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

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

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

Michael Peroutka. Photo via The American View.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Past is Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Profiles on the Right: “No Greater Joy” and the Pearl Family

Michael and Debi Pearl, founders of "No Greater Joy" ministry

Michael and Debi Pearl, founders of “No Greater Joy Ministries”

In a court ruling on November 15th, 2013, Washington residents Larry and Carri Williams were found guilty of murdering their adopted daughter. Hana Williams was found dead lying face down and naked in the family’s backyard in May 2011. Officials determined her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition. According to the investigation, “the parents had deprived her of food for days at a time and had made her sleep in a cold barn or a closet and shower outside with a hose. And they often whipped her, leaving marks on her legs.”

Hana’s death was the third confirmed case of an adopted child murdered by parents who followed the teachings of No Greater Joy Ministries (NGJ),  founded by Christian fundamentalists Michael and Debi Pearl.

NGJ is a 501(c)(3) organization that uses fundamentalist biblical teachings to promote their vision of effective parenting techniques and Christian “family values.” Based on their belief that ”the Bible and common sense are the foundations for effective parenting”, the ministry works towards “training parents to break the bad habits passed down from former generations and to recognize and emulate the wisdom of those who have gone before.” Through their bi-monthly magazine, books, videos, and various donations, NGJ brings in an estimated $1.7 million annually, which is used to  distribute their publications to ministries across the world, prisons, and even “care” packages sent to military families that include NGJ booklets such as Pornography- Road to Hell and My Favorite Homeschooling Ideas. Their books and blog posts, which have been translated into languages such as Swahili, Mandarin, and Portuguese, advocate for strict and traditional gender roles. NPJ stresses the concept of the “helpmeet”, where women should be submissive and obedient to the authority of their husbands.

NPJ also takes a harsh stance regarding the relationship between parents and children. Despite their cheerful portrayal of family values, their methods continue to be linked to cases of physical and mental child abuse. According to Michael Pearl, children must be effectively disciplined or risk becoming unsuccessful adults dependent on others in order to get by. He claims that “properly-spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love. Numbered in the millions, these kids become the models of self-control and discipline, highly-educated and creative—entrepreneurs that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements.”

While Pearl has written countless pieces on parenting methods, he is most known for his book To Train Up a Child, which he co-wrote with his wife Debi in 1994 and published through NGJ. The book, which highlights ways to “train” children through brutal physical punishment, has been a source of repeated controversy, receiving strong criticism by experts in child development, psychology, and even other Conservative Christian organizations. Though few would disagree that proper discipline is a crucial component of effective parenting, the chosen methods advocated by Pearl and NGJ promote violent and dangerous behavior. Some of the highlights include:

  •  Spanking children two years and older in cases of bad behavior, and even delayed obedience. On pg. 55 Pearl notes “if you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise.”
  • Using a garden hose to spray children that have potty training accidents
  • Hitting children with 15 inch plastic tubing—the proper type of tubing according to Pearl, because it is “too light to cause damage to tissue or bone.” A seven year-old died of severe tissue damage in 2010 after being repeatedly beaten with the tubing by her parents, who were followers of NGJ’s parenting methods.
  • Using switches on children only seven months old who cry or will not fall asleep.
  • Mothers should hit children who cry out for them. As noted on pg. 55, “if a father is attempting to make a child eat his oats, and the child cries for his mother, then the mother should respond by spanking him for whining for her and for not eating his oats. He will then be glad to be dealing only with the father.”

According to the Pearls, these methods are not forms of punishment, but rather a means of “guidance” for disobedient children, and frequently mentions the bible’s words on the “rod of teaching, not the rod of punishment.”

As noted by Dr. Frances Chalmers, a pediatrician who examined the body of Hana Williams, “my fear is that this book, while perhaps well intended, could easily be misinterpreted and could lead to what I consider significant abuse.” Crystal Lutton, who runs Gentle Christian Mothers , a Christian blog that promotes “grace-based discipline” highlights the inherent danger to using these methods because “if you don’t get results, the only thing to do is to punish harder and harder.”  While the Pearls argue there is a difference between guidance and punishment, they never identify when parental discipline goes beyond guidance and becomes child abuse.

Despite the controversy surrounding their methods, the Pearl family continues to take no responsibility for the potential influence their teachings had on the murders of the three young children. In one interview, Michael Pearl argues “if you find a 12-step book in an alcoholic’s house, you wouldn’t blame the book.”

In response to the murder of seven year old Lydia Schatz in 2010, whose parents held her down for several hours while whipping her with plastic tubing after they read the Pearl’s book, Michael Pearl wrote the essay Laughing, where he says he “laughs” at any criticism of NGJ and their parenting methods.

The prominence of Pearl’s book in the Evangelical community has had a negative impact, particularly because of the trend of Evangelical Christians to adopt from countries such as Liberia. Some of the parents who had trouble with their adopted children—many of the children had PTSD and were scarred from experiences during civil wars and other forms of violence—turned to Pearl’s book to help them “train” their children. A couple was arrested in 2010 for beating their adopted Liberian daughter to death after she mispronounced a word.  Pearl might claim that his book is not negatively impacting children, but families following his advice have committed much more harm than good.

Updated 4/10/18.

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Post Palin Feminism and the Continued Assault on Women’s Rights

Palin Bachmann Schlafely

In early 2008 when Sarah Palin was chosen as the Republican vice presidential nominee, sociologist Abby Scher examined the flurry of commentary among female Christian conservatives in her article Post Palin Feminism.

The nomination of a “traditional” woman—“She wears makeup. She is pretty. She is an evangelical Christian. She is anti-abortion. She is also White.”—to so high a position publicly unearthed the conflicting views on feminist identity buried within the conservative Christian community.

Older conservative women, powerful voices like Kate O’Beirne and Phyllis Schlafly, who spoke at the 2008 Values Voter Summit that year, were gleeful that Palin’s popularity meant an embrace of anti-feminism and, in O’Beirne’s words, a “prick to the liberal establishment.” Yet younger women viewed Palin as a champion of a kind of feminism they could identify with: a pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun kind of feminism that liberal feminists would find all but unrecognizable but was eye-opening to a new generation of modern conservative women.

The debate over what feminism means, or should mean, to contemporary Christians remains. In Scher’s words, “traditional now seems to be someone who embraces the belief in a heterosexual nuclear family and a conservative Christian embrace of ‘family values,’ not a stay at home mom.” In this post-Palin world, how do women of faith, the kind of faith which preaches submission to men and elevates women primarily in their role as mothers, navigate a world in which many doors to positions of influence outside the home have been opened to them? Christianity Today posted two recent articles by young women on the subject of self-identifying as a Christian and a feminist, one which was for the label and one which was against. However, while more moderate voices debate the subtleties of women’s power in the public vs. the private sphere, the loudest discourse on the conservative airwaves continues to be the extreme anti-feminist and anti-choice rhetoric espoused by high profile conservative women such as Ann Coulter and Phyllis Schlafly. These are conservative women in positions of power who, ironically, never miss an opportunity to brandish “feminist” like it’s a dirty word. They represent a more traditionally repressive view of women’s roles and are opposed to the idea that females are equal to males and believe that equal freedoms should not be attributed to both.

Anti-choice feminists have embraced a calling to fight the liberal claim of pro-choice as the only legitimate feminist stance in the national debate on abortion. Their clear desire is to shout down pro-choice feminists, and hijack the conversation about reproductive justice and spin their hard-line anti-choice views as the ideology that best serves the needs of women. Conservative journalist and news anchor, Colleen Carroll Campbell, in her article titled Pro Life Feminism is the Future, argues that the new wave of anti-choice feminists is a natural reaction to a decades-long campaign to make feminism synonymous with a woman’s right to abort her child and to marginalize any free-thinking feminist who dares to disagree.” The angle of anti-choice feminism is that feminists are ignoring the “realities” of rampant sex-selective abortion and “partial birth” abortion in the United States and additionally giving women the false choice of abortion or a “future” (either in school or career path).

This past January, Time magazine wrote an article on the erosion of abortion rights through widespread legislative restrictions. In the same issue, they included a section titled Pro-Life and Feminism Aren’t Mutually Exclusive written by none other than anti-choice group Susan B Anthony List’s executive director Emily Buchanan. The Susan B Anthony List, ironically named for one of the most famous feminists in American history, maintains a list of anti-choice candidates and promotes their election and re-election. In June, 2013, SBA-List launched the National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus aimed at “foster[ing] community between pro-life women lawmakers across the country, and connect[ing] them with the resources they need to pass pro-life laws.” Internationally, some key anti-choice activists such as Lila Rose have targeted Europe’s generally pro-choice policies as a challenge to overcome through organizing with anti-choice partners abroad. This past May, both she and Jeanne Monahan went to Rome to participate in the Italy’s third annual March for Life modeled after the American version of March for Life which is now entering its 40th year.

As the younger feminists usurp the meaning of pro-woman, the older generation more resistant to change still values a stricter adherence to the separation of the sexes and a preference for the perpetuation of historical gender roles. They are not interested in closing the wage gap, they revile contraception as an encouragement of promiscuity, and are generally opposed to measures which would create a more egalitarian society. Earlier this year, the military put forward the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 which allows women into combat situations where they were previously barred and, in theory, could make women eligible for the draft. Phyllis Schlafly, arguably the top opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s and 80s, who bills herself as “the flip side of feminism,” wrote an article in March titled Who is Waging War on Women (answer: the government and feminists). Schlafly treats it as a given that women will be drafted imminently, stating “demands from the feminists for 18-year-old girls to register for the draft are already appearing on the internet.”

In the same vein, speaking on Sandy Rios’s morning talk show, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness equated allowing women to serve combat roles to cheerleaders being forced to play at football games. This pejorative language ignores the fact that military service is, presently, on a volunteer basis, and that women do presently serve in combat roles in the military of countries such as Australia, Sweden and Israel. These conservative women fight the autonomy of other women to expand freely into the roles opened to them, especially those traditionally held by men, despite paradoxically benefiting from the expansion of professional opportunities.

While quieter discussions about feminism and Christianity continue in the comparatively mild conservative forums in the wake of Sarah Palin’s, and subsequently Michele Bachmann’s, respective campaigns, the loudest voices given space in the public sphere continue to be the most radical.

Profiles on the Right: Brian Brown

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marraige

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marraige

Brian Brown, perhaps most infamous for his tendency to equate the LGBTQ community to pedophiles, is the current president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and a hard-line member of the Christian Right. A Quaker turned Roman Catholic, Brown has been a key player in the anti-equality movement for over two decades—even moving his family to California in 2008 for the sole purpose of defending the now-repealed Proposition 8 ballot initiative. Brown’s anti-LGBTQ crusades have included the exportation of homophobia to Russia and, on a domestic level, supporting the anti-transgender movement in public schools.

Co-founder and original executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, Brown succeeded Maggie Gallagher as president in 2010 when she accepted the title of president at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, an anti-marriage equality think tank. NOM’s main goal is defending the “traditional family,” meaning that the organization does everything within its power to prevent same-sex couples from gaining civil rights, most particularly the right to marry.

One of the organization’s biggest strengths is its ability to keep the sources of its funding secret.  In a previous report that details the anti-LGBT movement, it is recognized that Brown uses the promise of anonymity as a fundraising tool, telling prospective donors that “unlike in California, every dollar you give to NOM’s Northeast Action Plan today is private, with no risk of harassment from same-sex marriage protestors.” NOM has also defended its financials by suing states such as California and Maine when they have asked for the organization to disclose its financials. PRA’s profile on NOM also notes: “In response to a 2010 ethics investigation from the state of Maine, NOM committed millions for litigation to delay disclosure in the courts as long as possible.”

NOM’s desire to shroud its monies in secrecy should come as no surprise, given that the IRS opened an investigation on the organization’s financials in 2013.

Brown also employs results-driven strategies against his opposition, and carefully avoids placing blame on individuals, instead asserting that “good-hearted people can have ideas that are profoundly wrong.” He further deflects blame away from himself by claiming he has friends and family who are gay, and that they “can disagree on all sorts of things and still care about each other.”

If Brown cares about his “gay friends” at all, it’s certainly not apparent in his actions. In June 2013, Brown headed to Moscow on the invitation of Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), an organization that has been hell-bent on forwarding horrific anti-LGBTQ legislation abroad. In Moscow, Brown and other WCF supporters testified before Russian Parliament in support of banning same-sex couples from adopting children. In a transcript posted by the Duma, Brown told Russian lawmakers that “We will unite. We will defend our children and their normal civil rights. Every child must have the right to normal parents: a mother and a father.”

Brown and WCF certainly touted some influence in Moscow, days after Brown left, the Duma not only passed the adoption law, but also began to debate a frightening proposal to remove children from the homes of LGBTQ parents.

Another aspect of Brown’s stratagem is the utilization of fear-driven hyperbole. In a 2011 newsletter that reflects on the Senate hearings on repealing DOMA, Brown declared “President Obama and the hard-left core of the Democratic Party in Washington declared war on marriage, on federalism, on democracy and on religious liberty.”

In another NOM newsletter, Brown described the push to legalize same-sex marriage as analogous to accepting pedophiles. He inquired if the “pedophiles [will] become “minor-attracted persons” in our culture? Will courts which endorse orientation as a protected class decide down the road that therefore laws which discriminate against ‘minor-attracted persons’ must be narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest?” However skewed his rhetoric, Brown is still careful to not demonize the individual.

Brown’s crusades are not limited to the LGBQ community though; his most recent domestic crusade is against transgender students in California public schools. In August 2013, California passed a bill that allowed transgender students to use facilities and participate in after-school activities that correspond with their gender identity. The bill, which took effect in January 2014, gave California transgender students a chance at equality in an already-uphill battle.

Brown characterizes the new bill as “horrible,” a “weapon,” and said that it “doesn’t prevent bullying – it is bullying. It is not about protecting kids; it damages kids.” Brown further urges readers to sign a drawn up by Privacy for All Students (PAS) in an effort to overturn non-discrimination requirements, claiming the legislation “is politically-correct madness that risks the privacy and security of our children and grandchildren.”

NOM and PAS only support gender-conforming youth, refusing to even refer to the students they’re persecuting as transgender, preferring to say they have “so-called gender identities.”

As strategic as he is, Brown’s rhetoric is causing him to fall out of public favor. At the 2013 Values Voters Summit, Brown complained that media outlets such as ABC and CNN seldom give him air-time anymore.  But make no mistake, NOM still reaches many, as exemplified by the wide support the 2013 “Marriage March” on Washington, D.C. garnered. And Brown only seems to be motivated by equality victories. After the defeat of both Prop 8 and DOMA, Brown called the DOMA decision “an absolute travesty” and in The Washington Post said “The National Organization for Marriage intends to vigorously urge Congress to safeguard the remaining portion of DOMA, which protects the right of states to refuse to recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ performed elsewhere.”

When the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015, which eventually led to the federal legalization of marriage equality, they campaigned constantly for “traditional” marriage and bussed groups of people from the surrounding states to protest at the capital. While NOM continues to campaign for anti-LGBTQ candidates and for those who support “traditional” marriage, their domestic presence is losing breadth. Their annual “March for Marriage” on Washington, D.C. in 2017 drew less than 250 participants throughout the entire day.

Brown continues to fight marriage equality, hoping to one day get it overturned, but his current focus is a “First Freedom Initiative” to defend the Christian Right definition of religious freedom. He is also active abroad, supporting the international anti-“gender ideology” and “pro-family” group CitizenGO as a board member.

Updated 5/14/18.


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Profiles on the Right: Sandy Rios

Sandy Rios

Sandy Rios

Sandy Rios is the right-wing radio host of Sandy Rios in the Morning on American Family Radio, as well as a regular contributor to FOX News and conservative blogger. Her on-screen/on-air persona takes an unfiltered, unapologetically hard line on current social and political issues such as marriage equality, women’s health issues, universal health care and gun control. When off the air, she serves as vice president of Family-Pac Federal, a political action committee dedicated to funding “pro-family, Conservative candidates,” and is the former president of both the Culture Campaign and Concerned Women For America.

She takes to the airwaves every morning, Monday through Friday, espousing her views on current events, taking calls from listeners, and hosting special guests such as Ann Coulter. Her style of political analysis mirrors the homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and conspiracy theorist viewpoints of her conservative talk show peers such as Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity—all of whom she has enjoyed guest appearances with. A theme she promotes frequently throughout her work is the idea that there is a cultural war afoot against evangelical Christian values, painting an epic struggle in politics between good and evil, allies and enemies. She frequently cites victories in civil rights, free speech, and women’s health as proof that morality has disintegrated in America and the nation is on a path of self-destruction. Rios freely mixes political analysis with religious rhetoric, often asking or claiming that God will intervene in current events and enact retribution.

Like many other conservatives who continually attack President Obama, Rios delivers frequent paranoid diatribes against him, calling Obama a communist and a radical Muslim-sympathizer. In some of her more disturbing anti-Muslim and anti-Obama segments, which are often intertwined, Rios has accused President Obama of building bridges with Islamic leaders at the expense of American and Christian lives.  “We have every right to suspect a dangerous connection,” she writes, between President Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood. In the aftermath of the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood by former Army Medical Corps officer Nidal Hasan, Rios and others blamed Obama and his tolerance of Muslims for the incident.

Sandy Rios recently received negative media attention for statements she made at the conservative 2013 Values Voters Summit. She delivered a speech describing Matthew Shepard’s murder as a “complete fraud”  and manipulative tool of the LGBT movement to gain popular sympathy (watch: http://bit.ly/19zRGu6), capitalizing on the publishing of a new book by Stephen Jimenez which purports the motive for Shepard’s murder stemmed from  a “drug deal gone bad” and not his sexuality.

Fighting the steady advance of the LGBT rights movement has been one of Rios’s staple topics of discussion recently, especially as the tide appears to be shifting toward a more tolerant, or at least silent, stance within the Republican Party platform. In 2011, she wrote bitter articles questioning Mitt Romney’s commitment to conservative values and she recently wrote a blog post condemning moderation with regard to marriage equality, urging Republicans to hold to the party platform that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. She accused those, like Dick Cheney and Laura Bush, who have eased their stances on the issue of “fickle, feckless leadership in dangerous times.” She has linked such events as the advent AIDS, the Penn State sex abuse scandal, and reports of poor national scholastic performance to gains in equal rights for LGBT persons and is a strong proponent of the so-called “ex-gay” movement.

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U.S. Conservatives and Russian Anti-Gay Laws – The WCF

Russia WCF.1

Earlier this week, representatives of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ groups from Russia, Italy, Spain, Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand, France, Serbia, and the United States (including the infamous Scott Lively) convened in Moscow to make plans for the World Congress of Families VIII, which will be held there in September 2014.

As reported by Right Wing Watch in a recent series of articles exploring the slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation (and violence) in Russia over the last several months, the World Congress of Families’ choice of venue is no coincidence. To say that the WCF is the primary force behind this onslaught of legislated homophobia would be far too simplistic of an assessment; however, we would be foolish to ignore the role that it plays.

The WCF was founded in 1997 by Allan Carlson and is a project of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society based in Rockford, Illinois. Though it aims to be an international network of social conservative groups, their Board of Directors is entirely US-based and the vast majority of their support comes from the U.S. Religious Right, including Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, United Families International, the Alliance Defense Fund, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, and Concerned Women for America.

It is, in short, the “who’s who” of right wing power players leading the charge against LGBTQ people in a merciless struggle to eliminate anyone who doesn’t fit into their cookie cutter mold of what Carlson calls “the natural family.” Below is the definition of “natural family” provided on the WCF’s website:

“The natural family is the fundamental social unit, inscribed in human nature, and centered around the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage, for the purposes of:

  • satisfying the longings of the human heart to give and receive love;
  • welcoming and ensuring the full physical and emotional development of children;
  • sharing a home that serves as the center for social, educational, economic, and spiritual life;
  • building strong bonds among the generations to pass on a way of life that has transcendent meaning;
  • extending a hand of compassion to individuals and households whose circumstances fall short of these ideals.”

Interestingly, much of Carlson’s understanding of the family is drawn from the work of Pitirim Sorokin, a Russian-born sociologist, and in fact the very idea for a “world congress of families” began in the mid-1990s when Carlson met with Dr. Ivan Schevchenko, head of the Russia’s right-wing Orthodox Brotherhood of Scientists and Specialists.  Which necessarily provokes the question, “When it comes to the culture wars, who’s exporting and who’s importing?”

It seems that the Cold War-era arms race has reemerged as a present-day pogrom—a race to see who can out-hate the gays first.

Following the passage of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law last month, WCF signed a letter of support for the legislation, ignoring the international outcry that erupted in its wake. Praising Russians as the “Christian saviors of the world,” WCF’s managing director

Larry Jacobs
clearly sees Russia as a model to be replicated. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (another WCF partner) declared that the new law was precisely the kind of “public policy that we’ve been advocating,” lamenting only that he wished it had been even more expansive in its oppressive scope. Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (yet another WCF affiliate) said, “Russians do not want to follow America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth.”

Is it possible that these leaders in anti-LGBTQ activism here in the U.S. might also feel a tad jealous of Russia’s success? And as they drool over the censorship and silencing and cheer the potential destruction of LGBTQ families, what are U.S. leaders learning from their Russian heroes? Besides the obligatory assortment of tacky souvenirs and mementos (for members of their “natural families,” of course), what might the U.S. attendees of next year’s WCF-Moscow event bring home with them?

With Russia as their model, will anti-LGBTQ leaders in Tennessee finally succeed in passing the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that is anticipated to be re-introduced next year? Will we see an increase in attacks on same-sex parenting here in the U.S.? Will U.S. Pride parades become less celebratory and more dangerous?

As we seek to understand the various ways in which U.S. players are contributing to the rising homo-hysteria in Russia, we must also be mindful of what they might be bringing back from their travels abroad. No doubt, some souvenirs will be best left unwrapped.

Profiles on the Right: David Barton

David Barton

David Barton

“Schlock history written by religious propagandists like David Barton … who use selective quotations out of context to suggest that the framers were inspired believers who thought they were founding a Christian nation.”  – Mike Lilla, Columbia University

“[Barton’s work contains] a lot of distortions, half-truths, and twisted history.” – Derek H. Davis, Baylor University

David Barton is an American evangelical author and conservative activist. He is the founder of Wallbuilders, a religious organization  that claims the founding fathers never established a separation of church and state as defined in the constitution. Though he advertises himself as a legitimate historian, Barton has no formal training other than a degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University. His “historic research” has been repeatedly criticized by the New York Times, professor Mike Lilla of Columbia University and the University of Colorado, and religious scholars such as Derek H. Davis, the director of church-state studies at Baylor University.

In his book, The Myth of Separation, Barton argues the founding fathers “merge[d] biblical teachings into the framework of the constitution, and the clear understanding they all had that America was founded as God’s chosen nation.” He also claims the founding fathers intended only Christians to hold office.From 1998-2006, Barton served as vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party. During his tenure, the Texas GOP platform asserted that “America is a Christian nation” and also noted the “myth of separation of church and state”. In 2004, Barton was hired as a political consultant by the Republican National Committee. His position consisted of “traveling the country and speaking at about 300 RNC-sponsored lunches for local evangelical pastors … and encouraged pastors to endorse political candidates from the pulpit”.


Working primarily behind the scenes with other far Right Wing figures, Barton’s work is believed to have had direct influence on public opinion regarding issues of religious freedom. He has become a leading “historian” in the cause of promoting a Christian nationalist agenda. In her article “From Schoolhouse to Statehouse: Curriculum from a Christian Nationalist Worldview,” PRA research fellow Rachel Tabachnick noted “The State of the First Amendment 2007 national survey found that 65% of Americans believe that the founders intended America to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes America as a Christian nation. Barton can get some of the credit for this.”

In 2010, the Texas School Board hired him as an “expert” during their controversial curriculum initiative to promote Christian nationalism in schools, remove any historic claims which referenced a separation of church and state, and ban creationism and evolution from being taught in Texas public school system. Barton also supported efforts to excise Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chaves from textbooks, claiming they did not deserve to be included for advancing majority rights, as “only majorities can expand political rights.”

Barton has also worked closely with Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and other prominent leaders in the Christian conservative movement. In 2008, he partnered with Gingrich and his organization Renewing American Leadership in promoting and defending religious conservative political activism, based around their mission of defending the “three pillars of American civilization: freedom faith and free markets”. In 2010, Barton was featured in a series of rallies organized by Beck, where he gave “historical” accounts of the founding fathers’ efforts to incorporate biblical values into the Constitution. He then hosted, along with Jim Garlow and David Lane,   “The Next Great Awakening Tour” at various sites across the country. This religious revival tour promulgating right-wing Christian ideologies featured guest speakers such as Lou Engle, Tony Perkins, and Rick Santorum.

Though Barton might be a popular figure inside Christian conservative circles, his “historical research” has been universally discredited by academics and even fellow conservatives. In 2012, his book, The Jefferson Lies, was voted by the History News Network as the “least credible history book in print.”  In an attempt to defend his work against the claims that he was cherry-picking information to suit his arguments and ignoring facts that discredited his work, Barton acknowledged that some of his research lacked primary sources in an article titled “Unconfirmed Sources.” Despite conceding a lack of sources for quotes by founding fathers he had repeatedly used, he argued that the quotes were “completely consistent” with other views and statements by the founding fathers. Barton has also made baseless and bigoted assertions on issues outside of historic revisionism as well. He has repeatedly denounced climate change science, claimed on his radio show in 2010 that “homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals,” and more than half of all homosexuals have sexual relations with more than 500 people in their lifetimes, and has said that Democrats are responsible for racism against African Americans.

Barton continues to spread misinformation on his Wallbuilders Live radio broadcast. In a March 2013 episode, Barton gave incomplete historical accounts of English settlers destroying Native American villages and essentially justifying the English. He has consistently spoken about this, including in his book which had been pulled from publication on account of “loss of confidence in the book’s details.” Evangelical ministers who are trying to reconcile with Native Americans are concerned about the impact of his distorted historical accounts. In a February 2018 episode, Barton falsely claimed that the Obama Administration had labeled his group, and other groups like his such as Focus on the Family, an “enemy of the state.” As Right Wing Watch noted, no statement remotely resembling Barton’s claim exists. Barton also claimed that SPLC designated his group to be “domestic terrorists,” when in reality Barton himself had been designated an “extremist.”

Wallbuilders has also been working as a part of a coalition of Christian right groups on called “Project Blitz”: a state-level legislative initiative to pass laws preserving a Christian nation. The laws are organized into tiers, and range from mandating that the “In God We Trust” motto be displayed onsite at schools, to First Amendment-focused laws ensuring protections for Christian religious practices, such as the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Barton’s claims of the U.S. being founded as a Christian nation and his speculations about the original goals of the Founding Fathers have heavily influenced the philosophy of this movement.

James Lavelle and Julia Taliesin contributed to this profile. Updated 5/14/18.

Testing the Water: Mormon Church Tests to See If “Safe” to Re-Enter Gay Marriage Fight

Dallin H Oaks

Testing the Water: Mormon Church Tests to See If “Safe” to Re-Enter Gay Marriage Fight

If you’ve never seen or attended one of the semi-annual General Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), it’s truly a sight to behold. 20,000 faithful members attend a two-day conference in Salt Lake City to listen to their leaders, while millions more around the world tune in to watch on live TV, hanging on every word from men they believe have spoken directly to God.

While many Americans still view the Mormon religion as an oddity or curiosity, the Church’s numbers are growing quickly as it continues to send every young man on a two-year proselytizing mission around the world at age 18.

Unlike many religions today, where each congregation or parish holds some level of autonomy over their teachings, the Mormon religion’s power structure is top heavy­—meaning no individual or local clergy has the authority to preach anything not authorized by the Church as a whole.

Historically, the Mormon religion has taken a proactive stance against civil rights issues, from their refusal to allow people of color full membership until the late 70s, to their political fight against gay marriage.

In Political Research Associates’ publication “Resisting the Rainbow: Right-Wing Responses to LGBT Gains” (p. 72), I wrote about the Mormon Church’s heavy involvement in the fight to ban gay marriage in Hawaii in the 90s, a sort of text of their capabilities and a battle in which they masked much of their involvement at the time. Emboldened by their overwhelming success in that fight, the Mormon leadership then turned their attention to California, infamously leading the charge to pass Proposition 8 in 2008. Unlike the Hawaiian battle in the 90s, the Mormons took a much more public position this time, fueling the “Yes on 8” campaign with millions of dollars in donations and thousands of door-knocking volunteers, and flooding the airwaves and cyberspace with ads and websites promoting false propaganda (such as the all-too-common lie that if gay marriage were legal, religions would be forced to perform gay marriages in their holy buildings).

The backlash against the Mormons was severe. Protests launched nationwide with thousands of angry LGBTQ people, concerned citizens, and even some members of the Church itself marching around Mormon temples. Even in Salt Lake City at the Mormon Church headquarters, 5,000 protesters surrounded the Mormon complex with chants of protest.

For a religion that is already viewed as a bit odd by the majority of the world, the Mormons cannot tolerate continued bad press, as it heavily damages their ability to proselytize and bring in new members. The backlash for their involvement in Prop 8 was so severe, and so sustained, that the Church finally capitulated and made some overtures to the LGBTQ community, including an endorsement of a non-discrimination law in Salt Lake City in 2009, and (after a 4,500 person protest surrounded their Salt Lake City temple in 2010) an official retraction of 2nd-in-command Boyd K. Packer’s speech claiming that gay people can somehow become heterosexual if they try hard enough.

However, since 2010, the fight seems to have been on hiatus as both activists and Church leaders waited to see what the other would do.

Now, it seems, the Mormon Church is testing the waters to see if it is safe to once again begin their antigay political campaigns. This last weekend at their latest General Conference, two of the Mormon’s “Prophets” told their 15 million members that they have a duty to oppose gay marriage.

Dallin H. Oaks bemoaned America’s dropping birthrates, later marriages and rising incidence of cohabitation as evidence of “political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and child-bearing.” These pressures “have already permitted same-gender marriages in various states and nations … Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness” … An LDS eternal perspective does not allow Mormons “to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them,” said the apostle, a former Utah Supreme Court justice. “And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared to be unchangeable.”

And yet another of the Mormon’s highest ranking leaders, Russell M. Nelson, later added:

“Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan,” Nelson said. “Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.”

These overt anti-LGBTQ sentiments have not been seen for several years from the Mormon leadership, and indicate a strong desire to reenter the culture war and political fight to block civil rights for LGBTQ Americans.

If history is the best teacher, the only thing that will stop the Mormons’ political power, money and manpower from flowing back into the fight against equality would be an immediate and strong reaction from activists and citizens who care about civil rights.  The Latter Day Saints have made their opening move, and it remains to be seen what will happen next.

Profiles on the Right: Dr. Richard Land

Dr. Richard Land

Dr. Richard Land

Dubbed by Time Magazine as “God’s Lobbyist,” Dr. Richard Land is the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of Southern Baptist Convention, and serves as the Commissioner on the Unites States Commission on International Religious Affairs.  With 16 million members, the Southern Baptists are second in size only to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Land speaks to millions of listeners on the radio through Christian broadcasting networks and frequently appears on television and before Congress. He maintains an image of respectability and moderation, although his views are decidedly anti-LGBT when it comes to sexual minority issues

Land has recently been appointed as president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in Charlotte, N.C., which offers undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs in evangelism and classic apologetics.

Land advocates for a constitutional amendment to “protect marriage.” He believes gay marriage will “harm families and society” and that “God’s plan for marriage and the family is the only reliable foundation for society, anything else is a dangerous and faulty substitute that will lead to society’s ruin.”  Land was one of many notable right wing evangelicals to sign and endorse the “Manhattan Declaration,” a religious manifesto co-authored by evangelical leader (and Watergate felon) Charles Colson and Catholic intellectual Robert George that, among many things, opposes gay marriage and women’s right to abortion.

Land has said on his radio show, Richard Land Live, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, “Will destroy the American military,” and that “gay service members are twice as likely to sexually harass someone,” and “absent fathers and weak fathers produce gay children.”

In 2011 Land signed a letter urging Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) to defund Planned Parenthood, stating this issue was “non-negotiable.” Part of the letter read, “Planned Parenthood, a scandal-plagued abortion company, no longer deserves hundreds of millions in federal dollars each year while it continues to abuse innocent young victims.”

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Profiles on the Right: Jim Daly

Jim Daly

Jim Daly

Jim Daly is President/CEO of the evangelical, socially conservative public policy nonprofit Focus on the Family (FOF), which was founded by one of America’s most influential and hard-line Right Wing Christian conservatives, James Dobson. In 2004 Dobson was described as “America’s most influential evangelical leader.” FOF was one of the largest and most prolific religious right organizations in the United States until its downsizing in 2008. They donated  $35,310 to reelect Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and spent about $500,000 to support Proposition 8 in California.  According to their 2010 990 IRS form, they spent about $25 million on communications.  Their annual operating budget has slipped from $146 million in 2007 to $130 million in 2010, an 11% cut.

Daly perceives same-sex marriage as a watershed issue for religious liberty.  As he sees it, religious liberty, i.e. the ability of a public official to refuse to marry a gay couple because of religious belief, will be illegal if gay marriage is legalized. From this logic follows the popular accusation among conservative Christian pundits that government is meddling in peoples’ lives.

FOF is one of many family organizations that view political and social issues through a right wing, orthodox Christian lens. As such they oppose abortion and sex education, advocate for prayer in schools and the treatment of homosexuality with “reparative” therapy. Focus on the Family has said anti-bullying efforts in schools and legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act are part of a LGBT plot to introduce homosexuality to impressionable children.

FOF publishes biased studies to support their agenda. And like many of these studies, when sources are checked, the analysis is found inaccurate and skewed. In a Senate Judiciary hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) revealed Thomas Minnery’s misrepresentation of a Department of a Health and Human Services study.  Minnery is senior vice president of Government and Public Policy for Focus on the Family.

FOF has affiliate organizations in 32 states, connecting it with a large grassroots political constituency through these Family Policy Councils. It should be noted that some members of Focus on the Family may be unaware of Daly’s or the organization’s right wing agenda. Some of the services and products FOF offers are not on the surface political, but they do reflect conservative ideas about child-rearing and family relationships. Daly’s leadership of FOF seems to be returning it to its original goal, the nurturance of the Christian family. In that sense it continues to advocate for the sanctity of marriage, traditional gender roles, and heterosexism, and it continues to lay the infrastructure for Christian Right organizing.

Next ProfileThis profile is part of a series on key anti-LGBTQ opponents adapted from Political Research Associates’ Resisting the Rainbow report.