This weekend, Republican elected officials including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and Gov. Bobby Jindal will take part in what has become an annual ritual for potential GOP presidential contenders: they will seek to curry the favor of the Religious Right by speaking at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit.
In doing so, they put themselves in the company of some of the most radical groups and activists working today to dehumanize LGBT people, roll back reproductive rights, tear down the wall between church and state, and deny free exercise rights to religious minorities.
The Values Voter Summit’s sponsor, the Family Research Council, regularly issues false and demeaning smears about LGBT people and advocates for an America ruled according to the dictates of a small sliver of right-wing Christians. Just this month, the group’s president Tony Perkins suggested that the Constitution’s religious liberty protections do not apply to Muslims.
The other primary sponsors of the event, the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, and Gary Bauer’s American Values have equally if not more egregious records of extremism. In addition, a number of fringe groups are contributing to the conference by sponsoring exhibition tables, including Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which pushes discredited conversion therapy on LGBT people; the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); and the World Congress of Families, which works with activists throughout the world to push harsh anti-gay laws.
But the Values Voter Summit’s speakers do not have to visit the event’s exhibition hall to encounter extremism. They will find plenty of that in their fellow speakers. Below is an introduction to some of the speakers who will be sharing a stage with prominent GOP elected officials at this week’s summit.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, the chief sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. Now a widely recognized spokesman for social conservative causes, Perkins served two terms as a Republican legislator in the Louisiana House of Representatives before launching a failed bid for the U.S. Senate in 2002. Perkins has:
- Contended that the anti-bullying “It Gets Better” project is “immoral,” “disgusting,” and promotes “perversion.”
- Defined efforts by the Obama administration to advance LGBT rights abroad as a push for “radical sexualism” and “global homosexuality.”
- Praised a Uganda bill that would have condemned gays and lesbians to death as an effort to “uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable.”
- Warned that LGBT rights advocates will launch a holocaust against Christians, placing those that oppose same-sex marriage into “boxcars.”
- Suggested that Christian clergy who support LGBT rights should not have the same religious liberties as anti-gay conservatives because “true religious freedom” only applies to those he believes hold “orthodox religious viewpoints.”
- Warned that lawmakers who voted to repeal the military ban on openly gay service members would have “the blood of innocent soldiers on their hands.”
Retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin earned a public rebuke from President George W. Bush when, as a high-ranking official in the Bush Defense Department, he framed the “War on Terror” as a holy war against Islam. He has since built a career as a Religious Right speaker, specializing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Obama conspiracy theories. In 2012, he was named executive vice president of the Family Research Council.
Boykin rejects religious freedom for American Muslims, claiming that Islam “is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian way of life.” In an interview with the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, he called for “no mosques in America.”
Boykin is a leading member of the dominionist group The Oak Initiative, and once told the group that President Obama used health care reform legislation as a cover to establish a private army of Brownshirts loyal just to him. Boykin has also:
- Suggested that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell led to the “absolute destruction of our military.”
- Described CIA head John Brennan as “very sympathetic to the jihadist cause.”
- Denounced the repeal of laws banning women from military combat service.
- Blamed the Sandy Hook school massacre on the presence of secularism in society.
Mat Staver is the dean of the Liberty University School of Law and the founder and chairman of its affiliate, Liberty Counsel, which is a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. At a previous Values Voter Summit, Staver claimed that progressives are using LGBT rights and secular government in order to “ultimately implode America” and that the “agenda of the homosexual movement” is to destroy freedom and Western civilization. Through his position at Liberty Counsel, Staver has:
- Suggested that the president was using health care reform to create his own personal army of Brownshirts.
- Claimed that President Obama “does not respect America” and wants to intentionally cripple the country so he can gain global power.
- Called the legalization of same-sex marriage “the beginning of the end of Western Civilization,” warning it will lead to “forced homosexuality.”
- Claimed that Obamacare has forced Americans to “participate in a genocide” worse than the persecution that occurred in Nazi Germany.
- Defended Malawi’s law criminalizing homosexuality and said U.S. opposition to criminalization was “immoral.”
- Alleged that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, if passed, would lead to child molestation, sexual assault, and even death.
Gary Bauer is the president of Values Voter Summit sponsor American Values, a former president of the Family Research Council, and one-time Republican presidential hopeful. While serving in the Reagan administration as a Department of Education official, Bauer was named chairman of the president’s Special Working Group on the Family. Bauer has:
- Reacting to A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for racist and homophobic remarks, declared that progressives are waging a “jihad against America’s cultural norms,”
- Warned that President Obama is “obsessed” with LGBT issues, and claimed that his “secular” agenda will “destroy” America.
- Claimed that Supreme Court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage were acts of “judicial terrorism” putting America on “the verge of criminalizing the Book of Genesis.”
- Wondered why African Americans keep “falling through the cracks of society despite the fact that “every major goal” of Martin Luther King, Jr. has been reached.
James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and of the Family Research Council, currently hosts a “Family Talk” radio program and is a frequent guest panelist on Fox News. He is known for his extremist stances against reproductive health rights, homosexuality, and the separation of church and state. Dobson has:
- Likened conditions in the U.S. under the Obama administration to oppression in Nazi Germany.
- Argued that marriage equality will bring about the disintegration of society.
- Warned that American Christians should prepare for imminent persecution and imprisonment.
