New Front in the Culture War:
Gay Rights Sacrificed on the Altar of the Mid-Term Elections
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 07:13:46 PM EST
Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates (author info)
The Christian Right has regrouped and launched a new offensive in the ongoing Christian Right Culture War. Gay marriage and the "homosexual agenda" are the primary tactical scapegoats. These culture warriors are on a mission from God, and like a band of blue state brothers (and now sisters), they seek to mobilize "values voters" to go to the polls in November and vote for Godly candidates. They are encouraged by new evidence that this type of Christian Right voter mobilization plan did indeed help elect the Godly candidate, George W. Bush, President in 2004.

After attending two days of speeches at the "Washington Briefing: 2006 Values Voters Summit," it was evident to me that the terms "Godly candidates" and "Republican candidates" are seen as pretty much identical by the Christian Right. The event was held from September 21-24 in Washington, D.C., with the main conference on Friday and Saturday, the 22nd and 23rd. The event was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council. Co-Sponsors included other political action arms of major Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon).

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins suggested the nation was under attack from without and within, which was a theme throughout the conference. The domestic forces of Satan--secularists, liberals, homosexuals, feminists, abortionists, pornographers--are the subversives within; while the barbaric terrorist Islamic fascists are the external enemy. Godly "values voters" should remember how they felt on 9/11, and then go into the voting booth and vote to prevent the Democrats from having the opportunity to appoint more activist judges who are wittingly or unwittingly in league with the evil forces of darkness.

Some speakers tried to make a distinction between Islam and Islamic terrorists, but others crossed the line into broad attacks. Perkins, for example, suggested the Pope was on target to have linked Islam and violence. Given the Crusades, the Inquisition, and witch hunts, one might have prayed that Perkins been more self-reflective. The Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, has not been cited as a religious authority during much of the history of Protestant Christian evangelicalism in the United States, but there were Catholic speakers and participants at the event, although they remained a small minority.

This new Christian Right project seeks to replace the work of the Christian Coalition, a group that hosted similar "Road to Victory" meetings well-attended in the 1990s, but which recently has fallen on hard times. There were about 1,000 people at the opening sessions, with total participation reaching over 1,700 by the close of the event. Not as big as the biggest Christian Coalition meetings, but not shabby, either. The exhibit hall was much smaller, however.

According to Perkins, radical homosexuals and activist judges are a threat to religious freedom; and the nation is facing a clear and present danger. A clear theme was that it is all for the children--whether it is pro-life issues, opposition to gay marriage, restoring morality to America, or terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union was routinely denounced, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State was slammed, with its executive director, Barry W. Lynn, denounced by name several times. Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, apparently has a Godliness deficit. Other favorite targets were Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and Rosie O'Donnell. Pelosi (D-CA) is the Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives.

The goal of the Godless liberal secular humanist horde, according to conference speakers, is nothing less than the suppression of religious expression in public. Not just eliminating prayer in schools, but banning any mention of God or religion across America. While some speakers chose their words more carefully than others, it was obvious that the Christian Right goal in the upcoming election is to elect Republicans and foil attempts by Democrats to seat "activist" judges.

Gary Bauer urged the audience not to be afraid of the ACLU, Ted Kennedy, or Nancy Pelosi, and told the attendees they should put Christian citizenship at the top of their list of priorities. We are close to winning these battles, Bauer said, and then we can give our children a shining city on a hill. This is a reference to the idea of early Christian settlers that they could create in the Puritan and Pilgrim colonies a New Jerusalem to build the kingdom of God, and light a beacon of hope for the world from Boston--the city on the hill. This idea was based on the belief that America should be a Christian theocracy.

Christian Right Moral Values Voters Helped Elect Bush in 2004

The Christian Right urges its core supporters to run for every political post "from dog-catcher on up." as one speaker at the FRC Action conference this past weekend told the audience. It was obvious that the leaders of the Christian Right believe that Christian Right "Moral Values" voters helped elect Bush in 2004, and now there is scholarly evidence to back up that claim.

After the election in 2000, there was a brief flurry of media reports that voters who were concerned about "moral values" played a significant role in electing George Bush. Then there was an avalanche of reports claiming that since the question in the exit poll interviews was ambiguous, that values was not a factor. It turns out the initial reports were essentially correct, although at the time there was no proper evidence to back up the claim.

A study by John C. Green and Mark Silk, "Why Moral Values Did Count," appeared in  Religion in the News, in Spring 2005.
http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol8No1/WhyMoral%20ValuesDidCount.htm

According to Green and Silk (who used highly sophisticated statistical tools), regional variations in how voters ranked their issue concerns demonstrate that "moral-values voters were more important to the president's victory than the national totals imply." And in Ohio especially, Christian evangelicals and "regular worship attenders and less regular attenders were both more likely to be Bush moral values voters." Green and Silk conclude that as "Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell hoped, the coalition of the moral has expanded beyond evangelicals, but for the most part more in the evangelical heartland than elsewhere." This group of "religious folks were more likely to choose moral values in the Bush regions than in the Kerry regions."

