In a press release today, the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel took credit for a bill that passed the Oklahoma legislature yesterday that would make it a felony to perform abortions in the state. The group also claims that Paul Blair, a far-right Oklahoma pastor and activist who was embraced by Ted Cruz’s failed presidential campaign, “initiated” the legislation.
“SB 1552 was authored by Sen. Nathan Dahm,” the press release says. “Yet this legislation was initiated by a local pastor, Paul Blair, with the support and guidance of Liberty Counsel.”
“Life begins at conception,” the press release quotes Liberty Counsel’s founder Mat Staver saying. “Preborn children are in fact children, not merely fetuses, and their lives should be protected from the moment of conception. This bill is a very positive step toward affirming the value of human life by taking away ability to murder children. Liberty Counsel stands ready to defend this legislature if it is challenged.”
Liberty Counsel is perhaps best known for its role representing Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who tried to stop her office from issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. The group and Staver have a long history of vicous anti-gay activism, including defending criminal bans on same-sex relationships . The group has also taken credit for the wave of anti-transgender laws sweeping the country, althought the Religious Right behemoth Alliance Defending Freedom seems to have played alarger role.
Blair also has a long history of extreme anti-gay rhetoric, including saying that the source of the “radical homosexual agenda” is Satan and declaring that the success of the movie “Brokeback Mountain” was proof that Americans are “under attack” from the devil. He is also a vocal advocate for states to ignore Supreme Court rulings with which they disagree — including Roe v. Wade.
As Peter wrote earlier this year, Blair has been working to convince state lawmakers to defy court rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality:
Reclaiming America for Christ , a ministry of Blair’s church in Edmond, Oklahoma, is promoting “Protect Life and Marriage,” an effort “dedicated to the proposition that the state of Oklahoma has federal and state constitutional authority to (1) protect the institution of natural, traditional marriage and; (2) protect innocent, unborn children from abortion; and that in the face of unjust, unlawful U.S. Supreme Court actions it is time for Oklahoma to exercise this authority.”
Blair said his group has 980 pastors and over 20,000 supporters, and is working with the governor, attorney general and state legislators to promote a nullification strategy: “We are trying to stop this legally, lawfully, politically, actually using the Constitution initially…”Speakers at a Protect Life and Marriage rally at the Oklahoma state capitol last October included U.S. Sen. James Lankford and Rep. Jim Bridenstine, along with state legislators and pastors. Blair also said people supporting some kind of state-led resistance are working through different channels in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Texas.
At a conference in March, Blair distributed copies of an interview he did with the magazine of the John Birch Society in which he says there is no need for constitutional amendments reversing Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality and abortion rights because states can simply cite the 10th Amendment to ignore them. He said in the interview that “we want Oklahoma to be a ‘sanctuary state’ for marriage, life and the Constitution.”
Blair told The New American that Obergefell is illegitimate, unconstitutional, violates natural law and “celebrates immoral conduct.” The decision, he said, “is an attempt to force everyone to celebrate a behavior that violates conscience and the Holy Scriptures, and to force the acceptance of that behavior on our children through public education.”