- Described the Sandy Hook school massacre as an act of God that allowed “judgment to fall upon us” for things like abortion rights and marriage equality.
Twin brothers Jason and David Benham were catapulted to national attention this year when an HGTV show that they were set to star in was cancelled following revelations about their anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Muslim activism. Since the show’s cancellation, the brothers have become a cause célèbre for the Religious Right, which has lifted them up as an example of the supposed persecution of conservative Christians in America. One or both of the brothers have:
- Asserted that the LGBT equality movement is part of a “spiritual fight" between God and the “kingdom run by Satan.”
- Urged the city of Charlotte, NC to deny permits to an LGBT Pride event, calling it a “vile” and “destructive” activity that “should not be allowed in our city.”
- Compared the fight against marriage equality to opposing Nazi Germany.
- Called an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity” and referred to Muslims as “the enemy attacking” America.
- Organized a prayer rally to coincide with the 2012 Democratic National Convention, declaring that America must repent for “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation.”
- Led protests outside of abortion clinics, praising anti-choice demonstrators for taking a stand at “the gates of hell” and confronting the “altars of Moloch.”
The 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson is a longtime activist who has likened the Democratic Party to the Antichrist, said Planned Parenthood is worse than the Ku Klux Klan, suggested that President Obama is a Muslim and demonic, and fought against efforts to desegregate public housing. Jackson’s most pernicious rhetoric has focused on LGBT people. He has:
- Referred to gays and lesbians as “perverted,” “degenerate,” “spiritually darkened” and “frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally.”
- Criticized abortion and in vitro fertilization as “evils” that carry “the mark of Satan.”
- Argued that gay marriage will release a “torrent of wickedness” that will result in man-animal marriages.
- Said homosexuality is connected to pedophilia and that homosexuality also “poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things we can think of.”
Star Parker is a longtime Religious Right activist who is particularly active in anti-gay and anti-choice advocacy. She has called legal abortion a “genocide” on par with slavery and the Holocaust and blamed “sexual promiscuity” for nearly all financial and societal problems. At the 2011 Values Voter Summit, she claimed that God was getting ready to punish America for marriage equality and legal abortion. Parker has also:
- Declared that LGBT people are forcing Christians “into the closet.”
- Mused that family life for African Americans was “more healthy” under slavery than it is today
- Argued that the rate of HIV infections in Washington, D.C., would spike once the city legalized marriage equality, “transforming [the city] officially into Sodom.”
- Tied same-sex marriage to failing public schools.
Todd Starnes, a Fox News commentator and the author of several books including this year’s “God Less America,” specializes in generating stories of dubious accuracy purporting to illustrate the persecution of conservative Christians in America. Recently, he has:
- Speculated that public school officials oppose abstinence-only programs to protect their “condom profits.”
- Asserted that Obama refuses to take action against ISIS to “accommodate the Islamic faith at the expense of all other faiths.”
- Blamed Obama for “ orchestrating” the protests in Ferguson, Mo., in an effort to exacerbate racial tensions.
- Baselessly accused the University of Wisconsin of intentionally inflating grades to boost the academic performance of minority students.
- Worried that LGBT rights advocates will inevitably demand the deportation of Christians.
Sandy Rios, a former president of Concerned Women for America, now hosts a daily radio show on American Family Radio, the network run by the American Family Association. At last year’s summit, she promoted ex-gay therapy and said Matthew Shepard’s murder was a “complete fraud.” Like other AFR hosts, she frequently promotes right-wing conspiracy theories, including claims that President Obama was not born in the United States . Rios has also:
- Insisted that one of Obama’s first priorities as president was to resettle thousands of Palestinian refugees in the U.S. and provide them with food stamps.
- Advanced the myth that the health care reform law “says that Muslims will be exempt from the government mandate to purchase health insurance.”
- Compared the relationships of same-sex couples to those of kidnapper Ariel Castro and his captives.
- Warned that the “homosexual takeover” of the military would jeopardize the effectiveness of the armed forces.
- Frequently links the gay community to child abuse.
H/T: Drew Courtney at RWW
On Friday, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association attacked journalists Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly, who were detained by police officers while working in a McDonalds in Ferguson, Missouri.
Speaking on her American Family Radio program, Rios called Lowery a “punk of a reporter” who was “causing trouble, trying to make the officer mad,” adding: “These are the men, these are the young men of our country, these are the guys who are going to defend the next generation, these are the future fathers of America’s children. That’s pretty scary, isn’t it?”
Sandy Rios: your typical piece-of-shit right-wing Ferguson PD apologist.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Another day, another example of the Religious Right’s persecution complex. On today’s edition of “Sandy Rios in the Morning,” listeners heard the sad tale of Laurie Higgins, a cultural analyst at the American Family Association-affiliated Illinois Family Institute, who spoke of the “liberal intolerance” and “persecution” she encountered in her previous work as a high school administrator.
Higgins described how she was demoted and shunned by her colleagues because she spoke out against “pro-homosexual resources,” like “Angels in America,” being available to students in the school library. She was also frustrated by the school’s “complete unwillingness” to include resources on LGBT issues that offered “opposing views.”
Rios and Higgins were shocked that no parents, teachers, or pastors came out in support of her or “dared to stand up for their own faith” in fear of the “authoritarian regime” of the school system.
“The halcyon days of being Christian in America are over,” warned Higgins.
In anticipation of the oppression ahead, Higgins advised: “Churches need to do a better job of preparing Christians to endure persecution, because it’s coming.” In her view, if parents and pastors aren’t actively driving LGBT books out of every school library, they “aren’t willing to suffer for Christ.”
- The bill that passed Friday was “tweaked” by House Republicans to be more to the taste of hard-right members like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who said the final bill looked “like I ordered it off the menu.”
- The alterations are in line with King’s views that the U.S. needs to crack down on immigration because, according to him, our nation’s borders were established by God, and disrespecting said borders is disrespecting God’s will. (He also called President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program the “deferred action for criminal aliens,” and added that “a significant number” of the migrants arriving are actually drug smugglers.)
- Naturally, one way to contain them all, King believes, is to house them all in a tent city along the border.
- At least he doesn’t believe that child migrants should be gassed to death, though Minuteman Project leader Jim Gilchrist did sympathize with a caller who made that suggestion last Thursday.
- Gilchrist also accused religious groups that support immigration reform of being “non-violent cartels” aiding the “21st century slave trade.”
- Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on the other hand, believes the children fleeing violence in Central American in large numbers are going to be put into the foster care system and used for medical experimentation.
- However, just a few days before, Bachmann claimed that the children coming in from the southern border are actually people from “terrorist nations” making their way up and bringing with them “very dangerous weapons” and “life-threatening diseases” like Ebola.
- Sandy Rios compared undocumented children to adulterers.
- According to Pat Buchanan, Obama’s possible executive action on immigration is part of the president’s effort to evolve the United States “from a Western and predominantly Christian country into that multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic, borderless land Teddy Roosevelt inveighed against as nothing but a ‘polyglot boarding house for the world. Obama did not like the America we grew up in… How much more diversity can we handle before there is no unity left?”
- Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, agrees, saying Wednesday that Obama is using the crisis to enforce a “Third World view” demanding that “not only we allow these people to remain, but [also] suggesting we should start teaching our children Spanish.” This “open-border” attitude, according to Stockman, demonstrates how “Obama devalues the principles upon which this country was established.”
- Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, added to the sentiment saying that the country is going to go “communist” if Democrats are allowed to pass immigration reform. So get ready to “kiss our republic goodbye.”
- Anti-immigrant rally speaker and Boston radio host Jeffrey Kuhner also warned that this nation will cease to exist as it is because if we take in the children fleeing violence, we will “be transformed into a socialist third world banana republic,” and Central American children will destroy our country and turn “Massachusetts into Mexichusetts.”
- Ultraconservative columnist Sher Zieve wrote that Obama is trying to stack the deck by replacing “the current population in the US to incorporate non-English speakers who will vote for anyone who gives them free stuff.” The people coming in, Zieve believes, are “hundreds if not thousands of MS-13 gang members and Islamists… including ISIS/ISIL members.”
- William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) warned on Wednesday that an executive order to prevent deportations of some undocumented immigrants would amount to “martial law” and Americans’ response may be actions “outside of the purview of my peaceful and political efforts.”
- Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, claimed that young migrants escaping gang violence in Central America are lying and we are “being invaded and we’re in danger.” Not only is the immigrant “invasion” dangerous because these undocumented immigrants are responsible for thousands of crimes in Texas, he said, but also because Obama’s immigration policy is the real “war on women” since these immigrants cross the border to rape women.
- Gohmert added Friday that he feels victimized by immigration reform proponents because “all these forces against you” are “belittling you, questioning your manhood.” Because comprehensive immigration reform is really about him.
- Pundit Glenn Beck argued that the impeachment “scam” is really being brought up to help pass immigration reform.
For weeks now, anti-immigrant groups have been hyping a “National Day of Protesting Against Immigration Reform, Amnesty & Border Surge,” meant to be two days of protests in cities across the country in reaction to the Central American children who are coming to the southern border to flee violence in their home countries.
The protests were a bust. Local news reports and pictures posted on social media show anemic turnout, from about 40 people in front of the United Nations in New York to just three at a McClellan, Texas, border control station who wondered if they had gotten the wrong address.
These small but vitriolic protests, although they didn’t meet the hype of their organizers, tell us everything we need to know about today’s anti-immigrant movement.
1. It’s driven by extremists.
This weekend’s protests were organized by three fringe groups: Make Them Listen, Overpasses for America, and Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.
Overpasses for America is a group led by activist James Neighbors that organizes demonstrations over highway overpasses to call for President Obama’s impeachment. The group went a step further this year when it backed Operation American Spring, an effort meant to flood Washington with protesters and force Obama out of office , which also came up slightly short of expectations .
Overpasses frequently shares images like this on its Facebook page:
The group also uses the platform to share its views on immigrants, including this image and its accompanying caption.
Americans for Legal Immigration is a one-man anti-immigrant hate shop run by North Carolina-based activist William Gheen. Gheen has said that “illegal and violent” means might be necessary to remove President Obama from office and has a long record of virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric . Gheen’s last national action was encouraging his supporters to mail used underwear to undocumented immigrants.
Gheen also has ties to the right-wing militia movement: he personally invited the anti-government group Oath Keepers to join the weekend’s protests.
Other groups listed as “participating organizations” in the event included 2 Million Bikers To DC, whose leader wants to repeal all but the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and which deals in racist Facebook images, and Americans Have Had Enough Coalition, which is led by white supremacist Roan Garcia-Quintana .
The largest recent anti-immigrant protests — the attempts to turn back busses of migrant children in Murrieta, California, and Oracle, Arizona — were also populated by anti-government fringe groups. The Murrieta protest, which was organized by activists tied to the Minutemen and the John Birch Society, drew some of the same people who had recently set up shop at the anti-government standoff at the Bundy Ranch.
2. It relies on xenophobia.
Signs and chants at this weekend’s protests show that the movement draws its energy from Nativism and xenophobia.
A number of signs at the events drew from the ginned-up fears of migrant children carrying diseases. In New York, one protester parodied Emma Lazarus, shouting, “bring us your smallpox, bring us your malaria, your scabies.”
Another woman in New York held a sign calling “illegals” and President Obama “cockroaches.”
At the Raleigh event, attended by Gheen himself, protesters in front of the Mexican consulate held a large sign reading “No Way Jose.”
A protester in Texas held a sign saying, “We are a nation of immigrants, not a nation of welfare .”
Another protester in Florida wrote a sign that read, “Send Them Back with Birth Control.”
3. The fringe and the “mainstream” are closely knit.
The weekend’s protests were organized by fringe extremists, but they were promoted by large national groups that have access and influence in national politics.
The largest anti-immigrant organizing groups, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Numbers USA quietly promoted the events: Numbers sent a notice about the events to its email list and a number of FAIR’s state affiliates directed members to events in their areas.
Prominent GOP-tied activists also promoted the events. The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios urged listeners of her radio show to attend events in their area and advertised the protest on Facebook. The Right’s favorite “constitutional scholar” Mark Levin also advertised the rallies on Facebook.
Rep. Steve King, the leading anti-immigrant voice in Congress, was spoke at a sparsely attended protest in Nebraska, telling his audience that the migrant children at the border represent an “invasion” the size of “Santa Ana’s army.”
4. The movement’s running on fumes.
The small turnout at the weekend’s rallies highlights the truth that the anti-immigrant movement is desperately trying to hide: it just doesn’t have that much support.
Reports from cities across the country show just small handfuls of people showing up to yell about the child migrants to passing cars.
About 12 people turned up on an overpass in Milwaukee. A similar number gathered in Oklahoma City and Placentia, California. An event in Dover, Delaware, seems to have attracted about twenty. About eight appear to have made it out to hang an “Obama Sucks” banner on an overpass in Chattanooga. Three people turned up on an overpass in Oregon. San Diego mustered 25 people. A small group of protesters in Columbus, Ohio, were disappointed that so few people had showed up. About 15 people made it to the parking lot of the Mexican consulate in Little Rock; consulate officials and local police assured local news that they weren’t too concerned about needing additional security.
Meanwhile, Think Progress reporters in McClellan, Texas, ran into a group of three anti-immigrant demonstrators who wondered if they had gotten the wrong address for the protest. They were drowned out by the more than 60 people rallying in support of the refugee children at the border.
The protests this weekend were an attempt to create the illusion of widespread outrage at the children coming to the southern border and at the concept of immigration reform. A number of the protest groups, however small, garnered local news coverage and were able to say that they were part of a large nationwide effort. A look at reports from across the country shows that that was not the case.
The anti-immigrant movement, for all its smoke and mirrors, consists of a small network of closely tied advocacy groups who rely on fringe extremists like Gheen and Neighbors to rally scant amounts of grassroots support.
5. The GOP is still listening.
The anti-immigrant movement may be smoke and mirrors, but it has some very influential people fooled. House Speaker John Boehner still refuses to bring immigration reform up for a vote in the House. Ted Cruz now says that deporting DREAMers is his “top priority.” Republicans in Congress, spooked by the victory of ALIPAC-supported David Brat in Virginia, say that immigration reform is dead — even though an overwhelming percentage of Republicans want Congress to take action to fix the immigration system and a majority of Republicans want that to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The child refugee crisis has brought out the true colors of the anti-immigrant movement. Even as some conservative groups are urging compassion and care for the children fleeing to the southern border, Republican leaders seem to be buying the narrative of the small, Nativist anti-immigrant fringe.
H/T: Miranda Blue at RWW
The Republican National Committee recently launched a new outreach arm called GOP Faith to build “an army of activists to encourage pro-faith Americans to vote their values” and named South Carolina GOP chairman Chad Connelly as the party’s Director of Faith Engagement.
Connelly seems to be a good fit, as he peddles messages that are red meat for the Religious Right: Christian Nationalism and fears of a Communist takeover. In his book “Freedom Tide,” Connelly even reprinted the hoax document “Communist Rules for Revolution.”
In an appearance yesterday on Sandy Rios’ American Family Radio show, Connelly said he couldn’t understand how a person of faith could back Democratic candidates. “How does a believer vote that way?” he said, speaking of the Democratic party.
After encouraging more pastors like Jim Garlow to preach politics at the pulpit or run for office themselves, he waxed nostalgic about the days when simply being a Christian was all you needed to be a good candidate for office: “It used to be exalted, if you were a person of integrity, if you were a Christian, people said, ‘Hey I can count on them.’ And now we scratch our heads and wonder why we can’t count on more of these people.”
He also urged pastors to teach members of their congregations how to “vote their values.”
Connelly also told Rios that he was frustrated that in 2012, 22 percent of evangelical Christians “voted completely opposite to what they say they believe” — that is, for President Obama.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
In the wake of Republican incumbent Thad Cochran defeating his Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in the primary race for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association took to her talk show to mourn McDaniel’s loss and in so doing found a way to bring up an old allegation that Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois is gay. The discussing of Kirk came up after Rios blamed McDaniel’s loss on Arizona Senator John McCain,as Right Wing Watch points out:
According to Rios, McCain embarked on a campaign — “and I know about this for personal reasons” — to “purge the Republican Party of conservative candidates” and “turn the Republican Party blue” following the 2008 election.
“He decided that Mark Kirk was his first pick [for ,” Rios said.“Many of us in Illinois at the time, conservatives, knew that this was going to be a disaster.”
After reviewing several controversies that emerged during Kirk’s U.S. Senate campaign that she said showed he “was not an honest person,” Rios said that “we also knew that he was a closet homosexual.”
Previously, when Kirk was running for U.S. Senate Rios penned an article titled, “Do We Have a Right to Know If Candidates Are Gay?,” Rios put to Kirk a series of questions about his sexual orientation:
1) Are you gay?
2) Have you been living with another homosexual Congressman?
3) Were you sued by another male staffer in John Porter’s office for sexual harassment?
Congressman Mark Kirk, please answer these questions. Republican leadership, if you are covering up things the public should know, stop or you will lose even more credibility with your base. And press? Do your job. Your duty is not to defend a lifestyle; it is to report the truth.
Kirk has also been ‘outed’ on the left by blogger Mike Rogers who features prominently in the documentary, Outrage. Though Kirk previously voted against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and opposed an overhaul of DOMA, last year he came out in favor of marriage equality and ENDA.
Kirk was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000 and to the U.S. Senate in 2010. He suffered a stroke in 2012.
While good-government groups have been calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s dismantling of campaign finance laws since the day the Court handed down Citizens United in 2010, the issue has been largely off the radar of conservative activists – and has actually enjoyed broad bipartisan support in an array of polls and in state and municipal ballot measures.
It was largely off their radar, that is, until this week. This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a proposal by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to send a constitutional amendment to the states restoring to Congress and state governments the ability to regulate the raising and spending of money in elections. In response, Republican politicians and conservative activists have kicked into gear and are starting to try out new talking points to get their movement to oppose efforts to lessen the influence of big money in politics.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched the misleading campaign two weeks ago when he warned a group of pastors that the Udall proposal would “repeal the First Amendment” and allow Congress to “muzzle” the free speech of clergy. In advance of the hearing today, conservative groups including the Family Research Council, Eagle Forum, Tea Party Patriots and the Home School Legal Defense Association started to mobilize against the amendment. Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation held a panel discussion to test out arguments against the amendment, featuring Bobby Burchfield, the attorney who argued the McCutcheon case before the Supreme Court, controversial former FEC chairman Don McGahn, and infamous voter-fraud conspiracy theorist Hans van Spakovsky .
Here, we’ve collected some of the most deceptive arguments that have been launched so far against the Udall amendment.
1. Democrats want to repeal the First Amendment!
When we first heard Ted Cruz tell a stunned group of pastors that Democrats in the Senate were planning to “repeal the First Amendment,” we knew that we would be hearing that line again and again.
And we were right. Tea Party Patriots adopted the line in mobilizing its activists, as did the Eagle Forum. The Family Research Council claimed the Udall amendment would “strip political speech out of the First Amendment,” and von Spakovsky told the Heritage panel that the amendment would “roll back” the Bill of Rights.
Burchfield and McGahn both argued that the introduction of the constitutional amendment means, in the words of McGahn, that campaign finance law advocates are “admitting” that campaign finance regulations are “unconstitutional.”
On the surface, this is the opposition’s strongest argument, because it sounds so scary. But it’s just not true. Whether you support the Udall amendment or not, it’s dishonest to suggest that it would amount to a “repeal of the First Amendment.” Instead, proponents argue that it strengthens the First Amendment by undoing the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence declaring that spending on elections, including from corporate treasuries, cannot be limited. Proponents of the Udall amendment hold that this jurisprudence, including recent decisions in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, represented a radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment; undoing them would simply re-establish the ability of Congress and the states to set reasonable regulations on the raising and spending of money to influence elections.
2. Amendment supporters want to ‘silence critics’ and ‘cling to power’!
The Heritage panelists repeatedly claimed that the Udall amendment is an attempt to protect incumbency by preventing challengers from raising enough money to win elections. McGahn insisted that it was an effort by Democratic incumbents “desperately clinging to power.”
“They want to change the rules of the game and prevent people from criticizing them, not unlike England did before our revolution, and which led to our revolution,” he added.
The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios also invoked the American Revolution in an interview with von Spakovsky yesterday, saying, “The First Amendment, the rights to free speech – particularly the right to political speech – were the right to criticize the king, criticize the authorities over you.”
In a later interview with Rios, Tea Party Patriots spokesman Scott Hogenson even managed to connect the Udall amendment with immigration reform, claiming that both are part of a “larger, concerted effort to maintain the Democratic Party’s control of American politics and eventually move to one-party rule.”
In reality, it’s unlimited campaign spending that tends to be a boon for incumbents, who on average are able to raise far more than challengers. For instance, in Texas, a state with few campaign finance limits, incumbents who win on average raise more than twelve times the average amount raised by challengers. By contrast, in Colorado, which has relatively low individual contribution limits, incumbents on average raise less than three times what challengers are able to raise [pdf].
3. Liberals just want to protect the lame-stream media!
In his speech to the pastors’ group, Ted Cruz seized on the Udall proposal’s stipulation that “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press” to claim that the amendment carved out an exemption to protect the New York Times.
Von Spakovsky also played up conservative conspiracy theories about the “liberal media,” telling Rios, “No surprise, there’s a glaring exception in this proposed amendment for the press. And that means that MSNBC or the New York Times Company, which are big corporations, they could spend as much newsprint or airtime as they wanted going after and criticizing candidates or talking about political issues.”
These arguments fail to recognize one key distinction, which is that there is a difference between the New York Times publishing an editorial (which would be protected under the proposed amendment, as it is now) and the corporate managers of the New York Times taking $50 million out of their corporate treasury to buy ads to influence an election (which would not be protected).
4. They’ll go after pastors!
Opponents of the constitutional amendment have also been trying to tie the proposal to the right-wing paranoia about the impending persecution of America’s Christian majority .
It’s no coincidence that Cruz rolled out his criticism of the Udall proposal at a pastors’ event organized by the Family Research Council, a main theme of which was the supposed assault on the religious liberty of Christians in America. Cruz told the pastors that the Udall measure would “muzzle” clergy and was being proposed because “they don’t like it when pastors in their community stand up and speak the truth.”
Likewise, McGahn said at the Heritage event that the amendment would endanger the religious liberty of clergy: “What about pastors and churches? This is an issue that comes up once in a while. Can the government get in there and tell a priest he can’t talk to his congregation because it may somehow have something to do with politics?”
This might be true if the proposal would, in fact, “repeal the First Amendment.” In fact, the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty would remain in place.
Of course, that didn’t stop the FRC’s Tony Perkins from somehow linking the Udall amendment to the imprisonment of a Christian woman in Sudan:
5. It’s like the Alien & Sedition Acts!
Along with comparisons to British control before the American Revolution, amendment opponents are trying to link the Udall proposal to the 18th century Alien & Sedition Acts.
In his interview with Rios yesterday, van Spakovsky claimed that “the last time Congress tried to do something like this was when they passed the Alien & Sedition Act in 1798 that criminalized criticism of the government.” Multiple GOP senators at today’s hearing, including Judiciary Committeee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, repeated the talking point.
Of course, the amendment does nothing to reduce the right of individuals to criticize the government or politicians.
6. The polls are skewed!
When an audience member at yesterday’s Heritage Foundation panel asked about polls showing overwhelming opposition to the Citizens United decision, McGahn replied that the questions in the polls were “skewed.”
You can judge for yourself whether this question from a recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll – which found 80 percent opposition to the Citizens United decision – is “skewed” on behalf of campaign finance law proponents:
7. What about disclosure?
In one of the least self-aware moments we’ve witnessed in the last few days, McGahn told the Heritage audience that campaign finance reform proponents could have just worked for tougher disclosure requirements, which the Supreme Court’s majority has consistently endorsed as a way to prevent corruption:
What’s interesting is the courts have upheld some disclosure of independent speech, which six months ago was supposed to be the answer, a year ago was supposed to be the answer – remember the DISCLOSE Act, Part 1 and Part 2? Well, that was supposed to cure all the ills in our democracy, but unfortunately I guess they’ve given up on that and they’ve moved to the more radical change, which is the constitutional amendment.
Of course, the DISCLOSE Act – which would have exposed the source of some of the “dark money” behind large campaign expenditures – was blocked by Senate Republicans. And McGahn, when he was at the FEC, fought hard against disclosure requirements proposed in the wake of the Citizens United decision, even though the decision explicitly sanctioned such requirements.
8. The poor don’t participate anyway!
Speaking to the Heritage audience, Burchfield presented the curious argument that the Udall amendment would demand to “equalize debate among the haves and have-nots,” and since “the portion is small” of “those with limited means” who participate in electoral debates, this would require “severe restrictions.”
The rich do not advocate a single viewpoint. Think of Sheldon Adelson and George Soros, they don’t agree on anything. There are strong voices on the left and on the right, not just in privately funded campaign advertisements, but also in the broadcast and print media. Only a small portion of those with significant resources even bother to participate in the debate. And among those with limited means, the portion is small indeed. In order to equalize debate among the haves and the have-nots, severe restrictions would be necessary. The quantity and quality of discourse would certainly suffer.
The amendment under consideration doesn’t require that everybody be heard an equal amount; instead, it gives Congress and the states the ability to create a more even platform for those who wish to be heard, regardless of their financial means.
Burchfield’s reasoning echoes the arguments of voter-suppression proponents who claim that their laws only inconvenience people who don’t really care about voting anyway.
9. It’s voter suppression!
Although many of the advocates of unlimited, undisclosed money in politics are the same people pushing harmful voter suppression laws, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas yesterday insisted that it’s actually amendment proponents who are advocating “voter suppression” and want to “silence” critics.
10. Blame Saul Alinsky!
Inevitably, anti-amendment activists have begun invoking the right-wing bogey-man Saul Alinsky.
Hogenson told Rios that the Udall amendment is “just taken right out of Saul Alinksy’s book, ‘Rules for Radicals,’ it just makes up a gigantic lie and perpetuates it, that somehow democracy needs to be restored.”
Von Spakovsky also invoked Alinsky in his interview with Rios, claiming that criticism of the enormous political spending of the Koch brothers is an Alinskyite plot: “What’s really going on here is, look, if you look at Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals,’ one of the rules that he sets out is you pick a villain and you basically blame those villains for all of the problems. It’s a way of distracting the public, it’s a way of diverting attention, and that’s exactly what Harry Reid and the Democrats are doing here.”
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Sandy Rios of the American Family Association once again brought up Michael Sam’s kiss on her anti-gay radio show this week in order to warn that young people “are being brainwashed in public schools” into homosexuality.
She then read a “great” and “encouraging” letter from a 19-year-old viewer who called Sam’s kiss “gross” and noted “the diseases and mental scarring that homosexuality causes.”
The viewer said he has “given up on sports” due to the “liberal media,” pointing to Sam’s kiss as a sign of the End Times and that Christians might soon be “arrested for proclaiming the Gospel.”
Rios later criticized “ESPN’s brazen forcing of this on the male population” and “blatantly making men stop and think about things they don’t really want to ponder.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Rios said on her radio show yesterday that “the Holy Spirit within me is revulsed” by the sight of two men kissing, insisting that most Americans “do not like this” and “don’t like what ESPN is doing and how they’re forcing this on the watchers, the guys, for the most part.”
“I watched it once and it was enough, I couldn’t bear to watch it,” she said. “It’s just such an unnatural act it’s hard to watch, I just don’t want to watch it, I can’t bear it.”
She also claimed Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst is “under a delusion” and warned that her alleged sins “will come to a crashing end.”
Rios also cited the controversy over HGTV discontinuing its work with David and Jason Benham to warn that “we will be called on to give our lives” in the fight against “this rampant, irrational wave of perversion” and its advocates: “You will not prevail, there will not be a good ending.”
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
Fox News contributor Ben Carson is slated to be the keynote speaker at the first Gala dinner of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), becoming the latest Fox figure to appear before an extreme anti-gay group.
In a May 6 email to supporters, NOM President Brian Brown wrote that “it’s 1972 for marriage,” referring to the year before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion and the growing expectation that the Court will take up marriage equality once again by 2015. To protest the frightening possibility that same-sex couples nationwide will soon enjoy civil equality, NOM will hold its second annual March for Marriage in Washington on June 19. Brown’s email touted Carson’s appearance - previously flagged by GLAAD’s Jeremy Hooper - at NOM’s gala that same evening (emphasis original):
It was a crisp winter day in 1973 when the United States Supreme Court issued their horrific decision in Roe v Wade. How much would you sacrifice to go back in time to a few months before that fateful decision, to the Fall of 1972, and mobilize the American people BEFORE the Supreme Court issued that infamous decree?
Just about anything, right? Well, when it comes to marriage, we have that chance!
You see, it’s 1972 for marriage. Within the next 12 months, it is very likely that the United States Supreme Court will take up the marriage issue again. Many people have bought in to the lie that the courts redefining marriage is somehow “inevitable.” Well, I refuse to believe that, because it’s simply not true!
That’s why the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is organizing its second annual March for Marriage this summer on June 19th in Washington, DC — bringing together thousands of marriage activists from all across the country to make sure the elites in our nation’s capital hear loud and clear: Marriage matters because every kid deserves a mom and a dad!
One incredibly courageous leader who is standing up for marriage is Doctor Ben Carson, who will be the keynote speaker at NOM’s first ever Gala dinner on the evening of the March for Marriage. He said in a speech earlier this year that the “P.C. police” have “tried to shut him up” because he’s willing to state his belief publicly that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Although Brown and NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher have billed NOM as an organization focused exclusively on the marriage debate, the group’s anti-gay animus runs deep. Brown calls homosexuality a “sin” that is “deceitful, harmful and degrading to the human soul.” Last year, he traveled twice to Russia to meet with leaders of that country’s draconian anti-gay crackdown and assist with the planning of the 2014 World Congress of Families, which will be held in Moscow in September.
Carson himself has lauded Vladimir Putin’s Russia, writing in February that thanks to the religious conservatism adopted by the current regime, the country was “gaining prestige and influence throughout the world” while the U.S. was at risk of “becoming godless and moving away from Christian values.” His affinity for the vehemently anti-gay Kremlin leader isn’t surprising, given that Carson has compared homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality and called marriage equality “a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.”
Prior to his employment with Fox, Carson spoke before the Illinois Family Institute, a notorious anti-gay hate group once headed by fringe anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera.
NOM is hardly the first anti-gay group to score an appearance from a Fox employee.
Contributor Erick Erickson was the keynote speaker at a recent event for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group working internationally to criminalize homosexuality. Erickson had previously urged readers of his RedState blog to donate money to the group, noting that he had done so himself.
Meanwhile, Carson joined fellow Fox employees Mike Huckabee, Cal Thomas, Todd Starnes, Allen West, and Sandy Rios in speaking at the most recent Values Voters Summit, an annual social conservative event sponsored by right-wing organizations like the Family Research Council, an anti-gay hate group.
Last fall, Huckabee delivered the keynote address at the inaugural convention of Trail Life USA, an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) started by a rabid anti-gay activist in protest of the BSA’s decision to allow openly gay scouts.
With so many Fox employees maintaining warm ties with even the most stridently homophobic social conservative groups, it’s no surprise that American Family Association (AFA) spokesman Bryan Fischer - a man who asserts that gay men were “responsible for the Holocaust" - has lavished praise on Fox for its "very friendly" treatment of hate groups like his own.
Groups like NOM, ADF, the FRC, and the AFA aren’t merely seeking to restrict marriage to straight couples only. They specialize in promoting malicious and damaging smears against LGBT people, who might increasingly have public opinion on their side but are far from achieving full civil equality and continue to be disproportionately targeted by hate crimes. Fox, however, has no qualms about cozying up the most egregious peddlers of anti-LGBT bigotry.
h/t: Luke Brinker at MMFA
American Family Association radio host Sandy Rios said yesterday that she wants to restore the ban on gays in the military because gay people are “disordered” and won’t be able to “provide strong defense for our nation.”
Rios, who is also the AFA’s governmental affairs director, was reacting to a Palm Center study that calls for an end to the military’s prohibition on transgender service members, which led her to a long rant that serves as a great example of heterosexual privilege.Have we been so lulled into silliness and foolishness that we think that transgendered soldiers who are confused about their sexuality who want to undergo gender reassignment, homosexual soldiers who are constantly thinking about their sexuality — and I say that with authority, having interviewed so many ex-gays and talked about this for years, there is an obsession — their identity, they think, is their sexuality.
How many of you who are heterosexual would first of all say to someone in describing yourself, ‘I’m heterosexual, I have sex with the opposite sex’? You have much more of an identity than that, don’t you? Well for homosexuals, they claim that as an identity, it’s all about sex, so that is a disorder in itself. You can write me, I realize that’s angering words but that is a disorder because that’s not who you are, you are much more than that. It is a disorder, it is disordered thinking and if we think that soldiers that are obsessed with these issues are going to provide strong defense for our nation, I think we are foolishly denying whatever is true.
Previously, Rios claimed that the “homosexual takeover of so much of our military ” has eviscerated military readiness and effectiveness.
Rios also criticized former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, who chaired the Palm Center study, for writing a four-paragraph foreword for the book Harmful To Minors, in which she endorsed sexual education for minors in order to combat misinformation and STIs.
Rios said Elders has spent her career “calling for children to be sexually active” and lamented that she is “now urging for trannies to be allowed in the military.”
From the 03.20.2014 edition of AFR’s Sandy Rios In The Morning:
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
Austin Ruse, who regularly filled in as a guest host for American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios, has lost his gig after we reported Wednesday on his call for liberal professors to be “ taken out and shot.” Ruse is a leading Religious Right activist who heads the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) and is a writer for conservative outlets such as Breitbart News and The Daily Caller.
The American Family Association’s decision to break with Ruse is unusual since it claims that its radio show hosts – including Bryan Fischer, who is the group’s own spokesman and hosts AFR’s flagship talk show – do not speak on behalf of the group.
While the AFA cut loose Ruse, who was only a guest host, it appears to have no problem allowing Fischer to continue to serve as the public face of the organization while insisting that his bigoted views should in no way reflect upon the AFA.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios was upset last week about a message from a listener, Andre, who accused her of racism against black people.
Rios responded on her program by denying that white people in America are racist, and insisting that if they are, it’s the fault of black people. “I think the racist garbage coming from a lot of blacks right now who are just filled with bitterness and rage is just amazing to me,” Rios said. “It is racism, I am seeing it constantly here in DC, and it’s causing white citizens to become more racist than they ever were.”
“I think for the most part, the American Anglo-Saxon crew really has moved past racism, they did it quite a long time ago,” she added, citing President Obama’s election as proof of white people’s lack of racism. “But it seems to be raging, racism seems to be raging in the black community.”
“I think what’s causing it is people like Barack Obama and Eric Holder who can’t say enough and stir the pot enough to create anger and hatred and bitterness,” she continued, before comparing this alleged anti-white racism to feminism. “They do the same thing with women, it’s the same thing in feminism, that’s why I’ve never been a feminist, I hate feminism.”
From the 01.16.2014 edition of AFR’s Sandy Rios In The Morning:
According to Linda Harvey, among God’s gifts to the world is the feeling that gay people are “yucky,” or at least that is what she said during an interview yesterday with Sandy Rios of the American Family Association.
Harvey, who runs the Ohio-based group Mission America, was plugging her book Maybe He’s Not Gay, which is meant to explain to young people why homosexuality is wrong. “What’s happening to children is the whole reason I got into this issue to begin with because they are being manipulated at very impressionable ages,” Harvey told Rios, lamenting that children are being told “you need to not find this stuff repulsive.”
“You need to find these sex acts, once you find out about them at way too early an age, you need to not find them repulsive,” Harvey said. “The yuck factor is being taken away from our kids and that is a huge preventive issue and a common sense issue on homosexuality where people know, wait I would never do that, yeah that’s a basic instinct that God has given you and it’s the right one.”
“What’s at stake is the future of civilization,” Harvey continued, warning that the gay rights will “overturn every vestige of civilization.” She said gays will “overturn male-female dating patterns, everything, every cultural norm that children are being taught so we really need to stand up against this.”
From the 01.16.2014 edition of AFR’s Sandy Rios In The Morning: