When a national tragedy happens, a lot of things have become as certain as death and taxes. Sadly, one of those things is the religious right trying to blame tragedies on something liberals have done to erode traditional values.
It initially looked like the Texas church shooting would be an exception. Well, that hope was misplaced. On Tuesday, two of the religious right’s most obnoxious figures claimed that we God-hating liberals were responsible for 26 people being murdered on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel Action talked about the shooting with Navy chaplain-turned-religious right activist Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt. Barber claimed that the gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, was driven by anti-Christian hatred on the left. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Much has already been made about Kelley’s reportedly virulent atheism, and a number of religious right activists have tried to use it to smear all atheists. Ted Shoebat, for instance, suggested that the shooting was proof that atheists ought to be hunted down and executed.
But Barber took it to another level when he led off Tuesday’s edition of Klingenschmitt’s podcast, “PIJN News.” He claimed that the mainstream media weren’t paying enough attention to the fact that Kelley was “a disciple for atheism” who hated Christians with a passion. That led Klingenschmitt to suggest that Kelley likely had demons.
Later, Barber claimed that this shooting “didn’t happen in a vacuum,” but was linked to the “anti-Christian climate” that supposedly runs rampant in this country. Barber believes that Kelley was in “an act of war against Christians”–and groups like PFAW, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the ACLU helped spur him on.
Barber recalled Floyd Corkins’ attack on a Family Research Council employee in 2012, which the religious right has long blamed on the SPLC listing the FRC as a hate group. To his mind, this shooting was no different.
“I’m not going to say this is all in the lap of the Southern Poverty Law Center. But Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the SPLC, groups like People For the American Way, Americans United Against Separation of Church and State [sic], the ACLU—don’t forget, Roger Baldwin famously said, ‘Communism is the goal.’ Communism is atheism, atheism is communism. It’s leftism, they hate Christians, they hate Christianity.”
Barber was reverting to an old Cold War-era smear–Communism is evil because it teaches there is no god. In lumping a number of groups that keep tabs on Barber and his ilk with Kelley, he tried to slime Baldwin, the co-founder and first executive director of the ACLU, as a Communist. He forgets that Baldwin later turned against Communism when he saw Joseph Stalin’s brutality, and actually worked to push Communists out of the ACLU.
But of course, such little things as facts never got in the way of a campaign of hate. Barber was clearly blaming those who oppose the religious right for stirring up Kelley to, as he put it, “martyr” 26 people.
To their credit, Barber and Klingenschmitt did note that Kelley should have never even had that gun in the first place. As we know by now, had the Air Force properly uploaded his 2012 court-martial for a brutal attack on his wife and stepson to the national database used for background checks of gun buyers, Kelley would have never been able to get a gun. But they couldn’t leave well enough alone, claiming that under the left’s supposed “gun-grabbing” fetish, the man who confronted Kelley outside the church would have been a sitting duck. I’m surprised that Chaps, a former Navy chaplain, let Barber get away with it.
Later that night, Rick Wiles got in on the act. He recently started a television extension of his podcast, “TruNews.” It’s no different from his other projects–a steady diet of fundie-flavored conspiracy theory. On Tuesday night, Wiles claimed that the shooting was part of a Communist revolution. Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Wiles claimed that the shooting was the latest legacy of “an ongoing war of hatred” against Christianity that dates back to 1962, whe the Supreme Court declared forced prayer in public schools unconstitutional. As he saw it, a lot of people had blood on their hands.
“The religious war has been supported by America’s courts and judges, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, the news media, academia, and the Democratic Party. Fifty-five years later, we have church carpets soaked in blood.”
Typical religious right shibboleth–not forcing kids to pray touched off a war on innocent Christians. If we just made kids pray in school, everything else would be just fine.
Later, Wiles claimed that mass shootings were not random events at all, but were being driven by the devil. He claimed that since 2008, we have been deep in the throes of a “Jacobin/Communist revolution”–one that ramped up when “Communist street organizer Barry Soetoro, alias Barack Hussein Obama” was elected president. He warned that those behind this revolution are bent on killing “tens of thousands of Christian leaders within months or years.” Wiles said–with a straight face–that those who think he’s being “melodramatic” are ignoring history.
No, Rick. We know you’re being melodramatic because we already know the contributing cause of this tragedy–a complete failure on the part of the Air Force to take the most rudimentary steps to keep its members, their families, and the general public safe. Simply put, had Kelley received a credible sentence and the case been properly uploaded, it wouldn’t have mattered if he was a foaming-at-the-mouth Communist and atheist. He would have never been able to get a gun–and 26 people are still alive. But, once again, such little things as facts never got in the way of a campaign of hate.
These so-called moral guardians have reverted to what has become standard operating procedure for them–whip up hate and bigotry in the face of a tragedy. It’s even more outrageous now, since they’re doing so rather than point the finger where it really belongs–on those responsible for Kelley’s fate five years ago.
(featured image courtesy FBC Sutherland Springs’ Facebook)