Gov. Sarah Palin isn’t talking about her faith – or anything else,
for that matter, in the last few days – but that hasn’t stopped the
media from digging into her religious background, which has been hailed
by the religious right as an impetus for social conservatives to support Sen.
John McCain. Palin certainly hits all the high notes on issues
concerning the religious right. But while that support from the
religious right has been huge, Palin has also suffered some criticism
from members of the pro-family movement.
The two main churches in Palin’s life are very conservative and have generated a great deal of controversy.
Palin attended the Wasilla Assembly of God for most of her life. The
church is Pentecostal and many members are said to "speak in tongues,"
a fluent uttering of unintelligible speech as part of religious custom.
The practice is based on the experience of Jesus Christ’s apostles who
were said on the Pentecost to have spoken in languages unknown to them
but recognizable to native speakers. Leaders of the church believe that
the end of the world is near and that Alaska will be a refuge for North
Americans when, they believe, Jesus will return to Earth.
"I believe that Alaska is one of the ‘refuge states’ – come on, you
guys – in the Last Days," said pastor Ed Kalnin while standing next to
Palin at June event. "And hundreds of thousands of people are going to
come to this state to seek refuge. And the church has to be ready to
minister to them."
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When Palin became active in state politics, her family left their
lifelong church to move to the conservative, but not so high profile,
Wasilla Bible Church. But even that church has provided some surprises.
Palin sat in church a few weeks ago while a representative of Jews for Jesus preached that terrorist attacks on Israel are God’s judgment against Jews for not being Christians.
"Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the
newspapers and on the television," said David Brickner, executive
director of Jews for Jesus. "It’s very real. When [Brickner’s son] was
in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of
that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer
and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people.
Judgment – you can’t miss it."
Palin’s pastor confirmed that she was in the audience that Sunday.
Alaska taxpayers footed the bill
for Palin to return to her church of origin and talk with students who
had recently graduated from a religious program there. At Wasilla
Assembly of God, Palin gave an impromptu speech about needing prayers
from church members in order to do her job as governor. Palin was clear
about mixing politics and religion during the speech, which is
currently circulating on the Internet.
Where does Palin stand on issues important to the religious right?
Iraq War: Palin believes that God is behind the
Iraq war. She told the Wasilla Bible Church graduates that “our
leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a
task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re
praying for — that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”
Abortion: Palin told anti-abortion activists in 2007 that she needed their help to “reshape the judiciary” in Alaska to help overturn Roe v. Wade, a move that even some anti-abortion activists found to be too extreme.
Creationism: When running for governor, Palin advocated teaching creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms. “Teach both,” she said.
“You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so
important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of
She did backtrack, though, later saying, “It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”
Gay rights: Palin supported a constitutional amendment barring marriage for same-sex couples in Alaska and has said she would support a ballot measure overturning a state Supreme Court decision mandating benefits for domestic partners of state employees.
Her current church is promoting
a Focus on the Family conference dedicated to the discredited practice
of “curing” homosexuality. The church flier reads, “You’ll be
encouraged by the power of God’s love and His desire to transform the
lives of those impacted by homosexuality.”
Palin has even engendered fanatical support. One fan is praying for McCain’s death so Palin can run the country. Here’s his wish list:
1. Vote Constitution Party. (I vote my conscience and cannot support McCain even with Palin.)
2. Pray for Sarah Palin to win. (I am an idealist, but also a realist!)
3. Pray for John McCain’s salvation and speedy death. (Google The
Forerunner’s articles on Imprecatory Prayer if you think this is harsh.)
But not every social conservative finds Palin to be palatable.
Some think Palin’s priorities are wrong: a woman who with an infant son
with special needs should not be running for vice president. Dr. Laura Schlessinger:
I’m stunned — couldn’t the Republican Party find one
competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with
McCain? I realize his advisors probably didn’t want a “mature” woman,
as the Democrats keep harping on his age. But really, what kind of role
model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious
issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within
days of the birth?
I am haunted by the family pictures of the Palins during political
photo ops, showing the eldest daughter, now pregnant with her own
child, cuddling the family’s newborn.
Republicans have tried to pass Trump's most recent comments off as a joke because to accept the reality of that rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large.
This week, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump stated that, if Hillary Clinton were elected and able to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something about it. After blaming the media for “being dishonest” in reporting his statement, the Trump campaign has since tried to pass the comment off as a joke. However characterized, Trump’s statement is not only part of his own election strategy, but also a strategy that has become synonymous with those of candidates, legislators, and groups affiliated with the positions of the GOP.
To me, the phrase “Second Amendment people” translates to those reflexively opposed to any regulation of gun sales and ownership and who feel they need guns to arm themselves against the government. I’m not alone: The comment was widely perceived as an implicit threat of violence against the Democratic presidential nominee. Yet, GOP party leaders have failed to condemn his comment, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreeing with the Trump campaign that it was “a joke gone bad.”
Republicans have tried to pass it off as a joke because to accept the reality of their rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large. The rhetoric is part of a longer and increasingly dangerous effort by the GOP, aided by corporate-funded right-wing organizations and talk show hosts, to de-legitimize the federal government, undermine confidence in our voting system, play on the fears held by a segment of the population about tyranny and the loss of liberty, and intimidate people Republican leaders see as political enemies.
Ironically, while GOP candidates and leaders decry the random violence of terrorist groups like Daesh—itself an outgrowth of desperate circumstances, failed states, and a perceived or real loss of power—they are perpetuating the idea of loss and desperation in the United States and inciting others to random violence against political opponents.
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Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment came after a week of efforts by the Trump campaign to de-legitimize the 2016 presidential election well before a single vote has been cast. On Monday, August 1, after polls showed Trump losing ground, he asserted in an Ohio campaign speech that “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest.”
Manufactured claims of widespread voter fraud—a problem that does not exist, as several analyses have shown—have nonetheless been repeatedly pushed by the GOP since the 2008 election. Using these disproven claims as support, GOP legislatures in 20 states have passed new voter restrictions since 2010, and still the GOP claims elections are suspect, stoking the fears of average voters seeking easy answers to complex problems and feeding the paranoia of separatist and white nationalist groups. Taking up arms against an illegitimate government is, after all, exactly what “Second Amendment remedies” are for.
Several days before Trump’s Ohio speech, Trump adviser Roger Stone suggested that the result of the election might be “illegitimate,” leading to “widespread civil disobedience” and a “bloodbath,” a term I personally find chilling.
Well before these comments were made, there was the hate-fest otherwise known as the Republican National Convention (RNC), during which both speakers and supporters variously called for Clinton to be imprisoned or shot, and during which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a man not widely known for his high ethical standards or sense of accountability, led a mock trial of Hillary Clinton to chants from the crowd of “lock her up.” And that was the tame part.
The number of times Trump has called for or supported violence at his rallies is too long to catalogue here. His speeches are rife with threats to punch opponents; after the Democratic National Convention, he threatened to hit speakers who critiqued his policies “so hard their heads would spin.” He also famously promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who hurt protesters at his rallies and defended former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after allegations surfaced that Lewandowski had assaulted a female Breitbart reporter.
A recent New York Times video compiled over a year of reporting at Trump rallies revealed the degree to which many of Trump’s supporters unapologetically express violence and hatred—for women, immigrants, and people of color. And Trump eschews any responsibility for what has transpired, repeatedly claiming he does not condone violence—his own rhetoric, that of his associates, and other evidence notwithstanding.
Still, to focus only on Trump is to ignore a broader and deeper acceptance, even encouragement of, incitement to violence by the GOP that began long before the 2016 campaign.
In 2008, in what may appear to be a now forgotten but eerily prescient peek at the 2016 RNC, then-GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and his running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, used race-baiting and hints at violence to gin up their crowds. First, Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” a claim that became part of her stump speech. As a result, Frank Rich then wrote in the New York Times:
Nothing was in fact done. No price was paid by GOP candidates encouraging this kind of behavior.
