Today, the far-right website WorldNetDaily interviewed Fox News host Gretchen Carlson and Fred Thompson, the former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, about their roles in the new film “Persecuted,” a thriller about looming anti-Christian oppression in the U.S.
While Thompson pointed to Obamacare and the Hobby Lobby case as examples of the government persecuting Christians, Carlson once again highlighted the real force crushing the freedoms of Christians in America: Seinfeld.
She told WorldNetDaily that “Festivus,” the secular holiday popularized by the 1997 Seinfeld episode “The Strike,” is helping “erode” America’s “heritage” and “strip our society of certain things that have been in existence for a long time.”
Carlson also pointed to a lack of Christmas spirit and a dearth of tourists viewing a copy of the Bill of Rights on a recent visit she took to Washington D.C. as a sign of looming anti-Christian oppression.“The movie is not a documentary,” Thompson told WND in an exclusive interview. “It is a takeoff on governmental power and those in government who legislate what they feel like is a good idea – on how people ought to conduct themselves, promote their religion and the message they should be delivering.
“Whether you’re talking about on the airwaves and ‘equal time’ or Obamacare or things of that nature, we’re in that territory now,” Thompson warned. “So again, this is not a documentary; it shows what can happen.
With a provocative title like “Persecuted,” WND asked Thompson and Carlson just how realistic is the film and the concept of “persecution” of Christians in America?
“More realistic than some of the space movies that get popular,” Thompson joked. “But it’s realistic certainly to the extent that these things are possible. The idea of those in government and powerful positions being able to carry out nefarious activities is more than possible, and in this particular case, though we haven’t seen anybody go to the extent they go to in this movie, the notion of a religious person preaching the gospel running up against the government and governmental policies – or those who want to carry out a business and running up against governmental regulations and rules – is not far-fetched at all. In fact, we’re seeing that happen as we speak in the Hobby Lobby case and in some other cases coming down the pike.”
“Over the last decade, I do believe there has been more emphasis on trying to strip our society of certain things that have been in existence for a long time,” added Carlson, “such as lawsuits to take crosses down in the western part of our country, lawsuits to take out the word ‘God’ from our money or not allowing our kids to say it in their valedictorian speeches, forces pushing for atheists to lead campus Christian groups and petitions at state governors’ offices during the Christmas season to put up a ‘Festivus pole’ – from the made-up holiday of ‘Festivus’ from the ‘Seinfeld’ TV show – next to a Christian crèche on public lands.
“As a journalist, I see these stories frequently,” she said, “and I just want to make sure Americans realize if you don’t stand up and take notice of some of these things happening, before you know it, our heritage starts to erode.
“For me, during the Christmas season, I don’t want to take my kids around in the car to see all the crèches in the town where I live in and hear them say, ‘Mom, where are they? I don’t see them anymore,’” Carlson said.
Her concerns are widely shared, but do those stories actually rise to the level of “persecution”?
“In most countries in the world, we’re seeing persecution [against Christians] in the extreme – people are losing their lives,” Thompson told WND. “While that sort of thing is not happening in the United States, we have the potential. Sooner or later, it can be done.
“When I was in Washington, D.C., just recently with my children, seeing the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, we had an interesting experience,” Carlson related. “Our tour guide noted security guards standing next to the Declaration and Constitution, and that’s where the long lines of people were, but when you go over to the Bill of Rights, there are no security guards and the lines start to diminish.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
The religious persecution narrative is nothing new – it has long been at the core of the Right’s reaction to secular government and religious pluralism – but it has taken off in recent years in reaction to advances in gay rights and reproductive freedom, and to an increasingly secular and pluralistic society.
The tales of horror keep pouring in: Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program; an Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage; a high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory; a Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages; a man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence; an elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch; a little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus.
None of these stories is true. But each has become a stock tale for Religious Right broadcasters, activists, and in some cases elected officials. These myths – which are becoming ever more pervasive in the right-wing media – serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country.
This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called “culture wars.” By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths.
The religious persecution narrative is nothing new – it has long been at the core of the Right’s reaction to secular government and religious pluralism – but it has taken off in recent years in reaction to advances in gay rights and reproductive freedom, and to an increasingly secular and pluralistic society.
The frantic warnings, fueled by individual persecution myths, range from the insistence that conservative Christians are losing their right to free speech to the claim that the U.S. is on the verge of instituting unconstitutional hate speech laws to dire predictions that religious faith itself might soon be criminalized.
In recent months, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly warned that “we are in a war for religious liberty” and claimed that President Obama, who speaks frequently and publicly about his Christian faith, “doesn’t want any expression of religious faith in any public place.” Activist Janet Porter declared that a reality TV star’s suspension from his program represented an effort to “shut down Christians” and, even more chillingly, predicted that religious faith itself would soon be “declared unlawful.” Pastor Jim Garlow declared that Christians are “experiencing full-blown persecution like we have not seen in America.” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins warned that President Obama was colluding with “anti-Christian” extremists to “neuter the Church” and “silenc[e] Christians.” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott insisted, “The greatest minority under assault today are Christians.”
One activist after another warns that gay rights will lead to the literal criminalization of Christianity. In April 2014, the American Family Association claimed that there were “seven common careers Christians may no longer hold in America” – including photography, broadcasting and teaching.
In 2012, the Family Research Council and Liberty Institute started releasing an annual “Survey of Religious Hostility in America.”
These surveys of supposed “religious hostility” include prominent court cases in which the Religious Right and civil liberties groups have legitimate, long-held differences of opinion on where the line between church and state should lie – for instance, the case of a large cross displayed on public land in the Mojave Desert.
They also chronicle supposed episodes of individual “persecution,” including many originally promoted by Fox News’ Todd Starnes and many that have been long debunked. For instance, the group’s 2012 report told the story of Raymond Raines, a boy who was allegedly punished by a teacher for praying in his school cafeteria. The Raymond Raines story has been around for 20 years and has been repeatedly debunked; Raines was actually disciplined for fighting.
