Cebull Resignation Petitions Pepper The Internet- And They Should

Photo from The Missoulian

So far, I’ve found five petitions circulating the internet asking Federal Judge Richard Cebull to resign for his poor judgment in circulating a racially charged email about Barack Obama, his mother- and a bestiality party. Three on Change.org alone. I signed them all.

Why am I still harping on this? Well, to quote The Boston Globe,

Should a single joke, even a deeply, shockingly insensitive one, doom an entire career? Even if it’s merely forwarded on a computer, rather than spoken aloud? A good answer is: only if biases expressed in the joke are reflected in a broader assessment of the joke-teller. That’s why Congress should investigate Chief US District Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, who admitted to passing along a joke whose punchline suggested President Obama was fathered by a dog. Criminal defendants, victims, and litigants need to know that they are being viewed fairly, as individuals, when they come before this judge.

And to buttress, The New York Times:

His dislike of the president is so strong, apparently, he could not resist the urge to violate his ethical duty to avoid intemperate conduct that suggests racial and political bias and an appearance, at least, of impropriety. Although Judge Cebull did not intend for his e-mail to become public, his use of a government computer and an official e-mail account to spread the hateful message removes any claim that his action was purely private.

At Judge Cebull’s request, the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will now consider whether and to what degree to discipline him. It has the power, if it chooses, to reprimand him and temporarily suspend him from hearing cases.

It should not be necessary for the appeals court to do that. Judge Cebull has forfeited the trust Americans need to have in the impartiality and judgment of members of the federal bench. He should resign.

And finally, to quote reader Sara Walsh in The Great Falls Tribune’s comment thread on the story,

Cebull doesn’t get many opportunities to show his racism in Montana, which is 89.4 percent Caucasian, with only 0.4 percent of the non-Caucasians being black. But when you ridicule someone for who they are based on their lineage, which they have no control over, rather than for their actions, that’s racism/discrimination.

That’s why.

Just in case you haven’t had a chance to sign these petitions- and lest the fire die down- I thought I’d list them all here for your convenience.

You’re welcome.

The Call For Cebull To Step Down Gets Louder- Petition Edition

Thanks to the folks at the Montana Human Rights Network, there’s now a petition. From The Great Falls Tribune:

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Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said citizens from throughout Montana and across the country are flooding the organization’s phone lines and email inbox with angry calls for Cebull to be removed from his post as the state’s top federal judge.

“People are really angry and motivated and wanting to do something,” McAdam said Thursday.

The Montana Human Rights Network and other groups are now circulating online petitions calling for Cebull to resign.

“On February 20, the chief federal judge in Montana, Richard Cebull, forwarded an email to six individuals that included racist and misogynistic content. The content of this email dehumanizes people of color and women. People of color and women appearing before Judge Cebull will have valid concerns about his ability to treat them fairly,” the network petition reads in part.

“From the time story broke online (Wednesday) to this morning we had gotten dozens of emails through our website, and phone calls from people who are really wanting some way to register their real displeasure with the email the judge sent around and also really talking about ‘how can we lend our names to something to try to get the judge to resign?’” McAdams said.

The network also plans to file a formal ethics complaint with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The MHRN petition is here. 

UPDATE: CONGRESSIONAL TRI-CAUCUS CONDEMNS MONTANA JUDGE’S RACISM TOWARD OBAMA

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Family Foundation Features Speaker Comparing Obama to Hitler


Group Spirals Down the Rabbit Hole of Extremist Conspiracies

The Montana Family Foundation is featuring a speaker at fundraising events in Bozeman and Billings this week who is popular with Tea Partiers, because she compares Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich to President Barack Obama’s policies.  Kitty Werthmann has claimed President Obama is seeking to finish what Hitler started, and she has admitted that many people think she’s “a wacko.”[1]

“This is the latest indication that the Montana Family Foundation is going beyond the Religious Right’s traditional ‘culture war’ issues,” says the Montana Human Rights Network’s Travis McAdam.  “In recent years, they’ve also promoted the absurd notions that President Obama is not an American citizen and that socialism is taking over the country.  Kitty Werthmann headlining their fundraising events just demonstrates the Family Foundation’s extremism.”

The Montana Human Rights Network issued a briefing paper today (see below) outlining the Family Foundation’s formation and its work under the leadership of Jeff Laszloffy.  It also details their promotion of extreme right-wing beliefs that mesh with the Tea Party Movement.  The briefing outlines how Laszloffy and the Family Foundation supported efforts during the 2011 Montana Legislature to make President Obama prove he is an American citizen.  It also discusses the Family Foundation’s increased paranoia about socialism taking over the country and contains an overview of Kitty Werthmann.

“Jeff Laszloffy and the Family Foundation have tried to position themselves as a credible organization since forming in 2004,” says McAdam.  “Featuring activists like Werthmann and trumpeting conspiracy theories related to President Obama’s citizenship erode any sense of legitimacy they may have accumulated.”

 

Jeff Laszloffy and the Montana Family Foundation:

Promoting “Birthers” and Hitler-Obama Comparisons

 

Montana Family Foundation

 

The Montana Family Foundation, a state-level affiliate of the Religious Right powerhouse Focus on the Family, started in 2004.  At that time, some board members from an entity that was originally the Christian Coalition of Montana broke away from that organization to start the Family Foundation.  At the time, the Montana Human Rights Network noted that this tactical shift by Religious Rights activists in Montana mirrored what was happening at the national level.[2]

Following his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, Pat Robertson formed the Christian Coalition of America.  It was the major player at the nexus of Religious Right organizations and Republican politics over the next decade.  Its annual “Road to Victory” conferences served both as Republican rallies and trainings about the nuts-and-bolts of political organizing.[3]  The Christian Coalition of Montana brought this fusion of right-wing theology and conservative political activism to the state when it formed in 1992.[4]

As offensive comments by Pat Robertson increased the amount of political baggage associated with the Christian Coalition at the national level, the centers of Religious Right power shifted.  As Robertson continued to lose credibility and the Christian Coalition of America lost its tax-exempt status due to its overt GOP politicking, Dr. James Dobson and his Focus on the Family were more than capable of stepping in to fill the void.  The switch in national power to Focus on the Family was smooth, as Dobson and his group already engaged in conservative politics.[5]

This transition in Religious Right power played out in Montana as well with the creation of the Montana Family Foundation.  The Christian Coalition of Montana transformed into the Montana Family Coalition in 2001. Board members of the Family Coalition left to form the Montana Family Foundation in 2004.  When the Montana Secretary of State dissolved the Montana Family Coalition in 2005, the Montana Family Foundation grew into the leading Religious Right organization in Montana.[6]

Those involved with the Montana Family Foundation may need to, once again, create a new entity if the organization continues to stray from its stated mission.  On its website, the Family Foundation says it is “dedicated to supporting, protecting and strengthening Montana families.”[7]  However, the group increasingly engages in issues that appear to fall outside of its stated purpose.  These include:  promoting conspiracy theories about President Obama not being a US citizen; featuring speakers who equate President Obama with Adolph Hitler; and claiming that America is embracing socialism.

Jeff Laszloffy, President of the Montana Family Foundation

Upon its formation in 2004, the Montana Family Foundation announced that its leader would be state Rep. Jeff Laszloffy (R-Laurel).  The group said he would retire from state politics to take over leadership of the organization.  For much of the group’s existence, most of the public activism by Laszloffy and the Family Foundation has followed what is expected of Religious Right organizations.  They’re a consistent presence at the Montana Legislature opposing reproductive freedom, equality for the LGBT community, comprehensive sex education, and other favorite issues of the Religious Right.  They can be found regularly on the opinion pages of local newspapers, and they occasionally engage in community-level campaigns.[8]

Laszloffy and the Montana Family Foundation are probably best known as the catalyst behind the 2004 campaign that successfully banned gay marriage in Montana.[9]  Their opposition to equality runs deep.  They aggressively oppose any attempt at fairness and equal protection under the law for Montana’s LGBT community.  In 2009, when the Montana Supreme Court upheld a lesbian’s parental rights in the Kulstad case, Laszloffy said the decision would “go down in history as a black day for Montana’s parents and children.”  He said the verdict would “threaten the traditional definition of family for generations to come.”[10]

It’s readily apparent that Laszloffy and the Family Foundation don’t view debates over public policy as just differences of opinion.  Instead, these debates take on the religious overtones of good versus evil.  A prime example of this comes from a legislative update by Laszloffy for the Family Foundation during the 2011 session.  Laszloffy said that, while in a committee hearing, he looked around the room and God revealed to him:

“Those with depraved minds are trying to change the very fabric of our society so that we look more like Sodom than Montana…Not only do these people live lives steeped in sin, they rise every day to proclaim the virtue of their sin in a very public setting…As Paul says, they’ve been taken captive, they are truly prisoners of Satan….”[11]

In recent years, however, Laszloffy and the Family Foundation have increasingly strayed from the Religious Right’s standard “culture war” issues.  This isn’t too surprising given Laszloffy’s views before assuming control of the group.  A piece written in June 1999 by Laszloffy provides an example.  He echoed right-wing themes that would become hallmarks of the Tea Party Movement.  He claimed the federal government was promoting socialism and invoked the 10th Amendment as a remedy.  He complained about the national debt and warned that people shouldn’t be fooled by those who “tout more power at the federal level as the answer to all of our problems.”  The short piece could be used as a primer for today’s Tea Partiers.[12]

Also like the Tea Parties, Laszloffy and the Montana Family Foundation opposed national healthcare reform with fear mongering about how the federal government was pushing socialism.  They promoted a webcast that Laszloffy stated would address the “government takeover of healthcare” that was “taking us down the path to socialism.”  Additionally, Laszloffy and the Family Foundation opposed the Troubled Asset Relief Program and cap and trade legislation.  Laszloffy stated that all three issues were part of a “race towards socialism…[that] scares me.”  He complained that the country was heading towards a “national welfare state” that would “destroy what we used to call the American dream.”  Laszloffy promised that the Montana Family Foundation would battle this “march toward socialism.”[13]

Laszloffy, in his personal and professional capacities, and the Family Foundation have echoed the calls of the Tea Party Movement.  This was never more apparent than when Laszloffy and his group supported the “Birther Bill” during the 2011 Montana Legislature.[14]

Promoting the “Birther” Conspiracy

The “Birther” conspiracy takes many forms.  However, central to every version is that President Barack Obama is not the legitimate president of the United States, because “Birthers” believe he is not an American citizen.  One of the more common conspiracies claims Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim, and that his birth documentation from Hawaii has been faked.  Numerous news agencies andorganizations have discredited the “Birther” conspiracy.  In April 2011, President Obama even released his long form birth certificate to try to end the controversy.  However, many “Birthers” believe that document is also a fake.  The “Birther” conspiracy originates from a core belief that an African-American could only be elected president as part of a sinister plan, which has taken decades to implement and includes faking birth records and birth notices in local newspapers.

During the 2011 Montana Legislature, Rep. Bob Wagner (R-Harrison) sponsored a bill that would have required presidential candidates to file an affidavit with the Montana Secretary of State declaring they met citizenship requirements, in addition to filing a certified copy of the candidate’s birth certificate.  Laszloffy testified in favor of the bill.  He stated there was a “question as to whether President Obama was born in the United States.”  He repeated the “Birther” conspiracy talking point about how a certificate of live birth was supposedly not a valid form of documentation.[15]

At the hearing, Laszloffy said he was not representing the Family Foundation.  However, he devoted a January 2011 update from the Family Foundation to the “Birther” topic.  He started off the segment by saying he had tried to avoid the topic.  However, he said there were persistent “rumors” that President Obama was born in Kenya, which raised questions about his eligibility to be president.  He complained that Obama “disparages” anyone questioning his legitimacy by calling them “Birthers.”  He noted that Montana legislators would consider this issue and try to make the president provide the “proof” that Obama was “unwilling or unable to provide.”  Wagner’s bill failed to make it out of committee, probably due both to its basis in outlandish conspiracy theory and Wagner’s embarrassing performance on a CNN news program.[16]

Working with Missoula Patriots

In addition to ideological crossover with the Tea Parties, Laszloffy and the Family Foundation are working with a Tea Party group while bringing Kitty Werthmann to Montana for fundraising events in Bozeman and Billings.  The Missoula Patriots were set to feature Werthmann at an event in Missoula before she headed to Bozeman and Billings.  In an e-mail promoting it, Missoula Patriots thanked Laszloffy and the Family Foundation for bringing Werthmann to Montana.  The group said Laszloffy was paying for “her air fare toMissoula for us…the Missoula Patriots [emphasis in original].”[17]

Gloria Roark and Nancy Engebretson started the Missoula Patriots in June 2009.  Saying they were “disenchanted with what the Republicans were doing,” they patterned their group after the Bitterroot-based Celebrating Conservatism.[18]  Celebrating Conservatism, an anti-government “patriot” group which currently appears dormant, was very active for about two years.[19]  It brought a long list of anti-government extremists into Ravalli County and western Montana starting in 2009.  These speakers included:  militia favorite Richard Mack; anti-Semitic tax protestor Red BeckmanOath Keepers founder Steward Rhodes; and failed Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin.

Similar to Celebrating Conservatism, Missoula Patriots likes to portray itself as a group dedicated to preserving the Constitution.  “People are afraid of losing their freedom,” Roark has told the press.  “We want to preserve the Constitution.”  The Missoula Patriots is active in Tea Party circles.  It’s listed as a member of the Montana Tea Party Coalition.  Additionally, representatives from the Missoula Patriots participated in the Montana Tea Party State Convention held in February 2011.[20]

 

Kitty Werthmann, Leader of South Dakota Eagle Forum

Following her presentation for the Missoula Patriots, Kitty Werthmann is headlining two fundraising events for the Montana Family Foundation.  The group has “Friends of the Family Fall Banquets” scheduled in Bozeman and Billings this week.[21]

Werthmann is a native of Austria and the South Dakota state leader for the Religious Right’s Eagle Forum.  She’s experienced a spike in her right-wing popularity over the past few years because of her comparisons between current events and Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.  Her credibility rests on her living for seven years under Nazi rule in Austria as a child.[22]  She draws parallels between Austria under Nazi occupation and the United States under President Barack Obama.  The Family Foundation encourages people to attend its fundraising events to hear Werthmann’s “stern warning as America drifts towards socialism.”[23]

Werthmann gives an almost identical presentation wherever she goes.  Advertisements for a Freedom to Dictatorship video featuring Werthmann stated she helps people “see we are walking the same path as the Nazis.”  The video cites as proof such things as women in the workplace, euthanasia, and rising unemployment.  On the Eagle Forum website, Werthmann claims that liberals in America are promoting national identification cards and gun control, which she identifies as Nazi programs.[24]

At the “How to Take Back America Conference” in September 2009, Werthmann claimed that universal healthcare, the Equal Rights Amendment, and increased taxes were signs of Nazism.  An attendee asked her what people should do to stop America’s drift toward Nazism.  She exhorted people to not give up their guns and to buy more guns and ammunition.  “Don’t you dare give up your guns,” she said.  “Never, never, never!”  This response was greeted by an audience member saying, “Give them [guns] back one bullet at a time.”[25]

Werthmann’s last visit to Montana came in May 2010.  Celebrating Conservatism featured her as a speaker at its “Liberty Convention 2010” in Missoula.  Werthmann shared the speakers’ podium with a slate of presenters that included an anti-Semitic tax protestor, heroes of the militia movement, and an Alaskan “patriot” who is currently on trial for allegedly plotting to kill law enforcement officials.[26]

At the Liberty Convention, Werthmann used many of her standard talking points.  She discussed how the Third Reich promoted equality for women, which she said undermined the family.  She warned that the national healthcare system instituted by Hitler decimated a thriving Austrian one.  She compared that dynamic to what she said will happen under national healthcare reform in America.  She claimed President Obama established a “snitch program patterned after the Gestapo.”[27]

She also told a bizarre story that linked Soviet communism during the Cold War to current issues of immigration.  She claimed she attended the summit held in 1985 between President Ronald Reagan and Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva, Switzerland.  Werthmann claimed she infiltrated the peace movement at the summit.  She claimed she met members of the German Communist Party who had a private meeting scheduled with Gorbachev.  These women, according to Werthmann, said the Communist Party’s plan was to take over Latin American countries and establish a beachhead in Mexico to undermine America.  Werthmann said she came to the conclusion that pro-immigration forces were part of this communist plot.  She claimed one of the German women told her everything hinged on who was president, saying it would most likely culminate in 2008.[28]

As she routinely does, she told attendees of the Liberty Convention that, when people fear the government, that’s tyranny.  However, when the government fears the people, it means liberty.  She said she had travelled all around the country and knew that thousands of patriots were working hard to take the country back.[29]

The events for the Montana Family Foundation aren’t the first time she’s teamed up with Focus on the Family.  At a South Dakota presentation for that state’s Focus on the Family affiliate, she said that welfare became a “huge apparatus” under Hitler, where everyone had access to subsidized housing, food stamps, and other benefits.  “That’s called socialism,” she told the crowd.  She said that President Obama’s remarks about “spreading the wealth” during his campaign were a sign that America was drifting towards Nazism and socialism.[30]

Werthmann and the Tea Parties

Her comparisons of America under President Obama and Austria under Hitler have made her a favorite on the Tea Party speaking circuit over the past few years.  She’s been featured at Tea Party rallies in her home state and was the keynote speaker at the 2010 South Dakota Tea Party Summit.  A recap of the event stated she described “the parallels between the step by step loss of freedom in Austria and developments that have been in motion in the United States for years.”  She’s even been featured at Tea Party rallies on the East Coast, including in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.[31]

At one such New Jersey event in June 2011, Werthmann stuck mostly to her normal script, but did add a few new things.  She talked about how Hitler was a great orator, adding “we’ve heard that here, too, haven’t we.”  As a youth in Austria, she said she was part of the Hitler Youth, because it was compulsory.  She discussed how, under Hitler, schools engaged in “political indoctrination,” promoted single teen mothers, and “drove a wedge” between children and parents.  Throughout her remarks, she ended segments by saying, “That’s socialism.”  She told attendees they needed to “take our country back as we know it” by regaining control of the US Senate and the White House.[32]  Toward the end of her speech, she echoed something she said in Missoula at the Liberty Convention, telling the Tea Partiers:

“When the people fear the government, that’s tyranny, but when the government fears the people, that’s you, the Tea Party.  That’s liberty.  Keep your guns.  Keep your guns, and buy more guns.”[33]

National and regional Tea Party luminaries embrace Werthmann.  She’s appeared on Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News where she gave her standard stump speech and encouraged people to vote to take back the US House and US Senate.  When Beck spoke in South Dakota in 2010, Werthmann said she was glad Beck also preached about the dangers of socialism in America.  “I have been preaching for 30 years what socialism is all about. And now we are seeing it very clear,” she said. “I remember when people always thought I was a wacko — too far out, you know. But now, I’m being vindicated.”[34]

Werthmann has also appeared on the “Shad Olson Show.”  Shad Olson became a player in Tea Party circles after KOTA TV suspended him from his news anchor position for speaking at a 2010 Tea Party rally in South Dakota. Olson voluntarily resigned and started his “Shad Olson Show.”  By August 2010, he had helped start the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance.[35]

On the “Shad Olson Show,” Werthmann has compared what she views as favorable media coverage of President Obama to how Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich Minister of Propaganda, ran the German media.  “History is coming back,” she warned.  “To me, it’s frightful, frightful seeing things coming back.”  On another program, Olson and Werthmann criticized comments President Obama made regarding Israel.  Olson said Obama was abandoning Israel and that it was important for America to keep Muslim countries in the region from annihilating the country.  Werthmann chimed in that Arabs and the Third Reich worked together to kill Jews.  “What Hitler couldn’t finish,” she said, “that is what Barack Obama is doing now.”  Olson agreed, saying that both were focused on “exterminating the Jewish race.”[36]

Conclusion

 

As Kitty Werthmann told the press in her home state, people have historically viewed her as a “wacko.”  She’s claimed vindication by finding people, especially in the Tea Party Movement, who are open to any conspiracy theories that perpetuate their hatred and distrust of President Obama.  Jeff Laszloffy and the Montana Family Foundation are promoting this same anti-government strain of thought and injecting a heavy dose of fear mongering about socialism supposedly taking over the country.  Additionally, they are adding racist conspiracy theories about President Obama to the mix and elevating speakers who compare Obama to Adolph Hitler.

It would be bad enough if the Family Foundation was just putting this type of extremist propaganda out into the community.  However, this week it is using Kitty Werthmann to raise money to support its work.  Her last appearance in Montana was at an anti-government convention where she shared the podium with the likes of an anti-Semitic tax protestor and other extremists.  Werthmann is the type of person to which the Family Foundation is hitching its cart.

The Family Foundation continues to gravitate towards and promote extreme right-wing conspiracies and the activists and organizations that promote them.  If it continues to do this, its political legitimacy as the main mouthpiece for Montana’s Religious Right could diminish.  Pat Robertson’s promotion of one-world-government conspiracy theories, and his use of anti-Semitic sources in doing so, played a part in the Christian Coalition of America’s diminishing power at the national level.[37]  The Montana Family Foundation partnering with people like Werthmann and the “Birthers” could have a similar impact in Montana.


[1] Shad Olson Show, May 25, 2011; Rapid City Journal, Oct. 27, 2010.

[2] Billings Gazette, Feb. 2, 2004.

[3] Rob Boston, Close Encounters with the Religious Right, Prometheus Books (2000), pp. 65-104.

[4] Great Falls Tribune, April 15, 1992; Missoulian, Jan. 18, 1992; Great Falls Tribune, April 15, 1992.  The Christian Coalition of Montana held a conference, titled “God’s Building an Army,” to launch the new organization in 1992.  A number of leading Republicans spoke at the conference, including Attorney General Marc Racicot (who would become Montana Governor and later chairman of the Republican National Committee), State GOP Chairman Rick Hill (who would be elected to the U.S. House), and various state legislators.  Ralph Reed of the national Christian Coalition was a featured speaker, and he urged the Montana group to operate secretively and deceptively as it mobilized for its political work in the state.

[5] Rob Boston, Close Encounters with the Religious Right, Prometheus Books (2000), pp. 68-74 and 180-197.

[6] Montana Human Rights Network, Network News, October 2003Billings Gazette, Feb. 2, 2004.

[7] Montana Family Foundation, website, “Mission Statement,” Oct. 26, 2011.

[8] Billings Gazette, Feb. 2, 2004; For an example of the Montana Family Foundation engaging in a local campaign, see:  Montana Human Rights Network, Network News, January 2011, p. 6.

[9] Montana Human Rights Network, Network News, November 2004, p. 6.

[10] Montana Family Foundation, e-mail, Oct. 6, 2009.

[11] Montana Family Foundation, “A Depraved Mind is a Sad Thing,” Feb. 4, 2011.

[12] Laurel Outlook, June 13, 1999.

[13] Montana Family Foundation, e-mail, July 24, 2009; Montana Family Foundation, “The March Toward Socialism,” July 24, 2009.

[14] For more on the Tea Party Movement and the “Birther” Conspiracy, please see:  Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, Tea Party NationalismFall 2010.

[15] Montana Legislative Services, audio, hearing on House Bill 205, House State Administration Committee, Feb. 2, 2011.

[16] Montana Family Foundation, “The Birth of a President,” Jan. 26, 2011.

[17] Missoula Patriots, e-mail, Oct. 14, 2011.

[18] Missoulian, Jan. 23, 2010; Missoula Independent, Oct. 29, 2009.

[19] For more on Celebrating Conservatism, please see:  Montana Human Rights Network, Network News, April 2010, p. 5; Montana Human Rights Network, Network News, December 2009, p. 8.

[20] Missoulian, Jan. 23, 2010; Missoula Independent, Oct. 29, 2009; Montana Human Rights Network, archives, notes from Montana Tea Party State Convention, Feb. 18-19, 2011.

[21] Montana Family Foundation, e-mail, Sept. 16, 2011.

[22]  Worldnet Daily, Sept. 22, 2009; Dakota Voice, Nov. 12, 2009.

[23] Montana Family Foundation, e-mail, Sept. 16, 2011.

[24] The Prophecy Club, “Freedom to Dictatorship in 5 Years,” May 12, 2010; Eagle Forum, “Freedoms Can Disappear in a Hurry if We Aren’t Careful,” 2003.

[25] Anti-Defamation League, Rage Grows in America (2009), p. 11; The Washington Independent, Sept. 28, 2009; Think Progress, “Right-Wing Conference Tells Activists to Get Their Guns Ready for ‘Bloody Battle’ with Obama the Nazi,” Sept. 28, 2009.

[26] For a recap of the Liberty Convention, please see:  Montana Human Rights Network, Network News, August 2010, p. 10.

[27] Montana Human Rights Network, archives, notes from Liberty Convention, May 21, 2010.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Dakota Voice, Nov. 12, 2009.

[31] Dakota Voice, Feb. 27, 2010; Capital Journal, Dec. 6, 2009; Shad Olson Show, June 29, 2011.

[32] You Tube, “Let Freedom Ring June 28 2011 Kitty Werthmann,” June 28, 2011.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Glenn Beck Show, Sept. 24, 2010; Rapid City Journal, Oct. 27, 2010.

[35] Rapid City Journal, May 12, 2010; Rapid City Journal, Aug. 14, 2010.

[36] Shad Olson Show, June 29, 2011; Shad Olson Show, May 25, 2011.

[37] For examples, see:  Pat Robertson, The New World Order, Word Publishing (1991); Right-Wing Watch, “The Perils of Wooing Pat Robertson,” Nov. 7, 2007.

Harris Himes, Obsessed Culture Warrior or Victim of “Homosexual Agenda”: Decide for Yourself

 

More verses for the Bittersweet Ballad of Harris Himes….

From The Montana Human Rights Network:

Harris Himes, a self-proclaimed pastor from Hamilton, has a history of ranting about the LGBT community’s responsibility for many things, including the supposed moral collapse of America and the eventual destruction of Western civilization.  Therefore, it shouldn’t really be surprising that he is blaming the LGBT community, along with reproductive justice advocates, for the six felonies which he currently faces.

In late September, Montana’s Insurance Commissioner charged Himes with fraud and theft for an investment scheme that tricked a man in the Bitterroot Valley out of $150,000.  After posting bail, Himes called a talk radio program and went on the attack.  He said pro-gay activists were likely behind the charges.  He also claimed the Insurance Commissioner was going after him for political disagreements they’d had in the past.  Callers to the radio program responded by denouncing his baseless accusations.  However, Himes was merely singing from the same hymnal he has used since appearing on Montana’s political scene.

Connected at the State and National Levels

Formerly an attorney in California, Harris Himes frequently identifies himself as both an attorney and pastor.  The media recently reported on his claims to ordination by the Calvary Chapel.  After a few years, he split from the chapel and proclaimed himself pastor of Big Sky Christian Center.  A pastor with Calvary Chapel recently told the press: “But to call him a pastor isn’t accurate because he doesn’t have a church. There are accountability structures built into a church. He’s a self-proclaimed pastor….”

Regardless of his real or perceived pastor credentials, Himes has been active with a laundry list of Religious Right organizations in Montana.  He’s been a board member for the Montana Family Coalition (which originally was the Christian Coalition of Montana).  He is currently listed as a speaker for the Montana Pro-Life Coalition’s upcoming “Personhood Conference” in October.  He’s testified at the Montana Legislature on behalf of the Big Sky Christian Center, Montana Values Alliance, and Montana Eagle Forum.

At the national level, Himes has served as voluntary counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which was founded by Religious Rights icons including James Dobson to “keep the door open for the Gospel in America.”  Himes has also worked with the Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.  In other words, Himes isn’t just a rank-and-file member of Montana’s Religious Right.  His connections reach into national circles, and he has been a leader and prominent lobbyist for its issues in Montana.

Over the past decade, Himes has frequented the Montana Legislature and testified that America was “founded on biblical principles” and that legislators needed to “have a bias to stand for God.”  In other forums, he has stated America was better when people had to be Christian to run for office. He has also encouraged churches to get rid of their tax-exempt status so they can engage in open politicking.

While he has worked closely with numerous Religious Right activists in Montana, he has been most closely aligned with Ravalli County’s Dallas Erickson.  He has been integral to Erickson’s attempts to pass anti-obscenity/censorship ordinances in Ravalli County.  In 1999, the county passed the ordinances.  However, a district court judge ruled they were unconstitutional.  The Liberty Counsel represented the county, with Himes acting as the liaison.  In 2002, the Montana Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Ravalli County that sought to uphold the ordinances.  The county has had to pay damages and court costs of some $70,000 in defense of Himes’ and Erickson’s religious campaign.

Hating the LGBT Community

During the 2011 Montana Legislature, Harris Himes told a legislative committee that the Bible commanded that gays be put to death, saying:

“The religious reason [to discriminate against the LGBT community] is God himself, who says that homosexuality is an abomination, and he has punishments for that…The punishment is this.  If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.  They shall surely be put to death.”

He was testifying for House Bill 516 (Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre) which would have repealed the Missoula Anti-Discrimination Ordinance and prohibited other localities from passing similar measures.  The Missoula Ordinance outlaws discrimination against the LGBT community in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations.  It is notable that, when Rep. Hansen submitted her initial file to Montana Legislative Services for drafting the bill, it included a handwritten letter from Dallas Erickson to the bill drafter.  The note stated, “Rep. Kristen Hansen has given Harris Himes and I permission to work with you on LC1865 [which became HB 516].” Himes and Erickson were vocal opponents to the Missoula Ordinance, even testifying against it although they didn’t live in the City of Missoula.  The note with the bill-draft request makes it clear that they were instrumental in bringing HB 516 to the legislature.

Himes’ “death to gays” comment was shocking to many people.  However, it just echoed the many previous anti-LGBT comments he’s made.  The following is nowhere close to being a comprehensive cataloging of his anti-gay diatribes.  However, they provide a good overview.

  • During a 2003 legislative hearing to repeal Montana’s deviate sexual conduct law, which had been ruled unconstitutional a decade earlier, Himes compared the LGBT community to imprisoned drug dealers.  He said neither group wanted the law to apply to them.   He said homes where LGBT Montanans lived should be raided like drug dens.
  • Himes opposed attempts at the Montana Legislature to require the adoption of comprehensive bullying-prevention policies.  In 2003, he said such a bill contained the words “sexual orientation” and, since being gay violated the Montana Constitution, it should be treated as a crime.  In 2005, he said a bullying-prevention bill was part of the “homosexual agenda” to take over schools.
  • While opposing a 2003 hate crimes proposal, Himes stated that the protections in the bill would be a “sword against Christians who take the Bible seriously.”  In opposing a 2009 hate crimes bill, Himes said he preached God’s word, and the bill would make him a “potential prison inmate” if it passed.  Himes frequently mischaracterized hate crimes bills as attempts to limit his freedom of speech.
  • Himes has told legislators that there needs to be some discrimination against gays.  He’s told them that “God is watching” and would punish them for their leniency toward “sexual deviants.”
  • During a 2006 Board of Public Education meeting about bullying-prevention policies, Himes claimed the policies create “whispering indictments” like the ones used to kill Jews during the Holocaust.  He also stated the Montana Legislature defeated the proposed legislation, because the entire goal of preventing bullying was to advance the gay agenda.

Himes has a history of demonizing LGBT Montanans and blaming them for pretty much everything.  He’s even done this in the absence of the LGBT community.  During the 2005 legislative session, he opposed a bill and tried to link it to the “homosexual agenda.”  His supposed proof—that LGBT supporters weren’t in the room.  His claim that the LGBT community is somehow responsible for him facing felony charges has a similar level of “credibility.”

 

Hot On The Heels Of Hate: More Hate

Aftter the Harris Himes debacle I thought we might have a cooling off period.

No such luck. From The Southern Poverty Law Center:

A former “staff leader” of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations is threatening to indict members of the Montana Human Rights Network by convening a “citizen grand jury.”

The e-mail threat came from Karl Gharst, a white supremacist who was convicted and sent to prison in 2004 for threatening to kill a child protective services worker in Montana. The new threat was disclosed Thursday by Travis McAdam, director of the Montana human rights organization, who said the matter had been reported to law enforcement.

The threat of “convening so-called citizen grand juries is a tactic that radical-right extremists love to employ,” McAdam said. “They think it makes their lies, threats, and intimidation more valid if they throw in some fake legalese.”

In the Sept. 17 E-mail, Gharst said the Montana Human Rights Network is a “Jewish criminal organization working with other Jewish organized crime networks,” including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Gharst accused the Montana human rights organization of “entrapping lawful citizens into crimes engineered by the above-mentioned criminal organizations.”

“These organizations are well known to commit crimes against lawful citizens through intimidation, destruction of property, violence and assassination,” Gharst wrote. “These people calling themselves ‘Jews’ are not citizens of the State of Montana in accordance to the Constitution of the State of Montana.

“As a lawful citizen I am giving you proper notice that I am now exercising my duty that I will do all in my power and the power of the State of Montana to see that all MHRN members will stand trial by the lawful citizens of the State of Montana for crimes against the State, and justice returned to lawful citizens.”

McAdam said that while Gharst’s allegations are ludicrous, he considers him potentially dangerous.

…and he should. These words need to be taken for what they are- the rantings of an enraged lunatic on the verge of violence. He uses words like “destruction”, “violence” and “assassination”- which any abnormal psychology textbook will tell you speaks more about the state of mind of the speaker than the object of hate.

Creepy. And there’s even more. 

Read it all here.

And watch your backs.

 

Havre Has It!

A kick-ass event, that is.

The Havre Daily News had a great write-up about today’s event with Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network and the Pride Foundation’s Montana Organizer, Caitlin Copple. The meeting will be held in the Crowley Room, on the second floor of MSU Northern’s Student Union tonight from 6-8pm. It’s purpose is

 “to hear the inside scoop on the 2011 Legislature and its implications” for civil rights of Montana’s gay and lesbian community, according to an email from Pride Foundation Organizer Caitlin Copple.

Copple and MHRN lobbyist Jamee Greer are bringing their organizations together for this meeting, which Greer said made this event unique from others he has already held in Missoula, Bozeman and Whitefish.

Part of the reason that Havre will be receiving special treatment is because it is Hansen’s home district, after she sponsored House Bill 516, a bill that was intended to overturn a Missoula ordinance protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We all remember Kris Hansen, don’t we? If not, try going here.

Good things being done by good people. Support them if you can.

HDN story here.

Montana Family Foundation: Using Scripture To Slander Others

First, listen to this podcast.

Second, listen to this:
This fundamentalist, smug and patronizing interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans by Mr Laszloffy is used to villify and degrade other human beings- and in particular, a human being I consider to be a friend.
Jamee Greer is not part of the radical homosexual agenda or a latter-day Gomorran. He is a man who simply wants identical freedom for all Montanans.  This irresponsible podcast advocates harsh judgment, not God’s love and forgiveness.
I’m terrified that some fundamentalist is going to start picking off liberal lobbyists.

Third: If something happens to Jamee Greer because of this, Mr Laszloffy, the cries to heaven will be deafening. So will my words. And they will be these: You are personally responsible for spreading hate and destruction. And I will speak them until you repent.

I asked My friend Kathy to do a bit more work with this. As a straight woman, a Christian, a non-Montanan and a friend, she’s got more objectivity than I do right now.

RESPONSE TO MONTANA FAMILY FOUNDATION’S  JEFF LASZLOFFY
by Kathy Baldock, Canyonwalkerconnections.com

The Word of God is a Holy Text. Abuse of the Word of God, unfortunately is rampant in the church. Theology is a compilation of the interpretation that we read (re-written from the original Greek and Hebrew), with our personal translation of what those words mean as understood in our context, our language and our own personal filters.  Added to all this, is the personal revelation and relationship we individually have with Jesus.

So, is there room for one person to view Scripture differently than another person?  Of course.

One of the most flagrant mis-uses and abuses of verses of the Bible is the section quoted by Jeff Lazloffy on the Legislative Update on the  Montana Family Foundation Radio podcast.

Mr. Lazloffy bases his assessment of a group of people at the legislative session in Montana on some verses from the Book of Romans. Verses originally spoken to a group of people left behind in Rome in about 60 AD after all the  converted Jewish Christians, the Jews and Gentile “acting like Christians” were forced to leave Rome. Theses groups were infighting over who was right, who got to use the temple space (kind of like today), so the Caesar kicked all the trouble makers out of Rome in the Edict of 54 AD. They were excommunicated for five years. So, after five years, the baby Christians left behind, the ones that were once polytheists and idol worshippers (from generations and culture of both) had fallen back into their old ways of worship in the temples. Duh! They were doing what they knew to do and, they had no mentors around to help stop the falling back.

Priscilla carried a letter from Paul to these Romans (hence the Book) and the letter told the once-gentiles-then-believers-now gentiles-again to please recall commitment once made. Having once known Jesus as Lord, they had turned from Him. THAT was the grave sin. Turning back to idol worship. Not same sex behaviors!  Not homosexuality. Idol worship.  Putting others things before the commitment to God.

But, misreading and abusing this text from Romans give more fuel to the anti gay crowd, so, we keep on repeating the scenario. “If you are gay and will not stop being gay, God will cut you loose and you will be a reprobate.” Noooooo.  If you once had the knowledge of God and turn from Him, He will let you go your own way. Back to your old stuff.

For a full treatment of these verses go to “Romans 1:18-32. . .To Whom Was This Directed?”

It is dreadful when Christians misuse Holy Words to subjugate, threaten and demonize any other group of people . I read the Gospel as Good News. How did a Book of love get to become a weapon of fear and destruction? This is how: you put it in the hands of a people who indeed have an agenda of fear and exclusion, two messages completely contrary to the message of the Gospel.

I speak the same language as you Mr. Lazloffy, so this is for you.  I do not believe for one minute that God showed you a vision of Mr. Greer in the way you depicted it. If those were God’s eyes, you would have seen someone you are called to love and serve, not judge and oppress. You were looking at one of God’s children, equal to you in His eyes. If you need a verse, stop camping on the misuse of Romans 1: 28 and drop on back to Isaiah 58:6-12.  Cut the cords of oppression, fight for justice. Stop laying more oppression onto the backs of others.

I am assuming many of the objects of your version or “God love” have left churches.  Yet, you want them to follow the club rules and, not only have they never bought into the rules, you won’t even let them in the club. (My assumption here, but I do assume you are not welcoming of gay/trans people in your home church, unless they change that is.)

The church has gotten to looking very much unlike Jesus. Rather than look at this group of others as “steeped in sin”, do what God really did ask of you:  look at your own sin and, back to this again, love and serve.

Christians like you are keeping the youth away from churches, denying 5% of the population access to a God that somehow was able to handle my sorry self and yours. If He wants to make someone not gay, or not liberal, or not whatever the thing they are that makes you uncomfortable, then let Him do it. This stinky stuff called self-righteousness that we wear out in public is a stench to a Holy God. And it is stinky to others too.

Go love and serve, fight for justice and against oppression and then, you might actually smell sweet enough, like Jesus, to draw people to Him instead of repulsing them away.

I am a straight Evangelical Christian who is finally understanding the message of Jesus that is not embodied in Romans 1:28.  The overarching message of the Bible is not power packed into six anti gay verses, it is this : love your neighbor (told once) and love your enemy/the stranger (told twenty six times). I do not need a vision to confirm that you are failing at that calling. I only needed to listen to your three minute legislative summary.

Go apologize and serve the others, then, you will begin to look like the Lord I love and serve