This indicates that the Christian Right mobilization of voters in key states such as Ohio did make a difference in the 2000 election, and the FRC Action conference openly embraced that notion. It was clear from conversations with attendees that many felt the statewide initiatives to block gay marriage had drawn many evangelical voters to the polls, and that the vote for Bush came along for the ride.

Judge Pickering made this same point at the FRC Action summit when he said the Bush might not have won Ohio if the Marriage Amendment had not been on the ballot. Pickering said there was a culture war with the battle over the confirmation of judges a central front.

Gay Marriage as Scapegoat

Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) quoted scholar David Landes on the centrality of culture. According to Romney, every child has a right to have a mother and father.  Liberals, he said, support democracy only when they think that the outcome is a foregone conclusion that favors their views. Romney urged support for the Federal Marriage Amendment.

I think the warm reception for Romney is significant. The man next to me leaned over and said: "That's our next President."

Time and again speakers at the conference made it clear that gay marriage was the key battle in the campaign to protect religion, (and thwart the plans of the Devil). Gay marriage, we were told, will spread like a disease across America from the source of the infection--Massachusetts and its cabal of activist judges. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears in an FRC promotional video built around this attack on gay marriage. The video advertises "Liberty Sunday," a nationally simulcast rally to be held October 15, 2006 at a Boston church.

The flyer for the event proclaims:

"For over 200 years the light of the church has illuminated the true meaning of freedom. Now a radical agenda seeks to extinguish that flame."

The true meaning of "freedom," based on many statements made at the FRC Action conference, is that real Freedom comes from God (and through his son Jesus Christ), and that the First Amendment was written to protect churches from government interferences. This is half a loaf, Constitutionally speaking. The flip side is that there should not be any state-sponsored religion--a concept brushed aside by comments suggesting that a specific mention of the phrase "separation of church and state" never appears in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. This is like suggesting that when the Rolling Stones sang "Let's spend the night together," they were not thinking about sex.

As for gay sex, if we allow it to be sanctioned, then freedom is lost and God offended. Following this line of argument? Me neither....

Patriotism is Apparently Republican

Gary Bauer told the story of the passengers on United Flight 93 on 9/11 who met at the back of the plane to discuss forcing their way into the cockpit to prevent the aircraft from being used as a missile. Bauer observed the group of passengers voted, since they were Americans after all, and then they stood for family, faith, and freedom by running up the aisle to the front of the plane, forcing the hijackers to react, which sent the plane hurtling into the ground and prevented an even greater catastrophe.

Bauer looked at the audience and told them that they were just being asked to run to the voting booth. The connection between the Islamic terrorist attack on America on 9/11, and the threat posed to American society by homosexuals, liberal secularists, activist judges and Democrats was repeated a number of times throughout the conference.

Alliance Defense Fund

Beyond the mid-term election in November, there are plans to extend the Culture War.

Day two of the meeting dawned with the Alliance Defense Fund breakfast, where there was much food, little tolerance for gay marriage, and no room to get in. An overflow crowd of 250 sat through what was essentially an extended advertisement for the Alliance Defense Fund, which seeks to position itself as the major adversary to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Another topic was the alleged "War on Christmas," which refers to disputes over the boundaries of bringing the religious aspects of the holiday into the classroom and shopping mall.

ADF speakers also described how they had launched the "Day of Truth" to follow the Day of Silence during which young supporters of gay rights attend classes but otherwise do not speak in a silent protest of oppression. The "truth" involves invoking Biblical interpretations that are claimed to denounce homosexuality as an affront to God--a matter disputed within Christianity.

This was a crowd that booed the ACLU, groaned at the mere mention of the city of San Francisco, and snickered at a crude jibe at Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which, along with the ACLU, has become a favorite target for speakers throughout the event.

Connie Marshner

There was only one short time period on Saturday for break-out workshops during the event, and I attended the one on "Voter Identification and Turnout: A Church Plan," run by Connie Marshner. Not a name known to most on the political left, but Connie Marshner was one of the earliest key architects of the "pro-family" movement that helped mobilize the Christian Right, which became a key sector of the New Right coalition,

Marshner announced at the start of the workshop that she had used the set of techniques in her 17-page handout to help re-elect Rick Santorum (R-PA), one of the staunchest allies of the Christian Right in Congress.

She began to outline her very practical nuts-and-bolts techniques, which she plainly stated was based on first obtaining the list of members of a church, parish, temple, or Mosque if there are any pro-life Muslims, she added with a smile. She explained that if your pastor does not want to have the church involved in politics, then this is a people-to-people campaign that does not expose the church to IRS sanctions regarding tax exempt status. Oh really?

