"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Part Of A Deliberate Strategy”: The Religious Right Finds Its Man

The pattern started in earnest in 1996. Social conservative leaders weren’t sold on Bob Dole as the Republicans’ presidential nominee, but the religious right movement struggled to rally behind a credible alternative.

As we discussed in March, in nearly every election cycle that followed, a similar dynamic unfolded. In 2000, the religious right wanted John Ashcroft, who didn’t run. In 2008, the religious right hated John McCain, but it couldn’t settle on a rival. In 2012, social conservatives were skeptical about Mitt Romney, but again, it failed to coalesce behind someone else.

The movement and its leaders were absolutely determined not to repeat their mistakes. This would finally be the cycle, the religious right’s heavyweights insisted, in which social conservatives en masse made an early decision, chose a competitive GOP candidate, and helped propel him or her towards the convention.

And though I was skeptical of their organizational skills, social conservative leaders, for the first time in a generation, are doing exactly what they set out to do. National Review reported late yesterday:

James Dobson, founder of the Christian group Focus on the Family and one of the nation’s most influential evangelicals, will endorse Ted Cruz for president today, according to sources briefed on the announcement. […]

Dobson, sources say, has long been an outspoken voice on Cruz’s behalf, arguing in previous private gatherings that Marco Rubio was not sufficiently conservative to earn the group’s support.

The endorsement from Dobson, a powerhouse in religious right circles, comes on the heels of similar support from the Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats, the National Organization for Marriage, and GOP activist/direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie.

This isn’t a situation in which prominent social conservatives suddenly saw the merits of the Texas Republican’s candidacy. On the contrary, it’s part of a deliberate strategy.

National Review reported earlier this week on the religious right’s initiative to formally choose the movement’s presidential hopeful.

The initiative, spearheaded by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, had originally brought together a loose coalition of some 50 like-minded conservative leaders from around the country. Together, beginning in early 2014, the group – referred to internally simply as “The GROUP” – met every few months to discuss the state of the race, to pray for guidance, and to conduct a straw poll to see which candidates enjoyed the most support at each stage of the campaign.

It had all built to this day and to this meeting, where members would vote until they reached a verdict. Once finalized, their decision would represent the culmination of an oft-dismissed undertaking that began several years earlier and aimed at one thing: coalescing the conservative movement’s leaders behind a single presidential candidate in a show of strength and solidarity that would position them to defeat the establishment-backed candidate in the head-to-head stage of the 2016 Republican primary.

And two weeks ago, in a hotel boardroom in Northern Virginia, Ted Cruz cleared the 75% supermajority threshold “required to bind the group’s membership to support him.”

Dobson’s endorsement is part of the initiative’s rollout, and his Cruz endorsement will reportedly soon be followed by the Senate Conservatives Fund Ken Cuccinelli and the FRC’s Tony Perkins.

Will this translate into success for the far-right senator? It’s true that social conservatives’ influence over the direction of the Republican Party isn’t as strong as it once was, but this constituency still represents a significant chunk of the GOP base, especially in states like Iowa.

In a competitive nominating fight, which will likely come down to three or four people, Cruz’s formal alliance with the religious right may very well make an enormous difference.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 18, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Establishment Republicans, Evangelicals, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Will Not Obey”: Taking The Law Into Their Own Hands

It’s going to take me a while to absorb this document, and remember (probably with Sarah Posner’s help) the backgrounds of some of the signatories. But the newly released “Pledge of Solidarity in Defense of Marriage”, drafted by Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, semi-retired culture-war maven James Dobson, and Liberty University law school dean Matt Staver, represents the boldest effort yet of Christian Right types to claim a revolutionary right of resistance to marriage equality. Without question, the “pledge” asserts that marriage discrimination is part of the warp and weave of the universe, via divine fiat and natural law, and that no Court has the power to overturn it. Thus, the signatories announce their intention not to obey any such decision, as explained by Todd Starnes at townhall:

“We will not obey.”

That’s the blunt warning a group of prominent religious leaders is sending to the Supreme Court of the United States as they consider same-sex marriage.

“We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross that line,” read a document titled, Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage. “We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve.”

“While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross,” the pledge states….

“Yes, I’m talking about civil disobedience,” Staver said. “I’m talking about resistance and I’m talking about peaceful resistance against unjust laws and unjust rulings.”

That’s quite a shocking statement. So I asked Mr. Staver to clarify his remarks.

“I’m calling for people to not recognize the legitimacy of that ruling because it’s not grounded in the Rule of Law,” he told me. “They need to resist that ruling in every way possible. In a peaceful way – they need to resist it as much as Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted unjust laws in his time.”

Yes, of course, the Pledge of Solidarity is loaded with references to the civil rights movement (they predictably secured the signature of Aveda King, the niece of MLK who has long been a committed right-wing culture warrior) and comparisons of any SCOTUS decision upholding same-sex marriage as illegitimate, just like Dred Scott. So what grievous harm do they claim for themselves that makes them and their largely well-fed suburban flocks qualified to stand with protesters like King and Gandhi fighting for the most basic rights?

[Scarborough] referenced the “outrageous penalties” being assessed against people of faith simply because they don’t want to participate in a same-sex union.

An Oregon bakery is facing a $135,000 fine for refusing to make a cake for a lesbian wedding and a Washington State florist faces fines for refusing to participate in a gay wedding.

Yep, it’s still the bakers and florists of conscience on whose behalf these birds are calling for an overturning of the Rule of Law and the shattering of a constitutional order that’s worked reasonably well in the past. Almost to a man or woman, of course, they’d call themselves “constitutional conservatives,” a term that means pretty much the opposite of both words, insofar as they claim “higher laws” like fetal rights, absolute property rights, and yes, a heterosexual monopoly on marriage, have to be imposed on the Constitution. No wonder David Barton, the author of so much historical fiction on the theocratic designs of the Founders, is a signatory of the Pledge, along with a rogue’s gallery of Christian Nation radicals he helped inspire.

So, too, are two candidates for the presidency, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. You kinda get the impression they would really love to find a way to get themselves arrested for their brave defense of “traditional marriage,” so they could campaign from a jail cell like Eugene Debs in 1920. Maybe they could take up baking or flower arranging.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Conservatives, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Suffering Is The Whole Point”: This Is Going To Hurt You More Than It Hurts Me

We’re now having a national debate on the merits of corporal punishment, an issue that has many facets and brings up all kinds all kinds of complications involving religion, culture, gender, authority, and tradition. I’m not going to begin to address even a small portion of them, but I do want to talk about one thing that gets me a little perturbed about this discussion.

If you actually look at what corporal punishment advocates (and yes, there are people who do that on a semi-professional basis) say, there’s a constant effort to characterize “good” corporal punishment as something that isn’t really all that unpleasant for the child. They say it should never be done in anger (and if more than one out of 20 actual spanking incidents in the real world isn’t done in anger, I’d be shocked), but only in a controlled, limited way that is over quickly, causes no injury, produces only temporary discomfort, and carries the ultimate message, “I love you.”

As Focus on the Family founder James Dobson wrote in his book Dare to Discipline, which has sold millions of copies, a bit of “minor pain” is the way nature instructs us about things that are unwise to do. “God created this mechanism as a valuable vehicle for instruction,” he writes. Dobson also recommends using a “neutral object” of some sort, “because the hand should be seen as an object of love.” And if your child cries for more than five minutes after a spanking, you can shut that whole thing down “by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears.”

I will give Dobson credit for not shying away from the central philosophical underpinning of corporal punishment, which is that the infliction of pain and fear on your child is the whole point of the practice.

