Photo Captures Powerful Protest of Confederate Flag Two Months Before Emanuel AME Tragedy

This April, a group of more than 100 progressive African American clergy gathered in Columbia, South Carolina for the Spring Training Institute of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council. Among a week of trainings, advocacy meetings at the state capitol, and strategic conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, this ecumenical body of women and men took time to gather together for a prayer in front of the capitol where the confederate flag still waves.

That week, less than two months before our friend and brother Reverend and State Senator Clementa Pinckney, along with members of the congregation, were massacred at Emanuel A.M.E. church by a shooter who embraced the Confederate flag, clergy stood hand in hand in prayer, reflection, and even tears for the removal of this symbol of hate and bigotry.

The public prayer was the culmination of ongoing work led by South Carolina faith leaders like Reverend and State Representative Terry Alexander. Rep. Alexander has long been a guiding voice in this push, meeting with other elected officials and advocating strongly for its removal.

Why did we pray that day that started out with dark clouds and rain and turned into one of sunshine and light? Because the Confederate flag remains a visible, strategically placed reminder of a southern heritage that embraced slavery, segregation and hate. Because a symbol rooted in the dehumanization of Black Americans is still prominently waving at the capitol, still validated by a government body.

We first prayed facing this symbol of disunity – a symbol of the painful past – for a present and future of peace, unity, and prosperity as a people and a country. We then prayed and sang with our backs turned to it, rejecting the division and pain that it continues to represent. In memory of the love and compassion of Senator Pinckney and the eight others, it’s time for the state of South Carolina to do the same.

PFAW Foundation

Yes, Seriously, It's About Race

This was originally published at The Huffington Post

As with every Wednesday night in most African American churches, pastor and people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as "Mother Emanuel," were engaged in prayer, worship and study. The atmosphere no doubt would have been relaxed, with familiar faces sharing, even with the stranger among them, testimonies, laughter, and some words of encouragement. In that atmosphere, in the place where so many throughout history have gone for fellowship, to feel safe, to be vulnerable, where loving "thy neighbor as thyself" and welcoming all who walk through the doors are central themes known even by children, the unimaginable took place.

The stranger, a young white gunman allegedly telling the Black worshipers that "you've raped our women and you are taking over the country," opened fire at that historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a friend, supporter and member of the African American Ministers Leadership Council's (AAMLC) ecumenical ministerial alliance, which I lead. Yes, this was a ruthless attack on innocent people in 2015, but it is also reminiscent of the attacks on the Black Church in the '60s, the '50s, the post-Reconstruction era. All of these cowards, whether consciously or not, have targeted the Black Church in an effort to intimidate and diminish the power of its presence as a refuge of hope in the African American community.

Many clergy I have spoken with have been up for two nights, praying, calling, sharing, trying to make sense of an act that is honestly difficult to talk about and brings out a flood of deep emotions. In every conversation or prayer is the painful acknowledgement of the role that race played in this crime, something that Americans around the country from all walks of life get. However, stunningly and probably predictably, some right-wing politicians and pundits not only don't seem to get it, but are attempting to distract and confuse others about what was the obvious, real motivation of this massacre. Seriously?

Rick Santorum said the shooting was an example of recent "assaults on religious liberty," a reference to the idea promoted by him and others that policies preventing discrimination against LGBT people are persecuting conservative Christians. Seriously? That comparison between the long and violent history of white supremacy in America and efforts to secure dignity for gay and lesbian people in the public square is worse than offensive. We can argue about public policy all we want, but we all should be able to realize that being targeted by centuries of racist violence at the center of comfort and power in your community is not the same thing as being fined for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple. This is the kind of "colorblind" analogy that dismisses the very real experiences of Black people in America.

How very sad and not all too shocking to note once again what has become a sad pattern among right-wing commentators. Various conservatives have made similar attempts to play down the racial aspects of the killings of 9 innocent persons, and issue after issue public policies that disproportionately affect African Americans, policies born out of institutionalized efforts to oppress African Americans, are said to be "not about race." Yet, in everything from voting rights to criminal and reproductive justice to housing policies to defunding public education, the common denominator we see is the negative impact policies have on African Americans. It's not hard to see that these laws are strategically aimed at depressing rights and are anything but colorblind coincidences.

A young white man entered an African American place of worship with a loaded gun, sat down in that place for an hour with African American men, women and children, muttered anti-Black racist remarks, shot and killed those persons. Seriously? What about this cannot be viewed as "about race"?

I am thankful for all the Americans of all races who are mourning these senseless killings, angry about the lack of humanity that led to them, and praying for the victims and their families. You don't have to be African American to know this was an assault rooted in a dynamic of American life that too many of our elected leaders would like to ignore or dismiss as ancient history. This is a universal tragedy played out in a very specific American context. To diminish that is to diminish the lived experience of a people whose strength and courage this gunman was trying to take away.

Many are gathering for prayer services even now for the families of those who died for no other reason other than being Black. On Saturday members of AAMLC will join congregations around the country and open their doors for hope, unity and love. The doors will be open to pray yes, and also to register persons to vote and engage in conversations about why Black lives, all lives matter.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." It is because of love that racial hatred -- yes, seriously, what this was about -- will not be victorious. I hope and pray that the country will decide "to stick with love" and confront with honest and open hearts the realities we live with and work together to change them. Seriously!

PFAW

Don't Turn Political Opponents Into Spiritual Enemies

This piece by PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery was originally published in the Greenville News.

Gov. Nikki Haley appeared at a Christians-only prayer rally in Charleston on Saturday. It was an unfortunate decision to lend the prestige of her office to that exclusionary event, one organized by political strategists who view the 2016 elections as an opportunity to turn America back to what they believe are its origins as a country founded by and for Christians.

