John Ashcroft

Ben Carson Keynotes Pat Robertson's Birthday Extravaganza

Likely GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson was the keynote speaker at televangelist Pat Robertson’s birthday party this weekend, which also featured appearances from Donald Trump, Pat Boone, John Ashcroft and Kenneth Copeland, as well as a card from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Carson thanked Robertson for his “positive” outlook on life, seeming to ignore Robertson’s regular pronouncements about America’s imminent destruction at the hands of gays and the Obama administration.

Robertson also received quite a present for his birthday: a replica of the president’s “Resolute” desk in the Oval Office.

Regent U: Pat Robertson's Sorbonne

A new web ad for Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School makes clear that, for both students and faculty, "law is more than a profession, it is a calling" as everyone from Pat Robertson and Jay Sekulow to John Ashcroft and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonald hail the impact that the school has already had on society.

And while Robertson declares that his mission for Regent University is not simply to rival the likes of Harvard or Yale but "to rival Oxford and the Sorbonne in the Middle Ages as a school that can impact the whole society," students are dedicated to ensuring that they "use the law to further the kingdom of God" and "line up human law with what God wants it to be":

GodTV Election Special

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice has been something of a guardian angle for the Rob and Paul Schenck.  After getting arrested and fined repeatedly for their anti-abortion activism in New York, the brothers decided to give up their protesting and move to Washington DC to reinvent themselves, with Sekulow's help:

SCHENCK BROTHERS BID FAREWELL TO PRO-LIFE ACTIVISM IN BUFFALO
11 August 1994
Buffalo News

The Revs. Paul H. and Robert L. Schenck are packing up their pro-life activism and moving it to the national arena.

They're also taking the Rev. Johnny Hunter, a third leader of the local pro-life movement, with them. The three men are moving to the Washington, D.C., and Virginia Beach, Va., areas.

Starting Sept. 1, Paul Schenck hopes to become a director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm that fights for religious liberty and the pro-life and pro-family causes.

Robert Schenck will become organizing pastor of the National Community Church on Capitol Hill, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination. That new church will attempt to attract middle-level Capitol Hill workers and develop a national network of pastors to engage in "Christian lobbying" on Capitol Hill.

Sekulow continued to assist them, even going to the Supreme Court and arguing Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York on Paul's behalf in 1996.  And to this day, Sekulow and the Schenck brothers maintain close ties, which is why it is no surprise to see that he had invited Rob to join him and former Attorney General John Ashcroft for the taping of their GodTV Election Special:

Rob Schenck (R) appears on a GodTV Election Special hosted by Jay Sekulow (L). Other guests included former US Attorney General John Ashcroft (Center Left) and Mega-Church Pastor Mike MacIntosh of San Diego's Horizon Christian Fellowship (Center Right). The four talked atop the US Chamber of Commerce building with the White House and Washington Monument in the background. The Election Day Special can be seen at www.god.tv

According to the GodTV schedule, the special is set to air on Friday, October 19 at 8pm.

The Revelation Will Not Be Televised

Bill Sizemore, a reporter for The Virginian-Pilot, probably knows as much as anyone about Pat Robertson and his multi-million dollar empire, having covered him for years and regularly breaking stories on everything from his outrageous statements to his murky business dealings.  

Recently, Sizemore penned an insightful and informative profile of the Religious Right icon for the Virginia Quarterly Review that not only chronicles Robertson’s rise to fame and wealth but also serves as an excellent example of the sort of pieces Sizemore has done on Robertson over the years, which helps explain why Robertson hates him so much.

I spoiled Pat Robertson’s birthday.

I know, because he told me so.

On March 22, 2007, the day he turned seventy-seven, the televangelist and I sat eyeball-to-eyeball across the corner of a long table in a dark-paneled conference room at the Christian Broadcasting Network’s cross-shaped headquarters in Virginia Beach. Also at the table were two CBN lawyers and the editor, publisher, and lawyer from the newspaper I write for, the Virginian-Pilot. We had been summoned for a tongue-lashing over a story I had written about Robertson. It was a vicious piece, full of lies, he fumed—and what’s more, I had consciously timed its appearance to ruin his birthday. He demanded a retraction, a correction, an apology. If he didn’t get it, he implied none too subtly, he would sue.

“You guys are as crooked as a snake,” he sputtered. “I’ll have you all in depositions for the rest of your life.”     

Sizemore explains how Robertson, son of a US Senator, set out to be a “sophisticated New York swinger,” only to jettison the lifestyle in pursuit of the “prosperity gospel,” the idea that believers will be rewarded financially for their faith in God  … and, more importantly,  their monetary donations to his servants such as Robertson.

The piece chronicles Robertson’s early days of speaking in tongues, casting out demons, fighting off Satan, and warding off hurricanes through his purchase of a bankrupt TV station in southern Virginia that eventually became the behemoth Christian Broadcasting Network.  Along the way, Robertson developed close ties with now-disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker and slowly began transforming his growing ministry into a political force that culminated in his failed run for President in 1988 and the eventual birth of the Christian Coalition.

Sizemore also lays out Robertson’s shady business practices, noting how raised money for his charity Operation Blessing by promising to provide aid to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 … and then proceeded to use the operation to mine for diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo [formerly Zaire] for the benefit of his for-profit African Development Company.  When Sizemore broke the story, Robertson was livid and when the two met years later, Robertson still had not forgiven him:

 

The publicity cost him a bundle, he complained, and the crowning indignity was the venture’s meager output. “We got one tiny little diamond!” he exclaimed.

 

Sizemore goes on to examine everything from Robertson’s ties to indicted Liberian war-criminal Charles Taylor to the founding of his Regent University Law School and the subsequent influence its 150 graduates had within the Bush Administration. 

But perhaps the most interesting anecdote comes from Gerry Straub, a former “700 Club” producer, who explained how Robertson and his supporters believe that CBN had been chosen by God to “usher in the coming of my Son” and, as such, put in place a plan to televise Christ’s imminent return to earth: 

 

In order to prepare for the imminent Second Coming—which Robertson believes will occur on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem according to biblical prophecy—he acquired METV (Middle East Television), a station then based in southern Lebanon that could broadcast into Israel. Straub was given marching orders to be ready to televise Christ’s return. CBN executives drew up a detailed plan to broadcast the event to every nation and in all languages. Straub wrote: “We even discussed how Jesus’ radiance might be too bright for the cameras and how we would have to make adjustments for that problem. Can you imagine telling Jesus, ‘Hey, Lord, please tone down your luminosity; we’re having a problem with contrast. You’re causing the picture to flare.’”

 

As Sizemore notes, it might be tempting to write Robertson off as a now-inconsequential relic, but to do so greatly underestimates Robertson’s continuing influence, as well as the legacy he has created:

Perhaps of most import for the nation and the world, he has pioneered a unique marriage between theology and politics. This is a man who ran for president because, he said, God told him to, but that brief campaign twenty years ago would be merely a footnote in American political history were it not for the potent legacy it spawned.

Robertson has never really left the political stage. He opines on world events daily on his TV show and regularly interviews national and world leaders. Presidential hopefuls give major speeches at Regent University, the school he founded, where former attorney general John Ashcroft is on the faculty. Out of the ashes of the Robertson presidential campaign came an army of Bible-believing religious fundamentalists which has won a degree of political power unprecedented in modern times.

Maybe the ACLJ Should Ask Ashcroft

Sameh Khouzam, an Egyptian national who has been accused, and convicted in absentia, of murder in his native country has been fighting efforts by the U.S. government to deport him, claiming that he will be tortured if he returns because he is a Coptic Christian who refuses to convert to Islam.  

Rallying to Khouzam’s side is Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, as well as its European affiliate, The European Centre for Law and Justice:

As a Coptic Christian, Khouzam effectively has no rights in his native Egypt and quite frankly because of his religious beliefs is certain to be denied the most basic of human rights and protections. The U.S. government repeatedly has stated its opposition to torture and should do what's right -- keep Khouzam out of the hands of a government that is likely to do just that."

In its amicus brief, the ACLJ and ECLJ contend that Egypt's assurances that it won't torture Khouzam are simply not credible.

The brief also contends that the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) should apply in this case. CAT states that "no State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

The brief asserts that "where the receiving country has a poor human rights track record, like Egypt does, diplomatic assurances should carry almost no weight."

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the ACLJ/ECLJ’s effort to prevent Khouzam from being tortured – in fact, it is quite laudable.  What makes the ACLJ/ECLJ involvement in this case interesting is the fact that both organizations have close ties to Former Attorney General John Ashcroft – the very same man responsible for the “extraordinary rendition” of Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria, where he was reportedly tortured:

For Fired Attorneys, Loyalty Was a One-Way Street

Amid the ever-widening scandal surrounding the purge of several U.S. attorneys, now involving everything from subpoenas to bipartisan calls for Attorney General Gonzales’s resignation, one interesting bit of information has so-far gone unnoticed:  the fact that several of the fired attorneys had previously been involved in supporting White House and Justice Department efforts to secure passage and renewal of the Patriot Act.  

As Legal Times reported back in August 2004:

The Justice Department launched an unprecedented nationwide campaign in 2003 to boost support for the USA Patriot Act and beat back opponents. Recently obtained internal DOJ documents reveal just how organized and aggressive that push has been.

"Your role is educational only. You must not encourage citizens or public officials to make congressional contacts or to attempt to influence any vote concerning the USA Patriot Act," one DOJ memo states.

To avoid ethical pitfalls, Main Justice instructed the 93 Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys, who are exempt from the Anti-Lobbying Act, to contact Congress members personally, not through staff.

Apparently, not every Attorney was eager to participate: 

Obama’s Religious Test

Well before Sen. Barack Obama had officially announced that he was running for President, the good folks at the National Clergy Council were already hard at work attempting to discredit his Christian faith.

On January 8th, Faith and Action, an affiliate of the National Clergy Council, unveiled an “in-depth examination of the religious beliefs of Sen. Barack Obama titled: ‘Barack Obama: Sheep or Goat?’” that claims to “tell you what kind of Christian he is not … [he] is definitely not an Evangelical.”

Of course, Obama doesn’t claim to be an Evangelical, so why exactly the NCC thought it so necessary to “research who and what Barack Obama is … as far as his faith is concerned” is impossible to know.  

Maybe next, the NCC can release a lengthy exposé on the fact that neither Catholic GOP candidate Sen. Sam Brownback nor Mormon Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are Evangelicals either.

Now that Obama has announced his intention to run, the NCC is making clear that it intends to continue its “examination” of his faith … and that it is his own fault:

By injecting his faith so directly into his campaign, Mr. Obama has invited an examination and debate focused on his faith. Sadly, we will find Mr. Obama's Christianity woefully deficient.

Not surprisingly, the NCC has a completely different position on this sort of tactic when it comes to Republican officials:

I recall sitting in on confirmation hearings for John Ashcroft who was up for attorney general in the first Bush Administration and it was nothing short of brutal. Besides attacking him for being a right wing extremist, opponents of President Bush threatened to grill Mr. Ashcroft on his Christian doctrinal beliefs. It was one of the most contentious, prejudicial, petty and insulting exercises I have witnessed in Washington since arriving here nearly twelve years ago.

So apparently what is “prejudicial, petty and insulting” when it applies to John Ashcroft is entirely legitimate when it comes to Barack Obama.

Bush Administration and the Right: One and the Same

For years, we have been warning that the Bush Administration was filling traditionally nonpartisan governmental positions with committed right-wing advocates in order to transform the Right’s political agenda into government policy. 

And that is exactly what is happening, according to the Boston Globe 

The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights, according to job application materials obtained by the Globe.

The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

In an acknowledgment of the department's special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants -- not political appointees.

But in the fall of 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the procedures. The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers.

For decades, such committees had screened thousands of resumes, interviewed candidates, and made recommendations that were only rarely rejected.

Now, hiring is closely overseen by Bush administration political appointees to Justice, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions.