The Year Bryan Fischer Became 'Mainstream'

Back in 2011, when Mitt Romney was in the starting months of his presidential campaign, he accepted an invitation to speak at the Values Voter Summit, an annual event organized by the Family Research Council. The VVS always attracts an assortment of far-right activists, but that year Romney was scheduled to speak directly before Bryan Fischer, an inflamatory American Family Association official and radio host who had viciously insulted everyone from LGBT people to women to Muslims to Native Americans to medal of honor recipients to Romney’s fellow Mormons.

After facing a public outcry for choosing to appear beside Fischer, Romney called out Fischer in his speech — albeit not by name — decrying the “poisonous language” of “one of the speakers who will follow me today.”

After that year, Fischer was nowhere to be found at the Values Voter Summit, although his employer, the American Family Association, continued to cosponsor the event.

Then, in January of last year, Fischer was, for a moment, edged further out of the conservative mainstream. When a group of 60 members of the Republican National Committee embarked on a trip to Israel organized by Christian-nation advocate David Lane and paid for by the AFA, the RNC was forced to answer why it was sending members on a junket financed by a group whose spokesman was one of the most vitriolic voices of hate in the country — and one who said the First Amendment applies only to Christians. Facing a diplomatic incident with the GOP, the AFA finally stripped Fischer of his title with the organization, although he kept his daily radio program with its affiliate, American Family Radio.

But that was then and this is now.

Earlier this month, we reported that Fischer was scheduled to join Sen. Ted Cruz at a campaign rally in Mississippi. The event was eventually canceled: not because of Fischer’s extremism but because Cruz was reportedly ill .

And, although Fischer remains one of the most hateful voices on the Right, he is hardly any more controversial than many of the figures with whom the leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves in 2016 — or even, in some cases, the candidates themselves. As soon as the GOP began to ostracize Bryan Fischer, it was taken over by Bryan Fischer’s ideology.

Fischer himself pointed this out on his radio program last week as he prepared to discuss a column in which he reiterated his long-held views that Muslims immigrants should be barred from the U.S., American Muslims should be shut out of the U.S. military and state governments should ban the construction of mosques. Things that he’s been saying for years, he said, that were once perceived as “outlandish” and “off-the-charts lunacy,” have now “become virtually mainstream.”

He’s right. In fact, when we began to look through some of Fischer’s most controversial statements — which are bad enough that he was publicly rejected by the 2012 Republican nominee — we found that they weren’t too different from things that Republican presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz say every day.

Although Fischer has campaigned for Cruz and openly despises Trump, his ideology and rhetoric is echoed by both campaigns. (Although, thankfully, neither candidate has called for stoning whales … at least not yet.)

On Muslim immigration...

Fischer: ‘Stop Muslim immigration into the United States’

Fischer was far ahead of the trend when it came to anti-Muslim bigotry,calling as early as 2010 for the U.S. to block all Muslim immigration, “repatriate” Muslims who are already here, ban American Muslims from serving in the U.S. military, and impose a policy of “no more mosques, period.” Fischer repeated these demands just last week.

Trump: ‘A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’

He was several years behind Fischer, but Trump called last year for a temporary ban on all of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims entering the United States and deporting Syrian refugees who have been resettled in America, which have since become central planks in his platform. Echoing Fischer, Trump has also said that if he were to become president, he would have “no choice” but to close some mosques and once flirted with the idea of setting up a government database to monitor all Muslims. Cruz, for his part, has called for banning the resettlement of Muslim refugees from Syria.

On religious freedom for Muslims ...

Fischer: ‘Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims’

Fischer justifies his anti-Muslim plans by claiming that the First Amendment does not apply to Muslims or any other non-Christian religion and asserts that any religious liberty rights extended to non-Christians are simply a “courtesy”:

Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment.

Cruz: ‘Patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods’

When Cruz called for the U.S. to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” in response to this week’s terrorist attacks in Belgium, it came as no surprise since he has surrounded himself with advisers who argue, like Fischer, that Muslims do not deserve the same civil rights and civil liberties as other Americans.

One Cruz adviser, the Family Research Council’s Jerry Boykin, has explicitly said that “Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections.” In an interview with Fischer, Boykin called for “no mosques in America.”

Trump, for his part, has repeatedly called for government profiling of Muslims.

On Mormonism and Mitt Romney ...

Fischer: ‘I’m more Mormon’ than Mitt Romney

Fischer has never been a fan of the Mormon faith, insisting that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Mormons and warning that a Mormon president like Romney would threaten the nation’s “spiritual health.” However, when Fischer deemed Romney to not be anti-gay enough, he declared that he himself was “more Mormon” than the candidate.

At one point, Fischer clarified that he had “love” for Mormons and just wanted them “to come into the full light of the truth” and abandon their faith.

Trump: ‘Are you sure he’s a Mormon?’

Although Trump may “love the Mormons,” he has been out on the campaign trail with Robert Jeffress , an extremist pastor who says that Mormonism and Islam are demonic faiths “from the pit of hell” (and that the Roman Catholic Church was created by Satan). It was in a radio interview with Fischer at the 2011 Values Voter Summit that Jeffress, who was stumping for Rick Perry, declared that Romney is not a “true” Christian because Mormonism is a “cult.”

Like Fischer, Trump has questioned Romney’s faith after Romney criticized him, asking a crowd in Utah: “Are you sure he’s a Mormon?”

On LGBT rights ...

Fischer: ‘Rainbow jihadists’ on the Supreme Court ‘blasted the twin pillars of truth and righteousness into rubble.’

Fischer reacted with predictable reason and restraint to the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell marriage equality ruling, comparing it to 9/11, Pearl Harbor and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and referring to the justices in the majority as “rainbow jihadists.”

Cruz: The gay community is waging ‘jihad’ against religious freedom

In this case, Fischer may have picked up a turn of phrase from Cruz, who several weeks before the Obergefell ruling accused LGBT rights activists of waging “jihad” against the religious freedom of Christians.

On the role of women ...

Fischer: God ‘designed’ women to be good secretaries

Fischer explained back in 2014 that he wouldn't consider male applicants for receptionist and secretary positions at his church because God “designed” women “to be warm, to be hospitable, to be open-hearted, to be open-handed, to have their arms open, to be welcoming, to be receptive, to create a nurturing, welcoming environment.”

Trump: ‘It really doesn't matter what they write, as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass’

Trump may have a different view of women in the workplace than Fischer, but it isn’t any more enlightened.

On science ...

Fischer: ‘Liberals are absolutely anti-science when it comes climatology and global warming’

Fischer contends that when it comes to climate change, it’s the scientists who are “absolutely anti-science,” citing God’s promise to Noah in the Bible that he would never again destroy the earth with floods. He also believes that the theory of evolution is “completely irrational and scientifically bankrupt ”and argues that people who believe in evolution should be “disqualified from holding public office.” Fischer has filled the vacuum left by actual science with some of his own creative theories, such as that dinosaurs were actually giant, 1,000-year-old lizards.

Cruz: ‘Climate change is not science, it’s religion’

Cruz similarly thinks that it’s climate scientists who are being illogical, telling Glenn Beck last year that “climate change is not science, it's religion.” Trump is also “not a big believer” in climate change, which he has dismissed as “bad weather” and a Chinese fabrication designed to destroy the U.S. economy.

While Cruz has deflected questions about evolution, his father and campaign surrogate, Rafael Cruz, has called the theory “baloney” and suggested that it was a communist plot to “destroy the concept of God.”

On the military ...

Fischer: We’ve ‘feminized’ the medal of honor by giving it to service members who haven’t killed people

In 2010, Fischer reacted to the awarding of the medal of honor to an Army sergeant who had rescued two of his fellow soldiers in battle by lamenting that we have “feminized” the military honor by awarding it “for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them."

Trump: ‘I like people who weren’t captured’

Trump, who, like Fischer, has never served in the military, made headlines last summer when he attacked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for his time as a prisoner of war, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.”