Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Thank You, John Thomas


With a possible historic vote looming on a measure supporting same-sex marriage, the head of the United Church of Christ on Tuesday publicly endorsed the resolution for the first time.

The Rev. John H. Thomas said Tuesday that the church's General Synod "should affirm the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender persons" to have marriages "equal in name, privileges and responsibilities to married heterosexual couples."

"I believe our local churches, as they are able, should move toward the development of marriage equality policies," Thomas added during a speech at Emory University.

I've mentioned before that if the UCC adopts this proposal, it will be history-making: we will be the first mainline denomination to positively affirm same-sex marriage.

It's by no means a done deal; there are two competing resolutions, one against SSM, one asking for more time for prayer, reflection, and conversation. And Thomas' opinion, while influential, is just that: opinion. His vote counts only as much as any other delegate's.

Still, it's a step in the right direction, and worth some thanks, don't you think?

Light them up. Let 'em know you support them.

Chuck Currie has more on General Synod.

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Village Voice Cites Bloggers in Report on the Christian Right

Rev. Billy Graham's last crusade in New York last week spawned a great deal of hagiographic reporting on the career of the famous evangelist. But one of Graham's less reported legacies is his catalytic role in the formation of the modern Christian Right.

James Ridgeway, longtime Washington correspondent for The Village Voice reports this week that "If there is any one person responsible for George W. Bush's presidency it is Billy Graham. It is safe to say that Graham, old and sick now, is the most politically adroit religious figure of our time."

Ridgeway, who is a reader of and Bruce Prescott's Mainstream Baptist has a succinct round-up of some of the more significant leaders of the Christian Right including Tony Perkins, Albert Mohler, Ralph Reed, and Ted Haggard.

Here is what he writes about Haggard: "Pastor of Colorado Springs's large New Life Church and head of the National Association of Evangelicals, with a membership of 45,000 churches, Haggard talks to the president or his advisers regularly. His is the most powerful religious lobby in the U.S. Pastor Ted believes in the military as a public service and backs preemptive war. "My fear," he tells Harper's, "is that my children will grow up in an Islamic state."

[Crossposted from]
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Monday, June 27, 2005

New "Religious Left" Group Attacks Dems and the Left

I regret having to say this, but the Christian Alliance for Progress is off to an inauspicious start.

The new organization, presenting itself as a voice of the "Religious Left" has received some national and international press coverage, and it has set out some well articulated issue statements from a progressive Christian perspective. It says it wants to form a national progressive grassroots political organization. It has also been duly denounced by the Christian Right.

But there is one really big problem.

The group's Director of Religious Affairs and principal spokesperson, Reverend Timothy F. Simpson, thinks and acts just like a leader of the Christian Right in one important respect. He publicly accuses the Democratic Party and "the left" of being anti-religious and suppressing religious expression.  It is a baseless accusation and I hope he will abandon it.

In an interview with The American Prospect, here is what Simpson said:  

"One of the great problems of the Democratic Party," he said, "is that the 5 percent or so [of its members] who don't want any religious rhetoric at all, and who do not represent the mainstream of American political or religious life, have been allowed to call the cadence in the [party]. And when that happens, Democrats get their butts kicked. Because people in this country are believers."

"For Republicans and Democrats, he said, openness to religion 'is clearly the winning strategy in this, the most religious of the Western industrial democracies. You just cannot ask people to check their faith at the door of the public-policy arena and expect to resonate with any significant segment of the electorate, because that's not where people are. And folks on the left have just got to deal with that.'"

"Simpson characterized Democrats who are opposed to the injection of religion into politics as 'extremists,' saying that he can call for more religion to influence politics while still advocating a clear separation between church and state."

"'What we think the extremists in the Democratic Party fear, and rightly so, is a Christian takeover,' he said. 'We're trying to emulate the style of [the Reverend Martin Luther] King, which is more to speak to the government than to become the government -- which is what the folks on the right are doing."

I am particularly struck by Simpson's claim that "extremists" are calling the shots with regard to religion in the Democratic Party.  Its a curious, and I think reckless use of the term.

The press release announcing the formation of Christian Alliance for Progress denounced "the extreme rhetoric and political agenda of the Religious Right."  The organization's foundational Jacksonville Statement further denounces the "extremist political goals" of the Christian Right. If the leaders of the Democratic Party are extremist and the Christian Right is extremist, what does extremist really mean?

Rhetoric aside, the simple fact is that religion and religious expression has never been banished from the Democratic Party and Simpson presents no evidence that it has.  Who is this supposed group that has "called the cadence" in the party with regard to religion?  And who are these "extremists" and in exactly what ways are they extreme?

Perhaps at this point you are thinking, well, maybe Simpson was misquoted or having a bad day. Unfortunately, he said similar things at a press conference at the National Press Club on the occasion of the public launch of the Christian Alliance for Progress.  Here is a quote from, the nationally syndicated Knight-Ridder newspapers account:

"Simpson said at the Press Club launch, 'There is a sector of folks on the left that have been enormously vocal about (stressing secularism), that have shouted down the vast majority of folks on the left who are people of faith, who do believe in God.'"

This, friends, is hokum.

Simpson has no evidence that the Democratic Party or anyone in it is opposed to religion or its expression in public life. There is also no evidence that more secular people on the Left have "shouted down" anyone from the Religious Left. (It has certainly never been my experience.)

Could the Democratic Party (and for that matter, all other sectors of society, handle the matter of religion better? Why yes, as a matter of fact it could. But Simpson's divisive rhetoric is no help at all.

Simpson seems to have internalized one of the central message frames of the Christian Right of the past quarter century. (I discussed this frame in detail in chapter 8 of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, and some of the problems that result.)  

For all of the good things the Christian Alliance for Progress stands for and has set out to do, it will gain little traction if one of its main themes is to attack Democrats and the Left as anti-religion and engaging in suppression of religious expression.  We already have plenty of people who do that. We call them the leaders of the Christian Right.

[Crossposted from]

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Battle Over Public Broadcasting reports that Ken Tomlinson, the chair of the federal Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a conservative ideologue, hell-bent on twisting the CPB-funded PBS and National Public Radio to conform to his world view.

There are those who want to go even farther: two committees of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by $100 million, but ultimately after a popular outcry, the House passed an amendment by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) restoring the money.

But the the battle over public broadcasting is far from over. The Christian Right and the wider conservative movement have long despised PBS and NPR and will continue to wage a war of attrition against independent public broadcasting.

Meanwhile, Members of Congress, notably Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) have called for Tomlinson's resignation, and People for the American Way is mounting a campaign to pressure Tomlinson to do just that.

Paul McLeary writes regarding Tomlinson in his Salon opinion piece, "if his actions are any guide, administration-approved appointments, secret contracts with conservative content monitors and suppressing polls that refute his 'liberal bias' charge are part and parcel of his vision of balance. In effect, Tomlinson is stacking the deck so far to the right at the CPB that what he claims to see as balance, many others view as a right-wing coup in public broadcasting."

McLeary quotes Jeffrey Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy as saying the Bush White House and the Republican Party "have no intention to drop their campaign against public broadcasting."

"Ken Tomlinson is channeling Richard Nixon," Chester adds. "These dirty tricks, backdoor communications with the White House, the purging of senior executives, recruiting top-level GOP operatives -- all to scare public broadcasting officials" -- are reminiscent of Nixon's anti-public broadcasting crusade in the early '70s."

[Crossposted from]
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Monday, June 20, 2005

Ralph Reed for President?

The Associated Press (via reports that Ralph Reed, the founding and former executive director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition has announced that he is running for Lt. Governor of Georgia.

Much is rightfully being made that Reed has had many unsavory dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff who stands accused of ripping off Indian tribes who were lobbying to be able to operate casinos. While its possible that opponents in the Republican and in the Democratic Parties, (not to mention sitting grand juries and Congressional investigations of Abramoff's affairs) may be able to make the charges stick, to count on this would be unwise.

The fundamental lesson of Reed's tenure at the Christian Coalition is the organization matters. People who believe that the tinge of scandal, or of ties to people who make extreme or outrageous statements (like Robertson) will trump skilled and sustained organization, and the growing power of the Christian Right, have missed the most important lessons in politics of the past 15 years.

Meanwhile, the Lt. Governor's office in Georgia is thought to be a powerless office. So why would Reed, the current chairman of the state GOP want the job?

The AP reports: "Marshall Wittmann, who worked with Reed at the Christian Coalition but now works for the Democratic Leadership Council, thinks Reed wants to be president."

"'He knew he couldn't go from the Christian Coalition, so he became a political consultant, then Georgia GOP chairman, then coordinator for the Bush campaign. The next logical step is to win a political office. This is what's available, but it's clearly a stepping stone to higher office," Wittmann said."

It should be noted that Lt. Governor is a statewide office -- which means developing a statewide campaign infrastructure, which can be deployed into a race for governor or senator down the road

[Crossposted from]
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Friday, June 17, 2005

Ohio, Blackwell & the Christian Right Part II

Recently, the Ohio Restoration Project announced plans to mobilize conservative Christian voters towards the 2006 elections. The principal beneficiary appears to be Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell who is running for the Republican nomination for governor. (I referred to this in passing in Part I, which described Blackwell's involvement in a dominionist seminar at Cedarville University on June 17th.) The story has been widely reported, including by the New York Times, and much blogged, for example by Bruce Prescott at Talk to Action.

But there was one part of the Ohio Restoration Project action plan that was strikingly familiar to me. It incorporates a feature of two pivotal events in the development of the contemporary Christian Right -- the Washington for Jesus rallies held on the mall in Washington, DC in the 1980s. Interestingly too, they may very well also follow the model of abuse of non-profit tax-exempt organizations that accompanied these events.  

The Ohio Restoration Project is a carefully planned campaign to maximize conservative Christian voter participation in the 2006 elections. The project will among other things engage people through a series of "pastor policy briefings" for large numbers of leaders and followers in the largest cities in Ohio, coupled with advertising featuring comments from Ken Blackwell. And they want to recruit some 2,000 "Patriot Pastors" to lead the way. They also intend to ensure that Christian Right voter guides from any of several groups (Christian Coalition, American Family Association, etc. are in widespread use. They aim for 4 million. Of course some of this would have happened anyway, but they are providing an organizing focus that will not only ensure mere distribution, but generate interest and enthusiasm. There are plans to build e-mail lists, host "non-partisan" voter registration drives in churches, all of these activities are intended to build a political network that will influence the 2006 elections and beyond, and seize control of Republican party organizations in every county in the state.

As the New York Times reported, "In a manifesto that is being circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, which is called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year."

"The initial goal is to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative Republican, governor in 2006. The group hopes to build grass-roots organizations in Ohio's 88 counties and take control of local Republican organizations."

This represents a new, and possibly dynamic wave of energy and organizing. Its got a well thought out plan, that build on existing models, including the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and more. Far from being an original, out of the blue scheme, it shrewdly and knowledgably builds on and applies, Christian Right organizing models of the past generation.

A highlight of the campaign, going into the fall elections, is an event they will call "Ohio for Jesus" rally set for the spring of 2006. They hope to have top Christian Right leaders like Pat Robertson and James Dobson join Kenneth Blackwell as headliners for the rally.

The model comes from ground-breaking rallies in Washington, DC in 1980 and again in 1988. These events called Washington for Jesus, had similar political messages, but disingenuously claimed to be apolitical. They were transparently aimed at the political mobilization of evangelical Christians in general and charismatic and Pentecostals in particular.  I wrote about these events in my 1997 book, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, from which this discussion is adapted.

These events -- pivotal events in the history of the development of the Christian Right -- were also integral to the political mobilization of Pentecostals and charistmatics that became the base for the electoral ambitions of Pat Robertson, and later the core of the Christian Coalition that built on Robertson's unsuccessful run for the presidency. These were historic events in part because Pentecostals and charismatics had previously been largely apolitical. It took a multi-year and multi-institutional, multi-campaign effort to gradually orient them to political and electoral engagement.

Washington for Jesus, held in the spring of 1980 in the run up to the fall elections, was originally billed as a "prayer rally" -- but controversy erupted when a political declaration which was to be released at the supposedly apolitical event, leaked to the press. The declaration, drafted by rally leaders, including Pat Robertson, Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Demos Shakarian of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International, claimed, among other things, that "unbridled sexuality, humanism and Satanism are taught [in the schools] at public expense" and "our currency has been debased... and our armed forces weakened."  The manifesto also called for "laws, statutes, and ordinances that are in harmony with God's word."  Some, seeking prayer not politics, dropped out. In the name of unity, the declaration was dropped as well.

Nevertheless, Bill Bright called the event "the single most important day in the history of the United States since the Declaration of Independence." Rally coordinator Ted Panteleo said "I think President Reagan was elected as a result of what happened up there."

Soon after the WFJ rally for "Godly government," the non-profit Freedom Council was organized by Pat Robertson, who provided cash, mailing lists and office space at the headquarters of his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN.) Ted Panteleo, the founding director... said in 1982 that they were organizing in every congressional district toward "a Christian president, and a Christian government."  

U.S. News and World Report reported that CBN pumped $8.5 million into the Freedom Council, which concentrated its efforts in states likely to boost Robertson's 1988 GOP presidential primary efforts: "early voting states like Michigan and Iowa where Robertson's campaign has subsequently done so well" the magazine noted.

By the fall of 1987, the Internal Revenue Service and the press were probing for links between the Freedom Council and Robertson's as yet undeclared candidacy. That October, the Freedom Council shut down, and the results of the IRS investigation were never made public.  Four months later Robertson ally Rev. John Giminez of Virginia Beach, VA announced Washington for Jesus 1988 -- with Ted Panteleo as coordinator.  Former Freedom Council officials later admitted that they fronted for the Robertson campaign. "The entire process was to create a launching pad for Pat Robertson's bid for the presidency,' former Council executive director Dick Minard told NBC News."

