Religious Freedom

Rep. Ted Poe: Obama Administration Is "Anti-Religious"

Speaking with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Washington Watch last week, Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe accused President Obama and his administration of promoting policies that are “anti-religious.” Poe and Perkins were discussing with the manufactured controversy over a Texas veteran’s cemetery that prohibits a volunteer group from holding religious services at a funeral if the family does not request it. The New York Times points out that this rule was created in 2007 by the Bush administration, but according to Poe, the policy is actually all Obama’s fault.

As Kyle noted, “To the Religious Right, preventing outside groups from attending funerals and offering prayers at services where they are not wanted or requested is a violation of the religious freedom of the volunteers.” Last month, Poe attacked the cemetery director as “anti-Christian, anti-religion and anti-veteran” and introduced legislation that he said would end the supposed “religious censorship.”

In his conversation with Poe last week, Perkins claimed that “this is symptomatic of a much larger problem that we’re seeing in this administration where this type of hostility, I would describe it as, toward traditional, orthodox religious views is being unleashed.” Poe said that he agreed with Perkins’ assessment and went on to blame the Obama administration for having an “anti-religious” bias.

Perkins: This is symptomatic of a much larger problem that we’re seeing in this administration where this type of hostility, I would describe it as, toward traditional, orthodox religious views is being unleashed. We won this battle but the war is far from over, so you’ve got legislation that will say, ‘hey, nowhere in this country will veterans be denied their rights nor their families to the right to these religious services in federal cemeteries,’ so where does that legislation stand?

Poe: The legislation has been filed and it is before the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives. As soon as they get a hearing we’ll get it to the floor as soon as we can and get a vote on it, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t pass. What you say Tony is exactly correct. It is my opinion that the administration—this problem is systematic throughout the administration in areas that it’s just almost anti-religious, non-religious and anti-religious in areas such as this. We’re calling them out on this to stop this nonsense.

Thomasson Warns Of "Very Dangerous" Queer Studies "Infection"

Randy Thomasson of Save California joined Janet Mefferd on Friday to discuss the Queer Studies minor at Cal State Fullerton, and the anti-gay activist called the program an “oxymoron.” According to Thomasson, a sincere academic discussion of the LGBT community would show that no one is born gay and that people can simply change their sexual orientation and become ex-gays, “but they are dishonest so they are indoctrinating college students to think that homosexuality, bisexuality and transexuality is good and natural, maybe even for them.” He went on to warn that the minor could spread like an “infection” through academia and will be “training up an army to become intolerant activists” who will work to undermine and extinguish “free speech” and “religious freedom.”

Listen:

Mefferd: So we discovered recently Cal State Fullerton recently became the fourth Cal State to create a Queer Studies minor. It’s an interdisciplinary concentration that pulls courses from a variety of fields. Program coordinators say the minor focuses on norms and how they’ve changed over time and throughout different cultures, but they do acknowledge also that non-normative sexualities are a large part of the curriculum. Here with us for some reaction is Randy Thomasson, he’s president of SaveCalifornia.com. I didn’t know we had to study norms Randy, I thought norms were just something we all understood, I guess I’m just behind the times here.

Thomasson: No you’re not, they say they can call themselves queer but you and I can’t; it’s amazing.

Mefferd: What do you think about this new program? Obviously it’s not the first college to do this and I know there are lots of lgbt programs all over the place. Queer Studies, what do you make of that?

Thomasson: It’s an oxymoron, it should be called the promotion of homosexuality, bisexuality, transexuality. They’re not studying it, if they studied whether it was normal or not they’d have to hold a news conference or tell all the students, you know what, ‘there’s no “gay gene,” we’ve never found it, nobody has found it, Hamer didn’t find it, LeVay didn’t find it, we have noted there are thousands and thousands of former homosexuals and they’ve got families to prove it, they’ve got testimonies to prove it, we’ve seen that a huge amount of those of us in this lifestyle were sexually molested or had very bad relationships with our fathers or our mothers, and we see that this is something that can be changed, certainly with bisexuality. We acknowledge that transexuality, cross-dressing is not normal, cutting off healthy body parts is not natural, it takes a scalpel, and we have no evidence at all that this is a natural thing that people are born homosexual actually and it is a behavior. So we have to announce that as the findings of our study.’

If they were honest, that’s what they would do, but they are dishonest so they are indoctrinating college students to think that homosexuality, bisexuality and transexuality is good and natural, maybe even for them, but more so because the students that are interested in this are already relativistic because of the government school mentality they’ve been in through kindergarten through twelfth grade, probably. They are sitting ducks to become activists. So this is training up an army to become intolerant activists who want to trample parental rights, religious freedom, marriage, the Boy Scouts, property rights, business rights, medical doctorate rights, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, free speech, religious freedom. This is very dangerous, it is on several campuses in California, and yes I do believe that this is a wave. Because what do we have on most college campuses? Liberal administrators who allow this, so this is a fertile bed for an infection of Queer Studies that will not be studying anything that’s true but will be promoting a lie.

Right Wing Author Claims Seth MacFarlane ‚"Hates" God

Washington Times columnist Marybeth Hicks appeared on Eagle Forum Live on Tuesday to promote her new book Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left's Assault on Our Families, Faith, and Freedom, which is about how progressives are using media and schools to literally “brainwash our kids.” Speaking with host Bill Borst, Hicks criticized the media and the show “Glee” for supposedly negatively portraying Christians.

But Hicks reserved her harshest attacks for “Family Guy” and its creator Seth MacFarlane. Hicks said that MacFarlane, a People For the American Way board member, put God and Jesus “in blasphemous humor situations” and said that she thinks MacFarlane “does believe in God but he hates him”:

Borst: Do you think part of this problem is because they’ve chased God out of our curriculum? They’ve chased him out of our society and in the naked marketplace now?

Hicks: That’s a big chapter in the book, ‘The Left’s Assault Against God,’ and the fight to keep our kids from understanding that first of all the purpose of this nation in large measure is for religious freedom, not to be free of religion, and so that’s a message that they’re trying to hammer home to kids. And here’s how it’s working and this is kind of my point is that all the points of entry into the hearts and minds of our children are really working so strong to send that message. So for example, kids who watch shows on TV like Glee for example, the show Glee that popular show about, you know, the glee club in the school and what not, and on that show there’s a Christian character but she’s often the judgmental, mean one who cuts people off emotionally. Then there’s this show Family Guy, big popular cartoon show, supposed to be an adult cartoon but millions and millions of kids watch the show, and on that show God and Jesus are recurring characters that are put in blasphemous humor situations, God is put in sexual situations. And the creator of that show Seth MacFarlane is not just an atheist he’s an anti-theist and he has said so very openly in media interviews and such. I think he does believe in God but he hates him.

While Condemning Religious Bigotry, Romney Aligns Himself With Anti-Muslim Activists

This morning on the Today Show Mitt Romney and Chris Christie repeated their call for Rick Perry to disassociate himself from pastor Robert Jeffress because of the pastor’s denigration of Romney’s Mormon faith. Yesterday, Christie even compared Jeffress to “those folks in New Jersey who disparaged in both parties my decision to appoint a Muslim judge” and said that any “campaign that associates itself with that type of comment is beneath the office of President of the United States, in my view.”

Ironically, one of the people who slammed Christie over his criticism of anti-Muslim activists is Jay Sekulow, who endorsed and introduced Romney at the Values Voter Summit last week and in 2008 was a member of Romney’s “National Faith and Values Steering Committee.”

