Tea Bagging For Jesus

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As a quick glance at the video tape makes clear, the supposed Tea Party movement is simply a continuation of the right-wing's failed 2008 presidential campaign by other means. (Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) spoke for Sarah Palin, John Cornyn, Michele Bachmann and countless others when he insisted, "We need to stop looking at the tea parties as separate from the Republican party.") But as the sessions by Pastor Rick Scarborough and Judge Roy Moore at today's National Tea Party Convention show, the assembled Birthers, Birchers, Deathers and Deniers have seamlessly embraced the extremist religious right agenda. They are Tea Bagging for Jesus and they are in your face about it.

On that point, Pastor Scarborough is unapologetic. The Vision America founder and face of the "War on Christians" conference, Scarborough told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell Friday that he considered the event his organization sponsored "a good investment."

And Michelle Goldberg wrote in the American Prospect, what Rick Scarborough is investing in is new adherents to his particularly draconian right-wing vision:

In 2002, he left his post as pastor of Pearland First Baptist Church to form Vision America, a group dedicated to organizing "patriot pastors" for political action. That year, Falwell identified him as one of the new leaders of the Christian right. The author of books like In Defense of ... Mixing Church and State and the pithier Liberalism Kills Kids, Scarborough spent the Bush years organizing conferences that brought together conservative Republicans with preachers and activists working for the imposition of biblical law.

Among Pastor Scarborough's closest allies has been the disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom Delay. At his 2006 War on Christians conference, Scarborough defended His Hammer:

"I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ."

As the indicted Delay left the stage, Scarborough urged him to "keep your eyes on Jesus" and informed the audience that "God always does his best work after a crucifixion."

While Rick Scarborough was scheduled to host a Friday session titled, "Why Christians Must Engage," at Thursday evening's Tea Party kick-off he conducted the "Organized Prayer Session for the convention & our nation." As Time described it:

By the end of the night, much of the room knelt in prayer - one of the pastors, Rick Scarborough, went after homosexuals several times to choruses of amens -- before watching a Tea Party video.

Then there's Republican candidate for governor and former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.

Former that is, because an Alabama ethics panel removed Moore from his position in November 2003 after he refused a mandate to remove a 10 Commandments monument from his courthouse rotunda. In response, as the New York Times recalled, Moore was unrepentant:

Moreover, Judge Thompson said, "the chief justice showed no signs of contrition for his actions."

Indeed, just minutes later, Mr. Moore strode out of the courthouse into a crush of his supporters and announced, "I have absolutely no regrets."

"We fought a good fight," he said. ''We kept the faith. But the battle is not over. The battle to acknowledge God is about to rage across the country."

And to be sure, Moore continues to wage that battle. In addition to his campaigns for office, Judge Moore is an outspoken supporter of Senator Richard Shelby's jaw-dropping "Constitution Restoration Act," which:

"...aims to reinforce states rights by clarifying that the Supreme Court and district courts do not have jurisdiction to hear cases brought against a federal, state or local government or officer for acknowledging God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

And so it goes. Echoing Republican talking points from the 2008 campaign, failed GOP White House hopeful Tom Tancredo told the Tea Party faithful gathered in Nashville that Barack Obama is a "socialist." Tancredo also fired up the crowd, "You have launched the counter-revolution." Of course, the extremist right-wing counter-revolution urged by reactionaries like Rick Scarborough and Roy Moore has been underway for years. The Lord's Tea Baggers may now have a bigger stage, but they are delighting the same eager faces.

(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)

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