Unfortunately, to the extent there is something that can be called a “libertarian moment” in the Republican Party and the conservative movement, it owes less to the work of the Cato Institute than to a force genuine libertarians clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged are typically horrified by: the Christian Right. In the emerging ideological enterprise of “constitutional conservatism,” theocrats are the senior partners, just as they have largely been in the Tea Party Movement, even though libertarians often get more attention.
There’s no universal definition of “constitutional conservatism.” The apparent coiner of the term, the Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz, used it to argue for a temperate approach to political controversy that’s largely alien to those who have embraced the “brand.” Indeed, it’s most often become a sort of dog whistle scattered through speeches, slogans and bios on various campaign trails to signify that the bearer is hostile to compromise and faithful to fixed conservative principles, unlike the Republicans who have been so prone to trim and prevaricate since Barry Goldwater proudly went down in flames. The most active early Con-Con was Michele Bachmann, who rarely went more than a few minutes during her 2012 presidential campaign without uttering it. It’s now very prominently associated with Ted Cruz, who, according to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has emerged as “the new standard-bearer for constitutional conservatism.” And it’s the preferred self-identification for Rand Paul as well.
What Con-Con most often seems to connote beyond an uncompromising attitude on specific issues is the belief that strict limitations on the size, scope and cost of government are eternally correct for this country, regardless of public opinion or circumstances. Thus violations of this “constitutional” order are eternally illegitimate, no matter what the Supreme Court says or who has won the last election.
More commonly, Con-Cons reinforce this idea of a semi-divine constitutional order by endowing it with — quite literally — divine origins. This is why David Barton’s largely discredited “Christian Nation” revisionist histories of the Founders remain so highly influential in conservative circles, and why Barton himself is welcome company in the camps of Con-Con pols ranging from Cruz and Bachmann to Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee. This is why virtually all Con-Cons conflate the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, which enabled them to sneak both Natural and Divine Law (including most conspicuously a pre-natal Right to Life) into the nation’s organic governing structure.
What a lot of those who instinctively think of conservative Christians as hostile to libertarian ideas of strict government persistently miss is that divinizing untrammeled capitalism has been a growing habit on the Christian Right for decades. Perhaps more importantly, the idea of the “secular-socialist government” being an oppressor of religious liberty, whether it’s by maintaining public schools that teach “relativism” and evolution, or by enforcing the “Holocaust” of legalized abortion, or by insisting on anti-discrimination rules that discomfit “Christian businesses,” has made Christian conservatives highly prone to, and actually a major participant in, the anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party. Beyond that, the essential tea party view of America as “exceptional” in eschewing the bad political habits of the rest of the world is highly congruent with, and actually owes a lot to, the old Protestant notion of the United States as a global Redeemer Nation and a “shining city on a hill.”
So perhaps the question we should be asking is not whether the Christian Right and other “traditional” conservatives can accept a Rand Paul-led “libertarian” takeover of the conservative movement and the GOP, but whether “libertarians” are an independent factor in conservative politics to begin with. After all, most of the Republican politicians we think of as “libertarian”—whether it’s Rand Paul or Justin Amash or Mike Lee—are also paid-up culture-war opponents of legalized abortion, Common Core, and other heathenish practices. As Heather Digby Parton noted tartly earlier this week:[T]he line between theocrats and libertarian Republicans is very, very faint. Why do you think they’ve bastardized the concept of “Religious Liberty” to mean the right to inflict your religion on others? It appeals to people who fashion themselves as libertarians but really only care about their taxes, guns and weed. Those are the non-negotiable items. Everything else is on offer.
And then there’s the well-known but under-reported long-term relationship of Ron and Rand Paul with the openly theocratic U.S. Constitution Party, a Con-Con inspirational font that no Republican politician is likely to embrace these days.
The more you examine the evidence, the more it seems plain that the “libertarian moment” in the GOP, even it’s real, and even if it’s advanced by Rand Paul as a presidential candidate, isn’t necessarily of a nature that’s going to be wildly popular among secular-trending millennials — or among Draper’s hipsters. To the extent it has a mass base, it’s likely as much or more among conservative Christian soldiers who despise government so long as they don’t control it as among dope-smoking free-loving free-thinking anti-interventionist Reason readers. So the latter might want to think twice before climbing onto the Rand Paul for President bus, or consigning their fate to Republican politics.
h/t: Ed Kilgore at TPM
On his “Wallbuilders Live” program yesterday, David Barton offered a handy guide to voters who are concerned about whether their elected officials respect “natural law”: ask them if they support abortion rights, and if they do, know that they will also take away your “property” and your “self-defense.”
“One of the easiest way to tell about natural law is to ask them where they are on abortion, because if they don’t respect the inalienable right to life, they do not respect any other inalienable right,” he advised.
“If you don’t respect the right to life,” he said, “you won’t respect property, you won’t respect protecting income, you’ll think you ought to tax people more rather than protect their income, you’ll take it from them, you won’t protect their property, you won’t protect their religious liberties, you won’t protect their right of self-defense, you’ll try to take their self-defense away from them.”
He added that even if the candidate is running for an office that has nothing to do with abortion policy, such as a school board, abortion should still be the litmus test.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
In his continued crusade against the Common Core education standards, Glenn Beck encouraged people across the country to boycott tests associated with Common Core, later declaring, “The day we’re all willing to peacefully go to jail like Martin Luther King, we will win.”
In a live broadcast to nearly 700 theaters nationwide, Beck and his fellow anti-Common Core “warriors” joined forces Tuesday night to “make Common Core history" (emphasis original) in a two-hour live movie titled We Will Not Conform. Those “warriors” included conservative commentator and notorious Common Core misinformer Michelle Malkin, hosts Dana Loesch and Pat Gray from Beck’s TheBlaze, “self-proclaimed historian” David Barton, Townhall columnist Terrence Moore, Jay Spencer of Liberty University (a sponsor of the event), and representatives from state-based groups waging war on Common Core.
The participants also included Matt Kibbe and Ellen Wheeler from FreedomWorks, a group which ”started out as the Koch-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy” and came under scrutiny last year “due to bizarre internal feuding and questions about its finances.” Former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey told Media Matters at the time that “the group wasted money by paying Glenn Beck $1 million … to fundraise for the organization.”
This live event is just the latest salvo in Beck’s campaign against the state-based education standards, which were originally adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Beck and co-author Kyle Olson released a book in May called Conform, which, in addition to baselessly attacking teachers and public schools for 222 pages, argued that Common Core helps progressives remove parents from their children’s lives. The day before the event, Beck compared Common Core to slavery.
We Will Not Conform was structured around five “working groups,” each tasked with formulating strategies for the different types of tools viewers could use to help defeat Common Core in their states: research and resources, politics, messaging, grassroots organizing, and alternatives to public schools. Many of the right-wingmedia’sfavoritemyths about Common Core were featured in these working groups, including accusations of the standards as a “national program” and “takeover of education,” of being “top-down” and “control-usurping,” and wanting to “cash in on your children.”
Some of the most egregious rhetoric from the evening included:
- Glenn Beck equating the fight against Common Core to "David versus Goliath," and saying that "The day we’re all willing to peacefully go to jail like Martin Luther King, we will win."
- Michelle Malkin asserting that Common Core turns kids into experimental “guinea pigs,” and declaring,"We’re locked and loaded."
- Terrence Moore claiming that "progressive education is trying to take away the great stories" of American education, which is not what “Thomas Jefferson” would have wanted.
- The Blaze’s Buck Sexton interviewing six parents and their children about their experiences with Common Core, asking the children questions like, "How many of you think Common Core is confusing, for no reason?" and "Big thumbs down for Common Core, huh?"
These attacks come as a few states are pulling out of Common Core. Coincidentally, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R), “previously a Common Core supporter,” signed legislation ”designed to replace the controversial Common Core academic standards” the same night as Beck’s event. States’ moves to repeal the standards come on the heels of extreme right-wing rhetoric from the likes of Beck, Malkin, and others.
At the end of the night, Beck encouraged viewers to “stand up” and “stay the course” because “our children’s future is at stake” and they “will thank you for it.” He also announced that a post-event action plan to “stop Common Core’s federal takeover of education” would be made available online.
h/t: Hilary Tone at MMFA
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent in the Hobby Lobby case that the Court’s conservative majority had “ventured into a minefield” with its decision. Many of those mines have already been placed by right-wing leaders who claim a religious grounding not only for anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-contraception positions, but also for opposition to collective bargaining, minimum wage laws, progressive taxation and government involvement in the alleviation of poverty.
In Hobby Lobby, the Court found for the first time that for-profit corporations have religious rights just like real people and can therefore make claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that they should be exempt from laws that burden their corporate “exercise” of religion. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was deeply skeptical of Justice Samuel Alito’s assertion that the decision was limited only to the contraception mandate and only for closely held corporations.
“Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, or according women equal pay for substantially similar work?” she asked. How would the Court justify applying its logic only to religious views about contraception? “Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.’”
Ginsburg’s questions are not merely rhetorical. Conservative Catholic and evangelical leaders who have signed the Manhattan Declaration, including some U.S. bishops, declare themselves willing to engage in civil disobedience – maybe even martyrdom – in order to avoid any participation in abortion or any “anti-life act.” Nor, they declare, “will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”
Alito’s majority opinion says Hobby Lobby does not extend the right to religion-based discrimination on account of a person’s race, but is conspicuously silent on other kinds of discrimination. That silence raises concerns that business owners could use the Hobby Lobby decision to opt out of a future federal LGBT civil rights law, or the Obama administration’s executive order against anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. Indeed, especially in light of Alito’s mention in Hobby Lobby that RFRA applies to the District of Columbia as a federal enclave, such a claim could be brought today to seek an exemption from D.C.’s Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. What happens if and when a local bishop instructs Catholic business owners that it would be sinful to treat legally married gay employees the same as other married couples, or an evangelical businessman declares he will not “bend” to DC’s Human Rights Act?
Business owners now have a new basis for trying to evade anti-discrimination laws and their responsibilities to their employees. Religious liberty is already the rallying cry for conservatives looking for a legal way to discriminate against LGBT Americans; other business owners have tried to use religion to justify opposition to minimum-wage laws and Social Security taxes. Faith groups are already trying to capitalize on the Hobby Lobby decision out of court; on Wednesday, a group of religious leaders asked the Obama administration for an exemption from a forthcoming federal order barring federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
To be clear, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was used as the basis for the Hobby Lobby decision applies only to federal and District of Columbia laws and regulations, including presidential executive orders, not to state laws. The stories of business owners being told they cannot exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws have mostly involved questions about state-level civil rights and religious freedom statutes. Earlier this year the US Supreme Court declined to review a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that a wedding photography business had violated anti-discrimination law when it refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Although Hobby Lobby does not apply directly to state laws, it could influence state courts weighing religious claims by business owners in states with their own versions of RFRA.
The clash between religious conservatives and advocates for LGBT equality has been well publicized. But the minefield Ginsburg refers to extends well beyond traditional “social issues.” Religious Right leaders have been working hard to convince conservative evangelicals that the Tea Party’s anti-government, anti-union, anti-welfare agenda is grounded in the Bible – an effort that started well before the Tea Party arrived on the scene.
David Barton is an influential Republican activist and “historian” who helped write the GOP’s national platform in 2012. Barton’s “Christian nation” approach to history has been denounced by historians and scholars, including some who are themselves evangelical Christians, but it is embraced by conservative politicians who extol a divinely inspired American exceptionalism. Barton teaches that Jesus and the Bible are opposed to progressive taxation, minimum wage laws, collective bargaining, and “socialist union kind of stuff.”
In addition, “mainstream” Religious Right leaders and conservative politicians are increasingly allied with a group of Pentecostal leaders who promote a “dominionist” theology that says God requires the right kind of Christians to take dominion over every aspect of society, including the business world. Many of them were sponsors of, and participants in, the prayer rally that Texas Gov. Rick Perry used to launch his ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign.
Thanks to previous Supreme Court decisions, alluded to and affirmed by Alito’s majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, the Court has for now seemingly closed the door to companies making a religious challenge to paying Social Security and federal income taxes based on their objection to a particular government program funded with those taxes. But the same might not be true for more targeted taxes and fees, or for laws regulating company behavior or the relationships between companies and their employees.
Opposition to unions has deep roots in Christian Reconstructionism, which has influenced the Religious Right’s ideology and political agenda. An early Christian Coalition Leadership manual, co-authored by Republican operative Ralph Reed in 1990, is a stunning example. A section titled “God’s Delegated Authority in the World” argues that “God established His pattern for work as well as in the family and in the church.” It cites four Bible passages instructing slaves to be obedient to their masters, including this one:
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
The conclusion to be drawn from these slaves-obey-your-masters passages?
Of course, slavery was abolished in this country many years ago, so we must apply these principles to the way Americans work today, to employees and employers: Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers, since they are designated as part of God’s plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man.
More recently, Religious Right leaders have cheered on corporate-funded attacks on unions in Wisconsin and Michigan. Does the Hobby Lobby ruling open another front in the right-wing war on workers? It is not uncommon for companies to refuse to cooperate with union organizers or negotiate with a properly organized union. Imagine that a business owner objects to a National Labor Relations Board finding that they have violated the National Labor Relations Act by arguing in federal court that their company’s religious beliefs prohibit them from dealing with unions?
It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. Since long before the Hobby Lobby case created an open invitation to business owners to raise religious objections to bargaining with unions, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has encouraged workers to raise religious objections to requirements that they join or financially support a union. Here’s an excerpt from their pamphlet, “Union Dues and Religious Do Nots.”
To determine whether your beliefs are religious instead of political or philosophical, ask yourself whether your beliefs are based upon your obligations to God. Do you simply dislike unions or hate this particular union’s politics? Or, does your desire to stand apart from the union arise from your relationship to God? If your beliefs arise from your decision to obey God, they are religious.
It is possible that conservative courts may not give the same weight to religious claims about anti-gay discrimination or the Bible’s opposition to unions or minimum wage laws as they did to Hobby Lobby’s anti-contraception claims. Those claims were based on the owners’ belief – one that runs counter to medical scientific consensus – that some of the most effective forms of birth control work by causing abortions, and are therefore the moral equivalent of murder.
But as Justice Ginsburg pointed out, it is not clear how courts will differentiate between different types of claims. And it will be easier for claims to meet the new, lower threshold created by the Court in effectively altering the “substantial burden” test . As Justice Ginsburg pointed out, rather than having to show that a person’s, or corporation’s, practice of religion has been burdened, they simply need to show that a law is “incompatible with” the person’s religious beliefs. Additionally, it seems that a wide array of regulations, conceivably including minimum wage laws, could be threatened by Alito’s reliance on the idea that having the government pay for the cost of implementing a regulation is less restrictive than having the company bear the cost of a regulation it objects to.
It is also not clear that the decision will remain “limited” to the 90 percent of American companies that qualify as closely held, which employ more than half of the nation’s workforce. The Court explicitly acknowledged the possibility that publicly traded corporations could raise such claims, but argued that it would be “unlikely.” But in this new world in which corporate religious claims can be made against government regulation, what is to prevent the CEO or board of a publicly traded organization from finding religion with regard to, say, greenhouse gas emissions? The Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, promoted by the anti-environmentalist Cornwall Alliance, declares as a matter of faith that earth’s ecosystem is not fragile and that efforts to reduce global warming, like regulating the emission of carbon dioxide, are not only “fruitless” and “harmful” but would discourage economic growth and therefore violate Biblical requirements to protect the poor from harm.
Justice Alito’s opinion rejects Justice Ginsburg’s characterization of the ruling’s “startling breadth.” But it is undeniable that the Court majority has opened the door to owners of for-profit corporations making an array of claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Justice Ginsburg writes in her dissent, “Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate, for the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood—combined with its other errors in construing RFRA—invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.” For today’s right-wing leaders, who claim religious grounding for just about every aspect of their political ideology, there aren’t many forms of regulation that would be off-limits.
Last month, Glenn Beck mentioned that David Barton had been invited to deliver his standard presentation of lies and misinformation to high-ranking government leaders in some former Soviet nation that is seeking to model itself on the United States.
Today, Barton appeared on James Dobson’s radio program where he revealed that the country that had invited him was none other than Ukraine, where he spent two days meeting with members of the government and various religious leaders in order to teach them how to build a proper government based on the teachings of the Bible.
"They were absolutely shocked to find out how practical the Bible was," Barton said. "They had no clue that all of these things [pertaining to government] were in the Bible … We talked to them about all sorts of things, about education in the Bible, about all sorts of things, so they were alive and on fire."
Since returning to America, Barton revealed that he has been contacted by several other members of the Ukrainian government, asking him to return and deliver his presentation to the entire parliament, as well as from government leaders in neighboring nations who want him to come and present his message there as well:
H/T: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Ever since Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., proposed a constitutional amendment designed to restore to Congress and state governments the ability to regulate the raising and spending of money in elections, Republicans and conservatives have absurdly been decrying it as an effort to gut the First Amendment.
On today’s “WallBuilders Live” radio program, David Barton attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for supporting this amendment, saying that his support for it proves that Reid is “an atheist Mormon” who doesn’t realize that he will one day have to answer to God for trampling all over our God-given rights:
Barton: He has actually proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would re-write the First Amendment to take away original protections and limit the protections in the First Amendment.
What it also tells me is, and he’s apparently a Mormon guy, that’s fine. He is probably an atheist Mormon, Mormon in name only and the reason I say that is that so many Mormon folks are so conservative on the Constitution and such great defenders … And so, when you look at what he’s doing, the Bill of Rights is laid out in the Declaration of Independence, you start with the first belief that there’s a Creator, the second belief that the Creator gives us certain inalienable rights, the third belief in the Declaration is that government exists to protect those rights inalienable rights.
So eleven years later when the Founding Fathers did the Bill of Rights they said, hey, these are those rights that we were talking about that the government is not allowed to touch because these come from the Creator and government exists to protect rights from the Creator. So that’s why we’ve never messed with the Bill of Rights because they were always off limits to government because they came from God directly to man, they did not go through government to get here.
If you don’t have the belief that you will answer to God for what you do, you will sell your country, you will sell your kids’ future, you will sell everything going on and that’s where we’re getting. And so it’s not just a belief in God, it’s the belief that you answer to God and you believe that, and see that’s where Harry Reid is not. You know, he may believe in God, he probably says he does; I don’t think he has any cognizance of having to answer to God for what he does.
On what planet is Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid an “atheist Mormon?”
Only In David Barton’s world.
H/T: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Back when Glenn Beck was one of the most admired men in America and Fox News’ No. 1 celebrity, he introduced to the nation at large a “historian,” well known among the Christian right, by the name of David Barton, who claims to have documentary evidence that the founders based the Constitution explicitly on the Bible. Beck often referred to a group known as the “black-robed regiment,” which was composed of priests and clergy who were revolutionary sympathizers, comparing today’s conservative preachers to what he implied were clergymen-soldiers in the secular liberal war on the Constitution.
Beck called upon David Barton to head what he called Beck University, an online course for those who wanted to educate themselves in the Beck school of thought. Let’s just say it wasn’t the curriculum you’d find at most schools of higher learning. (You can hear one of David Barton’s “lectures” here, where he tells the Beck U students that American exceptionalism springs from its Christian theocratic principles.)
Barton quickly became the toast of Wingnuttia. He was invited to participate in Tea Party events all over the country and even held a constitutional seminar for the 2010 incoming freshman class at the invitation of congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The New York Times featured him in a glowing profile that only mentioned in passing that his alleged scholarship was, shall we say, controversial:
[M]any professional historians dismiss Mr. Barton, whose academic degree is in Christian education from Oral Roberts University, as a biased amateur who cherry-picks quotes from history and the Bible.
