On Friday, Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress got the Rick Perry presidential campaign in a bit of trouble when he told reporters at the Values Voters Summit in DC that the governor's top rival, Mitt Romney, belongs to a "cult," and that his membership in an LDS church was a disqualifier as a Republican presidential candidate. Jeffress' appearance on stage to introduce and endorse Perry* was approved by the campaign, and Perry himself praised Jeffress from the lectern.
If the Republican primary turns into a debate about Mitt Romney's Mormonism, that's probably bad news for everyone involved. But the former Massachusetts Governor is in good company when it comes to being slammed by Jeffress. In 2010, the mega-church pastor convened a weekly lectured series called "Politically Incorrect," in which he tackled the kinds of issues that, in his view, society didn't have the courage to confront. "Oprah Winfrey also claims to be a Christian," Jeffress said in one such discussion, "but her teachings are anything but Christian."
But Islam receives by far the harshest criticism from Jeffress. The world's second-largest religion, he explained in a 2010 video (starting at about the 3:40 mark below), is "evil." Here's how he framed his opposition to the proposed Islamic community center in lower Manhattan:
When Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress introduced Rick Perry at Friday's Values Voter summit in Washington, he praised the Texas governor as a man with a "strong committment to Biblical values." Just a short while later, he ripped into Perry's top rival for the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of belonging to a "cult"—Mormonism.
Speaking to a gaggle of reporters shortly after finishing up an interivew with the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer—who himself has slammed Romney for his Mormon faith—Jeffress explained that to him, beating Barack Obama is a "spiritual issue." "I really am not nearly as concerned about a candidate's fiscal policy or immigration policy as I am where they stand on what I believe are Biblical issues. And that's why I'm endorsing Governor Perry." That's not especially surprising. Here's what he said, though, when asked by the Dallas Morning-News's Wayne Slater about Romney's faith:
The display tables at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC, are a cornucopia of conservative red meat. One advertises an upcoming conference on creeping Islamic Shariah law (November 11th in Nashville; register online). Near the entrance, a company advertises something called the "Timothy Plan," which helps investors avoid stocks that are "involved in practices contrary to Judeo-Christian principles" (the list includes Disney, CBS, and JP Morgan).
And over near the back doors, there's PFOX (short for Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays), an organization dedicated to combating perceived prejudice against people who say they've stopped being gay. As the group's literature puts it, "without PFOX, ex-gays would have no voice in a hostile environment." Ex-gays have long been a staple on the religious right and at gatherings like this, but the organization has found a renewed sense of purpose following last spring's to-do over Rep. Michele Bachmann's Christian therapy clinic. As The Nationfirst reported, clinics owned by the Minnesota congresswoman and her husband have practiced so-called reparative therapy, designed to cure patients of their homosexuality.
"To boost the economy, why not pay interns?" Why not? MoJo does it.
As Andy Kroll reported this morning, the three-week-old #OccupyWallStreet movement has risen out of many of the same grievances that sparked massive protests at the Wisconsin state capitol. In some cases, as I discovered on Thursday at a satellite demonstration in DC, it even includes the same group of people.
Chad Bucholtz drove to DC ("crammed in like sardine cans") along with 14 others from Wisconsin to attend the rally. A veteran of the union demonstrations in Madison last February, he sees the 99-percent movement as a direct continuation of those efforts. "I see a lot of similarities; in Madison it wasn't just Democrats, it was Democrats and Republicans—maybe former Republicans," said Bucholtz, a student at UW–Milwaukee. "It was both the left- and right-wing people that recognized that the corporate influence of Koch Industries was pretty much buying policies." He politely disagrees with skeptics who say the movement hasn't articulated any specific goals: "We need a constitutional amendment to clarify that money is not free speech," he says. "My opinion is that the root [of the problem] is money buying politics."
Carrie Scherpeltz of Madison, another veteran of the Wisconsin demonstrations, said she expected about 100 Wisconsinites were on there way to show their support. "We were a spark; I personally want to fan it." Her message: "De-rig our economy. They've been rigged in favor of corporatocracy and against the people."
Via Pew, this chart sort of speaks for itself. Support for the nation's biggest institutions (you can add in the media, if you want) have very steadily declined over the last four decades. When you add in a horrible economy, it's really no surprise why so many people have taken to the streets to protest over the last three years: