Codex Justinianus
Numerous provisions served to secure the status of Christianity as the state religion of the empire, uniting Church and state, and making anyone who was not connected to the Christian church a non-citizen.

The very first law in the Codex requires all persons under the jurisdiction of the Empire to hold the Christian faith. This was primarily aimed against heresies such as Nestorianism. This text later became the springboard for discussions of international law, especially the question of just what persons are under the jurisdiction of a given state or legal system.

Other laws, while not aimed at pagan belief as such, forbid particular pagan practices. For example, it is provided that all persons present at a pagan sacrifice may be indicted as if for murder.

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

The Republican template has been in stark view at presidential debates lately. It is a program to wind down the government’s longstanding guarantee of health care to the elderly and the poor and incinerate the Democrats’ new promise to cover the uninsured; to abolish the Department of Education and its effort to raise national standards; to stop virtually all regulation of the environment and the financial industry; to reimpose military discrimination against gays and lesbians, deport immigrants, cut unemployment insurance and nutrition programs, raise taxes on the poor and lower them for the rich. ...what Mr. Obama called “a cramped vision that says you’re on your own.”

At every level of the ballot, Republican candidates should be asked if they really want this to be a country where we’re all on our own.

An Icy Political Vision
September 29, 2011




"Yes, it's down to dog-on-car vs.
This is what the GOP has come to."

SteveS, Jersey City ~ Commentator
The New York Times: Feb. 23, 2012











The Renegade Republicans
The New York Times: March 26, 2012

For nearly three decades, South Carolina served as the bulwark of the Republican establishment. The state has been the killing ground of insurgent presidential bids again and again.

The results in South Carolina and in other states suggest that major segments of the normally compliant Republican primary electorate have run amok and that the party’s powerbrokers are no longer able to control the anger and resentment released by the Tea Party movement, the mobilization of the Christian right or the realignment of white working class Southerners.

Romney’s Mormon faith has created a major hurdle to winning the votes of Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian voters.

The Jan 21 upheaval in South Carolina was most revealing:
Exit poll data show that the percentage of South Carolina Republican primary voters identifying themselves as born-again or evangelical shot up between 2008 and 2012, from 55 to 64 percent.

In an analysis of the contests so far, the Faith and Freedom Coalition found that evangelicals are now a majority, 50.53 percent, of all Republican presidential primary voters. The ascendance of the religious right has produced “the highest percentage recorded in a presidential nominating process, 4.29 million votes out of 8.49 million cast,” according to the coalition.

This represents a significant increase from 2008, when 44 percent of Republican turnout was made up of evangelical Christians. According to Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition:

Conservative people of faith are playing a larger role in shaping the contours and affecting the trajectory of the Republican presidential nomination contest than at any time since they began pouring out of the pews and into the precincts in the late 1970s.

A plurality of Christian evangelical voters, 32.85 percent, has backed Santorum, while Romney is second with 29.74, a tiny fraction ahead of Newt Gingrich, 29.65.

These trends, while not predictive of the outcome in November, are problematic for the Republican Party. As the general public becomes more tolerant on issues like gay rights and premarital sex, it is moving farther and farther from the cultural and moral agenda of the religious right.

























he Church Lady State
The New York Times: March 22, 2012

When people complain about liberal overreach they always bring up the nanny state. You know, sorting your garbage to see if a banana peel slipped in with a cellophane wrapper; energy-efficient light bulbs; neutered language in the public square to make sure no one is ever offended.

But all of the above is a mere teardrop in the Amazon compared to what your freedom-hating Republican Party has been doing across the land to restrict individual liberty.

They want the state to follow you into the bedroom, the bathroom and beyond. They think you’re too stupid to know what to do with your own body, too ignorant to understand what your doctors tell you and too lazy to be trusted in a job without being subject to random drug testing. Your body is the government’s business.

Let’s take a tour of the Church Lady (right) state to date. Our nation may soon turn its lonely eyes to Idaho, where Gov. Butch Otter could have the final say on a bill that would order women to undergo a medically unnecessary and invasive procedure before deciding to end a pregnancy.

Idaho politicians love to go on and on about how government shouldn’t force people to do things that violate their conscience, or common sense. And for the last three years, we’ve heard Republican presidential candidates condemn the abomination of government coming between you and your doctor.

But given a chance to govern without a sanity filter, these same Republicans become Big Brother in a surgical smock.

In Idaho, almost one in five people have no health insurance. Except now the Republican Legislature wants to force you to undergo at least one medical procedure, no matter whether you have health care.

Compounding the lunacy of this reach into your family discussions, the bill’s main sponsor, State Senator Chuck Winder, suggested that rape victims seeking exceptions might be lying about how they got pregnant.

He said women should ask their doctors if their pregnancy was caused by rape or “normal relations in a marriage.” And, yes, I hate to say it, but politicians are that stupid and that mean-spirited in Idaho. Here’s a leader of the State Legislature suggesting that a woman is just too dumb to know whether she was raped or not.

In Texas, Carolyn Jones just went through the punitive end of a horrid law prompted by militant sanctimony. She is a working mother, married, who was anticipating the birth of her second child when she was told of deformities in the fetus. After agonizing, she felt she had no choice but to end the pregnancy. That was the start of her special hell in the Lone Star State.

When she went to an agency that performed abortions, she was told that she must have a sonogram, per the new law, in order to shame her into hearing a heartbeat. “I didn’t want another sonogram when I’d already had two today,” she wrote, in a gripping account in the Texas Observer. “Here was a superfluous layer of torment piled upon an already horrific day.”

Good people can argue the morality of early-stage abortion. But as long as abortion is legal, no woman should have to face Big Government’s medical wand — or gloved fist — for no other reason than some male politicians want to make you feel bad.

Did you see the banner behind Rick Santorum’s defeat rally on Tuesday? One word: FREEDOM.

But just a few days earlier, Santorum applauded a preacher in Louisiana who said people who didn’t want to live in a Christian nation should leave the country. Freedom, in Santorum’s world, apparently only applies only to those of one religion.

Mitt Romney has been decrying the Obama administration’s “assault on freedom.” But those who seem to “hate our freedom” — as George W. Bush called theocrats of another stripe — are the pilgrims with pitchforks in Romney’s own party.

There is one recent exception, and it deserves praise. A few days ago, the New Hampshire Legislature voted overwhelmingly to keep a law that gives people of the same sex the freedom to marry. Legislators decided, in the kind of deliberation that stills the cynic in me, that telling somebody whom they can or cannot marry is the ultimate restriction on personal liberty.

Independent Man atop the NH State capitol

If your official state motto is “Live Free or Die,” you ought to act like you believe it.

They did.













Divided on the Right
Th e New York Times: March 14, 2012

Most public opinion polls show that Mr. Romney would have the best chance against President Obama in November, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the party’s zealots. In Alabama and Mississippi, fewer than 40 percent of the primary voters on Tuesday said defeating Mr. Obama was the most important quality in a candidate. Many people who voted for Mr. Santorum or Newt Gingrich said Mr. Romney had a better chance of winning.

What was important to them? More than 70 percent of voters in the two states said it was important that a candidate shared their religious beliefs. Mr. Santorum won with the votes of those who said it was most important that their candidate be a true conservative, or have a strong moral character. Those numbers suggest that many Republicans would rather drive into a political ditch than temper their extreme ideology to defeat Mr. Obama.

Published Commentary

@ Tim B, Seattle

"...what happens if a candidate who has deeply conservative religious beliefs is elected President, and then he or she attempts to get those beliefs into the national dialogue and ultimately into the laws which govern us?"

That is exactly what is happening as we watch and ruminate. It's called a Theocracy. You know, like Iran, Saudi Arabia or Vatican City. It's beyond disturbing. It's downright frightening.

"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation." ~ JOHN ADAMS

ROBERT COANE, March 15, 2012


Don’t Tread on Us
The New York Times: March 13, 2012

The Republican assault on women does, though, provide a glide path to the White House both for Obama in 2012 and Hillary in 2016.

Women have watched a chilling cascade of efforts in Congress and a succession of states to turn women into chattel, to shame them about sex and curb their reproductive rights. They’ve seen the craven response of G.O.P. candidates after Limbaugh branded a law student wanting insurance coverage for birth control pills, commonplace for almost five decades, as a “prostitute” and “slut.”

American women have suddenly realized that their emancipation in the 21st century is not as secure as they had assumed. On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a Republican, had the gall to say this, justifying his support for a bill designed to humiliate women getting abortions by penetrating them with a wand to take a picture: “Every invasive procedure has an informed consent requirement.” What he really meant is that when abortion is an option, informed consent should require an invasive procedure. Along with Rick Santorum’s Taliban views, Mitt Romney suggested in an interview on Tuesday with a St. Louis TV station that to help balance the federal budget he would eliminate Planned Parenthood funding: “We’re going to get rid of that.”
































Ignorance Is Strength
The New York Times: March 8, 2012

One way in which Americans have always been exceptional has been in our support for education. First we took the lead in universal primary education; then the “high school movement” made us the first nation to embrace widespread secondary education. And after World War II, public support, including the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities, helped large numbers of Americans to get college degrees.

But now one of our two major political parties has taken a hard right turn against education, or at least against education that working Americans can afford. Remarkably, this new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

And this comes at a time when American education is already in deep trouble.

About that hostility: Mr. Santorum made headlines by declaring that President Obama wants to expand college enrollment because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that destroy religious faith.

It’s not hard to see what’s driving Mr. Santorum’s wing of the party. His specific claim that college attendance undermines faith is, it turns out, false.
But he’s right to feel that our higher education system isn’t friendly ground for current conservative ideology. And it’s not just liberal-arts professors: among scientists, self-identified Democrats outnumber self-identified Republicans nine to one.

I guess Mr. Santorum would see this as evidence of a liberal conspiracy. Others might suggest that scientists find it hard to support a party in which denial of climate change has become a political litmus test, and denial of the theory of evolution is well on its way to similar status.

Published Commentary

Ignorance Is Strength
March 8, 2012

When "Republicans say that they are the party of
traditional values," American values, bear in mind that a huge swath of America [I would dare say a majority] has historically been anti-intelectual and anti-science, suspicious and fearful of change and progress, from the Pilgrim Fathers through the Scopes trial to Rick Santorum's pronouncements and condemnations, " universal primary education....widespread secondary education...the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities" after WWII notwithstanding.

It should come as no surprise that Santorums and Romneys seek advantage in pandering precisely to those prevalent prejudices. H.L. Mencken observed almost a century ago that “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

The warming deniers, anti-evolutionists and religious dogmatics are doing well ... and Ignorance IS bliss. Encourage it.

ROBERT COANE, March 9, 2012















Santorum and the Sexual Revolution
The New York Times: March 2, 2012

[At]a speech and question-and-answer session [Santorum] gave in 2008 to a course on religion and politics at the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life in Washington ... in response to a question about the kinds of words he had heard “attached to religion and politics” during his years in the Senate, Santorum ventured off onto sex:

“It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to do with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at.”

“Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. They prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom. All of the things are about sexual freedom, and they hate to be called on them. They try to somehow or other tie this to the founding fathers’ vision of liberty, which is bizarre. It’s ridiculous. That’s at the core of why you are attacked.”

The next question was: “Do you see any possibility for a party of Christian reform, or an influx of Christian ideas into this [Democratic] party?”

Santorum’s answer included what? That’s right: Sex!

While explaining what he saw as a shift in the Democratic Party away from “blue-collar working-class folks with traditional values” Santorum said:

“What changed was the ’60s. What changed was sex. What changed was the social and cultural issues that have huge amounts of money because if you look — I haven’t seen numbers on this, but I’m sure it’s true — if you go socioeconomic scale, the higher the income, the more socially liberal you are. The more you know you can buy your way out of the problems that sexual libertinism causes you. You have an abortion, well, I have the money to take care of it. If I want to live an extravagant life and get diseases, I can. ... You can always take care of everything. If you have money, you can get away with things that if you’re poor you can’t.”

The questions finally got around to asking about sex directly, much to Santorum’s delight, I’m sure. To one of those questions Santorum answered in part:

“Sex is a means. Evolution is a means. And the aim is a secular world. It’s a, in my opinion, a hedonistic, self-focused world that is, in my opinion, anti-American.”

Santorum may now cloak his current views in Catholic fundamentalism and Constitutional literalism, but, at their root, they are his reaction to, and revulsion for, the social-sexual liberation that began in the 1960s.

Santorum’s stances are not about our Constitution, but his. He views personal freedoms as a personal affront. His thinking exists in a pre-1960s era of aspirin-between-the-knees contraception and read-between-the-lines sexuality.

The kind of conservatism that Santorum represents has been described as a war on women, but I would rephrase that. It’s a war on sex beyond the confines of traditional marriage and strict heterosexuality in which women, particularly poor ones, and gays, particularly open ones, are likely to suffer the greatest casualties.


It’s a College, Not a Cloister
The New York Times: February 27, 2012

Most of that attention has focused on his complaint that President Obama’s stated goal of making higher education accessible to all is a snobby one that assumes academic inclinations where they may not exist. But Santorum has also decried universities as enemies of faith, environments that leach some of the unquestioned piety out of young adults who are, in this new setting, being prodded to ask questions. He went so far as to call colleges “indoctrination mills” that ridicule and isolate young conservatives.

If you couple the selectiveness and stridency of Santorum’s lament about college with his and his wife’s decision to home-school all seven of their children, you have to wonder if his real beef with higher education is that it threatens the indoctrination that has sometimes occurred already around the kitchen table. It does what it’s supposed to do, encouraging young adults to survey a broader field of perspectives, exhorting them to tap into a deeper well of information, inviting them to draw their own conclusions, and allowing them to figure out for themselves what they believe and who they are.

About 1.5 million American children were home-schooled in 2007, the latest year for which the Department of Education provides an estimate. When their parents were asked why, they most commonly cited moral and spiritual reasons. ...they’re not so much impressing as radically imposing their values on their offspring by cutting them off from alternative viewpoints.

[Santorum’s] qualms aren’t just with college today. They’re with the true purpose and importance of education.

Published Commentary

@ poslug
cambridge, ma
February 28, 2012

"Whatever happened to faith that is not questioned and examined is not faith."


Faith that IS questioned and examined is lost. ROBERT COANE, Feb. 28, 2012


Santorum Makes Case for Religion in Public Sphere
The New York Times: February 26, 2012

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — With two days left before the high-stakes Republican primaries in Arizona and Michigan, Rick Santorum delivered a full-throated defense of religion in public life on Sunday, appealing to the social conservatives who have revived his presidential campaign.

In an escalation of the sometimes fiery language that he has used throughout the race, Mr. Santorum declared that colleges were no longer a “neutral setting” for people of faith and described how he had become sickened after reading John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech calling for the rigid separation of religion and politics.

“What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?” Mr. Santorum said on the ABC News program “This Week.”

“That makes me throw up,” he said, adding later, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”














Rick Santorum and the Politics of Theology
The New York Times: February 20, 2012

Rick Santorum talks about the economy periodically – reciting the tired Republican manifesto that cutting taxes and spending will solve all economic problems – but his campaign has distinguished itself from the others more for its sense of religious supremacy.

More than any major candidate in recent times, Mr. Santorum has derogated the federal government on religious grounds. On issue after issue, from education to the environment to health care, he has not only disagreed with decades of federal policy, but has accused those who implement it of a conscious and deliberate effort to destroy the foundations of faith.

After weeks of railing about the Obama administration’s mandate for free birth control as religious oppression, he upped the ante on Saturday and said the same thing about pre-natal testing, which has saved the lives of countless mothers and babies. For Mr. Santorum, of course, it’s all about abortion, limiting the rights of women, and the possibility that parents will abort a fetus if they discover a grave birth defect. But health experts know that testing can make a huge difference in safe deliveries and healthy infants.

To cite just one example, a test for sexually transmitted diseases in pregnant women can allow doctors to treat a fetus for syphilis in the womb before it is born. Many states require such tests, and the reasons the Obama administration has required insurance policies to cover it for free are almost too obvious to state.

But for Mr. Santorum it is just another example of what he dared to describe as Mr. Obama’s “phony theology.”

“It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology,” he said in Ohio, referring to what he called the president’s imposition of his ideas on churches. “Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology. But no less a theology.”

Because Mr. Obama cares about public health, like most presidents and governors and mayors and lawmakers, he builds his public policy on the recommendations of scientists and medical experts. That infuriates those, like Mr. Santorum, w
ho say that divine law should come first.

But in fact, that’s not how this country works. Presidential administrations are not supposed to have theologies. Individuals are free to do so, but the Constitution and the Supreme Court have been explicit over the years that religious doctrine cannot supersede secular law. That may seem obvious, but there are many people who have never accepted it.

Mr. Santorum, who is one of them,
has apparently picked up enough likeminded votes to enjoy a moment at the top of the Republican field with this kind of thinking. Much of it deliberately plays to those who believe that Mr. Obama is neither a Christian nor an American. “I believe the president is a Christian,” Mr. Santorum said on Sunday on Face the Nation, but of course immediately added: “He says he’s a Christian.”

But that apparently isn’t good enough. In Mr. Santorum’s eyes, unless you adopt his particularly Christian theology, you can’t be his kind of president.


Santorum attacks Obama on prenatal screening
By Rebecca Kaplan
February 18, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Campaigning in Ohio on Saturday, Rick Santorum displayed his culture-warrior side in full force, as he harshly attacked President Obama by suggesting the president wanted to see more disabled babies aborted and accusing him of projecting his values - which Santorum claimed were not rooted in the Bible - on the Catholic Church.

Santorum recalled his prominent role in the 1990s debates over the controversial procedure that critics call partial-birth abortion. He lambasted the president's health care law requiring insurance policies to include free prenatal testing, "because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society."

"That, too, is part of Obamacare, another hidden message as to what President Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country,"
Santorum said.

Prenatal tests are a standard part of modern medical care. The Department of Health and Human Services says such tests "help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. It also involves education and counseling about how to handle different aspects of your pregnancy."

After devoting much of his speech to the health care law, an occasionally testy Santorum found himself the subject of reporters' regarding his socially conservative stances.

Earlier in the day, the former Pennsylvania senator charged that Obama's agenda is "not about you ... It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible." That prompted Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt to call Santorum's comment "the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness and searing pessimism and negativity." LaBolt said it was "a stark contrast with the President who is focused every day on creating jobs and restoring economic security for the middle class."

But Santorum doubled down on his attacks, accusing the president of forcing a new moral code on the Catholic church.

"The president has reached a new low in this country's history of oppressing religious freedom that we have never seen before," he said. "If he doesn't want to call his imposition of his values a theology, that's fine, but it is an imposition of his values over a church who has very clear theological reasons for opposing what the Obama administration is forcing on them."

Asked about the fact that the president is a Christian, Santorum answered: "He says he's a Christian, he's a Christian," and would not elaborate on how to balance competing ideas about contraception within the broader faith. But he was firm in painting the president as promulgating a "new moral code" that he contended was "intolerant" of the church.

Santorum's high-profile role on such issues ensures that questions about his social positions will follow him across the country and through a general election campaign, should he win the nomination. Despite the firestorm they ignite at times - and the fact that it can produce lower poll numbers among women voters - the former Pennsylvania senator said he doesn't intend to let up.

"You ask a lot of questions about the social issues," he accused a reporter who asked if he would speak out on those issues during a general election race. "I'm going to talk about the things that I think are important to this country. I've done so throughout the course of this campaign, and I'll continue to do so."

(Full text)









For God So Loved the 1 Percent …
The New York Times: January 17, 2012

Princeton, N.J. - IN recent weeks Mitt Romney has become the poster child for unchecked capitalism, a role he seems to embrace with relish. Concerns about economic equality, he told Matt Lauer of NBC, were really about class warfare.

“When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent,” he said, “you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of
one nation under God.”

Mr. Romney was on to something, though perhaps not what he intended.

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism.

A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called “the American Cellophane League” because “first, it’s a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.”

Rick Perry compares himself to Moses
By Rebecca Kaplan
CBS News:January 15, 2012

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Rick Perry's no stranger to gaffes, but he has tried to turn it into an asset, making self-deprecating jokes about it on the campaign trail.

On Sunday, he found an ally in speech challenges that drew laughs from the audience of the South Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition prayer breakfast: Moses.

"Moses, he tried to talk god out of making him go lead the people," Perry told the crowd of about 300. "He wasn't a good speaker. Now, from time to time I can relate to that."

Perry's speech, which got a standing ovation from the crowd, urged the members in the audience to vote their values and reject the media narrative about which candidate was best prepared to beat President Obama (a thinly veiled reference to front-runner Mitt Romney.

"I ask you to think about the kind of leader you want to preside over our nation," he said. "Who will be faithful to your values? Who will see the job of the president as that of a faithful servant of the American people and to the God that created us?"

Perry has reiterated the vote-your-values message on the stump as he seeks to establish himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. So far, though, polls show him in the single digits.

(Full text)





















Is America ready for a Mormon President?
By Phil Hirschkorn
CBS News: January 14, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Mitt Romney faced down the question of whether America is ready for a Mormon President on Friday night in Hilton Head, South Carolina. During a town meeting, supporter Betty Treen took the microphone to ask the former Massachusetts Governor point blank about his faith.

"I am for you, but I need to ask you a personal question: Do you believe in the divine saving grace of Jesus Christ?" A murmur could be heard in the crowd in the few seconds it took Romney to get the microphone back.

"Yes, I do," Romney began, as the crowd erupted into applause led by home state governor Nikki Haley, who was on stage with the candidate she has endorsed.
"I would note there are people in our nation that have different beliefs; there are people of the Jewish faith, and people of the Islamic faith, and other faiths who believe other things, and our President will be President of the people of all faiths," Romney said, again interrupted by applause.

Then, finally, Romney got to the take away.

"Our nation was founded on the principle in some respects, of religious tolerance and liberty in this land, and so we welcome people of other faiths, and I happen to believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and my Savior."

"I know other people have differing views, and I respect those views and don't believe those qualify or disqualify people for leadership in our nation," Romney said.

The shadow over Romney's candidacy is whether white evangelical voters, who made up 55 percent of South Carolina Republican primary voters in 2008, would effectively disqualify Romney in this pivotal primary state.

Sixty percent of Republican primary voters nationwide told CBS NEWS this week that it is important for a presidential candidate to share their religious views. To white evangelicals, it is even more important -- 85 percent said shared faith was important.

Brad Atkins, President of South Carolina's Baptist Convention, said the voters' grounding in faith is no surprise for the Palmetto State.

"When we look at a candidate, we cannot just take their spiritual aspect of their life and disconnect it from their political aspect. If you look in the word of God, it says that 'A man thinks in his heart, so he is,' which means the core beliefs that candidate has ultimately is going to dictate the way he implements policy."

With 600,000 parishioners, Baptists are the state's largest Christian denomination. Atkins, an active minister himself, does not embrace Mormons as fellow Christians.

"To me, it's just a different group of people, a different group of faith. Just like Islam is a different group of people, a different group of faith," he said.

In fact, while 97 percent of Mormons consider themselves Christians, only 51 percent of Christians consider Mormons to be Christians, according the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.















































The Theological Differences Behind Evangelical Unease With Romney
The New York Times: January 14, 2012

The Rev. R. Philip Roberts, the president of a Southern Baptist seminary in Kansas City, Mo., is an evangelist with a particular goal: countering Mormon beliefs.

Mr. Roberts has traveled throughout the United States, and to some countries abroad, preaching that Mormonism is heretical to Christianity. His message is a theological one, but theology is about to land squarely in the middle of the Republican presidential primary campaign.

As the Republican voting moves South, with primaries in South Carolina on Saturday and in Florida on Jan. 31, the religion of Mitt Romney, the front-runner, may be an inescapable issue in many voters’ minds. In South Carolina, where about 60 percent of Republican voters are evangelical Christians, Mr. Romney, a devout Mormon and a former bishop in the church, faces an electorate that has been exposed over the years to preachers like Mr. Roberts who teach that the Mormon faith is apostasy.

Many evangelicals have numerous reasons, other than religion, for objecting to Mr. Romney. But to understand just how hard it is for some to coalesce around his candidacy, it is important to understand the gravity of their theological qualms.
“I don’t have any concerns about Mitt Romney using his position as either a candidate or as president of the United States to push Mormonism,” said Mr. Roberts, an author of “Mormonism Unmasked” and president of the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who said he had no plans to travel to South Carolina before the voting. “The concern among evangelicals is that the Mormon Church will use his position around the world as a calling card for legitimizing their church and proselytizing people.”

Mormons consider themselves Christians — as denoted in the church’s name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Yet the theological differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity are so fundamental, experts in both say, that they encompass the very understanding of God and Jesus, what counts as Scripture and what happens when people die.

“Mormonism is a distinctive religion,” David Campbell, a Mormon and an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in religion and politics. “It’s not the same as Presbyterianism or Methodism. But at the same time, there have been efforts on the part of the church to emphasize the commonality with other Christian faiths, and that’s a tricky balance to strike for the church.”

On the most fundamental issue, traditional Christians believe in the Trinity: that God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all rolled into one.

Mormons reject this as a non-biblical creed that emerged in the fourth and fifth centuries. They believe that God the Father and Jesus are separate physical beings, and that God has a wife whom they call Heavenly Mother.

It is not only evangelical Christians who object to these ideas.

“That’s just not Christian,”
said the Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, a liberal Protestant seminary in New York City. “God and Jesus are not separate physical beings. That would be anathema. At the end of the day, all the other stuff doesn’t matter except the divinity of Jesus.”

The Mormon Church says that in the early 1800s, its first prophet, Joseph Smith, had revelations that restored Christianity to its true path, a course correction necessary because previous Christian churches had corrupted the faith. Smith bequeathed to his church volumes of revelations contained in scripture used only by Mormons: “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” “The Doctrine and Covenants” and “Pearl of Great Price.”

Traditional Christians do not recognize any of those as Scripture.

Another big sticking point concerns the afterlife. Early Mormon apostles gave talks asserting that human beings would become like gods and inherit their own planets — language now regularly held up to ridicule by critics of Mormonism.

But Kathleen Flake, a Mormon who is a professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt Divinity School, explained that the planets notion had been de-emphasized in modern times in favor of a less concrete explanation: people who die embark on an “eternal progression” that allows them “to partake in God’s glory.”

“Mormons think of God as a parent,” she said. “God makes the world in order to give that world to his children. It’s like sending your child to Harvard — God gives his children every possible opportunity to progress towards this higher life that God possesses. When Mormons say ‘Heavenly Father,’ they mean it. It’s not a metaphor.”

It is the blurring of the lines between God, Jesus and human beings that is hard for evangelicals to swallow, said Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif., who has been involved in a dialogue group between evangelicals and Mormons for 12 years and has a deep understanding of theology as Mormons see it.

“Both Christians and Jews, on the basis of our common Scriptures, we’d all agree that God is God and we are not,” Mr. Mouw said. “There’s a huge ontological gap between the Creator and the creature. So any religious perspective that reduces that gap, you think, oh, wow, that could never be called Christian.”

Mormons tend to explain the doctrinal differences more gently. Lane Williams, a Mormon and a professor of communications at Brigham Young University-Idaho, a Mormon institution, said the way he understands it, “it’s not a ‘we’re right and they’re wrong’ kind of approach. But it’s as though we feel we have a broader circle of truth.
“My daily life tries to be about Jesus Christ,” he said. “And in that way, I don’t think I’m much different from my Protestant friends.”

In a Pew poll released in late November, about two-thirds of mainline Protestants and Catholics said Mormonism is Christian, compared with only about a third of white evangelicals. By contrast, 97 percent of Mormons said their religion is Christian in a different Pew poll released this month.

Mr. Mouw said that only a month ago he was called to Salt Lake City to mediate a theological discussion about Mormonism among four evangelical leaders who had collaborated with Mormon leaders to pass the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage in California. After two and a half days of discussions, the group was divided on Mormon theology, Mr. Mouw said.

“Two concluded that while Mormons are good people, they don’t worship the same God,” Mr. Mouw said. “Two concluded that Mormons love Jesus just as the evangelicals do, and they accepted the Mormons as brothers and sisters in Christ.

“That’s the split,” Mr. Mouw said, “and it’s very basic.”

(Full text)









What’s Race Got to Do With It?
The New York Times: January 14, 2012

Mr. Romney’s Mormonism may end up being a critical advantage. Evangelicals might wring their hands over the prospect of a Mormon president, but there is no stronger bastion of pre-civil-rights-America whiteness than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Yes, since 1978 the church has allowed blacks to become priests. But Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God’s plans for earth.

...while Mr. Romney may, in some people’s eyes, be a non-Christian, he is better than any of his opponents at synching his worldview with that of the evangelicals. He likes to present, with theological urgency, a stark choice between, in his words, President Obama’s “entitlement society” and the true American freedom of an “opportunity society.” By the time he intones the Puritans’ alabaster ideal of America as a “shining city on a hill,” you wonder if he is not also asking us to choose between two different types of mountaintops.

In this way, whether he means to or not, Mr. Romney connects with a central evangelic fantasy: that the Barack Obama years, far from being the way forward, are in fact a historical aberration, a tear in the white space-time continuum. And let’s be clear: Mr. Obama’s election was not destiny, but a fluke.

As became immediately apparent in 2009, millions of Americans were unwilling to accept the basic democratic premise that Mr. Obama legally and morally deserved to sit in the White House — and that was before they confronted his “socialist” and “un-American” policy agenda.

Mitt Romney knows this. He knows that he offers to these people the white solution to the problem of a black president. I am sure that Mr. Romney is not a racist. But I am also sure that, for the many Americans who find the thought of a black president unbearable, he is an ideal candidate. For these sudden outsiders, Mitt Romney is the conventional man with the outsider faith — an apocalyptic pragmatist — who will wrest the country back from the unconventional man with the intolerable outsider color.








What They Don’t Want to Talk About
The New York Times: January 14, 2012

“What the hell are you doing, Newt?” Rudolph Giuliani asked Thursday on Fox News. “This is what Saul Alinsky taught Barack Obama, and what you’re saying is part of the reason we’re in so much trouble right now.”

Mr. Giuliani has one thing right: Republicans are indeed in growing trouble as more voters begin to realize how much the party’s policies — dismantling regulations, slashing taxes for the rich, weakening unions — have contributed to inequality and the yawning distance between the middle class and the top end.

The more President Obama talks about narrowing that gap, the more his popularity ratings have risen while those of Congress plummet. Two-thirds of Americans now say there is a strong conflict between the rich and the poor, according to a Pew survey released last week, making it the greatest source of tension in American society.

That makes Mr. Romney and his party vulnerable, as he clearly knows. He said on Wednesday that issues of wealth distribution should be discussed only “in quiet rooms.” And he accused the president of using an “envy-oriented, attack-oriented” approach,

“entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.
















Religious Leaders, Seeking Unity, Back Santorum
Published: January 14, 2012

BRENHAM, Tex. — Evangelical leaders pursued a last-ditch effort on Saturday to exert influence in the Republican presidential primary race, voting to support the candidacy of Rick Santorum in hopes of undercutting Mitt Romney’s march to the nomination.

A week before the South Carolina primary, a group of more than 100 influential Christian conservatives gathered at a ranch here and voted overwhelmingly to rally behind Mr. Santorum. An organizer described the vote as an “unexpected supermajority,” a decision that was intended to help winnow the Republican field and consolidate the opposition to Mr. Romney.

“There is a hope and an expectation that this will have an impact on South Carolina,” Tony Perkins (left), the president of the Family Research Council and a spokesman for the group, said in a telephone news conference after the private meeting concluded.

The decision here in Texas came on the eve of the final Sunday church services before the South Carolina primary on Saturday. Mr. Santorum said that he raised $3 million in the last week and expected that the support would likely help him raise even more money and strengthen his campaign organization in the state.

The power of the support for Mr. Santorum will be tested over the next seven days in South Carolina. In the Republican presidential primary there four years ago, exit polls found that 60 percent of voters said they considered themselves “born again” or evangelical Christians.

But organizers of the Texas meeting said they expected to see new endorsements and fund-raising efforts for Mr. Santorum before Republicans in South Carolina vote on Saturday, followed by the Florida primary on Jan 31. Their hope is that if evangelicals unite around one candidate, they can head off the nomination of Mr. Romney, whom they regard as too moderate.

The meeting in Texas began Friday afternoon at the ranch of Paul and Nancy Pressler, who are longtime patrons of conservative causes. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, Donald E. Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association, and Mr. Perkins were among the organizers.


“I think in the end,” Mr. Perkins said, “it was not so much what was wrong with one candidate but rather what was right about the one that people ended up rallying around.”

(Full text)







Fears of Romney revolt among evangelicals appear overblown
By Brian Montopoli
CBS News:January 13, 2012

Unenthusiastic about the prospect of Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, evangelicals and social conservative leaders are gathering in Texas today and tomorrow to see if they might be able to line up behind another candidate for president.

The meeting appears unlikely to yield a consensus candidate, but attendees know that the South Carolina primary on January 21 is likely their last, best chance to coalesce around an alternative to the former Massachusetts governor, who is distrusted by many for his past support of abortion rights and changing stances on a host of other issues.

Evangelicals and social conservatives - not to mention Tea Party activists angry about Romney's past support for an individual health care mandate - have suggested that if Romney is the nominee, it will have a demoralizing effect on the party's base.

"Why on earth give other things [like volunteering time or donations] for someone you think is a bit of sham?" Dick Bott, founder and chairman of Christian Radio's Bott Radio Network, told CBS News.

The focus on social conservatives' unhappiness with Romney has been driven in part by both the self-interest of a narrative-hungry media and the self-interest of conservative leaders eager to assert their importance. The frustrations of social conservative leaders may make for a good story, but their kingmaker days are over, according to Robert P. Jones, who heads the Public Religion Research Institute. Jones noted to NPR that the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority no longer exist, and that Focus on the Family has shrunk significantly




Rick Santorum's wife: I ask "Holy Spirit to speak through him"
By Brian Montopoli
CBS News: January 11, 2012

Karen Santorum, the wife of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) on Tuesday that she prays for "the Holy Spirit to speak through" her husband when he is out on the campaign trail.

"For me so much of it is spiritual," Karen Santorum told CBN News' David Brody. "...When you're aware of our Lord and His presence in your life everyday, when you're moving through the crowds, when you're giving speeches and me as Rick's wife, I'm watching him, and the whole time he's speaking so often, I'm just there praying for him, asking the Holy Spirit to speak through him. And I feel like God's hand of protection is upon us."

Santorum, a Catholic and staunch social conservative who strongly opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights, does well with strongly religious voters: He won the support of 33 percent of white evangelicals and born again Christians in the Iowa caucuses, allowing him to come within just a few votes of victory. In the South Carolina GOP primary in 2008, 60 percent of voters identified as evangelical.

Santorum is stressing his faith in advance of January 21 South Carolina primary; he and his wife also sat down for an interview with People Magazine for an issue hitting newsstands Friday. The story describes Santorum as "devout" and discusses how the couple "leaned on their faith to weather the death of an infant son in 1996."

Santorum told the magazine that "We lean on a lot of Bible passages, depending on the occasion," adding that his favorite piece of Scripture is: "Put on the whole armor of God."

The former Pennsylvania senator is battling Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich in the Palmetto State in an effort to consolidate the support of conservatives who are opposed to Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee. Romney, a Mormon, has had trouble attracting the support of evangelical and social conservative voters.

On Friday, prominent leaders in the evangelical movement are meeting in Texas to see if they can line up behind an
anti-Romney candidate.

Republicans Versus Reproductive Rights
The New York Times: January 8, 2012

In Iowa, the Republican presidential contenders tried to outdo one another in attacking reproductive rights as they sought the support of caucusgoers from the religious right. In New Hampshire, where voters are less socially conservative, the candidates have focused more on economic issues.

But the message from Iowa was crystal clear: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman Jr., Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry all stand ready to restrict a woman’s right to make her own childbearing decisions and deny essential health care to millions of women.

The Republican field is united in its determination to overturn Roe v. Wade; to appoint Supreme Court justices supportive of that goal; and to end government payments to Planned Parenthood for family planning services, cancer screening and other vital health services provided to low-income women. The candidates also want to reinstate the global gag rule that barred family planning groups abroad receiving federal money from even talking about abortion.

There are a few differences among the candidates. Only Mr. Gingrich has called for punishing judges who make abortion rulings not to his liking. Mr. Romney and Mr. Huntsman refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony pledge to appoint antiabortion cabinet members, among other things. Mr. Huntsman opposed the “personhood” initiative in Mississippi that would have given human fertilized eggs the legal rights and protections that apply to people, and outlawed abortion as well as some of the most widely used forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization. Mississippi voters resoundingly rejected the measure in November as going too far.

Mr. Romney denied supporting the measure once it was defeated. But before the vote, in an interview with Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Fox News personality, he created a different impression. When asked whether as Massachusetts governor he would have supported a constitutional amendment establishing that life begins at conception, he said, “Absolutely.”

This fall, the Republican nominee probably will not be trumpeting this extreme agenda in trying to appeal to moderate women voters, a key constituency in the general election. But voters should not be fooled. The assault on women’s reproductive health is a central part of the Republican agenda. It is not too early for Democrats to point that out.

(Full text)







Evangelicals planning plot against Romney
The New York Post: January 8, 2012

Mitt Romney hasn’t got a prayer.

That is, if the most prominent evangelical leaders in the country — who are holding crisis talks next weekend in Texas over the thinning herd of viable GOP challengers — have anything to say about it.

“I was asked to be a convener, part of the people who called the meeting,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, adding that he declined due to a scheduling conflict.

“It’s not fair to characterize it as a ‘Stop Romney’ meeting,” Perkins said. “It’s a meeting over who is acceptable and who is not. People are looking for a true conservative.”

To go by the polls and opinion columns and general consensus,
Romney is considered a shape-shifter whose core beliefs resemble President Obama’s.

There’s no such discomfort with Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania and a devout Catholic. He is against abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. He’s also a proponent of intelligent design, against homosexuality and contraception, and opposed to immigration reform.

“Rick Santorum has a consistent record,” said
Gary Bauer, president of the nonprofit conservative group American Values and co-host of next weekend’s summit. “To state the obvious, conservatives have had a hard time coalescing around a candidate.”

Yet with Romney on a fast track — having won the Iowa caucuses and going into New Hampshire with a luxurious 24-point lead and South Carolina with a small lead — the meeting’s only agenda is to anoint an alternative candidate.

















Republican candidates decry "war on religion"
By Stephanie Condon
CBS News: January 7, 2012

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Taking a brief pause from attacking each other, the Republican presidential candidates took a moment in a Saturday night debate to attack the media and President Obama for what they called anti-Christian bigotry.

After a long exchange between ABC debate moderator George Stephanopoulos and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney regarding the regulation of birth control, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was prompted to chide "media bias."

Stephanopoulos asked Romney if he thinks the Constitution allows a state to ban birth control, but Gingrich said, "You don't hear the opposite question asked."

"Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won't accept gay couples, which is exactly what the state has done?" he said. "Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won't give in to secular bigotry? Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and the bigotry of the administration?"Gingrich added that "there's a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concerning the other side. And none of it gets covered by the news media."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped in, saying that "this administration's war on religion is what bothers me greatly." As evidence of that "war," he pointed out that the Obama administration has chosen not to defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 legal prohibition of federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

"When we see this administration not giving money to Catholic charities for sexually trafficked individuals because they don't agree with the Catholic church on abortion, that is a war against religion," he said. "And it's going to stop under a Perry administration."

As for whether he would oppose a state effort to ban contraception, Romney told Stephanopoulos, "I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception," adding, "there's no state that wants to do so."

Published Commentary

@ JV1970
January 8, 2012

"Yes, it is Obama's responsibility to help Christianity!"

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! I am, for once, speechless, not an easy accomplishment. Could you accept a non-Christian President, say John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, who were Atheists?

"Gingrich, Perry and Santorum, being longtime politicians and college graduates, know the constitution as well as anyone," and are deliberately attempting to trump and subvert it. They may have gone to college but where did YOU get all this hogwash? Were you home-schooled?

ROBERT COANE, Jan. 8, 2012




The Grating Santorum
The New York Times: January 7, 2012

MANCHESTER, N.H. - RICK SANTORUM was locking down the youth vote.

The man who fondly recalls nuns rapping his knuckles with rulers did some verbal knuckle-rapping of his own on Thursday with students at a forum in Concord hosted by New England College.

Not satisfied with mentioning homosexuality in the same breath as bestiality and pedophilia, as he did in 2003, Santorum tried to win over the kids by equating homosexuality with polygamy.

Even for Santorum, it was a masterpiece of antediluvian abrasiveness — slapping gays and Mormons at the same time.

When 17-year-old Rhiannon Pyle, visiting with her civics class from Newburyport, Mass., pressed Santorum on how he could believe that all men are created equal and still object to two men in love marrying, he began nonsensically frothing.

“So if everybody has the right to be happy, so if you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that O.K.?” he said, adding, “Well, what about three men?”
The grating Santorum was their worst nightmare of a bad teacher.
He merely got booed; he’s lucky the kids didn’t TP his car or soap the windows.

In a campaign where W. is an unmentionable, Santorum is an unexpected revival of Bushian uncompassionate conservatism.

He got more scattered boos on Friday at a library in Keene and a private high school in Dublin. In Keene, he was asked if he would protect gay rights, since gays are “children of God” too.

“Serving in the military is not an unalienable right, it’s a privilege, you’re selected,” replied the candidate, who wants to restore “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He also called marriage “a privilege, not a right,” for the purpose is procreation.

Rick Perry baits gays because it’s good politics; Santorum sincerely means it. His political philosophy is infused with his über-Catholicism but lacks humanity.


































An Israeli in Iowa
Editor and columnist based in Tel Aviv, is senior political editor for The Jewish Journal
The New York Times: January 6, 2012

The menaces are few, it turns out, because my homeland has many true friends among the Republicans running for U.S. president this year: candidates who celebrate Israel as a cause that is religious (Congresswoman Michele Bachmann), moral (former Senator Rick Santorum), strategic (former Governor Mitt Romney) or all of the above (Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich).

And as they hear the voters in places like Iowa speak,

their love only grows stronger.

Published Commentary

Naive or disingenuous, the senior political editor for The Jewish Journal.

The scheme behind the present Republican cadre is mere self-serving pandering to the religious right who are convinced that safeguarding the Jewish State is their best protection against the invasion of 'sharia' into America they so fear and 2) that, once Israel is secure, it will be easy to make Jews 'see the light' and convert to Christianity. That Jews will all become Christian they are convinced about and so they will 'reclaim' the Holy Land for Christianity.

THAT is the agenda of the Christian right, not love of Israel. This circus of religious fervor is nothing but opportunists pandering to the religious right. This is the expression of "Christian sharia," of the "American Taliban." And Iowa is a boiling cauldron of seething ultra-conservative religious right sentiment. They could care less about Jewish survival. They fear Islam would be a far more dangerous and stubborn adversary in their Crusade toward worldwide Christian hegemony.

But America is much bigger than Iowa and not all fundamentalist fervor. Scratch Bachman's 'religious' cause, Santorum's 'moral' cause, Gingrich's trifecta cause and it's Romney 'tactical,' without Romney.

This so called 'special relationship' constantly touted brings the words of the Jesuit John Sheehan: "Every time anyone says that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, I can't help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East."

ROBERT COANE, Jan. 9, 2012

• • •

"What is admirable in the focusing of the Republican candidates is that many emphasize the common heritage in values and traditions."
Shalom FreedmanJerusalem Israel
Jan. 6, 2012 at 6:39 a.m.

What common values and traditions when the present climate of growing intolerance and the preponderance of ultra-conservative Zionists and ultra-orthdox Jews is more akin to Islamist practices than it will ever be to America's democratic heritage? Unless, that is, you are comparing it to the intent of the Christian right's stated agenda.

ROBERT COANE, Jan. 9, 2012


The Iowa-Is-So-Important Phase Ends, the Iowa-Is-So-Over Phase Begins
The New York Times: January 4, 2012

ES MOINES—In 2008, the very conservative Evangelical Christians in Iowa muddled the Republican presidential nominating contest, giving their support to an unelectable candidate, Mike Huckabee, who won here over the person that Republicans were most likely to settle for in the end, John McCain. That meant the G.O.P. had to spend millions more dollars, run more nasty ads, and toss around more radical right-wing ideas before turning their attention to the general election.

This year, the very conservative Evangelical Christians in Iowa muddled the Republican presidential nominating contest, giving their support to an unelectable candidate, Rick Santorum, who fought to a draw with the person Republicans seem most likely to settle for in the end, Mitt Romney. That means the G.O.P. will have to spend millions of more dollars, run more nasty ads and toss around more radical right-wing ideas before turning their attention to the general election.

The process, in 2008, meant that a politician who had once been essentially a moderate, Mr. McCain, had to transform himself into a right winger and the party went into the general far out of the nation’s true ideological mainstream.

A lot is going to be said about the ideological divide in the Republican Party. Don’t make too much of that. The party is divided about which deeply unsatisfying candidate it is going to pick, but there is no doubt about its ideology.
It is pinned against the right-wing wall of American politics.















Iowa’s Republicans, Divided by Gym Partitions and Conservative Ideologies
The New York Times: January 4, 2012

Disunity was virtually the only consistent theme to emerge from Iowa’s caucuses, actually more party rallies than real delegate-selection events, even with all the candidates shoved against the far-right wall of the ideological spectrum — including Mr. Romney, who seemed profoundly uncomfortable there. The state’s highly conservative Republican voters had to choose based on extremely small distinctions.

Several voters here in Altoona, 10 miles northeast of downtown Des Moines, said they had picked the one who seemed most sincerely committed to the anti-abortion message. That led Perry Franklin, a U.P.S. employee, and his wife Lisa, a Wal-Mart cashier, to choose Mr. Santorum, particularly after he was endorsed by the Family Leader, an influential evangelical group.

“And he signed their marriage pledge, which the others didn’t,” said Mrs. Franklin, referring to a vow promulgated by the Family Leader that equates same-sex marriage with bigamy and polygamy and requires signers to promise to stay faithful to their spouses. (Actually, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry signed it, too.)

Churchgoers boost Rick Santorum on Sunday before Iowa caucuses
By GEOFF EARLE in Des Moines, Iowa, and S.A. MILLER in Washington, DC
The New York Times: January 2, 2012

On the Sunday before tomorrow’s caucuses, scores of God-fearing Iowans looked on in wonderment at Rick Santorum’s Lazarus-like rise in the polls.

After services at Grace Church, which draws up to 1,400 worshippers each week, Victor Wicker, a history teacher, said he was “hopeful” of Santorum’s chances as the latest polls show him closing in on Mitt Romney.

“You like people not at the bottom. Now that he’s rising up again, I’m not going to be wasting my vote. I want to go with somebody who might win!” he said as he held the Bible he brought with him to services.

Santorum capitalized on his surge by talking tough on international policy — saying he would order US airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear sites if the Islamic country refused to open facilities to outside inspectors.

“I would be working openly with the state of Israel, and I would be saying to Iran, ‘You need to open up those facilities. You begin to dismantle them and make them available to inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through airstrikes and make it very public that we are doing that,’ ” Santorum said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

As for Gingrich, his personal foibles — he is on this third marriage after being unfaithful in the first two — seem to have taken their toll on his popularity among churchgoers

Santorum Events Reflect Rising Iowa Numbers
The New York Times: December 29, 2011

Mr. Santorum, for his part, used his newfound popularity to make a stand for his brand of unflinching social conservatism. And Iowa’s splintered religious Republican base appears to be responding.

“When you look at all the candidates out there, you see bits and pieces you like in every one,” said Brian Gossett, 35, an electrician who visited an educational center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday night to hear Mr. Santorum speak. “He’s the one we see the most in, because of his Christian values.”













Appealing to Evangelicals, Hopefuls Pack Religion Into Ads
The New York Times: December 27, 2011

DES MOINES — There is Rick Perry, a stained-glass window and a large illuminated cross over his right shoulder, looking more preacher than politician. An aerial shot of a soaring church steeple zooms into focus a few seconds later. Then — blink and you’ll miss it — a picture of Mr. Perry, the Texas governor, with his arm around Mike Huckabee flashes on the screen.

In more overt ways than ever, Republican candidates vying for support from Iowa caucusgoers are turning to religious language and imagery in their advertisements, seeking to appeal to the Christian conservative base that will play a pivotal role in determining the victor here.

Gone are the suggestive and supposedly subliminal images of campaigns past, as when
Mr. Huckabee caused a stir in 2007 after releasing a commercial that appeared to show a cross floating in the background.

The new, more pointed religious references reflect how campaigns are scrambling for support among evangelicals who are still divided over whom to support as the caucuses near.

“At this point in the game, the candidates in the G.O.P. primary don’t have the time or the money for subtlety,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican media strategist. “They will light a fire and stand by a burning bush in order to send a signal to evangelicals, ‘I’m one of you, vote for me.’ ”

Mr. Perry has released four commercials in which Christianity is a theme. “We grew up in small towns, raised with Christian values,” his wife, Anita Perry, says in one spot running in Iowa now. “And we know Washington, D.C., could use some of that.”

And an ad in which Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, offer their Christmas greetings pivots first to a sketch of a nativity scene and then to a church.

Sarah Palin has often referred to her support from “prayer warriors,” a term known among evangelicals as those who engage in battle with Satan.

But what is different this year, media strategists and analysts said, is the extent to which the candidates are distributing such unambiguously religious messages so widely.

...the ad Mr. Perry has received the most criticism for this election, in which he says “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school,” was specifically written and staged by the governor’s media team to appeal to Christians who feel the Obama administration is hostile to public expressions of faith. The scene, a verdant, bucolic hillside, was meant to invoke a meditative setting suitable for prayer.


"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation." ~ JOHN ADAMS

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

"In the affairs of the world, men are saved, not by faith, but by the want of it." ~ BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own" ~ THOMAS JEFFERSON

"The Bible is not my Book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma." ~ ABRAHAM LINCOLN

"What has been Christianity’s fruits? Superstition, Bigotry and Persecution." ~ JAMES MADISON

"To argue with a man who has renouced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead." ~ THOMAS PAINE

"The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy." ~ GEORGE WASHINGTON

Need I say more? I can.

"In those parts of the world where learning and science have prevailed, miracles have ceased; but in those parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue." ~ ETHAN ALLEN

ROBERT COANE, Dec. 28, 2011









In Islamic Law, Gingrich Sees a Mortal Threat to U.S.
The New York Times: December 21, 2011

WASHINGTON — Long before he announced his presidential run this year, Newt Gingrich had become the most prominent American politician to embrace an alarming premise: that Shariah, or Islamic law, poses a threat to the United States as grave as or graver than terrorism.

“I believe Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it,” Mr. Gingrich said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in July 2010 devoted to what he suggested were the hidden dangers of Islamic radicalism. “I think it’s that straightforward and that real.”

The idea that Shariah poses a danger in the United States, where the census pegs Muslims as less than 1 percent of the population, strikes many scholars as quixotic.

Even within that 1 percent, most American Muslims have no enthusiasm for replacing federal and state law with Shariah, as some conservatives fear, let alone adopting such ancient prescriptions as stoning for adulterers, said Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington.

The notion of a threat from Shariah to the United States “takes your breath away, it’s so absurd,” Dr. Ahmed said. He sees political demagoguery in the anti-Shariah campaign, which fueled rallies against mosques in the last two years from Manhattan to Tennessee.

Mohamed Elibiary, a Muslim and an adviser to law enforcement agencies in Texas and to the Department of Homeland Security, is a conservative Republican who said he once idolized Mr. Gingrich. He said he no longer did.

He said the anti-Shariah campaign in the United States was “propaganda for jihadists,” offering fuel for the idea of a titanic clash of faiths. Those who truly want to protect American values should talk to Muslims, he said, not demonize them.










Gingrich Iowa staffer resigns after "cult of Mormon" comment
By Lucy Madison
CBS News: December 13, 2011

Less than a week after being tapped as Newt Gingrich's political director in Iowa, Craig Bergman resigned on Tuesday for suggesting evangelicals are ready to help God "expose the cult of Mormon."

In a focus group conducted before he officially joined the Gingrich campaign,
Bergman, a Tea Party supporter who previously advocated on behalf of Sarah Palin, suggested that a "national pastor" could lead an effort to defeat Mitt Romney over his religion.
"There is a national pastor who is very much on the anti-Mitt Romney bandwagon," Bergman said, according to the Iowa Republican, which sponsored the focus group with McClatchy newspapers. "A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon...There's a thousand pastors ready to do that."

This is not the first time the word
"cult" has been applied to Mormonism in reference to Romney during the 2012 presidential election cycle.

In October, a pastor associated with Texas Governor Rick Perry leveled a similar charge against Mormonism - a faith to which both Romney and fellow GOP hopeful Jon Hunstman belong.













































2012 - The Tempting of the Christian Right
December 6, 2011

More than any other Republican constituency, religious conservatives have good reasons to be wary of Newt Gingrich. As the leader of a right-wing insurgency in the early 1990s, he often kept their causes at arm’s length — deliberately excluding issues like abortion and school prayer from the Contract With America, for instance. As Speaker of the House, he undercut their claim to the moral high ground by carrying on an extramarital affair even as his party was impeaching Bill Clinton for lying under oath about adultery.

During his years in the political wilderness, though, Gingrich found religion – both as a convert to the Roman Catholic Church and as a born-again champion of socially conservative causes. He’s spent the last decade producing books and documentaries about America’s Christian heritage. He raised money for a referendum to recall the judges who legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa. His public rhetoric borrows the tropes of the religious right — emphasizing the dangers of secularism, attacking the usurpations of activist judges, and so on. And when he talks about his checkered personal life, it’s always in the language of sin, repentance and redemption.

Now his path to the nomination depends on this conversion paying off. If Gingrich hopes to outlast Mitt Romney, he needs to win over evangelicals wary of Mormonism and social conservatives worried about Romney’s many flip-flops on their issues. He needs the Republican Party’s values voters to forgive his past indiscretions and embrace him as their champion. And his rise in the polls has prompted a lively debate among religious conservatives, both in Iowa and nationally, about whether they should do just that — whether he’s really changed, whether his various conversions are sincere, and whether they can trust him.

But these are the wrong questions. The real issue for religious conservatives isn’t whether they can trust Gingrich. It’s whether they can afford to be associated with him.

Conservative Christianity in America, both evangelical and Catholic, faces a looming demographic challenge: A rising generation that is more unchurched than any before it, more liberal on issues like gay marriage, and allergic to the apocalyptic rhetoric of the Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell era. To many younger Americans, religious conservatism as they know it often seems to stand for a kind of institutionalized hypocrisy — a right-wing Tartufferie that’s incensed by the idea of gay wedlock but tolerant of straight divorce, forgiving of Republican sins but judgmental about Democratic indiscretions, and eager to apply moral litmus tests only on issues that benefit the political right.

Rallying around
Newt Gingrich, effectively making him the face of Christian conservatism in this Republican primary season, would ratify all of these impressions. It isn’t just that he’s a master of selective moral outrage whose newfound piety has been turned to consistently partisan ends.

It’s that his personal history — not only the two divorces, but also the repeated affairs and the way he behaved during the dissolution of his marriages — makes him the most compromised champion imaginable for a movement that’s laboring to keep lifelong heterosexual monogamy on a legal and cultural pedestal.

"She isn't young enough or pretty enough to be the President's wife."
~ Newt Gingrich, on his first wife Jackie Battley




"He walked out in the spring of 1980.... By September, I went into the hospital for my third cancer surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said, 'Daddy is downstairs. Could he come up?' When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from my surgery."
~ Jackie Battley

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2012 - A Defiant Herman Cain Suspends His Bid for Presidency
The New York Times: December 3, 2011

An unapologetic and defiant Herman Cain suspended his presidential campaign on Saturday, pledging that he “would not go away” even as he abandoned the Republican presidential race in the face of escalating accusations of sexual misconduct.

“As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul-searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign,” Mr. Cain said at a rally in Atlanta, surrounded by supporters chanting his name.

Mr. Cain said he would issue an endorsement soon. With his wife, Gloria, at his side at the Atlanta rally, Mr. Cain said the accusations of sexual harassment and of a 13-year affair were untrue. “I’m at peace with my God,” he said. “I’m at peace with my wife, and she is at peace
with me.”

Poll Finds Religion Is Early Drag on Romney
The New York Times: November 23, 2011

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith will most likely cost him support in the primaries, but even Republicans with reservations about his religion would rally to his side in a general election against President Obama, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The poll, by the Pew Research Center, examined the impact of religion on the 2012 election in light of claims by some analysts that a Mormon stigma is significant enough to impede Mr. Romney’s run for president.

According to the poll, the greatest resistance to Mr. Romney among Republicans comes from white evangelical Protestants, about half of whom said the Mormon religion is not a Christian faith. Evangelicals, who include Southern Baptists, are those who
a personal relationship with Jesus, the unique authority of the Bible and the imperative to spread the faith. They are a big chunk of the Republican base and a major factor in the early nominating states of Iowa and South Carolina.

Cain: God convinced me to run for president
By Lindsey Boerma
CBS News: November 12, 2011

ATLANTA, Ga. - Herman Cain, whose campaign could use some redemption in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, told a crowd of young Republicans on Saturday that God convinced him to run for president and that he "prayed and prayed and prayed" about it.

The Republican contender made no mention of the allegations from former subordinates at the National Restaurant Association. But his comments here were accented with more than the usual references to his faith and his calling to politics.

"I prayed and prayed and prayed. I'm a man of faith, I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I'd ever done before in my life,"
Cain told a crowd of more than 100 at the Young Republican National Federation, an event hosted by the Georgia Young Republicans at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. "And when I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do, I was like Moses: 'You've got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'"

Once he made the decision to run, the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza said, "I did not look back."



































Anne Frank, a Mormon?
The New York Times: October 18, 2011

WASHINGTON – At an appearance at George Washington University here Saturday night, Bill Maher (right) bounded into territory that the news media have been gingerly tiptoeing around. Magic underwear. Baptizing dead people. Celestial marriages. Private planets. Racism. Polygamy.

“By any standard, Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion,”
asserted the famously nonbelieving comic who skewered the “fairy tales” of several faiths in his documentary “Religulous.” “It’s a religion founded on the idea of polygamy. They call it The Principle. That sounds like The Prime Directive in ‘Star Trek.’ ”

He said he expects the Romney crowd — fighting back after Robert Jeffress, a Texas Baptist pastor supporting Rick Perry, labeled Mormonism a non-Christian “cult” — to once more “gloss over the differences between Christians and Mormons.”

Maher was not easy on the religion he was raised in either. He referred to the Roman Catholic Church as “an international child sex ring.”

But atheists, like Catholics and evangelical Christians, seem especially wary of Mormons, dubbed the “ultimate shape-shifters” by Maher.

In a Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll released on Tuesday, people were asked what single word came to mind for Republican candidates. For Herman Cain it was 9-9-9; for Rick Perry, Texas; and for Mitt Romney, Mormon. In the debate Tuesday night, Romney said it was repugnant that “we should choose people based on their religion.”

Another famous nonbeliever, Christopher Hitchens (right), wrote in Slate on Monday about “the weird and sinister belief system of the LDS,” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Aside from Joseph Smith (left), whom Hitchens calls “a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities in upstate New York,” the writer also wonders about the Mormon practice of amassing archives of the dead and “praying them in” as a way to “retrospectively ‘baptize’ everybody as a convert.”

Hitchens noted that they “got hold of a list of those put to death by the Nazis’ Final Solution” and “began making these massacred Jews into honorary LDS members as well.” He called it “a crass attempt at mass identity theft from the deceased.”

The Mormons even baptized Anne Frank.

It took Ernest Michel (right), then chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, three years to get Mormons to agree to stop proxy-baptizing Holocaust victims.

Mormons desisted in 1995 after Michel, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, “discovered that his own mother, father, grandmother and best childhood friend, all from Mannheim, Germany, had been posthumously baptized.”

Michel told the news agency that “I was hurt that my parents, who were killed as Jews in Auschwitz, were being listed as members of the Mormon faith.”

Richard Bushman
(right), a Mormon who is a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University, said that after “the Jewish dust-up,” Mormons “backed away” from “going to extravagant lengths to collect the names of every last person who ever lived and baptize them — even George Washington.” Now they will do it for Mormons who bring a relative or ancestor’s name into the temple, he said.

Bushman said that “Mormons believe that Christ is the divine son of God who atoned for our sins, but we don’t believe in the Trinity in the sense that there are three in one. We believe the zFather, the Son and the Holy Ghost are three distinct persons.”

Kent Jackson (right), the associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, says that while Mormons are Christians, “Mormonism is not part of the Christian family tree.”

It probably won’t comfort skeptical evangelicals and Catholics to know that Mormons think that while other Christians merely “have a portion of the truth, what God revealed to Joseph Smith is the fullness of the truth,” as Jackson says. “We have no qualms about saying evangelicals, Catholics and Protestants can go to heaven, including Pastor Jeffress. We just believe that the highest blessings of heaven come” to Mormons.

As for those planets that devout Mormon couples might get after death, Jackson says that’s a canard. But Bushman says it’s part of “Mormon lore,” and that it’s based on the belief that if humans can become like God, and God has the whole universe, then maybe Mormons will get to run a bit of that universe.

As for the special garment that Mitt wears, “we wouldn’t say ‘magic underwear,’ ” Bushman explains.

It is meant to denote “moral protection,” a sign that they are “a consecrated people like the priests of ancient Israel.”

And it’s not only a one-piece any more. “There’s a two-piece now,” he said.

Republicans are the ones who have made faith part of the presidential test. Now we’ll see if Mitt can pass it.

The Evangelical Rejection of Reason
The New York Times: October 17, 201

Quincy, Mass. - THE Republican presidential field has become a showcase of evangelical anti-intellectualism. Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann deny that climate change is real and caused by humans. Mr. Perry and Mrs. Bachmann dismiss evolution as an unproven theory. The two candidates who espouse the greatest support for science, Mitt Romney and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., happen to be Mormons, a faith regarded with mistrust by many Christians.

The rejection of science seems to be part of a politically monolithic red-state fundamentalism, textbook evidence of an unyielding ignorance on the part of the religious. As one fundamentalist slogan puts it, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” But evangelical Christianity need not be defined by the simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism that most of the Republican candidates have embraced.

Like other evangelicals, we accept the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ and look to the Bible as our sacred book, though we find it hard to recognize our religious tradition in the mainstream evangelical conversation. Evangelicalism at its best seeks a biblically grounded expression of Christianity that is intellectually engaged, humble and forward-looking. In contrast, fundamentalism is literalistic, overconfident and reactionary.

Fundamentalism appeals to evangelicals who have become convinced that their country has been overrun by a vast secular conspiracy; denial is the simplest and most attractive response to change. They have been scarred by the elimination of prayer in schools; the removal of nativity scenes from public places; the increasing legitimacy of abortion and homosexuality; the persistence of pornography and drug abuse; and acceptance of other religions and of atheism.

In response, many evangelicals created what amounts to a “parallel culture,” nurtured by church, Sunday school, summer camps and colleges, as well as publishing houses, broadcasting networks, music festivals and counseling groups. Among evangelical leaders, Ken Ham, David Barton and James C. Dobson have been particularly effective orchestrators — and beneficiaries — of this subculture.

Scholars and publications like Books & Culture, Sojourners and The Christian Century, offer an alternative to the self-anointed leaders. They recognize that the Bible does not condemn evolution and says next to nothing about gay marriage. They understand that Christian theology can incorporate Darwin’s insights and flourish in a pluralistic society.

Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins. Faith, working calmly in the lives of Americans from George Washington to Barack Obama, has motivated some of America’s finest moments. But when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians.



















For Bachmann, God and Justice Were Intertwined
The New York Times: October 13, 2011

TULSA, Okla. — Michele Bachmann was 22 and newly married when, in the fall of 1979, she and 53 other aspiring lawyers arrived on the manicured campus of Oral Roberts University here. They were the inaugural class in an unusual educational experiment: a law school rooted in charismatic Christian belief.

“We hope to guide our students to a deeper understanding of their spiritual gifts and of their place in God’s kingdom,” the school’s dean, Charles Kothe, wrote in the first edition of its law review, The Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. The aim, he said, was to train the next generation of legal minds to “integrate their Christian faith into their chosen profession,” and to “restore law to its historic roots in the Bible.”

Today, as a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota seeking her party’s nomination for president, Mrs. Bachmann often talks of her work as a lawyer, describing herself as a “former federal tax litigation attorney,” though not identifying her employer as the Internal Revenue Service. She points to her master’s degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, from a nine-month program in tax law.

But the far more formative experience was one she rarely discusses in front of secular
audiences: the legal education she received at Oral Roberts University, founded by the Christian televangelist and Pentecostal faith healer of that name. It was, one fellow student recalls, a “Petri dish of conservatism and Judeo-Christian thought.”

Mrs. Bachmann’s studies here exposed her to ideas — God is the source of law; the Constitution is akin to a biblical covenant, binding on future generations; the founders did not intend for a strict separation of church and state — that are percolating throughout the 2012 race for the presidency, as social conservative candidates like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, court the evangelical Christian vote. But the philosophy has its best-known advocate in Mrs. Bachmann.

Mrs. Bachmann worked as a research assistant to John Eidsmoe on his 1987 book, “Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers,” which argues that “religion and politics cannot be totally separated” and that “America was and to a large extent still is a Christian nation.“ She studied “legal institutions and values” with Herb Titus, a Harvard-trained lawyer who hears his philosophy in Mrs. Bachmann’s words.

“Her belief is consistent with a biblical and a Christian understanding of the Constitution,” Mr. Titus said.

“We were encouraged to make a difference,” said Rich Gradel, an Oral Roberts law graduate and solo practitioner in Tulsa. “A lot of us could have gone elsewhere. We came here because we felt — not everybody, but a whole lot of us — felt like God led us here.”

Huntsman: I thought Cain 9-9-9 plan was "price of pizza"
By Brian Montopoli
CBS News: October 11, 2011

"You turn the 9-9-9 plan upside down, and the devil's in the details," [Michele Bachmann] said -- possibly suggesting that the plan was actually "6-6-6" -- the "number of the beast" in the Bible.













In Iowa, Religious Right Is Now a Force Divided
The New York Times: October 10, 2011

DES MOINES — ...many Republicans may ultimately rally around a candidate they consider more electable in the general election against President Obama, and as the campaign goes forward a better-financed candidate like Mr. Romney or Mr. Perry may be able to convey that message.

But in the meantime, the lower-tier candidates are attracting uncommon attention, and one reason is the influence of Christian conservatives, who make up the bulk of the voters in the Republican caucuses. In 2008 they rallied behind Mike Huckabee to give him a surprise victory over Mr. Romney, who had spent $10 million and a year on the ground.

But this time, social conservatives are divided among several candidates who are competing fiercely for their support — each boasting of rock-ribbed opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The candidates are also finding ways to tie other conservative positions, like ending big government and regulations, to principles of Christian faith.

Even though abortion and same-sex marriage rank relatively low on the list of issues for Republicans generally — and certainly behind the economy — they fire up activists, who have a disproportionate influence in a caucus state....

Some candidates are paying particular attention to a subset of social conservatives, home-school parents, whom one strategist compared to postal carriers: neither sleet nor dark of night will keep them from the caucuses.

“I would say those home-schooling for faith-based reasons are going to go hand in glove with an interest in the social issues like life and marriage,” said Bill Gustoff (right), a lobbyist for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators. He estimated that half of the 30,000 home-school households would have a voter at a caucus, a significant slice in an election that draws about 120,000 total voters.

At least two candidates, Mr. Santorum and Mrs. Bachmann, both of whom have home-schooled their children, have staff members here to organize this vote.

One Bachmann aide, Peter Waldron (left), gathered 16 evangelical pastors in Des Moines last week to discuss strategy. “These are our caucus-builders,” Mr. Waldron said. “We have a very deliberate plan. It’s been thought-out, prayed over.”

Although most pastors are careful not to endorse a candidate from the pulpit, those who are politically active make it clear whom they favor.

“My favorite phrase in our church is, ‘I will not tell you who to vote for,’ ” said the Rev. Bill Tvedt (right) of Jubilee Family Church in Oskaloosa. “But you won’t need anyone to tell you who to vote for by the time you’re taught scriptural world view.”

Mr. Tvedt supports Mrs. Bachmann — and predicted that most of his congregation of 150 would caucus for her — saying she is one of “the biggest opponents of what we would call progressive, socialist, liberal agendas.”


Is the Tea Party Over?
The New York Times: October 9, 2011

Austin, Tex.- The editor of Texas Monthly, Jake Silverstein (right), sums up Perry as “a child of the mythology of the frontier,” in which “every man is more or less for himself, a good neighbor is one who needs no help, and efforts by the government to interfere are not to be trusted.”

To this Perry adds a damn-the-pointy-heads denialism — global warming is a hoax, evolution is just “a theory that’s out there” — as well as a wink to the evangelicals, a nod to the executioner, and an ardent defense of personal liberties for those who are heterosexual and don’t need an abortion. He may not believe in evolution, but his survival-of-the-fittest view of society is pretty Darwinian.

Temperamentally, he has a fever of class resentment that appeals to voters who see themselves trodden by elites.

Perry knows the right way to hold a pitchfork.








Perry supporter slams Romney by calling Mormonism 'a cult' at Texas megachurch
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Saturday, October 8th 2011

An evangelical pastor cast Mitt Romney in a spooky light Friday by calling Mormonism a cult and urging good Christians to vote for his rival, Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas
was introducing Perry to conservatives at the Values Voters Summit when he dissed Romney, saying that, as a Mormon, he isn't really Christian and, thus, isn't competent to run the country.

"I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but those of us who are born again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian,"
Jeffress told the crowd in Tiffin, Iowa.

Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons.

"Rick Perry's a Christian. He's an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ," Jeffress said. "Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity."

Jeffress has a lot of influence in the state of Texas. The evangelical megachurch where he preaches draws more than 10,000 members.

This isn't the first time Jeffress has disparaged the Massachusetts governor for being Mormon. "Mitt
Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Even though he talks about Jesus as his lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult. And just because somebody talks about Jesus does not make them a believer," Jeffress said in a 2007 sermon.

While Perry's campaign was careful to distance itself from Jeffress' position, they didn't say they'd turn down his endorsement, if it is offered.

"The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult," said a campaign spokesman Mark Miner. They initially claimed that summit organizers were solely responsible for having Jeffress introduce Perry. Later a Perry spokesman told AP the campaign agreed to the decision.

"The governor is running a campaign of inclusion and looks forward to receiving the endorsement of many people. People can endorse whoever they like," said Miner.

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Romney to Speak Before Controversial Figure
The New York Times: October 5, 2011

Since Mitt Romney is battling suspicion among Christian conservatives about the depth of his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, it is no surprise that he is joining the other major Republican candidates this week to speak at the annual Values Voters Summit, a celebration of the political aims of the religious right.

The conference, from Friday to Sunday in Washington, is sponsored by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and other evangelical Christian groups. It aims to energize social conservatives and test the fidelity of the candidates.

The conference planners have obliged Mr. Romney, scheduling him to speak right before Bryan Fischer, who is chief spokesman for the family association and is known for his strident remarks on homosexuality, gay rights, Muslims and Mormons. Their talks will be followed by a panel of same-sex marriage opponents.

The liberal advocacy group People for the American Way has called on the presidential candidates, and especially Mr. Romney because he will share a stage, to publicly disassociate themselves from Mr. Fischer and what it called, in a statement on Wednesday, his “unmitigated bigotry.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has made similar appeals to the candidates.

The Family Research Council and the American Family Association have both been labeled “antigay hate groups” by the law center,
a private advocacy organization, for spreading misinformation about homosexuality. But the two groups say the charges are politically motivated and they are praised by some conservatives for defending Biblical values.

Mr. Fischer has stood out for his harsh statements on his daily radio show, likening gay rights advocates to domestic terrorists, arguing that gay men and lesbians should be barred from public office and repeating the discredited theory that homosexuals built the Nazi Party.

He has said that American Muslims should be banned from the military
and that Mormons, let alone Muslims, should not enjoy First Amendment protections because these are reserved for true Christians.

What goes around, comes around.

“If Mitt Romney wants to appeal to mainstream audiences, he should publicly disassociate himself from Fischer’s bigotry before handing him the podium,” said Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way.

The Romney campaign did not immediately comment on the call to distance the candidate from Mr. Fischer.

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Is Romney's Mormon faith affecting votes?
By Whit Johnson
CBS News: October 8, 2011

Concerns about Romney's religion have plagued his candidacy since his previous run for president and prompted him to deliver a 2007 address about faith in America.

"I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of god and the savior of mankind," Romney said from that speech.

Whit Johnson (of CBS) asked Tony Perkins (right) of the Family Research Council, which helped organize this weekend's summit, if Romney is a Christian.

"There are theological differences between Mormonism and Christianity," said Perkins. "Evangelicals do not see Mormonism as Christianity."

He said that to win over evangelicals, Romney needs to stay laser-focused on the issues.

"These theological differences have been going on for generations. You're not going to change that in an election cycle,"
said Perkins.

In a CBS News poll out this week, 42 percent of white evangelicals said most people they know would not vote for a Mormon. That's bad for Romney, especially considering evangelicals made up 44 percent of Republican primary voters in 2008.

Johnson asked Scott Blakeman from Raleigh, North Carolina if he considered Mormonism is a cult? " A cult, yes," he replied.

"As a Christian I would obviously be more comfortable supporting a Christian with Christian biblical world views." said Victoria Jakelsky of Flemington, New jersey.

For Romney, Social Issues Pose New Test
The New York Times: October 8, 2011

WASHINGTON — After years of trying to tamp down concerns about his stance on social issues and his Mormon faith, Mitt Romney is now being forced to fend off revived questions from rivals and evangelical leaders about the consistency and depth of his conservatism.

Mr. Romney has tried at every stage of the race for the Republican presidential nomination to focus on the economy, and he did so again on Saturday, when he appeared here at the Values Voter Summit, a gathering of social conservative activists.
But he also felt compelled to reiterate that he was in sync with social conservatives as he ran through his positions on abortion, marriage, judicial appointments and religious values. And as other speakers condemned homosexuality and raised questions about whether a Mormon is a true Christian, Mr. Romney emphasized that tolerance and civility were conservative values.

Beyond Mr. Romney’s substantive positions, his faith is re-emerging as a concern among some evangelicals. On Saturday, a conservative activist speaking after Mr. Romney, Bryan Fischer, said without naming Mr. Romney that the next president had to be a man of “genuine” Christian faith. On Friday, a backer of Mr. Perry described Mr. Romney’s faith as a cult.

Advisers said the campaign’s approach in 2012 was based on a belief that conservative voters and religious leaders know far more about Mr. Romney’s views than they did four years ago. They noted that Mr. Romney had attended the Values Voter Summit conference every year. They said that there were no plans for him to give another speech about his Mormon faith but that he would continue to address social issues as they were raised.

Mr. Romney is also determined to keep his focus on the economic struggles of voters, believing that is Mr. Obama’s biggest vulnerability. Some social conservative leaders say evangelical voters will mobilize behind any Republican nominee, including Mr. Romney, just because they are so united in their desire to defeat Mr. Obama.











































Why the Antichrist Matters in Politics
The New York Times: September 25, 2011

Pullman, Wash.- THE end is near — or so it seems to a segment of Christians aligned with the religious right. The global economic meltdown, numerous natural disasters and the threat of radical Islam have fueled a conviction among some evangelicals that these are the last days. While such beliefs might be dismissed as the rantings of a small but vocal minority, apocalyptic fears helped drive the antigovernment movements of the 1930s and ’40s and could help define the 2012 presidential campaign as well.

Christian apocalypticism has a long and varied history. Its most prevalent modern incarnation took shape a century ago, among the vast network of preachers, evangelists, Bible-college professors and publishers who established the fundamentalist movement. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and independents, they shared a commitment to returning the Christian faith to its “fundamentals.”

Biblical criticism, the return of Jews to the Holy Land, evolutionary science and World War I convinced them that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. Basing their predictions on biblical prophecy, they identified signs, drawn especially from the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation, that would foreshadow the arrival of the last days: the growth of strong central governments and the consolidation of independent nations into one superstate led by a seemingly benevolent leader promising world peace.

This leader would ultimately prove to be the Antichrist, who, after the so-called rapture of true saints to heaven, would lead humanity through a great tribulation culminating in the second coming and Armageddon. Conservative preachers, evangelists and media personalities of the 20th century, like Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, shared these beliefs.

Fundamentalists’ anticipation of a coming superstate pushed them to the political right. As the government grew in response to industrialization, fundamentalists concluded that the rapture was approaching. Their anxieties worsened in the 1930s with the rise of fascism. Obsessed with matching biblical prophecy with current events, they studied Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin, each of whom seemed to foreshadow the

President Franklin D. Roosevelt troubled them as well. His consolidation of power across more than three terms in the White House, his efforts to undermine the autonomy of the Supreme Court, his dream of a global United Nations and especially his rapid expansion of the government confirmed what many fundamentalists had feared: the United States was lining up with Europe in preparation for a new world dictator.

As a result, prominent fundamentalists joined right-wing libertarians in their effort to undermine Roosevelt. That this mix of millennialism and activism seemed inconsistent — why work for reform if the world is destined for Armageddon? — never troubled them. They simply asserted that Jesus had called them to “occupy” until he returned (Luke 19:13). Like orthodox Marxists who challenge capitalism even though they say they believe it represents an inevitable step on the road to the socialist paradise, conservative Christians never let their conviction that the future is already written lead them to passivity.

The world in 2011 resembles the world of the 1930s in many respects. International turmoil and a prolonged economic downturn have fueled distrust of government, as has the rise of a new libertarianism represented in the explosive growth of the Tea Party.

For some evangelicals, President Obama is troubling. The specious theories about his place of birth, his internationalist tendencies, his measured support for Israel and his Nobel Peace Prize fit their long-held expectations about the Antichrist. So does his commitment to expanding the reach of government in areas like health care.

In 2008, the campaign of Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, presciently tapped into evangelicals’ apocalyptic fears by producing an ad, “The One,” that sarcastically heralded Mr. Obama as a messiah. Mr. McCain was onto something. Not since Roosevelt have we had a president of charisma and global popularity, who so perfectly fits the evangelicals’ Antichrist mold.

While Depression-era fundamentalists represented only a small voice among the anti-Roosevelt forces of the 1930s, evangelicals have grown ever savvier and now constitute one of the largest interest groups in the Republican Party. In the past, relatively responsible leaders like Mr. Graham, who worked with Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, and even Mr. Falwell, who reined in evangelical excess in exchange for access to the Reagan White House, channeled their evangelical energy.

Not now. A leadership vacuum exists on the evangelical right that some Republicans — Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and even Ron Paul — are exploiting. How tightly their strident anti-statism will connect with evangelical apocalypticism remains to be seen.

The left is in disarray while libertarianism is on the ascent. A new generation of evangelicals — well-versed in organizing but lacking moderating influences — is lining up behind hard-right anti-statists. While few of the faithful truly think that the president is the Antichrist, millions of voters, like their Depression-era predecessors, fear that the time is short. The sentiment that Mr. Obama is preparing the United States, as Roosevelt did, for the Antichrist’s global coalition is likely to grow.

Barring the rapture, Mrs. Bachmann or Mr. Perry could well ride the apocalyptic anti-statism of conservative Christians into the Oval Office.

Indeed, the tribulation may be upon us.

Matthew Avery Sutton, an associate professor of history at Washington State University, is the author of “Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America.”

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And the Good News Is ...
The New York Times: September 10, 2011

Finally, we’re coming to a consensus about what’s wrong with the economy. It’s us. And our bad attitude.

I think there’s another opening here for citizen involvement. If the problem is attitude, declare war on the national funk. Every time you hear a depressing piece of news, come back with something cheerful.

Some viewers of this week’s Republican debate found it depressing that Rick Perry, who has referred to evolution as “a theory that’s out there” also did not seem to believe in climate change, and appeared to be under the impression that Galileo was persecuted for his belief in the earth revolving around the sun by his fellow scientists, rather than the religious establishment (at right before the Inquisition).

However, it did give us a welcome chance for a national discussion about Galileo, who does not get mentioned nearly enough.

Go through any issue of the paper and you’ll find positive stories you can share with your friends, possibly over a glass of merlot and a Hershey bar. In South Africa, there’s word at the University of the Witwatersrand of an important new fossil discovery (Australopithecus sediba, left). Nicholas Wade reported in The Times that “the bones are especially well preserved because their owners apparently fell into a deep cave and a few weeks later were swept into sediment that quickly fossilized their bones.” Focus on the scientific aspects of this development while glossing over the fact that for an increasing number of American college graduates now working on their fourth unpaid internship, falling into a deep cave and becoming fossilized may begin to sound like a good career plan.

Those bones are estimated to be about 2 million years old.

Perhaps better not to mention that to Rick Perry.











Called Anti-Science, Rightbloggers Reply That Science is a Liberal Plot
By Roy Edroso
The Village Voice: Mon., Sep. 5 2011

With the ascension of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and other GOP

cadidates who don't cotton to this evolution or climate change stuff, people have begun to ask if Republicans and conservatives are actually becoming hostile to science. It doesn't help that one of those people is Republican Presidential candidate John Huntsman.

Rightbloggers leapt into this fray with a broad reinterpretation of the word "science" to mean whatever they wanted it to mean, which in most cases was "something liberals and scientists use to attack God and America."

A few weeks back Huntsman worried aloud that Republicans increasingly "find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position." He was seconded by such expected sources as Paul Krugman. But less ideologically-oriented publications jumped in as well: Last week the science magazine Discover, for example, wondered about "the increasingly antiscience Republican candidates."

Some people who are decidedly not liberals got nervous about it too. At libertarian magazine Reason, Steve Chapman wrote about "The Conservative Reversal on Science." Bernard Goldberg said this week, "Liberal Democrats may be nuts, but they're not nuts about this kind of thing. A conservative running for the GOP nomination for president may do quite well in Iowa believing in religious fairy tales - but it's not going to play well in other parts of the country, especially with independents who tend to be more moderate."

The brethren put on their thinking caps and came up some zingers to shut up them science-y liberal types.

"In no sense that the ordinary person would understand the term is Rick Perry 'anti-science,'" asserted National Review's Rich Lowry (right). "He hasn't criticized the scientific method, or sent the Texas Rangers to chase out from the state anyone in a white lab coat."

In fact, said Lowry, "Perry's website touts his Emerging Technology Fund as an effort to bring 'the best scientists and researchers to Texas.'" As if that weren't convincing enough, he also pointed out that Perry's home state "has a booming health-care sector," which proves Perry's devotion to science much as Texas' record drought might prove his devotion to dehydration.

Lowry admitted Perry has a "somewhat doubtful take on evolution," but explained that it "has more to do with a general impulse to preserve a role for God in creation than a careful evaluation of the work of, say, Stephen Jay Gould." Also, lots of Americans don't think man came from no monkey, neither. So Perry has great motives for his anti-evolution stand: God, and possible election to the Presidency.

By contrast, said Lowry, liberals only believe in evolution because they hate God. "Science is often just an adjunct to the Left's faith commitments," he wrote. "A Richard Dawkins (left) takes evolutionary science beyond its competence and argues that it dictates atheism... They are believers wrapping themselves in the rhetoric of science while lacking all the care and dispassionate reasoning we associate with the practice of it."

Scientists, huh? Rich Lowry will tell them what science is!





















Bachmann Links God, Disasters and Politics
The New York Times: August 29, 2011

As municipal crews around the Northeast worked to clean up after Hurricane Irene, Representative Michele Bachmann did her own damage control after she used a Florida political rally to suggest that the recent natural disasters were God’s way of sending a message to Washington.

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians,” she told a group of generally older residents on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Sunday, referring to the need to rein in spending. “We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said: ‘Are you going to start listening to me here? Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now.’ ”

Mrs. Bachmann’s comments came less than a week after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Mineral, Va., shook a large stretch of the East Coast, including Washington and New York — areas that would have to brace for a hurricane days later. Irene, as both a hurricane and tropical storm, knocked out power for more than a million people and left nearly 30 dead, according to The Associated Press’s latest count.

When a reporter asked her about the remarks after the event in Sarasota, Mrs. Bachmann was quick to play down her intentions.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims,” she said. “This isn’t something that we take lightly. My comments were not meant to be ones that were taken lightly. What I was saying in a humorous vein is there are things happening that politicians need to pay attention to. It isn’t every day we have an earthquake in the United States.”

She continued: “I think what we’re seeing in this country is we have to have a margin financially. We are so out over the cliff financially, we don’t have the margin we need anymore.”

Mrs. Bachmann, whose Florida visit was extended an extra day after the storm disrupted her travel plans, repeated at a Cuban-American restaurant in Miami on Monday that she did not mean for her remark to be taken seriously. “Of course it would be absurd and ridiculous to think that would be the intent of my comment,” she said in response to a reporter’s question. “If you know me, I am a person who loves humor. I have a great sense of humor. I think it’s important to exhibit that humor sometimes when you’re talking to people as well.

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Republicans Against Science
The New York Times: August 28, 2011

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development.

And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got people's attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, “manipulating data” to create a fake threat. In his book “Fed Up,” he dismissed climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry’s challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”

Moral courage!

Of course, we know what’s motivating Mr. Romney’s sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.














Crashing the Tea Party
The New York Times: August 17, 2011

GIVEN how much sway the Tea Party has among Republicans in Congress and those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, one might think the Tea Party is redefining mainstream American politics.

But in fact the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days.
But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.

...what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

Wouldn't it be nice?

George W. Bush knockoff Rick Perry joins Michele Bachmann among GOP pretenders
New York Daily News: Monday, August 15th 2011

So here comes the second coming of George W. Bush out of the governor's mansion in Texas, Rick (Dubya) Perry.

Or maybe just call him W2.

Perry is taller, has much better hair, seems to believe he has an even better pipeline to God than Bush did. And he comes out of Paint Creek, Tex., different from the Texas town that gave us Bush, the one we also know as Yale University.

Whether Dubya Perry is holier than Michele Bachmann, the new President of Ames, Iowa, remains to be seen. For now, though, Perry and Bachmann are the headliners of the moment in the Republican Party. Barack Obama must be rooting like crazy for both of them, at the beginning of a campaign where fringe Republicans might do a better job of saving Obama than he can of saving himself.

Perry is the latest guy in the race, announcing Saturday in South Carolina, not throwing his hat into the race as much as his helmet hair. This was the day after Bachmann, who really does think she can out-God Perry and everybody else in the race, wins a straw poll in Iowa with about 4,000 votes, which is a couple of blocks in New York City.

Yet there was Bachmann talking herself up big, answering questions about Dubya Perry, as if he is her main competition just by showing up. Of course they both genuflect in front of the Tea Party and the religious right, all those who cheer as Bachmann talks about "taking back the country" from Obama, and act as if gay marriage is more of a threat than the Taliban.











Pawlenty Courts Evangelicals in Make-or-Break Moment
The New York Times: August 9, 2011

CLIVE, Iowa — For the small gathering of Iowa faith leaders, Tim Pawlenty offered a mix of religion and get-it-done realism.

“The privileges, the liberties, the freedoms, the blessings that we
enjoy, come from our creator, God,” Mr. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, said on Monday night. “We want a candidate to emerge in this race who I think understands not just the values, not just the issues, but also the commitment to get it done.”

As he heads toward what could be a make-or-break moment for his presidential campaign this weekend, Mr. Pawlenty, who has lagged in polls and fund-raising, is not giving up on the evangelical voters who are so often the cornerstone of Republican victories here.

His outreach to religious voters, as well as to home-school advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage, is part of an urgent try-everything, try-anything strategy that his advisers hope will lead to a better-than-expected showing in the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Pawlenty was the lone Republican presidential candidate to help kick off a 22-county tour of Iowa by the Value Voter Bus, thanking the evangelical activists sponsoring the trip for “standing for a culture of life.” He has started a Web site, And in between stops on the bus, he is meeting privately with the state’s religious leaders.

Representative Michele Bachmann (right) of Minnesota is courting the same voters and does so with gusto. At an event Sunday, she offered a long prayer for the military personnel who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan over the weekend.

Bob Vander Plaats (left), the head of Iowa Family Leader, an influential faith group, said Mrs. Bachmann

“has a certain pizazz about her.”

As the howls of superstition and ignorance grow louder, the voice of reason and sanity must rise.
























Perry Leads Prayer Rally for Nation in Crisis
The Nerw York Times: August 6, 2011



In Response to the Response


6 August 2011

Commemorating the Greatest Single Atrocity
against Humanity in the History of Man


"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."


HOUSTON — Standing on a stage surrounded by thousands of fellow Christians on Saturday morning, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called on Jesus to bless and guide the nation’s military and political leaders and “those who cannot see the light in the midst of all the darkness.”

“Lord, you are the source of every good thing,” Mr. Perry said, as he bowed his head, closed his eyes and leaned into a microphone at Reliant Stadium here. “You are our only hope, and we stand before you today in awe of your power and in gratitude for your blessings, and humility for our sins. Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness.”

In a 13-minute address, Mr. Perry read several passages from the Bible during a prayer rally he sponsored. Thousands of people stood or kneeled in the aisles or on the concrete floor in front of the stage, some wiping away tears and some shouting, “Amen!”

The event opens him up to criticism for mixing religion and politics in such a grand and overtly Christian fashion.

In many ways, the rally was unprecedented, even in Texas, where faith and politics have long intersected without much controversy — the governor, as both a private citizen and an elected leader, delivering a message to the Lord at a Christian prayer rally he created, while using his office’s prestige, letterhead, Web site and other resources to promote it. Mr. Perry said he wanted people of all faiths to attend, but Christianity dominated the service and the religious affiliations of the crowd. The prayers were given in Jesus Christ’s name, and the many musical performers sang of Christian themes of repentance and salvation.

Mr. Perry addressed the crowd nine days after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against him by a national group of atheists arguing that his participation in the rally in his official capacity as governor violated the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of church and state.

Members and supporters of that group, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, were among dozens of people protesting outside the stadium. Others included gay activists who criticized Mr. Perry for supporting the American Family Association, which organized and financed the rally. The association is a conservative evangelical group based in Mississippi that is listed as an antigay hate group by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.



























With Rally, Christian Group Asserts Its Presence in ’12 Race
The New York Times: August 4, 2011

TUPELO, Miss. — To its admirers on the religious right, the American Family Association is a stalwart leader in a last-ditch fight to save America’s Christian culture and the values of traditional families. To its liberal critics, it is a shrill, even hateful voice of intolerance, out to censor the arts, declare Muslims unfit for public office and deny equality to gay men and lesbians because they engage in sinful “aberrant sexual behavior.”

Broadcast on its 192 talk-radio stations, streamed over the Internet and e-mailed in “action alerts” to 2.3 million potential voters, the American Family Association’s pronouncements have flowed forth daily from its sleek offices here in the Deep South.

But now it is doing more than preaching to the choir. This summer, the association has thrust itself into presidential politics by paying for and organizing a day of prayer to save “a nation in crisis” that Gov. Rick Perry (left) of Texas is convening this Saturday. Several Republican presidential aspirants, including Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty, have appeared on a radio program on the group’s American Family network.

The rally, at a stadium in Houston, is expected to draw dozens of the country’s most conservative evangelical groups and leaders, and could burnish Mr. Perry’s national profile and his appeal to religious conservatives as he considers entering the 2012 presidential race.

Mr. Perry invited his fellow governors but only one, Sam Brownback of Kansas, also a Republican, accepted the invitation to the explicitly Christian rally, and in recent days even his attendance appeared uncertain, with his staff stressing that if Mr. Brownback went, it would be in a private, not an official, capacity.

“It’s a plea to God to help our country,” Donald E. Wildmon, the family association’s founder and chairman emeritus, said of the rally, which he, like Mr. Perry, calls a nonpolitical appeal to God.

“We’re at a crossroads,” Mr. Wildmon added in an interview in the association’s headquarters here about his decades in the culture wars, which he acknowledges have not always gone his way. “Either we’re going to maintain a society based on Judeo-Christian values, or we’ll have one based on whatever is popular at the moment.”

The association has sharpened its edge over the years, moving from its well-known crusades for public “decency” to harshly opposing what it calls an anti-Christian “homosexual agenda” — not only same-sex marriage and the acceptance of gay troops in the military, but any suggestion that homosexual “behavior is normal.” The association also campaigns against antibullying programs that teach tolerance and corporations (like Home Depot, a current target) that support gay pride parades.

Mr. Wildmon warns that if current social trends go unchecked, “homosexuals will become part of an elite class” and “Christians will be second-class citizens at best.

Mr. Wildmon, 73, has turned over management of the association to his son Tim Wildmon, 48, but the group’s reputation for inflammatory statements rose after the hiring two years ago of Bryan Fischer, a former pastor from Idaho, as the director of “issues analysis” and the host of a daily two-hour afternoon show. Mr. Fischer, 60, silver-haired and a talk-radio natural, has become a public face of the group.

Perhaps most notably, Mr. Fischer trumpets the disputed theory that Adolph Hitler was a homosexual and that the Nazi Party was largely created by “homosexual thugs” — evidence, he says, of the inherent pathologies of homosexuality. Mr. Fischer has also said that no more Muslims should be granted citizenship because their religion says to kill Americans, and that welfare recipients “rut like rabbits” because of what he calls welfare’s perverse incentives.

“I don’t think we are exaggerating the dangers to the country, the culture, the American family,” Mr. Fischer said in an interview. “The stakes are as high as they could be.”

"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."
























Judge Dismisses Atheists’ Suit Against Texas Governor’s Prayer Rally
The New York Times: July 29, 2011

HOUSTON — A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed against Gov. Rick Perry of Texas by a national group of atheists seeking to block his participation in and promotion of a Christian-centered prayer rally next weekend.

The lawsuit, filed this month by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, asked the judge to declare Mr. Perry’s involvement in the event unconstitutional. In a separate motion filed earlier this week, the group’s lawyers sought immediately to stop Mr. Perry, who is contemplating a presidential bid, from either taking part in the rally or promoting it in his official capacity as governor, arguing that doing so violates the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of church and state.

Judge Gray H. Miller, of Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas, ruled that the plaintiffs — the foundation and five of its Houston-area members — had suffered no concrete injury and that the governor’s invitations for Texans to join him in a day of prayer were “requests, not commands.” People offended by the governor’s prayer rally can either not attend, not pray or express their disapproval using their First Amendment rights, the judge said. He dismissed the lawsuit and the motion to stop the governor’s official participation.

The judge’s ruling handed Mr. Perry a key legal victory in what has become one of the most controversial events of his political career in Texas.

Mr. Perry announced last month that he was inviting governors and people from across the country to join him on Aug. 6 in a day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium in Houston to “seek God’s guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation.” The event, called “The Response,” has been described by the governor’s aides as a nondenominational and apolitical Christian prayer meeting.

Even in Texas, where Christian values and prayer have long been an accepted part of local and state politics, the governor’s event has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as Jewish groups and civil liberties organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has asked the governor and other local and state officials to disclose the amount of taxpayer dollars and government resources being used to promote the prayer service. Beyond their concerns that Mr. Perry is blurring the line between church and state, his critics say he is pandering to the religious right as he prepares for his possible presidential run.


















Herman Cain’s Bigotry
The New York Times: July 25, 2011

Among a dreary Republican field, Herman Cain stands out for using religious bigotry to gain political traction for his presidential ambitions.

Mr. Cain, a former pizza executive, started a few months ago by telling a reporter that he would not be comfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet. During a televised debate last month, he said his discomfort was due to the intention of some Muslims “to kill us.”

He quickly moved from that offensive and absurd generalization to advocating an overt violation of the Constitution. He traveled to Murfreesboro, Tenn., this month to make common cause with residents who are protesting the construction of an Islamic center there. The center, he said, is not “an innocent mosque,” because, he claimed, its supporters are trying to sneak Shariah law into American law.

He told Fox News that any community has the right to ban a mosque, because “Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, Shariah law,” he said. “That’s the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”

Of course, Catholicism, Judaism, and many other faiths are structured around religious laws. Shariah law, like those laws, pose no danger to the American legal system.

Whether Mr. Cain believes his own nonsense or not, it has won him name recognition. Although no one considers him a real prospect to win the Republican nomination, he is doing better in several polls than Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman or
Rick Santorum. That may explain why the other candidates have yet to condemn his malice. The field that so reveres the original intent of the Constitution has yet to point out that Mr. Cain would violate the plain meaning of the First Amendment with his mosque ban.

Other Republican candidates would rather criticize Michele Bachmann for her
migraine headaches than repudiate her statements in 2004 that homosexuality is “personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.” She and Mr. Santorum felt free to sign a pledge likening same-sex marriage to polygamy and polyandry, which not coincidentally referred to Shariah law as an “anti-human-rights form of totalitarian control.”

So many Republican politicians, in Congress and on the trail, now feel free to say and do shocking things with regard to the economy and government that they have begun to blur together. But there are very few positions more repugnant than advocating intolerance

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Signing Away the Right to Govern
The New York Times: July 19, 2011

It used to be that a sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution was the only promise required to become president. But that no longer seems to be enough for a growing number of Republican interest groups, who are demanding that presidential candidates sign pledges shackling them to the corners of conservative ideology. Many candidates are going along, and each pledge they sign undermines the basic principle of democratic government built on compromise and negotiation.

Both parties have long had litmus tests on issues — abortion, taxation, the environment, the social safety net. The hope was that the candidates would keep their promises, and, when they didn’t, voters who cared deeply about those issues could always pick someone else next time. Human beings, after all, do not come with warranties.

But iron-clad promises were just what the most rigid Republican ideologues wanted. They had seen too many presidents — specifically Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush — bend when confronted by a complex national reality. Washington, the ideologues decided, corrupted true conservatives into moderates.

More was needed to keep them in line, which gave birth to the signed pledge — no more enforceable than a spoken promise, but a politician’s actual signature was seen as more binding.

That pledge is the single biggest reason the federal government is now on the

edge of default. Its signers will not allow revenues in a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Its success has now spawned dangerous offspring. There is the Susan B. Anthony pledge, in which candidates promise to appoint antiabortion cabinet officers and cut off federal financing to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. It has been signed by Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum. There is the cut, cap and balance pledge to gut the federal government by cutting and capping spending, and enacting a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. It has been signed by all of the above candidates, plus Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.

And there is the particularly bizarre Marriage Vow, in which candidates agree to oppose same-sex marriage, reject Shariah law and pledge personal fidelity to their spouse. Until it was changed after a public outcry, it also contained a line saying that a black child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by a two-parent family than a similar child raised in the Obama era. It was signed by Mr. Santorum and Mrs. Bachmann.

Only one candidate, Jon Huntsman Jr.(right), has refused to sign any pledge, saying he owes allegiance to his flag and his wife.

It is refreshing in a field of candidates who have forgotten the true source of political power in America.





















For Bachmann, Gay Rights Stand Reflects Mix of Issues and Faith
The New York Times: July 16, 201

ST. PAUL — In March 2004, with Massachusetts soon to allow gay couples to wed, Michele Bachmann delivered a dire warning to her fellow Minnesotans: The children of their state were at risk.

“We will have immediate loss of civil liberties for five million Minnesotans,” Mrs. Bachmann, then a state senator, told a Christian television network as thousands gathered on the steps of the Capitol to rally for a same-sex marriage ban she proposed. “In our public schools, whether they want to or not, they’ll be forced to start teaching that same-sex marriage is equal, that it is normal and that children should try it.”

Now that she is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Mrs. Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, is talking more about federal spending than about gay rights. But her political rise has its roots in her dogged pursuit of an amendment to the State Constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage — “her banner issue,” said Scott Dibble, a Democratic state senator who is gay — and her mixing of politics with her evangelical faith.

Mrs. Bachmann’s strong stance on homosexuality — she once likened it to “personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement” — and her anti-abortion views have appeal for some Republican primary voters.
In Iowa this month, she delighted conservatives by signing a pledge opposing “any redefinition of marriage.” (Her fellow Minnesotan and presidential rival, Tim Pawlenty, a former governor, was left explaining why he did not.)

Yet her position has also become a distraction for her campaign. It has exposed a longstanding rift between the congresswoman and her stepsister, who is a lesbian.

It has also raised questions about whether her husband, Marcus, who runs two Christian counseling centers, practices “reparative therapy,” or gay-to-straight counseling, derided by critics as an effort to “pray away the gay.”

For the Bachmanns, the issue is entwined with faith. “They are absolutely not against the gays,” said one close friend, JoAnne Hood, who also attends Eagle Brook. “They are just not for marriage.”

“The threat she represented was very real,” said Mr. Dibble, who remembers Mrs. Bachmann “trotting out junk science and debunked claims that being gay is a choice.” During visitor tours of the empty Senate chamber, he said, Mrs. Bachmann would bring people in “to pray around my desk.”

When Out Front Minnesota, a gay rights group, conducted lobbying days at the Statehouse, Mrs. Bachmann made clear she was opposed to its agenda, which included legal recognition of domestic partnerships and nondiscrimination initiatives. Sometimes she would meet gay constituents with guests of her own, said Monica Meyer, the group’s executive director. “She had ex-gay people,” Ms. Meyer said, “who would tell her constituents that being gay was wrong and immoral.”

But Christian conservatives embraced it — and Mrs. Bachmann.

“She stood up as a Christian,” said Bob Battle, pastor of the Berean Church of God in Christ here. “She made her point of view known, and she gave Christians a voice.”

“We’re seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time — every man doing that which is right in his own eyes,” she warned the hosts of one radio show, “Prophetic Views Behind the News.” She went on: “They aren’t interested in being Ward and June Cleaver, that’s not what it’s about. They want legitimization, and they want to force us to shut up about our opposition to the gay lifestyle.”


















Christian Counseling by Hopeful’s Spouse Prompts Questions
Published: July 16, 2011

LAKE ELMO, Minn. — The receptionists at Bachmann & Associates, the Christian counseling center run by the husband of the presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, were polite but firm in turning a reporter away the other day. A new sign was on the door. “Bachmann & Associates,” it said, “prohibits all soliciting, filming and photography in this building. NO MEDIA.”

The skittishness was not surprising. All week, Mrs. Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, a therapist, had been caught in a swirl of media attention over whether the clinic practices “reparative therapy,” or so-called gay-to-straight counseling. On Friday, in an interview published in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dr. Bachmann finally defended himself.

“We don’t have an agenda or a philosophy of trying to change someone,” he said, adding that the clinic would offer reparative therapy only “at the client’s discretion.”

That stance puts Dr. Bachmann at odds with most mainstream medical associations; a 2007 task force put together by the American Psychological Association concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.”

But the American Association of Christian Counselors, which has 50,000 members, supports reparative therapy “on biblical, ethical and legal grounds” for patients “with a genuine desire to be set free of homosexual attractions,” according to its code of ethics. The goal is “heterosexual relations and marriage or lifelong sexual celibacy.”

Questions about whether Dr. Bachmann offers reparative, or conversion, therapy have been percolating for years, fueled partly by his friendship with Janet Boynes (left), a Minneapolis minister who says she was “called out of homosexuality” by God, and partly by his argument that children are at risk when parents and educators tolerate homosexuality.

In an interview on a Christian radio show last year, he said young people must be discouraged from acting on homosexual feelings, just as “barbarians need to be educated.” (Dr. Bachmann says the comment has been misconstrued to suggest he means gays are barbaric. “That’s not my mind-set,” he told The Star-Tribune.)

In June, Truth Wins Out, a national nonprofit group dedicated to fighting “anti-gay religious extremism,” sought out people who had undergone “ex-gay therapy” at Dr. Bachmann’s clinic. One person, Andrew Ramirez (below right), a 24-year-old manager for a lumber company, responded that he had.

Wayne Besen (left), the founder of Truth Wins Out, said, “What we found was reasonably professional with a skewed point of view toward homosexuality being a negative and no offering of hope that it is something positive.”

At Bachmann & Associates, which advertises treatment for a range of problems —including marital discord, anger management, addictions and spiritual issues — the emphasis on faith is strong. “Christ is the Almighty counselor,” Dr. Bachmann says on the center’s Web site.




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