Neoliberal Feminists Don’t Want Women to Organize

Lean any way you want; the view from the bottom of the economic system doesn’t change.

 

**This article appears in PRA’s upcoming Fall, 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine, a special edition on neoliberalism and the Right**

To say that Sheryl Sandberg ruined my life would be to make the same mistake that Sandberg herself makes—it would be to assume that the successes or failures of an individual woman, feminist or no, equal the successes or failures of feminism.

Nevertheless, writing about feminism and the workplace in the shadow of Lean In has been a task in itself. One must, it often seems, either define oneself as for or against Sandberg. Critique of her was critique of feminism, at least for the heady months around her book’s publication when well-known feminists felt compelled to take sides.

Sandberg is not herself the problem, but she exemplifies it in a way that has been instructive. When Jill Abramson was fired from her position as executive editor at the New York Times, reportedly after she confronted the paper’s publisher over her discovery that her pay was less than that of her (male) predecessor, among the many outraged reactions from feminists was the response that leaning in doesn’t work after all. Abramson’s experience, similar to that of so many women, seemed a rebuke to the idea, promoted in Sandberg’s book, that individual women were holding themselves back. It reminded us that no matter how hard we try, sexism—sexism in the workplace—cannot be defeated individual success story by individual success story.

One of the insidious things about neoliberalism is how it has managed to absorb our vibrant, multifaceted liberation struggles into itself and spit them back out to us as monotone (dollar-bill-green) self-actualization narratives. The way this has happened to feminism is particularly instructive. As I wrote in Dissent last winter, the so-called “second wave” of feminism fought for women to gain access to work outside of the home and outside of the “pink-collar” fields. Yet in doing so, as Barbara Ehrenreich has written, some feminists wound up abandoning the fight for better conditions in what had always been considered women’s work—whether that be as teachers and nurses, or the work done in the home for little or no pay.

National Domestic Workers Alliance members protest

National Domestic Workers Alliance members protest

In fact, the flight of middle-class women into the paid workplace left other women, namely domestic workers, cleaning up the mess left behind, and many of those middle-class women seemed unwilling to deal with the fact that they too, sometimes, could oppress. As Ehrenreich wrote in “Maid to Order,” a piece published in the anthology, Global Woman, which she co-edited with Arlie Russell Hochschild, “To make a mess that another person will have to deal with—the dropped socks, the toothpaste sprayed on the bathroom mirror, the dirty dishes left from a late-night snack—is to exert domination in one of its more silent and intimate forms.”

While some women have experienced the workplace as a site of liberation and increased power, for many others, the workplace was never a choice. Particularly for women of color, whose domestic work was excluded intentionally from New Deal-era labor laws, the workplace was and remains a site of oppression. And to this day, women remain concentrated in the economy’s lowest-paying jobs—some two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women, and three of the fastest-growing occupations in the country are retail sales, food service, and home health care, which are both low-wage and female-dominated jobs. Home health care workers, in many ways the face of the new service economy, were just ruled only “partial” public employees by the right-wing Roberts Supreme Court. More than 90 percent of them, according to the Economic Policy Institute, are female.

Those are jobs at which, no matter how hard one leans in, the view doesn’t change.

And these days, the conditions for more and more workers are beginning to resemble those at the bottom; fleeing the female-dominated workplace, rather than improving it, has left middle-class women more, not less, vulnerable. The devaluation of work that involves care, work for which women were assumed to be innately suited, continued apace when feminism turned its back. As other jobs have disappeared, the low wages that were acceptable when women were presumed not to need a “family wage,” because they ought to be married to a man who’d do the breadwinning, became the wages that everyone has to take or leave.

Though the movement for paid sick leave has gained some important wins in recent months and years, alongside a growing movement to raise the minimum wage, a more expansive family policy that would actually allow more than a few days’ paid leave or allow workers more control over their own schedules remains a pipe dream.

Equal pay for equal work means little when the wages for all are on the way down. You would be hard pressed to find a self-proclaimed feminist, even of the most neoliberal variety, who doesn’t argue in favor of equal pay, but this focus has often served, as I have argued, to stifle discussion of other concerns in the workplace. As Marilyn Sneiderman, lifelong labor organizer and director of the New Labor Center at Rutgers University, told me for Dissent, the fight for fair pay might seem an individual struggle for high-end workers like Abramson, but for a hotel housekeeper, a nurse, a janitor, the best way to improve your job isn’t to get promoted through the ranks, but to organize with your fellow workers.

Neoliberal feminism is a feminism that ignores class as a determining issue in women’s lives. It presumes, as Tressie McMillan Cottom pointed out in an article on her personal website, that giving power to some women will automatically wind up trickling if not power, than at least some lifestyle improvements down to women with less power.

This applies internationally as well as domestically. Nancy Fraser, in her book Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis, cites Hester Eisenstein’s argument that feminism has entered into a “dangerous liaison” with neoliberalism, embracing critiques of the state and men’s economic power that allowed for deregulation. Fraser sees neoliberal feminism embracing a pro-globalization mentality that regards women in the developing world as in need of “saving” by enlightened Western feminists.

Take Somaly Mam, the Cambodian NGO entrepreneur who built her career on her own fraudulent tale of being sex trafficked as a child. Westerners flocked to her story and her cause, joining her on trips to “save” women from brothels. Sheryl Sandberg was on the board of her foundation, alongside Susan Sarandon. Hillary Clinton was a fan. Mam’s rise to fame dovetailed with the rise, across the U.S., of an obsession with “saving” sex workers and increasing criminal penalties for sex trafficking.

Her fame attracted prominent feminists to a cause that continues, as Melissa Gira Grant writes in her book Playing the Whore, to be supported by the Religious Right and to criminalize women who are trying to make ends meet any way they can. Yet the solutions offered to the women saved by Mam’s organization (currently undergoing a name change after Newsweek published its expose of Mam’s fabrications) were mostly low-wage sweatshop jobs producing clothing for Western consumption. As Anne Elizabeth Moore, who has spent years working in and reporting on Cambodia, writes in Salon of Mam’s organization and others like hers, “What they do is normalize existent labor opportunities for women, however low the pay, dangerous the conditions, or abusive an environment they may be. And they shame women who reject such jobs.”

This is neoliberal feminism at its finest. As Gira Grant writes, the idea that women in Cambodia—or in the United States—can organize themselves and change their working conditions is almost always absent from the conversation.

Selma James, one of the founders of the 1970s Wages for Housework movement and a leader in the Global Women’s Strike, criticized how some feminists turned grassroots organizing projects into “jobs for the girls” as a way for some women to have power by creating mechanisms to save others. In today’s political climate, we must be wary of claims that feminism is best served by increasing the power of individual (white, middle-class) women, and question over whom they exercise that power. We must understand the difference between power for a few and a real change in how power affects us all.

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The Shell Game of Contingent Employment

When subcontractors, freelancers, and independent contractors get hurt or abused on the job, these workers are finding it harder to hold employers accountable. This is no accident—it’s a direct result of a neoliberal labor agenda.

**This article appears in PRA’s upcoming Fall, 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine, a special edition on neoliberalism and the Right**

In 2011, Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc., a corporate partner of the Marriott hotel chain, used a general contractor that it had hired to renovate guest rooms at the Host-owned Copley Marriott in Boston.   A convoluted web of subcontractors emerged, as the general contractor subcontracted the work to several other companies, and some of that subcontracted work was then further subcontracted, with more than a dozen firms working on the same project.

construction site

A state-led, multi-agency investigation found that 15 contractors on the project committed a wide array of labor law violations. Workers from a church-sponsored rehabilitation project in Philadelphia were paid only four dollars an hour—just half the state minimum wage—and no overtime, though they were required to work 12-hour days and more than 60 hours per week. All told, contractors failed to report or pay taxes on more than $1 million in wages, and at least one of them failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance policies for the hazardous work. They misclassified many of the workers as independent contractors, thus evading tens of thousands of dollars more in unemployment insurance taxes, workers compensation premiums, and employer-side taxes, while stripping workers of basic workplace rights.[1]

Because so many layers of contractors were involved in the project, investigators had difficulty determining which ones could be held responsible for the violations. Host Hotels, which ultimately benefited from the sub-minimum wages and tax evasion, asserted that it had no legal obligation to the workers and should not be held liable for any of the violations committed by the subcontractors or their subcontractors.[2]

Companies at every possible level of the project avoided accountability for the mistreatment of the workers.  Despite having found that 15 companies had broken the law and abused their workers, authorities only held three subcontractors to the most immediate sanction—Stop Work Orders. The general contractor neither faced significant penalties nor admitted wrongdoing. As a summary of the investigation put it, “The issue of which entity was legally the employer and responsible for the wages was never resolved.”[3]

 An Old Neoliberal Paradigm

We increasingly see businesses like the Marriott (and corporate partner Host Hotels) seeking to shed the burden of government regulation by passing off liability to intermediaries, like staffing agencies, or by falsely claiming that no labor laws at all apply because the workers are either independent contractors or corporations in business for themselves. By restructuring work relationships in these ways, some of the nation’s largest corporations aim to shift much of their workforce outside the scope of employment laws and employment taxes that apply to “employees”—as defined by a set of labor laws that still presume a conventional workplace with one employer and the on-site workers it directly hires.

The isolation from fellow workers that the “independent contractor” designation engenders cuts against workers’ ability to organize to challenge abuses resulting from subcontracted work structures.

This shift in work structures, combined with increased attacks on the labor movement and the de-funding of the nation’s labor enforcement agencies, has depressed workers’ income and weakened their ability to claim basic workplace rights like overtime pay and health and safety protections. Outsourcing and independent contractor misclassification have also drained millions from local, state, and federal coffers, undermining the social safety net just as workers need its protection even more.  The isolation from fellow workers that the “independent contractor” designation engenders cuts against workers’ ability to organize to challenge abuses resulting from subcontracted work structures.

Reorganization of work structures also acts to direct workers’ anger away from the company calling the shots (such as a general contractor) and onto the direct employer, or even to the workers themselves, who may believe their situation stems from their own failings as independent business people.  All of these factors undermine workers’ ability to organize into unions and worker collectives, one of the fundamental goals of neoliberalism and its pursuit of an unregulated free market.

 Free Markets, Unfree Workers

The rise to power of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom ushered in a new era of economic policy. Minimal corporate taxation, privatization of public goods, and the deregulation of businesses became the dominant policies promoted for economic growth. The attacks against organized labor, progressive organizations, and community groups that opposed the new regime were brutal. The percentage of workers in unions plummeted.

Across the country, new formations emerged that tried to deal with this onslaught of attacks on workers.  Coalitions of organized labor, grassroots organizations, and worker centers began fighting back together and winning campaigns using a combination of militant rank-and-file membership, intelligent planning, and strategic organizing. The target of these campaigns was often a clearly identifiable owner of the business, and so workers and community allies knew whom to hold responsible for the conditions of work. This, however, is no longer the case, as seen in the Copley Mariott and other examples where companies pass on liability to their subcontractors and outsourced agencies, making it difficult for workers to hold real employers accountable.

Such interruption in the employer-employee relationship is reminiscent of the neoliberal structural adjustment policies the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have imposed on so-called developing countries.  As the IMF and World Bank required national governments to loosen labor laws and other regulations to promote free trade and supposed foreign investment, corporations have similarly restructured the relationship between employer and employee to avoid government regulation altogether and to create confusion over who is responsible for workers. Ultimately, the result is the same: structural adjustment and debt repayment policies increased poverty and stripped local governments’ ability to provide basic health care, education, and employment for their citizens, while the restructuring of employer/employee relationships has helped create a shadow (or underground) economy free from regulation and has reduced the government’s ability to provide an adequate safety net for the growing low-wage, contingent workforce.

In Massachusetts, the Joint Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification has collected more than $55 million in the past five years from individuals and businesses that engage in strategies to avoid responsibility to their workers.[4] The Task Force utilizes existing labor laws and regulations to recover nonpayment of wages and payroll taxes; licenses and permit fees; unemployment and workman’s compensation insurance, and other important monies owed to workers and the state. Despite its successes, the Task Force is limited by existing labor law and is unable to broaden its scope of accountability to include companies who surely profit from workers, but may not be legally defined as their direct employer.

 Toward A New Legal Framework

Extensive use of abusive subcontracting and misclassification schemes and other outsourcing tools are eroding the 80 years of labor protections that many have come to take for granted. Community Labor United and the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative are working to close that accountability gap in Massachusetts with a new legal framework, being developed by the National Employment Law Project, that holds all entities in the labor supply chain responsible—whether they initiate the demand for the work, orchestrate a project, or directly hire and supervise the workers. We call this the “accountable employer” framework.

Accountable employers know what work is being performed, often control the conditions under which it is performed, and have the power to ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations. All entities and creators of supply chain or outsourced work arrangements would then be held liable for performing these key employer functions.

In the Copley Marriott case, the Accountable Employer framework would hold multiple parties responsible because of the labor violations they perpetrated. The Philadelphia church that supplied $4-an-hour workers would be accountable for creating and ending the employment relationship; the general contractor and its subcontractor would be accountable for managing the enterprise internally and externally; and Host Hotels would be accountable because it received the fruits of the workers’ labor.

Similarly, a new Accountable Employer statute would make a large corporate employer like Wal-Mart responsible for wages and working conditions in its supply chain even if it outsources much of the labor (and even management). Wal-Mart controls the timing and manner of delivery of the goods on its store shelves, decides how goods are handled when they are unloaded and delivered, and uses its market dominance to force contractors to keep costs as low as possible. Wal-Mart engenders labor violations in its supply chain and therefore should be on the hook for these abuses.

As corporations continue to look for ways to skirt government regulations and increase their profit margins, many will continue to hire intermediaries or misclassify workers as a way of outsourcing their responsibility and escaping liability. This shift is part of neoliberalism’s broader political realignment towards deregulation of markets and the empowerment of corporations.  However, employer accountability can be restored through legislation that holds all entities throughout the web of contractors and subcontractors responsible for their workers.

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Article Authors:

Darlene Lombos started with CLU in 2006 as a Senior Organizer, became OrganizingDirector then Co-Director in 2008, and finally Executive Director in 2011. She is also the Vice President of the Greater Boston Labor Council.

Sarah Leberstein is a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). She advocates for policy reforms promoting the workplace rights of non-standard workers and enforcement of wage and hour and workplace laws.

Elvis Mendez is a coordinator at the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative in Boston, Mass.

 


Endnotes:

[1] Massachusetts Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification (JTF), 2013. “2012 Annual Report,” p. 6. [http://www.mass.gov/lwd/eolwd/jtf/annual-report-2012.pdf]

[2] Casey Ross, “Marriott Copley Place project flouted pay law.” Boston Globe, 4 September 2012. [http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2012/09/03/investigators-find-widespread-labor-violations-copley-marriott-renovation/iIRlNeRovG05Dkbta3rOTI/story.html]
[3] Massachusetts Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification (JTF), 2013. “2012 Annual Report,” p. 6. [http://www.mass.gov/lwd/eolwd/jtf/annual-report-2012.pdf]
[4] Massachusetts Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification (JTF), 2014. “2013 Annual Report,” [http://www.mass.gov/lwd/eolwd/jtf/annual-report-2013.pdf]

 

To Shock the Heart of the Nation

An Interview with Rev. Dr. William Barber II, President, North Carolina NAACP

**This interview appears in PRA’s upcoming Fall, 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine, a special issue on neoliberalism and the Right**

“We had some happy clients when we found out they wouldn’t have to pay the North Carolina estate tax,” Elizabeth Quick, an estate lawyer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told Forbes magazine in July 2013. The state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, had just signed a repeal of the estate tax that removed the obligation for one wealthy family to pay more than $2 million, and another family $680,000, into state coffers.

So that those two families (plus around 20 others) could keep the entirety of their estates intact, the governor and state legislature eliminated the Earned Income Tax Credit, depriving 907,000 low-income North Carolinians of state funds that many counted on to pay their utility bills and rent.

Tax cuts for the wealthy are a common Republican tactic, but this wasn’t just a Republican maneuver. McCrory and the GOP-dominated legislature were just getting started on a set of policy changes reflective of a comprehensive and far-reaching neoliberal agenda. Within the first 50 days of the 2013 legislative session, the lawmakers, whose campaigns had been backed by some of the wealthiest families in the state, enacted a string of new laws that transfer wealth from poor to rich. The state moved to refuse federal dollars for expanding Medicaid to cover 500,000 more people under the Affordable Care Act; suppress the vote with a restrictive Voter ID law; cut off unemployment benefits for 170,000 North Carolinians; and slash teacher salaries to bring North Carolina to 46th place nationwide for teacher pay.

These policies were among the wishes of Art Pope, a retail tycoon and former state representative whose interest in politics is so keen that he became McCrory’s state budget director (a position from which Pope just stepped down amid controversy over how concentrated his power had become).  Pope, along with organizations such as the (billionaires and political allies of Pope) Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity—exerts such influence on Gov. McCrory and state legislators that even some Republicans in the state have suggested it is too much.  In one egregious example, in 2013, Pope entered the statehouse during debate on a bill that would have allowed public funding of campaigns for judgeships and collared a GOP lawmaker who was considering a compromise, reminding the lawmaker of Pope’s past contribution to his campaign and thus personally ensuring the bill’s death.

Pope also funds NC-based think tanks—such as the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation— that generate research to support the neoliberal agenda that has, in two short years, come to dominate the political process in North Carolina. “He drives the budgetary policy goals of this administration,” complained one anonymous North Carolina Republican lobbyist to the Washington Post in July 2014.

But a grassroots movement is underway to fight back against Pope and the free-market incursions he and other neoliberals are making against the state’s hard-won policies for racial and economic justice.  Tapping into the same religious core that fueled the Civil Rights Movement, state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber II has energized a broad swath of people in the state to take to the streets at least 70 times since 2012 to say that enough is enough. Rallying thousands of North Carolinians around a 14-Point People’s Agenda, the Moral Marches (or Moral Mondays, as they were first popularly dubbed) have come to be seen as a touchstone for a renewed social justice movement across the South. As Barber prepared to spread a message of hope and democracy through a week of actions Aug. 22-28 in Raleigh and other Southern state capitals, he talked with me about North Carolina’s free-market ideology and how it has already affected the people who live there.  Barber, referring to the billionaire-backed Tea Party, the national group that pushes free-market policies at the local and state level, says these past two legislative sessions have been a “coordinated, premeditated attempt to undermine progress and engage in regressive Tea Party policies.”

William Barber

Rev. Dr. William Barber II

“This is really Robin Hood in reverse,” Barber told me. “It is government of business, bought by business, for business. And not just business—because lots of business leaders disagree with them—but this is Tea Party greed. This is Koch brother-type greed.”

“This is really Robin Hood in reverse,” Barber told me. “It is government of business, bought by business, for business.

Barber bristles, though, at the notion that conservatism or partisan politics are at the root of the problem. “I fuss against these terms ‘liberal’ versus ‘conservative’,” he says, “because I want to conserve the essence of our Constitution and then liberally make sure everybody has access to them. What we’re dealing with is extremism, and you can’t just define it as ‘conservative.’”

At the local level, says Barber, the state legislature’s extreme adherence to free-market neoliberal policy is gutting the state’s public school system. “Five thousand teachers being fired, being removed, and local school boards decrying [this] because of the impact that it was having on classroom sizes and students,” he says.

Barber adds that, because of the salary cuts, he sees teachers actively leaving North Carolina. “In fact,” he said, “one state, Texas, sent memos out and said if you’re in North Carolina, come to Texas. And you know that’s kind of sad, considering Texas’s regressiveness, when they actually can offer teachers more than North Carolina.”

Barber also described the legislature’s attempt to shift $10 million earmarked for public schools to voucher programs that could only be used to pay for private schools. In shifting these public funds into private hands, said Barber, the legislature refused to require that private schools benefiting from the vouchers maintain the same non-discrimination standards that public schools must uphold, meaning that private schools receiving voucher funds would have been allowed to restrict enrollment however they chose. A Superior Court judge declared on Aug. 21 that the state’s school voucher program is unconstitutional, citing the lack of accountability inherent in the program, and issued a permanent injunction stopping the voucher program from going forward.

Art Pope and the Tea Party aren’t just alienating teachers and progressives, says Barber. They are also alienating Republicans across the state. Barber says that the legislature and McCrory never made clear, even to their own constituents, what they were planning to do once they achieved a supermajority in the statehouse and won the governorship. “They did not run saying,  ‘Elect me, I’m going to take your health care, cut your public education, and strip you of your unemployment even if you lost your job at no fault of your own,’” says Barber. “So, we’ve had a Republican unemployed person stand on the stage [at a Moral March] and say, ‘I’m a Republican, but I’m unemployed—I didn’t vote for this.’”

Even Republicans holding public office are objecting to the legislature’s actions. Adam O’Neal, a self-described conservative Republican mayor from Belhaven, NC, began a one-man march of 273 miles to Washington D.C. on July 14 to dramatize the impact of Gov. McCrory’s and  [House Speaker] Tillis’ refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. O’Neal explained that the lack of Medicaid funds had forced the only hospital in his coastal community to close, creating a “medical desert” that would certainly cost lives. O’Neal also laments the potential economic impact of the hospital closing; he told NPR, “How many people go retire somewhere where it doesn’t even have a hospital?”

I asked Barber what he believes is the neoliberals’ vision for North Carolina. “They believe that the way to a great North Carolina is to deny necessary funds and access to public education.  Attack teachers. Deny unemployment. Deny earned 

“They believe that the way to a great North Carolina is to deny necessary funds and access to public education.  Attack teachers.

income tax credit and other safeguards for the working poor.  Deny affordable healthcare and access to healthcare, even if it allows people to die. Deny labor rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights … And then, if you really want a great America after you’ve done all these things, then suppress the right to vote and attempt to use your power to stay in office.  And then, after you’ve done all of that to create all this tension,  ensure that everyone has access to guns easier than they have access to the polls. Now, that sounds crude and sinister, but those are their policies.”

Having set this grim scene, Barber continued with a surprisingly upbeat message:  “Whatever we’re facing now, it’s not greater than slavery, it’s not greater than Jim Crow, it’s not greater than women being denied the right to vote.  We won those battles.  But we did not win those battles by merely engaging in political arguments. We had to tap into the moral and social consciousness of the nation.”

“I am hopeful,” he went on, “because I believe in the deep moral consciousness at the heart of America. Those of us who believe in justice and who believe in freedom, we are the heartbeat of this nation. Our role now is to be like a social defibrillator, to shock the heart of the nation, to cause it to revive and to remember what the real enemy is: regressive extremism. And it’s not just about winning all the elections, but changing the context in which our politicians have to operate.”

Barber said he hopes that the momentum of the Forward Together Moral Movement (as one of the core groups organizing Moral Marches is currently called) will spread. He sees it moving across the South from North Carolina to help change the political context and create the possibility for the state NAACP’s 14-Point People’s Agenda to be written into legislation both in North Carolina and beyond. The Agenda includes anti-poverty, pro-labor policies; equality and equitable distribution of resources in public education; access to healthcare for all; fairness in the criminal justice system; and protection and expansion of the right to vote and the rights of immigrants.

Barber acknowledges that the neoliberal forces in his state—and across the country—remain powerful. “We’ve got to fight in the courts, we’ve got to fight the legislative halls, we’ve got to fight in the streets, we’ve got to push at the pulpit, and we have to work at the ballot box,” he says. “If we do all of this with what I call a moral critique, so we’re not trapped with the language of Republican versus Democrat, I believe we can continue to work towards the reconstruction of this nation.”

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AUDIO: Officer Who Pushed CNN’s Don Lemon Claims There’s a Military Plot For One-World Government

 

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St. Louis County police officer Dan Page is best known for shoving CNN host Don Lemon while the journalist was covering the Michael Brown protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Page has since been suspended after video of his speech to a right-wing militia group, Oath Keepers of St. Louis and St. Charles, was brought to the attention of his superiors. In his speech Page claims to inside knowledge of a grand conspiracy against “Caucasian Christians.” However this is not the only time Page has expressed such views, as PRA has learned, he forcefully touted his claims on the TruNews radio show with Rick Wiles on July 10, 2014.

St. Louis County Officer Dan Page

St. Louis County Officer Dan Page

Wiles’ popular radio show is a combination of end-times prophecy and right-wing conspiracy theories. For example, this past week Wiles interviewed Walid Shoebat, who claimed, “Obama is destroying Christian America. That’s his assignment as a jihadist, it is to destroy Christian America.” Shoebat is a popular speaker on the end-times prophecy circuit, celebrated for his claimed inside knowledge of a Muslim jihadist infiltration of U.S. government. PRA has also reported extensively on Shoebat and his claims, including in our 2011 research report, “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace.”

According to a USA Today interview with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Dan Page joined the police force in 1979, but spent about nine of the last twelve to fifteen years deployed with the Army. Throughout the TruNews interview, embedded below, Wiles addresses Dan Page as Sgt. Major and discusses only his military career. Neither Wiles nor Page mentions Page’s tenure with the St. Louis County Police.

The TruNews radio show starts with a dramatic opening introducing, “Trunews, the only newscast reporting the countdown to the second coming of Jesus Christ, and now for the most powerful hour on radio, here is the end time newsman, Rick Wiles.” Following the introduction, Wiles launches into an introduction of Page as being in charge of U.S. Army special forces in Africa and having inside knowledge of a plot to create a global regime.

Page follows with an equally grandiose and unbelievable account of his military career, recounting military exploits including Vietnam, paratrooper training, training in Germany for psychological and asymmetric warfare, and a recent assignment as the senior enlisted adviser to the commanding officer of Africom. Page mispronounces the names of places and countries with which he is supposedly familiar, while claiming that his military experience has provided him with inside knowledge of a grand worldwide plot to end American sovereignty and a one-world government and military takeover.

Here are a few clips of the interview (the full and unedited version is at the bottom of this article):

Page claims (at about 21 minutes in) that the definition of terrorism has been changed by Homeland Security. Page states:

“It is a Caucasian male 18-65, one who supports the second amendment, one who believes in the second coming of Jesus Christ, one that is against illegal immigration and is against homosexuality and has a definition of traditional marriage. That is their definition of a terrorist.”

Wiles responds, “It has appeared for several years that the Obamanistas are purging the military of the patriots. Is that the case?”

Page then responds, “Yes, that’s absolutely true.” He also gives an account of “four-star generals and above” who he claims were removed by the Obama administration because “of their refusal to support military involvement in domestic affairs.” When Wiles asks Page why none of these generals have spoken out, he implies it is because they don’t want to lose their pensions. Wiles then asks if something significant is in the works for the year 2015. Page claims that he sat in on briefings from very high sources and learned that there is a timeline for orchestrated events that will create havoc worldwide and allow for the supposed globalist takeover.

Wiles also brings up the current influx of refugee children from South America into the United States, and asks Page if it is one of those orchestrated events. Page says it is, and that the wider scenario includes nuclear suitcase bombs, a planned North American Union, and, of course, further “demonization of Caucasian Christians.” Page expresses his belief that the flood of immigrant children is a clandestine operation with the purpose of programming American citizens for the eventual rounding up and imprisonment of their own children. In terms of the timeline for this conspiratorial takeover, Page states that he believes the takeover will be completed by 2017.

The interview closes with the following exchange (at 56:13 in the audio) about the inevitability of the coming one-world government takeover and loss of American sovereignty:

Dan Page: You have to put that [fear] aside] and make some decisions. God put the man in charge of his household to do two things—provide and protect his family. The males in this country are not doing that, they’ve abrogated that to the police department and somebody else to take care of it. It really grieves me to say, no, it can’t be stopped.

If we could get the men mobilized, to get politically active and hold the local and state officials responsible, we could change this. But I would give you some suggestions on this. Focus your attention at the county and state level, such as the sheriff’s office and things like that. Do not give any support to any federal, career politician. Do not donate to the Republican faction or the Democratic faction of the socialist party that we have in charge. Do not contribute anything to them. Stay at the state and local level. Then I think we have a chance.

Rick Wiles: The bottom line is Jesus Christ is our only hope.

Dan Page: I agree with that.

Rick Wiles: Unless this nation turns to Jesus Christ, nothing we do is is going to work.

Dan Page: Absolutely.

The St. Louis/St. Charles, Missouri Chapter of Oath Keepers has tried to distance the organization from the video of Page’s speech to them now that it has received national attention. However, the video rant, as well as the above interview, is compatible with the ideology voiced by leadership in the organization as well as a spin off of the group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association or CSPOA. Both groups have a mission of organizing their members to refuse to enforce federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional.

The St. Louis County Police department is one of the few county-controlled police departments in the nation. Most county departments are headed by elected sheriffs, who are viewed by the Oath Keepers and CSPOA as the supreme law of the land, with a constitutional mandate to counter the federal government, particularly concerning gun laws. Oath Keeper Richard Mack, the head of CSPOA, has described his organization of county sheriffs as the “army to set our nation free,” and claims to have about 500 county sheriffs who have signed on in agreement with their mandate .

Click here for the profile on CSPOA

Click here for the profile on CSPOA

Mack himself is a former sheriff, as well as a former lobbyist for Gun Owners of America  (GOA). The CSPOA 2013 convention was held in St. Charles, the county seat of St. Charles County, Missouri. Over an hour of the highlights of that convention can be watched at their website.

These highlights and other media of the Oath Keepers and CSPOA focus on the role of county sheriffs to stand against “executive orders to derail the Second Amendment,” as described in a letter sent to sheriffs around the country by the the Liberty Group Coalition (comprised of the CSPOA, Oath Keepers, GOA, John Birch Society, and the Tenth Amendment Center).

I have written previously about the CSPOA as part of the national movement promoting nullification and secession in a profile of the organization and in a longer article titled Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right. As I wrote in the profile, the May, 2013, CSPOA conference featured religion-infused rhetoric against “tyranny” of the federal government. Speakers included former Constitution Party leader Michael Peroutka, GOA’s Larry Pratt, Joe Wolverton of the John Birch Society, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Mike Zullo.

Zullo is Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s chief “birther” investigator. Part of the conference was dedicated to his latest revelations in this ongoing pursuit. Conference speakers also included several county sheriffs and Tea Party leaders. The highlight video opens with one of the few people of color in the movement, Sheriff David Clark of Milwaukee County.

PRA Fellow Frederick Clarkson has also written extensively about one of the speakers at the St. Charles CSPOA event, neo-Confederate leader and 2004 Constitution Party candidate for president, Michael Peroutka, who switched parties (presumably to gain credibility) and is currently a Republican nominee for the County Council in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Peroutka is joined on the ticket by longtime ally and graduate of Peroutka’s course on the Constitution, Joseph Delimater, who is running for county sheriff.

Peroutka’s race for county council has already drawn national attention. Paul Rosenberg, writing at Salon, casts the Peroutka race in terms of the Republican Party’s race problem, as racist outbursts undermine the party’s efforts to become more diverse.

My article on nullification and Clarkson’s articles on Peroutka go into greater detail on the religious background of the philosophy behind organizing local and county leaders to lead a revolution against the federal government.

Unedited full version of Dan Page’s interview:

Update: 

Dan Page was also interviewed on May 12, 2014 on the John Moore Radio Show.  At about 24:50 in this interview, Dan Page states, “You’ve got Sen. Claire McCaskill right now beating the podium about assaults in the military and probably 99.9% of these things are bogus.  One only need to look at a woman in a way she feels uncomfortable and that’s considered sexual assault in the military.” 

UPDATE #2:

On May 29th of this year, Officer Page appeared on the Caravan to Midnight radio program, and claimed that the public education system is full of Caucasian female school teachers who are teaching young Black males to hate White men. According to Page, those young Black men grow up to be willing to violently disarm White men.

 

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If Democracy is a Crime Under Religious Right’s Biblical Law, What is the Punishment?

The League of the South, best known for its advocacy of white supremacy and the secession of Southern states in the name of Southern Independence, has another less well known dimension: The advocacy of Old Testament notions of the “law of the Bible” as the standard for contemporary civil law— including the prescribed criminal punishments for non-believers.

The League and its leaders are not exactly household names, although New York Times best-selling author Thomas Woods is an unapologetic founding member and close confederate of Ron Paul. But they overlap with the more extreme elements of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice movements, and led by elements of the virulently theocratic theological strain, Christian Reconstructionism.

image via the Florida League of the South's website

image via the Florida League of the South’s website

Contemporary Christian Right leaders have focused on matters of sexuality, notably homosexuality and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).  But it wasn’t until the notorious “kill the gays bill” in Uganda, where the notion of the death penalty was formally raised. But if the Old Testament Biblical Laws that are foundational to the contemporary Christian Right are to be the standard, then it stands to reason that the biblically prescribed punishments would, in their view, fit the crimes. If that is so, then many of us who think that democracy and religious pluralism are good things may, come the theocracy, find ourselves guilty of capital crimes.

League of the South president Michael Hill laid it out in stark terms in a recent column.

In a piece titled The League and Theocracy, Hill claims that theocracy is what God wants for us, and that anyone who says otherwise is committing treason against God’s Laws. While this is serious enough coming from an organizational leader, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, it is worth considering that such views maybe more common than usually meet the eye.

Hill argues that religious pluralism is an affront to “the law of the Bible,” and anything other than a theocratic approach to Christianity and government is, he declares, “watered-down, emasculated, wimpy, liberal-sotted ‘Christianity-lite’.” A theocracy, he insists, “is a government ruled by the triune God of the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. More precisely, it is a government whose code of law is firmly grounded in the law of the Bible.”

Before we get into this further, it is worth noting that Hill’s views are at odds with history. The ratification of the Constitution by the original 13 states, most of which had been miniature theocracies for a century and a half, set in motion the disestablishment of state churches and the elevation of religious equality and the individual’s right to believe (or not) as they choose as a central value of our society. It is this right to believe as we will, and to believe differently than the rich and the powerful, which was the original contribution of the framers of the Constitution and a central part of our story as a nation. We can’t have religious freedom without religious equality, and we can’t have religious equality without religious pluralism.

In light of this, Hill’s argument may sound arcane and his reasoning circular—but it is nevertheless worth understanding because Hill is far from alone in such views, and arguably versions of his thesis are part of the driving ideology of the wider leadership of the Christian Right and their agenda.

Hill continues:

“Simply put, locate the source of law for a society and you have found its god. In a democracy, for instance, the people serve as god – the ultimate source of sovereignty…. All societies are theocracies, whether they realize it or not. But there is a major difference in what traditional Christians (regardless of denomination), on the one hand, and pagans, on the other, have believed and that is this: a society that is not explicitly Christian is a theocracy under the sway of a false god. The false god of the modern American Empire is the god who demands tolerance and pluralism…”

In this way, Hill identifies democracy as idolatry (worship of a false god) or apostasy (abandonment of the faith.) Either way, as Hill understands it, these will not be matters of religious but civil law. And they may well be capital offenses. These, along with more than 30 others, were enumerated by the leading theocratic theologian of the 20thcentury, R. J. Rushdoony—an American whose work has been profoundly influential in catalyzing the contemporary Christian Right. Beyond such crimes as murder and kidnapping, death penalties apply, according to Rushdoony and the influential Christian Reconstructionist movement he launched, are mostly related to religion and sexuality. In addition to idolatry and apostasy, there is blasphemy, and the propagation of false religions, and specifically, astrology and witchcraft. Crimes related to sexuality include adultery, homosexuality, and premarital sex (for women only).

In his foundational tome, Institutes of Biblical Law, Rushdoony called idolatry, “treason” against “the one true God.”

These things said, there are many contemporary theocrats who do not follow Rushdoony down every detail of what ought to be the basis of a criminal code in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. But since Rushdoony was the first to systematize what he calls “Biblical Law,” everyone interested in the topic measures where they are stand in relation to him.  (Biblically approved methods of execution, according to Reconstructionists, include stoning, hanging and “the sword.”) How the law would be implemented, would depend entirely on the interpretation of the Bible, and the political predilections of the leading faction at the time.

Hill writes:  “There is really only the choice between pagan law and Christian law and nothing else. There is no neutral position where one can comfortably sit. The God of the Bible specifically forbids pluralism (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” Ex 20:3).” Hill couldn’t be clearer that in his view that religious pluralism under the law, is idolatry. “The simple choice that lies before nations,” he concludes, “is either pluralism or faithful obedience to God’s word, and the two are mutually exclusive.”

Like his fellow members of the League of the South, Maryland Republican candidates Michael Peroutka and David Whitney, Hill argues that if governmental leaders fall out of synch with Biblical Law—“If they rule unfaithfully, and thus tyrannically, they are illegitimate and their decrees have no authority.” Peroutka and Whitney have previously made this point regarding the Maryland legislature’s endorsement of marriage equality.

So this is the problem for contemporary Americans wrangling with the definition of religious liberty. Is religious liberty to be reserved only for Christians of the right sort, as defined by the likes of Hill, Peroutka and Whitney (or other leaders of the Religious Right and the Catholic Bishops)? Or is religious liberty something that belongs to all citizens without regard to their stated religious or non-religious identity at any particular time?

Such questions have, in centuries past, been the stuff of religious wars. And some Christian Right leaders are coming to see violence as an inevitable result of contemporary religious and political tensions on these matters. The question of whether, or to what extent, opponents of contraception and abortion get to define the standard for religious liberty in these matters was not settled by the Hobby Lobby decision. And who gets to be the arbiter of religious liberty on marriage equality is also deeply contentious, in light of the spread of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has been proposed in several states and signed into law in Mississippi and allows businesses to discriminate against LGTBQ employees and customers if their personal faith does not approve of homosexuality. The legislation is modeled on a bill which was originally crafted in large part by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund), and the Arizona political affiliate of Focus on the Family. But in North Carolina, the mainline protestant United Church of Christ (UCC) has filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s constitutional amendment banning the performance of same-sex marriage ceremonies. The UCC argues that this law violates the religious liberty of their church, its clergy and its members. The million member denomination has officially recognized same-sex marriages since 2005. As it happens, a recent federal court ruling in Virginia overturning a similar amendment, may also apply to North Carolina which is located in the same federal court jurisdiction. At this writing, it appears that will be the case.

But even as the courts are recognizing marriage equality and the debate over religious liberty continues, the view of doctrinaire theocrats that governments and government officials and others who do not comport with God’s Law as they understand it, remains unchanged. How they reconcile their views with the contemporary struggles over the law is also a struggle whose outcome remains to be seen. However, it is worth not losing sight of the fact that for some, there is no answer but armed resistance. Hill has called not only for the South to rise again, but to lead the resurrection  with vigilante death squads targeting government officials, journalists and others who do not comport with their particular religious and political views.

We have become almost accustomed to hearing declarations from the likes of these men justifying vigilante violence against everyone from abortion providers to government officials, said to be tyrants. But it is helpful to remind ourselves that the society that they envision is not only based on Biblical Laws, but on Biblical punishments. And those who advocate for religious liberty, and if the theocrats ever achieve their desired governmental control, are likely to find themselves charged with a variety of crimes, and punished accordingly.

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Michigan Seeks to Become Third State to Protect Youth From Ex-Gay Therapy

Conversion or “ex-gay” therapy continues to come under fire, this time in Michigan where Representative Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced House Bill (HB) 5703to ban “sexual orientation change efforts” for minors. While conversion therapy is not a widespread practice across the state, supporters of HB 5703 indicate that state-sanctioned exposure of even a single child to this type of therapy cannot be accepted. Introduced on July 16, 2014, the bill was referred to the Committee on Health Policy where it awaits action.

A billboard outside of Atlanta advertises the discredited practice of conversion therapy

A billboard outside of Atlanta, paid for by the now defunct Exodus International, advertises the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

If HB 5703 advances in Michigan, the state would join California and New Jersey in banning conversion therapy for minors. Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, for minors is a thoroughly discredited practice that has no proven effect on changing sexual orientation, but a long-documented history of negative psychological effects on individuals. A 2009 report by the American Psychological Association (APA) detailed the mental health problems this therapy can cause, including depressive, anxious, and suicidal symptoms. Survivors of ex-gay therapy, such as 29-year-old Michigan native Patrick McAlvey (who began conversion therapy at age 11), have spoken out about the detrimental influence of this childhood trauma on their lives and healthy sexuality.

Both California’s and New Jersey’s laws survived lawsuits from ex-gay therapy proponents such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), who argue that the law prohibits them from respecting clients’ wishes. New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie initially expressed qualms about signing his state’s bill, but determined that regardless of parental preferences, children should be protected from a therapy with severe negative psychological consequences and no evidence of benefits or effectiveness. California state senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), lead sponsor of the state’s anti-conversion therapy bill, bluntly called the practice “psychological child abuse.”

Since the 1970s, the mental health community has come a long way in its understanding of sexual orientation.  (Until 1973, the APA classified homosexuality as a psychological disorder.)  As PRA’s research on the ex-gay movement has documented, the pseudoscientific ex-gay movement, which presents itself as having a more “compassionate” anti-gay stance, has suffered severe setbacks in recent years. The most well known national ex-gay advocacy organization, Exodus International, closed its doors—and apologized to those it has harmed—in June of 2013.

Other organizations, however, have hastened to fill the gap left by Exodus International’s disbanding, including the Christian Right think tank, the Family Research Council (FRC), and the Exodus breakaway Restored Hope Network. Some conservative state politicians have also continued to endorse reparative therapy. In June 2014, for example, the Texas Republican Party adopted an anti-LGBTQ party platform that “recognize[s] the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle.” Last year in Maryland, it was discovered that a middle school was screening the film Acception as part of their health curriculum, which actively promotes ex-gay therapy. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) continue to appear on school grounds, disseminating harmful misinformation about same-sex attraction to vulnerable teens.

Moreover, prominent evangelical Christians continue to peddle programs based on conversion therapy as effective and compassionate mental health care.  As PRA’s LGBTQ and gender justice researcher, Cole Parke, discussed in a recent post, megachurch pastor Rick Warren has recently sought to increase awareness of mental health issues within the evangelical community and hosted a daylong event in March to “encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.”  Yet part of his mental health initiative includes promotion of Saddleback’s Celebrate Recovery program, which, among other things, offers “support” for people who have “same-sex attraction.” What this means, ultimately, is to “face the root causes of our same-sex attraction,” and “acknowledge God’s design and desire for our sexuality.”

The principles and practices of conversion therapy continue to have a tenacious foothold around the country. Celebrate Recovery’s endorsement of harmful and highly dangerous reparative therapy models, and the ongoing activities of PFOX and other groups, demonstrates that despite recent setbacks for ex-gay groups, constant vigilance by LGBTQ advocates and legislation like that introduced in Michigan remain necessary.

**A version of this article originally appeared on the SIECUS website.

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Neoliberalizing Public Higher Ed: The Threat of Free Market Ideology

When we talk about the privatization of public education, we often think of K-12 education. Certainly, the growth of charter schools and voucher programs and attacks on teachers unions indicate that the “education reform” movement poses a major threat to the traditional public school. As prominent education historian Diane Ravitch writes, “‘Reform’ is really a misnomer, because the advocates for this cause seek not to reform public education but to transform it into an entrepreneurial sector of the economy.” But discussions of the entrepreneurialization of public education institutions must also be understood within the context of higher education.

IMG_00301-e1321400465457

Image via Turnstyle News.

The current crisis within higher ed is often discussed primarily in terms of rising tuition and student debt, but the debt crisis is just one particularly ugly manifestation of a larger trend involving increased corporate investment in college campuses, the exploitation of adjunct faculty, and a de facto attack on scholarly and professional training that does not  directly lead to corporate opportunities for graduates. Taken together, these seemingly distinct problems in higher education, and public higher ed in particular, point to a common, underlying ideology that is consistent with that of the K-12 education reform movement: a rationale of neoliberal corporatization and privatization.

As Wendy Brown, a prominent political theorist based at UC Berkeley, writes, neoliberalism represents a “unique governmental and social rationality—one that extends market principles to every reach of human life”:

[Neoliberalism] formulates everything in terms of capital investment and appreciation (including and especially humans themselves), whether a teenager building a resume for college, a twenty-something seeking a mate, a working mother returning to school, or a corporation buying carbon offsets. As a governing rationality, neoliberalism extends from the management of the state itself to the soul of the subject; it renders health, education, transportation, nature, and art into individual consumer goods, and converts patients, students, drivers, athletes, and museum-goers alike into entrepreneurs of their own needs and desires who consume or invest in these goods (emphasis is mine).[i]

Neoliberalism is thus a turn away from collectivity and commitment to the public good and a turn toward individualism and an acceptance—embrace, even—of structural inequality. Such ideologies prepare students for life under the domination of large corporations.

But public universities should not act like corporations. They should train students to be great citizens; they should provide academics with resources and security to challenge convention by producing novel ideas and inventions for the public good; and they should be affordable and attainable to any qualified student, and particularly those who come from communities that have historically been isolated from higher ed. Unfortunately, the neoliberal corporatization of public universities is responsible for a number of dynamics that directly undermine these principles.

Rising Tuition = Supply and Demand

Contrary to popular belief, tuition hikes at public universities date back to the 1980s, far before the 2007 financial crisis. According to Salon reporter Thomas Frank, the rise in tuition took off in 1981, the same year that Ronald Reagan took the White House. While politicians and journalists have blamed students, professors, and the new demands for a diverse student body from a more liberal society, it’s now clear, Frank says, that the real culprits behind rising tuition are administrators and other decision makers who have long embraced a neoliberal, corporate approach to university administration. This shift was further exacerbated by increasing economic inequality. Indeed, tuition pricing became subjected to “market forces” at the same time that degrees were becoming ever-more important for middle-class employment and upward social mobility.

Donations with Strings Attached

Another reason why universities have increased tuition is the lack of adequate state funding—a trend that has only grown worse since the recession. Disinvestment in state universities has forced colleges to look elsewhere for funding sources, and the corporate sector has eagerly stepped in.

For example, John Allison, former chairman of BB&T Corp.,  has worked through the BB&T Charitable Foundation to provide schools with “as much as $2 million” under the condition that they “create a course on capitalism and make [Ayn] Rand’s … Atlas Shrugged required reading.” Former hedge fund manager Jim Simons has tried to privatize tuition practices within the SUNY system, wielding an apparently conditional pledge of $150 million at Stony Brook as a bargaining chip. The Koch brothers have also been widely criticized for their politicized contributions (particularly for funding economics professorships at Florida State University); the Charles Koch Foundation can rescind funding for professors’ salaries if their work is deemed “unacceptable.” These donations, which come with ideologically charged strings attached, use a not-so-invisible hand to influence university administrators and to promote development strategies and curricula lauding capitalism and the super-rich.

Squeezing the Workforce

Public universities have also sought to shift financial burdens onto faculty and staff. The rise in the percentage of contingent faculty, the precariousness of their positions, and the effect it has on academic integrity and teaching quality are all characteristics of what Claire Goldstein calls the “emergent academic proletariat.”

In 1970, “78% of faculty were permanent and full time;” now, says Goldstein, “close to 70 percent of all faculty appointments in degree-granting institutions are off the tenure-track, a number that includes over one million people.” Contingent faculty are more likely to be overworked, under-resourced, and left out of important decision-making groups. Lacking job security and other resources, contingent faculty may be less likely to include controversial course material, too. As law professor and free speech activist Marjorie Heins has argued, the dominance of corporate rationality recalls an earlier era of academia, before tenure was a well-established policy and professors could be dismissed for championing scholarship or causes that went against the outlooks of university boards. Now, the public university is again squeezing out those who might otherwise push for some much needed progressive thinking, teaching, and learning.

Entrepreneurializing the Public U

Given the landscape of public disinvestment, rising tuition, and a persistently weak labor market, many have called for the American university to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit they claim is required in an increasingly competitive global economy. As universities take heed—and follow the money—the “entrepreneurial university” is being born before our eyes.

Great public universities can certainly be centers for innovative and pragmatic partnership, and the production of quality goods and services that benefit the larger world should indeed be a part of the university’s activities. But in the long term, focusing exclusively on entrepreneurship and the development of “marketable skills” is a different and even dangerous project. Private investors and firms that support an entrepreneur are, by their very nature, interested first and foremost in the profitability of their investment. When an entrepreneurial profit motive is the driving force of decisions instead of a desire to make people’s lives better, the university stops being a center for the betterment of society and becomes another means of capital accumulation.

Under this paradigm, certain fields of knowledge yield a higher return than others—as do certain students, namely those who are willing to pay full tuition, accumulate assets of their own as well-paid professionals, and give back to their beloved alma mater. It just so happens that the kinds of learning and teaching deemed most useful—what Henry A. Giroux would call “instrumental pedagogy”—are not those that are essential to progressive social thinking: the critical orientation and self-reflexivity of the humanities and interpretive social sciences pose a threat to neoliberal rationality. And given the price, projects, and results that neoliberal education demands, students from historically marginalized backgrounds or who present points of view challenging corporatization are often shunted aside.

Conclusion

When the market rules, ordinary people and inclusive social structures do not. Instead, rigid hierarchical structures proliferate, free market ideology dominates, progressive and critical thought declines, and disparities among employees abound. Those who have money and influence—corporate billionaires and university administrators—accumulate more of it, while those who do not—students and their families, contingent academic workers— are further marginalized.

In the post-war era, a democratic project began to establish a widely and rigorously educated general public through well-funded and subsidized public higher education. It was an imperfect project at best—African Americans and other people of color were largely denied access to many of these programs—but we should do well to remember the democratic promise of the public university before we relegate it completely to the cold hands of the neoliberal market and corporatization.  The stakes are high: who and how we are educated forges us into the kind of society we become. A vigorous public education system, higher ed included, is the best defense against an ascending neoliberal plutocracy where democracy is deemed second to entrepreneurship and capital accumulation.

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[i] Brown, Wendy. Neoliberalized Knowledge. History of the Present Vol. 1, No. 1 (Summer 2011). University of Illinois Press. pp. 113-129

 

Let’s Not Ignore the Overt Calls for Violence from the League of the South

Since FebruaryPRA has been covering the emergence of theocratic, white nationalist candidates from both major parties running for public office in Maryland. Now, two of them, Joe Delimater and Michael Peroutka, are, respectively, the Republican candidates for sheriff and county council. Peroutka, a wealthy attorney and 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate, has a good chance at winning in his historically Republican council district. The controversy over his candidacy has become hot in the media and in state politics—but there is still an elephant in the room.

Leading Democrats, Republicans, and editorial writers in Maryland have called on Peroutka to disavow the neo-Confederate agenda of, and his personal involvement in, the white nationalist, secessionist League of the South. (Peroutka was a member of the board of directors of the League in 2013, and remains a defiantly proud member.). A conservative columnist recently worried that Peroutka will be a drag on the national Republican Party in 2014.  Others have called on the GOP to decide if it will stand by and allow Peroutka to win his race for county council in his historically Republican district.

Michael Peroutka. Photo via The American View.

That is a useful discussion.  But there is an eerie silence about other obvious aspects of the vision of the League, Peroutka, and his closest religious and political associates.  The fact is that they are involved not in an eccentric nostalgia for retrograde racial politics and wishful thinking about secession of the Southern states so much as a revolutionary vision of theocratic, white nationalist violence.

Peroutka certainly holds views that are far beyond anything that could be described as “conservative.” But let’s consider the views of his close friends and allies in the League of the South, the organization he used to lead and which he refuses to distance himself.  For example, his friend and ally Michael Hill, the president of the Alabama-based League of the South has, among other things, called for the formation of death squads to take out American government officials and journalists and for white men of all ages to become “citizen soldiers” in a great modern defense of archaic notions of Christendom. 

On July 15, just a week after Peroutka’s upset win in the primary for the GOP nomination for Anne Arundel County Council, League president Michael Hill published an essay on the organization’s web site.  Hill’s essay advocated for the deployment of death squads in the context of guerrilla civil war, in which “the lines between the military and the political, economic, cultural, and social are blurred past the point of recognition.”  This essay, titled “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” describes this effort as featuring “three-to-five-man” units with a hair-raising mission: “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers,” Hill wrote.  “Instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”

On July 25, Hill followed up with an essay in which he calls on the young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” in the battles against the tyranny of our time.  He sees himself and his comrades as part of a long line of such men, invoking historic battles with Islamic armies going back to the Battle of Tours in the 8th century.  His role models for warriors for Christendom, however, are the White Westerners who fought against Black liberation movements in Southern Africa in the 1970s.  “So if Western men in past times were willing to fight for their civilization in remote areas of the world,” he asked, “shouldn’t we expect them to be just as willing to fight for that civilization here at its very heart—the South?”

“The traditions and truths of Western Christendom are anathema to the [Obama] regime,” he concluded.  “The tyrants’ regime and Western Christendom cannot co-exist—that is not possible.  One must win and the other must disappear.  It is indeed the ultimate Zero Sum game.”

In his 2102 keynote address at the League national conference, Peroutka declared:  “I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all that this regime [apparently referring to the Obama administration] is beyond reform, and I think that’s an obvious fact, and I agree with him.”  Then he added a glimpse of his own theocratic vision for what might come next:

“However, I agree that when you secede, or however the destruction of the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical world view, and apply it to civil law and government. That’s what you’re still going to need to do.  We’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of the people or else liberty won’t survive the secession either.”

