Leaders says Christians in America “must risk martyrdom” over the issue of marriage equality.
(Editor’s Note: Martyrdom, intolerance, hate, judgment and all in the name of religion. Here’s the latest news from the American Taliban. — Mark L. Taylor)By Brian Tashman, Right Wing Watch Raw Story (4/24/15)
Next week the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could end up making marriage equality the law of the land. It comes at a time when gay marriage has never had more support from the American public. But the culture warriors who have been fighting it for decades are not about to give up, as Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch explains in this deeply researched piece. Looking back at how this battle has evolved, Tashman shows that the forces against marriage equality are now talking in terms of civil war.
Speaking from the pulpit of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in May 2004, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Dobson’s words were simulcast into churches across the country as part of a “Battle for Marriage” rally that just happened to coincide with President George W. Bush’s hard-fought reelection campaign. Three months earlier, the president himself had announced to the nation that “to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America.”
Opposition to same-sex marriage emerged as a key component of the president’s reelection strategy that year, as the Bush campaign worked with Religious Right leaders, including Dobson, to marshal conservative voters to the polls to back state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and other unions. Ballot measures in 11 states, all successful, aided the president’s reelection bid and helped to swing the momentum, for a time, to the side of the anti-gay Right.
While a federal constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples had failed to clinch the required votes from either house of Congress, after the 2004 election, Dobson stressed that “mainstream Americans” supported such an amendment, knowing that they “could not stand idly by while the radical gay agenda was forced down their throats.”
A decade later, Dobson left Focus on the Family, reportedly in part because the organization he had founded refused to give a leadership position to his divorced son. Dobson and his son Ryan now host a radio program called “Family Talk” and Focus has moved on under the less fiery leadership of Jim Daly. Ted Haggard, the pastor of the church where Dobson spoke at the 2004 “Battle for Marriage,” eventually left his post after acknowledging that he had relationships with men. An architect of Bush’s 2004 re-election strategy, Ken Mehlman, announced six years later that he is gay. Another Bush campaign strategist, Karl Rove, said in 2013 that he could see a future GOP presidential nominee endorsing gay marriage.
This dramatic shift toward marriage equality may culminate this year when the Supreme Court hears arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a collection of cases challenging the constitutionality of the remaining state-level bans on same-sex marriage.
But the Religious Right is not ready to give up what was, until recently, a winning culture-war issue.
Now, as even many conservative pundits are predicting that the Supreme Court will strike down the remaining state bans on same-sex marriage, Religious Right leaders are preparing their response.
Talk of civil war
In a conference call with other movement figures, Dobson was steadfast in his opposition. If the Supreme Court strikes down the state bans and states across the country fail to convene “a state constitutional convention to re-examine the Constitution” on marriage, Dobson warned, “we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two.”
Worse, Dobson said, there could be a war: “Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.”
This style of apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision is not uncommon in a movement whose leaders are preparing to commit civil disobedience and calling on states to defy the court if it issues a broad ruling in favor of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
The Religious Right’s current strategy in the fight against marriage equality — claiming to be the real victims while making wild warnings about imminent anti-Christian persecution — was previewed in the 2009 signing of the Manhattan Declaration and the campaign against the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act the same year.
Warning that America is on the brink of turning into a Nazi-like state where religious freedom is a thing of the past, a group of Roman Catholic and evangelical leaders, including prominent Religious Right figures, signed The Manhattan Declaration, pledging their commitment to civil disobedience in the face of what they described as the tyranny of gay rights laws and legal abortion.
Signers asserted that supporters of gay marriage and abortion rights are bent on trampling their religious freedoms. They compared themselves to Christian martyrs, civil rights leaders like Martin Luther, resisters to Nazi tyranny, heavenly angels and the signers of the Declaration of Independence. One of the declaration’s architects, the late Religious Right leader Chuck Colson, worried that Christians in America would soon end up in jail, while Dobson wondered if Americans will be forced to “leave this beloved country and spend the rest of our lives in exile.”
That same year, Religious Right activists launched a relentless, but unsuccessful, campaign against the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded the federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Right alleged that the bill would criminalize Christian teachings and the Bible, throw pastors in jail, quash free speech and legalize pedophilia and other illegal sex acts. In the five years following the law’s enactment, none of the wild predictions about its effects have come close to materializing. But that hasn’t stopped the Religious Right from recycling the very same discredited claims to warn against nationwide marriage equality.
For example, Rick Scarborough, a prominent Texas pastor and activist with close ties to politicians including Sen. Ted Cruz, has repeated his unfounded claims about the 2009 hate crimes act almost verbatim when discussing the potential dangers of legalizing same-sex marriage. As did Mike Huckabee, who told pastors on a conference call that preaching against homosexuality will be criminalized. Just this month, Scarborough warned that if gay couples are no longer barred from marriage, preaching from the Bible will become a crime and anti-gay conservatives will be thrown in jail. Five years ago, he made almost exactly the same dire warning about the hate crimes act.
Influential Religious Right groups including the American Renewal Project, led by GOP organizer David Lane, and the Family Research Council are asking pastors to tell their congregations that marriage equality could bring about the end of freedom and, according to Lane, “a complete moral breakdown.” Lane has previously warned that legal equality for LGBT people will eventually lead to America’s “utter destruction” and even terrorist attacks.
The Religious Right’s apocalyptic rhetoric about marriage equality has only become more incendiary as many of the ban’s defenders begin to expect that they will lose at the Supreme Court.
Nazi Germany, Jim Crow comparisons
Increasingly, Religious Right leaders have been portraying the push for equal rights for the LGBT community as a fascist, Nazi-style movement that will usher in a wave of oppression. And much like how Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement resisted Jim Crow, these activists argue, conservatives must also defy gay rights laws that they view as equally if not more oppressive.
Bryan Fischer, the conservative radio host and former American Family Association spokesman, regularly claims that gay people are modern-day Nazis and to blame for the rise of Nazism in Germany, asserting that Adolf Hitler was “an active homosexual” who recruited gays into his cause because “homosexual soldiers basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has also wondered when gay rights supporters will “start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians.”
Mat Staver, chairman of the conservative legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel, has likened a potential pro-equality Supreme Court ruling to the infamous Dred Scott decision and urged people to defy such a ruling just as they would “if the government forced you turn over a Jew in Nazi Germany.” Staver, who has warned about the prospect of “forced homosexuality” and repeatedly compared gays to terrorists, insists that the Supreme Court could spark a new Civil Rights Movement, this time to oppose gay rights.
An alarming number of anti-gay activists have compared themselves to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian who was executed for defying Nazi rule. “This is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer moment for every preacher in America,” Scarborough told participants in the recent activist conference call hosted by Dobson. Staver offered asimilar message to conservatives in a recent radio interview: “This is a Bonhoeffer moment.”
Calling for martyrdom
David Lane has said that Christians in America “must risk martyrdom” over the issue of marriage equality. Likewise, American Family Association governmental affairs director Sandy Rios has repeatedly urged opponents of gay rights to “prepare for martyrdom.”
Conservative pundit Glenn Beck told his show’s viewers this year that gay rights advocacy is leading to concentration camps and “a Christian holocaust.” Other conservative commentators have similarly suggested that gay people are pushing for anti-Christian persecution and genocide …