While the model, borrowed from the pioneers of the Robertson wing of the Christian Right is obvious, one thing that is remarkable about Ohio for Jesus is how it is so openly a front for the electoral ambitions of Ken Blackwell. The participation of churches in this effort may very well jeopardize their 501(c)(3) tax status conferred by the IRS. Tax-exemptions for churches require being scrupulously nonpartisan with regard to use of church resources.  

Interestingly, partisan abuse by partisan Christian Right groups is not new in Ohio.  In 1996, in response to concerns raised by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Ohio Roundtable, then the leading Christian Right political organization in the state, and an affiliate of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, was forced to drop their biased voter guide. One wonders if the reasonable constraints placed on non-profit organizations regarding electoral activity are enforceable in today's political climate. Focus on the Family has a national network of state level "Family Policy Councils." The current recognized FOF affiliate in Ohio is the Cincinnati based Citizens for Community Values, which is also very active.

In any case, the Ohio Restoration Project plan as written is fraught with the likelihood that churches or other tax exempt organizations could stray well over the lines drawn by the IRS.  It may  very well be that this is intentional. There is a similar effort underway in Texas to recruit and mobilize "patriot pastors." Interestingly, Focus on the Family is promoting this effort, and an article in its magazine suggests possible collusion with the Republican Party:  "Internal data from the Republican National Committee shows that an estimated 40 percent of Christians -- that’s about 24 million people -- are not registered to vote. Considering that just over 100,000 votes enabled four pro-choice candidates for the U.S. Senate to defeat pro-life candidates, church voter registration is a key force in changing our nation’s future."

Christian Right attorney Matt Staver is quoted in the article claiming that no church has ever lost its 501(c)(3) tax status over electoral work. While this is not so, available evidence suggests that this election cycle will see a further pushing the envelope of non-profit tax abuse by Christian Right groups fronting for Republican candidates for office.

It is said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. The Christian Right has learned from and is building on its own history. This is an example of how and why the Christian Right is the best organized faction in American politics. They have developed and evolved models of political organizing appropriate to the constituencies they are seeking to organize. They persist across the election cycles. They plan ahead. The rest of society has pretty much yet to come to terms with the sea changes in politics brought about by the Christian Right -- which only benefits from being underestimated and misunderstood.

[Crossposted from}

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Investing in Ideas

For over thirty years conservative and right-wing foundations and funders have invested in ideas. They have poured over $2 billion into creating a right-wing network and infrastructure, and used that to build a large political machine and a huge populist mass base.

These funds have been spread across a range of ideologies and identities. Business conservatives, Christian evangelicals, libertarians, neoconservatives, military interventionists, anti-union activists, moral traditionalists, and others have been funded to pursue the ideas that facilitate action in the political and social arenas.

Most liberal and progressive foundations refuse to fund basic research, think tanks, alternative media, publishing, and conferences. That's exactly what conservative and right-wing funders have targeted in a strategic way. And by funding a range of conservative ideas, it is now possible to hear a radio debate on some policy issue where there are three views from the political right, one liberal, and no progressives. That's balance.

There is nothing new in this complaint. In the mid 1990s activist leader Suzanne Pharr asked Loretta Ross and me to help pull together some progressive strategy sessions at the Blue Mountain conference center in upstate New York. After one meeting we sent a delegation down to New York City to meet with representatives of over one dozen foundations and funders to explain how the political right had invested in the struggle over ideas. We talked about Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony, and the importance of being able to field-test slogans, frames, and different ways of explaining ideas and telling stories.

We explained how right-wing funders had shifted away from short-term project grants toward unrestricted grants over many years to guarantee and enhance the survival rate of right-wing think tanks and alternative media. We explained how an echo chamber had been created for conservative and right-wing arguments to challenge progressive and liberal theories and goals. We explained how we were being outmaneuvered. We explained that we were losing. We explained what would happen if we continued to lose in terms of the attack on gay rights, women’s rights, and immigrant rights. We explained that racism and xenophobia would continue to be rebuilt as acceptable public positions. To be fair, a few funders shifted their focus. Most did not.

The Institute for First Amendment Studies, which monitored boycotts by the Christian Right among other things, went under. The reproductive rights magazine Body Politic stopped publishing. The human rights group Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity (itself a merger of two groups) ceased operations.

In the mid 1990s groups such as People for the American Way shifted focus to monitoring legislative and political maneuvers by conservatives in the nation’s capital. This is an important task, but groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, and Political Research Associates (where I work) could not raise the funds to hire more research staff to monitor and analyze the slew of right-wing campaigns being generated by the well-funded right-wing infrastructure.

In the early 1990s there were three progressive researchers who produced books and articles about the rise of the political right and the ascendancy of conservative Christian evangelicals into the political system: Sara Diamond, Russ Bellant, and Fred Clarkson. Not one of them could make a living writing about the rise of the right. Compare them to Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, and the swarm of right-wing ideologues financed with stipends, grants, and fellowships to do research and write about the political scene.

A real democracy requires the type of informed consent that emerges as many competing ideas struggle for acceptance in the public square. In the culture war, one side has been disarmed.

Ported from Chip Berlet's Blog
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Rural Republicans Uphold Public Schools in Texas

The Christian Supremecist machine that has taken over the GOP in the large metropolitan areas of Texas did not expect to face resistance from their party's own legislators in rural areas, but that is what is happening.

The Speaker of the Texas House, Tom Craddick (R-Midland) was confident that he could deliver a pilot school voucher plan for his affluent Christian Supremecist backers in the last legislative session. His train was derailed by rural legislators from his own party who do not want to see already scarce funds siphoned off from their public schools.

How they defeated the proposal is most enlightening. They amended the bill to place the pilot program in the districts of the legislators who sponsored the proposal.

Obviously, vouchers must be the answer to problems with everybody's public schools but your own. The teachers at your own public school have names and faces and they are doing more than should be reasonably expected with the inadequate resources they've been given.

This entry is cross-posted from the Mainstream Baptist blog.
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ohio, Blackwell & the Christian Right

The theocratic Christian Right in Ohio promises to gather a lot of attention in the run up to the 2006 elections. The controversial Secretary of State Kenneth  Blackwell is the movement's apparent choice for governor.

Plans by a group called the Ohio Restoration Project to mobilize conservative Christians on Blackwell's behalf has been widely reported, including by the New York Times.

But Blackwell is trolling for support in other precincts of the Christian Right as well. He is a featured speaker at a Christian Right conference on Friday, June 17th at Cedarville University, a Baptist school in southwestern Ohio.

The conference is transparently seeking to persuade conservative Christian businessmen to become political activists and political donors. "This conference is for folks who earnestly desire to make a difference in their generation through economic means," according to the description on the conference web site. "They want to learn how to win in the marketplace and win big so they can leverage their resources and influence on behalf of a Kingdom agenda."