The event was organized by the American Renewal Project, run by political operative David Lane under the umbrella of the American Family Association. The rally was emceed by Doug Stringer, an “apostle” who promotes the belief that the right kind of Christians are meant to be in charge of every sphere of influence in society, and who has blamed the 9/11 attacks on America turning away from God.

Haley’s video promoting the event invited “everyone” and said it had nothing to do with politics or government. Both statements are disingenuous at best. The South Carolina Baptists’ page urging participation in the rally promised “Evangelical Christians only to lead in program.” Members of the Response “prayer force” were told that it is God’s will “to have His hand-picked civil leadership in place at all times.” In daily calls for prayer in the weeks before the rally, people were asked to pray that the nation would repent for, among other things, political correctness, abortion, and “an unbiblical definition of marriage.” One pre-rally dispatch urged, “Repent of times when citizens have voted for someone based on personal preference and not the will and heart of God, whose values and beliefs were in conflict with His Word.”

Lane is out to recruit 1,000 conservative pastors to run for political office, mobilizing an “army” of volunteers who will determine the outcome of the 2016 elections. Hundreds were scheduled to attend a recruiting session the day before Haley’s “non-political” prayer rally.

But the problem is not getting people involved in politics. The problem is the political agenda Lane’s projects are designed to advance. In Lane’s worldview, America will either be a Christian nation or a pagan nation and there will be no peace until we decide which. He wrote in Charisma in January that “there can be no reconciliation of opposites, particularly the spiritual and the secular.” In one of his many online diatribes he asked, “Who will wage war for the Soul of America and trust the living God to deliver the pagan gods into our hands and restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture?”

Lane denounces court rulings upholding church-state separation; calls for Christianity to be established as America’s official religion with the Bible as a primary textbook in public schools; vehemently opposes equality for LGBT people; and demands the impeachment of judges whose opinions he disagrees with.

This vision of America is both historically inaccurate and deeply out of pace with our times, in which America’s religious landscape is increasingly diverse and a large and growing majority supports legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

A problem with treating politics as spiritual warfare is that you turn political opponents into spiritual enemies. People who disagree on public policy issues are not just wrong, but evil. For David Lane, that’s a self-evident truth. But for a political leader like Nikki Haley, it’s a damaging proposition that makes it harder to govern on behalf of all the people she was elected to represent.

Peter Montgomery is senior fellow for People For the American Way and an associate editor at Religion Dispatches.

PFAW

Why Do Republican Officials Keep Partnering With Christian-Nation Extremist David Lane?

In pursuit of conservative evangelical voters, GOP candidates embrace far-right political operative who is raising an ‘army’ to fulfill his ‘Christian nation’ vision

On Saturday, June 13, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will host a day-long, Christians-only prayer rally organized by political operative David Lane. Lane, who organized similar events for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, is trying to recruit 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for office, which he believes would mobilize hundreds of thousands of election volunteers and lead to conservative election victories in 2016.

Lane prefers to work outside the glare of the national media. Although his close connections to Republican officials and presidential candidates have drawn some notice, the extremism of the agenda he is promoting deserves far more attention than it has received to date.

When one-third of the Republican National Committee took a nine-day junket to Israel in January with the American Family Association picking up the tab, things got a little ugly. Israeli media started asking questions about the extreme positions taken by AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer, including his claims that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections apply only to Christians and that gays were responsible for the rise of the Nazi Party. In damage control mode, the AFA disavowed some of Fischer’s most inflammatory statements and took away his title – but not the radio show that continues to give him a bigotry-spewing platform. Meanwhile, the actual organizer of the trip, Christian nationalist David Lane, slipped out of the spotlight and got right back to building political alliances between high-level Republican politicians and conservative evangelical pastors, especially those in key primary states.

David Lane runs the American Renewal Project, which functions as a project of the American Family Association. Bad publicity over the Israel trip did not keep Lane from inviting all 168 members of the Republican National Committee to an Iowa Renewal Project “Pastors and Pews” event on March 9 and 10, which was headlined by two Republican presidential hopefuls, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. It didn’t prevent the RNC’s faith outreach arm from teaming up with Lane to present a breakout session at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in May. And it hasn’t kept Gov. Haley from endorsing Lane’s latest “Response” prayer rally.

Why David Lane Matters

David Lane promotes a vision of America as a nation founded by and for Christians; denounces court rulings upholding church-state separation; calls for Christianity to be established as America’s official religion with the Bible as a primary textbook in public schools; vehemently opposes legal equality for LGBT people; and demands the impeachment of judges who rule in favor of allowing same-sex couples to be legally married. Lane matters because these are not just the opinions of a far-right fringe figure. They are the explicit agenda of a political operative who is working closely with the highest leaders of the Republican Party. The explicit goal of Lane’s political organizing is to advance his particularly narrow and divisive vision of America. Republican politicians who embrace Lane in the hope of winging votes are playing with fire, giving credibility to his divisive worldview and troubling political agenda.

David Lane’s Worldview

In Lane’s worldview, there are essentially no gray areas: America will either be a Christian nation or a pagan nation and there will be no peace until we decide which. Judges who uphold the right of same-sex couples to marry must be impeached. The Supreme Court’s rulings upholding the separation of church and state have imposed a destructive secularism on America and must be reversed. Secularism and homosexuality are twin evils from which America must be rescued. This quote gives a pretty good summary of Lane’s worldview:

Who will wage war for the Soul of America and trust the living God to deliver the pagan gods into our hands and restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture?...

As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the ‘Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning, and pagan media….

