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Now that Rick Santorum has announced that he is running for president, again, it is worth reminding ourselves that he is a coarsely obvious religious bigot. I first published this post when he was running in 2012.  To my knowledge, he never retracted or apologized for his prior statements. -- FC

Rick Santorum has sought to project a sunnily suburban, regular guy appeal as he vies for the GOP presidential nomination. But whenever I have seen him during the campaign, there seems to be a seething and loathing just beneath the surface that he has to struggle to keep from leaking out.  

But back in 2008, while a senior fellow of the neoconservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, we got a glimpse of what it is that is so churning under his public face.  In a speech, he quietly explained to students at Ave Maria University, in Naples, Florida  that Satan, the "Father of Lies", is destroying America.  Part of Satan's effort, according to Santorum, has been to so transform the mainline Protestant churches in America -- that they are no longer even Christian.  

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As marriage equality has advanced around the country, and the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on the issue in June, threatening language is escalating on the Christian Right.   If these culture warriors actually follow through with their threats, the story of our time may turn on terms like civil disobedience, martyrdom and even civil war.  The operative word here is, “if.”

In recent years, we have repeatedly heard threats of civil disobedience from Christian Right Leaders – everyone from the signers of the historic, 2009 Manhattan Declaration (which included top Roman Catholic prelates and evangelical and organized Christian right leaders), to Rick Warren.

We have heard predictions of civil war, revolution, and martyrdom from the likes of Catholic thinker John McCloskey, theocratic evangelical intellectual Peter Leithart, and even Christian Right electoral activist David Lane.

We have also heard calls for political assassinations and secessionist civil war from White Southern Christian Nationalists, Michael Hill, David Whitney, and Michael Peroutka.

Most recently, some 200 Christian Right figures signed a renewed pledge of resistance to the anticipated Supreme Court decision favoring marriage equality.

At a press conference, they called this “A Bonhoeffer Moment in America.” The reference is to the famous Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who resisted the Nazi regime and was hanged for his role in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

Bonhoeffer is increasingly invoked by Christian Right leaders as they compare the situation in the United States to Nazi Germany and cast him — as they choose to define him — as a role model for Christian Right resistance.

The new manifesto says that extending marriage to same-sex couples violates their religious freedom, and that they want to “respectfully warn the Supreme Court” that they would adhere to “higher law.” Their language was (relatively) soft, but clear:  “Make no mistake about our resolve,” they concluded, “ …this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.”

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I think there are two underreported features of the fallout from Indiana that we should make sure do not get lost in the hoo ha.  

One is that people are getting it that religious freedom does not and must not equal the right to discriminate. The other is that people are also broadening and deepening their understanding of what they basically already know:  the Christian Right’s view on these things is not shared by all of Christianity.

The Indiana RFRA, as originally written, allowed people to invoke their religious beliefs to deny commercial services to LGBTQ people – but Republican political leaders did not want to admit it. History may recognize Governor Pence’s disastrous interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week as a turning point, not only in the battle over the state’s RFRA, but in the struggle over the definition of religious freedom in our time.

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Barry Lynn, the longtime executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, recently posted an important essay at Huffington Post. In it, he cheered the Obama administration's recognition of the recent anti-LGBTQ legislative bigotry in Indiana. But Lynn's main purpose was to highlight the practice, which has existed since the Bush administration, of allowing federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion.  The practice, he says, is justified by a flawed 2007 analysis from the Office of Legal Counsel of the Justice Department under president George W. Bush.  Lynn's organization and some seven dozen others have asked the president to rescind the Bush-era memo as a basis for policy.

The letter’s other signatories include the American Association of University Women, the ACLU, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO), the American Jewish Committee, Hindu American Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, Muslim Advocates, Interfaith Alliance, the Council for Secular Humanism, Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP in and many more civil liberties watchdogs, women’s rights groups and progressive religious organizations.

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The Presbyterian Church (USA) has recently been in the news for its historic approval of marriage equality. But in these news stories, you may have noticed that Christian Right organizations that are unhappy with the outcome are promoting the idea that people are leaving this and other churches because of their support for equal rights, and for rejecting the Right’s corrupt and redefined version of religious freedom.

As is often the case, the Christian Right’s claims don’t hold much water.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), or PCUSA, is the fourth major denomination of mainline Protestantism to support marriage equality, following in the steps of the United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

While these developments make news, generally unreported is that these churches came to their positions after years of careful deliberations, discussion and debate.  Unlike most of the opponents of marriage equality, these churches have democratic governance structures.

Also largely unreported is how outside Christian Right agencies have exploited the democratic polities of the mainline churches, in an effort to degrade their capacities to advance social justice.

The reasons for all this have everything to do with the successes of what the churches call their “social witness” across the 20th Century.

From the enactment of child labor laws, to advancing the African-American civil rights movement, to ending the war in Vietnam, to elevating the role of women and of LGBTQ people, the major denominations of mainline Protestantism have provided moral authority, leadership, and resources that were vital to these movements for social change.

And yet, if you read most of the media you might be led to believe that the only reasons people leave these churches is because of their positions on such things as ordination of women and gay people; reproductive justice, and/or and marriage equality.

The decline in membership in these churches is painfully real. But there is much more to the story of why people leave the churches and people they love.

One of the primary reasons for the departures is a sustained pressure campaign by external interests, seeking to pit mainline Christians against one another; manipulate democratic processes to be unnecessarily divisive; and ultimately diminish and displace these historic denominations which have held a place at the center of American culture for centuries.

One of the main agents in this war of attrition has been the Washington, DC-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), funded by the same group of conservative foundations that brought the likes of the Heritage Foundation to Washington, DC. IRD has been primarily funded by neoconservative and Christian Right interests that view the mainline churches as obstacles to their regressive, and sometimes overtly theocratic, political agendas.

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The 29th annual conference From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom will be held from April 10-12 at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.  The event typically draws over 1,000 activists from around the country and the world. It is always remarkable, diverse, interesting and inspiring. It is also accessible and inexpensive. Student registration is free.  

I have had the honor of speaking at a number of these events over the years. I will be speaking on a panel about knowing and resisting the Right, this year as well.  (Anyone who happens to come, please say hello!)

Events like this are rare. And a national conference that takes the time to feature a discussion of the role of the religious and political right in order to develop sound understandings of the right in order to better advance social justice, is unfortunately, even more rare.

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An international network of some of the world’s most vitriolic Religious Right activists and self-proclaimed orthodox religious leaders is holding its ninth global conference in Salt Lake City, Utah in October 2015. The World Congress of Families’ (WCF) conferences tend to attract thousands of participants and prominent religious and political leaders from all over the world.  

If past conferences are any indication, many Americans may be shocked, but not entirely surprised, by the proceedings.

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If you clicked on this diary expecting the kinds of things about which I usually write, I am pleased to tell you that my headline was not click bait.  But it also has nothing to do with the actual subject of this diary -- which is at once a warm memory of a cold reality which I lived out in part on this site, and an opportunity to provide you the closest thing to a public service announcement you will probably ever see from me.

The short of it is that back in 2009 I had a brush with my expiration date due to blood clots in my right leg that had traveled to my lung. It turned out that I had only one functioning lung at the time.  A simple, but scary procedure removed most of the clot and I survived.

Meteor Blades and others diaried about my situation, the wonderful Sara R and the community gave me a quilt which I treasure, and I had the chance to tell my story and thank the community and get on with my life. I will never forget the many kindnesses that helped get me though a strange and hair raising time. It was a good reminder that whatever our differences, we are all in this together. I will never stop paying it forward.

But there is a reason for this diary, which has everything and nothing to do with all that.  

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Many leaders of the Christian Right, from megachurch pastors like Rick Warren to the top prelates in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have repeatedly threatened civil disobedience (and worse) over marriage equality.  If they follow through on their claims, a summer of “martyrdom” may be at hand if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage this term.

The prison industrial complex ought to be thrilled by the prospect of the mass incarceration of Christian Right leaders willing to be martyred for their faith. Prison construction will be booming when the tyrannical Obama regime throws all those opponents of same-sex marriage in the hoosegow.

This is, of course, parody.  But it is also the logical conclusion of the rhetoric and the beliefs of many on the Christian Right.

It is easy to mock those who talk big but don’t deliver. But it is harder to accept the idea that archaic notions of “Christendom” animate the thinking of present day religious and political leaders. But just because it is harder to accept does not make it any less true.

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After Columbine. After Aurora. After Sandy Hook. After whatever the latest mass murder may be, we ask ourselves, what went wrong? How could we have not seen what was coming? Why didn't somebody say or do something?  

There is never one simple answer.  

And our grief often overwhelms our ability to see things clearly.

But I have good news.

Sometimes, things go right.  

Sometimes things work the way they are supposed to work and people do the things we hope they would do. Sometimes people do the things we would like to think we would do ourselves under similar circumstances. Sometimes law enforcement officers at all levels go the extra mile and do all the right things. Sometimes the media tell the story that most needs telling and get it right.

This time, a would have been mass murderer is in a place where he is no longer a danger to himself and to others. (He is charged with a felony, with more possible, and is receiving a court-ordered mental health evaluation.)  

And I am very pleased to be able to bring us a story of things working the way they are supposed to work. Thanks to Paul Rosenberg, writing at Salon.com, we have what is probably as good an account as we are going to see anywhere of how another unspeakable tragedy was averted.

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The video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces, which generated more news than it did sales in the past decade, was recently back in the news.

A federal court found in favor of the Securities Exchange Commission in its litigation with executives of Left Behind Games -- the company, best known for a controversial video game based on the Left Behind series of novels by Christian Right leader Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The SEC said that the execs engaged in stock fraud to prop up their financially struggling company.  The SEC fined company founder Troy Lyndon and CEO Ronald Zaucha millions of dollars each and permanently banned from trading in penny stocks.

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It is never too late to remember.

Here is a reposting of a column I did following the death of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.  (I wrote a bit about it here, but it turned out I had more to say. And I probably still do.)

This is about Cuomo's historic speech at Notre Dame in which he directly and courageously challenged the Bishops of his time. Great stuff here. It is right up there with John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign speech on how to be true to both one's faith and separation of church and state.  The big issues don't change all that much. Just the people and the details.

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