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Posts for August, 2011

Bachmann Calls Earthquake and Hurricane “Wake Up Calls From God”

Jim Burroway

August 29th, 2011

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann campaigned in Florida over the weekend. The St. Petersburg Times reports that Dominionist theologian Peter E. Waldron — they don’t exist, you know — is helping to organize her Florida campaign. Maybe that explains her latest outburst:

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’

A campaign spokesperson later said, “Obviously she was saying it in jest.” Actually, given her views it’s really not that obvious.

Bachmann Two Weeks Ago: Nobody Cares About Marriage. Bachmann Now: It’s a Fundamental Issue.

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2011

It depends on who's asking.

GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann finally answered a question about same-sex marriage, and her answer went well beyond repeating “I am running for the Presidency of the United States.” At a townhall meeting in South Carolina on Thursday, Bachmann was asked about same-sex marriage. She responded:

“In our coalition we have fiscal conservatives, national security conservatives, the Tea Party movement, and we have social conservatives,”” she said. “You put that team together and there’s no way that we can possibly lose the election in 2012. We need to stick together.”

Bachmann even touted her time as a Minnesota state lawmaker when she introduced a bill to put a gay marriage ban up to a statewide vote. She said her bill, which failed at the time, was inspired by what she saw happen in Massachusetts when the state Supreme Court intervened and same-sex marriage eventually became legal.

“When that happened, I knew that my home state of Minnesota could be next,” she said. “Minnesota and Massachusetts have a lot in common. And I was very concerned about that. And so I introduced a bill that would allow the people of Minnesota to define marriage as one man and one woman. In my home state, I was not exactly popular for doing that measure. But I felt that it was right to let the people of Minnesota decide on the definition of marriage, not a plurality of judges.”

Unlike with her appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press where she tried to downplay her stance on marriage, she told the South Carolina gathering that marriage was “a fundamental issue, this issue of marriage, that I think it’s one the people have to vote on.” She also reiterated her support for a federal constitutional ban on marriage equality.

Christian Dominionism Is Not A Myth

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2011

On August 14, Michelle Goldberg sounded the alarm about the close ties that two GOP candidates for president, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have with extreme elements of far-right Cristianism known as Dominionism. Today, A. Larry Ross responds with a well-intentioned, but ultimately hopelessly informed counterargument that “Christian Dominionism is a Myth.” Ross’s argument rests on this crux:

Although her well-intentioned article may resonate in the echo chambers of her fellow East Coast media elite, Goldberg misapplies a broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify.

Ross identifies himself as “a lifelong evangelical who understands the foundational tenets of belief in the doctrine of love, according to the principles of Jesus in the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount.”  I take him at his word. I think that description applies to almost all who identify as evangelicals — as well as almost all who identify as mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Mormon. Which means that it doesn’t really tell us much. And if the particular individuals that Goldberg discussed held themselves to that relatively simple and expansive definition, then there would hardly be any cause for alarm. But they don’t. And instead of understanding what they do believe to be equally essential articles of faith, Ross dismisses the entire phenomenon as ghosts dreamed up by the “East Cost media elite” (his words; how’s that for misapplying broad labels?) to pump more excitement into cable news channels:

Most Americans today consume news less for information than for validation, and gravitate to media outlets that reinforce opinions and a worldview they already embrace. Despite today’s proliferation of 24/7 news networks and social-media platforms, as everyone retreats to these silos of validation, we seem to have lost our public square, or at least the former civility of it.

Sojourners president Jim Wallis has observed that network-television viewers need to hear the collegial, respectful discussions among marquee leaders with opposing views that take place in network greenrooms moments before they aggressively attack and demonize each other in heated debates broadcast on point/counterpoint news programs.

But in discussing Dominionism, Goldberg doesn’t misapply anything. To the very point that Ross misses, she is actually applying a label to identify a theology that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify, and she applies it specifically to that exceptionally tiny minority for whom the label does applies. These are not the people within the broad spectrum of Christianity, nor are they even those within the outer ten percent of its fringes. We’re not talking about the Pat Robertsons, the Joel Olsteens, the Albert Mohlers or the Rick Warrens. No, we’re talking about people who are far, far more fringe than anyone whose name immediately comes to mind whenever most people think of Christian Evangelicalism. And that is exactly Goldberg’s point. And when Goldberg says, “If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional,” that advice applies to mainstream Evangelicals as well. I suspect most of them don’t understand Dominionism either. Ross certainly doesn’t appear to.

Pretending that the so-called New Apostolic Movement and Seven Mountains Theology don’t exist or that those influenced by the Kansas City Prophets have not gained influence among particular presidential candidates here at home and political leaders abroad doesn’t make them go away. Granted, these are probably not the kind of people Ross runs into in his church, his friends and colleagues’ churches, or in any other circles he hands with. But just because they can’t be found under Ross’s bed or alongside him in the pews — or in Wallis’s greenroom sojourns — doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And when they are identified as close advisers credited for a big win in Iowa, or when they act as main speakers and moderators at a huge televised rally for a candidate’s benefit, the proper response is to ask hard questions of what they want for the country, not whistling and quickly walking away.

A Bachmann Staffer’s Dominionist Worldview, Gun-Running Charges, and Ties To Ugandan “Kill-The-Gays” Pastor

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2011

"The Bible represents the absolute source for the guiding principles and precepts for all governments": Peter E. Waldron

A close associate of Rep. Michele Bachmann who believes that the Congresswoman is fighting for the presidency with “the anointing of God upon her,” has come under scrutiny for his 2006 arrest in Uganda on gun-running charges, and for his close relationship with Ugandan pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa, a prominent advocate for that nation’s “Kill the Gays” Bill.

Peter E. Waldron, the staffer for Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign responsible for her faith-based outreach in Iowa and South Carolina, had been arrested in Uganda in 2006 on charges of running illegal guns and ammunition. Garance Franke-Ruta’s profile at The Atlantic resurrected the details. He had been arrested for possession of assault rifles and ammunition just days before Uganda’s first nominally multi-party elections in 20 years. The charges were dropped after Waldron spent more than a month in 2006 in the notorious Luriza Prison outside of Kampala. He was freed, he says, after pressure from the Bush administration. Of course, when it comes to Ugandan police work, the charges should be seen with some measure of skepticism, although newspaper reports (via archive.org) in Kampala at the time are quite detailed. Waldron himself isn’t helpful in clearing up matters. On the one hand, he says that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni operates death squads, and then calls Uganda’s leadership born-again Christians and good friends.

Particularly worrying is the company Waldron keeps. Richard Bartholomew had written about the 2006 arrest, and in the process recalled a 2004 story from The New Republic by Andrew Rice in which Rice describes Waldron as speaking at Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa’s church:

The Sunday I attended Ssempa’s church, after he finished his sermon, the pastor told his audience that he had a special guest to introduce, a visitor from the United States. All eyes fixed on a stocky white man with a thick moustache who wore a gray safari suit. He introduced himself as Dr. Peter Waldron of Wyoming. Waldron told the congregation that he had once been a military man and that he used to travel around Africa a lot in the 1960s. He was vague about the nature of his work. (“I’m not at liberty to say,” he later told me.) But he claimed that, on one occasion, it resulted in some good people getting executed by a firing squad. After that, he contemplated suicide, he told the audience. Then he found Jesus. “When you were born again, you became a new person. You left your tribe,” Waldron said. Now, he said, they were all bound together by their common love of God. The audience reacted enthusiastically, warmly welcoming Waldron’s speech. When Waldron launched into a story about how he’d recently been invited to the real White House in the company of religious rapper MC Hammer, the audience was wowed.

Several days later, I met Waldron at a Kampala hotel. He told me more of his story. At different times in his career, he said, he’d been a syndicated talk-radio host, a lobbyist, and a Republican political consultant. More recently, he had run sports programs for underprivileged youths in Tampa, Florida. Now, he was in Uganda, trying to sell computer software to government ministries while preaching on the weekends. “They embrace Americans here,” he said enthusiastically. Indeed, as we sat together, a steady stream of young admirers who had seen Waldron in church came up to greet him. They made complicated handshakes, the way Ugandans do, and Waldron boasted to me that he had met privately with President Museveni and his born-again wife. It struck me that, for many Americans of faith, Uganda–a country where homosexuality and abortion are outlawed, where politicians freely mix church and state, and where outward displays of religious devotion are the norm–represents a kind of haven. The United States may have a born-again president, but it is far too diverse to ever fully be, as conservatives call it, “a Christian nation.” But Uganda is on its way to becoming one.

Ssempa, of course, was the prominent supporter of Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty for LGBT people under certain circumstances. While Ssempa’s theology clearly defends such a practice, it is unclear whether Waldron agrees with Ssempa’s position. But an examination of Waldron’s particular theology isn’t encouraging. Richard Bartholomew also pointed to this 36-page document (via archive.org) which had been stored on Waldron’s web site and was dated 2004, explaining the guiding theology of Waldron’s Cities of Faith Ministries. Waldron’s theology mirrors that of the father of Christian Reconstructionism, R.J. Rushdooney, whom Waldron quoted in one passage. In the introduction, Walrdon wrote:

For generations Christians have wrongly divided all the affairs of their lives into secular matters and spiritual matters. Many of those secular-spiritual divisions and classifications are artificial divisions and heretical in its origins based on humanist philosophy rather than the historic Biblical teachings of the Church.

The modern Evangelical Christian is often a person who has made one’s life a huge set of pigeon holes in which every matter is classified as secular or spiritual. This obvious double-mindedness prevents the blessings of God to overtake one’s testimony – in the spirit, the soul, the body, and/or one’s material possessions.

The whole life of a Christian is spiritual, and everything he does which involves conduct, attitude or one’s role in society or, even, relationships has spiritual significance.

