On the weekend of Sept. 14-16, 2012, while President Obama and Secretary Clinton struggled to put out fires ignited by a crude, anti-Muslim video made in California, just minutes from the White House high-profile “holy terrorists” were stoking those same flames with anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Gathered at the Values Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel was a collection of America’s most infamous Islamophobes: fundamentalist Christian Americans who are using “the Muslim threat” as they once used “the gay threat,” to raise money, mobilize volunteers, and scare the American public into voting Republican on Nov. 6, 2012. These “holy terrorists,” who see themselves as called by God to “champion traditional values” and “protect America,” are the real threat to our nation’s relationship with Muslims at home and abroad (and the real threat to the future of our democracy, as well).
If you ever wondered who the Christian right would blame for undermining “traditional values” once the “gay threat” was found to be a hoax, now it’s certain. Here’s the list of gay bashers turned Muslim bashers who sponsored the Value Voters Summit: the Family Research Council (Tony Perkins, President), the American Family Association (Tim Wildmon, President), American Values (Gary Bauer, President), the Heritage Foundation (Ed Feulner, President), Liberty University (Jerry Falwell, Jr., Chancellor), and Liberty Counsel (Matt Staver, Chairman).
These are the most powerful fundamentalist Christian organizations in the country, whose leaders are trusted by millions of Americans. At this moment, they share this primary goal: to find ways to defeat Barack Obama and purge Washington, D.C., of the “liberal, godless, socialists” who are “undermining traditional family values” and “steering the nation towards total ruin.” It looks like anti-Muslim rhetoric will be a favorite tactic of the Christian right to see their goals reached in 2012, just as anti-gay rhetoric was used to confuse voters in 2010. In her speech at the Value Voters Summit, Michele Bachmann demonstrated how “holy terrorists” will play the anti-Muslim card: “What we’re watching develop before our eyes today are the direct consequences of this administration’s policy of apology and appeasement across the globe.”
Here are examples of the hate speech fundamentalist Christian leaders use when describing the so-called “Muslim threat” in their current political tirades. They are typical anti-Muslim statements taken directly from leaders of the two most powerful sponsors of the Value Voters Summit. The Family Research Council and its spokespeople have claimed that Islam is not, and should not be, protected under the First Amendment; that there shouldn’t be any mosques in America; and that Christians must go on the offensive against Islam. The American Family Association and its spokespeople also assert that Muslims have no fundamental First Amendment claims; that they should be banned from building mosques and even deported from the U.S.; and that Muslims are inherently stupid as a result of inbreeding.
It all sounds so familiar. “Holy terrorists” on the Christian right are simply replacing the word “gay” with “Muslim” in their fundraising appeals while making the same false claims against Muslims that they made against LGBT Americans. The only problem is that those “holy terrorists” on the right are still waging war against LGBT Americans, as well. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Family Research Council has claimed that gay rights activists are “sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to the nation.” The American Family Association has warned that homosexuality is “immoral and leads ultimately to personal and social decay.”
Matt Staver, the president of Liberty Counsel, another sponsor of the Value Voters Summit, is the newest star in the Islamophobic firmament. As Dean of the Law School at Liberty University, Staver has replaced Falwell as Liberty’s spokesman for all things phobic. Just days before the Value Voters Summit Staver’s Liberty Counsel action (fundraising) email announced that “radical Muslims” had declared war on the United States.
Staver was raising funds to send his Patriot’s Handbook of Political Action for Pastors and Churches to the 158,182 churches in America “that the ACLU, People for the American Way, and other radical groups have attempted to silence on the key issues of the day.” Those who have seen Staver’s Handbook report that it explains how pastors can influence the coming election without breaking the law.
Then he announced (in words straight from Senator Joseph McCarthy’s playbook), “Our government MUST be purged of the radical influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist Islamic organizations!” He also wrote, “I am asking you to [petition] key Members of Congress to get behind Rep. Michele Bachmann’s and the National Security Five’s call for intense investigations into the growing influence of radical Islam inside our nation…”
Like the other VVS sponsors, Staver, too, continues to use anti-gay rhetoric to stir up his support base. At the Values Voter Summit he blasted “those who want to destroy the natural definition of marriage.” He warns that the goal of the LGBT movement is “sexual anarchy”; that it undermines the family; that it is a direct assault on freedom of religion and freedom of speech; and that it threatens the future of Western civilization.
On Friday, Sept. 15, it was announced that the Coptic Egyptian immigrant who produced the inflammatory anti-Muslim video was under “intense questioning” by federal authorities, while at the same time high-profile fundamentalist Christians with millions of gullible supporters were free to whip up an anti-Muslim and anti-gay frenzy at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
But here’s the good news. In November 2010 the Southern Poverty Law Center named the Family Research Council and the American Family Association “hate groups” because of their “dissemination of false and demonizing propaganda about gays and lesbians.”
I’m hoping that before this election other major organizations sponsoring the Value Voters Summit, like Matt Staver and his Liberty Counsel, will also be labeled “hate groups” for the lies they tell in their campaign to demean and dehumanize LGBT and Muslim Americans alike. On that day, we stop everything to celebrate. Until then, we have no option but to confront and condemn the Christian right before they elect themselves a president by hating Muslims like they took the House by hating gays.