On Todd Starnes’ radio show Wednesday, Mat Staver, founder and chairman of religious-right legal group Liberty Counsel, compared the plight of Christians in America facing enforcement of social distancing restrictions to the kinds of treatment faced by Jews in Nazi Germany.
Liberty Counsel is making the most of the COVID-19 pandemic to portray itself as a defender of embattled religious liberty and push the group’s narrative that Christians in America are facing unprecedented persecution—a narrative that also happens to be one of President Donald Trump’s main tactics for motivating and turning out conservative evangelical voters for his reelection campaign.
Starnes is himself one of the primary promoters of Christian persecution stories, and he and Staver talked about cases in which local officials have taken action against pastors and churchgoers for violating public health restrictions on group gatherings. Liberty Counsel is representing Tampa, Florida-based evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested for defying a local stay-at-home order, and others who have run into that kind of trouble.
Staver told Starnes about people who lost their jobs or were told they were unwelcome in a drug store when people realized they attended churches that had drawn media attention for continuing to gather. “It is unbelievable the harassment, the targeting of these churches all over the country,” Staver said. And he said a Virginia pastor Liberty Counsel is representing faces a year in prison for having “six people over the governor’s magic number of 10 in a 293-seat sanctuary.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this ever before, anything come close to this,” Staver said. “This is the most outrageous and, frankly, unbelievable situation I’ve ever seen with regards to the absolute disregard of the Constitution.”
And Staver made what certainly seems to be a comparison to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews, though he did not use those exact words:
So, it is absolutely—I mean, it’s a targeting. It is, you know, I don’t want to be too melodramatic, but I’m telling you what. You know, this happened before in history. We’ve seen people being targeted, that you are being targeted with a particular symbol that you have to wear. And then so you get targeted with your business, you get terminated from your job, and eventually you get ghettoized. And what we’re seeing here is the absolute targeting of Christians in churches to a level I’ve never even imagined would happen in America.
On Monday, Liberty Counsel launched its “ReOpen Church” campaign, “calling on the churches to open and believers to start meeting again on Sunday, May 3.” It is clear that in some parts of the country, restrictions on public gatherings will still be in place on May 3, suggesting that Liberty Counsel may be hoping to provoke additional incidents that they can portray as anti-Christian persecution.
Staver told Starnes:
Look, they said that we had to close for two weeks. Most people were fine with that. The two weeks went to four weeks, then the four weeks went to six weeks, and it continues to go on. So, then they said [gatherings should be limited to] 250, then 100, 50, 10—in New Mexico, it’s five people. And it goes on and on and on. When are we going to say enough is enough? Look, nobody wants to put their people in jeopardy. I don’t know of any pastor that wants to harm anyone. But we can take reasonable efforts. If the liquor stores can be open and all the other things that are open out there, the commercial operations that are open. Churches have a constitutional right to exist; those others do not. They don’t have the right to exist. But the First Amendment guarantee the church’s right to exist. The Greek word for church is ekklesia; where we get the word synagogue is from a Greek word synagoge. They both mean ‘assembly,’ places of assembly. So, let’s begin that process. Because the churches are more essential now than ever.
The website promoting Liberty Counsel’s “ReOpen Church Sunday” encourages churches to “include appropriate measures of sanitization and appropriate social distancing between families” and consider a range of options, including seating outside the building and online access for higher risk individuals.
This article was originally published at Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
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Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ‘Christian Nationalist’ Declaration Is ‘Alarming’ Says Religious Liberty Executive
Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia set off yet another controversy when, during a Saturday, July 23 interview conducted at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida, she proudly described herself as a “Christian nationalist” and urged the Republican Party to openly embrace an ideology of “Christian nationalism.” One of the people who is calling Greene out is Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) and the main organizer for Christians Against Christian Nationalism.
Greene told Taylor Hanson of the right-wing Next News Network, “We need to be the party of nationalism, and I’m a Christian. And I say it proudly: We should be Christian nationalists. When Republicans learn to represent most of the people that vote for them, then we will be the party that continues to grow without having to chase down certain identities or chase down certain segments of people.”
In an op-ed published by CNN’s website on July 28, Tyler lays out some reasons why she finds Greene’s “Christian nationalist” talk incredibly dangerous.
“For years, I have been closely tracking Christian nationalism and sounding the alarm about it,” Hanson explains. “Greene’s recent comments mark an alarming shift in the public conversation about Christian nationalism. Until recently, the public figures who most embrace Christian nationalism in their rhetoric and policies have either denied its existence or claimed that those of us who are calling it out are engaging in name-calling. But Greene is evidently reading from a different script now, explicitly embracing the identity as her own and urging others to join her.”
Tyler continues, “She is not alone in doing so. Greene’s embrace of Christian nationalism follows closely after troubling remarks from Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert: ‘The church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church,’ she said at a church two days before her primary election and victory in late June. ‘I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.'”
Tyler describes Christian nationalism as “a political ideology and cultural framework that merges Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s promise of religious freedom.”
“Though not new, Christian nationalism has been exploited in recent years by politicians like former President Donald Trump to further an ‘us vs. them’ mentality and send a message that only Christians can be ‘real’ Americans,” Tyler observes. “Growing support for Christian nationalism comes at a time when the political ideology behind it poses increasingly urgent threats to American democracy and to religious freedom. Perhaps the most chilling example of Christian nationalism came on the most public of world stages, from some Trump supporters during the January 6 insurrection.”
On February 9, BJC published a disturbing report that details the role Christian nationalism played in the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
“I care about dismantling Christian nationalism both because I’m a practicing Christian and because I’m a patriotic American,” Tyler writes. “And no, those identities are not the same. As Christians, we can’t allow Greene, Boebert or Trump to distort our faith without a fight.”
Watch Greene’s July 23 interview with Next News Network below:
They talked about God, Child Drag Shows, January 6th, and the lack of courage in the GOP. pic.twitter.com/1apZJOb2cB
— Next News Network 🇺🇲 (@NextNewsNetwork) July 24, 2022
Nikki Haley Hints at White House Run During Christian Conference Held by Pastor With ‘Record of Anti-Semitic Statements’
Nikki Haley has been called “a moderate Republican who is likely to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.” While some disagree, calling her “an extremist on Israel, Iran, and human rights,” being painted as a moderate has been beneficial to her career.
As South Carolina’s governor she took her time before agreeing to have the Confederate flag removed from flying on a flagpole by the State Capitol, but ensured it had a place inside. She served as Donald Trump‘s U.S. Ambassador to the UN but at times ensured a perception of distance between them, like criticizing Russia when Trump refused.
That promise appears to have had a limited shelf life.
Monday night, Haley headlined the Christians United for Israel Summit, a conference held by CUFI’s founder, John Hagee, a well-known far-right extremist evangelical pastor.
After her speech Haley took to Twitter to imply not only a White House run, but that she will be the next President.
Attacking any potential Biden deal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, a deal her former boss once exited, Haley tweeted: “And if this president signs any sort of deal, I’ll make you a promise… The next President will shred it – on her first day in office.”
And if this president signs any sort of deal, I’ll make you a promise… The next President will shred it – on her first day in office. #CUFISummit2022
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) July 19, 2022
That tweet catapulted her to “trending” on Twitter.
In recent years in opinion pages from CBS News to Religion News Service to Haaretz, Hagee has been blasted for antisemitic remarks.
His Christians United for Israel summit, the same one Haley headlined, in 2008 was called “Rapture Ready” by The Nation’s Max Blumenthal, who warned of Hagee’s “long record of anti-Semitic statements.”
In 2019 Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb wrote: “Anyone who actually listens to CUFI’s leader, the Rev. John Hagee, will be horrified at the meeting’s toxic blend of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and sexism.”
“Hagee and his more than 5 million followers believe that the establishment of Israel in 1948 and its subsequent military occupation and colonization of Palestinian and other Arab lands are the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the necessary precursors to the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of the apocalypse.”
Indeed, Hagee has allegedly claimed Hitler was a descendent of “accursed, genocidally murderous half-breed Jews,” while blaming them for their own persecution – including for the Holocaust – while reportedly attacking Hitler as “a spiritual leader in the Catholic Church.”
Monday night, Haley praised Pastor Hagee, whose remarks have been so toxic Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008 was forced to renounce Hagee’s endorsement.
Religion News Service in 2008 reported that “Hagee drew the ire of the nation’s largest Jewish movement for a 1990s sermon that reportedly suggested that God used Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust as part of a divine plan to have Jews return to Israel.”
CNN reported Hagee’s remarks that forced McCain to renounce his endorsement included saying, “God says in Jeremiah 16: ‘Behold, I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave to their fathers. … Behold, I will send for many fishers, and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them.’ That would be the Jews. … Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.”
Haley Monday night declared “America and Israel’s best days are yet to come!” as she thanked Pastor Hagee for inviting her to speak.
Just wrapped up an incredible night with @CUFI! A big thank you to my friend @PastorJohnHagee for inviting me to speak. America and Israel’s best days are yet to come! 🇺🇸 🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/V5Dr5ovREN
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) July 19, 2022
Former Trump White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany to Keynote Anti-LGBTQ Dominionist Event
Kayleigh McEnany, a White House press secretary under former President Donald Trump, is scheduled to speak Saturday at an event hosted by Ché Ahn, a California-based pastor and leader of the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation. “Reforming California: Taking a Stand for Life, Liberty & Family” will also feature dominionist Dutch Sheets.
McEnany’s appearance with Ahn and Sheets reflects to degree to which Pentecostal dominionists achieved unprecedented access to power during the Trump administration.
“A battle is raging for the soul of America,” declares a promotional video for the event, which repeats right-wing complaints about LGBTQ issues being taught in public schools.
NAR leaders seek to “transform” entire nations through spiritual revival and political activism to bring government policies into alignment with their biblical worldview. “Reforming California” is being sponsored by Revive California, one of the political organizations affiliated with Ahn’s Harvest International Ministry. In 2020, he launched 1RACE4LIFE, a group that asks people to pledge to vote for only anti-abortion and anti-maarriage-equality candidates. Revive California’s website includes a five-step vision that defines reformation this way: “Activate every believer to vote biblically, and learn how to run for local, state or national office.”
Ahn was an energetic supporter of Trump and the former president’s false claims to have won the 2020 presidential election. Before the election, Ahn described it as a crucial moment in the battle for the soul of America. On the eve of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters hoping to derail the peaceful transfer of power, Ahn spoke at a rally in D.C. where Christian nationalism and conspiracy theories mingled with threats of violence. Ahn told the crowd they would “change history,” adding, “I believe that this week we’re going to throw Jezebel out and Jehu’s gonna rise up, and we’re gonna rule and reign through President Trump and under the lordship of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Sheets, another NAR leader who has long taught that the church—the ekklesia—is meant to be a governing body legislating God’s will on Earth, was also a big Trump booster. In 2018, he and other NAR leaders gathered 1,300 prayer warriors at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel to call on God to remove pro-choice Supreme Court justices and destroy Trump’s enemies. The following year, Sheets helped Trump aide Paula White launch the One Voice Prayer Movement, a thinly disguised campaign operation to maintain strong evangelical support for Trump.
In the weeks after the 2020 election, Sheets waged “spiritual warfare” against what he called a demonic plot to steal the election from Trump. During one prayer session he declared, “As Christ’s ekklesia on the Earth, we have been delegated his supreme authority to declare into the spiritual realm what is lawful and what is unlawful, forbidden and allowed. … We decree the next four years of Donald John Trump’s presidency will see the fruit of God’s divine reset in America.”
Revive California’s advisory board includes other leaders associated with NAR and dominionist Pentecostalism. Among the advisory board members: Bill Johnson, the longtime leader of the controversial Northern California megachurch Bethel, which has international reach through its School of Supernatural Ministry and its music label; Shannon Grove, a California state Senator and the minority leader of state Senate; Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; religious right activists Jim Garlow and his wife Rosemary Garlow; Dran Reese, president of The Salt & Light Council, which encourages and equips conservative churches to get more involved in politics; Tony Kim, the U.S. director of Ahn’s Harvest International Ministry; and others.
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
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