“The problem with David Barton is that there’s a lot of truth in what he says,” said Derek H. Davis, director of church-state studies at Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco, Tex. “But the end product is a lot of distortions, half-truths and twisted history.”
That’s a very generous way of putting it. Unfortunately, his notoriety also brought new scrutiny to his alleged scholarship and that didn’t work out too well as you might imagine. Here’s just one example of his so-called scholarship being debunked by Chris Rodda, the senior researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, via Media Matters. She challenged Barton’s insistence that Thomas Jefferson dated his presidential papers with the phrase “in the year of our Lord Christ,” which indicated that the notorious theist was really a super-Christian (what with the added “Christ” and all).
According to Rodda, the truth is quite different: Jefferson took pains to omit “in the year of our Lord” in his documents, instead using phrases like “in the Christian computation,” and “of the Christian epoch.” Further, according to Rodda, the evidence Barton provided of Jefferson purportedly using the phrase is, in fact, a preprinted form that Jefferson had no input into creating.
This is the quality of constitutional scholarship that pervades the conservative movement these days: simple, outright lies that allege that this country was not founded on certain Enlightenment principles and the hard won experience of men and women who were exceedingly familiar with the bloody consequences of church and state being entwined. It was, in their reckoning, conceived as a straight-up Christian nation, full stop.
But the good news in all this is that such craziness of the Tea Party fire is pretty much burned out and we don’t have to worry too much about this crazy stuff, right? After all, today they’re just a group of libertarian isolationists who want to work with the left to take our country back from the wealthy elites. (And, who knows, maybe there really are a few like that out there.) But the makeup of the Tea Party remains the same as it ever was; it is simply the latest iteration of the far right. And as religious right observer Sarah Posner adroitly observed:
[T]o understand why the Tea Party resonates with the religious right and vice versa, one must understand how the anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party movement is driven by a fundamental tenet of Christian reconstructionism: that there are certain God-ordained spheres – family, church and government – and that government has exceeded the authority God gave it, to the detriment of church, family and the individual, whose rights, both Tea Partiers and religious right-ists maintain, are granted by God, not the government.
This notion that the federal government – not only godless, but in flagrant violation of God’s will – is “tyrannical” and needs to be overthrown resonates from militias to the John Birch Society to the podiums of religious-right gatherings where Republican presidential hopefuls jockey for the support of the faithful. To fail to see the religious roots of the Tea Party mantra – or the ways in which it reverberates as a divine imperative – is to blind oneself to a fundamental feature of American conservatism.
If you would like to see how this is being expressed in our current election cycle, look no further than this fine fellow, the Tea Party-endorsed talk radio host Jody Hice, who is running for Congress in Georgia’s 10th District. Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution tells us:
“Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology,” Hice wrote in his 2012 book. “It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.
And as Ed Kilgore points out, he’s not the only one down there in Georgia running on a Christian right platform. In the 11th District, Barry Loudermilk is in a runoff with former impeachment manager Bob Barr (who also happens to be an actual, real live libertarian) and he’ a true believer too:
Loudermilk is an eager member of the Glenn Beck wing of the GOP. He is also an apostle of faux historian David Barton, who preaches that the U.S. Constitution is a document intended to create a conservative Christian government. Like Hice, they reject the notion of a separation between Christianity and state, and argue that the First Amendment was intended only to keep government from favoring one particular Christian denomination.
And just in case anyone has doubts about how fringey these ideas really are, the words of a potential GOP 2016 presidential candidate ought to bring you up short:
“I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.” – Mike Huckabee
Back in 2012 Barton’s book “The Jefferson Papers” was finally challenged by Christian conservative scholars and his so-called credibility took a hit. But he wasn’t down for long. He came back with presentations to state legislators in Kansas and Missouri and appeared at major Right to Life gatherings. Soon he was seen huddling in prayer with perhaps his most important connection, Sen. Ted Cruz:
“I’m not in a position to opine on academic disputes between historians, but I can tell you that David Barton is a good man, a courageous leader and a friend,” Cruz told POLITICO. “David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.”
They aren’t done yet.
Right Wing Watch has published a thorough dossier on Barton if you’d like to read further.
Last fall, the city council in San Antonio, Texas passed a non-discrimination ordinance that added protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing law. These sorts of non-discrimination ordinances exist in hundreds of cities all over the nation but, for some reason, David Barton is obsessed with lying about this one in particular, appearing recently on a program called “America Stands 2014: Election Coverage In The Spirit Of Faith" where he declared that in passing the ordinance, the city council had voted to "criminalize Christian beliefs and behavior" in the city of San Antonio.
Barton falsely claimed Christians who oppose gay marriage or criticize homosexuality are now barred from running for office and, if already serving in office, would be removed from their position, charged with a crime, and fined $500 a day, while also asserting that Christian-owned companies are now prohibited from doing any business with the city:
None of that is true, of course, as the ordinance passed by San Antonio simply prohibits city officials and departments from engaging in “discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability” and explicit contains an exemption for religious organizations … but that won’t stop Barton from repeatedly lying about it.
David Barton wouldn’t know the truth if it hit him upside the ass.
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
The religious persecution narrative is nothing new – it has long been at the core of the Right’s reaction to secular government and religious pluralism – but it has taken off in recent years in reaction to advances in gay rights and reproductive freedom, and to an increasingly secular and pluralistic society.
The tales of horror keep pouring in: Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program; an Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage; a high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory; a Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages; a man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence; an elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch; a little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus.
None of these stories is true. But each has become a stock tale for Religious Right broadcasters, activists, and in some cases elected officials. These myths – which are becoming ever more pervasive in the right-wing media – serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country.
This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called “culture wars.” By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths.
The religious persecution narrative is nothing new – it has long been at the core of the Right’s reaction to secular government and religious pluralism – but it has taken off in recent years in reaction to advances in gay rights and reproductive freedom, and to an increasingly secular and pluralistic society.
The frantic warnings, fueled by individual persecution myths, range from the insistence that conservative Christians are losing their right to free speech to the claim that the U.S. is on the verge of instituting unconstitutional hate speech laws to dire predictions that religious faith itself might soon be criminalized.
In recent months, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly warned that “we are in a war for religious liberty” and claimed that President Obama, who speaks frequently and publicly about his Christian faith, “doesn’t want any expression of religious faith in any public place.” Activist Janet Porter declared that a reality TV star’s suspension from his program represented an effort to “shut down Christians” and, even more chillingly, predicted that religious faith itself would soon be “declared unlawful.” Pastor Jim Garlow declared that Christians are “experiencing full-blown persecution like we have not seen in America.” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins warned that President Obama was colluding with “anti-Christian” extremists to “neuter the Church” and “silenc[e] Christians.” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott insisted, “The greatest minority under assault today are Christians.”
One activist after another warns that gay rights will lead to the literal criminalization of Christianity. In April 2014, the American Family Association claimed that there were “seven common careers Christians may no longer hold in America” – including photography, broadcasting and teaching.
In 2012, the Family Research Council and Liberty Institute started releasing an annual “Survey of Religious Hostility in America.”
These surveys of supposed “religious hostility” include prominent court cases in which the Religious Right and civil liberties groups have legitimate, long-held differences of opinion on where the line between church and state should lie – for instance, the case of a large cross displayed on public land in the Mojave Desert.
They also chronicle supposed episodes of individual “persecution,” including many originally promoted by Fox News’ Todd Starnes and many that have been long debunked. For instance, the group’s 2012 report told the story of Raymond Raines, a boy who was allegedly punished by a teacher for praying in his school cafeteria. The Raymond Raines story has been around for 20 years and has been repeatedly debunked; Raines was actually disciplined for fighting.
The claim that efforts to draw a line between church and state represent a suppression of the individual exercise of religion is key to the Right’s persecution narrative. In order to convincingly argue that being on the losing side of a policy debate or a legal argument amounts to religious persecution, you must first establish that the media, government and the culture at large are actively hostile to people of faith.
This requires a constant supply of stories of supposed religious persecution. And for that, the Right has Todd Starnes.
Todd Starnes: A Look into the Right-Wing Myth Machine
The most prolific manufacturer and promoter of apocryphal stories of American Christian persecution working today is Fox News reporter Todd Starnes. If a story emerges about a service member punished for his or her Christian beliefs or a schoolchild banned from talking about Christmas, it most likely originated with or was promoted by Starnes. And there’s a good chance the facts have been either severely distorted or completely fabricated.
For an example of how the Starnes myth machine works, take the story of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk, “relieved of his duties,” according to Starnes, “after he disagreed with his openly gay commander when she wanted to severely punish an instructor who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality.”
“Christians have to go into the closet,” Monk told Starnes. “We are being robbed of our dignity and respect. We can’t be who we are.” Starnes added: “[I]n essence, Christians are trading places with homosexuals.”
It appears that Monk’s story was being shopped around by his attorneys at Liberty Institute, one of several Christian Right legal groups that devote themselves to digging up and publicizing alleged cases of persecution. The Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice have played a similar role, cheered on by allies in groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA).
The Monk story hit a nerve in a movement still reeling from the 2010 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay service members.
After Starnes reported Monk’s tale in August 2013, the story spread like wildfire in the Religious Right. Liberty University official Shawn Akers cited the story to claim that Christians were now the victims of a new “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The AFA’s Bryan Fischer pointed to Monk’s commander to claim that “homosexuals that are in the military” could now “get away with absolutely anything.” Monk was invited to share his tale at a Values Voter Summit panel on the alleged trend of anti-Christian persecution. The Family Research Council produced a tearful video in which Monk told of how he was “reassigned by his commander because of his belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”
But Monk’s story just wasn’t true. In Starnes’ very first report on Monk, he quoted an Air Force spokesman who explained that Monk hadn’t been punished but had simply come to the end of his assignment. A subsequent Air Force investigation found, according to the Military Times, that “Monk was not removed from his position, but rather moved, as scheduled, to another Lackland unit, an assignment he was notified of in April.”
This story repeats itself over and over again in Starnes’ work. When Starnes accused a Georgia school of “confiscating” a display of teachers’ Christmas cards, it turned out that the display had merely been moved from a hallway to an office to accommodate the privacy concerns of a teacher who had wanted to participate but didn’t want her personal card displayed in a public space. School administrators, caught off-guard by Starnes’ fabricated story, accused him of “an intentional and vicious dissemination of untrue information that disrupted the good work going on inside” the school.
When Starnes reported in January that a six-year-old girl in California had been stopped in the middle of a class presentation about her family’s Christmas traditions, the story of how the girl was told “she can’t talk about religion in school” spread rapidly through right-wing media. But this story was also not true. After Starnes’ report took off, the girl’s baffled teacher explained that she had shortened her student’s presentation because of time constraints and had in no way prevented her from talking about her religious faith.
Starnes’ reports about the middle school students forced into a lesbian kiss, the athlete disqualified for thanking God, and the Pentagon blocking a Southern Baptist website unraveled in similar ways. The middle school girls were never required to kiss. The track athlete admitted he was disqualified for taunting and disrespecting a referee. Defense Department employees were briefly unable to access the Southern Baptist website because the denomination’s website was infected with malware.
No matter how quickly they are debunked, however, these stories are used to build a narrative that bolsters the Religious Right’s political goals…and benefits Starnes himself.
In April 2014, Starnes reported that an elementary school student in Florida was told by a teacher “that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch time meal” and that “it’s not good” to pray. School officials conducted a thorough investigation of the incident, even staging a lineup for the girl to identify the teacher who had supposedly banned her from praying. In the end, they found absolutely no basis for the claims, and even found that the teacher that the girl identified wasn’t even in the cafeteria when the incident supposedly took place.
Then it came out that an amazing coincidence had occurred: The girl’s father just happened to be head of sales at the company publishing Starnes’ new book, God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.
Starnes’ book chronicles the very sort of story that he repeats in his columns. And the very first page reveals where he thinks America went wrong: “I grew up in a much simpler time…It was a time when father still knew best – when the girls were girls and the men were men. I grew up when the rainbow was a sign of God’s promise, not gay rights.”
“I feel like a Duck Dynasty guy living in a Miley Cyrus world,” he laments.
Duck Dynasty and Redefining the First Amendment
It’s no coincidence that the very first sentence of Todd Starnes’ book mentions Duck Dynasty, the hit A&E reality show about a family of impressively bearded duck-call manufacturers in Louisiana.
Duck Dynasty – despite its wide popularity – has become a polarizing culture-war code ever since one of the show’s stars was briefly suspended by the network after letting loose with homophobic and racist comments in a magazine interview.
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” family patriarch Phil Robertson told GQ. “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Robertson also painted a rosy picture of life for African Americans in Jim Crow-era Louisiana, saying, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person…. Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Whatever you think of the substance of Robertson’s comments, they weren’t phrased in a way that you would expect would make him a hero to a major social movement. But when A&E briefly suspended Robertson from the show in response to outrage over his comments, he became a convenient martyr to the “Christian persecution” cause.
The American Family Association launched a petition thanking Robertson for “declaring the truth of God’s word.” The National Organization for Marriage started its own petition insisting that “nothing that Phil Robertson said is hateful.” David Barton praised Robertson for making homosexuality seem “repugnant, which is what it should be.” One Republican congressional candidate called Robertson “the Rosa Parks of our generation.”
The Religious Right turned its anger on gay rights advocates. AFA President Tim Wildmon asked the group’s members, “Will we capture the energy Phil Robertson has generated and draw on that energy to confront the entrenched fortresses of error and sexual anarchy that now dominate our social landscape?” Americans for Truth About Homosexuality head Peter LaBarbera and the anti-gay group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) both lamented that Robertson had fallen victim to “homofacism.” The Family Research Council blasted the “totalitarian tactics of the Left.” Anti-choice activist Janet Porter said that Robertson’s suspension meant that religious faith itself was at risk of “being declared unlawful.” Sarah Palin took to Facebook to defend Robertson against the “hatin’” of “intolerants,” before admitting that she hadn’t actually read what Robertson said.
One fringe activist, Theodore Shoebat, even suggested responding to the controversy by imposing the death penalty on homosexuality.
The Duck Dynasty story fit into a broader right-wing narrative that paints progressive boycotts and pressure campaigns as immoral “economic terrorism” while promoting similar campaigns that target companies they perceive as promoting liberal values such as gay rights. In fact, just three months after right-wing groups were expressing righteous indignation about progressives’ “totalitarian” response to Robertson’s remarks, they cheered Christian radio stations who pulled Christian rocker Dan Haseltine’s music off the air after he announced his support for marriage equality. When some Christian radio stations responded by pulling Haseltine’s group’s music from the air. The Family Research Council and the American Family Association applauded. “Don’t complain when there are consequences for making a foolish declaration like that,” said the AFA’s Bryan Fischer, apparently oblivious to the irony.
Even Todd Starnes, who called a gay-rights boycott of the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A “un-American,” later promoted right-wing boycotts of the Girl Scouts and a barbecue chain restaurant.
Of course, no court has ever found a constitutional right to appear on a reality TV show. And A&E may well have had legitimate business considerations for its move; when Duck Dynasty returned for its next season, its viewership had plummeted. But the story of Phil Robertson fit so well into the Religious Right’s narrative that conservative Christians had become the scrappy underdogs in the “culture war” that it stuck.
A Changing Strategy on Gay Rights
Warnings about the persecution of conservative Christians have gone hand in hand with the rapid success of the gay rights movement in politics, courts and public opinion. This is not a coincidence. Todd Starnes’ myth machine, the perennial “War on Christmas” and the hero status of the Duck Dynasty clan are useful tools in the effort to reframe every losing policy battle and every shift in public opinion as “persecution” of the Religious Right.
In a 2013 report for Political Research Associates, scholar Jay Michaelson documents how the persecution narrative was at the core of religious conservatives’ response to desegregation, the end of school-sponsored school prayer and the victory for abortion rights in Roe v. Wade.
But nowhere has the Religious Right lost more ground in recent years than on the issue of gay rights.
The movement’s leaders have portrayed gay rights as the moral test for our time, warning that every advance in the rights of LGBT people detracts from the rights of people who have religious objections to homosexuality.
As recently as the past decade, opposition to gay rights was a winning issue for the Religious Right. President George W. Bush’s advisors (including former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who later came out as gay) helped to get constitutional amendments banning marriage equality on the ballot in 11 states in 2004 an effort to boost conservative turnout.
But the tide turned quickly.
In 2010, Congress overturned the ban on military service for openly gay and lesbian Americans. In 2012, voters in four states either passed laws allowing marriage equality or defeated anti-equality measures at the ballot box. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that had prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages, leading federal courts to strike down same-sex marriage bans in several states. Marriage equality is now the law in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and marriage equality lawsuits are pending in dozens more.
As the anti-gay movement found itself on the defensive, it began to increasingly embrace the “religious liberty” theme. While dire warnings about persecution of conservative Christians have been in the Religious Right’s vocabulary for decades, the success of the gay rights movement has brought them to the center of its strategy.
In 2006, as public opinion and laws were tilting ever more quickly toward LGBT rights, social conservatives at the annual Values Voter Summit painted a stark dichotomy between gay rights and religious liberty. Alan Sears of the Alliance Defense Fund, now called the Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the largest groups promoting the “Christian persecution” message, told the crowd of activists that “the homosexual agenda and [freedom of] religion are on a collision course.” Then-Rep. Marilyn Musgrove, Republican of Colorado, warned, “If we have gay marriage, our religious liberties are gone!”
Subsequent gay rights victories have generated a flurry of apocalyptic rhetoric about a coming crackdown on conservative Christians in America.
Religious Right groups have claimed that efforts to include LGBT people in federal hate-crimes laws are an attempt to “target Christians” and “silence” opposition. (Of course, the fact that hate-crimes laws apply only to people who actually commit violent crimes is inevitably left out of this kind of criticism.)
The repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and subsequent efforts to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of service members led to accusations of anti-Christianand even anti-straight discrimination. One Republican in Congress, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, went so far as to introduce a bill that he claimed would protect “military religious freedom” by banning chaplains from using military facilities to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. The bill would have done nothing to protect religious liberty among military clergy, who are not required to perform same-sex marriages. Instead, it would have hampered the free exercise rights of clergy whose beliefs allow or require them to perform same-sex ceremonies.
In 2012, the American Family Association published an article claiming that “those who are pushing for the institution of same sex marriage are ipso facto pushing for the elimination of the Christian religion.”
The next year, as the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of DOMA and Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Tea Party Unity and Vision America leader Rick Scarborough speculated that a decision in favor of marriage equality would cause the Obama administration to “round up” and imprison opponents of gay rights. Similarly, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber warned that an anti-DOMA ruling would lead to “the criminalization of Christianity.” Gary Bauer warned that people of faith would soon be “fined or jailed.”
Of course, when the Supreme Court struck down part of DOMA, none of these fears turned out to be founded, but American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer still declared that opponents of gay rights had become “second class citizens and victims of a new “Jim Crow.”
Advances in marriage equality have launched a new front in the anti-gay movement. As the effort to ban marriage equality becomes a losing battle for conservative activists, they’re turning their sights toward legalizing discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of preventing discrimination against Christians.
As National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown advised activists on a conference call in April 2014, “When [gay-rights activists] bring up discrimination, we need to turn it on its head and say, this is about anti-religious, specifically in some cases, anti-Christian religious bigotry, and there’s no place for this in this country.” Brown called such “discrimination” against same-sex-marriage opponents Jim Crow “in reverse.”
Ironically, while many Religious Right activists falsely claim that marriage equality laws will require clergy to solemnize same-sex marriages against their will, in at least one state it is a ban on same-sex marriages that is stifling the liberty of pastors. In April 2014, a group of North Carolina pastors and the United Church of Christ sued North Carolina over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, citing a law that fines pastors for performing wedding ceremonies without a license from the state. The FRC’s Tony Perkins defended the ban by arguing that the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom does not apply to Christians who support marriage equality.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Religion in the Public Square
In 2009, a coalition of conservative evangelical and Catholic leaders convened to sign the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto in which they vowed to defy any law that did not comply with their religious beliefs, specifically laws dealing with marriage and reproductive rights. “The freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions,” they wrote.
The declaration’s organizers hoped to gather one million signatures within a month; nearly five years later, they are still more than 400,000 signatures short. But despite the failure to live up to that goal, the declaration still marked an important turning point in the Religious Right’s strategy.
The Manhattan Declaration was an opportunity for grandstanding, but it was also an important sign of how the Religious Right planned to use the “religious persecution” narrative in policy debates. The declaration made clear that to these leaders, “religious liberty” meant the right to carve out broad exemptions to civil laws, not just for churches and houses of worship (which already enjoy such broad exemptions), but also for individuals and even for-profit businesses – even when those exemptions come at the expense of the rights of others.
This redefining of “religious liberty” has come to a head in the struggle over the interpretation of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the passage of similar laws in the states.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bipartisan bill drafted in response to a Supreme Court decision that eliminated the need for the government to show a “compelling state interest” in enforcing a law that restricted an individual’s religious freedom. Employment Division v Smith had involved two American Indians were denied state unemployment benefits because they had been fired from their jobs for smoking peyote in a religious ceremony. RFRA garnered broad support from religious and civil liberties groups, including People For the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union.
RFRA was intended to re-establish the legal standard that existed before the Smithruling. It requires that if a law places a substantial burden on a person’s exercise of religion, the government must demonstrate that the law serves a compelling government interest in the least restrictive way. The Supreme Court later ruled that Congress could only apply RFRA to the federal government, not to the states, leading several states to pass their own versions of the law, many written more broadly than the federal measure.
Since that time, conservative activists wielding religious persecution rhetoric have attempted to broaden the scope of RFRA to not just protect individuals from burdens on religious exercise but to allow individuals and even for-profit corporations to cite religious beliefs in order to discriminate against others. As PRA’s Michaelson puts it, “RFRA demonstrates the pattern of protections for minority religions being subsequently used by majorities.”
In a number of prominent recent cases, Religious Right activists have pushed state-level “religious freedom” laws for the explicit purpose of allowing businesses to bypass anti-discrimination laws. Although advocates of these laws have hinted that they are ways around anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people, many have been written so broadly as to open the door for all manner of discrimination by businesses open to the public.
In 2012, a coalition of civil rights, religious, law enforcement and child welfare groups successfully urged voters in North Dakota to defeat a ballot measure that would have putoverly broad RFRA language into the state constitution. Opponents worried that the measure could have caused chaos in the state’s courts and, in the words of the Bismark Tribune, “opened the door for people to use religious beliefs as a defense in breaking laws protecting against abuse, domestic violence and discrimination.”
The next year Kentucky’s legislature overrode the governor’s veto to put a similarly broad new state RFRA law on the books.
This year, intensive organizing and education helped stall similar bills in a number of states, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill after national attention focused on the state. Among those who had urgedher to veto the measure were Arizona business leaders, GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, and at least three Republican legislators who had initially voted for the bill.
By contrast, on April 3, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that was originally modeled on the extremely expansive Arizona legislation but was modified in the wake of the Arizona controversy. Mississippi’s new law mirrors the federal legislation in some ways, but activists note that Mississippi law defines “person” to include businesses, so the new state law will apply to corporations as well as private citizens. Last year, Bryant signed another “religious liberty” bill – one that could give religious cover for anti-gay bullying in public schools.
This new wave of legislation has come in response to a handful of high-profile cases in which businesses have faced penalties for refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings. But the case that could decide the direction of the religious liberty argument is Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the federal mandate that employer-funded insurance policies cover contraception.
The attack on the contraception mandate may be the Right’s boldest attempt yet to use the rhetoric of religious liberty and religious persecution to limit the rights of other Americans. Its campaign has also taken advantage of the energy of the anti-government Tea Party, which has mobilized against the Affordable Care Act.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has required businesses with more than 15 employees to provide coverage for contraception since 2000. Similar mandates are in place in 28 states; several were promoted or signed into law by Republicans. One such bill signed by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas in 2005 provided no exemption for religious-affiliated organizations; yet Huckabee now cites the federal mandate to ask “whether religious liberty still exists in America.”
What changed was the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance plans provide coverage for contraception without copays. When some Catholic groups that had supported the ACA balked, the Obama administration changed the rule to shift the burden of contraception costs onto insurance companies providing plans for religiously affiliated organizations. Then the administration made a further concession, requiring women who work for religiously affiliated groups to buy a separate health care plan to cover contraception.
The Supreme Court is currently considering whether the Hobby Lobby chain is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from providing health insurance that includes contraception coverage to its employees. Hobby Lobby’s backers not only want to redefine religious liberty to include employers’ right to impose their own religious views on their employees; they want the court to establish a right to religious liberty for secular for-profit corporations.
A ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could tip the balance in religious liberty cases in favor of giving individuals and businesses large latitude in bucking any number of popularly passed laws. As Peter Montgomery noted in Right Wing Watch:
David Barton, an influential conservative activist who helped write the Republican Party’s 2012 platform, argues that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, unions and collective bargaining, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and progressive taxation in general. Should a company whose owners share Barton’s views be allowed to ignore laws that protect workers by claiming that those laws violate the company’s religious beliefs?
Religious Freedom For Me, But Not For You
The goal of the Religious Right’s persecution narrative is not only to carve out broad exemptions to civil laws; many use it to promote policies that suppress the free exercise rights of those who do not share a specific set of conservative Christian values.
Republican presidential hopefuls flock to events organized by David Lane, a Christian Nationalist who declares “America was founded by Christians, as a Christian nation” and wants to see the Bible used as the “principal textbook” in public schools In an op-ed announcing his 2014 election efforts, Lane wrote that activists must “engage the church in a culture war for religious liberty, to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and to re-establish a Christian culture.” It’s no coincidence that Lane can utter a plea for “religious liberty” and assert conservative Christian dominance over other religions in the same sentence. For many in his movement, those two seemingly competing claims are one and the same.
Similarly, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, speaking in 2012 of the “Sharia law bans” that have been passed in seven states and introduced in many more on a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, said, “Christians are being persecuted while people of a religion foreign to our country are doing what they want.” Moore, who once famously defied a court order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from a government building, said that when such an establishment of Christianity is prevented, “false religions come in and that’s what’s happening in our country today.”
Religious Right historian and activist David Barton has also made this connection, claiming that the United States’ secular legal system is actually paving the way for the institution of Sharia law.
In 2012, Rev. Franklin Graham lamented that “political correctness demands tolerance of everything as it panders to the godless values of pluralism, marginalizing and even persecuting men and women of faith.”
Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri put this into words when she said that the Air Force shouldn’t accommodate “fringe religions” because “Christianity is the main religion in our country.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins articulated this dissonance clearly in a recent discussion of the United Church of Christ’s suit against North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban. “True religious freedom,” he argued, applies only to views “based on orthodox religious viewpoints.” In his view, clergy who choose to perform same-sex marriages are not covered by religious liberty protections because they do not share Perkins’ view of the Christian faith.
Many of the same groups that warn that America’s Christian “minority” is on the verge of religious persecution have backed efforts to erect very real restrictions on the freedoms of actual religious minorities. Some, like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, flatly claim that First Amendment religious liberty protections don’t apply to non-Christians.
The Religious Right’s “religious liberty” argument too often translates into an effort to suppress the liberties of people who don’t share their specific religious beliefs: people of other faiths, atheists, women seeking reproductive freedom, LGBT people and Christians who don’t share the Religious Right’s political agenda.
Conclusion: Redefining Persecution, Redefining Liberty
Religious liberty is a bedrock American value, cherished on both the right and the left. Courts, lawmakers and the public have struggled throughout our nation’s history to protect the right of every person to exercise his or her own religion without being unduly burdened by the religious expression of another. Laws such as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act have placed an appropriately strong emphasis on protecting individuals’ religious expression without placing undue burdens on society as a whole.
But using the resonant rhetoric of religious persecution, bolstered by often-bogus stories of purported anti-Christian activities, the Religious Right has attempted to tip this balance away from pluralism and accommodation to a legal system that allows individuals and businesses to broadly exempt themselves from policies they disagree with – even when that means trampling on the religious rights of others.
These are not fears to make light of. Religious freedom is a core constitutional value and a cornerstone of our liberty. But the Religious Right’s narrative of religious persecution is not only far from the truth; in many cases the narrative itself serves to undermine true religious liberty and individual freedom for all.
Last June, presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz traveled to Iowa for an event convened by David Lane, a political operative who uses pastors to mobilize conservative Christian voters.
Lane is a Christian-nation extremist who believes the Bible should be a primary textbook in America’s public schools, and that any politician who disagrees should be voted out. Lane’s events are usually closed to the media, but he has given special access to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s sympathetic David Brody. Brody’s coverage of the Iowa event included short video clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of Lane’s Pastors and Pews group.
CBN’s Brody reported, “The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the younger generation, so they’re using the riches that the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals.” One of those goals may be David Lane’s insistence that politicians make the Bible a primary textbook in public schools.
Here’s Dan Wilks speaking to Brody: “I just think we have to make people aware, you know, and bring the Bible back into the school, and start teaching our kids at a younger age, and, uh, you know, and focus on the younger generation.” And here’s Farris: “They’re being taught the other ideas, the gay agenda, every day out in the world so we have to stand up and explain to them that that’s not real, that’s not proper, it’s not right.”
That was the first time we had heard of the billionaire Wilks brothers, who have become generous donors to right-wing politicians and Republican Party committees. While both Farris and Dan have given to conservative groups and candidates, it is older brother Farris whose foundation has become a source of massive donations to Religious Right groups and to the Koch brothers’ political network. Farris also funds a network of “pregnancy centers” that refuse, on principle, to talk to single women about contraception (married women need to check with their husband and pastor).
Like David Barton, Farris thinks conservative economics are grounded in the Bible. Like Mitt Romney, he says people shouldn’t vote for politicians who promise “free this, free that.” Like any number of Religious Right leaders, he saw Barack Obama’s re-election as a harbinger of the End Times and he believes God will punish America for embracing homosexuality. Unlike all of them, he’s on the list of the world’s richest people.
They’re Fracking Billionaires!
Dan and Farris Wilks became successful working in and then running the masonry business that was started by their father; they have now turned the company over to the next generation of Wilks men. But Dan and Farris really hit the big time when they got in on the ground floor with fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique that has boomed over the past decade.
The fracking boom has produced a surge in wealthy Texans. In 2002, the Wilks brothers created Frac Tech, which produced equipment used in fracking, or in industry parlance, “well stimulation services.” In May 2011, Dan and Farris sold Frac Tech to a group of investors led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund for $3.5 billion. Their share was reportedly 68% of that total, and they showed up on the 2011 Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion each. The most recent Forbes list put their estimated wealth at $1.5 billion each. (In our gilded age, that puts them near the bottom of the Forbes 400, and barely gets them into the top 40 in Texas. But you can still do an awful lot with $3 billion.)
The Wilks brothers have gone on a land-buying spree out West, amassing huge holdings in Montana, Idaho, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado. In December 2012, the Billings Gazette reported that they had amassed more than 276,000 acres in Montana, or more than 430 square miles; more recent reports say they own more than 301,300 acres in the state. Among their purchases was the historic 62,000-acre N Bar Ranch, which had been listed for $45 million.
The brothers reportedly started building an airstrip that summer across from the N Bar Ranch headquarters to make travel to their property on their 18-passenger corporate jet a little easier. The Wilks brothers have proposed a land swap with the Bureau of Land Management to consolidate their holdings; last month their attorney said they were “blindsided” when BLM said it would not trade the 2,700-acre Durfee Hills after hunters complained about losing access to the land and its elk.
In January 2013, they bought a nearly 18,000-acre ranch in Idaho, which brought their total in that state to almost 36,000 acres. In 2011, Farris was reported to have paid $16 million for what was then the most expensive ski-accessible home in the history of Snowmass Village, Colorado.
An Aspen newspaper reported in 2012 that Dan owned two homes in Aspen, one worth $8.3 million and another worth $4.9 million. At the end of 2012 they bought the Advancial Tower, a 17-story skyscraper in Dallas reportedly appraised at $16.25 million. And last August, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the Wilks brothers had bought 122 acres of land in a business park in Southlake, Texas. Farris also reportedly paid to have a “world class” recording studio installed in his 20,000-square-foot home and to have his church’s audio-visual system similarly upgraded.
Members of the Wilks family have been philanthropists in their hometown over the years, funding, for example, a community center and mobile emergency command post for local fire departments. More recently they have distributing their wealth in support of right-wing causes and conservative politicians. According to Forbes, Dan has six children, Farris has 11.
A(nother) Foundation for the Far Right
The Wilks brothers and their wives have stashed a sizeable chunk of money in charitable foundations: Farris and his wife Joann created The Thirteen Foundation, while Dan and his wife Staci started Heavenly Father’s Foundation. The Thirteen Foundation has become a major funder to Religious Right organizations and to right-wing political outfits that are part of the Koch brother’s network.
In 2011, Farris and Joann each put $50 million into The Thirteen Foundation, and they started writing huge checks. In 2011 and 2012, the last year for which giving records are publicly available, the foundation gave away more than $17 million. Here’s where much of it went:
Media Revolution Ministries (Online for Life) $2,242,857
American Majority Inc $2,114,100
State Policy Networks $1,526,125
Focus on the Family $1,400,000
Franklin Center for Gov’t and Public Integrity $1,309,775
Life Dynamics Inc. $1,275,000
Liberty Counsel $1,000,000
Heritage Foundation $700,000
Family Research Council $530,000
Texas Right to Life Committee Education Fund $310,000
Texas Home School Coalition $250,000
Heartbeat International $197,000
Wallbuilders Presentations, Inc $85,000
National Institute of Marriage $75,000
These gifts amount to a massive infusion of funds into some of the most aggressive right-wing organizations that are fighting legal equality for LGBT people, access to contraception and abortion services for women, and promoting the Tea Party’s vision of a federal government that is constitutionally forbidden from protecting American workers, consumers, and communities by regulating corporate behavior.
American Majority, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, and the State Policy Networks are all part of the Koch brothers’ right-wing political network, promoting policy attacks on public employees and their unions, outsourcing public resources for private profit, privatization of public education, and more:
- The Franklin Center, closely allied to the American Legislative Exchange Council and other right-wing groups, produces and supports ideological advocacy sites that that it pretends is “nonpartisan” journalism.
- American Majority trains and supports Tea Party activist networks.
- The Heritage Foundation is a right-wing propaganda behemoth masquerading as a think tank. It promotes Religious Right social conservatism and Tea Party anti-government ideology, arguing that the two are “indivisible.”
- The State Policy Network comprises mini-Heritage Foundations – right-wing “think tanks” at the state level that work closely with ALEC and right-wing lawmakers.
The Thirteen Foundation’s gifts are a boon to some of the most extreme Religious Right groups in the country. Among the recipients:
- The Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group affiliated with Liberty University, is home to right-wing legal activist Mat Staver and the increasingly unhinged Matt Barber. Liberty Counsel promotes extreme anti-Obama and anti-gay rhetoric, warning that the country is descending into religious tyranny and on the verge of revolution. Staver and Barber support laws criminalizing homosexuality and call the Obama administration’s opposition to such laws in other countries “immoral.”
- The Family Research Council, designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hosts the annual Values Voter Summit, the annual family reunion for far-right religious and political groups and right-wing politicians. FRC and its leader Tony Perkins oppose equality for LGBT Americans and promote the myth of anti-Christian persecution in the U.S.
- Focus on the Family, founded by James Dobson, is one of the largest Religious Right groups in the country. Earlier this year Vice President Tim Goeglein called gay rights movement “one of the great threats to our religious liberty.” President Jim Daly is reportedly scheduled to speak at the World Congress of Families’ summit scheduled to be held in Moscow in September.
- Wallbuilders promotes the historical revisionism of “historian” David Barton, whose claims have been widely discredited but who remains influential within the Religious Right and the GOP. In addition to his “Christian Nation” history, Barton argues that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, progressive taxation, capital gains taxes, the estate tax, and unions and collective bargaining.
See the section on the War on Women below for information about anti-choice organizations on the list. Other gifts supported Prime Time Christian Broadcasting, Inc., which runs God’s Learning Channel, “a satellite network dedicated to bringing the gospel of the kingdom into the entire world and teaching everyone about the Torah and the true roots of Christianity“; the Wounded Warrior Project; and a number of local churches that seem to be affiliated with the church at which Farris is an elder. One gift that seems like an outlier was $50,000 to the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which funds legal services for the poor, advocates for immigration reform, and filed a lawsuit on behalf of a binational same-sex couple.
Farris’s brother Dan and his wife Staci each gave $55 million to their Heavenly Father’s Foundation, according to the group’s 2011 990 form. That year the foundation reported $110 million in income but only $309,000 in disbursements, mostly to the Mountain Top Church in their hometown of Cisco ($287,000) with smaller amounts to a pregnancy center called the Open Door ($20,000) and to the American Diabetes Association ($2,000).
Its 2012 contributions were primarily to several churches but also included ministries that provide meals to the poor, a five-year pledge to a local domestic violence crisis center, $20,000 to the Open Door pregnancy center, $1.7 million to a drug and alcohol treatment center whose 30th anniversary celebration in May featured Mike Huckabee, and intriguingly, $100,000 to the Eastland County District Attorney’s office to cover “budget shortage.”
Of course, individual contributions that Wilks family members make to advocacy organizations are not publicly reported.
In Politics, Paying to Play
The Wilks brothers made a bit of a splash in Montana when it was revealed that they were the top donors to 2012 Republican legislative candidates in the state. A February 2013 report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics found that Dan and Farris Wilks and their wives “donated to more than 70 candidates, all Republicans, and generally gave the maximum contribution allowed by law to legislative candidates, $160 for a general election.”
The report said that 70 percent of Republican legislators got contributions from the Wilkses. (AP noted that all bills aimed at regulating fracking in the 2011 legislature were killed by Republican-led committees.) According to the Institute, 64 of the state-level candidates they supported won – 63 legislators and Attorney General Tim Fox.
The Wilkses also gave heavily to Dennis Rehberg, a former Republican U.S. congressman from Montana who gave up his seat to mount an unsuccessful challenge against Sen. Jon Tester in 2012, and to Steven Daines, the Republican who won the House seat vacated by Rehberg and who is now running to for U.S. Senate.
Collectively, Dan and Farris and their wives gave the Rehberg and Daines campaigns each $10,000 in 2012, with another $37,500 going to the Rehberg Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee that funneled money to Rehberg’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Farris and Joann have together given $10,400 toward Steve Daines’s 2014 reelection.
Their political giving has not been limited to Montana. In Texas, according to state campaign finance records, the brothers each gave $25,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in 2012. Farris also gave $2,500 to State Rep. Stefani Carter, the first Republican African American woman to serve in the state House; Farris and Joann also gave $5,000 to the failed Supreme Court campaign of Steve Smith.
Last year, Perry announced he would not run for a fourth term as governor. Earlier this year, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, reported nearly $31,000 in in-kind contributions from Farris and Dan for use of an airplane. Farris also gave $1,000 in January to the Texas Home School Coalition PAC.
This year, in the election for California’s 44th Assembly District, Dan, Staci, and Farris Wilks have given thousands to the campaign of Rob McCoy, a conservative evangelical pastor who is also backed by Rand Paul, Rick Perry, and Mike Huckabee. In the June 3 primary, the Wilks-backed McCoy came in second place to Democrat Jacqui Irwin, a City Councilwoman from Thousand Oaks, beating the more moderate Republican candidate, businessman Mario de la Piedra. Irwin and McCoy will face off in the general election.
During the 2012 election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission’s database, the brothers and their wives together contributed $125,000 to the Romney Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee benefitting the Romney campaign and the Republican Party.
Joann also contributed $25,000 to the Faith Family Freedom Fund, a “soft money” fund run by a former Family Research Council executive and housed in FRC’s Washington, DC building. The fund makes independent expenditures for or against candidates; in 2012 it spent in support of Todd Akin, George Allen, Steve King, and other right-wing candidates, and against Claire McCaskill, Tim Kaine, Barack Obama, and other Democratic candidates.
In 2011, Farris gave the National Republican Congressional Committee $2,500, and he gave $7,600 to the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund between 2010 and 2012. In 2010 Farris gave Nevada Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Sharron Angle $1000 and in 2008 he gave $2,500 to the McCain-Palin Victory Committee.
Wilks and the War on Women
As Kate Sheppard reported last August for Mother Jones, The Thirteen Foundation’s 2011 gift to Life Dynamics, a Texas-based anti-abortion group, funded a campaign to mass-mail DVDs to lawyers encouraging them to sue abortion clinics into oblivion. Crooks and Liars blogger Karoli has noted that Life Dynamics “actively engages in espionage against organizations serving women” and operates campaigns to harass doctors who perform abortions.
The more than $2 million that The Thirteen Foundation gave to Media Revolution Ministries in 2012 allowed for a vast expansion of the group, which had only an $80,000 budget the year before. The group, also known as Online for Life, says it “implements cutting-edge Internet and traditional marketing outreaches to connect with abortion-determined women and men.” In other words, they try to “intercept” women who search for abortion information and send them to anti-choice “pregnancy centers.”
Those funds may have been used to help “pregnancy centers” buy ads on search terms like “abortion clinics” to “intercept” women who went online. NARAL Pro-Choice America cited Online for Life’s Google ads when it announced in April that its investigations had led Google to take down ads from crisis pregnancy centers that violated the search engine’s rules against deceptive advertising.
The Thirteen Foundation also gave $450,000 in 2011 to Care Net, a network of Christian “pregnancy centers” whose “standards of affiliation” include this requirement:
The pregnancy center does not recommend, provide, or refer single women for contraceptives. (Married women seeking contraceptive information should be urged to seek counsel, along with their husbands, from their pastor and physician.).
The Wilks are also backers of Open Door, a local Christian “crisis pregnancy center” to which the Thirteen Foundation gave more than $90,000 in 2012. Farris and Joann have also been benefactors of Texas Right to Life.
The Wilks Worldview
With the exception of the brief interaction with CBN’s David Brody, the Wilks brothers have generally been media-shy. But the worldview of Farris, the older of the two brothers, whose foundation is backing the Religious Right and Tea Party movements, is quite clearly revealed in the sermons he preaches.
In addition to his business ventures, Farris, the older brother, is also a pastor at the church founded by his father, The Assembly of Yahweh (7th Day). The church’s doctrine seems to be an amalgam based on the elder Wilks’ anachronistic interpretations of the Bible. It combines biblical literalism with a heavy emphasis on the Old Testament: The church celebrates its Sabbath on Saturday, follows the dietary rules laid down in Leviticus, and celebrates Jewish holidays but not “the religious holidays of the Gentiles,” which include “Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, White Sunday, Good Friday, and Halloween.” (I had to look up White Sunday, which is a traditional Samoan holiday. There’s a significant Samoan community in Texas). Women may not speak during worship.
The church’s doctrinal points align with the Religious Right on many policy issues. Abortion is “murder,” including pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Homosexuality is “a serious crime – a very grievous sin.”
A number of Farris Wilks’ sermons can be heard through his church’s website. Back in November 2012, he was pretty despondent about the re-election of Barack Obama: “I do believe that our country died that Tuesday night, to all that’s honorable, that’s good, that’s ambitious, and that has justice. The old way of life that we will take care of ourselves, we will be self-sufficient as much as we are able, the pride in pulling your own weight, or paddling your own canoe.” The sermon includes small-government quotes from Thomas Jefferson, anti-socialist quotes from Winston Churchill, and a bootstraps approach to poverty. “The best way to get out of poverty is to go to work,” he says. “That is one of the simplest ways to make it go away.”
Wilks said he was “refreshed” by biblical texts about the End Times, speculating that the election went the way it did “because maybe it’s time to wrap up some things, maybe it’s time to move on to the next one thousand years.” And he warned of persecution against Christians:
I will tell you now that you need to be ready for a little bit more scoffing and ridicule than maybe we’ve experienced in the past, because I think not only us but the Christian community at large is coming under attack, not only in America but throughout the world. We see it on the late night talk shows. One man in particular. And some time you think, man, it would almost be nice if the judgment would happen so we can see what would happen to those people. …for the things they are saying, which are so vulgar and violent against Yahweh…his mercy must be inexhaustible to put up with that…
Several months later, after his participation in the David Lane event in Iowa, Wilks was feeling motivated to do more to impact the future of America. In a July 2, 2013, sermon he referred to claims made by discredited Religious Right “historian” David Barton about the country’s founders and Barton’s assertion that many of our laws come from the scriptures. And in a sermon he described as a “study of Sodom and Gomorrah,” he laid out his belief that the country is facing a clear choice:
As most of you probably know by now, we are in a battle for our society. Will we follow the secular religion of man, him being supreme, and evolving, or will we submit to Elohim, who has the right to give us laws and commandments to follow since he is the one who created us? Who is in charge? Is it man, or is it our creator?
He read scripture passages that referred to the story of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in what he said was punishment for “base and demented” sexual practices, the tolerance of which in America “could bring about the end of our nation.” He warned that allowing same-sex couples to get married would soon lead to bestiality being promoted and accepted. “I do believe we live in a nation that will start to vomit some of its people out,” he warned. After reading a passage from Isaiah in which the land and its inhabitants are cursed for their depravity, he said:
I fear that that is where we are as a nation. We have been in the blessed part of our nation, but I think we’re coming to the point now…we’re going to reap what we have sown, and what we have sown has not been good…what it says here, that the earth lies polluted under its inhabitants. Think of all the murder that has happened in this country….all the babies that have been murdered…think of all the perversions in the realm of sexual perversion of all kinds…all the breaking of Yahweh’s covenant….and so you recognize that at some point Yahweh’s going to say it’s time to wrap up… it’s time to move on to a kingdom of people that want to serve me, that want to be redeemed, that want salvation…we have to draw some lines in the sand for ourselves….
He also mocked environmentalism and the effort to save certain animals or the polar caps. “We didn’t create the Earth so how can we save it?” When you realize that Yahweh is in control, “it’s much simpler,” he says. “You can turn over some of those responsibilities to him.” Maybe the melting of polar ice is us “getting a little scorched here” as a message from God.
Later last summer he returned to the Sodom and Gomorrah theme, denouncing the gay pride movement as an example of lust and defiance of authority described in the Bible. “What we’re fighting against today is not a sexual revolution particular to our own enlightened age, but it’s a return to pre-Christian pagan sexual immorality or perversion.”
And Farris sounded like the most extreme anti-gay Religious Right leaders in portraying gay people as child predators:
If we all took on this lifestyle, all humanity would perish in one generation…So this lifestyle is a predatorial lifestyle in that they need your children and straight people having kids to fulfill their sexual habits. They can’t do it by their self. They want your children….But we’re in a war for our children. They want your children. So what will you teach your children? A strong family is the last defense.
And, he said, they won’t stop, predicting that pedophilia and bestiality will soon be legal.
Just before Christmas he preached on spiritual apathy in America. He warned that apathy is closing church doors in America just as liberalism and secularism. He railed against people forgetting the Sabbath and spending too much time on entertainment. He warned that God would lift his “mantle of protection” against the U.S. because it is no longer protecting the family.
Earlier this year, Farris preached on “Government That We Can Believe In.” In that sermon, he proclaimed that he loves America but that all nations fail at some point. The founding fathers did a good job, but the nation’s cornerstones are now crumbling: “It’s because of the lack of morality, the lack of continuity of one like belief in our heavenly father – those are the things that are bringing our nation to its knees.”
But this sermon focused less on sexual immorality and more on the threat of socialism. Yahweh, he preached, is “someone who respects private ownership” and the Torah is “set up on the free enterprise system.”
He said “there are only two basic ideas in the whole world” – and those are free enterprise and socialism. The U.S., he warned, is “inching closer to socialism.” You either have more government or more freedom; the more money taken from you in taxes, the fewer choices you have in life. He acknowledged that he has a “personal stake” in this, saying he pays a “huge amount” in taxes.
He urged congregants not to vote for politicians who promise “free this, free that,” saying that would lead us to become one of the poor nations of the world. “Yahweh never intended for us as a people to be afraid and reliant on government.”
An Answer to Prayer?
Televangelist James Robison recently told participants in a Tea Party Unity conference call that he is praying for a merger of the Tea Party and the Religious Right. It’s enough to make one wonder where Robison has been for the past few years. There has always been a overlap between the Tea Party and the Religious Right movements. And since the early days of the anti-Obama Tea Party organizing, right-wing strategists like Ralph Reed and Rick Scarborough have been trying to more fully merge the organizing energies of the two movements into an electoral machine.
Groups like the Family Research Council and Heritage Foundation have worked hard to limit the influence of libertarians in the conservative movement by portraying social and economic conservatism as “indivisible,” while Republican activists like “historian” David Barton have claimed that there is a biblical underpinning for the far-right’s anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government agenda.
Maybe the miracle Robison was really looking for was a big pile of cash to fund his next project. In which case, the answer to his prayers might be found in the person of Farris Wilks, preacher, right-wing activist, and billionaire.
Ted Cruz And Rick Santorum To Join Iowa Pastor Who Predicted Marriage Equality Would Increase The Murder Rate, Destroy America
Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum are slated to appear at a September “American Heritage Summit” in Washington, D.C., hosted by a right-wing Iowa pastor Cary Gordon of Cornerstone World Outreach.
Along with Gordon and the pair of likely presidential candidates, the guests include conservative pseudo-historian David Barton, Iowa-based talk show host Steve Deace and Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King.
Gordon became heavily involved in politics during the 2010 campaign to remove Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality, and he endorsed Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, helping the former Pennsylvania senator to win the Iowa caucuses.
At an anti-gay marriage rally in 2011, Gordon described marriage equality as a demonic attempt that would bring about America’s destruction, warning that Iowans must “protect the virtue of true Americanism from our own mental barbarians who attack our minds with the God-hating secularism of Europe” or risk being “extinguished from the earth.”
Gordon even predicted that gay marriage would increase the murder rate: “The natural problem that causes is an overt immorality. The crime rates go up, people suffer, people are stealing and murdering and [doing] all the things morality tells you not to do.”
The pastor, insisting that it is a “glaringly obvious fact that being ‘gay’ is a behavior, and has nothing to do with civil rights,” charged in a 2010 blog post that the same-sex marriage ruling put Iowa on the road to Nazism: “True pastors, in the fashion of Christ, will not and cannot bow before the arrogance of Caesar and Herod. We have learned from our past mistakes. We will not repeat the mistake made by Lutheran pastors when confronted with German fascism.”
“[T]o the intelligent religious man, homosexuality will always be un-natural for a myriad of obvious reasons one shouldn’t have to explain,” Gordon wrote. “To the intelligent evolutionist, it will NEVER agree with the doctrine of ‘survival of the fittest.’”
Gordon’s church also released a video asserting that same-sex marriage would legalize incest, pedophilia and bestiality.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
On today’s episode of “WallBuilders Live,” David Barton explained that women were not given the right to vote when the Constitution was written because the Founding Fathers were trying to protect the institution of the family by giving every “family” a right to vote through the male head of the household.
Responding to a question from a listener who argued that the Founding Fathers denied women the right to vote not out of sexism but rather based on the biblical principle that a house divided against itself cannot stand, Barton said that this interpretation was exactly right because not allowing women to vote was designed “to keep the family together”:
The family was the first and fundamental unit of all government. Actually, you have individual self government first, then you have family government second, you have civil government third, and have church government fourth. Those are the four levels of government in the order they are given in the Bible.
So family government precedes civil government and you watch that as colonists came to America, they voted by families. You look at the Pilgrims, when they finally moved away from socialism and moved toward the free enterprise system, they called the families together and gave families plots of land. Private property given to the families. And so that’s the way things work.
And you have to remember back then, husband and wife, I mean the two were considered one. That is the biblical precept. That is the way they looked at them in the civil community. That is a family that is voting and so the head of the family is traditionally considered to be the husband and even biblically still continues to be so …
Now, as we’ve moved away from the family unit - you need to be independent from the family, don’t be chained down and be a mother and don’t be chained down and be a father and don’t be chained down to your parents, you know, we’ve moved into more of a family anarchy kind of thing, the ‘Modern Family’ kind of portrayal - that understanding has gone away.
Clearly, what [the listener] has asked is a brilliant question because it does reveal that the bigotry we’re told they held back then, they didn’t hold and what they did was they put the family unit higher than the government unit and they tried to work hard to keep the family together. And, as we can show in two or three hundred studies since then, the more you weaken the family, the more it hurts the entire culture and society.
So they had a strong culture, a strong society and it was based on a strong family to preceded government and they crafted their policies to protect a strong family.
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Last week, Glenn Beck had David Barton on his television program where he heaped praise upon Barton’s last book, “The Founder’s Bible.” Now Beck has begun personally promoting Barton’s book during advertising breaks on his show, as he did last night when he beseeched his audience to buy the book because is represents “the only answer” to our problems.
"This is, honest to God, we are out of all other options," Beck said, holding up Barton’s book. “This is the only answer and he have to know it inside and out … We have to start reading this with our kids that the table at dinner every night.”
"I can’t urge you enough to get involved and get this," he concluded before, later, interviewing Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center, who declared that America is God’s "chosen nation" because the Holy Spirit inspired the Founding Fathers to create this country and our Constitution.
That prompted Beck to proclaim that “it wasn’t a coincidence that the Democratic Party denied God three times,” referring to the vote that took place during the 2012 convention.
"Three times they called that and all the biblical meaning behind that," Beck marveled. "God’s just going to say, he’s begging us, please don’t do this":
From the 04.16.2014 edition of TheBlazeTV’s The Glenn Beck Program:
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Today, Religious Right leaders including Rick Scarborough, David Barton, Jim Garlow and Glenn Beck are meeting with Religious Right and Tea Party activists in Dallas at a summit “bringing together leaders of conservative organizations from around the country to brainstorm and strategize on how to get out the vote for the 2014 midterm elections.”
The summit is being jointly organized by Rick Scarborough’s Tea Party Unity and United In Purpose, a voter-mobilization group funded largely by Silicon Valley venture capitalists that partnered with several dozen Religious Right and Tea Party groups in the lead-up to the 2012 elections with the goal of getting five million new evangelical Christian voters to the polls .
United In Purpose, which received national news coverage for its data-driven efforts in 2011 and 2012, has what you might call a long-term goal: it is closely tied to advocates of “Seven Mountains Dominionism,” who aim to have conservative Christians take control of every aspect of government, business and the culture in order to pave the way for the return of Christ.
United in Purpose is led by Bill Dallas, a former broadcast executive who is also on the steering committee of Tea Party Unity. The board of its political arm consists of Barton, a pseudo-historian and “Seven Mountains” advocate, and former congressman Bob McEwan. Its education arm’s board consists of Ken Eldred – a major funder of the Seven Mountains movement — and pollster George Barna.
United in Purpose was involved in organizing Rick Perry’s 2011 “The Response” prayer rally, the event that meant to launch the Texas governor’s presidential campaign but ended up just highlighting his extremism because of its ties with Seven Mountains theology.
After the Response rally, the American Family Association sent an email to everyone who had registered for The Response urging them to join United In Purpose’s new project: a voter mobilization effort called “Champion The Vote.”
“The Response was just the beginning of a nationwide initiative to return America to the principles on which she was founded, with God at the center of our nation,” wrote AFA president Tim Wildmon. The goal of the new project, he announced, was to “mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012.”
The project’s website says its mission is “to get unregistered Christians registered to vote, educated in the Biblical worldview, and voting accordingly on Election Day.” As part of this “worldview” education, the group distributes a guide called “Developing a Biblical Worldview,” which explains that “there are basically two worldviews: Biblical and atheistic.” The guide includes a helpful “worldview comparison chart” contrasting the two mindsets. For instance, the guide reports, the biblical worldview on marriage is “one man united with one woman” while the atheistic worldview is “lives by no real moral code – do whatever feels good, no accountability, self serving, me focused.”
As well as its get out the vote efforts, the group organized a series of conferences in the lead-up to the 2012 election, including one organized by Christian Nation and Dominionist advocate David Lane, who famously predicted that God would arrange car bombings in cities across the country in reaction to an openly gay poet’s reading at the inauguration. The group produced DVDs of Lane’s event to distribute to voter mobilization house parties.
United In Purpose has also provided steady funding to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the group run by evangelical immigration reform proponent Sam Rodriguez. In 2012, UIP granted $30,000 to Rodriguez’s group. In 2011, it provided Rodriguez’s group with $300,000, nearly one-third of its entire budget. Rodriguez’s support for immigration reform has caused him to be painted as something of a moderate in the media, but he is in fact a conservative culture warrior and a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement closely tied to Seven Mountains dominionism. Until 2011, Rodriguez was a vice president of the dominionist Oak Initiative.
The speakers at this week’s summit in Dallas include prominent advocates of Seven Mountains theology, including Garlow and Barton. Beck has also featured Seven Mountains dominionists on his program.
During the 2012 presidential primary, Scarborough urged GOP voters to reject Mitt Romney because of his Mormonism, saying, “Because of the state of the spiritual life of our country right now, I just think that’s a place I don’t want to go.” (Although in the same interview, he went out of his way to praise Beck, also a Mormon, as “most prominent spokesperson for our values in the radio field.”) Garlow also fought against Romney’s nomination, saying he was not “visceral on the issues that are cardinal to me.”
We can imagine that the leaders gathered in Dallas today are disappointed in how their efforts turned out in 2012 and are looking for a change in strategy for launching candidates with their own “biblical worldview” into office.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
WallBuilders' Barton: "The Bible Prohibits 'Gender Bender' Day In Elementary School" | Right Wing Watch
David Barton recently spoke at Victory Family Church in Decatur, Texas where he delivered his standard presentation about how every single aspect of American life and society ought to be governed according to the Bible, and that includes putting an end to things like “gender bender" days at elementary schools because "the Bible says you absolutely cannot do that."
"The Bible explicitly condemns cross-dressing," Barton said. “That’s not just a cute little thing that happened at school, that’s a biblically-addressed issue.”
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW