Religious Liberty

Right Wing Round-Up

Today's best reporting on the Right from around the web:

  • RH Reality Check says that North Dakota's "Personhood bill," SF 1572 would grant every fertilized egg in the state full rights, and any intentional death of that fertilized egg would constitute murder and could have national implications.
  • Good As Your responds to the Right's repeatedly attempts to turn Tim Gill into their bogeyman.
  • Salon has a good article by Kathryn Joyce, author of "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement," on a woman who eventually left the movement: "She'd had her first three children by cesarean section, but after coming to the Quiverfull conviction, she was swayed by the movement's emphasis on natural (even unassisted home) birth. During one delivery, she suffered a partial uterine rupture and 'felt like I'd been in a major battle with Satan, and he'd just about left me dead.' The doctor who treated Garrison lectured her for an hour not to conceive again, but she felt that stopping on her own would be rebellion. When she turned to her leaders for inspiration, she received a bleak message: that if she died doing her maternal duty, God would care for her family. For six months, she couldn't look at the baby without crying."
  • Finally, our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus is now available:
  • Efforts to bring down discriminatory legal barriers to marriage equality have met with fierce resistance led by Religious Right organizations. Anti-equality leaders routinely blur the distinction between civil and religious marriage in order to portray legal marriage equality as a threat to their religious liberty. The truth can be a powerful weapon against that deception: when Americans understand that allowing same-sex couples to be legally wed would not require any church or congregation to bless or perform such weddings, support for legal equality jumps substantially. In fact, it is Religious Right leaders who undermine the constitutional principles of religious liberty and equality under the law by demanding that their own religious view of marriage be imposed by law on all Americans, including those whose religious beliefs and traditions support full marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, OK will host the 2009 Night to Honor Israel from 7-9 p.m. March 2 with the Rev. John Hagee speaking.
  • Rick Santorum says the Quran was "written in Islamic,” which is not a language.  It was written in Arabic.
  • FRC says it is understandable that so many Republicans are refusing to run for re-election.  After all, "who can blame them for choosing not to sit at the foot of the most pro-abortion, socialist Speaker of the House in history?"
  • Bill Donohue gets results. Yesterday the Catholic League voiced its outrage over a poster at the University of Georgia, claiming the "famous Michelangelo painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling that features the hand of God giving life to Adam has been hijacked to promote condoms." The school's Vice President for Student Affairs immediately apologized.
  • On his last day as Johnson County District Attorney, Phill Kline reportedly had copies of abortion records mailed to his office to Lynchburg, Va., where he had taken a job at Liberty University. The Johnson County District Attorney's Office only found out about it because the box was returned because  the address on the label was incorrect.
  • Finally, this quote from Richard Land in opposition to DOJ nominee David Ogden seemed to be worth highlighting:
  • Ogden told the committee during his oral and written testimony that his legal positions on controversial pornography-related cases represented the views of his clients and did not reflect his personal beliefs. But that hasn't been enough to appease opponents, who say that he could have turned down representing those clients if he found their positions so objectionable.

    "That's a moral cop-out, and it's one reason why there are so many lawyer jokes," Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press regarding Ogden's defense. "… A person's views on pornography are a window to a person's worldview, and this window shows a worldview that is inconsistent with what I want the American Justice Department to be."

The Religious Right's New Demand: Stop Calling Us the Religious Right

It seems that leaders of the Religious Right are tired of being associated with the Religious Right because nobody likes the Religious Right.  Unfortunately for them, they are the Religious Right and that is what we are going to keep calling them, especially now that they are saying we should stop calling them that:

[S]everal politically conservative evangelicals said in interviews that they do not want to be identified with the "Religious Right," "Christian Right," "Moral Majority," or other phrases still thrown around in journalism and academia.

"There is an ongoing battle for the vocabulary of our debate," said Gary Bauer, president of American Values. "It amazes me how often in public discourse really pejorative phrases are used, like the 'American Taliban,' 'fundamentalists,' 'Christian fascists,' and 'extreme Religious Right.' "

...

Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family, said that when writers include terms like "Religious Right" and "fundamentalist," they can create negative impressions.

"Terms like 'Religious Right' have been traditionally used in a pejorative way to suggest extremism," Schneeberger said. "The phrase 'socially conservative evangelicals' is not very exciting, but that's certainly the way to do it."

...

[M]any groups would rather distance themselves from the Religious Right, even though they may agree on several political issues. Richard Land said he corrects numerous reporters who call him a leader of the Religious Right, explaining that he represents a group of Southern Baptists who would probably consider themselves conservative evangelicals.

"When the so-called 'Religious Right' agrees with us, we applaud their good taste and good judgment," said Land, who is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Some phrases need to be eliminated from journalists' vocabulary entirely, he said. "Until Tony Perkins or Jim Dobson puts a pistol on the table and threatens to kill someone, they shouldn't be called ayatollah of the Right or the Jihadists of the Right."

...

Organizational leaders like Tony Perkins of Family Research Council want a term that includes other religious groups like Catholics, Jews, and Mormons so that they can see themselves as fighting for the same cause.

"It's not accurate to say that the Christian Right or the Religious Right is simply a narrow slice of evangelicals," Perkins said. "Will everyone identify themselves as part of the Religious Right? No, but they do share a portion of values."

If the phrase "Religious Right" has negative connotations, it probably stems primarily from the fact that the people who have traditionally represented the Religious Right have caused it to, you know, have negative connotations.  

When people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson go on television and blame the 9/11 attacks on "pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, [and] all of them who have tried to secularize America," that is the sort of thing that tends to create negative impressions about the Religious Right. 

And even if they were called "socially conservative evangelicals," this type of rhetoric would still create negative impressions about the term "socially conservative evangelicals" ... and then "socially conservative evangelicals" would be telling everyone to stop calling them "socially conservative evangelicals."

You see, it is not the term that it is problem - it is the Religious Right's agenda and rhetoric.

Does Anyone Understand the Meaning of "Used"?

Anyone who have been reading this blog over the last week knows, I have spent a great deal of time trying to knock down the misinformation swirling around regarding a provision in the stimulus bill that would prohibit funds for being used to upgrade or repair university facilities when said facilities function is primarily religious.

But, despite my efforts, this fraud keeps cropping up on right-wing website, with the Christian Coalition now spreading it and the Family Research Council continuing to peddle it:

First, we know that the current stimulus legislation in Congress is a disaster for the free market economy. But, did you know that there are limitations in the legislation against religious liberty? David French of Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online finds some disturbing facts restricting religious liberty within the stimulus legislation.

The Higher Education, Modernization and Renovation component of the bill requires that the money allocated in the stimulus would not be spent on religious instruction, worship, or any department of divinity, or any building that would be devoted for religious purposes on college campuses.

So, this leaves the question: where will religious groups meet on campus? I guess this means it will be back to dorm rooms or nearby churches. However, this ban would not apply to groups, like Amnesty International, College Feminists, Greenpeace, etc., who can meet in any room on campus. Seems odd, doesn't it? I guess it is 24/7 liberal indoctrination...thanks to the Obama's stimulus plan.

FRC doesn't provide a link to French's post ... but if they did send their readers there, they'd find out that French, who happens to be Senior Legal Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, links to our first post about this whole issue and says that we are right:

One clause indeed prohibits funding for buildings only when a "substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission." (emphasis added). The meaning here is obvious, and it clearly applies to buildings like chapels, or perhaps divinity schools, or many facilities at religious universities. It has no real application to secular, public universities that open up classroom buildings to student groups.

Another clause, however, prohibits funding for buildings that are "used" for "sectarian instruction" or "religious worship." It does not say "primarily used." It simply says "used." For People for the American Way's reading to be correct, one has to assume that the drafters intended "used" to be read as "primarily used."

I have to give French credit, as his post on this issue is the only one that I have seen that actually seeks to understand the provision instead of simply proclaiming it anti-Christian.  And he raises an interesting point regarding the meaning of the word "used" in the section that proclaims that "no funds awarded under this section may be used for ... modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity."

French is correct to note that the provision does not say "primarily used" ... but neither does it say "occasionally used" and yet, for some reason, that is how the Right is interpreting it.  Despite the fact that, as Sen. Dick Durbin pointed out last week, this sort of language "has been in the law for 40 years [and] is the result of three Supreme Court decisions," the Right's interpretation of this standard, boilerplate language is that it means that any building on campus that is ever occasionally "used" for religious worship (i.e., a student group meets in their dorm for a Bible study) would be prohibited from using stimulus funds, as opposed to the more straightforward and logical interpretation that "used" refers to a building's primary function (i. e., a church is occasionally "used" for potluck dinners and Bingo nights, but its primary function is religious worship).

The language of this provision is clearly concerned with facilities in which a "substantial portion of the functions ... are subsumed in a religious mission" and it is within that context that the word "used" must be understood.  

Only an intentionally obtuse reading of this provision could lead one to conclude that the word "used" in this context was intended to mean "occasionally used" rather than "primarily used." Yet that is exactly what the Right is claiming ... and I, in turn, have had to spend hours of my life rebutting false claims that hinge entirely on their nonsensical understanding of the meaning of the word "used."

I feel so used.

$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.

Bogus Stimulus Outcry Grows as Liberty Counsel and TVC Hop on the Bandwagon

It looks like the ACLJ’s entirely bogus attack on the stimulus bill is making its way around the right-wing hemisphere – in addition to Sen. Jim DeMint, the “drop the anti-Christian provision” call has now been taken up by the Liberty Counsel:

The highly controversial "stimulus" package is a monolithic spending bill containing language designed to stimulate the narrow interests of extreme left-wing activist organizations. The latest political payback tucked away in the estimated 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill will prove stimulating to religious censors and anti-faith groups like the ACLU.

Both the House and Senate versions contain anti-faith language that will censor religion and force people of faith from the public square … President Obama supports the package, but he could still request that Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi stop this blatant attack on people of faith.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "The so-called stimulus bill will lead to the banning of all religious activity from all public facilities by forbidding the use of funds to improve any facility where religious instruction or worship occurs. In order to receive stimulus money our public schools will have to expel after-school Bible clubs and weekend religious meetings. People who want to speak about their faith will be unwelcome in public places. Apparently, President Obama's idea of faith-based initiatives is to remove faith from all initiatives."

The Traditional Values Coalition has also come out against the provision, citing the same bogus reasons:

Among the prohibited uses of “greening” funds is the “modernization, renovation or repair” of higher learning facilities where sectarian religious activities or services may be conducted. “The economic crisis is being used as a pretext to curb religious liberty at institutions of higher learning.  Religious activity is already scarce at most of our colleges, the Obama people want to make sure it is extinct.

The ultimate impact will be to drive religious activities out of public education altogether. If higher education institutions worry about not getting part of this federal grab bag, they’ll simply eject religious activities from their campuses so they can easily get the money.

By rejecting religion, these educators can also avoid costly ACLU lawsuits that will inevitably be filed. This section of the bill should be called the ACLU Full Employment Act since it will be a boon for their anti-Christian litigation.

Interesting, isn’t it, how the ACLJ’s false initial claim that religious groups would be barred from using university facilities under this provision has now expanded into a warning that Bible clubs would be expelled entirely and “all religious activity [at] all public facilities” would be forbidden.

It was a lie when the ACLJ said it, and it's even more of a lie now that Liberty Counsel and TVC are piling on with their own misrepresentations. 

It’s like watching a game of Telephone gone horribly awry as one right-wing group unleashes an absurd fabrication and then other right-wing groups pick it up and mangle it further. 

And now this "controversy" has worked its way up to Fox News:

Democrats in Congress have declared war on prayer, say conservative groups who object to a provision in the stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week.

The upside of this, at least, is that it affords those who actually know what they are talking about the opportunity to point out that the right-wing outcry is fundamentally ridiculous:

The American Civil Liberties Union also defends the constitutionality of the restriction, which they say has been the law since 1972.

"It's almost a restatement of what the Constitution requires so there's nothing novel in what the House did in its restriction," said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel to the ACLU. "For 37 years, the law of the land is that the government can't pay for buildings that are used for religious purposes."

The Right Dismisses DuBois

Last week it was reported that Joshua DuBois, who ran religious outreach for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, had been tapped to head the White House's new office of faith-based programs.

Frankly, anyone who has been paying any attention to the intersection of religion and politics, especially as it relates to the Barack Obama, ought to at least be familiar with DuBois’s name … but apparently right-wing groups have had their heads buried in the sand for the last several years:

Religious professionals expressed concern Friday over the White House's selection of Joshua Dubois to head its Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, chiefly because Mr. Dubois, 26, has no experience working with charities.

Representatives of some of America's largest or fastest-growing denominations, such as Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention, said they have had little or no contact with Mr. Dubois, a strategist who directed religious outreach for the Obama campaign.

Spokesmen for Catholic Charities and the Family Research Council also drew a blank when asked about him.

It is especially interesting that the SBC and FRC are both insisting that they know nothing about DuBois, considering that DuBois and his team have been trying to reach out to them:

The Family Research Council, earlier reported to have been snubbed by Obama's folks, apparently has not been. J.P. Duffy, FRC's spokesman, told me there had been a call put into FRC over the holidays that somehow got missed. So they're trying to reestablish contact … Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention [said he’s received a] phone call from Josh Dubois, the transition team's religious outreach director, thanking him for a letter Mr. Land wrote to the president-elect soon after the election.

DuBois also reportedly called Land just before the Inauguration:

Land says he received a call from Obama's religious affairs director, Joshua DuBois, after Warren had been chosen. "Dubois told me that this was very intentionally done and that he, the president-elect, was the originator of the idea. He wanted to send the signal that you can disagree with him on some issues but still have a place with him at the table and work together on other issues of agreement.”

But instead of acknowledging the gracious efforts on the part of DuBois and the Obama team to reach out to right-wing groups who spent the last year calling Obama a “first-class arsonist” and proclaiming that, under President Obama, “our freedoms are going to come under attack,” they have apparently decided to play dumb in an effort to portray DuBois as some inexperience neophyte who has been insufficiently deferential in kissing the rings of Religious Right powerbrokers.

The Right Gets Spooked By the Specter of Nonbelievers

In his Inauguration Address, President Obama acknowledged that "we are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers."  I didn't think much of it at the time, but apparently it was the first time that atheists had been explicitly acknowledged in an Inauguration speech.

And it has seemingly spooked the Religious Right, or at least its media arms, so much so that they felt it necessary to seek out quotes from movement leaders that would remind everyone that, though nonbelievers exist, they are a small minority and that this is still a Christian nation.

As OneNewsNow put it, "America's 'melting pot' dominated by Christians"::

[Al] Mohler says while the nation has diverse religious beliefs, Christianity is by far the most popular.

"I just found it also interesting that in that representation, you have Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus -- and the reality is that Christians vastly outnumber [other religious adherents], beyond almost mathematical focus what you're talking about," he points out. "But we do believe in religious liberty. This is the land where this can be said in a way that is different than can be said in most nations of the world throughout human history."

And OneNewsNow was not alone in feeling it necessary to make this point clear:

“It struck me as accurate,” [Richard] Land told CNSNews.com. “We are a nation of Christians and Jews, and Muslims and Hindus, and Baha’i and agnostics and atheists – although proportionally the vast majority of Americans claim some kind of affiliation with a Christian faith.”

...

Dr. Elmer Towns, dean of the Liberty University School of Religion ... added: “If Obama is setting an agenda of tolerance, let’s make sure that the tolerance extends to the majority as well as the minority.

“The Baptists have an old saying – “Let the minority have their say, let the majority have their way.’”

I don't really have anything insightful to add to this, other than to note that just seems rather odd that because of the mere mention of non-believers, right-wing media outlets like OneNewsNow and CNS thought it necessary to produce articles reminding everyone that the majority of Americans consider themselves to be Christians.

TVC Plans to Court Conservative Democrats in Fighting Liberals

With Democrats now in control of the House, Senate, and White House, the Traditional Values Coalition is warning that "liberals will attack on all fronts this year":

Far left liberals will soon control all branches of the federal government, including our Armed Forces, Department of Justice, Education Department, Homeland Security, Energy Department and other key branches of government.

This control, however, is not indefinite and those of us who value conservative political principles and religious liberty, must work far more aggressively than in the past to make certain the Obama Administration fails in its leftist efforts to remake our nation.

This means that our lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill on behalf of churches and traditional values voters will be accelerated – and we’re going to need your help more than ever to hold back the onslaught of bad legislation and bad policy decisions that will flow out of the House, Senate, and Executive Branch.

Fortunately, TVC head Lou Sheldon knows how to stop it - by using his personal charm and charisma to woo conservative Democrats:

It is my personal goal in 2009 to reach out to conservative Democrats to encourage them to support traditional values in legislation and policy decisions. Conservatives in both parties have common foes: secular liberalism and the rise of Islam in America. We must work together to minimize the destruction that liberalism will bring to our nation during the next four years under the rule of a radical leftist who masqueraded as an agent of change for America.

I am hopeful that God will answer our prayers and honor our efforts to hold back the night during the next four years of liberalism run amuck. We will be faithful to the calling that God has given us – and we ask you to join us this year in being part of a traditional values army that will work with us to preserve justice, to defend life, and to continue fighting against the spread of Islam and the dangerous homosexual agenda in America.

Sheldon will have his work cut out for him, especially since Jack Abramoff is no longer around to bankroll his efforts.

Rick Warren: The Goldilocks Pastor

Last week when we first noted that Rick Warren had been tapped to deliver the Invocation at Barack Obama's Inauguration, we complained that, despite the fact that we and others continually point out that "Rick Warren is really just a friendlier version of James Dobson, his media-driven reputation as some sort of 'moderate' evangelical preacher continues to win out."

Case in point: this new article by the AP's Rachel Zoll. In it, she explains that Warren really is different from the traditional Religious Right leaders because his "biggest critics [are] other evangelicals" ... and then proceeds to fail to name even one of those supposed critics while suggesting that the mere existence of this unspecified criticism proves Warren's centrism and moderation: 

Rick Warren is in a place he never expected to be: at the center of a culture war.

The pastor chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to give the inaugural invocation backed Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his home state of California. But he did so belatedly, with none of the enthusiasm he brings to fighting AIDS and illiteracy.

When other conservative Christians held stadium rallies and raised tens of millions of dollars for the ballot effort, there was no sign of Warren. Neither he nor his wife, Kay, donated any of their considerable fortune to the campaign, according to public records and the Warrens' spokesman.

In fact, his endorsement seemed calculated for minimal impact. It was announced late on a Friday, just 10 days before Election Day, on a Web site geared for members of his Saddleback Community Church, not the general public.

For gay rights advocates, that strategy was nothing more than an attempt to mask Warren's prejudice. They were outraged that Obama decided last week to give a place of honor to a pastor they consider a general for the Christian right.

Lost in the uproar was the irony of Warren's plight. Ever since he began his climb to prominence in the 1980s, he has battled complaints from fellow evangelicals that he isn't nearly conservative enough.

...

It is no surprise that he and Obama have become friendly. Each tries to operate outside a strict liberal-conservative divide, and has risked angering his supporters to do so.

"You can't have a reformation without somebody opposing it," Warren says. "If I wasn't making a difference, nobody would be paying attention."

Of course, as we pointed out last week, both the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family were thrilled with the announcement that Warren was to be part of the Inauguration ... that that list we can also add Richard Land:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Obama for choosing Warren.

"I'm encouraged that President-elect Obama would select Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration," Land told Baptist Press. "First, it is a signal that President-elect Obama is going to employ a big-tent philosophy in his administration's approach to people who may disagree with them on some issues, but not others. His selection of Rick Warren indicates that people who disagree with the president-elect on sanctity of life issues are not automatically persona non grata at the White House in an Obama administration. It also indicates that the president-elect is not buying the radical homosexual activists' argument that anyone who opposes them on the gay marriage issue should be ostracized as a bigot."

If Zoll is going to write an article claiming that Warren is moderate because he has received criticism for not being conservative enough, the least she can do is actually include some examples of people leveling that criticism ... maybe from someone like fringe crackpot Joseph Farah:

I'm writing to share my profound and abject revulsion at your agreement to offer the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as president Jan. 20.

I understand you want this to be a time of "healing" for our nation. I understand you consider Obama to be your "friend." I understand your desire to bring "civility" to our society.

