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#EndorseThis: CNN Anchor Traps Right-Wing Preacher Into Dumbest-Ever Trump Defense

Many Americans have long-suspected that the Christian Right is full of hypocrites and opportunists. Few incidents have ever provided more proof than the Donald Trump-Stormy Daniels controversy.

In today’s clip, CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin confronts Republican pastor Darrell Scott with very interesting video footage of Trump shot in 2015 at a “Family Leadership Summit” where The Donald ducks and dodges to avoid admitting he isn’t really a Christian at all.

Scott insists Trump isn’t the same person who manipulated Daniels 12 years ago. But he tough CNN host asks Scott to comment on the another recent video, in which 45 tells a crowd of faith-based supporters he has never asked God to forgive him…for anything.

The pastor’s reply is one of the all-time classics. Click and prepare to be astonished.

Why The Christian Right Is Rejoicing Under Trump’s Presidency

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

In early 2016, few evangelical leaders were on Team Trump, as they had Ted Cruz and other conservative Christians to choose from in a crowded Republican presidential field. After Donald Trump embarrassed his GOP competition and became the party’s nominee, prominent evangelicals began changing their tune. Some, including a number of outspoken anti-LGBT activists, worked with the Trump campaign on a large evangelical advisory board. After Trump won the presidency with 81 percent of the white evangelical vote, most far-right Christian leaders who hadn’t endorsed him came around. Many were gleeful, and some even pronounced that God had stepped in and handed Trump the job.

That excitement has grown since the election as Trump prepared for and took office, nominating several ultra-conservative Christians for key posts and promptly following through on several of his campaign promises tailored to evangelical voters. Trump had already picked far-right evangelical Mike Pence for vice president. Then he nominated Betsy DeVos, who was raised in a Calvinist community in Michigan, for secretary of education and Seventh-Day Adventist Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development secretary, and appointed several other conservative Christians to additional top positions in the administration.

Ronnie Floyd, an Arkansas megachurch pastor and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the Washington Post that the Trump administration was full of “followers of Christ,” not just DeVos but Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price, EPA head Scott Pruitt, Energy nominee Rick Perry, Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“The administration has been way over the top in giving them visibility and recognition that we can bring values,” said Floyd, who was part of Trump’s evangelical advisory team and gave a prayer at Trump’s prayer service during inauguration weekend.

Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University who was the first major evangelical figure to endorse Trump, has said that hundreds of evangelicals are getting lower-level positions in the Trump administration.

On January 31, Trump nominated the ultra-conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He’s the judge who wrote the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, enabling businesses to refuse to pay for insurance coverage of contraception based on “religious objections.” Gorsuch, who is considered to the right of even the late Antonin Scalia, is seen by conservative Christians as someone they can count on to oppose abortion and expand their ability to legally discriminate against LGBT people via “religious freedom.”

“I thank God that if confirmed, this administration will have delivered on one of its most critical campaign promises—to appoint a judge in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia,” said far-right Christian James Dobson, who served on Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

Also January 31, Trump appointed Falwell to lead a higher education task force bent on “deregulating” education. Two days later, Trump attended the National Prayer Breakfast, where in a bizarre speech he pledged to repeal the Johnson Amendment, allowing churches to spend money on politics and potentially operate like super PACs.

Trump reinstated the “global gag rule” (or “Mexico City policy”), which prevents U.S.-funded foreign organizations from discussing abortion with their clients or advocating abortion law liberalization, but he made it harsher than under George W. Bush. This rule now pulls all public health funding from organizations, even to vital AIDS and HIV programs, that address abortion. And the president has promised to overturn Roe v. Wade and to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood.

In late January, the Trump administration circulated a “religious freedom” executive order that legalizes discrimination, allowing any government agency or any private business to deny services to LGBT people. Trump has since backed away from that order, but another may come in the near future.

On Feb. 22, Trump went ahead with anti-LGBT discrimination. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the charge, the Trump administration rolled back Barack Obama-era protections requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. Education secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly opposed the move—which some doubt based on her religious beliefs and her parents’ funding of anti-LGBT hate groups—but Trump and Sessions strong-armed her into backing it. The next day, DeVos went on to call Obama’s transgender guidance “a huge example…of overreach.”

With all the good news for the Christian right coming so quickly, Falwell said evangelicals are “a happy group of people right now.”

Franklin Graham, who gave a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, spoke at a December “thank-you rally” for Trump in Mobile, Alabama, reiterating that God had showed up for Trump on election night. He was thrilled at Trump’s selection of Gorsuch, writing on Facebook, “Once again he has kept a campaign promise—how refreshing!” He concluded his post with this: “Now we need to pray that God will overrule the liberal socialists and progressives who will do everything in their power to block this nomination.”

Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and chair of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, was “prominently seated” at a ceremony honoring Gorsuch. In a Fox News op-ed, he praised DeVos for her strong support of public vouchers to send children to private religious schools. DeVos has said she wants to “advance God’s kingdom” through education.

Televangelist Pat Robertson, one of the most extreme right-wing evangelicals of note, came to Trump’s defense after his “pussy-grabbing” comments surfaced. Now Robertson says people who oppose Trump are revolting against God, and he muses that Obama and Democrats may have enacted a conspiracy to take down the shamed Michael Flynn, who didn’t last a month as national security advisor because he lied about having prior contact with Russia.

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council, is sanguine about Trump upholding religious liberty, which in his case means legal discrimination of LGBT people by “religious” businesses with federal contracts. Perkins also praised Gorsuch’s nomination.

Far-right Christian organizations are also happy with Trump and his executive orders. The Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center recently classified as an anti-LGBT hate group, said of the gag rule, “The president has done the right and logical thing in reinstating a policy that never should have been rescinded.” ADF was founded by Dobson and several other Christian right leaders in 1994 and since then has opposed equal rights for LGBT people and even pushed to criminalize homosexuality abroad.

Christian leaders aren’t just thrilled with Trump’s actions and promises, they’re gratified by the surprising amount of access they have to the president. Falwell told the Washington Post that he, along with other members of Trump’s evangelical advisory board including televangelists James Robison and Paula White, have never had such easy access to a president. “I’m very shocked by how accessible he is to so many. He answers his cellphone any time of the day or night.”

Trump has also answered his cellphone for Robison. Dobson says he can call Pence on his cell.

Plenty of evangelical leaders oppose Trump, or at least, his refugee ban, but the most extreme members of the evangelical movement are quite pleased.

Few would have predicted Trump’s stellar relationship with far-right Christians. But now that he’s won them over, benefited from their political support, and amassed a White House featuring many evangelical conservatives, LGBT protections, abortion rights, and public school funding are on the line.

Alex Kotch is an independent investigative journalist based in Brooklyn, NY. Follow him on Twitter at @alexkotch.

IMAGE: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (L), joined by her husband Dick DeVos (2nd L), at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Without The Christian Right, There Would Be No President Trump

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The so-called “alt-right” may have grabbed most of the attention since Donald Trump’s victory, but it’s the Christian right that got him over the line. And experts say they are much more likely to influence how he governs.

Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates, has studied the Christian right for decades. He says that when it comes to their relationship with the morally erratic Trump, it’s all about the art of the deal.

“The Christian right has matured as a political movement. They recognize that you can’t always get political leaders who conform with your beliefs as consistently and wholly as you’d like.”

“Even though he doesn’t appear to be their guy, they can make deals with him that would make him into their guy in a way that no one else has ever been.”

Ralph Reed, chairman of the evangelical Faith and Freedom Coalition, appeared to confirm Clarkson’s analysis when he spoke to Fox News. “They were never under any illusions that Donald Trump was one of them,” he said of his evangelical flock. “And by the way, they never asked him to be. All they asked was that he shared their issues agenda and that he would fight for it. He persuaded them on both of those points.”

A lot of post-election coverage (some of it unnecessarily fawning) has considered the newer, shinier, openly white supremacist alt-right movement. And people are right to be concerned about the influence of its White House sympathizers like Steve Bannon. But the fascist core of the movement likely numbers around 10,000 or less. Trump, ever the opportunist, has already cut loose some of the more outre leaders, like Richard Spencer. Also, the wide variety of right-wing actors who lay claim to the alt-right tag are already riven by infighting.

The upsurge of hate crimes around the country should be monitored and resisted, but it seems possible that the “hipster fascists” have already peaked in terms of their national political clout. Recent bizarre speeches by Richard Spencer presage a future of increasing isolation.

The Christian right’s adherents, on the other hand, include tens of millions of the most disciplined voters in the country. And there’s a very good case to be made that they won Trump the election. Just look at the numbers.

In 2016, white evangelical Christians composed 26 percent of the electorate—just as they did in 2012, 2008, and 2004.

And their quarter of the total vote in 2016 went 81-16 percent for the Republican. This gave Donald Trump a slightly bigger share of evangelicals than Mitt Romney, the pious Mormon, in 2012, or war hero John McCain in 2008. Trump even slightly outdid George W. Bush’s 2004 share, even though W identified as a born-again Christian.

According to exit polls, these numbers and proportions meant that the evangelical vote alone almost entirely negated Clinton’s advantage among nonwhites. (Of the 29 percent of voters who were nonwhite, Clinton got 74 percent of the vote.)

And while there’s been a lot of talk about the “white working class” and its grievances, other figures suggest that the combination of race and religious identity may have been even more potent.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, “the proportion of white Christians in each of the 50 states is more strongly correlated with support for Trump than is the proportion of white residents without a college degree in the state.” If we use education as a proxy for class, in the states that flipped Trump it mattered less than religion.

The places where Trump outperformed expectations to clinch the election—like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Iowa—all have white Christian majorities.

As the PRRI’s CEO Robert P. Jones points out, in 2016, when we measure the United States as a whole, white Christians (a category that includes white evangelicals, but is not limited to them) are only 43 percent of the population.

His recent book, The End of White Christian America, predicted that white Christians would, on the whole, decline in their demographic and electoral dominance. He stands by the overall argument, but admits 2016 didn’t exactly bear out his conclusions.

“Where I was wrong, where I was surprised, is that I said in the book that Mitt Romney’s campaign was the last one in which you could plausibly stack up enough white Christian voters to get you over the line.”

“I would say that what you are seeing is that last gasp of this particular group, rather than any reversal of major trends.”

The key this year was turnout. The Obama coalition, faced with an uninspiring Democratic candidate, stayed home in droves in key states. The Christian right—losing ground demographically and in the culture wars—came out to vote. While Clinton piled up redundant votes in safe states like California, evangelicals helped to pry loose the upper Midwest for Trump.

The fact that they did may seem puzzling. Trump is on his third wife, cheerfully admits to serial adultery and even sexual assault, and has been inconsistent over time on the kinds of moral issues—abortion, homosexuality—that exercise evangelicals. His own expressions of faith seemed pro forma; he generally gives the appearance of being the most godless candidate in living memory.

As a result, some evangelical leaders, like Russell Moore, were firmly in the #nevertrump camp, seeing the candidate’s moral flaws as disqualifying. (Moore declined the opportunity to comment on this story.)

Millions of evangelicals were able to get past this, in part, because of their fear and loathing of Hillary Clinton. Clarkson says they voted from similar sentiments to many other voting blocs, choosing, as they saw it, the lesser of two evils.

“One candidate was beyond the pale and another candidate was acceptable to them.”

Despite Trump’s apparent “lack of a serious religiosity,” and a very mixed record on abortion and homosexuality, Clinton was more feared on the grounds of policy.

“She was not just pro-choice but seen as pro-abortion, she was seen as pro-marriage equality, she was seen as pro-gay rights, she was seen as anti-family. She represented the kind of demonized feminism that has animated their movement for a couple of decades now. It’s hard for liberals to see how people are affected by those issues, but they are.”

Clinton has held her place as a bete noire of the Christian right for decades.

Carin Robinson, a political scientist who coauthored Onward Christian Soldiers? The Christian Right in American Politics recalls that when she was studying the Christian right in the 1990s, “On numerous occasions I received mailings from these groups that said Hillary Clinton was going to take away my Bible. She has been used as a means of mobilizing, inspiring fear and getting evangelicals to vote.“

Having her appoint a Supreme Court justice was the worst prospect of all. Robinson says that “The evangelicals I have spoken to, it just came down to that Supreme Court nomination, and having that crystallized by the death of Scalia. It was all about that empty chair.”

But even with this hostility to Clinton as a baseline, how did they come to terms with Trump? How did they come to select him in the primary above candidates with other Christian candidates? Jones thinks it was because his campaign messages were not in fact at odds with evangelicals’ values—in fact he was speaking straight to them.

“It was really this bigger argument Trump was making about turning the clock back. If you’re a white evangelical your numbers are slipping due to immigration, and because your children and grandchildren are leaving the church. Trump’s rhetoric gave a sense of turning the clock back to a time when your values, your demographic had sway in the country.”

“He converted values voters into nostalgia voters.”

He says “the data doesn’t really support” the idea that these voters were holding their noses as they voted for Trump. In pre-election surveys, white evangelicals expressed opinions that chimed with Trump’s key messages. The evinced hostility to migrants, and a belief in pervasive “reverse” racism and a sense that the country is adrift.

“When you look at him on the stump, he was saying to evangelicals, ‘your numbers used to be increasing, now they’re decreasing. If you elect me, you’ll have a friend in the white house who will restore power to the Christian churches. I’m you’re last chance, folks.’

But Clarkson instead points to Trump’s concrete offerings.

“To some extent it didn’t matter who the non-Hillary candidate was. The question was, what kind of deal could they strike? This was the most openly transactional electorate for the Christian right we have ever seen. What did they get? We don’t know the answer exactly, but let’s look at the results so far.”

During the campaign, Clarkson said, Trump made all the right noises about easing Christians’ sense of persecution in an increasingly liberal cultural and legal climate. One key issue carried a particular weight. “He said he was going to be very forceful about religious liberty, and particularly the Johnson Amendment.”

This was a change President Johnson made to the tax code, preventing certain kinds of nonprofits, like churches, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Trump has called for its repeal.

It’s not just the tax code that concerns them, though. “There’s a deeper agenda” for the big evangelical organizations, according to Clarkson.

“They don’t want to comply with civil rights and labor laws, or “complicit,” as they see it, with abortion in any way, or see taxes go into things they don’t support.”

These beliefs frame attitudes from everything from healthcare to gay marriage. Evangelical organizations and their adherents don’t want to participate in healthcare plans that fund birth control or abortion, any more than they want to bake cakes for gay couples or be forced to consider them for employment.

Religious liberty so defined “is a banner they are willing to follow. If he is prepared to appoint Supreme Court justices that support that view, cases like the Bob Jones decision would be vulnerable.”

That was the decision made back in 1983, where the Supreme Court ruled that the IRS could revoke Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status for banning interracial relationships.

Trump’s promises on these issues have been taken very seriously by Christian right leaders.

Jim Daly, of Focus on the Family, wrote in a newsletter the day after the election, “We are grateful for Mr. Trump’s pro-life pledge and look forward to his promise of a pro-life administration, which includes de-funding Planned Parenthood. We’re also optimistic about the president-elect’s pledge to champion pro-religious liberty policies and once again welcome faith in the public square.”

The elevation of Mike Pence as Trump’s running-mate was a big reassurance to leaders like Dobson, and his millions of followers. Pence identifies as an evangelical Christian, and according to Robinson, “has great credentials among Christian right leaders.” Clarkson says that during the campaign, Pence “personally reassured” evangelical voters. “He spoke to voters at the values voters summit and reassured of them of Trump’s bona fides. He told them that he is in favour of religious liberty. And he had the standing to say that.”

Trump has put Pence in charge of the transition team, giving him enormous power over determining the shape of Trump’s cabinet. His decisions have already pleased the faithful.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition has issued statements welcoming the appointment of Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary, anticipating that, “he will lead the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare and its unconstitutional mandate.” Similarly, they welcomed Jeff Sessions as someone who would “to make our country a better place and ensure that the concerns of people of faith are upheld at the highest level of our government.” (AlterNet reached out to the Faith and Freedom Coalition for further comments, but its spokesman did not respond to emails before the deadline for this story.)

As for Jerry Falwell Jr., who heads up the evangelical Liberty University, he says that the transition team offered him the Education Secretary gig, before handing it off to billionaire ideologue Betsy DeVos. He was a strong backer of Trump during the campaign, and even censored anti-Trump material in the University’s newspaper.

But Pence may wind up with even more heft after Inauguration Day.

Reports that Trump offered John Kasich a slew of hitherto presidential powers when he was wooing him as a potential running mate gives Frederick Clarkson pause. If Pence got the same offer, “that would make him the most powerful vice president in American history.”

Meanwhile, the things the administration doesn’t do might be as significant as its positive moves. For example, any relaxation of enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by a Sessions Department of Justice will only give white Christian voters greater relative sway. And refusing to fund Planned Parenthood will just make it harder for women to maintain control over their reproductive rights, especially in red states that aren’t inclined to make up the shortfalls.

Trump owes evangelicals, and the early signs are that he will deliver. He will need them again in 2020, and again they might be crucial to the election result.

While it’s true that America is no longer a majority white Christian country, and is grinding toward a minority-majority future, what counts in elections is voters. While Jones thinks that white Christian America is on the slide, Clarkson points to their resiliency, and the way that in spite of population changes, they are still able to make themselves a part of winning electoral coalitions.

“There is a certain wishful thinking that has attended the rise and continuation of the religious right.”

“Pentecostalism is the fastest-growing sector of American Christianity. It is a grouping of people who have gone from being the least political to the most political. They are organized.”

They may be a much more serious long-term danger than the outright fascists, because one of the things they are best at organizing is the vote.

Jason Wilson is a writer and photographer based in Portland, Oregon. His internationally published work has appeared in many outlets including The Guardian (where he is a columnist), AlterNet, The Atlantic, and Religion Dispatches. 

IMAGE: Members of the clergy lay hands and pray over Donald Trump at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Endorse This: Ellen vs. The Christian Right


Ellen DeGeneres had a special segment on her TV show Wednesday, in which she replied to a religious right columnist who attacked her supposedly trying to influence the young girls of America with a “gay agenda” — though as she noted, he’s the one who’s actually watching a lot of gay TV.

Click above to watch Ellen reveal her true agenda — complete with a dose of some hypnosis — then share this video!

Video via The Ellen DeGeneres Show.