In 2009, during congressional debates on the Affordable Care Act, opponents of the health-care law, who’d been fed a steady diet of misleading and sensationalist information, were encouraged by conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Right Principles, as well as talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity, to disrupt town hall meetings on the legislation held throughout the country. Protesters turned up at some town hall meetings armed with rifles with the apparent intention of intimidating those who, in supporting health reform, disagreed with them. In some cases, what began as nasty verbal attacks turned violent. As the New York Times then reported: “[M]embers of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.”
In 2010, as first reported by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), suggested that armed insurrection would be the answer if “this Congress keeps going the way it is.” In response to a request for clarification by the host of the radio show on which she made her comments, Angle said:
You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.
I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.
Also in 2010, Palin, by then a failed vice-presidential candidate, created a map “targeting” congressional Democrats up for re-election, complete with crosshairs. Palin announced the map to her supporters with this exhortation: “Don’t retreat. Instead, reload!”
One of the congresspeople on that map was Arizona Democrat Gabby Giffords, who in the 2010 Congressional race was challenged by Jesse Kelly, a Palin-backed Tea Party candidate. Kelly’s campaign described an event this way:
Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.
Someone took this literally. In January 2011, Jared Lee Loughner went on a shooting rampage in a Tuscon grocery store at which Giffords was meeting with constituents. Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others, including Giffords who, as a result of permanent disability resulting from the shooting, resigned from Congress. Investigators later found that Loughner had for months become obsessed with government conspiracy theories such as those spread by GOP and Tea Party candidates.
These events didn’t stop GOP candidates from fear-mongering and suggesting “remedies.” To the contrary, the goading continued. As the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein wrote in 2011:
Florida Senate candidate Mike McCalister, who is running against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), offered a variation of the much-lampooned line during a speech before the Palms West Republican Club earlier this week.
“I get asked sometimes where do I stand on the Second and 10th Amendment, and I have a little saying,” he declared. “We need a sign at every harbor, every airport and every road entering our state: ‘You’re entering a 10th Amendment-owned and -operated state, and justice will be served with the Second Amendment.’” [Emphasis added.]
These kinds of threats by the GOP against other legislators and even the president have goneunpunished by the leadership of the party. Not a word has come from either House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decrying these statements, and the hyperbole and threats have only continued. Recently, for example, former Illinois GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted and then deleted this threat to the president after the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas:
“3 Dallas cops killed, 7 wounded,” former congressman Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, wrote just before midnight in a tweet that is no longer on his profile. “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
Even after the outcry over his recent remarks, Trump has escalated the rhetoric against both President Obama and against Clinton, calling them the “founders of ISIS.” And again no word from the GOP leadership.
This rhetoric is part of a pattern used by the right wing within and outside elections. Anti-choice groups, for example, consistently misrepresent reproductive health care writ large, and abortion specifically. They “target” providers with public lists of names, addresses, and other personal information. They lie, intimidate, and make efforts to both vilify and stigmatize doctors. When this leads to violence, as David Cohen wrote in Rolling Stone this week, the anti-choice groups—and their GOP supporters—shrug off any responsibility.
Some gun rights groups also use this tactic of intimidation and targeting to silence critique. In 2011, for example, 40 men armed with semi-automatic weapons and other guns surrounded a restaurant in Arlington, Texas, in which a mothers’ group had gathered to discuss gun regulations. “Second Amendment people” have spit upon women arguing for gun regulation and threatened them with rape. In one case, a member of these groups waited in the dark at the home of an advocate and then sought to intimidate her as she approached in her wheelchair.
The growing resort to violence and intimidation in our country is a product of an environment in which leading politicians not only look the other way as their constituents and affiliated groups use such tactics to press a political point, but in which the leaders themselves are complicit.
These are dangerous games being played by a major political party in its own quest for power. Whether or not Donald Trump is the most recent and most bombastic evidence of what has become of the GOP, it is the leadership and the elected officials of the party who are condoning and perpetuating an environment in which insinuations of violence will increasingly lead to acts of violence. The more that the right uses and suggests violence as a method of capturing, consolidating, and holding power, the more they become like the very terrorists they claim to be against.
Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.
In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.
Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”
“Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.
“Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”
Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”
Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.
“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”
Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.
Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”