But this is also the time for raw politics and some of the Republican presidential contenders are gleefully touting their religious credentials and ties. The award for the ugliest endorsement has to go to Ron Paul, however, whose Iowa campaign manager touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a Christian pastor who wants to bring back "Biblical Law" that calls for the execution of gay people. The Paul campaign website wound up scrubbing the endorsement after substantial backlash. But not before progressive bloggers dug deeper and questioned Paul's links to religious extremists and his beliefs on civil rights and states' rights. See excerpts from Talking Points Memo and from legal expert Jonathan Turley below. And here's gay blogger Mike Rogers, Managing Editor of Raw Story, on the Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC Thursday night. Raw Story points out that:
Rep. Paul has said before that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a view that is shared by his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-TN KY), who claimed that the Civil Rights Act was an intrusion on the rights of businesses owners, who he feels should be able to determine for themselves who they will and will not serve.
Paul's Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." But Kayser's views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law.
"Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just," he argued. "But as we have seen, while many homosexuals would be executed, the threat of capital punishment can be restorative. Biblical law would recognize as a matter of justice that even if this law could be enforced today, homosexuals could not be prosecuted for something that was done before."
Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals -- including the death penalty -- even if he didn't see much hope for it happening anytime soon. While he said he and Paul disagree on gay rights, noting that Paul recently voted for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, he supported the campaign because he believed Paul's federalist take on the Constitution would allow states more latitude to implement fundamentalist law. Especially since under Kayser's own interpretation of the Constitution there is no separation of Church and State.
"Under a Ron Paul presidency, states would be freed up to not have political correctness imposed on them, but obviously some state would follow what's politically correct," he said. "What he's trying to do, whether he agrees with the Constitution's position or not, is restrict himself to the Constitution. That is something I very much appreciate."
Kayser's allegiance to the Paul campaign may reflect who the campaign has chosen to sell Paul to the churches. Mike Heath, who became Ron Paul's Iowa state director this fall, has spent his career on the Christian right. In Iowa, Heath has focused on outreach to the religious community in the state, where Paul has made an effort to target evangelical voters.
Heath spent 14 years running the Christian Civic League of Maine (which has since changed its name). As a prominent figure in Maine, Heath slowly alienated the Christian right in the state with his extreme tactics. In 2004, for example, he launched a witch hunt to out gay members of the Maine legislature, asking supporters, according to the Portland Press Herald, to "e-mail us tips, rumors, speculation and facts" regarding the sexual orientation of the state's political leaders, adding, "We are, of course, most interested in the leaders among us who want to overturn marriage, eliminate the mother/father family as the ideal, etc." The result was that his own organization suspended him for a month.
"He's a well-known conspiracy theorist about the 'gay agenda,'" says Travis Kennedy, chief of staff for the House Democratic Office in Maine, who says Heath was a big figure around the capital for many years. Heath made more enemies than friends, says Kennedy, whose "offensive and aggressive" tactics put off even his allies on the Christian right. In 2007, Heath played a big part in opposing a sexual orientation anti-discrimination ballot measure which ultimately passed by a wide margin. On Heath's new job in Iowa, Kennedy said, "I'm not surprised he'd be hired in a state far away from Maine. He has a pretty poor reputation around here."
From 2008-2010, Heath served as chairman of the board of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. AFTAH is a fringe, anti-gay organization and has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for promoting false information. For example, the organization and its founder, Peter LaBarbera, have published false reports about LGBT people, including allegations that they live shorter lives and that they are prone to pedophilia. LaBarbera disputes the SPLC's label.
"Peter LaBarbera is among the most fringe elements of the anti-gay industry in America today," Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in an email to TPM. "You'd be hard pressed to find another group that is so singularly focused on telling lies about LGBT Americans."
It's unclear if Ron Paul ascribes to some of Heath's anti-gay beliefs. Paul's newsletters do contain several quotes smearing gay Americans as well as the AIDS epidemic. Recently, a disenchanted former Paul aide described an instance when Paul refused to use the bathroom of a gay supporter. But whatever Paul's beliefs, Heath's work on his campaign is another strike against a candidate with a history of associating with fringe elements of the right.
Neither the Paul campaign nor Mike Heath responded to requests for comment.
It was not Paul's view on homosexuality but his view on federalism that attracted Kayser. "Under a Ron Paul presidency, states would be freed up to not have political correctness imposed on them, but obviously some state would follow what's politically correct." I share many of Paul's federalism concerns about the shift toward unlimited federal jurisdiction. However, Kayser appears to think that federalism means that states can exempt themselves from the Bill of Rights. He is obviously wrong. Yet, he views federalism as a way of restructuring society along sectarian lines: "Ron Paul's strictly Constitutional civics is far closer to Biblical civics than any of the other candidate's on a whole range of issues."
Christ said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). Not some authority or most authority, but "all authority." There is no square inch of planet earth over which Christ does not have authority. He has the authority to rule over the state, business, farming, science, art, economics, education, etc. This means that all of life must be governed by His Law-Word. Christ will not be satisfied until all enemies are placed under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:20-28), and "He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law" (Isaiah 42:4). A major portion of the church's ministry must be to call all competing authorities to repentance through the faithful teaching of the Law-Word of Scripture.
That vision of government seems strikingly similar to the model found in places like Iran, which apply their own religious code.
Notably, he admits that it may be difficult to switch over to a Christian version of Sharia law.
"Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just. But as we have seen, while many homosexuals would be executed, the threat of capital punishment can be restorative. Biblical law would recognize as a matter of justice that even if this law could be enforced today, homosexuals could not be prosecuted for something that was done before."
Notably, the Dominion Covenant Church proclaims its purpose as "[p]romoting and enjoying the dominion of King Jesus over every area of life." The church calls for "a reconstruction of our society."
For civil libertarians who are unwilling to support President Obama after his long record of rolling back on civil liberties and increasing national security powers, including his recent signing of a law allowing for indefinite detention of citizens, Paul has become an alternative candidate. However, he cannot court civil libertarians while maintaining associations with such people as Kayser. Once his campaign chair put out the press release, it became a campaign issue and requires more than just a withdrawal of the release without comment.
One final note here: it is interesting to see how far we’ve come from 2004 when Karl Rove used antigay ballot initiatives in 11 states to bring out the evangelical vote and win re-election for George W. Bush. And lest we forget – Religious Right extremists in cahoots with the Mormon and Catholic churches helped pass the antigay Prop 8 in California during the 2008 presidential election. This election season, however, it’s not just LGBT media but mainstream reporters, bloggers and political pundits who are finally reporting on the antigay attitudes of candidates and in some cases, such as Turley’s analysis, using the candidate’s antigay position as a jumping off point to consider other significant, connecting issues. This is just the beginning of a long political season – but this feels like a turning point in how LGBTs are covered in the political world.