Howard Phillips, one of the main architects of the Moral Majority and, more generally, the American religious right, died Saturday at the age of 72. According to the Christian News Network, he had been suffering from dementia.
Phillips had a long history in conservative and right-wing movements, including three runs as a third-party presidential candidate. He sat on the board of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and worked on Barry Goldwater’s unsuccessful 1964 presidential campaign. He then went on to get involved in the administration of Richard Nixon, who appointed him head of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).
According to left-leaning sociologist Sara Diamond, Phillips was convinced that the OEO was a vehicle for radical leftist recipients, so he encouraged Nixon to appoint other conservative activists from YAF and the American Conservative Union with the aim of eliminating many OEO programs. He launched a public relations campaign, eliminated the OEO’s regional offices, and de-funded anti-poverty programs — until a federal court ruled his actions illegal because his appointment had not been confirmed by the Senate, sparking Phillips’ resignation. Phillips went on to found or help found several key right-wing organizations and networks, including Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.
During the Reagan Administration, Phillips founded and headed the influential Conservative Caucus. He was a founding member of the secretive and influential conservative Council for National Policy, and served as a senior editor at the Conservative Digest. By the 1990s, Phillips had grown dissatisfied with the Republican Party (it wasn’t right-wing enough) and founded the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992. USTP later morphed into the still-extant Constitution Party, whose goal is to implement Biblical law in America and to “limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries” and on whose presidential ticket Phillips ran. The party platform includes pushing states to “proscribe sexually offensive behaviors” including homosexuality; calling on U.S. troops to protect states against invasion by immigrants; opposing abortion in any circumstance; banning pornography; abolishing the IRS and the Department of Education; preventing the federal government from restricting the acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of liberty, law, and government; and returning all lands “held by the federal government without authorization of the Constitution” to the people.
Franklin Graham, son of Rev. Billy Graham, has added his opinion as to why Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election to President Obama. Unlike claims of voter fraud or voter intimidation coming from Fox News and their analysts, Graham’s reasoning has little to do with President Obama or the Democrats in America.
“We’ve turned our backs on God,” Graham told CBN’s David Brody on Friday morning.
Graham believes the biggest problem with the United States is secularism. He points to President Obama’s support of marriage equality as a key reason America is on a slope towards complete secularism.
Graham voiced his support for Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority Coalition in years past. He pointed to the work of Ralph Reed and other religious groups in spreading the word on how important it is for evangelicals to vote.
“The vast majority of evangelicals did not go to the polls,’ Graham alleged during the interview.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s own national polling stands at odds with Graham’s view. Evangelicals comprised 27 percent of the overall electorate with 78 percent of evangelicals voting for Mitt Romney. Ralph Reed is the President of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
In a statement last week, Reed claimed as many evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 as had voted for former President George W. Bush in 2004.
Here’s a question for Mat Staver, head of Liberty Counsel - what do you and your organization have to hide?
Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group operating from Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University. It does things like argue that the Ten Commandments should be displayed in public buildings, that all abortions should be illegal and that marriage equality should be denied to gay couples.
The rhetoric is often shrill, partisan and breathtakingly wrong-headed. Staver once said Americans United is “out to literally destroy America; they’re out to erase our religious heritage and religious symbols from every area of life.” In a recent fund-raising pitch, he said the Obama administration’s inclusion of birth control as part of health care reform is “one of the most disrespectful, ‘in your face’ dictates ever inflicted upon the American people.”
But one of Staver’s most dubious claims is that Liberty Counsel is a “church auxiliary.” That means the organization is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code and doesn’t have to file a Form 990 that gives information on its activities. As a result, the public doesn’t know how much money Liberty Counsel takes in or how that money is spent.
To even the most casual observer, Liberty Counsel isn’t a church or a church auxiliary. In its own words on its website, Liberty Counsel “is an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.”
That doesn’t sound like any church organization I know. If you cut through the rhetorical fog, it means Liberty Counsel is just another garden-variety Religious Right legal organization doing its best to undermine church-state separation.
Staver, who serves as dean of the Liberty University Law School, told The Roanoke Times that his group’s tax status is no different from the Salvation Army, but that’s baloney. The Salvation Army is actually a Christian denomination.
A recent profile of Staver in the Times noted that his organization has about 35 employees and offices in Lynchburg, Va., Orlando, Fla., and Washington, D.C. The organization also claims hundreds of volunteers who provide legal and other services. Again, this doesn’t sound much like a church.
Rod Parsley is a televangelist and Jerry Falwell wannabe - he runs multiple “ministries” (he is in particular associated with the World Harvest Church), his own Christian college, and is heavily involved in politics (pandering hysteria, paranoia, bigotry and the good old fundamentalist persecution complex - ‘there are people who disagree with me, therefore I am persecuted and a martyr’).
Parsley is an honorary “doctor of divinity” - granted by Liberty University - and a regional director for John Hagee’s group Christians United For Israel. Fortunately, since Parsley lacks the intellectual integrity of Oral Roberts and the jovial amiability of Pat Robertson, his following, while substantial, will probably remain limited. A lot of his outreach (Bridge of Hope, Breakthrough) is focused, naturally enough, on poorer and conflict-filled parts of Africa, apparently fertile grounds for the kind of violent fanaticism that would not go over particularly well even in the States. As is common with such people, Parsley is constantly on the lookout for money. In 2009, a “demonically inspired financial attack” made times difficult for him, so he asked his followers to “help me take back what the devil stole”. The “devilish theft” was apparently a court settlement concerning instances of child abuse at one of the church-run childcare centers (also here). His pleas for money seem to have become an annual thing, by the way, since he is apparently high on Satan’s list of favorite victims.
Parsley is a staunch theocrat (denying any separation of church and state in the Constitution), proud member of the dominionist movement, and staunchly opposed to gay rights and to abortion (employing the “the U.S. government, by funding Planned Parenthood, is complicit in “genocide” against African Americans, because Planned Parenthood performs abortions in the black community”-argument). In 2006, he even called for his followers to take up arms against the “thirty, forty liberal pastors who filed against our ministry with the Internal Revenue Service.”
Two Republican presidential prospects, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, will speak at Liberty University in September, LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said on Friday.
Bachmann, founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, is an announced candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Perry, in his 10th year as governor of Texas, has said publicly that he’s thinking about running for the GOP nomination for president. He, too, is popular with tea party followers.
“Since Liberty is the world’s largest Christian university, we think it is important to expose the students to as many candidates as possible,” Falwell said.