Cries for free expression inundate the media amid complaints about “political correctness,” but where is the free expression in the fundamentalist Christian religion?
Academia is denigrated by conservatives as a liberal environment brainwashing students’ minds, yet evangelical and Catholic schools are praised for controlling female clothing, dating and social life, and even behavior of faculty members in their own homes that are subject to unannounced inspections. One teacher reported that her vanilla extract was confiscated for its alcohol content. Heaven forbid that any students are openly LGBT, transgender professors transition, women get pregnant out of wedlock, and couples divorce. At least 35 schools received federal waivers allowing them to discriminate against LGBT, female, and pregnant students and faculty while taxpayers continue to send funding to the colleges.
Student clubs for nonbelievers can be restricted, and Liberty University banned the student Democratic club. Katha Pollitt wrote that she was required to sign a statement promising that she wouldn’t offend Catholic doctrine before her speech at two Catholic colleges. Larycia Hawkins was suspended from Wheaton College for stating on Facebook that Christians and Muslims “worship the same god.” The school also requires that faculty sign a faith statement declaring their belief in the literal Adam in Genesis. John Schneider, professor of theology at Calvin College, was forced into retirement after he published an article questioning the story of Adam and Eve.
The response to any of these complaints is that people cannot hold religious beliefs to normal scholarly standards. Religious colleges are also private, which means that they can do anything they want and employers and enrollees know what they’re getting. Ramesh Ponnuru, a right-wing critic of academic-speech restrictions, stated that “PC threatens the robust exchange of ideas” but defended Wheaton’s treatment of Hawkins because “no serious person argued that the college had violated a principle of free speech.”
All the GOP presidential candidates express opposition to Sharia law but want to mandate Christian law. The worst of these candidates may be Ted Cruz, as he continues to pick up endorsements from religious right activists. The most recent is Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer labeled by some as a cult and known for its nonstop 24-hour-a-day prayer in preparation for the End Times and its anti-gay activism in Uganda. According to Bickle, LGBT marriage is “rooted in the depths of hell,” homosexuality “opens the door to the demonic realm,” and Oprah Winfrey is a forerunner of the Antichrist. He called her “one of the clear pastors, forerunners, to the harlot movement.” Earlier in his campaign, Cruz shared a state with Kevin Swanson, who demands the death penalty for homosexuality.
Marco Rubio, accused of being a flip-flopper in his political views has been a Mormon, a Catholic, and most recently a member of the extremist pro-exorcist Christ Fellowship. He has put out a television ad having nothing to do with politics and everything to do with “His Christian Faith.” His opening statement:
“Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time, to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ.”
He claims that “the purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan” and closes with “I try to allow [his religious belief] to influence me in everything that I do.” In between, he says much more about how Christianity should lead the country. There was once a time when a president’s religious views were personal and private—even a time when a presidential candate’s religion made voters question whether they should vote for him. No more. It’s all on the table now: vote for [fill in the blank] because he’s the most Christian.
The recent accusation of Christian victimization comes from their sense of extreme entitlement and their fundamentalist creed “do as I believe.” For example, in a case before the Supreme Court a church claims that Missouri illegally excluded their playground from a state program that provided safer play surfaces.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia wants state funding to replace the pea gravel in its day-care center’s playground with recycled tires. The letter of refusal stated a section of the state constitution that “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.” A judge agreed with the state position, and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel split 2-1 on its decision after the church appealed.
The church’s attorney claimed the case is about “religious hostility.” He said, “This case [Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley] has huge implications for state constitutional provisions across the nation that treat religious Americans and organizations as inferiors solely because of their religious identity.” In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that states offering college scholarships can deny them to students majoring in theology. Churches want “equality” but pay no taxes while demanding handouts.
Washington State Rep. Mary Dye decided that her religion gave her the right to ask a group of high school students whether they were virgins. On Teen Lobbying Day, the teenagers, chaperoned by Planned Parenthood Rachel Todd, went to Dye’s office to advocate for expanding insurance to cover birth control where Dye gave them an unwanted lecture about marriage and sex advice. Fortunately, the stunned young people received a different reception from the GOP Senate Majority Leader, Mark Schoesler. Eleanor Loewus, 18, called him very respectful. Schoesler said, “I handled it like a normal meeting.”
While Kansas suffers from disastrous financial problems, one GOP legislator is more concerned with what women are wearing. Mitch Holmes, chair of the state Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, has announced a dress code for women who come to testify. Not men, just women because women’s dress can be “distracting.” His 11-point code of conduct includes inappropriateness of “low-cut necklines and miniskirts” because he says there are “provocatively clad women” at the Capitol. According to Holmes, men don’t need fashion guidance.
Even other Republicans were appalled at Holmes’ mandates, saying that they haven’t noticed any problems. Sen. Vicki Schmidt said, “Who’s going to define low-cut? Does it apply to senators?” Sen. Carolyn McGinn said that people without clothes that meet Holmes standards might e deterred from testifying.
Mesa Valley School District 51, a public school district, used its email system to advertise a Christian event using Bible lessons to encourage girls as young as 11 to stay “pure” while looking for husbands. Announcing “Wake Up Sleeping Beauty: Worship At His Feet,” the flier includes the silhouette of a girl’s face with a Bible verse from Luke 7:38.
“As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”
A video posted to the Wake Up Sleeping Beauty Facebook page encourages fathers to “protect her purity” and shows a father watching over his daughter as she puts on makeup. Promotional videos on the website of the sponsoring group, Wake Up Ministries, includes warnings for girls about the “gag reflex” caused by kissing with your tongue. A parent’s complaint about the flier’s imagery of a girl using her hair to wash a man’s feet before kissing them, was quickly dismissed by the school district. District 51 Communications Specialist responded:
“Having reviewed the flyer and KHB-R per your request, we do not find that the flyer promotes a religious organization or demeans a person or group on the basis of gender.”
Right-wing Christians believe that they know the only path for people to follow and they should be able to pass laws to force everyone in the United States to follow them. That’s the supreme form of entitlement.