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Dan ForestIf ever you find yourself in need of a moment of mirth in today’s stressed out news cycle and you’ve already checked out all the day’s headlines at The Onion, here’s a great #2 option: surf on over to the website of the “Faith Driven Consumer” and check out their latest LOL ratings of corporate America.

As we’ve reported on a few occasions previously (most recently last December), the group, which was co-founded by North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest, purports to assess businesses for their “commitment to full equality and inclusion of the Faith Driven Consumer market segment” (which basically translates to how closely the companies toe the values and political lines laid down by the religious right). One of the group’s previous Christmas shopping guides, for instance, downgraded the giant retailed Sears because it included lingerie models in its catalogs. The current “index” gives higher scores to companies that support an anti-choice position when it comes to reproductive freedom for women.

This week, in an effort to grab a few seconds of attention in the media circus surrounding the Super Bowl, the group issued a statement taking the National Football League to task for registering a “score” of only 24 out of 100 on the “faith equality index.” This is from the statement:

“The National Football League is significantly comprised of Christian players, coaches, and executives, and as such, many in our community assume the organization is welcoming of Faith Driven Consumers. But its score of 24 out of 100 says otherwise.”

As to how and why the grade was bestowed, Forest’s buddies aren’t (as has been the case ever since the days of the hysterical lingerie downgrade) providing many details. Read More

Commentary
Image: Franklin Graham's Facebook page

Image: Franklin Graham’s Facebook page

One of the nation’s most troubled well-known people, the evangelist Franklin Graham, says he’s quitting the Republican party. Setting aside the rather strange reality that a so-called “man of God” would make his political party a public matter and feel obliged to make a big announcement about it (and that anyone would really give a darn when he did), it should be stated that this is a badge of honor for the GOP.

Graham’s stated reason for leaving — the recently adopted federal budget deal and the fact that it continued some funding for the health services provider Planned Parenthood — amounted to a compromise between Democrats and Republicans in Washington. And as anyone who’s been paying attention in recent years, such compromises have been in short supply for some time. By taking such a stand against a deal that fully satisfied neither side, Graham is endorsing a continuation of the dysfunction and gridlock that has harmed the country so grievously in recent years. Thank goodness a majority of members of Congress aren’t listening to this dim bulb. With any luck, Graham will make himself completely irrelevant to Republican politicians and then people like Gov. Pat McCrory won’t feel obliged to kiss his ring so often.

Of course, that should have happened long ago. The Republicans should have disavowed Graham years ago for his regular rants of hate against Muslims and LGBT people. Unfortunately, folks like North Carolina’s governor have ignored Graham’s venom for his fellow human beings in their quest to attract social conservative voters. Maybe now that will change, but it’s probably not time to hold your breath.

As a humorous aside, political commentator Steve Benen points out that this is not the first time Graham has thrown a tantrum and quit a major institution recently. Earlier this year, Graham took his fat wads of cash out of Wells Fargo Bank because the bank ran a commercial with a same-sex couple who had adopted a deaf child. The funny part: Graham’s new bank, BB&T, turns out among other things to be a sponsor of gay pride events. Let’s hope Graham’s latest hate and ignorance-based actions work out for him just as well.

Commentary
Image: Franklin Graham's Facebook page

Image: Franklin Graham’s Facebook page

A certain presidential candidate has been generating a lot of heat of late with his incendiary comments about Muslims. Sadly, however, there is an important public figure in North Carolina who loudly and proudly beat him to the punch — the Rev. Franklin Graham. Indeed, as several news outlets reported yesterday, Graham is even bragging about the fact that he had the idea of discriminating against members of what he has called a “very evil and wicked religion” first.

Amazingly, however, Graham’s outrageous hate offensive has not stopped important North Carolina politicians from cozying up to him. Take, for instance, Gov. Pat McCrory.

Just this Tuesday — the same day that Graham posted another hateful diatribe against Muslims on his Facebook page — McCrory appeared with him at an event sponsored by Graham’s controversial ministry Samaritan’s Purse (i.e. the one that pays him huge CEO bucks) in Charlotte. Graham even has a picture of the two men together (see above) in a post celebrating the event on his Facebook page right above the one spewing invective against Islam.

This is simply an unacceptable situation. Can you imagine if the Governor of North Carolina was palling around with someone who said things about Christianity or Judaism that Graham says about Islam? There would be a firestorm of outrage and national media attention. In this case, however, the Guv just meanders along, happily celebrating a man who is an embarrassment to the state and nation. All caring and thinking North Carolinians should be outraged and demand that their governor cease contacts with this troubled and destructive person immediately.

Commentary
Bank of America

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A few years back, as you may recall, a nonprofit conservative Christian group co-founded by North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest made some waves by releasing a Christmas shopping guide in which it purported to rate retailers for their adherence to the values of “faith driven consumers.” The guide, which downgraded companies for, among other things, including lingerie models in their catalogs, sought to convince corporations to alter their business practices in order to cater to conservative Christian shoppers. (Forest, who has not yet filed for re-election this year, resigned from the group shortly after its founding, but has made it plain since then on multiple occasions and in multiple venues that he remains a loyal soldier of the religious right).

