Freedom Federation enters health care fray
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Aug 31, 2009 at 11:59:04 AM EST
Struggling to find an identity and a larger audience, a number of long-time hard-core Religious Right groups have joined together to launch the Freedom Federation

The summer had barely begun. Worldwide attention was focused on the death of Michael Jackson and the cable news shock troops were on it 24/7. Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, had yet to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Tea Party movement, which showed some signs of life on Tax Day, was fizzling out. "Birthers" - right wing activists convinced that President Obama was not born in the U.S. - were smoldering on the sidelines. The right's assault on Obama's health care proposals was still weeks away.    

With the Christian right grasping at anti-Obama straws, a group of seasoned "culture warriors" filed into the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in late June, to announce the formation of the Freedom Foundation, a new consortium of Christian conservative organizations.  

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might have called it a meeting of dead-enders. Some might have seen it as a gathering of the bewitched, bothered and bewildered!

Now, nearly two months later, in an attempt to counter President Obama's health care reform outreach to the faith community, the Freedom Federation - touting "Real Hope. Real Change. Real Freedom" at it website -- held another Washington, D.C. press conference to warn legislators not to act precipitously on health care when they return from their August recess.

Freedom Federation will serve as a `stop sign' on health care reform, says Ken Blackwell  

Speaking for the organization, Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State and now a senior fellow for family empowerment at the Family Research Council said that the Freedom Federation "will be a stop sign and say, `Let's apply reason and thought and broaden participation.'" Organization spokespersons say that some of their major concerns about health care reform revolves around "taxpayer-supported abortion, rationed health care for the elderly and government control of personal health decisions," USA Today recently reported.

Some Federation spokespersons admit that while there may be some problems with the health care system, basically it works well. Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women For America took note of the passing of senator Ted Kennedy by pointing out that when he "faced a serious health problem he did not go to England, he did not go to Canada, he did not go to a country that has a government plan. He sought treatment in the country that he believed had the best treatment available, and that is America. That is a lesson that we can take from Ted Kennedy."

While some Religious Right leaders have tried to recalibrate their agendas, long-time Christian Right organizations like Tony Perkins' Family Research Council, the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition, and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, are firmly rooted in the past. Digging in their heels, they are firmly committed to re-building their movement with the same old anti-abortion and anti-gay agenda. That retro agenda was on full display at the Freedom Federation's inaugural press conference in June.

Dead-enders revival?  

The Freedom Federation was pulled together by Mathew Staver, the head of a conservative legal outfit called Liberty Counsel. Its first press conference included such folks as Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, Rick Scarborough from Vision America, Gary Bauer of the Campaign for Working Families, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, Kenneth Blackwell of the Family Research Council, and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.  Also represented were Exodus International, a group that promises "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ"; Morning Star Ministries, which, according to the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, "recently hosted the Spiritual Warfare Conference"; and Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, the undisputed king of the right-wing boycott.

"This federation is bringing together the different voices, the different faces, that all believe in the same core principles," Wendy Wright pointed out. "The federation begins to give voice [to] folks who represent individual freedom," Kenneth Blackwell noted.

Although Blackwell, who was soundly defeated in the 2006 Ohio's governor's race and who more  recently lost out to Michael Steele as head of the Republican National Committee, maintained that the Freedom Federation has "no allegiance as a federation to either party," Milbank pointed out that "federation politics are no secret." For example, Bauer's Campaign for Working Families is working on a campaign to "stop Obama's socialism"; Lafferty's TVC, Milbank reported, is "trying to stop `Obamunists' from destroying private health care."  

The Federation's founding document, "The Declaration of American Values," calls for: protections for the unborn; "embracing the union of one man and one woman as the sole form of legitimate marriage"; securing parental rights and "control of their children"; "freedom to acknowledge God through our public institutions."  The Federation's founders closed with: "We hereby pledge our Names, our Lives and our Sacred Honor to this Declaration of American Values."  

'The first multi-ethnic transgenerational evangelical Christian federation in history,' claims Samuel Rodriguez

Samuel Rodriguez's claimed that the group "will stand as the first multi-ethnic transgenerational evangelical Christian federation in history." Rodriguez was a signatory to a document titled "Come Let Us Reason Together: A Fresh Look at Shared Cultural Values Between Evangelicals and Progressives," a document aimed at establishing "common ground" between evangelicals and liberal religious leaders. And more recently, he supported the "Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Pregnant Women and Parents Act" -- a bill in support of abortion reduction that was introduced in Congress by Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) - legislation that has been roundly criticized as being a backdoor funding spigot for Planned Parenthood by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins.

Speaking about immigration at the initial Freedom Federation press conference, Rodriguez pointed out that "... you'll see coming with the federation not a compromise on core values but a fresh articulation of our biblical worldview."  And although the founding Declaration states that it supports "promoting immigration policies that observe the rule of law and are just, fair, swift, and foster national unity," how that actually plays itself out may be a bitter pill to swallow for several of the attendees who have expressed anti-immigration sentiments.