The claim that efforts to draw a line between church and state represent a suppression of the individual exercise of religion is key to the Right’s persecution narrative. In order to convincingly argue that being on the losing side of a policy debate or a legal argument amounts to religious persecution, you must first establish that the media, government and the culture at large are actively hostile to people of faith.
This requires a constant supply of stories of supposed religious persecution. And for that, the Right has Todd Starnes.
Todd Starnes: A Look into the Right-Wing Myth Machine
The most prolific manufacturer and promoter of apocryphal stories of American Christian persecution working today is Fox News reporter Todd Starnes. If a story emerges about a service member punished for his or her Christian beliefs or a schoolchild banned from talking about Christmas, it most likely originated with or was promoted by Starnes. And there’s a good chance the facts have been either severely distorted or completely fabricated.
For an example of how the Starnes myth machine works, take the story of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk, “relieved of his duties,” according to Starnes, “after he disagreed with his openly gay commander when she wanted to severely punish an instructor who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality.”
“Christians have to go into the closet,” Monk told Starnes. “We are being robbed of our dignity and respect. We can’t be who we are.” Starnes added: “[I]n essence, Christians are trading places with homosexuals.”
It appears that Monk’s story was being shopped around by his attorneys at Liberty Institute, one of several Christian Right legal groups that devote themselves to digging up and publicizing alleged cases of persecution. The Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice have played a similar role, cheered on by allies in groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA).
The Monk story hit a nerve in a movement still reeling from the 2010 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay service members.
After Starnes reported Monk’s tale in August 2013, the story spread like wildfire in the Religious Right. Liberty University official Shawn Akers cited the story to claim that Christians were now the victims of a new “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The AFA’s Bryan Fischer pointed to Monk’s commander to claim that “homosexuals that are in the military” could now “get away with absolutely anything.” Monk was invited to share his tale at a Values Voter Summit panel on the alleged trend of anti-Christian persecution. The Family Research Council produced a tearful video in which Monk told of how he was “reassigned by his commander because of his belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”
But Monk’s story just wasn’t true. In Starnes’ very first report on Monk, he quoted an Air Force spokesman who explained that Monk hadn’t been punished but had simply come to the end of his assignment. A subsequent Air Force investigation found, according to the Military Times, that “Monk was not removed from his position, but rather moved, as scheduled, to another Lackland unit, an assignment he was notified of in April.”
This story repeats itself over and over again in Starnes’ work. When Starnes accused a Georgia school of “confiscating” a display of teachers’ Christmas cards, it turned out that the display had merely been moved from a hallway to an office to accommodate the privacy concerns of a teacher who had wanted to participate but didn’t want her personal card displayed in a public space. School administrators, caught off-guard by Starnes’ fabricated story, accused him of “an intentional and vicious dissemination of untrue information that disrupted the good work going on inside” the school.
When Starnes reported in January that a six-year-old girl in California had been stopped in the middle of a class presentation about her family’s Christmas traditions, the story of how the girl was told “she can’t talk about religion in school” spread rapidly through right-wing media. But this story was also not true. After Starnes’ report took off, the girl’s baffled teacher explained that she had shortened her student’s presentation because of time constraints and had in no way prevented her from talking about her religious faith.
Starnes’ reports about the middle school students forced into a lesbian kiss, the athlete disqualified for thanking God, and the Pentagon blocking a Southern Baptist website unraveled in similar ways. The middle school girls were never required to kiss. The track athlete admitted he was disqualified for taunting and disrespecting a referee. Defense Department employees were briefly unable to access the Southern Baptist website because the denomination’s website was infected with malware.
No matter how quickly they are debunked, however, these stories are used to build a narrative that bolsters the Religious Right’s political goals…and benefits Starnes himself.
In April 2014, Starnes reported that an elementary school student in Florida was told by a teacher “that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch time meal” and that “it’s not good” to pray. School officials conducted a thorough investigation of the incident, even staging a lineup for the girl to identify the teacher who had supposedly banned her from praying. In the end, they found absolutely no basis for the claims, and even found that the teacher that the girl identified wasn’t even in the cafeteria when the incident supposedly took place.
Then it came out that an amazing coincidence had occurred: The girl’s father just happened to be head of sales at the company publishing Starnes’ new book, God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.
Starnes’ book chronicles the very sort of story that he repeats in his columns. And the very first page reveals where he thinks America went wrong: “I grew up in a much simpler time…It was a time when father still knew best – when the girls were girls and the men were men. I grew up when the rainbow was a sign of God’s promise, not gay rights.”
“I feel like a Duck Dynasty guy living in a Miley Cyrus world,” he laments.
Duck Dynasty and Redefining the First Amendment
It’s no coincidence that the very first sentence of Todd Starnes’ book mentions Duck Dynasty, the hit A&E reality show about a family of impressively bearded duck-call manufacturers in Louisiana.
Duck Dynasty – despite its wide popularity – has become a polarizing culture-war code ever since one of the show’s stars was briefly suspended by the network after letting loose with homophobic and racist comments in a magazine interview.
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” family patriarch Phil Robertson told GQ. “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Robertson also painted a rosy picture of life for African Americans in Jim Crow-era Louisiana, saying, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person…. Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Whatever you think of the substance of Robertson’s comments, they weren’t phrased in a way that you would expect would make him a hero to a major social movement. But when A&E briefly suspended Robertson from the show in response to outrage over his comments, he became a convenient martyr to the “Christian persecution” cause.
The American Family Association launched a petition thanking Robertson for “declaring the truth of God’s word.” The National Organization for Marriage started its own petition insisting that “nothing that Phil Robertson said is hateful.” David Barton praised Robertson for making homosexuality seem “repugnant, which is what it should be.” One Republican congressional candidate called Robertson “the Rosa Parks of our generation.”
The Religious Right turned its anger on gay rights advocates. AFA President Tim Wildmon asked the group’s members, “Will we capture the energy Phil Robertson has generated and draw on that energy to confront the entrenched fortresses of error and sexual anarchy that now dominate our social landscape?” Americans for Truth About Homosexuality head Peter LaBarbera and the anti-gay group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) both lamented that Robertson had fallen victim to “homofacism.” The Family Research Council blasted the “totalitarian tactics of the Left.” Anti-choice activist Janet Porter said that Robertson’s suspension meant that religious faith itself was at risk of “being declared unlawful.” Sarah Palin took to Facebook to defend Robertson against the “hatin’” of “intolerants,” before admitting that she hadn’t actually read what Robertson said.
One fringe activist, Theodore Shoebat, even suggested responding to the controversy by imposing the death penalty on homosexuality.
The Duck Dynasty story fit into a broader right-wing narrative that paints progressive boycotts and pressure campaigns as immoral “economic terrorism” while promoting similar campaigns that target companies they perceive as promoting liberal values such as gay rights. In fact, just three months after right-wing groups were expressing righteous indignation about progressives’ “totalitarian” response to Robertson’s remarks, they cheered Christian radio stations who pulled Christian rocker Dan Haseltine’s music off the air after he announced his support for marriage equality. When some Christian radio stations responded by pulling Haseltine’s group’s music from the air. The Family Research Council and the American Family Association applauded. “Don’t complain when there are consequences for making a foolish declaration like that,” said the AFA’s Bryan Fischer, apparently oblivious to the irony.
Even Todd Starnes, who called a gay-rights boycott of the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A “un-American,” later promoted right-wing boycotts of the Girl Scouts and a barbecue chain restaurant.
Of course, no court has ever found a constitutional right to appear on a reality TV show. And A&E may well have had legitimate business considerations for its move; when Duck Dynasty returned for its next season, its viewership had plummeted. But the story of Phil Robertson fit so well into the Religious Right’s narrative that conservative Christians had become the scrappy underdogs in the “culture war” that it stuck.
A Changing Strategy on Gay Rights
Warnings about the persecution of conservative Christians have gone hand in hand with the rapid success of the gay rights movement in politics, courts and public opinion. This is not a coincidence. Todd Starnes’ myth machine, the perennial “War on Christmas” and the hero status of the Duck Dynasty clan are useful tools in the effort to reframe every losing policy battle and every shift in public opinion as “persecution” of the Religious Right.
In a 2013 report for Political Research Associates, scholar Jay Michaelson documents how the persecution narrative was at the core of religious conservatives’ response to desegregation, the end of school-sponsored school prayer and the victory for abortion rights in Roe v. Wade.
But nowhere has the Religious Right lost more ground in recent years than on the issue of gay rights.
The movement’s leaders have portrayed gay rights as the moral test for our time, warning that every advance in the rights of LGBT people detracts from the rights of people who have religious objections to homosexuality.
As recently as the past decade, opposition to gay rights was a winning issue for the Religious Right. President George W. Bush’s advisors (including former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who later came out as gay) helped to get constitutional amendments banning marriage equality on the ballot in 11 states in 2004 an effort to boost conservative turnout.
But the tide turned quickly.
In 2010, Congress overturned the ban on military service for openly gay and lesbian Americans. In 2012, voters in four states either passed laws allowing marriage equality or defeated anti-equality measures at the ballot box. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that had prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages, leading federal courts to strike down same-sex marriage bans in several states. Marriage equality is now the law in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and marriage equality lawsuits are pending in dozens more.
As the anti-gay movement found itself on the defensive, it began to increasingly embrace the “religious liberty” theme. While dire warnings about persecution of conservative Christians have been in the Religious Right’s vocabulary for decades, the success of the gay rights movement has brought them to the center of its strategy.
In 2006, as public opinion and laws were tilting ever more quickly toward LGBT rights, social conservatives at the annual Values Voter Summit painted a stark dichotomy between gay rights and religious liberty. Alan Sears of the Alliance Defense Fund, now called the Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the largest groups promoting the “Christian persecution” message, told the crowd of activists that “the homosexual agenda and [freedom of] religion are on a collision course.” Then-Rep. Marilyn Musgrove, Republican of Colorado, warned, “If we have gay marriage, our religious liberties are gone!”
Subsequent gay rights victories have generated a flurry of apocalyptic rhetoric about a coming crackdown on conservative Christians in America.
Religious Right groups have claimed that efforts to include LGBT people in federal hate-crimes laws are an attempt to “target Christians” and “silence” opposition. (Of course, the fact that hate-crimes laws apply only to people who actually commit violent crimes is inevitably left out of this kind of criticism.)
The repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and subsequent efforts to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of service members led to accusations of anti-Christianand even anti-straight discrimination. One Republican in Congress, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, went so far as to introduce a bill that he claimed would protect “military religious freedom” by banning chaplains from using military facilities to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. The bill would have done nothing to protect religious liberty among military clergy, who are not required to perform same-sex marriages. Instead, it would have hampered the free exercise rights of clergy whose beliefs allow or require them to perform same-sex ceremonies.
In 2012, the American Family Association published an article claiming that “those who are pushing for the institution of same sex marriage are ipso facto pushing for the elimination of the Christian religion.”
The next year, as the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of DOMA and Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Tea Party Unity and Vision America leader Rick Scarborough speculated that a decision in favor of marriage equality would cause the Obama administration to “round up” and imprison opponents of gay rights. Similarly, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber warned that an anti-DOMA ruling would lead to “the criminalization of Christianity.” Gary Bauer warned that people of faith would soon be “fined or jailed.”
Of course, when the Supreme Court struck down part of DOMA, none of these fears turned out to be founded, but American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer still declared that opponents of gay rights had become “second class citizens and victims of a new “Jim Crow.”
Advances in marriage equality have launched a new front in the anti-gay movement. As the effort to ban marriage equality becomes a losing battle for conservative activists, they’re turning their sights toward legalizing discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of preventing discrimination against Christians.
As National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown advised activists on a conference call in April 2014, “When [gay-rights activists] bring up discrimination, we need to turn it on its head and say, this is about anti-religious, specifically in some cases, anti-Christian religious bigotry, and there’s no place for this in this country.” Brown called such “discrimination” against same-sex-marriage opponents Jim Crow “in reverse.”
Ironically, while many Religious Right activists falsely claim that marriage equality laws will require clergy to solemnize same-sex marriages against their will, in at least one state it is a ban on same-sex marriages that is stifling the liberty of pastors. In April 2014, a group of North Carolina pastors and the United Church of Christ sued North Carolina over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, citing a law that fines pastors for performing wedding ceremonies without a license from the state. The FRC’s Tony Perkins defended the ban by arguing that the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom does not apply to Christians who support marriage equality.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Religion in the Public Square
In 2009, a coalition of conservative evangelical and Catholic leaders convened to sign the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto in which they vowed to defy any law that did not comply with their religious beliefs, specifically laws dealing with marriage and reproductive rights. “The freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions,” they wrote.
The declaration’s organizers hoped to gather one million signatures within a month; nearly five years later, they are still more than 400,000 signatures short. But despite the failure to live up to that goal, the declaration still marked an important turning point in the Religious Right’s strategy.
The Manhattan Declaration was an opportunity for grandstanding, but it was also an important sign of how the Religious Right planned to use the “religious persecution” narrative in policy debates. The declaration made clear that to these leaders, “religious liberty” meant the right to carve out broad exemptions to civil laws, not just for churches and houses of worship (which already enjoy such broad exemptions), but also for individuals and even for-profit businesses – even when those exemptions come at the expense of the rights of others.
This redefining of “religious liberty” has come to a head in the struggle over the interpretation of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the passage of similar laws in the states.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bipartisan bill drafted in response to a Supreme Court decision that eliminated the need for the government to show a “compelling state interest” in enforcing a law that restricted an individual’s religious freedom. Employment Division v Smith had involved two American Indians were denied state unemployment benefits because they had been fired from their jobs for smoking peyote in a religious ceremony. RFRA garnered broad support from religious and civil liberties groups, including People For the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union.
RFRA was intended to re-establish the legal standard that existed before the Smithruling. It requires that if a law places a substantial burden on a person’s exercise of religion, the government must demonstrate that the law serves a compelling government interest in the least restrictive way. The Supreme Court later ruled that Congress could only apply RFRA to the federal government, not to the states, leading several states to pass their own versions of the law, many written more broadly than the federal measure.
Since that time, conservative activists wielding religious persecution rhetoric have attempted to broaden the scope of RFRA to not just protect individuals from burdens on religious exercise but to allow individuals and even for-profit corporations to cite religious beliefs in order to discriminate against others. As PRA’s Michaelson puts it, “RFRA demonstrates the pattern of protections for minority religions being subsequently used by majorities.”
In a number of prominent recent cases, Religious Right activists have pushed state-level “religious freedom” laws for the explicit purpose of allowing businesses to bypass anti-discrimination laws. Although advocates of these laws have hinted that they are ways around anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people, many have been written so broadly as to open the door for all manner of discrimination by businesses open to the public.
In 2012, a coalition of civil rights, religious, law enforcement and child welfare groups successfully urged voters in North Dakota to defeat a ballot measure that would have putoverly broad RFRA language into the state constitution. Opponents worried that the measure could have caused chaos in the state’s courts and, in the words of the Bismark Tribune, “opened the door for people to use religious beliefs as a defense in breaking laws protecting against abuse, domestic violence and discrimination.”
The next year Kentucky’s legislature overrode the governor’s veto to put a similarly broad new state RFRA law on the books.
This year, intensive organizing and education helped stall similar bills in a number of states, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill after national attention focused on the state. Among those who had urgedher to veto the measure were Arizona business leaders, GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, and at least three Republican legislators who had initially voted for the bill.
By contrast, on April 3, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that was originally modeled on the extremely expansive Arizona legislation but was modified in the wake of the Arizona controversy. Mississippi’s new law mirrors the federal legislation in some ways, but activists note that Mississippi law defines “person” to include businesses, so the new state law will apply to corporations as well as private citizens. Last year, Bryant signed another “religious liberty” bill – one that could give religious cover for anti-gay bullying in public schools.
This new wave of legislation has come in response to a handful of high-profile cases in which businesses have faced penalties for refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings. But the case that could decide the direction of the religious liberty argument is Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the federal mandate that employer-funded insurance policies cover contraception.
The attack on the contraception mandate may be the Right’s boldest attempt yet to use the rhetoric of religious liberty and religious persecution to limit the rights of other Americans. Its campaign has also taken advantage of the energy of the anti-government Tea Party, which has mobilized against the Affordable Care Act.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has required businesses with more than 15 employees to provide coverage for contraception since 2000. Similar mandates are in place in 28 states; several were promoted or signed into law by Republicans. One such bill signed by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas in 2005 provided no exemption for religious-affiliated organizations; yet Huckabee now cites the federal mandate to ask “whether religious liberty still exists in America.”
What changed was the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance plans provide coverage for contraception without copays. When some Catholic groups that had supported the ACA balked, the Obama administration changed the rule to shift the burden of contraception costs onto insurance companies providing plans for religiously affiliated organizations. Then the administration made a further concession, requiring women who work for religiously affiliated groups to buy a separate health care plan to cover contraception.
The Supreme Court is currently considering whether the Hobby Lobby chain is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from providing health insurance that includes contraception coverage to its employees. Hobby Lobby’s backers not only want to redefine religious liberty to include employers’ right to impose their own religious views on their employees; they want the court to establish a right to religious liberty for secular for-profit corporations.
A ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could tip the balance in religious liberty cases in favor of giving individuals and businesses large latitude in bucking any number of popularly passed laws. As Peter Montgomery noted in Right Wing Watch:
David Barton, an influential conservative activist who helped write the Republican Party’s 2012 platform, argues that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, unions and collective bargaining, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and progressive taxation in general. Should a company whose owners share Barton’s views be allowed to ignore laws that protect workers by claiming that those laws violate the company’s religious beliefs?
