Religious Freedom

Who Is Vouching For Military Chaplains?

I have to admit that, outside of tales involving Gordon Klingenschmitt, I am pretty much ignorant of what goes on in the military's chaplaincy service.

Fortunately, there is the Military Religious Freedom Foundation which focuses on these sorts of topics and via whom we found out about this recent Kathryn Joyce piece in Newsweek exposing the efforts of Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and its founder Jim Ammerman:

According to the group's president, Mikey Weinstein, a cadre of 40 U.S. chaplains took part in a 2003 project to distribute 2.4 million Arabic-language Bibles in Iraq. This would be a serious violation of U.S. military Central Command's General Order Number One forbidding active-duty troops from trying to convert people to any religion. A Defense Department spokeswoman, in an e-mail to NEWSWEEK, denies any knowledge of this project.

The Bible initiative was handled by former Army chaplain Jim Ammerman, the 83-year-old founder of the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC), an organization in charge of endorsing 270 chaplains and chaplain candidates for the armed services. Ammerman worked with an evangelical group based in Arkansas, the International Missions Network Center, to distribute the Bibles through the efforts of his 40 active-duty chaplains in Iraq. A 2003 newsletter for the group said of the effort, "The goal is to establish a wedge for the kingdom of God in the Middle East, directly affecting the Islamic world."

...

Among the "endorsing agencies" is CFGC, which represents a conglomeration of independent Pentecostal churches outside established denominations. The group was accepted as a chaplain-endorsing agency by the Department of Defense in 1984, two years after it first applied. Since 1984, MRFF charges, Ammerman's agency has violated numerous codes that govern chaplaincies, including a constant denigration of other religions, particularly Islam, Judaism, mainline Protestantism and Catholicism, but also non-Pentecostal evangelical churches. In a 2008 sermon, Ammerman described a CFGC chaplain at Fort Riley, Kans., who demanded the 42 chaplains below him "speak up for Jesus" or leave his outfit. In a video for an organization called the Prophesy Club, CFGC chaplain Maj. James Linzey called mainstream Protestant churches "demonic, dastardly creatures from the pit of hell," that should be "[stomped] out." But the primary target of CFGC's ire is Islam. A 2001 CFGC newsletter asserted that the real enemy of the U.S. wasn't Osama bin Laden, but Allah, whom the newsletter called "Lucifer." A 2006 issue argued that all Muslim-Americans should be treated with suspicion, as they "obviously can't be good Americans." In a 2008 sermon, Ammerman called Islam "a killer religion" and Muslims "the devil."

...

Ammerman and chaplain Linzey have espoused conspiracy theories about "Satanic forces" at work in the U.S. government facilitating a military takeover by foreign troops; Ammerman even appears in a video favored by militia groups titled The Imminent Military Takeover of the USA. In 2008, Ammerman implied that four presidential candidates should be "arrested, quickly tried and hanged" for not voting to designate English America's official language, and speculated that Barack Obama would be assassinated as a secret Muslim.

Bruce Wilson has a related piece up on Huffington Post featuring various video clips of Ammerman, Linzey, and the Prophecy Club, including this one from 1997 where Ammerman claims that the US economy is controlled by Jews and says that Bill Clinton and Jane Fonda should have been executed:

Jim Ammerman from Bruce Wilson on Vimeo.

 UPDATE: Newsweek has issued the following correcting regarding the excerpted article above:

In an earlier version of this story, NEWSWEEK should have identified Pastor James Linzey as retired from active duty when he spoke to the Prophesy Club. We also should not have characterized him as having said that mainstream Protestant churches are "demonic, dastardly creatures from the pit of hell," that should be "[stomped] out." The pastor was referring to demonic forces he says are within the mainstream Protestant Church, and not the Church itself. NEWSWEEK regrets the errors.

Tilting At Windmills: The On-Going Crusade Against the DHS

Earlier this week I wrote a post about the fact Janet Porter and a gaggle of other fringe right-wing groups announced that they would be placing an ad in The Washington Times in which they demanded the resignation Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ever the recent “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” report.  

I’ve already written too much about this idiotic issue, so I’m not even going to get into it again and will simply note that the ad ran today and highlight the groups sponsoring it:

Current sponsors include: American Family Association, Religious Freedom Coalition, Let Freedom Ring, United States Justice Foundation, Faith2Action, Georgia Christian Alliance, Population Research Institute, Vision America, American Decency Association, Americans for Truth, AFA of Pennsylvania, Center for Security Policy, Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education, Eagle Forum of Alabama, Federal Intercessors, Legacy Church (Albuquerque, NM), Liberty Counsel, Move America Forward, Operation Rescue, Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ, Take Back Our Country and Traditional Values Coalition.

This coalition is also seeking donations so that they can run the ad in other media outlets and vowing to keep up the fight:

Coalition Chairman Janet Folger Porter (who hosts a nationally syndicated daily talk show and is the president of Faith2Action) observed: "If we don't speak out against this unconscionable attack on law-abiding citizens now, the left will use it to discredit everything we do from this point forward."

The irony here, of course, is that everyone realizes the report itself was entirely uncontroversial and that what is really discrediting the Right is their incessant hyperventilation and victimization over the report.

Note to Porter:  we don’t need a meaningless DHS report to discredit everything you do because you are perfectly capable of doing that all by yourself.

Franks and Gohmert Team Up With the Religious Right

It what seems to be becoming a regular occurrence, Rep. Trent Franks has decided to hold a press conference where he will once again be surrounded by a gaggle of right-wing leaders. 

Just last month Franks held a press conference on the need for the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act where he was joined by Rep. Michell Bachmann and people like Wendy Wright, Rob Schenck, and Clenard Childress.

Today, he's participating in an anti-hate crimes press conference where he will again be joined by Wright, Harry Jackson and, of all people, Lou Sheldon:  

HATE CRIMES AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

1:30 p.m. April 28, Terrace, Cannon Bldg. New

GOP Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Trent Franks of Arizona hold a news conference to discuss their opposition to hate crimes legislation (HR 1913), which they say would "pose frightening threats to religious freedom."

Agenda:

HR 1913 — Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009

Participants:

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.

Harry Jackson, chairman, High Impact Leadership Coalition, and senior pastor, Hope Christian Church

Louis P. Sheldon, chairman, Traditional Values Coalition

Wendy Wright, president, Concerned Women for America,

Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention

Maureen Wiebe, legislative director, American Association of Christian Schools

This list of participants is a real doozy - just yesterday, Wright was speculating that the timing of the swine flu scare was "a political thing to push the [Kathleen] Sebelius nomination through," and Jackson will just be coming off his role in leading the anti-marriage rally in DC today.  

But it is Sheldon's inclusion that is the real head-scratcher because, generally, members of Congress (and frankly most other leaders of the Religious Right) go out of their way not to be seen in public with the likes of him. 

And given the types of things he and his organization say, it is not hard to understand why:

The main purpose of this “hate crime” legislation is to add the categories of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” “either actual or perceived,” as new classes of individuals receiving special protection by federal law. Sexual orientation includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality on an ever-expanding continuum. Will Congress also protect these sexual orientations-zoophiles, pedophiles or polygamists?

Gender identity includes such gender confused behaviors as cross-dressing, she-male, drag queen, transvestite, transsexual or transgender. Under the Act, neither “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” are really defined. How can a law be enforced if the new classes receiving special protection remain undefined?

The sexual behaviors considered sinful and immoral by most major religions will be elevated to a protected “minority” class under federal law.

Once “sexual orientation” is added to federal law, anyone with a bizarre sexual orientation will have total protection for his or her activities by claiming that Congress sanctions their appearance, behavior or attitudes.

Inevitably this will negatively affect the performance of co-workers who are forced to work alongside of individuals with bizarre sex habits. Imagine working next to a person who gets sexual pleasure from rubbing up against a woman (Fronteurism) or enjoys wearing opposite sex clothing. These are “sexual orientations.”

Apparently this is the sort of language and anti-gay militancy with which Reps. Franks and Gohmert will willingly associate themselves. 

I'm just surprised that they didn't get Mat Staver to join them because if they are rounding up anti-gay fear mongers to oppose hate crimes legislation, Staver would have fit in perfectly:

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "Sexual orientation and gender identity include pedophilia and every imaginable deviant fetish. Cross-dressers and pedophiles find refuge in this so-called hate crimes bill, while veterans and grandmas are left to fend for themselves. Obviously, this bill is not about the prevention of crime but is all about pushing a radical sexual anarchy. This bill will crush free speech and trample free exercise of religion."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this video :

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what the DHS report actually says:

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

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

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

Klingenschmitt Prays in Jesus' Name for God to Curse His Enemies

Last week, we mentioned a few times that Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation had called upon the United States Chief of Naval Operations to investigate the fact that Gordon Klingenschmitt has been "attempting to create the false impression that he is still an active-duty member of the U.S. armed forces."

Klingenschmit quickly added a disclaimer to his website, explaining that his views “do not represent the views of the U.S. Navy” and that the picture of Klingenschmitt in uniform “is a picture of his former self, taken while he was serving on active duty, therefore he was not impersonating an officer,” but was none-too-pleased with AU and MRFF, saying that both “Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein are bone-heads.”

But apparently insulting them was not enough for Klingenschmitt, because AU reports that he is now calling on his supporters to launch “imprecatory” prayers against both men:

“Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who recently issued a press release attacking me personally,” prays Klingenschmitt on his Web site. “God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround me and tell lies about me. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore, find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with godly people. Plunder their fields and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants. And remember their sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

As AU explains, imprecatory prayer is basically asking God that bad things will happen to your enemies – things like death, loss of income, loss of property, etc. In other words, Klingenschmitt is asking God to curse both AU and MRFF.

This is actually the second time that AU has been the target of imprecatory prayers from some fringe Religious Right figure, as Wiley Drake issued a similar call back in 2007 after they contacted the IRS when Drake endorsed Mike Huckabee using church letterhead. 

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Media Matters points out that Bill O'Reilly doesn't know what he is talking about and has the photographic evidence to prove it.
  • Speaking of Media Matters, they want you to vote for the "the worst media moment of Obama's first 100 days" - it's going to be a difficult choice.
  • Dan Gilgoff reports that Rick Warren is eager to clarify his stance on gay marriage and Prop 8 and has this interesting quote from Wendy Wright: "'I hope he is not intimidated by the tactics of homosexual activists,' says Concerned Women for America's Wright. 'He has a unique ability to present biblical truth on marriage to a wider audience.'"
  • David Neiwert says that Chris Simcox's past will haunt his GOP primary bid against Sen. John McCain.
  • Dominic Holden tries to figure out why Gary Randall of Faith and Freedom is opposing gay rights and just what he's doing with all the money he's been raising.
  • Steve Benen notes that Michael Steele is now coming under fire from RNC members for failing to attack President Obama and Democrats as "socialists."
  • Pam urges everyone to save the date of October 10, the day that Matt Barber will be the featured speaker at Americans For Truth’s annual banquet.
  • Finally, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation are calling on the United States Chief of Naval Operations to investigate the fact that Gordon Klingenschmitt "is attempting to create the false impression that he is still an active-duty member of the U.S. armed forces."

Jackson to Fight Marriage Equality in DC

Charisma Magazine ran an article on the new National Organization for Marriage ad we mentioned yesterday in which various right-wing leaders say that the recent marriage vote in Vermont is proof that this debate was never about legal benefits but is really part of an effort to fundamentally redefine society:

Pro-family leaders say the vote in Vermont, which in 2000 became the first state to create civil union laws that gave same-sex couples the federal benefits of marriage, is proof that the debate over gay marriage was not about legal benefits.

"That was merely the wedge to demand more, to require that everyone in society accept what cannot-by nature-be, that marriage can be something other than one man and one woman," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.

Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which has argued in court on behalf of traditional marriage supporters, said civil union laws are tools to usher in gay marriage nationally.

"This move [in Vermont] also demonstrates without question that ‘civil unions' are never acceptable middle ground," Nimocks said. "Instead, they are the groundwork used to pave the way toward what you see today. Other states should not be naïve."

NOM executive director Brian Brown said his organization's new ad campaign was about protecting their religious freedom, saying that if states are allowed to pass marriage equality laws then those who "believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman [are going to be treated as] the equivalent of bigots." And it looks like NOM will be getting some help in this effort, as it is also reported that Harry Jackson is setting up his own campaign to prevent Washington, DC from following Vermont's lead:

Bishop Harry Jackson, founder of the Maryland-based High Impact Leadership Coalition, is setting up an office in the District of Columbia and launching a grass-roots campaign to oppose a gay marriage bill he said will likely be introduced in the District within the next 60 to 90 days.

Because the U.S. Congress governs the District, such a move would be a direct challenge to DOMA. Jackson, who is black, said educating African-American and Hispanic pastors in particular about gay marriage efforts will be key in preserving traditional marriage.

"In November, we had three simultaneous, major victories," Jackson said, referring to the passage of marriage amendments in Florida, Arizona and California. "We saw that the church uniting around racial boundaries is what makes the difference. ... When people who know the Lord know the issues, then we find people voting the right way."

This is the first we have head of Jackson's nascent effort, but it is something we will certainly be keeping an eye on.

And speaking of Jackson, he is also not happy with Rick Warren for claiming that fighting against marriage equality is not even on his agenda:

"This man who's been called the next Billy Graham, who I really respect with all my heart and love what he's doing in Africa, is falling into a trap that is emblematic of the problem that the entire church is facing in this generation," Jackson states. "And that is that we love the applause of men more than we love the work of God and the gospel. Jesus...told us that we are to honor God first, and that we are not to fear men but we're to fear God."

Jackson argues that Warren was "aiding and abetting a deception around what kind of stance the Bible calls Christians to take" by telling Larry King that opposing the recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was "not his agenda."

"He is the author of The Purpose Driven Life book," Jackson notes, "and therefore people are going to think, 'Well, this is not on my mission -- it's not on my purpose. I don't have to stand for truth.'

"Therefore, his defection -- in terms of his stance on this issue -- [and] his backsliding on this issue, becomes of tremendous damage to the strength of the church in this position."

Iowa Marriage Ruling: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Obviously, the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional is a pretty big deal ... a big enough deal, in fact, that it seems to have crashed the court's website as people try to access the decision.

Fortunately, Pam has grabbed and posted a PDF of the ruling and so we wanted to highlight this good section of the ruling in which the court lays out clearly and firmly the basic difference between religious and civil marriage and notes that granting equality in the latter in no way undermines or denigrates the former:

This contrast of opinions in our society largely explains the absence of any religion-based rationale to test the constitutionality of Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban. Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring government avoids them ... The statute at issue in this case does not prescribe a definition of marriage for religious institutions. Instead, the statute declares, “Marriage is a civil contract” and then regulates that civil contract. Thus, in pursuing our task in this case, we proceed as civil judges, far removed from the theological debate of religious clerics, and focus only on the concept of civil marriage and the state licensing system that identifies a limited class of persons entitled to secular rights and benefits associated with civil marriage.

We, of course, have a constitutional mandate to protect the free exercise of religion in Iowa, which includes the freedom of a religious organization to define marriages it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman ... This mission to protect religious freedom is consistent with our task to prevent government from endorsing any religious view. State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation ... This proposition is the essence of the separation of church and state.

As a result, civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals. This approach does not disrespect or denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal protection for all. We are not permitted to do less and would damage our constitution immeasurably by trying to do more ...

In the final analysis, we give respect to the views of all Iowans on the issue of same-sex marriage—religious or otherwise—by giving respect to our constitutional principles. These principles require that the state recognize both opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriage. Religious doctrine and views contrary to this principle of law are unaffected, and people can continue to associate with the religion that best reflects their views. A religious denomination can still define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and a marriage ceremony performed by a minister, priest, rabbi, or other person ordained or designated as a leader of the person’s religious faith does not lose its meaning as a sacrament or other religious institution.

The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law. This result is what our constitution requires.

Now for the bad - the ruling just came down and already we are seeing conservative critics pitching a fit, calling the decision "69 pages of blather" and "gobbledygook" written by "judicial knaves who proudly regard themselves as trailblazers" and will only see more of this sort of outrage as the day progresses ... which will likely entail more ugly things like this press release from Peter LaBarbera:

Today Iowa becomes the first state not on either of the nation's two liberal coasts to impose homosexual 'marriage' or its mischievous twin, 'civil unions,' on its citizens through judicial tyranny. To call this decision bankrupt is to understate its perniciousness. The evil genius of the pro-sodomy movement is that it targets noble institutions like marriage and adoption in the name of 'rights,' and then perverts them to normalize aberrant behaviors.

Homosexual 'marriage' is wrong because homosexual behavior itself is wrong and destructive -- as proved by its role in the early deaths of countless 'gay' men ... When the courts order society to effectively pretend that changeable sexual misbehavior is a 'civil right,' the law itself becomes perverted by punishing people of faith for their proper opposition toward deviant sex ... It is high time for pastors, in Iowa and across the land, to shake off their stifling, politically correct timidity and again become the prophetic voices for Truth they were called to be: by boldly warning Americans about the perils of our growing accommodation with the sins of proud homosexuality, and sex outside marriage in general.

The Right's Scared, Last-Minute, Month-Old Protection

Just before leaving office, the Bush Administration announced a new rule designed to protect the "consciences" of health care providers who oppose abortion and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

As the New York Times reported in mid-December of last year:

The rule prohibits recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and health care aides who refuse to take part in procedures because of their convictions, and it bars hospitals, clinics, doctors’ office and pharmacies from forcing their employees to assist in programs and activities financed by the department.

This change wasn't about protecting heath care workers who do not want to participate in abortions, as that sort of protection has existed for decades, but rather about protecting workers who consider things like birth control to be forms of abortion.

At the time this change was made, it is abundantly clear that then President-Elect Obama would review and most likely reverse this last minute rule change once he took office and it looks like that is exactly what he is doing:

The Obama administration's move to rescind broad new job protections for health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable triggered an immediate political storm yesterday, underscoring the difficulties the president faces in his effort to find common ground on anything related to the explosive issue of abortion.

The administration's plans, revealed quietly with a terse posting on a federal Web site, unleashed a flood of heated reaction, with supporters praising the proposal as a crucial victory for women's health and reproductive rights, and opponents condemning it as a devastating setback for freedom of religion.

And, of course, the Religious Right is livid:

But the Family Research Council, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others condemned it.

"It is open season to again discriminate against health-care professionals," said David Stevens, head of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. "Our Founding Fathers, who bled and died to guarantee our religious freedom, are turning over in their graves."

...

"I think what was in place was as good as one could find in terms of seeking and securing common ground," said the Rev. Frank Page, the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and another member of Obama's faith council. "It's a matter of respect. I felt like what was in place was that middle ground of common respect."

As the NYT reported back in December, the measure didn't even go into effect for 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, meaning that it has officially been in place for a little over a month. Until Bush implemented this unilateral last-minute change just before he left office, this rule had never even existed and has now been in place for all of a few weeks - yet, to here Religious Right leaders tell it, President Obama is set to undo some age-old "compromise" that will cause the Founding Fathers to turn over in their graves.

$200,000 Later, Liberty Legal Gets Back to Basics

Back in September, we wrote a couple of posts noting that the Liberty Legal Institute, a right-wing Texas law firm, was trying to shut down the "Troopergate" probe involving Sarah Palin in order to protect John McCain's presidential campaign. 

Now, the Anchorage Daily News reports that LLI spent nearly $200,000 on the effort:

New state gift disclosures show it cost Liberty Legal Institute and the two law firms working with it $185,000 to represent six Alaska legislators in an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt their colleagues' "troopergate" investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin acted improperly in firing the state's public safety director.

The legislators listed a $25,000 gift of services from the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute. Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values.

The lawmakers also disclosed a $120,000 gift of services from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a national firm that appeared at hearings on behalf of Liberty Legal.

Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson represented the six legislators in the case as well, and turned to Liberty Legal for its constitutional expertise. The lawmakers reported a $40,000 gift of services from Clarkson's firm.

That brings the total bill for their lawsuit to $185,000.

The attorneys had hoped to recoup legal fees in a victory. But the suit was dismissed last fall.

The six legislators who filed the suit are Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, Fred Dyson, Tom Wagoner, Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn. All are Republicans.

And speaking of Liberty Legal, Kelly Shackelford, who heads the organization, was just featured on Focus on the Family's CitizenLink website warning its readers that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are going to destroy their religious freedom by passing the Freedom of Choice Act, repealing DOMA, the Fairness Doctrine, hate crimes legislation and, most ominously, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

It essentially forces a national homosexual-rights law into businesses across the country. The original bill included "transgendered" individuals — in other words, a man who dresses like a woman, who feels like he’s a woman that day. This would affect everything. It would mean your teacher in your child’s school, if they were a male and felt like a female, they could go into the women’s bathroom.

It’s very extreme, but it is very likely to pass, and it has huge implications on religious liberty. There are a lot of Christian businesses that try to follow their beliefs and morality, and it would be the federal government forcing their view of morality on everybody and it would trump religious freedom.

It’s not just Christian businesses; it would even do it to nonprofit organizations. It would even affect, depending upon the exemption, church schools. So you can see how invidious this could be because it really is a direct attack on religious freedom.

While we understand Shackelford's fear-mongering on these issues - it is LLI's core mission, after all - we have yet to see a convincing explanation of how this mission was furthered by having this right-wing Texas organization drop a couple of hundred thousand dollars defending Republican legislators in Alaska in order to protect Sarah Palin.

Sometimes You Just Have to Scratch Your Head and Wonder

I honestly had no intention of continuing to cover the ludicrous “controversy” regarding the supposedly “anti-Christian” provision in the stimulus legislation, but it keeps popping up on right-wing websites and so I feel obligated to keep futilely trying to knock it down. 

For instance, here is Jonathan Falwell writing on WorldNetDaily, who cites this provision as proof that “public religious expression is increasingly in the crosshairs of our government”:

On Thursday, I spoke with Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law about this issue. During our conversation, he stated in part that the so-called stimulus bill may lead to the banning of religious activity from public facilities, with public schools possibly being forced to expel after-hours Bible clubs and weekend religious services in order to access these government funds. This would have a chilling effect on religious ministries and church-planting organizations of all stripes, including new church plants being sent out from Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University.

Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder if our lawmakers have even a basic understanding of our nation's rich history of religious freedom.

First of all, stop listening to Mat Staver because he’s wrong.  And secondly, sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder if anybody on the Right has even a basic understanding of how to read legislation because, if they did, they’d know that everything they are saying is outright false.

The Family Research Council also made another mention of this provision in its most recent “Washington Update”:

Although Republicans have tried to strip some excess from the stimulus, Democrats had a small victory of their own yesterday, defeating Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) amendment to ban religious discrimination from the bill by a 43-54 vote. Only Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) deserted the GOP to side with her liberal pals in opposing the provision.

Actually, two Republicans senators voted against it: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder if anybody on the Right has even a basic understanding of how to read a roll call vote.

Then finally, there’s Jay Sekulow, who got this whole thing started in the first place, declaring that he and the ACLJ intend to file suit immediately after President Obama signs it and proclaiming that they intend to spend years fighting it, if necessary:

"Well, not only is it disappointing, it's almost a throwback to litigation that we conducted in the 1980s that we won unanimously at the Supreme Court," he says. "And I feel like this particular legislation pokes the finger in the eye of people who take religious faith seriously.
 
Jay Sekulow (Amer. Ctr. for Law & Policy)"It's discriminatory in its application, unconstitutional as it's written, [and] unfortunately it's going to take four or five years for it to be litigated all the way through," Sekulow adds.
 
With passage of the bill with the restrictions in place, how might colleges and universities be affected? "We're going to look at filing an application for a stay of this provision, trying to get it declared unconstitutional through a restraining order," he shares.
 
Sekulow plans to file suit the day after President Obama signs the bill.

Does the ACLJ really intend to file suit and spend years in court based on nothing more than its own intentional misreading of this provision? Sometimes I just have to scratch my head and wonder if this is all a plot to drive me completely insane.

Right Cries "Discrimination," Threatens Legal Action Over Stimulus Legislation

As we reported last night, Sen. DeMint's effort to get a supposedly "anti-Christian" provision stripped from the stimulus legislation failed by the frightening close margin of 54-43.

As is to be expected, the right-wing groups had been peddling this lie all week are not happy, as David Brody reports:

The Traditional Values Coalition just issued this statement:

“Democrats showed their anti-Christian bias by rejecting South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint’s amendment that would have protected religious freedom in colleges and universities receiving federal funds,” said Traditional Values Coalition Executive Director, Andrea Lafferty today. “DeMint’s amendment simply struck the anti-Christian discrimination section from the bill.

...

“This is just the beginning of aggressive anti-Christian bigotry that we will see over the next four years,” said Lafferty. “We suffered a significant defeat to our First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom and free speech today.”

The ACLJ, which was responsible for unleashing this absurd fabrication in the first place, is standing by its erroneous position and threatening to sue if this provision gets signed into law:

This is a very disappointing development. What’s most troubling is the fact that a majority of the Senate supports a discriminatory provision that prohibits religious activity from taking place in college and university facilities nationwide that take federal stimulus funds. If this language remains in the stimulus package that’s ultimately approved by Congress, we will challenge this provision in federal court by filing suit. This provision has nothing to do with economic stimulus and everything to do with religious discrimination.

...

The fact is that unless this provision is removed from the final stimulus package, we'll be in federal court challenging this discriminatory measure.

We wish you the best of luck with that, ACLJ.

Which brings me to my final point.  I'm not in the habit of writing posts that revolve around comments left on blogs - especially comments left on Red State - but today I am making an exception.  Earlier this week, Erick Erickson wrote a post that made many of the false claims we have been systematically rebutting throughout the week.  A commentator there, going by the name PD, weighed in to point out that the language in this legislation is standard boilerplate legislative language.  Another commentator responded that, if the language was so common, why didn't PD provide other examples, to which PD responded with this:

Funds appropriated under a certain higher education grant program “may not be used…for a school or department of divinity or any religious worship or sectarian activity”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode20/usc_sec_20_00001068—e000-.html

Funds appropriated under another program “may not be used…for a school or department of divinity or any religious worship or sectarian activity”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode20/usc_sec_20_00001103—e000-.html

Limitation contained in program to help historically black institutions: “No grant may be made under this chapter for any educational program, activity, or service related to sectarian instruction or religious worship, or provided by a school or department of divinity.”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode20/usc_sec_20_00001062—-000-.html

Grants for work-study programs may “not involve the construction, operation, or maintenance of so much of any facility as is used or is to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place for religious worship”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00002753—-000-.html

Money used under a specific community development program subject to limitation that “no participant will be employed on projects involving political parties, or the construction, operation, or maintenance of so much of any facility as is used or to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place for religious worship”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00009807—-000-.html

Aid under program providing grants for volunteer service projects may not be used for ” projects involving the construction, operation, or maintenance of so much of any facility used or to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place for religious worship.”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00005001—-000-.html

Energy resource graduate fellowships “shall be awarded under this subchapter for study at a school or department of divinity.”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode30/usc_sec_30_00001325—-000-.html

Religious organizations participating in the “Community Schools Youth Services and Supervision Grant Program Act of 1994″ “shall not provide any sectarian instruction or sectarian worship in connection with an activity funded under this subchapter.”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/search/display.html?terms=sectarian&url=/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00013791—-000-.html

Funds used under grant program for tribally controlled schools “shall not be used in connection with religious worship or sectarian instruction.”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode25/usc_sec_25_00001803—-000-.html

Another construction program: “Participants shall not be employed under this chapter to carry out the construction, operation, or maintenance of any part of any facility that is used or to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place for religious worship (except with respect to the maintenance of a facility that is not primarily or inherently devoted to sectarian instruction or religious worship, in a case in which the organization operating the facility is part of a program or activity providing services to participants).”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode29/usc_sec_29_00002938—-000-.html

Etc., etc., etc., etc.

Well done, PD.  And do you supposed the ACLJ intends to file suit against all of these laws as well? 

DeMint Spreads Lies on Senate Floor, Compares Opponents to George Wallace

At this point in this ridiculous saga over the manufactured controversy regarding an "anti-Christian" provision in the stimulus bill, I don' t know whether to laugh or cry.

Check out this video of Sen. Jim DeMint flat-out lying on the Senate floor as he discusses the need to pass his amendment to strip this provision from the legislation, as he proclaims that Christians would be locked out of opportunities for higher education and proclaims that it was inserted into the bill by some nefarious cabal of people who are intent on silencing "traditional, freedom-loving Americans" and who are "so hostile to religion that they are willing to stand in the schoolhouse door, like the infamous George Wallace":

Here is a rough transcript of some of the highlights:

This is a provision "that would make sure students could never talk openly and honestly about their faith ... what this means is that students can't meet together in their dorms if that dorm has been repaired with federal money and have a prayer group or a Bible study. They can't get together in their student centers. They can't have a commencement service where a speaker talks about their personal faith." The people who wrote this provision want "to intimidate the free speech of traditional, freedom-loving Americans ... [and] put a chilling effect on religious freedom in our country." Student groups would be banned and "classes on world religions and religious history, academic studies of religious texts could be banned ... Someone around here thinks it's a good idea to discriminate against people of faith, to deny them the educational opportunities and access to public facilities. Someone is so hostile to religion that they are willing to stand in the schoolhouse door, like the infamous George Wallace, to deny people of faith from entering into any campus building renovated by this bill. This cannot stand! It is in hard times that our society most needs faith. It provides the light that no darkness can overcome. This provision is an attempt to extinguish that light from college campuses and the lives of our youth."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Gary Bauer calls on "pro-lifers [to] help Americans discern Obama’s abortion extremism, [so] they can help minimize the destruction of innocent human life that this administration is dedicated to inflicting."
  • A hearing on anti-discrimination legislation in North Dakota generated this quote from the director of the state’s chapter of Concerned Women for America: "[the bill is] a giant step toward the adoption of policies that discriminate against people with traditional views of morality. This law would not protect rights, but would rather grant special privileges based strictly on someone's sexual behavior. Further, those privileges would have a significant impact on the constitutional rights of North Dakotans who may have a moral objection to certain sexual behaviors."
  • The director of Cornerstone Policy Research in New Hampshire says his group has "partnered with several national groups — including the American Family Association and Focus on the Family — to fund anti-gay-marriage spots that could air on radio and television stations in about a month."
  • Why is German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking out about the Pope’s decision to make nice with a Holocaust-denier?  Because, according to Bill Donohue, she and all Germans are "reeking with guilt over the Holocaust."
  • Roy Moore joins the chorus of those freaking out about President Obama mentioning non-believers and other religions in his Inaugural Address, proclaiming: "To state that this is a Muslim nation, a Hindu nation, or a nation of nonbelievers is to deny that God is the grantor of religious freedom. It is also a denigration of the Christian faith to just another religion."
  • Finally, the Family Research Council's Krystle Weeks complains that crosses used in an antiabortion demonstration at George Washington University were defaced last week and that while "the media wants to fawn all over Barack Obama and his administration … they would rather ignore a story that violates the freedom of speech and religion." She then links to this Washington Post article about it … which rather undermines her claim that the media is ignoring this incident, don’t you think?

Decrying the "Coup" in Texas

For the last several days, the Texas Freedom Network had been chronicling the battle taking place in the Texas House of Representatives, as right-wing activists from around the state swung into action in order to try and save Rep. Tom Craddick's position as House Speaker - as TFN noted:

Craddick has alienated Democrats and a number of Republicans with his autocratic rule of the House and by forcing controversial votes on hot-button issues like private school vouchers. The religious right has strongly supported Craddick’s speakership, seeing him as an important tool in the far-right’s ongoing and deeply divisive culture war on mainstream values like strong public schools, religious freedom and civil liberties in Texas.

Eleven House Republicans have moved to support state Rep. Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, as speaker after the new legislative session begins on Jan. 13.

TFN explained how people like David Barton and the Cathy Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum were hard at work rallying their grassroots activists to save Craddick's position, but it looks like it was all for naught:

Straus, a moderate Republican from San Antonio, swept into the speaker's race Friday night and by Sunday had enough pledges, the great bulk from Democrats, to assure his election as the next House leader. As his list of supporters continued to grow Monday, his chief Republican rivals dropped their campaigns, leaving him all but assured of election when the 150 House members vote on a speaker when they gather Jan. 13.

Conservative activists and legislators expressed anguish over losing Craddick, a partisan warrior, as speaker. Craddick, who ended his campaign for a fourth speaker's term, saw his base crumble when virtually all Democrats and a dozen key Republicans abandoned him. He was also hurt by the November elections, which left the GOP with a thin 76-74 majority.  

Needless to say, right-wingers in the state are not happy, with Rick Scarborough decrying it as a nothing short of a "coup":

“Values voters in Texas will be outraged to hear the news that a small band of Republicans and 64 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives have conspired to name Representative Joe Straus of San Antonio, the most liberal returning Republican Representative in the House, as Speaker, replacing conservative Tom Craddick,“ said conservative activist, Dr. Rick Scarborough of Nacogdoches, Texas. “This is a deliberate and carefully calculated plan to undermine and halt progress on the issues we care about the most, ESPECIALLY the rights of the unborn child and traditional marriage” ... “This is nothing short of a coup and we will not take it laying down! We have worked hard for two decades in Texas to elect principled conservatives, but today it is clear we have far too many whose only guiding principle is power!” said Scarborough.

FRC Rejoices Over Last Minute Regulation Change

It looks like the Bush Administration has decided to use its final days in office to enforce its anti-choice agenda under the guise of protecting "conscience" of health care workers:

The Bush administration, in its final days, has issued a federal rule reinforcing protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions and other procedures because of religious or moral objections.

Critics of the rule say the protections are so broad that they limit a patient's right to get care and accurate information. For example, they fear the rule could make it possible for a pharmacy clerk to refuse to sell birth control pills and face no ramifications from an employer.

Under longstanding federal law, institutions may not discriminate against individuals who refuse to perform abortions or provide a referral for one. The administration's rule, issued Thursday, is intended to ensure that federal funds don't flow to providers who violate those laws.

"Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.

The rule requires recipients of Health and Human Services funding to certify their compliance with laws protecting conscience rights.

Not surprisingly, the Family Research Council is tickled by the move:

"This is a huge victory for religious freedom and the First Amendment. No one should be forced to have an abortion, and no one should be forced to be an abortionist. These regulations will ensure that conscience protection statutes will be strongly enforced by the government in the same manner as our other civil rights laws.

"Protecting the right of all health care providers to make professional judgments based on moral convictions and ethical standards is foundational to federal law. These regulations will implement conscience protections that have been embodied in U.S. statutes for over three decades. This is also a victory for the right of patients to choose doctors who decline to engage in morally objectionable practices.

...

"Family Research Council urges President-elect Barack Obama to stand up to pro-abortion forces maneuvering to compel health professionals to participate in abortion. The scope of conscience must be defined by individuals and not the government."

Of course, this rule change will immediately be reviewed and presumably reversed as soon as Barack Obama becomes president, so FRC's rejoicing will probably be rather short-lived.

Opposing Right Wing Legislation for All the Wrong Reasons

I came across an article yesterday about a piece of legislation co-authored by Oklahoma’s favorite militantly anti-gay legislator Sally Kern called the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act but didn’t write about it because, when it passed the legislature this summer, it was vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry

The bill is a typical piece of right-wing claptrap whereby the authors pretend that they are just trying to protect religious freedom when, in reality, they are just trying to make sure that Intelligent Design proponents won’t fail their science classes when they write papers claiming that the Earth is only 6000 years old.

It seems that Kern’s bill has been re-introduced in the 2009 legislative session but doesn’t seem to have been changed in any way that would help it avoid the Governor’s veto pen, should it end up on his desk again.  

The only reason I am even posting on this is because I was caught a bit off guard by this explanation from Rep. Ed Cannaday about why he opposes the bill:

But some lawmakers, including Rep. Ed Cannaday, a former teacher and school administrator in eastern Oklahoma, described the measure as a “cotton candy bill.”

“It’s tasteful and you enjoy it, but it does nothing for you,” said Cannaday, D-Porum.

From reading that, you’d think Cannaday opposed it because it was a attempt by right-wing legislators to inject religion into the public school system in ways that are both unnecessary and harmful.  But you’d be wrong:

Cannaday said the bill also could open the door for radical religious groups to demand equal time in Oklahoma schools.

“What’s more dangerous is that this cotton candy has been laced with arsenic,” Cannaday said. “The radical, non-Christian fringe groups who want to undermine our faith will use this to disrupt and to distract from our spiritual base.”

While it is nice that Cannaday opposes the bill, it would be nicer if he was opposing it because it was unnecessary rather than because it might allow “non-Christian fringe groups" access to public schools from which they would undermine “our spiritual base.”

Viva La Resistance!

If anyone thought that right-wing anti-choice groups were going to spend any time licking the wound inflicted by the last election in which they saw several states reject their efforts to restrict the right to chose, think again:

"The election forces the pro-life movement to go back to what we do best — local grass-roots organizing," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. "We will not go silently into the night."

The overall outcome "brings about feelings of great disappointment, of anger," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. "But that disappointment and anger are forms of energy. ...I believe a lot of people on the sidelines for last eight years will now get engaged."

Pavone predicted that activists would stage more mass demonstrations and abortion-clinic vigils. He also said the election results shed light on the movement's weak points, and would prompt new efforts to register anti-abortion voters and mobilize clergy to be more outspoken in future campaigns … "We will do everything to be sure [the Freedom of Choice Act] fails — the damage it would do to the pro-life movement would be immeasurable," said Mahoney. "On the scale of 1 to 10, that's No. 11 of what our job is."

"Any time you have a loss like that, you have an opportunity to reassess and come back stronger," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. "If they want to see this as a big loss that will set us back, that's OK. Our people are very energized, and ready for Round Two."

This sentiment seems to be sweeping the Religious Right, with Students for Life of America pledging to be unstintingly vigilant and Deacon Keith Fournier vowing to be a part of a “massive resistance” that will not only fight reproductive choice but will end the “culture war” through mass conversion:

We seem to be at war within when we need to join together as one strong voice for life. The real source of the hatred of life is the Devil Himself. The challenge which those whom the late Servant of God John Paul II called “the people of life” face at this crucial time in the history of the West is nothing new. We have been here before in our 2000 year history. The Christian Church goes into Cultures of death and transforms them from within. We can – and we must – do it again in the Third Millennium. Ours is not really a call to a “Culture War” but rather a call to the Conversion of Culture through the conversion of minds, hearts, and lifestyles which will then lead to a transformation of the social structures of governance and way we live our lives together.

In fact, it looks as if the Right is almost welcoming the new Obama administration, sensing it will provide an opportunity for them to mobilize and energize their base as part of new “resistance movement”:

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said, "I knew, moments after the election results came in, that I was now part of the resistance movement." As part of its "movement," CWA has launched a nationwide telemarketing advertising campaign. In the ad, Wright says, "We face a president and Congress more hostile to unborn children, to marriage, to religious freedom, to free speech, to protecting our country than has ever existed in our history." According to Wright, the ad generated an immediate response of calls from religious conservatives asking "what they could do" to help, NPR reports.

Religious conservative leaders also have been scrutinizing Obama's speeches from the campaign trail for messages they can use to rally their base, NPR reports. In particular, they have publicized a speech Obama made last year to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in which he said, "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." The act -- which would need congressional approval before Obama could sign it -- would eliminate most federal and state restrictions on abortion. Gary Bauer, president of American Values, said of the speech, "I found myself thinking, 'My goodness, I can't believe he's going to make it this easy for us to rally our troops to get off the mat and get back to work.'"

And Clenard Childress, founder of BlackGenocide.Org, goes so far as to declare that the election of Barack Obama was the best thing to ever happen to the anti-choice movement:

With the election of Barack Obama, we now have a face to put on the abortion plague and a link to the leader of the abortion industry, Planned Parenthood. Despite our efforts, in reality, the time to make this connection was clouded by the notoriety of the first black president and a failing economy. The result is: people still don't know who Barack Obama is and many are now looking deeper into the president elect's life and associations. The truth is: knowing his defeat would only minimize this exposure to America, God has now set it up for a global impact of astronomical proportions.

James Dobson Explains Himself

Today, James Dobson dedicated his radio program to reading out, word for word, Focus on the Family’s October newsletter [PDF] in which he explains why he is now supporting the McCain-Palin ticket, though he continues to insist that he is not offering an endorsement:

It’s probably obvious which of the two major party candidates’ views are most palatable to those of us who embrace a pro-life, pro-family worldview. While I will not endorse either candidate this year, I can say that I am now supportive of Senator John McCain and his bid for the presidency.… In recent weeks, I have received some measure of criticism from those who feel that my “change of heart” toward John McCain is unwarranted. I understand those views and concede that the Senator continues to embrace positions that concern me. I don’t apologize, however, for reevaluating our options in this election year.

Dobson then lays out the four developments that caused him to change his mind: the Saddleback Forum; the GOP platform, Obama’s “liberal views,” and McCain’s decision to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate: 

Here is a woman who is a deeply committed Christian, and who is pro-life not only with regard to her policies, but in her personal life. She and her husband welcomed their latest child, Trig, into the world even though he was diagnosed with Down syndrome while still in the womb. Approximately 90 percent of babies with Down syndrome are aborted, but Governor Palin carried her precious child to term and now loves and cares for him despite the challenges associated with a special needs child. Similarly, her teenage daughter, Bristol, who became pregnant out of wedlock, could have bowed to cultural pressure to seek an abortion. Instead, she and the father plan to get married and raise their child together. Governor Palin has been married for 20 years, and by all accounts, she is a portrait of Christian motherhood and womanhood.

Of serious concern to Dobson is the possibility that Democrats in the next Congress will unleash a “wave of anti-family, pro-homosexual legislation,” such as ENDA, which are direct threats to Christians: 

Large portions of the agenda promoted by homosexual activists will also be enacted. The implications for a federal hate crimes law are clear. People speaking against homosexuality have already been prosecuted under hate crimes laws both in the United States and abroad. If a federal hate crimes law passes, there will be little to prevent the government from endeavoring to control and curtail religious speech, especially from the pulpit. It is entirely possible that a pastor could be charged with inducing a federal hate crime simply by preaching from one of the many biblical passages that address homosexuality.

Dobson is likewise motivated by the importance of determining the future of the Supreme Court:

The importance of [electing a pro-family, pro-life President] cannot be overstated. Between 2009 and 2012, there will likely be two or more opportunities for the President to nominate new justices to the Supreme Court. Some court watchers say there could be as many as four resignations. That alone should give us serious pause as we consider for whom to cast our votes. In the months ahead, the Supreme Court will likely hand down rulings that will impact America for generations to come. We need a President who will nominate conservative, strict-constructionist judges to the Court. If that doesn’t happen, the highest court in the land could become stacked—even more than it already is—with justices who will endeavor to legislate from the bench and impose a liberal agenda on the nation. It will likely affect the definition of marriage, religious freedom, and the protection (or lack thereof) of life in the womb.

As I noted last year when Dobson was threatening to bolt the GOP if Rudy Giuliani secured the nomination, petulant threats from him are becoming an election year tradition … and just like with every other threat he’s issued to the party, when crunch time comes, Dobson eventually falls back in line.

"We as Christians, We are Persecuted and Oppressed"

That was the entirely predictable message at yesterday's press conference, organized by Chaps Gordon Klingenschmitt in Richmond, VA to protest the "forced resignations" of six police Chaplains who refused to deliver non-denominational prayers at department-sanctioned, public events:

The ministers and the Family Foundation of Virginia held a news conference yesterday to assail [state police Superintendent W. Steven] Flaherty's directive and Kaine for backing it.

"The recent decision by Superintendent Flaherty and its subsequent endorsement by Gov. Kaine is an act of anti-Christian hysteria based on a flawed decision by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court that has yet to be upheld and is, in fact, in conflict with other circuit court decisions from around the country," said Victoria Cobb, Family Foundation president. "The policy clearly violates the First Amendment-protected rights of free speech and religious freedom."

Cobb and the ministers said that barring the state police chaplains from using the name Jesus Christ is, in effect, a violation of those chaplains' rights because their religion calls upon them to pray to Jesus Christ.

"In our belief, it's not even a complete prayer" without appealing to Jesus Christ, said Rev. Rob Schenck, of the National Clergy Council ... ["So how do we end a prayer unless in the name of Jesus Christ? We are pleading with the governor . . . to reconsider the magnitude of this thing."]

Former Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who said he was discharged from the Navy for praying to Jesus Christ, sent Kaine a letter signed by 86 ministers, asking him to revise the policy for state police chaplains.

Klingenschmitt told Kaine that the policy amounts to religious discrimination and "anti-Christian persecution."

...

Hashmel Turner, the Fredericksburg councilman and minister whose prayers to Jesus Christ sparked the court case, attended yesterday's press conference.

He said he has given up leading prayers before council meetings because of the court's ruling.

"We as Christians, we are persecuted and oppressed," Turner said. "We have to support these chaplains that are being persecuted."

Those in attendance also announced that they intend to follow through on Klingenschmitt's threat to hold a pre-election rally that "could impact the national election" and will be doing so with a "statewide prayer rally" outside the Executive Mansion on Nov. 1.

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Religious Freedom Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Wednesday 03/23/2011, 2:27pm
While the American Family Association claims that one of its founding objectives is to defend “the rights of conscience and religious liberty from infringement by government,” its chief spokesman Bryan Fischer continues to show his contempt for religious freedom. Fischer, the AFA’s Director of Issues Analysis, repeatedly demanded that the US deport all Muslims and prohibit and purge Muslims from the military, and also called for the banning and destruction of mosques. Fischer today attempted to reconcile his ardent opposition to Muslim religious liberty with the Constitution... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/08/2011, 11:32am
On Thursday, Rep. Peter King, in his capacity as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will kick off hearings which seek to investigate the "radicalization" of Muslims in the United States. While lots of religious leaders are uniting in opposition to these hearings, others, like Richard Land, think they are a fantastic idea and a great opportunity for Muslims to prove that they are not terrorists ... and if they dare to object, they are only making things worse: Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 03/07/2011, 11:14am
Rick Santorum is set to address Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa tonight along with Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Buddy Roemer. On Saturday he wrote a guest column for the Des Moines Register where he repeated the same groundless right-wing arguments that marriage equality will lead to the end of religious freedom and that the Obama administration has stopped enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. In Iowa, a state which has had equal marriage rights since 2009, religious liberty has yet to collapse, as many conservatives predicted. And while the Obama... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 03/03/2011, 12:05pm
Today, CBN ran a report on efforts around the country to ban Sharia law, including legislation in Tennessee that would, in essence, make it a felony to be a practicing Muslim ... and Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is "specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights" was there to urge legislators who are serious about trying to outlaw Sharia to give them a call so that they can help: We we've said at the American Center for Law and Justice is if you're a state legislator and you're... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/08/2011, 12:19pm
CPAC boycotters, angered over the upcoming event’s inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud, have taken out a full page ad in the right-wing Washington Times to ask, “What would Ronald Reagan think of CPAC today?” Rick Scarborough’s Vision America was behind the ad which accused CPAC of “betraying conservative principles and threatening conservative unity by creating the false impression that gay activism is somehow compatible with conservativism” by allowing GOProud to be a participating organization: The self-proclaimed gay Republicans support hate... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 02/08/2011, 12:19pm
CPAC boycotters, angered over the upcoming event’s inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud, have taken out a full page ad in the right-wing Washington Times to ask, “What would Ronald Reagan think of CPAC today?” Rick Scarborough’s Vision America was behind the ad which accused CPAC of “betraying conservative principles and threatening conservative unity by creating the false impression that gay activism is somehow compatible with conservativism” by allowing GOProud to be a participating organization: The self-proclaimed gay Republicans support hate... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 01/24/2011, 11:24am
Richard Land has been among the most vocal Religious Right opponents of the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." Apparently concerned that his opposition was blatantly hypocritical, Land eventually signed on to the Anti-Defamation League's "Interfaith Coalition on Mosques" stating that while he opposed the location of the "Ground Zero Mosque" he believed it was important to "help preserve the First Amendment for all Americans" by ensuring that all people "have the right to the free exercise of our faith without the interference of the government.... MORE