Monday, November 26, 2007

Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism?

Who doesn’t want to prevent terrorism and violence? Not many folks I would imagine. So why am I in a snit over the federal legislative proposal H.R. 1955: the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007”? Because it is a $22 million foot in the door that could lead to the same type of government surveillance abuse that was denounced by Congress, the media, and activists in the 1970s.

Liberal congressional representatives apparently were sucker punched by the language and oddly forgetful of past government intelligence gathering abuses. It could easily turn into another privatized federally-funded giant slush fund for politically-connected hacks.

Anyone who remembers the infamous FBI Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) will recall how compiling files on the ideological leanings of dissenters opened the door to a systematic campaign of illegal surveillance and disruption, spawned tens of millions of pages of spy files, and even led to the murders of political activists—primarily people of color. Just read the text of the legislation, and these claims of potential abuse seem absurd. Have I become a paranoid conspiracy theorist? I don’t think so, but explaining why takes some doing. But isn’t protecting our civil liberties worth a little effort? Let’s start with the Bill itself, the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.”

On October 22, the House of Representatives passed 404 – 6 a bill authorizing $22 million for the establishment of a “ National Commission On The Prevention Of Violent Radicalization And Ideologically Based Violence.” Read the text and follow the legislation here:

Two of the opponents were on opposite sides of the political spectrum: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio. That’s a clue in itself, but the text of the legislation seems innocuous. It sets up a short term study commission and a permanent government funded study center.

In its findings of fact, the House stated:

(5) Understanding the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence is a vital step toward eradicating these threats in the United States.

Sounds OK, we need to understand more about how terrorism works, but none of these terms are adequately defined. Does violent radicalization include reading the work of leftist Che Guevara or rightist Otto Strasser? Last time I checked, it was legal to propose the violent overthrow of the Unites States government, as long as you didn’t suggest when and where. Still if these are the Thought Police, they are just studying the matter…or are they? Check out the next paragraph:

(6) Preventing the potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists domestically cannot be easily accomplished solely through traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and can benefit from the incorporation of State and local efforts.

Wait, “ Preventing the potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists”? How would that work? And why does it need the further integration of Federal, State, and local intelligence and law enforcement efforts? We saw the integration of integration of Federal, State, and local intelligence and law enforcement efforts under the FBI COINTELPRO operations; and they included cooperation from private, corporate, and right-wing spies. Couldn’t happen again? It already has, as outlined in a number of articles on just this sort of integrated effort in cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Denver. Check out;;

And remember, the whole idea is prevention:

(1) The development and implementation of methods and processes that can be utilized to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States is critical to combating domestic terrorism.

And the Internet is a special target:

(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.

How would this “prevention” activity actually work? Will they track Internet browsing? How about what books we buy or take out of the local library?

This is not just a study commission; there is a permanent “ Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.”

According to the legislation, “The Center shall assist Federal, State, local and tribal homeland security officials through training, education, and research in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States” and develop “methods that can be utilized by Federal, State, local, and tribal homeland security officials to mitigate violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.”

Why does this matter. Aren’t there safeguards? Well, since the Reagan Administration took office in 1980, we have seen the continuous erosion of the safeguards put in place in response to COINTELPRO and other examples of surveillance abuse by the federal government. Furthermore, what began as surveillance and data collection became an illegal FBI scheme to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” political dissidents that were seen as threatening the security of the United States. These targets were portrayed as “violent radicals.” Now the fear of terrorism has replaced the fear of subversion by radicals. With the new legislation, both hot buttons are pushed.

It is the penchant for data collection that gets government agencies in trouble with the Bill of Rights in the first place, according to the late Frank Donner:

"Intelligence in the United States serves as an instrument for resolving a major contradiction in the American political system: how to protect the status quo while maintaining the forms of liberal political democracy.”

Since evidence of actual wrongdoing was minimal, Donner suggested that within the intelligence community, "The selection of targets for surveillance, operations such as informer infiltration and wiretapping, and file storage practices reflect what may be called the politics of deferred reckoning, the need to know all about the enemy in preparation for a life or death showdown..." The intelligence community "anticipated" threats by relying on "ideology, not behavior, theory not practice." It treated activities which might be aimed--some time in the future--at undermining the government, as subversive. According to Donner:

"Domestic countersubversive intelligence is, in theory, future-oriented: 'subversive' activities are, in the language of the Bureau, those aimed at future overthrow, destruction, or undermining of the government, regardless of how legitimate these activities might currently be or how tenuous the link between present intentions and ultimate action."

As the specifics of the popular culture changed, so did the language used to describe the menace, although the institutionalized procedures remained remarkably constant-merely made more efficient with the advent and advances of computer technology. In the genesis of witch hunts, subversive begat extremist which begat terrorist. Donner noted the addition of the term "extremist" to the countersubversive arsenal of demonizing language, and discussed how the Reagan Administration and the New Right used the term "terrorist" to marginalize dissident groups.

I frequently write about homegrown violence and domestic terrorism carried out by a few people in right-wing social movements. I have also written about how some militant Islamic movements are forms of theocratic neofascism. So I am worried about violence and terrorism, but I am also worried about civil liberties, and sit on the board of the Defending Dissent Foundation. I suspect that this new initiative would quickly devolve into providing justifications for more political repression against Muslims and Arabs and people of color including Mexicans. We are a nation oozing xenophobia and nativism as pandering politicians make quite clear in the frequent drum beats about borders and the rule of law.

I fear that this new “Center for Excellence” will produce politicized research that will inevitably be bent toward the service of whatever administration is in power--Republican or Democrat. It can easily become a mechanism by which serious scholarly research will continue to be underfunded, and by which politically connected cronies of the current administration get cash in a pork barrel.

There are already government agencies that fund scholarly research into violence and terrorism. To centralize this research into a specific so-called Center of Excellence just means the ability to sidestep existing peer review systems, strict academic privacy safeguards for data collection, and the process of competitive proposals already being submitted by serious scholars.

