Values Voter Summit

Right Wing Round-Up - 9/22/14

Tony Perkins Uses Meriam Ibrahim To Promote Anti-Obama, Anti-Gay Agenda

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has excitedly touted a big “get” for this week’s Values Voter Summit: Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman who was persecuted by the Sudanese government over charges of apostasy. Evangelicals in the U.S. were part of the international chorus of voices who worked to keep a spotlight on Ibrahim’s plight, and Ibrahim may wish to thank some of the activists who advocated for her freedom.

But Perkins and FRC have another agenda entirely: They have been using Ibrahim as a prop in their relentless, over-the-top attacks on the Obama administration — and their claims that Christians in America are themselves facing government persecution.

Ibrahim’s vividly compelling case — for being a Christian, she was shackled to a prison floor with one small child while pregnant, then gave birth in jail — drew worldwide attention. Ibrahim had a Muslim father but was raised by a Christian mother, and in 2011 she married a Catholic American, Daniel Wali.  She was arrested last September after being charged with apostasy — abandoning the Muslim faith — and for adultery given that the court didn’t recognize her marriage to a Christian.  This May she was sentenced to receive 100 lashes and be hanged.

An Amnesty International campaign on her behalf generated more than a million signatures. European leaders condemned her treatment and called for her release. In the U.S., religious and political leaders called for her freedom. A petition on the White House website pushed by Perkins and others gained more than 50,000 signatures.

On May 15, the White House condemned her sentence in a statement by National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden, which urged the government of Sudan to respect Ibrahim’s religious freedom andto respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of all its people.” The State Department also expressed concerns in May; Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement in June.

Ibrahim was freed on June 23, then re-arrested and detained briefly when she tried to leave the country. She was sheltered by the U.S. embassy for about a month until she was permitted to leave Sudan in late July. She is now living with her husband and children in New Hampshire.

Perkins has repeatedly used Ibrahim’s plight as a way to hammer the Obama administration. 

In late May, Perkins fumed:

While many international groups have taken up efforts to pressure the Sudanese government to release Meriam and her children, the Obama administration has said little, and done nothing.

Think about this: two innocent American children are imprisoned abroad as their life hangs in the balance. If President Obama will not act in a situation like this, what will he act upon? Does Obama care?

Fox News’ hosts got in on the act, even as its own website was contradicting those claims.  A May 31 Fox News story by Joshua Rhett Miller was headlined, “US 'fully engaged' in case of Sudanese woman sentenced to die for Christian faith.” It included a quote from the State Department:

Through the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, the White House and the State Department, we have communicated our strong concern at high levels of the Sudanese government about this case,” State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson wrote FoxNews.com in an email. “We have heard from many, many Americans that they are deeply alarmed by [Ibrahim’s] plight. We have conveyed these views to the Government of Sudan.”

Yet the video at the top of that very story on the Fox News website featured Perkins saying the U.S. government was doing “so far, nothing that we can tell” other than condemning Ibrahim’s treatment. Megyn Kelly fumed that the State Department had “refused to say bupkis” about what the U.S. government was doing. If Perkins or Kelly were aware of the possibility that U.S. officials may have believed that quiet diplomacy would be more effective, they gave no hint of it.

Other conservatives piled on: On June 11, Nina Shea at the Hudson Institute wrote, “And, as Ibrahim looks toward an appeals court review of her case, President Obama and the U.S. State department have been silent about it.”

On June 12, FRC and Concerned Women for America held a rally in front of the White House. Perkins was joined by Obama-bashers Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Trent Franks. Perkins’ remarks were wildly inflammatory.  “There was a time when people of faith could sit down inside the White House and talk about these issues,” he said. Claiming that administration inaction was threatening the lives of Ibrahim’s children, Perkins said, “If this president is content with the blood of small children on his hands, then God help him.”

Perkins continued throughout the summer to complain that the Obama administration was doing nothing to help Ibrahim, even though he was told otherwise on his own radio show by a Republican congressman. On June 23, Perkins had Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., on his radio show to talk about the case. As Brian reported in RWW, Meadows undermined Perkins’ attacks on the administration:

Asked if the State Department was working to help Ibrahim and her children, Meadows reported that the U.S. has in fact worked vigorously behind the scenes to free Ibrahim: “I got off of a call not more than an hour or so ago and a number of agencies across the board are working hand-in-glove to make sure that this is handled quickly and efficiently. And I am heartened by what I heard on that phone call and really encouraged that this is a government that cares about people. Sometimes I wish they would speak up louder and quicker, but I can tell you behind the scenes a number of agencies are working to make sure that they are safe.”

In July, Perkins testified about the case at a congressional subcommittee hearing. One of his fellow panelists, Grover Rees, who served as a U.S. ambassador during the George W. Bush presidency, said that even though Ibrahim’s husband had said he was rebuffed by a U.S. consular officer when he sought help, Rees believed that government agencies were doing what they could. Rees said that “the State Department seems to be making amends, supplying appropriate attention and care.”

Perkins has even kept up the Obama-bashing rhetoric since Ibrahim’s release and safe passage to the U.S. In August, Perkins cited the case as a reason people think Obama is a Muslim.

Perkins isn’t alone. In August, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer allied himself with ISIS’s characterization of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and griped, “Obama will fight for Satan-worshipers but not for Christians!”

ISIS has been beheading Christian children and crucifying Christians by the side of the road. Christians for months have been fleeing Iraq in droves ahead of the murderous hordes of Al Qaeda. And Obama yawns.

When Christian wife and mother Meriam Ibrahim is imprisoned in Sudan for being a Christian, and forced to give birth in a filthy jail cell while shackled to the wall, Obama yawns. While Christian pastor and American citizen Saeed Abedini languishes in the hellhole of an Iranian prison, Obama yawns.

But when worshipers of Lucifer get in trouble at the hands of the same blood-thirsty savages, suddenly Obama springs into action.

What this reveals about the president’s religious sympathies I will leave for others to decide. But it can’t be good.

Real Persecution vs the Religious Right’s Persecution Complex

We have previously suggested that American religious conservatives should be ashamed of equating their policy disagreements or losses in legal disputes with the kind of brutal religious persecution experienced by Meriam Ibrahim and so many Christians and other religious minorities around the globe. But Perkins and others have been happy to use her case to promote their narrative that Christianity in the U.S. is on the verge of being criminalized.

Advocates for LGBT equality are often portrayed as persecutors of Christians, as in Perkins’ statement in June that he was wondering, “When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?” As part of FRC’s announcement that Ibrahim would be speaking at the Values Voter Summit, Perkins said: 

"Meriam's bold stand for Jesus Christ as she faced death has touched the hearts of people in every nation. Her incredible example of courage should inspire Christians in America to be bold and courageous in their faith as we witness growing religious hostility here in our country.”

At a July 23 hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, Perkins said:

“It is difficult to look at these facts [about Ibrahim’s case] and not understand then in the light of the current administration’s unilateral reinterpretation of religious freedom domestically. This administration believes religious beliefs should be quarantined to private spaces and excluded from the public space. This truncated view of religious freedom domestically, more accurately described as the freedom of worship, is matched by the administration’s failure to even address the growing threats to religious freedom internationally.”

In August, Dusty Gates, who works for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, wrote in Crisis magazine that liberals were uncomfortable supporting Ibrahim because they don’t support religious freedom in the U.S.

Naturally, this victory for freedom (liber) is being celebrated, at least to some degree, by liberals of all kinds. A human being freed from oppression, especially from such extreme persecution as Ibrahim faced, seems to be a grand slam for the liberal cause. But with the Ibrahim case, as well as the larger situation of global anti-Christian persecution, is causing liberals to sweat a little. Just as they stand up to cheer, it seems that their impending jubilation is cut short; subdued by a palpable fear that maybe they shouldn’t be celebrating the thing they want to celebrate. “A victory for freedom? Hoora… Oh wait, for religious freedom? Uh oh….”

Gates even slammed the welcome given Ibrahim by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, saying the Nutter’s comparison of Ibrahim to Rosa Parks rather than to other religious martyrs was “a subtle attempt to hijack Ibrahim’s story: taking it out of its full context and using it as a vehicle for the liberal agenda.”

In June, Christian author Benjamin Corey called out right-wing claims of religious persecution in the United States:

Meanwhile in the United States, we’re going about our daily lives panicking with cries of religious persecution as well…although, they’re not the cries one would think. Instead of a collective focus on wide-spread human rights abuses and religious persecution in places like Sudan, North Korea where an estimated 33,000 Christians have been incarcerated in prison camps, or the estimated thousands who actually die for their religious faith each year, we’re focused on a first world version of persecution that’s not really persecution at all.

When A&E temporarily made the decision to disassociate with Phil from Duck Dynasty over anti-gay comments he made in the media, it was labeled as “persecution”.

When public business owners in the baking industry have insisted on the right to discriminate and faced just accountability, it becomes another example of “persecution”.

We even have potential presidential candidates perpetuating such a persecution complex, with figures like Rick Santorum falsely stating that people who oppose same sex marriage are being sent to re-education camps.

With all of the legitimate and horrifying human rights violations occurring in the world, some in America have sadly adopted a very first world, privileged, and self-centered version of persecution. Instead of doubling efforts to shed light on international abuses, we’ve seen a flood of first world persecution claims– from internet trolls right up to the right wing members of government.

…Let’s reserve the “persecution” word for the real thing– such as what we saw in the case of Meriam Ibrahim.

Using Ibrahim to Attack LGBT Human Rights

Perkins has also used Meriam Ibrahim’s case to promote his attacks on the Obama administration’s advocacy for the human rights of LGBT people who face brutal persecution in many countries. In June, he wrote,

President Obama, who can't find a few minutes to call for Meriam Ibrahim's release from a Sudanese prison, had plenty of time to fly to New York and fundraise for homosexual activists.

In a late August direct mail piece, Perkins complained angrily about the “utterly shocking” fact that the rainbow flag was flown over the US embassy in Israel during a gay pride celebration.

“This would be outrageous enough all by itself—but the reality of the big picture is more frightening by far. The global Obama crusade for gay rights is happening against a backdrop of the total collapse of his real foreign policy responsibilities. We are witnessing an unprecedented level of anti-Christian persecution around the world, a colossal, international, multifront assault on religious freedom. Yet in response to these atrocities, the administration has remained all but silent….This administration is pressuring other nations to adopt Barack Obama’s radical gay agenda—but not to observe the most basic universal human right of religious freedom.”

The rest of Perkins’ letter goes back and forth between portraying the administration as fixated on gay rights and unconcerned about persecuted Christians. “We had no choice but to stand up for Meriam — because the Obama administration wouldn’t, and didn’t.”

“I urge you to stand with FRC Action again today as we fight back against the Obama administration’s outrages — their devotion to the cause of sexual immorality and their simultaneous indifference toward Christians suffering persecution for their faith.”

