Archive for the ‘2012 Elections’ Category

What They Really Think

March 29, 2012

From a religious-right group’s email to activists today:

“Rick Santorum is from God and will win with Christians and Catholics uniting for Santorum.”

“Christians and Catholics”? As if Catholics aren’t Christians?

Of course, it’s bad enough that religious-righters try to deify their favored political candidates (like Santorum). But the suggestion that Catholics are something other than Christians should tell you what they really think about even their supposed allies.

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Dewhurst to ‘Brief’ Pastors on Voter ID Law

March 20, 2012

We told you earlier this month that Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst seems to be taking a page out of Rick Perry’s political handbook in his quest for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate this year. The lieutenant governor is scheduled to speak on Friday at a “private briefing” for pastors in Houston. Over the years Gov. Perry has made such “briefings” a key part of his political strategy to court the electoral support of conservative evangelical pastors. But we thought it was interesting how today’s email from the Texas Pastor Council (another name the Houston Area Pastor Council uses) highlights just one of the so-called “critical issues” pastors will hear Dewhurst discuss on Friday:

Pastors, this is your opportunity to receive a private briefing from our Lieutenant Governor on critical issues such as the controversial Voter ID law. We will also be briefed by Pastor Steve Riggle about our stand for traditional marriage and what it means to the city, state, and nation!

Riggle has been involved in an intense anti-gay attack campaign against Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker. But event organizers think pastors are particularly interested in having Dewhurst “brief” them about the Texas voter ID law.

Well, maybe they are. But we wonder whether any of them will ask the lieutenant governor what he thinks Jesus would say about a law that will make ballot access harder especially for low-income minorities and the elderly, all of whom are least likely to have driver’s licenses or other state-issued photo identification.

Heathen U

February 25, 2012

Rick Santorum just cannot help himself. Political pundits and strategists affiliated with his own party have been virtually screaming at him, telling him that if he wants any shot at winning in November he needs to quit the culture wars and stick to jobs, jobs, jobs. But, again, he just can’t help himself.

On Thursday, Santorum sat down with professional conspiracy theorist and right-wing radio talk show host Glenn Beck for a wide-ranging interview, during which he dropped this whopper:

I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely. The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.

The proof? For President Obama’s alleged nefarious motivations, Santorum offered none. For colleges as “indoctrination mills,” Santorum noted that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it.”

62 percent? Wow, that is a big number, isn’t it? You know what’s an even bigger number? 76 percent (more on this in a bit).

We were curious, so we went looking for the source of Santorum’s information and found that the Republican presidential candidate likes his facts picked like cherries and is likely guilty of a lie of omission.

The info appears to come from this study published in 2007 in the Social Science Research Council’s journal Social Forces (hat tip to PBS for pointing us to it).

The study does say that 64 percent — not 62 percent — Yikes! It’s even worse than Santorum thought! — of students enrolled in traditional four-year colleges report a decline in attendance in religious services. But what the study also says and that Santorum neglected to mention is this:

Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.

And this:

Simply put: Higher education is not the enemy of religiosity. Instead, young people who avoid college altogether display a more precipitous drop in their religious participation.

According to the very same study cited by Santorum, colleges as secularizing machines are about as real as the mythical “war on religion” and “war on Christmas.”

In fact, the study notes there are many other reasons why young adults become less religious, but that framed diploma hanging on their walls isn’t one of them.

Bashing Gays for Votes

February 24, 2012

How quickly they turn on you. Tom Leppert won his 2007 race for Dallas mayor after supporters attacked his main opponent for being gay. Now Leppert is under attack by his opponents in the race for a U.S. Senate seat for “celebrating gay pride” while he served as mayor.

On Wednesday Leppert and other Republican candidates for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Kay Baily Hutchison participated in a debate sponsored by the right-wing Eagle Forum at the Dallas Country Club. Among the candidates at the debate were Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, ESPN sports analyst Craig James and Driftwood mediator Lela Pittenger. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is also seeking the Senate seat, didn’t attend.

Leppert’s opponents criticized him for (gasp!) attending two gay pride parades when he was Dallas mayor. According to the Dallas Morning News, Cruz argued that Leppert’s participation in the events sent a wrong message to the public:

“When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement. It’s not a statement I believe in.”

James moved beyond just criticizing Leppert and insisted that sexual orientation is a “choice.” From the Dallas Morning News story:

James, a rancher and former NFL player, said Leppert could have made a stronger stand for Christians by skipping the events. James said he would never take part in a gay rights parade.

“Our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that’s going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t ride in gay parades,” he said. “I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but our kids out there need to see examples. … I know you’re a Christian. I’m not doubting you, Tom, but, man, you have to stand up.”

James went on to say that being gay was not innate.

“It’s a choice,” just as people choose to be in same-sex relationships, he said. “You have to make that choice.”

“God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions,” he said. “But in that case right there, they are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.”

Leppert argued that he was just as opposed to gay marriage as the other candidates, but he defended his actions as mayor:

Leppert, who appeared visibly angry, said he marched in the parades because he was the mayor of all the city’s citizens. “My job as mayor was to represent everybody in this city. I visited groups that didn’t agree with what I said. I talked to groups that I didn’t agree with what they said, but it was my obligation to represent everybody,” he said.

“My role as a Christian is to reach out and touch everybody,” Leppert said. “I wish I could have made stands only when I was in a courtroom, but I didn’t. I was criticized time and time again for showing my faith and being open with it” while mayor.

Leppert won his mayoral run-off election in 2007 against openly gay Councilmember Ed Oakley. Cathie Adams, then and now the rabidly anti-gay president of Texas Eagle Forum, was particularly outspoken in her opposition to Oakley. She sent out an email to right-wing activists begging them to “PLEASE vote FOR Tom Leppert for Mayor!” Just days before the run-off election, Adams told the Houston Chronicle:

“Does Dallas want to be famous for having a lesbian sheriff and a homosexual mayor to compete with San Francisco? I don’t think that is where Dallas is going,” said Cathie Adams, leader of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum.

She said Oakley, who sits on the board of a company that operates four gay bars, has been low-key about it but “will push a gay agenda in every arena he can push it.”

Now, less than five years later, Leppert finds himself criticized for walking alongside gay folks after his election.

Santorum Uses Faith as a Political Weapon

February 19, 2012

We’ve seen this kind of thing before — right-wingers suggesting that someone’s political beliefs somehow make them an inferior Christian or not Christian at all. (And then, of course, the question they’re suggesting to their audience is: “If they’re not Christian, what are they? Their core values must be alien.”) See here, here and here, for examples of how right-wing members of the Texas State Board of Education have done it. Other religious-right leaders in Texas, such as Cathie Adams of the far-right group Texas Eagle Forum, have done it repeatedly as well. And we often see a variation of that smear leveled at the Texas Freedom Network and our supporters, as we noted last week.

So it wasn’t too surprising when Rick Santorum — anointed earlier this year by religious-right leaders as their preferred Republican presidential nominee — said this yesterday:

Obama’s agenda is “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,” Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel.

When asked about the statement at a news conference later, Santorum said, “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.”

But Santorum did not back down from the assertion that Obama’s values run against those of Christianity.

“He is imposing his values on the Christian church. He can categorize those values anyway he wants. I’m not going to,” Santorum told reporters.

This is a dog-whistle to right-wing extremists and their sympathizers who question the faith of President Obama and others whose politics they don’t like. And it’s yet another example of how the religious right uses faith as a political weapon to divide Americans. A spokesman for the president suggested that Santorum’s comments are a new low. Considering what we’ve seen in Texas in the past, that’s saying something.

Rick Santorum’s War on Contraception

February 10, 2012

It’s no surprise that Rick Santorum, who returned to Texas this week to campaign with pastors at a McKinney church near Dallas, is opposed to a federal requirement that employer health insurance plans cover contraception. But the Republican presidential candidate went even further on Friday:

“This has nothing to do with access. This is having someone pay for it, pay for something that shouldn’t even be in an insurance plan anyway because it is not, really an insurable item. This is something that is affordable, available. You don’t need insurance for these types of relatively small expenditures. This is simply someone trying to impose their values on somebody else, with the arm of the government doing so. That should offend everybody, people of faith and no faith that the government could get on a roll that is that aggressive.”

Let’s leave aside for now the issue of who is trying to impose their values on whom here. What really startled us was Santorum’s claim that contraception shouldn’t be covered by any insurance because people can afford it on their own.

The cost of contraception varies by method and insurance coverage, of course. But birth control pills cost from about $160 to $600 a year. Maybe that’s affordable for people in Santorum’s income bracket, but many low- and middle-income families might find it difficult to squeeze that expense into their tight budgets.

Of course, Santorum thinks government should be able to ban contraception anyway. We imagine that pleases the religious-right leaders who endorsed Santorum at their emergency summit meeting in Texas last month.

Calculated to Inflame and Offend

February 2, 2012

In language clearly calculated to inflame and offend, anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry has issued a provocative press release suggesting that Catholic voters are “the ‘new Negro’ of the Democratic Party.” Terry lays out various court cases — including the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court’s Smith v. Allwright case that struck down the Texas Democratic Party’s all-white primaries — in arguing that “reporters will understand the glaring comparison of ‘Negro’ voters and candidates in Democratic Primaries in the 1940s, and Catholic voters of today.”

What in the world is he talking about?

The issue involves Terry’s desire to air very graphic anti-abortion commercials during the Super Bowl. Terry, who has described himself as a “lifelong Republican,” says election law requires broadcasters to air his ads because he is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. The Democratic National Committee argues that Terry’s presidential “campaign” is just a stunt to get his ads aired, and broadcasters are refusing the ads. (And we can understand why they wouldn’t want to broadcast images of aborted fetuses to millions of viewers and their children watching a football game.)

So now Terry is suggesting that the refusal of the Democratic Party (he calls it the “Democrat Party”) to accept as true the fiction that he is a Democrat means the party also wants to disenfranchise anti-abortion Catholics. And he likens that to the refusal to allow African Americans in Texas to vote in Democratic primaries during segregation. We wonder if even a very conservative court will buy all that. Regardless, Terry is doing what we’ve seen the religious right do for a long time now: he’s using faith as a political weapon to divide Americans, and he’s doing so in the most inflammatory and offensive way he can.

To refresh your memory, MediaMatters explains just how extreme Terry is: He justified the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller in 2009 by claiming that the physician “reaped what he sowed.” He has warned that Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will burn in hell. He said refusing to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 “is to bow in abject obedience to the Angel of Death.” He burned in effigy a Republican senator who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. He warned of “violence” if Congress passed health care reform two years ago. And he led a protest outside the White House to destroy a copy of the Koran.

That’s the Ticket

January 23, 2012

Steven Andrew, president of the way-way-out-there USA Christian Ministries, sent out a press release last week saying that “voting for Mitt Romney is betraying Jesus Christ” because Romney is a Mormon. He goes on:

“Voting for Romney or Obama who do not follow God causes the economy to decline and removes Christian freedoms (Deuteronomy 28, Leviticus 26).”

And he makes a pitch for Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination:

“There is hope. Rick Santorum includes God in government as our Founding Fathers said to do and obeys God with pro-life and one-man and one-woman marriage. Since obeying God will fix the economy, Americans should vote for Santorum who is the most God-fearing Republican running (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).”

So there you have it: no Mormons, end abortion, oppose gay marriage, obey God and — presto — the economy will boom. In other words, bow to the religious right’s political agenda or you’re going to hell and taking our nation’s economy down with you.

Chuck Norris, the Bible and Newt Gingrich

January 20, 2012

You just can’t make this stuff up. A little background:

Back in 2007, actor Chuck “Walker, Texas Ranger” Norris attacked the Texas Freedom Network because we had pointed to dangerous flaws in proposed legislation requiring that Texas public schools teach classes about the Bible. Calling TFN “paranoid,” Norris falsely argued that we were “fighting against the very positions and purposes for which our Founding Fathers raised up this country.” Fortunately, the bill passed only after we succeeded in adding to it nearly all of the safeguards for religious freedom we had proposed.

In any case, the year before — in 2006 — Norris and his wife had also joined the board of directors of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. “There has been a great social regression since the Bible was removed from our schools,” that right-wing evangelical organization claims on its website.

Of course, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support such an absurd claim. But that hasn’t stopped the National Council, Norris and other religious-righters from trying to claim the moral high ground in the culture wars they declared long ago.

Then today Norris endorsed thrice-married, serial adulterer Newt Gingrich for president. And he did so the day after Gingrich’s second wife said on national television that Gingrich had asked her — before their divorce — for an open marriage so that he could continue carrying on an affair with the woman who later became his third wife.

So tell us again, Chuck: what’s the source of the “social regression” you see in America?

Poll: Concerns about Mix of Religion, Politics

January 20, 2012

What do Americans think about the role of religion in American politics? According to results from a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted Jan. 12-17, it appears that most Americans have concerns about the intersection of the two.

By a 61%-29% margin, most poll respondents said they are more worried by public officials who pay too much attention to religion and religious leaders than public officials who don’t pay enough attention to the two.

Only 40 percent of poll respondents said presidential candidates should discuss the role of religion in their lives. In contrast, 56 percent said a candidate’s religious beliefs should not be part of a presidential campaign.

Respondents were also more likely to say that it was not very important or not important at all (59% overall) that a presidential candidate share their religious beliefs.

Some folks might be surprised by those poll results, especially considering efforts by national religious-right leaders to shape the Republican presidential nominating process this year. (See, for example, here and here.)

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Rice University Religion and Public Life Program are sponsoring a special symposium on the influence of religion in the 2012 elections on Wednesday, January 25, in Houston. That evening the TFN Education Fund is sponsoring a presentation by Pulitzer-winning columnist and book author Leonard Pitts on the same topic at Congregation Emanu El across from the Rice campus. Click here for more information. Attendance at the symposium is free, but registration is required. Tickets to the Pitts presentation are $20.

End-Timers Keep ‘The Response’ Going

January 17, 2012

The far-right hate group American Family Association and other well-known religious right organizations and leaders put together Rick Perry’s big prayer rally in Houston last August. But Perry’s presidential campaign is sinking fast, and Sarah Posner writes in Religion Dispatches that follow-up “The Response” events in Republican presidential primary states are being promoted by somewhat lesser-known groups like the International House of Prayer and its affiliated local churches. Today’s “The Response” event in South Carolina, for example, is being promoted by small churches like the Forerunner House of Prayer (FHOP) in Easley, South Carolina, and the the Greenville House of Prayer.

These IHOP churches attract followers who believe, among other things, that the end times are near. Writes Posner:

These self-anointed “intercessors,” or “end-times warriors,” see themselves as modern-day apostles and prophets, purifying the kingdom, “transforming” cities, regions, and the country through a new Great Awakening, preparing the world for Christ’s return.

Posner explores the theological divide between these “end-time warriors” and the old guard of the religious right:

(T)he national elites had pressed for and endorsed The Response. At last summer’s event, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson called it “the highlight of my life” and praised the “next generation” of evangelicals. The old guard of the religious right isn’t blind to new religious movements in its midst, even the 24/7 prayer movement [FHOP founder] Tallulah Dalton has been swept into. Some conservatives actually consider it heretical, or unbiblical—suggesting that these self-anointed apostles and prophets are the “false prophets” the Bible warns of. (One of these critics, the blogger/activist Marsha West, says The Response participants associated with the New Apostolic Reformation are not Christians, but rather “counterfeits.”)

Read all of Posner’s fascinating piece here.

News or Propaganda?

January 16, 2012

One News Now, the propaganda arm of the far-right group American Family Association, has an article about a poll portrayed as showing that Americans “fear” President Obama’s re-election this year:

According to the new poll from Washington Whispers, a feature in the U.S. News & World Report since 1933, when asked “what news event [Americans] feared the most in 2012,” they responded — by a 2-to-1 margin — “President Obama’s re-election.” While only 16 percent said they fear Obama will not win a second term, 33 percent said they fear four more years.

Then the article quotes right-wing blogger Les Rayburn:

“Most Americans are terrified. President Obama … he’s made it very clear that he’s out to destroy the United States.”

So 33 percent somehow represents “most Americans”? In addition, we suspect that not all of that 33 percent see President Obama’s re-election in such apocalyptic terms. On the other hand, it’s certainly possible given that the propaganda from the far right in recent years has been increasingly extreme and irresponsibly apocalyptic.

