GoFundMe Takes Down Donation Page For Kim Harris After It Raises Nearly A Million Dollars
As crowdfunding platforms increasingly become key culture war weapons, at least one company has attempted to clarify who can – and cannot – appeal for donations on their site. GoFundMe added “discriminatory” campaigns to the list of causes that can’t find a home there, hours after the company’s decision to remove a fundraising page for a bakery Kim Davis was jailed for violating a state discrimination law and contempt of court.
After watching several high-profile conservative Christian victims become millionaires by exploiting their site, the creators finally announced that enough was enough. In April, they announced that they would block certain types of disgusting campaigns from thriving on GoFundMe. More specifically – and this is where Davis gets screwed out of the millions surely waiting for her – the site has a specific policy about criminals:
GoFundMe’s terms of service now exclude “campaigns in defense of formal charges or claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts,and right wing terrorist groups such as The Oath Keepers” the company announced in a Wednesday blog post. The site also added language clarifying that GoFundMe “reserves the right to share the names and addresses from a deleted campaign with Homeland Security, donors or stated beneficiaries who wish to file a police report about any misuse of fundraising.”
The Gofundme and Facebook pages were deleted by Friday morning.GoFundme Could not be reached for comment but in an e-mail statement by Facebook:
"We don’t tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow you to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but remove content that appears to purposefully attack others for reasons of religious bigotry."
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee went so far as to suggest Davis was a victim of the “criminalization of Christianity” in the country.
"Kim Davis and Josh Duggar are two great Americans who are being persecuted for their love of Christ.It's just a shame we can not send her money as God has instructed us to do."
Chris Hartman, head of the Fairness Campaign advocacy group, said he thought the judge would levy fines but hoped jailing Davis would act as a strong deterrent for others who might pursue an agenda of Christian hate.
Davis is scheduled for another court hearing Friday.
Last week, Jeb Bush stepped in it. It took the all-but-announced Republican presidential candidate several attempts to answer the most obvious question: Knowing what we know now, would you have launched the Iraq War? Yes, I would have, he initially declared, noting he would not dump on his brother for initiating the unpopular war. "So would almost everyone that was confronted with the intelligence they got," Bush said. In a subsequent and quickly offered back-pedaling remark—on his way to saying he would have made "different decisions"—Bush emphasized that a main problem with the Bush-Cheney invasion was "mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war." And as his Republican rivals jumped on Bush, they, too, blamed bad intelligence for causing the war. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), insisting that he would not have favored the war (if he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction), commented, "President Bush has said that he regrets that the intelligence was faulty." And former CEO Carly Fiorina noted, "The intelligence was clearly wrong. And so had we known that the intelligence was wrong, no, I would not have gone in."
But here's the truth Jeb Bush and the others are hiding or eliding: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, & Co. were not misled by lousy intelligence; they used lousy intelligence to mislead the public.
Throughout the run-up to the war, Bush, Cheney, and their lieutenants repeatedly stated assertions to justify the war that were not supported by the intel. They also hyped or mischaracterized existing intelligence to bolster their case for war. The book I wrote with Michael Isikoff,Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, chronicles the elaborate Bush-Cheney campaign to misuse and misrepresent the intelligence. Certainly, there was some information within the intelligence community (which turned out to be wrong) indicating that Saddam Hussein was trying to revive programs to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. As the Bush White House was selling the possibility of war, the intelligence agencies did quickly produce a National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002 that said Iraq had "continued its weapons of mass destruction program." But there was other intelligence and analysis—some of it mentioned in that intelligence estimate—casting plenty of doubt on this. In fact, on many of the key elements of the Bush administration's case for war, the intelligence was, at best, iffy. Yet in this post-9/11 period, Bush and Cheney frequently declared there was no uncertainty: Saddam was pursuing WMD to threaten the United States, and, worse, he was in league with Al Qaeda.
Here are a few examples of how Bush and Cheney cooked the books:
In an August 2002 speech that kicked off the administration's campaign for war against Iraq, Cheney asserted, "Simply stated, there's no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." But earlier in the year, Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had told Congress that Iraq possessed only "residual" amounts of WMD. There was no confirmed intelligence at this point establishing that Saddam had revived a major WMD operation. As Cheney made this claim, Anthony Zinni, a former commander in chief of US Central Command, was on the stage. He was stunned to hear Cheney say that Iraq was actively pursuing WMD. As he later recalled, "It was a shock. It was a total shock. I couldn't believe the vice president was saying this, you know? In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program." In other words, bad intelligence did not cause Cheney to make this categorical, bold, and frightening statement. He just did it.
In September 2002, Cheney insisted there was "very clear evidence" Saddam was developing nuclear weapons: Iraq's acquisition of aluminum tubes that were to be used to enrich uranium for bombs. But Cheney and the Bush White House did not tell the public that there was a heated dispute within the intelligence community about this supposed evidence. The top scientific experts in the government had concluded these tubes were not suitable for a nuclear weapons program. But one CIA analyst—who was not a scientific expert—contended the tubes were smoking-gun proof that Saddam was working to produce nuclear weapons. The Bush-Cheney White House embraced this faulty piece of evidence and ignored the more-informed analysis. Bush and Cheney were cherry-picking—choosing bad intelligence over good—and not paying attention to better information that cut the other way.
Cheney repeatedly referred publicly to a report that maintained that 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta had met secretly in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer—even though the CIA and FBI had dismissed this allegation. This is a damning example of Cheney citing discredited intelligence to score points. Intelligence experts had said there was nothing to this tale, but Cheney kept on mentioning the alleged Atta-Iraq connection to suggest Iraq was involved with the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 Commission later reconfirmed that this report of a Prague meeting was bunk.
The Atta allegation was part of a wider effort mounted by the Bush-Cheney administration to link Saddam to 9/11. In November 2002, Bush said Saddam "is a threat because he's dealing with Al Qaeda." Weeks earlier, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had claimed he had "bullet-proof" evidence that Saddam was tied to Osama bin Laden. In March 2003, Cheney asserted that Saddam had a "long-standing relationship" with Al Qaeda. The intelligence did not show this. As the 9/11 Commission later concluded, there had been no intelligence confirming significant contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Once again, Bush and Cheney were not being fooled by flawed intelligence; they were were pushing disinformation.
At a press conference at the end of 2002, Bush declared, "We don't know whether or not [Saddam] has a nuclear weapon." He clearly was suggesting that Saddam might already possess these dangerous weapons. Yet no intelligence at the time indicated that the Iraqi dictator had by then developed such weapons. The administration also insisted Saddam had been shopping for uranium in Africa, even though the intelligence on this point was dubious.
Bush and Cheney did not invade Iraq because they had been hoodwinked by bad intelligence. They claimed the intelligence was solid—when it wasn't. And they made stuff up. Days before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bush told the American public, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." Yet plenty of doubt existed. Intelligence analysts had registered uncertainty regarding all of the significant aspects of Bush's case for war. Moreover, Bush and Cheney had for months tossed out a series of claims that were not supported by any confirmed intelligence.
The Iraq war at its heart was not an intelligence failure. Bush, Cheney, and their comrades were hell-bent on invading Iraq—not because of inaccurate intelligence, but because of their own assumptions and desires. The war did not happen because of bad intel. Consequently, asking whether the invasion should have happenedknowing what is now known is an irrelevant exercise. For the Bush-Cheney gang, it truly did not matter what the intelligence said. They were not victims. They were the perps .
Turns out that as Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush had a serious porn problem. It’s now coming back to haunt him as he seeks the Republican nomination for President.
February’s publicity stunt, during which the Bush campaign supposedly released eight years worth of emails from the candidate’s time in state office, is turning out to be more of a hindrance than a popularity booster.
The move was sparked by yet another right-wing conspiracy over Hillary Clinton’s private email account. After making a big show about releasing the emails for “transparency,” it turned out that Bush’s “big document dump” contained only about ten percent of his email communications. It didn’t take long for the media to figure out that as much as 90 percent of his communications were excluded from his big show of transparency.
Even as the right went into overtime trying to drum up controversy over Hilary Clinton’s use of a private email account during her time as Secretary of State, it was quickly revealed that Bush used a private email account while acting as Governor of Florida. Of course the republican doctrine of ‘do as we say, not as we do’ is nothing new. What’s good for the GOP’s golden goose is a massive Muslim-communist-socialist-leftist-liberal conspiracy to undermine God, guns and the sacred texts of Ayn Rand and (*mumble *mumble) something about Benghazi, for the gander.
Bush also forgot to redact confidential information from the emails, publishing names, addresses and the social security numbers of more than 12,000 Florida constituents. Nothing says “You can trust me with all of the powers and responsibilities associated with the office of President” quite like posting people’s social security numbers on the internet.
While pouring over Bush’s email dump, the International Business Times unearthed information about Jeb Bush’s use of taxpayer funds to invest in the porn industry. The emails show that the former governor was aware of the nature of the investments and that he refused to cancel them, in spite of the fact that conservative groups expressed outrage over the decision.
Emails directed to Jeb Bush and Coleman Stipanovich, the Executive Director of Florida’s State Board of Administration, were sent from concerned parents, grandparents, constituents and influential conservative groups like the American Family Association.
As we get closer to the 2016 election season, Jeb Bush is campaigning hard to win over the Christian right. During a recent speech given at Liberty University, Bush attempted to define himself as the “defender of Christianity” and “Judeo-Christian values.”
“How strange, in our own time, to hear Christianity spoken of as some sort of backward and oppressive force. It’s a depressing fact that when some people think of Christianity and of Judeo-Christian values, they think of something static, narrow and outdated. . . . I cannot think of any more subversive moral idea ever loosed on the world than ‘the last shall be first, and the first last.’ ”
There’s no doubt that the Christian right is hoping to elect a president that will impose their religious and moral beliefs on the rest of this “Godless nation.” Jeb Bush is more than willing to cater to the religious extremists now, but only because he knows that he can’t win the party’s nomination without them.
To be fair, this isn’t just a Jeb Bush problem. It’s a republican problem, in general. Without the conservative Christian base republicans could not hope to win a single election. Since that’s the reality they’re faced with, they have no choice but to pretend that they’re devoted followers of God, who only want to make America a “Christian nation.”
If Republican candidates told the truth, that their real god is the golden calf and the only Bible they believe in is Ayn Rand’s Virtues of Selfishness, the GOP would be hard pressed to find a single voter to support them.
The ACLU in California today released a free smart-phone app that allows people to send cellphone videos of police encounters to the ACLU, automatically—and the ACLU will preserve the video footage, even if the cops seize the phone and delete the video or destroy the phone. The app, "Mobile Justice CA," works for both iPhones and Android users. It's available at Apple's App Store and at Google Play.
The app features a large red "Record" button in the middle of the screen. When it's pressed, the video is recorded on the phone and a duplicate copy is transmitted simultaneously to the ACLU server. When the "stop" button is pressed, a "Report" screen appears, where information about the location of the incident and the people involved can also be transmitted to the ACLU. The video and the information are treated as a request for legal assistance and reviewed by staff members. No action is taken by the ACLU, however, unless an explicit request is made, and the reports are treated as confidential and privileged legal communications. The videos, however, may be shared by the ACLU with the news media, community organizations or the general public to help call attention to police abuse.
The app is available in English and Spanish. It includes a "Know Your Rights" page.
The value of the Mobile Justice app was dramatized this month in the Los Angeles suburb of South Gate, where a bystander taped cops detaining people in her neighborhood. A second person was recording her, and in that video, a lawman rushes at the first woman, grabs her cell phone, and smashes it on the floor. The second video ended up on YouTube. (South Gate police later said the officer was not a local cop but rather a deputy US marshal.)
Meanwhile in Texas, a proposed law would make it a crime for ordinary people to videotape police actions—on the grounds that it was "interference" with police activity. In California, on the other hand, the state senate this month approved legislation providing clear legal protection to people who videotape police activity without interfering with investigations.
"People who historically have had very little power in the face of law enforcement now have this tool to reclaim their power and dignity," said Patrisse Cullors, director of the Truth and Reinvestment Campaign at the Ella Baker Center, which is working with the ACLU of California to support the launch of the Mobile Justice CA app. "Our vision is that this app will ultimately help community members connect and organize to respond to incidents of law enforcement violence, and then share their experiences and knowledge with others."
The Mobile Justice CA app complies with California law. ACLU affiliates in other states have developed other versions for use in those states: residents of New York should use the "Stop and Frisk Watch" app; in New Jersey, it's the "Police Tape" app; in Oregon and Missouri it's the "Mobile Justice" app. These work in different ways: with the New York app, shaking the phone stops the filming; the New Jersey app does not transmit the video automatically—the user must choose to send it to the ACLU-NJ for backup storage. Not all of them are available on all platforms and not all are available in Spanish, as the California app is. However, video submitted from anywhere via the California app will be stored and available to those who submitted it, an ACLU SoCal official said. (I'm a board member of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, where the app was funded through donations by Susan Adelman and Claudio Llanos and their family foundation.)
"This app will help serve as a check on abuse," said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), where the app was developed. It will "allow ordinary citizens to record and document any interaction with law enforcement," he said, including "police officers, sheriff's deputies, border patrol, or other officials."
A shocking, double-blind study released by Harvard, in collaboration with MIT, has revealed that all people who are homophobic are actually homosexuals themselves. The study, which was carried out over the course of 5 years and involved nearly 5,000 male subjects, is being accepted by the American Psychological Association as being “scientifically irrefutable.”
This lengthy, intricate study was conducted by the folks at the Harvard Center for Brain Science and incorporated proven Penis Responsiveness Technology (PRT) and Brainwave Function Reading (BFR) from leading scientists from the Biomimetic Robotics Lab at MIT.
The Penis Responsiveness Technology was created from an offshoot program with the Meshworm Soft Robotics sleeve which was fitted around each of the subjects’ penises. It is capable of measuring blood flow, responsive twitches, and swelling. Meanwhile, Brainwave Function Reading system was set up with diodes attached to the different parts of the skull to read emotional responses in each part of the brain as stimuli was taken in by each subject.
Test subjects were then shown pictures of gay males in various affectionate scenarios of increasingly sexual nature.
“We began with hand holding, cuddling, and kissing,” said head researcher Maxwell Kow. “Without fail, each and every person in the study who strongly expressed a dislike of LGBT individuals in the intake survey always had brain activity that showed feelings of confusion and arousal,” stated Kow. “This was inevitably coupled with physical arousal to various degrees, but it was always significant enough to definitively show that they have a desire to be intimate with the same sex.”
The study also showed a direct, positive correlation between the degree of homophobia expressed in a subject’s survey and the decreased time it took the individual to reach full arousal.
Tea Party activist William Temple listens as Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference, February 27, 2015. (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
With the 2016 election cycle having kicked into first-gear already, any American who hasn’t inured themselves to the monotonous (and often ultimately meaningless) repetition of the word “Constitution” is advised to get to self-desensitizing — and quick.
Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have already made a fetishized version of the U.S.’s supreme governing document central to their campaign rhetoric; and even politicians less beloved by the supposedly Constitution-crazy Tea Party, like Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, are likely to soon follow suit. That’s how American politics functions now, in the era of the NSA, Guantanamo Bay, lethal drone strikes and endless war.
But as that list of questionable policies suggests, there’s an unanswered question lurking behind so much of our happy talk about the Constitution — namely, do we even understand it? As dozens of polls and public surveys will attest, the answer is, not really. And that’s one of the reasons that Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar has decided to write a multi-book series about the Constitution so many Americans claim to love, but so few seem to understand.“The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of our Constitutional Republic,” released earlier this month, is that project’s latest addition.
Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Amar about the Constitution, his books, and why he sees Abraham Lincoln as perhaps the United States’s real founding father. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.
The third book in this project is a geographical slicing of the story; ours is a vast republic of massive diversity, and the Constitution looks a little different in different states and regions. I try to show all of that that through 12 stories … each of which says something general about the United States Constitution but does so through the window of a particular state. It discusses a person or an idea or a case or an event particularly associated with that region that also casts light, more generally, on our Constitutional project.
So how did what you call “brute geography” influence the way we understand the Constitution today?
The very breadth of the American landmass and its distance from the old world were huge elements in the American founding and in the Civil War experience. The idea of creating an indivisible union in the 1780s, the idea of forming a more perfect union, was an idea powerfully influenced by these two geographic factors: a wide moat between the Old World and the New World (known as the Atlantic Ocean) would be able to protect Americans from Old World tyranny in the same way the English Channel protected Britain from much of the militarism of the European Continent…
But in 1787, as Americans looked around the world, they saw that Britain was free, and Britain was free because England and Scotland had merged, had formed an indivisible, perfect union that would protect liberty because they had gotten rid of land borders on the island and only needed a navy to protect themselves. That worked for England and that would work for America even better, because we’d have an English Channel times 50.
This will become manifest destiny and the Monroe Doctrine; we’ll control our hemisphere and we’ll be protected from Europe … Our Constitution largely succeeds because there’s no major standing army in peacetime for most of American history, and that fact is created by some brute geographic realities.
I’m speaking to you now right around the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. He looms very large in your book; you describe him in some ways as almost prophetic. What made Lincoln’s understanding of the country and the Constitution so profound?
We live in Lincoln’s house. The Framers’ house was divided against itself; and, because of slavery, it fell. That failure is called the Civil War, and Lincoln rebuilt [the country] on a solid anti-slavery foundation, a foundation that would be strengthened after his death by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (which abolished slavery everywhere, irrevocably), the Fourteenth Amendment (which promised racial equality) and the Fifteenth Amendment (which promised equal voting rights).
I begin the book with Lincoln because he transformed the Union. He saved it and transformed it and … his story was very much influenced by, literally, where he came from. He has a vision of the Constitution that’s very much influenced by Illinois, in particular, and by the Midwest more generally. He comes from a part of the country that was the Northwest Territory, that was always free soil even before the Constitution, and he has a very free-soil vision.
The language of the 13th Amendment is borrowed, word-for-word, from the language of the Northwest Ordinance. Lincoln thinks that thenation created the states, which, of course, Robert E. Lee … could never buy into. Robert E. Lee would say that the states created the Union; but the Midwest [perspective] would say … before Illinois was a state, it was a territory; the Union created these new states out of nothing. That’s a very Midwestern perspective on the Constitution.
Lincoln is, far and away, the most important constitutional decision-maker of the last two centuries; and arguably the most important constitutional decision-maker and interpreter ever.
But Lincoln was never a judge nor a constitutional scholar. He was a politician.
Most people are taught in high school that the most important constitutional decision is Marbury v. Madison, but that’s not even the most important constitutional decision of 1803. The Louisiana Purchase was far more important than Marbury v. Madison, because it doubled the landmass of America and made sure that the country would survive. When you understand that, you understand that many important constitutional decisions are made not by judges but by presidents.
The two most important constitutional decisions ever are Lincoln’s decision to resist [the South's] unilateral secession, and Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would lead to an end of slavery — that is transformative, and Lincoln made those decisions unilaterally as president. Had these issues reached the U.S. Supreme Court, controlled as it was [during Lincoln's time] by Roger Taney, a fierce opponent of Lincoln, the Court might very well have tried to invalidate Lincoln’s projects.
We live in a Constitution utterly transformed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, and we would have none of those but for Lincoln.
Lincoln aside, though, you also argue that geography has played a big role in the Supreme Court — which, of course, is supposed to be the chief interpreter of the Constitution. How did geography influence the Court’s history?
Let’s take the most infamous judicial ruling of all time, the Dred Scott decision of 1857. It emerges from a Supreme Court that’s profoundly malapportioned: five of the nine justices on the Dred Scott court come from the slave-holding South, even though only a third of the population lives in that region.
Part of that is because entire antebellum system is skewed towards the South because of the three-fifths clause, which gives slave states extra clout in the House of Representatives and therefore the Electoral College. Presidents are picking justices, and the presidency tilts towards the South because of the three-fifths clause; almost all your early presidents are either slave-holding Southerners or “Northern men of Southern sympathies” — that is, pro-slavery Northerners.
If we view the Constitution and American history with more of a focus on the role played by geography, what are some the implications for U.S. politics today and in the near-future?
One of the things I’m trying to tell you in this book is how we can see presidential elections and our political polarization in new ways if we’re attentive to states and regions.
Our parties are polarized geographically; that this is not the first time that’s so (early on, it was the South against the North; Jefferson against Adams). The geographic alignment is remarkably similar to the geographic alignment in Lincoln’s time with this interesting twist: the Democrats have become the party of the North and the coasts and the Republicans have become the party of the former Confederacy. The parties have basically flipped, but it’s the same basic alignment…
One of the other big things I want you to see is how regions and states are hugely important in, for example, presidential politics. I talk about the significance in this book, in particular, of Ohio and Florida in the Electoral College and also of Texas. Is it a coincidence that Marco Rubio comes from Florida? That Jeb Bush is the governor of Florida who was born in Texas and whose father and brother had their political bases in Texas? That Rand Paul was born in Texas and his father ran for president from Texas? That Ted Cruz is from Texas? That Rick Perry is a former governor of Texas?
Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith.
The words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase "In God we trust" on the back of a dollar bill haven't been there as long as most Americans might think. Those references were inserted in the 1950s during the Eisenhower administration, the same decade that the National Prayer Breakfast was launched, according to writer Kevin Kruse. His new book is One Nation Under God.
In the original Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy made no mention of God, Kruse says. Bellamy was Christian socialist, a Baptist who believed in the separation of church and state.
"As this new religious revival is sweeping the country and taking on new political tones, the phrase 'one nation under God' seizes the national imagination," Kruse tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It starts with a proposal by the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic lay organization, to add the phrase 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance. Their initial campaign doesn't go anywhere but once Eisenhower's own pastor endorses it ... it catches fire."
Kruse's book investigates how the idea of America as a Christian nation was promoted in the 1930s and '40s when industrialists and business lobbies, chafing against the government regulations of the New Deal, recruited and funded conservative clergy to preach faith, freedom and free enterprise. He says this conflation of Christianity and capitalism moved to center stage in the '50s under Eisenhower's watch.
"According to the conventional narrative, the Soviet Union discovered the bomb and the United States rediscovered God," Kruse says. "In order to push back against the atheistic communism of the Soviet Union, Americans re-embraced a religious identity. That plays a small role here, but ... there's actually a longer arc. That Cold War consensus actually helps to paper over a couple decades of internal political struggles in the United States. If you look at the architects of this language ... the state power that they're worried most about is not the Soviet regime in Moscow, but rather the New Deal and Fair Deal administrations in Washington, D.C."
Kevin Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University and is the author of a previous book called White Flight.
Etta Recke/Courtesy of Basic Books
On how corporations hired ministers to spread "free enterprise"
The New Deal had passed a large number of measures that were regulating business in some ways for the first time, and it [had] empowered labor unions and given them a voice in the affairs of business. Corporate leaders resented both of these moves and so they launched a massive campaign of public relations designed to sell the values of free enterprise. The problem was that their naked appeals to the merits of capitalism were largely dismissed by the public.
The most famous of these organizations was called The American Liberty League and it was heavily financed by leaders at DuPont, General Motors and other corporations. The problem was that it seemed like very obvious corporate propaganda. As Jim Farley, the head of the Democratic Party at the time, said: "They ought to call it The American Cellophane League, because No. 1: It's a DuPont product, and No. 2: You can see right through it."
So when they realized that making this direct case for free enterprise was ineffective, they decided to find another way to do it. They decided to outsource the job. As they noted in their private correspondence, ministers were the most trusted men in America at the time, so who better to make the case to the American people than ministers?
On the message the ministers conveyed
They use these ministers to make the case that Christianity and capitalism were soul mates. This case had been made before, but in the context of the New Deal it takes on a sharp new political meaning. Essentially they argue that Christianity and capitalism are both systems in which individuals rise and fall according to their own merits. So in Christianity, if you're good you go to heaven, if you're bad you go to hell. In capitalism if you're good you make a profit and you succeed, if you're bad you fail.
The New Deal, they argue, violates this natural order. In fact, they argue that the New Deal and the regulatory state violate the Ten Commandments. It makes a false idol of the federal government and encourages Americans to worship it rather than the Almighty. It encourages Americans to covet what the wealthy have; it encourages them to steal from the wealthy in the forms of taxation; and, most importantly, it bears false witness against the wealthy by telling lies about them. So they argue that the New Deal is not a manifestation of God's will, but rather, a form of pagan stateism and is inherently sinful.
On the Rev. James Fifield
He takes over the pastorate at the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, an elite church, literally ministering to millionaires in his pews. It's got some of the town's most wealthy citizens — the mayor attends service there, [Hollywood filmmaker] Cecil B. DeMille. He tells these millionaires what they want to hear, which is that their worldly success is a sign of heavenly blessing. He has a very loose approach to the Bible. He says that reading the Bible should be like eating fish: We take out the bones to enjoy the meat; all parts are not of equal value. Accordingly, he disregarded Christ's many injunctions about the dangers of wealth, and instead preached a philosophy that wedded capitalism to Christianity.
On Fifield's "spiritual mobilization"
"Spiritual mobilization" is his effort to recruit other ministers to the cause. So he is serving, in many ways, as a frontman for a number of corporate leaders. His main sponsors are Sun Oil President J. Howard Pew, Alfred Sloan of General Motors, the heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, they all heavily fund this organization. But what Fifield sets out to do is recruit other ministers to his cause. Within the span of just a decade's time, he has about 17,000 so-called minister representatives who belong to the organization who are literally preaching sermons on its Christian libertarian message to their congregations, who are competing in sermon contest[s] for cash prizes and they're doing all they can in their local communities to spread this message that the New Deal is essentially evil, it's a manifestation of creeping socialism that is rotting away the country from within. Instead they need to rally around business leaders and make common cause with them to defend what they call "the American way of life."
On Fifield's contribution to the alliance between business and Christian leaders
He helps refine the message considerably. He comes up with the phrase that reduces this Christian libertarian ideology down to a catchy slogan and that slogan is "Freedom Under God," as opposed to the slavery of the state. He popularizes this using the generous funding of his corporate backers ... through a weekly radio program that soon appears on over 800 stations nationwide, through monthly magazines that popularizes the writings of libertarian and conservative authors and most importantly, I think, through a massive Fourth of July ceremony in 1951, a ceremony organized by Cecil B. DeMille, featuring James Stewart as the master of ceremonies, and carried live coast-to-coast over national radio. In that ceremony, as in the magazine and the weekly radio show, he promotes this message that freedom under God is an essential value; that Americans need to cast off the slavery of the state and instead embrace a rugged individualism.
On "In God we trust" appearing on coins and stamps
So the phrase "In God we trust" comes from an often forgotten stanza of The Star-Spangled Banner. It goes: "Then conquer we must when our cause it is just, and this be our motto — 'In God is our trust.' " That stanza was largely forgotten until the Civil War when that phrase "In God we trust" is plucked out of that line and placed on coins. And it is done so at the urging of religious leaders who believe the Civil War has come as a result of America's original sin, of not officially being founded as a Christian nation. And they ask the secretary of Treasury to correct that and he does so by placing it on coins.
The phrase appears on coins intermittently over the next 50 or 60 years. Theodore Roosevelt tries to have it removed — he believes it's close to sacrilege — but the public outcry prevents him from doing so. During this moment of the Eisenhower years, the phrase flourishes and it does so first when it's placed on a stamp in 1954. Then [in] 1955, Congress decides to add it to not just coins but to paper money. And in 1956, they move to make it the country's first official national motto.
On the use of "God bless America" in presidential speeches
President Reagan is the innovator when it comes to the use of "God bless America." A study by communication scholars David Domke and Kevin Coe shows previously only one president had used that phrase to close a speech out and it's an inauspicious occasion — it's President Nixon in 1973 trying to talk his way out of the Watergate scandal. But Reagan quickly makes it a fixture of all of his speeches, so much so that we can't imagine a president ending a speech without some variation of "God bless America."