I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say the United States is in pretty bad shape right now. The economy is in the middle of a meltdown, unemployment has skyrocketed and the nation is so deeply divided, it’s difficult to tell someone to have a nice day without starting an argument. And yet on Monday, October 10, 2011, one of the biggest topics of discussion in this country was something that happened over the weekend at a Christian political gathering called the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.
One of the many, many clergymen in attendance at the summit was Pastor Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist megachurch in Dallas, Texas, who introduced Governor Rick Perry on Friday. During the introduction, Jeffress said, “Do we want a candidate who is a good moral person, or do we want a candidate who is a born-again follower of Jesus Christ? In Rick Perry, we have a candidate who is a committed follower of Christ.” While speaking to reporters in the hallway later, Jeffress expanded on that: “Mormonism is not Christianity. It’s not politically correct to say, but Mormonism is a cult.” He told CNN, “I think Mitt Romney’s a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney. So that’s why I’m enthusiastic about Perry.” Jeffress’s remarks were bigger news than Perry’s speech. Talk radio was abuzz on Monday with discussion about it.
I’ve always been a fan of talk radio — but reasonable talk radio, not the hate-spewing, fact-distorting and sometimes outright lying hysteria that dominates the airwaves today. I live in northern California and for most of my life, I’ve been a regular listener of San Francisco’s KGO, a news-talk station with a lineup of civilized, intelligent, mostly centrist hosts. Two of the best are Gil Gross on weekday afternoons and John Rothmann on weekday evenings. I don’t always agree with them, of course — I can’t think of anyone with whom I always agree — but they’re intelligent, witty and — most importantly, as far as I’m concerned — reasonable men, responsible broadcasters who respect their listeners and don’t shoot for the lowest common denominator with inflammatory rhetoric to grab ratings. They’re very good at what they do, but they’re local hosts because, for the most part, nationally syndicated talk radio is short on reason and respect and feasts on the lowest common denominator.
Both Gross and Rothmann discussed Jeffress’s remarks about Mormonism on Monday. So did talk hosts across the country, but these are the guys I heard, so I’m focusing on them. Gross asked listeners if Jeffress’s comments made him a bigot; many of his callers said yes, it did. Rothmann took a more general approach and discussed the overall significance of Jeffress’s remarks.
When a caller pointed out that Jeffress’s comments and other religious discussions had no place in American politics because we’re supposed to separate religion from government in this country, Rothmann said that was beside the point because the discussion does take place and has for a long time. To make his point, he referred to the bitter presidential race of 1884, when Presbyterian minister Samuel D. Burchard addressed the Religious Bureau of the Republican National Committee a week before the general election and, supporting Republican candidate James G. Blaine, said, “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion. We are loyal to our flag.” Burchard referred to prohibition (rum), Catholicism (Romanism) and the Civil War (rebellion), and when voters got wind of the nasty remark from a man of the cloth, the election swung in favor of Democrat Grover Cleveland.
Rothmann went on to point out that religion has long been an issue in politics, citing national suspicion over John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism and Jimmy Carter’s use of the fact that he was an evangelical Christian in his campaign. This raises an important question:
So what? Does the length of time that something has gone on make it right? Was the fact that women had never had the right to vote before in the United States reason to continue denying them the vote? Was the fact that slavery had gone on for 89 years a good reason not to end it in 1865? Does the fact that people have been arguing about the religious beliefs of candidates for centuries cancel out paragraph three of Article IV of the United States Constitution?
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
It angers me that we’re spending so much time discussing the speeches and comments made at the Values Voters Summit. Why is it news that a representative of one Christian sect has slammed another Christian sect? That’s been going on for 2,000 years! There are more than 30,000 different denominations of the One True Faith because none of them can agree on the particulars, and each Christian denomination claims to be the right one. Jeffress’s comments shouldn’t be eliciting discussion, they should be eliciting yawns. This is what they do — when they’re not slamming people outside Christianity, they’re slamming everyone else within Christianity. Old news, folks. It should not be part of the national discussion!
