On Saturday afternoon, Liberty Counsel hosted a panel discussion at the Values Voter Summit on “The Assault of Constitutional Rights Under a Nanny State.” The discussion linked concerns about NSA surveillance – a concern shared by many progressive groups – to the Religious Right’s fear of anti-Christian persecution through the Affordable Care Act and LGBT rights.
Liberty Counsel founder and chair Mat Staver quickly used a discussion about the danger of letting national security agencies collect reams of data to stoke fears about government persecution of conservative Christians.
With the amount of metadata that can be collected off a smart phone, Staver said, “they can actually know that someone was at the Values Voter Summit and list those people as suspect conservative activists.”
“Of course, this administration would never want to do that,” he added sarcastically.
Bringing up fears that the IRS is targeting conservative organizations, Staver said, “I believe every other administrative agency is being used in a very similar way to target the opponents of President Obama.”
When a questioner asked about the danger of the government spying on Christians under the guise of national security, Staver agreed: “Your concern is a legitimate one and we’re going to see more and more of that.”
The bulk of the discussion focused on fears that gay rights will lead to the persecution of conservative Christians.
Staver and Liberty Counsel attorney Harry Mihet pointed to the lawsuit against anti-gay activist Scott Lively by the group Sexual Minorities of Uganda for Lively’s role in crafting draconian anti-gay legislation in Uganda. Staver warned that the lawsuit, which is still pending in U.S. courts, represents an attempt by “the intolerant homosexual lobby” to “punish people who travel overseas to speak on pro-family or pro-life issues in other countries” and to “intimidate” others into not going.
Mihet saw a deeper goal. “The end game plan here is to punish not only speech that takes place overseas but also speech that takes place here in the United States,” he said. “They are not bashful or subtle about the game plan here, this is it.”
They also discussed bans in California and New Jersey on providing “ex-gay” therapy to minors, which Mihet said were part of an “intense and coordinated effort to silence people of faith when it comes to the subject of homosexuality.”
“Folks, we’re talking abut the United States of America, not China, not Russia, not communist Romania where I grew up,” he said, adding that he saw a future where “the only thing that matters is the sexual orthodoxy that the government wants you to adopt.”
One of the more surprising parts of the discussion came when Staver directly addressed the tension between the Religious Right’s call to defy court rulings it doesn’t agree with on gay rights and what it sees as the Obama administration’s ignoring of court decisions that it doesn’t like. “We have the Supreme Court being the ultimate arbiter and everybody abides by that,” he said, but “it wasn’t always that way.” He mentioned that Presidents Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln all bucked court decisions that they felt were wrong. “We’re seeing that in the opposite way today with Eric Holder,” he continued. Although he disagreed with many of Holder’s decisions, he said, “this is something that Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln did back in history.”