Why is the Tea Party Targeting the Methodist Church?
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 11:04:05 AM EST
Tea Party Nation's Judson Phillips puts United Methodist Church in his crosshairs.

In 1983, when folks at the Institute for Religion and Democracy helped convince producers at CBS' "60 Minutes" to run a segment on the National Council of Churches and the United Methodist Church, the world changed dramatically for all three organizations.

The NCC and UMC were blindsided; treated to an old-fashioned television mugging. While they were taking heat, the Washington, D.C.-based IRD's profile soared in conservative circles.

Now, nearly three decades later, Tea Party Nation's Judson Phillips has put the United Methodist Church in his crosshairs.

Church has long history of being attacked

Attacking the United Methodist Church has a long pedigree. According to Andrew Weaver and Fred W. Kandelar - writing in Talk To Action in January 2006 - The "60 Minutes" broadcast entitled "The Gospel According to Whom," "began with Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, saying, 'I am worried - I am outraged when the church lies to its own people.' The camera moved from an offering plate in a United Methodist church in the Midwest to images of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and then to marchers in Communist Red Square. The lengthy segment over and over suggested that the National Council of Churches (NCC) was using Sunday offerings to promote Marxist revolution."

Interestingly, during a 2002 appearance on CNN's Larry King Live, "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt told King, when asked whether there were any shows he regretted, said: "We once took off on the National Council of Churches as being left wing and radical and a lot of nonsense. And the next morning I got a congratulatory phone call from every redneck bishop in America and I thought, oh, my God, we must have done something wrong last night, and I think we probably did."

The attack on the UMC didn't end with the "60 Minutes" broadcast. "In 1996," according to Weaver, Nicole R. Seibert, and Kandeler writing in Talk To Action in 2006, "in a characteristically misleading fundraising letter, [the IRD's current president, Mark] Tooley claimed that the UMC was supporting 'Marxist guerrilla movements in Central America, violent revolution in southern Africa, halting U.S. defense programs, government-funded abortion, expanding the role of the federal government in the lives of ordinary Americans.'"

Tooley is the author of "Taking Back the United Methodist Church."

Tea Party Nation steps in

Now, it's Tea Party Nation's Judson Phillips turn to join the fray.

People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch recently reported that in a blog post, Phillips "recount[ed] his recent experience visiting the United Methodist Building in Washington D.C., where he saw a promotional banner for the DREAM Act, a failed piece of legislation that would have provided a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children."

Phillips wrote: "I have a DREAM. That is, no more United Methodist Church."

Get it? Washington, D.C. "I Have a Dream."

"The Methodist church is pro-illegal immigration," Phillips charged. "They have been in the bag for socialist health care, going as far as sending out emails to their membership 'debunking' the myths of Obamacare. Say, where are the liberal complaints on the separation of church and state?"

Phillips, who grew up in the Methodist Church and left as a teenager, wrote that "The Methodists joined the Socialists, Communists and Marxists for the 'One Nation' March.  While the Methodists have been outraged that American used force to respond to 9/11, they remained shockingly silent on the torture by Muslims.

"Reading the Methodist social justice manifesto is like reading a socialist wish list.  They want amnesty, they want 'economic justice', they opposed 'global climate change' (earth to the Methodists, man isn't doing it), fighting global poverty (here is another hint, most poverty is caused by a lack of freedom and lack of a free enterprise system).  Not shockingly, the Methodists side with the Islamists against Israel, and of course oppose America in Iraq."

Phillips added: "In short, if you hate America, you have a great future in the Methodist church."

Brantley Hargrove reported in nashvillescene.com that Bill Medford, director of civil and human rights for the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, responded to Phillips by saying that the church's "support of the DREAM Act is in alignment with the principles of support for immigration reform found in our resolutions passed by the General Conference. More importantly, many United Methodists throughout the country are immigrants themselves or are in close, intimate relationships with immigrants through outreach and service. And from the positions of these close relationships modeled to us first and foremost by Jesus whose birth we celebrate this week, we advocate for humane and workable solutions to a badly broken immigration system."

Bishop Minerva Carcano, of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, said that she was "proud of the fact that ... [the] Church stands for justice for all of God's children in the name of Jesus Christ, and I consider it a moral calling to stand up for young immigrants who deserve the opportunities that the DREAM Act would provide. Mr. Phillips' visceral attacks in response to this advocacy, by contrast, reflect neither American values nor the Christian faith. But as a committed Christian and United Methodist who follows Jesus, I am committed to praying for Mr. Phillips. Even while he may dream of the demise of the United Methodist Church, I will pray for abundant life for him, for that is the Christian way."

Phillips is the head of Franklin, Tennessee-based Tea Party Nation, which according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) study, "Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Size, Scope, and Focus of the Tea Party Movement," is the third largest national Tea Party network with 31,402 online members as of August 1, 2010.

Phillips hustled his way onto the national stage earlier this year when he organized what was to become a highly controversial Tea Party Nation Convention in Nashville. Since then he has made a series of controversial comments including calling GOP votes for the arms-control treaty an example of caving in to Democrats; claiming that the passage of the tax cut package was "maintaining the status quo"; and calling the NAACP, the SEIU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU, liberal "hate groups."

Why? Because he's an idiot who doesn't even think of the consequences of his actions, just that his schtich is to go against anything that might be construed as helping unfortunates. And he has 30k imbeciles that are as mindlessly cruel and indifferent to those outside their sphere.

I don't think that busting up churches is in the best interests of society, and I say this as an atheist. the Methodist Church leadership should be highly commended for fighting the urge to just stop fighting, and joining the far-right ideologues, as the Catholic hierarchy has done.

by trog69 on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 02:39:18 AM EST

The overly-simplistic equivation of "Islamists" with Palestinians says a great deal with the fast and loose way with which factual data is treated in the hands of these and their cohorts. That misperception is part and parcel of the 'unexamined' dictims spouted forth as though with impunity to unfettered supporters, who lack any, or any other, critical viewpoint. It would be o.k. to pity them if it weren't for the damage done with their underhanded motives & practices.
     I remember the CBS/"60 Minutes" broadcast of the IRD with their half-baked charges in 1983 and the fallout in the press for quite some time. The NCC asked for, but never got, an apology or retraction, which has to say a lot of CBS leadership at the time. I was unaware of the Larry King Interview with producer Hewitt, in effect, admitting the misstep, but that is as close as an apology ever came in a "non-apology." For conservatives who still exist on misperceptions of "Eastern liberal press" or 'Eastern conspiracy' notions within the press, to those of us who seek to clarify that and other notions, it's easy to see, indeed, how conservative a major TV channel was....and continues to be! To be liberal or progressive continues to be a stance that finds it necessary to ask for retractions that never come. Who's afraid here? It's clear that major news outlets lack the cohones to exist properly, and are certainly not in control of their own destinies.
     Three cheers for the UMC and its stalwartness in the arena of 'social justice.' Theirs is a long history of achievement, much to be admired. The IRD fools a lot of people with its misleading name & address: at least the teaparty fools show their ignorance & tomfoolery from the gitgo.
    Three months ago I was on a 'social justice' mission at San Miguel de Allende, Mexico that sought to expose how NAFTA took advantage of poor, working Mexicans with anti-wage inclusions in that document, drawn up by the U.S. It was sponsored by the United Church of Christ, Justice & Witness mission with co-sponsorship by the Council for Global Justice.I just hope that someone is always around to help the downtrodden reclaim some dignity. That's the exact opposite of teaparty types and the IRD!

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