Yesterday on “Trunews,” Family Research Council executive vice president Jerry Boykin said that President Obama has committed impeachable offenses but is getting off scott-free because the president, with help from the Muslim Brotherhood and LGBT advocates, is “brainwashing” Americans.
Boykin said that Obama “orchestrated the invasion” of child migrants fleeing Central America into the U.S. in order to “establish a voter bloc that would be in perpetuity would be a bloc for the Democrats.”
“It is treasonous behavior,” Boykin said, explaining that Obama should be impeached “but nobody is going to do it” and so now he is going to become America’s all-powerful “King.”
Boykin agreed with host Rick Wiles that Obama is employing Islamist-Marxist “psy-ops,” or psychological operations, to manipulate Americans in order to hold onto power.
“The Islamists are running an influence campaign, trying to change our thinking and you saw the evidence of that when the president stood up last week and said ‘ISIS is not Islam,’ that’s an influence campaign, that’s brainwashing the American people trying to get them to believe that nonsense,” he said. “You see that also with the Marxists, Marxists are doing exactly the same thing. The LGBT lobby is doing the same thing, they are bombarding us with this messaging that is really about changing the way we think, changing our attitude.”
The two right-wing commentators then agreed that Obama is a full-blown Marxist and “the first ‘Red’ president.”
Two crazy right-wing kooks.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said today that the separation of church and state in the United States has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremist groups like ISIS, arguing in his radio commentary that ISIS has “filled the void left by secularism.”
According to Perkins, American ISIS militants wouldn’t have left the country to fight for the group if only the government had promoted Christianity over other faiths.Where there is no vision, the people perish. Hello, this is Tony Perkins with the Family Research Council in Washington. Americans have been shocked to see the brutality and barbarism of the Islamic militants of ISIS, and they’ve been stunned by the revelations that radicalized Americans have joined their ranks and taken up their cause. Pundits and politicians alike have publicly pondered the question as to how young Americans can be sucked into such an evil venture. While it may be troubling, the answer is not hard. Radical secularism that has driven the defining characteristics of our Western culture, our Judeo-Christian heritage, from our schools, our entertainment and even our government has left in its place a void, a vacuum. And we should know from experience that a vacuum will be filled by something. Without a creedal vision that a society can unify around, the people, the nation, will perish. Unless we are content to allow ISIS or some other radical belief system to fill the void left by secularism, we must rediscover America’s founding, Christ-centered vision.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who now styles himself as an Islamic scholar, said on his “Washington Watch” radio show yesterday that members of militant groups like ISIS are the real Muslims who are truly “practicing their faith.”
Islam is such a danger, Perkins explained, that Muslim-Americans should not have the same religious freedoms as other citizens.
Perkins, who was responding to a caller who worried that mosques in her hometown are harboring terrorist sleeper cells, said the vast majority of Muslims who aren’t committing acts of violence are all phony Muslims who “don’t really believe the Quran or practice it as its written.”
He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”
“Those things will tear and destroy the fabric of a democracy,” he said. “So we have to be very clear about our laws and restrain those things that will harm the whole. We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Chrsitian God.”
Perkins has previously described Islam as “evil” and said that LGBT-inclusive Christians shouldn’t have the same religious rights as conservatives because they aren’t real Christians.
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
Robertson was promoting his new book, “unPHILtered: The Way I See It.” And the way he sees it is this:
“Do you think it’s a coincidence that all of these debilitating — and literally that can cause death — diseases follow that kind of conduct? God says, ‘One woman, one man,’ and everyone says, ‘Oh, that’s old hat, that’s that old Bible stuff.’”
Robertson explains that married heterosexual couples are “not going to get chlamydia, and gonorrhea, and syphilis, and AIDS.”
“[E]ither it’s the wildest coincidence ever that horrible diseases follow immoral conduct, or, it’s God saying, ‘There’s a penalty for that kind of conduct.’ I’m leaning toward there’s a penalty toward it.”
Last year, Robertson set off a firestorm after GQ magazine quoted him making racist statements and anti-gay remarks in which he linked homosexual behavior to bestiality.Via: Good As You
From the 09.09.2014 edition of FRC’s Washington Watch:
h/t: LGBTQ Nation
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council thinks the Founding Fathers would be upset by the push to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, warning on “Washington Watch” yesterday that a constitutional amendment would be “dangerous” to the country.
Perkins said amendment supporters “think they know better than the Founding Fathers” and seek to “rewrite the First Amendment to essentially silence political speech and strip it out of the First Amendment.”
He said he can’t believe anyone would support an amendment to allow voters to pass campaign finance regulations, even though a majority of voters, including Republicans, support an amendment [PDF].
Perkins previously claimed that overturning Citizens United is a sign of anti-Christian persecution, even going so far as to link the effort to the imprisonment of a Christian Sudanese woman.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Filling in for Tony Perkins on yesterday’s edition of “Washington Watch,” former Southern Baptist Convention official Richard Land discussed the defeat of an LGBT non-discrimination measure in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with Gene Mills of the right-wing Louisiana Family Forum.
Land and Mills both claimed that the ordinance barring employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would actually, in Land’s words, “suppress the freedom of speech.”
“Homosexuality and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community, that is the ultimate rebellion against God,” Land declared. “We don’t want them to take away from us the right to say that, to say that’s a rebellion against God.”
Mills replied: “And that’s exactly what they were doing, they were going to use a cause of action against us to silence — and that is what is happening in ‘everywhere USA’ — religious liberty is under assault…. Any expression, any thought, anything you just shared, could have been construed as a hate crime or an act of discrimination, and the reality is the shame and the guilt the homosexual feels is mistakenly reinterpreted as discrimination and what they attempt to do is to call it discrimination and prohibit it.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, approximately 200 cities have non-discrimination ordinances in place. If anything Mills or Land said in the interview was true, then pastors around the country would be facing prosecution… but they’re not because the two Religious Right activists are completely dishonest.
STFU, Richard Land!
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
In a fundraising email today, FRC Action — the Family Research Council’s political arm — announced that it is “working closely with Senator Ted Cruz to take the lead” in opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to roll back Citizens United and related Supreme Court rulings that struck down federal campaign finance rules.
FRC president Tony Perkins has also picked up Cruz’s talking points about the subject, claiming in the email that an amendment restoring the power of Congress to regulate election spending would “scrap” the First Amendment and ultimately allow liberals to “quash our freedom of speech; to silence our calls for liberty and self-government; to muzzle the Christian viewpoint; to make the debate totally one-sided; to brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be.”
In reality, the amendment would return to Congress and state governments the ability to place reasonable regulations on campaign spending, a power they had until very recently.
I thought I’d seen it all.
I thought the First Amendment was settled. I thought freedom of speech — the fundamental bulwark of liberty at the very heart of our republic — was so basic to our American way of life, no liberal would have the audacity to suggest scrapping it.
But I was wrong.
It’s utterly outrageous to suggest gutting the First Amendment. It is critically important to our national life. Freedom of speech, especially political speech, sets us apart from most other countries in the world. It keeps liberty alive.
It seems Democrats want “free speech” to consist only of government-authorized speech.
They claim they want to cut back on the influence of “special interests” in election campaigns. But of course, the “special interests” they want to silence are organizations like FRC Action. They want to muzzle you and me.
This is not about “election accountability.” This is a naked power grab.
This amendment to the Constitution would give the foxes the keys to the henhouse. Those in power — whom FRC Action is committed to holding accountable — would now have the ability to silence us, to gag us, to strip us of our right to fully engage in the political process.
Interestingly, if such a far-fetched alteration of our Constitution were to actually take place, there is a particularly strong group that would be protected — the press! Democrats’ liberal allies in the mainstream media would retain their free political speech, while organizations like FRC Action would lose theirs.
Maybe you’re thinking: they can’t seriously think such a proposal would make it through Congress. And you would be right: they don’t.
This is a bald-faced tactic for firing up the Democrats’ base — to get more liberal voters to swarm the polls in the midterm elections this November.
But if we remain silent, if we simply sit and roll our eyes at the absurdity of it all … liberals in Congress will be emboldened to keep pushing in this deadly direction.
The Left would love nothing more than to quash our freedom of speech; to silence our calls for liberty and self-government; to muzzle the Christian viewpoint; to make the debate totally one-sided; to brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be.
We’re working closely with Senator Ted Cruz to take the lead in exposing this outrage and in challenging any attempt to rewrite our Bill of Rights.
H/T: Miranda Blue at RWW
While guest-hosting yesterday’s edition of the Family Research Council radio show “Washington Watch,” Rep. Louie Gohmert fielded a call from a Sandy Hook truther who asked the Texas congressman to watch and pray over a video, Sofia Smallstorm’s “Sandy Hook Hoax: Ultimate Case Closed Debunked.”
Sandy Hook truthers generally believe that the elementary school shooting was a hoax designed to justify the enactment of new gun laws.
Gohmert was quite receptive to the caller’s suggestion: “I will sure do that, Sandy, I’m always learning new things and appreciate the input. Thanks for that thought and I will check out Sofia Smallstorm’s video and find out what it is that is so compelling.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
GATHERING OF LEMMINGS, OR COLLECTIVELY, WHY I LEFT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY: FRC Announces 2014 Values Voters Summit Lineup: A Cavalcade Of Crackpots [TW: Anti-LGBT Bigotry, Homophobia]
Tony Perkins fancies himself to be a GOP presidential candidate kingmaker, so it will be interesting to see if any not entirely crazy Republicans will join the above careening clown car crowded with the cavalcade of crackpots who failed in 2012, some of whom (Paul, Perry, Santorum) are expected to make a 2016 run. Ted Cruz won last year’s Values Voters Summit presidential straw poll with 42% of the vote, the largest margin ever seen in that poll’s history and light years ahead of runners-up Frothy Mix and Ben Carson, who barely landed in the double digits.
Richard Land, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm, is sick and tired of liberal public school propaganda about slavery in colonial America and the early United States. Subbing for Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on yesterday’s “Washington Watch” radio show, Land told listeners that Americans “ended slavery, we didn’t bring slavery to North America.”
He added that Native Americans were “enslaving each other before we got there.” While it is the case that some Native American groups did engage in various forms of slavery, there is no parallel between that and the vast scale of the American slavocracy.
Land, who left his position at the SBC after making (plagiarized) racial comments regarding the Trayvon Martin case, said that people should watch Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie rather than believe their public school education.Movies and books like Dinesh D’Souza’s book ‘America’ are so important because if you are younger than forty and you’ve been taught in the public schools, you have not learned the real story of America. You have been taught a lie about America as a colonial power, as a rapacious power. As Dinesh points out, we ended slavery, we didn’t bring slavery to North America. Slavery was there, the Native Americans were enslaving each other before we got here. Eventually, we ended slavery. We have been a civilizing influence in the world.
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
Citing the supposed persecution of Christian service members, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said today that the Obama administration is imposing Islamic law in the military.
The Family Research Council came out yesterday with a report on “hostility to religion in America,” a collection of anecdotes from the past 14 years supposedly illustrating the persecution of conservative Christians in the U.S.
Some anecdotes highlighted in the report are troubling incidents that FRC admits were later rectified. Others are incidents that we might not all count as examples of religious hostility — for instance Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean being “mocked and ridiculed” for her answer to a question on same-sex marriage in 2009. Still others are stories of dubious accuracy — for instance, the story of a girl in Florida supposedly punished for praying at school, who just so happened to be the daughter of the man in charge of promoting Todd Starnes’ book on Christian persecution.
And then there was this:
Minister’s Invitation to National Prayer Luncheon Revoked because of His Comments on Homosexuality in the Military – February 2010*
An ordained minister and Marine Corps veteran was punished for speaking out on a topic unrelated to his planned comments at the National Prayer Luncheon at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C. The minister criticized President Obama’s call to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, resulting in his invitation to speak at the National Prayer Luncheon being rescinded. The minister criticized the action as “black-listing” to suppress unwanted viewpoints.
Who is this unnamed minister who was disinvited from the National Prayer Luncheon? He wasn’t just a minister who had criticized “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal. He was none other than the Family Research Council’s own president Tony Perkins.
This attempt to gloss over Perkins’ identity to make him seem like an innocent bystander to a vast anti-Christian agenda highlights a key strategy in the Religious Right’s persecution narrative. Like David and Jason Benham, who lost a TV contract with HGTV after Right Wing Watch reported on their vocal and public anti-gay, anti-choice activism (and who are also featured in FRC’s report), Tony Perkins is not just a private citizen who holds anti-gay views. He’s the leader of a major organization that opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with misleading claims and demeaning rhetoric. You can agree or disagree with Perkins being disinvited from the prayer luncheon. But FRC would like us to believe that disagreement with Tony Perkins is the very same thing as hostility to religion.
H/T: Miranda Blue at RWW
The United States is still a democratic republic, formally, but what that actually means in practice is increasingly in doubt — and the Hobby Lobby ruling, deeply disingenuous and sharply at odds with centuries of Anglo-American law, exemplifies how that formal reality is increasingly mocked in practice. It is a practice best described as neo-feudalism, taking power away from ordinary citizens, in all their pluralistic, idiosyncratic diversity, and handing it over to corporations and religious dictators in both the public and the private realm. The Supreme Court’s actions are not taking place in a vacuum — though they are filling one: As Tea Party Republicans in the House increasingly bring democratic self-government to a halt, contracting the power of we the people to act as a cohesive self-governing whole, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority shifts ever more everyday power into the hands of private dictatorships.
Hobby Lobby handed for-profit corporations religious rights for the first time in history — a radical break with all previous precedent, and yet a part of a recent pattern, as Norm Ornstein rightly pointed out:
[F]or the majority on the Roberts Court, through a series of rulings that favor corporations over labor or other interests, it is clear that corporations are king, superior to individual Americans—with all the special treatment in taxes and protection from legal liability that are unavailable to us individuals, and now all the extra benefits that come with individual citizenship. Call it the new Crony Capitalism.
The expansion of corporate power in Hobby Lobby has gotten too little attention, and I’ll return to discuss this further below. But the advancement of theocracy — religious dictatorship — is even less clearly seen through the fog of right-wing propaganda about “religious liberty.”
First, however, an important highlight of a neglected aspect of the Hobby Lobby case, the fact that Hobby Lobby’s self-professed belief appeared out of nowhere just in time for them to file suit, as Stephanie Mencimer noted in March:
The company admits in its complaint that until it considered filing the suit in 2012, its generous health insurance plan actually covered Plan B and Ella (though not IUDs). The burden of this coverage was apparently so insignificant that God, and Hobby Lobby executives, never noticed it until the mandate became a political issue.
In short, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus — as well as being scientifically invalid, since none of the methods involved are abortifacients, as Hobby Lobby claims. These would not matter if they only guided individual private conduct; that’s precisely what religious freedom actually means. You’re free to be a religious hypocrite, because letting someone else judge your sincerity can lead too easily to real religious tyranny. But when you’re already in a position to tyrannize others — as Hobby Lobby is — that’s a whole different ballgame. The tyrant’s freedom is everyone else’s slavery.
Historically, theocracy meant top-down religiously sanctioned dictatorship, exemplified in Western history by the divine right of kings philosophy. No one reads John Locke’s “First Treatise on Civil Government” anymore, because it is a refutation of the divine right of kings — one might as well read a refutation of four element theory in physics class. Locke’s “Second Treatise” provided a sharply contrasted legitimate foundation for civil government — the social contract and the consent of the governed. This is the air we breathe, and have been breathing ever since America was born.
And yet, theocracy and democracy are not two utterly distinct phenomena. Theocracy can well hold sway inside the family, for example, while the larger society retains its democratic form. More to the point, one stream of extreme Christian theocratic thinking — the dominion theology of the New Apostolic Reformation — has no problem (initially, at least) assimilating its goals of a theocratic government with the existing two-party electoral system. As researcher Rachel Tabachnick explains:
Instead of escaping the earth (in the Rapture)* prior to the turmoil of the end times, they [the NAR] teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of Charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or “Kingdom” on earth.
In early 2010, a leading NAR figure, Edgardo Silvoso, founder of International Transformation Network, which played a major role in promoting and passing Uganda’s anti-gay legislation, confidently said, “It doesn’t matter if the Republican or the Democratic candidate wins the governorship [of Hawaii]. Either one is already in the kingdom.” It didn’t turn out that way, because Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii’s popular long-term U.S. representative, defeated both the NAR-supported candidates — one in the Democratic primary, the other in the general election. Still, Silvoso’s vision might have come true, there could have been a contested two-party election in which both candidates were Christian dominionists — and most in the media (and thereby the public) wouldn’t even have known what was going on.
Sarah Palin was the NAR’s first full-throated state governor (revealing videos here), but Rick Perry has strong NAR connections as well — the religious kickoff to his 2012 presidential campaign was entirely an NAR-run event. But the point here is a broader one: The dividing line between theocracy and a democratic republic is not nearly as sharp as most might suppose, in fact, there may not actually be such a line, only a zone of blurriness for everything involved.
While the NAR represents an international evangelical grass-roots force of remarkable power for how little press attention it has gained, the theocratic push from above in America — duplicity framed in terms of “religious liberty” — comes from a Catholic/Protestant alliance forged in antiabortion political battles of the past 30-plus years, which is also undercovered and poorly understood in the mainstream corporate media, despite being grounded in a phalanx of powerful organizations, from the high-profile Family Research Council and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, through more specialized think tanks and legal advocacy organizations, such as the Becket Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom. A useful reference is ”Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights” by Jay Michaelson, published by Political Research Associates in March 2013. In it, he writes:
While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument repurposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays, and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned antidiscrimination arguments on their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.
In the “religious liberty” framework, the Christian Right attacks access to contraception, access to abortion, same-sex marriage, and antidiscrimination laws—not on moral grounds (e.g., that contraception is morally wrong or that LGBTQ rights violate “family values”) but because they allegedly impinge upon the religious freedoms of others (e.g., by forcing employers to violate their religion by providing contraception coverage)….
In fact, there is not a single “religious liberty” claim that does not involve abridging someone else’s rights.
As I’ve already indicated, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus, but this need not always be the case. What is the case is that the inversion Michaelson describes — that of turning anti-discrimination arguments on their heads — both derives from and contributes to states of confusion in which all manner of bogus claims may flourish. As I noted above, there are legitimate reasons why the content of religious beliefs should not be scrutinized when considering questions of free exercise. But when religion is being imposed upon others, the presumptions ought to be reversed; we ought to be extremely reluctant to allow anyone to impose their religious beliefs on anyone else, no matter how light or innocent that imposition might be claimed to be. The views themselves as well as the manner they are imposed on others ought to be scrutinized as rigorously as possible. Don’t want your religious beliefs questioned? Then don’t impose them on others. When push comes to shove, real religious freedom can be just as simple as that.
And the phony “religious freedom” crowd knows it, which helps explain why outright lies repeatedly slip into their arguments, as Michaelson’s report makes clear. For example, anti-gay “religious freedom” advocates routinely repeat the lie that legalizing same-sex marriage means forcing churches to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies against their will — a flat-out lie.
Legalized civil divorce did not force the Catholic Church to marry divorced individuals, and legalized same-sex marriage would not force them to marry gay individuals, either. Institutional religious practice is almost entirely insulated from civil law. What does change are the rules applying to society at large. Michaelson explains:
Typically, there are five tiers of actors:
1. Churches, clergy, and religious institutions
2. Religious organizations
3. Religiously affiliated organizations
4. Religiously owned businesses
5. Religious individuals
The law treats these tiers differently: churches are rarely required to obey antidiscrimination laws, for example, but religious organizations may be, and religious-owned businesses are. Conservative “religious liberty” rhetoric deliberately misstates harms upward, and tactically expands exemptions downward. On the one side, no clergy will ever have to solemnize any marriage against her/his beliefs, yet restrictions on tier 4 or 5 individuals are cynically extended by conservative messaging to tier 1.
Michaelson then addresses the context of the Hobby Lobby case:
On the other side, conservative “religious liberty” advocates are clearly pursuing a staged plan to migrate extensions downward. In the current HHS benefit battle, for example, the Obama administration first exempted tiers 1 and 2, and then, in February 2013, exempted tier 3. Yet still the Becket Fund has objected that “millions of Americans”—i.e., tiers 4 and 5—are still unprotected.
And this is precisely the logic that the Hobby Lobby decision pursued. The Obama administration’s exemptions of Tiers 1 and 2 were not seen as signs of respect for religious liberty, in line with traditional practice, nor was its further exemption of Tier 3 seen as going the extra mile in a spirit of conciliation. Instead, the accommodation made for Tier 3 was used by Justice Alito to argue for similar treatment for Tier 4. The end result is that women in more than half the nation’s workforce can now be deprived by their employers of their most basic reproductive rights, involving birth control, not abortion.
But that’s just one side of the story. There’s also the economic, corporate power side, where things are a bit more complicated. I quoted above from Norm Ornstein, making the point that Hobby Lobby was part of a broader pattern of shifting power into corporate hands. But it’s striking that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce did not weigh in on the Hobby Lobby Case — it produced no amicus brief. In fact, as noted by David H. Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center, “the only noteworthy corporate voices to weigh in — the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce — actually came down against them [Hobby Lobby and its supporters].” Gans also notes another brief from dozens of corporate and criminal law professors, “who argued that Hobby Lobby’s argument would eviscerate the fabric of corporate law, undercutting the corporate veil that protects owners and shareholders from liability for the actions of the corporation.” The brief itself begins laying out its argument thus:
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga each asserts that the religious values of its present controlling shareholders should pass through to the corporation itself. This Court should reject any such “values pass-through” concept. To do otherwise would run contrary to established principles of corporate law.
The essence of a corporation is its “separateness” from its shareholders. It is a distinct legal entity, with its own rights and obligations, different from the rights and obligations of its shareholders. This Court has repeatedly recognized this separateness.
This is yet another indication of how radically the Hobby Lobby decision departs from the existing fabric of Anglo-American law. And yet, there are clearly some in the corporate world who welcome this development, and it’s surely no accident that the same five justices produced both Hobby Lobby and Citizens United. So what’s going on here?
The best answer I know of comes from political scientist Corey Robin, and it involves looking much deeper than the framework of corporate law. The day the decision came down, Robin published “A Reader’s Guide to Hobby Lobby,” listing what he called “a few posts I’ve written over the years that should help put the Supreme Court’s decision in theoretical and historical perspective.” They’re all well worth reading, but I want to focus on just one of them, the first of two that Robin described thus:
2. Second, two posts on free-market types and birth control, how even the most libertarian-ish free-wheeler seeks to control women’s bodies: Love For Sale: Birth Control from Marx to Mises and Probing Tyler Cowen: When Libertarians Get Medieval on Your Vagina.
In “Love for Sale,” Robin discusses Ludwig von Mises‘ classic 1922 text ”Socialism,” and some contemporary discussions concerning it, particularly its fourth chapter, “The Social Order and the Family.” Here is where Robin gets to the heart of the matter:
The real reason Mises’s arguments about women are so relevant, it seems to me, is that in the course of making them he reveals something larger about the libertarian worldview: libertarianism is not about liberty at all, or at least not about liberty for everyone. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Here’s Mises describing the socialist program of “free love”:
Free love is the socialists’ radical solution for sexual problems. The socialistic society abolishes the economic dependence of woman which results from the fact that woman is dependent on the income of her husband. Man and woman have the same economic rights and the same duties, as far as motherhood does not demand special consideration for the women. Public funds provide for the maintenance and education of the children, which are no longer the affairs of the parents but of society. Thus the relations between the sexes are no longer influenced by social and economic conditions….The family disappears and society is confronted with separate individuals only. Choice in love becomes completely free.
Sounds like a libertarian paradise, right? Society is dissolved into atomistic individuals, obstacles to our free choices are removed, everyone has the same rights and duties. But Mises is not celebrating this ideal; he’s criticizing it. Not because it makes people unfree but because it makes people — specifically, women — free. The problem with liberating women from the constraints of “social and economic conditions” is that … women are liberated from the constraints of social and economic conditions.
If you want to know why libertarians reflexively embrace the National Rifle Association’s vision of freedom, but not Planned Parenthood’s (contrasting visions I discussed here), you need look no further. This passage also helps explain why there’s at least a germ of historical sense in the otherwise ridiculous Tea Party accusation that Obama is a “socialist”! By using government to empower women to make their own reproductive choices — not just in theory, but for real — Obamacare’s reproductive healthcare mandate really is acting in the socialist spirit as Mises described it, however market-based the mechanisms involved may be.
But it’s worth lingering a bit further with the socialist vision as Mises describes it, because it is so intimately bound up in what a functioning democratic republic actually does, or at least has the potential to do, when, for example, we take the Constitution’s general welfare clause seriously. What the socialists want, Mises argues, is to eliminate all manner of “natural inequalities”. This would, ironically, make everyone—not just privileged, straight, white males of means — into classic libertarian subjects, exercising their own, individual, unconstrained and uncoerced free choice. And this is the very last thing that libertarians actually want.
This helps explain why, for example, today’s Tea Party Republicans reject unemployment insurance as “socialist” — if someone out of work has any freedom at all to hold out for a job that will cover their mortgage, say, that’s socialism as Mises would describe it. And he has a point: socialism really is just another word for collectively removing the hidden and semi-hidden forms of coercion that otherwise shape and control our everyday lives. That’s why public education is socialist, too — and why Democratic politicians as well as Republicans are so eager to destroy it nowadays. But none of these other examples is quite as visceral or far-reaching as that of giving women reproductive autonomy equal to that of men.
This, then, is the bottom line: Conservatives (including libertarians) stand for the preservation and reinforcement (if necessary) of purportedly “natural” inequalities, which automatically structure all of society into overlapping forms of dominance and submission, in which the vast majority of people are inherently unfree “by nature.” Any collective action taken to free people from such dependent, powerless living conditions is anathema to them. Democracy itself is anathema to them. And Hobby Lobby is just the latest signal that they are firmly in charge.
Do they contradict themselves? Of course! So what? Do facts or logic matter anymore? Don’t be ridiculous! Dictatorship means never having to say you’re sorry — much less even a teensy bit wrong. The damages done to the structure and logic of corporate law? Irrelevant!
At the beginning, I wrote, “The United States is still a democratic republic, formally, but what that actually means in practice is increasingly in doubt.” This doubt can simply be summarized in the fact that any action to promote the general welfare will be automatically blocked and denounced as “socialism” by Tea Party Republicans in the House, while at the same time, the 5-4 conservative majority in the Supreme Court rewrites decades or centuries of precedent to further empower the most powerful elements in our society, to the ever-deepening detriment of the whole.
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.