Anti-Gay Gatekeepers of the NFL: The NY Giants’ David Tyree Controversy

The New York Giants’ hiring of former player David Tyree as the director of player development has resulted in controversy and a statement from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The controversy stems from a 2011 interview with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), in which Tyree said that gay marriage would lead to anarchy and lawlessness.  In another interview, he stated that he would trade his 2008 Super Bowl catch if it would stop marriage equality, and he’s also indicated that he believes in reparative therapy. The Giants’ general manager has defended Tyree, stating that the team did due diligence before hiring him for the job, in which he will mentor young players in their off-the-field life, including business interests.  But it’s Tyree’s own mentors and business associates that will likely lead to more controversy for the NFL team and to further questions about Tyree’s claim this past week that his views have evolved.

Tyree’s mentors, and at least one business partner, are apostles in a network of modern-day, self-declared (or, in their view, God-ordained) “apostles” and “prophets.” An invitation-only list of prominent apostles, the International Coalition of Apostles, has included Tyree’s mentor and co-author, Apostle Kimberly Daniels, and his business partner, Apostle Frank Duprée.  They maximize their impact through loose relational networks in a religio-political movement that has been dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

The apostles and prophets of this network aren’t your garden-variety homophobes; they are on the cutting edge of activism and incitement against gay rights in the U.S., Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Following his miraculous Super Bowl catch, Tyree co-authored an autobiographical book with Daniels, whose son Michael Jennings has also played for several NFL teams, including the Giants. Daniels is also a mentor to other players on the NY Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars and was reportedly invited by the Jaguars to lead a Bible study for the team.

Tyree describes Daniels as his “spiritual mother” and the person who prophesied his role, over the phone, on the evening prior to the Giants’ 2008 Super Bowl win. In the New Apostolic world of modern-day apostles and prophets, one’s spiritual father or mother not only acts as a mentor but also provides spiritual authority and protection.  Tyree’s spiritual mother is nationally known as “the demon buster,” a specialist in expelling what are supposed to be literal demons and in “healing” homosexuals. Tyree claims that he himself has been possessed by a demon that caused him to exhibit symptoms of mental illness and to spend four days in a psychiatric hospital.

Like other NAR apostles and prophets, Daniels and Duprée promote the concept of the “Seven Mountains Mandate,” or the belief that Christians should take “dominion” over the seven power centers of society and government.  The sports industry falls under the categories of the entertainment, media, and business mountains, areas aggressively targeted by NAR leaders. In her book of spiritual warfare prayers, Daniels describes “gatekeepers of the sports industry” as being “strategically set in place for prophetic evangelism throughout the industry.”

The Demon Buster

In her dual role as an apostle and prophetess, Daniels has served on the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders.  This group meets to make prophetic declarations about the future and has included such figures as Harry Jackson Jr., Cindy Jacobs, Sarah Palin’s mentor Mary Glazier, and Lou Engle.  Engle is known for co-founding TheCall events, used in 2008 to promote Proposition Eight in California and as a platform for supporters of the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda in 2010.

HILC_RollCall (1) (1)Kimberly Daniels and Harry Jackson Jr. spearheaded the fight against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2007 by targeting African American churches and pastors with claims that the bill was part of a homosexual “satanic agenda” to muzzle and perhaps even imprison pastors.  Their efforts included full-page newspaper ads (pictured left) in D.C. featuring Jackson and Daniels in the top photos of the left column. Jackson has been described in a report by  Americans United for Separation of Church and State as “point man for the wedge strategy” of “using attacks on gay rights and abortion as a wedge between African American churchgoers and their political allies in the civil rights and progressive communities.”  This strategy was revealed in a NOM document leaked in 2012, describing a plan “to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies.”

Daniels and Jackson were interviewed on a popular evangelical show on Daystar TV, alongside their fellow “comrade in war” Cindy Jacobs, about their opposition to the hate crimes bill. The six-minute video (embedded below) jumps from the interview to short individual clips of Daniels, Jackson, Jacobs, and also Lou Engle and Che Ahn, in a documentation of their homophobic language and false claims that the hate crimes bill would result in the jailing of pastors for preaching against homosexuality from the pulpit. The compilation of clips was produced by Bruce Wilson, now with TWOCARE, when Daniels was running (and won) a city council seat in Jacksonville, Florida in 2011.

The video also includes short excerpts from a sermon in which Daniels embraces slavery as a Christianizing influence and claims that “Jews own everything.” It reveals glimpses of her brand of the prosperity doctrine, or the belief that God rewards those of proper faith with health and wealth.

Although Daniels won her city council seat as a Democrat, she authored an article in Charisma magazine in 2008 calling for black Christians to vote against Barack Obama.  Daniels is featured regularly in Charisma, which provides a forum for her claims that demons can be ingested by eating Halloween candy. Daniels has written numerous books, including one with a foreword by Diana Hagee, wife of controversial televangelist John Hagee, and another filled with prayers for use in repelling and expelling demons in all kinds of situations.

The spiritual warfare prayers in her book Prayers that Bring Change fall under headings such as “Prayer for Hollywood Entertainers” and “Prayer for Professional Athletes.”  The following are a few selected excerpts:

  • “I pray against all forms of perversion, sex, lust, and homosexuality that are sweeping through the Hollywood industry and professional athletics.”
  • “I bind the spirit of lesbianism, whoredom, and strange women and displace it with the anointing of the virtuous woman.  I command the gay men to become straight and the unfaithful brothers to repent and become mighty men of valor.”
  • “I renounce the witchcraft that comes with homosexuality/lesbianism.”
  • “Bless all the men and women who stand before the world as gatekeepers of the sports industry.”
  • “I pray that salvation will be made known to the people of Israel who do not believe the Messiah has come.”
  • “I break the control of all forms of ancient religions, philosophy, astronomy, divination, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, new age, and any other power that these secret organizations draw power and strength from.”

David Tyree also references his close relationship with Apostle Ardell Daniels, Kimberly Daniels husband.  Ardell Daniels is one of founding board members of the Oak Initiative, a religio-political organization fighting against a perceived Marxist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition.  In 2010, the Oak Initiative produced a short video titled “Marxism in America” featuring another board member, retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, who claims in the video that the nation is in the grips of a Marxist takeover.

Apostle Frank Dupree

dupree and tyree (1)As recently as 2013, Transformation Newark magazine featured a double-page advertisement for David Tyree and Frank Duprée’s joint venture marketing health supplements, powders, and drinks for the Northeast region of Impax World products.  The ad, as seen, capitalizes on Tyree’s fame and his book authored with Kimberly Daniels.

Apostle Frank Duprée is also well connected in regional and national networks.  “Bishop Duprée,” as he is also called, is one of the founders of Transformation Newark and the Metro Apostolic Network in New Jersey and New York, with branches in Pakistan and Kenya. The Metro Apostolic Network council includes Apostle Joseph Mattera, recently named U.S. head of the International Coalition of Apostles. (The ICA also recently changed its name to the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders or ICAL.)  The ICAL is forming national networks of apostles in countries around the world.

Gatekeepers in the Sports Industry

Giant’s coach Tom Coughlin has described the position of director of player development, for which Tyree has been hired, as extremely important in football franchises. In Coughlin’s words, the job is to aid players in “their development as young men, the opportunities in the business world and in networking in the city that they happen to be playing in.”  Tyree certainly has access to extensive and very interesting networks in the New York and New Jersey area.  He has repeatedly voiced his willingness to use his access and position to advance his worldview. Now, he can be one of those strategically placed “gatekeepers in the sports industry.”

According to the introduction to his autobiography, Tyree left a letter in each of his teammates’ lockers in September 2007. In the letter, he described himself as called by God to be a spiritual leader to remove the team out from under a “spiritual dark cloud.”  He wrote that God wanted to do great things with the team, but that it required faith in the Lord in order to win the championship.  He issued an invitation to the “First Team Fellowship/Bible Study” at his house.

Tyree continues the introduction by admitting that not many of his teammates took him up on his offer, but he still describes the Giants’ victory as “A Supernatural Bowl” (also the title of a chapter in the book).  The book includes a “Hall of Faith” of NFL players who also believe in a supernatural component to football, and that the faith required to tap into that supernatural power must be shared with their teammates.  A football-style prosperity doctrine is described in detail by Tyree and Daniels in the closing chapters of the book.

In his 2011 interview with NOM, Tyree said that athletes and believers who are in positions to do so should voice their opposition to gay marriage.  He added that believers are doing God an injustice if they don’t “make his heart known to the country.” “It’s not about establishing a theocracy,” Tyree continued. “It’s about what’s right.”

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Eugenics as U.S. Nationhood: Situating Population Control in a Settler State

This post is the third in my series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one and part two.) Today, I continue to discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, an egregious affront to reproductive justice. This segment addresses U.S. initiatives undertaken to limit Native American women’s reproductive autonomy.

In my last post, I discussed right-wing nativists’ efforts to establish a two-tiered citizenship structure, which would institutionalize discrimination against and disenfranchisement of people of color. While this redefinition of citizenship has not gained legal ground, comparable institutions proliferate in the U.S.

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

Indeed, it is important to acknowledge that the United States itselfnot only the structures it creates and upholdsis such a system. Superimposed as it was, and is, on land once shared by tens of millions, this country is a settler colonial state and a necessarily genocidal project: as Cavanagh and Veracini explain, “settlers want Indigenous people to vanish.” In the United States, this aim has been largely (though certainly not entirely) realized, and sterilization has been among the means of effecting it.

The genocidal practices undertaken during the formation of the U.S. are well documented and fairly well known, as are some of those implemented in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More contemporary iterations of the U.S. genocidal project are less widely known, due in part to the widespread misconception that Native Americans have long been virtually extinct.

Between 1973 and 1976, the Indian Health Servicea federal programsterilized more than 3,406 Native American people who could become pregnant. Dozens of those sterilized were under 21, contrary to a moratorium on sterilizing minors. From 1969 to 1974 (coinciding with President Nixon’s term), the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) subsidized a full 90 percent of the costs of these sterilizations (Ralstin-Lewis). Many were sterilized against their will; moreover, a substantial portion of the providers lacked documentation attesting to fully informed consent. As researchers Jane Lawrence and D. Marie Ralstin-Lewis show, the consent forms the patients signed were often incomplete, and many did not indicate that they had a right to refuse the procedure at no risk of losing benefits. Nor is it evident from any of the forms later evaluated by the U.S. General Accounting Office that providers had fully informed their patients of what sterilization entailed. They certainly did not make a compelling effort to overcome cultural barriers in explaining the procedure. Additionally, consent is difficult to ascertain in light of the circumstances in which Native patients found themselves; the dire poverty inflicted by the United States, constant infringements on sovereignty, and concerted efforts to uproot indigenous cultures shape a landscape in which white doctors could coerce their Native patients in highly subtle ways.

Both Lawrence and Ralstin-Lewis also stress the significance of Native Americans’ ability to have children in the face of continuing efforts to exterminate them. Ralstin-Lewis reports specifically on extensive investigations undertaken by Native Americans. Cheyenne tribal judge Marie Sanchez and Northern Cheyenne tribal member Mary Ann Bear Comes Out concluded that in just three years, a full third of the mere 165 women of childbearing age on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and Labre Mission grounds had been sterilized, “reducing births within this group by half or more over a five-year period” (82). This devastating statistic is representative of what many tribes experienced: a Lakota researcher named Lehman Brightman devoted many years to investigating the sterilizations of Native American women and found that approximately forty percent of all Native women had been sterilized (Ralstin-Lewis).

It would be reductive to attempt to identify the U.S. government’s discrete motivations for reducing the Native American population, which cannot be understood outside the context of settlement and genocide. However, it is worth noting that while many of the arguments put forward for limiting immigrants’ reproductive agency are manifestly inapplicable to Native American populations, some of the explicit justification is the same. Specifically, proponents and practitioners of sterilization frame it as an investment, contending (sometimes implicitly) that when certain people do not have children, the money saved in welfare expenditures will offset the cost of sterilization. The welfare state is a ubiquitous trope in right-wing rhetoric surrounding issues of poor women of color’s reproductive autonomy. Ralstin-Lewis comments, “The noncompliant female body has become the central point of contention for conservative fury about the welfare state” (89).

The conflation of certain bodies with welfare costs, which is inextricable from the degradation of welfare itself, is a means of normalizing and obscuring racism and sexism. The construction of these bodies as burdensome allows bigotry to be couched in ostensibly pragmatic arguments against unnecessary spending. Meanwhile, welfare is seen as objectionable and unnecessary because it is associated with marginalized people. Prejudice is thus woven invisibly through the fabric of public opinion.

This is consistent with Thomas W. Volscho’s thesis that “sterilization racism” is a function of the U.S. having been organized around white supremacy. Volscho uses Cazenave and Maddern’s definition of racism as “…a highly organized system of race-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/race/supremacy,” theorizing that the hierarchy this produces will give those at the top control over or influence within the institutions determining their reproductive abilities (such as health care providers), while those at the bottom will be subject to the whims of the same institutionsand those of others intended specifically to constrain them (19). (This too is part of the colonial project, which necessitates that those in power be able to manage the bodies of those they subjugate.) The next installment of this series will give an overview of ways in which constraining institutions, including the carceral system, have targeted Black women’s reproductive freedom.

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Of Bombs and Wombs: Nativist Myths of Weaponized Fertility

(More Right-Wing Prophecies of White Supremacy’s Decline)

This post is the second in a series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter global demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one here.) In this post and those to follow, I discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, with a focus on the anti-immigration Right. 

In my last article, I discussed the Right’s fear-mongering narrative that contraceptive use and other exercises of reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are catapulting civilization into decline. Curiously, there is also a swath of powerful right-wing voices making what appears to be a diametrically opposed argument. They are organized around the perceived threat of population growth, and—like their pro-population growth counterparts—they are deeply invested in regulating exactly which populations are permitted to procreate. In truth, though, these seemingly rival factions are two sides to the proverbial coin, and that coin is eugenics.

Courtesy of peoplesworld, Creative Commons

Courtesy of peoplesworld

Population alarmism, or the notion that high rates of population growth are to blame for poverty, climate change, and a host of other nightmarish global problems, is a well-disguised framework for undermining poor people of color’s reproductive autonomy. Its insidiousness comes from the effective coding of rhetoric surrounding hyperfertility and handout-seeking burdens to taxpayers as references to women of color, particularly poor Black women and immigrant Latina women. The fiction that excessively high birthrates are the source of human suffering becomes a way to mask racism, misogyny, and elitism while still clearly identifying poor women of color as the enemy, the undesirable Other.