Religious Freedom For Me, But Not For You
The goal of the Religious Right’s persecution narrative is not only to carve out broad exemptions to civil laws; many use it to promote policies that suppress the free exercise rights of those who do not share a specific set of conservative Christian values.
Republican presidential hopefuls flock to events organized by David Lane, a Christian Nationalist who declares “America was founded by Christians, as a Christian nation” and wants to see the Bible used as the “principal textbook” in public schools In an op-ed announcing his 2014 election efforts, Lane wrote that activists must “engage the church in a culture war for religious liberty, to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and to re-establish a Christian culture.” It’s no coincidence that Lane can utter a plea for “religious liberty” and assert conservative Christian dominance over other religions in the same sentence. For many in his movement, those two seemingly competing claims are one and the same.
Similarly, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, speaking in 2012 of the “Sharia law bans” that have been passed in seven states and introduced in many more on a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, said, “Christians are being persecuted while people of a religion foreign to our country are doing what they want.” Moore, who once famously defied a court order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from a government building, said that when such an establishment of Christianity is prevented, “false religions come in and that’s what’s happening in our country today.”
Religious Right historian and activist David Barton has also made this connection, claiming that the United States’ secular legal system is actually paving the way for the institution of Sharia law.
In 2012, Rev. Franklin Graham lamented that “political correctness demands tolerance of everything as it panders to the godless values of pluralism, marginalizing and even persecuting men and women of faith.”
Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri put this into words when she said that the Air Force shouldn’t accommodate “fringe religions” because “Christianity is the main religion in our country.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins articulated this dissonance clearly in a recent discussion of the United Church of Christ’s suit against North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban. “True religious freedom,” he argued, applies only to views “based on orthodox religious viewpoints.” In his view, clergy who choose to perform same-sex marriages are not covered by religious liberty protections because they do not share Perkins’ view of the Christian faith.
Many of the same groups that warn that America’s Christian “minority” is on the verge of religious persecution have backed efforts to erect very real restrictions on the freedoms of actual religious minorities. Some, like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, flatly claim that First Amendment religious liberty protections don’t apply to non-Christians.
The Religious Right’s “religious liberty” argument too often translates into an effort to suppress the liberties of people who don’t share their specific religious beliefs: people of other faiths, atheists, women seeking reproductive freedom, LGBT people and Christians who don’t share the Religious Right’s political agenda.
Conclusion: Redefining Persecution, Redefining Liberty
Religious liberty is a bedrock American value, cherished on both the right and the left. Courts, lawmakers and the public have struggled throughout our nation’s history to protect the right of every person to exercise his or her own religion without being unduly burdened by the religious expression of another. Laws such as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act have placed an appropriately strong emphasis on protecting individuals’ religious expression without placing undue burdens on society as a whole.
But using the resonant rhetoric of religious persecution, bolstered by often-bogus stories of purported anti-Christian activities, the Religious Right has attempted to tip this balance away from pluralism and accommodation to a legal system that allows individuals and businesses to broadly exempt themselves from policies they disagree with – even when that means trampling on the religious rights of others.
These are not fears to make light of. Religious freedom is a core constitutional value and a cornerstone of our liberty. But the Religious Right’s narrative of religious persecution is not only far from the truth; in many cases the narrative itself serves to undermine true religious liberty and individual freedom for all.
In the thick of virtually every hot-button cultural battle to engulf Texas in recent years has been Jonathan Saenz - the president of a lobbying group called Texas Values, a regular spokesman for right-wing causes in local media, and a rabidly theocratic, anti-LGBT extremist.
This May, during the debate over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance - a measure that prohibits discrimination based on characteristics including sexual orientation, and gender identity - Saenz emerged as a leading voice against the proposal in local media. Local news outlets described him as an attorney or social conservative, obscuring the extremist worldview that undergirded his fight against the ordinance.
With an effort underway to repeal the ordinance, which Houston’s City Council passed eleven to six on May 28, Saenz is certain to remain in the spotlight as the fight over its LGBT protections continues.
Saenz’s group, Texas Values, is the lobbying arm of the Plano, TX-based Liberty Institute, an organization notorious for peddling discredited stories about supposed threats posed by government and progressive activists to religious liberty. Upon Texas Values’ launch in 2012, Saenz became its founding president, following a stint as Liberty Institute’s top lobbyist in Austin. Texas Values’ biography of Saenz notes that he “has been featured in local, national, and international media” including cable networks Fox News and CNN, where he has discussed such topics as school prayer and Texas conservatives’ effort to remake the state’s social studies curriculum.
But those media appearances only hinted at the far-right vision informing Saenz and Texas Values’ work.
Texas Values’ Right-Wing Crusades
Much of Texas Values’ work centers on its fight against LGBT equality, which includes opposing even basic protections for LGBT people:
- In January, the organization applauded Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for “stand[ing] up against lesbian mayor" Annise Parker after Abbott filed court briefs opposing Parker’s bid to extend insurance benefits to Houston employees’ same-sex spouses.
- The group opposes efforts to curb anti-LGBT bullying, contending that those efforts grant “special rights” to “homosexuals.”
- Texas Values even supports keeping anti-sodomy laws on the books. While the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision found state anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional, Texas’ law is still on the books. In 2013, Texas Values opposed legislation that would have repealed the law, assailing the bill as part of an effort to push a gay “agenda.”
Texas Values also beats the drum of a litany of typical right-wing social causes. The group opposes comprehensive sex education in schools and has attacked Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis for her support for reproductive rights and the gay “anti-family agenda,”
The group also pushes the tired right-wing myth of a “war on Christmas” - but with a distinctly conspiracy-minded fervor. According to the group, that “war” is “a key front in the radical movement to remove all religious expression from the public square” and to create a world in which children are too afraid to even talk about Christmas at school.
But Texas Values fear mongering about a “radical movement” aimed at purging Christianity from public life pales in comparison to Saenz’s extreme views on the separation of church and state. To hear Saenz tell it, such a separation doesn’t even exist.
