Rep. Michele Bachmann has been getting a lot of heat for a statement her presidential campaign sent out suggesting that Americans are at risk of "economic enslavement." On Sunday, in an attempt to distance the candidate from a pledge she'd signed which suggested that black families were more stable during slavery, Alice Stewart explained, "In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible." "Economic slavery" sounds like it could be a pretty horrible thing, but given that she's probably talking about capital gains taxes, it seems a bit far-fetched.
Bachmann's been saying things like that publicly for a while—at least as far back as 2001, when she warned that the administration of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, in partnership with Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, was pushing a state-planned economy "similar to that of the former Soviet Union."But Bachmann's not the only one making tenuous claims about how the government wants to shackle citizens. As it happens, Texas Gov. Rick Perry believes we're already being enslaved by the federal government. Here's what he told Evangelist James Robison back in May:
"I think we're going through those difficult economic times for a purpose, to bring us back to those Biblical principles of ... not spending all of our money, not asking for Pharaoh to give everything to everybody and to take care of folks, because at the end of the day, it's slavery. And we become slaves to government."
In case you were wondering: Yes, Rick Perry is Moses in that scenario.
I wrote on Wednesday about one potential spoiler in Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign: her husband, Marcus. Marcus is a non-certified Christian therapist who operates a clinic called Bachmann & Associates, which has been accused of practicing "reparative" therapy to supposedly turn gay people straight. It's a practice that's been rejected by every major psychologial and psychiatric organization, but given Marcus Bachmann's assertions that gays need to be "educated" like "barbarians," that doesn't seem like a deal-breaker. Marcus has previously denied that the clinic is involved in "reparative" therapy while conceding that his clinic would, hypothetically, be open to that kind of thing, but only if a patient specifically asked to be cured.
Now, writing at The Nation, Mariah Blake offers an account that seems to refute Bachmann's previous denials and shed new light on the family's ties to the "ex-gay" movement:
In the summer of 2004, Andrew Ramirez, who was just about to enter his senior year of high school, worked up the nerve to tell his family he was gay. His mother took the news in stride, but his stepfather, a conservative Christian, was outraged. "He said it was wrong, an abomination, that it was something he would not tolerate in his house," Ramirez recalls. A few weeks later, his parents marched him into the office of Bachmann & Associates, a Christian counseling center in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, which is owned by Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus. From the outset, Ramirez says, his therapist—one of roughly twenty employed at the Lake Elmo clinic—made it clear that renouncing his sexual orientation was the only moral choice. "He basically said being gay was not an acceptable lifestyle in God’s eyes," Ramirez recalls. According to Ramirez, his therapist then set about trying to "cure" him. Among other things, he urged Ramirez to pray and read the Bible, particularly verses that cast homosexuality as an abomination, and referred him to a local church for people who had given up the "gay lifestyle." He even offered to set Ramirez up with an ex-lesbian mentor.
The gay rights group Truth Wins Out, meanwhile, just released the results of their own hidden-camera investigation into Bachmann & Associates. That report is cited in Blake's piece, and tells a similar story—the Truth Wins Out operative, John M. Becker, asked the clinic to cure his homosexuality and then described in detail the ensuing therapy sessions.
It's worth noting that this isn't just a story about a campaign spouse. When Michele Bachmann brags about starting a family business on the campaign trail, this is the business she's talking about; it's very much her clinic too—she lists it as an asset on her financial disclosure forms. Marcus, meanwhile, has said that he is his wife's top political "strategist." So what does this all mean? For one thing, it suggests that Marcus Bachmann lied about his clinic's activities. It's possible, I suppose, that he really didn't know what was going on at the clinic, but if that was the case, it seems odd that, as Blake notes, he'd hawk the memoir of a noted "ex-gay" activist at the clinic.
It also raises some serious questions. Reparative therapy isn't covered under most insurance plans. How did Bachmann & Associates describe the treatment when they billed insurance companies? Or did patients just pay out of pocket? And what does this mean for Bachmann and Associates' government funding? As the Minnesota Independent's Andy Birkey has noted, Bachmann & Associates has received $30,000 in state funds.
Oprah Winfrey can be a polarizing figure. But is she leading the United States toward the End Times and the rise of the Antichrist? That's the argument put forth by Mike Bickle, founder of the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer (IHOP), and official endorser of Texas Governor Rick Perry's prayer and fasting festival scheduled for early August in Houston's Reliant Stadium. As we've noted before, Perry's rally, which organizers say is intended in part to convert non-Christians to Christianity, has come under fire because of the controversial views of some of its sponsors. Now, via Right Wing Watch (which has been all over this story), here's footage of Bickle at IHOP explaining where Oprah fits in the Book of Revelation.
"I believe that one of the main pastors, as a forerunner to the Harlot movement, it's not the Harlot movement yet, is Oprah. She is winsome, she is kind, she is reasonable, she is utterly deceived, utterly deceived. A classy woman, a cool woman, a charming woman, but has a spirit of deception and she is one of the clear pastors, forerunners to the Harlot movement."
Watch it here:
So now that Oprah's no longer doing Oprah, does that mean we're in the clear? The public has a right to know.
Texas Governor Rick Perry's close relationship with fringe figures of the religious right is likely to be an issue for him if, as looks increasingly likely, he decides to run for president. But his central role in an international incident could loom even larger. Last night, he declined to intervene in the execution of a Mexican national, Humberto Leal, by lethal injection, despite public requests from the White House and the government of Mexico to hold off. Here's the AP:
A Mexican national was executed Thursday evening for the rape-slaying of a San Antonio teenager after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a White House-supported appeal to spare him in a death-penalty case where Texas justice triumphed over international treaty concerns...Police never told Leal after his arrest that he could seek legal assistance from the Mexican government under an international treaty, and his case had prompted appeals on what it could mean for other foreigners arrested in the United States and for Americans detained abroad. His appeals lawyers said such assistance would have helped his defense.
Perry's death penalty record is the sort of thing that, in a normal political climate (as opposed to the current one), would cripple any realistic shot at the Oval Office. He refused to stay the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, and, after the fact, when the evidence began to overwhelmingly suggest that Willingham had been innocent, he replaced three members of the commission that had been reviewing the case. (Perry stands by the execution, insisting that Willingham was a "monster.") After two decades on death row, Anthony Graves was released only after a lengthy investigation from Texas Monthly showed that he had been wrongfully convicted. And Perry's doggedly embraced the death penalty even as studies continue to show that executions are costing his cash-strapped state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Perry has presided over more than 230 executions as governor. As the Texas Tribune notes, he's commuted the death sentences of 31 death row inmates, but in 30 of those cases, that was only because the Supreme Court ordered him to. The high court intervened against again last March, ordering that the state was required to consider DNA testing in an appeal from a death row inmate. In 2010, a Houston district judge ruled the state's death penalty system was unconstitutional because it violated the 8th and 14th Amendments. Earlier this year, a Texas House committee considered a bill to put a two-year moratorium on executions, in light of continued evidence of wrongful convictions. And in April, a psychologist frequently employed as an expert by the state in death penalty cases was banned from performing mental evaluations after she was found to be using "unscientific" methods in her official analyses. Through it all, Perry has maintained the same confident tone: "I think our system works."
The Leal execution is about more than just criminal justice. It also speaks to Perry's hostile relationship with Washington, which is at the root of his appeal to the tea party. He's clashed with Obama over perceived slights in disaster-relief funding and border security (although Texas has grown fat off border pork). Now, Perry's returning the favor: The White House told the governor his decision would put Americans at risk when they travel abroad; Perry decided that wasn't his problem. As with his suggestion in 2009 that Texas could secede from the Union over Obama's policies, it's a case of Perry demonstrating less than total allegiance to the national interest. Is that presidential? That's for voters to decide.
On Thursday, one of Iowa's most influential social conservative organizations, The Family Leader, informed GOP presidential candidates that to win the group's endorsement, they'll have to sign a pledge. Family Leader president Bob Vander Plaats, a former Mike Huckabee ally, wants GOP contenders to commit to a list of 14 red-meat items, including opposition to gay marriage, a ban on Islamic Sharia law, a rejection of pornography, and an affirmation that married couples have better sex.
The group, which spearheaded the successful campaign to unseat state supreme court judges who had voted to legalize gay marriage, has been courted by candidates like Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty as a way of tapping into the state's huge bloc of conservative Christian caucusgoers. What's in the pledge? Here's a quick rundown:
Presidential candidates who sign The Marriage Vow will sign off on support of personal fidelity to his/her spouse, appointing faithful constitutionalists as judges, opposition to any redefinition of marriage, and prompt reform of uneconomic and anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and divorce law. The Marriage Vow also outlines support for the legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), humane efforts to protect women and children, rejection of anti-women Sharia Islam, safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. military personnel, and commitment to downsizing government and the burden upon American families.
The document itself gets more specific. Point 5 begins with a "Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex..." Point 9 rejects "forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence."
So who will jump on board? Much of the platform seems to mix fairly well with standard conservative talking points, but there might be a few dissenters. At the New Hampshire Republican debate last month, for instance, frontrunner Mitt Romney pointedly came to the defense of Muslims and smiled away any suggestion that American Muslims would be any less qualified to serve in his administration than anyone else. Because Sharia Islam is actually just a synonym for Islam, it would seem like a radical departure for Romney to suddenly embrace the Family Leader's far-right language. He also declined to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's pledge, which affirmed candidates' opposition to appointing pro-choice officials, because he felt it limited his flexibility to make cabinet and judicial appointments.