It is important to note that not all people who can become pregnant are women; many trans men and nonbinary people can also become pregnant, and they are materially affected by attacks on reproductive health. Of course, such attacks are gendered in their ideology, and in this sense they are attacks on women, which necessarily impact trans women. Therefore, when referring to the logic of limiting reproductive choice, I will use “women”; when referring to actual initiatives to limit reproductive choice, I will use “people who can become pregnant.”

U.S. eugenics are at least as old as Mendel’s laws of heredity, but the pretext of unsustainable population growth for right-wing vilification of women of color’s fertility can be traced back to the emergence of a “new Malthusianism” that gained traction under President Nixon. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich sounded the alarm with his book The Population Bomb (coauthored without attribution by his wife), which argued that the earth was approaching its carrying capacity, and rising population growth would be catastrophic for humans and the environment. Coupled with Cold War anxieties that growing populations would cause resource scarcity, which would give rise to Communism, the Ehrlichs’ arguments helped generate bipartisan support for the suppression and stabilization of population growth. The conflation of the “population problem” and the implicitly racialized “urban crisis” of the mid-1960s further strengthened this support. Derek Hoff writes, “The purported connection between population growth and the urban crisis…injected a fresh dose of racial politics into a population discussion already tainted and racialized via the unfortunate legacy of eugenics” (31).

Right-wing enthusiasm for population control began to wane precipitously, however, when zero-growth efforts became associated with the pro-choice movement (giving way to right-wing resistance from groups like the Population Research Institute and the World Council of Families, which I discussed previously). Additionally, libertarian groups embraced population growth as integral to populist efforts, and the rise of neoliberalism thrust regulation to the political margins. Nonetheless, certain right-wing elements of the zero population growth movement remained.

One such element was the right-wing nativist contingent. 1979 saw the inception of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a virulently nativist organization that began by couching its racist agenda in unscientific environmentalist arguments for shrinking the immigrant population in the United States. According to Priscilla Huang of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a number of FAIR’s highest positions are held by people with “ties to white supremacist groups,” and the organization has been the recipient of more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, whose other grantees include groups that perform “research in eugenics and ‘race science’” (394). FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has openly embraced eugenics. (Tanton also played an integral role in founding NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, which both advance nativist efforts to restrict immigration.) The Southern Poverty Law Center has named FAIR a hate group.

FAIR is not alone in exploiting fears of climate change and resource scarcity to foster anti-immigrant sentiment and shape anti-immigrant legislation, but it is spearheading the charge. FAIR is the largest anti-immigrant organization in the U.S., and probably the most influential. With ample congressional influence and a reported 250,000 members, FAIR cannot be dismissed as merely a fringe group.

Nativist advocates of population control have attempted to square their agenda with the anti-choice philosophies of the Right by claiming, as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) did in 2007, “If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn’t need illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today” (Huang, 403). The subtext of this ludicrous assertion is that abortion (that evil of evils) is killing the good children: the White ones.

DeLay’s line of reasoning also smooths over another major break between the anti-choice Right and the population control movement. To right-wing libertarians who seek to shrink government, DeLay (along with those who have made similar arguments) suggests that curtailing immigration and immigrant populations will preserve the integrity of a U.S. libertarian movement by restoring power to the right (read: White) people.

In a memo titled “Latin Onslaught,” John Tanton says that White people’s “power and control over their lives [is] declining” as “a group that is simply more fertile” procreates itself to majority status (Sánchez, 2). As Tanton would have it, big government and a growing Latino voting base are co-conspirators in the effort to rob “real” Americans of the autonomy and supremacy they are due. (“More fertile,” of course, implies more promiscuous, more sexual, more irresponsible—all stereotypes with which women of color are branded. In true eugenic fashion, it also implies innate bodily difference from white women.)

Historically, nativist efforts to quell the perceived threat of Latina women’s fertility have gone far beyond altering immigration patterns. An article by Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Taja Lindley at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explains that coercive sterilizations of Latina/o people who could become pregnant were widespread in the 1960s and 1970s. This abuse, the authors say, was motivated by “[f]ears about over-population, welfare dependency, increased spending for public services, and illegitimate childbearing,” which “fueled stereotypes about both women of color and immigrant women, and led health professionals and State policymakers to intimidate ‘undesirable’ women into agreeing to surgical sterilization.”

In 1978, ten Chicana women who were coercively sterilized at a Los Angeles County hospital (whose obstetric residents had a quota for tubal ligations) over a four-year period went to court seeking justice. While Madrigal v. Quilligan ultimately led to the enactment of important regulations for obstetricians, the ruling favored the doctors who had performed the surgeries, affirming the stereotype that Mexican women tend to have excessive numbers of children and determining that “it was not objectionable for an obstetrician to think that a tubal ligation could improve a perceived overpopulation problem,” or to perform the procedure in compliance with this racialized and politicized theory. (Read Alexandra Minna Stern’s thorough analysis of the politics of Madrigal here.) Latina organizers, including those who bravely went before the court in Madrigal, worked tirelessly to abolish tubal ligations performed under coercion or without informed consent.

Yet Latina women’s fertility remains a target of right-wing attacks. FAIR and its allies continue to argue (falsely) that hyper-fecund Latina women come to the United States in droves to give birth so that their children—derisively referred to as “anchor-babies”—can reap the benefits of big government’s welfare policies. To mitigate this problem, they propose amending the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented parents, which is currently guaranteed by the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Huang points out that this project, if realized, would create a subjugable second class of “U.S.-born ‘alien’ children…a classification that would apply only to the offspring of immigrant women, the majority of whom are women of color” (401).

The institutionalization of such a racialized classification system would be utterly deplorable. It would undoubtedly visit unspeakable harm on many of the most vulnerable families in the United States; it would erect enormous barriers to access and gut protections for people already deprived of their rights and of recourse. But it would not be unique.

In the next part of this series, I endeavor to problematize the very notion of immigrants to the U.S., which is manifestly premised on racism and exclusion. This installment will discuss U.S. culpability in promoting sterilization as part of the ongoing genocide of Native American people.

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Conservative Sex-Ed Agenda Fosters Homophobic Environment in Schools

Last month, colorful flags waved proudly and vibrantly in Pride parades across the country. In the U.S., a total of 19 states have legalized same-sex marriage (with more states likely to join soon). Yet too often when we discuss attacks on LBGTQ people, attention focuses solely on same-sex marriage or workplace discrimination. All the while, right-wing groups are also actively targeting public school classrooms under the guise of “religious liberty,” advancing a deeply discriminatory and homophobic agenda.

I'm Gay Not StupidArguably, the most well-known and successful recent use of the “religious liberty” argument is the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, which has resulted in the devastating loss of comprehensive contraceptive access and basic health care coverage. The implications of the ruling, however, extend far beyond health care, as right-wing groups are also using the “religious liberty” frame to oppose comprehensive sex education and policies that work to make schools safer spaces for LGBTQ students. Instead, they advocate for curricula teaching that abstinence until heterosexual marriage is the only correct method; that same-sex attraction is wrong; that questioning gender identity is unnatural; and that discriminatory environments are permitted and, in some cases, even, to be encouraged.

As the American Health Association recommends, comprehensive sex education “utilizes classroom teachers and other professionals who have … received special training that includes addressing the needs to gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth,” empowering students to understand healthy sexual relationships, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Yet, this is a far cry from what sex ed looks like in most public school classrooms. The Guttmacher Institute’s 2014 Sex and HIV Education reports that only 22 states mandate sex education. Of those, only 12 states require discussion of sexual orientation, with three of them mandating inaccurate and anti-LBGTQ information be provided, such as in Mississippi where teachers instruct students that homosexual activity under the “unnatural statute” is illegal.

This lack of comprehensive sex ed often allows a homophobic environment in schools to flourish. Mental Health America reported that teen students hear anti-gay slurs, such as “homo,” “sissy,” and “faggot” about 26 times a day on average, or once every 14 minutes. Boys as young as nine are being called fags, as author C.J. Pacscoe accounts. A different study done in 2001 showed that 31% of gay youth had been threatened or injured at school in that year alone. This kind of harassment and bullying is certainly exacerbated by the lack of comprehensive sexual education in schools, which might otherwise help affirm the experiences of students of all genders and orientations, and foster an atmosphere of questioning and acceptance rather than silencing, shame, and stigma.

Additionally, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah have “Don’t Say Gay” laws. For example, Arizona mandates that “no district shall include in its course of study instruction which… (1) promotes a homosexual life-style…(2) portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.” (Revised in 2011). Texas and Alabama take it a step further –educators must describe homosexuality as abhorrent to the general public and as a criminal behavior.

Indeed, some of the right-wing organizations advocating for these policies are the same players who were involved in the Hobby Lobby case and other efforts to redefine religious liberty as a right to discriminate.  The Alliance Defending Freedom, for example, was not only a leading proponent of the Hobby Lobby case, but it also worked on a religious liberty bill in Arizona that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LBGTQ people (later vetoed by the governor). ADF has also publicly and falsely claimed that sex-ed curriculum is a plot by Planned Parenthood doctors to perform more abortions in order to make more money.

Aside from endorsing LBGTQ exclusionary sex-ed curriculum bills, right-wing groups have also opposed efforts to promote diversity and a safe environment for LBGTQ students. Southern Poverty Law Center, in collaboration with school stakeholders, organizes a nationwide annual Mix It Up at Lunch Day event to encourage inclusivity, oppose bullying, and promote tolerance in schools. In 2012, however, the American Family Association (AFA), a leading conservative anti-LGBTQ group, charged SPLC with forcing the acceptance of homosexuality in public schools and the oppression of Christian students, by urging schools to abandon anti-LGBTQ policies. The AFA’s opposition gained traction in Maine, where parents, with the support of Project Marriage Maine, challenged Gorham Middle School’s annual Diversity Day for promoting homosexuality after a lesson on gender diversity prompted a student to ask about safer sex practices for same-sex couples.

Finally, it is worth noting how school privatization efforts further enable and exacerbate these problems of biased sexuality education and discrimination against the LBGTQ community. Private Christian schools, for example, which often are the primary beneficiaries of voucher programs, are allowed to teach (or not teach) whatever they want in regards to sexuality—and can even deny admission outright to LGBTQ students—even as many of these schools are still receiving public tax dollars. As PRA fellow Rachel Tabachnick states, “Exclusion policies [that refuse admission to LGBTQ students] can be found in private schools around the country receiving public funding through school choice programs.” Many of these schools are also instructing children that “homosexual unions must be opposed because God opposes them,” and are also teaching “young earth creationism, bigotry toward other religions, revisionist history, and climate change denial.”

So, as we move beyond a month of Pride celebrations, let us not forget how the anti-LGBTQ agenda of conservative right wing groups has infiltrated the American public education system. Rather than emphasizing equality, open-mindedness, and human rights, intolerance and conservative interpretations of the Bible’s outlook on sexual orientation and gender roles are shaping the curricula and policies of public schools across the country.

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Whose Family? Religious Right’s “Family Values” Agenda Advances Internationally

The U.S. Religious Right has a long history of employing the frame of “traditional family values” to scapegoat a revolving cast of marginalized characters for all of society’s problems. (Consider Anita Bryant’s anti-LGBTQ crusades in the 1970s and Scott Lively’s more recent efforts to eradicate homosexuality in order to “save the children.”) But while they may rail against straw man stereotypes like “welfare queens” and “homosexual pedophiles” in their efforts to “defend the family,” the truth is that the arguments of religious conservatives have absolutely nothing to do with abortion or sex. The Right’s allusion to—and veneration of—some mythological one man + one woman utopian era of the past (where everyone was content with their assigned gender roles and every pregnancy was carefully planned) ultimately serves to pave the way for ongoing colonization and exploitation of the Global South.

United Nations. image via GRU.edu

United Nations. image via GRU.edu

Recently, we’ve seen a new round of right-wing “family values” efforts at the international level, focused particularly on the United Nations.  In May, Family Watch International president Sharon Slater launched a “Protect the Family” petition on CitizenGO. CitizenGO is a right-wing digital platform for online activism based in Spain that includes National Organization for Marriage head Brian Brown on its board of directors. Slater’s petition calls on all UN ambassadors to “fulfill their international obligation to protect the family by including the family in the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” She urges supporters to “Help [UN member states] feel the power that comes when the families of the world arise and demand that policies that undermine this vital institution never advance.” 100,000 supporters have already signed on, and the number is steadily rising.

Protecting families certainly seems like a fine goal. After all, is anybody actually “pro” family destruction? The issue here is that Slater’s petition has an extremely limited definition of what counts as a family, and her list of threats to this “fundamental unit of society” conveniently coincides with the many of the same policies the U.S. Right opposes in seeking to maintain male supremacy and white supremacy: According to Slater, the policies that are “undermining” the family include efforts to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected statuses under international human rights law, providing comprehensive sex ed to young people, and ensuring accessible and safe contraception and abortion options.

And while Slater claims to speak on behalf of the “families of the world,” she conveniently excludes those that are led by grandparents, single parents, same-sex parents, and countless other amalgamations of people caring for people.

In Slater’s view, extending human rights protections to LGBTQ people, respecting the bodily autonomy of all, and expanding our definition of “family” to reflect the diversity that is evident throughout the world is just too dangerous.

This growing movement to advance a restrictive definition of “family” gained ground last month when the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on “Protection of the Family.” While the resolution itself doesn’t have immediate policy implications for “non-traditional” families, it is part of a broader agenda led by the U.S. Religious Right aimed at cementing a patriarchal and heteronormative family structure as the fundamental unit of society, and then using that as a tool to advance conservative, right-wing social policies through the UN and other international organizations.

Other conservative organizations have also jumped into the “family” fray.  Following failed efforts led by Chile, Uruguay, Ireland, and France to include language in the resolution acknowledging that “various forms of the family exist,” Austin Ruse—head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM)—said the vote reflected widespread opposition to efforts to protect LGBTQ rights in diplomatic agreements—efforts that right-wing leaders insist are Western-imposed initiatives (ignoring the fact that they, themselves, are Westerners actively imposing a particular worldview on families and communities in the Global South).

C-FAM has joined with Slater’s Family Watch International (FWI), National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), and others in establishing the UN Family Rights Caucus. Collectively, these groups lobby against efforts to promote LGBTQ rights and reproductive justice at the UN.

In this coordinated, global campaign, the U.S. Religious Right has also been supported by an increasingly powerful program developed by the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society—the World Congress of Families (WCF). Allan Carlson, founder of the WCF, observed in 2007, “You might say we’re the United Nations of the pro-family movement.”

Indeed, the WCF functions very much like the UN, with elected officials, religious leaders, scientists, and scholars representing countries from all over the world convening at regular international conferences, or “Congresses,” to  discuss and determine strategies for advancing their anti-LGBTQ, anti-SRHR agenda internationally.

At WCF II, hosted in Geneva in 1999, Ruse defined the focus of the campaign that is finally taking hold:

“We have arrived at a perilous moment in the life of the family. Long under attack by her enemies, the family seems now to be disintegrating all around us. In every country of the developed world, families are breaking up under a plethora of pernicious pathologies. The roots of the attack, and their result are easily enumerated by most of the current social science data. But I will focus on one institution with which I am most familiar, the United Nations, an institution that is increasingly at the forefront of the attack on the family.”

The UN functions as the world’s primary decision-making body, working to maintain international peace and security, promote and protect human rights, foster social and economic development, protect the environment, and provide humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. As part of these efforts, in 2000, it established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight goals aimed to be achieved by 2015, including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, a reduction in child mortality, and the advancement of gender equality.

Slater’s “Protect the Family” petition calls for the establishment of an additional, standalone goal focused on the family, and she’s systematically putting the necessary pieces into place to ensure her vision’s success. One of those necessary pieces is the establishment of a conservative voting bloc at the UN, which Slater and other members of the UN Family Rights Caucus have developed by aggressively lobbying African delegates, winning them over with a sort of “reverse colonizer” argument—suggesting that they only endeavor to save poor, helpless Africans from those family-hating Western liberals who are out to destroy the developing world for their own gain.

In a speech delivered at WCF III in 2004, Gwendolyn Landolt, vice president of REAL Women of Canada, outlines the Right’s narrative:

“The west was concerned that the large population of the developing world would precipitate both increased migration to the west and increased civil unrest, which could lead to a loss of access to natural resources in the developing world by the west.

“The western nations, therefore, began to use the UN as a tool by which to attempt to curtail Third World population.  This was carried out by way of anti-family policies, such as reproductive rights (abortion), contraceptive and sterilization programs, adolescent access to these services without parental knowledge or consent (WHO defines an adolescent as anyone from 10 to 19 years), and homosexual rights.”

To put it mildly, the arguments of Slater and her crew are flawed and retrogressive.  To put it more accurately, they are neocolonial, white supremacist, patriarchal—and of grave concern to all those committed to an authentic vision of human rights and social justice.  And unfortunately, Slater and her crew seem to be succeeding—every country in the African Group voted for the resolution without hesitation.

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“Libertarian Scaife” and His Religious Right Legacy

Richard Mellon Scaife was the “epitome of a libertarian,” or at least, that’s how he was described in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review following his death on July 4. “Libertarian Scaife” is apparently how he wished to be remembered in the city where many of the landmarks bear his famous family’s name. But Scaife’s redefinition as a libertarian is belied by his decades of funding, including as funder of the architect of the religious and political right alliance and religio-political think tanks.

Richard "Dick" Scaife. Image via Fair.org

Richard “Dick” Scaife. Image via Fair.org

The libertarian portrayal of Scaife in the newspaper that he owned, including quotes from his long-time lawyer describing him as the defender of “free speech, freedom of the press, the separation of church and state, a woman’s right to choose, and other individual liberties,” is in contrast with “Citizen Scaife,” the title of the Columbia Journalism Review’s multi-part 1981 profile. The series portrayed Scaife as a “funding father” of the emerging New Right.

At that time, the foundations Scaife controlled were the leading source of seed money for two dozen New Right organizations, and funding for neoconservative military and intelligence think tanks.

And there is another not-so-libertarian legacy of Scaife’s funding that was not mentioned in most of his obituaries.

“Libertarian Scaife” empowered the Religious Right

He did not do it alone, nor was he the first plutocrat to fund the enlistment of amenable religious leaders as partners to roll back the New Deal, or to make use of John Birch Society-style Christian Nationalism to attack unions and the regulatory system.

Today’s constitutional conservatism is a curious marriage of Ayn Rand-style economics to social conservatism, or even a biblical worldview in which American law is to align with biblical law. The plus for plutocratic funders is that this biblical worldview also portrays the Bible as aligned with free market fundamentalism.

That list covers more than a half century and has included Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew, textile magnate Roger Milliken, and Fred Koch. But few have been better at the behind-the-scenes funding of this partnership than Scaife. The outcome of his actions? An empowered Religious Right, who today prefer the term “constitutional conservative” to describe their wing of the GOP.

The Scaife-controlled foundations—the Sarah Scaife, Allegheny, and Carthage Foundations, run from the 39th floor of the Oxford Centre in Pittsburgh—are at least partially responsible for the consummation of this plutocratic/theocratic partnership. The enigmatic Scaife’s personal activism sometimes conflicted with the unruly offspring of his foundation’s largesse.

The Oxford Centre in Pittsburgh, PA. The Scaife foundations are housed on the 39th floor. Photo by the author.

Oxford Centre, Pittsburgh, PA. The Scaife foundations are housed on the 39th floor. Photo by the author.

Evidence includes a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal in 2011, with a letter by Scaife calling for conservatives to oppose efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. His passing is an opportunity to ask why Scaife and other billionaires have helped to empower, whether intentionally or not, this theocratic-minded offspring that will long outlive them.

Richard Viguerie, leading patriarch of the Religious Right, told a Heritage Foundation audience in April that he was more optimistic than ever that “constitutional conservatives” could take over the Republican Party by 2017. Viguerie insisted that their agenda must go beyond rolling back the New Deal and return a pre-Teddy Roosevelt era, and that the enemy was establishment Republicans like Rep. Eric Cantor. Viguerie suggested that Sen. Rand Paul (R) be given the vice presidential slot on the 2016 ticket in order to bring libertarians on board—not really much of a concession since Paul has himself rejected the libertarian label in the past for that of “constitutional conservative” (and is described as the standard bearer of that movement by his former aid and ghost writer Jack Hunter, a.k.a. the “Southern Avenger”).

Scaife was not a direct funder of Religious Right institutions that are household names (that was left to families like Prince/DeVos and Coors), but he was a major funder of the late Paul Weyrich, shepherd of the Religious Right into GOP politics, and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the Council for National Policy. Described as the “Robespierre of the Right,” for his purges of the insufficiently conservative, Weyrich left the Heritage Foundation and started what would become the Free Congress Foundation (FCF). Scaife, who had supplied the bulk of the seed money for Heritage and served as vice president of the board until his death, also funded Weyrich’s FCF—sometimes to the tune of over a million dollars a year.

This included in 2001, when the FCF published the manifesto “Integration of Theory and Practice,” calling for a new traditionalist movement of conservatives and right-leaning libertarians, and the following.

“Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions.”

In a 2005 CSPAN interview about his career, Weyrich said that he could not have done what he did without the help of Dick Scaife.

Before Scaife paved the way with millions of dollars for conservative infrastructure, the St. Louis Post Dispatch noted, “there was a world where extremist ideas weren’t repackaged as mainstream by outfits like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Judicial Watch, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Cato Institute or the Federalist Society.”

And Scaife did not stop there. He funded the building of new institutions, but also the destroying of old ones. He extended his impact on American religion by funding entities that undermined denominations and marginalized religious leaders not so amenable to rightwing politics.

Church & Scaife

The Scaife foundations funded the institute that published the First Things magazine of leading neoconservative Father Richard John Neuhaus, and the closely allied Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD)—jokingly referred to during the Reagan administration as “the official seminary of the White House.”

A 2004 exposé by the late Methodist pastor Andrew Weaver was titled “Church & Scaife: Secular Conservative Philanthropies Waging Unethical Campaign to Take Over United Methodist Church.”  Weaver described IRD as a pseudo-religious, neo-conservative organization with a goal of undermining the liberal, social and economic justice mission of mainline Protestant denominations.  Christian Century exposed the fact that 89 percent of IRD’s early funding came from three foundations, and the largest block from the Scaife foundations. Infiltration of the Mainline Protestant denominations came in the guise of renewal groups, as described by PRA fellow Frederick Clarkson, also featured in the documentary “Renewal or Ruin.”

The largest single block of funding for think tanks promoting climate change denial has come from Donors Trust, according to a 2013 study by Drexel University, but a close second is the Scaife foundations at over $39 million dollars (well ahead of the funding from the Koch Brothers’ foundations).

Merging plutocratic interests with religion has been key to promoting climate change denial, including in the 2010 DVD series “Resisting the Green Dragon,” a product of the Cornwall Alliance. The 12-part teaching series, used in churches nationwide and featuring major Religious Right leaders, claims that environmentalism is a religion in opposition to Christianity.  Funding is hidden behind Donors Trust, but the Cornwall Alliance is a project of the James Partnership, founded by E. Calvin Beisner, a fellow with several Scaife-funded entities, including the Atlas Economic Research Institute, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and IRD.

The irreligious Scaife’s molding of religion into the image of right-wing politics was not limited to Christianity.  As reported by the Washington Post, Scaife provided the seed money for former Reagan State Department official Elliot Abrams’ 1997 book “Faith or Fear.”  Sponsorship of the book was suggested by the president of the Hudson Institute and reportedly prompted by Scaife’s concern that most American Jews remain politically liberal.

Islam and immigrants provided a different type of target. The Scaife foundations are major funders of anti-immigrant organizations, but are outspent by Colcom, the leading funder of anti-immigrant causes in the U.S. and founded by Scaife’s sister.

Institutionalized Islamophobia was exposed in PRA’s research report Manufacturing the Muslim Menace, and in Fear, Inc. by the Center for American Progress, with the latter citing the Scaife foundations as the largest single source.

The Pennsylvania Plan

Partnership between free market fundamentalism and religion was extended to the state level through a network of Heritage Foundation-style think tanks in all 50 states.  These are linked through the State Policy Network and ALEC, but also work at the state level with a network of about three dozen state Family Policy Councils, loosely affiliated with the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.  This infrastructure is described in The Public Eye articles from 1999 and 2013, including coverage of the “Pennsylvania Plan” model of Don Eberly.  Eberly was founder of both the Commonwealth Foundation and the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which work on shared agendas like school privatization.

In a 1989 speech to the Heritage Foundation, Eberly described the need for initiating both free market and religious tanks at the state and local levels.  The Scaife foundations provide funding for both the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a similar think tank for the Pittsburgh area.

Scaife’s legacy in Pennsylvania includes an aggressive assault on labor unions.  A PRA report titled “The Well-Funded Anti-Labor Arsenal” tracked $170 million dollars to major anti-union think tanks across the nation over 20 years, where the Scaife foundations provided the largest single block of funding. In 2013, the Commonwealth Foundation launched “Project Goliath,” a plan described with biblical terminology to follow in the footsteps of Wisconsin and Michigan to destroy Pennsylvania’s labor unions.

The Enigmatic Scaife

The libertarian Scaife has been portrayed in obituaries as less zealous in his later years, but the Scaife foundations’ reports show no backing away from right-wing causes, and the efforts to redefine him in his obituaries fail to negate his role as the “funding father” of modern conservatism.  Quoting a column in the St. Louis Post Dispatch,

“Without those early Scaife-paid efforts, there might have been no Fox News, no tea party, no Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz. …Without the Federalist Society, whose members include four justices of the Supreme Court, there would be no corporate personhood decisions like Citizens United and Hobby Lobby.”

I would add that without Scaife’s funding, we might not now live in a nation where the interests of a few plutocratic billionaires successfully masquerade as religion.

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Archbishop Tells Africa Homosexuality is a Human Rights Issue, Will American Culture War Exporters Listen?

During a working visit to Zambia on June 29, the head of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, showed true global leadership when he reportedly told Zambian journalists and Christians what they may not have wanted to hear. “Homosexuality is a global issue,” the Archbishop said. “We need to treat others with respect and dignity. It is a human rights issue… there is need to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

For those who don’t know Archbishop Welby, he belongs to an Evangelical Wing of the Anglican Church, and is a highly respected leader in the evangelical community. In American Culture Warriors in Africa, I explain that unlike his predecessor, Rowan William, Archbishop Welby met with African leaders of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)—founded by American Conservatives opposed to LGBTQ advances in the Episcopal Church—on October 20, 2013,following the Westgate Mall bombing of September 2013, and again just before the official GAFCON (October 21-26) in Nairobi, Kenya. After leaving Kenya, he sent a video message to GAFCON participants explaining his absence at the conference. Part of his message addressed the issue of human sexuality. “We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one,” he told the participants. “How we respond rightly to that, in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious, is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel.” Anti-LGBTQ Archbishops of Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria and their counterparts in the United States—the very bishops U.S.-based pastor of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren, has long been working with in both African and here in the U.S. to promote and extend the culture wars—misinterpreted the Archbishop Welby’s words as endorsements of their anti-gay position.

This time, however, the Archbishop made it very clear—the issue of human sexuality is a human rights issue. His words attracted the attention of conservative pastors.

Addressing the local media, Rev. Pukuta Mwanza, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, rebutted the Archbishop’s message and instead of heeding the calls for love and tolerance, encouraged sexual minorities to “cure” their homosexuality through prayers and counseling.

The Archbishop’s courageous words came at the time when Zambians were awaiting the ruling on a same-sex couple James Mwape and Phillip Mubiana, who were pulled from their home and arrested on charges of being homosexual in May, 2013. After spending over a year in jail, subjected to dehumanizing “medical tests” such as forced anal examinations by the state, the court finally ruled on July 3, 2014, that the state did not prove beyond doubt that Mwape and Mubiana had engaged in same-sex sexual relations.

James and Phillip’s acquittal also brought to the foreground what many Africans believe, thanks to the propaganda spread by U.S. conservatives who travel to their countries, that LGBTQ people are foreign to Africa.

“We, the Youths of Zambia Say No to Gay Rights,” and “Abash Homosexuality, —Leave Zambia,” were some of signs seen outside the courtroom the day of the acquittal. At the same time, the presence of family members of the couple—particularly Phillip’s grandmother, who courageously stood by her grandson—proved the Archbishop’s point, that persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is not a political issue; it is a moral issue; it is a human rights issue. It is time to stop playing politics with human lives. We all have the moral responsibility to stand up and be counted—gay rights are human rights! The Archbishop’s example is commendable, for religious leaders to hide behind diplomacy when human lives are being destroyed is a betrayal of our sacred calling.

Moreover, the persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is defended by the myth that they can somehow be “cured.” Alan Chambers, the American Evangelical leader who made his career claiming he could “cure” homosexuality, was one of the Speakers at the Evangelical Lausanne Conference in Cape Town in 2010, and whose presentation was later deleted from the Lausanne website. Yet although he later retracted his claims, and apologized for ever claiming that sexual orientation could be altered, African politicians and pastors are busy repeating these made-in-the-USA lies.

Let the sacred truth be said, LGBTQ persons are human beings with fundamental human rights to be protected and defended. To deny these rights is to dehumanize and harm ourselves. As the Archbishop said, this is a global issue, and it deserves a global response. As Africa’s problems multiply, LGBTQ persons have become the easiest scapegoat at political gatherings for African politicians eager to turn public attention away from issues of corruption or economic inequality. And some local religious leaders, who receive funding from these American culture warriors, then celebrate such demonization as courageous leadership.

Global religious institution such as the Anglican Communion and the Vatican need to speak out against such atrocities—failure to do so is to sanction the persecution and discrimination our fellow human beings, and a sin.

The Archbishop refused to separate our common humanity into camps—“us” (heterosexuals) and “them” (homosexuals). He did not say one thing in Africa, only to turn around and deny it to a Western audience (as did Saddleback pastor Rick Warren); he did not condemn the decriminalization of African sexual minorities to a Western audience only to allow local African clergy to support anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda and Nigeria (as the Vatican has done). He defended our common humanity, calling on all people to respect the dignity of every individual regardless of the person’s sexual orientation.

The story of the Good Samaritan is critical here. The Archbishop of Canterbury has done his part. Will Pope Francis, Bill Graham, and Rick Warren follow suit? I hope so!

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From Europe to the United States: Ultra Right Ideology Continues to Gain Ground

Almost a decade ago, in the Spring 2005 issue of The Public Eye magazine, Jérôme Jamin examined the role of the Extreme Right in European politics (It’s worth noting that PRA no longer uses the term “Extreme Right,” as it has become so casually applied in the political discourse. We now generally use “Far Right” or “Ultra Right”). Jamin observed, that “as yesterday’s fascists [had] entered government,” it had become more difficult to identify them as such. With many of these parties participating in ruling coalitions, their public actions did not necessarily reflect their political rhetoric, restricted by coalition partners and, more broadly, by the European Union.

From May 22nd to the 25th this year, European parliamentary elections were held across Europe, and the same troubling questions came back to the fore. Parties of the Right with strong anti-immigrant and anti-Europe policies have flourished across Europe. Some of these parties have direct ties to the Nazi party, and many more use the same imagery. The Front National and the Danish People’s Party won the largest share of the vote in France and Denmark, respectively, by seeking to present themselves as mainstream. This mainstreaming has parallels in the U.S., with individuals and organizations with racist, sexist, and homophobic views seeking—and often gaining—mainstream credibility.

Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, the new leader of Front National

Thanks to the new leadership of Marine Le Pen (daughter of former Party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen), Front National has been pulling off major upsets in French politics. The change in leadership from father to daughter allowed the party to distance itself from the controversial views of Jean-Marie, a man with a history of Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and racism, and who recently suggested that ebola could be the solution to population control and European immigration. Despite all this, the party now presents itself as moderate, having been through a process of “detoxification.” (Marine Le Pen took a political rival to court for calling her a fascist.) Success in the elections will only further the Front National’s move toward the mainstream. Having won 25 percent of the vote, they are now the largest French party in the European Parliament.

Winning an even higher percentage of their country’s vote, the Danish People’s Party became the largest Danish party in the European Parliament, doubling its number of seats. Its campaign relied on anti-immigration policies and racist statements, largely directed against Muslims. Party candidates have specifically argued against Muslim immigration, going so far as to suggest a ban on immigration from Islamic countries.

Among the other parties, Golden Dawn and Jobbik (of Greece and Hungary, respectively), stand out as examples of the Far Right’s rise in Europe. While it hasn’t achieved the electoral success of some of the other groups, Golden Dawn’s rise, in particular, shows that even clearly Nazi-inspired symbolism can win votes. From violent attacks on immigrants by likely supporters, to racially discriminatory welfare programs, and even to readings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Greek parliament, you don’t even need to see their clearly Nazi-inspired rallies, logo, and flag to recognize the worrying similarities to Nazism. Golden Dawn only received 9.4 percent of the vote, but the party is now the third largest Greek party in the European Parliament.

A similar party in Hungary, called Jobbik, did not gain new seats in the elections; having received 14.7 percent of the vote, however, it’s certainly not on the decline. The party is clearly anti-Semitic (at one point asking to “tally up people of Jewish ancestry”), anti-Roma (suggesting Roma individuals be forced into camps, possibly for life), and anti-LGBTQ (proposing a similar “gay propaganda” law to the one recently passed in Russia).

There were many more smaller parties on the Ultra Right that won their first seats, including the National Democratic Party of Germany, a neo-Nazi party, whose new Member of the European Parliament has a laundry list of offensive comments, including calling Hitler “a great man.”

In the nine years since Jamin’s article, the Ultra Right has succeeded and thrived in becoming a considerable force in European elections, but it is still suffering from a self-imposed identity crisis. A recent Guardian article asked when it is appropriate to describe these parties and individuals as fascists. Controversial comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, referring to the Front National as a fascist party, have only added to the confusion over identifying the Ultra Right as such, especially when the parties in question are appealing to a quarter of voters, and whose policies don’t always reflect their racist ideology as much as they used to (at least explicitly).

To a certain extent, the two- party system in the U.S. has prevented Ultra Right groups from gaining traction here. Nevertheless, there are links between the Ultra Right in Europe and organizations on the Ultra Right in the U.S.  Moreover, strategies aimed at mainstreaming these dangerous ideologies should be cause for concern here, as well.

For example, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown traveled with a group of French activists, including an ex-Front National candidate, and a top adviser to Marine Le Pen. The British National Party has clear links with the American Third Position (now the American Freedom Party), a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a White Nationalist group.

Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan

Other U.S. groups have been broadly supportive of the Ultra Right in Europe. David Duke, the former KKK Grand Wizard, celebrated the election victories of Ultra Right parties in Europe as “a small step forward to saving the world from Jewish supremacism.” Influential conservative leader and former White House communications director Pat Buchanan even wrote an article that broadly supported the election result, and has consistently either supported White Nationalist groups, or been supported by them.

Finally, White Nationalist ideologies have found their way into U.S.-based organizations (many of which try to brand themselves as “mainstream”).  From panelists at CPAC from a White Nationalist group, to a North Carolina congressperson appearing on a White Nationalist radio show, to Iowa congressman Steve King defending author Peter Brimelow (profiled by the SPLC as a White Nationalist), there is substantial overlap between the Right of the Republican party and elements of the Ultra Right, including White Nationalist movements. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that elements of the White Nationalist movement are even demanding credit for the GOP’s similar strategies and policies.

The Ultra Right in Europe has gained ground, in many places displacing established parties by a considerable margin. Parties that were previously considered fascist, alongside younger parties with Islamophobic and racist immigration policies, have pushed their way toward success by seeking to mainstream their public reputation, if not their core ideology.  In the United States, the electoral system may be less likely to allow parties of the Ultra Right into formal power, but their ideologies still have currency within swaths of the GOP.

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GOP Voters in Maryland Face Dilemma as Theocrats Win Party Primaries

Something unusual is happening in the politics of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Michael Peroutka, one-time presidential candidate of the Constitution Party, won the Republican primary for a seat on the County Council and GOP Central Committee. His pastor, and partner in the Christian historical revisionist Institute on the Constitution, David Whitney, ran for the same County Council seat as a Democrat and for his party’s central committee (he lost both races). PRA has reported on these races since February, but we also now know that Joseph “Joe” Delimater III, an ideological ally and pupil of Peroutka and Whitney, won the uncontested GOP primary for county sheriff.

This election season in Anne Arundel County (which includes the state capital of Annapolis) appears to be intended as a church-based electoral pilot project, from which like-minded theocratic factions can learn. It is also may signal a small, but significant, national trend in applied theocratic theory.

Joseph Delimater

Joseph “Joe” Delimater, III. Image via Facebook

As PRA has reported, Peroutka and his ilk believe that holding local office empowers them to defy state and federal law under the rubric of an ancient concept called The Doctrine of the Lower Civil Magistrate. The Capital Gazette (the daily newspaper serving Annapolis) also recently reported on Peroutka’s unusual views.

“Peroutka has called the federal government and Maryland’s state government ‘lawless,’ because of their failure to abide by biblical precepts. Four days before the primary, he posted a video on the institute’s website in which he called the General Assembly ‘invalid.’”

Peroutka’s spokesman, John Lofton, who also worked on Peroutka’s 2004 presidential campaign, told the Gazette “that as a County Councilman, Peroutka would evaluate each piece of legislation to be sure it was authorized by God in the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and the Anne Arundel County Charter.” He also suggested to the Gazette that government programs and services as road work and fire departments could be privatized.

The Doctrine of the Lesser Civil Magistrate, which Peroutka, Lofton and Delimater believe justifies their view of the nullification-role of county sheriffs and councilors, has been adopted by conservative Christian leaders who are opposed to religious pluralism and separation of church and state, as well as such matters as abortion, LGBTQ rights, taxes, public education and gun control laws—roles they say are empowered to overthrow “tyrannical government.” Indeed, many contemporary theocratic activists look to the example of Oliver Cromwell who, as a member of Parliament in 17th Century England (and thus a lesser magistrate), led the Puritan-controlled Parliament in a revolt against the King of England. Cromwell’s forces ultimately drove the king out of power and chopped off his head.

Interestingly, Delimater, as a church elder and a graduate of Peroutka and Whitney’s Institute on the Constitution, is the third member of the Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church to run for county office this year. Delimater is so close to Peroutka and Whitney that on his campaign website he plagiarizes an entire June 17th Peroutka essay titled “It’s the Law”—the same piece on which PRA and the Gazette recently reported. “When our local officials,” Delimater plagiarized, “including county councilman and sheriff’s [sic] confront such “pretended legislation,” it is their duty to resist its implementation.”

An Applied Doctrine of Theocratic Revolution

This notion of the duty to resist ungodly laws, leaders and government, based on the Doctrine of the Lower or Lesser Magistrate has a long history among the overtly theocratic elements of the Christian Right. They would like it to become a trend, and two recent books are seeking to make it so.

In 2012, Mathew Colvin self-published a translation of the 16th century Magdeburg Confession—a statement by Protestant clergy in the German town of Magdeburg, who refused an order by King Charles V to renounce their anti-Catholic heresy.  This statement informed later, better known arguments regarding religious resistance to governmental authority. Colvin’s translation enjoyed a scholarly introduction by American theocratic author George Grant, of Franklin, TN.

Then, in August 2013, longtime Constitution Party activist and anti-abortion militant, Rev. Matt Trewhella of Wisconsin, published The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates:  A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government. Trewhella, who also claims to have played a role in publishing Colvin’s book, sells both via a web site appropriately titled LesserMagistrate.com.

Trewhella is best known as an anti-abortion militant who distinguished himself by signing the 1994 Defensive Action Statement, which sought to justify the murder of abortion providers. He later gained national notoriety when Planned Parenthood Federation of America published video excerpts of a speech he gave at a state convention of the Constitution Party’s predecessor, the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party, in which he advocated church-based militias and told his congregants to do “the most loving thing” by buying their children “an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition.” He said he was teaching his own 16-month-old the location of his “trigger finger.”

While Trewhella has faded from national attention, when the Christian News Network needed a comment regarding the removal of references to marriage and abortion from the Clark County, Nevada GOP platform in April 2014, they called Trewhella and Peroutka.

“When will Christians ever learn they are getting played by the GOP?” Trewhella said in the interview. “It is like Lucy pulling the football out from in front of Charlie Brown so that he falls on his back again and again.”

“We need people to be Biblical and constitutional,” Michael Peroutka added. “Republican is not the standard.”

Understandably, Peroutka (as the former Constitution Party and League of the South leader) is giving Anne Arundel County Republicans pause— and a dilemma. If Peroutka wins, the probable configuration of the council will be three Republicans, three Democrats, and Peroutka. And he will scrutinize everything they do through his idiosyncratic notions of an ability to void all government and laws that don’t line up with what he believes are God’s laws.

Similarly, Delimater promises to only enforce laws according to a similar, perhaps an identical, idiosyncratic standard. Delimater writes in a Q&A section of his campaign website

Q. What makes you such an expert on the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions?

A. I have attended 12 week courses given by The Institute On The Constitution both for the U.S. Constitution and the Maryland Constitution.  Since then I have been taking additional courses on the Maryland court system, the Federalist Papers, duties of a jurist, etc.”

The day after Peroutka’s surprising win, The Capital Gazette issued a strongly-worded editorial naming the stakes in November’s general election. “Peroutka told voters the truth,” the editorial reads, “when he stressed that he was against taxes and stormwater fees. He didn’t stress that he’s also a theocrat and secessionist who thinks it would be great if local officials refused to uphold state laws.”

So will Republicans, who are the majority in the council member district 5 and in the county, vote for the theocrats who are hell-bent on throwing monkey wrenches into the normal functioning of government? Or will they vote for the Democrats?

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VIDEO: Hobby Lobby Decision Restricts Religious Freedom

PRA’s executive director Tarso Luís Ramos joined The David Pakman show to discuss how SCOTUS’ Hobby Lobby decision actually restricts religious liberty.

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“Despite the rhetoric of Christian Right groups, the battle for the meaning of religious liberty is not between Christianity and secularism, but between pluralism and authoritarianism. However strong their convictions may be, the Religious Right’s campaign is about exempting themselves from federal laws and winning the government-backed right to impose their religious beliefs on others. This is exactly what the Constitution’s Framers sought to avoid. They called it “tyranny.”

Watch it below, and check out more from The David Pakman Show here!

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