Bob Jones University and the Real Roots of the Religious Right
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 12:25:35 PM EST
Historian Randall Balmer notes writing in Christian Ethics Today, that the real beginnings of the Religious Right lies not in 1973 Roe v. Wade, but in Green v. Kennedy.  In 1969 a group of Blacks from Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the state for allowing tax exempt status to segregated schools.  This court ruling was to prove to be the unseating of Jimmy Carter and the solidifying of a political movement.
(2 comments, 1415 words in story)
Becket Or Wreck It?: Little-Known Religious Right Group At Heart Of Hobby Lobby Case
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 09:56:59 AM EST

The Supreme Court's recent (and horrendous) ruling in the Hobby Lobby case dealing with workers' access to contraceptives has turned the spotlight on the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the group that sponsored many of the legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate.

Profiles of the group and its founder, Kevin J. "Seamus" Hasson, appeared in The Washington Post and the Salt Lake City Deseret News. Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn was quoted in both stories.

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Christian Warriors: Apocalyptic Dreams, American Nightmares
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 08:23:55 AM EST
Visions of apocalyptic battles are not only taking place in End Times novels, and on theater and television screens these days. Some in what might be considered mainstream right-wing circles also seem to be cranking up the rhetoric and spoiling for such battles at a series of rolling conferences.

In a new piece published by Political Research Associates (PRA), Talk2Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson quotes Republican campaign and conservative movement strategist David Lane, who last year wrote on a conservative website: "If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years, let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end."

(3 comments, 957 words in story)
Bishop DiMarzio's Stilted Hobby Lobby Analogy
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:52:24 AM EST
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the overseer of the Diocese of Brooklyn-Queens New York, recently weighed in on the recent US Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the case concerning the ability of certain closely held corporations to opt out of one of the preventive health care  provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") that required that insurance packages provide free birth control for women. In praising the High Court's decision he offered an analogy that was fractured and misses the point.
(1 comment, 642 words in story)
The Creeping Risk of Theocratic Violence
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:37:07 PM EST
Imagine if you will, that some of those who once thought America could be restored to the bright, shining Christian Nation they believe had been stolen from them (but arguably never really existed) -- now doubt the dream.

As it happens, some of those people are entertaining such doubts. So much so that they think that a gradual dismemberment of the America they thought they held dear may be necessary to the point of martyrdom, secession, and civil war.

Of course, there are many Tea Partiers in tri-cornered hats or Confederate uniforms that they wear for reenacting the glories of the Old South. We needn't necessarily take such people seriously.  But it is my observation, after 30 years of researching and reporting on various elements of the Right, that there is something else going on. Something has changed -- and merits our attention.

(4 comments, 825 words in story)
Matt Staver Warns Pastors, Silence is Not an Option
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 04:05:32 PM EST
Liberty Universities' Matt Staver, apparent new spokesman for Jerry Falwell's University, mailed out a DVD to encourage "pastors & patriots."  Matt is head of Liberty U.'s legal arm known as Liberty Counsel.  The late Jerry Falwell boasted he never went anywhere without a group of lawyers near him.  The school's social activism, once dominated by a monthly magazine, now centers on the Liberty school of law
(2 comments, 547 words in story)
Child Evangelism Fellowship Targets Children Across U.S. for Summer Salvation; Portland Fights Back
Valerie Tarico printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 11:44:39 AM EST
In past summers, Child Evangelism Fellowship has targeted children in Boston, Denver, Chicago, Little Rock, Salt Lake City, and the Twin Cities for conversion to their brand of biblical fundamentalism. This summer they chose Portland, Oregon. It may have been a mistake.
(1 comment, 1162 words in story)
Why "Fetal Personhood" is a Dangerous Theological Word Game
Valerie Tarico printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:13:48 PM EST

What does it mean to be a person? For the anti-abortion group, Personhood USA, a "person" is present from the moment a sperm penetrates an egg, and members are fighting to have their definition encoded into law. Online coaching tools for abortion opponents use the term person interchangeably with human or human being. Are they interchangeable? Does it matter?

Personhood USA is driven by a mission that dates back to Roe v Wade, when, in the process of legalizing abortion, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun made this comment: "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's [Roe's] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment."

In other words, if an embryo or fetus can be defined legally as a person, then abortion could potentially be classified as murder and a host of other legal rights could accrue to the developing fetus. The set of legal arguments that support abortion rights would not disappear but they would shrink. In recent years, Personhood USA and conservative Christian allies have been building case law and regulatory precedents with this goal in mind.

To win, they have to equate personhood with human life. But that's no easy task.

(2165 words in story)
A Refresher on Samuel Rodriguez
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 10:36:59 PM EST
We have written a great deal at Talk to Action about Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.  For a number of years he was sold to us (along with Rick Warren) as epitomizing a new, moderate, social justice oriented evangelicalism. Even liberals and Democrats were supposed to like him. The media puffed him as the most important Latino Christian leader in America.

But like all things that seem to be too good to be true, there were many problems. Even as he was celebrated by DC insiders as a bridge builder, he was, among other things, an overt religious supremacist and, his denials not withstanding, a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation, and the beneficiary of some very odd journalism.  Over the past year or so, I have written several times for Political Research Associates about Rev. Rodriguez, who continues to play an outsized and undeserved role in American public life.  Here are a few excerpts from those articles which taken together, may serve as something of a refresher about a man who remains prominent in public life.

(1 comment, 1273 words in story)
A Brat Stomps Cantor: Is "Christian Economics" an Oxymoron?
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:14:12 PM EST
It depends on whose political ox is being gored and which uninformed pundit is the moron. With the defeat of Eric Cantor and election of David Brat the issue of "Christian Economics" is gobbling bandwidth. Much of the discussion is long on rhetoric and short on facts. Here is a very brief overview. More resources will be posted at Talk to Action over the next few days.

Executive Summary: Brat's election involves legitimate voter anger; right-wing populism as a social movement, the revival of economic and religious Calvinism, the rise of dominionism among Christian conservatives; and the drive to roll back President Roosevelt's government funded social safety net.

Understanding the concept of "Christian Economics" helps explain how these all got connected and took political power with the election of Ronald Reagan.

(6 comments, 571 words in story)
Ted Cruz on the New Civil Rights
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 03:43:49 PM EST
Tea Party and Religious Right favorite, Houston's Ted Cruz, is riding high as a favored Senator from Texas.  His claim to fame is a filibuster and doing just about anything to oppose the Obama administration.  Ted is a member of Second Baptist Church in the town.  The church is stacked with prominent state GOP party heads and candidates.  Dan Patrick, currently in line to be the next Lieutenant Governor of the state, is in the church house. Ted is a graduate of the church private school and it appears he would like to help fund the school, with federal dollars.
(3 comments, 762 words in story)
Antisemitism and Islamophobia on U.S. College Campuses
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 02:13:36 PM EST
A New Report from Political Research Associates

Antisemitism and Islamophobia on U.S. College Campuses, 2007-2011

From the Introduction:

ON CAMPUSES ACROSS THE UNITED STATES, there are Jewish and Muslim students who experience bigotry. At times they feel intimidated and do not express their actual political, religious, or philosophical views in the classroom. In some cases, they do not feel safe when crossing the campus commons.

At the same time, these are not the daily experiences of most Jewish and Muslim students. The nation's campuses are not aflame with religious prejudice, nor are they places where physical threats are commonplace.

How can we explain these apparently contradictory realities? That was the challenge behind this study. Political Research Associates believes both antisemitism and Islamophobia as phenomena exist on campuses, and in this report we offer a set of tools for thinking about them.

(465 words in story)
Electoral Lessons from the Religious Right for the Religious Left
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat May 31, 2014 at 07:01:55 PM EST
This commentary first appeared in The Public Eye, the magazine of Political Research Associates, and is as current today as when I published it in 2008.  It was adapted from my essay in Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America  -- FC

The main reason why the Religious Right became powerful is not what most people may think. Some would undoubtedly point to the powerful communications media. Others might identify charismatic leaders, the development of"wedge issues," or even changes in evangelical theology in the latter part of the twentieth century that supported, and even demanded, political action. All of these and more, especially taken together, were important factors. But the main reason for the Religious Right's rise to power has been its capacity for political action, particularly electoral politics.

Meanwhile, over on the Religious Left, many of the ingredients are present for a more dynamic movement. But the ingredient that is most remarkably lacking on the Religious Left is the one that made the Religious Right powerful: a capacity for electoral politics. Indeed, there has never been anything on the Religious Left on the scale of say, Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority or Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition--or even any of dozens of significant Religious Right groups--including the 35 state political affiliates of Focus on the Family--that have had any significant national or regional electoral muscle.

(5 comments, 1801 words in story)
General Embarrassment: Army Reprimands Former Officer Boykin
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 27, 2014 at 12:47:41 PM EST

Let's pretend that Americans United for Separation of Church and State hired a former Army general for a top executive position. And let's pretend that it came to light that this man had written a memoir containing sensitive information that compromised the security goals of the United States - a book he hadn't bothered to first vet with the Pentagon, by the way.

How do you think the far right would be reacting? What would they be saying about Americans United?

(724 words in story)
RINO Says His Dino Proves Noah's Flood -- Wha Wha What? -- UPDATED!
jhutson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat May 24, 2014 at 05:11:56 PM EST
Warren Throckmorton has updated the story of Michael Peroutka's donation of a dinosaur skeleton to the Creation Museum.
This report has a picture of Peroutka at the Museum earlier today dedicating the Allosaurus to the museum. This local paper has more on the story. The Museum touts the exhibit as being an indication of proof for a young Earth. Peroutka has said in the past that the promotion of evolution is an act of “disloyalty” to America.
-- FC

Michael Peroutka, the presidential candidate of the Constitution Party in 2004 and co-founder of the theocratic Institute on the Constitution, made news recently when he flipped his party to run for office in Maryland as a Republican. Less well known in the political community is his donation of a dinosaur skeleton to the creationist museum in Kentucky.

Peroutka's family foundation -- the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation (named in honor of his mother) -- purchased an allosaurus skeleton for $200,000 in 2004 and spent a decade carefully restoring it. Creation Museum proprietor Ken Ham seems to think that the acquisition of the dinosaur fossil lends his endeavor credibility.

(2 comments, 1033 words in story)

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