We’ll also note that the American Family Association is a hate group that organized a prayer rally for Texas Gov. Rick Perry in Houston the week before Perry announced his run for the presidency last August.

Religious-Right Leaders Back Santorum

January 14, 2012

Texas Gov. Rick Perry lost a key vote in his own backyard on Saturday. Prominent religious-right leaders meeting at a Texas ranch decided to back former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania over Perry, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination this year. That decision should give Santorum a boost in his efforts to rally social conservatives behind his challenge to frontrunner and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. From the Associated Press:

Surrogates for each campaign were said to have made presentations and answered questions. The goal was to determine whether conservative leaders could rally behind one alternative candidate to Romney, in hopes of ensuring one of their own wins the nomination instead of someone they consider more moderate. Many conservative leaders fear a repeat of four years ago when, in their view, a divided conservative base led the GOP to nominate McCain.

Meeting attendees said it took several ballots for 75 percent of attendees to agree on Santorum after winnowing down the field from three candidates: Santorum, Gingrich and Perry. They also said that there was some support for Romney.

The decision appears to have upset David Lane, who in recent years has been a chief organizer of efforts to mobilize conservative evangelical pastors behind selected Republican politicians. Lane helped organize Texas Restoration Project events, for example, that promoted Rick Perry in 2005. From the same AP story:

But David Lane, a California-based pastor who has set up candidate forums with ministers in Iowa, said he was frustrated with the outcome because he does not believe Santorum has an organization or fundraising capability to allow him to campaign deep into the primary season.

He said the choice to back Santorum projects political weakness.

“This country is going to hell, and the evangelical voice is meaningless,” Lane said.

Religion in the 2012 Elections

January 6, 2012

Some thought that as Rick Perry faded from the presidential race, so would the culture wars. And then we saw a late push by evangelicals in favor of former Sen. Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses.

That is why on January 25 in Houston the Texas Freedom Network will give you two unique opportunities to hear from some of the nation’s leading experts on the turbulent intersection of religion and politics in America:

  • Pulitzer Prize-winner Leonard Pitts in the evening (7 p.m.)
  • Earlier in the day, a free symposium at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University (1 p.m.)

We hope you will make plans to join us on January 25 in Houston when we’ll hear from Pitts, a nationally syndicated columnist whose work appears regularly in newspapers around the country; John Green, one of the nation’s preeminent students of the relationship of religion and politics; Gordon College President Michael Lindsay, an award-winning sociologist who is among the youngest presidents in the country among nationally ranked colleges and universities; and a host of other experts on topics ranging from Islamophobia to abortion and gay rights.

More details (including a full list of speakers) and registration information are available at tfn.org/symposium

Panic Mode?

January 4, 2012

Is the religious right about to hit panic mode after Mitt Romney edged out Rick Santorum in the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses? POLITICO reports that James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Don Wildmon (American Family Association), Gary Bauer (American Values) and other movement leaders have been invited to a confab next weekend at the Texas ranch of Paul Pressler (who helped lead the right-wing takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1970s). According to POLITICO, the invitation reads:

“You and your spouse are cordially invited to a private meeting with national conservative leaders of faith at the ranch of Paul and Nancy Pressler near Brenham, Texas, with the purpose of attempting to unite and to come to a consensus on which Republican presidential candidate or candidates to support, or which not to support.”

Many of the invitees are members of The Arlington Group, a secretive cabal of religious-right political leaders. It’s no secret that those Christian fundamentalist poo-bahs are appalled that Romney, a Mormon and pseudo-moderate, might become the GOP presidential nominee. But Bauer told POLITICO that the purpose of the meeting at the Pressler ranch isn’t to find a way to stop Romney.

Well, we’ll see.

Interesting side note: Pressler, a former Texas judge, is the campaign treasurer for Donna Bahorich, a Houston Republican who is seeking election the Texas State Board of Education this year.

UPDATE: Dallas Morning News writer Wayne Slater is reporting what at least one expected participant at the Pressler meeting told him:

“One thing unites all in this group — Romney is not their guy…. The goal is to come together around somebody who will carry our issues and won’t abandon those issues when he becomes president.”

Slater writes that other invitees include Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Zionist leader John Hagee of San Antonio, and Kelly Shackelford of the Plano-based Liberty Institute (the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family).