That happy feeling engendered by knowing that no true conservative, thanks to Rev. Don Wildmon's boycott, would ever again buy a car from Ford didn't last for those who went outside the hotel to eat. Just at the edge of the Shoreham's parking lot was a group of about 10 anti-bigotry protesters carrying placards bearing slogans like, "Gays Are People Too." Too bad the summit's attendees didn't have the eyes to see them.
Worse, when the attendees returned from lunch, there was another protest group to greet them – this one apparently from Americans United – bearing signs that read, "America: It's Not Just For Fundamentalists Anymore" and "Focus On Your OWN Family!"
The summit moved into high gear after lunch, leading off with a talk from Sen. James Inhofe, a third-term senator who's also served a couple of terms in the House – and in both places, he's been in charge of the weekly prayer breakfasts – and in-between those duties, he's been using his government office to proselytize the "political philosophy of Jesus Christ" in Africa. Must be why they love us so much over there...
In a sense, Inhofe was one of the most honest politicians to speak at the summit. He said he supports "core conservative values," which, when you look at them, he explained, "you'll find these things are all scriptural.'
"I could name about 10 of them – you can talk about flag burning, you can talk about 'one nation under God,' you can talk about homosexuals, you can talk about abortion – but I will only use two just as an example, and they are the abortion and homosexuality," Inhofe stated. "When we talk about 'litmus test,' to me a litmus test is something that's scriptural. If it's scriptural, it's a litmus test, and it should be. So I'm going to give you the scriptures ... so when you go out among other people that don't believe, you'll be able to carry something with you."
Well, aside from Inhofe's little mistake about what a "litmus test" is – it's a scientific (not scriptural) test of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance – what he made unquestionably clear is that he bases all of his legislative decisions on the Bible – and as an American living under the Constitution, if that doesn't scare the bejesus out of you, I don't know what will.
And religion has been very good to Inhofe. Take, for instance, the little yellow cards they used to give out in church, that gave the legislative and philosophical views of candidates for office – selected views, that is, on issues that were important to the church, like abortion and homosexuality.
"Quite frankly, when I left the House to come to the Senate in 1994, I probably would not have been elected if it hadn't been for them [yellow cards]," Inhofe said. "Right now, that [church voter guides] is under attack, as you probably know."
But, warned Inhofe, the liberals have been searching for years for an issue that they could bring before the public that would get people to distract them from important things like abortion and homosexuality – and they've found one!
"They chose an issue – and this is ingenious ... and a lot of you are going to be real mad at me," he prefaced, "because 70% of you out there believe that global warming is a reality."
"We were just about to sign the Kyoto Treaty when I became chairman of the committee, Environment and Public Works," Inhofe continued. "Now, in this committee, we have jurisdiction over all these areas, so I thought, 'We need to find out what the truth is about global warming.'"
Of course, that "truth" turned out to be that global warming doesn't really exist – and if it does, it'd cost too much to fix.
Curse those liberals! Don't they realize that the possible extinction of all life on earth pales in comparison to such weighty issues as whether gays can marry or women can maintain control over their own bodies?!?
And in case you couldn't guess, Inhofe doesn't think too highly of animal rights activists – see Romans 1:23-25 – or the U.N., either.
Next up was former Judge Charles Pickering, the Mississippi-based U.S. District Court judge who'd been nominated by President Bush for an appeals court position in 2002, and after failing confirmation for two years, Bush eventually placed him on the Fifth Circuit through a recess appointment in January of '04. However, since recess appointments must be confirmed by the Senate before the end of the next congressional term, and Pickering wasn't, he resigned his position in December of that year.
In a sense, Pickering picked up where Inhofe left off.
"Today in America, we're engaged in another of those great debates; it's called the culture war," Pickering said. "The issue that drives that debate is abortion in its most extreme forms – partial-birth abortion, abortion without parental or spousal consent or even notification – in other words, abortion on demand. But that's not the only issue. Another issue – in fact, a separate issue – is whether reference to God will be banned from the public square, the public arena, the public buildings, institutions and ceremonies, and even in the Pledge of Allegiance; pornography in its most extreme forms – hardcore pornography, even child pornography – and the definition of marriage; these are the issues that are involved, and I compare them in this debate to these other great debates, because as Bill Bennett said this morning, the result of this debate will determine the character of our nation. It will determine the kind of America in which your children and grandchildren and my children and grandchildren will live."
Actually, Pickering thinks it's judges that will determine the result of the debate – and sure enough, he thinks not enough of them hew to the original meaning of the Constitution.
"The judiciary was never intended to be a political branch of government," Pickering stated. "It is ill-equipped to make political decisions. It has no process to receive public influence. It has no way of forging a consensus while making compromises. It is extremely bad policy for the judiciary to be become a political branch of government."
Um ... maybe you don't know it, Chuck, but making the judiciary political is exactly what the people at this conference want to do, by having the Senate confirm judges (like yourself) that reflect the rampant prejudices of religious reactionaries in defiance of several of the rights granted by the very Constitution they'll swear to uphold and then ignore when it suits them.
On second thought, maybe he does know it:
"In the 1970s, in the midst of the state Senate, I supported a proposed constitutional amendment to reverse Roe v. Wade," Pickering admitted in discussing the course of his appeals court non-confirmation. "And in 1983, as president of Mississippi Baptists, I made that statement that they found so disturbing, 'The Bible is the absolute authority by which we should judge all of life's activities.'"
That, of course, got a big round of applause from an audience which probably will never understand the concept that in America, all of life's legal activities are supposed to be judged by the Constitution.
Nonetheless, Pickering declared, "We're fortunate that our Founders gave us a carefully crafted system of checks and balances, so no branch of government can become too strong, but that carefully crafted system of check and balances and separation of powers has been violated in recent years. To correct the process, we need to pass a constitutional amendment that says, in the future, the only way to change, alter or modify or to add to the Constitution is through the amendment process; that judges of the future will not change, modify or alter the Constitution because they will interpret it according to the common understanding of the relevant provisions at the time it was adopted."
Great idea! And since the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and of the press, and since in all the states, there was only one obscenity law on the books between 1789 and 1821, that must mean that all sexually oriented speech is protected, right? (Somehow, I don't think Pickering would agree...)
The afternoon's last scheduled speaker was Ron Luce, founder of Teen Mania Ministries – and in some ways, the most interesting speaker (at least as regards the adult industry) of the whole bunch.
"I would like to inform you of something you may not know about, and that is that you have terrorists living in your living room," Luce began.
Al Qaeda? Nope. Tim McVeigh? Uh-uh. Democrats? Close!
"You have them in your computer; you have them in your iPods – you all know what iPods are? – terrorists lurking of a different nature, of a different kind."
Luce then related a story from "the R-rated part of the Bible," about how a guy whose concubine is raped and killed by "the wicked men of the town" – so the guy cuts her body into 12 pieces and distributes a piece to each of Israel's 12 tribes as an object lesson of what can happen in Israel – Israel, of all places! – and Luce just happened to have on stage a mannequin that he'd cut into 12 pieces to signify that "in America ... we have a very similar situation happening to an entire younger generation. They're being carved up, destroyed, pillaged, right in front of our face; right before our eyes. In fact, we're here this afternoon to mourn the departure of a younger generation. It's really being carved up in a number of different pieces. Let me just describe the acts of violence that have been portrayed and bestowed upon them."
You can probably guess what some of those "acts of violence" are – well, maybe not ...
"We've got all kinds of things that are destroying our kids," he said. "We've got depression. You know, one out of eight teenagers are clinically depressed right now; one out of eight, all over the country, and there's data that shows that there's a direct relationship between the more time you spend on the Internet, the more likely you are to be depressed."
So, kids, you'd better stop surfing over to CNN.com!
"We've got video games," he continued. "You know, eighth graders are the ones that play the most. $20, $25 a week, they're playing – but you know, we're not talking about Pong and Pacman; we're talking about video games that teach them how to solicit prostitutes, how to plan murders – this is entertainment?"
He was talking about Grand Theft Auto, and read a news story from Michigan about a couple of kids who played the game, hopped into their car, ran down a stranger, went to breakfast, came back and "stomped the guy into a coma, and then went home and played the game some more."
"You know, we can talk about music," he continued, "the references to violence, the references to sexuality. You know, there's all kinds of documentation, the more that you hear this stuff, see this stuff on music videos and so forth, the more likely you are both to be violent and to be sexual... Here we've got M-TV, probably one of the largest culprits. These people, one documentation shows that 3,000 times a week, there's a softcore porn image that comes across M-TV – 3,000 times a week! And the data shows that Christian young people actually watch M-TV more than secular young people!"
Luce ticked off a few other "acts of violence" including self-cutting, suicide, STDs and "identity theft" – "And I'm not talking about credit cards and that kind of thing; I'm talking about young people that are aimed at by advertisers to brand them with some sort of identity so they can get their money from them the rest of their lives!" (Of course, the church would never do that!)
The final "acts of violence" include the Internet, where kids have "pseudo-friendship relationships; they don't know how to interact with real people because they've got all these pseudo-people online"; drugs ("There was a clear drop in drug use once President Bush came in and began to spend more money on prevention."); and "point-and-click pornography."
"Probably one of the worst culprits we have that this generation is facing, that no generation has ever had to face before, and that's point-and-click pornography," Luce explained. "Now, we all know that's bad, but do we really know how bad it is? How many of you have ever been online before and you were trying to get to – and something popped onto your computer of a sexual nature and you clicked to try to click it off and another one came up? You know, that happens to 90% of teenagers online doing their homework. Ninety percent! Eighty percent of kids have had multiple exposure to hardcore pornography. Think of the implications! Eighty percent of this generation, multiple exposure. Now, there's no barrier to enter. It used to be you had to convince a guy behind the counter to give it to you and then hope your parents or neighbors didn't see you bring it home, and now it's click, free, click, free – oh, now, a slave. And if we think a 50% divorce rate now is bad, what's it gonna be when these kids start getting married? You know, there's data that shows that people who have had multiple exposures to all this pornography, they get married and then they can't have a normal sexual relationship with their spouse because of what they've exposed their mind to? So now they need Viagra just to have a normal sexual relationship? What is going on here? How many of you have daughters? How are you going to find a decent husband for them, if 80% of their peers have had multiple exposures to pornography, hardcore pornography? And you know what the data shows? It's 12- to 17-year-olds; it's not the dirty old men, that are the longest viewers of pornography online."
Luce thought it was "time we sent a message," and the audience heartily agreed.
"Do we understand what's going on here?" Luce asked. "The train is about to go off the tracks to post-Christian America, and I know we're not here to talk about evangelism today as much as we are how to shape our culture and laws and so forth, but can we just say this real quickly? If we end up with 4% Bible-believing Christians, do you know what kind of laws they're going to make? What kind of judges they're going to put into office? What kind of people they're going to vote into office? What kind of campaigns they're going to support? Do we understand what's going on here? ... If we don't start looking to kids, what's going on with these young people, everything we're doing now is going to be moot, because they're going to come and make all kinds of new laws, and our whole culture is going to wash down the drain."
Actually, Ron, some of us do understand what's going on here. When you say "our whole culture is going to wash down the drain," you mean the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans so much freedom which has so permeated the American culture that you and your kind can't put enough propaganda out over the airwaves, in the newspapers, in the schools and in the pews to convince enough of them to toe the line of your anti-sex, anti-pleasure, anti-freedom agenda.
So I guess you're just going to have to steal it.
And that was the topic of the Summit's final free event. (Well, aside from Sunday morning's worship service, which I didn't attend...) Following Luce's talk, attendees were given a choice of six "break-out sessions," each on a different topic, such as "The Future of Health Care"; "Impacting the Culture Through the Church"; "Training the Next Generation of Pro-Family Leaders"; "Using the Media to Communicate Our Message"; and "In Defense of Mixing Church and State from Acts 16."
As tempting as that last one was – hell, they were all tempting! – I chose "Getting Church Voters to the Polls," run by Connie Marshner, director of international programs for the Leadership Institute, which calls itself "the premier training ground for tomorrow's conservative leaders."
