For the past several summers Glenn Beck has held massive events that, depending on your perspective, are either gatherings of epic historical significance or yearly reminders of Beck's inflated sense of self-importance.
Continuing the tradition, this July 4 holiday weekend Beck has been hosting "Man in the Moon" in Salt Lake City, Utah, featuring as its central event tonight an ambitious stage show retelling the history of America. The performance will apparently feature a 35-foot replica of the moon, original music, giant robots, and a Cirque du Soleil-esque wire act.
In coordination with Man in the Moon, the Beck-affiliated charity Mercury One has been selling tickets for what is in effect a miniature, fringe version of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference -- a series of 18 speeches, four panels, museum tours, and other events taking place over the course of the weekend starring a range of conservative figures, including Republican elected officials like Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart. (Though Beck's wife sits on the board of Mercury One, the organization writes on their website that Beck himself "has no official position" with the group, despite serving as their "greatest advocate and spokesperson.")
Prices for the events range from free book signings with conservative stalwarts like Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin to a $1,000 Beck-guided tour of a special museum collection put together for the event featuring items like "George Washington's original Badge of Merit" and "Joseph Smith's exquisite gold pocket watch."
According to Beck's The Blaze website, Man in the Moon follows in the footsteps of his previous summer events, which were designed to "empower everyday Americans to stand up and reach their full potential--and by extension restore America as a beacon of freedom and greatness to people all over the world."
Helping to set the expectations high is GBTV host Raj Nair, who tweeted after watching a preview of the Man in the Moon stage show that the performance represented "a new type of BRILLIANCE. More than a game changer, it will change the conversation completely."
That Beck and his team would promote Man in the Moon as a revolutionary spectacle is nothing new for them; hyperbole seems to be the main thread connecting these yearly events.
Beck promised his 2010 "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, DC, would represent an "American miracle" that would "be remembered in American history as the turning point." (Having repeatedly claimed active divine influence during the planning of the event, Beck later pointed to geese flying over the proceedings - which were held a few hundred yards from a body of water - as "God's flyover" and evidence of a "miracle.")
The next year, Beck touted his rally in Israel as a possible fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and "planet course-altering event" that was "not only going to change your life forever, it will change your family's life. And it will change the direction of the world."
While Man in the Moon may not end up changing the course of history, it certainly affords his followers the opportunity to deplete their bank accounts. Mercury One has posted a schedule of the holiday weekend's many events; based on that schedule, below are some of the people Beck faithful will be opening their wallets to see.
Role: July 4 and July 5 "David Barton Museum Tours," $250 each; July 4 Speech, $15 (or $35 for a VIP ticket); July 4 Book Signing (free); panelist at July 5 "Independence Through Enlightenment" event, $35 (or $100 for a VIP ticket); panelist at July 6 "Independence Through Education" event, $35 (or $100 for a VIP ticket)
David Barton, who serves on the board of directors for Mercury One, has been a member of Beck's inner circle and a regular fixture on Beck's TV and radio programs for years. Barton's focus as a "historian" has been arguing that the United States was founded specifically to be a Christian nation.
As part of his role during the weekend, Barton was scheduled to appear alongside Beck and a few others as part of a July 5 event premised on the concept that "all religions are under attack" in America, an issue which "may very well be the next Civil Rights battle." He is also scheduled to take part in a panel discussing "who is leading the way to teach and enlighten the next generation -- the right way."
Mercury One calls Barton "one of the most knowledgeable historians of our time." While Beck has showered praise on the conservative activist and regularly presents him as an authority on American history -- going so far as to name him the "most important man in America"-- Barton has recently been at the center of several controversies over the accuracy of his work.
In 2012, Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson pulled Barton's bestselling book, The Jefferson Lies, due to concerns over its accuracy. As explained by NPR, the publisher announced that they were ceasing publication of the book because "basic truths just were not there."
In a separate profile of Barton, NPR cited numerous harsh criticisms of Barton's scholarship from credible historians and dismissed Barton's claim that "the Constitution is laced with biblical quotations":
"You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause," he told James Robison on Trinity Broadcast Network. "Direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible's all over it! Now we as Christians don't tend to recognize that. We think it's a secular document; we've bought into their lies. It's not."
We looked up every citation Barton said was from the Bible, but not one of them checked out. Moreover, the Constitution as written in 1787 has no mention of God or religion except to prohibit a religious test for office. The First Amendment does address religion.