Christian America is in ruins…

You ask, “What is our goal?” To wage war to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage with all of our might and strength that God will give us. You ask, “what is our aim?” One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, America will ultimately collapse.

Lane has no patience for those who don’t see the world as he does. His message to lawmakers: “Vote to restore the Bible and prayer in public schools or be sent home,” he has written. “Hanging political scalps on the wall is the only love language politicians can hear.”

Lane’s emails to activists, often including garbled syntax and repetitive rhetoric, nonetheless give a good sense of his approach to the world. These are excerpts from a January 27, 2015 email from Lane:

  • “This struggle for the Soul of America is merely the ongoing battle since the beginning of time, “man says” or “God says.” God has said multiple times over thousands of years that homosexuality is wickedness – just like stealing or committing adultery, it is sin – but to double-down on the U.S. Supreme Court, in its omniscience, sanctioned and legitimized homosexual marriage in 2014 as a diverse and acceptable lifestyle, well inside the cultural norm.”
  • “God says” or man says” is the choice facing America. “We the people” must hold the Judicial, Legislative and Executive Branches of government accountable or be ready to answer to God; this is our point of no return. The secularist ideology is more than a mere political philosophy, dueling for ideological supremacy, it is a Weltanschauung (a world view), a religion. Secularism – the false idol instituted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 – has finally bloomed, blossomed, and produced fruit, it’s stench is nauseating.

He made similar points in a January op ed for Charisma:

“More to the point, there can be no reconciliation of opposites, particularly the spiritual and the secular. Therefore, we need to establish if America is a pagan or Christian nation and get on with it- the sooner the better….We have to make the peace: either secularism of Christian values are going to reign supreme….The grandiosity and recklessness of the radicalized, secular United States Supreme Court in the last century is mind-blowing. The Court has birthed a full-scale catastrophe, corrupting 500 years of natural law and threatening America’s long-term, sustainable freedom. Congress has failed to fulfill its historic role to check and balance the judicial and executive branches of government. It’s up to us “we the people” to hold them accountable.”

Last November he told the Washington Times:

“Government is not going to save America. Wall Street is not going to save America. The Republican party is not going to save America. If America is going to be saved it will be done by Christian men and women restoring a Judeo-Christian culture to the country….

He argued that America was established as a Judeo-Christian nation and that separation of church and state was never meant to keep religion out of politics.

“There’s no truth to that, the Constitution says the state is to keep out of the church, it doesn’t say the church is to keep out of the state,” Mr. Lane said, adding that secularism is another religion that’s being imposed on Americans.

“It’s just a matter of somebody’s values are going to reign supreme,” Mr. Lane said, “It’s just a little minority imposing their values. It’s part of a spiritual battle. If we are going to survive as a nation, we have to have a spiritual resurrection”

Christian Nation Covenant versus Secularism/Paganism

“Secularism is paganism clothed in tolerance,” Lane wrote in a January 21 email, “its ubiquitous chant, ‘We are a pluralistic society,’ is not the same nation bequeathed to us by our Founders.” 

Lane’s belief that America is “a nation founded by Christians…for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith” is not based on the people traditionally seen as the nation’s Founding Fathers – the authors of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Lane looks back to the pilgrims and the Mayflower compact, and even further to the covenant declared by Robert Hunt, founder of the Jamestown, Virginia, colony in 1607:

“We do hereby Dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this ear remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World.”

That covenant, Lane insists, “is still in force.” In May 2015, he ranted, “Egregious and scandalous is the Church’s submission to secularists,” and the abandonment of that founding “mission.”

“America was a Christian nation,” he says. But now, “America has boarded the wrong, secular train. Now we’ve lost our Judeo-Christian heritage and its byproduct – a Christian culture.”

“It’s evident we’ve lost the culture, and we’ve lost our heritage now,” he said in a fall 2014 interview.  “I mean, with Obama, you’ve got red ink as far as the eye can see, homosexuals praying at the inauguration, 55 million babies dead.” He sounded a similar theme in Charisma in January:

 “Ah, but what has godless secularism produced? Red ink as far as the eye can see: racism, injustice, the murder of fifty-five million babies, the advancement of the homosexual agenda, fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime and the widespread acceptance and usage of pornography, especially among America’s youth.”

Punishing and Purging Judges

Who is to blame for secularism and its attendant evils? According to Lane, it’s the Supreme Court, secularists in the schools, politicians who promote the secularist agenda – and pastors who don’t stand against all these evils. He complains that the “the Church didn’t even shudder when the Bible, prayer, Jesus, and the Ten Commandments were removed from the public schools in 1963.” And he says there was “not a peep from the Christian Church” in response to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, when the church “should have initiated riots, revolution, and repentance.”

By ending Bible reading in public schools, he says, the Supreme Court removed the foundation for real knowledge and the transmission for wisdom and virtue. He wrote in August 2014:

Virtue is required for sustainable freedom. Secularists have successfully removed the transmission agent (The Word of God) for the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge, which created freedom in America. The nation is now basically biblically illiterate. Let’s be clear, the secularists and their priests — i.e., public education, higher learning, Hollywood and Media elite — have a coordinated, deliberate, sustained effort, a blitzkrieg, imposing an intolerant and aggressive false religion on America — Secularism.

This false god of Secularism — embedded in public education by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 — has glamorized, exalted and now normalized sin in America, creating a spiritually decadent, godless society.

This is why the work of Lane’s American Renewal Project is so urgent, he explained in a March 2015 email: “Unless Christianity resurrects in America and the moral underpinning restored, secularism’s amoral ideology will eventually collapse, along with Western Civilization.”