The "course materials" for the session was a booklet, originally prepared for Sen. Rick Santorum's 2000 reelection campaign in Pennsylvania, titled, "Voter Identification And Turnout: A Church Plan," by Marshner herself. What she hoped to do over the course of the hour session was to teach the attendees how to target their fellow parishioners who might be theocrat-friendly and get all of them to the polls.
"Many people come into politics with the idea that, 'Oh, truth is on our side. We have the right ideas. We have proper philosophy. All we need to do is get our message out and people will naturally agree with us, and we will win.' I call this the Sir Galahad Theory of Politics'; 'I will win because my heart is pure'," Marshner explained. "That's good for King Arthur's legends. It's not reality."
"The reality is that in any given political climate, whichever side is best able to motivate and activate the greater number of volunteers has the greater chance of winning," she continued. "That's the real nature of politics."
But while the session did explain how to find volunteers to work on a candidate's campaign, at least half of it was devoted to how to secure like-minded voters and get them to the polls – and Step One was to get a hold of a "church or parish directory" – preferably one's own, but these folks weren't that particular; any directory would do, because studies have shown that people who attend church regularly are more likely to vote for conservative candidates. The prime targets, however, were churches that are "relatively independent, relatively small, and where most people are likely to agree."
Once those directories were secured, the next step was to get some number of volunteers to go through each directory and call each member to try to feel out how he or she felt politically – but Marshner stressed that it was important that this be done as an "anonymous survey" by someone whose voice was completely unknown to the person being called.
According to a script in the booklet, the caller should say, "Hello, I'm with ABC Polls. We're calling in your area to find out the level of interest in the upcoming [U.S. Senate/House of Representatives/state assembly/town council/school board/etc.] election."
The idea of this "poll" was "to identify 'our' voters," Marshner said. "You don't want to get the other side's voters to the polls."
Marshner cautioned callers, "I wouldn't tell them you have a copy of the church directory." When one of the attendees – her collar suggested that she was a clergywoman – asked what to say if the caller were asked directly if he or she was using a church list, Marshner replied, "I haven’t heard a perfect answer to that question. It’s a delicate answer." Callers were also to avoid admitting they supported a particular candidate: "Just say 'I’m collecting information about the candidates'," was Marshner's advice.
"Religious Right groups love to lord their moral superiority over the rest of us," noted Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who attended the summit, "yet the devious approach they endorse shows that these groups suffer a deficit of values."
If the person being called admitted that they were against the conservative candidate, they would never be contacted again. But if the "callee" said he or she was in favor of the conservative, leaning in that candidate's direction or just didn't know much or anything about the candidate, then the caller would deliver that name up the line to a "church coordinator" for follow-up "eyeball-to-eyeball" contact with that person as a potential volunteer to work on the candidate's campaign.
The booklet spends a couple of pages detailing who is – and more importantly, who is not – a good potential recruit. Good recruits for volunteer work are "busy people" who "know how to keep a commitment." They should also be "attractive" and "non-controversial"; people who are "organized" and "know how to manage [their] time."
Some people, however, are "not right."
"It is best to avoid individuals who have been involved in church controversies, or too strongly identified with any movement outside of the mainstream of the church family," Marshner wrote. She also warned the group to be wary of people who showed too much enthusiasm; what they really needed was people who understand the concept of commitment – the ability and willingness to follow through on the tasks required.
Once all the volunteers were lined up and the church members who would be voting for the conservative were identified, all that remained was to make sure that every one of them went to the polls on election day and voted – even if it meant calling them several times that day, and even arranging for transportation to the polling place if necessary.
"The goal is to reach every single person in your shoebox [list of voters] as soon as possible – and to keep calling them until the polls close," Marshner said. "You simply have to keep calling until you know that every voter in every one of the 50 families for which you are responsible has actually cast his or her ballot. That's where we win or lose the election."
"If 30 of your 50 identified voters actually vote, you have won the election in your parish," she concluded.
Remarked Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, "It looks like the 'value voters' have embraced a 'win-at-any-cost' strategy that is far removed from the ethical principles taught by the religion they claim to cherish."
No shit – but Marshner's session was the best education imaginable for anyone who wants to know how the theocrats have amassed so much political power in America today. Now, all progressives have to do is figure out how overcome the tremendous advantage these ready-made conservative voter lists give them.
It won't be easy.