Nel's New Day

February 26, 2012

The United States, a Theocracy

Let’s just face it. The United States is a theocracy. Let’s look at the indicators beyond the majority of the Republican presidential candidates swearing to the far-right conservatives that they were called by God to work for the nomination,

To encourage churches to intervene in campaigns—illegally—the Alliance Defense Fund held its annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” in October. Fundamentalists and evangelical churches plan voter turnout drives and distribution of voter guides that tell the church-goers the candidate of the church’s choice.  Meanwhile, pastors such as the influential Dallas one, Robert Jeffress, tell all and sundry that Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a cult member who should not become president. The claims that President Obama is a Muslim of an opponent of Christianity, started when he was elected to this office, have increased since Rick Santorum refers to his policy as a “phony kind of theology.”

Thirty states explored school voucher subsidies for religious and other private schools in 2011, the efforts driven by wealthy right-wing organizations, such as the Alliance for School Choice. Run by right-wing activist Betsy DeVos, the organization is joined by allies to provide vast resources and public relations expertise to push for school vouchers. These vouchers would benefit not only fundamentalist academies but also Roman Catholic parochial schools. Florida currently has a ballot initiative allowing the religious organizations to get taxpayer money. Arizona has already passed such a law that has passed judicial tests. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also pushed a voucher program for the District of Columbia.

A relatively new lobbying group, the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has declared war on the separation of church and state in its goal to keep its taxpayer funding for church agencies while maintaining overly broad exemptions from the law. These agencies have become highly visible recently when they declared themselves exempt from involvement in birth control or same-sex marriage while still receiving government contracts and funds. Faith-based religious groups receive federal advantages that other non-profit groups lack. No federal regulations, no disclosure reports to show how much they’re spending, no transparency.

States plan laws that would require Christian proselytizing in public schools. Missouri, for example, has an amendment on the 2012 ballot that proposes to allow religious activities on all public property including schools. The open-ended bill even permits children to refuse to do homework on religious grounds. Florida’s bill, recently passed by the Senate and being considered by the House, lets students pray at school events. Tennessee is following Florida’s flaunting of separating church and state.

The far-right evangelicals also continue to demand that curriculum and textbooks include religious material, including creationism and refutation of man-made climate change. In Missouri last summer, a school district banned Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Oeckler’s Twenty Boy Summer because a local professor complained that the books advocate principles contrary to the Bible.

Those who believe that President Obama has declared a “war on religion” fail to recognize his current support of the Christian religion through government actions. The president said during his campaign in 2008, “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them–or against the people you hire–on the basis of their religion.” Yet he has not changed George W. Bush’s “faith-based” initiative that exempted faith-based groups from complying with anti-discrimination statutes. Religious groups can refuse to hire gays and lesbians even for secular work. In 2009, Obama put Alexia Kelley, an anti-abortion Catholic, in charge of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the HHS, where she oversees the distribution of more than $20 million in grants to religious groups.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is also considering a new rule allowing the use of taxpayer funds for the construction and repair of religious buildings overseas.

Under President Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, and the share of USCCB federal grants from HHS have increased from $71.8 million in the last three years of the Bush administration to $81.2 million during the first three years of Obama. In fiscal 2011 alone, the group received a record $31.4 million from the administration that the Catholics claim as anti-religious. Federal money can also go directly to churches rather than nonprofit charitable organizations.

Millions of dollars from the military budget benefits Christians. For over 18 months, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has been examining these expenditures, such as the $125 million spent for “spiritual fitness” program. To develop “resilience,” those who serve in the military are required to take a survey biased so that nonbelievers are guaranteed to score poorly. Those people will then be forced to participate in exercises that use religious imagery to “train” soldiers up to a satisfactory level of spirituality, namely Christian.

Department of Defense funds built the $30,000,000 mega-church at Fort Hood and the “Spiritual Fitness” centers scattered across the military bases. More spiritual fitness money goes for evangelical Christian concerts with overtly Christian music, light shows of large crosses beamed all over the stage, and Christian testimony or Bible verses songs. Most of the Army’s Strong Bonds program expenditures of least $30 million for retreats for soldiers and their families go to evangelical Christian retreats, many held at Christian camps and resorts, with evangelical Christian speakers and entertainers.

Children of military service people are also targeted by evangelical Christian groups that are financed by the DoD. The biggest one is Military Community Youth Ministries (MCYM), whose mission statement is “Celebrate life with military teens, Introduce them to the Life-Giver, Jesus Christ, And help them become more like Him.” MCYM has received $12,346,333 in DoD contracts since 2000 and use some of it to stalk “unchurched” military children by following their school buses. The DoD also hires Religious Education Directors to get the kids into Christian churches.

Congress keeps legislating Christian laws. The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution that reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States and encouraged its display in public schools and other public buildings despite the fact that this motto, put in place during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s, had not been challenged. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) has introduced a bill ordering the Secretary of the Interior to add a Franklin Delano Roosevelt prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Both the Knights of Columbus and Rep. Denny Rehlberg (R-MT) are fighting the removal of a large statue of Jesus sitting on national forest land in Montana.

States are also working to create Christian law. In Georgia, the state legislature will consider a bill that would require all vehicle license plates to be emblazoned with “In God We Trust” unless drivers pay extra to cover up the message. A prime example of this nation’s theocracy is its anti-Sharia legislation. In 2010, Oklahoma passed, with 70 percent of the vote, the so-called “Save Our State Amendment,” barring enforcement of Islamic law. The challenge to this law is before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Because the constitution bars government support for religion, legislation barring Sharia law is unnecessary. What appears to be necessary is a law banning Christian legislation, which would provide women with reproductive rights and same-sex couples with marriage equality.

The Christian religious right, both fundamentalists and Catholics, successfully intimidate their opponents by accusing anyone who wants freedom from religion that they are bigots who don’t believe in religious freedom. Their position of victimology comes from the enormous power that they wield over the anyone who disagrees with them. To these Christian conservatives, the definition of religious freedom is forcing everyone to live by their religion, whichever one of the 38,000 Christian denominations it may represent.

3 Comments »

  1. This is a great job of highlighting pertinent facts and pointing out who benefits–in this case, organized Christianity. Too bad for the rest of us. Thank you very much.

    Comment by jcothron — February 29, 2012 @ 10:21 AM | Reply

  2. No! No! No!

    Comment by lynchly — February 26, 2012 @ 8:42 PM | Reply

  3. The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. This is EXACTLY what they feared and tried to prevent with the Constitution, the original Amendments and the Bill of Rights. It was only 53 years ago that America feared John Kennedy’s election would mean turning the rule of America under the Pope’s thumb. Now the Catholics have sided with the Evangelicals to put America under their thumb.

    America has never fully embraced the idea that all religions are equal in standing in the US. Was there ever a chance a Jewish President would be elected? A Muslim? Hell, they voted in a black Christian 3 and 1/2 years ago and ever since they’ve been trying to make him out to be non-American and Muslim. My question: what the hell is wrong with him if he was Muslim? He’d have just as much right to be President as any other American born person.

    We yammer on about being the best place in the world, where freedom is guaranteed and protected by a unique set of laws and rules that were set down from the very beginning to make it just that. Now you have religious groups who want to destroy that because they can’t tolerate Americans being anything but Christian — and only their brand of religion. The Catholics better watch out. If they succeed in this, then there are a number of Evangelical groups who hate Catholics as much as they do Muslims, or Mormons.

    What is this country coming to? Because I know where it’s going is a very ugly place.

    Comment by gkparker — February 26, 2012 @ 7:41 PM | Reply


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