The event is sponsored by "Business Reform" magazine -- which brags about its line up of speakers: "It would cost you thousands for a day with them, but you and up to three friends can join them June 17th at Cedarville University from 8 - 5 with a single $49 subscription to Business Reform magazine."

Whatever else it may be, it is an event with dominionist Christian Right overtones. One of the featured speaker is Rev. Dennis Peacock, a longtime theocratic activist, whose organization Strategic Christian Services says it brings a "Biblical Worldview" to business. In a recent column posted on his web site, Peacock attributes the nation's problems to "our increasingly anti-Christ culture where secular humanism has gutted our cultural morality and worldview with a perjurious historical revisionism worthy of the Hitlers and Stalins whose ambitions we claim to have not only defeated but transcended."

Peacock was a founder and leader of the Coalition on Revival, which led a series of theological conversations in the 1980s that have been pivotal in animating, and setting the more decisively theocratic direction of the Christian Right.

Another seminar speaker is Dr. Gary Cass, who heads the Center for Reclaiming America, a political arm of Rev. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries. For ten years, Kennedy has held an increasingly influential political conference at his church in Ft. Lauderdale. This year, the Christian Science Monitor ran a feature story about the conference.

"In material given to conference attendees," according to the Monitor, Kennedy wrote: "'As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.'"

The Center for Reclaiming America, the Monitor reported, "aims to increase its 500,000-strong 'e-mail army' to 1 million, and to encourage Christians to run for office. It has plans for 12 regional offices and activists in all 435 US House districts. And a new lobbying arm in Washington will target judicial nominations and the battle over marriage."

"'If they don't vote our way, we'll change their view one way or another,' executive director Gary Cass tells the group. As a California pastor, Dr. Cass spearheaded efforts to close abortion clinics and recruit Christians to seek positions on local school boards. 'We're going to take back what we lost in the last half of the 20th century,' he adds."

The title of Cass' Cedarville talk is: "Winning the Culture Wars."

Of course, just because Mr. Blackwell is speaking at a conference with Cass and Peacock, does not mean that he necessarily shares their views. On the other hand, this is yet one more example of the way that the ambitious Blackwell, who is running for governor in 2006, is positioning himself as the candidate of the Christian Right.

[This is part I of a two part series on Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and his relationship to the Christian Right. Crossposted from]

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Anti-Gay Campaign in Maine

Two Anti-gay campaigners from Massachusetts, Brian Camenker (of the Parents Rights Coalition and the Article 8 Alliance) and David Parker were in Maine on June 13th and 14th for six city "Wake Up" tour by Christian Right groups. The tour sought to gain attention for their effort to gather enough petition signatures to stop implementation of a new law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, credit, housing, education, and public accommodations. The law is due to take effect on June 28th.

According to an article in the Morning Sentinel, Parker and Camenker were the guests of the Christian Civic League at one stop on Tuesday "to alert Mainers to what's happened in other states with progressive gay-rights laws."

Parker, as the father of a child in the Lexington, MA public schools, complains about a picture book that depicts a same sex couple as parents; and he wants to be able to remove his son from any possible reference to homosexuality in school. Here in MA, we often allow children to begin to understand that there may be different kinds of families in the world. Parker and Camenker, however, are obsessed with "the gay agenda." Parker was arrested when he refused to leave school property until he got his way in the matter.

Here is what the Coalition for Marriage says on its web site about the "hidden agenda of the homosexual rights movement:"

"When the homosexual rights movement succeeds in their effort to gain absolute power, they will vent their fury on men of God with all the rage of the crowd gathered outside Abraham's door in Sodom and Gomorrah."

The nasty crusade is not going unopposed. "As Parker and Camenker told their stories," reported the Morning Sentinel," a small group of people holding signs stood silently in the back of the room to show their opposition to the event. Members of Waterville's First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, said they want the public to know that not all Christians agree with the civic league's efforts."

Mainers might be interested in MA blogger Marry in Massachusetts' eye-opening take on Parker's tale. They might also be interested in knowing about the noxious electoral activities of Camenker's Article 8 Alliance last year, and again this year during special elections for the MA House of Representatives.

Its hard to beat Maine's Coalition for Marriage for absurd and inflammatory rhetoric, but the Article 8 Alliance is certainly in the running, as Cecilia d'Oliveira, a resident of a town that knows them well showed in a letter-to-the-editor.

Here is part of what she wrote: "The Article 8 Alliance has aligned itself with David Parker in his effort to undermine the inclusive and welcoming nature of Lexington's public schools. Article 8 may also have been instrumental in creating the incident in order to generate press coverage sympathetic to their political views. So perhaps residents would be interested in learning more about this group."

"The Article 8 Alliance is an organization that is behind multiple pieces of harmful anti-judicial and anti-gay legislation. One proposed bill would actually require all parents to "opt-in" before a teacher could even mention the same-gender parents of a student!"

"If you go to the Article 8 Web site and click on their MassResistance blog, you will find many inflammatory quotes, some about our town. Here are four examples: 1) 'the jackbooted thugs currently in control of the Lexington schools;' 2) 'the fascists of Lexington are marching in lockstep!;' 3) 'Lexington lemmings;' 4) 'Lexington LGBTQI Fourth Reichers.'"

( A Tip o' the Hat to fellow MA blogger .08 Acres and a Donkey for pointing the way on this story.)

[Crossposted at]
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Busting Domestic Terror Networks

In recent years, some in federal law enforcement have pushed the "lone wolf" theory of criminal activity by far-right organizations from neo-Nazis to revolutionary antiabortion terrorists. Prosecutions may be easier if there is a focus on individuals. But time and again, it is clear the those who have been convicted of crimes based on their far-right ideologies, almost always came from a culture and organizational context that nurtured their views and honed their skills. What's more, its also so that these individuals often had help, and rarely act alone -- except in the narrowest sense of criminal culpability.
I discussed the underground networks behind antiabortion violence in Eternal Hostility: The Strugle Between Theocracy and Democracy.

Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation, and others in the prochoice leadership told me in interviews for Womens eNews a few years ago that they saw pursuing the wider networks that support violent antiabortion criminals -- as essential.

"Other criminals," Saporta said, "will continue to rise up to replace the high-profile criminals who get caught, because they know they can count on food, shelter and other support. I think that until we put those people in jail, we will not be able to stop the violence."

The nationally syndicated radio news program Democracy Now recently featured an interview with a former FBI undercover operative who takes exception to the F.B.I.'s lone wolf theory. Here is part of their interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we're joined by an ex-F.B.I. agent, Mike German, a whistleblower. He resigned from the agency last year in protest of what he saw as continuing failures in the F.B.I. counterterrorism program. German had worked for years going undercover to infiltrate domestic terrorist organizations like white supremacist skinhead groups and anti-government militias. On June 5, he wrote an editorial in The Washington Post advocating law enforcement pay more attention to groups that produce so-called lone wolf extremists like Timothy McVeigh, executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, and Eric Rudolph who planted the bombs at the Atlanta Olympics and women's health clinics, a gay night club, as well...

AMY GOODMAN: Looking at the piece that you did in The Washington Post, "Behind the Lone Terrorist, a Pack Mentality," you talk about every once in a while, a follower of these movements bursts violently into our world with deadly consequences. McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Buford Furrow, Jr., Paul Hill, to name just a few, all convicted murderers, identified as lone extremists, the most difficult terrorists to stop, because they act independently from any organization. Or do they? You write, "Tim McVeigh seemed able to find a militia meeting wherever he went. He was linked to militia groups in Arizona and Michigan, white supremacist groups in Oklahoma and Missouri, and at gun shows he sold copies of The Turner Diaries, the racist novel written by the founder of a neo-Nazi organization. No one finds such groups by accident." You talk about Eric Rudolph who planted the bombs at the Atlanta Olympics, two abortion clinics, gay nightclub, grew up in the Christian Identity Movement, which identifies whites as God's chosen people and encourages the faithful to follow the Biblical example of Phineas, by becoming instruments of God's vengeance. Aryan Nations, formerly of Hayden Lake, Idaho, was the center of Christian Identity thought. Not incidentally, Buford Furrow worked there as a security guard before going on a shooting rampage at a Jewish day care center in Southern California. And you talk about Paul Hill, wrote of the need to take Phineas actions to prevent abortions and was so well known that the news media used to -- used him to speak in support of Michael Griffin's killing of abortion doctor, David Gunn, that Hill later shot an abortion provider himself should have surprised no one. Give us the landscape of these groups. They're well known.

MIKE GERMAN: Sure, they're well known. And they're very well organized, and they're very smart. They understand criminal conspiracy laws. They understand the First Amendment. And they take advantage of those in training their operatives to go out and do these activities. And the point I was trying to make is -- is that we can't look at these as isolated instances. It would be as if we were investigating the mafia and looking at every mafia hitman as a lone assassin and not looking at the underlying organization that was producing these murders, you know. And these people are careful, the leadership are careful about separating themselves from the actual criminal conspiracy, you know. But they do set the motive. They set the method that's used, and I believe that makes them part of the conspiracy. Now, I'm not saying necessarily you can make a criminal case against them, but all I'm saying is if we're -- if our number one priority is to prevent acts of terrorism, we have to pay attention to these needle factories, because that's what they're producing is these lone extremist terrorists. And it's not just random violence that occurs once in a while, it's an organized pattern of activity.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember during President Bush, the first's presidency, Planned Parenthood trying to get the administration to talk about the whole movement of burning, bombing, attacking women's health clinics as a conspiracy, because the same kinds of things were happening around the country, not to mention the targeting of women's health professionals, and doctors who performed abortions. They could hardly get an audience with the Justice Department at the time, and the administration was adamant about not talking about conspiracy of these groups. What is the significance of this?

MIKE GERMAN: Well, I think the problem is if you blind yourself to the conspiracy, then the chances of them being successful in their next act of lone extremist terrorism is more likely. So, you know, again I'm not saying that we could necessarily take these leaders into court and convict them, because the whole purpose of their methodology is to separate themselves from the actual criminal activity, but what I'm saying is if we don't pay attention to those leaders, you're going to insure that the next group is successful, just as if we were only investigating the mafia one murder at a time and not looking at the underlying organization."

[Crossposted from]
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Monday, June 13, 2005

Right Wing Coalition Unraveling

The right wing coalition between Neo-Conservatives and Religious Supremecists is beginning to unravel. Both sides have long been using the other to achieve political power. Now both sides are jockeying to blame the other for the backlash that is building against their joint leadership. Recent polls reveal that support for the right wing leadership of both the administration and congress has fallen through the floor.

The Neo-Conservatives overreached in pursuit of their objectives by attacking the third rail of American politics -- social security.

Religious Supremecists overreached in pursuit of their goals by politicizing the tragic circumstances around the death of Terri Schiavo and by their campaign to end the filibuster in the Senate.

Now that support for the war in Iraq is declining, the Religious Supremecists who took the lead in generating support for the war in Iraq, are beginning to peel away from the Neo-Conservatives who crafted the policy and plans for the war. The key figure in this latest split is Walter Jones. He says he will offer legislation next week to set a timetable for our withdrawal from Iraq.

Religious Supremecists are clearly beginning to distance themselves from the failed policies of the Neo-conservatives and moving on with their own agenda. Jones is still working hard to legalize the politicization of churches and Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Texas Governor Rick Perry are already openly leading Religious Supremecist organizing efforts in their key electoral states.

This entry is cross-posted from the Mainstream Baptist blog.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

Christian Right Xenophobia Radio

The Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association, founded by United Methodist minister, Rev. Don Wildmon, has been a leading Christian Right organization for a generation.

In recent years, AFA has developed syndicated radio program, American Family Radio, which it claims airs on about 200 stations around the country.

Wildmon and some of his senior staff recently engaged in a xenophobic discussion of the recent election of Antonio Villaraigosa, according to an account of the program by Max Blumenthal of Media Matters for America. (The organization has, for some time, been monitoring the news and public affairs programs of Christian Right media outlets.) Among other things, American Family Radio's Fred Jackson claimed that the recent election of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles was "a direct result of... illegal immigration."

Jackson claimed that "that scenario... is going to repeat itself in communities across the United States." He went on to say that "...the problem is, like brother Don [Wildmon] said, we don't want to have two nations within our borders that can't communicate with one another and natural hostility will develop."

If there is a "natural hostility," it would appear to be emmanating from Jackson and Wilmon.

Incidentally, Wildmon's "ministry" is an excellent example of how some of the Christian Right is not part of explicitly conservative denominations. Historically, the Christian Right has had a significant and growing base in mainline Christianity as well. This has often resulted in the development of conservative and evangelical factions, (sometimes financed and egged on by outside agencies), that are at odds with the rest of the denomination, creating tension, division and gridlock.

[Crossposted at]
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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Catholic Women Watch New Pope

Catholics for a Free Choice -- a courageous organization that has stood up for the equality of women and for reproductive rights for many years -- has a new project.

"As with any transition of power," CFFC stated in a press release today, "the first 100 days are a crucial indicator and opportunity to establish the values and priorities of a new administration. As we reach Day 51 of the papacy of Benedict XVI, Catholics for a Free Choice... reveals that the new pope is squandering that chance."

CFFC has launched a project they call the First 100 Days Campaign to advocate for change in the church and to monitor the actions of Vatican. The new Pope, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, once headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- the agency that defines and enforces doctrinal orthodoxy. Back in the day, it was the Vatican agency responsible for the Inquisition.

CFFC has a few suggestions for the new Pope.

"The recommendations of the First 100 Days Campaign are easy. They do not require theological change. Each of the recommendations could and should be done immediately. These things remain undone not because of doctrinal restriction, but because the Vatican has chosen not to act. Among the requests: meet with sexual assault survivors, hear their stories and apologize publicly, lift the ban on condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and appoint women to high level positions in the curia and throughout Vatican agencies."

"CFFC president Frances Kissling noted, 'The first 100 days of any leadership post signals to the world the values, priorities and style of the leader. While not every issue can be addressed—nor every problem solved—in this time, the initial steps of any administration sets a tone that both predicts and guides future work.'"

"However, instead of taking steps forward in the church, the new pontiff has focused his energies on ensuring that things are 'business as usual' at the Vatican: reappointing Pope John Paul II's leadership team, attacking the separation between church and state and making divisive statements."

"On Day 18, a prominent Jesuit editor of a Catholic magazine resigned his position under pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly headed by the new pope. On Day 35, the Vatican declared that there would be no investigation into the allegations of abuse against the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder and head of the Legionaries of Christ. On Day 48, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his opposition to homosexuality, which he once called 'a more or less strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil,' and condemned same-sex unions at a conference on families at the Diocese of Rome. As part of his screed, he also strongly spoke against contraception and divorce."

"As we pass the mid-point of this critical period, CFFC has launched a new website to monitor the actions of Pope Benedict XVI and evaluate what he is and is not doing to address the needs of Catholics—and non-Catholics—around the world."

The Washington-based CFFC will continue to highlight the activities of Pope Benedict XVI at a new web site called Pope Watch.

Check it out.

[Crossposted from]
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Federal Funds for Bible-based Program

In a blatant run around the wall of separation between church and state, the Department of Health and Human Services is bankrolling the Pennsylvania-based John Guest Evangelistic Team's religiously oriented chastity program The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit. And Cynthia Cooper of Women's eNews has a report.

"The Silver Ring Thing," writes Cooper, "is a live three-hour, high-tech sound, light and video show complete with actors and comedy sketches with a stated mission to impress teens to promote teen chastity and so-called Christian values."

"The mobile shows -- set up in churches, conference centers and other venues around the country--culminate with teens pledging abstinence until they present a silver ring that symbolizes their celibacy to their spouse on their wedding day... The $15 silver rings that teens are encouraged to buy for the ceremony are inscribed with a biblical reference of 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, which reads 'God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor.'"

The Silver Ring Thing newsletter, Cooper reports, "mentions Jesus Christ 17 times in 8 pages. 'Who would have ever thought we would see the day when promoting sexual abstinence among students would become an opportunity to communicate the Good News of the Gospel?' the newsletter asks."

Womens eNews is a free, daily news service "covering issues of concern to women and their allies."

Check it out.

[Crossposted from]
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Skepticism or Cynicism?

This past weekend my wife and I traveled to Williams College to attend the graduation of our niece, Abby. The main commencement speaker was Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for the New York Times. The speech was an impressive display of public speaking that matches Friedman’s reputation as a top notch writer. Williams College Commencement 2005

I say this, despite the fact that what Friedman writes in his columns generally drives me crazy. I could provide a big list of my complaints as a journalist on the political left, but instead let me quote from Friedman on what is the heart of real journalism:

"Always remember, there is a difference between skepticism and cynicism. Too many journalists, and too many of our politicians, have lost sight of that boundary line....there [is] a big difference between skepticism and cynicism. Skepticism is about asking questions, being dubious, being wary, not being gullible, but always being open to being persuaded of a new fact or angle. Cynicism is about already having the answers -- or thinking you do -- answers about a person or an event. The skeptic says, 'I don't think that's true; I'm going to check it out.' The cynic says: 'I know that's not true. It couldn't be. I'm going to slam him....' Always remember, real journalists are not those loud mouth talking heads you see on cable television."

On this matter Friedman and I are in total agreement. I know journalists across the political spectrum who see journalism as a craft that demands adherence to a set of principles. Fairness and accuracy for starters.

For over ten years I have been teaching a summer course on "Strategic Research, Analysis and Reporting" at Z Magazine’s summer institute; a course developed and taught over the years along with progressive journalists Holly Sklar, & Abby Scher. This coming weekend I head down to Wood’s Hole on Cape Cod to teach another session. Here’s how we traditionally open the class:

"Progressives have a long and proud tradition of muckraking, and there are plenty of role models such as Ida M. Tarbell, Nellie Bly, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, George Seldes, I.F. Stone, Rachel Carson, Alan Nairn, Deborah Nelson, Laura Washington, Sara Diamond, Russ Bellant, Frederick Clarkson, Trudy Lieberman and many more. If you haven't heard of one or more of these journalists, get acquainted with their lives and work by doing your own research."

We assume many of these names are unfamiliar to the mostly young audience, and hope they poke around and learn about their predecessors. All of these investigative journalists were skeptics, not cynics. Some could be acerbic or even harsh, but underneath the bravado was a clear sense that the point of their work was to make society a better place to live.

Skepticism helps us fix what is wrong with our society. Cynicism leads us to question if it is worth the effort. As we embrace skepticism, we need to reject--and criticize--cynicism.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

More on Rev. Fred Phelps

As I reported yesterday, there was widespread community response to the invasion of Rev. Fred Phelps and his followers to several towns in eastern MA on Sunday and Monday. The Lowell Sun has a story on the protests and counter protests in Dracut and Bedford on Monday titled: "Signs of tolerance meet signs of hate"

The Sun also reported on the successful efforts of blogger Lynne Lupien "to beat the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church's anti-gay group at its own game netted $606" for MA gay rights organizations.

"...Lupien's new Web blog,, encouraged those opposing the Westboro group and its leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps, to pledge whatever they pleased for each minute the Phelps group protested locally.
“So between the hour and a half they were at the Tsongas Arena Sunday and the half-hour they were in Dracut Monday, we raised the money,” said Lupien, a local activist and member of Greater Lowell for Peace and Justice. It worked out to $5.05 per each minute..."

Meanwhile, it has come to my attentiont that the Anti-Defamation League has an excellent report summarizing not only the background of Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church and thier vulgar and bigoted anti-gay activities, but thier track record of anti-black, anti-Jewish and overtly anti-American statements. It is a useful resource for communities faced with visits by Phelps' travelling carnival of hate.

[Crossposted from]
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Scapegoats, Whistleblowers, and Bystanders

USA Today has an insightful article by Jonathan Turley, Professor of Law at Georgetown University, about what "may be the U.S. military's longest unbroken tradition" -- offering scapegoats from the lower ranks to atone for the sins of their superiors.

The military offers its scapegoats in the antiseptic setting of the courtroom. The same cannot be said about how whistleblowers at national laboratories are treated. AP is currently reporting -- complete with gruesome pictures -- the beating of a whistleblower at the national lab in Los Alamos who was scheduled to testify before Congress soon.

I used to read about incidents like these in history books and shake my head at the corruption of the powerful in previous generations. My generation, however, witnessed the resignation of a President who acted like he was above the law. If even Presidents submit to the rule of law, surely corruption is under control.

Our system of checks and balances seemed to be working fine thirty years ago. Now the old "law and order" crowd and the new "religious values" crowd are working overtime to dismantle what remains of the system of checks and balances that was designed to correct the corrupting influence of power.

