Ralph Reed's evangelical group to target Black and Latino Christians as GOP converts in $42 million midterm binge

Right-wing political consultant Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, which is widely credited for keeping white evangelical support for Trump after the leak of his infamous "Access Hollywood" video, will spend $42 million on midterms.

Reed was a key founder of the Religious Right movement in the United States and now he's vowing to recruit Black and Latino evangelicals by appealing to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion sentiments within those demographics.

Faith & Freedom Coalition leader Timothy Head told Christian Post that FAF was already working in 24 states with the goal of knocking on 8.2 million doors. Reed is based in Georgia, one of states that will get the most FAF attention along with North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, California and Colorado.

No Congressional, Senate, gubernatorial or state legislature race will be neglected with over 43 million “Christian voter guides” distributed and 33 million video ads going online. U.S. Senate races and governorships will be FAF’s primary focus.

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FAF is designated by the IRS as a 501(c)4 which means it does not pay taxes but donations to it are not tax deductible. A 501(c)4 must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. However, FAF’s website is devoted to political issues although it lists alleviating poverty as a goal.

Timothy Head has posted statements on the FAF website condemning the FBI raid on Mar A Lago and a September 2nd condemnation of Pres. Joe Biden’s speech calling for Americans to save democracy as “the most politically divisive address this country has ever heard.” It also posted a Federalist Society article praising former Pres. Donald Trump’s “double win” court ruling on a special master.

On FAF’s page soliciting donations, the pitch invoked the 2020 elections: “Without FAITH & FREEDOM, it would have been a blowout for the Left. Thanks to the support from many patriots, we were able to: Conduct 5.2 MILLION Personal HOME VISITS in the key battleground states…Phone more than 25 MILLION Christians to make sure they voted.”

Today, Reed’s FAF claims a database of 46 million voters. Trump has regaled evangelical audiences by telling them how he forged a relationship with Reed by phoning him in 2011 to seek advice on getting white conservative evangelical votes. And 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls still consider its support essential: When FAF had a Nashville summit in June, Trump, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Send. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) gave speeches explaining how they would rescue America.

In July, Reed broadly outlined his strategy of using laws related to minors who identify as transgender to grow alliances between white evangelicals and Black and Latino churchgoers.

“They really, really play and resonate powerfully in these minority communities," he told NPR. "Not among everybody, but it would be a minimum of 25 percent in the Black community, and it would probably be a minimum 30 percent in the Hispanic community."

Longtime Trump supporter and conservative activist, the late Foster Friess, founded Outriders. His organization has launched Harmony Meals for Black and white churches to feast together and find similar interests and goals.

Russia now frontrunner to build nuclear reactors Trump ally Michael Flynn was negotiating

Since the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in August, Americans were reminded that Trump’s former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and close friend and inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack negotiated with Saudi Arabia to sell the kingdom the technology to build at least 14 nuclear reactors.

Whistleblowers were alarmed that the kingdom would use the technology for nuclear weapons and alerted Congress to the secret negotiations, resulting in a Congressional investigation. The White House did not cooperate with the investigation or share any requested documents.

But the House Oversight Committee obtained more than 60,000 pages of texts, emails, corporate memos and reports that offered a vivid look at how dangerous the Middle East could have become if the secret negotiations resulted in a sale.

Flynn wasn’t just negotiating on behalf of U.S. companies wanting to sell technology to the Saudis. He was also negotiating on behalf of Russia.

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Like Trump, Flynn wanted to lift U.S. sanctions. Part of the deal he was pitching to the Saudis was that Russian construction and nuclear engineering firm OAO OMZ could sell its products and expertise to the kingdom

This summer, it looks as if Saudi Arabia is getting the technology it initially had wanted from Flynn and the Trump Administration– and Russia is in position to deliver it to the kingdom.

And one thing hasn’t changed since 2016 when Flynn first hatched his plan to get the Saudis nuclear technology: The Saudis still don’t want to agree to nonproliferation or inspections of any nuclear technology they buy.

This summer as Trump appears to have been refusing to return classified documents to the U.S. government, Saudi Arabia made an announcement the Western press didn't notice. It announced it was taking bids from China, Russia, France and South Korea to build several nuclear reactors across the kingdom. And Saudi Arabia still didn’t want to agree to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“That should set off alarm bells,” the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists warned in July. “Late in 2020, word leaked that the Saudis have been working secretly with the Chinese to mine and process Saudi uranium ore. These are steps toward enriching uranium—and a possible nuclear weapon program.”

The nukes' long, strange trip

While Trump was still on the presidential campaign trail in 2016, Flynn was negotiating a deal for the Saudis to get at least 14 – and as many as 40 – nuclear reactors from companies in America and Russia. As a Congressional investigation would discover, Flynn had close ties to IP3, a nuclear energy firm run by former U.S. generals, that would supply much of the materials, expertise and design.

Trump’s longtime friend Tom Barrack is a Lebanese American with business contacts across the Middle East. Barrack wanted Trump to appoint him a special envoy to the Middle East. Barrack helped Flynn push for the nuclear deal. Interestingly, Flynn recommended that Barrack be point man for the Saudi Arabian nuclear project rather than an official Trump’s Department of Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, would choose.

As Trump delivered his inauguration speech on January 20, 2017, Flynn texted one U.S. company that the plan was “good to go” and was “going to make a lot of very wealthy people.”

On January 22, 2017, Flynn was sworn in as national security adviser. In February, he was fired after proof emerged that he twice lied to Vice President Michael Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Whistleblowers alerted Congress to how Flynn negotiated without properly briefing Congress or the State Department, alarming Republicans as well as Democrats.

But according to the Congressional investigative report, Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry continued after Flynn was fired.

Investigators found emails mentioning IP3 meetings with Perry and one with Perry and Trump after Flynn’s firing. A June 15, 2018 internal email, IP3 company officials referred to “ongoing meetings” with the DOE. Other IP3 executive emails refer to pressing the Trump Administration to let IP3 sell the kingdom nuclear technology. The report said IP3 executives seemed to think Perry favored the deal even without a nonproliferation agreement.

IP3 later issued a statement that rebutted the report by describing the meetings as routine efforts to explore new markets for American nuclear technology firms.

Interestingly, Trump demanded that Saudi Arabia be his first overseas presidential visit over the objections of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Saudi Arabia spent an estimated $68 million entertaining Trump with sporting events, auto shows, a country music concert by singer Toby Keith, a projection of a five-story image of Trump’s face on the wall of his hotel, and a multimillion-dollar dinner in his honor.

Barrack’s role in the Saudi nuclear deal is now subject of a federal investigation.

Around Thanksgiving Day 2020, Trump pardoned Flynn who pleaded guilty for twice lying to the FBI. And Flynn’s post-pardon life has been vividly prosperous.

Gold and uranium paved roads

Flynn is now the star of Reawaken America, a road show of election denialists and Christian nationalists that brings election denialists, Oath Keepers, Christian nationalists, vaccine conspiracists, and other far-right celebrities to cities and towns across America. Flynn also promoted the Jan. 6 gathering-turned-lethal-riot with his own recruits. Flynn runs several lucrative consulting and politics-related companies. His Resilient Patriot LLC got paid $58,000 for a conference. An AP and “Frontline” examination of his finances found almost $300,000 in payments to Flynn and his businesses from candidates and political action committees since 2021.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia also made major progress toward its nuclear dreams even after Trump’s presidential defeat.

In August 2020, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Saudi Arabia, with China’s help, was building a nuclear facility in a remote, sparsely populated corner of the kingdom. The Journal said the facility was meant to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore but China had given the Saudis the designs needed to progress beyond that. The Saudi government claimed the facility was for “uranium exploration” only and didn’t violate any international agreements.

“‘Yellowcake’ is a milled form of uranium ore which occurs naturally in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries such as Jordan,” the Journal said. “It is produced by chemically processing uranium ore into a fine powder. It takes multiple additional steps and technology to process and enrich uranium sufficiently for it to power a civil nuclear energy plant. At very high enrichment levels, uranium can fuel a nuclear weapon.”

About a year later, June 3, 2021, news was announced via Russian news agency Tass that the Western press barely noted. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told a meeting of the Russian-Saudi intergovernmental commission that President Vladimir Putin was helping the Saudi kingdom develop several “nuclear power plants with low power reactors.” Tass refers to the reactors as small and “floating.”

They sound like the modular micro reactors that Trump ordered to be developed in an executive order that he signed the day before the Jan 6 riot.

The Tass article also said that Saudi Arabia would be taking bids from China, South Korea, France, the United States and Russia for its first big, “high powered” nuclear reactor.

Since then, industry analysts have tended to dismiss China as a contender because it doesn’t have the needed experience building in desert terrain to tackle such the ambitious Saudi project. France is deemed too expensive for the Saudi royals’ taste.

South Korea would face some legal complications because Korean nuclear reactors incorporate many elements of engineering, designs and technology owned by America’s Westinghouse, according to the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists. There were also questions about whether treaties and agreements with the United States would require South Korea to get an OK from America to proceed with a sale.

The odds for now favor Russia as the winner.

How will the military honor soldiers killed by domestic terrorists? Murder of Black soldier ignites debate

The spring night that U.S. Army Lt. Richard Collins III, age 23, was murdered by a white supremacist, he had a wonderful life to celebrate.

Collins would soon graduate from historically Black Bowie State University. He had just been commissioned into the Army, starting active duty in seven days. He had completed airborne training, delighting his proud Navy veteran dad.

At 3 a.m. May 21, 2017, Collins was stabbed to death at a bus stop by a member of self-described white supremacist Alt Reich Nation.

Since then, Collins’ parents have spent years imploring the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, Army Secretary and Arlington National Cemetery to let their only son be buried among the historic graves. They have been refused due to a technicality -- Collins was one week away his first active duty assignment. Arlington insists it can only bury active duty members.

This tragedy has ignited a debate of what constitutes active duty. What if our next war isn’t overseas but on American soil confronting racist domestic terrorism?

“The military is dreading that discussion because the conflict with domestic violence is so politicized,” Black Veterans Project co-founder and Afghanistan veteran Richard Brookshire, a friend of the Collins family, told Raw Story.

But even U.S. military leaders agree that discussion is needed. Last month eight former DOD secretaries and five former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned Americans of “an exceptionally challenging civil-military environment” because domestic terrorism disrupted the peaceful transfer of presidential power and was still a threat to democracy.

Arlington’s refusal to allow Collins a final rest is even more perplexing because legislation initiated in 2021 by Maryland’s Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin said ROTC graduates who die before their first duty assignment “shall be treated as a member of the Armed Forces who dies on active duty.”

Brookshire is a former infantry medic in Afghanistan and a Morehouse and Columbia graduate. His nonprofit Black Veterans Project researches and documents racial inequities in the military and in veterans’ experiences.

He just recently filed an enormous Freedom of Information Act request to obtain DOD internal data on racism over decades.

“Race plays a major role in shaping military life so it may be reflected in handling funerals,” Brookshire said.

But he sees inflexibility on policy as a factor in Collins’ case. Right after Richard’s murder, “the Veterans Administration didn’t at first agree he was a veteran because he hadn’t arrived at his first duty station. If Richard had been murdered a week later, his parents would be allowed an Arlington burial."

Photos of Collins show him flanked by his proud parents. They recently discussed their son on PBS Newshour and wept after Arlington National Cemetery’s response to their request was read aloud:

“While 1st Lt. Collins death was tragic and his commitment to serve in the Army extremely admirable, the Secretary of the Army made the decision to deny the request. Exceptions to the policy are rarely approved. Unfortunately, burial space at ANC is extremely limited and service members with no active duty military service other than training do not qualify.”

DOD told the Collins they could bury their son in Quantico if the parents paid the expenses of having him exhumed and buried again. There was no offer to provide military honors or a memorial service.

His father described that offer as “a gut punch.”

Plenty of room in Arlington

Arlington National Cemetery is, in fact, expanding after experts calculated that it would run out of burial plots by 2047. Designed in 2020, the expansion onto contiguous properties gives the cemetery 70 more acres, enough land for 60,000 additional new burial sites.

When Collins’ parents wrote a June 2021 letter to Arlington, they did their best to bring his qualities to life. They said he worked at Walmart, a restaurant and a golf course to pay for college and was gifted at soccer and lacrosse. He hung an American flag in his bedroom. After his death, his parents could not bear to take it down.

Collins’ parents, Rick and Dawn, continued asking for an Arlington burial while enduring his killer’s trial.

Normally, when a soldier dies off the battlefield, his family can request a military honor guard to be present at the funeral. But according to Task & Purpose, the Army refused even that gesture of respect for their son, citing the active duty technicality.

Raw Story asked the Defense Department whether members of the National Guard or Reserves---like the young soldiers assigned to defend the U.S. Capitol after the Jan. 6 insurrection---would be considered active duty.

“It all depends what kind of orders they are on,” Major Charles Dietz explained via email. “I wish I knew more on it but we only deal with Active Duty.”

As background information for this story, Dietz shared the DOD’s recent Countering Terrorism report that outlines ways the military can identify and stop white supremacists and other extremists prevent from infiltrating and influencing the armed forces.

There is no examination of how military personnel might need to confront from domestic terrorists like white supremacists on American soil. As Dietz accurately observed, those threats are considered the domain of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security because civilian control of the military is historically a crucial principle.

If Collins were white...

And the Army recognized that such deaths are in the line of duty when it honored Collins by promoting him to first lieutenant in 2020.

“Second Lt. Collins’ actions on May 20, 2017, exhibited character and exemplary conduct of an officer of a higher rank,” then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a proclamation. “In addition to standing firm in the face of evil, 2LT Collins was a model student and cadet at Bowie State University … Given the circumstances, it is my honor to recommend 2LT Richard W. Collins III for an honorary promotion to first lieutenant.”

His parents still hope all this will persuade Arlington to relent and will let them lay their son to rest there.

Raw Story asked Brookshire whether he thought Collins would have his military honors and Arlington burial if he was white. Brookshire paused to reflect on all that had happened.

“I don’t know that answer,” he responded. “But if Richard weren’t Black, I don’t believe he would be needing a funeral.”

Trump lawyer sued by only Black employee for using N-word repeatedly

Attorney Alina Habba represents ex-President Donald Trump in many battles with New York Attorney General Letitia James. Now, Habba is being sued by its former paralegal and sole Black employee Na’Syia Drayton for racist harassment. One of Drayton’s key allegations is that Habba and law firm partner Michael Madaio used the N-word repeatedly to “pump up” before court appearances involving Trump cases.

Drayton worked for Habba and Madaio from November of last year to this June, her complaint states. She says that she enjoyed the job—until she experienced how Habba and Madaio prepared attorneys for legal battles on Trump’s behalf. The white lawyers crowded into an office with the door open and then blasted rap music with lyrics that Drayton found offensive, misogynistic and racist.

The lyrics that Drayton particularly hated hearing her white bosses try to rap are attached to the suit filed August 19. They include Ruff Ryders’ Anthem by DMX, a gritty look at Black-on-Black violence. Also attached is Lil Wayne’s Rich Ass Fu@k which opens with, “AK on the nightstand right next to my Bible, But I swear with these 50 shots I’ll shoot it out with 5-0”. The lyrics go on to describe how much “hoes” want the rapper’s “hosepipe” and their preferred sexual position.

Subsequent verses describe how much the rapper enjoys killing “hoes.”

Also attached is Lil Wayne’s Lollipop — with lyrics that focus on oral sex. A rap by Kanye West and Jay Z was also included.

The complaint’s exhibits include a copy of Drayton’s June 9 email to Habba in which she explains that she isn’t hiding in her office because the firm’s other rooms are too cold.

“Truthfully, the main reason I stay secluded is because I am uncomfortable,” Drayton wrote.

She cited a time when New York attorney general Letitia James ruled against Habba, who allegedly stormed down the hall yelling, “I hate that Black bitch.” Drayton also recalled a time the attorneys prepped for a Trump case with a rap song and Habba called to Drayton to join them because she would like the music.

Drayton pointed out that because she is Black does not mean she likes those lyrics.

The complaint says that Drayton admired Habba’s “strong work ethic” but feared her “explosive temper.” When Habba was displeased with subordinates, the complaint says that she would stalk around the room saying, “I have a feeling that somebody here is going to be fired today.”

Drayton’s lawsuit also accuses Habba of making “derogatory, anti-Semitic remarks about another attorney in the office (repeatedly, disdainfully referring to him as a “cheap Jew”).”

Drayton claims anti-Semitic remarks were made at least once in front of the firm’s Jewish human resources director who would wait till Habba was out of the room and then roll her eyes over what was said.

Drayton says that Habba maintained that she could not be a racist because she was “an Arab” which Habba characterized as nonwhite. Habba also told Drayton that Habba had consulted her other Black employee, her chauffeur, who told her that he loved rap, especially Kanye West, and often played it as he drove her to appointments.

Drayton resigned on June 14.

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Amy Coney-Barrett to rule on LGBTQ case whose anti-LGBTQ attorneys paid her 5 times for speaking engagements

What does an oil rig supervisor earning $963 per day have in common with a diner’s head cook or a dollar store manager? Probably nothing, except this upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case. The justices’ decision could make it almost impossible for workers to get overtime pay from employers who insist the employees are salaried — not hourly workers.

It's one of several could-be landmark cases SCOTUS will hear this fall that could affect ordinary life for Americans.

Lawyers arguing Helix Energy Solutions Group Inc v Hewitt face the Supreme Court on October 12. Michael Hewitt was a Helix manager earning $963 per day, often more than $200,000 annually when he was terminated. He sued for thousands of dollars in overtime that he says Helix owes him.

There are federal laws and regulations protecting overtime. That’s thanks to low-wage managers who fought in court after their bosses promoted them to a “salaried manager” position. The problem was that many salaried managers of diners, dollar stores, dive bars and other service industry jobs would be given annual pay of $30,000 to $40,000, but were required to work 15-hour days, seven days a week and holidays, with no overtime.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Trump ordered a nuclear reactor on the moon in his final days as president

Hewitt was not a low-wage Joe Six Pack. But as Law360 noted, to be a manager exempt from overtime, a circuit court ruled that weekly salary should be assured, not dependent on the number of days and hours the manager works, no matter how few.

“While Hewitt's day rate of $963 was well above the minimum weekly requirement for salaried professionals, which at the time was $455 and is now $684, the pay was tied to days worked and consequently failed to constitute a real salary,” Law360 noted.

CAN ARTISTS REFUSE THEIR SERVICES TO LGBTQ PATRONS?

The plaintiff in 303 Creative LLC v Elenis is a Christian website designer represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a 501c3 that donated financially to the Jan. 6, 2021 Trump rally that morphed into a riot. This is ADF’s second go at a Supreme Court in LGBTQ rights case.

They also represented the baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding.

ADF paid Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett for five speaking engagements since 2011, according to The 19th.

On her business site, the plaintiff says that “God gave me the creative gifts that are expressed through this business, I have always strived… to avoid communicating ideas or messages, or promoting events, products, services, or organizations, that are inconsistent with my religious beliefs.” No LGBTQ person has demanded a pro-gay website from the plaintiff. But apparently, SCOTUS will be asked to decide whether artists–designers, singers, photographers, chefs, bakers—have the right to refuse their interpretive and creative services to a community willing to pay for them.

The ADF has an arm devoted to legal action on behalf of conservative churches and asks congregations online if they would be willing to be plaintiffs in a court case preserving religious freedoms.

WILL COLLEGE CAMPUSES BE WHITER?

On Halloween, The University of North Carolina and Harvard will fight Virginia-based Students for Fair Admissions before the Supreme Court. At stake is whether colleges should be allowed to use race as a factor in who is admitted to a college.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice was one of the many social justice groups to write an amicus brief in favor of Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process and affirmative action everywhere. It was an especially poignant show of solidarity since Students for Fair Admissions’ lawsuit accuses Harvard of discrimination against Asian-American applicants who, on average, outscored white and Black applicants academically. The suit against UNC accuses the university of discriminating against white and Asian applicants to favor Black people.

“I refuse to be weaponized against other students of color who face institutional barriers to higher education,” Harvard class of 2019 grad Sally Chen, who is Chinese American, testified for the amicus brief. “The full breadth of our identities cannot be captured in a race-blind application.”

Dozens of corporations have signed amicus briefs supporting affirmative action including Google, Hershey, Starbucks, Proctor & Gamble, Mattel, Levi Strauss, JetBlue, United Airlines and Salesforce.

But many longtime SCOTUS watchers think the odds are, that this court may kill affirmative action — and not just because there are five conservative judges making the decision.

The New York Times saw the recent failure of a California proposition supporting affirmative action as an ominous sign. Voters rejected it by a 57 to 43 margin. The New York Times noted that a high percentage of Latino and Asian American voters rejected the proposal. There was a sense among some voters who were people of color that race-conscious admissions tend to overlook obstacles encountered by working poor and working-class applicants.

Elliot Mincberg, People for the American Way senior fellow, is a Supreme Court scholar who also served as chief counsel for oversight and investigations of the House Judiciary Committee.

“It’s been an issue for years to figure out how to do a conglomeration of race and social class in the admissions process,” Mincberg told Raw Story. “It’s highly likely this Supreme Court will eliminate or severely restrict affirmative action.”

There are other more basic questions that affirmative action hasn’t completely resolved, such as: does affirmative action benefit Latinos since the federal government defines them as an ethnicity, not a race?

“That depends on the individual institution’s process,” Mincberg replied.

If affirmative action is struck down, universities can use what he calls “Constitutional workarounds,” to use some sort of method to ensure diversity.

DOES A JURY NEED TO KNOW WHEN A CONVICTED KILLER CAN NEVER BE PAROLED?

Death row inmate John Cruz was sentenced to death in 2005 for shooting a Tucson law enforcement officer five times, killing him. Cruz — and other death row inmates joined in this suit — argues that the court allegedly did not allow him to tell the jury that his sentencing did not allow him the option of parole so he could not pose a danger to the world outside prison ever again.

There is a 1994 Supreme Court case, Simmons v South Carolina, that Cruz’s lawyers cite as a precedent for this case. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy wrote in a concurring opinion agreeing that a prisoner facing the death penalty had the right to tell jurors when parole is off the table.

:"[W]here the State puts the defendant’s future dangerousness in issue, and the only available alternative sentence to death is life imprisonment without possibility of parole, due process entitles the defendant to inform the capital sentencing jury—by either argument or instruction—that he is parole ineligible," the justices wrote.

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Trump ordered a nuclear reactor on the moon in his final days as president

In the final months of his presidency, Donald Trump ordered nuclear energy to be tested on the moon by 2027, as well as the development of nuclear-powered spacecraft that would orbit the Earth, the moon and outer space.

He also ordered the development of micro nuclear reactors small enough that they could fit inside a typical shipping truck that zips cargo along the highway.

During this period, the media was busy reporting on the Jan. 6 riots, insurrection and false accusations of voter fraud — and few paid attention.

However, these orders may offer clues about what was included in some of the ‘Top Secret’ folders squirreled away in Mar-a-Lago.

RELATED: Nuclear docs at Mar-a-Lago 'hugely important for prosecution of Espionage Act': expert

On Dec. 16, 2020, Trump signed the “Space Policy Directive-6,” which set the goal of testing nuclear energy on the moon by 2027.

Then on Jan. 5, 2021, — the day before the Jan. 6 insurrection — Trump signed Executive Order 13972, which directed NASA, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to study the cost and technical feasibility of using nuclear-powered spacecraft and satellites.

Some of these spacecraft would orbit the Earth, but most of the nuclear-powered craft would be meant for deep space missions to Mars and further places that are light years away.

There are Trump supporters, including Tesla founder Elon Musk, who support the goal of using nuclear power to help humans set up mining operations on the moon and colonize Mars.

The Jan. 5 Executive Order also includes Trump’s direction to NASA and the Department of Defense to design and build micro nuclear reactors that could be transported on trains, planes or the typical trailer truck.

The Biden Administration has embraced a similar idea and is developing small reactors that could supply electricity for 1,000 to 10,000 soldiers in remote desert, jungle and mountain terrains. The microreactors could also be used to plug holes in America’s grid in transformers that fail due to terrorist attacks, wildfires or other natural disasters.

The new effort is called “Project Pele,” named after the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes. The DOD recently announced that it would review proposed designs for “Project Pele" and choose a winner before building and testing it in Idaho.

In folktales, Pele could destroy a city or a beach by hurling lava and ash. Micro-nuclear reactors pose potential dangers, too. It could be catastrophic if terrorists got ahold of them, for example.

Although saving the coal industry was a focal point for Trump’s Department of Energy, whistleblowers were alarmed by his nuclear negotiations in 2018.

They claimed Trump secretly authorized the sale of nuclear technology, made by a company called IP3, to Saudi Arabia. The deal was intensely negotiated by Trump’s fired and disgraced advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who had close ties to IP3.

The deal Flynn negotiated didn’t require the Saudis to agree they wouldn’t use the technology to make nuclear weapons.

These whistleblowers went to Congress — and the reaction there was a rare bipartisan alarm.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) teamed up with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) of New Jersey to request the GAO investigate. The GAO noted that Congress and the State Department were left out of the loop in the negotiations. State diplomats would have been savvier about how Saudi Arabia’s shifting, complicated and secret alliances might put America at risk.

Interestingly, conservative think tanks recently issued reports detailing how entrenched anti-American Wahhabi extremists were inside the enormous Saudi royal family.

Investigators discovered that IP3 simply wrote one executive order that Trump could sign so his aides could simply cut and paste it onto White House stationery.

Trump’s Jan. 5, 2021 order and his December 16, 2020 order both stress the importance of letting private industry, rather than the government, take a leadership role in achieving America’s nuclear goals.

BILLIONAIRES, MICRO NUCLEAR REACTORS

For years, NASA has debated nuclear-powered craft to carry explorers to Mars. Nuclear craft could achieve faster speeds, cutting down the time astronauts spent traveling through high levels of radiation that would bombard them in outer space.

There are potential wealthy investors who see mining on the moon as a cosmic jackpot. PayPal founder Rod Martin, former special counsel to conservative tech billionaire Peter Thiel, appeared on a 2021 Right Response Ministries podcast to explain how God is directing Martin’s hedge fund to invest in colonizing the moon and Mars.

One incentive is what Martin described as the vast wealth of “Helium 3” — a rare substance needed in nuclear energy production — waiting to be harvested from the moon’s surface.

In the podcast, Martin announced he had created a certification process for financial advisors, taught at evangelical Liberty University. He also expressed admiration for Tesla billionaire Elon Musk’s efforts at space exploration.

But Martin promised listeners that his aerospace ventures would be guided by “Christian principles of liberty, security, values.”

He then urged listeners to tell their financial advisers to enroll in his certification courses and claimed his board of directors included retired Air Force and Space Force generals.

You can watch the podcast below or at this link.

Colonizing The Moon & Mars From A Biblical Worldview | with Rod Martin www.youtube.com

EARTHLY LEADERS RESPOND

Trump’s 2020 nuclear goals went uncriticized by most world leaders, although one unnamed Chinese official remarked to Xinhua News Agency that testing nuclear energy on the moon could violate a 1979 United Nations treaty that bans weaponizing the moon.

As for Russia, just days after the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, the state-owned TV network Russia One aired and tweeted news anchor Eugeny Popov gloating that Russian officials already had the top secret nuclear documents that Trump had taken out of the White House. And he said that Russia’s military and intel agents were busy reviewing them.

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These upcoming Supreme Court cases could help Trump steal 2024

You thought overturning Roe caused an uproar? Two upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases revolve around how elections are won.

One case could eventually turn Alabama from red to purple. The Brennan Center for Justice says the other case, spawned in North Carolina, could destroy democracy — and help put ex-president Donald Trump back in the White House, even if he loses the popular and electoral votes.

MOORE V HARPER

In the last week of August, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters urgently denounced the strange “fringe” legal theory at the heart of this case, which the Supreme Court at first declined to hear, as a threat to democracy.

And legal scholars say at its most extreme interpretation, it provides a mechanism that allows state legislatures to ignore the votes cast by their citizens and hand the election to the loser.

"Adoption of the theory by the US Supreme Court would be a threat to our democratic values and institutions,” the League statement reads. “It would reinstate congressional maps that the North Carolina Supreme court struck down as an extreme partisan gerrymander, and those illegal maps would be in use for the future. This would have a devastating effect on voters and those seeking to defend and protect the right to vote.”

RELATED: Expert: Dems need to expand Supreme Court to counter the conservative assault on democracy

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear this North Carolina case in February, perhaps because it hinges on a controversial legal theory. But, four justices disagreed with their colleagues back in February — Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch — expressing strong interest in exploring and engaging with the “independent state legislature theory.”

The Brennan Center calls the independent state legislature theory “the debunked independent state legislature theory.” If the Supreme Court decides it is valid, it can change the way elections are run and votes are counted.

Elliot Mincberg, People for the American Way senior fellow, is a Supreme Court scholar who also served as chief counsel for oversight and investigations of the House Judiciary Committee.

“This scares me because it isn’t just about redistricting; it has much broader implications,” Mincberg told Raw Story. “The GOP dominates the North Carolina state legislature. It dominates a lot of state legislatures. This theory gives state legislatures enormous power to do what they want in state elections and national elections.”

If SCOTUS supports the most extreme version of the theory, Mincberg says that would remove constraints placed on state legislatures regarding how they intervene and interfere with elections — including presidential elections. In states where election deniers hold positions of power, it could mean that most voters cast their ballots for a Trump opponent, but the legislature could still declare Trump the winner.

The Brennan Center reported that last year “North Carolina’s Republican-dominated state legislature passed, on a party-line vote, an extreme partisan gerrymander to lock in a supermajority of the state’s 14 congressional seats. The gerrymander was so extreme that an evenly divided popular vote would have awarded ten of 14 seats to Republicans and only four to the Democrats.”

This February, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the map was an “egregious and intentional partisan gerrymander” that violated the state’s constitution.

According to Ballotpedia, on March 17, Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives Timothy K. Moore (R) filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the case. SCOTUS granted the review on June 30.

The North Carolina Republican Party did not respond to calls or emails asking for interviews or comments.

North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson emailed Raw Story these comments: “For decades, North Carolina Republicans have been splitting city streets and rural neighborhoods down the middle to dilute the democratic process and disenfranchise voters, disproportionately impacting communities of color. Moore v. Harper is another brazen attempt to erode voting rights and empower election deniers to override the will of the voters for their own political gain. Republicans have made clear that winning elections is more important to them than their commitment to constitutional values. That is not true democracy.”

Courts have repeatedly rejected the theory. The Supreme Court may reject it, too. But if it embraces the theory, Mincberg warns that there will be no way to find the sort of “Constitutional get-around” that some Americans cobbled together after Roe was overturned.

“We won’t be a democracy,” Mincberg said flatly. “We’ll be living under something else, maybe a plutocracy or an autocracy.”

MERRILL V MILLIGAN

Blood red, reliably Republican Alabama achieved an epic landmark and almost no one has noticed. This year, there are Black Democratic candidates for Senator (Rev. Will Boyd), Governor (Yolanda Flowers) and Attorney General (Wendell Major) for the first time in history.

NAACP-Alabama State Conference president and 23-year Air Force veteran Benard Simelton told Raw Story that it took a lot of knocking on doors street after street under broiling Alabama sunshine to register voters and convince them to vote. But when he saw the state’s redistricting map that Republicans approved, he was convinced all those votes would be hopelessly diluted.

“It’s very frustrating; it’s a method of voter suppression that we call packing and cracking,” he said in a phone interview, explaining that the map is “packing” Black voters into only the one 7th Congressional District and “cracking” or splintering Black residents among three other districts.

Given Black population growth and geographical expansion, the map Simelton and many other Black voters argue for would create two predominantly Black, adjacent districts. So, a group of Black voters —including lawsuit namesake Evan Milligan, the Greater Birmingham Ministries, and the Alabama NAACP — began a long series of legal battles in state courts arguing that the current map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.

On October 4, they meet the Supreme Court. Their lawyers will argue that due to population growth and shifts, there should be two predominantly Black adjacent voting districts on the map, not just one.

“We’re on pins and needles but we’ve got a strong case built on facts so now we’re hoping that all the justices will listen carefully to it,” Simelton said.

Meanwhile, Simelton is busy registering college students on campuses across the state.

“The students’ response has been great,” Simelton told Raw Story. But Trump supporters aren’t happy with the outreach, arguing that the students should travel back home and register to vote where their parents live.

Now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, he observes that students live on campus nine months of the year and some can’t afford to travel back to their families to register and vote.

“Campus is their home and where they should be voting,’ he said.

Simelton has heard from colleagues in North Carolina that college kids there are confronting similar arguments when they flock to voter registrations near their universities. The Gen Zers who are now registering to vote are different because they do more than fill out cards. They put on name tags and hit the streets recruiting voters.

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Expert: Watch PA and AZ to see if Trumpism will triumph in the US

Peter Montgomery has studied America’s religious right for more than 20 years yet he’s never seen anything akin to how Trump-endorsed election denialists campaign for the upcoming midterm elections.

“Look at Laura Loomer, who lost by about 6,000 votes in Florida’s Republican primaries, a close race but a clear loss--and by a sizable number of votes,” said Montgomery, a People for the American Way senior fellow.

But Montgomery recalls that before Election Day, Loomer told voters she would never concede even if she lost. She falsely blamed her loss on election fraud, other Republicans and flawed voting machines for her loss, never offering a micro-scrap of evidence. And she vowed her far-right stance reflects the true will of the voters, not the votes.

“It’s a tactic,” Montgomery said. “A lot of Trump-endorsed candidates are using it.”

Let’s call the tactic “Loomering” for brevity’s sake. Loomering goes beyond denying the results of the 2020 presidential election. GOP candidates are Loomering all over America when they declare before election day that the only way they could lose is due to fraud. If recounted votes show that they lost, those votes don’t reflect the true will of the people and should be disregarded.

Montgomery worries about the highly controversial fringe legal theory that supporters of ex-president Donald Trump have embraced. The theory interprets the Constitution as allowing state legislators to ignore the majority of votes cast for a presidential candidate in a state. It sounds like fantasy. But the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case arguing that the theory is valid.

Now that the primaries are nearly done, Montgomery sees Pennsylvania and Arizona as key states Americans should watch in 2022 to assess how Trumpism will fare in 2024.

In Arizona, GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has repeated Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She falsely calls Pres. Joe Biden an “illegitimate President.”

Just like Loomer, Lake has told voters the only way she can lose is if the other side cheats. As Montgomery noted, this protects her ego and gives supporters an excuse to react violently because they may believe that’s the only way to stop a "steal." Arizona’s Republican Secretary of State candidate is also a 2020 election truther.

“Together, they could overturn a legitimate presidential election,” Montgomery added.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania chose GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano who was at the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As a state senator, Mastriano organized hearings in which Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave false information concerning election fraud. If elected governor, Mastriano would get to appoint Pennsylvania’s top official overseeing elections.

“Mastriano is one of the most extremist of the election deniers,” Montgomery said.

Maryland’s Republican gubernatorial primary winner Dan Cox got substantial donations from the Democratic governors’ association, according to the Washington Post. Democrats figured an extreme Trumper would be easier to beat than a moderate Republican.

But given America’s peculiar mood and former president Donald Trump’s tenacious grip on the Republican Party, that strategy may be dangerous.

“That strategy is like playing with fire,” Montgomery said, noting how the growth of Christian Nationalist sentiments—opposition to LGBTQ rights, the scant separation between church and state, support for contraception restrictions, easy access to guns---has normalized extremist views for many voters. “Remember, Trump’s spiritual advisor Paula White preached that Trump’s opponents were in league with Satan. There are people who believe Trump was anointed by God…There are voters who aren’t persuaded by logic.”

Buddhists, Hindus: Our ancient swastika is a symbol of love — not Nazi bloodlust

Young, idealistic sweethearts Frank and Josephine Duveneck created a gorgeous rural utopia, about an hour from San Francisco, for visitors who can’t afford to enjoy paradise. Hidden Villa has a farm where visitors meet lambs, pigs, cows and chickens surrounded by fields blooming with yellow daisies, white Queen Anne’s lace and purple wisteria. Hidden Vista hosted a multi-racial family camp in 1945. After WWII, it housed Japanese Americans released from internment camps which no longer had a place to go. Hidden Villa welcomed Cesar Chavez to organize farmworkers there.

Now, Hidden Villa hosts children’s summer camps for kids to learn about environmentalism, growing strawberries, lettuces, broccoli, kale, arugula, radishes, green garlic and turnips — shared with food insecure families.

But in June, the utopia exploded. Hidden Valley closed summer camp for 1,000 kids because staff resigned after the camp director noticed two antique tiles made in 1913 decorating the Duvenecks' historic mansion (built in 1929). The tiles were carved with the ancient Buddhist swastika---sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Jain.

Buddhists, Hindus and Jain have used swastikas as a symbol of protection and joy for thousands of years. Pre-WWII temples, homes and Buddha statues are often adorned with swastikas. The confusion of their symbol with Nazism is a source of heartbreak. It’s also dangerous as anti-Asian American violence continues to plague communities.

At Hidden Villa, leaders discussed adding explanatory signs near the tiles, but camp staff disliked the idea. In a June 3 letter, they wrote, “We are not comfortable educating children in proximity to this symbol of hate...we cannot purport to provide a safe or affirming environment.”

Villa officials removed the tiles days later. But that didn’t appease staff enough to save summer camp. It was such a depressing tale of a good intentions fiasco, HBO political commentator Bill Maher brought it up on his show.

The good news is that the controversy spurred a discussion on how to educate Americans, K-12 students and adults about hate symbols.

California and other states are currently considering legislation to educate students about hate symbols. Hindus and Buddhists worry that most legislation doesn’t include their swastika’s history. The Coalition of Hindus of North America launched an outreach campaign. Meeting with rabbis, Jewish community leaders, Black activists and lawmakers to share their swastika’s history dating back to 500 BC.

DID NAZIS HIJACK A SYMBOL OF LOVE?

When New York lawmakers proposed a 2020 bill to teach students the swastika was a symbol of hate, CoHNA met with rabbis and lawmakers to ask that the legislation be rewritten to include the swastika’s pre-Nazi history. At that time, I asked CoHNA leader Nikunj Trivedi how crucial the swastika was to Hinduism and Buddhism.

“That’s kind of like asking Christians how important the cross is for their worship,” Trivedi replied gently.

Adolf Hitler never used the Sanskrit word “swastika” in his racist manifesto, Mein Kampf, a point historians have made repeatedly. The dictator boasts that it was his idea to add the “Hakenkreuz“ or “hooked cross” to the Nazi flag. The Christian Hakenkreuz symbols decorated churches in Germany and a monastery where he attended choir practice.

T.K. Nakagaki, former President of the Buddhist Council of New York, wrote a seminal book, “The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate,” Nagasaki traces the story of how an Irish priest swapped the word, “swastika” for “broken cross” into his 1939 translation of “Mein Kampf” into English. It seems unlikely that a genocidal racist would embrace a sacred symbol to millions of people of color. So, historians still debate whether the priest wanted to distance Christianity’s cross from Nazism and deliberately substituted the wrong word.

Hindus for Human Rights deputy executive director Nikhil Mandalaparthy told Raw Story that the Nazi symbol looks different from the swastikas unearthed in ancient Hindu, Buddhist, Mayan and Navajo ruins. The Nazi symbol is normally set at an angle giving it a diamond outline while the religious swastika sits flat on one leg.

Mandalaparthy remembers when he was a teen, his Hindu temple was defaced with racist insults and Nazi swastikas all over the outside.

“Inside the temple, there were Hindu swastikas meant as symbols of protection, love and good fortune,” he told Raw Story. “The irony wasn’t lost on me.”

Mandalaparthy doubts that there are many American Hindus or Buddhists who would use swastikas outside the home given the pain it could cause Jewish and Black neighbors unfamiliar with its religious context. The swastika is still used indoors in some Hindu worship. He described a highlight of many Hindu wedding ceremonies, the moment the couple walks around a fire burning on an altar that’s often engraved with good luck swastikas blessing the lovers.

Throughout the 1920s, Americans associated swastikas with good luck. The symbols decorated playing cards and wedding invitations. Graphic designer and art historian Steven Heller writes in “The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?” that during the roaring 20s, Coca Cola gave away swastika key chains figuring they were more humane lucky charms than a rabbit’s foot.

But spray painted or scrawled across walls chill the blood of anyone who knows anything about WWII. That’s why New York legislators in 2020 proposed legislation that required “instruction regarding symbols of hate, including the swastika and the noose, to be incorporated into the curricula for grades 6 through 12."

Members of New York’s Hindu community met with bill sponsors and members of the New York Board of Rabbis to ask that the legislation include language that would differentiate between their sacred symbol and the Nazis.

Miraculously, politics worked. All sides listened to each other’s concerns.

After meeting with the Hindu faithful, New York Sen. Todd Kaminsky withdrew his symbols of hate bill so it could be rewritten to include the swastika’s ancient history. So, there’s hope for a happy ending in California.

"Educating students about hatred, racism and bigotry is essential,” CoHNA’s website said, reporting the good news. “This is even more urgent, given the recent increase in hate crimes against the Jewish and African American communities within New York. Incidents of the (neo-)Nazi emblem being graffitied outside Jewish homes and synagogues, often accompanied by horrific acts of violence by anti-Semitic and white power groups… the swastika in the West is inscribed with the transgenerational trauma of the eleven million Jews and others killed by Nazi persecution…(but) the important work of fighting anti-Semitism and racism must not inadvertently stoke resentment against other religious minorities.’

Republicans and Christian leaders bashed for irony of speaking at Florida confab that warns of 'idolatry'

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination and Albert Mohler is one of its most powerfully influential leaders.

The Southern Baptists Convention announced last Friday that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating sexual abuse within SBC churches and institutions. The SBC has been battered by credible accusations of clergy sexual abuse, many verified by the independent investigation it launched.

As president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, SBC’s most prestigious school for pastors, Mohler wields enormous influence. He was one of the SBC leaders to sign a public statement promising cooperation with Justice Department investigators.

Mohler’s profile will loom larger next month when he’s onstage in Miami giving the National Conservatism Conference keynote address. His speech is entitled; “Your God Has Been Supplanted by an Idol: The Dangerous Illusion of a Secular State.” Guest speakers include Florida Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Josh Hawley.

The online news community, Church Leaders, noticed a tweetstorm brewing with anger and concern over Mohler’s gig—a lot of it coming from the Deep South and Southern Baptist pastors and believers.

“Is this what you're all about? Election deniers, COVID hoaxers, all politics all the time,” tweeted Winston-Salem, North Carolina Pastor Ben Marsh from First Alliance Church. “I'm saddened. We have a shortage of pastors as it is, and now we're training them to care more for politics than Christ.”

Bethel Seminary leadership professor Andy Rowell weighed in: “It is gross for (Mohler) to be with all those who care so little for the truth.” He quoted Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked.”

Religion writer Chris Boeskool alluded to Mohler’s past statements that seem to support the controversial white Christian nationalist movement when he tweeted; “I've got news for you: The (seminary) was lost a VERY long time ago. Anyone who still willingly gives their time and money to the Southern Baptist Church is supporting this sort of white nationalist garbage.”

Christian nationalism is the term commonly used for churches that, in addition to conservative religious stances on abortion and same-sex marriage, embrace the far-right agenda of denouncing vaccinations and touting the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Tennessean Susan Williams who blogs on “food, faith and fun” entered the thread with: “This is idolatry, and heresy, in my opinion. When has the church EVER done a good job managing political power. Jesus NEVER went after political power. His Kingdom is NOT of this world.”

That observation that Trump supporters were beginning to idolize Trump in ways that should be reserved for God echoed through the thread.

There were also tweets defending Mohler that pointed out that many pastors attend conferences devoted to progressive or liberal causes.

A few Trump supporters attacked Marsh by citing baseless, violence-inciting falsehoods. Third Eldest tweeted: “The election was stolen, covid was a hoax, and nothing has been more at stake. (The conference guests) are the only people currently standing in between your children and full-on pedophilia legalization.”

The latter is a response that’s become predictable but shouldn’t be normalized. What was unpredictable was the concern about Trumpification of evangelicals from people of faith in ruby red states.

As Marsh tweeted, “For the sake of truth we must admit that Jesus is Lord. That means Donald Trump is not. It is time to leave him behind. The election was not stolen. Admit this and move on.

Arlington, Texas Pastor Dwight McKissic’s tweet describes his feelings when he saw Mohler’s photo amid right-wing election denialists like Hawley. (McKissic has 14,400 followers).

“This picture makes me cringe for the SBC,” Pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church wrote. “It’s extremely unappealing for multiple thousands I engage with. Not because they’re Republicans—Condi Rice, Colin Powell, E.V. Hill were Republicans. But, for all the reasons mentioned in this tweet (thread) and adherence to Christian Nationalism.”

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'Man who made Jan. 6 possible' launches dating app for Trump lovers

One of ex-President Donald Trump’s closest and youngest political advisors is developing The Right Stuff, a dating app for young right wingers looking for love in Trumpland.

It launches officially next month with $1.5 million in seed money from tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

Ryann McEnany — sister of ex-Trump White House press secretary and Fox News contributor Kayleigh McEnany — explains how it works in a YouTube video.

Like most dating apps, it has icebreaker questions for users to answer. But McEnany doesn’t show any questions about pets, favorite foods, ‘best vacations ever’ or beloved movie quotes.

Her demo shows The Right Stuff asking users for their “favorite liberal lie” and a “quick rant.” There’s also a fill-in-the-blank sentence that begins, “Alexa, change the….”

The woman in the video inserts the word “President.”

READ: Trump advisers call out Kimberly Guilfoyle as one of the biggest 'grifters' in the former president's orbit

McEnany explains users must attach photos of themselves engaged in fun activities with family and “people you love.” The demo shows a young woman golfing as Trump leans over her, grinning and giving the thumbs-up sign.

“We’re sorry,” McEnany says to her unseen audience,
“that you’ve had to endure years of bad dates and wasted time with people who don’t see the world our way: the right way.”

The app was co-founded by three former Trump world figures, including John McEntee, a former Trump administration official The ABC News’ Jonathan Karl called “the man who made Jan. 6 possible.”

John McEntee managed Fox News social media accounts before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016. He was 29 in 2020 when Trump hired him as Office of Presidential Personnel director.

During his tenure, McEntee froze all political appointments in the federal government. He ordered department heads to search for anyone who wasn’t fully loyal and devoted to Trump and remove them. McEntee’s new role was controversial for he had been fired from the White House in 2018 for being unable to get the required security clearance.

The controversy didn’t put a dent in his clout, even after Trump lost the election and insurrection ensued.

“McEntee and his enforcers made the disastrous last weeks of the Trump presidency possible,” Karl wrote in The Atlantic. “They backed the president’s manic drive to overturn the election and helped set the stage for the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Thanks to them, in the end, the elusive ‘adults in the room’ —those who might have been willing to confront the president or try to control his most destructive tendencies—were silenced or gone. But McEntee was there bossing around Cabinet secretaries, decapitating the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, and forcing officials high and low to state their allegiance to Trump.”

Stuff’s other cofounders are Dan Huff, Trump’s Housing and Urban Development deputy assistant and tech expert Isaac Stalzer.

Ryann McEnany’s Twitter profile describes her as a Digital Marketing & Brand Communications Strategist with 171,200 followers. Her tweets this week describe Liz Cheney as “a nasty woman” and rejoice over her primary loss with “Liz Cheney has been so out of touch with reality and a disgrace to her own party... but tonight justice was served.”

Then, “I can’t wait for Trump to win again.”

Twitter’s response to the app she promotes is mixed.

@govmikeyd tweeted “Is this (app) named after the movie about a Democratic senator?” The reference is to Democratic Ohio Senator and trailblazing astronaut John Glenn whose story was told in the film classic, The Right Stuff.

A potential male user was annoyed by The Right Stuff’s offer to let women use the premium app free if they convince two female friends to join.

“Why is this app ‘Woke’ giving privileges to women?” @anothergamer demanded in his tweet.

Another dating app launched in 2008, The Righter seems to be the Stuff’s main competition since it also targets Trump-loving singles. Created by former banker Christy Edwards Lawton, who once boasted to NBC news that conservatives have better orgasms than liberals, Righter’s Google Play entry warns potential users that it is “not a hookup app” and has a three strikes, you’re out policy toward users who are crude or abusive.

Unlike Stuff’s focus on Gen Z and millennial users, Righter pitches to older users, too. And it has an unorthodox perk.

“Righter is the first dating app to have a medical component to it, With RIGHTER Medical, access to a doctor that specializes in sexual health is only a click away,” Lawton writes on her LinkedIn bio. Use Righter “when you’re tired of getting swiped left on for your political beliefs.”

Out of 724 Google reviews, Righter averages only 1.1 stars with 5 being the highest rating. Many of the reviewers complained about technical glitches.

“I have the age set to 18-28, but I consistently get people very well over that limit,” one reviewer wrote. “There are also issues with liberal trolls on there. I already ran into several.”

McEnany says in her promo that membership in The Right Stuff is by invitation only.

Another dating app for Trumpers called Donald Daters seems to have vanished after Motherboard discovered a 2018 security breach that exposed user data in an open database.

RepublicanSingles may be the David to McEntee’s Goliath. University of Kansas alum Jason Daniels began developing it in 2015 and launched it this month. It welcomes both libertarians and conservatives — and its promotional video never mentions Trump.

“We have Trump supporters and Trump haters,” Daniels told Raw Story, describing his membership. “I’m big on freedom, so I allow my members to say what they want, excluding threats against me or my company, threats of violence against anyone, or anything involving illegal activity.”

Asked for the biggest difference between Stuff and RepublicanSingles, Daniels replied wryly, “I’ve had to build mine on a shoestring budget, driving Uber to fund it along the way.” He told Raw Story that he bought the domain on a “GoDaddy auction with the last $1,000 to my name, after negotiating the previous owner down from $5,000.”

His first site and app went live in September 2018, but Daniels continues to work on it nonstop to refine and improve it.

“I redid everything last month,” he said.

He relaunched the new version this month. The app has 11 reviews but almost all were written before this year’s overhaul. The average score is 2.4 out of 5. Complaints focused entirely on tech issues.

The site’s mission statement outlines Daniels’ conservative principles: supporting the Second Amendment, opposing same sex marriage, life begins before conception. However, Daniels realizes not all users may not precisely reflect those views because he has Libertarian friends eager to use the app.

Daniels also discusses Jesus as the Messiah when he lists conservative values. But he says Jewish members have joined RepublicanSingles and “I don’t preach at anyone. I just pray they find their way to their Messiah as I have.”

Stuff’s website has a template for anyone interested in joining. But there is no information other than McEnany’s video about what values it expects its users to possess other than Trump love.

During the Obama Administration, the market for politically filtered dating apps was clear. Pew’s 2014 polarization survey found that 30 percent of conservatives said they would be unhappy and disapprove of a relative marrying a Democrat, and 23 percent of Democrats disapproved of relatives marrying Republicans.

Yet so far, the media coverage of The Right Stuff has been skimpy. And the press hasn’t noticed one snafu: there’s already a dating site called The Right Stuff online.

It’s strictly for faculty and graduates of the eight Ivy League universities---Brown University, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth College, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale—plus some other elite, prestigious schools. The full list is posted on The Right Stuff website. It includes Stanford, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Northwestern, Vassar, University of Chicago, MIT, Brandeis, Princeton, New York University and Juilliard.

Potential members must submit proof they have a diploma from one of the elite universities. The site lists acceptable forms of proof: a copy of the diploma, a page from an alumni or faculty directory that includes the applicant’s name, photo of an alumni or faculty card, a copy of one’s “alumni magazine with computerized address label intact, any correspondence from the university indicating that you are a graduate or faculty member, copy of your transcript. (Our eyes are blind to grades).”

There are special interest groups for the smartypants Right Stuffers, ranging from downhill and X-country skiers and dancers to foodies and “policy wonks; this is the right time for discussion.”

Raw Story asked Dawn Touchings, the Cornell alum who founded the Ivy Leaguers’ The Right Stuff in 1993, whether she was concerned about confusion between the two dating services.

Touchings emailed back, “I am concerned.”

She declined an interview saying it would be “premature” at this time.

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Mississippi towns 'race against time' to save history from distortion and oblivion as eyewitnesses are dying

Stanton Hall’s soaring pillars and sumptuous rooms make the grand 19th-century mansion a star of Pilgrimage weeks — when tourists flood Natchez, Mississippi’s historic places to see men in Confederate uniforms dance with women costumed in hoop skirts reenacting Civil War era balls.

Beautiful photos of Stanton Hall have decorated hundreds of brochures and websites over the past 90 years.

Stanton also has a small role in Black history.

Exerlena Jackson was once its chef. She was the wife of local NAACP treasurer, Wharlest Jackson. He took a third job at a tire factory that paid 17 cents more hourly than other Black workers earned in 1967. White supremacists retaliated almost immediately after he took the job by killing him with a car bomb. He was just 30, the married father of five.

Their brick bungalow on a dead-end street doesn’t adorn the Natchez visitors’ website. But with the family's permission, Natchez mayor Dan Gibson hopes to add it.

RELATED: Confederate flags weren't part of 'Southern pride' until the Civil Rights movement, analysis shows

Rescuing civil rights history has a new urgency now that battles are blazing over what schools can teach about slavery, the Civil War and civil rights.

Like many other states, Mississippi passed a law this year banning the teaching of critical race theory. However, as state educators observed, the theory is not taught in any public school in Mississippi. But, like other state laws tackling the topic, the wording is so vague that teachers are unsure what they can legally say to students.

Mayor Gibson believes “it’s a race against time to save the truth” because Civil Rights Movement eyewitnesses are dying and important historic buildings are crumbling in the passing years.

Gibson was elected in July 2020, as protests of George Floyd’s 2020 murder swept the nation. New to Natchez, he “went from zero name recognition in June to being elected in July.”

During his campaign, Gibson vowed to help preserve Natchez’s rich Black history, grim events and triumphs. That mission promptly unleashed social media haters — including white Confederacy fans and Black activists who, over the years, regarded government involvement with suspicion.

Gibson, who is white, recalls the city inviting a Black local historian and activist to a ceremony in his honor. “He said that if we came close to him with a plaque, he’d break it on camera.”

Gibson says he also received an anonymous threat saying if the city removed the Confederate statue from a park, Natchez would need armed 24-hour security around every Black history site in the town.

RELATED: Scholars pile on Fox News' Jonathan Turley for making historically illiterate claims about MLK

But Gibson also sees the effort inspire exhilarating unity between races and political parties.

Tourism director Devin Heath, who is Black, was hired by Gibson a year and a half ago. Heath says that volunteers, who descended from both mansion-owning families and enslaved people, worked together on fundraising and restoring Black history sites.

“This year’s spring pilgrimage was the first one where men wore tuxedos, not Confederate uniforms, and women wore evening gowns,” Gibson proudly told Raw Story. As soon as he was elected, he said that owners of the Natchez Pilgrimage mansions “told me they supported showcasing Black history and experience and wanted to help any way they could.”

LEARNING THE TRUTH FROM MONUMENTS AND MARKERS

In the current political climate, it’s easy to imagine the day when students learn more about the Civil Rights Movement from preserved historical sites in places like Natchez than they can at school.

The Hechinger Report studied Mississippi textbooks and found that students normally start studying state history in 4th grade when they often use the popular “Mississippi Studies” textbook published in 2005. It devotes only five pages to the Civil Rights Movement. Another textbook still used in state high schools describes Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as “He gave a speech. People were excited.”

Saving Black history from distortion and oblivion is a personal cause for Devin Heath, who grew up in Washington, D.C.

“My mother worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development when she decided she needed to join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on Washington,” Heath remembers. “Her boss told her he would fire if she marched. She did…he fired her.”

As the man helping to shape what visitors learn about Natchez, Heath is involved in several projects. Right now, he’s researching Deacons for Defense, a secret 1960s group of church-going, gun-bearing Black men determined to protect Black homes from Klan violence. After letting the Klan know they would fight anyone who attacked the march, they marched with the protesters.

Heath is coordinating his efforts with the Natchez Museum of African American Culture and History to promote new sites the city is developing, like a memorial that will be built as a tribute to Black soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

Both Heath and Gibson are inspired by previous Natchez mayor Darryl Grennell who appointed a commission of 12 activists to tackle a dark chapter of history some would like to erase: the Parchman Ordeal.

RELATED: Watch: Right-wing activist launches off-the-rails rant at school board meeting – and gets escorted out

In 1965, Black residents peacefully protested a car bombing that critically wounded the local NAACP president. Natchez police arrested 700. When the jails overflowed, 150 Black men and women were sent to the notorious Parchman prison without a trial. Crowded into cells meant for two prisoners each, the protesters were forced to drink laxatives. Wharlest and Exerlina Jackson were among those abused for several days.

American Reckoning (full documentary) | FRONTLINE www.youtube.com

In 2019, a monument called Proud to Take a Stand was dedicated to those protesters. The six-foot tall, polished granite wall is inscribed with the 150 names.

The monument reminds Heath, “there are so many Black history stories that haven’t been curated and told.”

FINDING SCHWERNER, CHANEY AND GOODMAN

When paramedic James Young was elected mayor of his Mississippi hometown of 14,000, he got letters and emails from all over America and the world. Brave Russian dissidents and young Chinese protesters wrote to him. From U.S. prisons, inmates told Young he gave them hope they could still work to make their lives and the world better.

Young initially thought one letter came from a child due to its shaky handwriting. But he told Raw Story that the writer was a grown man who confided he was rapidly losing his eyesight to a disease. The man wrote: “I am going blind, but while I can still see, I wanted to thank you for changing America.”

That was in 2009 when Young had just been elected Philadelphia, Mississippi’s first Black mayor.

That rural, pretty town is infamous as the place where three young civil rights workers were kidnapped and murdered during 1964’s Freedom Summer. Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, white New Yorkers, and James Chaney, a Black Mississippian, had interviewed members of a Black church that an arsonist burned. Townspeople who met the trio told Raw Story they were sweet and soft-spoken. The three men organized a sewing class for women who needed income after losing their jobs as maids or laundresses because they supported Black voter registration.

On their final day on Earth, they politely endured a bogus arrest. The jail released them. Somewhere on a lonely road, they vanished. Their bodies were found two months later in August, buried in an earthen dam.

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When I was a reporter visiting Philadelphia in 2004, the town was excited and nervous about a memorial service that would recognize the young men as heroes. Some memorial organizers held a meeting at a restaurant where an interracial Ska band played on weekends. The city created a walking/driving tour that helped visitors envision the men’s civil rights work — and the city’s journey.

Young was a founding member of the Philadelphia Coalition, a community group that helped honor the 40th anniversary of the young men’s death. But when Raw Story called the mayor’s office to ask for a copy, his assistant was polite yet baffled, saying, “I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

Travelers will find no mention of Black history tours or sites on Philadelphia’s visitors or tourism websites. Young is now in his fourth term in office. He thought there might be copies of the Freedom Summer brochures in the building, but wasn’t sure. He said there were local historians and history buffs giving tours but the operations were small and sometimes didn’t have a Facebook page.

“Visitors definitely still have interest in our civil rights history; buses full of college students drive here quite often,” Young said. “We had two busloads of young people, one from Ohio and one from New York, come here just recently.”

But there is no mention of that history on the town’s website and no exhibits related to civil rights in the county museum in Philadelphia. Young was nine years old in 1964 and clearly remembers the anguish and fear that swept the Black community when the civil rights workers vanished.

And white residents his age confided, “they were ashamed that their kinfolk were involved with the ugliness of racism even though they had no control over that (as children). Philadelphia residents who moved away were sometimes ashamed to say they were from here.”

Young has heard from tour operators that one obstacle is logistical. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were energetic and covered a lot of Neshoba County in their brief time there. The place where their bodies were hidden is on private property that has changed owners since their deaths. It isn’t open to the public.

The biggest obstacle could be the dark emotions that swept Philadelphia in the 1960s echo America’s combative mood today when so many Americans tell pollsters a civil war is brewing.

In summer 1964, “there was a fear that we were on the brink of something catastrophic,” Young said. After the men’s bodies were discovered, the murders became a part of history “no one talked about.”

Bitterness and pain built up as decades passed without anyone being convicted of the murders. The deaths of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, whose deaths galvanized Congress into passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And Young’s repeated re-elections would indicate the civil rights era was not in vain.

Natchez’ Wharlest Jackson was a civil rights hero whose name may get the fame it deserves thanks to a new documentary. The two-lane highway where the civil rights workers were murdered is now named Goodman Chaney Schwerner Memorial Highway. A historic marker stands on the spot where the men were dragged from their car and executed.

Mount Zion Church erected the sole memorial to them inside the city. It’s a polished granite slab with their portraits, names, dates of birth and death inscribed.

But visitors who want to learn more will have to seek out the local guides who aren’t on the city’s websites.

Erasing civil rights history is not a Deep South phenomenon. As of today, about half the states in America have enacted laws or are considering legislation restricting what schools can teach about racism and civil rights. A teacher who breaks the law can cost her school state funding. Iowa’s governor signed a that prohibits teaching “divisive concepts.” The fear of making students feel bad seems to loom among conservatives as much as among woke liberals. And a survey of textbooks by The Guardian found textbooks designed for Christian schools and homeschooling often obliterate or distort the civil rights era.

If history textbooks become too timid to mention Jackson, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, students will need history buffs, local historians, city museums and determined mayors to shed light on the past that may make conservatives feel sad, but should also make other Americans feel proud of the heroes behind the memorials.

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Former members of Christian 'cult' that preys on military begged FBI to investigate for more than 2 years

His persona could ricochet from sweetly paternal to icy menace whenever Rev. Rony Denis suspected disloyalty. Former followers said Denis reminded the disenchanted that his father was once a leader of Haiti’s vicious Tonton Macoutes — the legendary death squad named for a Haitian fairytale boogeyman who kidnaps and devours rebellious children. Denis warned malcontents that he learned from his dad how to destroy traitors, even those trained by the U.S. military.

Denis is the leader of the House of Prayer Christian Church, a nationwide network of 12 congregations, 11 of which are located near military bases where HOPCC recruited members. Founded in 2003, former members are now accusing HOPCC of being a cult. In June, the FBI raided at least four HOPCC churches in Texas, Georgia and Washington—all near military bases---seizing computers, files and records.

Although Denis forbade HOPCC members to use the Internet, former members now have a massive online site filled with complaints from former members. Some talked to Raw Story.

Former members accuse the church of targeting and defrauding soldiers out of their disability checks and housing allowances via rent-to-own scams with HOPCC-owned homes, pressuring vets to donate paychecks and deplete GI Bill funds by enrolling them in a bogus seminary.

They also claim the church used members’ social security numbers and birthdates to buy property that built itself a real estate empire while ruining their credit.

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Several former members told Raw Story they had phoned the FBI and IRS years ago to offer evidence of wrongdoing.

The respected watchdog nonprofit, Veterans for Education Success, investigated HOPCC two years ago. VES estimates that HOPCC has gobbled up more than $7 million of taxpayers’ money. VES sent an 11-page report to the FBI and Veterans Administration documenting alleged illegal HOPCC activities in August 2020.

So, why did two years pass before the FBI acted?

“That’s a good question…I don’t know the answer,” VES vice president Will Hubbard replied.

The FBI did not respond to Raw Story interview requests. IRS spokesperson Anthony Burke sent Raw Story a link to IRS regs rather than grant an interview. Pastor Rony Denis and finance officer Anthony Oloans declined our requests for interviews.

But former HOPCC members shared their stories, despite what they describe as considerable risks.

“HOPCC men have run me off the roads near Hinesville, Ga. in their SUVs,” former member Gladys Jordan told Raw Story.

She says church members humiliate and defame rebels by plastering their neighborhoods with handmade posters featuring photos of former members captioned, “PEDOPHILE” and ”SEX OFFENDER.” Other former members said HOPCC had set up fake Facebook pages for former members then plastered them with porn.

All church exes interviewed by Raw Story said HOPCC forbids members to use the internet, watch TV, read newspapers, listen to radio or podcasts, read magazines or play video games. They were told not to socialize with non-HOPCC coworkers.

Outsiders may be baffled by why men and women brave and tough enough to survive Iraq and Afghanistan tolerated the restrictions.

The answer is, HOPCC chose targets carefully focusing on young men and women from low income, splintered, distant or dysfunctional families who never had college as an option. For them, the military was their sole path to the middle class and a chance to bond with a community.

Another common thread becomes clear during interviews: They were idealists, naïve romantics yearning to be part of a higher purpose.

“Right before I joined the military and met (HOPCC), my life was a mess—I was drinking too much, smoking too much and had way too many tattoos all over my arms,” Jesse Preston told Raw Story. “My marriage broke up. We married way too young and both of us came from crazy families. Neither of us had functional families for role models. I was barely able to graduate high school…I was ready to do anything to change my life.”

Preston joined the Army hoping to find a community of friends with sound moral compasses. When he arrived at Fort Stewart, Georgia, HOPCC recruiters were in the reception area greeting newly minted soldiers. They offered to drive soldiers to their Hinesville church eight miles away for home-cooked supper served by pretty girls.

TOUGH VETERANS AS CULT’S SOFT TARGETS

Preston said HOPCC recruiters roamed Fort Stewart’s PX (on base big box store) and barracks. A Fort Hood, Texas female soldier told Raw Story that Killeen, Texas HOPCC recruiters were keenly aware that sexual assault was a problem on the base before it hit national headlines. So, HOPCC urged female soldiers to rent a room in the church’s women-only housing where they’d be safer at night than they would be sleeping in the barracks.

Painfully shy, Preston was delighted by HOPCC’s diverse congregation where all races and ethnicities mingled as friends. He thought it was a bit odd that female HOPCC members all wore pastel ankle-length skirts and baggy blouses and their chats with men were monitored by elders. HOPCC insisted on handpicking wives and arranging marriages for young men seemed saner than trusting Tinder or Bumble to find his true love for strangers. Preston believed adhering to stringent rules helped him stop drinking and smoking and survive war zones.

Veteran Tomas Moreno joined HOPCC at age 15 when his sister, also an HOPCC member, brought him to the congregation near the Fayetteville, North Carolina military base in 2008. She and her husband took Moreno in after troubles with his parents and school. He saw Denis as the fatherly role model Moreno felt he desperately needed.

“Denis was a father figure for me; if your dad is loving but a little weird, you go along with him even if his ideas seem strange or old-fashioned,” Moreno told Raw Story. Moreno fondly remembers Denis giving him $10 occasionally for new shoes or clothes. He was glad Denis wanted him home schooled instead of attending public school. To avoid the internet, Moreno enrolled in distance learning so his textbooks and tests were shipped to him and he snail-mailed them back for grading.

Moreno donated a chunk of his paychecks to HOPCC. His marriage to an HOPCC-approved woman proved happy. When he took her on vacation to pretty Gatlinburg, the Tennessee Smoky Mountains resort town, HOPCC objected about them being far from the church’s eyesight. But Moreno swears the couple stayed true to HOPCC rules and never once turned on the hotel TV and never cruised the internet on the lobby computer.

Denis never Zoomed or used the internet for national meetings. Gladys Jordan remembers Denis bragging that his nationwide intercom system was like that of cult leader Jim Jones. She was alarmed, she claims, when Denis called Jones a “brilliant communicator.” (In 1978, more than 900 of Jones’ followers died when he ordered them to drink poisoned Kool-Aid after he had a U.S. Congressman murdered.)

From VES research, Hubbard concludes Denis was obsessed with money, not politics or launching Armageddon.

It may seem odd that veterans would turn to VES rather than the VA to complain about being defrauded of their GI Bill funds. But Hubbard thinks the way state departments of education and the VA monitor higher education may be confusing for a lot of Americans. And realistically, fighting a school for doing a lousy job can involve years of litigation and staggering legal fees.

For the state government and the VA, “it’s an unfair fight,” Hubbard said.

Initially, Moreno said his only problem with HOPCC was its demand that followers rent “raggedy, broken down apartments the church owned.”

HOPCC’s monthly rent was $800 and higher. Some apartments had broken plumbing, leaking roofs, holes in the floor and temperamental furnaces. When veterans complained, HOPCC told them to do repairs themselves. Moreno lost count of how many unpaid hours he spent fixing church apartments.

Moreno says he spent hundreds of dollars on the unaccredited HOPCC seminary. But he shrewdly earned a degree in a local college to be an electrician. With three kids to support, he wanted a skill set that would land him a job in the real world, not a gig as a minimally paid HOPCC pastor.

VES heard from veterans who spent years, up to a decade, in the HOPCC seminary. They said classes consisted of repairing and cleaning church properties and washing HOPCC leaders’ cars — with a bit of Bible study.

The veterans who contacted VES were usually the first in their working-class or working poor families to try and earn a college degree.

“They didn’t have the experience of visiting campuses with their parents to ask questions… they didn’t have guidance counselors explaining what the college classes were like,” VES vice president Will Hubbard said.

HOPCC kept members too busy to ponder over how it did business. “Soul winning” was the church’s term for walking streets, military bases or shopping malls to invite strangers to HOPCC suppers. And HOPCC required members to ‘soul win’ for several hours each day.

“We attended a mandatory 5:30 pm dinner at church, then some hours of soul winning, then back to the church for Bible study, then home,” said Moreno, whose wife is pregnant with their fourth child. “By that time, you’re really ready for bed and sleep.”

LOTS OF STICK, LITTLE CARROT

VES reports that Denis bought himself Florida mansions and luxury vacations. It doesn’t look as if he bribed ordinary members with sumptuous swag. His approach seemed “mostly stick, not much carrot,” Hubbard remarked. It’s difficult for an outsider to discern any rewards in HOPCC membership, since it sounds like zero fun.

But Denis, a U.S. military veteran, understood the battlefield camaraderie soldiers earn in war doesn’t evaporate when they leave the military. That intense sense of brotherhood is hard to duplicate in civilian life. When HOPCC’s demands and rules seemed dreary, a congregation composed of veterans boosted a soldier’s spirits.

“We’re brothers…guardians together of (our country) together…that bond doesn’t end when we leave a war’s frontlines,” said Darnell Emanuel.

Emanuel and his HOPCC-approved wife were a happy match. But they left the church last year after Emanuel became concerned about HOPCC business irregularities — and their daughter confided that she was beaten while attending an HOPCC day school.

Like Moreno, Emanuel studied to earn an electrician’s certificate. It got him a good job with Amazon. But he was wary of HOPCC retaliation. When he detailed how he planned his flight from HOPCC, it sounds like the way wives plan escapes from abusive husbands. He and his wife set up personal checking and savings accounts that HOPCC didn’t know about and chose a safe place to go to then fled by night.

Emanuel claims he recently caught an HOPCC member trying to break into his new home late one night.