An example of this type of semi-privatized centralized plan is the National Endowment for Democracy, (NED) which neatly circumvents the U.S. State Department and sets up a privatized foreign policy apparatus. The National Endowment for Democracy is a giant slush fund for political hacks who meddle in the internal policies of other countries. If other countries funded such a program sending political hacks to the United States to meddle in our elections we would all be outraged.

So in my view, H.R. 1955: the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” is, like the NED, just another federal government scheme to sneak around existing processes for oversight and public scrutiny.

The issue is not the need to fund serious scholarly research into terrorism violence and bigotry. The issue is whether or not we want our tax dollars wasted by political cronies providing the type of answers the current administration wants. This is not to suggest that individual scholars would be the hacks, it is that by circumventing the traditional scholarly process which includes privacy restrictions and peer review, the proposed study commission achieves two politicized functions:

1) Researchers could collect the type of data that government agencies are currently forbidden to do because of past abuses regarding surveillance and data collection, and there is no guarantee that individualized information would not be passed to law enforcement agencies of the Department of Homeland Security.

2) The scholars chosen would reflect a skewed collection favoring research and analytical models that are biased in favor of the views and legislative desires of the current administration. This is true whether it is a Republican or a Democrat in the Oval Office.

None of this is necessary. News Flash! There are already a number of excellent centers that study terrorism and violence in the United States. Among the centers I have worked with are the Brudnick Center for the Study of Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University,; the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State Santa Barbara;; and the Hate Crimes Research Network at Portland State University in Oregon.

If you are a conservative, consider the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford,

Then there are a gaggle of individual scholars who already write on these subjects.

One of the sharpest is Jessica Stern at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. According to Stern, the work is already well developed. She writes about the causes of terrorism:

…it is worth considering the causes of terrorism. Several possible root causes have been identified, including, among others, poverty, lack of education, abrogation of human rights, the perception that the enemy is weak-willed. I've been interviewing terrorists around the world over the past five years. Those I interviewed cite many reasons for choosing a life of holy war, and I came to despair of identifying a single root cause of terrorism. But the variable that came up most frequently was not poverty or human-rights abuses, but perceived humiliation. Humiliation emerged at every level of the terrorist groups I studied — leaders and followers.

In the United States, my research leads me to argue that this is humiliation rooted in a sense of betrayal by government officials. It is this sense that led Timothy McVeigh to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma. This was in part generated by government failures and abuses related to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas and the Weaver Family survivalist retreat at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. It was behind the murder of Mulugeta Seraw, by three skinheads in Portland, Oregon.

There are many other public intellectuals and scholars who study terrorism and violence. For example Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence; James Aho who has studied the Christian Identity movement; David Cook who studies how apocalypticism is generating dualism and violence within sectors of Islam; Nicholas N. Kittrie who explores the boundaries of dissent and violence; Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins who write about “Religious Totalism, Exemplary Dualism,” and the propensity for violence; George Michael, author of The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right. There are dozens more including Michael Barkun; Catherine Wessinger; Mark Hamm; Kathleen Blee; Jeffry Bale; Carol Mason; Lane Crothers, Abby L. Ferber, Patrick Minges; Betty Dobratz; Jack Levin, Brenda Brasher; Jack McDevitt, Stephanie Shanks-Meile; David Norman Smith; Jean E. Rosenfeld, Lorna Mason. This list was just off the top of my head.

There are also several public institutions not affiliates with a university, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Facing History and Ourselves, (which conducts research as well as producing an exemplary curriculum). I sometimes disagree with what these groups have to say, but they have produced a substantial body of work that creates a public dialogue without a “Center for Excellence.”

I have a much cheaper plan than the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.” In fact it doesn’t add a red cent to the existing taxpayer burden…it’s called a library card.

Tell the Senate to reject this pending legislation, and refer those interested in more information to the Library of Congress, it’s a block away from the U.S. Capitol building, and it is free to the public. What a deal!

The section on Frank Donner and history is adapted from “Government Intelligence Abuse: The Theories of Frank Donner,”

For more background:

For other stories by progressives about this legislation:

"Examining the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act",
Lindsay Beyerstein, In These Times.

"Bringing the War on Terrorism Home:
Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States,"
Jessica Lee, The Indypendent.

"Enemies of the State,"
Wendy Kaminer, The Phoenix

"Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent,"
Amy Goodman interviews Jessica Lee and Kamau Karl Franklin.

t r u t h o u t | Report
Matt Renner

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

War on Christimas - Who wrote it?

Here is a gem from the past:
"And it has become pretty general. Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth."

Where and when did this appear?  Take a guess. Bill O'Reilly? Wrong. Guess again. World Net Daily? on...

Here is some more of the text:

"Easter they will have the same difficulty in finding Easter cards that contain any suggestion that Easter commemorates a certain event. There will be rabbits and eggs and spring flowers, but a hint of the Resurrection will be hard to find.

Still not clear?
"Now, all this begins with the designers of the cards. And even in this business one comes upon that same policy of declaring Anti-Semitic everything that is Christian. If Rabbi Coffey says the New Testament is the most Anti-Semitic book ever written, what must be the judgement on an Easter card that is truly an Easter card?"

Getting an inkling? How about this text?
"There has not been any 'persecution' of the Jews in the United States and never will be any, but all that the Jews have had to carry in the way of misunderstanding has been the result of the leadership which has misled them into paths of bloated ambition, instead of substantial human achievement."

Year? -- 1921

Source? -- One of the nastiest antisemitic tracts ever published in English: The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, Chapter 36.

Originally published as an article,
"'Jewish Rights' to Put Studies Out of Schools,"
THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, issue of 19 March 1921.

Collected in:

Henry Ford and the staff of the Dearborn Independent, The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem.  1920-1922,  Vols. 1-4.
 Chapter 36: "Jewish Rights" to Put Studies Out of Schools.

Republished. Reedy, WV: Liberty Bell Publications, 1976.
Originally published Dearborn, MI: The Dearborn Publishing Company, 1920-1922. Primarily consists of reprints of a series of articles from Ford's Dearborn Independent in book form.'s_Foremost_Problem/Chapter_36

Ported from Talk to Action
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Saturday, September 22, 2007

OK: Secret Rogue Faction that Runs the Bush Administration

Note: Please read this previous post first: "Webster G. Tarpley’s Toxic Waste is Polluting the Antiwar Movement" and then this post will make more sense. I am an opponent of conspiracy theories in general and this one about the Bush Administraion in particular. This was meant as a clarification of wording in my previous post, not an endorement of a conspiracy theory. -cb

= = =

In my recent post on Webster Tarpley I wrote that:

“In 2005 Tarpley published a book that alleged the Bush Administration staged the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.”
Critics have suggested this meant I had not actually read Tarpley’s book. I have read the book. In it Tarpley contends that the Bush Administration is controlled by a secret invisible government, and that 9/11 was part of a plan to put pressure on George W. Bush as President to ensure that he continued to follow the foreign policy and economic game plan provided to him by the oligarchic faction known as the neoconservatives. Tarpley goes out is his way to make it clear that he thinks Bush himself is incapable of being part of the staged “Synthetic Terror” event the rest of us call the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

So I specifically did not suggest Bush was behind staging the attacks, I said the Bush Administration. As Tarpley himself points out, if 9/11 was a staged event, it would have been impossible to have been carried out without the complicity of high-ranking government agency and Administration officials, or as he calls it: the “rogue networks of the US invisible government” (p. 432). Specifically, Tarpley writes that the sponsors of 9/11 “were not located in a cave in Afghanistan, but were rather a network located high within the US government and military”(p. 280).

According to Tarpley, in 2004, “with the desperados of the neocon faction calling the shots” the “rogues were once again inclined to” stage another terrorist attack on US soil (p. 397). Tarpley also indicates that he thinks the necons are part of the invisible government apparatus, and that this includes “Wolfowitz, Feith, Bolton, Luti, Schulsky, Scooter Libby, Cambone, Hadley and others who run the Bush administration.” If the neocons run the Bush Administration, and the neocons are part of the secret plot, then the Bush Administration staged the attacks, even if every person in the Administration was not part of the plot. I find all these claims ludicrous, but I can see there is room for misinterpretation due to my shorthand description.

In the future I will make sure I state that Tarpley has written that a secret invisible government which runs the Bush Administration through the neocon-Straussian oligarchic network staged the 9/11 attacks; or at least use the phrase ‘a secret rogue faction that runs the Bush Administration,’ which is what I will insert in the text. My apologies to Mr. Tarpley if he was offended by my summary of his claims about the alleged conspiracy.

Post comments on my Daily Kos diary board here

Monday, September 17, 2007

Webster G. Tarpley’s Toxic Waste is Polluting the Antiwar Movement

There is no question that author Webster Griffin Tarpley has become a divisive and destructive force within the U.S. antiwar movement. The real question is why antiwar activists would pay him any attention in the first place. Activists are in an uproar over an incident at a peace encampment in Keenebunkport, Maine where Tarpley is implicated in a stunt where well-known peace activists such as Jamilla El-Shafei, Cindy Sheehan, Dahlia Wasfi, and Ann Wright were tricked into signing a document they thought was merely a call for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. The fine print in the document echoes Tarpley’s claim that Cheney is plotting a pre-election coup using a domestic terrorist attack as an excuse.

Tarpley is a former acolyte of crackpot and convicted felon Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. You remember LaRouche. He is generally described as a perennial Presidential candidate who once said the Queen of England ran the global drug trade. Tarpley may have left the LaRouche group, but it has not left him. Tarpley acts as a sockpuppet for LaRouche, spreading delirious venom throughout the antiwar movement. The LaRouche group has a long history of conning people into signing statements based on misleading descriptions of the actual text. Déjà vu.

With so much factual evidence of wrongdoing, incompetence, malfeasance, and just plain lying on the part of the Bush Administration, there is no reason to spread Tarpley’s gossip. The dramatic erosion of civil liberties in the United States is bad enough without embracing the delusional warnings by Tarpley that “neocons always prefer a coup d'etat to an election.”{1}

The current tempest traces back to July 4 th, 2007 when Philadelphia peace activists held an Emergency Antiwar Convention. It was an attempt to merge the movement against the war in Iraq with the “9/11 Truth” movement. The event featured 9/11 conspiracy films, as well as presentations from Tarpley and another former LaRouchite activist, Lewis DuPont Smith. Attendees issued a Call “In the spirit of our Declaration of Independence” urging others to join activist organizations throughout the country to collaborate and forge common strategies and actions.”{2} The statement included the phrase: “ Government by the People, not by cliques of bankers and financiers,” which could have been copied from a number of Nazi publications from the 1930s which identified the culprits as Jews.

Tarpley has introduced similar statements at other meetings, including one in Chicago.{3}  A few weeks later, with his star rising in the antiwar movement, Tarpley posted a long article on the Jeff Rense website warning: "Cheney Determined To Strike In US With WMD This Summer, Only Impeachment, Removal or General Strike Can Stop Him."{4}  

According to Tarpley, antiwar activists needed to quickly confront “the Cheney doctrine, which calls for a new super 9/11 with weapons of mass destruction in the US, to be used as the pretext for a nuclear attack on Iran and for martial law at home.”{5}

This is not the first time Tarpley has predicted an apocalyptic political event. In 2004, he posted a warning: "Bush Regime working out Procedures for postponing November Election."{6} The election, needless to say, actually took place as scheduled, although there were legitimate complaints about vote suppression to benefit Republican candidates.

Tarpley is co-author (with LaRouche researcher Anton Chaitkin){7}, of the book George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, originally published by the LaRouche publishing house.{8} Progressive author and blogger David Neiwert reviewed the book, noting that “Like most LaRouche texts:”

...the Bush "biography" is a mélange of fact and distortion, written in a highly suppositional style that makes numerous leaps of logic and asserts connections where there is no real evidence to support it, at other times omitting exculpatory or contrary information that reveals a more complete picture. Sifting through it requires a great deal of work, but there are nuggets of fact woven into their text that are substantiated and which deserve proper consideration.{9}

In 2005 Tarpley published a book that alleged the Bush Administration staged the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.{10} [Note: specifically a secret rogue faction that runs the Bush Administration - see blog post that follows] LaRouche takes a similar position. According to LaRouche the attacks on 9/11 should be:

”recognized, sooner or later, as the product of a witting "inside job." Finally, my detailed knowledge of the onrushing strategic crisis within which those attacks were situated, allowed no other conclusion, than that this was an attempted military coup d'état with a global strategic purpose of the most ominous implications imaginable.”{11}

While continuing to follow the polluted path blazed by notorious crackpot and homophobic antisemite Lyndon LaRouche, Tarpley is a regular contributor and featured poster on the Jeff Rense website. If we can set aside the UFO mania found on, there is still the promotion of Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

At some point leaders of the antiwar movement need to have a discussion about the larger issue of conspiracism. Right now, however, it is clear that some progressives have been snared by Tarpley’s mesmerizing presentations. This could undermine the credibility of the antiwar movement, alienate its existing base, and jeopardize its relationship with existing allies. This should be obvious no matter what your individual position is on the unanswered questions surrounding 9/11. The antiwar movement needs to welcome individuals from a broad range of political beliefs who share the goal of ending the war in Iraq. However this open door policy should not include allowing charlatans and hucksters to disrupt the movement. It is time to slam the door in the face of Webster G. Tarpley and his ilk.

Post comments on the Daily Kos diary board here


{1} Webster G. Tarpley, “Cheney Determined To Strike In US With WMD This Summer: Only Impeachment, Removal or General Strike Can Stop Him,” 7-21-7,

{2} “The ‘Act-Independent United Front Program’, submitted By Webster Griffin Tarpley and approved by The Philadelphia Emergency Anti-War Convention, July 4, 2007’ The Philadelphia Platform,’ See the: event described at, and, and the full statement at See

{3} “9/11 Truth -- The Key To Stopping World War III, Resolution Submitted To The 911 Chicago Truth Conference, June 2-4, 2006. This resolution was presented to the final plenary meeting of the conference by Webster G. Tarpley and acclaimed by voice vote. Tarpley is the author of the book, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.”

{4} See also, Tarpley, “Helicopter Ben Unleashes Dollar Hyperinflation,” 8-12-7,

{5} See

{6} As of September 11, 2007, the Tarpley article is still on Michel Chossudovsky's Global Research website: Webster Griffin Tarpley, “Bush Regime working out Procedures for postponing November Election, posted July 10, 2004,

{7} A recent article by Anton Chaitkin is BAE, Baroness Symons in Black Operations Against LaRouche, July 6, 2007,

{8} Tarpley, Webster Griffin and Anton Chaitkin. (1992). George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. Washington, DC: Executive Intelligence Review.

{9} David Neiwert, "Bush, the Nazis and America," September 07, 2003,

{10} Tarpley’s book is published by Progressive Press,, which also publishes a book by Eric Hufschmid, Painful Questions . Hufschmid is described as one of the researchers "who openly mix 9/11 skepticism with Holocaust denial or revisionism," see "Holocaust Denial Versus 9/11 Truth,"

{11} Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., "Zbigniew Brzezinski and September 11th", Executive Intelligence Review, January 11, 2001,

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Monday, July 09, 2007

For Progressives who Vote Democratic but Value Human Rights

Human Rights are Not Political Commodities

We understand the same First Amendment that guarantees separation of church and state guarantees the rights of Christian conservatives to defend their views in the public square, and to seek redress of grievances through a variety of political and social channels.

In recent months, however, we have seen indications that some in the leadership of the Democratic Party, and some of its candidates for public office, are seeking the votes of Christian conservatives by suggesting there is room to compromise on reproductive rights and gay rights.

While public debates over social issues are a sign of a healthy democracy; we do not believe is proper for politicians to negotiate away basic human rights for any group of people in the United States.

The problem is not “abortion” or “reducing the number of abortions.” The problem is unwanted pregnancies, how to prevent them, and how to support women who get pregnant in the decisions they deem appropriate. This includes access to legal and safe contraception and abortion; as well as access to health care and child care for women who choose to give birth and raise children—concepts seen as fundamental rights in other industrialized countries. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors who are women, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.

The problem is not “gay rights” or “gay marriage.” The problem is building a society where the basic human rights of all people are respected and defended. Under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, there is no such thing as “Special Rights.” When some Christian conservatives claim that gay people want “Special Rights,” it is a falsehood. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors in LGBTQ communities, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.

We intend to vote in the upcoming elections in 2008, and we intend to vote for candidates who make it crystal clear that they support basic human rights for all. At the same time, we will continue to build broad and diverse coalitions seeking fundamental progressive social change. As we rebuild our progressive social movement, we will pay special attention to politicians who have through words or actions objectively undermined basic human rights for women, the LGBTQ communities, or any other group in our society.

If you agree with the above statement, visit the contact page for the Democratic National Committee:; fill in the contact form with your e-mail and Zip Code; and paste this pledge into the “Questions” box.

This is my personal tirade, and is not connected to any of the several organizations for which I work or volunteer.
Post comments at Talk to Action. –Chip Berlet


Monday, May 14, 2007

Bush, Constitutional Threats, and the Christian Right

That the Bush administration is disturbingly power hungry is amply documented in a recent article, "The Assault on the Constitution: Executive Power and the War on Terrorism," by Erwin Chemerinsky in the UC Davis Law Review. While some Christian Right leaders sleep tight in the secure knowledge that the brightly burning Bush has God's help in illuminating the shadows of terror; others fear it is the flames of a new witch hunt prophesizing ungodly dangers.

So some of us who work to defend and extend civil liberties in the United States find ourselves in coalitions with Christian Right staff and ideologues inside the beltway; and sometimes outside the beltway in that vast area between New York and Los Angeles often overlooked by DC policy wonks. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and some of us have struggled with the questions surrounding such coalition work. Where are the proper boundaries for even limited cooperation?

There is a real danger facing civil libertarians (and all of us!) under the Bush Administration. Chemerinsky, a Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, warns that

"Throughout American history, the government's response to threats has been repression. The war on terrorism is now over four years old and shows no signs of abating. Authorities have imprisoned some individuals without due process for nearly that long and have given no indication about possible release. These detentions have lasted longer than either World War I or World War II. In addition, the loss of freedom to average citizens has been enormous and, most disturbingly, there is no reason to believe that the country has been made any safer by the loss of liberty."
Serendipity brought me the Chemerinsky article; my son is on the board of editors of the UC Davis Law Review and sent me a copy. As it happens, Chemerinsky and I are both on the board of advisors to the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (DEFCON). We were bombarded with e-mails from supporters of Dr. James Dobson after DEFCON criticized Dobson's refusal to find a problem in his being used as a shill in a questionable lobbying campaign cooked up by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

At the same time, I was on the board of a group, now renamed the Defending Dissent Foundation, with a DC staff person who found herself at meetings with representatives of several Christian Right groups such as Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation. This wing of the Christian Right was worried about civil liberties, executive power, and political repression.

As is often the case, Justice Louis D. Brandeis summarized the issue in elegant (if dated) language:

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."
--Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1928)

One reason to see the complexity in the various sectors of the Christian Right is that there are times when some of us find ourselves on the same side of an issue.

If our typical response to the Christian Right is to use alarmist and demonizing rhetoric, we miss opportunities for parallel tactical activities toward a common goal, even if we are reluctant (for good reason) to form long-term strategic coalitions.


Erwin Chemerinsky, "The Assault on the Constitution: Executive Power and the War on Terrorism," UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2006: pp. 3-20.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Real Christian Conscience and Commitment

On Sunday, April 29th hundreds of us gathered at the St. Paul United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, Illinois to celebrate the life and mourn the death of John Curtis Koehler. "Curt" was a high school teacher, journalist, printer, civil rights and labor activist, and fan of music and theater. Curt was born in 1950 and died April 7, 2007 after a mighty struggle against brain cancer. Curt's wife, the Rev. Denise Griebler, and their two children were there when a seizure robbed Curt of life.

Curt's sense of humor was indomitable. Being rolled into the operating theater for brain surgery, a nurse asked Curt what he wanted her to pray for. "Peace in the world," he replied.

We both shared a strange sense of humor when we first met over 40 years ago in junior high school in suburban northern New Jersey. We also attended the same Presbyterian Church where we became involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. In our youth group we read the essay by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Curt and I worked with another church youth group member, Sue Kaiser, along with several friends, to set up a church coffeehouse (it was in the sanctuary—our church had no basement). We traded entertainment with another church coffeehouse up the road. I went and read poetry at the "Escarole" coffeehouse, while our coffeehouse, the "Purple Kumquat," got the teenage singing duo Maggie and Terre Roche, who later were joined by their sister Suzzy and became the folk trio the Roches. (So as it turned out, it was not an even trade).

Along with another young woman from our area, Curt, Sue, and I were sent as youth delegates to a National Council of Churches conference on Church and Society in Detroit in 1967. I've forgotten the name of the other young woman, and it was not reported in our local papers at the time, since she was Black, and thus was excised from the photograph of the four of us who were delegates from our region.

In Detroit we had our complacent White suburban ideas challenged. We saw an amazing multimedia presentation put together by Harvey Cox and examining racism, war, poverty, and other issues. One night some of us went over to the local underground newspaper. We joined other youth delegates to stage a "love feast" in a nearby park where we fed the hungry and celebrated life along with some Diggers who were driving back to California after the attempt to levitate the Pentagon in an antiwar rally. Margaret Mead sent over a pomegranate, with a note saying that it was the fruit of love, and thus no proper "love feast" could be staged without it. I've always wondered who ended up with that collectable note?

When we arrived back in New Jersey, our pastor, the Rev. Robert Hugh Reed, sent us a clipping from the December 1967 issue of a conservative Baptist newspaper, the Crusader. "Extremists Prominent in US Conference on Church and Society" blared the headline.

"The group studying 'The Role of Violence in Social Change" sharply criticized the church for lack of action against what it calls the 'systemic' violence in our society—'practices which exact exorbitant interest rates from the poor, inadequate health systems…inadequate housing…police practices that result in death and injury….' It urged that non-violent efforts to get rid of systemic violence should move beyond marches and picketing to massive campaign[s] in civil disobedience, non-cooperation with the state, strike, and economic boycotts."
Precisely! Heavens…what are we waiting for? In King's Letter he observes: " We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed…. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever."
The Crusader also griped about our religious services:

"Worship services at the conference were almost as revolutionary as the problems the conference dealt with: A young dancer in an electric blue leotard interpreted words of the fortieth Psalm; and excerpts from the morning newspapers were interjected into the traditional liturgy."
Heavens! Precisely! What's the problem? Oh, that's right, it is all "extremism." Well, King had something to say about that too:

" though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love … Amos an extremist for justice …Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel … Was Not Martin Luther an extremist … Abraham Lincoln … And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.…"
The Rev. Denise Griebler, is the pastor at St. Michaels United Church of Christ in Illinois. She is also a longstanding social justice activist. The UCC is the target of another campaign against so-called "extremism," this time funded by right-wing ideologues who claim the name of God to defend their unfair and disproportionate power, wealth and privilege. They have the audacity to use the name "Institute on Religion and Democracy," when what they are doing is undermining democracy. They claim the name "renewal" when what they are doing is deeply reactionary, repressive, and regressive.

On the website of St. Michaels United Church of Christ is the note:

IF... understand that faith is a matter of mind as well as heart, and that taking the Bible seriously means it cannot always be taken literally know that God's love embraces all persons equally, no matter their gender, race, or sexual identity believe that Christ calls us to be nothing less than global citizens, that social expression of love is justice, and that spiritual concerns are inseparable from commitment to the natural world've wished for a more open and embracing community of faith to nurture your spirit and raise your children


...we invite you to join us at St. Michael's UCC and explore all the ways that God is still speaking.

The Rev. Denise Griebler is one of the many Christian leaders throughout the world working for real democracy and renewal. I treasure the times that Curt and I celebrated communion together under the blessing of Denise and in the company of our friends. Curt will be remembered as one who walked the walk. We can do no less.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Christian Nationalist "Minutemen" Convening in Lexington, MA?

Some of the same Christian Nationalists who helped fan the media hysteria over the staged events tied to "Judge Moore in Alabama, Terri Schiavo in Florida, and the 10 commandments in Washington DC" have called for a convocation April 19th-21st, 2007, of contemporary Christian patriot "Minutemen" at the historic Battle Green in Lexington, MA to save America from the new tryanny of the courts and the spreading sinful stain of homosexual marriage.

The convention is titled: "Someone Has Stolen My Country And I Want Her Back" and it is announced that at this meeting, just as the Minutlemen of 1776 rejected oppressive rule, the attendees will gather to reject the court decision at an event "Where we will have no other king but KING JESUS!" What prompted this new crusade is a federal court decision that the solution for parents who object to every aspect of a gay-tolerant curriculum is to send their children to private schools rather than having the courts favor their minority viewpoint by rewriting the curriculum. This, in the framing of the Christian Nationalists, is "judicial tyranny."

According to an announcement from Minutemen United:

"It seems as if Lexington, Mass. is ground zero in the battle for the soul of America. Just last week a Federal Judge in Boston threw out a law suit by David Parker. To read more about the Parker's legal battle with the government schools read here. When tossing the Parker case the judge said that normalizing homosexuality to young children is ' reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.' According to Wolf, this means teaching 'diversity' which includes differences in sexual orientation. This case is about the rights of parents to 'train a child in the way that he should go.' The courts are consistently ruling against parents."

What follows is more detailed information:

The Convention

Sponsored by The Patriot Pastor & The Heroes of Liberty & The Minutemen United



April 19th-21st 2007 AD

The convention has rented the Knights of Columbus Hall at 177 Bedford St. in Lexington.

The Trumpet is being sounded again

To All Who Can Hear The Clarion Call and Respond.

There is an Alarm being sent through out The Nation from Sea to Shining Sea.

You can find one version of the flyer at:

The Heroes of Liberty may refer to the "Black-robed" ministers of the colonies called the "Black Regiment," according to Lear, who appears in full colonial regalia in photos on his website.

Lear appears a bit of a Falstaff in one photo where he stands next to an artful sign proclaiming:

Biblical View
of Government
...state is
...state authority is
...leads to
...results in Republic
...based on

Minutemen United

The group Minutemen United describes itself:

"Minutemen United is a group of men and women dedicated to creating an environment where Christian thoughts, ideals and leaders can get traction in the marketplace of ideas. We hail from New York to California and are headquartered in Ohio 'the heart of it all'. "
"We recognize and honor those brave souls who prayed, lived and died for our Constitutional Republic. We believe the founding fathers "got it" when they created a ruling document and supporting instruments that serve and undeniably recognize our creator - the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob."

According to Minutemen United:

"In April of 2006 a group of Christian Patriots traveled to Danbury, Connecticut and held a prayer vigil at the site of the original Danbury Baptist Church. It was at that church that the course of America changed when the Baptist constructed a letter to then-President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's response of 1801 contained the much-quoted line "separation of church and state" that was eventually made law by Justice Hugo Black and the Supremes in 1947."

Minutemen United is run by Dave Daubenmire:

"Dave Daubenmire, a veteran 25 year high school football coach, was spurred to action when attacked and eventually sued by the ACLU in the late 1990's for alledgedly mixing prayer with his coaching."

"More than two centuries later we believe that America is facing another crisis. If God fearing men and women do not arise to action NOW, we believe that the very sovereignty of this great nation may once again be in jeopardy. It is our belief that the only thing that can save this nation is a return to Christ. We declare Him to be our Commander-in-Chief, and choose to fight the battle by standing on the Word of God."

Coach Dave Daubenmir also runs "Pass the Salt Ministries."

"Challenging the 'church of the Status Quo', Pass The Salt is calling Christians to engage the culture. By taking the fight to the enemy Coach Daubenmire has become a recognizable voice with the media as he is an unashamed, articulate, apologist for the Christian world view. Coach's willingness to stand with Judge Moore in Alabama, Terri Schiavo in Florida, and the 10 commandments in Washington DC, has enabled him to partner with some of the nationally known voices in America."

"In addition to his weekly radio show, Coach has made regular national appearances on Hannity and Colmes, CBS Evening News, Scarborough Country on MSNBC, Fox News, The Edge with Paula Zahn, Dayside with Linda Vester, and Court TV."

Featured products include an audio series titled "Rebuilding the Walls:"

Massachusetts was the site of the 2006 Liberty Sunday rally which I wrote about previously:

October 15: Liberty Sunday - Bigotry, Gay Bashing, and Partisan Pandering

Liberty Sunday: Gay Bashing for Republican Victory

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Friday, March 16, 2007

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare - Part Eight: The Child, the Family, the Nation, and the World

This series has traced the role of early Calvinism on a particular aspect of theocratic Christian nationalism that fits neatly into what Michelle Goldberg calls a "totalist political ideology," (p. 8). Christian nationalists do not just want to enforce narrow authoritarian frameworks on their own children and families--they see this hierarchical model as necessary for reforming the community, the nation, and the entire world.

While Christian Right dominionists seem obsessed with gender issues, they have been melded into an ultraconservative political movement that shares with them an interest in two other issue areas: hyper-individualistic libertarian economic policies, and an aggressive unilateral U.S. foreign policy.

John Calvin

The ultraconservative coalition was carefully crafted over many decades. When ultraconservative political strategists saw how many Christian evangelicals voted for "born again" Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976, they set out to pull these voters back into the Republican Party to reshape it and move it to the political right (Berlet & Lyons: pp. 220-224; see note one).

As Matthew N. Lyons and I explain in Right-Wing Populism in America:

"A key step in this movement-building process took place in 1979, when Robert Billings of the National Christian Action Council invited rising televangelist Jerry Falwell to a meeting with right-wing strategists Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie, and Ed McAteer. The main idea was to push the issue of abortion as a way to split social conservatives away from the Democratic Party. This meeting came up with the idea of the "Moral Majority," which Falwell turned into an organization. The New Right coalition really jelled at this point with the creation of a frame of reference with which to mobilize a mass base, (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222; citing D'Souza, pp. 105-118; Martin, pp. 200-201; Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 49-63).

Anxiety over changing gender roles were linked in subtle ways to White tensions over race relations.

"Following Wallace's example, the New Right used coded racial appeals while avoiding explicit ethnic bigotry. Racism was reframed as concern about specific issues such as welfare, immigration, taxes, or education policies. Movement activists such as Viguerie denounced liberal reformism as an elitist attack on regular working people. In some cases, this antielitism drew directly on the producerist tradition" (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222)

For example, ultraconservative activist William Rusher declared that a:

"new economic division pits the producers--businessmen, manufacturers, hard-hats, blue-collar workers, and farmers--against the new and powerful class of non-producers comprised of a liberal verbalist elite (the dominant media, the major foundations and research institutions, the educational establishment, the federal and state bureaucracies) and a semipermanent welfare constituency, all coexisting happily in a state of mutually sustaining symbiosis,"(Rusher: p. 14; see note two)

So gender, race, and collectivism were hot buttons to be pushed along with the classic staple of the Christian Right: fear of communism and the Soviet Union. As Kazin expalins, the New Right coalition was a "multi-issue, multi-constituency offensive" that developed a new set of frames through which to see politics in the United States:

"Conservatives talked like grassroots activists but were able to behave like a counter-elite. Within their coalition were Sunbelt corporations opposed to federal regulation and high taxes; churches mobilized to reverse the spread of "secular humanism"; local groups that protested school busing, sex education, and other forms of bureaucratic meddling in "family issues," and foundations that endowed a new generation of intellectuals and journalists, (Kazin: p. 247).

The central scapegoats used to mobilize mass support included abortion, gay
rights, and prayer in schools. "Family Values" became a code word for a
particular form of Christian conservative social and political practice.

Since the 1980s and the rise of the Christian Right, public policy regarding social welfare (and especially the treatment of criminals) has echoed the patriarchal and punitive child-rearing practices favored by many Protestant fundamentalists. Most readers will recognize the phrase: "Spare the rod and spoil the child." This idea comes from a particular authoritarian version of fundamentalist belief.

According to Greven:

"The authoritarian Christian family is dependent on coercion and pain to obtain obedience to authority within and beyond the family, in the church, the community, and the polity. Modern forms of Christian fundamentalism share the same obsessions with obedience to authority characteristic of earlier modes of evangelical Protestantism, and the same authoritarian streak evident among seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglo-American evangelicals is discernible today, for precisely the same reasons: the coercion of children through painful punishments in order to teach obedience to divine and parental authority," (Greven: p. 198).

The belief in the awful and eternal punishment of a literal Hell justifies the punishment, shame, and discipline of children by parents who want their offspring to escape a far worse fate. This includes physical or "corporal" forms of punishment. "Many advocates of corporal punishment are convinced that such punishment and pain are necessary to prevent the ultimate destruction and damnation of their children's souls," (Greven: p. 62).

This is often accompanied by the idea that a firm male hand rightfully dominates the family and the society, (Greven: p. 199).

The system of authoritarian and patriarchal control used in some families is easily transposed into a framework for conservative public policy, especially in the criminal justice system.

Lakoff explains that on a societal level, according to conservative "Strict Father morality, harsh prison terms for criminals and life imprisonment for repeat offender are the only moral options." The arguments by conservatives are "moral arguments, not practical arguments. Statistics about which policies do or do not actually reduce crime rates do not count in a morally-based discourse." These "traditional moral values" conservatives tend not to use explanations based on the concepts of class and social causes, nor do they recommend policy based on those notions," (Lakoff: p. 201).

According to Lakoff:

For liberals the essence of America is nurturance, part of which is helping those who need help. People who are "trapped" by social and economic forces need help to "escape." The metaphorical Nurturant Parent--the government--has a duty to help change the social and economic system that traps people. By this logic, the problem is in the society, not in the people innocently "trapped." If social and economic forces are responsible, then other social and economic forces must be brought to bear to break the "trap."

This whole picture is simply inconsistent with Strict Father morality and the conservative worldview it defines. In that worldview, the class hierarchy is simply a ladder, there to be climbed by anybody with the talent and self-discipline to climb it. Whether or not you climb the ladder of wealth and privilege is only a matter of whether you have the moral strength, character, and inherent talent to do so, (Lakoff: p. 203).

To conservatives, the liberal arguments about class and impoverishment, and institutionalized social forces such as racism and sexism, are irrelevant. They appear to be "excuses for lack of talent, laziness, or some other form of moral weakness," (Lakoff: p. 203).

Much of this worldview traces to the lingering backbeat of Calvinist theology that infuses "common sense" for many conservatives. To this brand of conservatism, it doesn't matter if it is the child, the family, the community, the nation, or the entire world: to avoid chaos and immorality, there needs to be a strong authority figure willing to apply punishment, shame, and discipline--verbally if possible--through physical force and violence if need be.

The Bush administration, with the backing of millions of Christian conservatives, seeks to reform the global village by spanking its perceived miscreants--and they have the military arsenal to back up this neo-Calvinist authoritarian worldview.


Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford.

Brooks, Clem, and Jeff Manza. (1996). "The Religious Factor in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1960-1992." Paper, annual meeting, American Sociological Association, New York, NY. Revised and included in Jeff Manza and Clem Brooks, Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignment and U.S. Party Coalitions (pp. 85-127). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Diamond, Sara. (1989). Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1998). Not by Politics Alone: The Enduring Influence of the Christian Right. New York: Guilford Press.

D'Souza, Dinesh. (1984). Falwell, Before the Millennium: A Critical Biography. Chicago: Regnery Gateway.

Green, John C., James L. Guth, and Kevin Hill. (1993). "Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978-1988." The Journal of Politics, vol. 55, no. 1, February, pp. 80-91.

Greven, Philip. 1991. Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Knopf.

Hardisty, Jean V. (1999). Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston: Beacon.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. (1990). To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kazin, Michael. (1995). The Populist Persuasion: An American History. New York: Basic Books.

Lakoff, George. [1996] 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Martin, William. (1996). With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. (1994). Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Phillips, Kevin P. (1975). Mediacracy: American Parties and Politics in the Communications Age. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Rusher, William. (1975). The Making of the New Majority Party. Ottawa, IL: Greenhill Publications.

Note One: On Christian Evangelical Voting Patterns:

These are the cites Matthew N. Lyons and I used to explain how we arrived at our survey of voting patterns:

Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 55-56; Roads to Dominion, pp. 172-177, 209-210, 231-233; Not by Politics Alone, pp. 67-69; Himmelstein, To the Right, pp. 122-123; Green, Guth, and Hill, "Faith and Election"; William Martin, With God on Our Side, pp. 148-159, 197-220; Brooks and Manza, "Religious Factor."

Viguerie estimated that between 5 million and 7.5 million "born-again Christians voted for Nixon or Wallace in 1968 and for Nixon in 1972, but switched to Carter in 1976," and that he and his allies in the New Right set out to win them back to vote for Reagan in 1980 (Viguerie, New Right, pp. 155-174, quote from p. 156). This figure is probably unrealistically high, but the belief in those numbers helped shape the New Right election strategy.

Diamond credits the addition of 2 million new voters in 1980 to "the combined efforts of Moral Majority, Christian Voice, and New Right electoral vehicles" like Howard Phillips's Conservative Caucus and Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation (Roads to Dominion, p. 233).

Note Two: On Rusher

The quote from Rusher in Making of the New Majority Party, is also quoted in Omi and Winant, Racial Formation, p. 127. Rusher, in his text, urges readers to consult Kevin Phillips' book: Mediacracy.

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate
Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare
Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies
Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism
Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism
Part Eight: The Child, The Family, The Nation, & the World

Based on the Public Eye article "Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration"

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking - 3

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part three of a speech I gave in 2006.

The full title of this speech was originally: "Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties: Church and State in the New Millennium."

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON's 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part three.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking - 2

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part two of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: "Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium."

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON's 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part two.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking - 1

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part one of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: "Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium."

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON's 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part one.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The New Christian Right Leadership Network

Who will be setting the agenda for the Christian Right in 2007? Several groups would like to assume that role, although they will have to figure out exactly what happened in the 2006 midterm elections and how to ensure that White Christian evangelicals vote the Christian Right party line in 2008. For many years the Christian Right pre-election voter mobilization conference was hosted by the Christian Coalition, with the title "Road to Victory." The Christian Coalition, however, has unraveled as a national group. In late September 2006 a coalition of Christian Right groups stepped into the void and staged a national pre-election conference, the Values Voters Washington Briefing.

According to a report published by Political Research Associates, "The conference was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, with Tony Perkins at the helm. Cosponsors included the political action arms of three other Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon). Most of these groups have close historical ties. Dobson's Focus on the Family created the FRC to lobby Congress before it was spun off as a separate entity. Gary Bauer ran the FRC from 1988 to 1999. The wild card in this coalition is Wildmon, known for his inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric and occasional detours into veiled anti-Semitism. His American Family Association pulls this coalition further to the right."

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund has partnered with the Family Research Council, and is likely to get more media attention in the coming months as court cases are filed. What follows are some capsule descriptions from the PRA report, by Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain, Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006:

Family Research Council Action

Focus on the Family was originally located in Southern California, far from the Washington public policy debates during the 1970s. Founder James Dobson created a Washington presence for his organization by starting a think tank/lobbying arm and calling it the Family Research Council. Incorporated in 1983, the FRC was at first a closely aligned with Focus on the Family, becoming more influential under the leadership of Gary Bauer from 1988 to 1990 when Bauer then left to become a candidate for President. Issues around tax-exempt status resulted in a separation between Focus and the FRC, and now both organizations have 501 c (4) spinoffs, Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council Action, to allow them greater permission to lobby.

The organization has maintained its focus on its definition of family issues: opposition to reproductive rights, homosexuality, and support for strictly traditional gender roles. The current President is Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator.

Perkins maintains a strong connection to FRC members through his daily web messages from Washington and a print distribution center in Holland, MI, the home of the FRC’s original benefactor, Edgar Prince. In the twenty years since its founding, the FRC has become the premier lobbying arm of the Christian Right in Washington, well positioned to sponsor its recent summit.

Focus on the Family Action

From an Arcadia, CA radio show that began in 1977, Focus on the Family has grown to become the largest Christian Right organization in the country, with a campus of buildings on 50 acres of land in Colorado Springs, CO, an annual budget of $130 million, and its own zip code. James Dobson is its founder, a Christian conservative trained as a child psychologist. While Dobson has always emphasized the evangelical nature of the group, its mission, according to its own 2000 strategy statement, was to motivate “the people of God to practical action in their communities and our nation in defense of righteousness.”

At two points in Focus’ history, it became clear that Dobson would need a separate organization to representing the group when it wished to lobby. First came the Family Research Council in 1983, but as that group developed its own identity, Dobson founded Focus on the Family Action in 2004 to represent his own advocacy interests and once again to protect the 501 c (3) status of his parent organization.

Focus on the Family Action takes a hard line on homosexuality, whether it be same sex marriage, the ex-gay movement, or normalizing homosexuality in schools. It holds positions against gambling, pornography, and activist judges, and in October 2006 it joined forces with FRC Action to produce a voter scorecard.

Americans United to Preserve Marriage

Gary Bauer, this group’s President, has been associated with a number of Christian Right organizations since he served in the Reagan administration. Assuming the post of President of the FRC in 1988, Bauer led the group through a major growth stage, leaving to run for President in 2000. Less successful in attracting popular support as a candidate than as a voice of Christian social conservatism, Bauer withdrew after faring poorly in the early primaries.

In 1996 he founded the Campaign for Working Families (CWF), a political action committee, directing individual campaign contributions to the group’s endorsed candidates. The organization claimed credit for helping many conservative victories in 2002. Positioning itself as “Pro-life, Pro-family and Pro-growth,” the CWF reassured contributors that, “Supporting CWF takes the guesswork out of identifying the true conservatives from the pretenders.”

Ported from Talk to Action
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