Nel's New Day

July 26, 2015

Hateful Religious Beliefs–and a Bit of Hope

Our country’s leaders used their religious perspectives to make the comments last week:

John Hagee: “Planned Parenthood … brings to mind the evil of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and Dr. Mengele.”

Mike Huckabee (in an African-American church about racial problems):  “We don’t have a skin problem in this country, we have a sin problem in this country.”

Mike Huckabee (on the Iranian deal): “This president’s foreign policy …  will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,”

Sam Rohrer (Pennsylvania State Representative 1992-2009): “Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church [are] the protectors of moral truth. The west and the United States have become the leaders of moral depravity.”

Pat Robertson (once presidential candidate): “Love affairs between men and animals are going to be absolutely permitted…. And it will be called a right.”

Pat Robertson (about criminalization of homosexuality): “Boy those Africans have got it right. One wishes that the president of the United States would listen to some of his fellow Africans, cousins, to what they have to say because they speak truth and they speak wisdom.”

David Brody, Chief Political Correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network (about why Donald Trump operates like Christians): “Donald Trump operates in a world of absolutes: A world of right and wrong; a world of winners and losers…. And what does Trump get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? Public ridicule.”

Randy Brogdon, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman: “The federal courts don’t have the authority to make us kill babies. Are the Supreme Court justices going to come down to Oklahoma and make us stop?”

How did GOP senators spend their Sunday today? They voted against health care. And they lost. They needed 60 votes and couldn’t even get a simple majority: the vote was 49-43 with eight senators not voting. All Republicans voted against health care except for five who did not vote at all: Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Pat Tommey (R-PA). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided to have a vote last week to shut up his party opposing the Export-Import Bank. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) thinks he can circumvent the 60-vote threshold by refilling the health care amendment as one connected to the highway funding bill. When the Senate chair rejects this premise, Lee would object, allowing a 51-vote majority to overturn the decision.

Before Lee’s ploy failed, presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) unsuccessfully tried to attach an amendment keeping sanctions on Iran until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist to the same highway bill. Even ultra-conservative Lamar Alexander (R-TN) worried about Cruz’s tactics, and the other Texas GOP senator, John Cornyn, called the strategy a “terrible mistake,” urging Republicans to vote against it. As he pointed out, voting on Cruz’s amendment would mean that “any senator who wants to get a vote on an amendment will be entitled to do so and that can’t be the rule.” John McCain said that if they were going to change the rules, which takes 67 votes, then they should have a debate.

Last week, Cruz had a temper tantrum on the floor of the Senate after 67 senators voted in favor of advancing the attachment of the Export-Import Bank to the necessary highway bill. When he called McConnell a liar, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) read aloud rules prohibiting attacks among chamber members on the Senate floor. John Thune (R-SD) said that Cruz’s idea would “make it impossible to get anything done in the Senate.” Evidently he doesn’t understand that this has been the Senate MO for quite a while.

Cruz and another presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have started using a term for their Islamphobia. In targeting Muslims, they both referred to “not Presbyterian” in a coded language that another religion, not extremist terrorists, is a problem. Nothing has been said about the far-right Christians who are trying to match ISIS in terrorism.

This weekend, Cruz will speak at a conference by the Center for Security Policy alone with other candidates Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Carly Fiorina, and Bobby Jindal. The director of this group, Frank Gaffney, has indicated that Obama is a Muslim and that the Muslim Brotherhood has supposedly taken over the U.S. government. Gaffney has support from Huckabee who said this year:

“Everything he [Obama] does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community.”

Former Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark suggested internment camps for radicalized Muslims. The camps would not be for people who committed crimes—just those who don’t hold Christian values. George W. Bush’s religious advisor, Franklin Graham, agreed with the camps for Muslims as well as an official ban to stop Muslims from immigrating.Muslims make up roughly one percent of the U.S. population, and Muslim Americans don’t ask for special favors. The building hatred, however, could return the United States to the dark days of Japanese internment camps 70 years ago.

In March, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg ordered Philadelphia’s transportation system to accept anti-Islamic hate ads on its buses. They feature a 1941 photo of Hitler meeting with an Arab leader and read: “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quaran.” The small print states, “Two-thirds of all U.S. aid goes to Islamic countries” and “End all aid to Islamic countries.” Israel, a Middle Eastern country, receives one-third of the foreign aid budget, and Islamic countries that receive aid, such as Egypt, are key contributors to Israel’s security. Egypt is a major aid in controlling the Palestinian people.

Pamela Geller’s group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), is behind the ads. Great Britain considers the organization a hate group and barred Geller from going into the country in 2013. In 2011, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refused to grant trademark status to Stop Islamization of America on the grounds that the name could be disparaging to American Muslims. The USPTO’s decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit a year ago. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) prohibits ads that disparage people or groups “on the basis of race, religious belief, age, sex, alienage, national origin, sickness, or disability.”

Fortunately, the ads ran for only a month until AFDI’s contract ran out. During that time SEPTA made its advertising policy much more restrictive—no guns; tobacco products; politics; viewpoints about “economic, political, religious, historical or social issues”; content that is “disparaging, disreputable or disrespectful” to various individuals and groups—in short, anything that “that threatens the public image of SEPTA.”

Some Florida Islamophobes are trying to ban two children’s books from the public school because they “promote” another religion than Christianity. Both books written and illustrated by Jeannette Winter are based on true stories: “Nasreen’s Secret School” is about a young girl in Afghanistan whose grandmother sends her to a secret school for girls, and  “The Librarian of Basra” is about Alia Muhammad Baker who saved part of Basra’s library collections before the building was burned after British forces entered the city. Two years ago, New York parents also tried to ban the books about book banning.

Texans in Farmerville, who firmly believe in freedom, don’t want a Muslim cemetery in their county. One of their threats is to dump pigs’ blood or put pigs’ heads on posts on the property so that Muslims won’t buy it. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33599843  The Muslims bought the property anyway. Three cheers for Mayor Joe Helmberger who said the cemetery would be approved as long as the town’s development standards are met and that the US was founded on religious freedom.

Islamophobes might use these Muslims as examples. During the aftermath of the white man who killed nine black people in a Charleston (SC) church, several black churches were burned, some because of arson. Muslims have raised over $100,000 to help rebuild these churches.

A ray of hope in separation of church and state: pharmacies cannot refuse to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, according to a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court. For the second time, this ruling overturned a 2012 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton who thought that the Washington state law violated religious freedom.  Leighton is a George W. Bush appointee, as is one of the three unanimous votes against Leighton.

Last May, Sharmira Johnson was awarded $75,000 after the Christian non-profit organization United Bible Fellowship Ministries after they fired her because she was pregnant. Women who are pregnant or recently gave birth have to be treated the same as others “in their ability or inability to work,” and employers must offer these women the same light duty or other workplace accommodations that they would offer any other employees.  An estimated 250,000 women are denied these requests each year, and an untold number of women don’t ask because of adverse consequences.

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