What we should be discussing is the fact that no one — no one — who attends or supports the Values Voters Summit has any business holding public office in the United States, least of all the office of president!
Why, you ask? Pull up a chair and get comfortable.
The Values Voters Summit is an annual conference of social conservative activists that began in 2006. Its organizers and sponsors define the key issues for social conservatives — code for (mostly fundamentalist) Christians — which are primarily the opposition to a woman’s right to have access to abortion or birth control and to the rights of gay Americans, among other things. Who are the organizers and sponsors? I’m so glad you asked.
Family Research Council
The driving force behind the Values Voters Summit is the Family Research Council, founded by James Dobson of Focus on the Family. It primarily advocates against LGBT rights and abortion, but also actively opposes divorce, pornography, birth control and stem-cell research. It pours money and effort into getting prayer and the teaching of creation (“intelligent design”) into public schools and one of its main objectives is to implement in all of America’s domestic and foreign policy a rigid standard of Christian “morality.” But it attacks nothing with the venom and passion with which it attacks the rights of gay people. The founding board of the FRC included a man named George Rekers.
Maybe you remember Rekers, a psychologist and Southern Baptist minister. As a UCLA doctoral student in the 1970s, Rekers led an experimental study to treat what he called “sissyboy syndrome” (effeminate behavior in young boys) involving a little boy named Kirk Murphy, advocating beating to prevent the behavior in question. Rekers repeatedly declared the experiment a success, but Murphy suffered long-term emotional damage that resulted in suicide. Rekers is a longtime prominent opponent of gay rights who has actively worked to prevent gay couples from adopting children. In the spring of 2010, he was caught going on a European vacation with a male prostitute. He claimed he’d hired the escort to carry his luggage because a recent surgery had made him unable to do any lifting. But the rentboy told a different story — that Rekers had paid him for daily “sexual massages.” FRC president Tony Perkins and others associated with the organization have repeatedly cited Rekers’s research in its demonization of homosexuality, which is made up of demonizing information proven false by every legitimate professional medical and psychiatric organization in the country.
In a 1999 article titled “Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia,” Perkins wrote:
“ … one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order. … Gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement.”
The article has been removed from the FRC website, but the claims made by Perkins and others associated with the FRC have led the Southern Poverty Law Center to include the organization on its list of hate groups for deliberately spreading disinformation about homosexuality. Perkins, FRC spokesman Peter Spriggs and others in the group have advocated making homosexuality illegal and punishable by time in prison. The FRC also promotes “conversion therapy,” which claims to “cure” homosexuality but has been denounced, once again, by every legitimate professional medical and psychiatric organization in the country as both ineffective and harmful.
American Family Association
Originally founded by Donald Wildmon in 1977 as the National Federation for Decency, the AFA describes itself as a “Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media.” A United Methodist minister, Wildmon has spent most of his life organizing boycotts against the sponsors of anything he finds offensive. And he pretty much finds everything offensive. As Aimee Groth and Gus Lubin pointed out in their recent Business Insider article, “Although his organization was a non-profit, Wildmon’s American Family Association grew at a rate that would cause envy in Silicon Valley. Within years his Christian organization was a feared adversary of Fortune 500 companies.”
Wildmon kicked things off in 1978 by boycotting Sears for sponsoring Charlie’s Angels and Three’s Company. In coordination with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Federation, he led a 1986 boycott that moved the 7-Eleven chain to take Playboy and Penthouse out of its stores. In 1988, Wildmon claimed an episode of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures depicted Mighty Mouse sniffing cocaine — although the cartoon mouse was only sniffing the remains of a crushed flower — and called animator Ralph Bakshi a “pornographer” because he made the 1972 animated movie Fritz the Cat. Bakshi vehemently denied the accusation, saying, “Mighty Mouse was happy after smelling the flowers because it helped him remember the little girl who sold it to him fondly.” But he edited the 3.5-second bit from the episode, fearing that children would think Wildmon’s claim was true. Wildmon then said the edit was “a de facto admission that, indeed, Mighty Mouse was snorting cocaine.” In 2005, the AFA launched a three-year boycott of Ford for advertising in gay magazines and has angrily accused many companies of fighting a nonexistent “war on Christmas” because they use phrases like “happy holidays” in their stores at Christmas time. As Bakshi said, “This all smacks of burning books and the Third Reich. It smacks of McCarthyism. I’m not going to get into who sniffs what. This is lunacy!” Of course, he’s right. It does.
The AFA has been very active in politics over the years, supporting the 2008 presidential campaign of former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee and has been a powerful supporter of the Tea Party. But there is no better evidence of the diseased nature of the AFA than its current spokesman, Bryan Fischer.
On his radio show Focal Point and in his column Rightly Concerned, Fischer vomits up hatred, bigotry and lies the way Linda Blair vomited pea soup in The Exorcist. His hatred of homosexuals, non-Christians, Native Americans and other minorities and anyone to the left of Dracula is so venomous that it boggles the mind. And he does it all in the name of his personal lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Here are just a few samples of the endless parade of disgusting crap that flows from this man, and by extension from the AFA:
“Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it’s time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.”
— “Homosexuality, Hitler and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” May 28, 2010
“Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment. … From a constitutional point of view, Muslims have no First Amendment right to build mosques in America.”
— Rightly Concerned, March 23, 2011
“Homosexual conduct is as risky and dangerous as injection drug abuse. No right-thinking adult would encourage a student tempted to shoot up to yield to such impulses and plunge headlong into a drug-addled lifestyle. In fact, we would be highly critical of any adult who would do that, and hold him partially accountable for the destruction that would follow. … If we want to see fewer students commit suicide, we want fewer homosexual students.”
— Rightly Concerned, October 13, 2010
“Here’s an idea: since gay sex is more dangerous to human health than cigarette smoking, let’s make sure our public policies on both are the same. … In other words, the official administration policy on cigarette smoking is abstinence. Let’s make it the official government position on gay sex.”
— Rightly Concerned, December 9, 2010
“The native American tribes at the time of the European settlement and founding of the United States were, virtually without exception, steeped in the basest forms of superstition, had been guilty of savagery in warfare for hundreds of years, and practiced the most debased forms of sexuality. … Many of the tribal reservations today remain mired in poverty and alcoholism because many native Americans continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition instead of coming into the light of Christianity and assimilating into Christian culture.”
— Rightly Concerned, February 8, 2011 (column removed from website)
“We simply should not elevate to the highest court in the land people who are known for engaging in sexually abnormal behavior which would technically make them felons in a quarter of the states over which they will have jurisdiction.”
— Rightly Concerned, April 15, 2010
“I did one time visit the mosque on the Mount in Jerusalem when I was there ten, twelve years ago. … That’s the only time I’ve been into a mosque, and it was to pray that god would pull that house down.”
— Focal Point, November 10, 2010
“[T]he most compassionate thing we can do for Americans is to bring a halt to the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. … The most compassionate thing we can do for Muslims who have already immigrated here is to help repatriate them back to Muslim countries, where they can live in a culture which shares their values, a place where they can once again be at home, surrounded by people who cherish their deeply held ideals. Why force them to chafe against the freedom, liberty and civil rights we cherish in the West?”
— Rightly Concerned, April 8, 2010
Please watch this video compilation of some of the things Fischer has said on his radio — that homosexuality should be a felony, that all liberals hate god and Christiantiy, that gay activists are Nazis, that the First Amendment was written for Christians alone, that Hitler recruited gay men for his army because they had no morals and would do whatever he told them, and more.
Bryan Fischer is the face and voice of the American Family Association, and he has been embraced by the Republican Party. He spoke at this year’s Values Voters Summit, as he has in the past, on the same stage as Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and others. Mitt Romney gently chided him, but he did not name him and his rebuke was so soft, you could have gotten a good night’s sleep on it. As spokesman of the AFA, Bryan Fischer has directed hatred at just about everyone and has supported ideas and policies that oppose everything the United States and its Constitution stand for, and yet the best Mitt Romney can do is say the following:
“Our values ennoble the citizen, and they strengthen the nation. We should remember that decency and civility are values too. One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line I think. Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate. The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda, narrow our vision or drive us apart.”
But Romney still appeared at the summit, still spoke on the stage, still embraced the summit’s organizers and sponsors in an effort to secure the votes of people whose words and actions repeatedly trample the United States Constitution. If he wants to be the president of the United States, then he shouldn’t even have BEEN there!
There are other groups associated with the summit. Those listed above are the worst offenders — and aren’t they enough? — but they are all made of the same cloth.
For more than 30 years, ever since Ronald Reagan led Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson into the White House with him, the United States has been under the growing influence of a group of theocratic, anti-Constitution Christian groups who work hard to demonize and limit the rights of everyone who does not meet their particular biblical standards, all the while engaging in hateful rhetoric and activities that oppose everything America stands for.
It has been a gradual process, not unlike soaking in a vat of water that is ever so slowly brought to a boil. Now it’s boiling, and we’re in it. But because the process has been so gradual, we have been blind to its acceleration and growth, so that instead of condemning and denouncing it, we are steeped in discussions about the validity of the activities and beliefs of its perpetrators.
Instead of railing against it, reasonable men like Gil Gross and John Rothmann talk about whether or not Pastor Robert Jeffress’s comments about the Mormon faith are right or wrong. Who cares about his comments about the Mormon faith when these people are trying to make women second-class citizens, turn gay people into criminals simply because of their sexuality and transform this country into a totalitarian theocracy? We are so immersed in this movement that no one seems to be very upset that all of the Republican candidates for president repeatedly embrace these bigoted and anti-American groups! The Republican party has become the Republican Church because it has been commandeered by these hateful tyrants who want to legislate their religious beliefs to everyone in America!
Why aren’t more people speaking out? Not everyone is ignorant of this problem. Plenty of people see it. But because it involves religion, people are afraid to speak up. After all, doesn’t the United States provide freedom of religion to all? Aren’t these people free to believe as they please?
Yes, they are. But they are not free to use politics and the government to impose their religion on everyone, and that is exactly what they’re doing! They’re doing it right in front of our faces. They are dictating the national dialogue and, even worse, they are influencing elections. And all the while, they are not paying taxes! If these groups want to be this involved in politics, then they should be paying taxes! They’re all non-profit groups, and if it means changing the tax laws to prevent this kind of threatening influence over the nation, then so be it!
Anyone who says we are wrong to condemn their words and deeds because they are extensions of religious belief is sound asleep! No one has limited the religious freedoms of these people. Their religious liberty remains fully intact. But they are threatening the freedoms of others, and they are using America’s freedom of religion as their protection.
It’s time to stop discussing the Values Voters Summit as if it’s just another gathering of politically concerned Americans. It is not. It is a meeting of religious fascists that is being participated in and supported, year after year, by the very people who want to lead this nation — the very people who do lead this nation!
That should scare the shit out of EVERYBODY!
I call on people like Gil Gross and John Rothmann and other media voices to stop treating this conference as if it’s anything but a threat to the freedoms provided by the United States. And I call on you, dear reader, to do the same. Follow the links in this article and educate yourself about the people involved in the Values Voters Summit. From now on, when you hear this conference or any of its participants being discussed in a group or on a radio or TV call-in show, speak up! Don’t let anyone get away with discussing these people as if they are anything other than what they are — bigots, hate-mongers and Constitution-hating theocrats who want to turn this country into a nation that is governed according to their religious beliefs. They are a threat to the United States, even more than terrorists, because they are already here and entrenched in our politics and government.
We’ve been silent for too long. It’s far past time to wake up and speak out. If these groups get what they want — and they are closer to that goal than ever before — it will be the fault of each and every one of us. And it will be too late to speak up then, because speaking up will no longer be allowed.
(Read the follow-up to this article, “Jesus was ‘Far more Incendiary and Inflammatory” Than Bryan Fischer”)