Emanuel was luckier than Preston, who returned from Iraq with PTSD and a genuine desire to be a pastor. Preston loved listening to Denis discuss his dream of building “the greatest homeless housing ever with marble floors and counselors for everyone who was addicted.” So, Preston enrolled in the church’s seminary but worried about the lack of study. He also wondered why HOPCC’s only community service seemed to be biannual trips to bigger cities — usually Washington, D.C. or Chicago — to sing on sidewalks and give hotdogs to the homeless.

On the home front, HOPCC’s matchmaking was a disaster for Preston. His first arranged marriage was to a woman “who really didn’t like me. We had nothing in common except our daughter.”

Preston enjoyed being a father. But he says his ex took the girl with her when she left him. He got a pro bono lawyer to negotiate visitation but HOPCC leaders told him a custody battle might hurt the church. So, he gave up.

His second wife left him last month because Preston said she couldn’t accept his break with the church.

“It scares me. Denis always said divorce was a terrible sin, divorce would send you to eternal hell,” Preston said. “I can imagine hell real clearly…It’s real. I don’t want to go to hell!”

He still can’t afford a laptop or computer at home. But his awakening occurred when he bought an iPhone and finally visited the internet.

“I found out there’s such a thing as podcasts and I listened to one on religions and cults,” Preston mused. “When the podcast was over, I thought I was in a cult.”

He’s taking some big steps to rebuild his life. He went to the VA where a counselor made an appointment for him to get therapy for PTSD and help in building healthy relationships. He found a new, non-HOPCC church. And he’s trying to find a pro bono lawyer to help arrange visitation with his daughter.

Preston was smart enough to be promoted to staff sergeant in Iraq. But he says he spent 13 years and thousands of dollars on the HOPCC seminary and never got a degree. He now has a steady job as a Tacoma school bus driver.

CAN A CULT GET THE IRS TO DEEM IT A CHURCH? YES INDEED!

The After School Satan Club asked the IRS for tax-exempt church status in December 2016. The cult explained in its application that it wanted to teach children about critical thinking, logic and Lucifer. The IRS granted tax-exempt status ten days later. At that time, the right-wing Judicial Watch raged against the Obama Administration for encouraging leftist Satanism. But, the ease with which a “church” can win tax-exempt status should unite conservatives and liberals in outrage.

Last month, a new controversy erupted over the IRS granting tax-exempt status to the conservative Family Research Council — whose PrayVoteStand summit featured GOP presidential hopeful Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Josh Hawley.

ProPublica helpfully posted the Council’s application to show just how simple it was to fill out.

Bottom line: It’s relatively easy to get IRS tax-exempt status as a church and no agency in the federal government embraces the mission of busting bogus churches.

MinistryWatch president Warren Smith makes that clear. “We can’t rely on federal or state government for oversight; government has proven itself inadequate to police or investigate nonprofits,” Smith told Raw Story.

MinistryWatch is an investigative journalism organization and watchdog focused on churches and religious nonprofits. MinistryWatch’s work has prompted some Senators and Congressmen to launch investigations.

Smith estimates there are one million religious nonprofits in America and “less than half of one percent would ever get an IRS audit in any given year. And that would be a quick, cursory audit, not an investigation.”

In November 2007, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced a major investigation into the tax-exempt status of six televangelists — including Paula White. About a decade later, White would become chair of Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

MinistryWatch published a deep dive investigation of the six ministries. Smith says his staff worked closely with Grassley’s staff and the Senate Committee on Finance. Smith was hopeful that the investigation might prompt a move to create stricter oversight of corrupt charities and churches that abuse tax-exempt status.

But then the global economy collapsed in 2008.

“That pretty much sucked the oxygen out of the investigation; the Senate had bigger worries,” Smith said.

Some of the televangelists flatly refused to cooperate with the investigation, yet received no penalties. Grassley issued a final report in 2011 that questioned the televangelists’ personal use of church-owned airplanes, mansions and church credit cards and the hefty salaries pastors’ family members got for jobs with the media ministries. But as CBS reported, Grassley drew “no specific conclusions about whether the ministries violated IRS rules that bar excessive compensation for leaders of religious nonprofits.”

Democrats and Republicans should unite in exasperation over who gets tax-exempt status from the IRS. One big perk that comes with tax-exempt status is faith-based organizations aren’t required to file financial statements showing staff and leaders’ salaries and how donors’ money is spent. While some faith-based charities file statements with the IRS in an admirable effort at transparency, HOPCC does not. That perk comes at a hefty financial cost for taxpayers.

It may cost even more for Americans like Gladys Jordan, who worshiped at a church they assumed was legit.

She gets calls and texts from HOPCC members asking for her help in leaving the church. But she says her heart is broken over her son, who is still employed as an HOPCC pastor, the only job she says he’s ever had. He refuses to communicate with her in any way since she left HOPCC. She drives to the church almost every day hoping to glimpse him.

“When I see him, I call out, I love you. I will always love you,” her calm voice finally breaks into tears. “He never looks my way.”

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'Culty as hell': Former Mormons unhappy with church's response to blockbuster child abuse investigation

Incestuous Mormon child abuser Paul Adams killed himself before going to trial but his story of how he confessed to a Mormon bishop that Adams was repeatedly raping his 5-year-old daughter probably has hellish immortality. Adams was in counseling with Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Bishop John Herrod (also the Adams family doctor) in 2010 when he confessed. Herrod never alerted police or any Arizona governmental agency. Herrod obeyed church guidelines and phoned the LDS abuse hotline. Another Mormon bishop told Herrod to remain silent. Adams continued counseling and raping his children. He posted video of the sexual abuse on the dark web where Homeland Security saw it and arrested him in 2017.

An Associated Press investigation of how the Mormon church’s approach to child abusers spotlighted Adams and other horrific cases. But according to ex-Mormon abuse victims comforting each other on Facebook and Reddit, sexual assault on children and the church’s silence have happened for years and will happen again.

Twitter fires were fueled by this week’s defensive official response from the Church of Latter Day Saints.

“The abuse of a child or any other individual is inexcusable,” the LDS statement reads. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes this, teaches this and dedicates tremendous resources and efforts to prevent, report and address abuse…The nature and the purpose of the Church’s helpline was seriously mischaracterized in a recent Associated Press article…When a leader calls the helpline, the conversation is about how to stop the abuse, care for the victim and ensure compliance with reporting obligations, even in cases when the law provides clergy-penitent privilege or restricts what can be shared from private ecclesiastical conversations.”

The statement notes that LDS can punish members who sexually abuse children with excommunication which invoked waves of angry tweets including one from @mediocremumsy: “Mormons really be out there thinking that excommunication is adequate justice for sexual assault. That is culty as hell.”

Several ex-Mormons responded, noting that excommunication isn’t always permanent. As Libby Potter Boss @libbyboss tweeted, “a few years later the guy is quietly rebaptized and no one but the bishop is ever the wiser.”

The lengthy LDS statement is ambiguous on whether its officials are required to report child abuse to police or children’s protective services. On Twitter, @mormon_satan had the pithiest response.

“Today in church, I hope you good faithful Mormons stare your bishop down and tell him that you expect him to report cases of child abuse to the authorities.”

Clergy-penitent privilege allows clergy to keep some confessions secret. In movies, it’s a plot device, the stalwart priest or pastor who won’t divulge a murderer’s confession to police. Herrod claims he thought Adams confession was privileged under Arizona law. He was wrong.

Incredibly, some state laws are unclear on whether it’s mandatory for clergy to report child abuse. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that “privileged communications may be exempt from the requirement to report suspected abuse or neglect.” The abused child’s fate, to a scary extent, can depend on a state’s law.

The Mormon Child Abuse Awareness Facebook page posts articles about Mormon child abuse victims from all over America and postings about personal experiences that date back for years.

“I had a friend reach out to me today, one of many friends who has reached out to me since I shared my story,” says a November 2020 post. “A family member was sexually abused by a member of the church. (He) confessed to the bishop who did not turn the perpetrator in to the police…What do you believe is the right advice to give? From my experience, a police report must be filed…The perpetrator needs this step just as much as the victim. Rehabilitation is not offered by repentance alone. The legal system is needed…otherwise “repentance/confession” is just an empty promise forgotten when the perpetrator moves to a new ward or bishop is replaced.”

One posting was about an April arrest of a Utah bishop who, as part of his counseling sessions with female LDS teenagers, showed them dick pix and nude photos of himself.

Apparently, he’s not the first to try this. Over on the Protect Every Child Facebook page, a mother wrote a 2019 post to her “dear Mormon friends” that said, “Until I was excommunicated, I was active (in LDS) too. I am still a believer in the teachings and example of Jesus. I also realize that each of you are mothers with children in or approaching the age of regular bishop interviews…and plan never to allow one-on-one interviews or sexually explicit questions. GOOD.FOR.YOU. There are some whose circumstances don't even allow them to speak up at all. That's OK. What YOU are doing is the VERY MOST IMPORTANT thing.”

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Imprisoned Capitol rioter inks deal with conservative publisher who also specializes in children's books

Ex-West Virginia lawmaker Derrick Evans filmed himself wearing a black helmet as he stormed the Capitol during the January 6, 2021 riot. He apologized to the federal judge who sentenced him to three months in prison in June.

But Evans is now writing an angry book for Texas-based Defiance Press. The publisher, whose logo is a fist clutching a rifle raised skyward, has a stable of conservative authors including former Arizona’s famous former lawman, Joe Arapio, nicknamed “Toughest Sheriff in America.”

Evans entered prison on July 25 and will finish his manuscript there, a Defiance press release states.

“Since January 6th, my name has been slandered in any which sort of way you can think of and I can state with full confidence that I am merely one of many people affected by the extreme polarization of our country’s politics,” Evans said in a statement. “I firmly believe that partnering with Defiance Press will allow me to share my story with the world, express my frustration with the current state of our country, and bring about true justice in hopes to build a better future for the next generation.”

Evans resigned from the legislature after he was arrested last year. As CNN observed, Evans “only served as a West Virginia state legislator for 40 days but will spend 90 days in jail for his role in the January 6.”

Evans gained fame as an anti-abortion activist who protested at women’s clinics. A few days before going to prison, he told CBS News that he may run for office again after his brief stint for the 19th district in West Virginia’s House of Delegates.

At his sentencing, Evans told Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth he felt daily regret for getting “caught up in a moment which led to me breaking the law.” Evans told the judge that he had let his family down.

The Defiance Press website says that it publishes conservative and libertarian authors as well as children’s books.

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