Nel's New Day

February 22, 2015

‘Christians’ in the United States

Exceptional. That’s what conservatives call the United States. This country is so exceptional that doctors can refuse health care to people for religious reasons. That’s what happened in Michigan last October when Dr. Vesna Roi (Eastlake Pediatrics, Roseville) prayed about caring for the infant of a lesbian couple. Prayer – 1; infant – 0. Originally Roi told the women she would be their pediatrician and then changed her mind. She didn’t even have the courage to personally tell the two women that she had reversed her position; she stayed out of the office on the day of the appointment so that she would not have to see them. Embarrassed and humiliated, the couple found another pediatric group. Four months later, after an outcry from social media, Roi sent them a letter that stated,

“After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice, and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.”

After Krista and Jami Contreras legally married in Vermont in 2012, their daughter Bay Windsor was born last October. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics both condemn discrimination against patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other similar criteria. Michigan is considering a “religious freedom” bill which would probably allow doctors to refuse care to unmarried pregnant women, people with HIV, ethnic minorities, etc.

Krista-and-Jami-Contreras-with-Bay-Windsor-638x425

Just as refusing medical care is legal, so could a ban on Advanced Placement classes in U.S. history and a mandate for a religious curriculum be Oklahoma law if proposed legislation succeeds. Again the topic is “exceptionalism.” Dan Fisher, a pastor elected as state representative, succeeded in moving the bill on party lines through a state House committee on a vote of 11-4 with a list of appropriate texts for education.

Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”

In addition to the U.S. Constitution and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” the curriculum would emphasize the Ten Commandments, two sermons, three speeches from former President Reagan, and George W. Bush’s address to the nation after the 9/11 attacks. The sermons are the 17th-century “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop and 18th-century “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.

The Fox network went one better than the Oklahoma bill. Outnumbered host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery said, “There really shouldn’t be public schools, should there?”  Co-host Andrea Tantaros, who earlier described the United States as “awesome” when reports showed how this “awesome” country tortures people, definitely agreed by suggesting that the Department of Education be eliminated so that children would not be subjected to “meaningless liberal crap.”

Retired high-school history teacher Larry S. Krieger may have initiated the malcontent with the national curriculum for advanced students. He complained about its “consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters.” Thanks to Krieger, the RNC passed a resolution in opposition to the Advanced Placement U.S. History course, saying it “reflected a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

In response, the College Board—a non-profit which creates the AP tests—said that the opposition was based on “significant misunderstandings.” Dan Coleman, the President of The College Board, emphasized that the tests are actually written “by college professors and K–12 teachers throughout this country.” He also, in an effort to allay concerns, released a sample test. Students can use this and other AP classes for college credit, saving them money and meeting a prerequisite to attending elite colleges.

Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado have also attacked the test. Colorado students walked out of class after conservative school board members tried to make the AP U.S. History course “more patriotic.” South Carolina has asked the College Board to exclude any of the curriculum with an “ideological bias,” including evolution.

Thanks to the abysmal science education in much of the United States, one-fourth of the people in the United States believe that the sun goes around the earth, according to the National Science Foundation. These people have missed the idea of the earth orbiting the sun that has been accepted by scientists and most of the civilized world since the 16th century. Over 60 percent of the respondents disagreed that “the Universe began with a huge explosion,” and 52 percent oppose evolution, denying that “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

In Florida, at least 164 public schools teach creationism, and Louisiana and Tennessee permit the teaching of creationism as “supplemental” material. The following map shows schools teaching creationism.

Not satisfied with making just the schools religious, Tennessee, thanks to state Rep. James Van Huss, might make the state a theocracy by putting the following sentence in the state constitution: “We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.” State Rep. Jerry Sexton also has a bill that to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee.”

Mississippi legislators have so much faith in Jesus that the House has passed a bill to exempt drivers of church buses from the requirement of a commercial driver’s license. Democrat state Rep. Robert Johnson III said that churches “can pick a person to drive the bus.” Republican state Rep. Toby Barker calls the bill “Jesus Take the Wheel Act” and anticipated tragedies from allowing anyone to drive people, including small children, with no formal training or requisites. Troy Coll, who has a commercial driver’s license said, “This bill is trading the safety of everyone on the road for the convenience of those operating church vehicles.” Mississippi already has the Bible as the state book because of “all the things going wrong in the world” and hopes to declare Mississippi a “Christian state” in a 2016 ballot measure. Mississippi is also the state with the highest poverty rate and the second-highest high school dropout rate.

Right-wing evangelical pastor John Hagee, who campaigned with John McCain in 2008, has predicted that tensions between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may lead God to destroy the United States. “I am a student of world history,” Hagee said, “and you can wrap up world history in 25 words or less and here it is: the nations that blessed Israel prospered and the nations that cursed Israel were destroyed by the hand of God.” He added that God “is watching what America does as it responds to Israel. If America turns its back on Israel, God will turn his back on America. And that’s a fact. It’s proven by history.”

Conservatives are using President Obama’s speech at a recent summit on violent extremism to attack the president’s bona fides, as with Rudy Giuliani’s complaint that Barack Obama “doesn’t love America.” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) summarized the GOP position by calling for a holy war against ISIL:

“We’re taking God out of this country, they’re fighting for their God, and all I can say is the person who has God on their side is going to win this. And I think we all need to huddle around and get back to some basics in this country.”

The increasing number of conservative-owned newspapers also contributes to this ignorance of people in the United States. For example, a “retraction” in North Carolina’s The Lexington Dispatch printed a letter with the headline, “Is Obama the Antichrist?” explained that the letter instead claimed that President Barack Hussein Obama was the “seventh king” who announces the arrival of the Antichrist.

This coming week, the Republicans in Congress, who claim to be Christians, will try to force through the anti-immigration amendments attached to funding the Department of Homeland Security. They want to separate families, tear people from their long-term communities, and eliminate education and health care for vulnerable individuals. Such is the conservative view of Christianity. Rudy Giuliani is right when he claims that he and President Obama have different beliefs.

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