National Organization For Marriage co-founder Robert George with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Pope Francis must have vomited when he heard the Hobby Lobby news. Nothing could undo the good he has recently done the Church’s image more than yet another case of anti-woman lashing out by a cabal or far right Roman Catholic activists– this time in the Supreme Court.
Alarmed by the Supreme Court pandering to the extreme religious right in the Hobby Lobby case, the new pope might ask “Who is responsible for this?” The answer is: Many people. However two people are the real instigators: the late evangelical far right activist, Charles Colson, and Roman Catholic far right ideologue and anti-gay activist, Princeton Professor Robert George. Their tool has been Justice Antonin Scalia and the other Roman Catholic members of the Court.
George is a close friend and co-conspirator with fellow ultra-conservative far right Roman Catholic ideologues including with Scalia who became the ringleader of the GOP’s Court-driven Hobby Lobby lunge into theocratic politics. George is the de facto father of the twinned war against gays and war against women. Scalia is his follower and close friend. And George has the support of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, the Mormon leadership and the most conservative of the evangelical leaders. Charles Colson was George’s close confident. Together they hatched the plan that in the end (and after Colson died) became the Hobby Lobby case.
Way back when, the late Charles “Chuck” Colson teamed up with George to launch the dirty tricks campaign to brand President Obama as “anti-religious.” They decided to use the issue of contraception as the hinge to turn people against him.
George, who once was an adviser to John McCain, has worked hard to destroy the Obama presidency. Colson’s and George’s “Manhattan Declaration” was the trap they set for the administration that finally paid off when they talked a number of bishops into branding Obama as anti-religious because he wanted women to have access to contraception, even if they worked for Roman Catholic or evangelical-controlled institutions.
In 2009, Colson was a principal writer with George of the Manhattan Declaration, which called on far right evangelicals, Mormons and Catholics to defeat President Obama in 2012, albeit without mentioning Obama by name under the “non-political” guise of the “sanctity of human life,” issues and “traditional marriage” and “religious freedom.” These calls for a “return to biblical law” (or the Catholic version so-called “Natural Law”) have long since been the bishops’ and evangelical right’s code words for gay and women bashing.
Colson’s and George’s trap for the president, the “Manhattan Declaration,” was instantly signed by more than 250 American “mainstream” (mostly evangelical) conservative religious leaders. They joined to “affirm support for traditional marriage” and to advocate civil disobedience against laws contradicting the signers’ religious beliefs about marriage and/or the “life issues.”
The drafting committee was in close contact with operatives like Karl Rove. This group began to pump their followers up for the battle to come for the 2012 elections. The Manhattan Declaration was signed by a virtual Who’s Who of evangelical leaders in their anti-Obama, anti-gay, anti-women crusade. Collaborating with other Christian leaders, Colson aimed to launch other grassroots movements around “moral and ethical issues of great concern” in other words he returned to being Nixon’s hatchet man again at the end of his life showing greater loyalty to far right Republican Politics than to the gospel.
Colson worked closely with members of a far right “religious liberty” group — the Becket Fund — led by the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic William P. Mumma (a Wall Street banker) working closely with the Roman Catholic bishops to sue the government in order to force women to forgo contraception if they happen to work for Catholic run corporations.
The view they were defending was summed up by the leading Catholic philosopher of the 20th century (and pre-Pope Francis) Vatican favorite, Elizabeth Anscombe in her anti-contraception essay “Contraception and Chastity,” where she wrote: “If you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition. It’s this that makes the division between straightforward fornication or adultery and the wickedness of the sins against nature and of contraceptive intercourse. Hence contraceptive intercourse within marriage is a graver offence against chastity than is straightforward fornication or adultery.” (G. E. M. Anscombe, “Contraception and Chastity,” London: Catholic Truth Society, 1975)
Most Roman Catholics would not sign on to such weird extremism. But “most Roman Catholics” are not in charge of their Church’s image today. George and Scalia are.
And most Americans will not thank the Roman Catholic activists and their evangelical friends suing our government to force us to adopt Anscombe’s view of contraception even in the name of “religious liberty.”
Liberty as defined here as the “right” of the Roman Catholic Church to deny progress in women’s rights. The suit will mean that any time the social issues might have faded away the Roman Catholic Church’s attack on women will remain “news.”
The far right ideologues who turned depriving women of contraceptives into a “religious liberty” issue were counting on trying to get their “case” before at least 4 Supreme Court Justices that have a right wing Catholic worldview –Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. And they just won.
It is not coincidence that Colson was assigned by these extremists to be the point man for the anti-Obama crusade. He put his name on a piece crafted by the Robert George group when it came to the bogus “Obama is anti-religious” charge.
To ramp the case up Colson teamed up with a Catholic bishop and wrote (or had George write for them) in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal after the “story” (a trumped up fabricated story at that) about Obama’s “anti-religious” stance broke. Then throwing red meat to the faithful, Chuck Colson wrote in an open letter to his fellow believers (Feb. 8, 2012) where he compared the administration birth control mandates to policies enacted in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.
