Liberty University’s Standing for Freedom Center—until recently known as the Falkirk Center—announced its new class of fellows Thursday, making it clear that the organization may have a new name but it has not abandoned its purpose of promoting the religious right’s “biblical worldview” in culture and public policy. The new fellows are former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Arkansas Governor and failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, anti-abortion rights activist Abby Johnson, and brother anti-LGBTQ culture warrior duo David and Jason Benham.
Earlier this year, the university ditched the Falkirk name, presumably to distance the center from its disgraced co-founder and former president, Jerry Falwell, Jr. It has also said goodbye to its earlier crop of fellows, which included Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk, president of right-wing youth organization Turning Point USA; Jenna Ellis, a Trump attorney who now hosts her own TV show, unironically called “Just the Truth”; pundit, conspiracy theorist, and so-called Stop the Steal activist Eric Metaxas; and Steve Bannon acolyte and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka.
Executive Director Ryan Helfenbein remains in place. As Right Wing Watch noted in December, when the center celebrated its first anniversary, Helfenbein touted the organization’s aggressive posture, saying, “We don’t just want to be an organization that barks; we want to be an organization that bites.” The center bragged that it had “consistently encouraged churches and pastors to defy” pandemic-related “lockdown orders.” Among the center’s first-year accomplishments was “Get Louder,” a “faith summit” held last September, which included Christian Reconstructionist Gary DeMar on a panel moderated by Metaxas.
The Standing for Freedom Center’s new fellows have the credentials one would expect for a religious-right center that aims to bite:
Mike Pompeo used his position as secretary of state to promote the religious right’s agenda at home and abroad. He created the Commission on Unalienable Rights—which has been repudiated by the Biden administration—to create justification for a narrow view of human rights in U.S. foreign policy. As secretary of state, Pompeo opened doors in other countries for a Bible study ministry that teaches public officials that the Bible requires them to back right-wing social, economic, environmental, and criminal justice policies. Pompeo and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar worked to create a new global “pro-family” coalition of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice regimes and to celebrate governmental enforcement of “traditional” religious values on gender, sexuality, and family. Pompeo is a longtime religious-right favorite who, as a member of Congress, promoted Christian nationalism and associated with anti-Muslim activists. Axios reported this week that Pompeo is “pouring money” into a new PAC called Champion American Values in apparent preparation for a 2024 presidential run. Update: “Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated federal ethics rules governing the use of taxpayer-funded resources when he and his wife, Susan, asked State Department employees to carry out tasks for their personal benefit more than 100 times, a government watchdog has determined,” Politico reported Friday.
Mike Huckabee, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016, has remained active in religious-right politics since turning to punditry after his failed 2016 campaign. The former Arkansas governor is the honorary chairman of the religious-right get-out-the-vote operation My Faith Votes, which was active in the 2020 elections, including the Georgia Senate runoffs. Huckabee spoke at the Falkirk “Get Louder” summit last year and appeared on an Intercessors for America call in September, where he warned that if conservative Christians didn’t turn out to vote, the government would force churches to shut down. He also appeared in “Trump 2024: The World After Trump,” a religious-right “documentary” that promoted Trump’s reelection. Last year, Huckabee said, “Redefining gender and sexual identity is the ‘greatest threat’ to the moral fiber of America,” and blamed the existence of transgender people on Christian churches’ failure to teach a “biblical standard of maleness and femaleness.” Huckabee has railed against the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and has claimed that the president could criminalize abortion without a Supreme Court decision or constitutional amendment. Huckabee’s daughter, former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is running to follow in her father’s footsteps and become the next governor of Arkansas.
Abby Johnson is an anti-abortion rights activist who spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention and participated in the so-called Stop the Steal campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Johnson has become a religious-right superstar with her disputed story—dramatized in the movie “Unplanned”—about having worked for Planned Parenthood before having an epiphany about abortion. The day before the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Johnson spoke at the D.C. rally at which Stop the Steal’s Ali Alexander led cheers of “Victory or Death!” Johnson told the crowd she was there “to defend the most pro-life president we have ever had in the history of the United States.” She said that she is tired of “compromise,” which she said “has led to our houses of worship being unconstitutionally closed for months and months.” In her speech at the Jan. 5 rally, she shamed American Christians for not doing more to shut down clinics that perform abortions, saying, “It is time, patriots, to stop worrying about offending your neighbor and start worrying offending the heart of God.” She also targeted COVID-19 vaccine research, saying, “Shame on us for accepting and peddling vaccines that were produced on the back of aborted babies.” And she exhorted, “It’s time to rise up. It is time to fight back. It is time to be bold. Enough! Enough of these cowardly leaders!” Johnson once said it would be “smart” for police to racially profile her adopted biracial son because “statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons.”
David and Jason Benham. The Benham brothers became religious-right folk heroes and martyrs to “political correctness” in 2014 when HGTV canceled plans for a television show starring the duo after Right Wing Watch and others reported on their anti-LGBTQ activities. The brothers, who have repeatedly portrayed the “homosexual agenda” as aligned with Satan, were actively involved in pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation in North Carolina in 2016; they had earlier called for the Charlotte city government to deny permits for LGBTQ pride events and organized an anti-gay prayer rally when the Democratic National Convention was held there. The brothers are also active opponents of reproductive choice. In 2017, a month before they appeared at the Values Voter Summit—not for the first time—they said that hurricanes striking the U.S. were a warning for the country to repent for “breaching the boundaries of God” on gender, sexuality, and marriage. That summer, they declared, “Discrimination against gay people simply does not exist.” Earlier that year, the pair said they would skip the Super Bowl halftime show featuring Lady Gaga, warning, “The vine of Sodom has pierced and penetrated our nation at one of the biggest sporting events of the year.” The Benhams initially backed Sen. Ted Cruz for president in 2016 and joined a campaign advisory council that recommended that a President Cruz roll back federal job protections for LGBTQ people. In 2015, David Benham spoke at the supposedly “nonpolitical” prayer rally organized by Christian nationalist political operative David Lane and railed against the LGBTQ movement and the church for not doing enough to stop it.
In other news, on Thursday, Liberty sued Falwell for $10 million, alleging that he “withheld scandalous and potentially damaging information from Liberty’s board of trustees while negotiating a generous new contract for himself in 2019 under false pretenses,” the New York Times reported. The lawsuit also alleges that Falwell failed to disclose his “personal impairment by alcohol.”
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
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Legal Experts and Critics Slam Justice Clarence Thomas for ‘Speaking Out Against Something He Is Actively Doing’
Critics are observing Constitution Day by responding to remarks U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made on Thursday, when he blasted the media for criticizing decisions from the nation’s highest court and warning federal judges to not wade in to political discussions.
“When we begin to venture into the legislative or executive branch lanes, those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble,” Justice Thomas said, CNN’s Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue reports, ironically observing that Justice Thomas made those remarks “during a sweeping lecture at the University of Notre Dame that also touched on themes of equality, race and the state of the country.”
The CNN report adds:
Of all the members of the high court, Thomas has made his views on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion across the US, crystal clear. In 2007, he said that he believed that Roe and the follow-up decision called Planned Parenthood v. Casey had “no basis in the Constitution.” And in 2020, he said that Roe is “grievously wrong for many reasons, but the most fundamental is that its core holding — that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abort her unborn child — finds no support in the text of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Thomas also on Thursday “seemed to nod to the controversy” of “so-called court packing”:
“We have lost the capacity” as leaders “to not allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcomes that we like,” he said.
In rare public remarks, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a Notre Dame crowd, “I think the court was thought to be the least dangerous branch, and we may have become the most dangerous.” pic.twitter.com/EHK2pEGWdB
— The Recount (@therecount) September 17, 2021
Critics, including legal experts are weighing on on Justice Thomas’s remarks, blasting him for, as Daily Beast editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast says, “speaking out against something he is actively doing.”
Keith Boykin, a CNN political commentator who earned his law degree at Harvard and served in the Clinton White House was even more pointed:
“Clarence Thomas didn’t seem too worried about ‘destroying our institutions’ when he cast the deciding vote to make Bush president in 2000 or to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013 or when he sat silently from 2017-2021 as Trump trashed our institutions.”
Dr. Miranda Yaver, a political science professor (US law, public policy, health policy) at Oberlin blasted Justice Thomas, saying that “claiming that the Supreme Court isn’t political is nonsense and we all know it. FWIW, whenever I teach Constitutional Law and students go, ‘Who in the hell would write that opinion??’ the answer is invariably Clarence Thomas.”
Norman Ornstein, a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), laughed:
Clarence Thomas, whose rulings in key cases mysteriously always conform with his political and partisan preferences, says the justices do not make decisions based on politics. Hahahahaha https://t.co/Sxk1VVh0v2
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) September 17, 2021
VOX senior correspondent Ian Millhiser, author of “The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court is Reshaping America,” also criticizes Thomas’s apparent hypocrisy:
Clarence Thomas believes that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional. Literally the only thing this troll has ever done in his entire career is try to burn down institutions. https://t.co/aSYdkxrmd9
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) September 17, 2021
Sarah Palin Proudly Declares Herself a ‘White Common Sense Conservative’ – and Unvaccinated
Sarah Palin is back on TV. At least, she was Thursday night, on Fox News’ late night political satire show “Gutfeld!” where she announced she is not vaccinated and proudly explained why – basically getting the science wrong by leaving out important scientific findings.
“I am one of those white common sense conservatives,” Palin told host Greg Gurfeld and guest Dr. Drew Pinsky. “I believe in science and I have not taken the shot.”
“One, because the waitress never came back to ask me,” she said sarcastically, “because I do believe in science. And the Fauci-ism of the day back then was if you had COVID – I’ve had COVID – well then Mother Nature was creating an immunity and, and even today they say you know you’re 27 percent more immune.”
Dr. Drew chimed in to claim it’s “27 times” more immune.
But both are getting the science wrong – by not telling the whole story.
The highly-respected journal Science last month published an article making very clear why Palin is wrong in its title: “Having SARS-CoV-2 once confers much greater immunity than a vaccine—but vaccination remains vital.”
And while it states up front that “Israelis who had an infection were more protected against the Delta coronavirus variant than those who had an already highly effective COVID-19 vaccine,” it adds this critical information: Unvaccinated COVID survivors are more likely to contract the deadly disease again than those who have had COVID and just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Researchers, Science reports, “compared more than 14,000 people who had a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and were still unvaccinated with an equivalent number of previously infected people who received one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The team found that the unvaccinated group was twice as likely to be reinfected as the singly vaccinated.”
Sarah Palin announces she is unvaccinated pic.twitter.com/yJTsk4dnNC
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 17, 2021
29 Months Later Bill Barr’s Super Secret Russia Special Counsel Files His Second Indictment – for Alleged Lying
In April of 2019 then-Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut to open and lead an investigation into Russia – not into how Russia has been attacking the United States via cyber warfare, undermining Americans’ trust in American institutions, and using social media to do it, but into whether or not the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been warranted in opening an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including its investigation of Donald Trump.
On Thursday, 29 months after Barr first appointed John Durham (photo, right) to lead that super-secret investigation, 11 months after Barr secretly turned Durham into a special counsel to ensure the investigation would continue past his and Trump’s tenure, and after spending untold millions of taxpayer dollars, the Dept. of Justice has announced Durham has obtained a second indictment.
“A prominent cybersecurity lawyer was indicted on a charge of lying to the F.B.I. five years ago during a meeting about Donald J. Trump and Russia, the Justice Department announced on Thursday,” The New York Times reports.
The lawyer, Michael Sussmann, “of the law firm Perkins Coie, which has deep ties to the Democratic Party — is accused of making a false statement about his client at the meeting.”
Mr. Sussmann’s defense lawyers have denied the accusation, saying that he did not make a false statement, that the evidence he did is weak and that who he was representing was not a material fact in any case. They have vowed to fight any charge in court.
At issue is who was Sussman working for when he “relayed concerns by cybersecurity researchers who believed that unusual internet data might be evidence of a covert communications channel between computer servers associated with the Trump Organization and with Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked Russian financial institution.”
Apparently not at issue is if the Trump Organization or campaign had a secret communications channel to a Kremlin-linked organization.
Frequent viewers of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow are likely familiar with her reporting on Alfa Bank, including this segment from October 2018:
Durham has not obtained any indictment against anyone in Russia, any Russian operatives, any Trump Organization or campaign official, or anyone who may have been involved in Russia’s attack on the United States.
The only other indictment Durham has obtained from his two-plus year investigation? The Times in 2019 reported on a “low-level” FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, who “altered an email that officials used to prepare to seek court approval to renew the wiretap,” on Carter Page, a Trump campaign advisor.
One expert calls the indictment “weak.”
I don't think Durham is politically motivated, but this seems weak and hardly justifies his long investigation. Also a good reminder about the peril of talking to the FBI.
WaPo: Indictment issued. https://t.co/AYAUSodiMs
— Ross Garber (@rossgarber) September 16, 2021
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