The Past is Prologue

Michael Hill epitomizes the escalation of the open expression of violent ideologies, as I discussed in an essay in The Public Eye in June titled “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence.” One of the featured characters was David Whitney, who leads a small church in Pasadena, Maryland, and is Peroutka’s pastor and business partner in the Institute on the Constitution.  Whitney has justified the assassination of abortion providers—calling it “biblically justifiable homicide.”  He has also called for establishing theocratic governance under Biblical law; restricting citizenship to Christians of the right sort; forming citizen militias to resist governmental tyranny; and leading imprecatory prayer against the White House staff—including, presumably, against President Obama.  Whitney is the chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South.

On July 8, Peroutka e-mailed Hill asking him to help get League members to support his campaign.  (Hill posted the e-mail under the headline: “A political victory for us in Maryland!”)  Peroutka wrote, “I ask you to ask the membership for prayers and for whatever financial support they can muster. I am grateful for our friendship and for the work of LS. [League of the South].”  (Apparently the members came through, because the League has already sponsored telephone polls in his district.)

Peroutka and his running mate, GOP candidate for county sheriff Joe Delimater, provide the League a measure of democratic legitimacy for its anti-democratic, revolutionary aims.  But Hill’s vision of armed resistance to the alleged tyranny of the state and federal government and his open call for covert teams of assassins make Michael Peroutka’s claim to oppose racism seem like a small bit of political spin in a gathering political storm of far greater consequence.

From the Florida League of the South’s Facebook page, posted on May 25.

Unsurprisingly, the League is a political home for other would-be violent revolutionaries.  Former Green Beret Michael Tubbs, for example, was a League leader in Florida when Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, revealed in 2004 that Tubbs was actually a convicted “Aryan” terrorist.  Tubbs had been arrested with arms, explosives, and a hit list that included newspapers, television stations, and businesses owned by Jews and Blacks.  As the SPLC’s profile on the League reports, “When these embarrassing facts were revealed, Hill and other league leaders allowed Tubbs to stay on, saying he’d paid his debt to society.”

So far, the political community has been eerily silent about the explicitly violent intentions of the emerging Peroutka faction of American public life.  Hill’s recent call for the formation of death squads has been reported only by Jonathan Hutson at the Huffington Post and Van Smith at the Baltimore City Paper.  This explicit and specific call for violence is part of several related trends involving ideologies and actions related to the ideas of nullification and secession, as well as related ideologies of theocratic violence among elements of the Christian Right.  We are seeing one manifestation of these trends on vivid display in Anne Arundel County. Some of us, that is.

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Museveni Plays Politics with Human Rights

On Friday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) on procedural grounds, ruling that it was invalid because Parliament lacked a quorum when it passed the legislation on December 20, 2013. (In Uganda’s Parliament, a quorum requires that at least one third of members are present when a vote is held.) Thanks to this decision, LGBTI Ugandans no longer face the risk of life imprisonment, and advocacy for LGBTI rights is no longer criminalized. While this ruling is a significant victory for Uganda’s LGBTI community, the road forward remains rocky and steep. And the timing of the decision raises concerns that President Museveni is once again playing politics with human rights.

It’s ironic that the court struck down the law based on an issue that President Museveni himself raised in his letter to Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on December 28, 2013—the very letter that led many people to the incorrect conclusion that Museveni would not sign the bill into law. Despite his criticism of the Speaker, succession struggles in his own party compelled Museveni to sign the bill—making him the hero of Uganda’s highly influential anti-gay pastors.

With the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in D.C happening this week (an event that Museveni is expected to attend, despite significant outcry from international human rights advocates), the timing of the court’s ruling should be viewed with suspicion. Some analysts claim that Museveni forced the courts to rush this ruling in time for his U.S. trip.

Quite probably, Friday’s ruling is Museveni’s attempt to silence the international outrage that has been directed against him and his country since he signed the AHA into law in February. Beyond that, it is an attempt to clear his path to yet another term as president. (He has already been in power for 28 years.) Since Uganda’s opposition candidates have condemned the law, this ruling works to the advantage of Museveni at home as well as internationally, allowing embargoed aid from the World Bank, the U.S., and other Western nations (approximately $118 million in total) to resume its flow into the country’s coffers.

The Court did not consider substantive objections to the legislation made by those challenging its constitutionality, ruling only on the technical issue of the quorum. That is, the ruling establishes no precedent with respect to human rights. The legislation could potentially be reintroduced. However, Museveni understands the cost of this law to his own image abroad and it seems unlikely he would welcome a re-tabling of the measure anytime soon. Regardless, sodomy laws imposed on Uganda during British colonial rule (which exact upon guilty parties a maximum punishment of seven years in jail) are still in place, and, more significantly, the anti-LGBTI, anti-woman ideologies imported and propagated by Christian fundamentalists from the West remain deeply entrenched.

Following the ruling, Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and one of the petitioners contesting the validity of the law, expressed relief. He also acknowledged, “Society won’t give in.” The LGBTI community in Uganda is braced for a surge in violent retaliation from supporters of the legislation.

Mugisha’s concern warrants reflection: the striking down of this law will not put an end to the violence and persecution experienced by LGBTI persons. If anything, demonization of sexual minorities is likely to escalate. Notorious homophobic pastor Martin Ssempa, a key promoter of the legislation, charged that the “gay lobby” bought off the judges. The reality is that a justice based on technicalities is not trustworthy. We need justice that accepts the full humanity of African LGBTI persons—a justice based on fundamental human rights.

But currently, there is no political will to put the persecution of LGBTI persons in Uganda to rest. It wasn’t long ago that the very same legal system that struck down this law callously threw out SMUG’s case against the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo—a person known for persecuting LGBTI persons in Uganda.

And we must not forget that all of this is happening on Museveni’s watch. For all of his flaws, Museveni is a clever politician, and he knows how to please the West. Now, at the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, he is about to meet with the very people he has previously referred to as the “homosexual lobby”—and with the law out of play, he can once again feign innocence, alongside other African presidents who are busy imprisoning LGBTI persons using colonial anti-sodomy laws.

Rather than give these African leaders a pass at the Summit we must support African human rights leaders who demand that colonial-era sodomy laws (and their neocolonial expansions supported by U.S. conservatives) be struck down. If we miss this opportunity, we will have allowed Museveni to divert us from our commitment to justice for African LGBTI persons—a dream that will only be realized when sexual minorities are decriminalized.

The process of dismantling these systems of oppression is tedious and difficult, and it requires perseverance, courage, creativity, sacrifice, and steadfast commitment. To endure the journey, we need to pause periodically to celebrate our progress, and when a panel of five judges unanimously nullifies a law that violates the human rights of LGBTI persons—even if the ruling is based more on technicalities than true justice—we are assuredly seeing progress. But after we have paused, momentarily allowing a relieved exhale to quietly escape our lungs, we must inhale once more and cry out even louder than before—tirelessly working for a durable and lasting justice.

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The Christian Dominionists Who Benefit from David Tyree’s Fame

Apostle Joseph Mattera introduces David Tyree at press conference at the New York state capitol in 2011.

Apostle Joseph Mattera introduces David Tyree at press conference at the New York state capitol in 2011.

Former New York Giant David Tyree’s personal views on gay marriage have been the topic of much debate since his recent hiring as director of player development for that franchise, but the press has overlooked an even more significant problem.  For the better part of a decade, Tyree has traded on his NFL fame to win unsuspecting donors for some of the country’s leading Christian dominionists, including one of the most aggressive anti-gay activists in America. Thanks to Tyree, Joseph Mattera can be seen in the New York society pages at fundraising galas rubbing shoulders with New York Giants Eli Manning and Tiki Barber, NBA stars, beauty queens, business leaders, and movie stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Hugh Jackman. Many of these figures are, no doubt, unaware that they are helping one of the nation’s most zealous campaigners for biblical law establish a foothold in New York by funding the foundation led by his wife and co-pastor, Joyce Mattera.

The David Tyree Charity Bowl 2012 for Children in the City included NY Giants Tiki Barber and Kenny Phillips.

The David Tyree Charity Bowl 2012 for Children in the City included NY Giants Tiki Barber and Kenny Phillips.

A rising star of the Religious Right, Joseph Mattera was recently named the “convening apostle” of the U.S. by a network of religious leaders by called the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL, formerly the International Coalition of Apostles). These self-appointed, modern-day “apostles and prophets” are part of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement and are on the cutting edge of anti-gay activism in eastern Europe, South America, and Africa. They believe they have a mandate for taking dominion over the “Seven Mountains” or power centers of society and culture. While those society page celebrities at these fundraisers may not know about Mattera’s national and international fame in this role, and at least one major donor I’ve reached most certainly did not, Tyree undoubtedly does. His “spiritual mother” and co-author Kimberly Daniels is also an apostle in the movement, as is Tyree’s business partner, Frank Dupree. I have documented these relationships elsewhere, including the obsession of Tyree’s mentor with praying away the gay, or expelling the (literal) demons she believes cause homosexuality.

Children of the City

According to its website, the mission of Joyce Mattera’s nonprofit organization, Children of the City, is “to reach at-risk inner-city youth and their families.” The group has long used Tyree and its at-risk intervention agenda to attract public exposure and win liberal support for the Matteras. Mattera has written about doing “good works” through Children of the City to gain traction in New York City for their conservative religious campaigns, stating in his book, Kingdom Revolution,

My wife and I have taken this principle to heart and have ministered to tens of thousands of at-risk children since 1981. Then when the time came to lead the fight against same-sex marriage in our city, we had already earned a place of respect because of the service we had freely given to our community.

This approach is common among the “apostles.” For example, Peter Wagner, a pioneer of the NAR and its apostolic networks, wrote about ICA apostle Eddie Long’s success in making his ministry indispensable to Atlanta through faith-based charitable work.

In another book, Walk in Generational Blessings, Joseph Mattera describes the monthly home visits to 1,000 children on Children of the City’s roster “by our fifty volunteers, most of whom attend our local church.” While Children of the City’s programs appear to be faith-based, their marketing and much of their support appears to be secular. In Kingdom Revolution, Mattera boasts of their fundraising success outside their own conservative religious community:

Our programs are 95 percent supported by non-Christian private donors, foundations, or city and state aid. Since 2001, this has totaled millions of dollars and far exceeds our local church’s budget and financial abilities.

Mattera’s apostolic network affiliates include New York City Intercessors, and his wife Joyce is an executive of the NYC Women’s Prayer Summit. These prayer networks have emphasized an international campaign called the 4/14 Window Movement to reach children four through fourteen years old, the age range they believe is most impressionable for indoctrination into their worldview.

Joyce Mattera started Children of the City in the early 1980s and serves as its executive director. The group registered with New York State in 1994 and received federal 501(c)(3) status in 2002. According to its newsletters and promotional material, the board of directors includes mainstream business leaders. However, those names do not appear in the nonprofit’s tax filings. Almost all of the directors listed in Children of the City’s IRS 990 tax forms are pastors and lay leaders of the Resurrection Church, founded by Joseph and Joyce Mattera.

The nonprofit is registered as a religious charity, and one of its early tax forms lists the mission as “teaching children biblical and Godly values.” Subsequent filings and promotional material for the organization have no religious language. The charity is advertised as providing academic mentoring and life skills training for poor urban children and their families.

The Children of the City organization shares space free of charge and phone numbers with the Resurrection Church, as well as with Joseph Matteras’ nonprofits. The contact number for New York summits and rallies for traditional marriage were the same as that given for Children of the City.

Mattera speaks to Ugandans in promotional video for Nations Discipleship Enterprise, led by Apostle Arnold Muwonge.

Mattera speaks to Ugandans in promotional video for Nations Discipleship Enterprise, led by Apostle Arnold Muwonge.

The nonprofit’s newsletters and website include a “Uganda Mission,” described as partnering in Uganda with Arnold Muwonge in support of education of children at his orphanage. There is no reference to the fact that Muwonge is also an ICA apostle who, in addition to housing 100 or so children, leads an apostolic network that claims to include more than 2,500 churches. Muwonge resides and works in England as a “reverse missionary,” bringing the supernatural successes of Uganda to the Western world. Like many others in this network in Uganda, he teaches that HIV/AIDS can be cured through prayer. Muwonge’s bios include references to his training under Apostle John Mulinde, a key player in introducing Peter Wagner’s ICA networks in Uganda and the local apostle who organized Lou Engle’s TheCall Uganda in 2010. That event became a rally for the “Kills the Gays” Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a version of which passed earlier this year before being overturned today on a procedural issue by Uganda’s Supreme Court.

Tyree, Mattera, and NOM

Tyree has also worked directly with Joseph Mattera and the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), providing a popular face for these Religious Right leaders’ activism. One example is the 2011 press conference in opposition to marriage equality organized by Mattera. In the embedded NOM video from the event, Mattera introduces Tyree, stating, “He cared more about marriage and family than his reputation. He’s the first celebrity that I know of, and the first New York athlete to come out against same sex marriage.” Mattera describes the response to a NOM-produced viral video of an interview with Tyree, who is followed at the microphone by NOM’s Maggie Gallagher.

Joseph Mattera coordinated the protests against marriage equality in New York and has written extensively about strategy for a theocratic restructuring of society.  He has spoken at foreign events decrying the “homosexual agenda,” including a 2007 Watchmen on the Walls conference in Latvia with founders Alexey Ledyaev and the notorious Scott Lively.  Lively is the author of The Pink Swastika and currently the defendant in a case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights for his role in inciting the persecution of sexual minorities in Uganda.  Speakers described an agenda for forming government aligned with biblical law in countries around the world, including a strategy presented by Scott Lively for criminalizing any public advocacy of homosexuality.

Tyree’s relationship with the Matteras, like his relationship with Kimberly Daniels, predates his famous Super Bowl performance of 2008, but it is Mattera who has soared to international prominence in recent years in the religio-political networks of the NAR. Mattera compares his views on biblical law to those of Rousas Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism, but has voiced opposition to execution of homosexuals in his interpretation of biblical law. He favors a more gradual process that would drive LGBTQ people back into the closet and argues that the process “towards a biblical theocracy in a pluralistic society” is to establish commandments five through ten of the Ten Commandments, and to enable the next generation to legally enforce commandments one through four.

City Action Coalition

The U.S. network of apostles that Mattera now heads is a part of a movement dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) by C. Peter Wagner, the recently retired international convening apostle. Mattera’s rapid ascendance in prominence within the NAR may be the results of his capabilities in organizing and outreach in urban areas, a primary target of the international movement. In addition to his Resurrection Church in Brooklyn, Mattera founded Christ Covenant Coalition, a network of apostles in the New York area, and a religio-political activist arm called City Action Coalition. Protests against marriage equality in 2011 were organized under the auspices of the latter, including one on the steps of city hall in New York City and the press conference at the state capitol. David Tyree was perhaps the most widely recognized public figure on stage at both of these events.

Mattera’s network of like-minded apostles, including Harry Jackson Jr., utilizes similar strategies to those leaked to the press from internal NOM memos in 2012. That strategy was to drive a wedge between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities and African Americans in order to split key sectors of the Democratic Party. However, in urban and heavily Democratic areas, the effort is intentionally nonpartisan or bipartisan, in order to separate African American and Latino pastors and churches from their progressive allies, while leaders retain their Democratic or nonpartisan identies. Some, like Harry Jackson Jr., have described themselves as Democrats while supporting GOP candidates and a reactionary political agenda.

Tyree’s co-author Kimberly Daniels ran, and won, a position on the Jacksonville, Florida, city council as a Democrat in 2011. Daniels had partnered with fellow “prophet” Harry Jackson in spearheading opposition to the federal Hate Crimes bill in 2007, falsely claiming that pastors would be jailed for preaching against homosexuality.

Bullet points for City Action Coalition’s strategic agenda, no longer online, included forming a nonpartisan Christian political movement to inspire 10,000 emerging leaders in politics and culture and to unite the “1.5 million Bible-believing Christians in New York” as a “strong multi-ethnic and cross-denominational voice” for the political arena. The following were listed as major issues: traditional marriage, sanctity of life, religious freedom, formation of charter schools, and support for school vouchers and homeschooling.

Taking Dominion over the Seven Mountains

ICAL apostles Mattera, Os Hillman, and Lance Wallnau spoke at a conference in June 2014 about the Seven Mountains.

ICAL apostles Mattera, Os Hillman, and Lance Wallnau spoke at a conference in June 2014 about the Seven Mountains.

Joseph Mattera travels the world – Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America- to speak about the “steps to biblical dominion” or taking control of the “Seven Mountains.” The latter is a concept used to simplify the teaching of the Christian Dominionist theology by using mountains or gates to represent the seven power centers of society: arts and entertainment; business; education; family, government; media; and religion. In his book, Ruling in the Gates, Mattera writes that the “coming apostolic reformation should result in placing godly leaders in every facet of society with a biblical worldview.”

Mattera’s biblical worldview is not limited to the hot button issues of homosexuality and abortion. Mattera’s response to the shooting at Sandy Hook School was to blame abortion, rather than guns, for the tragedy. He teaches that capitalism is most closely aligned with the bible, and that the bible forbids inheritance and other progressive taxes.

Mattera has spoken around the world about the need for like-minded Christians to out-procreate everyone else, describing this as the “key to dominion.” In 2010, Mattera told an audience in Argentina that dominion won’t happen because of one stadium event, and explained that if the church had more children and their children had more children, “we would have more influence than anybody else, we would have more votes than anybody else, and we would have the most power on earth.”

This is the Religious Right leader that David Tyree has helped to empower in New York, aiding him and his wife in establishing their enterprises in the community, and drawing unsuspecting funders to grace the pages of society magazines in promotion of the Children of the City nonprofit. This past week, Tyree was publicized as having evolved in his views about homosexuality and that he was repentant of his words of three years ago. But perhaps it’s not his personal views, whether they have evolved or not, that matter most. The most recent David Tyree Charity Ball raising funds for Children of the City was held in June, publicized in sports page lauding Tyree’s life choices as guiding his selection of charitable partners. As director of player development for the New York Giants, Tyree will be able to expand his role of leading his unsuspecting teammates and others into the sphere of the theocratic NAR apostles.

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