In an extensive piece in the Atlantic, former George W. Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner explained that some evangelical leaders are picking through the wreckage of their congregations that were torn apart by the influence of former president Donald Trump.
Wehner, a highly vocal Christian, has been no friend of Trump and is worried that the Christian faith has been damaged by the embrace of the one-term president by high-profile evangelical leaders which, in turn, has left some congregations in tatters as Trump supporters drag his politics into the daily church dealings.
Case in point, he notes, is a battle at a Virginia church where congregants were influenced by Trump’s toxic rhetoric.
“The election of the elders of an evangelical church is usually an uncontroversial, even unifying event. But this summer, at an influential megachurch in Northern Virginia, something went badly wrong. A trio of elders didn’t receive 75 percent of the vote, the threshold necessary to be installed,” he reported before pointing out that “… church members had been misled, having been told, among other things, that the three individuals nominated to be elders would advocate selling the church building to Muslims, who would convert it into a mosque.”
According to Wehner, David Platt, the 43-year-old minister at McLean Bible Church had already been facing accusations ” … by a small but zealous group within his church of ‘wokeness’ and being ‘left of center,’ of pushing a ‘social justice’ agenda and promoting critical race theory, and of attempting to ‘purge conservative members.'”
As Wehner explains, what happened at McLean Bible Church is not an isolated event.
“What happened at McLean Bible Church is happening all over the evangelical world. Influential figures such as the theologian Russell Moore and the Bible teacher Beth Moore felt compelled to leave the Southern Baptist Convention; both were targeted by right-wing elements within the SBC,” he explained. “The root of the discord lies in the fact that many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics. When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith.”
Speaking with Wehner, historian George Marsden explained that “political loyalties can sometimes be so strong that they create a religious like faith that overrides or even transforms a more traditional religious faith,” the author recalled.
“When Trump was able to add open hatred and resentments to the political-religious stance of ‘true believers,’ it crossed a line. Tribal instincts seem to have become overwhelming,” Marsden explained before adding that Trump’s Christian followers, “have come to see a gospel of hatreds, resentments, vilifications, put-downs, and insults as expressions of their Christianity, for which they too should be willing to fight.”
“For many Christians, their politics has become more of an identity marker than their faith. They might insist that they are interpreting their politics through the prism of scripture, with the former subordinate to the latter, but in fact scripture and biblical ethics are often distorted to fit their politics,” Wehner wrote adding, “The former president normalized a form of discourse that made the once-shocking seem routine. Russell Moore laments the ‘pugilism of the Trump era, in which anything short of cruelty is seen as weakness.’ The problem facing the evangelical church, then, is not just that it has failed to inculcate adherents with its values—it’s that when it has succeeded in doing so, those values have not always been biblical.”
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Christian Anti-LGBTQ Book Banning Activist Says Gay ‘Lifestyles’ Shouldn’t Be ‘Forced Down Throats of Families’
Leigh Wambsganss, Patriot Mobile’s Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and Executive Director of Patriot Mobile Action, the far-right wing political action committee of the Christian conservative mobile phone service provider, has spent decades in the conservative media echo chamber, and now she’s getting even more attention, from The New York Times.
Wambsganss was included in a Times article Monday on anti-LGBTQ book banning. The paper, soft-pedaling the extremism presented by Wambsganss, notes “11 school board candidates backed by Patriot Mobile Action, the political action committee formed by the cellphone company, won in four districts this year.”
“The committee’s aim is to eliminate ‘critical race theory’ and ‘L.G.B.T.Q. indoctrination’ from schools, Leigh Wambsganss, its executive director, said on Steve Bannon’s show, ‘War Room.'”
The Times does report that for extremists like Wambsganss, “Even books without sexual content can be problematic if they include L.G.B.T.Q. characters, because they are ‘sexualizing children,’ she said: ‘It is normalizing a lifestyle that is a sexual choice.'”
“’Those kinds of lifestyles,’ she added, shouldn’t ‘be forced down the throats of families who don’t agree.’”
Being LGBTQ is not a “lifestyle” nor is it a “sexual choice,” nor is having an LGBTQ character in a book “sexualizing children,” nor did The Times push back against or fact-check Wambsganss’ statements.
Wambsganss’ employer, Patriot Mobile Action, has a list of 10 “We Believe” statements, including “In supporting candidates that stand for Christian conservative values,” “Our United States Constitution was founded on Judeo Christian principles” and “Critical Race Theory and Marxist policies have no place in schools or government.”
Not a word about LGBTQ issues, people, or equality or civil rights, despite that clearly being a major focus for Patriot Mobile Action.
“Leigh has been featured on Fox News, John Solomons ‘Just the News’ talk radio, Mark Davis 660AM, The Christian Perspective podcast, in the National Review, the Texas Values Report, a speaker at Turning Point USA and the Center for National Policy and quoted in multiple news media stories,” her bio at Patriot Mobile Action reads. “Leigh is a speaker and trainer on how to identify and defeat socialist Marxism in schools and government.”
Patriot Mobile, NBC News reported in August, gave Patriot Mobil Action $600,000 to spend on school board races in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Some parents are not happy. One, Rachel Wall, told NBC News that Patriot Mobile Action “bought four school boards, and now they’re pulling the strings.”
Wall is “the mother of a Grapevine-Colleyville student and vice president of the Texas Bipartisan Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting school board candidates who do not have partisan agendas.”
“I’m a Christian by faith,” she said, “but if I wanted my son to be in a religious school, I would pay for him to go to a private school.”
Wambsganss and Patriot Mobile Action appear to have a different idea.
In June, at an event hosted by far right wing activist group Turning Point USA, she introduced herself to the audience by saying, “I’m Leigh Wambsganss and my pronouns are bible believer, Jesus lover, gun carrier, and Momma Bear.”
Watch the video below or at this link.
Listen Live: SCOTUS Hears Christian Right Religion vs. LGBTQ Civil Rights Challenge
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in yet another Colorado case of a right wing Christian business owner who claims their work is artistic expression which entitles them to discriminate against LGBTQ people who want to use their product for a same-sex marriage. And once again conservatives on the nation’s highest court are being asked to, and could move towards striking down another decades-old ruling in favor of the far Christian right.
This time the case involves not a Colorado baker refusing to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, but a Colorado web designer refusing to make web sites for same-sex weddings. Both have cited their deeply held religious beliefs against marriage equality, only this time the web designer is suing not because she refused a same-sex couple – indeed, no same-sex couple has ever asked her to create a website for their wedding – but because she’s afraid someday one will.
Lorie Smith, who owns 303 Creative, objects to Colorado law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, and objects to the law banning notices or statements that a business intends to do so.
And just like the Colorado baker or the Washington florist, Smith insists she’s not anti-gay, just anti-same-sex marriage.
“If a client who identifies as gay asked her to design graphics for his animal rescue shelter or to promote an organization serving children with disabilities, Smith would happily do so,” Ms. Smith’s lawyers told the justices in a brief, The New York Times reports. “But Smith will decline any request — no matter who makes it — to create content that contradicts the truths of the Bible, demeans or disparages someone, promotes atheism or gambling, endorses the taking of unborn life, incites violence, or promotes a concept of marriage that is not solely the union of one man and one woman.”
Despite all the other issues listed, however, marriage equality is the apparent basis for the case being brought to the Court.
Indeed, a unique aspect of the case is that unlike the Colorado baker or the Washington florist, no one has ever asked Smith to make a product that violates her beliefs, so it’s unclear why the Court even accepted the case. (The Court refused to rule on the Washington florist case, and issued only a very narrow ruling in the Colorado baker case, one that the Trump White House incorrectly used to enact discriminatory policy in agencies including HHS.)
Philip J. Weiser, Colorado’s attorney general, is defending his state’s law.
“A business could, based on its claimed beliefs, refuse to bake for Catholic baptisms because it is pro-choice, photograph reunions of Black families because it opposes racial equality or create floral arrangements for events celebrating women’s business achievements because it believes only men should work outside the home,” Weiser wrote in a Court brief.
Supporters of civil rights and LGBTQ equality are concerned the activist wing of the Court, especially Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, could use this case to overturn a 1990 ruling, Employment Division v. Smith.
Indeed, Smith’s attorneys have specifically asked to Court to do so, although the Court is not expected to.
“In that case,” The Times explains, “the Supreme Court ruled that laws that are neutral and apply generally could not be challenged on the ground that they violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.”
But the current Trump-infused Roberts Court has made clear it sees conservative Christian faith at the center of American jurisprudence, and want that 33-year old ruling overturned.
Indeed, as Vox reported last week, the Supreme Court “appears eager to give religious conservatives sweeping exemptions from the law.”
“Although 303 Creative no longer presents the question of when the Constitution permits people with religious objections to an anti-discrimination law to defy that law, the Court has been signaling for quite some time that it is very sympathetic to such objectors — and that it is likely to abandon a more than 30-year-old precedent establishing that the law generally applies equally to everyone.”
Vox accurately describes this as a case involving “religious conservatives,” and not just people of faith. There are many Christians who support the LGBTQ community, same-sex marriage, and equal civil rights.
The decision in Employment Division v. Smith, “arising from a case involving the use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies, is unpopular among conservative Christians, who say it does not offer adequate protection to religion, and with some of the justices. Last year, the court’s three most conservative members — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — said it was time to overrule the 1990 decision.”
Already the LGBTQ community, its supporters, and advocates for equal civil rights are on edge after the Court struck down its 49-year old Roe v. Wade ruling, with Justice Thomas actively and openly calling for cases that would overturn decisions that made access to contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage the laws of the land.
Oral arguments in the case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, start at 10 AM ET.
Marco Rubio Lashes Out Against Passage of Same-Sex Marriage Bill After His Attempt to Create Special Religious Rights Fails
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) lashed out with a Bible verse Wednesday morning, after the Senate passed legislation protecting same-sex and interracial marriage, while rejecting his attempt to infuse special religious rights through an amendment that even some Republicans refused to support.
The Respect for Marriage Act, which passed in a 61-36 vote Tuesday evening, will return to the House for a final vote before heading to President Joe Biden, who promised to sign it into law. Not included in the bill the Senate passed is Senator Rubio’s amendment, which he claimed was necessary despite the clear religious protections included in the legislation.
The bill goes to great lengths to state it will have no impact on current religious liberty protections. Section 6 is actually titled, “No Impact on Religious Liberty and Conscience.”
It states: “Nothing in this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed to diminish or abrogate a religious liberty or conscience protection otherwise available to an individual or organization under the Constitution of the United States or Federal law.”
It goes even further.
“Consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution, nonprofit religious organizations, including churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, nondenominational ministries, interdenominational and ecumenical organizations, mission organizations, faith-based social agencies, religious educational institutions, and nonprofit entities whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion, and any employee of such an organization, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage,” it reads. “Any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.”
Senator Rubio has been actively opposed to the bill from the start. In July he called it a “stupid waste of time,” suggesting he does not think the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the 2015 Obergefell ruling that made same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional – despite actively calling for the court to do so.
Reminder: Marco Rubio has opposed same-sex marriage for years and even called for overturning the Supreme Court decision legalizing it. pic.twitter.com/oSkpNxi3V6
— Florida Democrats (@FlaDems) July 20, 2022
In addition to the video above, Florida Democrats this summer tweeted a video of a local news report showing Rubio preaching to campaign supporters that same-sex marriage is “sinful.”
After saying protecting marriage equality was “a stupid waste of time,” Marco Rubio held an event yesterday to double down on his attacks on Floridians’ rights: pic.twitter.com/XC5ZIAlj5r
— Florida Democrats (@FlaDems) September 2, 2022
Last week in a press release Sen. Rubio called the bill “the insanity,” and falsely claimed the Respect for Marriage Act does not have religious protections.
“This bill does not protect religious liberty,” Rubio said in a statement last week. “Nuns running orphanages will find themselves in court if it becomes law. That’s outrageous. No faith-based organization will be immune from the insanity. Christian. Jewish. Muslim. Everyone. Removing this private right of action is the only way to truly protect people and organizations of faith.”
His amendment to create additional, special religious protections failed Tuesday evening, as did amendments from Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), and Senator James Lankford (R-OK).
During his failed 2016 White House run Sen. Rubio repeatedly promised he would not run for re-election. He used the Pulse Massacre, one of the worst and deadliest anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, to declare that the LGBTQ community needed him and launched a re-election campaign on the back of those massacred LGBTQ people.
Rubio, who is known for posting passages from the Bible on many mornings, on Wednesday used Christian verse to lash out at the Respect for Marriage Act.
“The law of the LORD is perfect,refreshing the soul. The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,giving wisdom to the simple,” he tweeted.
The law of the LORD is perfect,refreshing the soul. The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,giving wisdom to the simple.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 30, 2022
His tweet did not go over well. While some responded with a simple, “Amen,” others explained to the Senator who took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” that the Christian Bible is not the law of the land.
“The ‘law of the lord’ was deliberately excluded from the US Constitution,” wrote one social media user. “There is only one law in the US and it’s not the law of the lord, it’s the law of the people.”
History professor and author ￼Douglas M. Charles noted Rubio’s tweet had a small typo, and accused him of having a staffer do his work.
“More empty-suitness from the epitome of empty suit senators,” Charles wrote. “These copy-paste BS tweets of his always have a spacing typo, which is how you know a staffer copy-pasted it rather than his being serious about it.”
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