Biblical Economics: The Divine Laissez-Faire Mandate

Public Eye Spring 2015 CoverThis article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The Public Eye magazine.

In February, the culture warriors at Iowa’s “pro-family” group The Family Leader distributed personalized copies of The Founders’ Bible to every member of the state legislature as part of their lobby day—or as they put it in an invitation letter, the “war with Satan, who has taken many captive in Des Moines.”1 Greg Baker, Director of Ambassador Church Network, told pastors that the goal of “The Iowa Capitol Project” is to help legislators “do what God has asked them to do,” and The Founders’ Bible should help given its “compelling content pertaining to their job at the Capitol.” 2

Most of that “compelling content” —the non-biblical part anyway—comes courtesy of David Barton, the Republican Party activist and self-styled historian whose “Christian nation” revisionism informs the rhetoric of conservative pundits and politicians.3 But Barton’s essays go beyond his claims about the biblical origins of the U.S. Constitution; The Founders’ Bible, a New American Standard Bible translation, is also filled with Barton’s arguments that right-wing economic policies are divinely mandated.

Though Barton’s work has been repeatedly challenged by reputable scholars, including his fellow evangelical Christians, he is no fringe character, but rather a major player within the Republican Party and conservative movement. He was an active member of the GOP platform committee in 20124 and his rhetoric about America’s founding as a Christian nation is promoted by other religious conservatives, from Glenn Beck to Newt Gingrich.

A star-spangled David Barton appears in America: A Call to Greatness (1995). Photo credit: Paige-Brace Cinema, Ltd.

A star-spangled David Barton appears in America: A Call to Greatness (1995). Photo credit: Paige-Brace Cinema, Ltd.

Barton uses his essays and frequent media and public appearances to argue that the Bible, indeed God Himself, opposes minimum wage laws, capital gains taxes and progressive income taxes. He defines the free enterprise system—which he believes is “the economic system set forth in numerous passages in the Bible”—as “one in which ‘prices and wages are determined by unrestricted competition between businesses, without government regulation,’” and sees any policies that penalize productivity and profits as “a completely unBiblical system.”

To most readers, Jesus’ parable of the vineyard is generally understood to be about the gift of God’s grace, a metaphor for the Kingdom of God. In Barton’s exegesis, the story about the landowner who pays workers an equal amount no matter how many hours they worked is a literal handbook for God’s approach to employer-employee relations. Government, he writes, “certainly has no right to tell an employer what to pay an employee, including with a so-called minimum wage.”5

Yes, this is a Bible the Koch brothers can love.

Reconstructionism, the Christian Right and the Tea Party

Barton is one of the figures examined by religious studies professor Julie Ingersoll in Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction,6 forthcoming from Oxford University Press in August. Christian Reconstructionism is hardly a household word. However, its ideology has infused not only the Christian Right but also the Tea Party and the conservative movement in general. Those familiar with Reconstructionism may associate it most often with the idea that government should enforce Old Testament law and its harsh punishments. But, Ingersoll argues, what’s gone largely unnoticed is “The degree to which Christian Reconstructionists understand a biblical worldview to be rooted in economics.” For Reconstructionists, she writes, the very idea of God’s sovereignty is expressed in terms of property rights.

Christian Reconstructionism is grounded in the writing of R.J. Rushdoony, whose magnum opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law, was published in 1973. Rushdoony, who died in 2001, was also active in the homeschooling movement and founded the Chalcedon Foundation, a Reconstructionist think tank. His ideas continue to be promoted by acolytes, including his son-in-law, author Gary North, and Gary DeMar, president of American Vision.

In their book Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What it Isn’t, North and DeMar write, “Reconstructionists believe in a ‘minimal state.’ The purpose of getting involved in politics, as Reconstructionists see it, is to reduce the power of the State.”7 Sound familiar?

“Without a doubt, Reconstructionists have been advocates for, and activists within, the Tea Party,” Ingersoll notes. North is a former staffer for Ron Paul,8 and is currently helping Paul promote a curriculum for homeschoolers that North helped develop.9 That North-Paul connection, like the larger homeschooling movement—Rushdoony was an early advocate of homeschooling—is one of the streams by which Reconstructionist thinking has come to pervade the Christian Right and the Republican Party. And while Home School Legal Defense Association Chairman Michael Farris disavowed the application of Old Testament law in the U.S., he served with a number of Reconstructionists on the steering committee of The Coalition on Revival, a group founded in 1984 to bridge theological divides on the Christian Right. COR’s 1986 “A Manifesto for the Christian Church” proclaimed a dominionist message: that the Bible is the only measure of truth and applies to every sphere of life, including law, government and economics. “All theories and practices of these spheres of life are only true, right, and realistic to the degree that they agree with the Bible,”10 the Manifesto argued. Among the “social evils” that the Manifesto’s signers pledged to oppose was “Statist-collectivist theft from citizens through devaluation of their money and redistribution of their wealth.”

But the Reconstructionist influence has spread well beyond the COR. As Frederick Clarkson noted in The Public Eye back in 1994,11 dominionist thinking has proliferated even among evangelical leaders who might disavow the Reconstructionist label. Gary North, wrote Clarkson, claimed that “the ideas of the Reconstructionists have penetrated into Protestant circles that for the most part are unaware of the original source of the theological ideas that are beginning to transform them.” Reconstructionists have integrated their theology with Pentecostal and charismatic religious networks such as the New Apostolic Reformation and groups like International Transformation Network, as well as among religious leaders who embrace dominionist doctrines such as “Seven Mountains” theology, which holds that the right kind of Christians are meant to control societal spheres of influence such as education, entertainment, business and government.

Billy Graham himself told revival attendees that the Garden of Eden was a paradise with “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.”

Even in 1994, Clarkson argued, dominionism was no longer “the exclusive revolutionary vision of Christian Reconstructionist extremists,” but had “achieved virtual hegemony over many forms of Christian fundamentalism.” That certainly holds true 20 years later.

David Barton is a good example. Ingersoll says she considers Barton “Reconstructionist-lite”12: someone heavily influenced by Reconstructionist thinking even though he doesn’t publicly identify with the term and may depart from some of its more extreme positions. Barton’s rhetoric about biblical law applying to every aspect of life, including civil government, reflects that influence, as does his Christian-nation revisionism when it comes to American history. Barton has plenty of company, as evidenced by the prevalence of Reconstructionist rhetoric about the role of government at conservative political gatherings, such as the March 19 Pennsylvania Pastors Network gathering at which Barton spoke.

Barton’s insistence that the Bible provides authoritative instruction for every aspect of life, including tax policy, echoes COR’s Manifesto and Rushdoony’s insistence that “authority is not only a religious concept but also a total one. It involves the recognition at every point of our lives of God’s absolute law-order.” That includes economics. In The Institutes of Biblical Law, Rushdoony says, “The child has no right to govern his parents, the student their school, nor the employees their employer.”13

According to this “biblical worldview,” unions and the laws supporting workers’ rights and ability to organize interfere with God’s economic plan. Barton says the Bible disapproves of “socialist union kind of stuff.”14

There have been many examples of this playing out in current domestic politics. In 2012, dominionists associated with the New Apostolic Reformation’s Reformation Prayer Network urged “prayer warriors” to pray that God would “break the power and control” of California’s largest unions and that “financial contributions of unions intended to manipulate the voice of the vote would be shut up and shut down.”15

Christian Right leaders such as the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins have cheered on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s relentless attacks on the state’s unions.16 And in February, Gary North gloated over Walker’s anti-labor “right to work” legislation as representing what he called “a death spiral for unions in America.”17

The Deep Roots of Anti-Unionism

This hostility toward unions has been part of the Christian Right from the movement’s earliest days. Author Jeff Sharlet has written that Pat Robertson’s father was among the members of Congress who were told by Abraham Vereide, founder of the National Prayer Breakfast and The Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family), that God wanted them to break the spine of organized labor.18 And in a March 14, 2015 commentary in The New York Times,19 Princeton University professor Kevin Kruse places Vereide within a larger context of corporate titans recruiting religious leaders to evangelize on behalf of unrestricted capitalism in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. One of them, writes Kruse, was Billy Graham himself, who told revival attendees that the Garden of Eden was a paradise with “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.”

The Christian Coalition’s 1990 leadership manual quotes four biblical passages of the “slaves-obey-your-masters” variety, which president Ralph Reed, stunningly, used as a model for modern employer-employee relations.

Corporate efforts to push back against government regulation and to engage religious leaders as public spokespeople were reenergized in the wake of a 1971 memo by Lewis Powell written just months before his nomination to the Supreme Court. In the memo, Powell warned against the “attack” on the American free enterprise system coming from the nation’s campuses, pulpits, media and arts. Powell called for an aggressive long-term political, intellectual and cultural campaign by American business interests to attack their critics, resist regulation and promote the idea that economic freedom is “indivisible” from other rights.20

It is hard to imagine a memo having greater impact. Powell’s manifesto sparked a massive investment in right-wing infrastructure building by conservative funders and strategists, many of whom came to be called “The New Right.” Among them were Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie and Howard Phillips. These strategists started building the institutional infrastructure that still undergirds the right-wing movement, through powerful organizations like The Heritage Foundation. And, as political scientist Richard J. Meagher wrote for The Public Eye in 2009, they worked to bring conservative evangelicals into their political organizing, hoping that social issues and a “pro-family” platform could help secure their commitment to the Republican agenda.21

By the end of the decade, these New Right leaders had recruited Jerry Falwell and helped him launch the Moral Majority. From that national pulpit, Falwell argued that “the free enterprise system of profit [should] be encouraged to grow, being unhampered by any socialistic laws or red tape.”22 Rus Walton, the late former director of the Plymouth Rock Foundation, included a Christian political agenda in his book One Nation Under God that included abolishing minimum wage laws and compulsory education; instituting right-to-work legislation; ending social services; and applying anti-trust laws to trade unions.23

As Paul Weyrich wrote in the Conservative Digest in 1979, “The alliance on family issues is bound to begin to look at the morality of other issues such as…the unjust power that has been legislated for union bosses.”24

Weyrich’s prediction certainly seemed to be true. In 1990, the nascent Christian Coalition published a leadership manual for its local leaders, co-authored by its then-president Ralph Reed. In a section titled “God’s Delegated Authority in the World,” the manual says, “God established His pattern for work as well as in the family and in the church.”25 The manual quotes four biblical passages of the “slaves-obey-your-masters” variety, which Reed, stunningly, used as a model for modern employer-employee relations:

“Of course, slavery was abolished in this country many years ago, so we must apply these principles to the way Americans work today, to employees and employers: Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers, since they are designated as part of God’s plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man.”

The New New Right

Today’s equivalent of the “New Right,” one could argue, is the huge, opaque network of political organizations funded by the Koch brothers and their pro-corporate, anti-regulation allies.26 The Koch brothers, who describe themselves27 as libertarians uninterested in social conservatives’ culture wars, are more than willing to use Christian Right voters as well as mountains of cash to achieve their anti-government, anti-union ends.28

One of the Koch brothers’ many projects is the LIBRE Initiative,29 which was created to promote laissez-faire economics among American Latinos—this year LIBRE has been cheerleading30 for state passage of “Right to Work” legislation31—and to serve as a vehicle for deceptive advertising trashing Democratic candidates.32 Former National Association of Evangelicals official John Mendez, who directs LIBRE’s faith outreach, told ThinkProgress last year that his job is to put LIBRE’s free-market message “in a theological context.”33 As Mendez told ThinkProgress, “In Scripture it tells us of dependency on God, not dependency on Man…To whom you’re dependent on is who you belong to. So you should not be dependent on government.”

Mendez elaborated in an interview with the Pacific Justice Institute last year that, “we come in and inform them and teach them on those principles of economic freedom and free enterprise from not only a constitutional perspective, but also a biblical perspective.”34

Mendez works with both Tea Party35 and Christian Right groups who are organizing politically, offering advice on how conservatives can reach out to Latinos. Last year, for example, he participated in Ralph Reed’s “Road to Majority” conference and took part in a “Watchmen on the Wall”36 conference organized by Family Research Council and Vision America Action.37 In 2013, he led a “prayer gathering” in advance of a prayer breakfast to help “unite” Virginia’s clergy around their state legislature and inform the religious leaders “of their biblical role and constitutional rights in shaping Virginia.”38

One of the other right-wing organizations formed in the wake of President Barack Obama’s election is the Freedom Federation, a coalition of Christian Right political groups and dominionist “apostolic” ministries and organizations. Tucked among them is the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which preaches a small-government gospel.39 The presence of AFP may explain why the coalition’s founding “Declaration of American Values” included, in addition to predictably conservative positions on social issues, opposition to progressive taxation.