In the WSJ op-ed Colson and the Catholic bishop blew their cover, they cited their own creation as proof that they had grassroots support when of course (like the Tea Party) they had had their “issue” created top down. they write:
At this critical moment, Americans of every faith, as guardians of their own freedom, must, in the words of the First Amendment, “petition the government for the redress of grievances.” That’s why over the past two years more than 500,000 people have signed the “Manhattan Declaration” in defense of religious liberty. They believe, as do we, that under no circumstances should people of faith violate their consciences and discard their most cherished religious beliefs in order to comply with a gravely unjust law.
Cloaked in the respectability of the Princeton U. name, George’s articles appear in major venues, and he has free reign of Republican-leaning media. Yet there has been precious little critical examination of the outright falsehoods he spreads.
The New York Times first brought George’s influence to the attention of the public with a 2009 profile in the New York Times Magazine. It described George as having “parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy into real political influence.” The article noted his close connections with George W. Bush, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
George has established multiple pet politico-academic projects nearby to Princeton University. Though officially separate from the university, they have an obscurantist, symbiotic relationship with it. When his counter-factual “studies” are published with the Princeton name attached to them, the Princeton Board of Trustees, so far, has turned blind eyes.
George’s organizations were involved in arranging $785,000 in funding for a falsehood-laden “parenting study,” carried out by a sociologist at the University of Texas, Austin, Mark Regnerus.
The study purported to compare differences in outcomes for children of heterosexual and of homosexual parents. In reality, though, the “study” did not survey children raised by same-sex couples. Rather, Regnerus looked for offspring of broken heterosexual-headed families. Regnerus said that he took his funding from George’s anti-gay groups, instead of from the National Institute of Health, because he thought the study would not make it through the NIH’s peer review process. Predictably, NOM and the religious right wing are nevertheless using Regnerus’s study, disingenuously claiming it proves that homosexuals are dangerous to children. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called NOM out for demonizing gays by untruthfully conflating homosexuals with pedophiles.
Far from alienating the Republican leadership, George’s theocratic machinations have been handsomely rewarded. Boehner appointed George to the misleadingly-named U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom. George’s determination to see scowling, crushing blame heaped on homosexuals also has garnered the consistent long-term support of Mitt Romney.
In 2008, Romney funneled $10,000 to NOM through an Alabama PAC, to promote the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California. Romney and NOM endeavored to keep the donation secret; the donation only saw daylight thanks to a disenchanted NOM insider. NOM’s documented strategies include driving wedges — and fanning hostility — between different minority groups. Repugnantly, NOM budgeted to find children of same-sex parents willing to denounce their parents to the public.
Scalia and George have shared the platform at many church and political events despite the astounding extremism of George and his associates. At Liberty University, NOM’s William Duncan even asserted that homosexuals are not human. Romney later told the same Liberty U. community that he shares their “values.” And in addition to getting Romney to sign his pledge, George persuaded Boehner to lend credence to the Catholic bishops’ disingenuous, politically-motivated “religious liberty” suits against the Obama administration over women’s access to contraceptives. George has been the mastermind of the tactic of targeting the President as “anti-religion,” a falsehood taken up as a battle cry by the Republican Party.
The fact that the House speaker, the Republican presidential nominee and a Supreme Court justice were using George — or being used by him — to advance an anti-gay, anti-women’s rights theocratic agenda is shocking. This is far right religion, poisoning politics, at its worst. They just won a huge victory against women, and all freedom-loving Americans. What they want is theocracy.
Now the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday in the Hobby Lobby takes the George/Colson/Scalia agenda to new heights. As the Times noted, “The case swept aside accepted principles of corporate law and religious liberty to grant owners of closely held, for-profit companies an unprecedented right to impose their religious views on employees. The court has allowed commercial business owners to deny employees a federal benefit to which they are entitled by law based on the owners’ religious beliefs, and it was a radical departure from the court’s history of resisting claims for religious exemptions from neutral laws of general applicability when the exemptions would hurt other people.”
Roman Catholic co-conspirator Mr. Alito, and his ruling and a concurrence by Justice Anthony Kennedy portray the decision as a narrow one without broader application, like denying vaccine coverage or job discrimination. But that is not reassuring coming from justices who missed the point that denying women access to full health benefits is discrimination.
Republican politicians are trying to portray the Hobby Lobby decision purely as a win for religious freedom, which is a more attractive spin than the loss of reproductive freedom for women who work for these companies. The Supreme Court, is now, however, the surrogate for the Tea Party candidates (remember “legitimate rape”?) that helped elect several Democrats in 2012, but have largely been quieted this year.
George, Colson and Scalia used the Roman Catholics on the Court to make it into the Colson/Manhattan Declaration PART II as it were. And they just won.