FRC Falls Silent on Holsinger

As we noted a few weeks ago, whenever any of President Bush’s nominee’s come under fire for their controversial views, the Right’s primary response is to accuse those who raise such concerns of being anti-whatever-said-nominee- happens-to-be (i.e., anti-Latino, anti-woman, anti-Christian.)  

And so it is no surprise that they would use this tactic to defend Dr. James Holsinger, President Bush's nominee for surgeon general who has exhibited an open hostility to homosexuals, by claiming that he is being targeted for his religious beliefs and is somehow the victim of an unconstitutional religious test.  

In anticipation of his Senate confirmation hearing today, several right-wing groups issued press releases echoing this charge:

Americans for Truth: "Are we prepared to hang a sign on the doors of government that says, 'Christians Need Not Apply'?"

Concerned Women for America: Holsinger's nomination has become unfairly politicized due to both his medical findings on homosexual behavior and his religious beliefs …it is inappropriate and unconstitutional to subject Dr. Holsinger to a religious litmus test.

Institute for Religion and Democracy: These critics of Dr. Holsinger would seem to establish a new litmus test for public office--a test that would exclude any nominee who is an orthodox Christian with traditional beliefs about sexual ethics. This would appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the provision in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution stipulating that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

What makes Holsinger’s nomination particularly interesting is the sudden silence of the Family Research Council which, just last month, issued a prayer alert regarding his nomination:

Dr. Holsinger's credentials are impeccable. He served as Kentucky's health secretary, chancellor of the University of Kentucky's medical center, has taught at several medical schools and spent over three decades in the Army Reserve, retiring in 1993 as a major general. Holsinger is being subjected to character assassination for doing precisely what a Surgeon General should do, bring health facts to light.

* Pray that Dr. Holsinger will receive an honest and fair hearing from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Since then, FRC seems to have learned something that caused them to stop defending Holsinger. What possibly could it have been?

Tom McCluskey, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, said that Dr. Holsinger spoke to a Kentucky state legislature committee in 2002 and "testified in support of loosening regulations around cloning and embryonic-stem-cell research."

"We're not supportive of his nomination right now," Mr. McCluskey said, adding that "we've been told he's come around on the issue, but the surgeon general is such a strong bully pulpit position that we want to be sure."

So when Holsinger was claiming that homosexuality was unnatural and dangerous, FRC defended him by hailing his impeccable credentials and willingness to tell the truth. But when they found out that his views on stem-cell research might not match their own, they grew concerned that he might use his “bully pulpit” to advocate for a position at odd with theirs and suddenly his supposed impeccable credentials and willingness to tell the truth weren’t so impressive.  

Eneff is Eneff

After nine months, Janet Neff has been confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.  As we’ve chronicled here several times, Sen. Sam Brownback opposed her nomination simply because she attended the commitment ceremony of a family friend who is a lesbian back in 2002.

Over the past nine months, Brownback’s explanations as to why he was delaying her nomination, as well as the demands he made in order to let the nomination move forward, have been constantly shifting and “possibly unprecedented.”

But yesterday, with Neff scheduled to receive a vote on the Senate floor, Brownback took one last opportunity to make his opposition known: 

Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to vote against Judge Neff going onto the bench for a lifetime appointment. I have met directly with her. I have been present for two hearings where she has spoken on the controversial issue of same-sex marriage, which we all agree should be decided by legislative bodies and by the people, not by the courts. She has an activist view on this issue. She participated in a ceremony herself. Then, when asked about her view toward same-sex unions, she said she considers it a continuing legal controversy. Her words: I really don't have an understanding of it, concerning the Michigan law. In Michigan, the State has defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, both by the legislature and the people. She says it is not entirely settled. Here is an activist on a core issue, a difficult issue, one I think we all believe should be decided by legislative bodies and not by the courts. She would be one who would have a tendency to rule from the bench.

I urge my colleagues to vote against Judge Neff.

Exactly four Senators voted against Neff – all Republicans: Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Kyl (R-AZ), Martinez (R-FL).  

It is extraordinarily rare for any Republican to vote against any judicial nomination made by President Bush, especially to the lower-profile district court seats.  But apparently, for these four Republican Senators, anti-gay hostility runs deeper than the tradition of defending and supporting their own President’s judicial nominees.

Standard Operating Procedure

As we have noted repeatedly over the last several years, the Right has developed various means to defend controversial Bush administration nominations against those who raise concerns about a nominee’s views by accusing anyone who might voice such concerns of being in some way a bigot. 

As we noted recently, the Right has routinely accused those who opposed nominees such as Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owen, and Janice Rogers Brown of being, respectively, anti-Latino, anti-woman, and straight out racist. 

Perhaps the most common accusation is that those who raise concerns about a nominee’s views are motivated by anti-religious bias, which is a charge they’ve thrown around multiple times, most notably regarding opposition to William Pryor and John Roberts.  

And they are at it again, this time in defending Dr. James Holsinger, President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, who has exhibited an open hostility to homosexuals.

Paul Weyrich levels the accusation:

In spite of his qualifications, radical homosexual activists are intent on defeating his nomination, in blatant violation of Article VI of the Constitution, because of his religious beliefs

So does Al Mohler:

In other words, Dr. Holsinger's opponents are not directing their attention to his medical experience or qualifications, but to his beliefs and responsibilities as a Christian and a member of the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church.

The nomination of Dr. James Holsinger promises now to be a defining moment in American history. Will it now be necessary for a nominee to deny the teachings of his or her own church in order to be confirmed by the United States Senate?

It seems that, for the Right, any criticism of a nominee is out-of-line if the views for which the nominee is being criticized are, in some way, rooted in his or her religious faith, thereby allowing them to ignore the issue at hand, which is the nominee’s actual writings and record. 

But for some reason, the Right seems to have a different standard for Democrats and feels free to openly disparage not only their views, but their respective faiths directly.  

For example, not too long ago, the National Clergy Council openly declared that “[Sen. Barack] Obama's Christianity woefully deficient.” 

Or what about Don Feder’s recent broadside:

Democrats are to traditional religion what Islam is to tolerance.

It's not that Democrats aren't religious - rather that they practice a religion alien to both Christianity and Judaism.

Its doctrine includes support for abortion on demand, hate crimes legislation, the Kyoto Treaty, driver's licenses for illegal aliens, multiculturalism and a socialism of property and values.

Its priesthood is feminists, environmentalists, gay-activists and radical secularists, presided over by its college of cardinals --Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Maher, Barbra Streisand and Al Franken.

It calls for atonement for the sins of sexism, homophobia, the religious right, the gun lobby, pharmaceutical companies, big oil, Guantanamo, Halliburton and trans-fatty acids.

Its vision of Kingdom Come looks a lot like San Francisco on a Saturday night.

Or what about Paul Weyrich himself, who once attacked John Kerry, Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin for being “nothing but hypocrites” who were” trying to take advantage of their Catholic faith when its suits their purposes on the campaign trail, but shirking the obligations that really come with that faith” and called on the media to differentiate between “politicians [who] have taken stands in accordance with their faith and are therefore ‘observant,’ true Catholics and which ones are non-observant, only claiming to be Catholic.”

Apparently, for the Right, opposing a Bush nominee is proof of blatant religious bigotry, whereas directly denigrating the faith of Democrats is perfectly acceptable.   

Another Victory for The Velvet Mafia?

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that he would not reappoint Gen. Peter Pace to serve a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the reasoning behind the decision was relatively clear:

General Pace’s reputation has nevertheless become intertwined with the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the heavy tolls that the subsequent counter-insurgency fights have inflicted on the United States military. He has been criticized by some senior officers who saw him as too deferential to civilian leadership, in particular former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and too inattentive to the impact of prolonged war-fighting on the Army, Marines and their National Guard and Reserve elements.

The defense secretary, though, said his conversations with senior lawmakers of both parties had led him to conclude that “the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past, rather than the future” and “that there was the very real prospect the process would be quite contentious.”

A confirmation debate over the Bush administration’s handling of war in Iraq and the role Pace played in the debacle would undoubtedly have been “contentious” and so the administration decided that it would be easier to just replace Pace than to go through with such hearings.  

Case closed?  Not if your job requires that you have an almost single-minded dedication to uncovering evidence of nefarious homosexual plottings and maneuverings regarding the military:    

"General Pace made statements that were opposed by the homosexual activist community, and that issue is why the administration chose not to fight for his reconfirmation," says [Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness]. "The administration chose to switch rather than fight -- and in this case, I think that is mistaken."

Three months ago, Pace stated that he supported the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy because “homosexual acts between individuals are immoral.”   According to Donnelly, it was because of this that the Bush administration is now attempting to appease gay activists by sacrificing Pace in the middle of the war he has overseen for the last two years.  

That makes sense, because if there is one thing the Bush administration is constantly trying to avoid, it’s angering gay activists by nominating people who exhibit an open hostility to homosexuals:  

President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Kentucky cardiologist Dr. James Holsinger, has come under fire from gay-rights groups for, among other things, voting to expel a lesbian pastor from the United Methodist Church and writing in 1991 that gay sex is unnatural and unhealthy.

Also, Holsinger helped found a Methodist congregation that, according to gay-rights activists, believes homosexuality is a matter of choice and can be "cured."

As president of the Methodist Church's national Judicial Council, Holsinger voted last year to support a pastor who blocked a gay man from joining a congregation. In 2004, he voted to expel a lesbian from the clergy. The majority of the panel voted to keep the lesbian associate pastor in place, citing questions about whether she had openly declared her homosexuality, but Holsinger dissented.

Sixteen years ago, he wrote a paper for the church in which he likened the reproductive organs to male and female "pipe fittings" and argued that homosexuality is therefore biologically unnatural.

"When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur," Holsinger wrote, citing studies showing higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases among gay men and the risk of injury from anal sex.

Playing the Racist Card

Ever since the election of President Bush, Republicans and their allies on the Right have frequently dealt with opposition to his controversial judicial nominations by ignoring the arguments raised by those with legitimate concerns about a nominee’s record in favor of knocking down strawmen of their own creation.  

For instance, when People For the American Way and others voiced opposition to the confirmation of Miguel Estrada, right-wing groups like The Committee for Justice responded by claiming that such opposition was rooted in the fact that Estrada was Latino and claiming that it was an affront to Hispanic-Americans, ignoring the fact that the opposition was actually due to Estrada’s own refusal to reveal anything about his own jurisprudential views and the administration’s refusal to make his full legal record available to the Senate to review.  

Then, when progressive groups opposed the nominations of Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, the Right claimed that criticism of the nominees was both sexist and, in the case of Rogers Brown, racist – again, preferring to disregard the substantive concerns about their respective legal records.  

The Right did the exact same thing when it came to the nomination of William Pryor, ignoring serious concerns about his record that displayed a blatant hostility to reproductive choice [among other things, he called Roe vs. Wade the “worst abomination of constitutional law in our history”] and accusing those who opposed his nomination of being anti-Catholic – a tactic they trotted out again when John Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court.   

In situations where the Right couldn’t accuse a nominee’s opponents of being specifically anti-Latino, anti-Catholic, anti-woman, or straight out racist, they attempted to conflate criticism of a nominee’s legal record with false accusations that the nominee was being accused of being racist – a tactic they deployed during the fight over the nomination of Charles Pickering.  As we explained [PDF] back in 2002:

Some Pickering supporters are arguing in effect that it is impossible to criticize Judge Pickering’s public record on the principles that govern civil rights law without accusing him of being a racist.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that with a battle brewing over the nomination of Leslie Southwick to a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – not incidentally, the very same seat for which Charles Pickering and Michael Wallace were nominated, both of whom faced significant opposition due to their disturbing records on civil rights - the Right has reverted to form and begun using both of these tactics: claiming either that opponents of Southwick’s confirmation are racist or are accusing him of being a racist.   

McCain’s Continuing Struggles to Win Over the Right

US News and World Report’s Dan Gilgoff reports that two staffers hired by John McCain’s presidential campaign to make inroads with the Right have been fired and are now blasting the campaign’s “contempt for Christians”:

Two former aides hired to spearhead religious outreach for presidential candidate John McCain say that they were virtually ignored by the campaign and that McCain's top campaign strategists are intent on winning votes of religious voters without having to develop serious ties to faith communities. The aides, who were fired in early April after roughly three months on the job, said the campaign staff declined to return scores of their phone calls and E-mail messages, denied them access to leaders of the McCain campaign, and pressed them to collect church directories—a controversial tactic—as the centerpiece of a strategy to woo "values" voters.

"In the end, you came away with the strong sense that they had contempt for the faith-based community," says Marlene Elwell, one of those fired staffers. Elwell, a prominent Christian-right activist, was hired by McCain in December 2005 to be national director of his "Americans of Faith" coalition. "The way we were being treated it was as if we had leprosy."

[T]he other fired staffer, Judy Haynes—a former top Christian Coalition official hired to work under Elwell—had an assessment similar to Elwell's, saying in a separate interview that the campaign exhibited "a contempt for Christians."

Elwell and Haynes say that they were routinely denied access to McCain’s campaign manager and senior strategist and couldn’t get approval for their budgets or activities, claiming that the campaign preferred to simply try and collect church directories so that they could, in Haynes words, “rape and pillage the church [membership] lists.”

The McCain campaign, of course, denies this and claims to have regular contact with a variety of right-wing leaders:

The McCain campaign's Heckman said that, far from exhibiting hostility to religious conservatives, McCain speaks regularly with such prominent evangelical figures as former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief Richard Land, and televangelist John Hagee. Heckman, himself a veteran of Bauer's 2000 presidential campaign, also noted that McCain has hired former Christian Coalition field director Guy Rodgers to help with national religious outreach and Marlys Popma, an evangelical Christian and former head of Iowa Right to Life, as a top Iowa staffer.


Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board blasted their fellow Republicans - primarily the socially conservative right-wing ones - for undermining GOP unity with their open hostility toward Rudy Giuliani, saying that when it comes to “the politics of 2008, the last thing the GOP needs is another intramural abortion brawl.”

The WSJ even went so far as to single out the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins by name:

This is where some of Mr. Giuliani's conservative critics are also politically opportunistic, not to say cynical. "Americans do not yet realize how far outside of the mainstream of conservative thought that Mayor Giuliani's social views really are," says Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, knowing the networks will always put him on the air when he's trashing a Republican.

Well, it doesn’t look as if the WSJ’s public castigation of Perkins has had the desired effect, since he is now openly fighting back against those other sectors of the GOP that are telling him and his allies to just keep quiet and support the party:

[Supporters says that in the general election, Giuliani] could be the most electable Republican because his support of abortion rights, gun control and gay couples' civil unions could appeal to independents and moderate Republicans. Many of those voters abandoned the party in last fall's elections, believing it has become too beholden to the religious right.

At the Family Research Council, one of the most prominent Christian conservative groups, president Tony Perkins isn't buying it, saying, "It sounds as if the economic side of the family is serving us divorce papers." He says of the economic, social and national-security conservatives who are the three legs of the Republican base: "If one is missing, you have a two-legged stool. And try sitting on that."

Such conservatives bristle that party officials and pundits are patronizing them, with admonitions to stifle their moral objections in the interest of an inclusive party -- and victory in November 2008. Mr. Perkins says Christian conservatives share with "the conservative family" a belief in economic principles such as low taxes, spending and free trade -- "but we don't share them at the expense of our core social values."

And after years in which Republicans have drawn people into the party with its stands against abortion and gay marriage, "the idea that social conservatives...would all of a sudden wake up and say, 'Those things don't matter,' well, it's just not going to happen."

It should be noted that it is obviously not only “the networks” that are willing to provide a venue for Perkins’ “opportunistic” and “cynical” criticisms since this passage appeared in today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal

Easter Press Release Occasion to Invoke 'War on Christians'

In a brief press release, Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean commemorated Easter by saying, “During this time Christians are called to remember who they are as people of faith, and that even the greatest of evils will not have the last word.” He also said that “peace, redemption and renewal” is a “theme which brings hope to people of all faiths.” The latter sentiment is driving some commentators to read all kinds of meaning into the press release – Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals claims that the lack of specific use of the name of Jesus is “a sad reflection of a 'lowest common denominator' religious outreach of the Democratic party” which “will not pass the smell test of any evangelical.”

More partisan activists on the Religious Right, however, go as far as accusing Dean of heresy-by-press-release by “redefining” Easter. He’s “taking Easter and making it into a nondescript, universal, nonexclusive religious celebration for all religions,” warns Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. According to Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council, Dean’s press release proves that “the Democratic leadership is in fact secularist by philosophy and worldview” – and it’s part of a larger conspiracy against faith:

"And we see it here in Washington, where I'm located," Schenck adds, "that there is a growing hostility towards religious faith in the public arena, and this is more indication of that." Dean has attempted to redefine the meaning of Easter, the Christian spokesman contends, by "dumbing it down to a universal, New Age spirituality."

In addition to ascribing devious motives to a one-paragraph press release, Schenck also offers his discernment on Dean’s own belief:

However, since Howard Dean is not a theologian or a student of the Bible, Schenck says the politician is not in a position to redefine the meaning of Easter. In fact, after talking with Dean personally and observing him in many public settings, the National Clergy Council spokesman says he has seen nothing that would indicate the DNC chairman has any "overriding religious sensibilities."

Is Tommy Thompson The Anti-Christ?

Janet Folger, formerly the National Director of the Center for Reclaiming America and current President of Faith 2 Action, announces that she will not be voting for Tommy Thompson, primarily because he reportedly supports the use of implantable Radio Frequency Identification chips. 

And that smacks too much of the Book of Revelations for Folger’s liking:   

He wants us all to be "chipped" with Radio Frequency Identification and sits on the board of the VeriChip Corp., a company currently talking to the Pentagon about inserting the grain-sized microchip into American citizens, beginning with our soldiers.

High-tech stuff like that you can find in the book of … Revelation – written 2,000 years ago. Here's what I remember from Sunday School: In the end times, there's a one-world government and a good-looking charismatic leader who seems like a really great guy, except for the fact that he happens to be the Antichrist. He talks all about peace and requires that everyone take this mark in order to buy and sell. The upside of taking the mark: you get to buy and sell; the downside: you go to hell forever.

Folger, author of The Criminalization of Christianity, has a flair for dramatic rhetoric.  As a featured speaker at the 2006 “War on Christians” conference, she stated that Christians have the right to remain silent in the face of persecution and hostility but “if you use your right to remain silent, those are the last words you’ll hear before seeing the inside of a prison cell.” 

But even for an expert in hyperbole, Folger’s insinuation that Thompson may be the anti-Christ, or at least on of his henchmen, is pretty remarkable.

As I wrote about in my book, "The Criminalization of Christianity," a wave of an implanted hand buys you drinks in Barcelona, Spain. Now it's being used to buy groceries and clothes.

But the mark in Revelation is "required," just like in Mexico where many government workers are required to be chipped – all brought to you by Tommy Thompson's VeriChip Corp. And now it's in Ohio where workers in Cincinnati are being chipped by CityWatchers – a government video surveillance contractor. Big Brother full scale.

Now, I'm not saying that people who get "chipped" at this stage are taking the Mark of the Beast – that would take a software change. But, I can tell you that I'm not going to let anyone put anything in my hand (or forehead), period. No matter how "logical," "reasonable" or "practical," if it's inserted into the hand (or forehead) to identify, buy or sell, you can say whatever you'd like, but I'm out. I don't care if it means I can't buy anymore. I don't care if it means I can't fly anymore. I don't care if it means I die. You can make your case, but I already made that decision – when I was about 10 – before any of this technology even existed.

Not surprisingly, Folger is one Religious Right activist who won’t be turning to Thompson as an alternative to the GOP frontrunners.

If this chip is truly a pre-curser to the Mark of the Beast, it may happen soon anyway, but the way I see it, it doesn't have to happen "on our watch." And we don't have to play a role in expediting it. Just another reason why Tommy Thompson's not getting my vote.

TVC’s Religious Test

Yesterday we noted that Concerned Women for America was the first right-wing group to publicly condemn Rep. Pete Stark for admitting that he “does not believe in a Supreme Being.” 

Well, they have now been joined by the Traditional Values Coalition, who does CWA one better by not only blasting Stark, but lying about him as well:

In a display of open hostility to God, California Representative Peter Stark stood up on the Floor of the House on March 13 and declared his unbelief in God. “This is the first time in history that a sitting member of Congress has openly expressed his lack of faith in God,” said TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon. According to Stark, “When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.”

Christian Seniors Association Executive Director James Lafferty notes: “It is sad but not surprising that the current Congress has produced this historic first – one of its members has denied God. The liberals in Congress want to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer but they want to establish a right for liberals to bash Christians and berate God around the clock.”

Lafferty continued, “Congressman Stark’s statement is a very sad benchmark for America. It could be the moment which defines the decline of our country or it could be the spark which marks an important day. That would be the day that religious Americans stood-up to the liberal bullies who are so determined to use the power of government to silence prayer and every other religious expression of free speech.”

Of course, only in TVC’s fevered imaginations did Stark ever “[stand] up on the Floor of the House on March 13 and declared his unbelief in God.” 

In actuality, Stark merely did exactly what TVC quotes him saying above: he responded to an inquiry from the Secular Coalition for America. Since then, he has declined to comment further.   

That statement TVC quotes above was sent out by email by Stark’s office, not delivered on the House floor.

Elsewhere, the Christian Seniors Association, a TVC front group run by Sheldon’s son-in-law, issued its own press statement calling on members of Congress to fight back against Stark’s atheism:

It is time for religious members of Congress to push back.  A simple declaration of a belief in God by members of Congress on the House floor will be greatly informative for the American people.

This is a fight which is destined to be fought in America and we think it should begin today.

Apparently, a simple declaration of nonbelief is enough to incite TVC and its proxies to launch an all-out religious war.  

Worse Than Falwell

Not long ago, Dinesh D'Souza took to the pages of The Washington Post to defend his new book, "The Enemy at Home," from the savaging it is receiving in the press. In his Post piece, D’Souza claimed that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda attacked the US on September 11th for reasons that had nothing to do with US foreign policy, in spite of evidence to the contrary in bin Laden’s own words.  In D’Souza’s view, at least as expressed in his Post column, what really angered bin Laden and other radical Muslims was the fact that “Islam is under attack from the global forces of atheism and immorality -- and that the United States is leading that attack”:

It's more likely that they would do it if they feared their values and way of life were threatened. Even as the cultural left accuses Bush of imperialism in invading Iraq, it deflects attention from its own cultural imperialism aimed at secularizing Muslim society and undermining its patriarchal and traditional values. The liberal "solution" to Islamic fundamentalism is itself a source of Islamic hostility to America.

D’Souza insists that his argument “has nothing to do with [Jerry] Falwell's suggestion that 9/11 was God's judgment on the ACLU and the feminists for their sins”:  

And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

In fact, there is a key difference between Falwell’s and D’Souza’s claims - whereas Falwell merely said of 9/11 that the Left “helped this happen,” D’Souza eschewed claims of secondary responsibility and blamed the “cultural left” directly, stating explicitly in the Post that he does not “believe that the 9/11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy.”

Remarkably, just a week later, in a column published on TownHall, he appears to have changed his tune and now says that it was actually President Clinton’s “cowardly and weak” foreign policy that gave them “the confidence and the opportunity to strike”:

The conclusion seems unavoidable. The Islamic radicals made the decision to attack America on 9/11 because they decided that America was cowardly and weak. They came to this conclusion largely as a result of the actions—and inaction—of the Clinton administration and its allies on the left. What could have been done to get rid of Bin Laden and avert 9/11 was not done. In this sense liberal foreign policy gave radical Muslims the confidence and the opportunity to strike, and they did.

So, which is it Dinesh? Is 9/11 the fault of the “cultural left” for undermining traditional Muslim society? Or President Clinton for being too “cowardly and weak” to protect this country? The shifting sands of D’Souza’s “scholarship” may explain why he felt compelled to write in the Post, “I am not…an unqualified right-wing hack.”

Anti-Immigration Virginia Congressman Joins Campaign against Muslim Rep (Updated)

Rep. Virgil Goode, Jr. (R-Virginia), in a letter to constituents obtained by a Charlottesville newspaper, joined a right-wing attack on an incoming Muslim congressman, and linked the presence of the Koran in Congress to a supposed need for draconian immigration laws to stop the influx of Muslim congressmen streaming across the border. "[I]f American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," wrote Goode.

When right-wing columnist and radio host Dennis Prager lashed out against incoming Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) for “announc[ing] that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran,” he created a small firestorm. Wrote Prager late last month:

He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

He added, “If you are incapable of taking an oath on [the Christian Bible], don't serve in Congress."

Not least among the criticisms were (1) that the Constitution specifically prohibits any religious test for office, and (2) that members of Congress do not take their oaths of office on the Bible at all. Instead, they raise their right hands as a group, and then pose for pictures after the fact.

However, Prager stood by his ridiculous attack, and a few right-wing figures came out of the woodwork to support him. WorldNetDaily wove a complicated conspiracy attempting to link Ellison to international terrorists, and Roy Moore – the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from office for refusing to relinquish a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from his court – argued that Islam “rejects our God” and is “simply incompatible with our law.” William Donohue of the Catholic League and Don Feder, under the auspices of his obscure group “Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation,” issued a joint statement calling critics of Prager “scurrilous” and repeating the false factual claim that all congressmen historically swear an oath on the Christian Bible. Feder went further, writing, “It’s no coincidence that most terrorists on four continents are Muslims. Nor is it a coincidence that those who are killing U.S. servicemen in Iraq do so in the name of the bible of Islam. And it isn't by chance that Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Hezbollah and Imanutjob in Iran all cite the Koran as the source of their lunacy.” Feder added that he would rather Ellison swear on “The Pop-Up Kama Sutra.”

Virgil GoodeNow, at least one fellow congressman is joining this quixotic right-wing campaign against Ellison and the U.S. Constitution. Goode, a Republican representing the southside of Virginia, wrote his letter in response to constituents complaining about Ellison. One accidental recipient forwarded it to an alternative newspaper in Charlottesville. In it, he connects the anti-Islam message of the Right to the anti-immigrant positions that he has made his political hallmark:

Dear Mr. Cruickshank:

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 East Court Street
Suite 215
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

UPDATE 12/21:

Tell Goode to apologize!  A spokesman for Goode says that the congressman “stands by the letter” and refuses to apologize for the letter he wrote to constituents despite universal condemnation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Virginia Muslim PAC, James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, the ACLU, and at least one Democratic congressman. A spokesman for incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called the remarks “offensive.”

Goode has made illegal immigration a primary target of his congressional career – introducing a bill to build a fence along the US-Mexico border and pushing to make English the official language of the US. 

Representative Ellison has the right idea about what it means to be an American - telling Rep Goode that he has “nothing to fear” because “the fact that there are many different faiths, many different colors and many different cultures in America is a great strength.” 

You can call Goode’s office at (202) 225-4711 and ask that he apologize for his intolerant and divisive comments about Muslims and immigrants. (Let us know how your call went here.)

Sen. Brownback Goes to Prison

Fresh off of announcing the formation of his exploratory committee as he considers running for president, Sen. Sam Brownback spent a night at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in order highlight what the Right sees as the success of religious-based prison fellowship ministries at reducing violence and recidivism:


Sen. Sam Brownback took his budding presidential campaign to prison this weekend, spent a restless night among inmates and pressed his message that faith can work even to improve the lives of hardened criminals.

... His mission at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, rather, was to promote religious-based prison efforts to curtail violence and provide inmates with an alternative to crime once -- or if -- they got out.

Burl Cain, the prison's warden since 1995, attributed a drop in violence at the prison to Angola's commitment to ''moral rehabilitation'' programs. The prison has six interfaith chapels, nightly prayer services, four part-time chaplains and a ''Bible college'' that has trained dozens of inmates to be ministers.

Brownback, 50, said programs such as Angola's can ''break the cycle'' that sends two-thirds of inmates back to prison after they are released.

''We don't want to build more prisons in the country,'' he said. ''We don't want to lock people up. We want people to be good, productive citizens.''

As luck would have it, at the same time as Brownback was engaged in this stunt, the New York Times was taking a look at these sorts of programs and noting that more than a dozen have been ruled unconstitutional since 2000:

Brownback's Double Standard

We have been following Sen. Sam Brownback’s on-going hold of Janet Neff’s nomination to serve on the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan because Brownback is concerned that Neff attended a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple back in 2002.  

Brownback is stalling her nomination simply because she attended a commitment ceremony in her personal capacity, but now said that he will consider lifting his hold on her nomination – but only if she agrees to recuse herself from any case that deals with the issue of same-sex unions

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a potential presidential candidate, said Friday he would lift his hold on a federal judicial nominee if she agrees to step aside from any case dealing with same-sex unions.

Brownback, a Republican raising money for a possible White House bid, has stalled the confirmation of Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet Neff to the federal bench because she once attended a lesbian commitment ceremony.

Neff has said she attended the ceremony as a friend of one of the two women, a longtime neighbor. She insisted in an Oct. 12 letter to Brownback that the ceremony had no legal effect and would not affect her ability to act fairly as a federal judge.

Brownback, a prominent gay marriage opponent, says he is concerned the incident colors her legal view on the constitutionality of allowing same-sex marriages.

It should be noted that Brownback voted to confirm William Pryor to a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals despite Pryor’s open hostility to Supreme Court precedent and his extremist views on church-state separation, gay rights, and other matters

During an April 1997 rally, Pryor decried the decades-old precedent of Roe. He said, “I will never forget January 22, 1973, the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution…” In a survey of state attorneys general on the issue, Pryor said, “Abortion is murder and Roe v. Wade is an abominable decision.” Pryor opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

One of Pryor’s most memorable efforts to move the law closer to his ideology is seen through Alabama Justice Roy Moore’s crusade to defy a federal court order and display the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and on other state property. Moore parlayed his refusal to remove such a display, even after a court ordered him to do so, into a successful campaign for the state’s top judgeship. There, he again displayed his Ten Commandments, this time on a granite monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery.

William Pryor has backed Judge Moore, even though the judge’s actions plainly violate the Constitution’s requirement of the separation of church and state.

… Speaking at a rally in support of Judge Moore in 1997, Pryor said, “God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians…to save our country and save our courts.”

Brownback made no such demands that Pryor recuse himself from any case involving the Ten Commandments or reproductive choice, even though there was no doubt about Pryor’s views on the issues and how he would rule in such cases – yet, Brownback is now demanding that Neff agree to recuse herself from any case involving the issue of same-sex unions merely because she attended a commitment ceremony.  

Right Warms up for 'War on Christmas' Boycotts

AFA attacks Gap; Liberty Counsel eyes Lowe’s and Best Buy. Also: Right-wing legal groups mobilize against supposed “hostility.”

Exposing the ADF

The Washington Post takes a good look at the Right’s answer to the ACLU: the Alliance Defense Fund

Considering itself the antithesis of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Scottsdale-based organization has used money and moxie to become the leading player in a movement to tug the nation to the right by challenging decades of legal precedent. By stepping into the nation's most impassioned debates about religion in the public sphere, the group aims to bring law and society into alignment with conservative Christianity.

The ADF underwrites legal fights and increasingly handles litigation itself. Groups receiving significant funding include the American Center for Law & Justice, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, and Liberty Counsel, backed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The ADF was founded by the likes of D. James Kennedy of the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ and James Dobson of Focus on the Family and today the organization is continually fighting what it perceives as “hostility to Christian thought” – and it is training future generations of lawyers to carry on the fight

To change the equation, the alliance hired Reagan-era prosecutor Alan Sears. He later brought in corporate lawyer Jeffery Ventrella. Mostly under Ventrella's watch, the ADF has schooled more than 800 outside lawyers, each promising to donate 450 hours to the cause.

Ventrella runs an annual summer seminar, which this year brought 100 law students to Scottsdale. The idea, according to ADF documents, is to train them in "a distinctly Christian worldview of law" before they head to clerkships and other influential posts, "perhaps even Supreme Court justices."

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Hostility Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 09/02/2010, 11:45am
Rick Joyner of Morning Star Ministries and The Oak Initiative just cannot decide if President Obama is a Christian or a Muslim.  On the one hand, Joyner says, Obama has a dog and hosts barbeques at the White House which are "things that no devout Muslim would do."  But then, on the other hand, maybe Obama is just following the "teachings in the Koran that allow for any Muslim to break the laws of Islam in order to deceive their enemies until they have gained an advantage over them." So you can see why Joyner is just so confused ... and especially concerned that... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 08/27/2010, 3:42pm
Earlier this month, just as the right-wing anti-mosque hysteria was getting whipped up, Focus on the Family posted a video in which Stuart Shepard and Bruce Hausknecht complained about how municipalities were discriminating against churches using zoning laws: Shepard: What does this tell us about the state of religious freedom in the United States? Hausknecht: Well, we're seeing first a hostility toward religion. You would think in this day and age of tolerance that there would be tolerance for religious views, religious people. There is not. We're seeing it in the zoning cases, we're seeing... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 08/05/2010, 11:11am
Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission responds to the Prop 8 ruling by asserting that Judge Vaughn Walker is gay, therefore his mind is utterly warped and he is unable to reason clearly, so of course he ruled against traditional marriage ... oh, and now sodomites are going to surround your house and demand to rape your children: Let’s not be shocked that Judge Walker cannot comprehend the self-evident rational basis for prohibiting homosexual marriage, after all, he is a practicing homosexual. The Bible plainly tells us that once a person has seared his conscience to... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 08/04/2010, 4:06pm
While some Religious Right groups have made it very clear that they oppose the construction of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero in New York City despite their so-called commitments to religious freedom, other groups have remained rather silent.  As far as I can tell, the only comment the Family Research Council has made on this issue came in the form of this radio commentary back in June: Muslims are gaining ground all right--Ground Zero. Hello, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Nine years after terrorists forever altered the New York City... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 07/26/2010, 11:11am
Last week we noted that a Tea Party rally scheduled for this weekend in Massachusetts collapsed after several speakers dropped out due to MassResistance's Brian Camenker scheduled participation. Needless to say, Camenker is absolutely outraged, noting that he has been a speaker at several Tea Parties rallies before and was even invited "to an exclusive Tea Party breakfast with Sen. Scott Brown." Camenker partially blames the Southern Poverty Law Center's designation of MassResistance as a hate group for the debacle, but reserves most of the blame for Christen Varley, a rival Tea... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 07/22/2010, 3:34pm
It seems that Peter LaBarbera is rather upset with me for saying that his upcoming "truth academy" was going to be "the gay-hatingest thing you have ever seen": Oftentimes when activists on the Left have no evidence that something they disagree with is actually ”hateful,” they just label as such anyway, and then repeat themselves ad nauseam so that we’ll all get the message that said conservative activity is, well, “hateful.” Here is People for the American Way (PFAW) “Senior Fellow” Kyle Mantyla’s trenchant analysis of... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/07/2010, 3:55pm
Every once in a while we get an insight into the rather unique views that drive the Religious Right agenda and realize that they tend to inhabit a world of their own. Take, for instance, this brief filed by the Liberty Institute on behalf to James Dobson, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family Action, Liberty Counsel and nearly thirty other Religious Right groups in support of the National Day of Prayer in the case of Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Obama. The Religious Right has been up-in-arms for months ever since a judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer was... MORE