AFP’s Tim Phillips, a former business partner of Ralph Reed, spoke at the Freedom Federation’s Awakening conference a few years ago, along with anti-tax and anti-government activist Grover Norquist, in order to encourage religious conservatives to prioritize shrinking the size of government.40

The Man Who Doesn’t Work Doesn’t Eat

Perhaps even more central to the Reconstructionist philosophy than opposing unions is hostility to government social service spending. North and DeMar are not out to minimize the state simply to save money or prevent government overreach—rhetoric you might hear at a Tea Party function—but because they believe the Bible has delineated clear areas of jurisdiction for the family, church and government. And, they argue, the Bible leaves charity, like education, to the individual and the church, with no biblically legitimate role for government.41

A particularly clear example of what Reconstructionists call “sphere sovereignty”—the idea that God granted the family, the church and government authority over specific areas of life—can be found42 in the writings of Michael Peroutka,43 a former Constitution Party presidential candidate who runs the Institute on the Constitution. Peroutka was elected last year to the Anne Arundel County Council in Maryland as a Republican,44 despite the fact that he’s argued that the Maryland General Assembly is an invalid government body since it has passed laws that Peroutka believes violate “God’s law.”45 Peroutka also believes that, given the government’s only legitimate, biblically-sanctioned role is to protect “God-given rights,” then “It is not the role of civil government to house, feed, clothe, educate or give health care to…ANYBODY!”

John Lofton, the late right-wing pundit and spokesperson for Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution, had a similar message in 2012, writing that “it is crystal clear that in God’s Word He gives NO AUTHORITY to civil government (Caesar) to give health, education or welfare to ANYBODY. If people need help, it is the role of the Church—God’s people—to provide this help and NOT government.”46

David Barton sounds similar themes. Last July he appeared on Trinity Broadcasting Network’s “Praise the Lord.”47 In addition to promoting his theories about Jesus’s views on various taxes, Barton declared, “It’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and needy, it’s the church’s responsibility.” He added, “What we’re doing right now is for the first time in America we have ignored what the Bible says. The Bible says you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

If that has a familiar ring, it’s because some Republican lawmakers quoted that verse to support cuts in spending on food stamps in 2013. One of them was Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who also said, “The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.”48 (His rhetoric equating taxation for social services with theft apparently did not apply to his family’s farming operations, which have received millions of dollars in federal farm subsidies.49)

Star Parker, a frequent speaker at Christian Right political gatherings, similarly equates taxation with theft. Like many conservative activists, Parker has a conversion story. Her shtick is to denigrate recipients of government assistance by describing herself as having once been lazy and dependent on government handouts until someone confronted her that her lifestyle was not pleasing to God. She suggests that anyone willing to work hard can make it like she did. Today, she calls redistribution of wealth “a violation of scripture.”50

Star Parker speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Credit: Gage Skidmore.

Star Parker speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Credit: Gage Skidmore.

Parker’s rhetoric goes beyond bootstraps hectoring. Like other Christian Right activists, she portrays concerns about income inequality as sinful covetousness. Noting that African Americans are traditionally a religious group, she asks, “Why does a people so inclined to turn to God so readily violate the Tenth Commandment’s prohibition on covetousness and measure themselves in terms of what others have? And then use this sin to justify violating the Eighth Commandment and give government license to steal what others have in order to redistribute?”51

“Perhaps more fundamentally,” she asks, “how can a church-going people buy into the materialism of socialism?”

It may not be surprising to hear this kind of language from people at the far right of the evangelical political movement. But similar rhetoric can be heard from people widely considered to be among the reasonable centrists of the evangelical community. Rick Warren is often held as the model of moderate, politically engaged evangelicalism (although PRA readers know to treat that notion skeptically52). Warren told NPR in 2012, “The primary purpose of government is to keep the peace, protect the citizens, provide opportunity. And when we start getting into all kinds of other things, I think we invite greater control. And I’m fundamentally about freedom.”53 More pointedly, as journalist Sarah Posner noted that same year, Warren has called the social gospel “Marxism in Christian clothing.”54

The Meaning of “Socialism”

“Socialism,” one of the chief rallying cries against health care reform, gets thrown around a lot by conservatives grousing about the Obama administration and progressive policies in general. Ingersoll offers a useful insight into the Christian Right’s use of the term:

“When scholars, or liberal activists and commentators, hear the label “socialist,” they understand it to mean a political and economic system where the government centralizes ownership and control in the hands of the state, eliminating private property. When the Reconstructionists use the term, they mean a system in which salvation (in its earthly historical manifestation) is thought to be found in government and in politics; a system that by its very nature seeks to replace God. In this view the legitimate role of government in the economy is limited to ensuring that people deal honestly with one another. Tea Partiers and Reconstructionists see socialism in the “government takeover” of major functions of other institutions. But it is also much broader than this, as socialism is understood as a systematic world and life view.”55

North, notes Ingersoll, sees the world as a binary: “either faith in God or faith in man. It is either Christianity or Marxism.”56 In this conceptualization, writes Ingersoll, “‘socialism’ is when the civil government usurps authority ‘legitimately granted’ to the individual, the family, and the church.”

The social gospel—a strain of progressive-minded Christianity concerned with the promotion of social and economic justice—particularly annoys religious conservatives. And that can play out even within the Republican Party. In January, Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich cited Matthew 25, in which people facing the final judgment are asked whether they fed the hungry and clothed the naked, to defend his decision to accept Medicaid expansion in the state. Some conservatives and right-wing activists were beside themselves.57

Gary DeMar responded to Kasich by saying, “Jesus is not describing the development of government programs…Governments can’t legitimately be charitable and magnanimous with other people’s money.”58 He continued, “They are organizing politically to impose the covetousness prohibited by the tenth commandment.”

The notion that looking to government for economic assistance is a form of idolatry is an idea we have heard elsewhere in the public arena, notably in the ultimately unsuccessful Senate campaign of Sharron Angle, who said entitlement programs “make government our God.”59 Also a few years ago from then-Sen. Jim DeMint, who told The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody that many Tea Party members may have been motivated by “a spiritual component”:

“I think some have been drawn in over the years to a dependency relationship with government and as the Bible says you can’t have two masters and I think as people pull back from that they look more to God. …The bigger God gets the smaller people want their government because they’re yearning for freedom.”60

It’s not only Christian Reconstructionists and conservative evangelicals working to give right-wing economic policies a religious grounding. Catholic writer Michael Novak, formerly ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism back in 1982. Thirty years later, Rep. Paul Ryan defended the massive social spending cuts in his proposed budget in 20121 as a reflection of Catholic principles—a claim vigorously challenged by Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of the national Catholic social justice lobby group NETWORK,2 who continues to oppose Ryan’s approach to poverty and his interpretation of Catholic social justice teachings. READ MORE...

It’s not only Christian Reconstructionists and conservative evangelicals working to give right-wing economic policies a religious grounding. Catholic writer Michael Novak, formerly ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism” back in 1982. Thirty years later, Rep. Paul Ryan defended the massive social spending cuts in his proposed budget in 2012 as a reflection of Catholic principles—a claim vigorously challenged by Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of the national Catholic social justice lobby group NETWORK, who continues to oppose Ryan’s approach to poverty and his interpretation of Catholic social justice teachings. Click here to read more…

DeMint now heads The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing marketing behemoth that is among the institutions that seek to merge the philosophies and organizing energies of the Christian Right and the economic right-wing. One manifestation of that work is “Indivisible: Social and Economic Foundations of American Liberty,” a publication and project devoted to convincing conservative activists that free-market conservatism and traditional values conservatism go hand in hand, as Justice Lewis Powell urged more than 40 years ago. Among the highlights are anti-gay activist Bishop Harry Jackson, writing that the minimum wage is a form of coercion that “reminds me of slavery,” and WORLD magazine editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky, arguing, “Those who esteem the Bible should also applaud St. Milton Friedman and other Church of Chicago prelates, because their insights amplify what the Bible suggests about economics.”61

A Powerful Combination

Advocates for social and economic justice who watch with dismay as right-to-work laws take effect in formerly strong labor states,62 as Republicans propose savage cuts to social spending,63 and as inequality skyrockets in the wake of tax giveaways to the wealthy—what David Barton might call biblically-mandated rewards for profit-makers—are up against a brutally powerful coalition.

For more than half a century, groups of pro-business, anti-regulation, anti-social spending conservatives have built an infrastructure designed to gain and hold political power and have enlisted religious leaders as spokespeople for laissez-faire economic policies. Their efforts have been buttressed by the parallel rise and spread of dominionist theology, grounded in Christian Reconstructionist ideology that unrestricted free-market capitalism is mandated by the Bible and that God grants no role for the government in education or care for the poor. This ideology provided fertile ground for the anti-government zealotry of the Tea Party and the belief that a radically limited role for the federal government is not only a constitutional mandate but also a biblical one. Any long-term strategy for rebuilding progressive political power and reclaiming the legacy of the New Deal must grapple with the realities and motivating power of these intertwined economic, ideological and religious ideologies.

peter montgomery squaredPeter Montgomery is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and editor. He is a senior fellow at People For the American Way and contributes to its Right Wing Watch blog, and is an associate editor for online magazine Religion Dispatches.
 

End Notes

1 (2015). “The Iowa Capital Project.” The Family Leader. Online at http://www.thefamilyleader.com/the-iowa-capitol-project/.

2 Ibid.

3 “Barton’s Bunk: Religious Right ‘Historian’ Hits the Big Time in Tea Party America.” People for the American Way. Online at http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/barton-s-bunk-religious-right-historian-hits-the-big-time-tea-party-america.

4 Peter Montgomery (2012). “Election 2014: 6 Right-Wing Zealots and the Crazy Ideas Behind the Most Outrageous Republican Platform Ever.” Alternet. Online at http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/6-right-wing-zealots-and-crazy-ideas-behind-most-outrageous-republican-platform-ever.

5 David Barton (2012). The Founders’ Bible. Edited by Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels. Newbury Park: Shiloh Road Publishing.

6 Julie Ingersoll (2015). Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism (forthcoming). Oxford University Press. Online at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/building-gods-kingdom-9780199913787.

7 Gary North and Gary DeMar (1991). Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. Institute for Christian Economics. Online at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/pdf/christian_reconstruction.pdf.

8 Adele M. Stan (2011). “5 Reasons Progressives Should Treat Ron Paul with Extreme Caution— ‘Cuddly’ Libertarian Has Some Very Dark Politics.” AlterNet. Online at http://www.alternet.org/story/152192/5_reasons_progressives_should_treat_ron_paul_with_extreme_caution_–_%27cuddly%27_libertarian_has_some_very_dark_politics?page=entire.

9 Sarah Posner (2013). “The Christian Fundamentalism Behind Ron Paul’s Home-school Curriculum.” The Guardian. Online at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/12/christian-fundamentalism-ron-paul-homeschooling.

10 Jay Grimstead (1986). “A Manifesto for the Christian Church.” The Coalition on Revival Online at http://www.reformation.net/COR_Docs/Christian_Manifesto Worldview.pdf.

11 Frederick Clarkson (1994). “Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence.” The Public Eye. Online at https://www.politicalresearch.org/1994/03/19/christian-reconstructionism-part-1-theocratic-dominionism-gains-influence/.

12 Julie Ingersoll in discussion with Peter Montgomery, February 25, 2015.

13 Steven Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel (2009). Evangelicals and Democracy in America; Volume II Religions and Politics. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Online at https://books.google.com/books?id=3flSfjLfYNEC&pg=PA195&dq=the+child+has+no+right+to+govern+his+parents,+the+student+their
+school&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CzYxVamwJ5OSyQTXjoGQDw&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
.

14 Peter Montgomery (2011). “Jesus Hates Taxes: Biblical Capitalism Created Fertile Anti-Union Soil.” Religion Dispatches. Online at http://religiondispatches.org/jesus-hates-taxes-biblical-capitalism-created-fertile-anti-union-soil/.

15 Vicki Nohrden (2012). “California Fastforward Prayer Guide.” The Reformation Prayer Network. Online at https://web.archive.org/web/20120417223106/http:/www.usrpn.org/prayer_guides/single
/california_fast_forward_prayer_guide
.

16 Russell Berman (2015). “Scott Walker, Anti-Union Man.” The Atlantic. Online at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/scott-walker-anti-union-man/387283/.

17 Gary North (2015). “Public Sector Unions in Wisconsin Are Dying.” The Tea Party Economist. Online at http://teapartyeconomist.com/2015/02/23/public-sector-unions-in-wisconsin-are-dying/.

18 Jeff Sharlet (2009). “This Is Not A Religion Column: Biblical Capitalism.” Religion Dispatches. Online at http://religiondispatches.org/ithis-is-not-a-religion-columni-biblical-capitalism/.

19 Kevin Kruse (2015). “A Christian Nation? Since When?” The New York Times. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/a-christian-nation-since-when.html?_r=0.

20 Lewis F. Powell Jr. (1971). “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of America Free Enterprise System.” Reclaim Democracy! Online at http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/.

21 Richard J Meagher (2009). “Political Strategy and the Building of the GOP Coalition.” The Public Eye. Online at https://www.politicalresearch.org/2009/06/10/remembering-the-new-right-political-strategy-and-the-building-of-the-gop-coalition/.

22 Robert Scheer (1981). “The Armageddon Profit: Falwell with Reagan, and preaching at a Moral Majority meeting.” The Age. Online at http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1300&dat=19810318&id=0PFUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ZZIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2299,750980.

23 Russ Walton (1993). One Nation Under God. The Plymouth Rock Foundation. Online at http://books.google.com/books/about/One_nation_under_God.html?id=lnYFDLpYzt8C.

24 Paul Weyrich (1979). “Building the Moral Majority.” Conservative Digest. pp 18-19.

25 Peter Montgomery (2011). “Jesus Hates Taxes: Biblical Capitalism Created Fertile Anti-Union Soil.” Religion Dispatches. Online at http://religiondispatches.org/jesus-hates-taxes-biblical-capitalism-created-fertile-anti-union-soil/.

26 Matea Gold (2014). “Koch-backed political network, built to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012 elections.” The Washington Post. Online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-political-network-built-to-shield-donors-raised-400-million-in-2012-elections/2014/01/05/9e7cfd9a-719b-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html.

27 Paul Blumenthal (2014). “Koch Brothers Fund Group That Contradicts Their Ideology in 2014 Election Push. The Huffington Post. Online at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/koch-brothers-gay-marriage_n_6035958.html.

28 Kenneth P. Vogel (2015). “The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million.” Politico. Online at http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/koch-2016-spending-goal-114604.html.

29 “The Libre Initiative: The Koch Brothers’ focus on Latino Voters.” People For the American Way. Online at http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/libre-initiative-koch-brothers-new-focus-winning-latino-voters.

30 The LIBRE Initiative. Twitter Post. February 28, 2015. 12:41p.m. Online at https://twitter.com/libreinitiative/status/571772077134364672.

31 (2015). “Press Release: “Right to Work” Laws Associated with Stronger Growth.” The LIBRE Initiative. Online at http://thelibreinitiative.com/press/right-work-laws-associated-stronger-growth.

32 Ed Morales (2014). “The Koch Brothers’ Latino Front.” The Progressive. Online at http://www.progressive.org/news/2014/10/187891/koch-brothers%E2%80%99-latino-front.

33 Alice Ollstein (2014). “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Multi-Million Dollar Campaign To Win Over Latinos.” ThinkProgress. Online at http://thinkprogress.org/election/2014/09/30/3573291/koch-libre-latinos/.

34 John Mendez, interviewed by Brad Dacus. Pacific Justice Institute. May 22, 2014. Online at http://www.pacificjustice.org/religious-freedom-minute.

35 (2013). “John Mendez of Libre Initiative speaks to MyLiberty.” MyLiberty. Online at http://mylibertysanmateo.blogspot.com/2013/01/john-mendez-of-libre-initiative-speaks_18.html.

36 John Mendez interviewed by Christian Post. (2014). “John Mendez on the Christian Post.” Youtube. Online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4MqjZCuj5c.

37 (2014). “Join us tomorrow in Denver…” Family Research Council. Online at http://www.frc.org/watchmenonthewall/join-us-tomorrow-in-denver.

38 (2013). “The LIBRE Initiative Invites you to the Pre event Prayer meeting.” Facebook Event. Online at https://www.facebook.com/events/164354173747558/.

39 Kyle Mantyla (2009). “When The Going Gets Tough, The Rights Starts A New Group.” People For the American Way. Online at http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/when-going-gets-tough-right-starts-new-group.

40 Peter Montgomery (2011). “Tea Party Jesus: Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Sidles Up to Religious Right for 2012 Campaign.” AlterNet. Online at http://www.alternet.org/story/150622/tea_party_jesus%3A_koch%27s_americans_for_prosperity_
sidles_up_to_religious_right_for_2012_campaign
.

41 Gary North and Gary DeMar (1991). Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. Institute for Christian Economics. Online at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/pdf/christian_reconstruction.pdf.

42 Michael Peroutka (2013). “Is Our Government Really “Broken”?” The American View. Online at http://www.theamericanview.com/is-our-government-really-broken/.

43 Frederick Clarkson (2015). “Roy Moore & Ron Paul: The Politics of Secession, Nullification, and Marriage Equality.” Political Research Associates. Online at https://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/02/22/roy-moore-ron-paul-the-politics-of-secession-nullification-and-marriage-equality/.

44 Nathalie Baptiste (2014). “GOP’s Neo-Confederate Theocrat Wins Council Seat in One of Richest U.S. Counties.” The American Prospect. Online at http://prospect.org/article/gops-neo-confederate-theocrat-wins-council-seat-one-richest-us-counties.

45 Frederick Clarkson (2014). “Party-Switching Theocrat Wins Primary, Claims Maryland Legislature is Invalid and Talks Revolution. “ Political Research Associates. Online at https://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/06/27/party-switching-theocrat-wins-primary-claims-maryland-legislature-is-invalid-talks-about-revolution/.

46 John Lofton (2012). “God Gives Government NO Authority To Help The Needy…NONE.” The Christian Post. Online at http://blogs.christianpost.com/recovering-republican/god-sanctions-no-health-education-welfare-for-anybody-9538/.

47 David Barton interviewed by Matt and Laurie Crouch, Praise the Lord. July 10, 2014. Online at http://itbn.org/index/detail/lib/Networks/sublib/TBN/ec/RrcG51bjoRcfQnwzbKDLsESPOp09mvGC.

48 Sheryl Gay Stolberg (2013). “On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps.” The New York Times. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/us/as-debate-reopens-food-stamp-recipients-continue-to-squeeze.html?_r=0.

49 Andrew Kaczynski (2013). “These Republicans Who Votes To Cut Food Stamps Personally Received Large Farm Subsidies.” BuzzFeed News. Online at http://buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/these-republicans-who-voted-to-cut-food-stamps-personally-re.

50 Kyle Mantyla (2008). “Star Parker Brings the Crazy.” Right Wing Watch. Online at http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/star-parker-brings-crazy.

51 Star Parker (2011). “Why Do Blacks Still Let Obama Off the Hook?” Townhall.com. Online at http://townhall.com/columnists/starparker/2011/07/18/why_do_blacks_still_let_obama_off_the_hook/page/full.

52 Frederick Clarkson (2015). “Will Our Prisons Overflow with Christians?” Political Research Associates. Online at https://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/03/01/will-our-prisons-overflow-with-christians/.

53 Barbara Bradley Hagerty (2012). “Christian Debate: Was Jesus for Small Government.” National Public Radio. Online at http://www.npr.org/2012/04/16/150568478/christian-conservatives-poverty-not-government-business.

54 Sarah Posner (2012). “That Not-So-Mystifying Rick Warren.” Religion Dispatches. http://religiondispatches.org/that-not-so-mystifying-rick-warren/.

55 Julie J Ingersoll (2015). Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism (forthcoming). Oxford University Press. Online at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/building-gods-kingdom-9780199913787.

56 Gary North (1987). Liberating Planet Earth. Dominion Press. Online at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/pdf/liberating_planet_earth.pdf.

57 Joseph Farah (2015). “John Kasich Defends Obamacare- With Bible!” WND. Online at http://www.wnd.com/2015/02/john-kasich-defends-obamacare-with-bible/.

58 Gary DeMar (2015). “Republican Governor John Kasich Says Bible Supports Obamacare.” Godfather Politics. Online at http://godfatherpolitics.com/20141/republican-governor-john-kasich-says-bible-supports-obamacare/.

59 Anjeanette Damon (2010). “Sharron Angle’s views rooted in biblical law.” Las Vegas Sun. Online at http://lasvegassun.com/news/2010/aug/06/angles-view-rooted-biblical-law/.

60 Jim DeMint interviewed by David Brody, The Christian Broadcasting Network. April 21, 2010. Online at http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2010/04/21/senator-demint-to-brody-file-tea-party-movement-will-bring.aspx.

61 “Indivisible: Social and Economic Foundations of American Liberty.” The Heritage Foundation. Online at http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2013/pdf/Indivisible_Revised.pdf.

62 Mariya Strauss (2015). “The Religious Right Has Been Pushing Anti-Union Right to Work Laws For A Century.” Political Research Associates. Online at https://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/03/17/the-religious-right-has-been-pushing-anti-union-right-to-work-laws-for-a-century/.

63 Paul Krugman (2015). “Trillion Dollar Fraudsters.” The New York Times. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/opinion/paul-krugman-trillion-dollar-fraudsters.html.

 

THE POLITICS OF ANTI-GAY PERSECUTION

GAMBIA, EGYPT, JAMAICA, RUSSIA, WITH A HELPING HAND FROM US RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES; GLOBAL LGBT RECAP

The following is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches. Follow RD on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.

Human Rights Day was celebrated this week, on December 10.  Michael Adee celebrated with a post about the International Consultation on the Church and Homophobia, which was held in Jakarta, Indonesia in November.

Inspired by the theme, I John 4: 18 “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear,” the conference offered an introduction to LGBT issues in the context of God’s call to accept and love all persons including those with different sexual orientations and gender identities. Human dignity, human rights and LGBT equality were central to every conversation, presentation and worship service.

Sixty participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Philippines, Jamaica, Angola, Togo, Sweden, Germany, England and the United States attended the conference.

Human-Rights-Day]

Religious conservatives in the US and abroad have labeled American efforts to promote LGBT human rights overseas as imperialism. But activists at a conference coinciding with the third anniversary of a memorandum from President Obama charging US foreign policy agencies to promote LGBT rights said that US efforts have been important to activists promoting equality and facing persecution around the world. Read the Washington Blade’s report here.

On Wednesday, the Daily Beast hosted an event called Quorum: Global LGBT Voices that featured interviews with more than 25 activists from around the world to talk about “what is happening on the front lines of the global fight for equality.” Talks and panel discussions will the broadcast in the coming months. RD contributor Jay Michaelson profiled one of the participants, Cameroonian human rights attorney Alice N’kom.

The International Olympic Committee unanimously voted to add language opposing discrimination on sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter.

Vatican: Pope says Church should help parents ‘stand by’ their gay children

Pope Francis gave an interview with the Argentine daily La Nación in which he reflected on the recent synod of bishops. From the International Business Times:

“We come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation. This happened to me several times in Buenos Aires…. We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with the Argentine daily La Nación. While it is important to find ways to welcome gay Catholics, gay marriage is still not on the church’s agenda, Francis said.”

Jamaica: More US conservatives back anti-gay organizing

As we have reported before, American religious conservatives have been actively opposing efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in Jamaica. Last weekend, Liberty Counsel chair Mat Staver and anti-gay author Judith Reisman were the latest to attend an anti-gay event that, in Orwellian fashion, was called the International Human Rights Conference. The conference was hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Health Society. Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch reports:

The groups organizing the conference have opposed efforts to overturn the country’s anti-sodomy laws, which impose up to 10 years imprisonment for gay sex. Jamaica CAUSE, a cosponsor, organized rallies earlier this year to oppose an effort to overturn the law. The main sponsor, Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, also supports keeping the laws. On its website, JCHS provides a document called “Frequently Asked Questions About The Buggery Law” that attributes homosexuality to “economic reasons, direct Satanic influence, media and entertainment enticement, and experiences during incarceration” and cautions, “If determining human rights is separated from morality and based on individual freedom without any restraints, all perversions will in due time become ‘rights’.”

The Washington Blade reports:

The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and Jamaica CAUSE are also organizing a rally at a Kingston park on Dec. 10 that will coincide with International Human Rights Day. They describe the event as “an evening of song, dance and poetry celebrating God the giver of perfect law and rights.”

Recently, Grace Phelps-Roper, a former member of the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church and a granddaughter of its founder, traveled to Jamaica with the group Planting Peace, reports Metro Weekly, “to learn about the plight of LGBT people there.”

“I spent twenty years learning why God hates gays, preaching that they’re ‘beasts’ and ‘depraved,’ and protesting anyone who dared to speak up for them,” Phelps stated. “When I heard about the young people living in Jamaican sewers because their parents kicked them out for being gay, my heart hurt for them. I know what that’s like, being rejected by your family for not going along with their beliefs. There’s an irony there that I couldn’t ignore: that I share a fate with the very people I was taught to dehumanize so fiercely. I wanted to meet them, to see their plight for myself, and help tell the world their story.”

An Anglican priest who invited LGBT people to attend his service in commemoration of Human Rights Day, and washed the feet of two lesbians, is reportedly facing some backlash from his congregation and “questions” from the Jamaica Council of Churches.

Gambia: President whips up anti-gay sentiment with public rally

Gambian political leaders stepped up their ongoing campaign against LGBT people this week. President Jammeh was among thousands of Gambians who took part in a march to denounce homosexuality. Marchers also criticized attempts by donor nations to promote LGBT rights. From a report in the Daily Observer in Banjul:

Protesters, who started the procession at the National Assembly through State House carried placards and banners bearing; “Homosexuality is Inhuman”; “Even cows don’t do it!” “Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam”. It was calculated move by the demonstrators in a way to show to Gambian development partners and the rest of the world that the West African nation is one of God-fearing people who will under no circumstances accept homosexuality, lesbianism and the likes.

At the July 22nd Square in Banjul where demonstrators gathered to mark the end of the procession, a petition against homosexualism was read on behalf of protesters by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Saihou Sanyang.

It reads: “Your Excellency Mr. President, it is important to contextualise such a lofty statesmanship within the overall provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia 1997. This, in clear terms and provisions has stipulated that The Gambia is an independent sovereign state on equal status with all other nations irrespective of geographic size, economic or political might or wherewithal.

It is on the basis of principles of the equality, self-determination, and mutual co-existence that our foreign policies, which are but extensions of our domestic policies, are based. It is important to state that the spirit of the Constitution irrespective of its legalistic architecture in both its totality and otherwise is not the voice of the philosophical, religious, ethical, moral, and social values. As a country of religious people who live by the dictate of Allah as commanded in the religious preachings and their protractors, the stance on the principle of secularity in no way admits or accepts the principle to immoralities.

“Your Excellency Mr. President, it goes without saying that our intolerance with the unnatural and abominable malpractices of homosexuality and lesbianism on the one hand, and the other, our government’s position are not negotiable. It is on the basis of such religious, social, moral and ethical upbringing built on high moral grounds that we stand by our government’s position to zero tolerance to either homosexuality or lesbianism or both. There shall not be any turning point and that the people are ready for eventuals in good defence of the people and country’s independence”.

Russia: ‘Pro-Family’ allies promote Putin’s geopolitical agenda

BuzzFeed reported this week that, according to leaked emails between right-wing activists, “Russian nationalists and social conservatives appear to be working together to use links with ‘pro-family’ organizations in the U.S. and around the world to promote Russia’s geopolitical agenda.” The leaked emails include documents related to the “pro-family” summit held in Moscow in September which American religious conservatives helped organize and participated in.

The spreadsheet shows confirmed attendance at the conference “gala” from government officials, religious leaders, and activists from around 50 countries. These include France’s Aymeric Chauprade — a member of the European Parliament from the far-right Front National party — the Hungarian Minister of State for Family Affairs Katalin Veresné Novák, and Kyrgyzstan’s First Lady, Raisa Atambaeva. The guest list notes that several members of parliament from European countries had been “recommended” for the event by Russian MP Yelena Mizulina, author of the so-called “gay propaganda” law. Nineteen are identified as coming from the United States — including the National Organization of Marriage’s Brian Brown — most of whom were “recommended” by the World Congress of Families….

Russians invited include Igor Shchegolev – a senior aide to Putin – and Father Tikhon, an Orthodox monk said to be Putin’s confessor, but the list including their names does not indicate whether they accepted the invitation.

Chile: Marriage equality bill introduced

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reports that lawmakers in Chile introduced a bill to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“With this bill we are looking to eradicate the historic discrimination that affects people simply for loving and living with someone of the same sex,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in its press release. “Respect for family diversity is at the heart of this bill that we celebrate with backing throughout the political world and also with the broad support of citizen organizations.”

The same-sex marriage bill’s introduction comes against the backdrop of the ongoing debate on a separate measure that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

Egypt: Anti-gay persecution cheered on by tabloid TV

We have been reporting on Egyptian officials using anti-gay persecution as political distraction and a way to mollify Islamist factions. Morals police reportedly arrested men at a Cairo bathhouse on Sunday and accused them of “perversions.” A reporter for a pro-regime TV channel that instigated the raid gloated over the arrest and posted photographs of the men on Facebook. At the Guardian, Brian Whitaker examines the ways Egyptian governments have made political use out of anti-gay persecution, “even though homosexuality is not actually illegal in Egypt.” He recounts the Mubarak regime’s use of sensational trials as a diversion from economic and political problems and concludes, “It seems very likely that the crackdown under President al-Sisi is occurring for similar reasons: to distract attention from bigger issues, to show that while suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood the regime is still capable of playing the ‘morality’ card, or a combination of both.”

United Kingdom: Activists resist deportation of Ugandan lesbian

Activists in the UK continue to press the case of a lesbian seeking asylum in the country who won a last-minute, but possibly temporary, reprieve from deportation to Uganda this week. She told PinkNews that she would rather die in a British detention center than be returned to Uganda. “Campaigners say Ms Twikireze was forced to undergo ‘a torturous exorcism’ ritual in Uganda as a young child in a bid to ‘cure’ her from being gay.”

A Catholic monk who is the director of a Scotland-based charity was arrested for distributing anti-gay leaflets in Cambridge.

Japan: Zen Buddhist temple offers same-sex couples symbolic wedding ceremonies

Japan does not legally recognize marriage by same-sex couples, but a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto offers symbolic ceremonies. The Advocate notes that the temple’s website includes this statement:

“Shunkoin Temple is against any forms of ‘Human Rights Violations’ in the world. No religion teaches how to hate others. Religion teaches how to love and respect others.”

Scotland: Episcopal Church warns priests away from soon-to-be-legal marriages

The Scottish Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops warned its clergy that even though same-sex couples will be able to legally marry on December 31, the church does not permit clergy to perform or enter into a same-sex marriage.

South Korea: Protesters occupy city hall after nondiscrimination charter dropped

LGBT protesters occupied City Hall in Seoul this week after the government dropped plans to enact a human rights charter that would have banned anti-gay discrimination. According to Pink News, the charter was to have been enacted on Human Rights Day – December 10 – but “after it picked up flack from church groups and conservatives, the planned charter was postponed indefinitely.”

New Zealand: first gay judge on high court

Matthew Muir has become the first openly gay member of the country’s highest court.

Australia: Gay man becomes chief minister of capital territory

Andrew Barr was appointed Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, making him the country’s first openly gay government leader.

PRA addition:

United Nations Panel Speaks on African LGBTQ People

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, senior religion and sexuality researcher at Political Research Associates, spoke on a panel at the United Nations about the struggle of the African LGBTQ community. Video of the panel is available here.

Defending the “traditional family” has come to mean demonizing sexual minorities. Not long ago, people who looked like me were considered less human, and millions were exported as natural goods across the world. But the people of good conscience stood up, and forced the world to demand justice for the entire human family and not just for the chosen few. Love is a human and family value, it ought not to be a crime—it is an intrinsic value inherent in each one of us. To deny others the ability to love and to be loved is to rob them of their humanity. It is to force them into hating themselves as well as life denying situations and ultimately sentencing them to death!

We all have the duty to defend the family! Like the rainbow, our human family has always being diverse! Persecution, rejection and demonization of LGBTQ persons weaken the family—it doesn’t protect or strengthen it. We are one human family—black, white, Latinos, yellow,  straight, gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender—we all have a special place in the human family.

It is this family value we must all defend and protect! It is not long ago that Jews and Tutsis were robbed of their place in the human family! The result is genocide. Is it not time we stood together and said, enough is enough—one more life is too much?

Sexual minorities are not pleading for sympathy, special rights or benefits—they are just taking their own place at the family table. They want the ability to live, love and to be loved without fear of persecution! It is this family value that we must all protect, defend and uphold—for love is a family value worth defending and in the case of many African sexual minorities, worth dying for!

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Guest Post – Right-Wing Evangelicals in Uganda: Telling the Whole Story

Guest Post By Peter Montgomery

Peter Montgomery

Peter Montgomery

American Religious Right groups have spent years promoting anti-gay attitudes and policies overseas.  As Political Research Associates, People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, and others have documented, American right-wing evangelicals have pushed for laws criminalizing homosexuality, banning marriage equality, and suppressing pro-equality advocacy in many parts of the world, including Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Conservative religious activists in the U.S. have praised anti-gay laws in Russia, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The consequences of these efforts by conservative American Christians have been devastating for many LGBT people. Which is why it was so frustrating to read this Religion News Service story by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, which suggests that American evangelicals are being unfairly associated with Uganda’s law.

The story quotes some evangelical leaders who opposed and have criticized Uganda’s law, including Rick Warren and Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. And that’s fine as far as it goes: it is important to have Christians speaking out against harmful anti-gay legislation, and they should not be unfairly accused of backing it if they didn’t.

But the RNS story falls short by ignoring the reason American Christians are associated with the law: because American evangelicals traveled to Uganda, cultivated and financially supported anti-gay clergy and politicians there, and helped ignite a wave of homophobia. In the documentary God Loves Uganda, one pastor marvels to an interviewer that his financial support from Americans tripled once he started focusing on homosexuality. The fact that anti-gay politicians also had their own domestic political calculations in mind doesn’t mean American support has not played a significant role in stoking the flames of homophobia sweeping across parts of Africa.

In a twitter exchange, Bailey said she knew of nobody with a constituency who supported the Uganda law. Bryan Fischer is a spokesman for the American Family Association, one of the biggest Religious Right groups in America, and has a show on the AFA’s radio network. Fischer celebrated the signing of the Uganda law, connecting it to the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson: he tweeted, “Uganda stands with Phil. Makes homosexuality contrary to public policy. It can be done.” Fischer regularly gets politicians on his show. He has addressed the Values Voter Summit. Doesn’t he have a constituency? It’s also worth noting that when the Obama administration criticized the Ugandan bill, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins told the U.S. to back off, calling the legislation an effort to “uphold moral conduct.”

And what about Scott Lively, who blames gays for the rise of the Nazi Party and the Holocaust? Lively is a discredited and marginalized figure in the U.S., where a federal judge has rejected his efforts to dismiss a lawsuit charging him with promoting anti-gay persecution. But he has been criss-crossing the globe, telling legislators and other public officials that gays are a threat to children and families. He has bragged about the role he played in pushing Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law, which is being used to punish journalists and activists. He believes other countries should embrace laws that similarly suppress free speech when it comes to advocacy for LGBT equality.

In the RNS Story, Lively says he is not responsible for the Ugandan law. Maybe it depends on what the meaning of “is” is. Certainly Ugandan members of parliament and President Yoweri Museveni are responsible for the law. But Lively has played a major role in fanning anti-gay sentiment and arguing for the urgency of legislation aimed at stopping moves toward equality. In 2009, he helped organize a rally supporting the bill, at which another American evangelical, Lou Engle, told participants he had been called to Uganda to support the church there in its stand for righteousness.

In the RNS story, Lively says he has “mixed feelings” about the law and doesn’t support its final form. In a recent press conference, Lively was more explicit, saying that while his goal isn’t to put people in jail for being gay – as long as they keep their sexuality behind closed doors and don’t try to influence society –he thinks governments have a duty to discourage sex outside the law. More specifically, he said that if he had to choose between the Uganda law and complete freedom for “the homosexual agenda” he would take the law. That is not the impression left by the RNS story.

Any article that quotes Scott Lively, particularly a story that seemingly purports to exonerate him, owes its readers a fuller picture of his anti-gay activism, which explicitly includes support for laws that suppress the free speech of pro-equality advocates, as those in Russian, Nigeria, and Uganda do. And it is definitely worth noting that Lively has recently created a new coalition designed to push anti-gay policies overseas. Why is such a group needed now, when there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of anti-gay activism in the world? Because, Lively says, too many conservative leaders are afraid to denounce homosexuality itself and not just marriage equality. Among the many who have signed up for Lively’s new bigotry-spreading campaign are the American Family Association’s Tim Wildmon and Bryan Fischer and Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber.

The Southern Baptists’ Russell Moore told RNS he knows no evangelicals who would support legislation like Uganda’s. Perhaps we can make some introductions.

Peter Montgomery is a Washington DC-based writer. He is a senior fellow at People For the American Way and an associate editor at online magazine Religion Dispatches.