Nel's New Day

August 20, 2017

Evangelicals Lack Moral Compass

Four advisory councils for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) disappeared after his support of white supremacists and another never came to fruition. Another one that disappeared today is the panel for the National Climate Assessment that included academics, local officials, and corporate representatives. Two councils, however, are still going strong—one that suppresses votes and another that gives far-right racist Christians power over DDT’s decision. Of the 25 DDT-appointed radical born-again preachers, televangelists and conservative political influencers, only one resigned, showing a bit of the moral compass that the majority of business CEOs did after DDT’s outrageous statements equating people standing for racial justice to the “whites-only” groups. One member had resigned months ago. Those remaining were either silent or strongly supported DDT’s impassioned criticism for those who opposed militant neo-Nazis.

Evangelical supporters of DDT claim the high ground, saying that “the Bible calls us to do as ambassadors of reconciliation, reaching across the aisle, [and] reaching out to other ministers.” This action, however, is not one that they took when Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were presidents. Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s tweet about DDT’s statements described them as being “bold truthful.” Caught up in a backlash, he later tried a spin to say that the “truth” from DDT is that white supremacists “are pure evil and un-American,” but not everyone swallowed his bull.

More bull came from Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, who blamed media misrepresentation, despite the entire press conference broadcast on television. Jeffress also advises war with North Korea. He said, “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.” According to Jeffress, nonviolence is only for “Christians,” not government. He added that a president should “absolutely not” obey the Sermon on the Mount, including helping the poor. Jeffress’ mandates comes from Roman 13, “that gives the government to the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.” [Note: Roman 13 refers to people obeying the laws of their own nation, not making DDT the dictator of the world. It also mandates paying taxes.]

Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, tweeted that “corporate America has a greater moral compass” than the Evangelical Council. Only A.R. Bernard (Christian Cultural Center, Brooklyn) formally left the council with the tepid statement “that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration.” Guardian has a list of the remaining “ultra-conservative religious cheerleaders.”

One of DDT’s evangelical council will extend her responsibilities to the United Nations where she will help all the nations in the world adopt Christianity in preparation for the “End Times.” Michele Bachman’s (above right) “appointment” comes from The Jefferson Gathering, a project from the Skyline Church that came from congressional conservatives gathering with religious right leaders in Statuary Hall to pray for forgiveness for the nation’s sins such as legalized marriage equality. These people believe that God caused 9/11 and the 2012 Benghazi attack in his judgment.

Former students at Liberty University plan to return their diplomas in protest to Falwell’s racist perspective. A group letter states:

“This is incompatible with Liberty University’s stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness.”

Chris Gaumer, a former student government president at Liberty, called Falwell “complicit” in DDT’s defense of “Nazis and white supremacists.”

The Southern Baptist Church has formally rejected racism but only for the church. All that concerns evangelical church, and others, is collecting everyone into their fold to win their souls. Evangelicals support any politician who furthers their position, despite that person’s character. They use these politicians as a tool to gain their domination. Evangelicals think that God anointed DDT as their president This group of religious leaders has decided that God has placed Trump as POTUS. Because God has put DDT there, they have no right to lift their hands against God’s anointed one; he is their master and they cannot object (1 Sam 24:6). Changing their position about him would destroy the entire belief systems of evangelical leaders and cause them to lose their followers—and income. [Note: Rejecting Clinton would probably not have hurt their belief system.]

From the Guardian:

“It is one of the ‘difficult but primary duties’ of a political leader to speak for a nation in traumatic times. A space shuttle explodes, a school student goes on a shooting spree, a terrorist flies a plane into a building, a hurricane floods a city. When such things happen, Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, ‘It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul.’ Yet if Donald Trump’s words about the violent white extremist mobilisation in Virginia on Saturday – which an under-pressure White House was desperately trying to clarify on Sunday – are an expression of its soul, America may be on the road to perdition….

“There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the fanatical white supremacists who rallied in the Virginia city on Saturday and the equality defenders who demonstrated peacefully against them, one of whom was rammed and killed by a speeding car allegedly driven by a man who had attended the neo-Nazi rally. The supremacists hate black people and Jews, and regard white people as superior. They talk portentously about blood, soil and the right to bear arms. They admire Hitler and give Nazi salutes. They fly the flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy – the ostensible cause of their rallies this summer is Charlottesville’s decision, more than 150 years after the south’s surrender, to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park. And one of them committed the sort of act that was rightly called terrorism when it occurred in Nice, Berlin and London.

