“Our God wins!” Who do you think made this statement on Saturday in the hopes of rallying a group of religious fundamentalists? A. The leader of ISIS; B. A Yemeni militant commander; C. A radical Islamic cleric; or D. Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.
The correct answer is Jindal. He made the “our God wins” statement as the keynote speaker at an event sponsored by the conservative Christian organization, the American Family Association. (AFA.) Now, Jindal’s “our God wins” is a more impressive boast than you might first realize. Jindal, who is now a Christian, was raised a Hindu, a faith that features literally millions of Gods. So for Jindal’s new God to win, he is surely fully aware that it has to beat throngs of Hindu Gods. That would likely entail a massive, NCAA March madness-type bracket system pitting God versus God for years of battles.
In any event, the God Jindal and the AFA members worship has apparently been working out and is ready to kick some deity ass. And the way the crowd cheered Jindal’s notion that “my God can beat up your God” tells you a great deal about the AFA.
Now for those unfamiliar with the AFA, here’s a primer. They are a hate group. It’s really that simple. And that’s not just my opinion, but the view of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which named the AFA a hate group for its vicious anti-gay statements over the years.
As the SPLC’s Mark Potok has noted, in recent years the AFA also added Muslim bashing to its repertoire of hate. Apparently if you ask the leaders of the AFA, “What would Jesus do?” they would respond: demonize gays and Muslims.
The AFA, however, can’t simply be ignored. It’s indisputably a powerful conservative Christian organization. Based in Tupelo, Mississippi, it boasts 500,000-plus members and employs more than 100 people. It also operates its own popular radio network featuring Bryan Fischer, a man who is hateful as he is compelling to listen to on the radio.
Republican candidates for president have long visited Fischer’s show and teamed up with AFA in the hopes of attracting its followers. And not just the likes of Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, but also more moderate candidates like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who went on Fischer’s radio program during his failed 2012 bid for president.
Obviously political candidates can seek the support of any group they want. But as we saw recently with Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), appearing before hate groups such as the white supremacist group he spoke before in 2002, could, and should, come back to haunt you.
So here’s a sample of the AFA’s views so you can understand what they are all about.
Gays are to blame for The Holocaust: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” –May 27, 2010, Fischer’s blog.
God will use ISIS to punish America for gay rights: “God will use the pagan armies of Allah to discipline the United States for our debauchery.” August 22, 2014, Fischer’s radio show.
Freedom of religion is for Christians only: “I have contended for years that the First Amendment, as given by the Founders, provides religious liberty protections for Christianity only. “ August 1, 2014 article by Fischer.
The Charlie Hebdo attack was God’s punishment for the magazine’s blasphemy: “They made a career out of taking the name of God, the God of the Bible, the father of the Lord Jesus” which was in violation of the commandment “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” January 9, 2015, Fischer radio show.
Bar gays from serving in public office: “I believe being an active homosexual should disqualify you from public office because it’s a form of sexual perversion.” January 8, 2015, Fischer radio show.
Immigrants to the United States must convert to Christianity: Our immigration policy should be, “convert to Christianity, fully assimilate (become an authentic American, not a hyphenated American), and support yourself. If you commit to those things, you are welcome here.” April 9, 2011, Fischer Blog.
And the list goes on and on. Yet Jindal and other Republicans have no problem being the keynote speakers at their event and appearing on the AFA radio program.
Why would a guy like Jindal, an Ivy Leaguer and a seemingly mainstream governor, team up with the likes of AFA? Well, many would say it’s out of political expediency. After all, in the 2012 presidential race, white Evangelical voters accounted for 50 percent of the voters in the early GOP primary contests.
Others would say Jindal is simply desperate. The RCP average of polls shows Jindal in eleventh place out of 12 GOP candidates with only 2.8 percent of support. Jindal is literally running behind the poll’s margin of error.
But then again, maybe we are wrong. Maybe people like Jindal, Perry, Huckabee, and the like align with the AFA because they actually agree with their views. Perhaps they too believe that gays are to blame for the Holocaust, that Muslims and Jews don’t deserve First Amendment rights, and that all immigrants need to convert to Christianity?
Sure, these views sound outlandish, but shouldn’t we assume that the politicians agree with the hateful positions of the groups they team up with unless we hear the candidate publicly denounce each one?
If Republican candidates want the support of groups like the AFA, both the general public and the AFA’s followers deserve to know which issues they agree upon and which ones they don’t. Isn’t it time that the media started asking those questions?
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, January 27, 2015
Now that Christmas has triumphed yet again in the War on Christmas, taking place as scheduled, we can turn our attention to the presidential primaries. After all, the Iowa caucuses are only 401 days away. For quite a while yet, the candidates are going to spend their time figuring out how to bring base voters over to their side (and you should probably steel yourself for 500 or so repetitions of “It’s all about that base, ’bout that base” jokes from pundits showing they’re down with what the kids are into these days).
Here’s Anne Gearan in today’s Post:
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, is working hard to shore up support among liberals in hopes of tamping down a serious challenge from the left in the battle for the 2016 nomination.
Clinton has aligned herself firmly with President Obama since the November midterms on a range of liberal-friendly issues, including immigration, climate change and opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. In an impassioned human rights speech this month, she also condemned the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation tactics and decried cases of apparent police brutality against minorities.
The recent statements suggest a concerted effort by Clinton to appeal to the Democratic Party’s most activist, liberal voters, who have often eyed her with suspicion and who would be crucial to her securing the party’s nomination.
But the positions also tie her ever more tightly to a president who remains broadly unpopular, providing new lines of attack for the many Republicans jostling to oppose her if she runs.
And here’s a story from Mark Preston of CNN:
The first votes of the 2016 campaign won’t be cast for another year but there’s already a race well underway: The Christian primary.
Republicans are actively courting white evangelical and born again Christian voters, knowing they will be crucial in early-voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is urging people to join him next month in Baton Rouge for a day of fasting, repentance and prayer focused on the future of the United States.
On the same day, another gathering will take place in Des Moines, where at least five potential GOP presidential candidates will address Iowa voters on “core principles” that include “social conservatism.”
Later in the story, Preston notes that if Christian conservatives fail to unite behind a single candidate, their power will be diluted and a more “centrist” candidate could get the nomination. Which is both true and false. That could be the series of events, but we shouldn’t be too quick to assign causality (and there are no “centrist” GOP candidates, only some with weightier résumés who the establishment thinks have a better chance of winning; the ideological differences between them are somewhere between tiny and nonexistent). The truth is that the party’s born-again/evangelical base almost never unites behind a single candidate. The only time it has happened in recent decades was in 2000, when George W. Bush easily beat a weak field of opponents.
But there’s no doubt that the courting of the base will indeed occupy much of the candidates’ time. One common but oversimplified narrative has it that they have to do so in order to win the nomination, but it will cost them in the general election. The truth, however, is that this is a much greater danger for the Republicans than the Democrats.
To see why, look at what Clinton is up to. She’s coming out strongly in support of some moves the Obama administration has made recently and talking more about things such as inequality. That will warm liberal Democrats’ hearts, but will it actually hurt her in the general election? It’s unlikely, because her position on all these issues is widely popular. Are voters going to punish her for advocating an end to the Cuba embargo, which 68 percent of Americans believe should happen? Or a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which is supported by about the same number? Or some set of populist economic policies, when around two-thirds of Americans say government policies favor the wealthy? Some issues, such as police practices, may not be so clear-cut, but on the whole the things Clinton is saying now are unlikely to turn up in attack ads in October 2016.
The story isn’t quite the same on the Republican side. Christian conservatives actually have relatively few policy demands, and most of them are already covered by what any Republican president would do anyway (such as appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade). What they do demand is a demonstration of affinity and loyalty. They want to know that a candidate loves them and will be there for them throughout his time in the White House.
The danger for Republican candidates is that in the process of showing love to the base, they alienate other Americans. There’s no reason a candidate couldn’t do the former without doing the latter, if he exercised enough care. One area where it may be impossible is same-sex marriage, where the more conservative evangelical voters are still firmly opposed (though those attitudes are slowly changing), while most Americans are in favor. But what those voters mostly want is to be convinced that the candidate is one of them: that he sees the world the same way they do, loves what they love and hates what they hate. In theory, even an allegedly “centrist” candidate can accomplish that. But so often in the process of this courting, they end up looking like either panderers or extremists; that’s what happened to John McCain and Mitt Romney.