One response is to go after judges who don’t share Lane’s view of the Constitution. In October 2014 Lane told the Washington Post  that the American Renewal Project would “take aim at lower court judges who have overturned anti-gay marriage statutes and constitutional provisions.” Says Lane: “I want a fight over this,” he said. “I think the way to address it is to start removing these unelectable and unaccountable judges who are doing this to our country. They have no right to rule a free people. What they’re doing, it’s judicial anarchy.”

Lane has said he is looking for a member of the House of Representatives to introduce an impeachment bill. “The way we address this is we start removing unelected an unaccountable judges,” he said. “And then we remove the members of Congress who don’t vote to impeach them.” Lane was deeply involved in the 2010 purge of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted for marriage equality.

This approach to the courts is one reason Lane seems so fond of Huckabee, whose win in the 2008 Iowa caucus is often attributed to Lane’s efforts. (Evangelical strategist Doug Wead described Lane as “the mysterious, behind-the-scenes, evangelical kingmaker who stormed into Iowa in 2008 and tilted the whole thing from Romney to Huckabee.) Huckabee has signaled for some time that he would make attacks on “judicial supremacy” central to his campaign. His call for a rejuvenated nullification movement among the states has been taken up by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and the state Supreme Court.

Republican Party Loves Lane

While Lane often expresses his contempt for “establishment” Republicans who don’t embrace his radical vision for a Christian America in which the Bible is a primary textbook in public schools, GOP officials like party head Reince Priebus attend and promote his events. Priebus was scheduled to participate in Lane’s trip to Israel in January before controversy flared; he ended up not making the trip, saying he needed to attend a funeral.

Indeed, Republican Party officials seem unconcerned with Lane’s extremism and are eager to make use of his network of conservative pastors. The invitation letter for the Israel junket came from Priebus himself; although he said it was not an RNC trip, committee members interested in participating were told to RSVP to the RNC’s Member Services department. Priebus praised David Lane by name in October during a television interview in which he reiterated the Party’s support for a federal constitutional ban on same-sex couples marrying, which would overturn marriage equality in every state that now recognizes it.

TIME reported that the RNC members’ trip to Israel was organized by the American Family Association and Lane’s American Renewal Project, “in concert with RNC faith director Chad Connelly.” When Right Wing Watch reported in August 2014 that Cruz and Huckabee were planning to appear at a Lane-sponsored event in Michigan, the RNC’s Connelly posted on his Facebook page, “My buddy David Lane is drawing the attention of the God-haters and left wingers, but I repeat myself, out there! We had a great Michigan event and I’m convinced that the faith component is what will bring our nation together!” Connelly’s post was shared by the American Renewal Project, as was one of Connelly’s photos from the event, with Connelly’s caption: “honored to speak and give my testimony to a terrific crowd of enthusiastic pastors at the Michigan Renewal Project last night!” A few days later, Connelly bragged, “The RNC was well represented tonight at the California renewal project conference….”

Lane returns the love by helping Republicans win elections. Last year, his American Renewal Project teamed up with four potential 2016 candidates – Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee – to record radio ads urging “God’s people” to vote in the 2014 mid-terms. The ads were reportedly meant to run on almost 300 radio stations in more than 35 states. Those ads capped off the American Renewal Project’s 12-state strategy to turn out conservative evangelical voters in the 2014 cycle, a strategy that reportedly included a $2 million registration, education, and turnout ground game in North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa and Arkansas, states with key Senate races

Lane’s love for the GOP, however, is far from unconditional. In April 2013 he complained that the Republican Party establishment was not taking a strong enough stand against homosexuality and said there was a war for ideological supremacy – “the moral against the immoral” – within the Republican Party between “establishment moderates and the biblically conservative grassroot, precinct-level ground forces.” He has praised GOP officials who speak out against marriage equality, as he did when  Iowa State GOP Chair AJ Spiker wrote:

“While inclusion is important, elected Republicans (we all know the most recent example) and National/State Party leaders who embrace so-called same sex marriage are doing grave harm to our Party and the whole of society.

Lets not forget, so-called same sex marriage is an irreconcilable difference with the Republican PARty’s largest constituency…Committed Christians.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

All of Lane’s events are designed to promote conservative GOP candidates by introducing them to networks of politically engaged conservative pastors who are willing to turn their churches into GOTV operations on behalf of the right kind of right-wing candidate. Lane claims those events have engaged some 15,000 pastors since he began conducting them in the 1990s.

Bobby Jindal is one beneficiary. In January, Jindal hosted “The Response,” the Lane-organized prayer rally that was modeled on a similar event that Lane put together in 2011 to help Rick Perry launch his ill-fated presidential bid. Two months later, Lane organized a meet-and-greet for Bobby Jindal with pastors in Greenville, South Carolina. Jindal has also accepted Lane’s invitation for his own trip to Israel this summer, where he will be joined by evangelical pastors from the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Rand Paul talked about his own trip to Israel with Lane this past fall at a meeting Lane organized for Paul with a group of North Carolina pastors.

Lane also picked up the tab – reportedly a million dollars -- for a group of pastors from Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina (four early primary contests) to join Mike Huckabee on a European tour. It was a pilgrimage to Poland, London, and California to celebrate the leadership of Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan. Right-wing blogger Bethany Blankley joined Huckabee’s European tour, on which the subpoena of Houston ministers’ emails and sermons were apparently cited to suggest American Christians were facing Nazi-like persecution. “On route to Auschwitz,” she wrote, “Lane reference similarities between 1930 Germany and 2014 America.” Huckabee said at Auschwitz that the horrors carried out by educated Germany “should be a sobering reminder that unless we stand against evil in our own time,” another Holocaust to another people group “will happen again.”

Lane, who calls himself a political operative, still tries to portray some of his events – like the Perry and Jindal prayer rallies, as spiritual and not political. But Huckabee was clear about the political benefits of his European junket:

“A lot of them asked the obvious question – sort of the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Why are pastors from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada the lion’s share of participants on this trip?” Huckabee said. “And I think some of them probably honestly, and perhaps somewhat cynically, probably said, ‘Is it because you’re trying to secure their support, if, in fact, you decide to run?’ My honest answer was, ‘Fair enough. If I should run, would I like to have your support? Sure.’”

Also on the trip were people like Rich Bott, president of a Christian radio conglomerate, whose support could be very useful.

During the flap over RNC members’ trip to Israel, Lane told Ha’aretz that he made his first trip to the country in 2008 or 2009 and has since taken seven or eight trips, including the one with Rand Paul in 2013, abou which Lane says, “A lot of people believe that after Rand Paul went in January 2013, his views evolved and he saw how wonderful the Jewish people are.” Researcher Rachel Tabachnik reports that Perry has also taken one of Lane’s trips to Israel.

Lane’s American Renewal Project also hosted an event for Rand Paul in October 2014 with 400 anti-abortion pastors in North Carolina. At the event, which was closed to press except for Breitbart, Paul reportedly said that “a civilization cannot long endure that doesn’t respect life from the very beginning to the very last breath.”

“When we talk about freedom or liberty people say that can get carried away you can’t have too much of that. I tell people thought that the fabric of our country though wasn’t just liberty and freedom. It was liberty and freedom and tradition.”

In organizing these events, Lane works with other Religious Right leaders. Among those listed in promotional materials for an event in Michigan were right-wing radio host Dennis Prager, “historians” David Barton and Bill Federer, the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, former Congressman Bob McEwen, and Pastor Laurence White of the Texas Restoration Project.

Lane’s 2016 Political Strategy

Lane himself is not a pastor; he describes himself as a political operative. He believes America is in the sad state it’s in because pastors have not preached more aggressively, and conservative Christians have not been active enough in the public arena. He told the New York Times’ Jason Horowitz in March that his goal is to raise up “an army.”

Right-wing blogger Bethany Blankley quotes Lane saying, “With the retreat of evangelical pastors from the public square, it’s no accident that America’s city halls and statehouses are spiritually empty. The only currency to rebuild America is God’s economy rooted in righteousness – beginning with a contrite spirit for what we believers have allowed to happen to America.”

In 2016, Lane’s political strategy has two major prongs: one is using “Pastors and Pews” events, trips to Israel, and public prayer rallies to promote politicians he likes and mobilize political engagement by conservative evangelicals. During controversy over Israel trip, Lane told Ha’aretz, “The Lord gave me this model of mobilizing pastors to try and engage the culture. Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme. America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.”

Lane clearly hopes these efforts to vet presidential candidates will help conservative evangelicals coalesce around a single champion. He says he will not endorse in the primary, but he has complained bitterly about Jeb Bush’s hiring of pro-marriage-equality campaign staff. Lane bemoans the fact that divided evangelical voters allowed McCain and Romney to take the GOP nominations in 2008 and 2012. He told the Houston Chronicle in 2013, “We’re going to try to eliminate the stuff that they [GOP leaders] do to us every four years, which is picking somebody who has no chance of being viable and they kill us off and we have the McCains and Romneys left.”

Lane ally Bob Vander Plaats of the Iowa Family Leader said in November that the only way that will happen will be through prayer that God will reveal to us… that’s the one we need to coalesce around.”  Lane said something similar to the Christian Examiner in January 2015.

“Only a merciful God can cause America to change, and God works through His people,” Lane said.

That’s why prayer is so important; people need God’s guidance about whom to elect, Lane explained.

In a March 3 email, Lane summed up the quest this way: “The challenge is this – can we find a man or a woman whose faith is so great that they will voluntarily abandon those things which men cherish, including their very life, to defend against the seemingly invincible omnipotence of secularism?”

The other prong of Lane’s 2016 strategy is an effort to recruit 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for office themselves. Lane says he was inspired by his own pastor, Rob McCoy of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, California, who decided to run for the state assembly last year. McCoy won the Republican primary but was defeated in the general election. In both races he was outspent but managed to mobilize hundreds of volunteers. Lane figures that if he could replicate that experience on a grand scale, “would revolutionize the political process” and dramatically change the political climate in America.”

Here’s how he described the plan to the Washington Times in January:

“Our goal in 2016 is to have 1,000 pastors running for city council, county commissioner, school board, mayor, Congress — who attract an average of 300 Christian volunteers per campaign,” Mr. Lane explained.

“That would amount to a total 300,000 grassroots, evangelical, precinct-level conservatives — from the bottom up — in 2016,” he added. “It would change America for good, a step toward restoring the nation to our Judeo Christian heritage and reestablishing a Christian cultur.”

In January, Lane put on a recruitment and training session for pastors thinking about running for office. Jindal signed an invitation letter, which said, “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.” Jindal and Sen. Steve Lankford of Oklahoma were among the speakers at the event, which was held the day before “The Response,” the Lane-organized, Jindal-hosted prayer rally.

Lane says he sent an invitation to 100,000 pastors on his list, in which he spelled out his vision:

A thousand pastors running in 2016-and three to four hundred pastors winning their political races – would ignite a spiritual movement in the public arena of America not seen since America’s Founding. Again, the flock of God hungers for leadership in the battle for restoring America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and reestablishing a Christian culture.”

