Commentary

HB2 supporters finally come out of the closet about their true intentions

Not that anyone is surprised by the development, but it seems worth clarifying as we come to the close of another work week in North Carolina’s new and dark HB2 era, that the most prominent supporters of the discrimination law have revealed their true colors in recent days. Having long mouthed the manufactured and embarrassingly absurd talking point that HB2 is somehow about “bathroom safety,” the folks over on the far right came out and admitted this week that what they and their law are really about is keeping LGBT people down.

First came the Monday rally in Raleigh at which two of North Carolina’s most active and loudmouthed homophobes, Rev. Ron Baity and Rev. Patrick Wooden were allowed to share the stage. As Chris Fitzsimon pointed out on Tuesday:

“…Wooden has referred to being gay as a ‘death style’ that ’causes a breakdown of the human body’ and that it is normal to react violently to gay people.

He also famously predicted that marriage equality would lead both to men marrying goats and a pedophile problem and that transgender male Chastity Bono was acting under the influence of the devil and demon spirits of perversion.

And Wooden wasn’t even the most outrageous speaker at the rally. That dishonor would have to go to Ron Baity from the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and the head of a group called Return America. Baity has compared gay people to maggots and murderers and endorsed their prosecution.

His group’s website says LGBT people behave like perverts.”

A year and a half ago, Baity has also blamed the Ebola disease on the legalization of same-sex marriage and claimed that it was just one of many plagues God would bring to the United States as punishment for promoting LGBT rights.

And lest anyone have any doubts that the leaders of the HB2 crusade are in sync with Baity and Wooden, these were dispelled this week as well when the North Carolina Values Coalition condemned Gov. McCrory’s minuscule concession on the issue of LGBT discrimination in state government employment. According to Fitzgerald, even such modest anti-discrimination policies “threaten the First Amendment freedoms of state employees.”

Did you catch that? In the muddled and disturbed worldview of Fitzgerald, Baity and Wooden, firing people because they are LGBT is a precious First Amendment freedom. What more does one need to know before concluding that the HB2 architects are hopelessly out of touch with reality and no more capable of sane dialogue on the issue than were their ideological heirs in the pro-segregation movement of the 20th century?

Surely it is this overriding reality that is ultimately driving the powerful forces throughout the country who are leading the growing boycott against North Carolina. Simply put, the men and women running various corporations and other institutions around the United States are looking at the leaders of our state and who they are listening to and concluding that they cannot in good conscience be associated with such hatred and ignorance. As long as McCrory, Berger et al. fail to grasp this reality, they’re going to remain behind the political eight ball.

Commentary

“Nonpartisan” Pope-Civitas Institute hosts select candidates at conference in the midst of primary election

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

Ted and Heidi Cruz - Image: Twitter.com

Ted and Heidi Cruz – Image: Twitter.com

There’s a lot of wackiness coming to Raleigh this weekend at the Pope-Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference. You can check out the whole motley crew of presenters and “can’t miss” sessions by clicking here. Among the obvious “highlights”:

  • Christian Action League boss Mark Harris holding forth on threats to “religious freedom,”
  • Convicted campaign finance law felon Dinesh D’Souza pushing two of his recent books and
  • A session entitled “Dark Money v. Private Philanthropy: How to Keep Your Donations Private and the Left Out of Your Business.”

And, of course, who would want to miss the Saturday night “Liberty on the Lawn Cigar Reception”?

But the sessions that really stand out in the midst of a hotly contested state primary election (early voting starts tomorrow) will be the ones featuring the appearance of two candidates and one surrogate for a candidate — all of whom appear on the primary ballot.

First will come Gov. Pat McCrory at the Friday morning opening breakfast (as an aside, does anyone else think it’s weird that the Governor of the state has to share the podium with three other speakers including the notorious vote suppressor, Hans von Spakovsky?). Then comes a Friday after-lunch session featuring Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. And then on Saturday, the lunch will feature Heidi Cruz — the wife of the presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has been feverishly crisscrossing the nation as a surrogate for her husband’s campaign.

Notably absent from the schedule: the opponents or spokespersons for the opponents of these candidates.

