Religious Liberty

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. 

GodTV Election Special

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice has been something of a guardian angle for the Rob and Paul Schenck.  After getting arrested and fined repeatedly for their anti-abortion activism in New York, the brothers decided to give up their protesting and move to Washington DC to reinvent themselves, with Sekulow's help:

SCHENCK BROTHERS BID FAREWELL TO PRO-LIFE ACTIVISM IN BUFFALO
11 August 1994
Buffalo News

The Revs. Paul H. and Robert L. Schenck are packing up their pro-life activism and moving it to the national arena.

They're also taking the Rev. Johnny Hunter, a third leader of the local pro-life movement, with them. The three men are moving to the Washington, D.C., and Virginia Beach, Va., areas.

Starting Sept. 1, Paul Schenck hopes to become a director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm that fights for religious liberty and the pro-life and pro-family causes.

Robert Schenck will become organizing pastor of the National Community Church on Capitol Hill, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination. That new church will attempt to attract middle-level Capitol Hill workers and develop a national network of pastors to engage in "Christian lobbying" on Capitol Hill.

Sekulow continued to assist them, even going to the Supreme Court and arguing Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York on Paul's behalf in 1996.  And to this day, Sekulow and the Schenck brothers maintain close ties, which is why it is no surprise to see that he had invited Rob to join him and former Attorney General John Ashcroft for the taping of their GodTV Election Special:

Rob Schenck (R) appears on a GodTV Election Special hosted by Jay Sekulow (L). Other guests included former US Attorney General John Ashcroft (Center Left) and Mega-Church Pastor Mike MacIntosh of San Diego's Horizon Christian Fellowship (Center Right). The four talked atop the US Chamber of Commerce building with the White House and Washington Monument in the background. The Election Day Special can be seen at www.god.tv

According to the GodTV schedule, the special is set to air on Friday, October 19 at 8pm.

Palin’s Unbiblical Candidacy

Today, the LA Times takes a look at the issue, which we’ve mentioned here a few times, of the seeming conflict between the belief among some conservative evangelicals that women cannot be leaders of the church and that their proper role is to be submissive to their husbands all while enthusiastically supporting Sarah Palin’s candidacy for vice president.  

The consensus seems to be that biblical restrictions on women's roles only apply at church and at home, not out in the secular world and, provided that Palin's husband approves, she is free to have a career.  

But inevitably, there are those for whom even this seemingly restrictive view is too liberal: 

"The Palin selection is the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least," said Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry. "The unabashed, unquestioning support of Sarah Palin and all she represents marks a fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities -- of moms being at home with young children, of moms being helpers to their husbands, the priority of being keepers of the home."

Voddie Baucham, a Texas pastor who has criticized the Palin selection as anti-family in a series of blogs, said that the overwhelming evangelical support demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice biblical principles for politics. "Evangelicalism has lost its biblical perspective and its prophetic voice," Baucham wrote. "Men who should be standing guard as the conscience of the country are instead falling in line with the feminist agenda and calling a family tragedy . . . a shining example of family values."

In an interview, Baucham said the hundreds of responses he's received are running 20 to 1 in his favor. But he said he has also been castigated for "breaking ranks" by some, who argue the election is too important to raise divisive issues.

He and other like-minded pastors disagree. "It's more important for us to truthfully represent the priorities of Scripture than it is for us to win an election," Phillips said.

That view is obviously held by a very small minority of evangelicals, but overall this issue is leading to rather odd statements from Religious Right leaders as they try to reconcile this apparent contradiction:  

Although many conservative Christians agree that women should place homemaking over working outside, many are hesitant to apply those views to Palin. Christian author Martha Peace, whose book "The Excellent Wife" tells women to submit to husbands and be good homemakers, said she would not make the same choice as Palin.

Ditto for Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and recommended Palin to the McCain campaign. He also would not do as the Palins have done. "I'm not hard-wired to be the 'First Dude,' " he said.

But Peace and Land are two of many who say the public should stay out of what is a matter between the Palins and their pastor. "I wouldn't presume to make that judgment for another family," Land said.

That’s rich coming from Land, whose entire career has been based on passing judgment on others.

SBC Electoral Prayer Vigil Seeks to Protect Candidates from the "Attacks of Satan"

The Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have announced a 40 Day Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal. Set to begin in late September, it is timed to conclude - wouldn't you know it - right on Election Day:
The 40/40 Prayer Vigil is set to begin Wednesday, Sept. 24, and conclude on the Sunday morning, Nov. 2, before Election Day. According to the website for the vigil, iLiveValues.com/prayer, the vigil begins with 37 days of daily prayer and concludes with a recommended 40 hours of around-the-clock intercession during the final three days of the initiative. ... It is not happenstance that the vigil ends just days before Election Day, the two Southern Baptist leaders confirmed. "As Election Day approaches, we as Christians know we need to be committed to praying for the outcome and for those who will be elected to lead us," Hammond said. "But milestone moments like this in our history should remind us of the importance of asking God for spiritual awakening in our land." "As Christians, we need God to give us wisdom as we select the next president of the United States," Land said. "People must realize that government at every level is a lagging social indicator," he added. "True and lasting change in our nation will come from spiritual renewal in the hearts of America's citizens, not from government programs."
As the AP reports:

Southern Baptists are organizing a nationwide prayer campaign to accompany their values-voter registration drive, seeking spiritual renewal for families and churches, and God's favor for public officials who are guided by the Bible.

The 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal will run from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2, two days before the general election. The daily prayers include requests for God's guidance in voting, for the election of more "godly Christians," for God to "help churches find ways to help Christians get to the polls" and for public officials to be protected "from the attacks of Satan." The effort is a companion program to the iVoteValues registration campaign, which began in 2004 and is jointly led this year by Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant group in the country, and the Family Research Council, a conservative Washington-based advocacy group.

The Right (Over)Reacts to Biden

Following the announcement that Barack Obama had chosen Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, the Right swung into action, with FRC Action quickly releasing a “fact sheet on [the] family record of Senator Joe Biden” while others carefully crafted statements of their own and began plotting strategy. 

Within hours, a new on-line movement touting itself “Catholics Against Joe Biden” appeared on the scene, brought to you by the same people behind the “Catholics Against Rudy” effort during the GOP primary.  Of course, that effort gained attention because the organizers were traditionally Republican supporters proclaiming a GOP candidate unacceptable whereas this new effort is standard partisan criticism cloaked in religious terms.

Apparently Catholics are not only universally opposed, but outright offended, by Obama’s decision to choose Biden - at least judging by the press release from Fidelis, another self-appointed political organization that claims to speak for Catholics:

Fidelis President Brian Burch commented, “Barack Obama has re-opened a wound among American Catholics by picking a pro-abortion Catholic politician. The American bishops have made clear that Catholic political leaders must defend the dignity of every human person, including the unborn.  Sadly, Joe Biden’s tenure in the United States Senate has been marked by steadfast support for legal abortion.”

“Now everywhere Biden campaigns, we’ll have this question of whether a pro-abortion Catholic can receive Communion. Senator Biden is an unrepentant supporter of abortion in direct opposition to the Church he claims as his own. Selecting a pro-abortion Catholic is a slap in the face to Catholic voters,” said Burch.

But both Fidelis and Catholics Against Joe Biden were outdone by Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission who made his displeasure known by blasting Obama as a “fake Christian” and Biden as a “fake Catholic”:  

"Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden sends a clear message, true Christians need not apply in the Democratic Party," said Dr. Gary Cass, Chairman and CEO of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. "Instead of picking a true Christian, Obama, a fake evangelical, has selected Biden, a fake Catholic.”

 The CADC proclaims its mission is to “advance religious liberty for Christians by protecting Christians from defamation, discrimination, and bigotry from any and all sources,” but that apparently doesn’t apply to those it considers “fake” Christians such as Obama and Biden.  It might seem odd that an organization founded to protect Christians from defamation would among the most frequently and vocally defaming Obama’s faith, but only if you don’t understand that Cass’s mission is reserved solely for those he deems “true Christians” who have proven their faith via “actions and [holding] the beliefs personified by all of us who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as Savior: the need to be re-born in Christ and the affirmation of historic Christianity, having a demonstrable and proven record of support for traditional Christian morality.”

How To Be a Right-Winger in 25 Easy Steps

All of those potential right-wing candidates out there who are searching for a ready-made agenda to run on are in luck, because today the Family Research Council unveiled a report entitled "25 Pro-Family Policy Goals for the Nation." As FRC explains, the report is designed to serve as a blueprint for candidates, though it'll work for pastors, voters, and plain-old citizens as well:

The document you hold in your hands can serve as a model for the platforms the Republican and Democratic parties will write this summer. It can also serve as a blueprint for how those we elect can promote and protect the family and its values in 2009 and in the years to come. The 25 goals we put forth here are grouped into eight main subject areas, ranging from Human Life to Marriage and Family to Religious Liberty to Culture and Media. Each page features a brief analysis of the issue, followed by one or more specific policy proposals which can help America meet that individual goal. Some involve action by Congress, some by the president, and some by state legislators or executive officials. If you are a candidate for office or an elected official, please consider adopting these proposals as your own. If you are a values voter, challenge those running for office as to their position on these issues, and weigh their response as you consider your vote. If you are a pastor or leader of an organization, consider making copies of this booklet available to your members. If you are simply a citizen who cares about the family in America, write to your elected officials and urge them to pursue these goals with vigor.

As one would expect, the FRC then proceeds to lay out its policy priorities on everything from marriage to abortion to judges. If you are looking for a concise collection of the issues that make up the Right's current political agenda, this new FRC report is one-stop shopping:

Marriage/Anti-Gay The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman should be enshrined in state constitutions. Ideally, such amendments should reserve the benefits granted to marriage for married couples only. Congress should oppose, and the president should veto, any effort to dilute, weaken, or repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Congress should pass, and the states should ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman nationwide. Until the Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is adopted, Congress should consider measures which would withhold certain related federal funding from any state that fails to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. For example, federal “family planning” funds could be withheld from any state that fails to recognize authentic marriage as the foundation of the healthy “family.” Improve understanding and enforcement of the 1993 statute affirming that homosexuals are ineligible to serve in the military, and oppose congressional efforts to repeal the law. Congress should reject (or the president should veto) the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Congress should reject (or the president should veto) any federal “hate crimes” legislation including sexual orientation. State legislatures and governors should reject similar bills. Congress should pass legislation that affirms and strengthens the religious freedom of Americans as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and rooted in the nation’s history. A “Freedom of Conscience Protection” law should protect the right of individuals, businesses, and religious institutions to express and carry out their moral views regarding homosexuality in the schools, in the workplace, or in the public square without fear of legal retribution. Judges Congress should exercise its power under Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts. When judges violate their oat by engaging in egregious judicial activism, Congress, state legislators, and the people should exercise their power to impeach and remove them from office. Anti-Abortion Congress should prohibit distribution of federal funds to institutions or organizations that provide abortions, in light of American taxpayers’ conscientious objections to abortion. State and local governments should likewise cut off all funding for abortion providers. The ‘pro-life riders” that have been added to annual appropriations bills should be made permanent. These include restrictions on federal funds for any and all services and items pertaining to abortion, whether the funds are for domestic or international organizations; restrictions on federal funds for human embryo research and destruction, including cloning; restrictions on patenting of human organisms; and restrictions on destruction of human life through euthanasia or assisted suicide. Abstinence Within federally funded abstinence programs, abstinence-until-marriage messages must be tied together with healthy marriage education. States should pass laws requiring that existing family life education with state law contain a predominantly abstinence-centered message The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman should be enshrined in state constitutions. Ideally, such amendments should reserve the benefits granted to marriage for married couples only. Teaching Intelligent Design Protect faculty member from being fired, denied tenure, or otherwise professionally punished or disadvantaged for sharing with students evidence critical of existing scientific theories.

McCain's Saddleback Bump

As we noted before, the Right was positively thrilled with both John McCain's performance and Rick Warren's faith forum as a whole. But even we didn't fully realize the extent to which this event seems to have fundamentally transformed the Religious Right's heretofore tepid support into a full-blown fever:

Several conservative activists identified McCain’s response to the question, “What point is a baby entitled to human rights?” as his finest moment of the evening.

McCain replied quickly: “At the moment of conception,” and continued: “I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president.”

“He was just right out of the box,” said Lynda Bell, the president of Florida Right to Life. “McCain was so incredibly decisive and he was so clear in his answers. There was no gray area.”

“They feel like this is the start of John McCain’s coming out, in terms of embracing the conservative evangelicals,” Andrews said, comparing the event to the 2000 primary debate in which George W. Bush named Jesus Christ as the philosopher who had influenced him most.

According to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Christian conservatives were especially eager to hear this message from McCain.

“I think they needed to hear it and they needed to hear it when the question was asked in that way, that protections need to come at the moment of conception,” Land said. “That removes all doubt.”

...

The importance of McCain’s performance at the Saddleback Church, then, was to show religious conservatives that the candidate genuinely cared about their issues.

“People were, before, just kind of wringing their hands thinking, what kind of mess do we have here, what kind of choice do we have,” Perkins said. “I think he stopped the … ambivalence that was out there toward John McCain.”

Andrews agreed, explaining: “When they see McCain’s actual position and him talking about it, it makes a difference, instead of looking at roll call tallies.”

“McCain’s performance was so genuine and so real,” Bell added. “This became clearly, no longer that, ‘This is the best of the two choices,’ and moved from that over to, ‘This is a great, great candidate that we need to get behind.’”

Of course, McCain's new-found support could still all be wiped out if he chooses a running mate who does not meet the Right's requirements:

“The party will just implode” if McCain makes such a choice, Perkins warned. “[Social conservatives] are going to have to know that he’s totally committed to these issues, and that’s going to require a running mate that has an even better ability to communicate with the base than John McCain has.”

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Religious Liberty Posts Archive

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
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 08/01/2011, 10:36am
Last month, J. Paul Oetken won Senate confirmation by a vote of 80-13, making him the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge. Peter LaBarbera has long demanded a sexual orientation test for judges, asserting that all nominees must declare if they have a history of "practicing immoral homosexual behavior" or "consider yourself homosexual." So needless to say, the milestone of Oetken's confirmation is not sitting well with him: "Homosexual activists are quite clear that their so-called 'rights' trump our religious liberty, our freedom to act on our... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 07/26/2011, 10:10am
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) told the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow today that the public is behind the GOP’s effort to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because “85 percent of Americans” oppose marriage equality. Discussing a Senate bill that would repeal DOMA, Huelskamp said: “Eight-five [sic] percent of Americans say, ‘We support traditional marriage,’ and the Senate does the opposite.” Polls show that the majority of Americans support equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians and believe that DOMA should be repealed.... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/20/2011, 4:00pm
On his radio program today, Bryan Fischer seized upon a story out of Vermont regarding a couple that is suing an inn for refusing to host their wedding reception because they were lesbians to declare that gay rights and religious liberty cannot coexist: We cannot have the homosexual agenda and liberty; those two things are incompatible with each other. They cannot coexist. One is going to have to give. Either the homosexual agenda is going to have to retreat or religious liberty is going to have to retreat. Every advance of the homosexual agenda comes at the expense of religious liberty... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 07/19/2011, 4:55pm
The American Family Association today announced that more traditionally pro-GOP Religious Right organizations are joining them in hosting The Response prayer rally with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Kyle reported that Focus on the Family founder James Dobson is on board, and now Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America have been named co-chairmen. Even though Perry and the AFA are adamant that the prayer rally is apolitical, the fact that leaders of three of the most prominent Religious Right political groups in the country are hosting the event... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 07/13/2011, 5:20pm
The Family Research Council has been adamantly defending the clinic founded by Rep. Michele Bachmann and her husband since an undercover investigation revealed that the clinic was practicing discredited ‘ex-gay’ reparative therapy. The Religious Right group, which recently urged people to pray for countries that criminalize homosexuality, wants members to pray for anti-gay laws and clinics that offer “help for homosexuals to break free from addiction to homosexuality.” The FRC writes in its latest prayer alert: Christian Counseling under Assault – This week a... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 07/11/2011, 10:55am
Last week, Time's Amy Sullivan reported that dozens of Religious Right leaders gathered for "a conference call to discuss their dissatisfaction with the current GOP presidential field, and agreed that Rick Perry would be their preferred candidate if he entered the race." Brian Kaylor of EthicsDaily.com had reported on the same thing a few weeks back, noting that the effort was being organized by James Robison. Last Friday, Robison wrote a post on his blog in which explained that he had called these gatherings in September of 2010 and June of 2011 because "there is an insidious... MORE