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Wednesday, 12 July 2017 06:41

Inside Man: Mike Pence Is the Religious Right's White House Agent

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pence 0712wrp optMike Pence at CPAC. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)Shortly after the November election, The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill observed that while Mike Pence is often seen as the adult in the room, and a "counterbalance" to Donald Trump, "there is every reason to regard him as, if anything, even more terrifying than the president-elect." Scahill called Pence's ascension to vice president "a tremendous coup for the radical religious right."

While many in the nation were celebrating Pride Month – held in June to commemorate the activists who began the modern gay rights movement at the Stonewall Riots -- the White House was silent.

During the same period, Vice President Mike Pence was off singing the praises of Dr. James Dobson, one of America's premier conservative Christian anti-gay political leaders. Pence told a cheering crowd at a celebration in Colorado Springs, Colorado, of the 40th anniversary of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" radio program, that they have "an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump."

Pence said that the passage of President Trump's health care bill will finally "defund Planned Parenthood once and for all," and he added that "the time is now" to re-engage in politics.

Earlier in June, at Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Road to Majority conference, Pence praised Dobson, calling him his "mentor," when the founder of Focus on the Family received the organization's Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award. Pence assured the audience that Trump will "never stop fighting for the values and ideals that make this nation great."

"You've done more for faith and freedom in your lifetime ... than any one person could do in ten lifetimes," he told Dobson. "Not only is your country grateful, but I say with confidence, great is your reward. You've made an eternal difference in the lives of millions."

"Raised Catholic, in a Kennedy Democratic household," he became a devout evangelical after being "converted at a Christian music festival in Kentucky while in college," Scahill pointed out. "Pence now describes himself as 'a Christian, a Conservative, and a Republican, in that order.'"

As the Elite Daily's Lisa Dunn pointed out, Pence's record on gay rights is abysmal: In 2006, Pence led the conservative Republican Study Committee, who among other things, sought to ban gay marriage and legally define marriage as between one man and one woman. The following year he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, stating that "this sets up something of a constitutional conflict between the right to religious freedom in the workplace and another person's newly created right to sue you for practicing your faith or acknowledging your faith in the workplace."

In 2009, he voted against legislation that would expand the 1969 Federal Hate Crimes Act to include sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In 2010 he voted against the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, maintaining that "Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion."

"From his time as U.S. Congressman to being Indiana's governor, Pence's anti-LGBTQ activism spans decades, and it would only continue if he reached the nation's highest political office," Sarah Kate Ellis, the President and CEO of GLAAD, agreed, told AOL News.

Given the breadth of Pence's synchronization with the religious right's agenda, he was a natural fit to sing the praises of Dobson.

Dobson the Kingmaker

Focus on the Family, "rejects reproduction freedoms for women, opposes sexuality education in schools except 'abstinence-only,' works to ban curricular materials it deems inappropriate including notions of multiculturalism and specifically anything it has determined promotes the so-called 'homosexual' or 'gay agenda,' encourages prayer in schools, supports private school vouchers to pay for parochial education at tax payer expense and to the detriment of public schooling, and many other conservative causes," lgbtqnation.com's Warren J. Blumenfeld recently pointed out.

James Dobson's radio program, which he began in 1977, "eventually grew to 7,000 stations in 150 countries and at its peak reached 220 million people each day," CBN News' Wendy Griffith recently pointed out, and led to the founding of the Focus on the Family organization, which at one time, was one of the most powerful and influential organizations on the Christian Right. At its height, FotF employed over 1,000 people. Dobson became a much sought out voice for anti-gay, and anti-abortion political action.

In the early 1990s, Dobson was one of the major backers of the notorious anti-gay Amendment 2 in Colorado, "a ballot measure to block any anti-discrimination laws aimed at protecting gays in cities and counties in the state."

While Amendment 2 passed (53 percent to 47 percent), the Colorado Supreme Court later ruled that "fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote," and it never went into effect.

In his 2004 book, Marriage Under Fire, Dobson wrote: "Like Adolf Hitler, who overran his European neighbors, those who favor homosexual marriage are determined to make it legal, regardless of the democratic processes that stand in their way"

After Dobson left the organization in 2010, Focus on the Family shrunk to about half of its peak size. According to Associated Press' Nicholas Riccardi and Kristen Wyatt, FotF's new leader Jim Daly, "scaled back involvement in politics … see[ing] himself as part of a younger generation of religious leadership."

While Dobson heartily endorsed Trump, saying "I believe he really made a commitment but he is a baby Christian." Daly chose to remain neutral.

As part of its 40th anniversary celebration, CBN's Griffith noted that Family Talk – Dobson's current radio program -- is launching the Dobson Digital Library, which "brings four decades of tried-and-true, family-centered content to a new generation of families on the worldwide web."

In June, Dobson was presented with the Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition's Patriot's Gala. In presenting the award to Dobson, Reed said that Dobson had "served at the forefront of the evangelical conservative movement in America for decades, fighting for traditional marriage, the sanctity of human life and encouraging godly families."

At Dobson's anniversary dinner, Pence was determined to un-neutralize Focus on the Family supporters, getting them to gear up for more political action.

Focus on the Family is not disengaged from politics, Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State told the Associated Press. "Look at the data they put out," Lynn said, referring to Focus' arguments against bans on conversion therapy and suggestions that transgender children are being misled. "This is really hard-core stuff and it's not easily distinguished from the way Jim Dobson talked when he ran the place."

"What LGBTQ Americans are witnessing since Donald Trump became president is a systematic erasure to the LGBTQ community," Ellis continued. "The Trump Administration has removed LGBTQ people from government websites and the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census, but if Mike Pence were to ever become president, this erasure would be placed into overdrive."