Nearly two years into President Obama’s second term, a do-nothing Republican Congress is focusing on its next project: the 2014 midterm elections. But that effort might be complicated by increasing pressure from the party’s base to turn Congress’ energy to impeaching President Obama. The impeachment call, which has existed on the right-wing fringe since the start of Obama’s presidency, has picked up steam in recent weeks as it has been endorsed by right-wing media figures, activists and elected officials.
This has put Republican congressional leaders in a tricky spot as they attempt to placate their base without alienating moderate voters. When House Majority Whip Steve Scalise appeared on Fox News Sunday this week, he continually dodged the question. Ted Cruz similarly batted away a question about impeachment, calling it politically unfeasible. Right-wing leaders including Pat Buchanan and Tom DeLay have urged caution in the impeachment campaign, although DeLay said he would personally “love to impeach him.” Likewise, Karl Rove has warned that when it comes to impeachment, “the politics of it are all wrong.”
Even Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas, who last year distributed to every office on Capitol Hill a book on why the president should be impeached and removed from office and hired an attorney to look into impeachment, is now backtracking and warning that impeachment proceedings could benefit Democrats in the midterm elections.
Now, House Speaker John Boehner is claiming that talk of impeachment is a Democratic “scam” to win voters…an odd claim since it’s members of his own party who have been beating the drum about impeachment.
But it might be too late for Republicans to backtrack on a steady buildup of rhetoric questioning the president’s legitimacy, love of country, and authority to govern, which has led to increasing calls for impeachment from right-wing lawmakers, activists and media personalities… although nobody can quite agree on what the impeachment should be for.
- In a radio interview last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann said that she believed the president has “committed impeachable offenses” but that first “the American people have to agree with and be behind and call for the president’s impeachment.”
- This month, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said that there are “probably” the votes in the House to impeach the president for “absolutely ignoring the Constitution, and ignoring the laws, and ignoring the checks and balances.”
- In March, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California hinted at impeachment proceedings in response to illegal immigration.
- Last year, Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas toyed with the idea of impeaching the president over “the whole birth certificate issue.”
- Also last year, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan said that impeaching the president would be “a dream come true.”
- Rep. Steve King has promised impeachment proceedings if President Obama issues an executive order granting work permits to undocumented immigrants.
- Sarah Palin has repeatedly called for impeachment in recent weeks.
- Glenn Beck has repeatedly called for the president’s impeachment for the IRS scandal, an imaginary plot to give weapons to Al Qaeda in Syria and for a supposed cover-up of the role of a Saudi national in the Boston Marathon bombings. “You need to file the articles of impeachment. He needs to have the stain on his record that they cannot remove,” he said.
- The prominent right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel launched a campaign in February to call on the House to start the process of impeaching the president before he succeeds in “remaking the United States of America into a godless, socialist nation.” The group launched a similar campaign in 2011. Although Liberty Counsel officials have cited President Obama’s executive order on LGBT nondiscrimination, the Benghazi attack, marriage equality as possible reasons for impeachment, ultimately the group’s chairman Mat Staver said an impeachable offense can be “whatever Congress says it is at any given time.”
- Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has floated the idea of impeachment for at least a year.
- In 2012, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon called for the president’s impeachment because he “intentionally misled the American people” about the attacks in Benghazi. This year, he declared that the GOP would have impeached President Obama even if he had been a Republican because the “Christian element” in the party would never tolerate “lawlessness and lying.”
- The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer demanded President Obama’s impeachment for his handling of the court case challenging the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.
- Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt has called for Obama’s impeachment for his backing of “pagan” gun safety laws and before he takes “total control.”
- WorldNetDaily managing editor David Kupelian wants Republicans to impeach Obama and remove him from office if they take control of the Senate: “We need to remove this guy or to stop what he’s doing as soon as possible. The next opportunity is in November and we’ll see what the Republicans and the Christians and the conservatives can do then.” The site’s editor in chief, Joseph Farah, has also repeatedly called for impeachment proceedings.
- Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo called for Obama’s impeachment earlier this year, claiming that the president has become “addicted to dictatorial behavior.”
- Tea Party Nation urged its members to sign a petition calling on Congress to “impeach and arrest the tyrant king Obama!”