In the end, base voters in both parties want to be won over. They don’t want to go into the general election having to support a candidate they can’t stand. They may approach the courtship looking reluctant, but they’re still hoping that there will be a marriage at the end of it. And they don’t need to be convinced that their nominee is the best candidate they could ever hope for — they just want to decide that he or she is good enough. If the candidate loses, they may say afterward, “Well I never liked him anyway.” But in the meantime, getting enough of their votes in the primaries doesn’t depend on being the most religious (for the Republicans) or the most populist (for the Democrats). The question is what you do to make yourself good enough.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, December 26, 2014
Of everything coming out of this year’s Iowa Family Leadership Summit, the fear factor is what stayed with me.
It was a constant, discomfiting undercurrent, like a loose nail poking up in your shoe. It was organization President Bob Vander Plaats declaring this a time of “spiritual warfare,” and speaker Joel Rosenberg announcing America is “on the road to collapse” and “implosion,” and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, warning grimly, “We are living in some very dangerous times.”
The third year of the event sponsored by the self-described Christ-centered organization that seeks to influence policy and elections, brought big name politicians Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry to Ames, Iowa, this past weekend. They were there to rally the Republican base in the lead-off caucus state. But the upbeat, love-God-and-country tone of previous events appeared at times to have been replaced by a somber, calamitous note of foreboding. Even Satan got a few mentions.
Projected onto a giant screen to punctuate Vander Plaats’ remarks was a video filled with haunting images of Osama bin Laden, Adam Lanza and the Boston marathon bombings. It depicted a rising national debt, marijuana, Boys Scouts, gay rainbow flag and a woman holding up a “Keep abortion legal” sign. It ended with someone yelling, “God is dead. Hail Satan!”
Sponsors and speakers still exalted matrimony and procreation in heterosexual relationships, called for putting God back in the classroom and government, and called abortion murder. But this year’s message was: The nation is in moral decline. Ignore it at your own peril. That was even carried into foreign policy.
Rosenberg, an evangelical Christian born to a Jewish father, said the United States must not support a two-state solution in Israel because a sovereign Palestinian state “defies the biblical mandate.” Interesting that a Christian American would presume to tell Palestinian Muslims they don’t deserve a homeland because of what the Bible says. This follows an evangelical belief that Jews from around the world will gather in Israel, where the second coming of Christ will occur, and — though Rosenberg didn’t spell this out — be converted to Christianity.
“God loves you but if we don’t receive Christ, there are consequences,” Rosenberg warned.
Is fear a new strategy for the Family Leader and its affiliated Family Research Council and Focus on the Family? Is it a response to flagging interest and political losses? Organizers said there were 1,200 attendees, and that there has been steady growth in three years. But many seats were empty. Is it a concession they’re losing the battle over abortion and gay rights? Abortion has not been completely outlawed, even under a conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority. Having succeeded in getting three justices of the Iowa Supreme Court voted out over same-sex marriage, a few years ago, the Family Leader failed in its more recent campaign against a fourth. Same-sex couples are celebrating wedding anniversaries with children and grandchildren, and the planet has survived.
What the planet might not ultimately survive — global warming — wasn’t on the agenda. In fact, if this were a true gathering of faith leaders, one might have expected some commitment to keeping the environment healthy, some compassion for the poor and immigrants. There were calls for abolishing the entire tax system that sustains the poor in times of need. There were calls for boosting border patrols to turn back young asylum seekers before their cases are heard. Iowa’s governor, Terry Branstad, boasted of having cut 1,400 state employees and cut property taxes, which fund education, more than ever in Iowa history.
But if it were a political forum to vet candidates, a Jewish, Muslim, agnostic or atheist one would have had no place there. In one video, Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, said, “The only place you get right with God is at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Outside in the parking lot, some protestors from Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, which describes itself as a social and educational organization, objected. “The summit is attempting to define legislation through Christian dogma,” said protestor Jason Benell. “They want to blur the line between church and state. That’s not what Iowans want.”
He also objected to the idea that faith was necessary to have a good family. His group sees a ramping up of religious rhetoric in response to the Family Leader’s “fear of losing its base.”
Everyone will, of course, vote according to their own priorities. But America is not a theocracy, so it’s alarming to see politicians, by attending and playing to the sponsors, play into the notion that worshiping Jesus should be a prerequisite for federal or state office. America also cannot base its Mideast policy on some biblical interpretation about Israel. Whatever our religious affiliation or lack of it, I’d guess most voters have better explanations for Sept. 11 or the Sandy Hook shootings than God’s revenge – and would like to practical, reason-based solutions from those seeking office.
By: Rekha Basu, Columnist, The Des Moines Register; The National Memo, August 14, 2014
Members of Congress regularly boost their reelection prospects in positive ways like voting in line with the will of their district and participating in the passage of landmark legislation. But we know all too well that they also engage in negative campaigning, lambasting their political opponents and even scapegoating minorities for problems that we must grapple with as a community. Another pernicious habit that appears to be getting more prevalent is the attempt to co-opt religious belief for political benefit.
Some of the many examples include a resolution to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto and endorse its usage in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions, and a resolution expressing support for prayer at school board meetings. And just this week Congress passed a bill, the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, which will place a plaque at the World War II monument in Washington, D.C., “with the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the United States on June 6, 1944, the morning of D-Day.”
The prayer being referred to here mentions how “[o]ur sons … this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization.” While some soldiers may have been doing just that, there were certainly other soldiers who did not believe in a god, did not share the same religion, or simply weren’t fighting to preserve it.
Most government officials are well aware that working on these bills is a waste of valuable time since they accomplish little more than alienating Americans who subscribe to minority faiths and philosophies. In fact, there are many important bills that still await passage, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which would prevent discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity) and legislation that would raise the minimum wage. But as some Americans admit that the religious beliefs of a candidate impact their vote, many politicians see no downside to embellishing the importance of their faith and engaging in religious preferentialism.
It is important to note that there are politicians who categorically refuse to endorse religiously motivated bills or other pieces of legislation that would weaken the separation between church and state. And, of course, there are some evangelical “true believers” who genuinely wish to see their religious tenets enshrined into law no matter how it impacts the rights of others. But both of these types of politicians are in the minority.
Unfortunately, the politicians whose religious credentials run only skin-deep have yet to be called out for co-opting their beliefs for political gain, which means that this practice of pushing unneeded and sectarian legislation won’t end anytime soon. What’s needed is for average Americans to stand up and not accept their false declarations of religiosity, respond negatively to their religious pandering, and insist that they instead focus on what actually matters.
It’s past time that this shameful act is ended, before government institutions become even more reviled by an American public that recognizes how Congress is increasingly inefficient and disconnected from the issues they care about. Instead of disingenuously emphasizing beliefs that seem to help politicians in the short term but estrange Americans from their neighbors, Congress should put aside their faux faith once and for all.
By: Roy Speckhardt, The Huffington Post Blog, June 27, 2014
“One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other”: Chris Christie Has Some Pandering To Do In Advance Of His Next Campaign
A pretty significant religious right gathering it poised to get underway in a couple of hours, and the guest list is worth checking out.
Ralph Reed’s three-day Faith and Freedom Coalition conference begins today. This is your social conservative wing of the Republican Party. The speaking lineup:
* Thursday (from noon to 1:30 pm ET): Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Ted Cruz (R-TX)
* Friday (from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm ET): Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rick Santorum, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
* Friday (from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET): Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Texas Lt. Gov. nominee Dan Patrick, and Mike Huckabee
* Saturday (from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET): Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
This, by the way, is only a partial list. The list of luminaries who’ll be on hand for the right-wing gathering also includes Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who’s likely to be elected Majority Leader in a few hours.
There are a few important angles to this. The first is that the Republican Party’s eagerness to pander to extreme social conservatives is hardly a thing of the past. On the contrary, there are 10 sitting members of the U.S. House (including half of the GOP leadership team), six sitting U.S. senators (including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell), and two sitting governors, all of whom will no doubt deliver red-meat speeches to this conservative evangelical crowd.
Second, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” Conference is hosted and organized by Ralph Reed, a disgraced former lobbyist. Why would so many powerful Republican leaders want to associate with Reed given his scandalous past? Apparently because much of the political world has decided Reed’s controversial past no longer matters.
And finally, Chris Christie? Really?
The scandal-plagued New Jersey governor can certainly speak to whomever he pleases, but agreeing to speak at a religious right event organized by Ralph Reed, of all people, isn’t exactly an obvious move. It was Christie, after all, who said he’s “tired of dealing with the crazies” after far-right activists criticized the governor for nominating a Muslim judge.
One assumes many of those “crazies” will be on hand for the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s event today.
Indeed, the director of the New Jersey branch of the Faith and Freedom Coalition has repeatedly condemned Christie for being insufficiently right-wing on the issues social conservatives care about most.
But Christie’s national ambitions clearly haven’t waned, and despite the awkward fit, the Garden State governor apparently has some pandering to do in advance of his next campaign.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 19, 2014