In 2010, conservatives on the Texas Board of Education implemented new social studies standards that heralded American capitalism, cast doubt on the founders’ vision of a secular republic, and promoted teaching of “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” Saenz, then Liberty Council’s director of legislative affairs, was a prominent supporter of the conservatives’ revamped standards, calling it “untrue and factually and historically inaccurate" that the Constitution separates church and state.
Saenz’s effort to turn public education into a training program from Christian fundamentalism doesn’t end there. Saenz lambastes evolution as a “left-wing ideology” that “any respectable scientist” should see through. It’s clear, then, that he doesn’t hold the scientific community in much esteem; in September 2013, Saenz went after evolution supporters on the Texas Board of Education for wanting to "bow down to the scientific community." He’s also a strong proponent Bible classes in public schools, accusing opponents of such classes of being “enemies of religious freedom.”
But Saenz’s concern for religious sensibilities doesn’t extend to Muslims. In September 2010, the Texas Board of Education passed a resolution calling on textbook publishers to limit references to Islam, ostensibly to combat the stealth influence of Middle Easterners in textbook publishing. Saenz lauded the resolution as “doing the right thing … to prevent any type of religious discrimination or treat any religion in a way that’s incomplete.” Interfaith clergy members weren’t as impressed, condemning the resolution as “inflammatory” and “unwise.”
Saenz has been similarly extreme and inflammatory in his campaigns against even basic protections for the LGBT community.
While campaigning against Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, Saenz repeated the thoroughly debunked right-wing myth that sexual predators would exploit the ordinance’s gender identity protections to sneak into restrooms and ”terrorize women and children.”
Saenz made the same argument when lobbying against a similar non-discrimination measure in San Antonio, warning that the proposal would “allow men into women’s restrooms” - a claim that PolitiFact Texas rated “false.” Like other right-wing opponents of San Antonio’s ordinance, Saenz baselessly framed the measure as an attack on Christians, warning that the ordinance would be wielded as "a weapon against people of faith and family values."
His crusade against Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance relied heavily on an attempt to drive a racial wedge between supporters and opponents of the proposal, making sure to note on numerous occasions that there were Latinos and African-Americans who opposed the ordinance.
In keeping with his pattern of assailing LGBT rights as a threat to religious liberty, Saenz championed Arizona’s notorious SB 1062, a law that would have protected business owners who refuse service to LGBT customers, falsely suggesting that the measure was needed to prevent churches from being forced to perform same-sex weddings.
When he’s not working to thwart even basic protections for LGBT people, Saenz promotes a number of tired and ridiculous myths about LGBT people. Saenz has peddled the bogus “slippery slope” argument against marriage equality, arguing that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will lead to "polygamy and polyandry" and potentially to people marrying their stepchildren.
He’s also a vocal proponent of harmful ex-gay therapy, which he claims is based on valid science. Indeed, Saenz’s solution to the existence of gay people is to tell them that “it’s never too late” for them to “change.”
Saenz’s fact-free approach to combating LGBT equality is symptomatic of his broader unwillingness to be confronted with facts, evidence, and even lives that don’t comport with his myopic view of the world.
He’s not just a “social conservative;” he’s a man whose career is defined by a penchant for using inflammatory rhetoric and outright misinformation to demean the LGBT community.
Texas and national media outlets would do well to identify him accordingly.
h/t: Luke Brinker at MMFA
Apparently, when some conservative Christians ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” the answer they come up with is, “Put up absurd, offensive billboards, preferably reminding passersby they’re going to hell.”
We’ve rounded up some of the more controversial billboards that have grabbed headlines lately.1. Jesus hates tolerance almost as much as he hates you! A billboard in the small town of Clyde, North Carolina doesn’t seem to get the difference between verbs and nouns. It asks Coexist (verb)? Tolerate (verb)? Sexual perversion (adjective and noun). But it sure knows what God would say about all three and that’s “NO!” Like mortals, God uses all caps when he’s angry. This billboard doesn’t hide behind that “hate the sin, love the sinner” stuff. This is straight-up, “hate the sin, and refuse to coexist with and tolerate sexual perverts.” It’s not clear how one goes about doing that. Stoning?Image via WLOS
2. Jesus is (at least trying) to watch you: Just this past Easter Sunday, the fire department of Farmington, New Mexico, responded to an act of vandalism. The Roman Catholic Churches of San Juan County had decided to place a billboard with Jesus’ face right outside of an adult book store. Eschewing the cryptic tradition of the parables, the billboard had a more direct message: “Jesus is watching you.” On Sunday, passersby noticed something lodged between Jesus’s disapproving eyes: an arrow. Police have still not discovered the identity of the bow and arrow owner. But even if he’s not found on this earth, there will be hell to pay later.
Image via KOB 4
3.Atheism creates war: E.F. Briggs, a reverend, and as you’ll see, amateur logician, put up this billboard in West Virginia. Briggs makes his intended audience crystal-clear: “Attention: Lunatics Atheists & Their Lawyers.” Then he makes some totally unfounded and nonsensical claims, which he presents as if he were Rene Descartes: “Anti-God is Anti-American. Anti-American is Treason. Traitors Lead to Civil War.” So, basically, if you don’t believe in God, you have the blood of a civil war on your hands. I wonder if Briggs considered the secessionists in the Civil War godless traitors. Something tells me he didn’t.
Interestingly, the company which placed the billboard, Lamar Billboard Company, refused to sell billboard space to the DNC. After Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) called decorated veteran and former marine John Murtha (D-PA) a “coward,” the DNC prepared a sign which said, “Shame on You Jean Schmidt. Stop Attacking Veterans. Keep Your Eye on the Ball—We Need a Real Plan for Iraq.” Lamar refused to run the DNC sign because the company doesn’t run “negative ads.” If only the DNC had followed the positive example of Briggs’ kindler and gentler treason-convicting billboard.
Image via CafeMom
4.From God’s lips to our… billboard. It looks like lots of Christians are comfortable speaking for God these days. Take this Fort Lauderdale ad campaign funded by an anonymous donor, which consisted entirely of billboards with quotes that God never uttered in the Bible. Turns out God isn’t a big fan of the whole Big Bang Theory. You’d think he’d want to take credit for it. But apparently not.
Image via MarkDraught.com
5. Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was the magical thing called evolution: God’s not the only one totally not impressed by the Big Bang Theory or the whole evolution thing. According to this billboard in Kansas City, “Evolution is a fairy tale for grownups.” Except that it’s based on fossils, facts and science, not fantasy. But, yeah. Kinda.
Image via AnsweringGenesis6. Keep Christ in Christmas! This is a fairly straightforward billboard brought to us by the Knights of “ColumbusLong.” I think they mean “Knights of Columbus Long Branch,” which is in New Jersey, a state that needs all the Christ it can get given its proximity to the atheists, gays and other followers of the Anti-Christ who populate New York.
Image via Beliefnet
7. Keep… baby Jesus fetus in Christmas? This sign, however, is a little less clear. According to this anti-choice Cleveland organization, Christmas starts with Christ, so we should keep Christ in it. And it also starts with baby Jesus as a halo-rocking fetus, so I guess we should keep him around too? So, no aborting baby Jesus on Christmas. Which sucks for atheists because that’s apparently how they celebrate the holiday.
Image via Patheos
8. Atheism will literally shoot you in the face: That’s funny. I always thought there was an extraordinary amount of violence based on religious conflict, not atheism.
Image via cafemom
9. You can’t masturbate with one hand: This ad applies to people who either have one hand or require two hands to masturbate.
Image via Christian Pundit
10. Are you confusing apes with monkeys? These billboards were put up by the organization, Who Is Your Creator, which aims to “raise awareness of the serious misrepresentations and lack of empirical science for the Theory of Evolution and its creation story for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and common descent.” They’d probably have a lot more credibility if they didn’t conflate monkeys with apes, since we are more closely related to apes, not monkeys. And we didn’t actually evolve from apes, we evolved from a shared ancestor. But one thing at a time.
Image via patheos
GOPTV "contributor" Starnes busted again for pushing fake story about persecution of Christians | The Raw Story
A Fox News correspondent has been busted again for pushing a one-sided story claiming religious persecution of Christians. Todd Starnes helped promote a story about a California first-grader who allegedly was not allowed to give a one-minute presentation…
Who Is Pastor Robert Jeffress?
Long before he was making appearances on America’s most watched cable news shows, Robert Jeffress was acting as the young pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls. Despite his Evangelical background, Jeffress’ early ministry work wasn’t defined by fire-and-brimstone-type condemnations of homosexuality. In 1998, however, Jeffress made his first public foray into the culture war. According to D Magazine's Michael J. Mooney:
He had just finished preparing a portion of a sermon titled “We Cannot Condone What God Has Condemned” when a member of his church came to him one morning with two books from the Wichita Falls public library. The books, Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate, are both about children raised by gay couples, and the latter features an illustration of two men in a bed together.
He thought about those books. And when he was preaching his message that Sunday, something welled up inside of him. The words just came out. “I’m gonna take my stand right here!” he said. “I’m not gonna return these books!”
Jeffress went on to spearhead an effort to remove the books from the Wichita Falls public library - an effort that earned him national attention as the City Council and ACLU became involved in the dispute. A judge eventually ruled that it was unconstitutional to exclude the books from the library, but the incident helped propel Jeffress’ popularity among Evangelicals, and his congregation expanded as a result.
In 2007, Jeffress became the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, where his national profile continued to grow. In March of 2013, the church opened a new $130 million church campus - completing the “largest Protestant church building campaign in modern history.”
Since spearheading the campaign to get gay-friendly books removed from the Wichita Falls public library, Jeffress hasn’t evolved much in his views on homosexuality or the LGBT community. Though he claims he’s now willing to consider the possibility that homosexuality is a “genetic predisposition,” Jeffress has peddled a number of extreme anti-gay smears, including:
- Gay people lead a “miserable lifestyle”
- Homosexuality is linked to pedophilia
- Gay people are promiscuous and engaged in “brainwashing activit[ies]"
- Gay rights will cause the “inevitable implosion of our country”
Jeffress’ bigotry isn’t just directed at LGBT people; he’s also made a number of disparaging comments about other religions, including the claim that Islam is a violent religion that “promotes pedophilia" and that Muslims, Mormons, and Jews are doomed to go to hell.
Jeffress’ extremism hasn’t got unnoticed. In February of 2013, former NFL player Tim Tebow announced that he was withdrawing from an event held at Jeffress’ church after being informed about the pastor’s history of bigoted comments:
Jeffress denied the charges of extremism, supported by a number of prominent right-wing media figures. Fox News reporter Todd Starnes published several columns accusing the “anti-Christian media" of having "smeared" the pastor, and notorious hate group American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident to argue that Jeffress had become "the Most Important Man in America.”
But Tebow’s public rebuking of Jeffress’ extremism hasn’t been enough to temper the pastor’s public rhetoric. In a press release for his new book Perfect Ending, Jeffress asserted that President Obama’s policies are “paving the way for the Antichrist.”
Nor has it deterred cable news outlets from treating Jeffress like a credible media commentator. In December, for example, CNN invited the pastor to discuss the controversy surrounding anti-gay remarks made by Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jeffress used the opportunity to defend his view that gay men are more likely to be pedophiles than straight men.
John Hagee: "People Who Don't Like Hearing 'Merry Christmas' Should Leave The Country" | Right Wing Watch
On Sunday, John Hagee delivered a sermon to his congregation during which he raged against the supposed “War on Christmas” which he began by declaring that America was founded as, and still remains, a Christian nation. As such, if atheists and humanists don’t like being wished a “Merry Christmas” … well, they can just get out of the country.
Telling atheists to get out of America is one of Hagee’s favorite pieces of advice, so it was no surprise to hear him declare it again during his Sunday sermon when he told any atheists listening that "if you pass a manger scene and someone is singing ‘Joy To The World,’ you can take your Walkman and stuff it into your ears, or you can call your lawyer, or you can just exercise your right to leave the country; planes are leaving every hour on the hour, get on one."
By David December 24, 2013 10:16 am The hosts of Fox & Friends on Tuesday thanked Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) for what they said was a “bipartisan effort” to “save Christmas,” while excluding all other holidays from all other religions. The hosts…
The reelection campaign of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants you to donate money to him to help him fight the “War On Christmas.” In a fundraising blast sent out Thursday and posted by Kentucky blogger Joe Sonka, his campaign manager, Jesse Benton wrote: “This War on Christmas is real, and it’s unconstitutional. Please take a stand right now and chip-in with $50, $25, or $10 to help us protect Christmas.”
Benton then launched into a tirade against “left-wing special interests” trying to torpedo Christmas traditions:Christmas is a time for celebration with family and friends, but more and more often we’re seeing our Christmas traditions attacked and dismantled by left-wing special interests that use the money from their liberal donors to squeeze Christmas-loving Americans into submission. From middle schools to high schools, city halls to state legislatures, left-wing extremists are waging a war on the very thing that brings so many families together during the holidays.
Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of being sued because they placed a Nativity scene in their front yard, and our schools shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can allow our children to sing Christmas carols in a Christmas concert. This is commonsense. But so often, these extreme liberals remind us that they don’t have any of that.
He later asked for donations again: “Let these anti-Christmas extremists know that they won’t win this fight. Chip-in with $50, $25, or $10 right now to make your voice heard!”
Mr. Loofah Man (aka Billo The Clown) uses image of dark-skinned Saint Nicholas to prove Santa is white | The Raw Story
Monday night on his Fox News show, host Bill O’Reilly defended his colleague Megyn Kelly, who recently made news for declaring Santa to be a white man. “As you may know, Ms. Megyn Kelly causing some controversy after she said last week that Santa…
Limbaugh: "If They Could, The Left 'Would Totally Eliminate' Christmas" | Video | Media Matters for America
From the 12.16.2013 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show: We leftists do NOT wanna take away Christmas, much to your chagrin, Rush!
'War On Christmas' Fighter Claims Non-Christians Shouldn't Take Any Days Off Of Work | Right Wing Watch
Bodie Hodge of Answers In Genesis, the group that runs the Creation Museum, recently authored a book about the “War on Christmas” and launched the “War On Christmas Insider Team” to help people defend the supposedly imperiled holiday.
Today, Hodge stopped by the American Family Association’s show Today’s Issues and chatted with AFA head Tim Wildmon and research director Ed Vitagliano about the mindset of supposed anti-Christmas agitators…which led him to argue that non-Christians shouldn’t even take any days off of work.
“If you thought about it, a secular, atheistic worldview, you know they don’t want Christmas,” Hodge said. “Well, why don’t they go up and say, ‘I want to work on Christmas and I don’t want time-and-a-half and I don’t want any of those holidays because that implies there is some God out there that’s holy that makes a day special. Consider a weekend. A weekend is a Christian thing, God created in the six days, he rested on the seventh, the Lord resurrected on the first day, that’s a Christian thing. These guys should say, ‘No, we should work all the time’ and work like the bees till you die.”
“They should have no days off, the whole concept of work and rest is a Christian thing,” he added. “Within their own worldview they have no basis for it, they have to borrow that from a Christian worldview, so they borrow it and they try to corrupt it.”
From the 12.12.2013 edition of AFR’s Today’s Issues:
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Don’t worry, Christians! The brave and smart members of the Oklahoma Legislature are working on saving the Sacred Baby Festival from all those pagans and liberals and secular humanists who are trying to ban Christmas forever, just like they made sure that no one can ever forget that the 10 Commandments exist. They’ve introduced two “Oklahoma Merry Christmas bills” that would protect Christmas, apparently in the belief that the scary bearded atheists in Chick tracts are real people, haw-haw.
The bills, HB2316 and HB 2317, would “permit school districts to display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations,” which seems like awfully non-Jesusy language for laws aiming to protect The Only Holiday That Matters (plus Hanukkah, according to the sponsors). Before you know it, some weirdo will sneak in Saturnalia or the Winter Solstice, and also too Oklahoma will be overrun with Druids.
Fox News host flips over atheist holiday display: ‘Baby Jesus is behind the Festivus pole!’ | The Raw Story
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson on Tuesday lashed out at atheists in Florida for putting up a Festivus display next to a Christian display at the state Capitol building. Last week, Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) office approved a request to install a Festivus…
Former half-term governor of Alaska and failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is worried “angry atheists” want to “abort Christ from Christmas.”
Speaking at Liberty University on Thursday, Palin addressed the “War on Christmas,” and the “angry atheists” out to ruin the holiday for everyone else. Palin invoked the words of Founders like Thomas Jefferson — who she said despite his writings on the separation of church and state — would be up in arms against people attempting to “abort Christ from Christmas.”
Palin said that Jefferson’s message has been grossly distorted by atheists attempting to use him for their own agenda, and argued that the nation’s third president would be on the side of Christians fighting to celebrate the holiday.
"Thomas Jefferson today, he would recognize those who would want to try to ignore that Jesus is the reason for the season, those who would want to try to abort Christ from Christmas. He would recognize, for the most part, these are angry atheists armed with an attorney. They are not the majority of Americans.”
She also complained that there is a double standard that somehow makes it okay for atheists to take offense at public displays of religion on government grounds, but religious people can’t get offended when they believe “their holiday” is being undermined. Palin concluded that people should follow Jefferson’s example and refuse to “sit down and shut up.”
How ironic is it that Palin chose Jefferson to use in her paranoid “War on Christmas” fantasy? In reality, Jefferson very clearly rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity that Palin and other conservative Christians continue to embrace…including the notion of a virgin birth, the supposed “reason for the season.”
Delusional much, Sarah?