- Alan Keyes who lost the 2004 Illinois Senate race to Obama, advocated for impeachment over the Fort Hood shooting, Obama’s “dictatorial intentions,” and something to do with “gay lovers.” He has also called on Michele Bachmann and Jesus Christ to help in the impeachment endeavor “before it’s too late.”
- In 2012, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality’s Peter LaBarbera called for Obama’s impeachment for trying to “pander to his homosexual activist base.”
h/t: Drew Courtney at RWW
The Fox News Channel has more competition for its conservative audience, this time from one of its own employees.
Sarah Palin is launching the Sarah Palin Channel, an online “news channel” that will ”cut through the media’s politically correct filter” and address “the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about.” Rupert Murdoch launched his Fox News Channel in similar fashion by decrying the alleged liberal bias of the media, and targeting his channel to a disaffected audience.
Palin is a Fox News contributor who has a rocky history with her employer. Earlier this month she called for President Obama’s impeachment in an op-ed for Breitbart News. This came in apparent violation of her Fox contract, which reportedly “guarantees the cable-news leader exclusive rights to her work on television and on the Internet.” If that description of her contract is accurate, it’s unclear how the Sarah Palin Channel could be permitted under the terms of her agreement with Fox.
The Sarah Palin Channel is backed by TAPP, a company building “niche” digital channels and founded by former NBCU executive Jeff Gaspin and former CNN executive Jon Klein.
Palin’s “news channel” joins an already crowded universe of networks attempting to whittle away at Fox News’ Republican audience.
Glenn Beck launched TheBlaze after his messy 2011 exit from the Fox News Channel. Beck’s network is accessible through Internet subscriptions, and several television operators. The Blaze and Palin’s channel both offer subscription plans for roughly $10 a month or $100 a year.
In June conservative publisher Christopher Ruddy launched Newsmax TV online and on providers like DirecTV and the Dish Network. Bloomberg Businessweek wrote that Ruddy wants Newsmax TV to be “a kinder, gentler Fox” and that Ruddy “doesn’t need to beat Fox News, he just needs to shave off a little of its audience—particularly those conservatives who feel Fox has drifted too far to the right. ‘If we take 10 to 15 percent of the Fox audience,’ he says, ‘and they are making $1 billion a year, then we are going to be hugely profitable.’”
San Diego-based Herring Broadcasting and The Washington Times launched One America News Network in July 2013. It caters to viewers “with self-described independent, conservative & libertarian values.” Charles Herring, president of Herring Broadcasting, “said his network also would provide a platform for a broader spectrum of voices on the right than Fox now offers.” One America has struggled to gain a foothold on cable networks, has a small social media presence (currently less than 4,000 Twitter followers), and lacks well-known conservative personalities.
RightNetwork, a network launched in 2010 by actor Kelsey Grammer and Philadelphia sports owner Ed Snider, failed in its mission to attract a Fox-like audience with programming featuring people like "Joe The Plumber." It went defunct in 2011.
Other internet video ventures include Pajamas Media’s Next Generation TV, a “multimedia platform” for millennials whose most visible personality is former Daily Caller reporter Michelle Fields. The site gained notoriety when BuzzFeed reported that former Rep. Allen West (also a Fox News contributor) left the site “after an altercation with a female staffer in which he allegedly called her a ‘Jewish American princess.’” Former Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Herman Cain (whose subscription model has “withered away”) also have their own video sites.
Conservative media are pushing the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration deliberately created the humanitarian immigration crisis on the Southern border for political reasons. The rhetoric echoes claims from Republican politicians, most notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who said he didn’t want “to be conspiratorial,” but the administration may be “in on this somehow.”
Child migrants have surged across the border in recent months to flee violence in Central America. President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to respond to the crisis, as the mass migration has overwhelmed existing detention facilities and border resources.
The president has publicly discouraged the migration, stating in an ABC News interview on June 27: “That is our direct message to the families in Central America: Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.” PolitiFact called the claim that Obama planned the border crisis “pants on fire” false, writing: “Many of the factors behind the surge of children lie outside the control of the administration. No expert we reached gave any credence to the idea that the administration planned this crisis on the border.”
Gov. Perry has responded to the humanitarian crisis by suggesting the Obama administration is secretly coordinating the effort. In a June 17 Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, Perry said: “We’re doing our part to make sure we can keep our citizens as safe as we can. But the federal government is just absolutely failing. We either have an incredibly inept administration or they’re in on this somehow or another. I hate to be conspiratorial, but how do you move that many people from Central America across Mexico and into the United States without there being a fairly coordinated effort?”
The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate subsequently appeared on ABC on July 6 and said Obama may have an “ulterior motive” on the crisis.
Other Republican politicians have also suggested President Obama is deliberately creating the border crisis. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told conspiracy website WND, “If you don’t see them bring reinforcements down there to seal the border, that means that, yes, it’s a Cloward-Piven maneuver to flood the country until we get to the point where we are an open-borders country that welcomes everybody, legal and illegal” (“Cloward-Piven” is a reference to a right-wing conspiracy theory that believes progressives are attempting to overwhelm capitalism, leading to its collapse). Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) similarly claimed it’s “an open secret Obama is trying to flood Texas with illegals to make it into a blue state.” Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) told Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs on June 10 (via Nexis), “Everything that Barack Obama’s doing is intentional, deliberate … This is deliberate, Lou, and all Barack Obama’s asking for is more money to do more of the same.”
Despite evidence to the contrary, many members of the right-wing media have followed their Republican partners in accusing Obama of having “planned” and “orchestrated” the crisis for political gain. Here are ten examples:
Rush Limbaugh Speculates “This Whole Thing Was Planned In Advance By Somebody.” Speaking on the June 24 edition of his radio program, Limbaugh said: “Somebody needs to go to the Oval Office. I don’t know who. I wouldn’t want to be the guy, but somebody better make tracks to the Oval Office right now and tell Obama that this whole thing was planned in advance by somebody. Don’t wait for the newspapers on this — and they’re not gonna trust me when they hear about it.” Limbaugh’s website headlined his remarks, “Obama Regime Planned the Influx of Illegal Alien Children at the Border.”
Newt Gingrich: There’s A “Deliberate Policy Of Maximizing The Number Of Illegal Immigrants.” The CNN host wrote on his website on June 27 that the crisis “is a direct result of deliberate Obama administration policy that encourages illegal immigration” and “appears to be a deliberate policy of maximizing the number of illegal immigrants allowed to stay in the United States.” Gingrich added: “If you have any doubt consider that the Obama administration is deliberately encouraging this surge in illegal immigration, consider that instead of focusing on controlling the border and stopping people from entering illegally, we now have our government using our tax money to hire ‘escort services for unaccompanied alien children.’”
Sarah Palin: “Opening Our Borders To A Flood Of Illegal Immigrants Is Deliberate.” The Fox News contributor called for Obama’s impeachment in a July 8 Breitbart.com post, citing Obama’s allegedly “purposeful” actions with regard to the immigration influx:
Without borders, there is no nation. Obama knows this. Opening our borders to a flood of illegal immigrants is deliberate. This is his fundamental transformation of America. It’s the only promise he has kept. Discrediting the price paid for America’s exceptionalism over our history, he’s given false hope and taxpayer’s change to millions of foreign nationals who want to sneak into our country illegally. Because of Obama’s purposeful dereliction of duty an untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in, competing against Americans for our jobs and limited public services. There is no end in sight as our president prioritizes parties over doing the job he was hired by voters to do. Securing our borders is obviously fundamental here; it goes without saying that it is his job.
Lou Dobbs: “All Of This Is Orchestrated By This Administration.” Dobbs stated on the June 26 edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight: “All of this is orchestrated by this administration. Anybody who doesn’t understand that hasn’t got the common sense that, you know, God gave a goat … The fact is that this administration is working in concert with the Central American governments.”
Monica Crowley: "He Created This Crisis, He Orchestrated It, And He’s Perpetuating It." The Fox News contributor added on the July 10 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. that Obama “wanted the chaos” to pressure Republicans on immigration reform and to turn red states blue.
Jeanine Pirro: “One Conclusion: Barack Obama Is Intentionally Using The Immigration Crisis As An Excuse To Change The Demographics And Ultimately The Electorate.” Pirro added on the July 12 edition of her Fox News program Justice with Judge Jeanine that Obama is using a “Trojan horse” of children to advance his political party, his agenda and his legacy.”
Peggy Noonan Suggests Obama “Let The Crisis On The Border Build To Put Heat On Republicans.”Noonan accused the president of trickery for political gain in her July 11 Wall Street Journal column.
Allen West: “A Planned Event By The Obama Administration.” The Fox News contributor and former Florida congressman wrote on his website on July 3, “it seem [sic] harder to believe it was not a planned event by the Obama administration. That’s not that conspiracy theory - it’s trend analysis.” West wrote on July 14: “I believe the whole immigrant surge is purposeful” and asked if it’s to turn red states blue.
Dinesh D’Souza: Obama Wanted Border Chaos To Put “Republicans On The Defensive.” The conservative filmmaker and campaign finance felon claimed on Fox News on July 15 that Obama wants the crisis to “put the Republicans on the defensive and say, listen, either you give me amnesty or I’m just going to let these people start coming across the border and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Bryan Fischer: “This Is All Deliberate On The Part Of President Obama.” American Family Association’s Fischer added on the July 14 edition of his program that it was part of his “anti-American agenda” to transform the country.
If you’re a conservative who wants to impeach President Obama, time is running out. You need to give Allen West money, and quickly. It’s an “emergency.”
In a series of emails sent to subscribers in recent weeks, Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman Allen West has implored people to donate to his PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, in order to hasten Obama’s impeachment. And West isn’t alone — numerous conservative media figures and political groups are looking to cash in on Obama’s supposedly impending impeachment through donations, books, and various impeachment merchandise.
Right-wing media have been pushing for Obama’s impeachment for more than five years over a wide range of issues, but impeachment chatter got a boost earlier this July when Sarah Palin penned an opinion piece for Breitbart.com. She called for Obama’s removal from office, arguing that the president’s “unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’” She reiterated her call on Fox’s Hannity, telling viewers it was time to “get going” on impeachment.
While numerous members of the conservative noise machine are agitating for impeachment, not everyone is on board. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, for one, thinks ”impeachment would be crazy” at the moment.
But regardless of whether impeachment is good politics for conservatives, it’s starting to look like good business.
In a July 10 email to subscribers, West pointed to Palin’s comments as evidence the “growing” impeachment movement is “gaining speed!” Asserting that the president is “guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors,” West touted a survey hosted on his PAC’s website asking whether the House of Representatives should draft articles of impeachment over the unrelated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He also asked for an “an emergency contribution of $5 or more right away, so we can get this survey into the hands of as many conservatives as possible.”
West, who has been calling for Obama’s impeachment since early June, has previously asked subscribers for money to (somehow) help boost his impeachment survey. A June 19 email pointed to comments from GOP congressman Lou Barletta raising impeachment to proclaim, “Now - more than ever - we need to get the Guardian Fund’s impeachment survey into the hands of every conservative in America. Can you help me?” West once again asked for an “emergency” donation. On June 28, West asked for “an emergency donation of $5 or more right away,” again to help promote his impeachment survey.
West isn’t the only one emailing fundraising appeals about impeachment. On June 20, Takeover Super PAC — the nascent political group backed by WND founder Joseph Farah, leading birther and WND reporter Jerome Corsi, and notorious smear merchant Floyd Brown — rented WND’s email list to send out a message with the subject line, “Impeach Him!” Pointing to the group’s campaign activities in various states, Takeover Executive Director Tom Freiling argues, “When we gain an absolute majority in the House and Senate, we conservatives can finally expose Obama law-breaker [sic].” Arguing that it was “urgent,” Freiling asked for donations of “$25, $50, $100, or more.”
If you were worried your money might not be spent well, fear not. Freiling explains in the email, “You can trust us.”
Farah also sent a fundraising appeal to WND subscribers on July 2 touting Takeover Super PAC as “the first Federal PAC to pursue the impeachment of President Obama.” They will, he believes, “launch the next, and LAST, American revolution.”
In addition to promoting Takeover, WND also has an entire “Impeachment Store” on its website, featuring items like magnetic “Honk for Impeachment” bumper stickers, a $9.95 “Special Report" on "Why Barack Hussein Obama Should Be Impeached To Save America," and a card game called “Scandal,” which is “a contest between players to create the best cases for impeachment by collecting and displaying valuable evidence (Case) cards… This game is fun to play and historically accurate.”
The WND “Impeachment Store” also features Impeachable Offenses: The Case For Removing Barack Obama From Office, a 2013 book co-written by WND reporter Aaron Klein and published by WND. (Last month, National Review writer Andrew McCarthy also released a book flogging impeachment.)
While Erick Erickson may find impeachment “crazy,” that hasn’t stopped RedState — the site where he serves as editor in chief — from renting out its email list to pro-impeachment groups. On July 10, conservative non-profit Secure America Now rented the RedState list to urge readers to sign an impeachment petition, which would “help mobilize our massive grassroots army, and strengthen our demand that Congress file articles of impeachment against the President.”
In addition to renting out the RedState list, Secure America Now has also sent out fundraising appeals to its own email list, asking subscribers to “help us impeach Obama by donating right now.” According to Allen Roth, the Secure America Now president, “every $10 allows us to reach 300 people. That means $20 translates to 600 people, $50 to 1,500 people, and $100 allows us to educate 3,000 people!”
Conservative activist Alan Keyes has repeatedly used his WND column to encourage readers to visit “Pledgetoimpeach.com,” a website featuring a petition calling for the president’s removal from office. Alongside the petition is, of course, a request for money: ”Even if you can only afford $5 or $10 to assist our push for impeachment, that will help a lot.”
Other conservative groups asking for money to help impeach Obama include TheTeaParty.net, which runs the “Tea Party News Network.” An April 16 fundraising appeal announced that if Obama is not removed from office, “The great experiment of America will be over.” It continued by asking people to donate even as they are having trouble making ends meet (emphasis added):
We will not give up the fight, though it will be costly to keep the voice of freedom out there as we keep up the call for the impeachment and removal from office of President Obama. I know that times are tough. Many are feeling the effects of Obama’s destruction on a daily basis with not being able to make ends meet. But, we need you to help us win. Our republic is counting on us. So, whatever you can afford, whether it is $5, 25, $50, or more will help us as we push for the impeachment and removal from office of President Barack Obama. Can we count on you?
h/t: Ben Dimiero at MMFA
She and the people that idolize her are sub-zero IQ idiots.
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.
At least 15 Fox News personalities recently campaigned with organizations that were either created or heavily-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
Just like 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner wanted to choose a “superstar” to be his running mate. But just a few days into their shared campaign, the question is whether Rauner’s choice will end up going rogue on him down the road.
During a campaign stop in downstate Quincy Thursday, GOP candidate Rauner and his running mate, Wheaton City Councilwoman Evelyn Sanguinetti, were asked where they stood on key social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. The question came after about 20 minutes of generalizations about the need to fix a broken state, the duo’s likely effectiveness as political outsiders and whether Illinois was pro-business enough, issues on which they are in lock step. The social issues questions were a different story.
Sanguinetti represents something of a risk for Rauner, a first-time political candidate vying for the state’s top job. As a relative unknown herself, she fits into the Rauner campaign’s image of itself as an outsider’s crusade, riding in to Springfield to upend a broken political culture. At the same time, her life story—daughter of a 15-year-old mother in Miami who pulled herself up by the bootstraps to become a lawyer and politician, despite having multiple sclerosis—is likely to prove compelling to primary voters and could well prove a boost to the ticket.
During the campaign stop in Quincy, however, signs that the Rauner/Sanguinetti team was something of a marriage of convenience appeared. After Rauner threw the issue of same-sex marriage at the feet of voters by saying he supported a referendum on the topic, he unequivocally said he supported a woman’s right to choose. “I believe in some common sense regulations and restrictions so it’s rare and safe, but I support a woman’s ability to decide,” he said.
Such a position pretty much flies in the face of where his running mate stands, and potentially undercuts a key rationale behind choosing her as a running mate. Moments after Rauner’s answer, the Wheaton councilwoman clearly said she didn’t agree.
"On the issue of life…I must say, my mother chose me and she had me at age 15. For this reason, I am pro-life. I also believe in marriage with the traditional definition,” Sanguinetti said.
In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain and his advisers made a stark political calculation: America was hungering for a candidate that was a political outsider but who could attract voters with a compelling story and clear social conservative credentials. And while Sanguinetti may be no Sarah Palin, there’s ample indications Republican primary voters are looking for someone who can wear her opposition to issues such as same sex marriage and abortion proudly.
Yet, as McCain/Palin proved in 2008 when the one-term Alaska governor went “rogue” on the campaign trail and started speaking out about issues she cared more about than the campaign did, marriages of convenience have a tendency to suffer under the strain of a grueling campaign. Candidates who feel strongly about hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage or abortion can find it extremely difficult to stick to campaign themes question after question, month after month.
More important, perhaps, is the difficulty in asking voters to keep two ideas in their mind as they head into the voting booth: that a ticket both does and doesn’t support something the voter cares deeply about, such as same sex marriage or a woman’s right to choose.
During the press conference in Quincy, Sanguinetti seemed to understand this. Immediately after answering the question, she pivoted away from the topic of social issues and back onto safer ground of tested campaign themes.
“While we’re apart on social issues, I want to bring you all back to the bigger picture,” she said, essentially changing the subject.” Illinois is broken, and only Bruce and I can fix it.”
Rauner and his team better hope she can keep up her focus in the days and weeks to come.
Rauner/Sanguinetti ticket = Illinois’ version of Walker/Kleefisch.
h/t: Mark W. Anderson at NBC Chicago’s Ward Room
Sarah Palin, Asshole of the Day for June 16, 2014
It’s not often you see Sarah Palin criticize Republicans and Democrats alike for the same thing, which is really no surprise really when Mitch McConnell and others conspired in 2009 to make sure that Republicans never, ever voted for anything with Obama. In 5 years they’ve pretty much been the Grand Old not-Obama Party.
But with the growing crisis in detention centers along the border, St. Sarah of the North gives Republicans an equal share of blame for doing nothing. Both parties, she says, must do something.
And then, before anyone can think about giving her a primary challenge from the right for being bipartisan and soft on immigration like Eric Cantor, she launches into a diatribe about how Obama caused it, even though of course she expects both parties to fix it:
So, GOP and Democrats alike, where are you on this humanitarian issue of child abuse?
Hang on to your hat, because here’s the issue: Barack Obama has orchestrated this newest “crisis” in order to overload the system with the intention of “fixing” the problems his own policies create – by fiat, and that infamous phone and pen; screw the rule of law. He’s warned you by proudly claiming his executive orders can bypass the peoples’ representatives and obviously ignore the will of the people.
This exploitation of foreigners’ children is an inhumane ploy to entice families to break laws by literally shoving kids across one of Obama’s infamous and irrelevant lines, with assurance that parents, aunties, step-uncles and third cousins twice removed will get to cut in line too – that sacred line that previously led law abiding, hardworking immigrants to build this great nation. Barack Obama will keep phoning in and penning the message that he will NOT secure borders, so, hey, extended undocumented relatives, you’re free to join the kids being used and abused to snag that golden ticket. Obama surely knows a nation is not a nation without borders, while we must surely know this is the “fundamental transformation of America” that he promised and some of us warned about.
Congress and American voters, how long will you let Team Obama get away with this? The recent avalanche of devastating crises caused by a president believing he is above the law has set the most dangerous precedent a once-free people can imagine. To encourage and reward lawlessness by refusing to enforce the will of the people as proven by laws passed by our political representatives is the signature of a tyrant. In this case, Obama’s refusal to enforce immigration laws and his blatant suggestion that his chosen illegal activity will be rewarded are proof of his tyrannical tactics. The recent numerous manipulated “crises” have the media pinging and ponging trying to keep up with what is the scandal of the day, which one overshadows another, and how will they distract next, and who’s on first?! Purposeful decisions causing these crises are meant to overload the system, justify abuse of executive power to “fix” it all, and ultimately tighten control of the people.
And she ends by saying she wants the major expenditure to be jet fuel to send all these children home. How exactly they get matched back to their parents or even how border agents will know which country they go to is not of interest to her. It’s not even a stretch to suggest that were it up to her to execute, they’d all be dumped in the wrong country where they would face a new humanitarian crisis, but not here, so she would no longer be interested.
Of course an unsecured border and the prospect of more generous welfare benefits might be enough to get someone to cross and take advantage. She’s right about that— because she tells a story about how her family crossed into Canada to take advantage of free Canadian healthcare when she was young.
But still, the accusation that Obama created a humanitarian crisis with foreign children is laying it on a little thick, even by Palin standards. It’s up there with her lie about “Death Panels”, which were actually to pay doctors to discuss what types of life saving measures (if any) patients wanted instead of leaving it to their families to decide.
So, for saying Obama enticed people to send their children illegally to the US so they can become anchors to pull in all the rest of their clan, Sarah Palin is the Asshole of the Day.
It is Sarah Palin's seventh time time as Asshole of the Day. Previous wins include:
- saying that by becoming a grandmother Hillary will adopt conservative views
- making a huge “scandal” out of a president having someone hold an umbrella
- saying black people don’t understand her definition of slavery
- defending Phil Robertson’s homophobic, racist interview without even reading it
- saying Putin invaded Crimea because Obama wears “mom jeans”
- saying if she were in charge “waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists”
- criticizing Obama for bringing home Bowe Bergdahl after she had publicly prayed for Bergdahl’s return
Full story: Sarah Palin Facebook page
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.
Palin tweeted an excerpt from Clinton’s new memoir “Hard Choices” on Monday, in which Clinton recounted how then-Sen. Obama’s 2008 campaign asked her to issue a statement criticizing Palin after she was chosen as Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) running mate.
Look who fired the 1st shot in the real “war on women”. Hint: it wasn’t the GOP. See this excerpt from Hillary’s book pic.twitter.com/kKBShf9vHj— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) June 9, 2014
"Look who fired the 1st shot in the real ‘war on women,’" Palin wrote. "Hint: it wasn’t the GOP."
"That’s not exactly what I said," Clinton told ABC News’ Robin Roberts. “What I said was that in beginning the process of working with Sen. Obama after I ended my campaign, we had as I describe in the book, an awkward but necessary meeting to clear the air on a couple of issues and one of them was the sexism that unfortunately was present in that ’08 campaign.”
Clinton told Roberts that the Obama campaign did ask her to “go out and criticize Palin.” In the excerpt, Clinton wrote “I was not going to attack Palin just for being a woman appealing for support from other women. I didn’t think it made political sense, and it didn’t feel right. So I said no.”
"I think it’s fair to say that I made it clear I’m not going to go attack somebody for being a woman or a man," Clinton told Roberts. "I’m going to try and look at the issues, where they stand, what their experience is, what they intend to do and then that’s fair game."
She added that the atmosphere for a potential female candidate on a presidential ticket is different now than it was during the 2008 campaign.
"I think it’s different for women across the board, because it’s not just in the political sphere that we continue to have these obstacles to women’s full participation … But I think that over the last six, seven years there has been a much greater awareness in the American public about the double standard," Clinton said.
The former GOP vice presidential nominee and half-term Alaska governor wrote on her Facebook page Monday that President Obama never should have praised the soldier who was released this weekend after five years of captivity in Afghanistan.
"No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages (http://nypost.com/2014/05/31/the-bizarre-tale-of-americas-last-known-pow/) while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not ‘honorable service.’ Unless that is your standard,” Palin wrote.
She was referring to an email sent by Bergdahl to his parents, which were published in a 2012 Rolling Stone article by the late journalist Michael Hastings. In the message, sent days before he went missing, Bergdahl wrote that he was “ashamed to be an american (sic)” and that “the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.”
Bergdahl’s disappearance in 2009 and the subsequent manhunt sparked resentment among his fellow soldiers, many of whom consider him a deserter.
Along with her critical assessment of Bergdahl, Palin wrote that Obama “blew it again…by negotiating away any leverage against the bad guys as these bad guys – Osama Bin Laden’s partners in evil crime – joyfully celebrate their ‘win’ in the deal you sealed.”
Read the whole post:Commander-in-Chief’s Definition of “Honorable Service” Includes Anti-American Actions While in Uniform; He Just Destroyed Troop Morale
The Obama administration tells America this soldier served “with honor and distinction.” (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/susan-rice-bergdahl-served-honor-and-distinction_794066.html)
No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages (http://nypost.com/2014/05/31/the-bizarre-tale-of-americas-last-known-pow/) while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not “honorable service.” Unless that is your standard.
Please use your White House Rose Garden to praise the truly honorable service of our good U.S. troops who were killed in their search for Sgt. Bergdahl (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/02/we-lost-soldiers-in-the-hunt-for-bergdahl-a-guy-who-walked-off-in-the-dead-of-night.html). Praise the soldiers who fought with everything they had to defeat Islamic terrorists, those whom you just freed from prison. Our men gave all. Our surviving combat vets will forever live with the effects of the missions they willingly engaged in to protect you, our country, and certainly their brothers and sisters who are proud to wear the uniform.
You blew it again, Barack Obama, by negotiating away any leverage against the bad guys as these bad guys – Osama Bin Laden’s partners in evil crime – joyfully celebrate their “win” in the deal you sealed.
- Sarah Palin
h/t: Tom Kludt at TPM
They got their pound of flesh, but you can be sure it’s not going to put an end to attacks like this one. Here’s Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods (h/t Charlie Pierce) and screeching Hannity from his live show at the Republican Leadership Conference last night.
“I think there’s a lack of understanding on our commander-in-chief’s part about what the mission of the military is, and why it is that we owe a debt of gratitude that’s manifested in benefits paid to those who’ve already earned them,” Palin said.
Palin ripped President Obama’s speech to West Point cadets this week, calling it “weak,” and went on to say that she doesn’t think Obama believes in American exceptionalism.
“It’s not that we are weak as a country, but we are so unreliable now, under Obama,” Palin said. “My concern is the effect that his doctrine, his policies, his attitude, has on those who are volunteering to serve this country — to those whom we owe a debt of gratitude.”
Following the Republican Party’s embarrassing showing in the 2012 elections, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus put together a task force to analyze just what was wrong with the party and which eventually resulted in the release of a report that found that the GOP’s ultra-right-wing ideology was making it increasingly unappealing to voters who see the party as nothing but a bunch of “narrow-minded” and “out of touch … stuffy old men.”
Naturally, the GOP has then gone about systematically ignoring all of the recommendations made in this autopsy report, which is why an anti-gay bigot like Phil Robertson was given a prime speaking slot at last night’s Republican Leadership Conference, where he was introduced by Sarah Palin, no less.
And Robertson was every bit as insightful as one would expect, declaring that when it comes to President Obama, “we’re up against evil like I’ve never seen in my life” and telling the GOP that if it wants to win elections, the party needs to “get Godly”:
Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson kicked off the Republican Leadership Conference at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans on Thursday with an entertaining speech in which he mixed his faith in Jesus Christ with an admonition to the GOP to return to the Bible and the fundamental principles of freedom upon which the nation was founded.
“You lose your religion, you lose your morality, you lose your freedom,” Robertson said. “You cannot be right for America if you are not right with God.”
In an event the GOP billed as an “unofficial kickoff” of the 2016 presidential campaign, Robertson drew repeated applause and more than one standing ovation by insisting, “If the country does not turn to God at a fairly rapid clip, we are going to lose the United States of America.”
Robertson jokingly suggested, “The GOP must be desperate to call a person like me.”
Looking at the outfit that is now linked with his Duck Dynasty television persona, Robertson insisted, “These clothes are the best I own.”
What Robertson did not hesitate to speak about was his strong faith in Jesus Christ.
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians. Where there is no Jesus, the love rate is always real low and the crime rate is always real high. It’s just that simple GOP. You want to turn the Republican Party around, get Godly.”
He rejected the secular society created by Supreme Court decisions he interpreted as an attack on religion.
“We threw God out of the schools. We threw God out of the courthouses,” Robertson said, in a speech that featured quotes from several Founding Fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison.
“Separation of church and state? I’m telling you right [now] what our Founding Fathers said and it doesn’t sound like separating God Almighty from the United States of America. It’s a lie. You remove the Bible out of schools, it was said more 200 years ago, and you are going to be wasting so much time punishing criminals. Education is useless without the Bible. Take the Bible out of schools and there’s going to be an explosion of crime.”
Robertson subtly rebutted charges of prejudice, making it clear comments he made to GQ magazine regarding homosexuality derived solely from his religions conviction.
“There is only one race on this planet and that is the human race,” he insisted.
“Look at all humanity as the human race. Therefore, you do not have the right to color code anybody. We are all one family and we are all made in the image of God Almighty. The color of your skin does not determine the character of your person. In the GOP we have the libertarians, and the conservatives, and the establishment party, but you need to get off all of this divisive talk and be one party united.”
Commenting that, “You can tell a lot about a man when you hear him pray,” Robertson recalled George Washington praying at the founding of the nation.
He then transitioned to discussing Barack Obama.
“I watch what I see coming out of the White House and it is downright embarrassing. How many lies are we going to tolerate? Our Founding Fathers created the greatest republic on the face of the earth and we screwed it up in 238 years. But I’m not throwing in the towel yet on it. As was said, the surest way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Robertson railed against abortion, asking the GOP audience how a nation killing its unborn children possibly thought it could survive.
“The strength of this nation is not the Constitution,” he insisted, “but the law of God and the Ten Commandments upon which the Constitution was founded.”
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW