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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Demon Buster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apostle Frank Dupree

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

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

Gatekeepers in the Sports Industry

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

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

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

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

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Rumblings of Theocratic Violence

Some Christian Right activists have lost hope that a Christian Nation can be achieved in the United States through the formal political process—including a high-level GOP operative. They are calling for martyrs and thinking about religious war.

As its long-held dream of a national "return to Christ" seems to fade, the Christian Right is considering violent and secessionist alternatives. Photo courtesy of Chris Wieland.

As its long-held dream of a national “return to Christ” seems to fade, the Christian Right is considering violent and secessionist alternatives. Photo courtesy of Chris Wieland.

“If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years,” wrote Republican campaign strategist David Lane in an essay published on a popular conservative website in 2013, “let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end.” Quoting Winston Churchill from the darkest days of the German bombing of Britain during World War II, Lane added that “upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”1

Such rhetoric is so common on the farther reaches of the Right that it can be easy to dismiss. But something has changed in recent years. Such disturbing claims are appearing more frequently, more prominently, and in ways that suggest that they are expressions of deeply held beliefs more than provocative political hyperbole.2 What’s more, there are powerful indications in the writings of some Christian Right leaders that elements of their movement have lost confidence in the bright political vision of the United States as the once and future Christian nation—and that they are desperately seeking alternatives.

The 59-year-old Lane, who generally keeps a low media profile, epitomizes the trend. Lane has been a key strategist in the conservative movement and a behind-the-scenes power broker and adviser to GOP presidential candidates for two decades.3 His main vehicle has been “Pastors’ Policy Briefings,” in which conservative Christian clergy and their spouses are provided expenses-paid trips to (usually) closed-door, invitation-only conferences. Speakers at these events included top GOP politicians and office holders, as well as Christian Right ideologues such as David Barton and experts in the mechanics of church-based electoral mobilization. During the 2010 midterm elections, such events were held in six states (Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Iowa). The elections swept unprecedented numbers of Christian conservatives into state legislatures and the Congress, largely under the rubric of the Tea Party, helping catalyze the successful effort to oust three pro-marriage equality justices of the Iowa Supreme Court.4

The Iowa Renewal Project, which hosted a briefing in October 2013, is one of several state-level units of the American Renewal Project—which is, in turn, a political development and mobilization project of the Mississippi-based American Family Association. Its most prominent figures are founder Don Wildmon and the abrasive radio host Bryan Fischer. Lane told the Dallas Morning News that the goal of the event, which featured Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX),5 was the same as the others: “the mobilization of pastors and pews to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture.” Lane said: “We’ve been in 15 states now, largely under the radar, and we’ve had 10,000 pastors plus spouses that we’ve put up overnight and fed three meals. The purpose is to get the pastors—the shepherds in America—to engage the culture through better registration and get out the vote.”6

In one sense, little has changed since the methods that have defined the Christian Right were developed in the latter part of the twentieth century. But the heyday of high-profile, mediagenic leaders like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Phyllis Schlafly—and their national organizations—is long gone. Their legacy is a generation of hands-on political operatives who now sustain a more decentralized Christian Right. No one now qualifies as the “leader” of the Christian Right. Instead, a constellation of smaller, electorally focused organizations has emerged, and others have evolved.

Lane’s method turns on the role of clergy in inspiring, sustaining, and expanding the electoral capacity of Christian conservatives. By Lane’s analysis, about half of eligible evangelical voters are either not registered or do not vote—and he believes pastors are the key to changing this, and thereby to sustaining the Christian Right’s strategic capacity for skillful voter mobilization, and exercising outsized political influence en route to dominant political power and governmental authority.7 As such, Lane epitomizes the long-haul political vision of the Christian Right. He has promoted Mike Huckabee at similar events since his runs for statewide office in Arkansas in the 1990s, and as a presidential candidate in 2008.8 Lane also masterminded the 2011 prayer rally that drew 30,000 people to launch Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s short-lived 2012 campaign for president.

Like many other evangelicals, especially those influenced by the Neocharismatic movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation,9 Lane is counting on a revival—another Great Awakening—to sweep Christians of the right sort into positions of power. This would result in the kind of Christian nation that he and his close ally, the historical revisionist (and accused fabulist) David Barton—whose books and interpretations are influential among conservative evangelicals—believe was intended by the nation’s founders. Barton is well known, for example, for his claim that the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state is a “myth,” as well as the variation that the wall is “one directional,” that is, intended only to protect the church from the state.10 A Bartonesque Christian nationalism is the vision that animates Lane’s work across the election calendar.11

But for all the energy he invests in traditional electoral work, Lane clearly is not convinced that his shining vision of America is likely—or even possible. Hence his doubt-filled essay about “the American experiment with freedom” possibly ending. The piece, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” was published on World Net Daily (WND), a leading and influential news site of the farther secular and religious Right. WND quickly removed the essay in June 2013 after bloggers called attention to it,12 but Lane soon demonstrated that it was not an aberration. He told conservative Iowa radio talk show host Steve Deace the following month that “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa” would be merciful punishment from God for legalized abortion and for “homosexuals praying at the Inauguration [of President Obama’s second term].” Without such divine mercy, Lane suggested, America might “get judgment like Nazi Germany.”13

Lane’s apparent lack of confidence that the Christian Right’s efforts to establish theocratic governance can succeed by using the tools of democracy epitomizes his belief that martyrdom and elections are not mutually exclusive, and that horrific confrontations lie ahead. Indeed, Lane opened his WND essay with a quote from a leading thinker who does not believe that the U.S. can be salvaged via conventional politics: the theologian Peter Leithart, 55, a Christian Reconstructionist (hardline theocrat) who makes even David Barton seem meek and mild by comparison.14 “Throughout Scripture,” Leithart declared in a passage from his 2012 book Between Babel and Beast, “the only power that can overcome the seemingly invincible omnipotence of a Babel or a Beast is the power of martyrdom, the power of the witness to King Jesus to the point of loss and death.”15

“You ask,” Lane wrote in his WND essay, elaborating on Leithart’s theme, “‘What is our goal?’ To wage war to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage with all of our might and strength that God will give us. You ask, ‘What is our aim?’ One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror.”

Lane’s essay is a clarion call for a contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States. And his notion of war is not just a metaphor for politics. He even called for a contemporary “Gideon” and a “Rahab the Harlot” to rise to the occasion. Gideon is the Biblical figure who leads an Israelite army in an ethnic cleansing of the Midianites who were both oppressors and worshiped false gods. The story of Rahab turns on how she sheltered two Israelite spies in preparation for the sacking of the city of Jericho by Joshua’s army, resulting in the massacre of everyone but Rahab and her family. One does not invoke Gideon and Rahab in this way if one is simply calling for religious revival, or seeking to advance a legislative agenda.16

Coming from a top GOP operative, such exhortations to religious war are extraordinary. Lane’s articulation demonstrates an alarming degree of militancy at a high level of American politics. As such, it is a bellwether of an ideological reorganization, or at least reconsideration, now taking place within the Christian Right. It sounds like an expression of the cognitive dissonance experienced by a man whose job is to mobilize political constituencies toward common goals—but who doubts that the enterprise can succeed.

Christian Right leaders and activists have been particularly provoked by the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo courtesy of Southern Reformation.

Christian Right leaders and activists have been particularly provoked by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo courtesy of Southern Reformation.

As a result, at least some of the historic culture warriors of the Christian Right seem to be considering an ostensibly unlikely coalition with the Neo-Confederate movement. The coalition would lead their followers in religious and political directions in which violence is as likely as the outcomes are uncertain. It is an unlikely coalition, not necessarily because the Christian Right and most Neo-Confederates differ much on issues, but because Christian nationalism is so fundamentally at odds with the notion of fracturing the nation due to a loss of hope and faith in the role of the United States in God’s plan.

Witness Against America

The accelerating advance of LGBTQ rights, especially marriage equality, has become a flashpoint for the Christian Right’s revolutionary impulses. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor in 2013, Peter Leithart took to the influential blog of the journal First Things (founded by the late neoconservative Catholic thinker Richard John Neuhaus) to declare that the decision “presents American Christians with a call to martyrdom.”17

In 2013, influential GOP operative David Lane wrote an essay titled “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” a clarion call for a contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States. Lane later told a radio host that car bombs in U.S. cities would be “merciful judgement” from God for the nation’s tolerance of legalized abortion and homosexuality.

Leithart is the former dean of graduate studies at New Saint Andrew’s College, whose founder and eminence grise is Douglas Wilson. (Leithart remains an adjunct fellow at the school, which is based in the university town of Moscow, Idaho.) In 2012, Leithart struck off on his own, founding a small school and related think tank, Trinity House, in Birmingham, AL. It seeks to serve as a center for a new Reformed Protestantism, called Federal Vision, whose leading lights include Neo-Confederate authors Wilson and Steven Wilkins.18

Together, Wilson and Wilkins have probably done more than anyone to construct the theology now animating much of the Neo-Confederate movement. Wilkins was one of the founders of the League of the South, the leading organization of contemporary Neo-Confederatism.19 As scholars Edward Sebesta and Euan Hague have written, the League views the Civil War as a “theological war” that continues in contemporary America. The heart of their argument is that the old Confederacy was an orthodox Christian nation fighting for the future against the heretical and tyrannical Union states.  Sebesta and Hague also report that that New York Times best-selling author Thomas E. Woods, a traditionalist Catholic and a founder of the League, has argued that “struggles against liberalism, big government and the New World Order comprise ‘Christendom’s Last Stand.’”20

Wilson and Wilkins are notorious for a booklet they published that claimed that slavery was not so bad. Nick Gier, a professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Idaho, observes that they made a number of historically inaccurate but ideologically significant claims, notably that, “By the time of the [Civil] War, the leadership of the South was conservative, orthodox, and Christian,” and that the leadership of the North had become “radical and Unitarian.” While the Confederates were righteous, “the abolitionists in the North were ‘wicked’ and ‘driven by a zealous hatred for the Word of God.’”21

In his First Things piece , Leithart avoids calling too directly for Christians to risk their lives (perhaps because of the flap over David Lane’s essay). But his call to martyrdom is clear enough. “In Greek, martyria means ‘witness,’ specifically, witness in a court,” he wrote. “At the very least, the decision challenges American Christians to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics without compromise or apology. But Windsor presents a call to martyrdom in a more specific sense. There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms. [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia’s reference [in Windsor] to the pagan Roman claim that Christians are ‘enemies of mankind’ was probably not fortuitous.”

“The only America that actually exists,” he continued, “is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.”22

“If America is to be put in its place—put right,” he concluded (in David Lane’s hair-raising invocation of a passage from Leithart’s book Between Babel and Beast), “Christians must risk martyrdom and force Babel to the crux where it has to decide either to acknowledge Jesus an imperator and the church as God’s imperium or to begin drinking holy blood.”23

In Between Babel and Beast, Leithart declared that Christians must respond to the heresy of “Americanism,” by which some conflate the nation with Christianity itself. He called for repenting of Americanism and beginning to cultivate “believers who are martyrs in the original sense of ‘witness’ and in the later sense of men and women ready to follow the Lamb all the way to an imperial cross.”24

Significantly, Leithart has also proposed “the end of Protestantism” in a way that suggests a growing affinity for the kind of Catholicism expressed by George Weigel—a U.S. Catholic culture warrior, neoconservative, signer of the Manhattan Declaration, and fellow First Things blogger. Leithart also proposes the related notion of a “Reformational Catholicism,” which foresees a Rome-based Christian unity.25 He envisions this mutual accommodation as a kind of Christian maturity necessary for Christendom not only to survive but to prevail.

Leithart’s make-or-break vision would either end what he describes as anti-Christian tyranny or, failing that, build a new Christian nation—or nations. He is less concerned with the ups and downs of single issues than with the long-term advance of Christendom. This is consistent with the revolutionary visions of an influential Catholic thinker, Father C. John McCloskey, who believes that regional American strongholds of conservative Christianity may be necessary in light of the culture of religious pluralism and the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state.

Ending the Tyrannical Regime

The accelerating advance of LGBTQ rights, especially marriage equality, has become a flashpoint for the Christian Right’s revolutionary impulses. “The only America that actually exists,” Christian theocrat Peter Leithart has written, “is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.”

McCloskey, a 61-year-old priest in the conservative order Opus Dei, is best known for his role in the religious conversions of Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and various other prominent and influential conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, Robert Bork, economist Lawrence Kudlow, financier Lewis Lehrman, and the late journalist Robert Novak.

McCloskey told columnist Terry Mattingly in July 2013 that “the United States is no longer a Christian country.” Because this is so, he explained, traditionalists will need to cluster in states that are more congenial to their views on such matters as abortion, marriage, parents rights, and homeschooling. “No one in this country has ever really suffered for their faith in any meaningful way,” McCloskey said. “Those days are ending, especially in certain states . . . Among Catholics, we may soon find that many are Americans more than they are Catholics.”26

Leithart has called for Christians to "risk martyrdom and force Babel" and either acknowledge Jesus or "begin drinking holy blood." Photo courtesy of Zac Calvert

Leithart has called for Christians to “risk martyrdom and force Babel” and either acknowledge Jesus or “begin drinking holy blood.” Photo courtesy of Zac Calvert

McCloskey predicted in 2001, and again in 2012, that conservative Catholics and evangelicals would need to band together in a civil war of secession. The “secession of the ‘Culture of Life’ states,” he predicted, would emphasize “the fundamental issues of the sanctity of marriage, the rights of parents, and the sacredness of human life,” and that the secession would precipitate “a short and bloody civil war” that would break the country into what he calls “the Regional States of America.”27 He repeated this general view in an essay in January 2014, in which he discussed separating from the “tyrannical regime” in Washington, D.C.28 McCloskey, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Faith and Reason Institute, has not said how he thinks this might happen, but he has said that the civil war may be all over by 2030. (Unsurprisingly, McCloskey has favorably reviewed one of the books of the prominent Catholic Neo-Confederate Thomas E. Woods, a founder of the League of the South.29)

McCloskey, like the rest of the Republican-oriented Christian Right, believes that the current electoral strategy of seeking political control of the Red states might sufficiently reduce the number of abortions without having to overturn Roe. But he avers that while people from those states who seek abortions “retain the option of traveling to the nearest blue state,” there is “much hope in this area for at least regional decreases in abortions.”30

Centuries of political and military conflict between Christian factions are being set aside in favor of strategic alliances that target the culture and constitutional structure of religious pluralism—and the supposedly “tyrannical” federal government. It may be more a matter of how, rather than when, the conversation about secession unfolds.

McCloskey finds encouragement in nullificationist activity in the Red states against what he considers “unjust laws” that protect abortion rights and access. He points to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback,31 who in 2013 signed legislation that defined life as beginning at conception as part of a bill that severely restricts, but doesn’t ban, abortion.32 Brownback has promoted nullification as a strategy of resistance to what is viewed as federal intrusions on state sovereignty regarding, among other things, gun control.33

“The red state/blue state dichotomy could—perhaps sooner than we might think—result in states opting to pull out of the union,” McCloskey wrote in January 2014. He wondered about what secession might mean for a superpower such as the United States, and about how the armed forces might react.“[B]ut ultimately,” he concluded, “the protection of innocent life trumps any tyrannical regime.”34 McCloskey has said he hopes that it will not come to the violence he has predicted, but for more than a decade he has openly said that a conflict with what he calls “the atheistic American Herods” is probably inevitable.35

This kind of thinking is not new within the farther reaches of the religious and political Right. The Christian Right theorist and prolific author Gary North, for example, wrote about the long-term revolutionary implications of what he and others were doing. North objected to the 1994 assassination of a Florida abortion provider and his escort by a fellow Christian Reconstructionist, Paul Hill, who had also authored a manifesto in which he called for Christian militias to rise up against the federal government.36 North argued that the assassination was premature and that the foundation for theocratic Christian revolution had not been properly laid. Nevertheless, North felt that something serious was already underway. “For the first time in over 300 years,” he wrote in 1987, “a growing number of Christians are starting to view themselves as an army on the move.  This army will grow.” He concluded: “We are self-consciously firing the first shot.”37

It is not clear that the Christian Right is any more ready to revolt now than it was in 1994 —a period that was marked by a wave of arsons, bombings, and assassinations against abortion providers, as well as the rise of the militia movement. (Post 9/11, these violent movements were largely neutralized by federal law enforcement.) But as the 2009 Manhattan Declaration and other compacts created between Christian conservatives in recent decades have shown, the religious wars that have pitted Christian factions against one another for millennia, politically and militarily, are being resolved in favor of strategic alliances against the culture and constitutional structure of religious pluralism, and against the allegedly “tyrannical” federal government.38 Thus the Catholic/evangelical conversation may be taking a surprising turn.

It may be more a matter of how, rather than when, the conversation about secession unfolds. Some see restoring the Christian nation (which arguably never was) as a hopeless cause. Others hope that a revival-powered wave of Christian nationalism will propel a profound cultural and political transformation. But if such a transformed America is not to be, a coalition with the avatars of Confederate revivalism will become more appealing, and will be well-aligned with McCloskey’s vision of the secession of conservative states.

Theology of Neo-Confederatism

Those who have long lived at the intersections of the Christian Right and the Neo-Confederate movement will find much in common with the culture warring, secessionist, violent visionary sensibilities of Lane and McCloskey, if variations on the theology of Neo-Confederatism gain further traction. Pastor David Whitney, 56, who leads the small Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, MD (near Washington, D.C.), may epitomize the trend.

Though not widely known, Whitney is a well-connected figure on the Far Right. He is chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South and is a signatory of the “Covenant” of the six-year-old Southern National Congress, which openly seeks an “independent republic.”39 He travels the country as the senior instructor at the Institute on the Constitution, which offers theocratic interpretations of U.S. history, and he is a perennial candidate for political office who has run on the Republican and Constitution Party tickets. In 2014 he ran in a Democratic primary for county council.

Like Lane and McCloskey, Whitney is revealing himself to be increasingly revolutionary.40 He declared on Independence Day 2010, for example, that if government does not conform to God’s law, “the people have a right to secede” from the “wicked regime in Washington, D.C.” and its “despicable and evil tyranny.” He believes that we therefore may eventually have to make the “same difficult decision which our forebears reached on that hot July day in Philadelphia.”41

Whitney has become only more overtly militant since then. In February 2011, he threatened secession in testimony before the Judicial Proceedings Committee of the Maryland State Senate. For example, he claimed that passage of marriage-equality legislation would delegitimize the state government, such that state laws should not be obeyed; that the state courts and executive branch have no authority; that taxes should not be paid; and that “we should from this point forward consider it as our Founders considered King George III.” If the legislation passed, he said, “multitudes” would want to secede from the state.42 While there is no obvious secessionist uprising seeking to fracture Maryland in the wake of the passage of marriage-equality legislation, that issue is hardly Whitney’s only concern—and his seething sensibility has taken a turn to vigilantism.

In a June 2013 sermon, he justified the murder of abortion providers. In discussing a Christian’s duty to defend life, he said that this included the prevention of “the murder of the unborn” and that “we need to understand that there is such a thing as Biblically justifiable homicide.”43 This places him in a distinct lineage of justification for murder that goes back at least to Paul Hill and was specifically rejected as a legal defense by the Florida courts. Hill had advocated the notion of justifiable homicide for more than a year before he decided to take action himself.44

A May 2013 sermon helps to establish the context for Whitney’s notions of extrajudicial killings.  “When you talk to people about God’s law being restored in America,” he declared, “they say, ‘Awww, you’re some ayatollah. Awww, you want a theocracy.’” He explained that, “Well yes, I want obedience to God’s law because that is where liberty comes from. Liberty comes from God’s law.  Tyranny comes when God’s law is rejected by a society as it has been rejected in our day.” He went on to say that any law that “contradicts God’s law… is not law at all.”45

Consistent with his deeply theocratic bent, Whitney wrote in February 2014 that we should “restrict citizenship” to Christians of the right sort: Christians who—whether voting or serving as jurors, government officials, or “in the Militia”—operate according to “God’s Law.”46 In October 2013, he preached that “God’s word is wise in how to structure a human civil government. Because if a human civil government allows a tyrant to control an army, you are going to lose your freedom. It’s only when you, the people, are armed in a militia structure that you can prevent that kind of tyranny from overwhelming the country.”

In a sermon in March 2014, Whitney called for imprecatory prayer against the White House staff (presumably including President Obama), apparently because of the Affordable Care Act. “There are many enemies that we could pray against them that God would do unto them what they are seeking to do unto us,” he told his congregation. “There are those, including those in the White House, through their death panels, who intend to kill us. May God do to them what they intend to do to us.”47

Such Words as These

It could be argued that the so-called culture wars have been long on metaphor and relatively short on violence. That would be fair, even when we consider the violence directed against LGBTQ people and the four decades of arsons, bombings, and assassinations directed at abortion providers since Roe. But the protagonists of the story of the various elements of the Christian Right see themselves as playing a different role than that cast by visionaries of perpetual social progress. There are also clear tensions between those who can live with the social changes taking place in the country, those who can’t, and those who do not see the battle as one of single issues, but one of the survival of Christendom—and whether or not Christians are willing to fight for it.

Taken singly, the views of any of the Christian Right leaders described here would not necessarily signal a trend. But taken together, the commonalities of their views take the edge off of their many differences and reveal distinct, overlapping factions of a dynamic movement towards the ideas of nullification and secession—and the possibility of violence and revolution.

One does not have to believe that secession or revolution of any kind would be successful, or that widespread violence is likely anytime soon, to recognize that the political tensions preceding any major matters of nullification, and moves towards secession by any state, would likely beget violence of many kinds. Which is why ignoring Lane, Leithart, McCloskey, Whitney, and their like—or assuming that they are anything less than deadly serious—could be an error of historic significance.

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1 David Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” World Net Daily, June 6, 2013.
2 This is also different than, but not necessarily mutually exclusive with, “eliminationist” rhetoric as described in David Neiwert, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, (PoliPointPress, 2009).
3 Grace Wyler, “10 Evangelical Powerbrokers Behind Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally To Save America,” Business Insider, Aug. 5, 2011, www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-masterminds-behind-rick-perrys-prayer-rally-to-save-america-2011-8?op=1.
4 Eric Eckholm, “An Iowa Stop in a Broad Effort To Revitalize the Religious Right,” New York Times, Apr. 3, 2011, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9806E5DF1E30F930A35757C0A9679D8B63&pagewanted=1; Grace Wyler, “10 Evangelical Powerbrokers Behind Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally To Save America,” Business Insider, Aug. 5, 2011, www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-masterminds-behind-rick-perrys-prayer-rally-to-save-america-2011-8?op=1.
5 Bruce Wilson, “Ted Cruz Anointed by Pro-Religious War, Antigay Pastors,” Talk to Action, Oct. 11, 2013, www.talk2action.org/story/2013/10/11/173533/73.
6 Wayne Slater, “Ted Cruz headed to Iowa to speak with influential conservative pastors,” Dallas Morning News, June 6, 2013, www.dallasnews.com/news/columnists/wayne-slater/20130606-wayne-slater-ted-cruz-headed-to-iowa-to-speak-with-influential-conservative-pastors.ece; David Brody, “EXCLUSIVE: Evangelical Pastors Ready to Mobilize for 2014 Election, Say ‘America Has Left God,’” The Brody File, CBN, Feb. 25, 2013, http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2013/02/25/exclusive-evangelical-pastors-ready-to-mobilize-for-2014-election-say.aspx.
7 David Brody (guest host for Glenn Beck), interview with David Lane, “David Lane on Glenn Beck Show,” The Blaze, Dec. 3, 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wRBJZF8vKw.
8 Huckabee was also featured at the February 2014 Pastors’ Policy Briefing in North Carolina. See Sarah Posner, “The Revival of the Pastors’ Policy Briefings,” Religion Dispatches, Mar. 1, 2011. www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/4320/the_revival_of_the_pastors’_policy_briefing.
9 Rachel Tabachnick, “Spiritual Warriors with an Antigay Mission: The New Apostolic Reformation,” Public Eye, Mar. 22, 2013, www.politicalresearch.org/2013/03/22/spiritual-warriors-with-an-antigay-mission.
10 Rob Boston, “Sects, Lies and Videotape:  David Barton’s Distorted History,” Church & State (April 1993). For more on Barton and Christian nationalism, see also, Frederick Clarkson, “History is Powerful:  Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters,” Public Eye, Spring 2007, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2007/03/05/history-is-powerfulwhy-the-christian-right-distorts-history-and-why-it-matters/.
11 David Brody, “Revival in America? Time to Get off the Sidelines!” Christian Broadcasting Network, Aug. 1, 2013, www.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2013/July/Time-to-Get-Off-Sidelines-Iowa-Pastors-Say-Yes.
12 Denise Oliver Velez, “Rand Paul’s outreach coordinator declares ‘holy war’ on us,” Daily Kos, June 16, 2013, www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/16/1214807/-Rand-Paul-s-outreach-coordinator-declares-holy-war-on-us.
13 Brian Tashman, “David Lane Predicts Car Bombings in LA, DC and Des Moines over Gay Inauguration Prayers,” Right Wing Watch, July 23, 2013, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/david-lane-predicts-car-bombings-la-dc-and-des-moines-over-gay-inauguration-prayers.
14 Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence,” Public Eye (March/June 1994), www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisrec.html.
15 Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation.”
16 Lane often calls for the rise of Gideons and Rahabs in his published writings, notably in David Lane, “Will a Gideon or the Harlot please stand?” Christian Response Alerts, Oct. 17, 2012, www.christianresponsealerts.com/2012/10/will-a-gideon-or-the-harlot-please-stand.
17 Peter J. Leithart, “A Call to Martyrdom,” First Things, July 2, 2013, www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/07/02/a-call-to-martyrdom.
18 Leithart’s father, Paul Leithart, is a longtime leader of the John Birch Society, including current membership on the National Council.
19 Mark Potok,“Doug Wilson’s Religious Empire Expanding in the Northwest:  A religious empire based in Idaho is part of the far-right theological movement fueling neo-Confederate groups,” Intelligence Report (Spring 2004), www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2004/spring/taliban-on-the-palouse; Nick Gier, “Douglas Wilson, Southern Presbyterians, and Neo-Confederates,” Talk to Action, Jan. 11, 2008, www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/11/191549/134.
20 Edward H. Sebesta and Euan Hague, “The U.S. Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South,” Canadian Review of American Studies (2002), 270.
21 Nick Gier, “Douglas Wilson, Southern Presbyterians, and Neo-Confederates,” Talk to Action, Jan. 11, 2008, www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/11/191549/134.
22 Peter J. Leithart, “A Call to Martyrdom,” First Things, July 2, 2013, www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/07/02/a-call-to-martyrdom.
23 David Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” World Net Daily, June 6, 2013, citing Peter J. Leithart, Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective (Cascade Books, 2012), 152.
24 Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” citing Leithart, Between Babel and Beast, xiii.
25 Peter J. Leithart, “The End of Protestantism,” First Things, Nov. 8, 2013, www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/11/the-end-of-protestantism. Interestingly, David Lane organized a private dinner for clergy with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) so they could hear his story of conversion from Hinduism to “evangelical Catholicism”:  Tom Hamburger, “Bobby Jindal, raised Hindu, uses Christian conversion to woo GOP base for 2016 run,” Washington Post, May 12, 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bobby-jindal-raised-hindu-uses-christian-conversion-to-woo-gop-base-for-2016-run/2014/05/12/c446fa34-d989-11e3-8009-71de85b9c527_story.html?hpid=z1.
26 Terry Mattingly, “John Paul II and the death of Christian America,” Press-Republican, July 8, 2013, www.pressrepublican.com/0205_columns/x881892943/John-Paul-II-and-the-death-of-Christian-America.
27 C. John McCloskey III, “2030 Revisited,” The Catholic Thing, Mar. 15, 2012, www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2012/2030-revisited.html; Frederick Clarkson, “God is My Co-Belligerent: Avatar Priests, Hijacked Theologians, and Other Figures of Right-Wing Revolt,” Religion Dispatches, July 23, 2012, www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/6207/god_is_my_co_belligerent__avatar_priests__hijacked_theologians__and_other_figures_of_right_wing_revolt/;  For more on McCloskey, see Frank L. Cocozzelli, “The Politics of Schism in the Catholic Church,” Public Eye, Fall 2009, www.publiceye.org/magazine/v24n3/politics-schism-catholic-hurch.html.
28 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Pro-life Movement,” Truth and Charity Forum (2014), www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-pro-life-movement. See also Frank Cocozzelli, “Opus Dei Priest’s Secessionist Roadmap to Theocracy,” Talk to Action, Apr. 1, 2014, www.talk2action.org/story/2014/4/1/142834/8120.
29 C. John McCloskey, “Battle for Marriage Heats Up in California,” National Catholic Register, Sept. 4, 2005, www.ncregister.com/site/article/battle_for_marriage_heats_up_in_california.
30 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Gospel of Life in America,” Truth and Charity Forum, June 12, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-gospel-of-life-in-america.
31 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Gospel of Life in America,” Truth and Charity Forum, June 12, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-gospel-of-life-in-america.
32 Katie McDonough, “Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signs sweeping anti-choice bill into law,” Salon, Apr. 22, 2013, www.salon.com/2013/04/22/kansas_gov_sam_brownback_signs_sweeping_anti_choice_bill_into_law.
33 Rachel Tabachnick and Frank Cocozzelli, “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right,” Public Eye (Fall 2013), www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/nullification-neo-confederates-and-the-revenge-of-the-old-right.
34 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Pro-life Movement,” Truth and Charity Forum, Jan. 13, 2014, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-pro-life-movement.
35 Quote is from C. J. McCloskey, “The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Dr. Nathanson the Prophet,” Truth and Charity Forum, Jan. 14, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/the-40th-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade-and-dr-nathanson-the-prophet. Also see C. J. McCloskey, “2030: Looking Backwards,” CatholiCity (May 2000), www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/2030.html.
36 Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1997), 141-142.
37 Gary North, “What Are Biblical Blueprints?” in Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government (Dominion Press, 1987), 270.
38 Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance,” Public Eye (Summer 2013), www.politicalresearch.org/christian-right-seeks-renewal-in-deepening-catholic-protestant-alliance.
39 “The Southern National Covenant,” Southern National Congress, www.southernnationalcongress.org/Southern_National_Covenant.
40 Frederick Clarkson, “Two Neo-Confederate Leaders Join Republican & Democratic Parties to Run For Office,” Political Research Associates, Feb. 27, 2014, www.politicalresearch.org/2014/02/27/two-neo-confederate-leaders-join-republican-democratic-parties-to-run-for-office.
41 Clarkson, “Two Neo-Confederate Leaders Join Republican & Democratic Parties to Run For Office.” The sermon was taken down after PRA exposed it. However, the relevant audio clip of Whitney’s July 4, 2010, sermon survives: see “David Whitney on the God-given right to secede,” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn3O0-n5chY.
42 David Whitney, “Pastor Whitney testifies before Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee,” American View, Feb. 23, 2011, www.theamericanview.com/pastor-whitney-testifies-before-maryland-senate-judicial-proceedings-committee.
43 Adele M. Stan, “Anti-Choice Proponent of ‘Justifiable Homicide’ Vies for Spot on Democratic Council,” RH Reality Check, Feb. 28, 2014, http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/02/28/anti-choice-proponent-justifiable-homicide-vies-spot-democratic-council. The church has taken down this sermon (and others) since PRA ran the original story, but we have a copy.
44 Clarkson, Eternal Hostility.
45 David Whitney, “The Price of Liberty,” Sermon, May 5, 2013. Retrieved from http://cornerstone.dnsalias.org:8000/Cornerstone/CEFC.htm The link to this sermon is no longer available, but PRA has the excerpt posted on YouTube. See “David Whitney says if it’s not God’s law, it’s ‘pretend law,’” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAV_Deg7Cfw.
46 David Whitney, “Rethinking Citizenship,” Western Journalism Center, Feb. 21, 2014, www.westernjournalism.com/rethinking-citizenship.
47 David Whitney, “The American View Sermon Series – March 16, 2014,” Mar. 16, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z_HzA20Z6s.

VIDEO: Fred Clarkson Explains the Fight for Religious Freedom

The concerted effort by the Religious Right to redefine Religious Freedom is steadily making its way through the courts and legislators. Political Research Associates’ senior fellow, Fred Clarkson, explains why all Americans (religious and non-religious alike), should be paying attention.

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Fred Religious Freedom Picture

Beyond Lively & Warren: U.S. Conservative Legal Groups Changing African Law to Persecute Sexual Minorities & Women

ACLJ ADF

While the exposure of the direct involvement of U.S. conservative culture warriors like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren in draconian anti-gay laws in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria has put many in the Religious Right on the defensive, there are many other leaders in the movement to export the U.S. culture wars who have largely remained incognito. As more African nations move to pass anti-gay laws, there is a need to reflect on the role U.S. conservative legal groups have played on the continent.

In September 2009, for example, leaders from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund), and Advocate International—the conservative legal group that claims to “protect religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family”—presented seminars at “Be Transformed: Steering the African Continent to Righteousness, Justice and Peace by Renewing our Minds,” a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sam Casey, ADF’s founder and General Counsel for U.S. Right Wing Advocates International, and Jeffery Ventrella, Senior Vice-President of Strategic of Training at ADF were plenary speakers. Ventrella spoke about “Religious Freedom, the Homosexual Agenda and Advocacy,” capitalizing on the popular attack on LGBTQ people that the secret overarching agenda of the push for equality for sexual minorities is to “recruit” young children.

What makes the involvement of these well-funded American organizations worrisome is their focus on the legal aspect of the persecution and imprisonment of LGBTQ people, and their well-orchestrated collaboration with other foes of LGBTQ justice. The Alliance Defending Freedom’s involvement in Africa immediately follows that of American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ – founded by Pat Robertson), which helped draft the successfully-passed 1996Defense of the Marriage Act (DOMA)—which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “unconstitutional” in June, 2013.

The ACLJ has setup offices around the world, and in Africa operates under the name “East African Center for Law and Justice” in Kenya, and the “Africa Center for Law and Justice” in Zimbabwe. Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s Executive Director, asserted that his organization assists Africans to “uphold pro-life and pro-family values.” ACLJ, he continued, “has partnered with Africans in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and has been doing great work in Africa now for years.” Behind these U.S. conservative groups’ agenda—ACLJ, ADF, and Advocates International—is an attempt to export U.S. culture wars to Africa, falsely claiming that they are authentic and original African values.

Wherever these groups work, their impact is the same: increased persecution of LGBTQ persons and the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Just as European missionaries transformed African culture and values on the premise of religion, these organizations are doing the same. For example, during the 2009 Advocates International conference, Sam Casey, addressed the issue of reproductive health in a speech entitled “Protecting Life: An International Status Report.” Three years later, just after the Rwandan government ratified Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,  in which African governments committed themselves to ensure women’s health and reproductive rights (including safe abortions), Casey traveled to Rwanda to urge Rwandans to “join together to form a nationwide pro-life movement built around the San Jose Articles. … In consultation with Heartbeat International, Human Life International or Life International,” Casey wrote, Rwandans must introduce a “pregnancy resource center” to provide conservative counseling, and pregnancy diagnosis, which would inform “women about the health risks of all their options, including the induced abortions.”

Like the American Center for Law and Justice, the U.S.-based Human Life International operates in Africa. Where no African had yet signed onto the San Jose Articles, these groups aimed to turn Africa into a U.S. conservative-modeled continent by recasting the Maputo Protocol as un-African.

But while they find it easy to win over Africans on homosexuality, generally, African nations tend to be more open to women’s health and reproductive rights. In his Mission Report to Namibia in 2010, Human Life International’s Brian Clowes complained that:

“[M]any Namibians have fallen victim to anti-life thinking, simply because they haven’t heard the other side of the story. They did not comprehend why explicit sex education and contraception are intrinsically evil, and they found it very difficult to understand the scientific evidence and Church teachings on these issues.” [emphasis his]

Both Clowes’ and Casey’s claims are not just insulting to Africa, but imperialistic. Why should U.S. groups export their ideologies to Africa—why should they believe they know better than Africans? Unlike many leaders of the U.S. conservative ideology, most Africans understand that sex education, abortion and contraception save lives. But thanks to the intense pressure of these right-wing actors, the once-rational thinking among African nations is being corrupted in order to deny women of their rights—frequently through legislation such as constitutional amendments (which the American groups help to draft) which define life as beginning at conception. Even in a country like Rwanda, for example, disinformation campaigns from these U.S. organizations has pushed the general public to actually believe that abortion is a crime.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, Advocates International, and the American Center for Law and Justice are three of the leading U.S. conservative legal organizations involved in exporting the U.S. culture wars to Africa. But unlike Americans like Lively, Engle, and Warren who came into the spotlight after giving public speeches to sway the local populaces, these secretive conservative legal organizations have been able to avoid negative press by working directly with lawmakers to draft and impose draconian laws, creating the false impression that they’re coming solely from these countries’ representatives.

Last week, the Ethiopian government cancelled the anti-gay rally and dropped the proposed anti-gay bill, but the LGBTQ community continues to be under surveillance and under attack. At this moment, LGBTQ persons “are very scared even to socialize,” a prominent human rights activist recently told me.

U.S. conservatives claim innocence when it comes to the exportation of homophobia—especially when called to account. But the truth is that intense persecution and violence against LGBTQ people is what follows these “innocent” visits from the American Right.

Updating the Image of Anti-LGBTQ Bigotry

imago dei

The most recent “softer-language” campaign to launch from the Right is the Imago Dei Campaign, organized by a group of Christian Right leaders and Hollywood allies. The group, whose name translates from Latin to “image of God,” is seeking to alter its leaders’ well-established reputation as promoters of anti-LGBTQ bigotry and discriminatory legislation. The Campaign has been well received in the media—which often finds itself prematurely declaring the so-called “culture wars” at an end (or just about). And while the group is proposing some ostensibly welcome changes, there is also much about the Campaign social justice advocates, journalists, and scholars should be skeptical of.

Before we discuss the point for which the Campaign is best known—acknowledging that gay people are made in the image of God—we should note that the Campaign is unequivocal and uncompromising in its attack on reproductive justice and as an exercise in religious supremacism. The intended effect is to drive a wedge between LGBTQ equality supporters and defenders of reproductive justice—factions that have historically sought to make headway together.

The central statement of the Imago Dei Campaign is actually a profoundly anti-abortion declaration: “I recognize that every human being, in and out of the womb, carries the image of God; without exception. Therefore, I will treat everyone with love and respect.” [Emphasis added]

Thus, far from a de-escalation of the culture wars, as some have suggested, this effort is an opportunistic effort to further divide their political and religious opposition.  Many Christians (not to mention people of other and no religious traditions) not only see abortion as a moral decision and consistent with their Christian faith, but that it is no obstacle to seeing others as created in the image of God. But the Imago Dei Campaign, and by extension many in the Christian Right leadership, have sought to gain control of and own the definition of Christianity—projecting an image to the world that all Christians have the same opinion about a woman’s right to choose.

Leader of the Pack

Leading the Campaign is Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). Joining him is Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family; Mat Staver, President of Liberty Counsel (who also sits on the Executive Committee and General Counsel of NHCLC); longtime televangelist James Robison; and Hollywood TV and movie producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (responsible for the popular movie Son of God – a spinoff of the mini-series The Bible, which aired on the History Channel in 2013).

“For the image of God exists in all human beings,” the Campaign declares, “black and white; rich and poor; straight and gay; conservative and liberal; victim and perpetrator; citizen and undocumented; believer and unbeliever.”

Declaring that “every human being” is made in God’s image is certainly a remarkable departure from the type of rhetoric we have heard for so many years from both opponents of marriage equality in the United States, and promoters of anti-LGTBQ sentiment in Africa and Russia. And it is arguably an improvement over previous efforts to reconcile Christian love with the alleged sin of homosexuality in the 1980s, when conservative Christians were urged to “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

“The church of Jesus Christ and the word hatred should not even appear in the same sentence,” Rodriguez said. “What if every single person can recognize the image of God in the other? Wouldn’t that bring down the noise of the hateful rhetoric? Wouldn’t that build a firewall between intolerance and bullying? Wouldn’t that build a firewall against extremism?”

There is no question that words and tone are important, and all people of goodwill hope their efforts will make a difference. But these changes alone only serve to mask an ongoing campaign that is virulent as ever in its effort to combat LGBTQ justice. Indeed, it could actually be a hindrance to the fight for LGBTQ equality by lulling equality supporters into complacency while the Christian Right pursues its broader political and religious objectives.

For example, while this campaign of supposed brotherly love splashes across the media, the Christian Right leadership continues to claim that Christians are being persecuted in America—stirring the stew of bigotry and resentment on the farther right of American religious and political life. “This is not an issue of equality,” Rodriguez said, regarding marriage equality on a radio show in May 2012. “There is an attempt to silence the voice of Christianity, there is an attempt to silence the voice of truth, of righteousness and Biblical justice.” That talking point is followed with legislation that would condone commercial discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds (such bills have appeared in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, and Utah, and several other states).

The Other Shoe Drops

Let’s look at a few other things the Campaign has said—and a few things they have not.

First, let’s note that the Campaign’s leadership did not bother to apologize or ask forgiveness for the culture of personal and political bigotry and discrimination they have promoted for decades as individuals and via the organizations they lead. Nor did they say that they will in any way change or alter their activities or (even more importantly) their policies. The objective of the Campaign seems simply to come across as nicer while they pursue an oppressive political agenda against LGBTQ people.

Jim Daly has told reporters that the Campaign is seeking to avoid framing its message in warlike terms, such as in the “culture war” framing. But Daly’s remarks notwithstanding, there is little indication they are moderating their war of aggression on the civil and human rights of others. Indeed, the Campaign acknowledges that it has not changed its opposition to marriage equality or the idea that homosexuality is a sin. What’s more, the recent initiatives of Citizen Link—the national political arm of Jim Daly’s Focus on the Family—and its state political affiliates demonstrate that the changes in language may be superficial and are intended to distract from or take the edge off of their recent effort to legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination for reasons of “sincerely held religious belief.”

Sarah Posner, writing at Al Jazeera America, noted that Citizen Link affiliates in Arizona, Idaho, and Kansas have been centrally involved in the development and promotion of similar bills. As I reported in The Public Eye magazine last year, these groups are  part of a well-coordinated national network of state “family policy councils” that have promoted anti-LGBTQ legislation and ballot initiatives—particularly against marriage equality and non-discrimination laws—since their formation in 1988. Daly would have us focus on his softer words and tone, turning a blind eye towards the horrific legislation he and his religious and political empire are promoting.

It is also worth noting that Tom Minnery, Executive Director of Citizen Link, is a longtime member of the board of directors of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund). Acting as a Christian Right legal strategy network, the ADF was instrumental in drafting the Arizona legislation seeking to codify anti-LGTBQ discrimination.

In addition, Mat Staver heads the small Christian Right law firm Liberty Counsel, which is representing virulently anti-gay Christian Right activist Scott Lively in Federal District Court in Massachusetts. Lively is accused of committing crimes against humanity for inciting anti-LGBTQ violence in Uganda and for his role in the creation of that country’s recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality law. “This lawsuit against Rev. Scott Lively,” Staver declared in a press release when the suit was filed, “is a gross attempt to use a vague international law to silence, and eventually criminalize, speech by U.S. citizens on homosexuality and moral issues. This suit should cause everyone to be concerned, because it a direct threat against freedom of speech.”

Lively and other evangelicals have engaged in a wide ranging effort, as Eric Ethington has reported here, “to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.” The same could be said of the Imago Dei Campaign by Christian Right leaders—seeking to whitewash their own history of involvement in the spread of damaging, un-Christianlike homophobia, and turning a blind eye to the gross excesses of others, to the point of pretending that they never even existed.

Scott Lively & Rick Warren: The PR Campaign to Whitewash the Right’s Anti-Gay Uganda History

scott lively, rick warren, uganda

As a comms person myself, I can really appreciate a good PR campaign, and the best I’ve seen in a long time is the new effort by U.S. right-wing evangelicals to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.

For the last five years, human rights advocates around the world been discussing how U.S. conservative figures were integrally involved in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”). Vast amounts of research have been produced on the involvement of conservatives such as Rick Warren (who posted a YouTube video supporting California’s Prop 8 only to later take it down and deny it ever happened), and hours of undercover footage were taken of Scott Lively (famous for claiming the Nazi Party was really a gay club in his book The Pink Swastika) in Kampala, Uganda, advocating the bill’s creation with local political and religious leaders.

As evidence of their involvement has spread throughout the U.S., the public’s sentiment on these characters’ involvement has soured considerably. This was exacerbated when, last month, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, ascribing life-in-prison sentences to LGBTQ people in the African nation, criminalizing advocacy of homosexuality, and requiring authority figures (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) to report LGBTQ people to the government.

The American public is finally taking notice. Story after story in major media outlets (The GuardianReal News NetworkThe Rachel Maddow Show, and the National Journal in just the last few weeks) is running about these right-wing evangelicals’ involvement, and the millions of dollars they’ve poured into Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere in carefully crafted campaigns to train local pastors and political leaders how to use culture wars-talking points for an all-out attack on LGBTQ people.

So if you were a right-wing public figure, and all of a sudden found yourself standing alone, staring down the barrel of public anger over your past work, what would you do?

For most public figures, it would be a career-ending disaster. But when you’ve got the money, the personnel, and a stellar PR team, you just might be able to convince the rest of us of a simple little lie: They were against the law in the first place.

The process of turning someone who claims “gay = Nazi” and that “equal rights = condoning pedophilia” into a “moderate” is quite the sight to behold.

Step 1: Float the New Idea 

In an interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More” program, Scott Lively wasted no time distancing himself from the criminalization measures in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Almost before host Michel Martin could finish introducing him, Lively jumped in with, “I have mixed feelings about the bill. I support the provisions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse of children and intentional spreading of AIDS through sodomy. But I think the other provisions are too harsh, and I don’t support those and I wish they’d gone in a different direction.”

Quite the change from the Scott Lively of 2009, who wrote a blog post while in Uganda where he admitted meeting with local lawmakers, warning Ugandans “how bad things would be” if it was not illegal to be an LGBTQ person, and that his campaign to enact legislation further persecuting sexual minorities was “a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda in Uganda.” He concluded, “I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.”

Step 2: Create a New Image

For the last several years, Pastor Rick Warren has been successfully advancing his media blitz to get people talking about anything other than his stance on homosexuality. In December of last year, he was featured in TIME Magazine talking about his new weight-loss plan. This same story has been pushed hard by Warren’s PR team, resulting in features in Parade Magazine and NPR—none of which mentioned his flip-flop on Prop 8, or his involvement with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

Step 3: Strategically Place Reinforcements of your Talking Points

Following the NPR story with Lively, a new article surfaced on the Religious News Service, expertly titled “U.S. evangelicals on the defense over Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

Staging the piece as a journalistic interview, author Sarah Pulliam Bailey basically transcribes a press release from Scott Lively and Rick Warren, disavowing themselves of their involvement:

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda bill…

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.

“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

He said he does not support the bill in its final form.

Never mind that Lively himself has admitted on several occasions that he had seen and reviewed the original “Kill the Gays Bill” before it had been released to the public. Despite the ample evidence of Lively and Warren’s involvement in Uganda, none of it is mentioned. There isn’t even a hint at what pro-human rights groups have found in their research.

Step 4: Spread the Word

Now that they’ve gotten their press release printed as if it were an accredited journalistic account, the right-wing PR campaign can push to get mainstream outlets to reprint. The whitewashed article has been republished not only on small sites like Spokane Faith & Values, but on major outlets like The Washington Post.

As is typical with controversial and nuanced stories, the simple talking points are much easier to publish. Why bother researching what these right-wing evangelicals have said and done beyond U.S. borders, when they’re willing to tell American media a completely different—and significantly more palatable—story on camera?

The Fatal Flaw

This massive PR campaign has only made one mistake so far, but it’s a big one. Rick Warren has, by far, been the most successful at misleading the public into thinking he’s a moderate. He’s been at it for years. If the campaign had aimed to only wash Warren’s hands of Ugandan LGBTQ blood, it would probably succeed with flying colors. But the efforts have been ambitious than that.

The inclusion of Scott Lively throws the door wide open for the public to see this PR stunt for what it is. While few people other than researchers on the ground have seen Warren at work in Africa—partnering with local anti-gay clergy and feeding them the funds necessary to push through the Anti-Homosexuality Bill—plenty of people have heard Scott Lively on air or in his writings comparing LGBTQ people to rapists and pedophiles. Plenty of people have seen the undercover videos from Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma of Scott Lively in Uganda explaining that if they don’t enact anti-gay legislation then gays from America will come and recruit their children. And plenty of people have seen the videos of Scott Lively on Ugandan TV with the vehemently anti-gay Pastor Martin Ssempa, saying that Uganda needed to enact the Anti-Homosexuality law and criminalize LGBTQ people in order to save children from being “recruited

There’s no question of right-wing evangelical involvement in Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. The work has been verified and fact-checked by researchers around the globe, organizations like Amnesty International, and outlets such as the New York Times. There’s a reason a court refused to throw out the case against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.

It’s not just human rights advocates who are shocked by the turnabout from these conservatives. The anti-gay clergy in Uganda they’ve spent years training are shocked as well. Pastor Martin Ssempa was so surprised he published a letter addressed to Rick Warren, asking why he is now changing his story.

When you came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support to  the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”.

You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural  way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this  apect at all”.

Good PR work has a tendency to override facts. Tell people that something didn’t happen enough times, and eventually they’ll start to believe it. It’s up to us to tell the truth louder and more often.

VIDEO: Rev. Kapya Kaoma Discusses the U.S. Religious Right Behind Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law

PRA Researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma discusses U.S. conservative involvement in African anti-gay laws

PRA Researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma discusses U.S. conservative involvement in African anti-gay laws on The Real News Network

Political Research Associates’ Senior Religion and Sexuality Researcher, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, joined The Real News Network to discuss how U.S. conservative evangelicals are the real culprits behind Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law.

Watch the interview below or on TheRealNews.com

Profiles on the Right: Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

cbmw

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is an evangelical organization established in 1987 to “defend against the accommodation of secular feminism” in the church and promote gender “complementarianism,” which teaches that “distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order.” CBMW’s mission is to counter the influence of gender justice activism and to push back against women’s, reproductive, and LGBTQ rights by making the case for complementarianism through biblical interpretation, “scholarship,” and arguments from “common sense.” Despite its modest resources and media footprint, CBMW’s work provides talking points and theological rationales against gender equality that reach a large swath of American evangelicals.

The organization’s priorities are laid out in its founding document, the Danvers Statement. It is CBMW’s position that forbidding certain roles to girls and women does not undermine gender equality, but rather that “masculinity” and “femininity” are equal in value but have distinct roles. In addition to promoting these “roles” within the family, CBMW opposes the ordination of female clergy, gender-inclusive Bible translations (which it calls “gender-neutral”), and church and societal acceptance of any relationships outside monogamous heterosexual marriage.

CBMW’s current executive director, Owen Strachan, has written that husbands are the “God-appointed ‘head’” of wives and households, and that women—not men—are “called to be workers at home” and “designed to be physically and spiritually nurturers of their children.” Strachan has also written that those who harass patients at abortion providers are “suffering with Christ” and risking violence from pro-choice advocates with “murder in [their] eyes.”

CBMW’s teachings on female submission and patriarchal headship have particularly disturbing implications within the context of intimate partner violence. Founder John Piper preaches that the wives of abusive men continue to have a divine obligation to “submit” to their husbands, though he concedes that their obligation to “submit” to laws criminalizing spousal abuse may outweigh “duties” to violent husbands. This is a “clarification” of an earlier teaching that wives may have to “[endure] verbal abuse for a season … [or] perhaps being smacked one night” before seeking support from the church.

CBMW council member Bruce A. Ware has asserted that wives resist showing appropriate submission to husbands because of sinfulness and that men “may be required, in response, to reestablish [their] God-given rulership over” their wives. While Ware teaches that abuse is a “sinful” method of exercising that rulership, his remarks imply that abuse is a natural response by husbands to “threat[s] to their authority.”

CBMW has a small and dwindling budget ($84,719 in 2012, down from $126,581 in 2010) and little visibility or direct political impact outside the evangelical world, yet it has deep connections and influence within some of the most powerful evangelical institutions in the United States. Its founders, John Piper and Wayne Grudem, are influential evangelical theologians and authors; Grudem is a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. CBMW’s council members include Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), and Bruce Ware, a professor at SBTS and also former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm) and a former dean of SBTS, serves on the CBMW’s board. The current president of the Council, Presbyterian (PCA) pastor J. Ligon Duncan, is also president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Several board and council members are original signers of the Manhattan Declaration, which itself claims gender and sexual “complementarity” as a basis for opposition to reproductive and LGBTQ rights (see Fred Clarkson on the Declaration’s role in forging a new evangelical-Catholic alliance). Several members of CBMW’s board and council also belong to The Gospel Coalition, an increasingly powerful evangelical organization .

John Piper and Wayne Grudem are co-editors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (RBMW), a large collection of essays published in 1991 under CBMW’s auspices. Essays in RBMW cite not only scripture, but also biology, sociology, history, psychology, and law as evidence for the “wisdom” of complementarian gender roles. Topics include “The Biological Basis for Gender-Specific Behavior” and “Psychological Foundations for Rearing Masculine Boys and Feminine Girls”—the latter is an essay by the now thoroughly discredited “ex-gay therapy” proponent George Alan Rekers. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was honored by evangelical flagship magazine Christianity Today as its 1992 Book of the Year.

An abridged version of RBMW, “Fifty Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood,” cites Rekers’ work as providing “clinical evidence that there is no such thing as a ‘homosexual child’” and instead that “there are dynamics in the home that direct the sexual preferences of [a] child.” Piper and Grudem write that fathers play a particularly crucial role in instructing children in the distinctions between “masculinity” and “femininity,” in “firm and loving affirmation of [those distinctions]” in their children, and in “[shaping] the sexual identity of their tiny children.” RBMW and “Fifty Questions” remain the primary publications touted by CBMW—they are available for free download from CBMW’s website—in addition to its Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood published twice annually.

CBMW’s messaging through its publications, its website, and the teachings and writings of its influential members reaches millions of American evangelicals through the network of evangelical organizations to which CBMW belongs. Its teachings are taking on new relevance as the Right increasingly turns its attentions to the anti-LGBTQ battles it feels more confident about winning, specifically against transgender communities. CBMW’s copious teachings on gender difference and “gender confusion” are sure to play an important role in evangelical messaging against transgender rights and equality—and given CBMW’s relative lack of visibility, perhaps a stealth role.

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The Adoption Crunch, the Christian Right, and the Challenge to Indian Sovereignty

While the demand for adoptable babies is increasing in the United States—driven in large part by evangelical Christians—the number of babies available for adoption is declining. Adoption agencies are now targeting tribal nations as a potential new source of babies to adopt, and forming alliances that threaten to undermine the sovereignty of Native American nations.

photo credit: The Post and Courier

photo credit: The Post and Courier

**This article appears in the Winter 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine.**

On September 23, 2013, a child-custody battle that was nearly five years in the making came to its conclusion in Oklahoma when an Army veteran from the Cherokee Nation, Dusten Brown, handed over his daughter, Veronica, to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a White couple from South Carolina who had raised her for the first two years of her life.1

Brown gained custody of four-year-old Veronica in December 2011, after a South Carolina court ruled that the adoption process had violated federal Indian law. Brown’s attorneys also argued that Christina Maldonado—Brown’s ex-fiancé and Veronica’s biological mother, who is Latina—had deliberately concealed plans to let the Capobiancos adopt her.2  As the custody decision was reversed following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling,3 and Veronica was tucked into the Capobiancos’ car to return to South Carolina, the scene was broadcast across national and social media to two polarized camps.  Read More

The Anti-Democratic Policies of the Right’s “Defense of Marriage”

Marriage Cartoon

The Fall 2002 issue of The Public Eye magazine featured an article by R. Claire Snyder, titled “The Christian Right’s ‘Defense of Marriage:’ Democratic Rhetoric, Antidemocratic Politics”. The piece explores how the anti-LGBT and anti-feminist ideology on the Right intersects with their ostensibly democratic rhetoric, and moreover how their ideologies serve a vision of a Christian nation designed to deny rights to minorities.

Snyder cites the populist appeals of the Far Right as integral to their strategy, masking an anti-democratic agenda. She notes the idea of a liberal democracy, in which secular government acts to protect the civil rights and liberties of individuals rather than imposing a particular vision of civil society on citizens, as something that is continually distorted by the Right to favor a conservative, Christian vision of the United States.

Specifically, Snyder explores how equal rights for LGBTQ citizens are endangered by this agenda. “Assuming a populist pose,” she says, “the Christian Right claims to speak for the interests of ordinary people who are supposedly being attacked by an ‘elite’ homosexual lobby.” Today, in the face of approximately 52 percent support for marriage equality in all 50 states, the Right continues to cite populist support in their endeavors.

In the article, Snyder cites the introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment by the group Alliance for Marriage as one among many of the Christian Right’s populist gambits. Alliance for Marriage (AFM) claimed the Amendment was “designed to protect both marriage and democracy in the United States by preserving the legal status of marriage from court redefinition.” AFM goes on to imply the allegedly populist nature of this legislation, claiming they are preserving marriage “[b]y returning the debate over marriage to the American people.” The amendment lost momentum in 2006, but was reintroduced as recently as 2013 by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R, Kansas) in response to the recent Supreme Court decision United States v. Windsor, which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

We see echoes of this sort of “empowerment” the AFM promises in the Tea Party. The Tea Party has become a platform for conservative populist discontent. To the extent one can pin down the ideological underpinnings of the Tea Party, the appellation goes along with an overarching narrative of impending tyranny.  Tea Party members, in concert with the Christian Right, are quick to victimize their constituency, who are supposedly living under an alien system of values.

Snyder ties the Christian Right’s feeling of victimization, especially as it relates to civil rights for LGBTQ people, as stemming in part from the deeply held belief that the United States is, at its core, a Christian nation. As Snyder points out, though, the U.S. Constitution created a secular government that would not discriminate against anyone based on religion. And moreover, the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a state religion by the government.

This “under attack” posturing has only increased since 2002, although with a subtle evolution. Religious conservatives, sensing a decline in alarm over same-sex marriage in recent years, are now claiming the debate over homosexuality has prompted attacks on religious freedom. They hope that by fabricating this new imagined threat to religious beliefs, it will reconnect them with religious voters who no longer care whether or not a same-sex couples have the ability to get married.

In July of 2013, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) alleged that Christians would soon be charged with hate crimes for speaking against homosexuality, mimicking the panic of many of his colleagues. Commenting on the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, has said, “Advocates of gay marriage now seek to redefine not only marriage, but the relationship between Judeo-Christian values and the American tradition…Just what will be left to ‘conserve’ of the American tradition?”

This “American tradition” that people such as Brian Brown wish to conserve, Snyder imagines, is the traditional gender roles of American society. “The Christian Right,” she says, “seeks to reconsolidate male dominance and reestablish the patriarchal family as the dominant family form in the United States.” Marriage equality undermines the traditional patriarchal institution of marriage.  Consider this quote from Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), when he introduced the Parental Title Protection Act of 2011: “Referring to parents as ‘Parent 1’ or ‘Parent 2’ on official government documents is a bureaucratic attempt to redefine traditional parent roles. These subtle, but nonetheless significant, changes undermine the traditional American family relationships that have served as the bedrock of this nation since its inception.”

Forbes’ sentiments pose as much a threat to women’s rights as they do to LGBTQ rights and Snyder does not shy away from this in her article, noting that the Christian version of heterosexual marriage directly relates to its understanding of gender difference, and that the Christian Right often justifies this by privileging certain passages in the Bible. For example, they often favor the decidedly more gendered second version of Genesis over the more egalitarian first version, both contained within the Bible.

The populist argument the Christian Right makes is fraught, to say the least. Snyder explains their logic by pointing to the way the Christian Right emphasizes the sovereignty of states legislatures only when it serves their interests, while otherwise opposing the decisions of the people’s elected representatives—often in the name of the people. Regarding the then-impending DOMA decision in the summer of 2013, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) stated, “States have been able to determine how they want to treat gay marriage in their states…Now the Supreme Court may rule those laws are invalid…To me, the people spoke on that issue.” Here, within the same passage Neugebauer invokes the state insofar as it complies with his view, then the people accordingly.

Some conservatives have even cited a confused populace as the reason for a lack of support for populist sentiments in the United States. Peter LaBarbera of Americans For the Truth About Homosexuality has said of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation supported by 68 percent of the U.S. population, “If people truly understood, the real freedom-robbing results of this legislation, it would have nowhere near as much support.” This notion of latent populist support for the Christian Right’s platform, support that only demands continued advocacy on their part, will continue to motivate people on the Right to fight for issues like marriage equality. Snyder’s thesis still holds today, as the Right continues to espouse antidemocratic ideologies masked with democratic rhetoric to promote their reductive view of a Christian nation.