Waldron wrote that “the history of liberty is the history of Christian self-government” — and not just self-government in the sense that all individuals govern the course of their lives through the choices they make. No, Waldron’s concept of self-government is much broader:

A totalitarian form of governance arises when the Word of God is compromised, ignored or denied.  A person will self-destruct from abuse of spirit, soul and body.  A nation will collapse under a “hard” or “soft” form of dictatorship, abuse of public or elected office, and a general denial of human freedom – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – arises.  The source of one’s belief system dictates the conduct whether it be personal or national.   The same goes for the end result.

The Bible represents the absolute source for the guiding principles and precepts for all governments in man (self-government), of families (family government), churches (church government), and for nations (civil government).

Waldron co-wrote a book with George Grant titled, Rebuilding the Walls: A Biblical Strategy for Restoring America’s Greatness. Grant is well-known in Christian Reconstructionist circles. In 1987, Grant wrote The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action, in which he made his call for a theocratic overthrow explicit. “It is dominion we are after,” Grant wrote. “World conquest. …If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, as the Bible says, and if our commission is to bring the land into subjection to His Lordship, as the Bible says, then all our activities, all our witnessing, all our preaching, all our craftsmanship, all our stewardship, and all our political action will aim at nothing short of that sacred purpose.”

Waldron is the second close associate to Rep. Bachmann whose theology may at least condone remaining silent against the killing of gay people. Bradlee Dean, of Minnesota-based You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministries, commended Muslims who call for the execution of gay people for being more righteous than Christians. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws,” Dean explained on a local Christian Radio talk show. “They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

Waldron’s “Cities of Faith” web site appears to be gone, but his facebook page is quite active. On August 7, he wrote of Bachmann’s quest for the presidency:

HOW CAN ANYONE STAND ON THE SIDELINE? I am simply amazed that some folks are waiting for Saul-like characters who look everything like a king while Michele fights with the anointing of God upon her. She is fearless, fierce in battle, and focused on winning the nomination and securing the White House. Thinking about running, waiting to throw their hat in the ring – foolishness. The battle rages now and Michele needs an army.

Four minutes later, he added:

JOIN THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE: I need 300 gallant Christians to stand with me to resist the works of the devil. We must stand like Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae – sheild to shield, shoulder to shoulder – Has not God got an army in the hour of His need? Arise, again I say, Arise lets stand like Christians once again for His glory and praise!

Following Bachmann’s winning of the Iowa Straw Poll, Waltron wrote:

BACHMANN WINS: All the praise and glory goes to the LORD for Michele’s extraordinary win. She was able to do in 5-weeks what other campaigns could not do in 1-year or 4-years. The Hand of the LORD is upon her. Thank you for your prayers. I leave for SC tomorrow. Blessings to all.

In an additional comment on that same thread, Waldron added some more detail. He clearly doesn’t like Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the race:

I will be in Columbia and travel the entire state extensively. From afar and during prayer I see a Saul and David scenario between Perry and Bachmann. One looks everything like a king while the other is anointed. One has a testimony that is almost 40 years old, walks the talk, and sees through a Biblical World View lens. This will be a true test of “salt” in the nation. I pray that a “Salt Brigade” will arise to affirim God’s blessing on America and to renew the Covenant made by our ancestors with Him in the 17th and 18th centuries.

[via Warren Throckmorton, and then it snowballed from there]

Michele Bachmann Doesn’t Judge Gays

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2011

Fresh off of her victory in Iowa’s Straw Poll Saturday, Rep. Muchele Bachmann made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows to talk about her run for the GOP’s presidential nomination. Her positions on LGBT issues came up, when she appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press:

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David Gregory: I also want to ask you about your interpretation of the Bible, and your feelings about gays and lesbians. You have said in recent years that opposition to same-sex marriage is a defining political debate in this country, you’re opposed to it, you’d like to see a constitutional ban against it in this country. And during a speech you gave in 2004 at an education conference you spoke openly and in detail about gays and lesbians. And I want to play a portion of that speech and have you react to it.

Michele Bachmann: It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say that this is “gay.” … It’s anything but gay. I leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that’s why this is so dangerous. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.

Gregory: That is the view that President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?

Bachmann: Well I am running for the Presidency of the United States. I’m not running to be anyone’s judge….

Gregory: But you have judged them.

Bachmann: I don’t judge them. I don’t judge them.  I am running for presidency of the United States.

Gregory. Is that the view of gay Americans that President Bachmann would have?

Bachmann: My view on marriage is that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that’s what I stand for. But I ascribe honor and dignity to every person no matter what their background. They have honor and they have dignity.

Gregory: Do you think gay Americans hearing quotes like that from you would think that that’s honor and dignity coming from you about their circumstance?

Bachmann: I am not anyone’s judge and I am not standing as anyone’s judge.

Gregory: Congresswoman, do you think anybody hears that thinks you haven’t made a judgment about gays and lesbians?

Bachmann: That’s all I can tell you is that I’m not judging.

Gregory: So your words should stand for themselves.

Bachmann: I’m running for the presidency of the United States. That’s what’s important.

Gregory: Would you appoint an openly gay person to your administration? To your cabinet or name them as a judge?

Bachmann: My criteria would be the same, which would be where you stand on the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views. That’s my criteria.

Gregory: But those views are pretty clear. As far as a judge you talked about that. An openly gay person is acceptable as matter of your administration? As a member of your administration?

Bachmann: I have my criteria as what my appointments would be based on, it’s whether you uphold the Constitution, if you’re competent and if you share my views.

Gregory: So it would not be a factor?

Bachmann: I am not out asking any other questions.

Gregory: One last one on this. Can a gay couple who adopt children in your mind be considered a family?

Bachmann: When it comes to marriage and family, my opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think that’s been my view and…

Gregory: So a gay couple with kids would not be considered a family to you?

Bachmann: You know, all of these kinds of questions really aren’t about what people are concerned about right now.

Gregory: Congresswoman, you said that any candidate for President should be asked about his or her views and their record. This is a record of your statements. These are the defining political issues for you as your political career advanced. You’re the one who said same-sex marriage was a defining political issue of our time. Those were your words back in 2004, so I’m just asking about your views on something that has animated your political life.

Bachmann: I think my views are clear.

Her views are perfectly clear. She believes gays are of Satan and that gay families are not to be discussed. And she believes that she isn’t judging anyone when she says that. And you know what? She really does believe she’s not judging anyone. Bachmann believes that God has rendered that judgment, not her. In her mind, she is simply informing everyone else what she believes to be unshakable proof. Saying that gays are “of Satan,” to her, is no more opinion than observing that the sky is blue on a clear day. o her, these are facts and not judgments. And that’s why she keeps repeating that she is running for the presidency, not for arbiter of the sky’s color.

And with these “facts,” it should come as no surprise that she would tell CNN that she would reimpose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which a President Bachmann could very easily do under an Executive Order without Congressional approval.

GOP Candidates On Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2011

Think Progress has a handy compilation clip from Thursday night’s GOP debate in Iowa of candidates discussing same-sex marriage. One of my favorite reactions comes from across the Pond, with The Guardian’s Richard Adams responding to Romney’s argument that “marriage is a status“:

Looking back through some clips, there’s Romney saying: “Marriage is a status, it’s not an activity.” Who says romance is dead, eh? Calling marriage a “status” makes it sound like a Facebook update.

The emerging consensus, albeit a snarky one,  is that the debate’s real winner was Rick Perry, who doesn’t officially declare his candidacy until tomorrow.

Here’s the clip and transcript.

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Mitt Romney: Marriage should be decided at the federal level. … Marriage is a status. It’s not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state and as a result, our marriage status relationship should be constant across the country. I believe we should have a federal amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman because I believe the ideal place to raise a child is in a home with a mom and a dad.

Jon Huntsman: I also believe in civil unions, because I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to equality. And I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to reciprocal beneficiary rights rights. And I believe that this is something that ought to be discussed among the various states. I don’t have any problem with the states having this discussion. But as for me, I support civil unions.

Ron Paul: (About whether polygamy would “be okay too”) It’s sort of like asking the question if the states wanted to legalize slavery or something like that, that is so past reality that no state is going to do that. But on the issue of marriage, I think marriage should be between a single man and a single woman and that the federal government shouldn’t be involved. I want less government involvement. I don’t want the federal government having a marriage police.

Rick Santorum: It sounds to me like Rep. Paul would actually say polygamous marriages are okay. If the state has the right to do it, they have the right to do it.

Michele Bachmann: I support the Federal Marriage Amendment because I believe that we will see this issue at the Supreme Court someday, and as president I would not nominate activist judges who legislate from the bench. I also want to say that when I was in Minnesota, I was the chief author of the Constitutional amendment to define marriage as one-man, one-woman. I have an absolutely unblemished record when it comes to this issue of man-woman marriage.

Maybe There’s A Theory of Ex-Gay Relativity

Jim Burroway

August 8th, 2011

The way the Bachmans have been ditching questions about Marcus Bachmann’s counselling clinic providing ex-gay therapy in direct conflict with the position of every major medical and mental health organization, you’d think they would be extra careful to avoid anything which would invite further scrutiny in that particular area. And if you thought that, you’d be wrong. Yesterday, Michele and Marcus Bachman attended an Iowa church in which the main point of the sermon was the promotion of the ex-gay movement.

[Point of Grace Church Pastor Jeff] Mullen’s sermon concluded with video testimonial from a man named Adam Hood, who claims to have been gay before experiencing a conversation with God. “I am so happy God has given me natural affection for a woman,” Hood said in the video, adding that his wife is nine months pregnant.

“We need to have compassion for people that are bound by that sin,” Hood added. “And it is a sin. Call a spade a spade.”

Yes, that Adam Hood, a.k.a Scarfboi. And if Hood is now accepted as being completely, totally, believe-you-him straight, then I guess you can see how Marcus Bachmann might start to look a little butch. If you squint.

Mitt Romney declares anti-gay litmus test for judicial appointments

Timothy Kincaid

August 4th, 2011



NOTE: The header, which originally said “Mitt Romney declares anti-gay litmus test for Supreme Court nominees”, was revised for accuracy.

The National Organization for Marriage is bragging that Republican presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney have signed their pledge:

I, ______________, pledge to the American people that if elected President, I will:

One, support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification.

Two, nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court and federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and to applying the original meaning of the Constitution, appoint an attorney general similarly committed, and thus reject the idea our Founding Fathers inserted a right to gay marriage into our Constitution.

Three, defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act vigorously in court.

Four, establish a presidential commission on religious liberty to investigate and document reports of Americans who have been harassed or threatened for exercising key civil rights to organize, to speak, to donate or to vote for marriage and to propose new protections, if needed.

Five, advance legislation to return to the people of the District of Columbia their right to vote on marriage.

Most of this is just a declaration of personal anti-gay animus and is neither a pledge of intent or likelihood.

There is almost no chance at all that two-thirds of each house of Congress would vote for a Federal Marriage Amendment and that likelihood decreases significantly with each passing year. By the time that the 2013-2017 Presidential term begins, it doesn’t matter what a President might “support”, it isn’t going to happen.

Also by that time, it is likely that the constitutionality of DOMA3 will have progressed out of the initial federal court hearings and on to appeal. And having declined to defend the law, the Justice Department cannot decide to step in and resume authority once a new Attorney General is in the office. At most, the Attorney General could file an amicus brief, which any of these nominees could do on their own today.

As for establishing a presidential commission to look at how gays are harassing and threatening homophobes, that would be political suicide. Not only would it appear to oh, just about anyone, as homophobic and an abuse of power, but it would be embarrassing to NOM when the commission released its report. The boycott of El Coyote may sound like a “threat” to NOM’s target audience, but “the gays didn’t eat there after the owner gave to Prop 8″ is going to sound like a statement of the obvious to the rest of the country.

Equally stupid would be an effort on the part of the federal government to interfere with the District’s Human Rights Act so as to exclude gay people. That is the only mechanism by which legislation could “return to the people of the District of Columbia their right to vote” on limiting any of the District’s provisions based on sexual orientation. Only two Senators and 37 members of the House were willing to sign on to an amicus brief arguing that the Human Rights Act didn’t cover gay marriage. Even fewer would sign on to legislation to amend the “The Human Rights Act” specifically to exclude gay people from coverage.

Now none of this is to say that Michele Bachman and Rick Santorum would not try to do all of the above. They live in a bubble in which the things that they say actually make sense and where people admire them and their values. But both are wackadoodles with no chance of winning the Presidency.

Mitt Romney, however, is a credible candidate. And he should have thought a bit more before signing onto this pledge. Because he just made a declaration that has potential to negatively impact his campaign.

No, it was not the wacky appeal to ancestor-worship that has our “Founding Fathers” writing the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868. Palinist history is about symbolism, not fact, so this is not much of a liability to Romney at this stage.

Nor is it unusual for Republican nominees to declare their support for a commitment to constraint and to oppose those who “legislate from the bench.”

But this pledge goes way beyond such language. And by signing, Mitt Romney took the unusual step of declaring that his judicial nominees must reject the idea that the US Constitution protects the marriage rights of gay people. Mitt Romney announced that he has a litmus test.

In practice, litmus tests for judicial nominees are complicated.

An administration makes judicial appointments that it believes share its ideology. But the nominees themselves are bound by professional ethics from declaring their position on matters that are expected to appear before them. And most aren’t much favorable of the notion that your whim is to be followed rather than their consideration of the facts, weight of precedent, or argument of the litigants.

But regardless of whether or not litmus test questioning occurs in private, declaring a litmus test for judicial nominees, especially this early in a political campaign, is not wise. And at some point, a reporter is going to ask Romney the unanswerable question, “Considering Ted Olson’s legal stature and established conservative credentials, would his support for same-sex marriage disqualify him from an appointment to the federal bench?”

Bachmann Blacklists TV Station Over Interview About Ex-Gay Therapy

Jim Burroway

July 26th, 2011

Earlier this month when it was revealed that the clinic operated by Michele Bachmann’s husband was providing ex-gay therapy to clients, Bachmann appeared on a Davenport television station to defend her husband’s practice, calling it “jobs creation.”

Since then, that station, WQAD, had been placed on a campaign blacklist, barred from interviewing the candidate. Last night, Bachmann was in the Quad Cities area on a campaign stop, and despite despite promises to WQAD for a one-on-one interview, the Bachmann’s handlers “aggressively denied News 8 access to the Iowa Republican front-runner.” WQAD’s Chuck McClurg describes the scene:

“I followed them outside hoping to get the interview I was promised,” said McClurg

McClurg began rolling his camera as another local Quad Cities news station started asking their questions.

“I started to tape something off of that interview and a staffer pushed me aside and stood in front of my camera and said that this was for the other station only.”

The reporter asked a question about Bachmann’s clinic and her husband. At that point, McClurg says the staffer took the microphone off of Bachmann, tossed it to the reporter and said their interview was over. McClurg said he thought he would then get his turn after he was respectful of the campaign staffer’s wishes.

“I was standing (there) and I brought up my camera and that’s when all of the staffers pushed her on,” said McClurg. “I’ve been a photojournalist since 1988 and I have logged some 3,000 items. I’ve never been snubbed like I was (here) yesterday.”

Here is video of the encounter:

WQAD reveals that during the original interview two weeks ago when Bachmann was asked about her husband’s offering of ex-gay therapy, there was considerable drama taking place behind the scenes:

During the satellite interview, behind the scenes, it got ugly. In the News 8 control room, campaign staffers threatened WQAD producers that they would cut off the feed if Rae Chelle repeated the question. A follow-up question was asked on the issue. The Congresswoman’s answers were aired nationally on ABC World News Tonight and Nightline.

Hardball Confirms Bachmann’s Barbarian Comments Weren’t “Doctored”

Jim Burroway

July 15th, 2011
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Meanwhile, there has been considerable controversy over whether Bachmann called gay kids “barbarians” needing discipline, or if he was talking about children in general. Given the context of the interview — which was about gay kids and not kids generally — I think the transcript speaks for itself. Others see it differently, including Ken Avidor, who posted the audio originally:

Avidor does, however, somewhat defend Bachmann against the accusation that he explicitly called gays “barbarians.” Avidor says he’s listened to “a lot of Marcus Bachmann audio,” and he’s heard him say before that “children are barbarians, and somehow they have this innate desire to do, I think in his point of view, wild and crazy things, very un-Christian things in his point of view,” and these things need to be “civilized out of them.” So Bachmann wasn’t really calling gay children barbarians, necessarily — he was merely calling homosexuality one of the many barbaric traits children sometimes exhibit. Not much better.

Marcus Bachmann Defends His Ex-Gay Practice

Jim Burroway

July 15th, 2011

In an interview with The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Marcus Bachmann, husband of GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, defended his psychological clinics, saying they are not focused on ex-gay conversion therapy. He also denied calling gay people barbarians in a 2010 radio interview.

Late last week, John Becker of Truth Wins Out revealed that he attended Bachmann’s clinic in Minnesota, where he was counseled over the course of five treatment sessions that he could change his sexuality. Counselor Timothy Wiertzema told Becker:

“…it’s possible to be totally free of [same-sex attraction]. For sure.” and that “It’s happened! It really has happened to people.” In the fifth session, Wiertzema says, “…obviously your goal is not to have any feelings of attraction for men…And I really am going to recommend that we start working on how you can develop your attractions towards women.”

…During session 5, Wiertzema advised Becker to “further develop your own sense of masculinity.” Reparative therapy reinforces strict gender roles and works to erase outward appearances of femininity in men and masculinity in women. Because these programs do not genuinely change sexual orientation, much focus is placed on changing behavior so an individual can “pass” as heterosexual, even if the gay person has not changed on the inside.

According to The Star-Tribune:

Marcus Bachmann said counselors at his clinics follow the wishes of patients and don’t force any treatment “This individual came to us under a false pretense,” Bachmann said. “The truth of the matter is he specifically asked for help.”

…He didn’t deny that he or other counselors at Bachmann & Associates have attempted to convert gay patients, but he said it is not a special interest of the business and would only be attempted at the client’s request.

“Will I address it? Certainly we’ll talk about it,” Bachmann said. “Is it a remedy form that I typically would use? … It is at the client’s discretion.”

TWO’s John Becker responds:

Marcus Bachmann wants Americans to believe that giving me reparative therapy was acceptable because I specifically asked for it. This is patently absurd. Responsible counselors refuse to provide ex-gay “therapy” because it is scientifically baseless and morally bankrupt. Bachmann & Associates, though, was more than happy to hold out false promises of change with one hand and collect the cash with the other.

Wayne Besen adds:

The notion that a counselor is required harm a client just because he or she asks is patently absurd, asserts TWO. Similarly, if a bodybuilder had asked a doctor to help him or her inject steroids, the practitioner could refuse. If an African American asked a doctor for a skin bleaching, he or she could decline. If a physician is urged to help manage a model’s anorexia, he or she could turn the model away and instead offer real medical help.

Every major mental health and medical organization opposes therapies intended to change sexual orientation. In an exhaustive review of the professional peer-reviewed literature, the American Psychological Association concluded (PDF: 816KB/138 pages) that “enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon” and that “there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm” from such therapies.

Bachmann also claimed that the tape of his 2010 interview with a Christian talk radio program “must have been doctored“:

“I was talking in reference to children. Nothing, nothing to do with homosexuality. That’s not my mindset. That’s not my belief system. That’s not the way I would talk,” Bachmann said.

…”I think the strongest myth. … is the myth that I have ever called a homosexual a barbarian,” Bachmann said.

The audio, provided by the Dump Bachmann Blog, includes annoyingly loud sound-effects where edit points occur. Beginning at around the two-minute mark, there is one such edit point, after which the program returns from a commercial break. At that point, the interviewer begins asking Bachmann — “since you pay attention to the culture wars” — about a a letter from the anti-gay front group calling themselves the “American College of Pediatricians” (not to be confused with the legitimate and mainstream American Association of Pediatrics) and a then-recent Wall Street Journal article titled, “What do you say when your teenager says she’s gay?” The interviewer asks Bachmann:

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Interviewer: (at 2:45) What do you say to Christian parents that come up with this?

Bachmann: Well I think you clearly say, what is the understanding of God’s Word on homosexuality? And I think that this is no mystery that a child or pre-adolescent, particularly an adolescent, will question and wonder about sexuality. That’s nothing new under the sun since the beginning of time.

Inteviewer: (laughs) yeah…

Bachmann: But I don’t think we should take that, as because we wonder or we  think or we question, does that take us down the road of homosexuality?

Interviewer: Could you add the word “experiment” to that?

Bachmann: Well certainly, there’s that curiosity. But again, we, like… It is as if we have to understand barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps.

And let’s face it: what is our culture, what is our public education system doing today? They are giving full, wide-open doors to children, not only giving encouragement to think it, but to actually encourage action steps. That’s why when we understand what truly is the percentage of homosexuals in this country, it is small. But by these open doors, I can see and we are experiencing, that it is starting to increase.

There does not appear to be any edit points or tampering with this portion of the interview. Bachmann told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was speaking of children generally, but it appears that in the full context of the interview the focus very specifically on gay children when Bachmann uttered his “barbarians” remark.

On Monday, Michele Bachman refused to comment on her husband’s clinic, except to characterize his business as “jobs creation.”

Michele Bachmann’s Lesbian Sister at Obama’s Inauguration

Jim Burroway

July 15th, 2011

This video shows Helen LaFave, Rep. Michele Bachmann’s lesbian stepsister at Obama’s 2010 Inauguration in Washington, D.C. talking about what Obama’s presidency means for her. It certainly is a sharp contrast to Bachmann’s view of Obama:

In the 2006 City Pages profile of the Bachmanns, G.R. Anderson, Jr., wrote about how Michele Bachmann’s anti-gay obsessions drove a split in her family (via archive.org):

But Michele Bachmann’s Christian testimony has not endeared her to everyone in her family. When Bachmann held a hearing on the gay marriage ban at the Capitol last April, she got a rude surprise: Sitting just a few feet away was her stepsister, Helen LaFave, who chose the occasion to come out publicly for the first time, with her partner of 20 years in attendance. “This issue has been very hurtful to me personally, and divisive for our family,” LaFave told the Star Tribune at the time. Bachmann said at the time that she had taken a family vote on the gay marriage ban, and that family members favored it by a 6-3 margin. But both Michael and Helen LaFave insist she never spoke to them about it. Helen LaFave added that Bachmann ignored letters LaFave had sent her about the matter.

(Helen LaFave, 46, declined to be interviewed for this story, saying, “My dad is in his 80s now, and it’s too much to have all of this out there for him.”)

“I’ve got to be clear that I’ve always been kind of proud of Michele,” Michael LaFave says cautiously. That all went sour, though, as Bachmann increasingly became the face of the efforts to ban gay marriage at the Capitol. LaFave had no choice but to take things personally: “I wrote her an e-mail, and asked very nicely why she had to carry the water on this, knowing that my father has a gay daughter. How could she discriminate against Helen?

“She’s out there courting a family values agenda, but she’s saying things about her own family that’s not true,” he claims. “She could have been talking to the voters the whole time about having a gay sister,” he says. “That at least would have been honest. Dick Cheney had the good sense to do that with his daughter. He had the good sense to know not to engage the base, to not get involved in the debate, because he knew how much it would hurt his daughter. If anyone spent the most time together between the LaFaves and the Ambles,” LaFave concludes, “it was Michele and Helen.

“What I’d say to Michele is that you’ve got a situation here that you didn’t have to create. You didn’t have to go about it this way,” he says, and pauses before announcing he’ll likely vote for Patty Wetterling. “I’d say, ‘Michele, for all of this, you’ve lost your family. You’ve lost my vote.’”

Bachmann: Being Gay Is “A Part Of Satan”

Jim Burroway

July 12th, 2011

Minnesota Representative and GOP candidate Michelle Bachmann spoke in 2004 at a National Education Leadership Conference:

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And I think something that was meant for evil was meant for good, and I think we can see that again today. Well there’s something that’s happening in our schools, and one of the reasons why I felt I was called to take up this issue, of bringing a constitutional amendment to the state of Minnesota before our people—I was the chief author in the MN state senate—is because of the profound impact this would have on every man, every woman, every child in the state of Minnesota. Because everyone thought this would only impact the 1.3 percent of our population that is a same-sex individual — and again, don’t misunderstand. I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgendered. We need to have profound compassion for the people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life, and sexual identity disorders. This is a very real issue. It’s not funny, it’s sad. Any of you who have members of your family that are in the lifestyle—we have a member of our family that is. This is not funny. It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay. And so we are not here tonight — in fact, I wish this whole room was filled with the gay community, because we’d reach our hand out in love.

