Just how extreme is North Carolina's new Lt. Governor?
North Carolina will have a new and very different Lt. Governor come January. Dan Forest is an extremely conservative Republican from Raleigh who, though the son of a congresswoman, has never before served in elected office. An architect by training, Forest defeated Democrat Linda Coleman by a razor-thin margin in a race that wasn’t officially settled until more than a week after Election Day.
That Forest is almost certainly the most conservative Lt. Governor in decades and quite likely the most conservative statewide elected official in North Carolina, period, seems little in doubt. Whether he’s keeping his own children out of the public schools to be “home schooled,” championing controversial anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy clinics” or opposing the very existence of the minimum wage, Forest appears to be in step with the most extreme wing of the state’s Tea Party movement on just about every issue
Perhaps the most interesting and even borderline strange activity on Forest’s resume, however, involves his work with conservative nonprofits – most notably a Raleigh-based organization that calls itself “The Faith Driven Consumer.” The organization, which was founded last year, lists two directors on its official filing with the state: Forest and a fellow named Christopher Stone—also of Raleigh.
Basically, the group purports to provide seals of approval for companies that it decides comport with “Christian” and “Biblical” values (note that for the group’s purposes “Christian” and “Biblical” mean conservative, fundamentalist Christianity). It then promotes the companies to the supposed tens of millions of Americans whom it claims will be swayed by such information.
It’s not clear from the website how the company reviews occur, who does the work or whether the companies ever pay for the ratings they receive.
In another interesting twist, however, Forest’s partner in the nonprofit, Christopher Stone, runs a for-profit consulting/advertising agency (he calls it a “branding consultancy”) out of the same offices that purports to do essentially the same thing. Indeed, the website for The Stone Agency (the “t” in Stone looks like a cross) shares many of the same words and sentences that one finds on FaithDrivenConsumer.org. The Stone Agency claims that several major corporations are clients.
Perhaps the most interesting feature on FaithDrivenConsumer.org is its 38 page “Christmas Guide.” It claims to tell consumers how “some of the most popular stores for Christmas shopping – spanning various industries – stack up against a biblical worldview.”
It’s really a rather remarkable and, at times, laugh-out-loud document.
For instance, one of the easiest ways for a company to get downgraded on its “Biblical” worldview is to support equality for the LGBT Americans. Indeed, a high score from a pro-equality group known as the Human Rights Campaign appears to be a surefire way to get downgraded by Stone’s and Forest’s group. So is support for the United Way and the Susan G. Komen Foundation (which fights breast cancer) because these groups “provide funds to Planned Parenthood.”
But perhaps the most entertaining and bizarre section can be found under its reviews of companies for their supposed promotion of “pornography.” The giant retailer Sears, for instance, gets extremely low marks because of some sexually-themed book titles it supposedly carries (evidently in some K-Mart stores which Sears owns) and because “Sear’s (sic) catalogues and website feature women in lingerie.”
We are not making this up. The review even provides a handy link to the lingerie website for the faith-driven consumer to click on and, presumably, test his or her faith.
In a big upset, the group also gives low marks to the clothing retailer Victoria’s Secret in the same category.
Of course, if all of this were just some strange Saturday Night Live skit or Stephen Colbert parody, it would be amusing in every way. Unfortunately, it appears that, by all indications, Forest and Stone are serious about this stuff. And thus, as a result, North Carolinians can now look forward to at least four years in which the state’s second highest elected official subscribes to a worldview that is so warped and narrow and, well, absurdly wacky, that we can rest assured that the national jokesters and humorists will be hot on his trail in the near future.
This is not good news for North Carolina.
• Rob Schofield is the Director of Research and Policy Development at N.C. Policy Watch