constitution:

When Mr. [Cecil] Bothwell was sworn into office on Monday, he used an alternate oath that does not require officials to swear on a Bible or refer to “Almighty God.”

That has riled conservative advocates, who cite a little-noticed quirk in North Carolina’s Constitution that disqualifies officeholders “who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” The provision was included when the document was drafted in 1868 and was not revised when North Carolina amended its Constitution in 1971.

One opponent, H. K. Edgerton, is threatening to file suit against the city to challenge Mr. Bothwell’s swearing in. “My father was a Baptist minister,” Mr. Edgerton said. “I’m a Christian man. I have problems with people who don’t believe in God.” Mr. Edgerton is a local civil rights leader and founder of Southern Heritage 411, an organization that promotes the interests of black Southerners.

David Morgan, the head of a conservative weekly newspaper, The Asheville Tribune, said city officials had shirked their duty to uphold the state’s laws by swearing in Mr. Bothwell.

The Supreme Court already ruled unanimously against such religious test provisions back in 1961 in a case out of Maryland:

We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person "to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion." Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs ... This Maryland religious test for public office unconstitutionally invades the appellant's freedom of belief and religion and therefore cannot be enforced against him.

But Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, while not mentioning the Bothwell case specifically, doesn't seem to a) care or b) be aware of the Court's ruling and says that such restrictions are perfectly constitutional:

Our secular fundamentalist friends are fond of citing Article VI of our Constitution as proof that this foundational document is non-religious in nature. It reads, ""but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

It's worthy of note that this applies only to federal offices, for the prior clause makes it clear that the Founders were distinguishing between the federal government - "the United States" - and the legislatures of the individual states, which are referred to as "the several State Legislatures." Both are included in the previous phrase, "all executive Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution." (emphasis mine)

This makes it clear that while officers at both the state and federal level were required to support the Constitution, the restriction on the application of a "religious Test" was reserved for officials in the federal government. States were left to apply explicitly religious tests if they chose, and most did.

Almost all states required holders of public office to declare a belief in God, and many went beyond that to require a belief in the inspiration of both the Old and New Testaments, which in effect limited public service to self-professing Christians. This was just fine with the Founders, who wanted the states to have complete liberty in such matters.

But they were also clear that no religious test was to be applied as a condition of public service at the federal level. What the Founders meant by this, however, was this and this alone: an individual did not need to belong to a particular Christian denomination to be eligible for federal office. That's it.

Of course, we already knew that Fisher had some rather unique views regarding the First Amendment and the separation of church and state and doesn't think that Muslims should be allowed to serve in the military.

Another Right Wing Hate Crimes Horror Story Goes Down

During the debate about expanding hate crimes legislation to cover sexual orientation, one of the standard scare tactics employed by the Religious Right was to point to pastors in other nations who had been arrested for speaking out about homosexuality and warning that, if this legislation passed, the same thing would start happening here.

One of the incidents they regularly pointed to involved Canadian pastor Stephen Boissoin ... in fact, Sen. Jim DeMint explicitly mentioned Boissoin in his speech on the Senate floor opposing the legislation:

Today in the United States, only actions are crimes. If we pass this conference report, opinions will become crimes. What is to stop us from following the lead of European countries and American college campuses, where certain speech is criminalized?

Can priests, pastors, and rabbis be sure their preaching will not be prosecuted if they say certain things are right and wrong? Again, in Canada, for instance, Pastor Stephen Boissoin was so prosecuted by Alberta’s Human Rights Commission for publishing letters critical of homosexuality.

Or will this provision serve as a warning to people not to speak out too loudly about their religious views, lest federal agents come knocking on their doors?

What about the unintended consequences, such as a pedophiles and sex-offenders claiming protected status under this provision as being “disabled”?

There is no such thing as a criminal thought, only criminal acts. Once we endorse the concept of thought-crime, where will we draw the line? And more importantly, who will draw that line?

...

I urge my colleagues to consider the implications of what we’re doing, just the raw cynicism of attaching this type of controversial legislation to the bill that funds the defense of our country. What type of legislative extortion will they consider of next? I have a choice to vote for hate crimes legislation that I feel would undermine the very justice system in our country or against the defense of my country. I don’t think we could be more cynical.
 

Well, guess what happened yesterday?

A Court of Queen's Bench judge has ruled an anti-gay letter written by a former Alberta pastor in 2002 was not a hate crime and is allowed under freedom of speech.

Justice E.C. Wilson overturned a 2008 ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Commission that the letter by Stephen Boissoin that was published in the Red Deer Advocate broke provincial law.

At the time, the commission said it may even have played a role in the beating of a gay teenager two weeks after it was published.

The commission had ordered Boissoin to refrain from making disparaging remarks about homosexuals and to pay the complainant, former Red Deer high school teacher Darren Lund, $5,000 in damages.

Neither order can now be enforced, as Wilson declared them "unlawful or unconstitutional."

The letter carried the headline "Homosexual agenda wicked" and suggested gays were as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps.

Boissoin had argued he was simply commenting on government policy by criticizing homosexuality being portrayed positively in the public school curriculum.

On Thursday, Boissoin said he was thrilled with the judge's ruling, calling it a victory for "freedom of speech and religious expression in Canada."

Of course, this won't stop the Religious Right from continuing to cite this case as proof of their claims, just as they continue to cite the case involving two grandmothers arrested a few years back in Philadeplhia, as we explained in our Right Wing Watch In Focus on the issue:

One story Religious Right leaders like to tell revolves around the arrest of some Repent America protestors at a Philadelphia gay pride rally. This incident has become the stuff of mythology on the right, in part due to ads produced by Repent America in 2007 featuring a couple of grandmothers who were supposedly arrested for sharing the Gospel. The way they tell it, it’s understandable that it would concern people. So it’s worth finding out what really happened.

The kernel of truth under the pile of propaganda is that a group of Repent America activists were in fact arrested while protesting Philadelphia’s OutFest, and a local prosecutor did charge them with violations of several laws, including the state’s hate crimes law. But none of those charges were for “sharing the gospel.” Repent America – and the religious and political leaders who tell the same story – don’t mention that the police in fact were careful to protect their right to protest. The court found that among other things the protesters “blocked access to vendors, and disobeyed direct orders from the police, who were trying to preserve order and keep the peace.”

The First Amendment allows equality advocates to rally, and allows those with a different point of view to protest. But it doesn’t mean that the protesters have the right to disrupt the rally or drown out its speakers. It is universally recognized that public safety officials can place reasonable “time, place, or manner” restrictions on people exercising their First Amendment rights in order to preserve public order and prevent one group from trampling another’s rights. The court, which noted that Repent America did not get a permit for its protest, found that the police applied the law reasonably when the bullhorn-wielding Repent America protesters refused a request to move to another location and instead sat down in the street.

It’s also important to note that the court ruled that the prosecutor’s decision to file charges under the hate crimes law was a misapplication of the law – and charges against the protesters were dismissed. The court affirmed that the hate crimes law did not apply to the protesters’ speech or even to their disruptive behavior and refusal to obey police requests. That’s not exactly the impression you’ll get from listening to Religious Right leaders. It’s also important to note that federal courts rejected Repent America’s claims that the city and Outfest organizers had violated their First Amendment rights.

Matt Barber vs Adam Lambert

Last week we mentioned that Liberty Counsel had filed a complaint with the FCC against ABC "for airing an outrageously lewd and filthy performance by Adam Lambert on November 22, 2009 during the 2009 American Music Awards."

The complaint has apparently led ABC to cancel several upcoming appearances by Lambert on other shows and Liberty Counsel's most militant homophobe Matt Barber is quite pleased

"The issue is not so much about homosexuality, although I believe the preponderance of Americans find public hyper-sexualized acts of homosexuality particularly off-putting," Matt Barber said. "But the issue was more of indecency and what is decency. And frankly the issue is one of law. We believe this performance met the threshold for violation of federal law and violation of FCC regulations. And the Supreme Court has held time and again that there’s not a First Amendment right to engage in public indecency as evidenced by the outcry and complaints that poured into ABC. We believe that this violated contemporary community standards in terms of what is and what isn’t decent."

...

"I would say this is inappropriate period," Barber said. "This is not HBO or some of these cable networks where that type of indecency and filth has come to be expected. This is television where people just flipping through channels could have stumbled onto that. People unaware of what’s coming down the pike in terms of the indecency being performed. And it’s just really, frankly, not appropriate for network television, period, to mimic one man performing oral sex on another man."

The LA Times also asked Barber why Liberty Counsel had filed a complaint against the Lambert incident and not, say, against Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction":

Many of those critics say Lambert is being targeted because he is a gay male, as Janet Jackson, who opened the American Music Awards, grabbed the crotch of a male dancer and went unscathed by critics.

The director of cultural affairs for Liberty Counsel told The Times today that his firm was not aware of Jackson's performance.

Really? That's odd, because just days after the Jackson incident, Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel issued a press release about it

Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, which is sponsoring the Day of Purity project, commented, “Janet Jackson apologized for her actions by stating that she was sorry ‘if” she offended anyone. I have to ask, did her actions offend you? If so, are you going to sit back and do nothing, allowing our pop culture to corrupt the minds of our youth, or are you going to do something about it? The Day of Purity gives all of us an immediate opportunity to make a difference, to change lives, to restore our culture.”

As far as we can tell, Liberty Counsel never filed a FCC complaint about Jackson, nor did they have anything to say when Pink did exactly the same thing as Lambert at the Bilboard Awards.

After all the Bluster, Religious Right 'Rally' on Hate Crimes a Bust

For weeks, the most anti-gay fringe of the Religious Right has been building up Monday's "rally” in front of the U.S. Department of Justice as an in-your-face challenge to the hate crimes law and the Obama administration.  Organizers like Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission promised some fire and brimstone in order to see whether the DOJ would have the cojones to arrest them: 

"We're basically going to defy the law, and challenge it," Cass told WND. "We're going to declare the whole counsel of God, including those parts that some may consider 'inciting a hate crime' to see if the attorney general is going to come down and arrest a group of peaceful clergy exercising their First Amendment rights."
 
The parade of players on the far anti-gay fringes of the Religious Right grew seemingly by the day. Among those whose participation suggested some fireworks were Scott Lively, author of The Pink Swastika and supporter of anti-gay repression in Uganda; Rick Scarborough, a self-described “Christocrat” who railed against “Sodomites” at the recent How to Take Back America conference, and Gordon Klingenschmitt, who had responded to the signing of the hate crimes law by quoting Bible verses that call homosexuals worthy of death. Before the event started, Klingenschmitt saw my People For the American Way pin and said he wanted to make sure I had a copy of his statement. It included these verses:
 
Romans 1:32 – “Men with men working that which is unseemly…who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.”
 
Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a  woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
 
But Klingenschmitt didn’t utter any of these verses. Neither did anyone else.   Maybe someone  decided that footage of Religious Right leaders reading scripture calling for death for gays was not, perhaps, a great public relations move. Or perhaps the presence of a dozen or more college-age counter protestors holding up signs saying “My love is legit” threw them off message.
 
Indeed, a number of speakers seemed to be tailoring their remarks to the counterprotestors, welcoming them to the event, inviting them to pray and repent along with the speakers.   Speaker after speaker insisted that they were motivated only by love for gay people and their desire to protect their right to offer homosexuals hope and God’s word.
 
Sure, we heard many of the Religious Right’s standard lies about the hate crimes bill being an effort to silence Christians, and, of course, Janet Porter waving her book about “the criminalization of Christianity.” We heard the inflammatory and inaccurate characterization of the bill as the “Pedophile Protection Act.” We heard from a Philadelphia grandmother with Repent America who in the Right’s inaccurate retelling, was arrested only for sharing the gospel with attendees at a gay pride event. We heard essentially irrelevant examples of anti-gay preachers being suppressed in other countries which don’t have the First Amendment protections Americans enjoy.  And we heard some preaching that God and the Bible say homosexuality is wrong. In other words, we heard standard and typically false Religious Right talking points about the hate crimes law, and a bit of standard anti-gay theology that is unquestionably protected by the First Amendment.
 
But there was nothing that anyone could remotely consider incitement to a hate crime, and nothing that even these speakers could say with a straight face had any chance of getting them arrested. Even Matt Barber, who typically does not shy away from disparaging comments about gay people and their supporters, gave a relatively dry recitation of the Liberty Counsel’s assertions that the law is unconstitutional.
 
So, what happened?  Did these culture warriors essentially chicken out? Did they feel outnumbered? In spite of the event being billed as a “rally,” the number of speakers gathered behind the microphone seemed to outnumber the number of people attending in support of their message. The “love is legit” folks had the most visible presence. Maybe the organizers just figured out that a “we love the homosexuals” message would play better than “God wants them dead.” 

We'll have some video posted soon.

Scarborough: Anti-Gay Activists Are Just Like MLK

As something of a follow-up to my last post, Rick Scarborough just issued yet another press release about the upcoming press conference challenging hate crimes legislation in which he compared those participating in the event to Martin Luther King:

On October 28, President Barack Obama signed into law a measure extending the federal hate crimes statute to include so-called sexual orientation. The ministers believe this will criminalize all criticism of homosexual behavior, including that contained in the Bible.

To test this belief and protest a clear violation of First Amendment freedom of speech and religion, various clergy will preach short sermons and read passages from the Bible regarding homosexual behavior. Like Dr. Martin Luther King and the Sixties Civil Rights movement, they will engage in civil disobedience to protest injustice.

On a semi-related note, here's another short clip of Scarborough on Janet Porter's radio program saying what while President Obama was "so careful in choosing his words and calling for caution" after the shooting at Fort Hood, "he threw all that to the wind when George Tiller was shot in his church ... There was no hesitancy in this particular presidency to immediately assume that there were conspirators ... There was a quick jump to judgment in that issue":

For the record, here is President Obama's statement on the murder of Tiller:

I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.

Which Leviticus Should We Expect to Hear?

Religious Right participants in the upcoming hate crimes legislation protest sure intent on generating some press for themselves, as in the last few hours both Gary Cass and Paul Blair have issued press releases about it. 

And this is raising an interesting question about just how they intend to go about challenging this legislation, because they seem to think that they are going to be challenging the law by simply preaching from the Bible:

Pastor Paul Blair, founder of Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ, said, "Pastors have preached the Bible in America for over 400 years, pointing people to Jesus Christ and standing against sin. If preaching the Bible is now against the law, then let us be arrested. If not, may every pastor across America know that he can stand strong and proclaim Biblical Truth without fear of persecution or prosecution."

Of course, merely preaching that homosexuality is a sin is not going to be a violation of the hate crimes law, which even Cass seems to realize:

While the ministers do not expect to be arrested, they are willing to go to jail, if necessary, to stand for freedom of speech and religion.

The question really comes down to just how they intend to preach against homosexuality. Do they intend to preach Leviticus 18:22?

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

Or do they intend to preach Leviticus 20:13?

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Judging by this quote from Cass by OneNewNow, it's difficult to know:

"We're going to exercise our First Amendment rights to preach [the entire] Bible, including those parts that deal with homosexuality and the truth of the sin of homosexuality," explains Dr. Cass. He further says this is being done as a way to clarify "....that this does not constitute a hate crime."

The legislation explicitly protects religious freedom and freedom of speech, but "does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence." So if they intend to preach that homosexuality is sinful, that is not much of a challenge, as that sort of speech is clearly protected. 

But since they obviously intend for this protest to be a direct challenge to hate crimes protections, that really only leaves them one option: demanding death for gays.

If that is the case, they ought to see if Steven L. Anderson is available to join them.

Will Cass Call For Violence to Protest Hate Crimes Protections?

Last week, when President Obama signed the legislation expanding hate crimes protections, various fringe activists vowed to challenge it by engaging in some pointless grandstanding.  And, by gum, that is exactly what they are going to do:

A rally is being planned in Washington to raise the alarm over the nation's new "hate crimes" law and to force Attorney General Eric Holder to confront the unconstitutionality of the measure's "thought" penalties, according to a Christian leader working on the event.

Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission told WND there are a series of approaches being considered to challenge the restrictions on expression of religion and speech contained in the law signed last week by President Obama.

At the rally, set for 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, ministers will preach from the Bible on the prohibition against homosexuality, then will present a letter to Holder demanding that the religious liberty of all Americans be respected.

Specific legal challenges to the restrictions of the "hate crimes" plan also may be announced then, Cass said.

The "Rally for Religious Freedom" in front of the Department of Justice in Washington is intended to force Holder either to address the issues or be put in a position of ignoring those who say they are violating the provisions of the federal law, Cass said.

"We're basically going to defy the law, and challenge it," Cass told WND. "We're going to declare the whole counsel of God, including those parts that some may consider 'inciting a hate crime' to see if the attorney general is going to come down and arrest a group of peaceful clergy exercising their First Amendment rights."

Of course, as we pointed out last time, the legislation contained explicit free speech and religious liberty protections, so they run no risk of prosecution and they know it.  Unless, that is, they intend to "plan or prepare for an act of physical violence" or "incite an imminent act of physical violence against another."

So is that was Cass and company are planning to do?  "Defy" the hate crimes law by calling for acts of physical violence against gays? 

NOM's Brown Gets Defensive in DC

Yesterday, the Washington, DC City Council held another round of hearings on marriage equality in the District at which the National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown testified.

During his testimony and subsequent questioning, Brown consistently played the victim, complaining that "those of us who believe that there is something special and unique about husbands and wives are equivalent of bigots or are animated by hatred or irrational animus."

Council Member David Catania questioned Brown about NOM's 990 tax forms and the group's failed effort to avoid Maine's campaign disclosure laws. Brown responded defensively, claiming NOM was being singled out for discrimination.

Catania also asked Brown about the the views espoused by NOM board member Orson Scott Card, who wrote in favor of overthrowing the government if Proposition 8 failed in California. Brown didn't even attempt to defend Card's outlandish views -- instead he responded that he does not "know all of the pronouncements of anyone that is a board member of NOM, but the fact is that people are entitled to a wide variety of opinions on this issue and I would defend his First Amendment right to speak just as I would yours":

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First Amendment Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Monday 04/18/2011, 5:52pm
Alan Colmes: California GOP Official And Tea Party Activist Sends Email Showing Obama And Parents As Monkeys. Warren Throckmorton: David Barton: Pluralism not the goal of the First Amendment. Jim Burroway @ Box Turtle Bulletin: Leader of Maine’s Yes on 1 Campaign Admits to Lying. Barbara Morrill @ Daily Kos: Kyl revises Congressional Record to omit 'well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does' is abortion. Autumn Sandeen @ Pam's House Blend: The Bizarre Behavior Of An Apparently Hate Filled Man - Of Course It's Peter LaBarbera. Igor Volsky @ Wonk Room:... MORE
Brian Tashman, Thursday 04/14/2011, 4:16pm
We already know that Liberty Counsel, like other Religious Right groups, zealously opposes programs designed to stop bullying if they include bullying based on sexual orientation. Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with Liberty Counsel, decried such anti-bullying programs as a “homo-fascist tactic” and a “‘Trojan Horse’ strategy,” saying that high suicide rates among gay and lesbian youth is because “kids who are engaging in homosexual behavior often look inward and know that what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, is immoral, and so they... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 04/08/2011, 1:19pm
The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer is doubling-down on his view that the U.S. should ban Muslim immigration, and on Wednesday he called Muslim immigrants a “toxic cancer.” Fischer, who believes that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Muslims, now claims that the U.S. should use the Book of Numbers when establishing its immigration policy and that Muslims should “be prepared to drop his Islam and his Qur’an at Ellis Island.” According to Fischer, all new immigrants must “convert to Christianity” or “stay home”:... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 04/06/2011, 12:44pm
Bryan Fischer is back on his almost-daily attack on Muslims. The American Family Association’s Director of Issues Analysis, Fischer believes that Muslims should not be protected by the First Amendment and that the government should deport all Muslims, ban Muslim immigration and prohibit the construction of mosques. Fischer, who has called Islam the “the spirit of Satan,” again demanded that the government forbid Muslim immigrants from becoming a “toxic cancer into our culture”: We allow unrestricted Muslim immigration into the United States we are welcoming to... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 04/04/2011, 12:15pm
After telling a reporter from Think Progress that he wouldn’t appoint any Muslims to his administration, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has doubled-down on his religious test for public office. Cain told the conservative site NewsMax that his opposition to Muslims serving in government comes fro his belief that “they are not free to infuse their religious beliefs into our laws”: “They can accuse me of bigoted speech all they want,” Cain counters. “I want people committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 03/30/2011, 11:26am
Last week, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer declared that the First Amendment does not apply to Islam and therefore, Muslims have no right to freely practice their religion in this country. A few days later, Fischer was in Iowa to broadcast his radio program from the Rediscover God in America conference where he lined up an all-star list of guests, including Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Haley Barbour.  As such, People For the American Way released open letters to Gingrich, Huckabee, and Barbour, asking them not to give Fischer credibility by... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/29/2011, 11:24am
Bryan Fischer's anti-Muslim bigotry has become such a standard part of his rhetoric that it is getting to the point where it is difficult to determine whether his latest outburst warrant mention any more ... even when he is calling for a ban on immigration by Muslims and for local communities to ban the construction of mosques since he has made both of these demands before. But so long as Fischer is going to continue to voice his bigotry and assert that First Amendment protections do not apply to Muslims, we are going to keep making note of it: Immigration is obviously a matter for Congress... MORE