A Southern Poverty Law Center report identified 12 state legislators for their radical-right beliefs on immigration, conspiratorial attitudes and involvement with hate groups. Four of the 12 were Southern Baptists.
The report summarized some of the extremist views of the named legislators:
· “Gay people are the ‘death knell’ of America.”
· “The Confederacy fought for ‘individual liberties.'”
· “One-world government, as predicted in the Book of Revelation, is around the corner.”
· “The federal government knew about the Oklahoma City bombing before it happened.”
· “President Obama is a secret Muslim and not an American citizen.”
· “The babies of undocumented immigrants are a ‘poison.'”
· “State troopers should confine immigrants to special ghettoes.”
· “A federal agency has secretly built a series of concentration camps for patriotic Americans.”
The report was titled “Attacking the Constitution: State Legislators for Legal Immigration & the Anti-Immigration Movement.”
The 12 legislators belong to the State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), an organization that wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to deny birthright citizenship in the 14th Amendment.
Located in Montgomery, Ala., the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit civil rights organization that fights hate groups.
Two of the four Southern Baptists were Oklahoma state representatives: Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and Randy Terrill (R-Moore).
Kern said gays and lesbians were a greater threat to the United States than terrorism, according to the SPLC report. She also expressed opposition to high-resolution photographs on driver’s licenses for reasons related to her end-times theology. Her husband is Steve Kern, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church.
Kern told the Tulsa World newspaper that SPLC was a radical group and that she was in the national mainstream.
Terrill, a member of Southgate Baptist Church in Moore, authored Oklahoma’s 2007 anti-immigrant bill, which was then considered the toughest anti-immigrant law in the country.
EthicsDaily.com reported that Terrill had announced plans to introduce 2011 legislation that would be tougher than Arizona’s anti-immigration law and supported efforts to deny children of undocumented immigrants from being allowed to become U.S. citizens.
SPLC said Terrill cosponsored a bill that outlawed Islamic law – Sharia law – in Oklahoma courts.
SPLC also named South Carolina Rep. Michael Pitts (R-Laurens) to the “Dirty Dozen” list.
A member of Rabun Creek Baptist Church, Pitts introduced a bill that would deny children of undocumented immigrants access to public education and make it a felony for an undocumented person to “set foot” in South Carolina.
Pitts also introduced a bill that would declare the U.S. Department of Education “an unconstitutional entity.”
SPLC said Pitts was a “goldbug” because he backed a bill that would have prohibited South Carolina from paying its debts in anything except gold and silver.
The fourth Baptist was Georgia Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica), who has a record of attending Mercer University, a school affiliated with the Baptist faith tradition.
“Bearden … is a believer in the conspiracy theory that a secretive North American Union is being planned by global elites that would open the borders between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada and essentially merge the countries,” read the SPLC report.
The report said: “Bearden has pushed several anti-immigrant bills in the Georgia legislature, including one that would have required driver’s license tests to be given in English and another that would seize vehicles involved in ‘undocumented immigrant traffic violations.'”
Other members of the “Dirty Dozen” included two Arizona legislators – one a Lutheran, the other a Mormon.
One Texan was listed. Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) introduced a bill requiring presidential candidates to present birth certificates to the Texas secretary of state.
“This bill is necessary because we have a president whom the American people don’t know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place,” Berman told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
Berman is part of the “birther” movement, which contends that President Obama is not a natural-born American citizen and therefore an illegitimate president.
A member of Tyler’s Christ Episcopal Church, he also introduced in January 2011 a joint resolution against Sharia law.
South Carolina Sen. Daniel Verdin (R-Laurens) compared the undocumented to “poison,” according to the SPLC report.
A graduate of Bob Jones University and a member of Faith Free Presbyterian Church, Verdin was identified as an active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that he sees as promoting Southern heritage.
A third Oklahoman listed was state Rep. Charles Key (R-Oklahoma City), who once accused the federal government of knowing in advance of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Key told the Oklahoman that SPLC was an extreme radical group.
“They are totally outside of the mainstream of Oklahoma, and I would say all of America,” he said.