In addition to his scholarship being plagued by inaccuracies, Barton, like several other speakers at the Mercury One events, has a history of vehemently anti-gay comments seemingly at odds with Mercury One's mission to inspire people to "improve the human condition" while expressing "malice towards none and charity for all."
Pastor Ken Hutcherson
Role: panelist at July 5 "Independence Through Enlightenment" event, $35 (or $100 for a VIP ticket)
Pastor Ken Hutcherson, a former NFL player and long-time friend of Rush Limbaugh (he officiated Limbaugh's fourth wedding), was scheduled to join Barton at the event about religion supposedly being under attack in America.
For years, the notoriously anti-gay Hutcherson - often in his columns for conspiracy website WND -- has been outspoken in his opinion that tolerance of homosexuality threatens American society and invites God's judgment on the country.
In a 2005 column -- co-written with fellow Man in the Moon panelist Rabbi Daniel Lapin -- Hutcherson argued that "[i]t is hard, if not impossible, to think of a society for which rampant homosexuality was not a symptom of impending extinction."
In a 2010 column, Hutcherson claimed that America was "courting disaster" by "celebrating this dangerous and unnatural lifestyle," concluding "I am so very concerned about our nation because God will turn a nation over to judgment for sexual sin."
Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Role: panelist at July 5 "Independence Through Enlightenment" event, $35 (or $100 for a VIP ticket); July 4 speech, $15 (or $35 for a VIP ticket); two July 5 "Rabbi Daniel Lapin Museum Tours," $100 each; July 4 book signing, free
Rabbi Daniel Lapin has appeared at several of Beck's summer events, and is a regular guest on Beck's programs. He will appear with Hutcherson, Barton, and Beck at the panel about the fight for religious freedom possibly representing the "next Civil Rights Battle."
Like Barton and Hutcherson, Lapin has a long history of anti-gay vitriol, including comparing a gay pride event in Jerusalem to "the Nazis marching in Skokie" and claiming marriage equality "has the potential to cause significant damage to the essence of our society."
Lapin is also uncomfortable with atheists' role in society, claiming the existence of a "massive indoctrination program" by "secular fundamentalism" in the country. Lapin declared on Beck's now-defunct Fox show prior to Beck's 2010 Restoring Honor event that "atheists are parasites"
Promotional materials claim Lapin is "known world-wide as America's rabbi." Incidentally, he's also known for being closely tied to lobbyist-turned-felon Jack Abramoff.
Role: July 6 "Matt Kibbe, Pat & Stu Museum Tour", $100; July 4 book signing, free; July 4 speech, $15 (or $35 for a VIP ticket); July 5 Freedomworks' "Free The People" event (not a Mercury One event -- tickets to the main Man in the Moon show included a ticket to the FreedomWorks event)
Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of the conservative political non-profit FreedomWorks, is heavily involved in the Man in the Moon weekend. FreedomWorks' involvement in this year's event is par for the course for the group, which has been paying Beck to spread their message for years.
Earlier this year, former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey objected to the amount of money the group had been giving to Beck, claiming the investment-- at least $1 million in 2012-- provided "too little value" for the money.
Armey told Media Matters that "The principal value to anyone from the relationship with Beck was Matt Kibbe, who got to share Beck's stage with him."
Kibbe was scheduled to share Beck's stage again at Man in the Moon during FreedomWorks' "Free the People" event, which featured Beck and Kibbe alongside Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. David Schweikert, Sen. Ted Cruz's father, and a handful of other conservatives, including FreedomWorks outreach director and Fox News contributor Deneen Borelli.
Role: July 5 speech, $15 (or $35 for a VIP ticket); July 5 book signing, free
Stephen Spykerman is included in the list of speakers at the Mercury One events. He's described by the organization as a "Messianic Jew" that is set to release his new book at the event, which apparently argues that "Gentile 'birthright' sons of Joseph are to be found within the British Empire & the United States of America." Spykerman, like Beck himself, is a big fan of end times prophecy. His profile on the Mercury One sites explains that "We now see the events unfolding today are uncannily precise as described by Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets of the Old Testament who clearly saw our day."
Spykerman's appearance is no surprise; Beck has spent years promoting numerous religious "experts" that believe we are living in the Biblical end times.