Among similar “Issachar Training” events Lane is holding across the country were a training for pastors in Las Vegas in April and one in Oklahoma City in May (featuring Ted Cruz and Sen. James Lankford).  Jindal will host an Issachar training in Charleston, South Carolina this Friday before Nikki Haley’s prayer rally and fellow presidential contender Mike Huckabee will host one in Orlando on July 9 and 10.

Funding Lane’s Christian-Nation Politicking

Lane’s American Renewal Project operates under the umbrella of the American Family Association, a nonprofit organization that is not required to disclose its donors. Lane has always refused to name the big donors who pick up the tab for flying pastors and politicians around the world, or picking up the meals and lodging for preachers to attend one of his state “Pastors and Pews” events with elected officials. But we know where at least some of Lane’s money is coming from.

 In 2013, the Christian Broadcasting Networks’ David Brody reported on one of Lane’s Iowa events. Brody’s story included short clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of Lane’s Pastors and Pews group. Brody introduced the brothers by saying, “The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the younger generation, so they’re using the riches that the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals.”  Dan Wilks told Brody, “I just think we have to make people aware, you know, and bring the Bible back into the school, and start teaching our kids at a younger age, and, uh, you know, and focus on the younger generation.”  Brother Farris said, “They’re being taught the other ideas, the gay agenda, every day out in the world so we have to stand up and explain to them that that’s not real, that’s not proper, it’s not right.”

As Right Wing Watch reported in 2014, Farris and Dan Wilks made billions of dollars in the fracking business and have since become major funders of Religious Right organizations and groups associated with the Koch brothers’ networks. Farris also pastors a church founded by the brothers’ father, and his sermons make it clear that he shares much of Lane’s anti-gay, anti-secular, Christian-nation worldview, and has been inspired by Lane to do more to shape America’s future. RH Reality Check reported this year that the Wilks brothers’ are big funders of right-wing radio host Denis Prager’s right-wing propaganda site, Prager University.

Each of the brothers has, with their wives, set up charitable foundations: Farris and Joann created The Thirteen Foundation and Dan and Staci the Heavenly Father’s Foundation. The Thirteen Foundation in particular became a source of millions for right-wing political groups. According to the 2013 990 forms filed by the foundations with the IRS, The Thirteen Foundation gave 922,000 that year to the American Family Association. It is not clear how much of that was for Lane’s projects, but the filing from Heavenly Father’s Foundation is more explicit, reporting $750,000 to the AFA for three Pastors and Pews conferences.

Lane is, not surprisingly perhaps, a fan of today’s big-money approach to politics. Speaking about a post-Citizens United World, Lane told NBC News’s Perry Bacon in 2014: “The problem used to be, you had to raise $2,500 per person, so you had to come up with the bundlers. With Citizens United, I don’t think it’s as big of a hurdle. Now you can have somebody who gives $15 or $20 million into a super PAC and that changes the game.”

CBN’s David Brody as David Lane’s Personal Press Agent

David Lane has been careful over the years to manage his media presence, preferring with few exceptions to do his work beneath the radar of the national news. But he has often relied on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who calls Lane “a good friend,” to promote his events or videos, reported breathlessly by Brody as “exclusives.”

One good example of Brody serving as Lane’s public relations man came in a March blog post, in which Brody enthused about the upcoming event featuring Jindal and Cruz: “The influential David Lane has done it yet again, pulling together a big event in Iowa where the two soon-to-be presidential candidates will speak in front of a couple hundred pastors next week.”

Brody added a message directly to reporters:

“Hey mainstream media: you better pay attention to these events. These spiritual events are authentic as can be and here's some straight talk for the media as well: don't think that Cruz, Jindal, and others do these events for political purposes. They are both authentic Christians who believe every word of what they say when they talk to these pastors. They are NOT ashamed of the Gospel.

Will there be some political benefit? Well, of course but their heart is in the right place. And after all, God looks at the heart.”

Is it remotely possible that David Brody really believes that Cruz and Jindal do not go to Lane’s explicitly political events “for political purposes”?

David Lane, the GOP, Gideon and Rahab the Harlot

Lane ends just about every email and column with the question, “Will a Gideon or Rahab the Harlot please make a stand?” As RWW has noted, in the Old Testament, Gideon is called by God to defeat the armies of enemies of the Israelites and end the worship of false gods. Rahab the Harlot enabled the Israelites’ conquest of Jericho by helping two spies sent into the city by Joshua. She and her family were the only ones spared when the city was destroyed and every other man, woman and child was killed. Politicians who stand with Lane might consider asking him just what he means by his frequently repeated calls for a Gideon or Rahab to stand up among American evangelicals.

Appendix: A David Lane Primer

  • Argued that “homosexuals praying at the Inauguration” of President Obama in 2013 will provoke God’s wrath in the form of “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa.”
  • Feared that God might destroy the U.S. just as he punished Nazi Germany: “If we get judgment like Nazi Germany, I’m assuming we go to rebel, and God says ‘I’m done.’”
  • Urged conservative Christians to prepare for martyrdom in their fight to “save the nation from the pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage [and] homosexual scouts.”
  • Warned that homosexuality has created an unparalleled “moral crisis” and “threatened our utter destruction.”
  • Favorably quoted a Christian author who said that “same-sex marriage practiced universally is suicide. To survive gays and lesbians are parasites, depending for their cultural survival on couples that birth the next generation.”
  • Explained why homosexuality is a threat to freedom: “Homosexuality is debauchery. God’s loyalty and fidelity — that guard the nation — make sustainable freedom dependent on seeking virtue.”
  • Predicted that homosexuality will lead to the destruction of America: “Homosexual desire and marriage is unnatural and — more so — is a symptom of advanced cultural decay and precursor to the collapse of the Republican Party and the nation.... The mark of a decadent society is the exaltation and normalization of sin — which leads to the death.”
  • Said homosexuality is part of a Marxist “psychological conditioning” plot.
  • Attacked gay Republicans Richard Tisei and Ken Mehlman along with GOP marriage equality supporters Rob PortmanLaura Bush, Barbara Bush and Cindy McCain for trying “to impose homosexual marriage — and indecency — on Christian America.”
  • Compared Republicans who support marriage equality to politicians who backed slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.
  • Called the separation of church and state a “lie” and a “fabricated whopper” used to stop “Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media.”
  • Claimed that while “America was a Christian nation” since its founding, now it must choose between being “a Christian nation or a pagan nation.”
  • Said America needs a “thorough cleaning from pornography, abortion, homosexuality, filth from TV and Hollywood, racism, and injustice.”
  • Asserted that the “false gods of multiculturalism, political correctness and secularism must be removed from Christian America.”
  • Disclosed that “our long-term strategy must be to place the Bible in Public Schools as the principle [sic] textbook of American education.”
  • Congratulated a pastor for exposing Mitt Romney’s belief in the “false god of Mormonism” during the 2012 GOP primaries.
  • Lamented that the “‘religion of secularism’ has produced red ink as far as the eye can see, homosexuals praying at the Inauguration, tax-funded abortion, homosexual marriage in several States, Evangelicals held in contempt, and God expelled from the classrooms of America — and the public square.”
  •  
  • Warned that while America has “grovel to the false god of Islam,” “America, a Christian nation in heritage and culture, is being dismantled brick by brick.
PFAW

Let Freedom (and Wedding Bells) Ring

With the far-right Roberts Court, it's usually good news when they choose not to address a case, and that's especially so this morning: The Court announced it will not be hearing the appeals of any of the pending marriage cases.

That means the stays of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits' pro-equality rulings should be lifted and marriages should soon be allowed in Utah and Oklahoma (10th Circuit), Indiana and Wisconsin (7th Circuit), and Virginia (4th Circuit).

And in the other non-equality states in those three circuits, loving couples can now go to court and cite their circuit's ruling as binding precedent guaranteeing their right to marry. And they should win: Each circuit decision binds district courts and other three-judge appellate panels in the circuit. The only way to avoid the application of three-judge panel’s decision to other states in the circuit would be for there to be a contrary ruling by a panel - called an en banc panel - made up of all of the active appellate judges in that circuit.

Congratulations to the loving couples in those states for whom the Constitution's promise of liberty and equality will no longer be ideals withheld from them. This is a textbook case of the federal courts doing exactly what they were set up to do: vindicating those whose basic legal rights have been violated.

PFAW Foundation

Appeals Court Strikes Down Marriage Ban in Virginia, Ruling Will Also Affect Carolinas and West Virginia

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

This is a historic step forward for equality in the South. Beyond Virginia, the ruling will also affect the other states covered by the 4th Circuit, including North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia, which have similar bans in place. In West Virginia, the district judge considering the challenge to the state’s ban said last month that he would not proceed until the federal appeals court had ruled.

In the majority opinion, the judges noted that bigotry and fear cannot be the basis for the denial of equal rights under the law:

We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.

…The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.

For those who claim that marriage bans are legitimate because they were adopted by popular vote, the court quoted a Supreme Court case from 1964:

A citizen’s constitutional rights can hardly be infringed simply because a majority of the people choose that it be.

That one sentence perfectly encapsulates why courts matter.
 

PFAW Foundation

Will Mark Sanford Listen to Mark Sanford's Lesson in Grace?

"I am one imperfect man saved by God's grace," Mark Sanford proclaimed yesterday as he declared victory in a special election for South Carolina's open House seat. "Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God's grace, I don't think you really get it," he said. "And I didn't get it before."

Sanford's victory wasn't a big surprise. He won as a Republican in a district that favored Mitt Romney by 18 points last year.

What would be a surprise, and what I would love to see, is if Sanford applied his new personal understanding of "human grace as a reflection of God's grace" to his new role in government.

He could, for instance, apply some of that grace to women facing often wrenching decisions about abortion, allowing them to make their own decisions rather than pre-judging them with burdensome regulations designed to humiliate them and severely restrict their choices.

He could apply some of that grace to gay and lesbian couples,who, like him, are simply trying to share their lives openly with the one they love. While many public figures have "evolved" on gay rights without even having to be "saved by grace," Mark Sanford just recently reminded us that he hasn't moved an inch.

He could perhaps share some grace with his fellow Americans who are struggling to raise children while working multiple low-paying jobs. Maybe with his newfound empathy, he will understand that pre-K education, health care and food assistance can help those struggling to get by keep themselves afloat in an unforgiving economy.

Maybe he will have some grace left over for undocumented immigrants who are trying to support their families and give back to the country they call home.

Perhaps he could convince his party, which claims to be in the market for a makeover, that a little grace and understanding would do it some good.

Maybe this will happen. But it seems more likely that Sanford's idea of grace, choice and personal freedom apply exclusively to people like him.

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

PFAW

Nikki Haley Amplifies the GOP’s Assault on Voting Rights

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took to the stage at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, asserting her unwavering support for voter identification laws that make it harder for Americans—particularly minorities, students, and the elderly—to  exercise their constitutional right to vote.

The Justice Department is currently suing to stop South Carolina’s new voter ID law from taking effect, charging that it discriminates against traditionally disenfranchised groups. The voter ID laws particularly violate Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlaws discriminatory voting practices and gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and communities with a history of voter discrimination.
 