All the while Perkins portrays advocacy for the human rights of LGBT people — who certainly face brutal persecution in many parts of the world — as extremism.

When we see the rainbow flag of the homosexual movement flying over our embassies in Tel Aviv, London, and Prague, we can see with our own eyes what an extremist is sitting in the Oval Office.

Similar language appears in a September 6 fundraising email from Perkins, which says in part:

With President Obama promoting the homosexual movement around the world through the Obama administration, yet not working to prevent Christians from being persecuted, jailed, even tortured and killed for their faith, FRC Action’s work has grown more important than ever before.

As far as we can tell, Perkins and other Religious Right leaders haven’t raised much of a ruckus about the persecution of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who faces 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes after being convicted of “insulting Islam” by calling for religious tolerance, or about the imprisonment in Indonesia of Alexander Aan for publicly declaring himself an atheist.

The Values Voter Summit

Meriam Ibrahim may consider an appearance at the extremism-heavy Values Voter Summit as an opportunity to thank the thousands of Americans who advocated on her behalf while she was suffering in a Sudanese prison cell, and to celebrate the freedom of religion that she and her family enjoy in America.

Unfortunately, her attendance at the Values Voter Summit will put her in the company of people like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who argues that the First Amendment does not protect religious minorities in the U.S., and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who argues that Christians whose beliefs on the equality of LGBT people differ from his do not deserve “true religion freedom.” And it will include many activists, like the Benham Brothers, who cry anti-Christian persecution despite their own record of working to restrict the religious and political freedoms of others.

Americans of every political and religious stripe can admire Ibrahim’s exceptional strength and courage in the face of real persecution. The same cannot be said for those who are trying to exploit her moral authority to advance their own political agendas.

The GOP's Hate Summit: A Who's Who Of The 2014 Values Voter Summit

This weekend, Republican elected officials including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and Gov. Bobby Jindal will take part in what has become an annual ritual for potential GOP presidential contenders: they will seek to curry the favor of the Religious Right by speaking at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit.

In doing so, they put themselves in the company of some of the most radical groups and activists working today to dehumanize LGBT people, roll back reproductive rights, tear down the wall between church and state, and deny free exercise rights to religious minorities.

The Values Voter Summit’s sponsor, the Family Research Council, regularly issues false and demeaning smears about LGBT people and advocates for an America ruled according to the dictates of a small sliver of right-wing Christians. Just this month, the group’s president Tony Perkins suggested that the Constitution’s religious liberty protections do not apply to Muslims.

The other primary sponsors of the event, the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, and Gary Bauer’s American Values have equally if not more egregious records of extremism. In addition, a number of fringe groups are contributing to the conference by sponsoring exhibition tables, including Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which pushes discredited conversion therapy on LGBT people; the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); and the World Congress of Families, which works with activists throughout the world to push harsh anti-gay laws.

But the Values Voter Summit’s speakers do not have to visit the event’s exhibition hall to encounter extremism. They will find plenty of that in their fellow speakers. Below is an introduction to some of the speakers who will be sharing a stage with prominent GOP elected officials at this week’s summit.

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, the chief sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. Now a widely recognized spokesman for social conservative causes, Perkins served two terms as a Republican legislator in the Louisiana House of Representatives before launching a failed bid for the U.S. Senate in 2002. Perkins has:

  • Contended that the anti-bullying “It Gets Better” project is “immoral,” “disgusting,” and promotes “perversion.”
  • Defined efforts by the Obama administration to advance LGBT rights abroad as a push for “radical sexualism” and “global homosexuality.”
  • Praised a Uganda bill that would have condemned gays and lesbians to death as an effort to “uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable.”
  • Warned that LGBT rights advocates will launch a holocaust against Christians, placing those that oppose same-sex marriage into “boxcars.”
  • Suggested that Christian clergy who support LGBT rights should not have the same religious liberties as anti-gay conservatives because “true religious freedom” only applies to those he believes hold “orthodox religious viewpoints.”
  • Warned that lawmakers who voted to repeal the military ban on openly gay service members would have “the blood of innocent soldiers on their hands.”

Jerry Boykin

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin earned a public rebuke from President George W. Bush when, as a high-ranking official in the Bush Defense Department, he framed the "War on Terror" as a holy war against Islam. He has since built a career as a Religious Right speaker, specializing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Obama conspiracy theories. In 2012, he was named executive vice president of the Family Research Council.

Boykin rejects religious freedom for American Muslims, claiming that Islam “is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian way of life.” In an interview with the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, he called for “no mosques in America.”

Boykin is a leading member of the dominionist group The Oak Initiative, and once told the group that President Obama used health care reform legislation as a cover to establish a private army of Brownshirts loyal just to him. Boykin has also:

  • Suggested that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell led to the “absolute destruction of our military.”
  • Described CIA head John Brennan as “very sympathetic to the jihadist cause.”
  • Denounced the repeal of laws banning women from military combat service.
  • Blamed the Sandy Hook school massacre on the presence of secularism in society.

Mat Staver

Mat Staver is the dean of the Liberty University School of Law and the founder and chairman of its affiliate, Liberty Counsel, which is a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. At a previous Values Voter Summit, Staver claimed that progressives are using LGBT rights and secular government in order to “ultimately implode America” and that the “agenda of the homosexual movement” is to destroy freedom and Western civilization. Through his position at Liberty Counsel, Staver has:

Gary Bauer

Gary Bauer is the president of Values Voter Summit sponsor American Values, a former president of the Family Research Council, and one-time Republican presidential hopeful. While serving in the Reagan administration as a Department of Education official, Bauer was named chairman of the president’s Special Working Group on the Family. Bauer has:

  • Reacting to A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for racist and homophobic remarks, declared that progressives are waging a “jihad against America’s cultural norms,”
  • Warned that President Obama is “obsessed” with LGBT issues, and claimed that his “secular” agenda will “destroy” America.
  • Claimed that Supreme Court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage were acts of “judicial terrorism” putting America on “the verge of criminalizing the Book of Genesis.”
  • Wondered why African Americans keep “falling through the cracks  of society despite the fact that “every major goal” of Martin Luther King, Jr. has been reached.

Benham Brothers

Twin brothers Jason and David Benham were catapulted to national attention this year when an HGTV show that they were set to star in was cancelled following revelations about their anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Muslim activism. Since the show’s cancellation, the brothers have become a cause célèbre for the Religious Right, which has lifted them up as an example of the supposed persecution of conservative Christians in America. One or both of the brothers have:

  • Asserted that the LGBT equality movement is part of a “spiritual fight" between God and the “kingdom run by Satan.”
  • Urged the city of Charlotte, NC to deny permits to an LGBT Pride event, calling it a “vile” and “destructive” activity that “should not be allowed in our city.”
  • Compared the fight against marriage equality to opposing Nazi Germany.
  • Called an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity” and referred to Muslims as “the enemy attacking" America.
  • Organized a prayer rally to coincide with the 2012 Democratic National Convention, declaring that America must repent for “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation.”
  • Led protests outside of abortion clinics, praising anti-choice demonstrators for taking a stand at “the gates of hell” and confronting the “altars of Moloch.”

E.W. Jackson

The 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson is a longtime activist who has likened the Democratic Party to the Antichrist, said Planned Parenthood is worse than the Ku Klux Klan, suggested that President Obama is a Muslim and demonic, and fought against efforts to desegregate public housing. Jackson’s most pernicious rhetoric has focused on LGBT people. He has:

  • Referred to gays and lesbians as “perverted,” “degenerate,” “spiritually darkened” and “frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally.”
  • Criticized abortion and in vitro fertilization as “evils” that carry “the mark of Satan.”
  • Argued that gay marriage will release a “torrent of wickedness” that will result in man-animal marriages.
  • Said homosexuality is connected to pedophilia and that homosexuality also “poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things we can think of.”

Star Parker

Star Parker is a longtime Religious Right activist who is particularly active in anti-gay and anti-choice advocacy. She has called legal abortion a “genocide” on par with slavery and the Holocaust and blamed “sexual promiscuity” for nearly all financial and societal problems. At the 2011 Values Voter Summit, she claimed that God was getting ready to punish America for marriage equality and legal abortion. Parker has also:

  • Declared that LGBT people are forcing Christians “into the closet.”
  • Mused that family life for African Americans was “more healthy” under slavery than it is today
  • Argued that the rate of HIV infections in Washington, D.C., would spike once the city legalized marriage equality, “transforming [the city] officially into Sodom.”
  • Tied same-sex marriage to failing public schools.

Todd Starnes

Todd Starnes, a Fox News commentator and the author of several books including this year’s “God Less America," specializes in generating stories of dubious accuracy purporting to illustrate the persecution of conservative Christians in America. Recently, he has:

  • Speculated that public school officials oppose abstinence-only programs to protect their “condom profits.”
  • Asserted that Obama refuses to take action against ISIS to “accommodate the Islamic faith at the expense of all other faiths.”
  • Blamed Obama for “ orchestrating” the protests in Ferguson, Mo., in an effort to exacerbate racial tensions.
  • Baselessly accused the University of Wisconsin of intentionally inflating grades to boost the academic performance of minority students.
  • Worried that LGBT rights advocates will inevitably demand the deportation of Christians.

Sandy Rios

Sandy Rios, a former president of Concerned Women for America, now hosts a daily radio show on American Family Radio, the network run by the American Family Association. At last year’s summit, she promoted ex-gay therapy and said Matthew Shepard’s murder was a “complete fraud.” Like other AFR hosts, she frequently promotes right-wing conspiracy theories, including claims that President Obama was not born in the United States. Rios has also:

  • Insisted that one of Obama’s first priorities as president was to resettle thousands of Palestinian refugees in the U.S. and provide them with food stamps.
  • Advanced the myth that the health care reform law “says that Muslims will be exempt from the government mandate to purchase health insurance.”
  • Compared the relationships of same-sex couples to those of kidnapper Ariel Castro and his captives.
  • Warned that the “homosexual takeover” of the military would jeopardize the effectiveness of the armed forces.
  • Frequently links the gay community to child abuse.

Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel is the founder and president of ACT! for America, where she works with local activists throughout the country to promote fears that Sharia law is taking hold in the U.S. and must be banned and to challenge textbooks that she believes are insufficiently critical of Islam. She makes frequent media appearances to warn of what she calls the “ secret Islamification” of the West. Among other attacks on Mulsim-Americans, Gabriel has:

This post was updated to include Brigitte Gabriel following an FRC announcement that she would speak at the summit. A previous edition of this post listed incorrectly listed James Dobson, one of the founders of the FRC, as a speaker.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 9/18/14

  • Oh good. Former half-term governor Sarah Palin will speak at next week's Values Voter Summit.
  • FRC prays: "May strong pro-life men and women be elected this November just weeks from now!"
  • BarbWire is really giving WND a run for its money as the Right's premier source for insane content.
  • George Soros is behind everything.
  • Finally, Bryan Fischer spent two segments on his radio program today calling for the reinstatement of DADT, citing a recent GQ article about male-on-male sexual assault in the military. The article, of course, explicitly notes that such assaults have nothing to do with homosexuality: "'One of the myths is that the perpetrators identify as gay, which is by and large not the case,' says James Asbrand, a psychologist with the Salt Lake City VA's PTSD clinical team. 'It's not about the sex. It's about power and control.'"

Glenn Beck's Self-Serving And Incoherent Standard Of Anti-Gay 'Hate'

As we have noted several times before, Glenn Beck seems to make a very self-serving distinction between strangers who hold anti-gay views and are therefore bigots and haters and other people who hold those exact same views but just so happen to be Beck's friends, in which case they are amazing uniters and a true force for good.

Nothing better demonstrates this disconnect that a segment from Beck's radio show today where he praised students at James Madison University for responding to an anti-gay preacher on campus by singing a hymn.

The preacher, according to Beck, was telling the students that they are all sinners who hate Jesus and were destined for Hell.  Eventually, the students began singing a hymn, which drowned out the preacher, and Beck was positively giddy.

"This is a perfect example of you do not defeat hate with hate," Beck said. "You defeat it with love."

The question, then, is just what was this preacher saying that was so "hateful" by Beck's standard? And how does anything he said in any way differ than the things that David Barton, Mat Staver, Tony Perkins, or any other Religious Right leader says every single day?

The same person who posted the video of the students singing also posted another video of the preacher before he was drown out and, to our ears, there was nothing said by him that we don't hear literally dozens of times every single day from all manner of Religious Right activists:

Next week, Beck is going to be speaking at the annual Values Voter Summit, which is hosted by a handful of anti-gay organizations, including The Family Research Council, the American Family Association, American Values, and Liberty Counsel, and which regularly features dozens of anti-gay activists as speakers.

So again, what differentiates what this campus preacher said, which Beck qualifies as unmitigated "hate," from what the people with whom Beck is eager to stand at the Values Voter Summit say every single day on their right-wing radio programs?

If there is a coherent explanation of what separates this preacher from, say, the Benham Brothers or Mat Staver or David Barton, all of whom Beck adores, we'd love to hear it.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 9/16/14

  • Glenn Beck will be speaking at the Values Voter Summit again this year.
  • According to CBN's David Brody, just about every leading GOP presidential hopeful supports legislation "that would ban abortions in America after twenty weeks."
  • This is the actual title of Phyllis Schlafly's latest radio commentary: "Attacks on Religious Freedom Remind Us of Vietnam."
  • Bryan Fischer seems to think that Ray Rice has a good chance of being reinstated by the NFL because his suspension violates the Fifth Amendment's double jeopardy clause.
  • Finally, how is Kirk Cameron going to win the war on Christmas when his film will only be in theaters for two weeks?

Right Wing Round-Up - 9/4/14

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 9/4/14

  • The verdict is in and former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have both been found guilty on multiple counts of corruption.
  • Laurie Roth tells President Obama that "the American people aren’t done with our freedom, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights ... The American people are also not done with our guns, Holy Bibles and Jesus."
  • Tom DeLay says that "in defending America against radical Islamic terrorism, Barack Obama cannot be trusted. Barack Obama was raised a Muslim, and he claims he is a Christian, and I can’t say for sure whether he’s a Christian or not, but he has shown over the last few years that he has great sympathies with Islam."
  • For a guy who went around boldly proclaiming that he was a victim of political persecution, Dinesh D'Souza sure does sound contrite now that he is begging for mercy after having admitted to violating campaign finance laws.
  • Footage of David Barton speaking in Ukraine is starting to show up on YouTube.
  • Meriam Ibrahim will appear at the upcoming Values Voter Summit where she will be honored.
  • Finally, there was a rainbow over Washington, D.C. recently and Anne Graham-Lotz wonders if it was a sign that God heard her prayers for Jerusalem.

Benham Brothers Ready To Die In Battle

The Religious Right mythologizing of David and Jason Benham continues. The Benham brothers – whose plans for a reality TV show on HGTV were scrapped by the network after Right Wing Watch reported on the brothers’ anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Islam activism – were featured speakers at last week’s Road to Majority conference, sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. And they’re on the schedule for the much bigger Values Voter Summit in September.

A Christian Post story on their appearance at Road to Majority frames their experience in typical martyrs-to-their-faith rhetoric, saying their reality show “was canceled because they spoke about their Christian views.”

Now, we don’t know exactly what motivated HGTV’s decision, but it seems to be a pretty good bet that it had nothing to do with the fact that the Benhams are outspoken about their Christian faith, and more to do with the fact that they had been outspoken advocates of limiting other people’s rights – as when Jason urged Charlotte, North Carolina, officials to deny permits for LGBT pride events, or when David took part it protests against the Islamic community center that critics inaccurately dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The Religious Right revels in manufacturing martyrs. And the Benham brothers are happy to play the part, portraying themselves as targets of a demonic gay rights movement that is out to silence its critics. “If people remain silent, then it’s going to continue to get worse. But when folks step up, and speak boldly the truth, and then it can actually get pushed back,” David told the Christian Post. “You have to be willing to die. I mean, Jason and I had to be willing to lose our show. We had to be willing to lose a book deal…”

In their Road to Majority remarks, the Benham brothers portrayed themselves as warriors.

“We just remember June the 6th, 1944. We know what happened at D-Day. We know what happened on Omaha and Utah beach. There’s something about those men that our dad taught us when we were kids. And he said, ‘Boys, don’t you ever run from bullets. You run toward the bullets.’ There are cultural bullets flying, all over today, especially religious liberty. And what’s happening right now is many spiritual leaders, elected leaders, they are running from bullets. But there’s a remnant of people that are ready to stand and say ‘I’m not running from these bullets any more. I’m gonna take this beach…’”

One of the brothers invoked Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who had been jailed in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith (and who, it was reported today, is now safe in the US embassy), and then invoked Mel Gibson’s bloody battle epic “Braveheart.”

“Just like in the movie Braveheart, when all the Scottish Army was standing there, and they all had their gear on, and they were lined up and they were unified, and they were ready to fight but not a single one of them wanted to fight.  And then as William Wallace and a few men rode in on horses with blue face paint on. They were ready to pick a fight. And what I see before me right now are a bunch of people with some blue face paint on – so let’s go get it!"

War And Peace: The Tea Party And The GOP

It’s not completely clear why Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, which he created in the wake of Obama’s election, has decided to hold an annual conference in Washington, D.C.  After all, the conservative Christian voters his group works to identify and mobilize already have the Values Voter Summit, the much larger fall event sponsored by the Family Research Council and a gaggle of other right-wing groups.

One reason may be for the once-disgraced Reed to show off his political access: last week’s Road to Majority conference was thick with Republican officeholders and presidential wannabes, and I lost count of how many times Reed told participants how impressed they should be by the lineup.  For the lobby day that preceded the conference itself, he was able to get face time for his participants with Religious Right and Tea Party heroes from the Senate -- Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and  Marco Rubio – and House of Representatives – Louis Gohmert, Steve King, and David Jolly – along with “establishment” Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen John Cornyn.

In fact, the conference may be seen by Reed as a way for him to play peacemaker among the sometimes warring factions within the Republican Party and encourage unity going into the election year. At last year’s conference, RNC head Reince Priebus had a chance to tell attendees, many of them skeptical, that he was indeed one of them, as a Christian and a conservative; this year he made an appearance via video.

Last Saturday, on panel on the 2014 elections, conservative pundit and author John Fund predicted that Thad Cochran would be defeated by Chris McDaniel. Fund said it would mark a second “humiliating defeat” for the Republican establishment (after Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss) and should lead to a demand from the grassroots for McConnell and Boehner to work out a “peace treaty” with Tea Party activists so they could stop spending an “insane” amount of resources on internal fights. “The real enemy is in November,” he said.

Of course that’s not what happened on Tuesday. With a boost from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, and ads by football great Brett Favre – and more notably with a direct appeal to African American voters – Cochran squeaked out an unexpected victory.

The “humiliating defeat” was now pinned on Tea Party groups and there was little talk about peace negotiations.  Chris McDaniel’s already infamous non-concession speech turned into a rant against the Cochran campaign and Republican officials who sided with him:

There is nothing dangerous or extreme about defending the Constitution and the civil liberties therein. And there’s nothing strange at all about standing as people of faith for a country that WE built, that WE believe in. But there is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual, about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats.”

“This is not the party of Reagan,” he declared. “But we’re not done fighting. And when we’re done it will be. We have fought too long we have fought too hard to have a voice in this party. And today, the conservative movement took a back seat to liberal Democrats in the state of Mississippi. In the most conservative state in the republic, this happened. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. And that’s why we will never stop fighting.”

McDaniel was backed heavily by FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which denounced as “disgraceful” the money spent by the NRSC to back Cochran.

National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who moderated the 2014 panel, said the Establishment / Tea Party split has been vastly overblown by the media slapping the Tea Party label on every gadfly challenger.  But on the night of Cochran’s Democratic-voter-assisted victory, Sarah Palin was talking about a third party.

For those of us outside the movement, who see the overlapping Tea Party and Religious Right movements relentlessly pushing the GOP further to the right, it can be hard to understand why there is so much anger directed at the establishment.  After all, it’s not as if Eric Cantor and Thad Cochran are some kind of liberal Rockefeller Republicans.

But even these conservative leaders are not enough for grassroots activists who imbibe a steady ideological diet, from right-wing media and movement leaders, calling for a radically limited federal government and viewing compromise made in the process of governing as complicity with tyranny. Republican leaders who encouraged an angry grassroots uprising against the “tyranny” of health care reform are now reaping the whirlwind.

If there were a unifying message from Ralph Reed’s conference, it was, “America is in decline and the world is going to hell and it’s all Obama’s fault.” The solution offered was a combination of spiritual and political warfare. While right-wing groups have a common enemy in the White House, and will certainly work together this year to try to give Republicans control of the Senate, it is clear that we haven’t yet seen the end of the struggle over  just how far to the far right the Republican Party will be pushed.

The Wilks Brothers: Fracking Sugar Daddies For The Far Right

Last June, presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz traveled to Iowa for an event convened by David Lane, a political operative who uses pastors to mobilize conservative Christian voters. 

Lane is a Christian-nation extremist who believes the Bible should be a primary textbook in America’s public schools, and that any politician who disagrees should be voted out. Lane’s events are usually closed to the media, but he has given special access to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s sympathetic David Brody.  Brody’s coverage of the Iowa event included short video clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of Lane’s Pastors and Pews group.

CBN’s Brody reported, “The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the younger generation, so they’re using the riches that the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals.”  One of those goals may be David Lane’s insistence that politicians make the Bible a primary textbook in public schools. 

Here’s Dan Wilks speaking to Brody: “I just think we have to make people aware, you know, and bring the Bible back into the school, and start teaching our kids at a younger age, and, uh, you know, and focus on the younger generation.”  And here’s Farris: “They’re being taught the other ideas, the gay agenda, every day out in the world so we have to stand up and explain to them that that’s not real, that’s not proper, it’s not right.”

That was the first time we had heard of the billionaire Wilks brothers, who have become generous donors to right-wing politicians and Republican Party committees.  While both Farris and Dan have given to conservative groups and candidates, it is older brother Farris whose foundation has become a source of massive donations to Religious Right groups and to the Koch brothers’ political network. Farris also funds a network of “pregnancy centers” that refuse, on principle, to talk to single women about contraception (married women need to check with their husband and pastor).

Like David Barton, Farris thinks conservative economics are grounded in the Bible. Like Mitt Romney, he says people shouldn’t vote for politicians who promise “free this, free that.” Like any number of Religious Right leaders, he saw Barack Obama’s re-election as a harbinger of the End Times and he believes God will punish America for embracing homosexuality. Unlike all of them, he’s on the list of the world’s richest people.

They’re Fracking Billionaires!

Dan and Farris Wilks became successful working in and then running the masonry business that was started by their father; they have now turned the company over to the next generation of Wilks men.  But Dan and Farris really hit the big time when they got in on the ground floor with fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique that has boomed over the past decade. 

The fracking boom has produced a surge in wealthy Texans. In 2002, the Wilks brothers created Frac Tech, which produced equipment used in fracking, or in industry parlance, “well stimulation services.”  In May 2011, Dan and Farris sold Frac Tech to a group of investors led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund for $3.5 billion. Their share was reportedly 68% of that total, and they showed up on the 2011 Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion each.  The most recent Forbes list put their estimated wealth at $1.5 billion each. (In our gilded age, that puts them near the bottom of the Forbes 400, and barely gets them into the top 40 in Texas. But you can still do an awful lot with $3 billion.)

The Wilks brothers have gone on a land-buying spree out West, amassing huge holdings in Montana, Idaho, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado.  In December 2012, the Billings Gazette reported that they had amassed more than 276,000 acres in Montana, or more than 430 square miles; more recent reports say they own more than 301,300 acres in the state.  Among their purchases was the historic 62,000-acre N Bar Ranch, which had been listed for $45 million. 

The brothers reportedly started building an airstrip that summer across from the N Bar Ranch headquarters to make travel to their property on their 18-passenger corporate jet a little easier. The Wilks brothers have proposed a land swap with the Bureau of Land Management to consolidate their holdings; last month their attorney said they were “blindsided” when BLM said it would not trade the 2,700-acre Durfee Hills after hunters complained about losing access to the land and its elk.

In January 2013, they bought a nearly 18,000-acre ranch in Idaho, which brought their total in that state to almost 36,000 acres.  In 2011, Farris was reported to have paid $16 million for what was then the most expensive ski-accessible home in the history of Snowmass Village, Colorado. 

An Aspen newspaper reported in 2012 that Dan owned two homes in Aspen, one worth $8.3 million and another worth $4.9 million. At the end of 2012 they bought the Advancial Tower, a 17-story skyscraper in Dallas reportedly appraised at $16.25 million. And last August, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the Wilks brothers had bought 122 acres of land in a business park in Southlake, Texas. Farris also reportedly paid to have a “world class” recording studio installed in his 20,000-square-foot home and to have his church’s audio-visual system similarly upgraded.

Members of the Wilks family have been philanthropists in their hometown over the years, funding, for example, a community center and mobile emergency command post for local fire departments.   More recently they have distributing their wealth in support of right-wing causes and conservative politicians. According to Forbes, Dan has six children, Farris has 11.

A(nother) Foundation for the Far Right

The Wilks brothers and their wives have stashed a sizeable chunk of money in charitable foundations: Farris and his wife Joann created The Thirteen Foundation, while Dan and his wife Staci started Heavenly Father’s Foundation. The Thirteen Foundation has become a major funder to Religious Right organizations and to right-wing political outfits that are part of the Koch brother’s network.

In 2011, Farris and Joann each put $50 million into The Thirteen Foundation, and they started writing huge checks. In 2011 and 2012, the last year for which giving records are publicly available, the foundation gave away more than $17 million. Here’s where much of it went:  

Media Revolution Ministries (Online for Life)                             $2,242,857

American Majority Inc                                                               $2,114,100

State Policy Networks                                                              $1,526,125

Focus on the Family                                                                 $1,400,000

Franklin Center for Gov't and Public Integrity                          $1,309,775

Life Dynamics Inc.                                                                    $1,275,000                  

Liberty Counsel                                                                        $1,000,000

Heritage Foundation                                                                   $700,000

Family Research Council                                                              $530,000

Texas Right to Life Committee Education Fund                           $310,000

Texas Home School Coalition                                                      $250,000

Heartbeat International                                                              $197,000

Wallbuilders Presentations, Inc                                                    $85,000

National Institute of Marriage                                                       $75,000

These gifts amount to a massive infusion of funds into some of the most aggressive right-wing organizations that are fighting legal equality for LGBT people, access to contraception and abortion services for women, and promoting the Tea Party’s vision of a federal government that is constitutionally forbidden from protecting American workers, consumers, and communities by regulating corporate behavior. 

American Majority, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, and the State Policy Networks are all part of the Koch brothers’ right-wing political network, promoting policy attacks on public employees and their unions, outsourcing public resources for private profit, privatization of public education, and more:

  • The Franklin Center, closely allied to the American Legislative Exchange Council and other right-wing groups, produces and supports ideological advocacy sites that that it pretends is “nonpartisan” journalism.
  • American Majority trains and supports Tea Party activist networks.
  • The Heritage Foundation is a right-wing propaganda behemoth masquerading as a think tank. It promotes Religious Right social conservatism and Tea Party anti-government ideology, arguing that the two are “indivisible.”
  • The State Policy Network comprises mini-Heritage Foundations – right-wing “think tanks” at the state level that work closely with ALEC and right-wing lawmakers.

The Thirteen Foundation’s gifts are a boon to some of the most extreme Religious Right groups in the country. Among the recipients:

  • The Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group affiliated with Liberty University, is home to right-wing legal activist Mat Staver and the increasingly unhinged Matt Barber. Liberty Counsel promotes extreme anti-Obama and anti-gay rhetoric, warning that the country is descending into religious tyranny and on the verge of revolution.  Staver and Barber support laws criminalizing homosexuality and call the Obama administration’s opposition to such laws in other countries “immoral.”
  • The Family Research Council, designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hosts the annual Values Voter Summit, the annual family reunion for far-right religious and political groups and right-wing politicians. FRC and its leader Tony Perkins oppose equality for LGBT Americans and promote the myth of anti-Christian persecution in the U.S.
  • Wallbuilders promotes the historical revisionism of “historian” David Barton, whose claims have been widely discredited but who remains influential within the Religious Right and the GOP. In addition to his “Christian Nation” history, Barton argues that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, progressive taxation, capital gains taxes, the estate tax, and unions and collective bargaining.

See the section on the War on Women below for information about anti-choice organizations on the list. Other gifts supported Prime Time Christian Broadcasting, Inc., which runs God’s Learning Channel, “a satellite network dedicated to bringing the gospel of the kingdom into the entire world and teaching everyone about the Torah and the true roots of Christianity“; the Wounded Warrior Project; and a number of local churches that seem to be affiliated with the church at which Farris is an elder. One gift that seems like an outlier was $50,000 to the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which funds legal services for the poor, advocates for immigration reform, and filed a lawsuit on behalf of a binational same-sex couple.

Farris’s brother Dan and his wife Staci each gave $55 million to their Heavenly Father’s Foundation, according to the group’s 2011 990 form. That year the foundation reported $110 million in income but only $309,000 in disbursements, mostly to the Mountain Top Church in their hometown of Cisco ($287,000) with smaller amounts to a pregnancy center called the Open Door ($20,000) and to the American Diabetes Association ($2,000).

Its 2012 contributions were primarily to several churches but also included ministries that provide meals to the poor, a five-year pledge to a local domestic violence crisis center, $20,000 to the Open Door pregnancy center, $1.7 million to a drug and alcohol treatment center whose 30th anniversary celebration in May featured Mike Huckabee, and intriguingly, $100,000 to the Eastland County District Attorney’s office to cover “budget shortage.”

Of course, individual contributions that Wilks family members make to advocacy organizations are not publicly reported.

In Politics, Paying to Play

The Wilks brothers made a bit of a splash in Montana when it was revealed that they were the top donors to 2012 Republican legislative candidates in the state.  A February 2013 report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics found that Dan and Farris Wilks and their wives “donated to more than 70 candidates, all Republicans, and generally gave the maximum contribution allowed by law to legislative candidates, $160 for a general election.”

The report said that 70 percent of Republican legislators got contributions from the Wilkses. (AP noted that all bills aimed at regulating fracking in the 2011 legislature were killed by Republican-led committees.) According to the Institute, 64 of the state-level candidates they supported won – 63 legislators and Attorney General Tim Fox.

The Wilkses also gave heavily to Dennis Rehberg, a former Republican U.S. congressman from Montana who gave up his seat to mount an unsuccessful challenge against Sen. Jon Tester in 2012, and to Steven Daines, the Republican who won the House seat vacated by Rehberg and who is now running to for U.S. Senate. 

Collectively, Dan and Farris and their wives gave the Rehberg and Daines campaigns each $10,000 in 2012, with another $37,500 going to the Rehberg Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee that funneled money to Rehberg’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Farris and Joann have together given $10,400 toward Steve Daines’s 2014 reelection.

Their political giving has not been limited to Montana.  In Texas, according to state campaign finance records, the brothers each gave $25,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in 2012.  Farris also gave $2,500 to State Rep. Stefani Carter, the first Republican African American woman to serve in the state House; Farris and Joann also gave $5,000 to the failed Supreme Court campaign of Steve Smith. 

Last year, Perry announced he would not run for a fourth term as governor.  Earlier this year, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, reported nearly $31,000 in in-kind contributions from Farris and Dan for use of an airplane. Farris also gave $1,000 in January to the Texas Home School Coalition PAC.

This year, in the election for California’s 44th Assembly District, Dan, Staci, and Farris Wilks have given thousands to the campaign of Rob McCoy, a conservative evangelical pastor who is also backed by Rand Paul, Rick Perry, and Mike Huckabee. In the June 3 primary, the Wilks-backed McCoy came in second place to Democrat Jacqui Irwin, a City Councilwoman from Thousand Oaks, beating the more moderate Republican candidate, businessman Mario de la Piedra. Irwin and McCoy will face off in the general election.

During the 2012 election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission’s database, the brothers and their wives together contributed $125,000 to the Romney Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee benefitting the Romney campaign and the Republican Party. 

Joann also contributed $25,000 to the Faith Family Freedom Fund, a “soft money” fund run by a former Family Research Council executive and housed in FRC’s Washington, DC building. The fund makes independent expenditures for or against candidates; in 2012 it spent in support of Todd Akin, George Allen, Steve King, and other right-wing candidates, and against Claire McCaskill, Tim Kaine, Barack Obama, and other Democratic candidates.

In 2011, Farris gave the National Republican Congressional Committee $2,500, and he gave $7,600 to the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund between 2010 and 2012. In 2010 Farris gave Nevada Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Sharron Angle $1000 and in 2008 he gave $2,500 to the McCain-Palin Victory Committee.

Wilks and the War on Women

As Kate Sheppard reported last August for Mother Jones, The Thirteen Foundation’s 2011 gift to Life Dynamics, a Texas-based anti-abortion group, funded a campaign to mass-mail DVDs to lawyers encouraging them to sue abortion clinics into oblivion.  Crooks and Liars blogger Karoli has noted that Life Dynamics “actively engages in espionage against organizations serving women” and operates campaigns to harass doctors who perform abortions. 

The more than $2 million that The Thirteen Foundation gave to Media Revolution Ministries in 2012 allowed for a vast expansion of the group, which had only an $80,000 budget the year before. The group, also known as Online for Life, says it “implements cutting-edge Internet and traditional marketing outreaches to connect with abortion-determined women and men.” In other words, they try to “intercept” women who search for abortion information and send them to anti-choice “pregnancy centers.”  

Those funds may have been used to help “pregnancy centers” buy ads on search terms like “abortion clinics” to “intercept” women who went online.  NARAL Pro-Choice America cited Online for Life’s Google ads  when it announced in April that  its investigations had led Google to take down ads from crisis pregnancy centers that violated the search engine’s rules against deceptive advertising.

The Thirteen Foundation also gave $450,000 in 2011 to Care Net, a network of Christian “pregnancy centers” whose “standards of affiliation” include this requirement:

The pregnancy center does not recommend, provide, or refer single women for contraceptives. (Married women seeking contraceptive information should be urged to seek counsel, along with their husbands, from their pastor and physician.).

The Wilks are also backers of Open Door, a local Christian “crisis pregnancy center” to which the Thirteen Foundation gave more than $90,000 in 2012. Farris and Joann have also been benefactors of Texas Right to Life.

The Wilks Worldview

With the exception of the brief interaction with CBN’s David Brody, the Wilks brothers have generally been media-shy. But the worldview of Farris, the older of the two brothers, whose foundation is backing the Religious Right and Tea Party movements, is quite clearly revealed in the sermons he preaches.

In addition to his business ventures, Farris, the older brother, is also a pastor at the church founded by his father, The Assembly of Yahweh (7th Day).  The church’s doctrine seems to be an amalgam based on the elder Wilks’ anachronistic interpretations of the Bible. It combines biblical literalism with a heavy emphasis on the Old Testament: The church celebrates its Sabbath on Saturday, follows the dietary rules laid down in Leviticus, and celebrates Jewish holidays but not “the religious holidays of the Gentiles,” which include “Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, White Sunday, Good Friday, and Halloween.”  (I had to look up White Sunday, which is a traditional Samoan holiday. There’s a significant Samoan community in Texas).  Women may not speak during worship.

The church’s doctrinal points align with the Religious Right on many policy issues.  Abortion is “murder,” including pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Homosexuality is “a serious crime – a very grievous sin.”

A number of Farris Wilks’ sermons can be heard through his church’s website.  Back in November 2012, he was pretty despondent about the re-election of Barack Obama:  “I do believe that our country died that Tuesday night, to all that’s honorable, that’s good, that’s ambitious, and that has justice. The old way of life that we will take care of ourselves, we will be self-sufficient as much as we are able, the pride in pulling your own weight, or paddling your own canoe.”  The sermon includes small-government quotes from Thomas Jefferson, anti-socialist quotes from Winston Churchill, and a bootstraps approach to poverty. “The best way to get out of poverty is to go to work,” he says. “That is one of the simplest ways to make it go away.”

Wilks said he was “refreshed” by biblical texts about the End Times, speculating that the election went the way it did “because maybe it’s time to wrap up some things, maybe it’s time to move on to the next one thousand years.”  And he warned of persecution against Christians:

I will tell you now that you need to be ready for a little bit more scoffing and ridicule than maybe we’ve experienced in the past, because I think not only us but the Christian community at large is coming under attack, not only in America but throughout the world.  We see it on the late night talk shows. One man in particular. And some time you think, man, it would almost be nice if the judgment would happen so we can see what would happen to those people. …for the things they are saying, which are so vulgar and violent against Yahweh…his mercy must be inexhaustible to put up with that…

Several months later, after his participation in the David Lane event in Iowa, Wilks was feeling motivated to do more to impact the future of America.  In a July 2, 2013, sermon he referred to claims made by discredited Religious Right “historian” David Barton about the country’s founders and Barton’s assertion that many of our laws come from the scriptures.  And in a sermon he described as a “study of Sodom and Gomorrah,” he laid out his belief that the country is facing a clear choice:

As most of you probably know by now, we are in a battle for our society. Will we follow the secular religion of man, him being supreme, and evolving, or will we submit to Elohim, who has the right to give us laws and commandments to follow since he is the one who created us? Who is in charge? Is it man, or is it our creator?

He read scripture passages that referred to the story of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in what he said was punishment for “base and demented” sexual practices, the tolerance of which in America “could bring about the end of our nation.” He warned that allowing same-sex couples to get married would soon lead to bestiality being promoted and accepted. “I do believe we live in a nation that will start to vomit some of its people out,” he warned.  After reading a passage from Isaiah in which the land and its inhabitants are cursed for their depravity, he said:

I fear that that is where we are as a nation. We have been in the blessed part of our nation, but I think we’re coming to the point now…we’re going to reap what we have sown, and what we have sown has not been good…what it says here, that the earth lies polluted under its inhabitants. Think of all the murder that has happened in this country….all the babies that have been murdered…think of all the perversions in the realm of sexual perversion of all kinds…all the breaking of Yahweh’s covenant….and so you recognize that at some point Yahweh’s going to say it’s time to wrap up… it’s time to move on to a kingdom of people that want to serve me, that want to be redeemed, that want salvation…we have to draw some lines in the sand for ourselves….

He also mocked environmentalism and the effort to save certain animals or the polar caps.  “We didn’t create the Earth so how can we save it?”  When you realize that Yahweh is in control, “it’s much simpler,” he says. “You can turn over some of those responsibilities to him.” Maybe the melting of polar ice is us “getting a little scorched here” as a message from God.

Later last summer he returned to the Sodom and Gomorrah theme, denouncing the gay pride movement as an example of lust and defiance of authority described in the Bible. “What we’re fighting against today is not a sexual revolution particular to our own enlightened age, but it’s a return to pre-Christian pagan sexual immorality or perversion.”

And Farris sounded like the most extreme anti-gay Religious Right leaders in portraying gay people as child predators: 

If we all took on this lifestyle, all humanity would perish in one generation…So this lifestyle is a predatorial lifestyle in that they need your children and straight people having kids to fulfill their sexual habits. They can’t do it by their self. They want your children….But we’re in a war for our children. They want your children. So what will you teach your children? A strong family is the last defense.

And, he said, they won’t stop, predicting that pedophilia and bestiality will soon be legal.

Just before Christmas he preached on spiritual apathy in America. He warned that apathy is closing church doors in America just as liberalism and secularism. He railed against people forgetting the Sabbath and spending too much time on entertainment. He warned that God would lift his “mantle of protection” against the U.S. because it is no longer protecting the family.

Earlier this year, Farris preached on “Government That We Can Believe In.”  In that sermon, he proclaimed that he loves America but that all nations fail at some point. The founding fathers did a good job, but the nation’s cornerstones are now crumbling: “It’s because of the lack of morality, the lack of continuity of one like belief in our heavenly father – those are the things that are bringing our nation to its knees.”

But this sermon focused less on sexual immorality and more on the threat of socialism. Yahweh, he preached, is “someone who respects private ownership” and the Torah is “set up on the free enterprise system.”

He said “there are only two basic ideas in the whole world” – and those are free enterprise and socialism. The U.S., he warned, is “inching closer to socialism.” You either have more government or more freedom; the more money taken from you in taxes, the fewer choices you have in life. He acknowledged that he has a “personal stake” in this, saying he pays a “huge amount” in taxes.

He urged congregants not to vote for politicians who promise “free this, free that,” saying that would lead us to become one of the poor nations of the world. “Yahweh never intended for us as a people to be afraid and reliant on government.”

An Answer to Prayer?

Televangelist James Robison recently told participants in a Tea Party Unity conference call that he is praying for a merger of the Tea Party and the Religious Right.  It’s enough to make one wonder where Robison has been for the past few years.  There has always been a overlap between the Tea Party and the Religious Right movements.  And since the early days of the anti-Obama Tea Party organizing, right-wing strategists like Ralph Reed and Rick Scarborough have been trying to more fully merge the organizing energies of the two movements into an electoral machine. 

Groups like the Family Research Council and Heritage Foundation have worked hard to limit the influence of libertarians in the conservative movement by portraying social and economic conservatism as “indivisible,” while Republican activists like “historian” David Barton have claimed that there is a biblical underpinning for the far-right’s anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government agenda.

Maybe the miracle Robison was really looking for was a big pile of cash to fund his next project. In which case, the answer to his prayers might be found in the person of Farris Wilks, preacher, right-wing activist, and billionaire.

Paranoia-Rama: Gays Invading Disney World, ObamaCare Worse Than 9/11, 'Very Evil' Sex-Ed

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

As Pride Month begins, we watch in horror as “the Stormtroopers in the homosexual movement” bring back slavery and let gay people vacation at Disney World.

5) Warning: Gay People Are Going To Disney World

Fearing that families may have to see or encounter gay people on their vacations, Religious Right activists are pushing fears about the upcoming “Gay Day at Disney.”

One Florida-based conservative group, the Florida Family Association, hired planes to fly over Disney World with banners alerting tourists, “Warning: Gay Day at Disney.” An article from the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow was similarly titled: “This is your final warning: ‘Gay Day’ this weekend at Disney World.” David Caton of the FFA told OneNewsNow that the event would be used to “promote the homosexual lifestyle.”

Doing her part, Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action warned on her radio bulletin that “the homosexual agenda is planning to once again descend on Disney World” and “expose your children” to “cross-dressing men [who] will be among those parading public displays of perversion.”

