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“Stealth Religion-Based Support”: Jeb’s Strategy With The Christian Right; Osmosis

If you are used to thinking of Jeb Bush as this Establishment Republican that hard-core conservatives–including the Christian Right–mistrust, this little nugget from a recent National Journal piece by Tim Alberta and Tiffany Stanley might be a jarring reminder of the long reach of Jeb’s family:

[P]owerful Christian conservatives are operating what amounts to a stealth campaign on Bush’s behalf. Some are old allies from the Florida days; others are holdovers from George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Some are both, including Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a longtime friend of Jeb’s who served as Southeast regional chairman of George W.’s 2004 reelection effort (and thus practically lived in Florida). Multiple GOP sources say that Reed has been urging Jeb Bush for several years to make a 2016 run and spoke with him recently to game out the campaign. Like many of the organizations that Bush’s supporters lead, Reed’s coalition demands impartiality from its leaders, so Reed can’t openly back his man—unless, as some suspect will happen, Reed ultimately decides to join the campaign officially.

This makes Jeb’s decision to blow off the big Iowa cattle-call of Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition this weekend a bit more interesting, eh? Seems Jeb would prefer quiet consultations with his close friend Ralph Reed to open pandering. And indeed, that’s the theme that comes through from stem to stern in the Alberta/Stanley article, which begins with Jeb simultaneously refusing a formal vetting session with Iowa Christian Right kingpin Bob Vander Plaats while trying to charm him privately. We also learn that last summer Jeb flew out to Colorado to hobnob with the leadership of Focus on the Family, and spent a whole day with Russell Moore, the highly influential head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He’s extremely close to the president of Florida’s Ave Maria University, sort of the Harvard of hyper-traditionalist Catholicism (and the site of Rich Santorum’s now-famous “spiritual warfare” speech). And he has the support and advice of Mark DeMoss, who was the Romney campaign’s chief liaison to conservative evangelicals in 2012–not to mention the positive memories of many Christian Right folk about his role in the Terri Schiavo saga of 2005.

At a minimum, if Jeb wins the GOP nomination, he will not have to waste time on any courtship of conservative Christians. But at a time when (a) some Christian Right leaders like Russell Moore are expressing a preference for less noisy and more strategically minded political champions and (b) there will be an awful lot of the noisy types in the field, Bush may be quietly competing already with Scott Walker for stealth religion-based support. And he doesn’t really even have to blow many dog whistles: it’s more a strategy of osmosis, where Christian Soldiers learn to view him as a comrade-in-arms who is all the more effective for trying not to set off too many alarms in the secular-socialist enemy camp.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 22, 2015

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Jeb Bush, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Georgia Bill Helps Wife Beaters”: “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” Is Among The Worst In The Nation

Georgia is poised to pass the nation’s harshest “religious freedom” law, allowing discrimination, judicial obstruction, and even domestic violence. Yet while the bill is far worse than Arizona’s notorious “Turn the Gays Away” bill, it’s attracted far less attention from national advocacy groups and businesses.

The bill, the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” is one of a raft of similar bills (RFRAs, for short) wending their way through state legislatures across the country. The bills are part of the backlash against same-sex marriage, but they go much farther than that. Like the Hobby Lobby decision, which allows closely-held corporations to opt out of part of Obamacare, these laws carve out exemptions to all kinds of laws if a person (or corporation) offers a religious reason for not obeying them.

For example? Restaurants could refuse to serve gay or interracial couples, city clerks could refuse to marry interfaith couples, hotels could keep out Jews, housing developments could keep out black people (Genesis 9:18-27), pharmacies could refuse to dispense birth control, banquet halls could turn away gay weddings, schools could specifically allow anti-gay bullying, and employers could fire anyone for any “religious” reason.

The national movement to pass these laws is well-funded and well-coordinated; most of the laws are written by the same handful of conservative legal hacks in Washington, working for organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, both of which have had a hand in the Georgia bill.

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said in an interview with The Daily Beast that “in the last two years, there have been 35 bills introduced around the country to establish or expand a RFRA. And there have been over 80 bills filed that specifically allow for discrimination against gay and trans communities.”

As worrisome as these laws are, however, Georgia’s is worse than most.

First, the language is the strictest possible. As with other RFRAs, Georgia’s act says that the government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” without a “compelling governmental interest” and the “least restrictive means of furthering” that interest. This is the classic three-prong test that was at issue in Hobby Lobby, and is considered extremely difficult to meet.

Georgia’s RFRA also specifies that “exercise of religion” can be just about any “practice or observance of religion, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.”

In other words, if I say it’s my religious exercise, it is.

Second, the Senate version of the bill was passed by its sponsor, State Senator Josh McKoon, with all kinds of shenanigans. He rammed it through the judiciary committee, which he chairs, while opposition members were in the bathroom.

Then, on dubious procedural grounds, he refused an amendment by a fellow Republican that would have specified that the “religious freedom” could not be used to discriminate against others.

Ironically, says Graham, Georgia doesn’t have that many protections for LGBT people in the first place.

“This is a preemptive strike against the LGBT community,” he says. “If this bill is not intended to allow discrimination, why were its sponsors so adamant about refusing to say so?”

McKoon’s bill passed the Republican-dominated State Senate on March 5, and now heads to the State House, where Republicans have a 2:1 advantage over Democrats, and where representatives have shelved their own version of the bill to try to pass McKoon’s version.

The combination of these factors has led to a curious result: a law so strict that it will lead to a host of unintended consequences—and has even led some Republicans to oppose it.

Some legal commentators have said that the law would give a pass to spousal and child abusers, as long as the husband (or father) has a religious pretext. Which is easy to provide; the Christian Domestic Discipline Network, for example, offers a host of rationales for “wife spanking.” And let’s not forget Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares his rod hates his son. But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”

Georgia has numerous laws protecting child welfare, which is arguably a compelling state interest. But are such laws really the “least restrictive means” of protecting it? Not necessarily. At the very least, the laws offer a novel defense against assault and battery.

Or maybe not so novel. Graham says, “We have found cases where people used their religious views as an excuse to impede an investigation into child-endangerment and child-abuse charges. They were not ultimately successful, but they did slow down the investigations.”

With the new law, they would be far better armed. In fact, says Graham, conservative district attorneys in Macon and Marietta have said that the bill would impede investigations and prosecutions of child abuse.

Indeed, Georgia’s RFRA recently gained an unlikely opponent: Mike Bowers, the former attorney general of Bowers v. Hardwick fame. As some may recall, that was the Supreme Court case that upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law—and Bowers was the named plaintiff.

In an open letter to Graham (PDF), Bowers said that the law is “unequivocally an excuse to discriminate….[P]ermitting citizens to opt-out of laws because of a so-called burden on the exercise of religion in effect ‘would permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.’”

This perhaps is one reason why conservatives like Bowers and the D.A.s in Macon and Marietta stand opposed to it. As Bowers wrote, “this legislation is not about gay marriage, or contraception, or even so-called ‘religious freedom.’ It is more important than all of these, because it ultimately involves the rule of law.”

What is the future of Georgia’s RFRA?

The Georgia State House ends its session on April 2, and Graham predicts a tight vote. “This will probably go all the way to the final hours” of the session, he said.

Oddly, the most effective forces in killing Arizona’s “Turn The Gays Away” bill—corporations and the Chamber of Commerce—seem to be sitting this battle out. Maybe it’s because Arizona was bidding on a Super Bowl and Georgia isn’t. Or maybe it’s because no one is paying attention. But for whatever reason, the corporate silence is deafening.

This is especially the case for Coca-Cola, which has spent millions to brand itself as pro-gay (remember that Super Bowl ad?) but has been mum on the Georgia bill.

“For now, it appears that Coca-Cola has a relationship of convenience with the gay community,” said Bryan Long, executive director of the progressive organization Better Georgia, in an email to The Daily Beast. “The company promotes equality when it serves the brand but won’t stand up for us when we need it most.”

If big business, national media, and national LGBT organizations continue to sit on the sidelines, the bill’s fate may be a matter of vote-counting. The House bill had 59 cosponsors, out of 180 total members. But Graham pointed out that a pending non-discrimination bill has 78, including 19 Republicans. So it is up for grabs.

On the other hand, maybe those who claim to speak for “equality” will decide to actually do something about it.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, March 13, 2015

March 14, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Domestic Violence, Georgia, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Wedding Dresses And Boyfriends”: Listen Up, Ladies; Republicans Understand You

Political ads, as a rule, are terrible in every way. Lacking in anything approaching subtlety, creativity or production values, they usually achieve their impact through numbing repetition—you may be skeptical upon hearing that “Candidate Smith doesn’t share our values,” but once you’ve heard it 50 or 60 times, the theory goes, it should sink in. But every once in a while, one stands out, as is the case with this little gem trying to tell ladies to vote for Governor Rick Scott of Florida. It’s actually one in a cookie-cutter series, with the names of other Republican governors and Democratic candidates substituted in.) The thinking behind it seems to be that if you want to relate to ladies, what you’ve got to do is talk about wedding dresses. Take a look: http://youtu.be/ZOppsQJtL2M

It’s a takeoff on the reality show Say Yes to the Dress, which I haven’t actually seen, but I gather involves wedding dresses, and saying yes to them. While pop culture references are always a good way to grab attention, the message here is pretty condescending. It’s as though they’re saying, “Look, ladies, we know this politics thing is complicated, but think about this way. Candidates are like dresses…” You may recall that just a couple of weeks ago, a Republican group put up an ad showing a young woman comparing Barack Obama to a terribly disappointing and possibly abusive boyfriend. It’s as though when Republicans try to figure out how to appeal to women, they say to each other:

“OK, so how do we get our message to broads? Any ideas?”

“How about we talk about the things they’re into? Like, you know, boyfriends and wedding dresses and stuff?”

“That’s genius!”

As Amanda Marcotte wrote, “At this point, it’s hard not to wonder if the people being hired to do outreach to women on behalf of Republican candidates aren’t all a bunch of Democratic moles.”

(An aside: The dress ad was produced by the College Republican National Committee, which, in case you don’t know, is a much bigger deal in many ways than the College Democrats are. The College Republicans isn’t just a bunch of kids registering people to vote on their campuses; instead, it’s a kind of combination finishing school and Thunderdome death match funded with millions of dollars in big-donor money, where the most vicious, unscrupulous, ruthless operatives-in-training rise to the top by sticking shivs in their peers until, with the blood of vanquished fellow Republicans dripping from their teeth, they are rewarded with careers in the politics business. It’s the place where people like Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, and Jack Abramoff learned their craft and came to the attention of their elders. If you want to know more, a few years back Franklin Foer wrote a terrific article about this little pack of Damiens.)

This isn’t even the first time the College Republicans have tried this. I came across this takeoff on The Bachelorette which they put up in April, though apparently no one noticed:

To be fair, it isn’t as though there’s necessarily anything wrong, in the abstract anyway, with comparing candidates to romantic partners. (Remember “I’ve Got a Crush On Obama“?) But when you’re trying to reach out to a particular group, it’s important to communicate to them that you respect them and you understand their concerns. And these ads do precisely the opposite. Instead of talking about the things that are important to women, they take the same message they’d offer to anyone else, and just put in what they consider a womanly context (wedding dresses! boyfriends!). Imagine that a candidate went before an audience of Hispanics and said, “Let me explain this in a way you can relate to: My economic plan is like a really good tamale. My opponent’s economic plan is like the worst tamale you ever ate. Understand?” And he’d expect everyone in the audience to turn to each other and say, “I may not care for his position on immigration, but that tamale analogy showed me that he really gets us.”

Perhaps Republicans think that if nothing else, women will give them points for trying. After all, if nothing else these kinds of ads show that the GOP wants women’s votes, right? Which is better than just calling them sluts all the time, I suppose. But not by much.

 

By: Paule Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 2, 2014

October 3, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Rick Scott | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Religious Right | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right’s Rules For Politicizing Prayer

Remember how right-wing leaders were outraged –OUTRAGED! – when President Obama supposedly politicized the National Prayer breakfast by talking about how his Christian faith influenced his approach to issues like progressive taxation? Such complaints from the likes of Ralph Reed – whose career has been devoted to politicizing faith – were clearly pushing the hypocrisy meter to its limits. As Kyle noted yesterday, Religious Right folks have been celebrating the prayer breakfast speech by Eric Metaxas, a biographer of the Hitler-resisting pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer, because Mataxas made a comparison between the Holocaust and legal abortion, suggesting that supporters of reproductive choice were modern-day Nazis – and certainly not Christians.

This morning a “special bulletin” from the dominionist Oak Initiative republished a National Review column from a few weeks ago that we hadn’t noticed at the time. The column by conservative author and producer Mark Joseph is one long extended gloat about just how political – and how anti-Obama – Metaxas’s keynote was. Joseph delights in Metaxas using the prayer breakfast to send “a series of heat-seeking missiles” in the president’s direction:

If the organizers of the national prayer breakfast ever want a sitting president to attend their event again, they need to expect that any leader in his right mind is going to ask — no, demand — that he be allowed to see a copy of the keynote address that is traditionally given immediately before the president’s.

That’s how devastating was the speech given by a little known historical biographer named Eric Metaxas, whose clever wit and punchy humor barely disguised a series of heat-seeking missiles that were sent, intentionally or not, in the commander-in-chief’s direction….

Joseph belittles Obama’s speaking of his faith, and giddily cites Metaxas, suggesting that Obama’s references to scripture were actually demonic.

Standing no more than five feet from Obama whose binder had a speech chock full of quotes from the Good Book, Metaxas said of Jesus:

“When he was tempted in the desert, who was the one throwing Bible verses at him? Satan. That is a perfect picture of dead religion. Using the words of God to do the opposite of what God does. It’s grotesque when you think about it. It’s demonic.”

“Keep in mind that when someone says ‘I am a Christian’ it may mean absolutely nothing,” Metaxas added for good measure, in case anybody missed his point.

Joseph also mocks Obama for discussing how other religions share with Christians the values contained in the Golden Rule: “Translation: Christianity is great and so are the other major religions, which essentially teach the same stuff.” In contrast, Joseph celebrates Metaxas for insisting on the uniqueness and centrality of Jesus and suggesting that those who support women’s access to abortion live apart from God and Jesus.

So, to recap the ground rules for the National Prayer Breakfast: President Obama talking about the values he as a Christian shares with those of other faiths, and how he understands Christian teaching about the responsibilities of those who have had good fortune = bad. Religious Right speaker insisting on the superiority of Christianity, and calling those who disagree with him demonic Nazis = good.

Something to keep in mind next year.

 

By: Peter Montgomery, People For The American Way, Right Wing Watch, March 2, 2012

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Religion, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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