The process starts with anonymous cold calls to members of the church to determine their voting leanings. Marshner suggested the caller be someone not in the congregation who could pose as being from a polling company.  Hmmmm.

Someone in the audience wanted to know what to say if someone wanted to know where the caller got their name and phone number.

Say you got it from the list of registered voters, advised Marshner, it is a public record.

What if the number is unlisted?

Here is where I understood Marshner's response to suggest that the good Christian folks in the room just tell a fib. And not surprisingly, there were some grumbles from the crowd. This advice seemed, shall we say, deceptive.

Sensing discontent, Marshner said individuals should leave it up to their conscience on how to answer the question.

I turned to the man next to me and asked if this all seemed questionable ethically.

"Yes," he answered.

Read more about this at the AUSCS website:
"Speaker At 'Values Voter Summit' Recommends Church-Based Organizing Plan Based On Deception"
http://www.au.org/site/News2?JServSessionIdr006=wqm1z42sg6.app13a&abbr=pr&page=NewsArticle&id=8563&security=1002&news_iv_ctrl=1241

Katherine Harris and Spiritual Warfare

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (an elected U.S. Representative now running for the Senate), recently announced she had studied in Switzerland with the godfather of the Christian Right, Francis A. Schaeffer.
http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/6298.article

She told the audience at the FRC Action meeting of the importance of winning in November, and then suggested it was a battle against "principalities and powers," which many in the audience would hear as a Biblical reference to a struggle with the demonic agents of Satan.
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=0813365&p=1004924

Schaeffer, the pop theologian who pioneered the concept of dominionism and helped spark the Christian Right, urged Christian to engage in civil disobedience against immoral civil authority.
A few websites reporting this story have confused generic dominionism (Schaeffer) with Christian Reconstructionism (Rushdoony). The two are not identical. See these articles that place Dominionism, Schaeffer, and Rushdoony in context:

http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dominionism.htm
http://www.publiceye.org/diamond/sd_domin.html
http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisrec.html

The Perfect Ending

A highlight of the closing "Family, Faith & Freedom Gala" banquet was a lecture by Newt Gingrich on Morality and Politics. Who says the Christian Right doesn't appreciate the surreal?

At what could be more surreal than the emcee at the very end reminding the audience that we were engaged in "Spiritual Warfare"

One of the many subtexts here is the view of many premillennial dispensationalists that we are in the End Times and thus true Christians must struggle with the literal forces of Satan. Elite political and religious leaders are expected to betray true Christians during this period, according to certain readings of the book of Revelation. No mention of the End Times was needed, it simply could be read into the rhetoric by those so inclined. Thus the event sidestepped a specific theological mention of the End Times while hitting the hot buttons of many who hold those views--and thus the leadership of the event is avoiding potential criticism of pandering to apocalyptic beliefs.

On the way out, we were all handed a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich.


More about the conference at:

People for the American Way's Right Watch.
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/values_voter_su/index.html

"US Senator Inhofe Claims Global Warming is a UN Conspiracy" by Bruce Wilson
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/9/25/12463/2968

"Bill Bennett, God-Man : 'When 4 Americans Are Hung.... You Level The City'" by Bruce Wilson
http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/9/23/1141/19091/Front_Page/Bill_Bennett_God_Man_quot_When_4_Americans_Are_Hung_You_Level_The_City_quot_


Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip's Blog




Display:
A very informative post, Mr. Berlet.  However, something you wrote got me thinking.  You mentioned that Gov. Mitt Romney spoke at the conference and received a "warm reception."  But I wonder if you really believe that the protestant fundamentalists who make up the bulk of the Christian Right would embrace someone they view as doctrinally unsound as a Mormon, even if he had all the "Right" policy positions (pun intended)?  Some commentators have mentioned this before (here and here) concerning a Romney presidential run.  Even some conservartives seem concerned.  What is your opinion?

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 08:57:41 PM EST
The positive reception given to Romney surprised me; as did the hostility toward McCain--based on his going all soft on torture.

I thought it was worth mentioning--given the historic antipathy toward Mormons among many evangelicals.

Worth watching.

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 09:35:26 PM EST
Parent
being down on McCain isn't too surprising.  He's been ambiguous on his stance with abortion rights, one of (if not) their most important issues.  He has also held the Christian Right at a distance, to enhance his image as a "moderate," only recently making inroads with Jerry Falwell.  I think he would have a tough time getting the Republican nomination over the objections of some one like James Dobson.

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 03:31:17 PM EST
Parent



I'd say the tactical decision to sacrifice gay rights to the altar of political expediency is an impulse that's not strictly limited to the Christian right :

There has also been a tactical decision by the Democratic Party's mainstream to avoid talking about gay rights and abortion rights prior to the '06 election ( or - for that matter - much of anything beyond a very limited and carefully scripted palette of issues : poverty, the war in Iraq, torture.... )

Unfortunately, as the Democrats hunker down and try to appeal a new belated sense of American mainstream attitudes as revealed by recent polling, a pincer movement of "compassionate social justice" Republicans is moving in from the right to steal away some of the few issues the Democratic Party is willing to stand up for.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 03:13:27 PM EST

The Democrats do not seem to understand how easily they are being out-organized, framed into a corner, and tricked into tailing after the Republicans when it is not needed and hurts our existing allies like feminists and gay people.

What dunces!

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 06:08:24 PM EST
Parent
Just a cynical thought. I'll be better after a good night's rest.


by Bruce Wilson on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 01:33:09 AM EST
Parent



Which will undoubtedly be lost to those on the left. I condemn virtually everything the Christian right stands for, but I admire their tactics. In spite of positions that are hypocritical, irrational, and even unbiblical, they are winning this war because they understand human nature. Their leaders realize that man is simply a herd animal with predictable behaviors that can be manipulated. Liberals, who claim to believe in evolution, and should know better, keep trying to appeal to the intellect rather than to man's primitive animal instincts. People are sheep who need a strong leader. And it doesn't matter what he believes. If he's a dominant, they'll follow; whether he's Hitler or Gandhi, Dr. Dobson or Dr. King. The Christian right also understands that emotions are far more likely to trigger action than intellect is. And this is just as true for liberals as conservatives. That's why the photographs of torture in Iraq were so important. It's not so much that they provided evidence. It's that they created an emotional response that knowledge through words could not do. And the Christian right especially plays on the strongest emotion of all, fear. Fear is probably responsible for more human activity than anything else in history. Please don't regard this as cynicism. It's simply an acknowledgement that we are all controlled much more by our animal nature than we would wish or dare to admit. I urge you to examine this idea and not dismiss it out of hand. Look at the following quote from Twain's Mysterious Stranger, and tell me if it's not as applicable today as when he wrote it.

"Yes, I was laughing at you, because, in fear of what others might report about you, you stoned the woman when
your heart revolted at the act -- but I was laughing at the others, too."

    "Why?"

    "Because their case was yours."

    "How is that?"

    "Well, there were sixty-eight people there, and sixty-two of them had no more desire to throw a stone than you had."

    "Satan!"

    "Oh, it's true. I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and
its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows
it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive
and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert themselves. Think of it! One kind-hearted creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps
in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing
of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted
prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and
wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise -- perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a
determined front will do it -- and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end.

    "Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions are all based upon that large defect in your race -- the individual's distrust of his neighbor, and his desire,
for safety's or comfort's sake, to stand well in his neighbor's eye. These institutions will always remain, and always flourish, and always oppress you,
affront you, and degrade you, because you will always be and remain slaves of minorities. There was never a country where the majority of the people were
in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions."

    I did not like to hear our race called sheep, and said I did not think they were.

    "Still, it is true, lamb," said Satan. "Look at you in war -- what mutton you are, and how ridiculous!"

    "In war? How?"

    "There has never been a just one, never an honorable one -- on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule
will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful -- as usual -- will shout for the war. The pulpit will -- warily and cautiously
-- object -- at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly
and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it." Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side
will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will
outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned
from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers -- as earlier
-- but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation -- pulpit and all -- will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who
ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation
that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations
of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque
self-deception."

    And concerning Romney, of course they'll support him if they think he can win. The idea that this movement has anything to do with religion is so naive it's almost adorable. This is a purely political movement that uses religion as an effective tool to organize followers and keep them in line. As Tom Paine said: "All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave
mankind, and monopolize power and profit." What a great description of theocracy. Notice he doesn't say all churches, but rather says "all national institutions of churches". The Christian right is political organizations disguised as churches for tax and control purposes. That's why Catholics will support Protestants who believe Catholics are going to Hell, and vice versa. If they don't mind associating with the Moonies, why would they object to a Mormon? Naturally, they'd prefer someone who shares their religious beliefs, but what really matters is that you have the "right" political beliefs. And if you have the "wrong political beliefs, it doesn't matter how commited a Christian you are. Look at Carter for example.

by Dave on Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 11:31:12 PM EST


I'm commenting off the cuff here, (that is, I didn't bother to note the news item link) but read yesterday of a Unitarian minister (Colorado?) commenting on Same Sex (aka: 'gay') Marriage.  His last comment was telling...

"Marry them all - Let God sort it out"

Being an Episcopalian, I think I'll modify that for those who are raising a ruckus in our denomination to..."Ordain them all - Let God sort it out".
"Never put a period where God has put a comma" - Gracie Allen
by SmorgasOfBorg on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 06:44:06 PM EST



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John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)
A Wiccan Witch In Salem
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or......
irishwitch (0 comments)

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