The Love Won Out conference was here not too long ago in the Twin Cities, and it’s profoundly sad to recognize that almost all, if not all, individuals who have gone into the lifestyle have been abused at one time in their life, either by a male or by a female. There’s been profound hurt and profound things that have happened in almost all of their lives. And this gives us great compassion. So this is not to talk about gay bashing — do we understand that? That is not what this is about. But it’s to say that this new legal enforcement of a new status—homosexuality, lesbianism, bringing it into the mainstream, if you will, giving it a legitimacy if you will — that will impact not only the gay community, but every man, woman and child, particularly the schools.

Oh no, calling gay people, including one’s step-sister, a “part of Satan” isn’t bashing anyone at all. No siree…

In 2004, Michele Bachmann, who was then a Minnesota State Senator, gave a few opening remarks at the Love Won Out conference in the Twin Cities. According to this Christian Post press release, Bachmann said, “I know that Love Won Out will present the truth about homosexuality. I look forward to welcoming Minnesotans and residents of surrounding states to hear the message of healing that is possible.” The so-called “truth” would have included a line from Focus On the Family’s Melissa Fryrear, who claimed never to have met a lesbian or a gay man who had not been abused. As far as I have been able to determine, Fryrear uttered that line at every single LWO event she has ever spoken at. It was part of her standard stump speech. (She has since left Focus and is working at a church in Prescott, Arizona, and is no longer is part of the ex-gay roadshow.) When I heard her give that talk in Phoenix in 2007, I witnessed first hand the devastating impact it had on parents who were there:

The audience sat in stunned silence as Fryrear, her voice shaking, went on to talk about sexual abuse in greater detail. She later described her own sexual abuse as a child, and her talk had just followed a testimony by Mike Haley in which he described having sex with another older man beginning at the age of eleven. As far as this audience knew, there were no exceptions.

…It’s not fair to say that the parents and relatives were rife with suspicions, but I was surprised at the number of suspicions that did come up — and the circumstantial nature of the “evidence” which prompted many of them. I heard ex-boyfriends and babysitters suddenly come under suspicion where there had been none before. It seemed as if many of these relatives, taking Melissa Fryrear at her word, turned several possibilities over in their minds — dismissing some, but holding others for future consideration.

Sometimes, these suspicions got the better of them. Before that day, it had never even occurred to one mother that her son might have been molested. Now after Fryrear’s talk, she was momentarily certain of it. “There’s no other explanation!” she exclaimed. But as she thought about it, she remembered that she had no reason to suspect this, and that the only “evidence” she had was Fryrear’s statement. She was finally able to calm herself down after those around her reassured her that it probably didn’t happen.

Michele Bachmann Says Ex-Gay Therapy Is “Jobs Creation”

Jim Burroway

July 12th, 2011

Last Friday, we learned that Truth Wins Out’s John Becker had gone undercover as an patient in Marcus Bachmann’s clinic in Minnesota, where he was given at least five sessions of ex-gay therapy. Shortly after, The Nation revealed that a former patient, Andrew Ramirez, had come forward to reveal that he had undergone ex-gay therapy at Bachmann’s clinic in 2004. That would be two years before Bachmann denied offering ex-gay therapy. Marcus’s wife, GOP presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman spoke to a locak Iowa reporter and described her husband’s ex-gay therapy as “a business that deals with job creation,” adding, “I’m very proud of the business that we created.”

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Last June, NBC reported that Bachmann had taken $137,000 in taxpayer-provided Medicaid funds, despite the Bachmann’s opposition to governmental programs. ABC News and NBC News has covered TWO’s undercover investigation of Bachmann’s clinic.  Fox has also covered the story in their own inimitable way:

Just so we’re clear on who the victims are.

Nobody Pays Attention To Preambles Anyway

Jim Burroway

July 11th, 2011

When the Iowa-based Family Leader began asking GOP presidential candidates to sign its anti-gay “Marriage Vow,” it originally contained this statement in the pledge’s preamble:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

Never mind the abject ignorance of that statement — slave marriages weren’t legally recognized in the south and families were routinely split up and sold, making the likelihood of actually being raised by a mother and a father rather shaky — that part of the preamble was criticized by the left and right alike for its suggestion that African-American children were better off under slavery. Late Saturday night, Family Leader bowed to criticism and quietly removed that statement from its preamble. But by then, Rep. Michele Bachmann had already raced to put her signature on the document, only to be followed a very short time later in a photo finish by Sen. Rick Santorum.

Bachmann’s campaign has been fending off criticisms for signing the racially-offensive document ever since.

A Bachmann spokeswoman said earlier Saturday that reports the congresswoman had signed a vow that contained the slavery language was wrong, noting it was not in the “vow” portion.

“She signed the ‘candidate vow,’ ” campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said, and distanced Bachmann from the preamble language, saying, “In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible.”

Totally understandable when you think about it. I bet almost none of our founding fathers like John Quincy Adams paid much attention to the Preamble to the Constitution before they signed it either.

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