In an attempt to defend the voter ID measures in South Carolina, Haley affirmed the alleged necessity of voters showing a picture ID: “…if you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed and you have to show a picture ID to set foot on an airplane, then you should have to show a picture ID to protect one of the most valuable, most central, most sacred rights we are blessed with in America - the right to vote.”
 
Haley’s statement was met with a fervent standing ovation from the Republican audience.
 
What Haley failed to mention is the overwhelming evidence proving that the implementation of voter ID laws will severely hinder many minorities from casting their vote—a right that is preserved by the Constitution. The Constitution does not protect a citizen’s right to buy Sudafed or fly on an airplane.
 
Under the South Carolina law, anyone who wants to vote but does not have one of the five acceptable forms of photo ID must acquire a new voter registration card that includes a photo. A birth certificate can be used to prove identity. But the Obama administration says the law is vague about how the new cards would be distributed, raising the issue that voters might have difficulty obtaining a new card in time for the November 6 election.
 
Another concern arising from these voter ID requirements is that many African Americans born in the era of segregation do not have accurate birth certificates or any birth certificate at all. Effectively, by requiring people to obtain a photo ID, which necessitates a birth certificate, states like South Carolina are encoding the segregation era into current voting laws.
 
 
Proponents of this law claim that it is a preventative measure that will end cases of voter fraud. Yet these claims are unfounded, as there have been no proven cases of voter misrepresentation fraud in South Carolina. During this week’s trial over South Carolina’s voter ID law, state Senator George “Chip” Campsen III even testified that he could not find cases of voter impersonation in South Carolina.
 
This law is an infringement on the constitutionally granted voting rights of minorities—a demographic that has historically maintained a liberal outlook and voted for Democratic candidates. These voter ID laws solve a problem that doesn’t exist in order to keep progressive-leaning voters from the ballot box.
 
 

 

PFAW

Getting the inside scoop on voter suppression

The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation explains the methods the Right is using to suppress the vote under the guise of preventing non-existent “voter fraud.” It also shows the disproportionate effects that this has on minorities and other vulnerable populations. We’ve continued to highlight a national trend toward massive disenfranchisement, such as requests for citizenship data to purge the voting rolls and voter ID.

Last Thursday a Heritage Foundation panel discussion featured people who are leading the charge.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler:

We’ve got bloated and inaccurate voter rolls. We have a very loose honors system when it comes to voting in this country when it comes to both registration and voting as well, often times for example […] no photo ID required. And over time we have seen the increased use of mail-in ballots, which has good points, but also increases a very common avenue for voter fraud.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach:

When I was sworn in as Secretary of State in Kansas in January 2011 my primary objective was to set about drafting the strongest anti-voter fraud law possible in any state […] The Secure and Fair Elections Act made Kansas the first state to combine three things. Some states had done one or more of these, but we’re the first state to have photo ID at the polls, equivalent protection for mail-in ballots, so that you have to have signature verification on the ballot application before the mail-in ballot is sent out and you have to have either a photo copy of a qualifying photo ID or full Kansas driver’s license number or non-driver ID with the application coming in. And then thirdly, Kansas requires proof of citizenship at the time newly registered voters register to vote. [Link added]

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson:

When you hear out there that the implementation of voter ID and photo ID requirements in various states is akin to taking us back to the Jim Crow era or back to a time in the civil rights movement I find it insulting for those who actually lived through that time for people to make those analogies. When people say that this is an attempt to suppress minority votes, or that this is a solution in search of a problem, I find that very disconcerting.

Former Congressman Artur Davis:

[Waving his driver’s license] It’s a very tiny little thing that will fit in a breast pocket, will fit in a wallet. Carry it next to your pager, your Blackberry. It is not a billy club, if you look at it that’s clear. It’s not a fire hose.

Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote:

We’re helping to support hundreds of citizen-led election integrity organizations […] If our rate of growth continues we believe it is entirely possible that we might mobilize up to a million new volunteers into the election process between now and November 2012.

These Heritage panelists represent more examples of how the Right continues to adamantly deny the disenfranchising effects of the laws they are pushing, while redoubling their efforts to keep voters from the polls. And if recent events are anything to go by, those True the Vote volunteers will make the election more intimidating, less free, and less fair.

In other news heard straight from the horse’s mouth, former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer admitted recently that Republican officials have made deliberate attempts to prevent blacks from voting. Greer’s deposition, though part of his own criminal corruption trial, lends eyewitness testimony that these efforts are designed to subvert the right to vote. They certainly aren’t short on intention.

PFAW Foundation

DOJ again rejects South Carolina voter ID

On June 29, the Department of Justice for the second time declined to approve South Carolina’s voter ID law, HB 3003, originally sponsored by ALEC member Alan Clemmons. State Attorney General Alan Wilson sued the federal government after DOJ first rejected the law last year. The trial has been set for September 24. With that late date, the law is unlikely to be in effect by November.

A new Brennan Center report details the extreme lengths to which HB 3003 would force many South Carolinians to go to in order to get required ID. Nearly 275,000 — 8 percent of eligible voters— live 10 miles or more from an ID office that is open more than two days per week. Of these, 7,000 do not have access to cars. Minorities are particularly hard hit, as they are less likely to already have an ID acceptable under these laws and more likely to live far away from an ID office.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina, represented by the Brennan Center and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has filed a motion to intervene in the Justice Department’s suit against South Carolina.

Brennan Center Senior Counsel Keesha Gaskins:

It is wrong to pass laws that block some Americans from voting, and to deny them the opportunity to participate equally in our democracy. We are glad the Justice Department stepped in to reject this law, and we urge the federal court to do the same at trial.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation