Last week, People For the American Way Foundation launched a new report, “12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics,” which offers guidelines for policymakers and advocates seeking to bring faith into political debates.
Joining us at a launch party for the report and a discussion of the issues it raises were Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress; Sister Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Here are some photos of the event from People For Foundation’s Dylan Hewitt:
Sister Simone Campbell talks with People For’s COO, Nick Ucci
People For President Michael Keegan, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery
Michael Keegan and Rep. Keith Ellison
Sister Simone Campbell and Rabbi David Saperstein
Rabbi David Saperstein
Rep. Keith Ellison and Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Conference.
Last weekend, People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch captured video of prominent Louisiana pastor Dennis Terry introducing Rick Santorum at an event with an incendiary sermon in which he insists that those who don’t believe that America is a Christian nation “get out” of the country.
The video quickly went viral, and Santorum was forced to distance himself slightly from Terry’s remarks, saying “I didn’t clap when he said that.”
As PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery wrote in a column for the Huffington Post, the incident illuminates the Religious Right worldview that Santorum and supporters like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins – himself a parishioner of Terry’s – embrace:
While the media may understandably focus on Santorum's garbled economic message, his Sunday evening appearance is worth a longer look -- for what it tells us about Santorum and the Religious Right movement that is propelling his campaign.
The church at which Santorum appeared is Baton Rouge, La.'s Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, which Family Research Council President Tony Perkins describes as his home church. Perkins, in fact, was introduced at the event as a "dear friend" of Pastor Terry and as a church elder. Perkins, whose FRC has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for relentlessly promoting false and malicious propaganda about LGBT people, said of Greenwell Springs Baptist, "there is not a better church in the United States of America than right here." So in Perkins's mind, there is no better congregation than the one that applauded wildly at Pastor Terry's "Christian nation" assertions and his seeming suggestion that people who do not worship Jesus Christ should find some other country to live in.
Peter discussed his column and the Religious Right movement behind Santorum’s candidacy in an interview with TruthDig radio in Los Angeles yesterday. You can listen to the interview here.
Last night, People For's Peter Montgomery went on MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss Texas Gov. Rick Perry's newest big project: a prayer rally cosponsored by the American Family Association.
As it happens, our Right Wing Watch blog has been following the American Family Association and its spectacularly bigoted spokesman Bryan Fischer for years. On the show, O'Donnell introduced our new report on Fischer, which you can read here.
For the occassion, we also put together a highlight real of Bryan Fischer's most bigoted moments (it was hard to choose):
Yes, this is who Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry is choosing to associate himself with. More on the AFA and other participants in Perry's rally here.
Yesterday, PFAW’s Peter Montgomery appeared on New York’s WVOX Radio, joining The Advocates host Richard Garfunkel to discuss the American values reflected in the First Amendment. With a particular focus on the Establishment Clause and freedom of speech, Peter talked about some of the threats against the Constitution being launched by the Religious Right—including the effort by sham historian David Barton to chip away at the separation of church and state by baselessly implying that the Founding Fathers imagined America as a Christian Nation. Peter also discussed the implications of Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United, which opened the floodgates for a new outpouring of secret money in the political process.
You can listen to the full interview here:
It’s been a big couple of days for the Right’s favorite self-declared historian, David Barton. Last night, he went on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to try to defend his shoddy scholarship to a national audience – which he did, mostly, by flatly denying things that are demonstrably true.
And this morning, Barton was the subject of a profile in the New York Times, mildly titled “Using History to Mold Ideas on the Right.” The problem, of course, is that Barton’s version of history is not one that most Americans, and most historians, would recognize:
“The problem with David Barton is that there’s a lot of truth in what he says,” said Derek H. Davis, director of church-state studies at Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco, Tex. “But the end product is a lot of distortions, half-truths and twisted history.”
Mr. Barton says it is his critics who cherry-pick history by underplaying the religious dimension. Over the years, he has only dug more deeply into his documents, filling out books like “Original Intent” (published by WallBuilders, his organization here).
One of his most contested assertions is that the Supreme Court has misconstrued Thomas Jefferson’s statement that the First Amendment erected a “wall of separation between church and state.” According to Mr. Barton, Jefferson meant that government should not interfere with the public exercise of religion — not that public spaces should be purged of prayer. He also cites biblical passages that, he says, argue against deficit spending, graduated income taxes, the minimum wage and costly measures to fight global warming.
People For explored Barton’s history of twisting the bible and historical documents for political purposes in the recent report, “Barton’s Bunk.”
We’ll also be posting fact-checks of Barton’s interview with Jon Stewart throughout the day at Right Wing Watch.
In case you missed it, here’s People For’s Peter Montgomery giving a Barton primer on the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:
Last night, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell had an exclusive on People For's new Right Wing Watch: In Focus report on the Right's favorite sham historian, David Barton. People For Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery went on the show to discuss Barton, and what he means for American politics. You can watch the clip here:
Conventional wisdom tells us that Independents swing elections. Logic tells us that the two major parties should be trying to court as many Independents as possible. So why are Republicans emphasizing a legislative agenda that falls out of synch with the priorities of most independent voters?
According to recent polling data compiled by CQ Weekly, the views of Independents align more closely with Democrats than with Republicans on social issues such as funding Planned Parenthood. Interestingly, Republicans are pretty evenly split on the issue, and independent voters are in favor of continuing funding. The majority of Independents also believe that gays and lesbians should be allowed to legally marry and that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Why, then, are Republicans actively alienating Independents by threatening to shut down the government over issues that they oppose? As noted in the CQ article, One House, Two Agendas [paywall], even Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who manages communications strategy for Senate Republicans, fears the consequences of this shift in priorities:
“Our focus needs to be on reducing spending,” Alexander said. “We can’t preach the whole Bible in one sermon, so sometimes we have to take it one step at a time.”
Alexander’s views are reflected in the opinions of more libertarian-minded tea party groups. Last November, several tea party leaders and gay conservatives sent a letter to lawmakers asking them not to become distracted by the concerns of social conservatives.
“The tea party movement is a non-partisan movement, focused on issues of economic freedom and limited government,” they wrote. “We urge you to stay focused on the issues that got you and your colleagues elected and to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests.”
In a recent essay describing a growing coalition between fiscal and social conservatives, PFAW Foundation’s Peter Montgomery explains how the Tea Party, supposedly concerned only about the size and scope of the federal government, is being co-opted by the Religious Right:
Now effectively in the employ of the libertarian David Koch, who founded Americans for Prosperity and chairs the board of its foundation, [Koch political operative Tom Phillips] has deep ties to the evangelical Right, most notably with Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Rev. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, who now heads a new entity, the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Reed and Phillips go way back; the two were partners in Century Strategies, the political consulting group through which Reed played a role in the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal. Now, it seems Phillips is partnered with Reed and other Religious Right leaders in a much greater conquest: a merger of the Religious Right and the ostensibly secular Tea Party movement to create an electoral juggernaut that will determine the outcome of the 2012 Republican presidential primary.
Republicans continue to force extreme social issues on the American people, and independent voters are finding it less and less palatable. Hopefully, they’ll get the message.
PFAW’s Right Wing Watch in Focus report, “Previewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration Reform,” identified nine strategies employed by right-wing pundits and politicians to demonize immigrants and derail comprehensive reform. Among those strategies were to portray immigrants as criminals, invaders, and disease-carriers. It’s time to add a new category: blaming immigrants for environmental degradation.
At last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) distributed a beautifully photographed report decrying the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay, blaming the failure of clean-up efforts on immigration, and slamming environmental groups for not joining FAIR’s anti-immigrant crusade.
If you find it confusing that FAIR, whose political allies are among the most far-right members of Congress, is professing deep concern for the environment, there’s a simple explanation. FAIR and its anti-immigration allies believe that appealing to environmentalists concerned about the impact of sprawl and other growth-related issues can be an effective wedge issue to divide progressives.
For more about the blame-immigrants-for-environmental problems strategy, and a progressive response, see this article by People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery on Alternet
Live Action, the anti-choice group that has been attempting to smear Planned Parenthood with heavily edited videos of its activists posing as sex traffickers in Planned Parenthood offices, has released another video. And this one, according to a Planned Parenthood press release, has also been heavily altered:
In an interview with the FBI, the two health center workers featured in the video said that they did not hear the words “sex work” or “sex worker,” uttered by the actors on camera who were hired by Live Action to play the role of a “pimp” on the videotape in an effort to undermine the credibility of Planned Parenthood staff in Live Action’s coordinated lobbying effort to support legislation that would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds.
In addition, it is clear from the edited tape that there are two or more video sources, as well as an additional audio source, increasing the opportunity for manipulation and selective editing.
Unlike other publicized tapes, the hoax “patients” in New York were not able to get beyond the reception desk for a private consultation. Like other encounters that have been recently publicized in Virginia, our staff responded professionally to questions, discussed these encounters with management, and provided a report to the FBI.
We expect Live Action, a political operation, to continue publicizing a number of secretly recorded videotapes made at our health centers in an effort to undermine health center services and support federal legislation designed to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds.
Although the mainstream media has for the most part recognized Live Action’s smear campaign as the fraud it is, Live Action isn’t giving up. Last week, a coalition of progressive groups, including People For, sent a letter to members of Congress supporting Planned Parenthood as the organization faces continued right-wing smears.
For more background, read our Right Wing Watch: In Focus report on the anatomy of Live Action’s campaign, and watch PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery's analysis on the Thom Hartmann show:
This afternoon at 4:00 PM Eastern, Peter Montgomery, a Senior Fellow at People For, will be on WBAI in New York discussing yesterday’s elections and how our 5 Election Day Stories to Watch are playing out.
You can listen live here.
And read People For President Michael B. Keegan’s full analysis, What the 2010 Elections Say About America: Stories People For the American Way is Watching, in the Huffington Post.
Senate Republicans this afternoon again voted in a bloc to stall debate on a Wall Street reform measure, after a concerted effort to brand the increased regulations a fat-cat bailout. The “bailout” label, as People For’s Peter Montgomery explains in a new Right Wing Watch In Focus report, is a carefully calculated lie:
Back in January, Republican pollster and communications strategist Frank Luntz distributed a strategy memo instructing Republican officials how to obstruct Wall Street reform while confusing the American public about who was looking out for their interests. Among Luntz's key recommendations was to tie reforms to big bank bailouts. There's the 180 degree spin from reality. One of the key goals of Wall Street reform legislation being considered in both houses of Congress is preventing the need for such bailouts by clamping down on the kind of overly risky behavior that led to the financial system meltdown. The legislation has been designed to create mechanisms to shut down failing institutions in an orderly way to prevent the need for expensive improvised bailouts in the future.
So, to be clear, the purpose of the Bailout Lie was to let Republicans get away with stopping reforms that would crimp the style of Wall Street speculators while at the same time convincing tea party activists and Main Street Americans that it was somehow the Democrats doing Wall Street's bidding. That's a big bluff. But Senator McConnell is nothing if not audacious in putting the Bailout Lie to work.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week showed that a majority of Americans, including over a third of Republicans, actually back the legislation’s so-called “bailout” provision—a requirement that banks contribute to a fund that would cover the cost of taking over and breaking up any failing financial institutions. Two-thirds of those surveyed supported the bill’s increased regulation of Wall Street.
While the GOP’s Wall Street Reform talking points are clearly reaching Republican Senators, it’s unclear how much of an effect they’ll have on a public that’s fed up with the current lax oversight of the financial industry. Perhaps it’s time GOP Senators started consulting their constituents before their party’s spin doctors.
To contact a spokesperson, please contact the Communications team at (202) 467-4999 or email@example.com.
Michael B. Keegan has extensive experience as a business executive, philanthropist and longtime board member of both People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation, beginning his tenure with the organizations in 1994. In that time, Michael has been an active participant on all of the key board committees overseeing the program activities of the organizations. He as shown a deep commitment not only to the institutions themselves, but to the values and guiding principles on which People For the American Way and People For Foundation base their missions. As President, he brings with him a unique wealth of knowledge about People For from his 15 years on the board.
Michael has a rich background progressive activism, particularly in the area of LGBT equality. He is a founding national board member of The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Michael also serves on the board of the Los Angeles Public Library and as a trustee of the Muriel Pollia Foundation.
Mr. Keegan is a real estate investor and has worked in various capacities in the media and entertainment industries, at companies such as Columbia Pictures and at Act III Communications where he served as President of the 500-screen Act III Theatres Circuit. He received his MBA in International Business and Entertainment Management from Columbia University. He received his BA in American Studies from Vanderbilt University where he was President of the Student Body. He was awarded the post graduate World Trade Council Traveling Fellowship for travel to developing countries on four continents.
Marge Baker oversees People For’s policy and programmatic work, including its campaigns on the courts, nominations, LGBT equality, voting rights and elections. She has worked for nearly 30 years in various public service roles. Prior to her current position she was the Staff Director for the late Senator Paul Wellstone on the Senate’s Employment, Safety and Training Subcommittee. Ms. Baker is a graduate of Yale Law School, has served as a law clerk in the federal judiciary, as a counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and as head of consumer protection for a state regulatory agency. Ms. Baker is married, and has three children, ages 24, 26, and 29.
Andrew Gillum is Director of Youth Leadership Programs. An alumnus of Florida A&M University (FAMU), former president of the Student Government Association, and FAMU's first student member of the Board of Trustees, Gillum became the youngest person ever elected to the four-member Tallahassee City Commission in February 2003. Gillum has held prominent leadership roles such as Mayor Pro Tem, ChairmanCapital Region Transportation Planning Agency and lead commissioner for the Long Range Community Based Target Issue Committee. In keeping with his mantra to uplift and build the collective community, Gillum has championed several community initiatives including the Nims Middle School Digital Harmony Pilot Program, the Landlord Tenant Mediation Program; the Code Enforcement Amnesty Program; and the creation of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Park. Gillum served as Field Organizer and statewide Director of the "Arrive With 5" program with People For the American Way Foundation. He organized the largest "Arrive With 5" get-out-the-vote campaign in Florida's history. He also worked as Deputy Political Director with the Florida Democratic Party. He founded PFAW Foundation's Young Elected Officials program, which unites elected officials age 35 and under in a network which supports them with leadership and personal development training and public policy support.
Drew Courtney is Director of Communications at People For the American Way where he oversees the organization’s communications and messaging. He has served as a spokesperson for print, television, and radio interviews, including appearances on Good Morning America, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, CNN, and the BBC. Drew has helped to lead PFAW’s communications efforts surrounding the Sotomayor and Kagan confirmations, in addition to its work on LGBT equality, voting rights and combating right-wing extremism. Prior to joining People For, he worked in the office of Senator Blanche Lincoln, at an NGO dedicated to sustainable development in Africa, and as a public school teacher in rural Arkansas.
Peter Montgomery oversees People For the American Way Foundation’s research and writing on the Religious Right, as well as our work to help progressives understand and more effectively communicate with important constituencies, particularly the reachable religious middle. Mr. Montgomery is a spokesperson for People For the American Way Foundation on a range of issues, such as the Supreme Court, the Religious Right political movement, religion and politics, LGBT rights, public education, and free speech. Before joining People For the American Way Foundation in 1994, Peter Montgomery was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause, where he planned and directed grassroots lobbying campaigns, volunteer recruitment, and media relations strategy. He wrote and edited for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.
Diallo Brooks has over 15 years of non-profit management experience working with national and state leaders to enhance social justice missions through leadership development training, project management and technical assistance. In his current position as Director of Field Mobilization at the People For the American Way, Mr. Brooks works to engage PFAW’s various networks and membership in key program activities related to the organizations mission. Prior to joining PFAW, Mr. Brooks was the Field Director for The Education Trust, Director of Legislator Relations for the Center for Policy Alternatives and Client Services Coordinator for Millennium Communications Group. Mr. Brooks also has served as Co-Chair and national spokesman for Black Youth Vote (BYV!) and is a current executive board member of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Mr. Brooks has provided trainings for numerous non-profits, state elected officials and other institutions in the areas of values baled leadership development and organization management. Mr. Brooks is also a founding partner at Momentum Strategies, LLC. a strategic consulting firm.
Leslie Watson Malachi is the Director of African American Religious Affairs for People for the American Way. She is the former National Policy Director for the Balm In Gilead and served for nine years as the Director of the Multicultural Programs Department of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice where she managed and developed La Iniciativa Latina (LIL), the Women of Color Partnership Project (WOCPP), and the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) which included annual planning of the National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality for African American clergy and laity. Leslie is co-author of two of the Coalitions faith-based sexuality education dialogue models for African American congregations, award winning and nationally recognized “Keeping It Real!” for teens, and “Breaking the Silence” for adults. Both curriculums are designed to strengthen communication betweens teens and adults in order to reduce teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Leslie has served as the National Coordinator and Field Director for the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Coordinator of the Public Policy Institute of the Citizenship Education Fund, the 501(c)3 arm of the Rainbow. A Minister, she is also a master trainer and has been trained by several institutions including the National MultiCultural Institute for advanced training of trainers in “Building Cultural Competency in the Workplace” and “Teaching Skills and Cultural Competency”. Leslie has provided training in, among other areas, cross cultural communication, prejudice reduction, facilitation, effective collaborations, events and strategic planning, and issue campaigns for over 20 years.