However, when we read the Bible, we see there are times for men of God to stand up to leaders, like Nathan did to King David, and confront them with the absolute truth of God's word and His laws. That's what all Christians should do when confronted with leaders embracing evil.

...

I'm sure you would not want to invoke God's blessing on the inauguration of a figure like Adolf Hitler, whose rise to power brought the destruction of millions of lives.

So, in principle, you agree there is a time for believers to stand up to elected leaders and rebuke them – even publicly. Apparently, you don't believe that time is now – that the deaths of untold numbers of born and unborn babies is not justification enough for such a stance.

Obviously, Farah and his ilk who have criticized Warren in the past hail from the far-right fringes of the Religious Right movement, but apparently that is enough for Zoll to declare that it proves Warren's moderation - so much so that she can completely ignore the fact that current Religious Right leaders like FRC, FOF, and Land see Obama's decision to include Warren as a welcome sign for their own political agenda.

If Warren really did represent some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement, presumably the current Religious Right powerbrokers would be throwing a fit over Warren's role in the Inauguration, rather than welcoming it as an encouraging sign.

The Right Continues Judging Bush’s Faith

Last week we highlighted President Bush’s recent interview with ABC News in which he stated that he didn’t believe, among other things, that the Bible was literally true and that his answers, not surprisingly, did not much impress Religious Right activists like Rob Schenck who saw it evidence of the “President’s eroded spiritual condition.”

To the list of those unimpressed with Bush’s theological views we can now add Richard Land, who asserts that Bush’s understanding is flat out wrong and says it’s a good thing that he’s merely the “commander-in-chief, not theologian-in-chief”:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said that upon hearing Bush's latest comments, he had the same reaction as to when Bush "has said similar things."

"I am very grateful that we have a president who is a person of personal and deeply committed faith in Jesus Christ, but statements like these remind us that he is indeed commander-in-chief, not theologian-in-chief," Land told Baptist Press. "I know the president, and he is a person of strong faith and has sort of a C.S. Lewis Basic Christianity kind of faith that is very deep and profound in his personal life, but he is not a theologian. In this particular instance, he is wrong. The Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not Allah, and there are not many paths to God."

You at least have to give the Right some credit for consistency - if your personal faith and understanding fails to meet their standards, they’ll let you know that you are ignorant and wrong.  

Of course, there is a slight difference: when President Bush’s faith doesn’t meet the Religious Right’s standards, it is just chalked up to the fact that Bush is just kind of a bad Christian, whereas when Barack Obama fails to meet their standards, they take it as further evidence that his Christianity is entirely phony and that he has no right to even call himself a Christian.

Is the Culture and Media Institute No More?

Tips-Q posts this email reporting that Bob Knight and his staff at the Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute have been laid off: 

We need Bob Knight in the pro-family movement!

Bob and his whole department at Media Research Center have been laid off. Please circulate this message in hopes that another position will surface for him and the rest of his terrific staff.

The list of Bob’s stellar accomplishments would take pages and more time than any of us have. He was a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, has held key positions at several conservative think tanks, Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America. He has been instrumental in the battle to preserve marriage. He has written compelling pieces about the threat to religious liberty of “hate crimes” and ENDA legislation. He has exposed the pseudo-science of the “born gay” claims of homosexual advocates.He has appeared on countless TV and radio shows and always represents our side with truth, humor and grace.

At MRC, Bob’s department has done a terrific job of tracking the bias against Christians and conservatives in the mainstream media.

As we approach one of the darkest times in recent American history, the knowledge and experience of a fine Christian man like Bob Knight is needed more than ever. We understand the tough financial woes of Christian groups, yet a background like his is rare and should not go unutilized.

Please circulate this to all Christian and conservative contacts.

Fill in the Blank: Gays Are Like ____

It seems that one of the emerging ideas among anti-gay activists is to try and explain the gay menace in terms that their supporters can easily understand by equating those seeking equal treatment under the law to terrorist who kill innocent civilians.  

Last month, Pat Boone declared that “homosexual activists” were just like the jihidists who carried out the attacks of September 11th, only more dangerous:

The jihadists in these organized, hugely funded attacks on our morality and virtue are not Middle Eastern – they're homegrown Americans who actually believe they're promoting a better America by destroying the foundations on which this nation was built!

And just in case that analogy wasn’t clear enough, he returned this week to equate the protests over the passage of Proposition 8 to the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai that killed nearly 200 people:

Have you not seen the awful similarity between what happened in Mumbai and what's happening right now in our cities?

Oh, I know the homosexual "rights" demonstrations haven't reached the same level of violence, but I'm referring to the anger, the vehemence, the total disregard for law and order and the supposed rights of their fellow citizens. I'm referring to the intolerance, the hate seething in the words, faces and actions of those who didn't get their way in a democratic election, and who proclaim loudly that they will get their way, no matter what the electorate wants!

Hate is hate, no matter where it erupts. And hate, unbridled, will eventually and inevitably boil into violence.

Then, just for good measure, founder and chairman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Seamus Hasson got in on the act while discussing his organization’s recent full-page newspaper ad, telling KPFA’s “The Morning Show” host Aimee Allison that protestors are no different than Al Qaeda:  

Well, whether it’s an organized movement like Al Qaeda or whether it’s the Al Qaeda-like, um, inspired acts of terrorism elsewhere, people are right to be concerned about, um, radical Islamist violence.

Richard Land: Historian and Scientist

It seems that Richard Land is not just some Religious Right leader and pundit, he's also something of a renaissance man with expertise in a wide variety of area - such as predicting the course of history where, in the future, George W. Bush will be hailed as one of our greatest president:

A prominent Southern Baptist leader has compared George W. Bush to Harry Truman, another president whose approval ratings dropped to the 20s in his final months in office but is now considered one of the greatest American presidents of the 20th century.

"Just remember that you heard it here from me," Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Dec. 6 on his weekly radio program. "He will be the Harry Truman of our time."

Commenting on reports of a debate about whether Bush would go down as one of the worst presidents in the last 50 years, Land predicted that, like Truman's, Bush's legacy will be vindicated by the long scope of history.

That includes the president's least popular decision, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. While acknowledging the entry into war was handled poorly, Land said, the 2007 troop surge has placed the U.S.-led coalition on the cusp of victory of Iraq.

In addition to making America safer, Land applauded Bush for blunting "the metastasizing of abortion" by opposing late-term abortions and research using embryonic stem cells.

But Land isn't stopping there and is likewise demonstrating a heretofore unknown scientific expertise as he explains that climate change is a total hoax:

Richard Land, head of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called global warming a "hoax" and a "scam" on his weekly radio program Nov. 22.

Land attributed fluctuations in global temperature to "cycles of nature that God has allowed in the cosmos" and labeled human activity "a minor contribution to global warming."

"The sunspots have faded, the solar cycle has peaked, the sun is going into a quiescent period and everybody but [former Vice President and anti-global warming activist] Al Gore is cooling off," Land said.

Of course, it is not as if Land has a particularly good track record of making predictions regarding the issues he actually does know something about, as displayed by his repeated proclamations just over a year ago that Fred Thompson was a "Southern-fried Reagan” and that "to see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint,” so it is probably best to take his current declarations with a grain or two of salt.

Who Could Have Predicted?

Who could ever have predicted that when Newsweek decided to run its cover story, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage,” that Religious Right leaders would react negatively:

Leading social conservatives blasted Newsweek for its current cover story, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage," which they said misinterprets both biblical scripture and their own political movement.

“It doesn’t surprise me. Newsweek has been so far in the tank on the homosexual issue, for so long, they need scuba gear and breathing apparatus,” said Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I don’t think it’s going to change the minds of anyone who takes biblical teachings seriously.”

Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative Family Research Council, agreed, calling Newsweek’s cover story “yet another attack on orthodox Christianity” … “If they think they’re going to cause Evangelical Christians or Bible-believing Christians of different stripes to somehow say, oh, the Bible doesn’t matter on marriage, I think they’re mistaken,” Perkins said. “I don’t think too many in the Evangelical world are too concerned about what Newsweek has to say.”

Staver Becoming Increasingly Radical

For many years, Mat Staver of the Jerry Falwell created Liberty Counsel had seemed like a relatively reasonable man.  We didn’t agree with his legal views or agenda, but he wasn’t necessarily the type of right-wing figure to start spouting utterly nonsensical and offensive views about gays or abortion or Democratic politicians or what have you.  

But something seems to have changed recently and, ever since he agreed to join various other second and third-tier right-wing figures for the Values Voter Debate in Florida last year, he has become increasingly unhinged. 

For instance, not too long ago he was blaming our current financial crisis on the “radical redefinition of marriage” and saying that American will be cursed if it elected Barack Obama.  After Obama won, Staver told Newsweek that people who believe Barack Obama might be the Antichrist are not necessarily crazy, but are just “expressing a concern and a fear that is widely shared.” 

Now we get Staver warning that Obama (and his gay allies) are the “biggest threat to religious liberty we've ever had”:

Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty legal organization, told Baptist Press he believes religious freedoms could be impacted under Obama, especially if the bills he supports become law.

"I would consider him to be the biggest threat to religious liberty we've ever had [in the White House] because he will push the homosexual agenda," Staver said. "... I think churches and pastors will be very negatively affected by Obama's policies."

"My biggest fear is that his agenda will not only advance the homosexual agenda but restrict freedom of speech and freedom of religion," Staver said ... "What we've seen recently with the violence and the attempt to intimidate Christians into silence following the passage of Prop 8 by the homosexual activists ought to be a wake-up call for Christians," Staver said. "That's what's coming if we don't stand up and resist now these homosexual policies."

Land Slowly Backs Away From Palin

Politico notes that even though Sarah Palin tops polls of Republican voters’ preferred pick for the party’s nominee in 2012, her support comes mainly from hard-core right-wing conservatives while her approval rating among moderates and centrists has plummeted.

What makes the article interesting is this statement from Richard Land, who was one of Palin’s earliest backers touting her candidacy way back in early August and constantly gushing about her during the campaign, suddenly suggesting that the Right doesn’t “have all their hopes and dreams vested” in her future:

The GOP intra-party debate over Palin has become a proxy for the larger question of her party's future, and conservative chieftains like Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land fear that attacks on Palin are at times veiled swipes at the party base.

"It would be a mistake to say that social conservatives have all their hopes and dreams vested in Sarah Palin," Land said, but he added Palin "does have the one thing you can't coach, charisma," and continues to have "star power" with conservatives.

Now Land has a long history of trying to portray himself as more of a pundit than a Religious Right hack and setting himself up as perhaps a more sensible alternative to the likes of James Dobson.  In that capacity, he often serves as a moderately reliable bellwether of the Right’s views on political issues, such as his early adoration of Fred Thompson which then quickly evaporated when it was clear that his campaign was going nowhere or his lukewarm support of John McCain’s candidacy that was kicked into overdrive by his choice of Palin as his running mate.

So it is interesting to see Land start backing away ever-so-slowly from the idea that Palin represents the future of the Religious Right movement in American politics, presumably out of concern that Palin’s future itself might be rather limited, as Ed Rollins points out:

Ed Rollins, who ran presidential bids for Republicans including Ronald Reagan and Huckabee, argued that "independents are something she can focus on later."

In the end, though, Rollins expects that Palin "will be very similar to [Dan] Quayle."

"When he started to run, [Quayle] got nowhere," Rollins said. "The potential is there [for Palin] but out of 10 weeks she had two good weeks." For the 2012 race, "she's now not starting at the top but starting at the bottom," he said, adding that Palin would have to campaign for years in Iowa and New Hampshire to mount a viable campaign.

The Wirthlins Take Their Sob Story on the Road

Robb and Robin Wirthlin are fast becoming right-wing celebrities as they turn their horror stories about what happened to their family as a result of gay marriage in Massachusetts into a warning to the rest of the nation.

You see, their son was read the book "King and King" in school and ... well, that's about it.  But that was enough to get them featured in this video about the dangers of gay marriage from the Family Research Council: 

And now they have taken their tale of woe on the road, heading down to Florida to urge its citizens to pass Amendment 2 and prevent such tragedies from befalling their own families:

Massachusetts parents Robb and Robin Wirthlin don't want parents in Florida to have the same experience as they did when their seven-year-old son was taught from a book advocating "gay marriage" in his second grade public school classroom in the wake of that state's legalization of same-sex marriages.

"It's troubling and it's disturbing. We don't want this to happen to any other family," Robb Wirthlin, joined by his wife, said at a Tallahassee news conference Oct. 22.

The Wirthlins, also joined by a Hillsborough County teacher, a First Amendment attorney, and religious leaders urged Floridians to support the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment (also known as Amendment 2 on the November ballot) to protect traditional marriage in order to avoid the negative educational and religious liberty ramifications that have arisen in other states with "gay marriage."

"If we had a million dollars to give the campaign we would because we don't want anyone to go through this-what we've been through," Robb Wirthlin said.

...

The Wirthlins unsuccessfully appealed to their son's teacher and principal to receive prior notice before such subject matter is taught or to opt-out of such lessons. Later, a federal lawsuit also failed to protect the parents' rights, and the Wirthlins have been subjected to ridicule and hostility by other citizens in Lexington.

But just in case that wasn't enough to scare Florida voters straight, Anita Staver, wife of right-wing uber-lawyer Mat Staver, issued some terrifying predictions of her own: 

Anita Staver, president of Liberty Counsel and co-author of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, told reporters: "We don't need a crystal ball to tell what's going to happen in Florida if Amendment 2 does not pass. Normalizing same-sex marriage will suppress speech and religion. The ultimate goal for those opposing Amendment 2 is to silence all opposition to same-sex behavior and the homosexual lifestyle."

Noting the "gay marriage" debate is "really a battle over the freedom of speech," Staver listed 10 examples in schools, churches and private businesses in which persons opposing homosexuality have been discriminated against, usually in states and countries where "gay marriage" has been legalized.

"Florida, we've had ample warning. To prevent similar travesties from coming to this state, we need to get ready. We need to vote yes on Amendment 2," Staver said.

Right Plots to Wage Culture War During Obama Presidency

For those hoping that a victory by Barack Obama might somehow restrain or moderate the Religious Right … well, you are going to be disappointed since the Right is already looking ahead and planning on reconstituting itself by rallying around Sarah Palin and launching an all-out culture war: 

"An Obama victory will galvanize social conservatives for 2010 and 2012 and they will look for a standard bearer they can rally around," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of America's largest evangelical group.

Land told Reuters the candidate most likely to "rally the troops" under an Obama administration looked to be McCain's running mate Sarah Palin.

The Alaska governor has excited the evangelical base but her strident opposition to abortion rights and other hard-core conservative positions have alienated more moderate voters.

William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League which opposes abortion rights, said religious conservatives were bracing for a new phase in the "culture wars."

"I've been on the phone the last couple of days with some of my friends ... and we're getting ready for the biggest culture war battles ever," Donohue said.

"There is nobody in the history of the United States who has run for president who is a more enthusiastic supporter of abortion rights than Obama," he said.

"How McCain Shed Pariah Status Among Evangelicals"

That is the title of this good piece by NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty on how John McCain managed to go from reviled enemy of the Religious Right to panderer extraordinaire in just eight years.

Hagerty recounts who McCain openly attacked the Right with his "agents of intolerance" remark back in 2000 and how despite Gary Bauer's efforts to help him adjust the tone and direction of the attack, there was no confusion on the part of Religious Right leaders regarding what he meant: 

"It was very hurtful," recalls Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. "When you attack two of their leaders — and those two people were much more important leaders in 2000 than they are today – well, it damaged McCain with a lot of the grassroots."

And then McCain only compounded the problem this year when he sought the support of John Hagee and Rod Parsley only to reject them when he was forced to answer for their views, something that Richard Land points out only went to show how clueless McCain is about the GOP's right-wing base:

Land says the controversy showed how little McCain knew the constituency he was trying to woo. "Both of these guys hold positions which anyone who knows evangelical life well would know would be problematic for someone running for national office," Land says. "I think McCain and his advisers just didn't know the lay of the land."

The interesting thing about this, which Land doesn't mention, is the fact the Right was not mad at McCain for seeking the support of Hagee and Parsley because they held crazy views unrepresentative of the movement, but because he refused to defend them and their views when they came under attack and ultimately dropped them alltogether. 

But then McCain finally got his act together, started courting them, saying the things they wanted to hear, and finally gave them the VP nominee they had been dreaming of:

In May, McCain began to court the evangelical leaders he had once disdained, with the help of Bauer, his friend and religious insider. All summer, McCain met privately with leaders and stressed his credentials that he is strongly pro-life, anti-same-sex marriage, a religious conservative by record if not by countenance.

Then he threw the first of two punches.

On Aug. 16, McCain and his Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama agreed to be questioned, separately, by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. During the televised forum, McCain served up short, definitive answers, just as this evangelical audience wanted it.

...

Bauer was sitting in the front row.

"Even before the event was over during little breaks for TV," he recalls, "people were patting me on the shoulder, saying, 'Oh my gosh, Gary, he's so much better than I thought he would be. This is wonderful!'"

Two weeks later, McCain delivered his knock-out punch to Obama's hopes for winning traditional evangelicals when he announced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

At that moment, some 250 evangelical leaders were meeting in Minneapolis. Land, who was there, says they jumped to their feet and cheered.

"The first appointment in a supposed McCain admin is who he picked for vice president," Land says. "And he picked someone who is a rock star among pro-lifers, Catholic and Protestant. There's not a pro-life activist in the country who didn't know exactly who Sarah Palin was before John McCain ever picked her as his vice president."

And that is how John McCain shed his pariah status among Evangelicals - by completely caving to their demands. 

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Religious Liberty Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Friday 09/02/2011, 2:52pm
Jennifer Roback Morse, the president of the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute, hosted Religious Right leader Chuck Colson on her radio show on Monday. During the program, Morse compared the position of marriage equality opponents to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the renowned Lutheran pastor involved in the anti-Nazi resistance who was executed by the Nazis in 1945. Morse said that “the parallels” between Nazi Germany and contemporary America “are really quite chilling” and what happened in Nazi Germany “is happening to us”: Morse: We... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 09/01/2011, 4:10pm
As we noted last week, Rick Perry gathered with a whole range of Religious Right leaders at the ranch of right-wing megadonor James Leininger over the weekend and details continue to emerge about what took place during the event, like Perry vowing to them that there would be no revelations about his past that would ever embarrass them. We are also seeing more reports about which leaders were in attendance: The meeting received little public attention, though the 200 or so in attendance included luminaries of the Christian right such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, California... 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
Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 08/09/2011, 12:13pm
Casual viewers of “The Response,” including some political reporters who don’t pay a lot of attention to the Religious Right, may have watched Texas Governor Rick Perry’s prayer rally on Saturday and wondered what all the fuss was about.  Most of the time was taken up with prayer and praise music.  Few of the speakers seemed overtly political.  Nobody used the occasion to endorse Perry’s pending presidential bid. But context is everything, and the context for this event was remarkable: a governor launching a presidential bid by teaming up with... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Friday 08/05/2011, 5:52pm
Among the most remarkable sections of the long email sent to participants in advance of this weekend’s The Response event suggesting thoughts for contemplation and preparation was this section on lying: Jesus tells us that all lies come from the devil (John 8:44). Lies come in many variations. Oftentimes people use truth to perpetrate lies. For instance, when only part of the truth is told to make the hearer believe something other than what is actually true, it is a deception, a lie. Satan used this method in his temptations of Jesus.   Lying in all its forms is the work of the... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 08/04/2011, 11:33am
As we mentioned yesterday, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann will be joining FRC, the National Organization for Marriage and the Susan B. Anthony List for a ""Values Voter Bus Tour" through Iowa. In kicking off the event, NOM has announced that Santorum, Bachmann, and Mitt Romney have all signed a five-point "Marriage Pledge" [PDF] that includes a promise to establish a "presidential commission" to "investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters": One, support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 08/03/2011, 3:35pm
The Family Research Council has just announced that Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and Louie Gohmert will be joining FRC, the National Organization for Marriage and the Susan B. Anthony List for a ""Values Voter Bus Tour" through Iowa next week: FRC Action's Faith Family Freedom Fund, the National Organization for Marriage and the Susan B. Anthony List today announced the "Values Voter Bus Tour" that next week will cover 1,305 miles in four days with events in 22 cities. The tour will pass through 47 of Iowa's 99 counties. Presidential... MORE