The assumption of corporal punishment is this: the child did something wrong, and in order to convince the child not to do it again, I will subject them to physical anguish. Thereafter, their fear of living through that anguish again will be so powerful that it will constrain their behavior. That this is the logic at work is utterly undeniable. If that wasn’t the logic, there would be no point. You can’t say the purpose of a pain-based physical punishment is to “get their attention,” because there are a hundred ways to get someone’s attention. The purpose is to hurt them and render them fearful of reliving that pain.

By that logic, Adrian Peterson’s actions only seem a tad overenthusiastic. His four-year-old son snatched a video game controller from another kid, and as a consequence got a vicious beating from a muscle-bound adult. You can bet he won’t be snatching any more game controllers from anyone! Mission accomplished.

Or maybe he will; there’s a raft of research showing that “short-term compliance” — i.e., stopping what the kid is doing right at that moment — is pretty much the only positive outcome from corporal punishment, while it’s associated with a range of negative long-term psychological and behavioral outcomes. But even if you think that it’s good for your kid (or somebody else’s), you should at least have the courage to acknowledge that making the child suffer is the whole point.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Child Abuse, Corporal Punishment | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whatever”: Government Oppression Of Religious People Continues With National Day Of Prayer

One summer when I was in college, I worked for a tiny lobbying firm, most of whose clients were disease-related. If the firm wasn’t able to get you increased funding for research into your disease, at the very least it could get a friendly member of Congress to introduce a proclamation about it. Framed on the office walls were documents declaring the first week in June to be Copious Earwax Awareness Week or November to be Toenail Fungus Month.

The government declares lots of national days of this and weeks of that, most of which go unnoticed. Today, however, is the National Day of Prayer, in which, that pesky establishment clause notwithstanding, the federal government encourages you to get down on your knees and implore your deity to deliver whatever you happen to lack, or to be merciful toward those he might otherwise smite. Don’t confuse it with the National Prayer Breakfast; that’s an entirely separate national prayer event. Here‘s Barack Obama’s proclamation of the day, though beyond that I don’t think the government is doing much to honor it. That slack is picked up by the quasi-official National Day of Prayer Task Force, a decidedly evangelical Christian group chaired by Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson. This year’s honorary chair is California megachurch pastor Greg Laurie, whose participation led to protests from gay-rights groups unhappy with Laurie’s particular view of sin and sexuality. Laurie will be leading prayer events on Capitol Hill and the Pentagon today. The theme of this year’s events is “Pray for America,” the message being that everything is pretty much going to hell (so to speak) in our country, and the only thing that can get us back on the right track is Jesus.

In the face of all this government sponsorship of prayer, the rather less influential secular humanist movement has declared today the National Day of Reason. They had to declare it themselves, because unlike the National Day of Prayer, the government wasn’t going to get involved with them. So feel free, if you swing that way, to take a moment today to consider all that reason and science have done for us.

I’ll stop before my impulse to snark gets the better of me, but I would like to note something for my religious friends, especially the Christians: Next time you want to say you’re “oppressed” because people are saying that there may be a few areas we can keep religion out of, like science class, or that it might be better not to assume that everyone is a Christian but instead be sensitive to people who believe in gods other than yours or no god at all, consider that those of us who don’t believe in an almighty deity tolerate stuff like the National Day of Prayer all the time. We don’t much like it, but we almost always just let it slide. The government makes our kids stand up and declare that we’re “one nation, under God,” our money says “In God We Trust,” Congress starts every day with a prayer, and official sponsorship of religious events is everywhere. On the other hand, while there are lots of places where discussion of people’s religious beliefs is excluded, there is nowhere—nowhere—where the government explicitly affirms and honors the beliefs of those who don’t believe in god. There’s no government-sponsored “There Is No God Day” with White House proclamations and Pentagon gatherings.

And that’s as it should be. It’s not government’s job to tell you it agrees with your metaphysical views. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

11Yes, technically kids in public schools don’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance if they don’t want to, but peer pressure being what it is, few feel comfortable abstaining.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Government, Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: