Religious Freedom

Lucky Number Seven: Liberty Counsel Launches Election Prayer Effort

I feel like I keep writing the same post, but so long as Religious Right groups are going to keep launching prayer efforts aimed at the upcoming elections, I am going to keep mentioning them.

As I noted a week ago, there are already six such efforts underway, but now Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel have announced their own effort to save America from all the socialists and communists who are out to destroy it:

Our nation's future is riding on November's midterm elections. Many are calling it the single most important election in decades. Concerned Christian and values voters MUST turn out in record numbers for this election! We simply must reverse the momentum of the radical socialists.

That's why, today, I am announcing the election countdown phase of our "Pray & Vote 2010"campaign that will help restore our nation.

Pray & Vote 2010's goal is to reach FOUR MILLION pro-faith, pro-family, and pro-liberty citizens and fully engage them in this historic election. We believe that four million committed conservative voters could change the course of the election - and our nation!

...

Make no mistake: Our national character will be greatly impacted by the 2010 midterm elections. With so much at stake, Liberty Counsel is calling on members and friends to help re-kindle the spiritual fire in our nation through this powerful Pray & Vote initiative.

In the eyes of the leftist elites who rule the media, education and much of our government, your bold declaration that you will Pray & Vote is radical and unacceptable.

But to our Founding Fathers, combining prayer with political participation was a sacred duty!

By signing up for this "Pray & Vote" campaign, activists are vowing to ... well, pray and vote:

I. PRAY for AMERICA!
I will pray for our nation's leadership.
I will pray for God's guidance in the direction of our country.
I will pray that God restores the biblical pillars that made our nation great:
(1) Leaders who turn to God in prayer; (2) The individual right to exercise religious freedom in all areas of life - free from the attacks of godless organizations and societal pressures of political correctness; and (3) The restoration of our churches and families so they can take their rightful place as pillars of our society.

II. VOTE!
I acknowledge that the right to vote is a right obtained for us by God-fearing forefathers who understood what a privilege and honor it was to bestow that freedom upon our nation's citizenry! Further, I accept voting as my duty as a citizen of the United States of America. I will vote in the November 2010 elections and attempt to assure other like-minded citizens will do the same.

ADF, Keeton Reject KKK Support

This summer, Jennifer Keeton made news when she sued Augusta State University after the school threatened to expel her from its Counselor Education Program if she could not comply with the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics, which prohibits counselors from discriminating based on a number of factors, including gender identity and sexual orientation. Keeton claimed that this was a violation of her religious freedom to oppose gays and so, with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund, she sued the university.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Ku Klux Klan was going to hold a rally supporting Keeton and today the ADF released a statement making it clear that they do not want the KKK's support:

The Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Keeton in a federal lawsuit against ASU, issued a news release today saying that both the organization and Keeton are "unequivocally condemning" the KKK's rally.

"Jennifer and ADF are disgusted by the KKK and all it stands for," said ADF senior counsel David French. "To say more than that or to discuss their activities at length risks bringing more attention to a failed organization that is seeking to exploit news stories for its own purposes. As the KKK admits in news reports, Jennifer has had no contact with them, and neither have we. Neither Jennifer nor ADF wish to give the KKK the attention it craves."

Randall Terry Launching Quran-Destroying Campaign Because That Is What Jesus Would Want

When Terry Jones backed down from his plans to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11, Randall Terry stepped up and led a protest outside of the White House where they tore pages out of copies of the Quran because "the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion must end."

Apparently, the event was such a success that Terry and crew are now going to embark upon a Quran-destroying campaign:

On October 6 and 7, Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) will gather in New York, DC, and various cities, holding large posters printed with the words of the Quran, and the words of Muhammad from the Hadith and the Sunnah. The participants will either 1) tear the passages, 2) crumple them up and throw them in a garbage bag, or 3) just laugh at them -- to ridicule the idea that a "Religion of Peace" calls for beheading, murder, crucifixion, etc.

October 7 is the anniversary of The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, in which the Holy League navy defeated the Ottoman Muslim navy. Had the Muslim forces won, Rome would likely have fallen, and St. Peters could very well be a Mosque. (That was the fate of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.)

"Hear Muhammad Speak" Statement of Goals:

I. To ignite national and world-wide debate/dialogue/education on the anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and at times violent message of the Quran.

II. To focus national and world wide attention on Muhammad -- his words and deeds that are not in the Quran (i.e., Muhammad's words that are in the Hadith and the Sunnah) -- that call for the murder, beheadings, etc. of Christians and Jews, and the suppression of religious freedom.

III. To highlight the suffering of Christians inflicted by Muslims who follow the example of the words and deeds of Muhammad.

IV. To call on Islamic political and religious leaders to "lay down Muhammad's sword;" i.e., to stop persecuting and killing Christians and Jews, as well as "apostates" who leave Islam.

V. To give historic background on the name "Cordoba," and to urge the halting of the Cordoba Initiative at Ground Zero.

VI. To encourage people to fearlessly defy and expose the Hadith, the Sunnah, and Sharia law while our freedoms still permit it.

In an email to supporters announcing the campaign, Terry explains that they are going to be destroying Qurans because it is what Jesus and Mary would want:

“What would Jesus do?” Maybe He would overturn tables, or chase or hit people with a whip; maybe he would call people names like “whitewashed tombs, or “brood of vipers” or “the sons of hell.” Maybe He would speak the truth, not back down, and even die.

“What would Mary do?” Maybe she would give prayers and urgings like she did at the battle of the gates of Vienna to destroy the Muslim army that sought to annihilate Christianity; maybe she would ask her Son for grace and strength to be given to the soldiers and sailors at the battle of Lepanto to destroy the Muslim Navy, and save Rome and all Christendom from the Muslim hordes.

I give these pictures in the fear of God; Jesus and Mary are not afraid of the truth. Jesus and Mary know that the Church militant should be just that, and that at times words and deeds that are not “politically correct” or “tolerant” must be used in the fight against evil, and the culture of death, and those who seek to destroy Truth and the Church.

Religious Right Thrilled With Its Few Scraps From The GOP

For the last several weeks, Religious Right leaders had been warning Republicans that social issues had better be included in the agenda GOP leaders were going to lay out for the party moving forward.

House leaders have finally released their "Pledge to America," so how did the social conservatives fare

[T]he “Pledge” turned out to have little of substance for the value voters movement.

“We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity. We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values,” it said in the introduction.

The only specifics that followed in the subsequent 21 pages, however, were a promise to “permanently end taxpayer funding of abortion and codify the Hyde Amendment,” and to pass conscience clauses into law for physicians and medical workers.

So you'd think that the Religious Right would be livid that the GOP so blatantly simply threw them a few superficial bones in order to keep them quite ... but you'd be wrong, because they are overjoyed with the few scraps they received:

“We are pleased that the Republican leadership saw the wisdom of honoring our demand for a clear statement of commitment to life, marriage, and the free and full participation of religious believers and faith-based institutions in our public life.

The American Principles Project, Susan B. Anthony List, American Values and Let Freedom Ring submitted more than 20,000 petitions. Supporters and signers of the Manhattan Declaration made thousands of phone calls. The GOP leadership clearly got the message.

Once again, social conservatives have proven that they are the conscience of the party. They have stood up for the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions; the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife; and religious freedom and the rights of conscience.”

And of course Ralph Reed is declaring victory as well

House Republicans rightly rejected the idea that Tea Party issues like cutting spending and delimiting government are somehow at odds with the pro-family agenda of honoring marriage and unborn life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pro-family candidates are the most likely to be fiscal conservatives, and Tea Party candidates are the most likely to be pro-life. The agenda embraces time-honored values like traditional marriage and ending taxpayer-funded abortion as well as lower taxes and reduced spending. The message was unmistakable: we will not be divided by a false choice between fiscal responsibility and strong families. We will fight for both, and indeed we must do both if we are to restore America’s promise.

This is absolutely laughable - there is one throwaway mention of marriage and one passing mention of religious liberty in 21-pages of text and yet the Religious Right is acting like it pulled off a major coup.

Fischer: "Homosexuals Are Defined By One Characteristic Only: They Want to Use the Anal Cavity for Sex"

As I said yesterday, so long as the AFA 's Bryan Fischer continues to display his bigotry on a daily basis, I am just going to keep posting it. 

Today he has turned his anti-DADT rant from yesterday's radio program into a blog post in which he praises Sen. John McCain at a "Rock of Gibraltar" for opposing this effort to grant equality to those who "want to use the anal cavity for sex":

Homosexual conduct is deviant sexual conduct. Homosexuals are defined by one characteristic and one characteristic only: they want to use the anal cavity for sex. This kind of sexual conduct is aberrant and carries enormous health risks. It’s so dangerous that the FDA will not allow a male to donate blood if he has engaged in homosexual conduct even one single time since 1977.

To normalize sexual perversion is a mistake in any segment of society, but particularly harmful when done in the military because it will drive values-driven men and women right out of the service, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Had this vote gone through, it would have meant the end of military careers for every service member, every officer and every chaplain who believes that homosexual behavior is fundamentally unnatural and should be discouraged rather than endorsed.

...

The impact on readiness, retention, and recruitment would have been utterly catastrophic. Character-driven officers, gone. Character-driven service members, gone. Character-driven chaplains, gone. Character-driven recruits, gone.

We would be left with a military comprised of nothing but sexual deviants and those who celebrate sexual deviancy. That is a guaranteed path to a permanently and irreversibly emasculated military that could not defend us if their lives - let alone ours - depended on it ... Every advance of the homosexual agenda comes at the expense of religious freedom. We as a nation must choose between the homosexual agenda and liberty, because we can’t have both. Yesterday the Senate chose well.

Repealing DADT = Denying Spiritual Comfort to Dying Soldiers

I put together this quick video featuring some of the "highlights" from the Family Research Council's anti-DADT repeal press conference, including Harry Jackson warning that "introducing sexual tension and conduct into our barracks" would create a slippery slope toward allowing adultery in the military.  Jackson also claimed that any comparison between discrimination African Americans and gays is "insulting" and a "revision of American history"; a point which was echoed by Aubrey Shines who called any such comparison "asinine." Finally, Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defense Fund warned that "the agenda of sexual liberty and anarchy does not mix with religious freedom" and asked where you would be willing to deny those serving in the military the "spiritual counsel of their chaplain and of their God as they are looking at death":

Religious Right Demands Inclusion in GOP Agenda

Earlier this year, House Republicans launched a website called "America Speaking Out," which allowed Americans to "share their priorities and ideas for a national policy agenda" that they wanted Congress to focus on.

In a few weeks, House GOP leaders are expected to roll out set of guiding principles and agenda that is based on the suggestions they have received and reportedly distributed a 22-page draft packet to members earlier this month.  And the draft focuses largely on issues related to jobs, spending, health care, and the economy while almost entirely ignoring social issues ... which, of course, is not sitting well with the Religious Right:

Today, the Susan B. Anthony List announced the launch of its “Life Speaking Out Campaign” aimed at encouraging House GOP leadership to make protecting women and the unborn a priority in its legislative blueprint expected after Labor Day. The campaign includes a website for pro-life activists to lobby House GOP leadership (www.LifeSpeakingOut.com) and an encouraging letter to leadership signed by SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“The Republican Party must show what it is made of this time around. They can do so by acting on their convictions and those of their party, and by making a commitment to passage of common-sense, life-saving legislation,” said Dannenfelser. “Missing from the GOP’s original Contract in 1994 was any emphasis on policies protecting the unborn. Pro-life legislation was not made a priority in the following Congress. With the support of a vibrant pro-life movement that understands the urgency of addressing the tragedy of nearly 4,000 abortions per day coupled with the vast majority of Americans who support a commonsense pro-life agenda, enacting that agenda would not require a heavy lift ... It would be an electorally costly mistake for the future for the GOP to write off one leg of the three-legged stool of Ronald Reagan conservatism. Real leaders multi-task. The strongly pro-life GOP leadership should be able to respond to the economic crisis and enact pro-life legislation,” Dannenfelser said.

Expect to see more of this, as other Religious Right groups started demanding that things like support for "traditional marriage" and religious freedom also be explicitly included in any GOP governing agenda.

Colson Demands An Explanation After Obama Destroys His Favorite Conspiracy Theory

Remember how a few weeks back, the Religious Right was suddenly up in arms because President Obama had supposedly stopped using the phrase "freedom of religion" and started using "freedom of worship" instead? 

To people like Chuck Colson it was proof of some Obama-orchestrated plot to radically narrow the rights of Christians in order to ultimately destroy Christianity in America. 

Of course, it was also complete nonsense.

But today, Colson is back with a new commentary claiming that the Obama administration has suddenly backtracked and begun using the term "religious freedom": 

[It] seems the Administration was deliberately soft-peddling freedom of religion. Why? My first thought maybe was to marginalize Christianity in public life here in America? That’s not a whacky premise, given the increasing restrictions we see on religion here at home.

But more likely, I’ve realized, it’s an effort to appease Islamic countries, where the American belief in freedom of religion is not appreciated.

So I was surprised, to say the least, when the President spoke recently to a Muslim audience about the Ground Zero mosque. He said the following: “I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.”

And later he said, “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.”

Well, folks, I gotta confess. I’m now really confused. After speaking about nothing but “freedom of worship” for nearly a year, suddenly, before a Muslim audience, the President speaks about religious freedom. Why the change? ... Folks, I really don’t get it. I don’t want to impugn anybody’s motives. But why the deliberate confusion? Do you have any ideas? Is it perhaps freedom of religion for some, and freedom of religion for others? Why?

Let me try and clear up Colson's confusion for him: the President has been talking about religious freedom all along!

I hate to break it to you, but the Administration does not owe you an explanation about why your right-wing conspiracy theory has come completely unraveled in the face of basic facts, nor it is obligated to clear up the confusion caused by your own cluelessness.

Focus on the Family: Dedicated to Defending The Rights of "People of all Faiths," Just Not Muslims

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 it in the schools. That is a definite wake-up call for people of all faiths to stand up and protect their rights.

At the time, Focus was one of the few Religious Right groups that had not yet taken a position on Park 51, so I wondered if the organization would defend the right of Muslims to build the Islamic Center, especially in light of the organization's plea for "people of all faiths" to wake up and protect their religious freedoms.

So I know it will come as a shock to you all to learn that Focus' concerns for the rights of "people of all faiths" does not, in fact, apply to Muslims:

During CitizenLink's weekly webcast, Tom Minnery said, "Nobody is suggesting that the brand of Islam practiced by the owners of this mosque [is] going to lead to more terrorist attacks. But for Heaven's sake, in the name of all that is decent and in the name of common sense, build it elsewhere."

He said the group had the right to build, but he questioned the prudence of doing so. "Is it dishonoring to the 3,000 people who gave their lives to have this mosque which, in some minds, represents a similar religious belief that caused the terrorists to do what they did?" said Minnery.

Stuart Shepard, host of the webcast, noted that this position is a departure from Minnery's previous positions on religious liberty.

"You have spent a lot of time talking about religious freedom. And you work for Alliance Defense Fund quite a bit helping them fight for the rights of people, for religious freedom. It is quite a turn for you to say that this is not the right location for religious freedom to be expressed," said Shepard.

"Well, it is indeed," said Minnery.

Gary Bauer Officially Declares "Mosque Exclusion Zone" to Be 1.7 Miles

Those who have been busy pointing out the hypocrisy of those right-wing activists who hail the fundamental importance of defending the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom while simultaneously leading a crusade against the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" have been fond of asking just how large the "mosque exclusion zone" is supposed to be.

Well, Gary Bauer has an answer - 3000 yards

Liberal talking heads often suggest that opposition to the mosque at Ground Zero is just thinly veiled bigotry. They contend that the opponents of the mosque would oppose the construction of a mosque anywhere, and ask rhetorically, “How large should the mosque-free buffer zone around Ground Zero be?”

I’ve thought about that question, and here’s my suggested compromise: Back up the mosque one yard for every life that was lost at Ground Zero on 9/11. Three thousand lives lost equals three thousand yards away. If the organizers of the Ground Zero mosque would accept that compromise, the controversy would be over.

Let's see, 3,000 yards is 9,000 feet, which is 1.7 miles ...  so there you go: the Mosque Exclusion Zone is officially set at at just under two miles. 

Does that mean that all the mosques that already exist within this radius now have to be shut down and moved?

Even The "Religious Freedom Coalition" Opposes Park 51?

The Religious Freedom Coalition is a right-wing group that proclaims itself "dedicated to the equality of all mankind and the freedom of religious expression. The Religious Freedom Coalition maintains that Religious Freedom is the 'first liberty' and wherever Religious Freedom is suppressed there is no true freedom of assembly, press or speech."

The Religious Freedom Coalition also runs a website called No 9-11 Mosque and issues press releases blasting President Obama for supporting the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque":

Religious Freedom Coalition chairman William J. Murray released a statement Saturday concerning the endorsement by President Obama of the mega mosque construction near Ground Zero:

"President Barack Obama's interference in support of the mega mosque near Ground Zero is perplexing. As chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition I visit the burned down and bombed churches in the Middle East. I interview the families who have had their children kidnapped and murdered in the name of Islamic supremacy.

"I am a personal witness to the double standard of forced Islamic domination in a large part of the world coupled with a demand for special rights fir Muslims that goes beyond tolerance in the United States. President Obama's statement in favor of a mosque at Ground Zero is in deep contrast to ignoring the plight of St. Nicholas, the only church destroyed on 9-11. It has still not been rebuilt because of government red tape. The President's jumping enthusiastically on the band wagon of the Ground zero mega-mosque was misplaced and equally ill-timed."

I can think of no better example of the absurd hypocrisy at the heart of the right-wing crusade against Park 51 than the fact that a group calling itself a Religious Freedom Coalition which claims to be "dedicated to the equality of all mankind and the freedom of religious expression" is engaged in a campaign to prevent deny that very freedom to Muslims:

Islam is NOT a “religion of peace,” regardless of what Muslims claim. To advance their cause of conquest, an ages-old tradition called “taqiyya” allows them to outwardly pretend loyalty and empathy to “infidel” nations to keep their plans of conquest secret. When Muslims go to a mosque in America, they are entering what Islam calls a “House of War,” where taqiyya allows whatever subterfuge and lies are needed to prevail in warfare, be that war cultural, spiritual, legal or political.

We infidels, therefore, don’t know when to take Muslims at their word, because they have permission to look us in the eye and lie. So don’t be fooled by this “Trojan horse” peace offering that cloaks Islam’s true intent behind the Cordoba mosque. Please listen to the vast majority of Americans, and the four in every five New York City voters, who oppose the mosque.

Until Islamic leaders present you with a fatwa apologizing for 9-11’s acts of terrorism against non-Muslims and guaranteeing no future attacks you must stop this construction! But, don’t hold your breath, because this Fatwa will never be issued. You must block this deceptive scheme that will give Islam an even greater triumph than its 9-11 horrific attack upon your city.

Perfectly Exposing The Utter Hypocrisy At the Heart of The Right's Anti-Mosque Crusade

You have to give Bob Allen and Associated Baptist Press credit for this tremendous article which so perfect exposes the hypocrisy that Religious Right leaders keep offering up as they seek to justify their fight against the "Ground Zero Mosque" - leaders like Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission: 

"I take a back seat to no one when it comes to religious freedom and religious belief and the right to express that belief, even beliefs that I find abhorrent," said Land, the denomination's top representative on moral, ethical and religious-liberty concerns. "But what I don't do is I don't say that religious freedom means that you have the right to build a place of worship anywhere that you want to build them."

Land cited a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of officials in Boerne, Texas, to refuse permission for a Catholic parish to expand its building in a district designated for historic preservation.

But Land's group actually opposed much of the Supreme Courts majority's reasoning in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision at the time as too restrictive of religious liberty -- and Land heavily criticized the decision. The ERLC -- then known as the SBC Christian Life Commission -- joined a friend-of-the-court brief filed by a broad coalition of religious and civil-liberties organizations that urged the court to decide the case very differently than it ended up doing.

In 1998, Land testified before Congress in favor of a bill -- the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act -- that restored much of what the Supreme Court gutted in the ruling. In his testimony, he said, "I believe that the Boerne decision is one of the worst decisions rendered by the Supreme Court in its long history."

He added, "You cannot treat a church or a mosque or a synagogue the same way you treat a bowling alley or a used-car dealership. This Supreme Court said, 'Yes you can.' That is outrageous and dangerous."

So, let me get this straight: Land railed against the Supreme Court's decision and strongly supported the passage of RLUIPA, which was designed to remedy that very SCOTUS decision, and even testified before Congress in support of the legislation ... yet he is now citing the original SCOTUS decision, which he called "one of the worst decisions rendered by the Supreme Court in its long history," to justify his opposition to the "Ground Zero Mosque"?  

Is that doesn't perfectly encapsulate the hypocrisy at the heart of the Religious Right's crusade against his building, I don't know what does. 

The Religious Right's Exclusive Claim to Religious Freedom

It seems as day after day the Religious Right is intent on making clear their belief that the First Amendment's freedom of religion applies only to Christians. 

Take, for instance, this piece by FRC's Tony Perkins on CNN's Belief Blog in which he lays out the ways in which President Obama is destroying freedom of religion in America though his language, laws, and appointments:

America's First Freedom–freedom of religion–is in danger of being hounded out of public life, expelled from the public square. The word to millions of believers–Evangelicals, Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox Jews–is this: Be Amish or be quiet. Keep your quaint religious practices, mumble your odd prayers, but do so in private.

...

For people of faith, these matters of faith and family go deeper. They are "bridge issues" that unite races and ethnicities, men and women, education and income groups.

The radical changes President Obama and his allies advocate threaten the America we love and the way we express our most deeply held moral and religious convictions. We will be neither silent nor inactive in the face of these challenges. With courtesy and civility but with unflinching determination, we will oppose them.

Isn't it ironic that at a time when the Right is engaged in a campaign to restrict the religious freedom of Muslims in America, Perkins lists only Christians and Jews as those who are in danger of seeing their freedom of religion "hounded out of public life." 

On a related note, the AFA's Bryan Fischer continues his crusade against all things Islam, saying that "only a willfully stupid nation" would allow Muslims to practice their religion here ... but he's willing to compromise:

But I’m an open-minded guy, and open to reasonable compromise. I will happily join with Mr. Gingrich in the one-of-ours-for-one-of-yours approach. It’s a solution that expresses classic American values such as equal opportunity, fairness, and reciprocity.

As soon as we get a church in Mecca, they get a mosque in New York.

If Saudi Arabia won’t take us up on it, fine. It’s their call. One of ours for one of theirs. Can’t get any more fair, even-handed, and American than that.

What does he mean by "ours"?  The entire point of the Frist Amendment is that there is no "ours" because "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." 

But for Fischer and the rest of the Religious Right, First Amendment free exercise rights are exclusively "ours," meaning Christians and Jews, and don't apply to Muslims at all. 

First Amendment Rights Are For Christians Only!

Earlier this week we noted that Flip Benham and members of Operation Save America had been targeting mosques for protests, screaming that "Jesus hate Muslims" and declaring "This is a war in America and we are taking it to the mosques around the country."

Even though the group is based in Texas, it has chosen to target mosques in Connecticut and Muslim leaders in the state are holding a press conference today to discuss the attacks: 

The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut and other organizations are hosting a press conference and rally at 3 p.m. today (Friday) on the north side (Bushnell Park side) of the State Capitol.

The gathered hope to address recent outbreaks of Islamophobia in Connecticut, as well as the rest of the country. During Islam's holy month of Ramadan, Muslims have asked for police protection so that they can go to their mosques to pray in this state.

And so, of course, Operation Save America is responding by accusing Muslims of violating their First Amendment rights

In an unprecedented move, Muslim leaders in Connecticut are staging a press conference in Hartford this afternoon, to plead with legislators to censor the Gospel of Christ from the public forum around mosques.

That's right! They are using their own potential for violence to silence the Gospel of Christ. Gentle Christian saints will be conducting a press conference on the public sidewalk in front of the Bridgeport Islamic Center, aka Mafjid An-Noor Mosque in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Truth is hate to those who hate the truth.

Islam is not a religion, nor a cult, but a total and complete 100 % system of life. It has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components. In all of the 27 countries ruled by Islam, the church is the state! No other religion will be tolerated.

"Islam presents a monstrous worldview, birthed in the pit of hell, which brings untold misery and murder upon precious people created in the image of God. Religion is its cover (its beard) by which it gains entrance into nations where the 'freedom of religion' is sacrosanct. It then takes this freedom afforded to it, and begins its insidious takeover." Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America.

In essence, Benham is upset that Muslim leaders are exercising their First Amendment free speech rights in defense of their First Amendment religious freedoms because doing so represents a threat to his First Amendment right to scream that Jesus hates them.

LaBarbera's Conference Overrun By Spies

Back in June, when Peter LaBarber announced his three day anti-gay "Truth Academy," he made it clear that those who did not share his anti-gay views or agenda would not be welcome and that he would actively be screening applicants: 

This is a rigorous, 3-day program featuring some of the leading pro-family experts on homosexuality in the Culture War. Prospective attendees will need to be approved with references; this is not open to pro-homosexual activists but only to those who share AFTAH’s belief that homosexuality is immoral and that the GLBT movement is destructive to America and a direct threat to our religious freedom.

So how did that work out?

Well, Truth Wins Out got someone inside who provided audio recordings and Hemant Mehta (aka “The Friendly Atheist”) likewise had two sources inside who have provided an exhaustive recounting of the conference - one of Mehta's sources actually struck up a discussion with another attendee, only to find out that that person was also there as a spy. 

Now that spy, Timna Axel, has written her own long piece providing an inside view of the conference:

Reading Bible passages that describe God's strictly heterosexual design for marriage, Professor Rena Lindevaldsen of Liberty University traced a history of court cases which systematically de-linked procreation from marriage.

"I firmly believe we got to where we are today because we as a nation strayed from God's standard," she said. In her view, the last U.S. Supreme Court case which correctly described marriage was Murphy v. Ramsey, a case on polygamy decided 125 years ago. Decrying Lawrence v. Texas, which protected citizen privacy from anti-sodomy laws, Prof. Lindevaldsen admitted that she didn't want "the government peeking into my bedroom." However, privacy in this case should be sacrificed because "laws normalize conduct."

While anti-gay federal laws would merely discourage bad conduct, pro-gay federal laws would effectively criminalize Christianity, according to LaBarbera, who cited the cases of Canada and England. In his example, laws which prohibit renters from discriminating based on sexual orientation would make it illegal to fulfill the Christian ideology.

This scriptural keystone explains the absolute inability of these believers to compromise on gay marriage. "Sexual sin is sexual sin," asserted LaBarbera. "The truth is the truth." To budge one inch for domestic partnerships or civil unions is moral cowardice, and would open the floodgates for normalizing other sexual sins such as adultery and incest.

LaBarbera hailed his conference as a "tremendous success," but its becoming clear that a significant number of the 50 or so people LaBarbera claims attended were really there as undercover spies.

Interesting, LaBarbera is also offering DVDs and CDs from the conference ... but who needs to waste money on them when we are getting so much inside coverage of the event from the countless spies in attendance?

Fischer: "No More Mosques, Period"

The AFA 's Bryan Fischer was hating Muslims long before it was the cool conservative thing to do and has been calling for their mass deportation from the US for some time now.

So it was no surprise when he weighed in against the "Ground Zero Mosque" by calling for the blacklisting of any company that dares to work on its construction.

But of course that is not enough to Fischer, so he is now demanding an end to the construction of any mosque anywhere in America:

Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.

Each one is a potential jihadist recruitment and training center, and determined to implement the “Grand Jihad” ...

Because of this subversive ideology, Muslims cannot claim religious freedom protections under the First Amendment. They are currently using First Amendment freedoms to make plans to destroy the First Amendment altogether. There is no such thing as freedom of religion in Islam, and it is sheer and utter folly for Americans to delude themselves into thinking otherwise.

...

American Muslims are being radicalized every single day in American mosques. We are sowing the seeds of our own destruction by allowing these improvised explosive devices to be established in community after community.

If a mosque was willing to publicly renounce the Koran and its 109 verses that call for the death of infidels, renounce Allah and his messenger Mohammed, publicly condemn Osama bin Laden, Hamas, and Abdelbaset al Megrahi (the Lockerbie bomber), maybe then they could be allowed to build their buildings. But then they wouldn’t be Muslims at that point, now would they?

So how long before Fischer takes this to its logical conclusion and starts calling for all Muslims who won't leave the country or convert to Christianity to be rounded up and put into internment camps? 

Also, have I mentioned that Fischer is listed as a "confirmed speaker" at the next Family Research Council Values Voter Summit, along with Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rep. Mike Pence, and Mike Huckabee?

Just want to keep pointing that out.

ACLJ Battles Itself Over Its Understanding of The First Amendment

Last week I wondered how Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice was managing to rationalize its role in leading the opposition to the "Ground Zero Mosque" while still claiming to be a leading defender of religious freedom in America. 

As it turned it, the ACLJ did it by simply claiming that the debate wasn't about religious freedom at all.

But that excuse was laughably pathetic, and so Jay Sekulow and Brett Joshpe are back with an op-ed in the Washington Times, taking another stab at justifying themselves, claiming now that their "opposition to the ground-zero mosque reflects America's sacrosanct First Amendment ideals."

That's right - the ACLJ is simply exercising its own First Amendment right to freedom of speech:

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to do and say many things that are offensive - indeed, that is the bedrock of our constitutional system - but well-intentioned people, nonetheless, often choose not to do or say such things out of a moral concern for others. As the Anti-Defamation League eloquently wrote in its statement opposing the project, "ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right."

We are witnessing a tidal wave of opposition from all across the nation. Americans are exercising their private First Amendment rights and expressing opposition to the ground-zero mosque. Their voices are what create that famed marketplace of ideas, and attempts to silence them through cries of bigotry and racism in the name of the First Amendment are especially ironic.

This debate, in fact, reflects the ideals of freedom, and despite the intensity and controversy of the issue, the relative civility of the discussion is a testament to American values and tolerance. No serious person has suggested banning Islam or mosques or even the freedom to practice Islam near ground zero. Instead, citizens are expressing their personal views that the location of the mosque is unnecessarily inflammatory and hurtful, given the circumstances, and that if the project's developers seek to promote mutual respect and harmony, as they claim, they should reconsider.

Our client is one of those private citizens who believes this project is an insult to the Sept. 11 victims' memory and their families. His right to express that view - to fight this development politically and by ensuring that administrative agencies follow their own precedents and the rule of law, and to speak with the chorus of others who find the Cordoba House mosque at ground zero inappropriate - represents the essence of a free democracy. That right is not in tension with the First Amendment; it is the First Amendment.

Wasn't it just a few months ago when the ACLJ was fuming that Franklin Graham has been disinvited to a Pentagon National Day of Prayer event because of some past anti-Islam statements, a move which Sekulow and the ACLJ decried an act of outrageous anti-Christian bigotry?

The ACLJ claims that they are simply exercising their First Amendment right to free speech in opposing others' First Amendment right of religious freedom ... while also complaining that those who accuses them of hypocrisy or anti-Muslim bigotry are trying to prevent them from exercising their First Amendment rights ... so really, they are the real victims here.

Given a convoluted justification like this, good luck trying to figure out exactly where the ACLJ stands on the question of religious freedom vs free speech.

Everything You Could Want To Know About Jim Garlow's Views on Prop 8

Jim Garlow played a central role in the passage of Proposition 8 and was, not surprisingly, outraged by the court decision striking it down, claiming that it would lead to polygamy and bestiality.

Alan Colmes had Garlow on his program on Friday night to discuss that claim and Garlow stood by it, claiming that the language in the decision could ultimately be used to defend polygamy though he seemed to back off from the bestiality language a bit, claiming that Colmes had taken half of a quote and presented it out of context (of course, Colmes did nothing of the sort, as Garlow made the same bestiality comparison on more than one occasion.)

Eventually, the debate turned to the topic of religious freedom, with Garlow insisting that gay marriage would mean that doctors, businesses, and everyone else would have to recognize them under penalty of law, which prompted Colmes to ask Garlow if he was saying that people ought to be able to freely discriminate, which is exactly the view that recently got Rand Paul in trouble, to which Garlow replied "racism is wrong, and marriage is a good thing" and insisted that he has every right to take his religious views into the voting booth and "vote from a Biblical standpoint the same way that you have a right to vote from an anti-Biblical standpoint":

Those who want to know more about Garlow's opposition to the ruling can read this lengthy blog post he wrote slamming it or watch this eleven minute video he released doing the same thing:

Colson: "Go Build the Mosque Somewhere Else"

For weeks now, Chuck Colson has been warning about threat that President Obama poses to the religious freedoms of Christians, begging people to "understand the severity of the threats to our first freedom" which are coming from all sides and to "realize the kind of fight we're in and be prepared for what we may face in the coming months."

They key to protecting these liberties, Colson has been assuring everyone, is for them to sign the Manhattan Declaration which affirms the sanctity of "religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image":

In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion. We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded. Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one's own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of. Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

So imagine my surprise when I now see Colson telling Muslims to go build their mosques somewhere else:

Earlier this week, the proposed New York City mosque at ground zero cleared its final hurdle. Nothing seems to stand in the way of its construction.

I am appalled that peace-loving Muslims would want to do this on what is, for most Americans, hallowed ground. I am even more appalled that the mayor of New York is in favor of the idea ... the construction of the mosque at ground zero is not about tolerance. And it isn’t about religious liberty ... [I]t would not be an act of intolerance to deny the construction of a mosque at a certain location-particularly one, ground zero, where the mosque will serve as a daily reminder to New Yorkers of the terrorists, who, motivated by their Islamo-fascist beliefs, killed 3,000 innocent people in the name of Islam.

Go build the mosque somewhere else.

Colson has been frantically warning recently that their "first freedoms" are slowly slipping away and that they need to be willing and prepared engage in civil disobedience to defend them while simultaneously telling Muslims to "go build the mosque somewhere else."

And that is the Religious Right's understanding of "religious freedom" in a nutshell. 

The Right's Plan For Stopping Gay Marriage: Intimidate The Supreme Court

Take one guess what the topic of James Dobson's radio program was yesterday

With his ruling this week that Proposition 8 is “unconstitutional,” Judge Vaughn Walker nullified the will of 7 million Californians who voted to pass the state constitutional amendment in November ’08. On today’s broadcast, Dr. Dobson is joined by Chuck Colson, Dr. Robert George, and Professor Timothy George in a passionate discussion regarding imperious judges, what this ruling means, and what America might look like in the future if Judge Walker’s ruling is not overturned by a higher court of law. The panel also points out that this dramatic turning point in our nation’s history might finally stir believers to stand up and defend religious liberties in America.

Aside from all the outrage and hand-wringing about how the ruling is destroying religious freedom in American, the discussion did provide an interesting revelation into how the Religious Right plans to lay the groundwork for fighting gay marriage as this case makes its way to the Supreme Court.

It seems that for the Right, the role of the Supreme Court is not to make decisions based upon the Constitution's fundamental principles and values, but is rather to hand down decisions that reflect the baises of the people.  As such, the Right plans to start laying the groundwork now to make it clear to the Justices on the Supreme Court that they will not tolerate any decision that recognizes marriage equality:

Chuck Colson: The Supreme Court has not, ever, handed down a decision which flew into the face and teeth of a strong moral consensus against it. I don't think, if we build a real groundswell of opinion now over the next several months, that the Supreme Court will rule in supporting what happened in California two days ago. I don't believe it; I believe that this is an opportunity that we have to build a groundswell of support that will cause the Supreme Court not to legalize gay marriage.

Robert George: What we have here is an unconstitutional, indeed anti-constitutional decision, of a lower court judge and we have to hope that the Supreme Court of the United States, when the issue reaches them, will reverse the judge's holding. Chuck Colson's right: it might very well depend on whether we make clear to the Justices that the redefinition of marriage, the destruction of historic understanding of marriage as the union of man and woman simply will not be accepted by us, we the people, as legitimate.

Colson: I think we have to make an appeal to our secular neighbors and I really believe that if we present this case well, Jim ... believe me, if we present it well and if we speak to the common good and we speak to what is just and right in society, if we do that, we're going to get a lot of people joining us. And we're going to see those polls continue to show what they have been showing consistently, and that is that the American people do not want marriage to be anything other than a man and a woman. And when this case gets to the Supreme Court, if we have built a groundswell, we're going to win this case.

It seems that for the Religious Right, the only legitimate court decisions are ones that support their agenda and so the proper way to make sure that courts issue correct decisions is to seek to intimidate judges by making clear that any decision they don't like "will not be accepted by us, we the people, as legitimate."

So keep that in mind the next time you hear the Religious Right talking about the sanctity of the Constitution and the proper role of the courts.

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Religious Freedom Posts Archive

Miranda Blue, Wednesday 10/05/2011, 11:20am
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... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 09/26/2011, 11:14am
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... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 09/21/2011, 3:29pm
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-... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 09/19/2011, 12:35pm
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... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 08/31/2011, 3:17pm
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”... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 08/30/2011, 4:20pm
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... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 08/22/2011, 4:10pm
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... MORE