Egrun Caner Out As Head of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

Last month, PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery wrote a piece for AlterNet examining the allegations that Ergun Caner, head of Liberty University's Baptist Theological Seminary, had exaggerated about about his Muslim past.

After 9/11, Caner became a popular Religious Right speaker, telling audiences how he had been raised in Turkey to wage jihad against America before converting to Christianity and presenting himself as an expert on both Islam and Islamic terrorism. 

Much of that, as it turned out, was false .. and now Liberty University has announced that when Caner's contract is up at the end of this month, it will not be renewed and Caner will no longer be head of the Seminary, though he will remain at LU as a professor:

Liberty University said Friday that Ergun Caner would no longer be dean of its seminary, following an investigation into some of his claims about being raised as a Muslim.

Caner has signed a contract to be a member of the seminary’s faculty next year, the university said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Four members of Liberty’s Board of Trustees who conducted the investigation found that “Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory,” the university said.

The panel, however, basically supported Caner’s testimony of being a former Muslim who converted to Christianity.

The contradictions came in “matters such as dates, names and places of residence,” the LU statement said.

Although LU didn’t provide any more details about the discrepancies, Caner said in several speaking engagements in 2001 and later that he was raised in Turkey before coming to the United States as a teenager.

He also said he was trained in Islamic jihad, a term associated with terrorist activity, according to recordings made in 2001 of his comments at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

However, his parents’ divorce papers, on file in a Columbus, Ohio, courthouse, indicated the family moved from Stockholm, Sweden, to the U.S. when Caner was about 4 years old, and continued to live in the Columbus area.

Caner’s father was a Muslim who sought to raise his children in the Islamic faith, although he had only part-time custody after the divorce, the documents indicate.

“Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review,” the LU statement said.

The investigating committee “found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager,” the statement said.

LU spokesman Johnnie Moore responded to requests for further comment by saying, “Liberty will not be making any additional comments or giving any interviews at this time.”

Here is the full statement issued by Liberty:

“After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Ergun Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory.

“However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence.

“Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review.

“Dr. Caner’s current contractual term as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary expires on June, 30, 2010.

“Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

“The university has offered, and Dr. Caner has accepted, an employment contract for the 2010-2011 academic year. Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.”

Right Wing Round-Up

  • PFAW: Palin Endorses Article Equating Obama with Hitler, Calling Obama Voters ‘Useful Idiots’.
  • See also: Palin takes her cartoonish extremism to the next level, endorses comparison of Obama to Hitler.
  • Edge Boston: Anti-gay pastor holds prayer meetings at St. Louis church.
  • Alan Colmes: U.S. Authorities May Have Deported An American Citizen.
  • AU: Borking Kagan?: Failed High Court Candidate Lashes Out At Latest Nominee.
  • Political Correction: Meet The Texas Republican Party.
  • TPM's Justin Elliot: Sharron Angle's Fringe Third Party Sponsored Virulently Anti-Gay Flier In '90s.
  • Finally, have I mentioned that I'm now writing our Twitter updates?  Because I am.  And have I mentioned that you should follow them?  Because you should.

Filed Under

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Lame.
  • Focus on the Family President Jim Daly reportedly broke his ankle in a motorcycle accident today.
  • If you thought Joseph Farah's "Taking Back America Conference" couldn't get any worse, you were wrong.
  • Janet Porter is still hard at work on her movie script.  How sad.
  • Star Parker explains why she should be elected to Congress with typical humility.
  • Finally, the quote of the day from Burt Prelutsky:"With the 24/7 media attention that's been devoted to the ecological disaster, it is easy to regard the leak as the worst thing that's ever happened to the environment. But even now it only ranks as about the 35th worst oil spill in the past hundred years. Something else that we should not lose sight of is that the Gulf is a magnet for hurricanes, just as California is one for earthquakes and New York City is one for Islamic terrorists. That means that bad stuff is always going to be happening – and if people are going to live in such places, they have to accept the risks."

