Marriage Equality

Barber: Gay Marriage Is 'The Brainchild' Of Satan

On today's "Faith and Freedom" radio broadcast, Mat Staver and Matt Barber cited recent remarks made by Pope Francis about how "the Devil wants to destroy" the family in order to declare that gay marriage is "the brainchild" of Satan himself.

"Marriage is the cornerstone institution of any healthy society," Barber asserted, "and so clearly the Father of Lies, the Enemy of the World hates marriage, wants to destroy marriage and so this concept of counterfeit marriage, of same-sex marriage, that is the brainchild, Mat, of none other than the Father of Lies himself."

Staver was in complete agreement, saying that gay marriage is an effort to "abolish all truth" as part of Satan's "attack on God."

"Ultimately, at the end of the day," Staver said, "it is a spiritual attack ... This is the bidding of the Devil. This is a spiritual assault on all of us who are made in the image of God":

Self-Aware Bobby Jindal Is Tired Of 'Candidates Who Tell Us One Thing Then Go Do Another'

In an interview earlier this month with the Iowa blog Caffienated Thoughts, noted paragon of consistency Bobby Jindal lamented about “candidates who tell us one thing then go do another” on judicial nominations.

Jindal was discussing recent court decisions in favor of marriage equality, which he suggested could be grounds for recalling judges. In 2012, Jindal joined the failed effort to recall an Iowa Supreme Court justice who had joined the court’s unanimous marriage equality ruling.

The Louisiana governor spent the first half of the interview deriding the Common Core education standards — which he previously backed — as a “federal takeover of education."

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!"

Ben Carson Explains How Gay Marriage Is A Marxist Plot To Impose The 'New World Order'

In his keynote speech at the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage gala last week, Dr. Ben Carson explained how Marxists are using LGBT rights to destroy American unity and impose the "New World Order."

Carson said he knows about this plot from reading right-wing conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen’s book “The Naked Communist.”

Earlier in the speech, Carson told the audience that gay-rights opponents are the real victims of “injustice” because they just want to be “left alone.”

“When we talk about liberty and justice for all, doesn’t that mean that people can be left alone, that no-one else gets to change definitions on them and change life for them?” he asked.

“They have no right to say to me that I must change the way I think in order to accommodate what they believe,” he said. “That’s where the injustice comes from, and we have to understand that.”

Jennifer Roback Morse Compares 'Sexual Revolution' To Nazism, Says It’s Bringing Back Slavery

Jennifer Roback Morse, head of the Ruth Institute — which was formerly affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage — urged conservative law students earlier this month to resist the “pagan ideology” of the “sexual revolution” like those who resisted Nazism.

In a lecture to the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship, Morse explained that while Christianity ended slavery, the sexual revolution is now bringing it back.

“All of these issues — divorce and remarriage, abortion and infanticide, slavery, the buying and selling of human beings — all of these things, the Christian religion put a stop to. But they’re all on their way back because of the sexual revolution,” she said. “The sexual revolution is bringing back all of these points.”

“We, in fact, are on the right side of history,” she said.

Later in the speech, Morse urged the students in the audience to emulate Maximilian Kolbe and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s stands against Nazism in resisting the “pagan ideology” of the “sexual revolution.”

AFA Wants Libraries To Dump 'Sexually Perverse' Gay Children's Book

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association was, unsurprisingly, upset to learn that some public libraries have been stocking “The Princes and the Treasure,” a children’s book that, in the words of its author Jeffrey Miles, "tells the story of two handsome princes who go on a quest to save a princess, but fall in love with each other, get married, and live happily ever after."

Fischer tells the Christian Post that “this book is a particularly pernicious form of sexually perverse propaganda” that “no responsible library should ever include” in its collection.

He adds that parents have the right not just to prevent their own kids from reading the book but to keep it from other children who might talk to their kids about it: "Christian parents don't want to be concerned only about their own children, they want to keep this kind of warped literature out of the hands of other children as well.”

Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for the American Family Association, a nonprofit Christian organization that supports traditional marriage, told CP on Thursday that "because of the power fairy tales, this book is a particularly pernicious form of sexually perverse propaganda."

"The stories and the images that children store up in their minds from fairy tales have a very powerful imprinting effect on their tender young souls," Fischer said. "And the bottom line is that no responsible library should ever include a book like this on its shelves, and no responsible school should ever use this book as a part of its curriculum."

He continued, "The reality is that no library can stock every book that's ever been published. So libraries choose all the time not to stock certain books. There's nothing wrong with parents asking the library not to stock a book of this nature."

Fischer noted that Christian parents aren't only concerned about what their children are reading, but they're also concerned about the literature that's influencing other children in their communities.

"Christian parents don't want to be concerned only about their own children, they want to keep this kind of warped literature out of the hands of other children as well," he asserted. "And if parents want this book for their children, there's nothing to stop them from going to Amazon and buying it with their own money. But taxpayer dollars should not be spent on tripe like this."

We discussed similar book censorship efforts in our recent report, “Book Wars.”

Via Book Patrol.

William Owens Never Marched 'One Foot For The Same Sex To Get Married'

Rev. William Owens, president of the NOM front organization known as the Coalition of African-American Pastors, spoke at today's March for Marriage where he declared that he had participated in "the real civil rights movement" and "didn't march one yard, one foot for the same sex to get married."

Saying that the push for marriage equality is nothing but a "bully movement," Owens declared that the fight against gay marriage is the modern civil rights movement and, as such, activists must refuse to comply with laws recognizing it and be willing to go to jail if necessary.

"Remember," Owens said, "it took two hundred and some years for the blacks to get their freedom; it will take us time but we can't do it just making speeches and talking, we got to show our force to America, we've got to let these politicians know, these weak-kneed, back-kneed, slimy backed politicians from the president on down know that we will not take it any more":

NOM's John Eastman Compares Supreme Court's DOMA Decision To Dred Scott

In his speech to the March for Marriage today, National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman compared the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a key part of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act to the infamous Dred Scott decision.

Eastman cited Justice Scalia’s “call to arms” in his dissent to the DOMA decision, paraphrasing it as, “the court should never take away controversial issues away from the voters in this country.”

“The last time the court tried to do that a century and a half ago on the slavery question, Abraham Lincoln refused to comply,” he said.

Brian Brown Is Confident That Anti-Gay Activists 'Stand On The Right Side Of History'

Speaking at the March for Marriage rally today, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown declared that those fighting against marriage equality will never give up and will eventually be victorious because "we stand for the truth about marriage."

"We know that some day," Brown proclaimed, "whether it's one year, ten years, twenty years, or decades from now, people will look back at this time and remember those of us who stood up for the truth."

Then, quoting Abraham Lincoln, Brown declared that anti-gay activists "stand on the right side of history":

AFA: Obama Gay Rights Speech 'Made A Mockery Of God's Word'

In a fundraising email today, American Family Association president Tim Wildmon shares “nine statements by Obama yesterday" that "made a mockery of God’s word.”

Wildmon lists such God-mocking statements as the president’s calling the overturning of DOMA “a great day for America” and noting the number of states that currently have marriage equality.

Regnerus Study Backer Acknowledges That Marriage Equality Creates Family Stability

Updated

Buried in a National Catholic Register report on the biannual meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops this week is the surprising revelation that Brad Wilcox, one of the researchers behind Mark Regnerus’ infamously flawed study of same-sex parenting, admitted to attendees that most social scientists have found “no difference” between “a stable same-sex family and a stable heterosexual family.”

And when a Washington state bishop compared same-sex marriage to cohabitation, Wilcox responded that data suggests “when same-sex marriage is legalized and it is given cultural support, it will be as stable as heterosexual marriage" and that married same-sex couples “are more likely to have stable relationships when the legal regime is more supportive of their relationships.” 

Following his talk, Wilcox took a number of questions from bishops on the floor of the meeting. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput asked why, if marriage is so valuable for economic success, same-sex marriage is being legalized in so many states.

"Most of the scientists would say that there's no difference ... between a stable same-sex family and a stable heterosexual family," replied Wilcox, noting that those scientists might consider stability the "key factor, not other issues that might relate to a child's well-being."

Yakima, Wash., Bishop Joseph Tyson asked why same-sex marriage is not considered by the studies Wilcox cited to be as dangerous as cohabitation.

"I think that the assumption ... is that when same-sex marriage is legalized and it is given cultural support, it will be as stable as heterosexual marriage," Wilcox replied.

"Is there data to back that?" Tyson asked.

"The data suggest that same-sex couples -- and this is really preliminary -- are more likely to have stable relationships when the legal regime is more supportive of their relationships," Wilcox replied.

This acknowledgment of mainstream social science’s assessment of gay and lesbian parenting is important coming from someone who helped to shape the Regnerus study, the discredited attack on same-sex parenting that is still cited widely by marriage equality opponents. We wrote last year:

Documents obtained by the American Independent this year revealed that the Witherspoon Institute was closely involved in Regnerus’ work through the go-between of W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia who at the time ran Witherspoon’s program on family, marriage and democracy, which had recruited Regnerus to conduct the study on LGBT parents. Regnerus in turn hired Wilcox on contract to assist him with data analysis on the study. Along with working with Regnerus on his skewed interpretation of the data, Wilcox urged Regnerus to release the study in time to influence the U.S. Supreme Court in its upcoming marriage equality cases. (Regnerus later signed onto an amicus brief seeking to influence both cases, which extensively cited his own research).

Wilcox’s remark echo the Proposition 8 trial testimony of David Blankenhorn, in which he acknowledged the stability provided by marriage for same-sex couples. Blankenhorn later became a full-fledged marriage equality advocate.

UPDATE: The bishops’ group has posted video of the conference. It’s clear from the video that Wilcox isn’t completely on board with the social science on same-sex marriage, but  does acknowledge the consensus among his colleagues.

Interestingly, Wilcox did not mention same-sex marriage at all until it was brought up in the question-and-answer session.
 

Matt Barber Praises Slovakia For Resisting 'Demonic' Marriage Equality

As RWW and others have documented, American Religious Right figures are part of a global anti-equality movement.  Groups like the American Center for Law and Justice, National Organization for Marriage and World Congress of Families are working with right-wing movements in Europe to resist advances in LGBT Equality.

Today, Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel praises this week’s passage of an anti-marriage-equality constitutional amendment in Slovakia, where there is no legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.

While the U.S. seems bound and determined to destroy natural marriage and family, other nations around the world have figured out that radically deconstructing these fundamental cornerstone institutions – institutions necessary to the survival of any healthy society – will have devastating effects in the long-term.

Slovakia is the latest such nation. Lawmakers there have constitutionally banned counterfeit “same-sex marriage.”

...Let’s pray that this pro-family trend across the world continues. As the radical “LGBT” agenda continues to weaken America, obliterate religious liberty and hurt and confuse countless children and families, we can at least take solace in the fact that much of the world has not been duped by this demonic incursion of sexual anarchy.

 

Texas GOP Debates Whether To Remove Anti-Gay Language From Platform, Risk 'Demise' Of Society

Updated

While subcommittees at the Texas GOP’s convention today rebuffed hardliners by removing some especially vicious anti-gay language from the state party’s platform and keeping an endorsement of an immigrant guest worker program, the debate over both issues continues.

Brian wrote earlier today about the efforts of Texas conservatives to bring back the party platform’s previous hardline anti-immigration language , including those of Texas Eagle Forum leader and former state party chairwoman Cathie Adams, who has warned that immigration reform will bring about the End Times .

A similar battle is unfolding over gay rights. Two conservative LGBT groups that were denied permission to sponsor booths at the convention are now calling on the party to remove language from its platform that states:

Homosexuality ― We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

While a subcommittee nixed the language today, the decision won’t be final until it’s approved by the full convention on Thursday night .

And in any case, the subcommittee appears to have kept the rest of the party’s anti-gay plank, which contains the actual policy prohibitions against equality, along with plenty of pointed scare quotes:

Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.

One activist who will be fighting for the preservation of the platform’s original anti-gay language is Adams, who told the radio station KERA that backing down on gay rights would mean that the “society is well on its way to demise.”

Cathie Adams, executive director of Texas Eagle Forum, believes the platform currently reflects a position that’s biblical.

“When a culture descends to a point where homosexuality is openly accepted as a normal behavior, then a society is well on its way to demise," she said.

UPDATE: Adams might not have to worry too much. A draft platform leaked Thursday eliminated the "fabric of society" language but added an endorsement of the discredited practive of "ex-gay" therapy.

Garlow: Obama's Support For Gay Marriage 'Tip[ped] The Scales In A Destructive Direction'

Jim Garlow was on AFA's "Today's Issues" program yesterday to discuss his recent statement that President Obama's will be known by future generations as the person responsible for "morally and economically destroying a wonderful experiment called America."

Garlow reiterated this belief while speaking with the AFA's Tim Wildmon as he asserted that Obama's support for marriage equality in 2012 "tip[ped] the scales in a destructive direction" and thus "future sociologists will be able to outline the incredible destructive force of the dissolution of marriage" as having accelerated as a result of Obama's contribution "towards an already destabilized family unit":

Klingenschmitt: A Demonic Spirit Caused The Judge In PA Marriage Ruling To 'Conspire Against God'

On today's "Pray In Jesus Name" program, Gordon Klingenschmitt reacted to last month's ruling striking down Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage by declaring that the judge who issued the ruling was controlled by a demonic spirit that led him to "conspire against God."

As Klingenschmitt explained, whenever people "invite the Devil to rule our hearts," it results in "a demonic spirit of sexual immorality" manifesting itself through their sinful behavior.  And that is exactly what happened with "tyrant"  Judge John Jones III, who, driven by a "demonic spirit of pride," sought to "conspire against God" by tossing Jesus and the Bible on the ash heap of history with his marriage ruling.

But Klingenschmitt has a message for Jones: "Judge and Satan, you will end up on the ash heap of history and not Jesus and the Bible."

AFA Poll Inquires: 'What Is The Primary Objective Of Homosexual Activists Who Target Youths?'

The American Family Association’s OneNewsNow published an article today titled “Gay agenda creeping into all curriculum,” in which MassResistance’s Brian Camenker warns that the gay-rights group GLSEN, in addition to organizing “emotionally poisonous and physically dangerous” Gay-Straight Alliances, is plotting to make kids “feel comfortable around homosexuality and those issues, feel comfortable coming out, feel comfortable taking on those behaviors, feeling comfortable with everything about it.”

The article is accompanied by an insightful reader poll:

Larry Tomczak, BarbWire Celebrate Memorial Day By Questioning Obama's Faith

Larry Tomczak, pastor and pundit, celebrated Memorial Day with an open letter questioning whether the country’s Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama, is really a Christian.  Of course, implicit in Tomczak’s letter is his belief that only the right kind of Christian, according to his standards, is fit to be president of the U.S. The letter was distributed by BarbWire, Matt Barber’s home for commentary from the far right, which topped the letter with a photo of Obama in front of what appears to be a Koran, with a Communist hammer and sickle over one shoulder and a Muslim crescent over the other.

Tomczak, who has a habit of invoking the specter of Nazi Germany when he talks about the fight against LGBT equality, manages to avoid a Nazi reference in this letter. He does cite Obama’s support for gay rights and marriage equality as evidence that Obama is not a Christian. Of course, Obama has plenty of company. For Tomczak, the millions of Christians who support LGBT equality and reproductive choice aren’t real Christians; neither are Catholics who aren’t “born-again.” Tomczak portrays Catholic schools as suspect and not likely to have given Obama “correct instruction in the Christian faith.”

Tomczak argues that Obama’s “beliefs, policies, social leanings and character” suggest that Obama is not an “authentic, obedient Christian” and says the president’s bad example allows Catholics like Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Pelosi, and Caroline Kennedy “to continue in their wayward paths.”

Tomczak’s arrogant letter is filled with faux humility. He starts by saying he wants to “humbly” ask Obama about his faith, signs off “respectfully,” and in between assures President Obama that he loves and prays for him. Tomczak expresses hope that [the far from orthodox] Abraham Lincoln will speak to Obama “from the grave” and tell him “to repent and begin exercising the courageous Christian leadership America needs before it’s too late.” And he ends by encouraging Obama to consult with Billy Graham in order to become an “authentic” Christian.

That would be the same Billy Graham who praised Mitt Romney’s values during the 2012 presidential campaign and took out full-page ads encouraging North Carolina voters to back a constitutional ban on marriage equality and any kind of civil union or domestic partnership. Graham’s ministry is now run by his son Franklin Graham, an anti-gay zealot who praises Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay efforts, says  “true” Christians cannot support marriage equality, and not only questions Obama’s faith but says his administration is “anti-Christ.”

In Response To Uganda Documentary, IHOP Says It's 'Not Involved' in Politics

“God Loves Uganda,” a documentary about American evangelical involvement in inflaming anti-gay sentiment in that country, made its debut at last year’s Sundance Festival and reached a broader audience through this week’s broadcast on public television. The attention from this week’s broadcast has provoked a response from the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Filmmaker Ross Williams was given extensive access to IHOP leaders, including evangelist Lou Engle, who believes Uganda has a special prophetic destiny.  The documentary includes footage of Engle at a rally with supporters of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act, where he tells the crowd he was “called” to encourage the Ugandan church for standing up for “righteousness” in the face of international pressure to drop the bill.  IHOP now says it has never supported the anti-gay law.

Charisma Magazine’s Jennifer LeClaire writes that IHOP and Lou Engle are being “falsely accused of ‘demonizing’ homosexuals in Uganda.” IHOP’s response says that while it believes all sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman is sinful, “We honor the dignity and rights of all whose opinion differs from ours” and that IHOP is “open to civil dialogue and mutual respect.” The filmmakers, says IHOP, “pursued a deceptive means to achieve a hateful, polarizing result.”

In fact, Engle is a remarkably polarizing figure who has frequently describes those who disagree with him on abortion and marriage as being in league with Satan in a confrontation between good an evil. “God Loves Uganda” includes footage of Engle’s pro-Prop. 8 rally in California at which he warned that allowing same-sex couples to get married would unleash “sexual insanity” and a spirit “more demonic than Islam.” In 2011, he organized an event in Detroit that was pitched to local pastors as a unity event for people of faith to pray for Detroit’s economy when its actual purpose was to “invade Dearborn” and convert followers of “demonic” Islam to Christianity.

Perhaps the most laughable statement in IHOP’s response is this:

Our primary mandate as an organization is prayer and humanitarian action; it is not political. We are not involved in U.S. politics, let alone politics in another nation.

Not involved in US politics? Where do we begin?

Lou Engle, an IHOP co-founder, is a dominionist who believes the church’s role is to “rule history with God.”

"The church’s vocation is to rule history with God...The same authority that has been given to Christ Jesus for overwhelming conquering and dominion has been given to the saints of the most high....We’re God’s rulers upon the earth...We will govern over kings and judges will have to submit...We’re called to rule! To change history! To be co-regents with God!"

Engle has been intensely involved in US politics, hosting “The Call” prayer rallies in election years to denounce legal abortion and politicians that support it. He worked hard to mobilize support for anti-gay Proposition 8 in California.

In 2008 he passionately opposed the election of Barack Obama and declared that by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, McCain had “gone to war for America, for our families, and for our children. And this war, we cannot afford to lose.”

In 2009, Engle introduced Rep. Michele Bachmann and asked her to lead a prayer at an anti-health-care-reform “prayercast” organized by the Family Research Council.

More recently IHOP and its leader Mike Bickel were at the center of organizing dominionist leaders to put on “The Awakening,” a 2011 prayer rally that served as the launch of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign. Bickel served as the event’s MC. The head of IHOP’s Tallahassee branch, Pam Oslen, was on the Perry campaign’s Florida leadership team.

Religious Right 'Freedom And Liberty' Group ACLJ Backed Russian 'Gay Propaganda' And Blasphemy Bans

The American Center for Law and Justice, the group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to be a right-wing counter to the American Civil Liberties Union, bills itself as a champion of the “ongoing viability of freedom and liberty in the United States and around the world.”

But the ACLJ – which has joined in the Religious Right chorus claiming that progressive policies are causing American Christians to lose their religious freedom – has never been so keen on the civil liberties of those with whom they disagree, especially in its work overseas. As we’ve noted in the past, the ACLJ led the fight to block the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan and through its African affiliate has backed efforts to prevent legalized abortion in Kenya and to keep homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

And in recent years, the ACLJ’s European and Russian branches have also supported key parts of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on gay rights and civil liberties, even as the group has served as a watchdog for Russia’s evangelical minority in the face of government persecution.

Both the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and the Slavic Center for Law and Justice (SCLJ) affiliates voiced support for Russia’s 2013 gag order on gay-rights advocacy. In addition, following the 2012 Pussy Riot protest, the SCLJ called for a law criminalizing religious blasphemy. One of its leading attorneys then helped draft one proposed version of the law.

In 2012, the last year for which records are available, the ACLJ directed $300,000 to funding the SCLJ with the “goal of protecting religious rights and freedoms of individuals and associations in Russia.” Its bigger overseas project is the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ), based in Strasbourg, France, to which it gave $1.1 million in 2012. The ACLJ’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, founded the SCLJ's overseas branches and serves as the chief counsel of the European affiliate. A handful of sources list him as the chief counsel of the Russian affiliate as well, although it is unclear if he still serves in that capacity.

The ACLJ did not respond to a request for comment on the work of its work in Russia.

Shortly after the feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a protest at a Russian Orthodox cathedral – for which they were ultimately sentenced to two years in a penal colony for “hooliganism” – the SCLJ issued a press release endorsing the efforts of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, an Orthodox Church official, to criminalize blasphemy, which at the time was punishable by just a small fine. The press release argued that “seemingly innocuous mischief of a few aggressive individuals led to real religious conflicts that posed a threat to people’s lives and health,” and recommending “harsh punishments” for people found guilty of blasphemy.

The press release called for Russian officials “to toughen laws against incitement of religious hatred and hostility, but also against insult to the religious feelings of the faithful and assaults against their shrines and temples. We also believe that there is an urgent need to introduce harsh punishments for disseminating such information on the Internet.”

The cynical, blasphemous actions in the Church of Christ the Savior that took place this week aroused a broad public outcry. The participants of the women’s feminist punk group Pussy Riot ran into the church wearing masks and performed a blasphemous song with a political subtext right before the altar. They recorded the “performance” on video. Based on these recordings, a video clip was put together and posted on social networks, after which a flood of blasphemous and anti-church comments appeared online.

SCLJ recently raised the issue of the danger of dissemination through social networks of blasphemous information that insults the religious feelings of the faithful, at times openly inciting interreligious conflicts. Today we see that this concern is becoming even more acute and urgent. Criticism of certain religious views and beliefs is undoubtedly possible; however, insult and humiliation of the dignity of individuals who hold them or profess any religion is simply unacceptable.

The main problem is that the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation does not currently contain adequate penalties for such acts. The maximum punishment that can be brought down upon the participants in this blasphemous act at the Church of Christ the Savior is that they will be cited for an administrative offense and required to pay a small fine. However, the consequences of their activities may be very serious.

It should be noted that such cases are not rare. SCLJ staff members have often come upon similar situations in other regions of the country. Moreover, in many cases, seemingly innocuous mischief of a few aggressive individuals led to real religious conflicts that posed a threat to people’s lives and health.

Law enforcement agencies typically respond to incidents of this nature by glossing over any anti-religious motives. No one wants crimes motivated by religious hatred and hostility. Therefore, officials strain to limit charges to “hooliganism” and sometimes refuse to open a criminal case at all.

In this regard, SCLJ supports the initiative of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin to toughen laws against incitement of religious hatred and hostility, but also against insult to the religious feelings of the faithful and assaults against their shrines and temples. We also believe that there is an urgent need to introduce harsh punishments for disseminating such information on the Internet.

In September of 2012, members of the Duma introduced a bill that would criminalize “insulting citizens’ religious views and feelings.”

Despite SCLJ’s initial call for an anti-blasphemy law, the group’s co-chair Vladimir Rhyakovsky was apparently not thrilled with the first draft of the law. Rhyakovsky, a member of Putin’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, joined with a fellow council member to propose a revised version of the bill that proposed more moderate penalties for violation and created “zoned” free speech areas, but also, disturbingly, would have made the definition of “insulting religious feeling” even vaguer to cover such beliefs as “patriotism” and “commitment to traditional values.”

In June, 2013, Putin signed the final version of the blasphemy ban. The Moscow Times summarized its provisions:

The blasphemy law will punish “public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers,” with potential punishment of up to three years behind bars, fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,430), and compulsory correctional labor, Lenta.ru reported.

It also stipulates fines of 80,000-300,000 rubles and a prison term of up to three months for hindering the activities of religious organizations and preventing religious rites from being conducted.

A fine of over 200,000 rubles can be levied for deliberate destruction of religious or theological literature.

Ryakhovsky – speaking in his capacity as a member of the human rights council – said after the Duma passed the bill that while he felt that it was “very important” to pass such a law and acknowledged that some of the human rights council’s proposals had been adopted, he was still concerned that “the problem of legal ambiguity remains,” which could “lead to arbitrary application and interpretation of the law, and willful use of it by law enforcement agencies.”

“Whenever the law, and especially criminal law, contains room for arbitrary interpretation, it is fraught with negative consequences,” he said. “I believe that this law is better than the one that was originally proposed, but on the other hand – it is not what it should be.”

That an ACLJ affiliate advocated for a blasphemy law – even if its leader offered only tepid support for the final product – is especially unsettling given that the group has strongly opposed blasphemy bans in its work at the United Nations. In a comment to the UN’s human rights committee in 2011, the ECLJ urged the committee to adopt a strong condemnation of blasphemy laws, such as those in Islamist countries. “Blasphemy prohibitions and laws regarding the defamation of religions violate the very foundations of the human rights tradition by protecting ideas instead of the person who hold those ideas,” the ECLJ wrote in a memo cosigned by its director, Gregor Puppink.

“Freedom of expression includes the right to be controversial, insulting, or offensive, even when such expression targets ideas that are devoutly held beliefs,” the group added.

The SCLJ and its leaders may have had mixed feelings about the final version of the blasphemy ban, but they offered more enthusiastic praise to another bill that Putin signed the same day: a ban on the distribution of “gay propaganda” to minors, essentially a gag order on gay-rights advocacy.

After the Duma passed the “propaganda” ban, Ryakhovsky’s fellow SCLJ co-chairman, Anatoly Pchelintsev, told Voice of America that although he would “refine” parts of the bill, it addressed an important problem. “You only have to turn on a few TV channels to become convinced: promotion of homosexuality is there in both direct and hidden forms,” he said.

Co-chair of the Slavic Center for Law and Justice Anatoly Pchelintsev told Voice of America that he believes there is such a thing as homosexual propaganda, and that it must be combated as much as possible. “You only have to turn on a few TV channels to become convinced: promotion of homosexuality is there in both direct and hidden forms.”

However, Pchelintsev believes there is no need to apply the law in all cases, since it is primarily minors who need protection against homosexual propaganda. “Adults are capable of understanding what is good and what is bad,” added Pchelintsev.

Pchelintsev says that he shares the opinion of Sergei Nikitin about the necessity of refining some of the terminology used in the bill. “You have to know what “propaganda” is before banning it.”

Pchelintsev told another outlet that he was “very pleased” about the move toward adopting the law because LGBT people should be allowed to “live as they want to, but without propagandizing their way of life.”

“I’m against homosexual propaganda, especially among minors. I am for strong families, but in this case I admit that there may be some kind of anomaly, it’s difficult to say in what way exactly—psychological, biological, or something else, but the problem exists—there are people like this. And let them live as they want to, but without propagandizing their way of life,” believes the scientific director of the Institute for Religion and Law, lawyer Anatoly Pchelintsev. “So I’m very pleased about the adoption of this law on the federal level. The key will be that it works and guarantees some kind of punishment. In my view, citation for an administrative offense is sufficient, violations like this do not fall under the purview of criminal law.”

The ACLJ’s European affiliate also voiced support for the “propaganda” ban. In an essay last year, ECLJ’s director, Gregor Puppinck, wrote that the law was “intended to protect children from messages about LGBT practices” that portray homosexuality as “favorable to or equivalent to marital relationships.” He portrayed Russia’s suppression of gay rights as a beacon of hope to France and the rest of Western Europe, showing that the trend toward gay rights is “strong, but not inevitable.”

ECLJ has worked closely with a number of French groups that have been touting Putin’s social conservative crackdown as a model for Europe. Last month, Puppinck joined a delegation of French activists in a visit to Russia to meet with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and members of parliament to discuss partnering in “protecting traditional values.”

Although participants in the meeting said that they avoided foreign policy subjects, the visit by the delegation just a few weeks after Russia’s seizure of Crimea provoked some controversy in France, including criticism from a French Catholic leader who said, “If they think that Russia protects human rights, they should go for a tour of Crimea.” The magazine Nouvel Observateur accused the delegation of endorsing Putin’s propaganda of “Russia as a paradise of Christian values.”

In response to the Nouvel Observateur piece the president of the leading French anti-gay group Manif Pour Tous denied that anybody of authority in her group had participated.

But the ECLJ was far from shy about its own participation. According to the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative in Strasbourg, it was Puppinck who requested that he organize the delegation of French activists who support “the traditional concept of the family and oppose abortion, euthanasia, etc.”

We haven’t been able to find any detailed accounts of the visit, but one member of the delegation, the Russian Orthodox church’s representative in Strasbourg, repeated the idea of Russia as the moral protectors of Europe. “Russia is a unique country in Europe,” said Abbot Philip Rybykh. “It seeks to protect the natural order of life, and not the various deviations from it.”

Another report notes that the delegates reached the conclusion that “Western societies would do well to emulate” Russia’s “religious awakening.”

Puppinck reportedly said during the visit that he was “very impressed” by Russia’s newly established “moral” policies, specifically citing the drop in the country’s abortion rate. Russia’s anti-gay policies and protecting Europe from the “contagion” of gay rights were also reportedly objects of discussion.

Benham Brothers Reveal What Love And Liberty Mean To The Religious Right

Benham Brothers Reveal What Love and Liberty Mean To the Religious Right
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