And Bishop Harry Jackson, the chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a network of mostly African-American and Hispanic ministries, sees the federation expanding the Religious Right's agenda: "The religious right has really, seemingly, specialized in dealing with a handful of issues and has not engaged in terms of political activism in issues that would be considered social justice issues."

"So the opportunity is for us to be relevant in terms of what's being decided now," he added, pointing to the environment, health care and immigration reform. "All of these issues have a biblical perspective that can unify us." There is no mention of the environment or health care in the founding Declaration.  

Jackson said the federation also hopes to change the "very severe image problem" that politically active Christians have in the culture. He said the federation's multiethnic membership will not only help change public perception but also provide more holistic policy recommendations.

Rodriguez's views on such "common ground" issues as abortion and immigration might get him in hot water with Freedom Federation colleagues. However, his strongly stated opposition to same-sex marriage - he told the Washington Post in early April that "The legalization of gay marriage in Iowa and Vermont should be seen as a declaration of war on traditional values," and he has been a major player in attempting to thwart the New York state legislature from passing supportive same-sex marriage legislation -- might bolster his Federation credibility.    

Although the McCain/Palin campaign tried to squeeze every ounce out of then-candidate Obama's use of the old "lipstick on a pig" metaphor, Ron Luce, the founder of Teen Mania, another Federation participant, appears to think that this is more about re-branding of Christian conservative then re-thinking their agenda. "Our interest is in trying to help shape the communication to the younger generation so they're more willing to embrace what the Bible says and live conservative values from the Scriptures," Luce said.

"The whole point of the federation is groups coming together saying, let us put a new face on and a new amiable stance in what we believe," he added. "Not changing what we believe, but a more amiable approach as well as a more thorough approach. It's not just two issues; we're talking about all kinds of issues and principles from Scriptures that we as believers ought to care about-not associating ourselves with a particular political party. It's about, let's live conservatively in our own personal lives and then let's make our voice known."




Display:

WWW Talk To Action


On Christmas Day, in the Morning
In recent years at Christmastime, I have posted a response to the preposterous-but-malevolent claims broadcast on Fox News and elsewhere that there is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Hallelujah, Mike Huckabee, Hallelujah
Fox News personality Mike Huckabee had a defining moment in the wake of the Newtown massacre. One that as we enter the 2016 presidential......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Moses And Michele: Departing Member Of Congress Spreads More Misinformation
The Religious Right's Moses fixation continues to grow.As you might recall, the Texas State Board of Education recently demanded social studies textbooks that highlight......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Christian Right Silent about Bob Jones U Sex Abuse Report
One of the deep scandals of our time, and apparently times past, is that sex abuse, particularly of children, has been so tolerated and......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Boot These Bigoted Bans: Movement Seeks To Remove Anti-Atheist Bias From State Constitutions
Eight states still have provisions in their constitutions that either bar atheists outright from holding public office or require people to believe certain things......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
James Madison and Tax-Supported Chaplains
In light of former Sen. Rick Santorum's recent silly declaration that “the words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution,......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
Death to Obama; Death to "Homos"; What's Next?
When the Obama administration was young, threats against the president were common, and sometimes quite public. One notorious such incident was that of Rev.......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Rick Scarborough's America
When Stand Up Sunday was convened by Mike Huckabee in Houston it was to feature the leading spokesmen for the Religious Right agenda.  The......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
The Republican Diversity Program... Is Working
I don't usually write directly about electoral politics, but sometimes I bring an outsider's perspective to how the inside looks to some of the......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
American Christian Right Leaders in Rome
The remarkable and growing alliance between conservative Catholicism and protestant evangelicalism was on prominent display at a recent event at the Vatican. My colleague......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Religious Supremacism on the Rise Against Marriage Equality
This is a crosspost of an op-ed I recently published at LGBTQ Nation.  -- FC Christian right undermines marriage equality with religious supremacism FREDERICK......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Author of Loathing Lincoln Explains Why Some on the Christian Right Loathe Lincoln
One under-reported result of the 2014 elections was the rise of Neo-Confederate politics in the U.S. This included the election of unabashed apologist for......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
A Catholic Theocracy Grows in Florida
Catholic Right pizza mogul Tom Monaghan and his Ave Maria School of Law are back in the news.  Journalist Eleanor Bader has a new......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Mississippi Madness: Group Wants To Designate An Official Religion
A group in Mississippi is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to change the state constitution in several ways.The proposal put forth by the......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)
I Stand Sunday Part 2
I Stand Sunday took place in Houston, Nov. 2, 2014, motivated by the cities' mayor who subpoenaed sermons from local pastors.  The host church......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)

Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.