4) Gays Are New Slave Masters

Even if you survived “Gay Day at Disney,” you might still fall victim to the new gay slavery, at least according to Bryan Fischer.

“Apparently someone forgot to tell the Stormtroopers in the homosexual movement about the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and freedom of both will and conscience,” Fischer wrote this week in reaction to an anti-LGBT discrimination case in Colorado. “The leaders of the Gay Gestapo have become our new slave masters. They can now send us to the hole if we refuse the massa’s demands.”

“So meet our new overlords, the new owners of the American plantation, the gay mafia. All hail Big Gay, our new slave masters,” he added.

Believe it or not, Fischer’s slaver rant wasn’t even the most outlandish reaction to the Colorado case. That honor goes to the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.

3) ‘Shooting’ Is A Liberal Media Conspiracy

It’s not uncommon for a National Rifle Association spokesman to attack the media — after all, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre once asserted that “the media in this country hates the Second Amendment rights of American citizens and they’ll do anything to try and take that freedom away from average citizens.”

But an NRA News video released a week after the Isla Vista massacre took these attacks on the media to an absurd new level.

In a rant that could easily be mistaken for a parody, NRA commentator Dom Raso attacked the media for using the word “shooting” to describe…shootings.

The media “race to label anything with a gun as a shooting, because they know how much more attention they are going to get with that word,” Raso said, claiming that the use of the word “shooting” was part of a strategy to shift attention away from the shooting’s perpetrator. “Evil is the problem; the tool is irrelevant and stories designed to make you think anything other than the truth are propaganda,” he said.

Just to drive the point home, Raso’s commentary begins with an image of Vladimir Lenin.

2) ObamaCare: Worse Than 9/11

Last year, leading conservative activist Ben Carson told the Values Voter Summit that “Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery, and it is slavery in a way.”

But it turns out he was just getting started with his sweeping Obamacare criticisms: In an interview with The Daily Beast this week, Carson said that Obamacare is worse than the September 11, 2001 attacks “because 9/11 is an isolated incident.”

Anyone who disagrees with his assessment, Carson explains, just doesn’t read enough: “You have to take a long-term look at the ascent of something that fundamentally changes the power structure of America. You have to be someone who reads. Who is well-read. I want you to go back tonight. I want you to pull out what Saul Alinsky says about health care under the control of the government.”

Naturally, a spokesman for Carson, conservative talk radio host Armstrong Williams, denied that Carson ever “said Obamacare was worse than 9/11” even though The Daily Beast simply quoted Carson verbatim and posted a recording of the interview.

1) Sex-Ed A Democratic Party Plot

Sorry, the jig is up. Conservative education activist Marjorie Holsten this week revealed the truth about teaching sex-ed in school: It’s all about turning kids into Democratic voters.

As Holsten told End Times broadcaster Jan Markell, Democrats are pressing schools into teaching sex-ed because they know “that when children are desensitized to sexual things, that affects their ability at a later date to bond with a spouse. And so if you have somebody who can’t bond, they’re not going to have a stable marriage. When you have unstable, broken households, how do they vote? Democrat. So this has a very evil underlying intent.”

Holsten recommends that instead of sex-ed, children learn about the birds and the bees by watching guinea pigs have sex. Seriously.

Rafael Cruz Falsely Claims San Antonio Banned Pastors From Preaching From The Bible

Speaking on a Tea Party Unity conference call last week, Rafael Cruz said that pastors in San Antonio can be fined for preaching from the Bible, a patently false claim but part of a larger Religious Right smear campaign against the city’s non-discrimination ordinance [PDF].

The ordinance added sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing city policy prohibiting discrimination, a move opposed by many Republicans, including Rafael Cruz’s son, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The debate over the recently passed ordinance featured several over-the-top reactions, including a rant from a city councilwoman who called homosexuality “disgusting.”

While speaking on the call with extremist pastor and TPU founder Rick Scarborough, who introduced Ted Cruz at the 2012 Values Voter Summit, the elder Cruz claimed that pastors who preach Romans 1 — which some pastors interpret as a condemnation of homosexuality — can be fined $500 a day, a claim with no basis in reality.

“All we have to do is turn on the news and every day we see more and more encroachment upon pastors from this administration,” Cruz said. “All they have to do is be aware of what’s happening around us and to be aware, for example, that in the city of San Antonio, if a pastor speaks on Romans 1, he could be even fined $500 a day until he retracts what he said.”

Scarborough went on to warn that the “lesbian mayor of Houston” will impose a similar “sanctions [on pastors] if they preach the Bible.”

Cruz also suggested in the conference call that “wicked” people are currently in charge of the government: “We’ve stayed at home and we allowed the wicked to elect wicked politicians to rule us. We get what we deserve, Rick. We need to get up the charge that God is giving us and move to the forefront and call this nation to repentance and call this nation to righteousness.”

Cruz has previously alleged that Satan controls the US government.

Right Wing Round-Up - 3/24/14

'Persecuted': Religious Right Movie Thriller About The Death Of Freedom In America

Ah, Friday night at CPAC. If you weren’t joining the “drunken yuck monkeys” whose loutish behavior so incensed Matt Barber, and you weren’t attending the white nationalist party whose invitation was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center, you could catch an advance screening of Persecuted, a movie scheduled for release later this year.  Some of us who attended the screening felt pretty persecuted ourselves by being forced to watch the trailer over and over and over again in the half hour before show time. Maybe that was a plan to put us on emotional edge for this “thriller” about religious liberty in America being destroyed by the sinister forces of freedom, equality, and religious pluralism.

Since I’m writing about a movie few people have seen, I will say for the record, SPOILER ALERT.

But first a little context: Bemoaning the dominance of liberals in Hollywood is a familiar theme at right-wing conferences like CPAC and the Values Voter Summit. But conservatives in Hollywood are organizing. And they’re working hard to convince studios to produce more films with “pro-family” and religious themes. (Son of God and Noah are examples.) A Friday morning panel on the topic featured actor and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson; Persecuted producer Daniel Lusko; Gerald Molen, a producer of Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America and his upcoming film America; and D’Souza himself. If anyone had qualms about having Dinesh D’Souza being held up as a “values” icon, they kept it to themselves.

But back to Persecuted, which features Thompson, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Davison, and James Remar. The cast includes a couple of well-known Christian performers, comedian Brad Stine and singer Natalie Grant. As in real life, Fox News’s Gretchen Carlson plays a journalist.

As a movie, the film is Preposterous. But as an insight into the paranoia and worldview of Religious Right activists, Persecuted is as fascinating as it is disturbing.

The plot revolves around an evil senator who is obsessed with a piece of legislation, “The Faith and Fairness Act.” It’s never clear exactly what the Act does, but it seems to force all religions to operate under a single umbrella organization, and to allow members of any faith the ability to preach in others’ houses of worship. It thus combines the Religious Right’s fear that liberals are itching to silence Christian broadcasters by reviving the long-defunct Fairness Doctrine, and their resentment that people view them as intolerant for believing their faith is the only avenue to truth and God.

Standing tall against this plot is evangelist John Luther (John Calvin/John Wesley and Martin Luther?). Luther is sort of a Billy Graham figure who has overcome a past of drug abuse to become a national figure.  His ministry, we are told, reaches more people than the evening news. Early in the movie, the evil Senator Harrison tries to bully Luther into backing his legislation at a religious rally; when Luther refuses to compromise his faith for the senator’s political gain, Harrison puts in motion an elaborate plot to destroy him. The also-evil president of the United States is in on the scheme: he looks a little bit like Ted Kennedy and sounds more than a little bit like Bill Clinton.

The plan involves murdering a teenage girl and framing Luther as her rapist and murderer. While Luther is on the run, Harrison corrupts the rest of the ministry’s leadership with promises of “earmarks” and personalized tax breaks, and they throw the ministry’s support behind the senator’s new law. 

Somehow, Luther, the most hunted man in America, is able to sneak into the launch event for Sumac, the new organization that brings together Jews, Christians, and Muslims and brings to fruition Sen. Harrison’s “dream of a tradition of faith as diverse as our skins.” If the point about the dangers of diversity and religious pluralism isn’t obvious enough, the senator says America is “no longer a Christian nation…it never has been,” echoing a statement by President Obama that caused spluttering outrage among right-wing Christian leaders. By the way, in the movie, the whole governmentally-forced-religious-merger thing is justified as a response to the threat of terrorism.

Still with me? Luther has an amazing knack for evading government agents disguised only by sunglasses and a hoodie, and shows a remarkable ability to outrun professional killers even with a bullet in his back. Eventually, with help from his dad (confusingly, and without explanation, a Catholic priest), another young priest, some honorable FBI agents, and Gretchen Carlson, Luther is able to clear his name, but at great price: his father is killed by Secret Service assassins.

The movie doesn’t quite wrap things up in a happy-ending bow. There’s a climactic scene in which the good FBI agents come to the rescue, and Luther, despite having nearly bled to death, manages to kill the murderous Secret Service agent. Next thing we know, he is making his post-recovery return to his ministry’s headquarters, where all the sell-out executives are still in place, telling him how much money has been pouring in along with cards from well-wishers. Luther glares at them, grabs his Bible, and heads to the White House, where the sinister president introduces Luther at a press conference and, as he is headed to the podium, whispers in his ear to say nice things.

The movie ends with Luther clutching the podium and staring into the camera. Will he speak Truth to power? Will he denounce the president and his money-grubbing ministry colleagues? How soon will filming start on the sequel?

Let’s review the symbolism in Persecuted. The enemies of religious liberty are those who use the language of fairness and equality and those who say America is not a Christian nation. Religious pluralism is portrayed not as a matter of respecting freedom for every faith tradition, but as a deceptive, coercive tool of government to erase religious difference and put all faiths under the politically correct thumb of government. Other religious leaders are either co-conspirators or complicit sheep. The only non-Christians I remember in the film were those sitting silently on the dais as Sen. Harrison launched his religious takeover project. Oh, and about that growing cohort of religions “nones” in America? Luther’s dad tells him at one point that those who believe in nothing must destroy him in order to achieve their goals. And with the exception of some FBI agents, government officials are as soulless and devoid of scruples as the characters on House of Cards.

Luther and his father symbolize the alliance between right-wing evangelicals and conservative Catholics. We aren’t told how it is that Luther’s father came to be a Catholic priest, but perhaps he was an Episcopalian who left for the Catholic Church when his own denomination became insufficiently conservative on sexuality issues. After Luther finds his father murdered, he spends the rest of the cat-and-mouse drama with his dad’s bloody rosary beads wrapped around his hands: a symbol of the shared willingness for martyrdom pledged by conservative evangelical and Catholic signers of the Manhattan Declaration?

It’s hard to say what kind of impact Persecuted might find, but any contribution it makes to our civic discourse is likely to be negative. Its backers clearly hope that a marketing campaign targeting conservative Christians will find an audience and help push a trend toward bigger-budget movies with that audience in mind. 

Whether or not Persecuted is a box-office success, it is one more story-telling weapon in the arsenal of the right-wing media machine that is dedicated to promoting the ideology that America was meant by God to be a Christian nation, and that the federal government and the forces of pluralism and “political correctness” are agents of tyranny bent on forcing Christians to bend to their will.  Sort of like Ben Carson’s speech at CPAC.

Star Parker: Gays Forcing Christians 'Into The Closet'

At last year's Values Voter Summit, Star Parker attacked the gay rights movement, telling gay people to "keep it private."

Now, Parker is warning that "the 'gay rights' crusade" wants "to push Christian reality, once and for all, into the closet and to lock the door."

Parker writes in a WorldNetDaily column this week, entitled, "'Gay' Agenda: A Cultural War Against Christians," that the demise of Arizona's "right-to-discriminate" bill means that Christian-owned businesses will lose their First Amendment rights and be "put out of business."

The reality is that the “gay rights” crusade is not about a struggle for justice, but rather it is a cultural war.

Homosexual activists understand the ongoing erosion of traditional values as a pillar of our society and use this opportunity to push Christian reality, once and for all, into the closet and to lock the door.

The cultural script has been re-written such that Christians have been put in a position of either rejecting the precepts and prohibitions of their religion, or being faithful to them and being branded as against “equality.”

...

Christians have been put in the untenable position that being true to their faith means, by the new standards set in our society, being labeled a bigot and then being exposed to being put out of business.

Let’s keep in mind that the idea of religious freedom only means something as long as religion means something.

It is critical that Christians draw the line and continue the struggle and not allow religion or religious freedom to be compromised. Individuals or businesses forced to supply goods or services for activities against the precepts of their faith must refuse and call forth their protection under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Putting Glenn Beck's Stance Against Anti-Gay Bigotry To The Test

Over the last few weeks, Glenn Beck has been confusing just about everybody by loudly and repeatedly denouncing the rise of anti-gay bigotry in Russia and declaring that anti-gay bigots have no right to call themselves fans of his. It has been confusing because, at the same time, Beck regularly pals around with anti-gay bigots and brings them on his show, all while proclaiming that he doesn't even know anybody who is anti-gay.

We are not the only one's confused by Beck's stance, as Bryan Fischer called out Beck yesterday on his radio program, wondering if Beck "has gone over to the dark side on ... sodomy-based marriage." After reading through Beck's statement that anyone who "hates a gay person because they're gay, you have no place calling yourself a fan of mine," Fischer trotted out the standard Religious Right defense that anti-gay bigotry is not based in hatred but rather in love, insisting that he loves gays but hates homosexuality and is simply trying to prevent them from living miserable, disease-filled, drug-addicted, guilt-ridden lives:

Fischer concluded by asking Beck if this means that he is not allowed to be a fan of his ... and that is a question we'd love to know the answer to as well.

Keep in mind that Fischer's "love" for gays involves calling for homosexuality to be criminalized and for gays to be banned from serving in public office, or as judges, or even as teachers. On top of that, Fischer has loudly praised Vladimir Putin as a "lion of Christianity" for his anti-gay crackdown and declared that the laws that Beck has been denouncing are exactly the sort of "public policy that we've been advocating" to enact in America.

And Fischer is not alone in praising the Russian law, as just yesterday Matt Barber and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said that "we need to see" laws just like it passed "right here in the United States."

What does this have to do with Beck? Well, both Fischer's American Family Association and Liberty Counsel were sponsors of last year's Values Voter summit, at which Beck spoke. On top of that, the Family Research Council, which is the primary VVS sponsor, employs a man who openly calls for homosexuality to be criminalized and for gays to be exported out of the country.

For weeks now, Beck has taken a very public stand against the anti-gay bigotry in Russia while seeming utterly oblivious to the fact that a lot of the people he associates with happen believe the very same things.

So just what is Beck's standard for unacceptable "anti-gay" bigotry? Does supporting Russia's crackdown qualify? How about calling for the criminalization of homosexuality? The banning of gays from serving in public office? 

In March, Beck is scheduled to speak at a United In Purpose voter mobilization summit, at which Vision America's Rick Scarborough is also scheduled to speak. Scarborough, like so many others, has also defended the Russian law that Beck has denounced, as well as called for a class-action lawsuit to be filed against homosexuality and declared that AIDS is God's judgment for people who engage in immoral behavior while insisting that gays always be referred to as "sodomites."

How much longer can Beck continue to denounce Russia's anti-gay bigotry while remaining totally silent about the fact that a significant number of the Religious Right leaders with whom he regularly associates not only support Russia's law but want to see similar laws enacted in America?

If Beck is really serious about his pledge to stand with groups like GLAAD against anti-gay bigotry, he has an opportunity to start demonstrating it by denouncing the likes of Scarborough and all of the other Religious Right leaders who openly applaud the very things that Beck claims to be taking a stand against.

Rodriguez Civility Campaign Partners With World's Most Uncivil People

Rev. Sam Rodriguez, who heads the evangelical National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has an extraordinary talent for self-promotion – and for positioning himself as a moderate evangelical while being a fully engaged culture warrior with close ties to both mainstream Religious Right groups and fringier dominionist ones.  His reputation is based on the fact that he parts ways with the right on a few issues, like comprehensive immigration reform, for which he has been an energetic advocate.

Rodriguez has repeatedly portrayed himself as a voice of reason calling for more civility in public discourse.  His latest gambit is the Imago Dei campaign, whose goal, according to TIME’s Elizabeth Dias, is “to change the narrative of evangelical engagement in the public square, especially when it comes to traditional culture war issues.”

Rodriguez says that too often evangelicals in the United States have become known for what they oppose, and not for what they propose, and younger generations have had enough. “The church of Jesus Christ and the word hatred should not even appear in the same sentence,” Rodriguez says. “What if every single person can recognize the image of God in the other? Wouldn’t that bring down the noise of the hateful rhetoric? Wouldn’t that build a firewall between intolerance and bullying? Wouldn’t that build a firewall against extremism?”

This might sound like a big deal to people who either aren’t familiar with Rodriguez or with the Religious Right leaders who have signed on to his campaign. But it’s hard to see anything new here. Back in 2010, Rodriguez was a signer of the “Covenant of Civility,” which said in part,

“We believe that each of us, and our fellow human beings, are created in the image of God… We pledge that when we disagree, we will do so respectfully, without impugning the other’s motives, attacking the other’s character, or questioning the other’s faith, and recognizing in humility that in our limited, human opinions, “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

In 2011 he was part of a Christianity Today ad campaign talking about disagreeing with love and civility. That same year, in the wake of the public shooting in Tucson, he was among religious leaders who signed a letter to members of Congress that said “This tragedy has spurred a sorely needed time of soul searching and national public dialogue about violent and vitriolic political rhetoric. We strongly support this reflection, as we are deeply troubled that rancor, threats and incivility have become commonplace in our public debates.”  In 2012, he told Patheos blogger Timothy Dalrymple, We want to look at a new narrative of evangelicalism, one that’s less hostile, less confrontational and more full of civility.”

The language used to launch the Imago Dei campaign comes from Rodriguez’s 2013 book, The Lamb’s Agenda. In the book he says, it is wrong to “marginalize or malign those with whom we disagree….The day of angry evangelicalism is officially over. The day of a loving, Bible-believing community espousing truth with love officially commences right now.”

Well, at least he keeps trying, right?

There are two major problems here: one is Rodriguez’s own rhetoric, which doesn’t always meet his civility standard. Sometimes he comes across as conciliatory, as when he described a meeting with President Obama as “a conversation amongst believers.” But there’s also the Rodriguez who suggests that his political opponents represent “the forces of darkness.” In a Religious Right “prayercast” that unsuccessfully asked God to defeat health care reform legislation, he declared, "the same spirit of Herod who 2000 years ago attempted to exterminate the life of the Messiah today lives even America. The legislation that incorporates death and infanticide all under the canopy of reform.”

In 2012 after Obama came out in support of marriage equality, Rodriguez said the promotion of marriage equality is “an attempt to silence the church of Jesus Christ.”

I do believe that the power of the pulpit in addressing truth and righteousness is critical.  We can’t sacrifice Biblical truth because at times it becomes confrontational. Listen, Jesus Christ had very strong confrontational moments. This idea that this is a patsy sort of Christianity. That’s not the Christianity that we follow and adhere to. Sometimes, truth hurts.

But much worse than Rodriguez’s own  rhetoric is the fact that his group has formally partnered with Liberty Counsel, an organization whose spokespeople regularly spew some of the most hostile, bullying, confrontational, uncivil rhetoric in the public arena. 

To put it bluntly, it is hard to treat with any seriousness a “civility campaign” that features the face of Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver. As Kyle wrote in 2012 when it was announced that Liberty Counsel had become NHCLC’s official legislative and policy arm, “Few groups operating today can match Liberty Counsel in terms of unmitigated hostility toward gays and Muslims and those with whom they disagree or in terms of overall general craziness ...”

In a press release announcing the Imago Dei campaign, Mat Staver is quoted:

"We should continually remind ourselves that every human being is created in the image of God," said Staver. "This has profound consequences. In the blogosphere and social media culture where people are dehumanized, bullied, and slandered, and where political rhetoric has polarized the populace, the Imago Dei in every person compels us to love and respect all people, including those who disagree with us."

It’s hard not to laugh out loud while reading this. Staver regularly denigrates his opponents, and his Liberty Counsel colleague Matt Barber is even worse.

Just a few examples from an ocean of possibilities: Staver says Planned Parenthood "is not interested in the health and well-being of women" but is really only interested in "their death agenda" and in "damaging the very core and foundation of who we are as Americans and a people of faith and values." Of the movement toward marriage equality, Staver says, “This whole assault on marriage is really an attempt to obliterate not only morality but Judeo-Christian morality, to obliterate marriage and to even obliterate the idea that there even is a God.” And he compares Republicans who are soft on the issue to cockroaches.

Here’s the mini-profile of Staver we prepared for our preview of the 2013 Values Voter Summit:

Mat Staver is the head of the Liberty University School of Law and its legal affiliate, Liberty Counsel, a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. Liberty Counsel has been implicated in the Lisa Miller kidnapping case, where a client kidnapped her daughter and fled to Central America after a court granted custody to her former partner. At a previous Values Voter Summit, Staver claimed that progressives are using LGBT rights and secular government in order to “ultimately implode America” and that the “agenda of the homosexual movement” is to destroy freedom and western civilization. Through his role at Liberty Counsel, Staver has:

Staver says Obama and his “bloodthirsty administration” are worse than King George. He denounces “homofascists” and praised Putin’s anti-gay laws and the Indian Supreme Court decision criminalizing homosexuality.

