Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Front in the Culture War:
Gay Rights Sacrificed on the Altar of the Mid-Term Elections

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.


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"


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.
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.
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:


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

"US Senator Inhofe Claims Global Warming is a UN Conspiracy" by Bruce Wilson

"Bill Bennett, God-Man : 'When 4 Americans Are Hung.... You Level The City'" by Bruce Wilson

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Chip's Blog

Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments at www.Talk2Action.org.