What Passes For News and CNSNews.com

Yesterday I posted a press release from Rabbi Yehuda Levin claiming that if Elena Kagan is confirmed to the Supreme Court, she will issue "extremist decisions" from the bench that will, in turn, unleash a "backlash" of anti-Semitic violence across the nation to sweep the nation. As such, Kagan's confirmation represents an "existential threat" to Jews in America and she therefore must be defeated.

Now obviously, that is insane.  But, as Media Matters notes, apparently not too insane for CNSNews to pick it up and turn it into an article.  And not just an old article that regurgitates Levin's absurd release, but one that actually contacted him for further comment:

Levin told CNSNews.com that his fellow rabbis--and hundreds of thousands of Orthodox and traditional Jews--are puzzled at the president’s choice of Kagan.

“What exactly was Obama thinking, President Obama thinking, when he nominated Kagan? Because eventually, down the road, someone--or some group--is going to ‘take the hit’ for the crazy decisions that Kagan is bound to make. So we would have much preferred if President Obama had given this ‘distinction’ to another minority group, instead of singling out the Jews.”

Barring a rebuff from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Levin told CNSNews.com that the rabbis want someone in the Senate to launch a filibuster to stop Kagan's nomination from coming to a vote.

"We’re waiting for the more courageous, decent senators--whether it’s a (Sen.) Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) or a (Sen.) Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) or a (Sen.) Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)--we’re looking for them to stand up and filibuster this embarrassing endangerment of a nomination,” Levin said. 

And, of course, Matt Drudge is now promoting this article ... and so the cycle continues.

Senate Republicans Tap Holy Warrior as Witness Against Kagan

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee released the list of witnesses who will testify during Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing next week - here is the list of "Minority Witnesses" who will oppose her confirmation

- Robert Alt, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
- Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, US Army (ret.)
- Capt. Pete Hegseth, Army National Guard
- Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, Benesch
- David Kopel, Esq., Independence Institute
- Colonel Thomas N. Moe, USAF (ret.)
- David Norcross, Esq., Blank Rome
- William J. Olson, Esq., William J. Olson, P.C.
- Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
- Steven Presser, Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History, Northwestern University School of Law
- Ronald Rotunda, The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Chapman University School of Law
- Ed Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center
- Dr. Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life
- Capt. Flagg Youngblood, USAF

Most of the witness are to be expected, but some -like Tony Perkins and Charmaine Yoest - are rather surprising.

And then there is Jerry Boykin.  Really? That guy is completely off the rails.

He's the one who was forced to retire after declaring that we were engaged in a spiritual war with Islam that "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus," saying that knows we will eventually win because our God is bigger than theirs.

Since then, Boykin has become a fixture on the fringe right-wing circuit, teaming up with the likes of  "Christocrat" Rick Scarborough and Dominionist Janet Porter and even sharing the stage with professional anti-gay activists like Peter LaBarbera.

In fact, Boykin is also on the Board of Rick Joyner's Oak Initiative which I wrote about just earlier today, along with Porter, Lou Sheldon, and Cindy Jacobs.

This is who Senate Republican want to bring it in testify against Kagan?  The mind reels.

Santorum: Obama's Not a Real American

Rick Santorum, making his gazillionth visit to Iowa this year as he plots a 2012 run for the White House (because that really is the next logical step after being losing his Senate seat in 2006)  took some time out to talk with Craig Robinson of "The Iowa Republican" and explain why President Obama is not a real American

“Obama is detached form the American experience. He just doesn’t identify with the average American because of his own background. Indonesia and Hawaii. His view is from the viewpoint of academics and the halls of the Ivy league schools that he went to and it’s not a love of this country and an understanding of the basic values and wants and desires of it’s people. And as a result of that, he doesn’t connect with people at that level.

He connects with the soaring rhetoric, and the great promises and this ideological utopian vision. He didn’t connect with people because he felt their pain or he cared about them or he understands them. It’s been, to me, a very important understanding of who this guy is, and I think that’s become evident through this crisis.”

And then, just for good measure, Santorum also weighed in on the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, saying that the only mistake McChrystal made is "that is he criticized Obama" and Oamba "just simply cannot stand criticism."

Via the Iowa Independent.

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The Religious Right and Six Degrees of Dominionism

One of the things I quickly discovered when I started reading up on the whole Dominionism and New Apostolic Reformation movements was just how quickly you could slide into "Six Degrees of Separation" talk when covering those involved in these movements. 

Obviously, not every person who shares a stage with someone like Cindy Jacobs or Lou Engle shares their views, though it is harder for organizers who include activists of this type in their events to make such arguments.

That is what got Janet Porter in trouble and that is why the Freedom Federation, the right-wing supergroup that includes groups like the Family Research Council, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, Liberty Counsel, Traditional Values Coalition, Wallbuilders and dozens of others, has to take responsibility for the decision to include groups like Generals International, Lou Engle and The Call, and Morning Star Ministries among the coalition members.

We haven't written much about Rick Joyner of Morning Star Ministries, but he runs a distinctly political organization called "The Oak Initiative," which is also a member of the Freedom Federation, and which has a mission to "find and help develop principled and effective Christian leaders who can mobilize and organize a cohesive force of activated Christians" and place them "on every level where government is found, from the most local to state and national levels."

The Oak Initiative has a distinctly Dominionist/7 Mountains agenda "to raise up effective leaders for all of the dominant areas of influence in the culture, including: government, business, education, arts and entertainment, family services, media, and the church."  And it also has a Board full of Religious Right activists including Janet Porter, Lou Sheldon, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Cindy Jacobs, Lt.Gen. W.G. "Jerry" Boykin, and Marc Nuttle:

Mr. Nuttle has represented as legal counsel and political counsel, numerous United States House of Representative campaigns, United States Senate campaigns, gubernatorial campaigns, and state House and state Senate campaigns encompassing all states in the continental U.S. He served on Senator Dewey Bartlett’s staff and on Governor Henry Bellmon’s senatorial campaign staff. He has served as counselor to Senator Don Nickles and as advisor to Senator Jim Inhofe. Mr. Nuttle served as field counsel for the 1984 Reagan-Bush Reelect Campaign. In the early 1988 presidential election cycle, he was National Campaign Manager for Pat Robertson's presidential campaign. He was a senior advisor to George Bush's presidential campaigns in 1988 and 1992. From 1989 to 1991, he was Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, DC. He was a legal advisor in the Bush-Gore re-count effort in Florida in 2000.

Starting next week, Joyner's Morning Star Ministries is hosting an event called "The Great Awakening Conference" in South Carolina that includes, among others, Todd Bentley, the founder of Joel's Army:

Todd Bentley has a long night ahead of him, resurrecting the dead, healing the blind, and exploding cancerous tumors. Since April 3, the 32-year-old, heavily tattooed, body-pierced, shaved-head Canadian preacher has been leading a continuous "supernatural healing revival" in central Florida. To contain the 10,000-plus crowds flocking from around the globe, Bentley has rented baseball stadiums, arenas and airport hangars at a cost of up to $15,000 a day. Many in attendance are church pastors themselves who believe Bentley to be a prophet and don't bat an eye when he tells them he's seen King David and spoken with the Apostle Paul in heaven. "He was looking very Jewish," Bentley notes.

Tattooed across his sternum are military dog tags that read "Joel's Army." They're evidence of Bentley's generalship in a rapidly growing apocalyptic movement that's gone largely unnoticed by watchdogs of the theocratic right. According to Bentley and a handful of other "hyper-charismatic" preachers advancing the same agenda, Joel's Army is prophesied to become an Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian "dominion" on non-believers.

Back in 2008, Bentley became a superstar hosting these massive rallies that often featured violent acts of "healing": 

He was known to boast about healing through violence. He had been videotaped telling stories about kicking a woman in the face, slamming a crippled woman's legs against the stage and knocking out a man's tooth. This was done, he claimed, on behalf of the Holy Spirit.

Around that time, Bentley was welcomed into C. Peter Wagner's sphere of "apostles" and "prophets" in a ceremony featuring fellow leaders, including Rick Joyner and Stacey Campbell:

Bentley's credibility suffered badly when it was announced that he was divorcing his wife, but Joyner has been steadfastly working on "restoring" Bentley and Bentley even relocated his ministry to operate directly out of Joyner's Morning Fellowship Church.

As I said earlier, there is a danger in playing "six degrees" with some of these connections ... but in this case it seems entire fair to wonder just how extensive the Dominionism/NAR influence is becoming within the contemporary Religious Right movement when groups like Morning Star, Oak Initiative, Generals International, and The Call are being openly welcomed into their political coalitions.

Praying Away The BP Oil Spill

I guess that it if the BP oil spill in the Gulf is due to God's anger over President Obama's treatment of Israel, then it only stands to reason that the best way to end the crisis is prayer.

And that is exactly the solution that four Southern Republican governors appear to be banking on:

Four Gulf Coast governors are calling on residents to set aside Sunday as a Day of Prayer to pray for a solution to the oil spill and for citizens impacted by the disaster.

Alabama's Bob Riley, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Mississippi's Haley Barbour and Texas' Rick Perry all issued proclamations calling on prayer for the spill, which entered its 66th day Thursday.

"Throughout our history, Alabamians have humbly turned to God to ask for His blessings and to hold us steady during times of struggle. This is certainly one of those times," Riley said in a statement.

Riley's proclamation reads in part, "Citizens of Alabama are urged to pray for the well-being of our fellow citizens and our State, to pray for all those in other states who are hurt by this disaster, to pray for those who are working to respond to this crisis, and to pray that a solution that stops the oil leak is completed soon."

Perry's proclamation says it "seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join with their fellow Gulf Coast residents" and others across the country and around the world "to thank God, seek his wisdom for ourselves and our leaders, and ask him for his merciful intervention and healing in this time of crisis."

Barbour's notes that the spill threatens the "livelihoods of our fellow citizens, the environmental beauty of our coast, and our quality of life." Jindals's says "Louisianians all across the world are united in hope for an end to this catastrophic event and pray for" the coast's recovery.

Jindal, in fact, participated in a prayer vigil earlier this week where, according to the Louisiana Famly Forum (Tony Perkins old haunt,) "intercessors" laid hands upon him:

Pastors Dino Rizzo, Apostle Lloyd Benson, Bishop Ricky Sinclair, Bishop Raymond Johnson, and Pastor Dennis Blackwell led in prayers for the bereaved families, for our government officials, for the environment, for the people and businesses of the Gulf Coast, and for solutions to this economic and environmental crisis.

And they were not alone, as Southern Baptist Convention is calling on churches and Christians "to pray for the end of this catastrophe and for the homes, lives, cultures, and livelihoods of those in the Gulf Coast region" while John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council "is working on a coordinated effort, and is asking believers and churches across America to unite in prayer for the Gulf this Sunday" and even Wallbuilders is "urging everyone across the nation to join with these states, asking for God's hand to be on all the decision-makers and lawmakers, that He would give them discernment and guidance, and that a solution would be forthcoming."

Interestingly, Wallbuilders' David Barton "drafted the prayer day proclamations for the governors to adapt."

Right Wing Round-Up

  • PFAW: People For Statement on House Passage of the DISCLOSE Act.
  • Towleroad: Supreme Court Rules Against Gay Foes in R-71 Petition Case, Says Names of Signers Must Be Public.
  • Religion Dispatches: Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Laying on of Hands.
  • Joe.My.God: Family Research Council Screams About Obama's "Agenda Of Perversion."
  • Daily Kos: Kagan opponents flailing.
  • Think Progress: Farmer who put up sign claiming Democrats are ‘party of parasites’ has taken $1 million in farm subsidies.
  • Sarah Posner: Why Sarah Palin Will Never Lead the Religious Right.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Shockingly, the Religious Right opposes Elena Kagan.
  • The Maine ethics commission has rejected the National Organization for Marriage's request to have its investigation dismissed.
  • Does it seem odd that an out-of-state Republican group would spend $500K+ to get Green Party candidates on the ballot in Texas?
  • Giving Elliot Spitzer a TV show is just like giving O.J. Simpson a TV show.
  • Ralph Reed and Marco Rubio meet up in California.
  • Bryan Fischer continues his "all public policy should be based on the Bible" agenda by explaining that it is okay to make immigrants show their papers because Nehemiah had papers.
  • Attention potential spies:  Peter LaBarbera is on to you.