We could go on. And on.

Meanwhile, Staver’s Liberty Counsel Matt Barber is a bully who rivals Bryan Fischer in the realm of “rhetorical pornography.” He calls Islam “satanic” and people who don’t get it “useful idiots.” He says marriage equality isn’t about marriage or equality but is a political weapon designed to destroy religious liberty. Barber praises Putin and supports laws criminalizing homosexuality. He says Americans are living under “a tyranny of a secularist minority that wants to engage in religious cleansing." There’s much more.

And to repeat, for emphasis: Staver is a leader of Rodriguez’s new Imago Dei campaign, and Liberty Counsel was chosen by Rodriguez to function as the official legislative and policy arm of his National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Just today, Barber tweeted:  "Gay marriage" is a disordered, sin-based & oxymoronic novelty that mocks God & defiles any church in which the silly stunt is performed...”

Paging Rev. Rodriguez.

Ted Cruz: Your Equine Posterior Achievement Award Winner

winner!

The votes are in for Right Wing Watch readers’ Equine Posterior Achievement Award, and by a whopping margin this year’s winner is Ted Cruz. With 57.4% of the vote, Cruz easily triumphed over competitors like Michele Bachmann, Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck.

And the achievement is well deserved, considering all of the stunts from Cruz we had to put up with last year.

After triggering the government shutdown over Obamacare, he seems to be the only person in America who actually believes that President Obama and congressional Democrats were responsible for the battle, with Republican leaders admitting that Cruz and his ultraconservative allies were responsible for the disastrous shutdown. During his faux-filibuster of the health care reform law, Cruz held himself in such high regard that he even compared himself to soldiers in World War II who suffered through the Bataan Death March.

Cruz in the end failed to derail Obamacare, and was only able to damage the economyflub basic Senate rules, grow his fundraising list and become the star of a children’s coloring book. Many of his GOP colleagues in the Senate also took Cruz to task for his role in the disastrous shutdown.

With a penchant for conspiracy theories, Cruz was literally laughed at for his claim about the government creating a “national gun registry” and mocked for invoking fears about the alleged dangers of Agenda 21.

While none of this shouldn’t come as a surprise as he campaigned for the Senate against the imagined threat of Sharia law and a George Soros plot to eliminate golf courses and paved roads, other remarks have been more chilling, like when he wondered if Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took money from North Korea and called the families who lost loved ones in the Newtown massacre “political props.”

Cruz received a hero’s welcome at the Values Voter Summit, one of the biggest conservative gatherings, where attendees loved him so much that one called out to tell him that God is on his side during the shutdown fight.

Well-versed in the Religious Right’s “play-the-victim” rhetoric, Cruz even joked about the White House attempting to kidnap him. Cruz also joined smaller Religious Right events where he urged activists to pray against marriage equality and told the Christian Broadcasting Network that gay rights will lead to the end of free speech.

Right-wing activists love Cruz so much that he has been compared to Ronald ReaganVaclav Havel and the Prophet Elijah, and even birthers are lining up behind the Canadian-born Senator.

Congratulations, Sen. Cruz!

Judging by your record, you will probably win the Equine Posterior Achievement Award in 2014 too.

The Republican Autopsy Report Revisited: 5 Ways The GOP Got Worse In 2013

With the year coming to a close, we decided to see how the GOP’s “bold” and “radical” autopsy report [PDF] was fairing.

After a devastating loss in 2012, Republicans claimed that they didn’t need to change themselves or their platform, but only cosmetic attributes such as their rhetoric and presentation. Other right-wing activists simply pretended that Republicans actually won the last election.

But if the actions taken this year by Republican leaders are any clue, it looks like Republicans either ignored or outright rejected even the superficial recommendations made in the GOP’s plan to revive the party:

1. Ending Aid To Jobless Americans

The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party…. To people who are flat on their back, unemployed or disabled and in need of help, they do not care if the help comes from the private sector or the government — they just want help.

Republicans in Congress rejected an extension of unemployment benefits, which will not only hurt approximately 1.3 million Americans during a period when long-term joblessness is still high, but will also result in serious harm to economic growth. If Republicans do not waver from their position, up to 5 million people could be affected by the cuts. The party also passed enormous cuts to the food stamp program under the auspices of preventing the tremendously low rate of fraud in an effort to kick 5 million people off of food assistance.

But the GOP continues to give special benefits to millionaires, as earlier this year Republicans once again rebuffed the “Buffet Rule,” which would have ensured that millionaires don’t end up having a lower tax rate than average Americans.

2. Blocking Immigration Reform

[W]e must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform…. On issues like immigration, the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community.

Even though a majority of Americans and House members support immigration reform which includes a pathway to citizenship, the House GOP leadership refused this year to call a vote on reform bills. Speaker John Boehner even said that Republicans “have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.” But the House did find time to pass Rep. Steve King’s amendment to defund a program that prevents undocumented children being deported.

GOP politicians continue to argue that immigration reform will literally destroy America, and one Republican congressman even used the slur “wetbacks” while describing immigrants. Rep. Louie Gohmert said that Republicans must reject immigration reform to win over Latino voters, while Rep. King dismissed young Latinos as drug smugglers with cantaloupe-sized calves.

3. Rolling Back Reproductive Choice

Republicans should develop a more aggressive response to Democrat rhetoric regarding a so-called “war on women.”

Republicans claim it is unfair that people believe they are behind a “war on women,” but they didn’t do themselves any favors by approving a sweeping anti-abortion bill. Rep. Trent Franks, the chief sponsor of the legislation, defended his bill by channeling Todd Akin when he argued that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” and then fundraised off his remarks.

Fellow Republican Rep. Michael Burgess rallied support for the bill by citing masturbating fetuses. But perhaps the biggest steps Republicans took in dismantling Roe v. Wade occurred on the state level, where GOP-controlled state legislatures passed a range of extreme anti-choice bills.

4. Preserving Anti-Gay Views

For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view. Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.

Even the GOP had to couch its call to be nicer to gay people as a political maneuver to making inroads with the youth vote, which helped secure President Obama’s re-election and is strongly in favor of LGBT equality. But the ties between the GOP and the anti-gay Religious Right remain rock solid, and many GOP leaders and potential presidential candidates addressed this year’s Values Voter Summit, where the event’s anti-gay sponsors and speakers repeatedly denounced gay rights.

Republican elected officials delivered stinging attacks against the Boy Scouts of America for ending its ban on gay members and also laced into the Supreme Court for overturning part of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law defended in court by the House GOP. Republican leaders like Sen. Ted Cruz ardently criticized marriage equality at Religious Right events, and even “libertarian” Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul denounced gay marriage, linking it to non-human marriage.

5. The Shrinking Party

We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.

In case you needed more evidence that Republican politicians take cues from the GOP’s ultraconservative base, look no further than the government shutdown, where the congressional GOP leadership allowed the Tea Party “suicide caucus” to lead an enormously unpopular and economically harmful government shutdown.

Republicans ended up getting nothing from the shutdown, but Rep. Marlin Stutzman did illuminate the GOP’s thinking: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

While we keep hearing talk of Republicans trying to seem more inclusive and “fighting back” against the Tea Party, it isn’t clear that the party is actually presenting any real challenge to Tea Party-aligned politicians. In fact, it seems that the GOP is actively embracing Tea Party’s extremist policies, fervent rhetoric and ideological purity tests.

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Values Voter Summit Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Friday 09/25/2015, 11:55am
Rick Santorum kicked off his remarks at the Values Voter Summit today by declaring that the United States will never be a great nation or receive God's blessing so long as gay marriage and the right to an abortion remain legal. Bragging that he has attended every VVS event since it began 10 years ago, Santorum thanked those in attendance for "standing up and bringing to this city the issues that are at the core of the problems in this country." "America is never going to be a great country if we're a country that kills our children in the womb, ever!" he said.... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 09/23/2015, 1:25pm
It appears that Donald Trump is stepping up his outreach to the Religious Right, as the Family Research Council today confirmed that the Republican frontrunner will be attending its annual conference, which has become something of a cattle-call for the most radical speakers in the country. pic.twitter.com/cSfb7Zw6KA — FRC (@FRCdc) September 23, 2015 The chief organizer of the Values Voter Summit, FRC’s Tony Perkins, criticized Trump when the candidate initially declined an invitation to the summit, claiming that Trump was neglecting conservative evangelicals and wasn’t... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 09/15/2015, 12:39pm
Yesterday, the Family Research Council announced that Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who became a Religious Right hero for prohibiting her office from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, would be receiving an award at its upcoming Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. It turns out that Kim is not the only member of the family who has been transformed into a Religious Right celebrity, as her second/fourth husband Joe Davis will be a featured speaker at an upcoming "Stand in the Gap for Truth" rally being organized by the Tennessee Pastors Network, which is an arm of the... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 09/14/2015, 1:30pm
As many predicted, Kim Davis is cashing in on her new role as a right-wing celebrity. The Family Research Council announced today that Davis will receive its “Cost of Discipleship Award” at the upcoming Values Voter Summit. FRC head Tony Perkins has already compared Davis to the previous award winner, Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who, unlike Davis, actually faced persecution for her faith, as she was arrested and imprisoned by Sudan’s government for converting to Christianity. Leading up to Ibrahim’s appearance at the FRC event, Perkins attempted to use... MORE
Miranda Blue, Friday 09/11/2015, 12:48pm
Every year, Republican leaders flock to the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which gives them a chance to curry favor with Religious Right activists and gives FRC President Tony Perkins a chance to assert his political influence. So it caused a minor hubbub last year when Perkins pointedly refused to invite presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Chris Christie to speak at the summit, saying that they “shouldn’t take it the wrong way” but they “just weren’t on the top of the list” for “values voters.” We were interested, then, to... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 09/10/2015, 5:30pm
Ted Cruz spoke at David Barton's "Pastors' Briefing" last night on Capitol Hill. Even Joe Arpaio thinks Donald Trump has gone too far with his anti-immigration rhetoric, which is quite an accomplishment. Speaking of Trump, he has reportedly turned down an invitation to speak at the upcoming Values Voter Summit. Dave Daubenmire credits the prayers of his "Salt and Light Brigade" for Kim Davis' release from jail. Finally, Phyllis Schlafly says that "when the Supreme Court ruled that all 50 states must license same-sex unions on the same... MORE
Miranda Blue, Wednesday 06/24/2015, 1:20pm
After the manifesto of the man who committed a mass murder at a black church in Charleston last week was found to contain material lifted from the white supremacist group Council of Conservative Citizens, formerly the White Citizens’ Councils, GOP politicians have been scrambling to erase their ties with the group, with several Republicans returning or donating to charity a total of tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the group’s president. But it’s proving to be more difficult for some in the GOP and their allies in the Religious Right to brush over a... MORE