In fact, Sekulow and his organization, the American Center for Law and Justice, which was founded by Pat Robertson, tried to prevent American Muslims from exercising their First Amendment rights by suing to block the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan and also issued a pamphlet which claims that Sharia law is on the brink of eclipsing the U.S. Constitution that “devout Muslims cannot truthfully swear the oath to become citizens of the United States of America.” Tim Murphy pointed out the irony in Romney condemning anti-Muslim bigot Bryan Fischer while praising Sekulow, and People For the American Way urged Romney to disavow Sekulow in the same way he has urged Perry to “repudiate” Jeffress:

“Mitt Romney is right to criticize his rivals for silently standing by and accepting bigotry,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Now it is time for him to apply those standards to his own campaign. The truly courageous position for Romney to take would be to stand up against religious bigotry of all stripes – including the GOP’s increasingly prevalent scapegoating of American Muslims.

“Romney endorser Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice has suggested that devout Muslims cannot become true citizens of the United States. Sekulow himself has perpetuated the debunked claim that the Constitution is under a threat from Sharia law and was a leader of the extremist backlash against the building of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, including overseeing the ACLJ’s lawsuit attempting to stop the community center’s construction.

“Last weekend, Mitt Romney called Sekulow a ‘treasure.’ If Romney wishes to show that he is a true champion of the American values of religious freedom and tolerance, he must apply the same standard to his own endorsers as he does to those of Rick Perry.”

But Sekulow isn’t the only anti-Muslim activist in the Romney camp.

Walid Phares was recently named a foreign policy adviser to Romney. As the Council on American Islamic Relations pointed out in a letter [pdf] to Rep. Peter King, Phares has close ties to a Lebanese militiamen and even served as an official in a militia that was “implicated, by Israel’s official Kahan inquiry and other sources, in the 1982 massacre of civilian men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.”

Phares also claims [pdf] that “jihadists within the West pose as civil rights advocates, interested solely in the ‘rights’ of their immigrant communities” in order for their “institutions [to] fall into their hands,” and warns of the “spread of Wahhabism” through Muslim infiltration of “the U.S. armed forces and ultimately even into the Pentagon.”

While Romney was willing to call out Jeffress and Fischer over their intolerant rhetoric, it is uncertain if he will apply that standard to his own campaign.

Values Voter Summit 2011 & America in 2013

As RWW readers know, the Values Voter Summit, the year’s biggest political gathering for the Religious Right, took place in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.  Every Republican presidential candidate with the exception of Jon Huntsman addressed the summit, evidence of the continuing importance of Religious Right activists and political groups to the GOP. Polls suggest that the Religious Right is about twice as big as the Tea Party, with significant overlap between the two movements. Ron Paul’s campaign packed in enough voters to win the straw poll, but it would be wrong to say he was the favorite of the Values Voter crowd. It was up-and-coming candidate Herman Cain who won the loudest cheers (and took second place).

The two days of speeches from presidential candidates, congressional leaders, and Religious Right activists painted a clear picture of where they’ll try to take the country if they are successful in their 2012 electoral goals.  In their America, banks and corporations would be free from pesky consumer and worker protections; there would be no Environmental Protection Agency and no federal support for education; women would have no access to abortion; gays would be second-class citizens; and for at least some of them, religious minorities would have to know their place and be grateful that they are tolerated in this Christian nation. 
 
Here’s a recap of some major themes from the conference.
 
Religious Bigotry on Parade
 
In one of the most extreme expressions of the “Christian nation” approach to government, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has stated repeatedly that the religious liberty of non-Christians is not protected by the First Amendment.  More specifically, he says Mormons are not protected by the First Amendment.  For whatever reason, VVS organizers scheduled Romney and Fischer back-to-back on Saturday morning. 
 
Before the conference, People For the American Way called on Romney to take on Fischer’s bigotry, which he did, albeit in a vague and tepid manner, criticizing “poisonous” rhetoric without naming Fischer or explaining why his views are poison.  Getting greater media attention were comments by Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, who in his introduction of Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted on the importance of electing a “genuine” follower of Christ. Reporters who accurately saw this as a swipe at Romney’s faith asked Jeffress about it, and he labeled Mormonism a cult.  (Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many Christians, including Southern Baptists, believe Mormon theology is anything but.)  Following Romney at the microphone, Fischer doubled down, insisting that the next president has to be a Christian “in the mold of” the founding fathers.  Fischer’s inaccurate sense of history is eclipsed only by his lack of respect for church-state separation and for the Constitution itself – even though he insisted that his religious test for the presidency was really a “political test.” Romney took only four percent in the VVS straw poll, even though he has been leading in recent polls of GOP voters.
 
Beating up on Obama
 
Religious Right leaders routinely denounce President Barack Obama, so it is no surprise that a major theme of the VVS was attacking the president and his policies.  Perhaps the nicest thing anyone said about the president was Mitt Romney’s snide remark that Obama is “the conservative movement’s top recruiter.”    Among the nastiest came from virtue-monger Bill Bennett, who said, “if you voted for him last time to prove you are not a racist, you must vote against him this time to prove you are not an idiot.” Rep. Anne Buerkle, one of the Tea Party freshmen, said flat out that the president is not concerned about what is best for the country. 
 
Health care and foreign policy were top policy targets.  Many speakers denounced “Obamacare,” and most of the presidential candidates promised to make dismantling health care reform a top priority. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Religious Right favorite who is leading a legal challenge to the health care reform law, said that if the Supreme Court did not overturn it, Americans would go from being citizens to subjects.  Just about every speaker attacked President Obama for not being strong enough in support of Israel, and repeated a favorite right-wing talking point by pledging to “never apologize” for U.S. actions abroad.
 
Gays as Enemies of Liberty
 
It is clear that a Republican takeover of the Senate and White House would put advances toward equality for LGBT Americans in peril.  Speaker after speaker denounced the recent repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers in the armed forces; many also attacked marriage equality for same-sex couples.  And many portrayed liberty as a zero-sum game, insisting that advances toward equality posed a dire threat to religious liberty. Rep. Mike Pompeo said “You cannot use our military to promote social ideals that do not reflect the values of our nation,” concluding his remarks with a call for the election of more Republicans, saying “ride to the sounds of the guns and send us more troops.”
Another member of the 2010 freshman class – Rep. Vicky Hartzler – attacked the Obama administration for “trying to use the military to advance their social agenda,” saying, “It’s wrong and it must be stopped.” Predictably, the AFA’s Fischer was the most vitriolic and insisted that the country needs a president “who will treat homosexual behavior not as a political cause at all but as a threat to public health.”
 
Loving Wall Street, Hating Wall Street Protesters
 
On the same day that moving pictures of Kol Nidre services at the site of Occupy Wall Street protests made the rounds on the Internet, Values Voter Summit speakers portrayed the protests as dangerous and violent.  Others simply mocked the protesters without taking seriously the objections being raised to growing inequality and economic hardship in America.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor denounced the “growing mobs” associated with the protests and decried “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” (Too bad he didn’t stick around to hear the rest of the speakers).  Glenn Beck denounced “Jon Stewart Marxism” and warned that the protests were the sign of an approaching “storm of biblical proportions” in which “the violent left” would smash, tear down, kill, bankrupt, and destroy.  Pundit Laura Ingraham simply made fun of the protesters and held up her own “hug the rich” sign.  Rising star Herman Cain defended Wall Street, blaming the nation’s economic crisis on policymakers, not reckless and irresponsible financiers.  Nobody wanted to regulate the financiers; speakers called for a repeal of the Dodd-Frank law. 
 
A number of speakers promoted Christian Reconstructionist notions of “Biblical economics,” with Star Parker declaring that “this whole notion of redistribution of wealth is inconsistent with scripture” and calling for the selection of a candidate with commitment to the free market according to the Bible.  Ron Paul also insisted “debt is not a political principle.”  The AFA’s Bryan Fischer said that liberalism is based on violating two of the Ten Commandments, namely thou shall not steal, and thou shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.  Liberalism, he said, is “driven by angry, bitter, acquisitive greed for the wealth of productive Americans.” 
 
No Love for Libertarians
 
A major theme at last year’s Values Voter Summit, as at other recent Religious Right political events, was an effort to make social-issue libertarians unwelcome in the conservative movement by insisting that you cannot legitimately claim to be a fiscal conservative if you are not also pushing “traditional family values.”  The same theme was sounded this year by the very first speaker, Tony Perkins.  Another, Joe Carter, took a shot at gay conservatives, saying it was not possible to be conservative and for gay marriage – it simply made you a “liberal who likes tax cuts.”  Carter said “social conservative” should be redundant. Ingraham echoed the theme, calling for an end to conservative modifiers (social, fiscal, national security) and, echoing popular Christian writer C.S. Lewis, called for a commitment to “mere conservatism.”  There were far fewer mentions of the Tea Party movement itself at this year’s VVS, perhaps owing to the movement’s unpopularity – or to the fact that the GOP itself has essentially become one big Tea Party party.
 
Crying Wolf on Religious Persecution
 
Religious Right leaders routinely energize movement activists with dire warnings about threats to religious liberty and the alleged religious persecution of Christians in America.  William Bennett said liberals are bigoted against “people who publicly love their God, who publicly love their country.”  Retired Gen. William Boykin said Christians are facing the greatest persecution ever in America.   The American Center for Law & Justice’s Jay Sekulow warned that the next president will probably select two Supreme Court justices, and that if it isn’t a conservative president, our Judeo-Christian values could be “eliminated.”  Crying wolf about persecution of Christians in America is offensive given the very real suffering of people in countries that do not enjoy religious freedom.  Several speakers addressed the case of a Christian pastor facing death in Iran.  That is persecution; having your political tactics challenged or losing a court case is not.
 
America is Exceptional; Europe Sucks
 
Republican strategists decided a couple of years ago that “American exceptionalism” would be a campaign theme in 2010 and 2012, and we heard plenty of talk about it at the Values Voter Summit.  Among the many who spoke about American exceptionalism was Rep. Steve King, who said “this country was ordained and built by His hand,” that the Declaration of Independence was written with divine guidance, and that God moved the founding fathers around the globe like chess pieces .  Liberals, said the Heritage Foundation’s Matthew Spalding, don’t share a belief in American exceptionalism or the American dream. Many speakers contrasted a freedom-loving, God-fearing America to socialist, post-Christian Europe.  Rick Perry said “those in the White House” don’t believe in American exceptionalism; they’d rather emulate the failed policies of Europe.  Gen. Boykin declared Europe “hopelessly lost.”
 
Smashing the Regulatory State
 
The anti-government, anti-regulatory fervor of billionaire right-wing funders like the Koch brothers was on vibrant display at the VVS.  Without the slightest nod to the fact that regulating the behavior of corporations’ treatment of workers, consumers, and the environment is in any way beneficial, a member of a Heritage Foundation panel said conservatives’ goal should be to “break the back” of the “regulatory state.”  Some presidential candidates vowed to halt every regulation issued during the Obama administration.  Michele Bachmann said her goal was to “dismantle” the bureaucracy.
 
Judging Judges
 
Many speakers criticized judges for upholding abortion rights, church-state separation, and gay rights. Newt Gingrich took these attacks to a whole new level, calling for right-wing politicians to provoke a  constitutional crisis in which the legislative and executive branch would ignore court rulings they didn’t like.  He called the notion of “judicial supremacy” an “affront to the American system of self-government.” Aside from Gingrich’s very dubious constitutional theory, the speech seemed out of place at a conference in which speakers had been calling for the Supreme Court to overturn the health care law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.
 
Deconstructing the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’
 
VVS speakers love quoting the Declaration of Independence, but some are clearly a little troubled with the notion that the “pursuit of happiness” is an inalienable right, one that might apply, for example, to happy, loving gay couples.  Rick Santorum said that the founders’ understanding of “happiness” meant “the morally right thing” and doing what God wants.  Steve King said the  pursuit of happiness was not like a tailgate party, but the pursuit of excellence in moral and spiritual development.  Michele Bachman has equated the pursuit of happiness with private property.
 
Notably weird speeches
 
Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel gave a meandering address that moved from U.S. policy on Israel to the war on Islamic radicalism to an attack on the United Nations to denunciations of sexologist Alfred Kinsey and humanist/educator John Dewey for undermining western civilization. He warned against conservatives using rhetoric that might push the growing Latino population into the maw of the “leftist machine,” making an aside about Latinos whose names end in “z” having a special connection to Israel.
 
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who ended up taking third place in the straw poll, seemed personally hurt that conservative evangelicals weren’t rallying around him given all that he had done for them and the price he had paid for it.  He whined, “Don’t you want a president who’s comfortable in his shoes talking about these issues?”
 
Rep. Steve King of Iowa said that people who support marriage equality or legal abortion don’t do so because they have a value system supporting those things, but because they want to spite the Religious Right – “because they know it’s precious to us.”
 
Former Fox TV personality Glenn Beck gave a trademark lurching speech contrasting visceral anger with his recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none.” The speech was long on mockery of Wall Street protestors and on the messianic narcissism that was on display at his Lincoln Memorial rally last year.  “We need to give America the same choice” that Moses gave Israel, he said: good or evil, light or dark, life or death, freedom or slavery.  He said America is in a religious war, a race war, a class war, and other wars.  In one breath he insisted that the nation “must return to God” and talked about the “country’s salvation” – and in the next he denounced the notion of “collective salvation,” which he has elsewhere attributed to President Obama and denounced as evil and satanic.
 

Staver: Gay Rights Will Destroy Western Civilization

While speaking on the American Family Association's American Family Radio about his upcoming appearance at the Values Voter Summit, where he will be introducing Rick Santorum, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said that gay rights and marriage equality is one of the gravest threats to the future of Western civilization and freedom itself.

Watch:

Staver: We are facing the survival of western values, western civilization. And I think those survival, whether they win or lose, what will the future of America be will be determined in our lifetime.... One of the most significant threats to our freedom is in the area of sexual anarchy with the agenda of the homosexual movement, the so-called LGBT movement. It does several things, first of all it undermines family and the very first building block of our society, but secondly, it's a zero sum game as well and it's a direct assault on our religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Who’s Who at the Values Voter Summit 2011

This weekend, nearly every major GOP presidential candidate, along with the top two Republicans in the House of Representatives, will speak at the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of the leaders of the movement to integrate fundamentalist Christianity and American politics.

The candidates – Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich – and the congressmen – House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor – will join a who’s who of the far Right at the event. The organizers of the Values Voter Summit and many of its prominent attendees are on the frontlines of removing hard-won rights for gay and lesbian Americans, restricting women’s access to reproductive healthcare, undermining the free exercise rights of non-Christian religions and breaking down the wall of separation between church and state.

In perhaps the starkest illustration of how far even mainstream Republican candidates are willing to go to appease the Religious Right, Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak immediately before the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, a man whose record of hate speech should be shocking by any standard. Along with regularly denigrating gays and lesbians, Muslims, and other minority groups, Fischer has no love for Romney’s Mormon faith. In a radio program last week, Fischer insisted that Mormons have no right to religious freedom under the First Amendment and falsely claimed that the LDS Church still sanctions polygamy.

People For the American Way has called on GOP presidential candidates appearing at the conference to denounce Fischer’s bigotry. Last year, PFAW issued a similar call to attendees, which was met with silence.

The following is a guide to some of the individuals with whom the leaders of the GOP will be rubbing shoulders at the Values Voter Summit this year.

Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer is the Director of Issues Analysis at the American Family Association, which is a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. Fischer acts as the chief spokesman for the group and also hosts its flagship radio program, Focal Point, on which he has interviewed a number of prominent figures including Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

On his radio program and in blog posts, Fischer frequently expresses unmitigated bigotry toward a number of minority groups, including gays and lesbians, Muslim Americans, Native Americans, low-income African Americans and Mormons.

Fischer has:

At a speech at last year’s Values Voter Summit, Fischer said that if Christians don’t get involved in politics, they “make a deliberate decision to turn over the running of the United States government to atheists and pagans.” Of the gay rights movement, he warned, “We are going to have to choose, as a nation, between the homosexual agenda and freedom, because the two cannot coexist.”

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, the main organizer of this weekend’s summit. Perkins leads the group’s efforts against gay rights, abortion rights and church/state separation.

The FRC famously expressed its hostility to religious pluralism in a 2000 statement blasting a Hindu priest who was invited to give an opening prayer in Congress: "[W]hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage…. Our Founders … would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference."

The FRC has one of the most anti-gay platforms of any major political organization, including expressions of support for the criminalization of homosexuality. Earlier this year, the group called on members to pray for the continuation of Malawi’s law prohibiting homosexuality , under which a gay couple was sentenced to fourteen years in jail. Senior fellow Peter Sprigg said he would “much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society.”

Perkins himself frequently reflects the extreme views of his organization. He:

At last year’s Values Voter Summit, Perkins managed to simultaneously insult U.S. servicemembers and several important U.S. allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that armies that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly “ participate in parades, they don’t fight wars to keep the world free .”

Mat Staver

Mat Staver is the head of the Liberty University School of Law and its legal affiliate, Liberty Counsel, both sponsors of the Values Voter Summit. Liberty Counsel vehemently opposes rights for gays and lesbians, and in July filed the lawsuit to overturn New York’s Marriage Equality Act . The group’s Director of Cultural Affairs Matt Barber has called marriage equality “ rebellion against God” and said LGBT youth are more likely to commit suicide because they know “ what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, [and] is immoral .” Barber has also described liberalism as “hatred for God” and said the president and Democrats “are anti-God.” In fact, Liberty Counsel claimed that Obama is “ pushing America to move under the curse ” of God and “ jeopardizing our nation” for purportedly not supporting Israel.

Through his role at Liberty Counsel and on his radio program Faith & Freedom, Staver has:

Staver aggressively promotes “ex-gay” reparative therapy and warns that gays and lesbians are “ intent on trampling upon the fundamental freedoms ” of others. He is also closely linked to the saga of Lisa Miller, a woman represented by Liberty Counsel who kidnapped her daughter and fled to Central America after a court granted custody to her former partner, a lesbian woman. Although Liberty Counsel denies involvement in the kidnapping, earlier this year Miller was reportedly staying at the house of Staver’s administrative assistant’s father in Nicaragua . Staver has also taught the Miller case in his law classes as an example of an instance where “God’s law” preempts “man’s law.”

Jerry Boykin

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin sparked a controversy when, as a high-ranking official in the Bush Defense Department, he framed the War on Terror as a holy war against Islam. He has since built a career as a Religious Right speaker, specializing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Obama conspiracy theories. Boykin rejects religious freedom for American Muslims, claiming that Islam “is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian way of life.” In an interview with Bryan Fischer, he called for “no mosques in America.”

Boykin is a leading member of the dominionist group The Oak Initiative. In a speech at the group’s conference in April, he declared that George Soros and the Council on Foreign Relations conspired to collapse the U.S. economy in order to help President Obama get elected. Last year, he told the group that President Obama was using his health care reform legislation as a cover to establish a private army of Brownshirts loyal just to him .

Star Parker

Parker is a long-time Religious Right activist who is particularly active in anti-gay and anti-abortion rights work. As Washington, DC was poised to legalize marriage equality, Parker warned that it would lead to more HIV infections in the city, which would “ transform officially into Sodom.” In a recent radio interview with Tony Perkins, Parker mused that black family life was “ more healthy” under slavery than it is today and has accused liberals of treating Justice Clarence Thomas and Gov. Sarah Palin like runaway slaves. She has called legal abortion a “genocide” on par with slavery and the Holocaust.

Ed Vitagliano

As the AFA’s research director, Ed Vitagliano helped co-produce the 2000 anti-gay documentary “It’s Not Gay,” which is riddled with misleading statistics about gays and lesbians and promotes “ex-gay” reparative therapy. The “documentary” starred ex-gay leader Michael Johnston, a self-described “former homosexual,” who was later revealed to have been secretly having sex with other men. Vitagliano’s anti-gay work has continued apace — on the AFA’s radio program this year, Vitagliano argued that gay men are “ abusing the nature of the design of the human body” and said homosexuality is not a “ natural and normal and healthy activity.” Vitagliano also scolded congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis for supporting marriage equality , saying that Lewis “thumbed [his] nose” at God and “needs to go back and read his Bible.”

Bishop Harry Jackson

Jackson, who built his career as an avowed opponent of rights for gays and lesbians, is a regular speaker at Religious Right conferences. He has called for a “SWAT Team” of “Holy Ghost terrorists” to work against hate crimes legislation that protects gays and lesbians, and said that black organizations that support gay rights have “ sold out the black community” and have been “ co-opted by the radical gay movement .” Jackson claims that gay marriage is part of “ a Satanic plot to destroy our seed” and that the larger gay rights movement is “ an insidious intrusion of the Devil.”

Along with his fierce opposition to LGBT rights, Jackson has compared legal abortion to “lynching” and urged the Senate to defeat Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court because she is not a Protestant (Kagan is Jewish). Jackson has even described his political efforts in apocalyptic terms, telling a Religious Right group before the 2010 elections, “God is saying to us ‘I want to pick a fight in which I can wipe out my enemies and cause them to be silenced once and for all.’ This is where America is; if we do not recognize and repent, we are going to see our way of life destroyed as we now know it.”

Lila Rose

Rose is the anti-choice activist responsible for carrying out a deceptive hit job against Planned Parenthood this year. Members of Rose’s group, Live Action, went to Planned Parenthood clinics around the country posing as clients seeking help with a child sex trafficking ring. Planned Parenthood alerted the FBI about the activity, and the one staffer who handled the supposed traffickers inappropriately was promptly fired. Nevertheless, Rose claimed that her hoax proved “beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws and covers up the abuse of young girls it claims to serve.”

Rose is no newcomer to the Values Voter Summit: in a speech at 2009’s summit, she called for abortions to be performed “in the public square.”

Glenn Beck

Until Beck’s Fox News program was canceled earlier this year, he was one of the Right’s most visible fear-mongers and conspiracy theorists. When his violent rhetoric inspired some real threats against progressive leaders, he laughed off the critics who urged him to choose his words more responsibly. Beck’s elaborate conspiracy theories include the idea that socialists and Islamists were planning a global caliphate, with the help of American progressives; an obsession with the progressive funder George Soros, at whom he leveled a number of anti-Semitic smears including a personal attack that the Anti-Defamation league called “horrific”; and a distrust of President Obama, who he once said was “racist” with a “ deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture .”

On air, Beck joked about killing prominent progressives (for instance, poisoning Nancy Pelosi’s wine), but frequently insisted that it is progressives who were urging violence, even predicting his own martyrdom. In one 2010 broadcast, he warned that "anarchists, Marxists, communists, revolutionaries, Maoists" have to "eliminate 10 percent of the U.S. population" in order to "gain control."

After a terrorist in Oslo killed dozens of young members of Norway’s Labor Party at an island summer camp, Beck attacked the victims , comparing the camp to “Hitler Youth” and calling it “disturbing.”

Anti-Muslim, Religious Right Leaders Come Together For "Preserving Freedom Conference"

This November a coalition of anti-Muslim and Religious Right groups are hosting “The Constitution or Sharia—Preserving Freedom Conference” in Nashville, Tennessee, dubbed “the first national conference on Sharia and the Islamization of America.” The location does not seem to be coincidental: the Tennessee legislature recently weighed a bill that would make it a felony to follow Sharia law and the town of Murfreesboro, just south of Nashville, has witnessed vicious anti-Muslim attacks and arson against a planned mosque. A lawsuit against the mosque declared that Islam is not a religion and therefore Muslims do not deserve First Amendment protections. Presidential candidate Herman Cain went to Murfreesboro to condemn the planned mosque as an “abuse of our freedom of religion,” before declaring that municipalities have a right to ban mosques.

The summit features panels on issues such as “Fighting Islamist Propaganda in the Media,” “Grassroots Organizing Against Sharia and Rabats (including Mega-Mosques),” and “Defending Liberty In Legislatures.” The chief sponsor of the event is the extremist media outlet WorldNetDaily and speakers include a mix of the usual anti-Muslim activists including Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller, along with Religious Right leaders who have consistently attacked the rights of Muslims such as Jay Sekulow, Mat Staver, Andrea and Jim Lafferty, E.W. Jackson and William Murray. Michele Bachmann is listed an invited speaker but has not been confirmed:

• Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America and Atlas Shrugs
• Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of America and Jihad Watch
• Jay Sekulow of American Center for Law and Justice
• Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel
• William J. Murray of Religious Freedom Coalition and No 911 Mosque
• Frank Gaffney of Center for Security Policy
• Christopher Holton of Center for Security Policy
• Lou Ann Zelenik of Tennessee Freedom Coaltion
• Andrea Lafferty of Traditional Values Coalition
• James Lafferty of Virginia Anti-Sharia Task Force
• Barrister Paul Diamond, United Kingdom
• Father Keith Roderick
• Bishop Earl W. Jackson
• Fred Grandy - Actor and former congressman
• Wafa Sultan
• Rev. Dr. Mark Durie, Australia

Lou Ann Zelenik is best known for the malicious anti-Muslim themes in her unsuccessful campaign for Congress last year, which focused on stopping the Murfreesboro mosque development. E.W. Jackson is currently relying heavily on anti-Muslim rhetoric in his bid for U.S. Senate in Virginia.

This won’t be the first time Religious Right leaders and anti-Muslim activists have come together at a major event, and anti-Muslim activists have started appearing frequently on Christian conservative radio outlets.

With another gathering set to demonize Muslims and hype fears of “creeping Sharia,” the Religious Right’s ostensible commitment to religious freedom yet again doesn’t translate into freedom for non-Christian faiths.

For example, notice the involvement of “William J. Murray of Religious Freedom Coalition and No 911 Mosque.” As Kyle noted last year in a post about Murray, the Religious Freedom Coalition is “dedicated to the equality of all mankind and the freedom of religious expression” but is also running a campaign determined to stop Muslims from having those same rights by trying to block the construction of the Park 51 Islamic Community Center. The center opened last week without protests, and so far, Lower Manhattan is not under the rule of Sharia law.

FRC: Pray That Don't Ask Don't Tell Is Reinstated

Following the certification of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Family Research Council today is asking members to pray that the “godless policy be reversed.” Their prayer alert echoes the message of FRC president Tony Perkins that the organization will be dedicated to monitoring the supposedly devastating consequences of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s repeal. The group warns that the “Pandora’s Box has been opened” and that President Obama will need to answer “questions about religious freedom, conscience exemptions, and same-sex partner benefits” from Republican congressmen. Pierre Bynum, FRC’s National Prayer Director, writes:

Don't Ask Don't Tell -- Yesterday DADT ceased to be law. Openly homosexual men and lesbians, including thousands who were dismissed for violation of the abandoned policy, may now enlist or reenlist in the U.S. Military. This is one of the President's two premier achievements since his election (the other being the passage of Obamacare). Experts say there are no plans to monitor results of the new policy and no rules for dealing with predictable problems that will arise. Homosexual activists are urging their cohort to lay low, to help make this transition a non-event. But Pandora's Box has been opened. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) tried to persuade Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to postpone the deadline, but to no avail. Congress still awaits answers to their questions about religious freedom, conscience exemptions, and same-sex partner benefits. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has introduced a bill to protect servicemen whose values forbid homosexual practice from being punished.

May Americans not rest until such protections are put in place, and may this godless policy be reversed in the not-too-distant future! (Eze 33:10-16; 1 Tim 1:5, 18-19; 3:9; 4:2; 1 Pet 3:15-16; Jude 7)

Boykin: The Church Is Called To Occupy

Jerry Boykin last week sat down with Paul Crouch Jr. of the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s show First To Know to discuss a new movie based on his autobiography “Never Surrender.” Boykin, who earlier this month demanded that mosques be banned in America, told Crouch that the Church needs to become more politically active because of threats to religious freedom from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and MoveOn. He called on viewers to work “so that the Church emerges as the dominant influence in America,” adding, “I refuse to believe that we can’t, because God told us to occupy.”

Watch:

Boykin: The Church had the dominant influence in America. Today we have ceded that to other organizations like the ACLU and MoveOn.org and Code Pink and ACORN. It is time for the Church, for Bible-believing Christians regardless of denomination, to unify and understand that we truly serve the same God, Jesus Christ, and we need to come before Him and ask for His forgiveness for where this nation has gone and how we’ve turned our backs on God, and ask God to lead us to do our part, individually, to do our part to make a difference in America so that the Church emerges as the dominant influence in America in what we were called to be, again, the salt and light for this nation.

Crouch: And that in your opinion, that is possible? We can take this nation back, in your opinion?

Boykin: We absolutely can take this nation back and I refuse to believe that we can’t, because God told us to occupy.

Religious Right Makes Michael Bloomberg Enemy Number One For His "Insult To God"

In planning a ceremony to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has kept a policy observed in previous years and declined to invite religious leaders to speak at the events, which a spokesman says is to make sure “the focus remains on the families.” Of course, the Religious Right is now apoplectic and using their outrage at Bloomberg as their latest fundraising tool.

The Traditional Values Coalition emailed members today pleading for donations to stop Bloomberg’s attempts “to exterminate expressions of faith” and set up a fundraising page warning that “Islamists Continue Conquest of New York City…Islamists are spiking the football at Ground Zero! All while Mayor Bloomberg bans faith from New York's 9/11 ceremonies?!”

The American Center for Law and Justice, the right-wing legal outlet founded by Pat Robertson and led by Jay Sekulow, launched a petition demanding Bloomberg change his “damaging policy now” and include clergymen and prayer in the event. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said it was a “travesty that Mayor Bloomberg is so confused and clueless about America’s history, and so confused and clueless about the threat Islam poses to the West,” arguing that prayer should be included in the ceremonies but restricted to only Christian and Jewish clergy.

The Family Research Council has its own petition and prayer alert to oppose Bloomberg’s “shocking assault on religious liberty,” calling on members to pray to “Help the Mayor see that he has made a mistake and reverse his decision. Stir the families who will attend the 9/11 memorial service to insist that You, Lord, be honored there”:

The beginning of America's precipitous moral decline can be traced, statistically, to 1962, when atheist Madeleine Murray O'Hare's [sic] legal assault resulted in prayer being removed from public schools. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld prayer in public ceremonies. Bloomberg's behavior is not a matter of legal philosophy, dullness or insensitivity; it is a deliberate defiance and insult to people of faith across America.

More important to Bible believers, it is an insult to God upon whom our nation depends for our safety. Amid unprecedented natural disasters, economic calamity, homeland threats, wars abroad, troubles in our families and schools, etc., we must not insult God.

The FRC referenced the 1962 Supreme Court case Engel v. Vitale and the 1963 Abington v. Schempp, in which Madalyn Murray O’Hair, an atheist, and Edward Schempp, a Unitarian Universalist, sued against laws in their states that required their children to partake in religious exercises like Bible study and reading the Lord’s Prayer. The Court found such policies a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

Many in the Religious Right see the cases as the critical juncture where America turned its back on God. Pat Robertson writes in The New Millennium:

On June 25, 1962, the Supreme Court ruled in a case titled Engle v. Vitale [sic] that state-sponsored prayer could not be said in public school rooms. On June 17, 1963, the court ruled in the case of Abington v. Schempp that the Holy Bible could not be read to students in classrooms.



Acting on behalf of all the citizens of the United States, our government has officially insulted Almighty God and has effectively taken away from all public school children any opportunity for even the slightest acknowledgment of God’s existence. By rejecting Him, we have made the Protector and Champion of the United States his enemy.

The events that followed are not coincidence. On November 22, 1963, less than six months after the Bible-reading decision, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Within two years after that decision, America was massively embroiled in its second most painful war, which decimated our treasure, our servicemen, and our national resolve.

Robertson goes on to blame Watergate, the 1973 oil crisis, stagflation and the Iranian revolution on the rulings.

David Barton got his start in Religious Right politics by authoring the booklet, What Happened in Education?, where he argues that the removal of school prayer caused SAT scores to plummet. Barton claimed that the two cases represented “the first occasion in national recorded history that the public inclusion of God in academic endeavors had been officially prohibited,” as the only event “corresponding to the time of the beginning of the downturn in scores was the banning of God and of religious principles from schools.” He concludes by urging schools to reintroduce explicitly Christian teachings if they want to reverse the trend.

It’s interesting that the FRC brought up the school prayer cases: both the case of school prayer and clergy participating in the September 11th anniversary ceremonies show the Religious Right trying to gin up panic over a supposed but not actual infringement on religious freedom, and then warning of divine punishment when they don’t get their way.

The Religious Right's Twisted View Of Religious Freedom

For the last several weeks, the Religious Right has been hyping allegations from Kelly Shackleford and his Liberty Institute claiming that the Department of Veterans Affairs has instituted a ban on "the use of Christian words or phrases at veterans’ funerals."

Liberty Institute has even launched a website called "Don't Tear Us Down" which claims that "Jesus is not welcome at gravesides" and the campaign is receiving support from other Religious Right groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association.

Today the New York Times took a look at the controversy and discovered - shockingly - that the claims being made by the Religious Right are totally misleading.  As the NYT explains, the Bush administration instituted a policy in 2007 that "prohibits volunteer honor guards from reading recitations — including religious ones — in their funeral rituals, unless families specifically request them." 

In essence, the policy states that volunteer groups are not allowed to attend military funerals and inject their religion in to it unless their presence is requested by the family.  Conversely, if a family does want to included such prayers in the service, they have that right as well.

But to the Religious Right, preventing outside groups from attending funerals and offering prayers at services where they are not wanted or requested is a violation of the religious freedom of the volunteers:

The plaintiffs, aided by a conservative legal group, the Liberty Institute, contend they should be allowed to use a Veterans of Foreign Wars script dating from World War I that refers to the deceased as “a brave man” with an “abiding faith in God” and that seeks comfort from an “almighty and merciful God.” The institute has broadcast the dispute nationwide with slick videos and a Web site declaring that “Jesus is not welcome at gravesides.”

...

The lawsuit, which alleges religious discrimination by the government, and videos have generated angry letters and Internet commentary against the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as demands from members of the Texas Congressional delegation, mostly Republicans, that the Obama administration fire the Houston cemetery director, Arleen Ocasio.

Department of Veterans Affairs officials say that the original policy, enacted under President George W. Bush, resulted from complaints about religious words or icons being inserted unrequested into veterans’ funerals. They noted that active duty military honor guards, including the teams that do funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, say almost nothing during their ceremonies.

“We do what the families wish,” said Steve L. Muro, the under secretary for memorial affairs. “I always tell my employees we have just one chance to get it right.”

Though two of the largest veterans organizations, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, have criticized the Houston National Cemetery, some veterans’ advocates have risen to the department’s support. Those advocates say that families who want prayers can have them and assert that the Liberty Institute has blown the dispute out of proportion to embarrass the Obama administration.

Lawyers with the Liberty Institute deny that ... The Department of Veterans Affairs said that funeral directors, rather than the veterans themselves, should tell families the details of the V.F.W. or other rituals, to give those families room to make their own decisions on what is recited.

“If the family wants prayers, the family will get them,” said John R. Gingrich, the department’s chief of staff.

Perkins: Gays And Lesbians Are Ruining The Military, Media

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has been ratcheting up his anti-gay rhetoric recently, and finding new ways to blame gays and lesbians for what he sees as society’s problems. Last month, for instance, the Air Force suspended a class on “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare training,” after it was revealed that the class relied heavily on Christian teachings. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation objected to the class and solicited complaints from Air Force officers, who the group says were mostly “practicing Protestants and Roman Catholics.” While the controversy centered on allegations that the class represented an unconstitutional religious test and endorsement of one particular religious viewpoint, Perkins claims (without any evidence) that the class’s suspension was actually the fault of gays and lesbians and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Perkins, who once said that politicians who backed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell have blood on their hands, warned in a radio commentary that the decision to support “homosexuality [when it] clashes with faith” will have dire consequences for the Air Force:

It looks like the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is off to a flying start--at least in the U.S. Air Force. Hello, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Starting this week, the Pentagon's changing some of its policies to make the military more welcoming for homosexuals. In the Air Force, that means dropping the religion from its training course. After 20 years, officials scrapped the Bible verses that had been a part of the "Just War" curriculum since early 90s. Apparently, someone complained that the material was "promoting... right-wing fundamentalist Christianity." The class was suspended the very same day. No questions asked. See, that's what happens when homosexuality clashes with faith. Faith loses. This isn't about political correctness, David French said. "It's about cleansing [God] from the public square and building a completely secular society." Unfortunately for our troops, this is just part of the President's plan to radicalize the military. And if the Air Force is any indication, tradition won't be the only thing taking a nose-dive.

In another news bulletin, Perkins railed against the positive portrayal of gays and lesbians in television shows, arguing that it is ruining television for families. He claims that ABC Family, which received praise from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is now trying to “indoctrinate kids” as they “push the homosexual agenda through characters and storylines.” He suggests that parents should protest such positive portrayals by contacting the network and refusing to watch its programming:

This month, TV's biggest networks aren't telling the story--they are the story. Hello, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Where's the "family" in ABC Family? Parents are wondering after the latest report from GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Every year, GLAAD rates channels on how well they push the homosexual agenda through characters and storylines. This time, ABC Family got top honors--making them only the second network ever to get an "excellent" rating. Michael Riley, ABC's chief executive, said he was "proud" to be honored. Celebrating homosexuality, he said, is "very important to us." That's a serious problem, considering that ABC Family is the highest-rated network for 12 to 34-year-olds. Most parents trust the channel, which used to be owned by Disney. But it's a different story now that the network's going out of its way to indoctrinate kids. That won't change until you get involved. Contact ABC. Tell them what they gain by being gay-friendly doesn't compare with what they'll lose. And that's viewers.

AFA Again Tries To Distance Itself From Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer has made it quite clear that he does not believe that the First Amendment applies to Muslims or any "non-Christian religions."  And that is why he can feels he can advocate for bans on immigration and service in the armed forces by Muslims as well as prohibitions on the construction of mosques in the United States.

Now obviously, the idea that the First Amendment doesn't apply to non-Christians is a pretty radical one ... so much so, in fact, that Fischer's employer, the American Family Association, decided to release an official statement distancing the organization from Fischer's views:

America’s Founders disagreed how broadly the First Amendment extended Freedom of Religion. Since James Madison, known as the Father of the Bill of Rights, insured that the Congressional debates over the Bill of Rights were conducted in secret, Americans must look to later sources to understand the positions taken by their Founders. Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, whom Madison appointed to the Supreme Court and who later founded Harvard Law School, openly debated over the place of Christianity in American law. Jefferson advocated a broad view that that all religions, not merely variations of Christianity, were to be protected. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote:

[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word 'Jesus Christ,' so that it should read 'a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.' The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination.

Joseph Story stated a contradictory view in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States:

The real object of the [First] amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

Jefferson’s position has ultimately prevailed; under American law all religions enjoy freedom from government interference. However Joseph Story’s view continues to have proponents, including Bryan Fischer, one of American Family Radio’s talk show hosts. However, the American Family Association (“AFA”) officially sides with Jefferson on this question. AFA is confident that the truth of Christianity will prevail whenever it is allowed to freely compete in the marketplace of ideas.

As we have said time and again, it is amazing how the AFA can pay Fischer, publish his writings and give him two-hour daily radio platform from which to spout his relentless stream of bigotry yet continue to claim that Fischer's views ought to in no way reflect upon the organization.

Name one other organization that regularly has to declare that the things said by its own spokesman should not be construed as reflecting the views of the organization itself.

Maybe David Barton "Should Take A Lesson in Religious Freedom"

Not too long ago, David Barton tweeted a link to this piece by Kelly Shackleford, suggesting that those who dare to criticize Gov. Rick Perry's "The Response" prayer rally need a "lesson in religious freedom":

It seems that criticizing or opposing a public prayer rally is an attack on the religious freedom of those organizing such a rally. 

Which is interesting considering that back in 2009 when a group of Muslims sought to organize a prayer rally on the National Mall, David Barton, Lou Engle, Tony Perkins, Shirley Dobson, Cindy Jacobs and others swung into action to mobilize their their own activists to counter the rally's "dark spiritual intent":

[O]n the 25th of September, Muslims are calling for a Muslim Day of Prayer in Washington DC (http://www.islamoncapitolhill.com/). They are calling for 50,000 Muslims to gather and pray on the DC Mall. This is the exact word of one of the Sheikhs who is leading this historic gathering, "Muslims should march on the White House. We are going to the White House so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become into a Muslim house." These are not empty words. They speak of a dark spiritual intent and a coming day of great trouble to America.

Therefore we are calling Christians all over America to join Lou Engle, Shirley Dobson, Tony Perkins, David Barton, and many other major leaders in America to a national conference call to pray for America. Please join us on Thursday, September 24th from 7:30PM to 9:00PM Eastern Time for possibly one of the greatest moments in American history.

A related group of Religious Right activists them unveiled a letter demanding that rally organizers disavow a list of specific acts of terrorism that were "committed by Muslims, in the name of Islam" while Barton used it as an opportunity to pen a long piece blaming President Obama for giving Muslims courage to gather in this sort of public manner and urging Christians to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity:

Heartened by this new encouragement, Muslim leaders have called 50,000 observant Muslims to come to the Capitol this Friday, September 25, for a day of Jummah (Friday congregational prayer). The sponsors promise that from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m., "the Athan [the call given five times each day for Muslims to participate in mandatory prayer] will be chanted on Capitol Hill, echoing off of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and other great edifices that surround Capitol Hill." The goal of this event is that "the peace, beauty and solidarity of Islam will shine through America's capitol." In fact, their website for this unprecedented event proudly and unabashedly declares, "Our Time Has Come!"

As Bible-believing people, let's also make this Friday a day of prayer – and please encourage others to participate with you. We know that our contest is with spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12), and we firmly believe that He Who is within us is greater than any other god or force (1 John 4:4), so I encourage you to fill America with prayer to the True God this coming Friday.

Of course, Barton tried to downplay the idea that he was urging Christians to directly compete against Islam:

This call for Christians to pray this Friday is not a prayer "competition" between Christianity and Islam, nor is it a spiritual Christian "jihad" or "holy war" (what an oxymoronic term – a holy war!). After all, in I Kings 18, Elijah encouraged the prophets of the god Baal to take more time in their praying; he didn't object to their prayers, he just wanted to make sure that he was able to make his own prayers to the True God. This Friday offers a similar opportunity for those who fear God and believe His Scriptures to offer up their own prayers to Him.

And that might seem like a convincing argument ... unless you actually know that in the Bible passage Barton cites the prophet Elijah literally pitted God against Baal in competition and then "taunted" Baal's prophets when they lost - and then killed every one of them:

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"

40 Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

So when Muslims wanted to hold a public prayer rally, the Religious Right mobilized to challenge it in "one of the greatest moments in American history." 

But when Rick Perry organizes a public prayer rally and anyone dares to criticize it, those anti-Christian bigots need to "take a lesson in religious freedom."

FRC's Selective Outrage

Listen to this clip from the AFA radio program "Today's Issues" the other day in which Tony Perkins and Ken Blackwell, both of the Family Research Council, complain that people are calling the Tea Party activists "terrorists":

Perkins: You have the comments being made by the Vice President of the United States ... and he's equating conservative members of Congress who are identified with the Tea Party as being terrorists and holding the nation hostage.

Blackwell: Well, that is just consistent with the strategy of define and destroy that the Left, headed up by the President and the Vice President, have been putting on us for the last couple of years ... Look this is an attempt to define those who are asking tough questions not just as being rabble-rousers or folks who are really tough in pressing the issue, but as being terrorists. And this really has to stop.  

Oh, the outrage! 

FRC would never stoop so low! 

Oh wait ... what about this clip from the Family Research Council's very own "ENDA: The End of Religious Freedom in America?" DVD where, at the 1:37 mark, Frank Wright of National Religious Broadcasters calls ENDA and hate crimes legislation "economic terrorism":

Wright: On Capitol Hill, as we say, at the end of the day, ENDA and hate crimes are really a form of economic terrorism. They hold an extortion-like threat over your head and say that if you don't submit, you will pay for it in legal fees and in judgments and in pain and suffering in court for years to come. Some people will stand against that. Some people don't have the resources to stand against that. Others, sadly, are going to cut and run and that is the great pity of the whole thing.

Maybe Rick Perry Should Have Just Rented Out One-Tenth Of Reliant Stadium

Back in June when Gov. Rick Perry announced that he was hosting his massive "The Response" prayer rally and inviting all of the nation's governors to join him, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback immediately announced that he would attend.  But now, with the event only three days away, it appears as if Brownback might be having second thoughts and will no longer confirm him attendance.

The event is being held at Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL's Houston Texans, which can seat 86,000 people, so obviously organizers had pretty grand plans for this event.  A spokesperson for the stadium said they were expecting 30,000-35,0000 to attend ... but with only a few days to go, the number of confirmed attendees stands at about one-tenth of the stadium's capacity

Openly and deeply religious, Texas Gov. Rick Perry organized what seemed like a slam-dunk event for a politician in a state where religion and politics walk hand in hand: He would fill Houston's Reliant Stadium with fellow believers in a seven-hour session of Christian atonement by some of the nation's most conservative preachers, exhorting believers to pray about the nation's moral decline.

Since he set up the event scheduled for Saturday, however, Perry has become the most talked-about almost-candidate in the 2012 Republican presidential field. But with only 8,000 RSVPs for a stadium that seats 71,500 people, virtually no politicians planning to attend, and a slate of organizers who hold out-of-mainstream views on religious freedom, gay rights and even Adolf Hitler, the event has become a potentially risky gamble if Perry is serious about running for the White House.

By contrast, when Lou Engle organized his "The Call" prayer rally on the National Mall in 2000, it drew an estimated 400,000 people.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Focus on the Family rejoices that CPAC has given GOProud the boot.
  • On a related note, this might help explain CPAC's new-found hostility to the group.
  • A federal judge has ruled that healthcare reform does not fund abortion, a key ruling that allows a defamation lawsuit against the Susan B. Anthony List to move forward.
  • Gary Cass says there is no point in creating a "Religious Freedom Envoy" to monitor Islamic countries because "the only way that Islam is going to stop doing what it's doing is when it's defeated."
  • Finally, Peter LaBarbera quitely acknowledges the loss of his tax-exempt status.

Interfaith Clergy Speak Out Against Perry's Prayer Rally

Banding with the discriminatory American Family Association, advocates of the radical Seven Mountains Dominionism ideology, and a litany of anti-gay zealots and End Times preachers to put on his The Response prayer rally, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is orchestrating an event that rejects both non-Christians and Christians who don’t embrace the organizers’ far-right politics and religious fundamentalism.

Over fifty clergymen from the Houston area are questioning the appropriateness of Perry’s exclusionary prayer rally, which will be held in Houston’s Reliant Stadium this weekend, in a letter organized by the Anti-Defamation League:

One of Houston's greatest strengths is its religious diversity. As part of the Anti-Defamation League's Coalition for Mutual Respect, we are keenly sensitive to the fact that Houstonians may pray differently or not pray at all. We cherish the fact that we can pray freely in our own way, because our founding fathers wisely envisioned and provided for a nation grounded in the principle of separation of church and state. This freedom from government imposed religion allows all religions to flourish in our democratic society. It is with this thought in mind that we express our concern that Governor Rick Perry has called for a full day of exclusionary prayer on August 6, 2011. This religious event is not open to all faiths, as its statement of beliefs does not represent religious diversity.

Governor Perry has a constitutional duty to treat all Texans equally regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. His official involvement with the Response at minimum violates the spirit of that duty. By his actions, Governor Perry is expressing an official message of endorsement of one faith over all others; thereby sending an official message of religious exclusion and preference to all Texans who do not share that faith. We believe our religious freedom is threatened when a government official promotes religion, especially one religion over all others. We urge our elected leaders, who have the privilege of representing us, to practice their own religion as they choose without seeking to impose their beliefs on others or using their official offices to divide citizens along religious lines. They should be role models for all Americans, and can be by honoring and respecting our constitutional freedoms.

In June, the Houston Clergy Council released a statement decrying Perry for organizing the rally with the AFA and rebuffing “Houston’s vibrant and diverse religious landscape”:

We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state. Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously. We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing and leading a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin.

We also express concern that the day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium is not an inclusive event. As clergy leaders in the nation’s fourth largest city, we take pride in Houston’s vibrant and diverse religious landscape. Our religious communities include Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists, and many other faith traditions. Our city is also home to committed agnostics and atheists, with whom we share common cause as fellow Houstonians. Houston has long been known as a “live and let live” city, where all are respected and welcomed. It troubles us that the governor’s prayer event is not open to everyone. In the publicized materials, the governor has made it clear that only Christians of a particular kind are welcome to pray in a certain way. We feel that such an exclusive event does not reflect the rich tapestry of our city.

Our deepest concern, however, lies in the fact that funding for this event appears to come from the American Family Association, an organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The American Family Association and its leadership have a long track record of anti-gay speech and have actively worked to discriminate against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. The American Family Association and its leadership have also been stridently anti-Muslim, going so far as to question the rights of Muslim Americans to freely organize and practice their faith. We believe it is inappropriate for our governor to organize a religious event funded by a group known for its discriminatory stances.

As religious leaders, we commit to join with all Houstonians in working to make our city a better place. We will lead our communities in prayer, meditation, and spiritual practice. We ask that Rick Perry leave the ministry to us and refocus his energy on the work of governing our state.

Hagee: U.S. Can't Win Wars Because Of Satan Worship

According to Pastor John Hagee, the U.S. military is no longer able to win wars because of Satan worship and increasing “paganism” in America. Hagee, who is an official endorser of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response prayer rally and a prominent Religious Right leader, delivered the remarks in a speech to last year’s Word Explosion Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Perry has said that The Response is needed to solve problems that are “spiritual in nature,” adding that to create his policy platform he will simply “hand it over to God.” Many of the pastors and activists working with Perry to organize The Response already have “spiritual answers” to issues regarding the economy, corruption, marriage, the size of government, national security and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Now we can add to the list foreign policy. Hagee claims that God is no longer showing favor to America because of environmentalism (which he labels paganism), religious freedom and Satan worship:

America right now has its fist in the face of God and in the name of pluralism we are honoring paganism coast to coast in this nation.



You want to know what drives environmentalism in America? Paganism, paganism, this is exactly what Paul spoke about in Romans. And Paul said, when a generation does this I will give them over to a reprobate mind, they will believe a lie and they as a generation will be damned. Let me say this to you very clearly and those of you watching over the internet: There is one God in this book, it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Allah is not God, Buddha is not God, Mary is not God, Mary Baker Eddy is not God, birds, animals and bugs are not God, Jehovah God is the God of all Gods. He is a jealous God, and He demands that He be the Lord of all or not at all!



We have allowed the worship of Satanism in the U.S. military, most Americans are not aware of that, and we wonder why it takes us ten years to defeat our weak enemies as Moses said in Deuteronomy 28. How is it that in World War II we whipped the world in four years and now we’re bogged down in one lingering war after another that does nothing but rape our economy and kill our young men? Why? Maybe the God of Heaven is not with us. He says when you accept another God, I leave. I’m either the only Lord, or you’re on your own. That means stop voting for pagans and putting them in public office
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Religious Freedom Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/11/2014, 1:05pm
President Obama can do nothing right in the eyes of the GOP, it seems: Even the president’s National Prayer Breakfast speech defending religious freedom has stoked the ire of one Republican congressman. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) told Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Washington Watch last week that he was “stunned” and “shocked” by the president’s speech and was angry that Obama would “insult those who really believe” in the freedom of religion — like him. Southerland argued that Obama is trying to “trivialize our... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Friday 10/11/2013, 3:37pm
The American Family Association hosted a luncheon on Friday at the Values Voter Summit. The featured speaker, Rep. Randy Forbes, was a no-show, though the audience was assured his non-appearance had nothing to do with ads being run in his district urging him to stay away.  Whatever was keeping Forbes so busy that he couldn’t break away didn’t prevent Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) from making it to the VVS hotel to give some opening remarks. Aderholt praised the activists, saying that the only way for America to be saved is for the country not to forget its founding values.... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 03/19/2013, 11:04am
The ongoing campaign by the Religious Right and its conservative Catholic allies to redefine religious liberty in America – which has been covered extensively by PFAW and Right Wing Watch – is the focus of a new report released on Monday by Political Research Associates, a think tank that also monitors right-wing organizations. “Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights,” was written by Jay Michaelson, who published a condensed version in the Daily Beast. Michaelson’s report reviews the organizational players and the strategies they... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Friday 04/06/2012, 11:13am
Here’s a Friday treat: highlights from recent right-wing direct mail. In the past week or so, in addition to an invitation to this September’s Values Voter Summit: Jerome Corsi, a rabidly Obama-hating birther and crazy-theory-promoter extraordinaire sent a VERY CONFIDENTIAL emergency request for money for his Freedom’s Defense Fund. Although Corsi told me that it’s “imperative that the media not know what Freedom’s Defense Fund has planned,” I’m going to let you in on the secret. Corsi says he’s going to “saturate the... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 04/04/2012, 1:21pm
Today’s conservatives are claiming Dr. Martin Luther King’s moral authority as their own, positioning themselves as inheritors of his righteous struggle. MORE
Peter Montgomery, Monday 03/19/2012, 1:02pm
“Stop Obama’s Sin Requirement” screams the envelope of the latest direct mail letter from the Family Research Council. The letter inside takes the Religious Right’s attacks on the Obama to new depths of rhetorical ridiculousness:    President Obama has decreed: Christians must violate their consciences and sin…or else.   The letter is of course a continuation of the Religious Right’s campaign to portray rules requiring insurance coverage for contraceptives as an apocalyptic attack on religious freedom in America. And, the letter... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 02/16/2012, 4:10pm
Rep. Darrell Issa, who has followed through on his threat to turn his Committee on Oversight and Government Reform into an attack dog on the Obama administration, today held a one-sided hearing attacking as a threat to religious liberty the administration’s recent compromise on health care regulations requiring insurers to cover contraception. Not present at the hearing was a representative of the Catholic Health Association, which has embraced the administration’s compromise. When asked about the CHA’s position, Bishop William Lori, head of the Catholic bishops’... MORE