When the powerful finish with the whistleblowers and scapegoats they'll start picking on the bystanders. Bystanders think they'll escape the attention of bullies and tyrants, but all they really do is ensure greater abuses at a later time or for another generation.

This entry is crossposted from the Mainstream Baptist blog.
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Monday, June 06, 2005

MA Blogger Takes on Fred Phelps -- Wins!

Blogger and social justice activist Lynne who writes Left in Lowell has done a fine thing.

Picking up on a tactic pioneered by pro-choice activists, Lynne organized a "pledge a picket" campaign in response to an invasion of Dracut and Lowell, MA by the roving hate monger Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas and his band of cult followers. (Abortion clinics have used this tactic for years as a fundraiser -- the more pickets show up, the more money raised for the clinic.)

Lynne reported that Phelps was in the area to protest, among other things, Lexington High School's graduation ceremonies because of the school's strong gay/straight alliance group; and Dracut's Englesby Intermediate School because the subject of a 12-year-old girl's winning Women in History essay was Ellen DeGeneres. Phelps' group described these schools to The Boston Hearld as "fag infested moral cesspools."

The Boston Globe reports that Phelps also picketed area churches, and that over 100 people attended an advance training in how to handle the situation. The Bedford Minuteman also carried a detailed article in advance of the events.

Phelps is a profoundly polarizing figure and provocateur -- his signature slogan is "God hates fags." And he is good at drawing attention to himself. People are sometimes divided about the best approach. Here is Lynne's evaluation of that question. "On some level, I can see the point of those who didn't want to make a big deal of their visit -- because they love just getting the opportunity to spout hate on TV. I wonder though; would they still have gotten interviewed if there were no counter-protests? It's possible, but there would be no opposite viewpoint given. And that would be unfortunate."

Meanwhile, Lynne also demonstrated how effective a blog -- they are free ya know -- can be as an organizing tool. She had links to relevant information, details of times and places, and even links to maps and directions to the protest sites.

Phelps had 15 people. Lynne had over 70. And her pledge-a-picket effort received over $600 in pledges for gay rights groups in Massachusetts. The Lowell Sun covered the events -- which were described as "uneventful."

[Crossposted from]
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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Combating Anti-Gay Hate Politics

I am sometimes asked, what we can do in response to the Christian Right? And while I have written a great deal about that, and will certainly do more, for today, I want to focus on one important aspect. We have to do our homework. And I'd like to suggest an approach to this homework that may different than you may think.

Too often we look at the threat of the Christian Right in terms of single issues. While this is understandable, when we do this, we become like the story of the blind men, each with their hands on the elephant, trying to describe it. I think as we tackle any one issue, we need to develop a more comprehensive view in order to be more conversant with the nautre of the elephant. When we become more conversant, it will be easier to talk about what is going on, and therefore what we can do about it. Failing that, let's acknowledge that we may find ourselves winging it, with all that that may imply.

Nevertheless, for today, let's begin by looking through the lens of anti-gay hate politics, which is currently at the cutting edge of the politics of the Christian Right, and indeed, much of the Republican Party. In order to better contend with the politics of the growing ugliness and opportunism, here is an introduction followed by some homework. (You can pick how much you want to do, and at your own pace. You'll see.)

The current issue of Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that researches and combats hate groups, offers a comprehensive overview of the history of the Christian Right's attack on homosexuality, including an anthology of hateful rhetoric by Christian Right leaders, For example Rev. Jerry Falwell founder of the Moral Majority has said that homosexuals are "Brute beasts... part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven."

"The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit [homosexual] conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle." So said then-Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, (and possible 2006 candidate for governor of Alabama) in a concurring opinion in a lesbian child custody case.

Is that just rhetoric or do they really believe it? In the case of Falwell, maybe both. In the case of Moore, I have no doubt that he believes it. In anycase, an Intelligence Report editorial, explains, "In this issue, the Intelligence Report takes a look at the religiously based crusade against homosexuals in America -- a 'thirty years war,' as the story points out, that has intensified since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state anti-sodomy statutes in the 2003 Lawrence decision. Key points in the report include the religious right's repeated use of bogus 'science' and the bully-boy tactics of its leaders.'"

"These leaders angrily rebut charges that their cruel name-calling -- public descriptions of gays as 'perverts,' 'child molesters,' 'deviants' and 'evil' people — has led anyone to violence. They say they "hate the sin, but love the sinner."

"That is a hard one to swallow. When perpetrators of hate crimes against gays use identical words to describe their victims, you have to wonder where it began."

The editorial also refutes the key points in the Christian Right's arguments against homosexulality, among others, scientific and Biblical"

"Nothing in the legitimate scientific literature supports the notion that homosexuality is a 'perversion' or a mental illness. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. It needs no cure."

"Even the notion that the Bible unswervingly condemns homosexuality is open to debate," the editorial continues. "Many scholars believe that several key passages actually are denouncing orgies and prostitution -- or in the case of the town of Sodom, inhospitality -- and not homosexuality."

"There are two Old Testament passages that do appear to condemn homosexual acts, one of them calling for the death penalty. But they both show up amid a long list of religious prohibitions, including eating pork and wearing mixed fabrics, that have been abandoned by almost all contemporary Christians."

The editorial goes on to make analogies to the rhetoric of the most virulent forms of racism and anti-semetism. But the Intelligence Report is not the only one writing about the ongoing campaign of anger, resentment and fear mongering aimed at gays, immigrants, and others.

Author David Neiwart, writing at his blog Orcinus, writes that part of what is going on is "a hatred of multiculturalism. What happens on the street level is that all of the minorities whose presence is embraced by multiculturalism are the natural first targets of this intolerance as it festers into white working-class resentment and finally action."

Indeed, Rush Limbaugh was recently engaging in just this kind of hate-based propaganda when he attacked a high school that happens to have a fine multiculturalist curriculum.

"Remember, too," Neiwart continues, "that multiculturalism arose specifically as a response to white supremacism -- which, in fact, it replaced as the reigning national racial ethos. Those who constantly disparage multiculturalism seem oddly reticent about what they'd replace it with -- except, of course, white supremacists like David Duke and Billy Roper, who are fairly clear on the subject."

He quotes Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates (PRA) as saying "I have seen what appears to be an increase in anger toward gay people and immigrants, as well as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories."

PRA has been developing resources for understanding elements of, as well as the Right as a whole, for 25 years.

One useful PRA report documents the various "ex-gay ministries." For those interested in dominionism, PRA has definitions and a set of readings. For those who are ready to really engage in more comprehensive online reading and tutorials, PRA has 'em.

OK. I know that not everyone is going to do all of this.

But remember too, a lot of people who talk about the Christian Right, and the issues and the players, don't actually know very much about it. And while it is not reasonable to expect every citizen, activist, blogger or elected official to become experts in all aspects of the Chrisitian Right, (frankly, I don't know anyone who is), far more of us need to become far more knowledgeable than we are.

If we care as deeply about our values as we say to ourselves and to others that we do, if we are genuinely concerned about the extant threat to those values, doesn't it stand to reason that we should become more knowledgeable about the nature of the threats against them so that we can develop good and effective strategies and not risk making costly mistakes?

Any comprehensive strategy necessarily involves a comprehensive understanding of the opposition. But it has been my experience that people tend to get parochial within thier issue area, the environment, labor, women's rights, separation of church and state, whatever. But even as we focus on these things, we have to understand that there are those with a comprehensive opposition to all of these things, and that we need to adjust our knowledge and our politics accordingly. But alas, we tend to resist change -- in our thinking, in our habits of language, and in our politics.

In order to best deal with the challenges of our times, we will all need to be making some changes, and soon. It will be interesting to find out what they are, and what we as individuals, as organizations, as interest groups, and as political parties we are going to do about it.

Meanwhile, the threat of anti-gay politics is real. It is obviously of most immediate concern to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. It will almost certainly be used as a wedge issue in the next round of elections just as it was in the last one. This should be of interest to a broad range of people from moderate republicans to progressive democrats in all parts of the country, regardless of thier sexual orientation. We are all in this together.

Time to go do our homework.

[Crossposted from]
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Thursday, June 02, 2005

On Ohio's Religious Supremecists

Ken Blackwell, the Secretary of State in Ohio who oversaw the highly questionable 2004 electoral process in that state, is being featured in 30 radio second ads endorsing the agenda of a Ohio religious supremecist group.Here is the text of a letter to the editor printed in the Cleveland Plains Dealer from the Rev. John Lentz, a Presbyterian clergyman in that city:

A member of my church gave to me a copy of the Ohio Restoration Project. This project is led by so-called Christians who have a plan for Ohio. The project will target 2,000 pastors throughout the state to become "patriot pastors." These patriot pastors will be briefed on a specific political agenda and asked to submit names of their parishioners in order to increase a database to 300,000 names. These pastors will be asked to place voter guides in their church pews.

Ken Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state and a governor hopeful, is named throughout the document. Blackwell will be featured on 30-second radio ads promoting this group's agenda and supporting the "Ohio for Jesus" rally set for the spring of 2006. At the end of the document are the words, "America has a mission to share a living savior with a dying world."

This is not America's mission. This is frightening, diabolical stuff for non-Christians and Christians alike. It is blasphemous to claim that any earthly kingdom is God's kingdom. The theological foundations of this movement are vacuous. They are set on the sands of opportunism, self-righteousness and greed.

It is time for the citizens of Ohio to wake up. This group and those like it will stop at nothing in making America a theocracy shaped by one very limited interpretation of scripture.

The media must investigate and show this movement for what it is. Courageous preachers must help their congregations understand what is at stake. Silence is not an option.

Thank you Rev. Lentz for raising a hue and cry against this groups' truly alarming project.

The Dominionist group that tookover the Republican Party in Harris County (Houston) Texas also claimed to be "Restorationists." They claimed to be "Restoring America" and distributed video tapes about "How You Can Impact Civil Government" which was a primer on how to takeover your Republican Party precinct meeting.

This entry is cross-posted from the Mainstream Baptist blog.
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LA Conference Against Theocracy

Sunday June 5, 2005
March of the Theocrats:
The Religious Right's Assault on the Judiciary--And What We Can Do About It!
2:30 - 5:30 pm - Free Admission

Westwood United Methodist Church
10497 Wilshire Blvd
310 474-4511

Using Religion as an Instrument of Oppression

co-sponsored by
Progressive Christains Uniting
and African American Ministers in Action

A Rally and Teach-In

Keynote Remarks:
Jack Miles, commentator and author of God: A Biography

Rev. Cecil "Chip" Murray, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Hussam Alyoush

plus great workshops on judicial "activism," religion's re-emergence in public education, the worldwide Christian campaign against contraception and family planning, tactics & strategies of the Religious Right, faith-based social services and many others.

Visit the web site for directions and a downloadable conference flyer.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Readin' & Writin' 'bout Theocracy

Christian Reconstructionism is "arguably the driving ideology of the Christian Right today."

Thats what I wrote in my 1997 book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Its not that I thought then -- or now -- that everyone on the Christian Right is a Reconstructionist. Far from it. Rather, I think that the explicitly theocratic Christian Reconstructionist movement has played a catalytic role in moving large sectors evangelical Christianity from apolitical stances, to active political participation, brought distinctively theocratic ideas into mainstream discourse. And this has happened in just one generation.

"For much of Reconstructionism's short history." I wrote in Eternal Hostility, "it has been and ideology in search of a constituency. But in recent years, its influence has grown far beyond the founders' expectations. As Reconstructionist writer Gary North observes. 'We once were shepherds without sheep. No longer.'"

I was surprised when Terry Gross asked me about Christian Reconstructionism in our interview on Fresh Air recently. I have been surprised every time it has come up for the past year or so, because for so long the idea that there are active modern theocratic thinkers whose views inform the contemporary Christian Right, has been difficult for a lot of people to take in.

For those unfamiliar with the term here is how I defined it in my 1994 study of Reconstructionism in The Public Eye, the scholarly publication of the Somerville, MA-based Political Research Associates.

"Reconstructionism is a theology that arose out of conservative Presbyterianism (Reformed and Orthodox), which proposes that contemporary application of the laws of Old Testament Israel, or "Biblical Law," is the basis for reconstructing society toward the Kingdom of God on earth."

"Reconstructionism argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life--such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely "social" or "moral" issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Reconstructionists have formulated a "Biblical world view" and "Biblical principles" by which to examine contemporary matters. Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton succinctly describes this view: 'The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law.'"

That was pretty arcane stuff in 1994 and 1997 -- but no more. The name of the Christian Reconstructionist movement's seminal thinker R.J. Rushdoony, is even starting to become more widely known. It was also not long ago that the word "theocracy" was not uttered in mainstream political discourse in relation to the Christian Right. Now even mainstream newspapers and mainstream polititians of both major parties are using the term -- not as a term of disparagement, but as a fair descriptor of the political views and actions of some Christian Right leaders.

Of course there is still a lot of adjusting going on. There are those of all political stripes who would rather we not use the term "theocracy" at all. Some, quite understandably, are afraid the term will tar their movement. Others think it is not an effective term for tarring the movement -- as if that were the only legitimate use of the word. Some object to misapplications of the term. Others just have thier heads in the sand and don't want to see that there is, in fact, an active Christian theocratic movement in the United States.

Whatever people may think of the word theocracy, the fact remains that this movement is not new. It is not going away. And it is gaining power. Because this is so, many of us are going to continue to not only use the term, but growing numbers of people will be thinking and writing about it.

There is currently a well done series of articles published on the progressive news and opinion site Truthout that is making the rounds of the blogosphere. The series includes helpful discussions of Christian nationalism and Christian Reconstructionism. Check it out.

[Crossposted from]
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