First Amendment

Hate Crimes: Get Ready For Pointless Grandstanding

President Obama hasn't even signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act yet, but right-wing activists are already "challenging" it ... or at least their warped version of it.

Here is the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission vowing to defy the legislation:

"The fact the hate bill had to be passed in such an unscrupulous and cynical manner (attaching it to the Defense Authorization Act) reveals the depth of President Obama's commitment to a radical, anti-Christian agenda. He will stop at nothing to undermine the will of the majority of Americans to pay back militant homosexual activists who raised millions of dollars for his campaign and worked to get him elected."

"To sign the bill in the Rose Garden is another slap in the face and shows the level of contempt President Obama has for the majority of Americans who oppose the "homosexualization" of marriage and public education."

"The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission will soon be announcing its plans, along with other leading pro-family groups, to defy, counter and challenge this unconstitutional attack on our religious liberty."

And here is Gordon Klingenschmitt daring Obama to prosecute him:

In other words, A) pastors may quote the Bible publicly if their "intention" is the free exercise of religion or speech, but B) pastors may not quote the Bible publicly if their "intention" is to conspire with listeners to commit an act of violence. This begs the question, if the pastor never announces whether the unspoken "intention" of his heart is A or B, how can any prosecutor, judge, or jury know whether the pastor's secret thoughts intended A) free exercise or B) conspiracy? Without revealing the secret intention of my own heart, whether A or B, I hereby publicly quote both Romans 1:32 and Leviticus 20:13:

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."

I further invite President Barack Obama, as the chief law enforcement official of America, to discern the secret thoughts and intentions of my heart, and to prosecute me for conspiracy or inciting the violent crimes of others who might read my words and act upon them, if he dares to think he knows or can prove my motives were not pursuant to the free exercise of religion or speech.

Of course, neither CADC or Klingenschmitt nor anybody else is going to be prosecuted for speaking out or "defying" this and they know it.  After all, the legislation expressly protects free speech and religious freedom:

(4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this division shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

(5) FIRST AMENDMENT- Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed to diminish any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

(6) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this division shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution of the United States does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

But just because the legislation poses no threat to their religious freedom or right to free speech, amazingly that is not going to stop some on the Right from trying to use the legislation to turn paint themselves as martyrs.

Latest Lies on Hate Crimes Legislation

Writing about Religious Right leaders lying about gay rights advocates is starting to feel like the old Saturday Night Live sketch where the Weekend Update’s top news story was “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.” Today’s version: Tony Perkins is still lying about hate crimes.

Perkins’ latest activist alert about federal hate crimes legislation moving forward as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill was sent under the headline, “The Senate Will Vote to Silence You!”
 
Here’s Perkins’ basic lie:
 
What "hate crimes" legislation does is lay the legal foundation and framework for investigating, prosecuting and persecuting pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions reflect their faith.
 
And here’s an example of the demagoguery it’s wrapped in:
 
Democratic leaders believe passing their liberal agenda takes precedence over keeping our armed services safe.
 
That’s sadly typical of the level of discourse coming from the far right these days.
 
Readers of this blog know that hate crimes legislation will not in any way “silence” FRC activists or lay any kind of foundation for “investigating, prosecuting and persecuting” anyone “whose actions reflect their faith,” unless those actions include committing violent crimes against other people.
 
Once more, for the record: the hate crimes legislation targets violent crimes, not sermons or speeches or books or anti-gay screeds by Tony Perkins. The law includes explicit First Amendment protections.  Tony Perkins is still lying.

Valuable Lesson from the Values Voter Summit: Right's Definition of Religious Liberty

Saturday morning’s speech by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association may be the most valuable moment of this conference. It’s not often that Americans get an unambiguous look at the Religious Right’s extremely dangerous definition of religious liberty.
Religious liberty is of course a core American value, protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. And it’s the separation of church and state that protects the right of every American to worship or not as they choose, and protects all Americans from the government using its power to coerce religious belief or worship. It’s one of the constitutional principles that define this country.

Fischer basically attributed the idea of church-state separation to Adolf Hitler, who he said was the inspiration for the forces of “secular fundamentalism” who are bent on “castrating” the church and bringing America a “bleak, dark, vicious, tyrannical” future. Invoking Hitler is practically commonplace name-calling from the right these days. But it was not the most important or provocative point of his remarks.

Today Fischer went a good bit further than televangelist Pat Robertson, who notably called church-state separation a “lie of the left.” According to Fischer’s interpretation of the First Amendment, here’s what religious liberty means: Congress has the liberty to promote religion in any way, as long as it does not single out one Christian sect or denomination and make it the nation’s official religion. That’s it.

According to Fischer, “the only entity that is restrained by the First Amendment is the Congress of the United States.” Thus, he says, it is “constitutionally impossible” for governors, mayors, city councilmembers, or school administrators to violate the First Amendment. Fischer said the “incorporation doctrine” – the idea that the Fourteenth Amendment applied First Amendment protections against state governments, is the “most egregious” example of judicial activism.

So by his definition, a state legislature could declare itself an officially Christian state. Or an officially Baptist or Mormon state. Presumably any public school, city council or state government could require students to attend Christian worship or profess certain religious belief.

Fischer isn’t the only Religious Right leader who holds this radically extreme definition of religious liberty. In their 2008 book, “Personal Faith, Public Policy,” Religious Right leaders Tony Perkins and Harry Jackson said that a 1961 Supreme Court decision, which held that the state of Maryland could not require applicants for public office to swear that they believe in the existence of God, one of “the major assaults that have been successfully launched against the Christian faith in the last forty to fifty years.”

So, to these prominent Religious Right leaders, preventing a state from demanding that its employees swear to certain religious beliefs is an attack on Christianity. And any court that tries to stop a state from imposing religious beliefs on its citizens is judicial activism.

It’s disturbing to note that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is among those who believe the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not apply to the states. In a 2004 concurring opinion, Thomas wrote:

Quite simply, the Establishment Clause is best understood as a federalism provision — it protects state establishments from federal interference but does not protect any individual rights. . . . .
[E]ven assuming that the Establishment Clause precludes the Federal Government from establishing a national religion, it does not follow that the Clause created or protects any individual right. . . . it is more likely that States and only States were the direct beneficiaries. Moreover, incorporation of this putative individual right leads to a particular outcome: It would prohibit precisely what the Establishment Clause was intended to protect — state establishments of religion.

Americans deserve to know whether the parade of top GOP officials who engaged in this weekend’s mutual love-fest with Religious Right leaders have the same narrow, distorted view of the First Amendment.

Meet the Religious Right's Newest Target

Earlier this week, President Obama nominated Chai R. Feldblum to be Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It took the Traditional Values Commission all of three days to begin its smear campaign, starting with this piece entitled "If You Hate America You Have a Lawyer":

President Obama has picked Chai R. Feldblum to become a member of the Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency which enforces workplace civil rights laws. If confirmed, she would serve 5 years on the EEOC and issue edicts that will impact all areas of employment.

Feldblum isn’t known by most Americans but her career experience and employers make her a sort of general counsel to the Forces of Darkness. She has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the pro-homosexual Human Rights Campaign Fund and she founded something called the Moral Values Project, a "gender equity" group meant to sound like something conservative.

She is a lesbian and has played a major role in pushing the LGBT agenda in American culture for the past 20 years.

...

In short, she wants the gay agenda to trump the First Amendment and religious freedom to impose the gay agenda on all Americans – including those with strongly held religious beliefs about homosexuality.

“Once again, President Obama has demonstrated there is no one too radical to serve in his administration,” said TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty.

“By picking Feldblum, he has signaled to his many fringe group fans on the Left that he will help them accomplish all of their goals to undermine the Constitution and overturn biblical morality and decency in America.

"Liberals hate America and so does a President who insists on appointing them to positions of power and responsibility within his already tottering administration."

How To Violate a Court Order and Win Congressional Support

For the last several weeks, the Liberty Counsel has been busy turning Florida Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman into a Religious Right heroes and martyrs in anticipation of their upcoming court date.  The right-wing narrative is that Lay and Freeman are being persecuted for exercising their First Amendment rights and sharing their Christian faith, and now LC has gotten more than 60 members of Congress to sign on to a letter in support of the two men as they head into court today:

Tomorrow, Liberty Counsel will be in federal District Court in Pensacola representing the Principal of Pace High School, Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman as they face criminal contempt charges for a prayer over a meal. Ironically, tomorrow is National Constitution Day.

During a luncheon to honor those who contributed toward the school's athletic Field House, Principal Lay asked Mr. Freeman to offer a blessing for the meal. Students were not present at the time of the blessing. Lay and Freeman thought nothing of the matter nor did those being honored. But the ACLU ran to court, claiming both men should be held in criminal contempt. Lay and Freeman have a combined 70 years of public school service. If convicted, they face up to $5,000 in fines, six months in jail, and they may lose their retirement benefits.

...

Yesterday, Cong. Randy Forbes, the Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Prayer Caucus, Cong. Mike McIntyre, Co-Chair, and Cong. Jeff Taylor, whose district includes Santa Rosa County, along with over 61 members of the Caucus, sent a letter of support [PDF] to Lay, Freeman and Winkler. The letter states the members "are standing with you in prayer and support as you face your trial on Thursday because of offering a prayer." Members of Congress voted to authorize a Chaplain to offer a prayer at the first session of Congress. The letter concludes: "The tradition of offering prayer in America has become so interwoven into our nation's spiritual heritage, that to charge someone criminally for engaging in such an innocent practice would astonish the men who founded this country on religious freedom." Last night members of Congress, including Cong. Forbes and Cong. Jeff Miller, made speeches on the House floor in support of Lay, Freeman, and Winkler, while pointing out the sad irony that they are being tried on National Constitution Day.

If you just read the right-wing spin on this, you'd think that Lay and Freeman were just a couple of innocent victims of the never-ending "war on Christians."  Of course, there is more to the story, as David Waters explains:

It seems that Principal Frank Lay has been trying to use his freedom of religion to turn Pace High School into a sort of Sunday school. According to court documents, the Pace High Teacher Handbook required school personnel to "embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and example, the practice of every Christian virtue." School and district officials "often led or directed students in prayer at extracurricular and athletic events, arranged for prayer during graduation ceremonies, proselytized students during and outside of class, and sponsored religious baccalaureate services. One teacher displayed a waist-high white cross in her classroom."

Pace hasn't tried to hide his evangelical tendencies. "This country is founded on Judeo-Christian principles, there is no doubt about that," he told a congregation last year. "I walk up and down the halls everyday and I see tons of kids that aren't saved. They have hollow eyes. They are void of a spirit. They need Jesus."

Last year, the ACLU represented two students who filed suit against the school board, claiming that school officials were violating their freedom from religion. Lay and district officials admitted liability. Last January, the federal judge ordered Lay and district officials to stop promoting, advancing, aiding, facilitating, endorsing, or causing religious prayers or devotionals during school-sponsored events."

Nine days later, Principal Lay asked athletic director Robert Freeman to lead a prayer at the beginning of a luncheon at Pace High School. "I did it primarily out of habit. It's just something we've always done," Lay told the Florida Baptist Witness. "I have been painted here as somewhat of a rebel. I don't consider myself that, nor do I want to be. I am a Christian. I am not ashamed of my faith."

Unfortunately for Lay, the federal judge didn't accuse him of being ashamed of his faith. He accused him of violating a court order not to promote his personal faith as a government official at a government function.

Lay and school officials admitted that they had been improperly using school functions to proselytize and agreed to stop doing so ... and then, nine days later, did it again, so now they are facing contempt charges for violating the court order.

That is a little different than the right-wing claim that they are being charged for merely "engaging in such an innocent practice" as praying before a meal.

UPDATE: Lay and Freeman were found not guilty.

McDonnell's Backtracking Angers The Right

Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran an article on the master's thesis written by Robert McDonnell when he was attending Pat Robertson's Regent University back in the last 1980s.  As he is now seeking to become the governor of Virginia by protraying himself as a moderate Republican, McDonnell is wishing this document had never surfaced:

His 1989 thesis -- "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of The Decade" -- was on the subject he wanted to explore at Regent: the link between Christianity and U.S. law. The document was written to fulfill the requirements of the two degrees he was seeking at Regent, a master of arts in public policy and a juris doctor in law.

The thesis wasn't so much a case against government as a blueprint to change what he saw as a liberal model into one that actively promoted conservative, faith-based principles through tax policy, the public schools, welfare reform and other avenues.

"Leaders must correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state," he wrote. "Historically, the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment were intended to prevent government encroachment upon the free church, not eliminate the impact of religion on society."

He argued for covenant marriage, a legally distinct type of marriage intended to make it more difficult to obtain a divorce. He advocated character education programs in public schools to teach "traditional Judeo-Christian values" and other principles that he thought many youths were not learning in their homes. He called for less government encroachment on parental authority, for example, redefining child abuse to "exclude parental spanking." He lamented the "purging of religious influence" from public schools. And he criticized federal tax credits for child care expenditures because they encouraged women to enter the workforce.

"Further expenditures would be used to subsidize a dynamic new trend of working women and feminists that is ultimately detrimental to the family by entrenching status-quo of nonparental primary nurture of children," he wrote.

He went on to say feminism is among the "real enemies of the traditional family."

Not surprisingly, McDonnell is now backing away from many of those statements, claiming that his views have changed:

Mr. McDonnell on Monday said he regretted any offensive language.

"Any of the language in there that in any way denigrates the basic dignity or worth of any human being, I very much regret that. It does not at all reflect my views today. I fully believe in equal justice under the law, I believe in civility, and I believe in promoting people based or merit," he said.

"My views on some of these things have changed. There were any number of things in the thesis that the language would be much, much different today. I've been honest with you today that several of those specific points I've repudiated, I feel differently about."

Of course, that effort is now carrying its own risks:

Victoria Cobb is president of The Family Foundation, which once gave McDonnell its "Legislator of the Year" award. Cobb urges McDonnell to be very cautious not to downplay his strong conservative record.

"If he is seen as someone who is flip-flopping on issues or backing away, no matter what the issues are, that is always viewed by the electorate as a negative," she contends. "People want a consistent leader on issues, and they want someone who they knew ten years ago agreed with something and still supports that position. And so, he needs to tread very carefully as he looks at his views."

Cobb says although she understands McDonnell's desire to reach out across the aisle and to other voting blocs, there is no need to distance himself from previous positions.

Star Parker Sues The White House

Remember that White House effort last month that asked people to send in misinformation about healthcare reform so that the administration would set the record straight that right-wing groups jumped all over as proof that the Obama administration was creating an enemies list in order "to intimidate and if possible silence their opponents"?

Well, the White House eventually shut it down, but that doesn't mean that the story is over:

The Office of the President and other White House officials are defendants in a free speech lawsuit filed by a prominent physician group, and a non-profit advocate for inner-city poor.

The White House has “unlawfully collected information on political speech,” thereby illegally using the power of the White House to chill opposition to its plans for health care reform, according to the complaint filed in District Court for the District of Columbia, by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) .

The lawsuit was prompted by the White House solicitation for the public to report any “fishy” comments to ‘flag@whitehouse.gov.’ Although the White House slightly revised its data collection procedure last week, the email address still exists, the illegal activity continues, and is part of an “unlawful pattern and practice to collect and maintain information” on the exercise of free speech, which “continues in violation of the Privacy Act and First Amendment even if the Defendants terminate a particular information-collection component due to negative publicity.”

The AAPS is a conservative group that seems to have a history of filing healthcare-related lawsuits, but I am especially confused as to why CURE has gotten involved, given its mission statement:

MISSION

Address issues of race and poverty through principles of faith, freedom and personal responsibility.

OBJECTIVE

Build awareness that conservative agenda of traditional values, limited government, and private ownership is of greatest marginal benefit to low income peoples.

METHOD

We explore and promote market based public policy to fight poverty.

So how does suing the White House over this effort advance CURE's goal of fighting poverty and helping "low income peoples"?  It doesn't, but Star Parker, CURE's founder and president, thinks that she is particularly well-suited to fight back against this sort of "intimidation":

Star Parker, the CURE president, also chimed in on the lawsuit and the actions that preceded it.

"As a black conservative spokesperson and columnist, intimidation tactics aren't new to me,” she said. “But it is of great concern to see the current Administration build an enemies list of those who disagree with them on this important issue.”

Judge Removes God's Protection Over Kentucky

Last year we wrote about a provision inserted into legislation by Kentucky State Rep. Tom Riner requiring the state's Office of Homeland Security to openly and repeatedly stress “the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth" and thank God for keeping the state safe. The provision has now been ruled unconstitutional:

A judge on Wednesday struck down a 2006 state law that required the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to stress “dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the commonwealth.”

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the law violated the First Amendment’s protection against the establishment of a state religion. Homeland Security officials have been required for three years to credit “Almighty God” in their official reports and post a plaque with similar language at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort.

“Even assuming that most of this nation’s citizens have historically depended upon God by choice for their protection, this does not give the General Assembly the right to force citizens to do so now,” Wingate wrote.

“This is the very reason the Establishment Clause was created: to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority,” he wrote. “The commonwealth’s history does not exclude God from the statutes, but it had never permitted the General Assembly to demand that its citizens depend on Almighty God.”

State Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, a Southern Baptist minister, placed the “Almighty God” language into a homeland security bill without much notice.

Riner said Wednesday that he is unhappy with the judge’s ruling. The way he wrote the law, he said, it did not mandate that Kentuckians depend on God for their safety, it simply acknowledged that government without God cannot protect its citizens.

“The decision would have shocked and disappointed Thomas Jefferson, who penned the words that the General Assembly paraphrased in this legislation,” Riner said.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Sun Sentinel has more on the battle unfolding at Coral Ridge Church.
  • Gary Bauer: "[A]s his scheme to take over healthcare unravels by the day, President Obama is attempting to exploit Jesus to justify more big government. As I recall, government was not very kind to Jesus."
  • Patrick Mahoney says he's being harassed by the FBI and that his organization, the Christian Defense Coalition, "has asked the American Center for Law and Justice to file a Freedom of Information Act request in an attempt to get the bottom of why the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent agents to the home of an American citizen to gather intelligence about protected First Amendment activities."
  • Randall Terry is taking his "Kill Granny Tour" out on the road in order to descend on congressional Town Hall meetings.
  • Finally, the various Religious Right groups behind the Stop the Abortion Mandate effort are out with this new video:

Trying to Set the Record Straight About Efforts to Try and Set the Record Straight

Earlier this week, in an attempt to rebut all the lies and misinformation being spread about health care reform, the White House asked people to send them examples of the sorts of things they are seeing so that the administration could help set the record straight:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

Now, that seems pretty simple and self-explanatory, but as Steve Benen noted, nothing is simple when dealing with the Right because it is impossible "to anticipate just how paranoid some people will choose to be":

This hardly seemed controversial. There's an aggressive campaign underway to mislead Americans, and the White House wants to help set the record straight. If some especially pernicious lies are making the rounds, folks can let the White House know directly, so officials can get the truth out.

Except, that's not how the right sees it. RedState interpreted this to mean "the White House wants you to report ... anybody publicly opposing" health care reform. Soon after, Rush Limbaugh had embraced the same line, and Malkin wasn't far behind. Naturally, Drudge joined the fun.

By late yesterday, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was asserting that the White House wants Americans to report on each other. Today, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) appears to have completely lost his mind.

Cornyn says this practice would let the White House collect personal information about people who oppose the President.

"By requesting citizens send 'fishy' emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email, addresses, IP addresses and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," Cornyn wrote in a letter to Obama. "You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program."

Cornyn asked Obama to cease the program immediately, or at the very least explain what the White House would do with the information it collects.

This is what politics in America in the 21st century has come to

Today, Tony Perkins released a video statement about this White House effort, suggesting that it was part of a plot "to intimidate and if possible silence their opponents":

The White House apparently subscribes to Vince Lombardi’s idea that the best defense is a good offense. The widespread opposition to the Presidents proposed takeover of health care has apparently blind sided the administration and is causing panic over the prospects the whole plan could be sacked by the American public.

As a result the White House is striking back. Macon Phillips on the White House blog wrote, “Scary chain emails and videos are starting to percolate on the internet.” he goes on to say that “since we cant keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help.” Phillips goes on to ask individuals to send the White House any email or health care message on the web that seems fishy.

Fishy? If there is anything fishy it is the White House wanting people to help them keep track of those who oppose the government takeover of health care. Is the White House is simply wanting to keep a scrapbook of the emails that primarily quote the President and the legislation that he is pushing, or is it possible they are simply looking to use this information to intimidate and if possible silence their opponents?

In essence, a White House effort to try and clarify right-wing misinformation and lies about health care reform has now itself become the subject of a right-wing misinformation campaign.

UPDATE: The ACLJ has now issued its own statement demanding that President Obama repudiate this "attempt to stifle the free speech of Americans" and "intimidate" conservatives:

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), focusing on constitutional law, today called on President Obama to repudiate comments made by his Director of New Media – comments that call on Americans to report those who make “fishy” statements about health care. The ACLJ asserts that the official White House release is an attack on free speech and designed to stifle public debate about the health care issue – including growing concerns from Americans opposed to making abortion services mandatory health benefits.

“This is a very troubling attempt to stifle the free speech of Americans who have the constitutional right to express their opinion and concerns about health care,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “This move is an attempt to intimidate those who have legitimate concerns about the health care plan. And, worse, it turns the White House into some sort of self-appointed ‘speech police’ – urging Americans to monitor and report those who engage in ‘fishy’ speech. What will the Obama Administration do with those names? Who will be ‘flagged’ next? President Obama must reject this assault on free speech. It’s not only wrong, it directly contradicts his repeated promise to conduct a more open and transparent government.”

...

“In a nutshell, the White House is asking Americans to report on their neighbors, family, and friends who disagree with the President’s policy choices on health care,” said Sekulow. “The White House is also implying that you should think twice before sending an email disagreeing with the President, since it might end up being forwarded to them. The White House email address says it all – let’s ‘flag’ those who disagree with us. This new White House reporting program strikes at the heart of the First Amendment and has no place in this important debate about health care.”

Birthers Gone Wild

I suppose I am obligated to post the video of Orly Taitz's appearance on MSNBC yesterday, so here it is:

I don't feel this clip provided any new information to the issue - other than providing further evidence that Taitz is insane despite her insistence that she is not, in fact, crazy. 

In fact, the insistence by the Birthers that they are not crazy seems to be a their new defense, as that was exactly the point that Wiley Drake made last week:

Obama's supporters "want to brand anyone who questions him as a nut, and they're not. Alan Keyes is not a nut. I'm not," Drake said.

Which brings me to this good piece by David Weigel reporting that Taitz's antics and recklessness is causing a rift in the Birther movement among those who see her as undermining their efforts and which contains this interesting nugget: 

The “Kenyan birth certificate” has made skeptics out of people like Leahy and Kreep. Two of Taitz’s original plaintiffs, Wiley Drake and Markham Robinson, both associates of Alan Keyes during his presidential campaign, were removed from her latest filing after seeking new representation.

Has Taitz really become too crazy for the likes of Wiley Drake, a man who admits to praying to God to kill President Obama? That is quite an accomplishment.

On a semi-related note, I think it is also worth pointing out that Chuck Norris now seems to be throwing in with the Birthers as well, doing so by claiming that while he doesn't have any reason to doubt Obama's claims to citizenship, his refusal to release the document the Birthers are demanding is raising questions:

Isn't categorically satisfying constitutional requirements for a president, or answering the First Amendment grievances of hundreds of thousands of Americans, or ending a national debate or healing a country's divisions enough "direct and tangible interest"?

Mr. President, as more and more people realize that you are refusing to release your original birth certificate, further questions will fuel the fires of debate or at least hinder the embers from ever being snuffed out. Questions like, "Does it really contain the Hawaiian physician's name?" Or "Does it disclose something other than his birth place that he wishes others not to see?"

...

So again I ask, why don't you simply request, release and give permission to make public your original birth certificate?

Let's not forget that Norris was among Mike Huckabee's biggest and most visible supporters. That, coupled with the fact that Huckabee is scheduled to headline a right-wing conference next month being hosted by three bona fide Birthers leads me to wonder just what Huckabee's views are on this issue, considering that several of the people he has chosen to associate and surround himself with are deeply enmeshed in the Birther conspiracy movement.

Marginalize or Be Marginalized

One of the points I have tried to drive home regarding the Religious Right's purported opposition to the current hates crimes legislation is that they don't actually oppose hate crimes in general, they just oppose offering protection to gays. 

They claim that hate crimes laws give certain groups "special rights" and are therefore discriminatory.  If that is indeed what they believe, then the logical position for them to take would be to call for the complete repeal of all existing hate crimes laws, such as the federal law that provides protections for things like race and religion. 

But they haven't offered to forgo the "special rights" they receive as Christians or even bothered to acknowledge this basic fact, choosing instead to harp on the addition of "sexual orientation" to the existing law as somehow a threat to their religious liberty.

Well, Dan Gilgoff has written a piece taking a look at the Right's scare-tactics about this legislation and points out that they are all completely unfounded:

Legal experts note that under the hate crimes bill, a person's religious beliefs about homosexuality become relevant only once he or she is accused of a violent crime against someone from the LGBT community. The bill prohibits a defendant's religious expressions and associations from being introduced as substantive evidence at trial, though the information can be used to help determine whether the defendant was motivated by bias. "Your penalty is being enhanced because of your religious beliefs," says Prof. Douglas Laycock of the University of Michigan Law School. "But you're being prosecuted for the crime."

Proponents of an expanded hate crimes law say religious beliefs should be subject to scrutiny if they lead to violence. "Even the strongest proponents of religious freedom do not claim that religious liberty means the right to beat people up," says Prof. Andrew Koppelman of the Northwestern University School of Law.

Conservative religious activists, meanwhile, point to recent developments in Australia, Canada, and Sweden, where religious conservatives have been penalized for so-called hate speech, even where such speech did not lead to violence. But legal scholars note that those countries lack the robust free speech protections of the First Amendment. And even opponents of expanding the hate crimes law acknowledge that statutes widely adopted by individual states have not resulted in litigation over religious liberty or free speech violations—though many cover the LGBT community. "If somebody had been prosecuted simply for speech, we would have heard about it by now," says Laycock.

So why has the Right been so vehemently opposed to this legislation?  Mainly because, as Tony Perkins admitted last month, their real fear is that if protection for gays are added, it would make gays "equivalent to other categories of protection" and, if that happens, the Religious Right's anti-gays views will be seen as "equivalent to racial bigotry."

And Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defense Fund basically admitted it to Gilgoff as well: 

As religious conservatives mount a last-ditch effort to derail the bill, however, legal experts say the legislation narrowly focuses on violent acts and that pastors' speech remains protected by the First Amendment. And some religious activists acknowledge that they're less concerned about the immediate effects of expanding hate crimes protections than about the broader message it sends. "This is the first time you would have written into law a government disapproval of a religious belief held by the majority of Americans—that homosexuality is sinful," says Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "It's more of a slippery slope argument than about the law itself."

They are afraid that as society progresses and being gay become increasingly acceptable, their right-wing views are going to become less acceptable.

In short: the more mainstream gays become, the less mainstream the Religious Right becomes ... and that is what they fear more than anything.

For The Last Time, Stop Lying About Hate Crimes Legislation

I have written several dozen posts debunking right-wing lies about hate crimes legislation in the last few weeks and each time I have thought to myself "this is the last time I am writing about this."  And then, inevitably, I see something even more inane than the last thing I wrote about and feel compelled to write yet another post, making the same point one more time.

So here is yet another post making the same point one more time.

First, here's Pat Robertson saying that if this legislation passes, anyone who so much as speaks out about homosexuality would be charged with a hate crime:

The standard right-wing talking point on this issue is to claim that if a pastor speaks out about homosexuality from the pulpit and then some parishioner goes out at beats up a gay person, the pastor will be charged with a hate crime and tossed in jail.

But apparently even that false claim was too complex for Robertson and his viewers, so he just skipped it entirely and went straight to warning Christians that they would be imprisoned for opposing homosexuality.

In either case, the claim is untrue.

The version that passed the House contains this provision:

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

The version that is now in the Senate contains an even more specific provision:

CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

Robertson also asserts that this legislation will be struck down as unconstitutional because it infringes upon free speech. But considering that, as I have pointed out time and again, hate crimes laws that protect things like race and religion already exist and they have not been struck down, so there is no reason to think that laws protecting sexual orientation would be stuck down.

The idea that hate crimes laws infringe free speech is ludicrous.  Hate crimes protections for race and religion have existed for over a decade and racist or anti-religious speech has not been made illegal and nobody has been charged with a hate crime for engaging in such speech.

If hate crimes legislation did the sort of things the Right claims, outspoken opponents of religion like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris would be sitting in jail as we speak.

But they aren't - and the reason they aren't is because hate crimes laws don't infringe upon the exercise of free speech.

The Right Joins Hands To Stop Hate Crimes Legislation

Last week we noted that Religious Right groups were planning on making a coordinated push to stop hate crimes legislation by threatening to "shut down the Capitol Switchboard to stop this dangerous bill that will criminalize Christianity and protect pedophiles."

Now, it looks like a variety of groups and leaders have done just that and banded together to send a letter to the Senate begging members to join their colleague Sen. Jim DeMint in filibustering the bill: 

This week, a letter is being hand-delivered to every member of the United States Senate imploring conservatives to join Senator Jim DeMint's filibuster of the pending Hate Crimes bill, which would criminalize preaching the Gospel and put preachers in the crosshairs.

The letter explains that, in its current form, the Hate Crimes legislation would: "Silence the moral voice of the Church" -- "Punish principled dissent from the homosexual agenda" -- "Be a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression" -- and "Empower the left and encourage it to move forward with even more radical measures."

The letter is signed by more than 60 conservative leaders, including some of the leading lights of the Values Voter movement, among them: James Dobson (Focus On The Family), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Don Wildmon (American Family Association), Gary Bauer (American Values), Hon. Tom DeLay (former Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives), Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum), Mat Staver (Liberty Counsel), Wendy Wright (Concerned Women for America) and Rick Scarborough (Vision America).

Vision America President Dr. Rick Scarborough commented: "We are urging Senators to join DeMint (R, SC) in filibustering this pernicious -- one might almost say 'toxic' -- legislation. As Values Voter leaders, we are saying this vicious assault on the Church and the First Amendment must not and will not be allowed to succeed."

The press release didn't include an actual copy of this letter, which is rather odd.  Presumably, the letter has not been finalized or sent yet but, when it is and it is made available publicly, we'll be sure to write it up.

What Year Is This?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

When Obama Declares "LBGT Shame Month," The Right Will Support It

It comes as no surprise that the Religious Right would be outraged that President Obama proclaimed June to be "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month" and that, in response we'd see statements like this from Rick Scarborough stating that gays should be hanging their heads in shame:

Noting that President Barack Obama has proclaimed June "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month," Vision America President Dr. Rick Scarborough asks: "Exactly what do these people -- defined exclusively by their aberrant sexual behavior -- have to be proud about?"

Scarborough continued: "Perhaps they should be proud of the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2005, 71% of all HIV infections were among 'men who have sex with other men' -- a group that represents at most 2% of the adult population?"

"Maybe the president thinks they should be proud that, according to a 1978 study, 36% of male homosexuals reported having up to 1,000 different sex partners over the course of their lives? Researchers tell us that the AIDS epidemic has changed nothing in this regard."

"Does the president think gay militants should be proud of the part they're playing in the deconstruction of marriage and assaults on First Amendment freedom of speech and religion, through so-called same-sex marriage, 'hate crimes' legislation and public school indoctrination?" Scarborough inquired.

...

Scarborough: "Those who engage in unnatural acts should hang their heads in shame -- so should the president who asks us to celebrate their sinful lifestyle."

And, because it never hurts to remind people, allow me to just point out once again that this man endorsed Mike Huckabee and served on his campaign's Faith and Family Values Coalition.

Is The Right Still "Proud To Be a Right-Wing Extremist"?

Back in April and May I wrote a whole series of posts about how the Right was systematically trumping-up a controversy over the Department of Homeland Security Report, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” [PDF,]" which eventually led the DHS to pull the report.

Now, in light of the murder of Dr. George Tiller and the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum, we're seeing a variety of pieces claiming that these events validate the report's warnings.  And undoubtedly they do, but the irony here is that this report was never about run-of-the-mill conservatives or right-wing political groups - it was focused on violent, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-government extremists - but it was the conservatives and right-wing political groups who made it about them.

In the very first post I wrote about this issue, I noted that when I first read this report, I ignored it because it was of no use to me and what I do at this blog:

While I am always on the look-out for things demonstrating the extremism of the Religious Right, this report focused solely on violent racist and anti-government groups and since we tend not to cover such groups here, the report had little to offer.

Or so I thought. As it turns out, the report was apparently exactly about the Religious Right groups we follow here … or at least that is what Religious Right groups are insisting, based entirely on a single footnote that says:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

The Right immediately seized on this one footnote in the ten page report, calling it an attack on Christ and turning it into a fund-raising opportunity.  But, as I repeatedly tried to point out, the report wasn't about them and I couldn't understand why they kept insisting that it was, leading to this post asking "Why Is The Right Willingly Conflating Itself With Violent Extremists?" and doing so by intentionally misrepresenting what it said while running ads demanding DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s resignation:

Everything about this ad is either misleading or outright false, especially this claim:

Ignoring the real threats to our security from known Islamic jihad terrorist cells currently training terrorists on American soil, DHS, instead, has declared law-abiding citizens who express their First Amendment Rights as: “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States” and has initiated domestic spying on them.

Here is what the DHS report actually says:

DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.

It's not “law-abiding citizens who express their First Amendment Rights” that DHS says are “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” its “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology.”

How completely unhinged has the Right become when they are now paraphrasing “small terrorist cells” to mean “law-abiding citizens” and then using that false characterization in order to play the victim?

The report was not a warning about mainstream conservative political groups or lawful anti-abortion activists or religious organizations - it was a report about violent, radical extremists.  But it was the Right that intentionally conflated the two and now, in the wake of two high-profile violent acts carried out by right-wing extremists, it is the Right that is insisting that they have nothing in common with such people.

And that is exactly the point:  the report was not about them, but they made it about them because they thought they could score some political points and raise money by doing so.

How ridiculous and crass this phony controversy became can pretty much be summed up by these cards, which the Liberty Counsel is still selling on its website, that, in light of the recent attacks, seem to be in pretty poor taste:

Yet Another Hate Crimes Post

Honestly, I am so tired of having to write about the constant stream of lies and misrepresentations from the Religious Right about hate crimes legislation.  If I never had to write about this issue again, I would be eternally grateful… but since they keep egregiously lying about it, it doesn’t look like that will happen any time soon.

Here is the latest example, compliments of Bill Donohue and the Catholic League:

The driving force behind the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the desire to provide additional penalties to criminals who assault homosexuals because of their sexual orientation. Without commenting on the propriety of hate crimes legislation in general, the central problem with this bill is its chilling effect on religious speech.

To be specific, the bill would criminalize religious speech that was critical of homosexuality if it were linked to a crime against a gay person. How do I know this? Because when the bill was considered in the House, that is exactly what Rep. Louie Gohmert was told when he raised this issue. While assaulting anyone, independent of sexual orientation, is rightly considered a criminal offense, the prospect of criminalizing religious speech that proscribes certain sexual practices is beyond worrisome--it is downright dangerous.

Let’s apply the simple test I laid out yesterday whereby we replace the references to “sexual orientation” with references to religion, as religion is already protected under existing hate crimes laws, to see if the concerns still hold up:

The driving force behind the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the desire to provide additional penalties to criminals who assault CHRISTIANS because of their RELIGIOUS orientation. Without commenting on the propriety of hate crimes legislation in general, the central problem with this bill is its chilling effect on FREE speech.

To be specific, the bill would criminalize FREE speech that was critical of CHRISTIANITY if it were linked to a crime against a CHRISTIAN person. How do I know this? Because when the bill was considered in the House, that is exactly what Rep. Louie Gohmert was told when he raised this issue. While assaulting anyone, independent of RELIGIOUS orientation, is rightly considered a criminal offense, the prospect of criminalizing FREE speech that proscribes certain RELIGIOUS practices is beyond worrisome--it is downright dangerous.

Now, when looked at this way, it quickly become obvious that all these sorts of concerns are completely overblown because current hate crimes law already applies to violent crimes targeting religion and people are not being charged with hate crimes for criticizing religion or seeing their free speech rights wiped away.  

This sort of flagrant and intentional misrepresentation of the legislation is bad enough, but I don’t even know what to say about this demand:

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and religious liberty, both of which are jeopardized under this bill. The chilling effect this legislation could have on the right of the clergy to address sinful behavior flies in the face of the spirit of the First Amendment. Surely there are ways to protect homosexuals from being singled out by anti-gay thugs without trespassing on the constitutional rights of priests, ministers, rabbis, imams and others. Accordingly, language that would accomplish this end should be included as an amendment.

Has anyone at the Catholic League even bothered to take a look at the legislation?  If not, here it is and guess what is says?

SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

That’s right – aside from the fact that First Amendment rights are in no way threatened by the legislation, the authors also added explicit protection for them just to make that clear.

But still the Religious Right is claiming that the legislation does things is patently does not do and claiming that it doesn’t contain protections that is clearly does.  

Do you have any idea how much easier my job would be if the Religious Right would be willing to do some basic research before spouting off?

The Facts, Well They're Sort of Irrelevant Here

The news from today’s right-wing press conference on the Hate Crimes legislation: no news at all, in case you were expecting any. GOP Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas and Trent Franks of Arizona joined by Bishop Harry Jackson and spokespeople from other groups including the Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women for America for another opportunity to spread lies about the intent of hate crimes legislation. Even with explicit First Amendment protections for clergy and religious communities written into the Hate Crimes legislation, the right wing’s dishonest talking points remain the same: The Hate Crimes bill will threaten religious teachings on morality and First Amendment rights as pastor’s sermons could be considered “hate speech.” And, of course, pastors could be prosecuted for “conspiracy to commit a hate crime.”

We got a copy of the talking points handed out by Rep. Louie Gohmert’s people:

“The Hate Crimes bill creates a new Federal “Thought Crime.” The Hate Crimes bill will require criminal investigations of a suspect’s philosophical beliefs, politics, biases, religion, membership in organizations, activities of those organizations, and any past statements.”

And perhaps one of the most ridiculous talking points comes from the Traditional Values Coalition, who says “the ‘moral’ of this law, if it has one, is that child molesters and those who only ‘date’ dead people need to be protected but is open season on pastors and churchgoers:”

“Ensures that crimes against a transgender, drag queen or a gay man are treated more harshly than a sexual assault on a child. It will make pedophiles a protected class who can claim federal protection if they are injured by a parent as a result of molesting a child.” Read more

Who needs facts when you can just make stuff up (and when you’re getting paid to do it). For the real facts on hate crimes, People For the American Way and the African American Ministers in Action put together a helpful 2-pager on the legislation.

DHS Report: Why Is The Right Willingly Conflating Itself With Violent Extremists?

I honestly can’t believe that I am still writing about this phony “controversy” over the recent DHS report but, just as with the similarly phony controversy over the stimulus legislation, with every passing day the Right continues to twist this innocuous report into evidence that the government intends to round-up conservatives and toss them into prison and use the “outrage” to seek the removal of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano:  

A non-profit organization devoted to national security is demanding the resignation of the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, or that President Obama fire her immediately.

The Internet-based Move America Forward is using their web site, email, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to push for the removal of Secretary Napolitano.

Napolitano noticeably demonstrates that she is incapable of protecting America from the threat of Islamic terrorism. She must be fired immediately if our country is going to be safe in the coming years, according to Move Forward America, an organization that supports the US military as well as federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

Just about every right-wing groups is getting in on the act, with Focus on the Family adding its voice with this article:

Conservatives and religious groups across the nation are outraged by a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security that labeled them as right-wing extremists and terrorists. Republican members of the House Committee on Homeland Security have requested a committee hearing and investigation on the report. Some are calling for the resignation of Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Gary Bauer, president of American Values, said an investigation is unlikely to go very far with Democrats in charge.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get anything done about this outrage," he said, "or about any other issue, unless some of the members of President Obama’s party begin to step up and hold his feet to the fire.”

Dr. Janice Crouse, senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, said the department is on a rampage against people with biblical views.

She said: “It’s astounding to me in a world where we are fighting extremism of all sorts from terrorists around the nation — including pirates in the seas — that Homeland Security would be concerned about people who are pro-life.”  

And this video :

 

And here is FRC Action’s Tom McClusky complaining that the government is watching him instead of watching the real terrorists:

The report, which has been rightfully maligned to death on the right, was poorly written and even more poorly defended by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. While worrying about TEA party protests and pro-life veterans who supported Ron Paul for President DHS seems to have no problem (or at least they don't warrant their own separate reports) with groups and individuals who actually perform acts of terrorism. The same week the DHS report was released the FBI declared, for the first time ever, an American grown terrorist Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 31-year-old animal rights activist. Meanwhile over the weekend, in the same city that DHS is located, a group of liberal protestors caused more than $110,000 in damage to two bank branches in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. when at least 15 people dressed in black used bricks, hammers and sticks to smash windows, smearing red paint symbols that denounced the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

But I'm the one DHS deems a potential terrorist?

Of course, DHS never deemed groups like FRC potential terrorist, despite their incessant cries of victimization.  And, as a matter of fact, DHS also released a report on left-wing extremists that Greg Sargent posted several weeks ago and guess who it focused on? That’s right, radical animal rights activists and anarchists:  

It focuses on the more prominent leftwing groups within the animal rights, environmental, and anarchist extremist movements that promote or have conducted criminal or terrorist activities. This assessment is intended to alert DHS policymakers, state and local officials, and intelligence analysts monitoring the subject so they can better focus their collection requirements and analysis … Many leftwing extremists use the tactic of direct action to inflict economic damage on businesses and other targets to force the targeted organization to abandon what the extremists deem objectionable. Direct actions range from animal releases, property theft, vandalism, and cyber attacks—all of which extremists regard as nonviolent—to bombings and arson.

Never to be outdone when it comes to crying “victimization” or general right-wing lunacy, Janet Porter and a handful of allied organizations are placing an ad in various news outlets demanding Napolitano’s resignation:

The No Political Profiling Coalition (www.NoPoliticalProfiling.com) has begun placing full-page ads, the first in this week's Washington Times Weekly edition and the Times' Wednesday daily edition, demanding the removal of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for the DHS report "Rightwing Extremism."
 

"Every day Janet Napolitano remains Secretary of Homeland Security is further proof of this administration's disdain for the Constitution and willingness stigmatize its opponents to advance a partisan agenda."
 
The ad includes pictures of George Washington, Mother Teresa, Ronald Reagan and Pope Benedict XVI – all "right-wing extremists," according to Napolitano's Department of Home Land Security.
 
The ad is sponsored by a coalition of more than a dozen conservative organizations, including the American Family Association, Religious Freedom Coalition, Let Freedom Ring, United States Justice Foundation, Vision America, and Faith2Action.

Everything about this ad is either misleading or outright false, especially this claim:

Ignoring the real threats to our security from known Islamic jihad terrorist cells currently training terrorists on American soil, DHS, instead, has declared law-abiding citizens who express their First Amendment Rights as: “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States” and has initiated domestic spying on them.

Here is what the DHS report actually says:

DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.

Its not “law-abiding citizens who express their First Amendment Rights” that DHS says are  “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” its “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology.” 

How completely unhinged has the Right become when they are now paraphrasing “small terrorist cells”  to mean “law-abiding citizens” and then using that false characterization in order to play the victim?

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First Amendment Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Friday 03/25/2011, 5:30pm
PFAW asks Gingrich, Huckabee & Barbour to tell Bryan Fischer what the First Amendment really says. Glenn Beck says he’s an expert on Libya but can’t spell it. Reality TV star and Fox News commentator Sarah Palin keeps attacking the media. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League reacts to the new play “The Book of Mormon.” Peter LaBarbera uses Apple controversy to rant against “homo-fascism.” NOM rallies support for Vicky Hartzler’s gratuitous resolution on DOMA. MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 03/23/2011, 2:27pm
While the American Family Association claims that one of its founding objectives is to defend “the rights of conscience and religious liberty from infringement by government,” its chief spokesman Bryan Fischer continues to show his contempt for religious freedom. Fischer, the AFA’s Director of Issues Analysis, repeatedly demanded that the US deport all Muslims and prohibit and purge Muslims from the military, and also called for the banning and destruction of mosques. Fischer today attempted to reconcile his ardent opposition to Muslim religious liberty with the Constitution... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 03/23/2011, 11:35am
Failed Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, who lost to incumbent Lisa Murkowsi even though she wasn’t even on the ballot, has been named the chair of a right-wing political action committee. Western Representation PAC announced today that Miller is coming on as the group’s new chairman, and Miller is also set to appear at a fundraiser for the Committee to Defeat Barack Obama. The Western Representation PAC backed far-right candidates like Miller and Sharron Angle, along with other unsuccessful candidates for Congress. Currently, Miller’s group is leading a campaign called... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/22/2011, 11:08am
Rep. Randy Forbes is on a mission to pass a resolution affirming that the national motto "In God We Trust" and House Republicans are playing right along, so it is no surprise that Religious Right activists like the Family Research Council's Ken Klukowski are stepping up to make their contribution to this important effort as well: Odds are good the Founding Fathers would be astounded by the religious controversies of this past week. First, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-VA, introduced a resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as our national motto. He did so in part after... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 03/14/2011, 2:48pm
Appearing on the television program of ACT! for America, Frank Gaffney called on the US to arrest and prosecute anyone for practicing Sharia law, the legal code of Islam. Gaffney of the far-right Center for Security Policy previously suggested that President Obama is a secret Muslim and that radical Muslims are engineering a takeover of the conservative movement. The Conservative Political Action Conference refused to give Gaffney a platform “because they didn’t want to be associated with a crazy bigot,” according to a CPAC organizer. Speaking to ACT! for America’s... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/08/2011, 3:11pm
It is certainly ironic that Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber would dare to attack anyone else as a bigot, but that is exactly what he did on LC's "Faith and Freedom Radio" program today while discussing the recent Supreme Court ruling in Snyder v. Phelps. Barber insisted that while Liberty Counsel opposed the vicious bigotry espoused by Westboro Baptist and the Phelps clan, they have a First Amendment right to spew it ... as does Dan Savage, whom Barber calls the "pro-homosexual version of Fred Phelps": MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 03/04/2011, 6:42pm
Michael B. Keegan @ Huffington Post: Buy a TV Ad, Get a Tax Cut! The New Economy of Political Spending. Justin Elliott @ Salon: Palin tries to walk back First Amendment tweet. Good As You: Homosexuality = incest = mainstream media credence?! Warren Throckmorton: Bryan Fischer sees silver lining in Phelps ruling. Ryan J. Reilly @ TPM: Gaffney, Jones Fight For Soul Of Anti-Sharia Movement At Rally By White House. Jeff Spross @ Think Progress: Meet Peter King — Islamophobe. James Downie @ TNR: The Decline of Glenn Beck. MORE