This year, the organization (which calls itself Faith Driven Consumer) is back with a new attempt at rating corporate America which it has entitled, somewhat amusingly, the “Faith Equality Index.” In it, the authors grade more than 100 companies on a 100 point scale for their “commitment to full equality and inclusion of the Faith Driven Consumer market segment” (which appears to translate to how closely the companies toe the values and political lines laid down by the religious right).

According to the index, Charlotte-based Bank of America tied for the lowest rating given to any company with a score of 11. Only the consumer goods producer, Unilever, received as low of a score. Meanwhile, the fast food chain Chick-fil-A received the highest overall score of 63. Craft store Hobby Lobby, of anti-Obamacare fame, came in second with a 62.

Company scores were constructed by compiling ratings in several categories. For instance, companies could earn up to five points for:

  • “use of the word ‘Christmas’ in seasonal advertising,”
  • “philanthropic support of biblically (sic) orthodox faith-driven organization(s) or event(s) (e.g. financial, in-kind or pro bono support)” and
  • “targeted recruiting efforts for both faith-driven employees and suppliers.”

Ten points were available to companies that demonstrate “respect for, acknowledgment of, and compatibility with a comprehensive pro-life view on abortion, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia.”

The ratings are, in short, an absurd mishmash of items from the religious right’s political agenda with no real explanation in most instances as to how or why points were awarded. Car maker General Motors, for instance, gets two out of five points for its “Use of the word ‘Christmas’ in seasonal advertising,” but there is no explanation as to why. Similarly, the hotel chain Residence Inn by Marriott gets six unexplained points out of 10 for its performance on sexual morality issues.

The bottom line: Though the authors have spared us the laugh-out-loud details that accompanied the 2012 guide, the new “Faith Equality Index” appears to be, on the whole, just as ridiculous. Fortunately, there are at least a couple of encouraging takeaways:

First, none of the companies rated — not even even Hobby Lobby, Cracker Barrel or Walmart, for crying out loud — scored very highly, with marks of 62, 53 and 51 out of 100, respectively.

Second, the guide would seem to provide at least some consolation to caring and thinking progressives who worry about patronizing large and frequently predatory mega-corporations. After all, if businesses like Microsoft and Pfizer are ticking off the religious right, they can’t be all bad.

Commentary, News

Dan ForestYesterday was a wild and wacky day (and night) in the already wacky world of North Carolina policy and politics as lawmakers stayed in session past four o’clock this morning and sent all kinds of new potential laws to the Governor — often with only a cursory review of what they actually will do.

For some of the players in the drama, however, the chaos of end-of-session sausage making was clearly not enough to hold their complete attention. Take Lt. Governor Dan Forest, for example. Yesterday, the presiding officer of the state Senate took three hours out of his workday to serve as “guest host” on Called 2 Action Radio — an program hosted by a self-described “Christian wacko” named Steve Noble (In 2011, Noble released a book entitled “The Making of a Christian Wacko: Are You Next?”)

In case you’re not familiar with Mr. Noble and his program, it is a syndicated show based in Raleigh in which the host and his guests spew a steady stream of vitriol and condemnation — especially toward gays, Muslims, Mormons and anyone else who does does not adhere to their particular brand a far right, fundamentalist religiosity. Just last week, Noble held forth on multiple occasions on the supposed incompatibility of Islam and the the U.S. Constitution, how he “hates Islam,” how the Bible is explicitly pro-capitalist, how Donald Trump has twice violated “Jesus’ prohibition against divorce except in cases of sexual immorality” and, well, you get the idea.

According to the folks at Right Wing Watch, Noble said the following in the run-up to the vote on the marriage discrimination amendment back in 2012:

“The homosexual lifestyle is not an orientation it’s just a temptation, we all face that, but they’re the ones, that’s the only group of sinners that’s chosen to try to attack the entire world, let alone the word of God, to say ‘no, no, we’re going to keep fighting until you all agree with us that this thing that we know as a sin, isn’t.”

Noble went on to describe homosexuality as, among other things: “the playground of Satan and the evil forces against God’s way.”

Yesterday, a post on on Forest’s Facebook page stated that:

“Dan is the fill in guest host for Steve Noble’s nationally syndicated radio show today. On live now with Congressman Mark Meadows. Tomorrow we will post the full three hour podcast where you can hear Dan interview Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, David Barton, Rep. Meadows and more>’
Then in the middle of the afternoon, Forest tweeted the following:
“On air in place of Steve Noble for the next few hours. Have presidential candidates, business and faith leaders on your local radio station.”
As of yet, the promised podcast has yet to materialize on either the Called 2 Action website, Forest’s website or his Facebook page. We’ll keep an ear and eye out.