All of which raises the question of how in the heck a nonpartisan nonprofit pulls this off. At last check, the Pope-Civitas was a 501(c)(3) private foundation that is barred from endorsing candidates for office. One presumes the speakers have been instructed not to make appeals for votes, but given the proximity to the election and the notable absence of opponents, it’s hard to see how the appearances — especially Cruz’s — don’t amount to at least tacit endorsements.

Commentary

Convicted felon and current probationer to keynote Pope-Civitas event

You’ve got to hand it to the Pope-Civitas Institute. The group is not afraid to do whatever it takes to advance the right-wing message — even if it means setting new standards in gall and hypocrisy.

The latest exhibit: It was announced yesterday that the keynote speaker as this year’s “Conservative Leadership Conference” will be right-wing activist and convicted election law felon Dinesh D’Souza. This is from a September 2014 Huffington Post story describing D’Souza’s deeds:

“Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza was sentenced on Tuesday to spend eight months in a community confinement center during five years of probation after pleading guilty to a campaign finance law violation.

The defendant, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan. He was also given a $30,000 fine and ordered to do one day of community service a week during his probation.

D’Souza, 53, admitted in May to illegally reimbursing two ‘straw donors’ who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.

‘It was a crazy idea, it was a bad idea,’ D’Souza told Berman before being sentenced. ‘I regret breaking the law.’

Prosecutors had sought a 10-to 16-month prison sentence, rejecting defense arguments that D’Souza was ‘ashamed and contrite’ about his crime and deserved probation with community service.”

You got that? An organization that regularly rails about “soft-on-crime” policies and politicians and a supposed epidemic of election fraud in the country is nonetheless turning over its podium to someone who was sentenced for committing an election law felony less that a year a half ago. The guy just got out of jail last year and is still on probation for heaven’s sake.

Maybe the point is to have him come and hold forth on second chances for those who’ve been convicted of crimes after having made stupid mistakes in life. If that’s so, well then, good for him and the Civitasers.

But the email promoting the event gives no indication that this is the case. Instead, it’s the usual hard right vitriol. And indeed, the “about” section from the website promoting D’Souza’s new post-jail book, “Stealing America” includes this doozy of a summary: “Why Hillary, Obama, and the entire Democratic Party are no better than a gang of thieves.”

All in all, it sounds like ol’ Dinesh may be a case study in likely criminal recidivism rather than rehabilitation and second chances. Stay tuned.

Commentary

Nonprofit founded by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest downgrades Bank of America, other companies for not toeing religious right’s line

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

Greensboro columnist looks at whether NC is a terrorist hotbed

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record adds his name this morning to the growing list of observers who have detected a hard and unpleasant truth about terrorists and North Carolina — namely, we’re just as likely to produce them as import them from elsewhere. Here’s Clark:

“Our ugly secret is out.

‘Forget Syria. The most dangerous religious extremists are migrants from North and South Carolina,’ a headline in the online magazine Slate proclaimed Monday.

Author William Saletan noticed a pattern with the arrest of Robert Lewis Dear, the alleged gunman responsible for last week’s shootings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. Dear lived in the North Carolina mountains before moving west.

‘For two decades, the Tar Heel State has been a hotbed of religious extremism, fueled by clerics who preach holy war,’ Saletan wrote. ‘The result is a stream of interstate terrorism.’”

Clark goes on to point out that Saletan’s list of North Carolina grown terrorists is actually incomplete, leaving out as it does, the 1979 Klan murderers in Greensboro. But Clark also pivots from this observation to raise a larger and more important point:

“Do these examples prove Saletan’s premise that North Carolina is a ‘hotbed of religious extremism’? No. I don’t think significantly more of these dangerous extremists have come from North Carolina than from other Southern states. I also don’t consider these people to be “religious,” no matter what they might claim. They certainly aren’t all Christian….

Yet Saletan is making a larger point. North Carolina political leaders almost universally reacted to last month’s Paris terrorist attacks by calling for the government to stop the Syrian refugee program until assurances are made that no terrorists will get into the country and our state by that route.

Yet these examples show there are very dangerous people already here — apart from the routine criminals, of whom there are far too many.

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