“Yet, in his first response on Saturday, Mr Trump utterly failed in his primary duty to uphold equality and speak the truth about the racist violence that had taken place. Instead of placing the blame where it belonged, on the supremacists and Klansmen who triggered these events, and rather than stand up for the indivisibility of equality and tolerance before the law, Mr Trump’s words were by turns slippery, banal and morally compromised. It was not true that the violence in Charlottesville came from “many sides”, as Mr Trump evasively said, before repeating his evasion. It is the head of state’s duty to stand up, explicitly and unequivocally, against racists and those who promote racial violence. Mr Trump was found wanting.”

The above was written before DDT’s appalling press conference on Tuesday that lambasted people in opposition to racial injustice. The Guardian continued after that egregious performance:

“In his angry and undignified press conference on Tuesday night, Donald Trump deliberately and shockingly crossed the line that separates the acceptable and the unacceptable in the conduct of an elected democratic leader in a multiracial society. Mr Trump must now face the consequences of this momentous and inexcusable decision. Those consequences should include the way that the leaders of multiracial European nations, including Britain, conduct their dealings with the US president from this moment on….

“Mr Trump’s petulant and narcissistic demeanour made it clear that he is more outraged by criticism and with the American press than he is with his country’s racists and its neo-Nazis. He clearly cannot help himself. But that is no excuse. This is therefore a moment at which America and the world need to display the moral clarity of which the US president is so embarrassingly incapable. There are not “many sides” to the arguments that came to the boil in Charlottesville and since. There is a right side and a wrong side. Racism, antisemitism, white supremacism and Nazism, new or old, are wrong. A leader who cannot bring himself to say this clearly and unequivocally is not just clueless. He also forfeits his claim to moral authority and much of his right to be respected as leader….”

Far-right Christians face another crisis tomorrow—a total solar eclipse across the United States. A 60-mile wide band of total darkness begins on the north-central Oregon coast and continues through 13 more, mostly red, states of the nation.

Evangelicals such as  Pastor Mark Biltz warns  how the event is a sign from God:

“As the sun is larger than the moon, the sun represents the nations of the world and the moon represents the nation of Israel…. When there is a total solar eclipse, it is a warning to a specific nation or nations depending on its path.”

According to Biltz, eclipses recorded in his bible led to war and plague. If DDT stays president, these events may come to be, attacking at least 12 GOP-dominated states.

July 30, 2017

Faith-Based Economy Equals Scorched Earth

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:57 PM
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After destroying Kansas, its governor, Sam Brownback, is moving on—at least as long as he doesn’t offend Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Brownback has now been nominated as the at-large ambassador to head the State’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The position was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 created the ambassador position which was held by Christians until 2014 when President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein. The Senate approved him in a 61-35 vote.

As ambassador, Brownback would be responsible for a human rights platform and outreach to the diverse religious groups in the United States. Other responsibilities are to support minorities facing persecution or discrimination throughout the world. For example, ambassadors have been on the side of Muslims in Burma. The arch-conservative Brownback has signed a meaningless ban on Shariah law, warred against separation of church and states in public schools and everywhere else, and officially promoted Christian events and programming. He signed a bill in 2013 that states the government may not “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion.” In 2015, Brownback signed an executive order rescinding discrimination protections for state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2016, he signed legislation that prohibits the state’s universities from taking action against religious organizations on campuses that restrict membership to students that adhere to the group’s religious beliefs or “comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct.”

Brownback decided to turn Kansas around in an economic “experiment” that drastically cut taxes, slashed public investments, and then expected prosperity to flow throughout the state. He eliminated the state’s top income tax bracket, exempted many businesses from any income tax, lowered the sales tax, and eradicated individual and corporate income tax. Yet there was no prosperity.

In 2012, Brownback said that his experiment could show what would happen in comparison to neighboring states that had not lowered taxes. Since 2013, Kansas has seen private sector employment rise only 3.5 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally and the lowest of its neighbors. Total employment is worse—2.6 percent in Kansas compared to 6.5 percent nationally. GDP growth has stayed flat compared to blue states such as California with 3.2 percent and Oregon at 2.5 percent growth. Hospitals completely closed and schools closed early because of the radical cuts in health care and education. Kansas government expenses are expected to outpace income by $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas pays a high interest rate on borrowings because its bond rating has been downgraded twice.

Brownback’s tax cuts caused average taxes to go up $200 for the one-fifth of the state’s households that make less than $23,000 a year while the richest one percent saved $25,000 a year. One health insurance company moved its headquarters across the river to Missouri. Brownback “saved” $400,000 by closing services for low-income children and developmentally disabled in Lawrence and then spent the same about in a legal vendetta against the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Brownback started hiding his economic reports that he promised would show the impact of the state’s economic laws. Last year, he killed the report entirely with the claim that it was so complicated that people couldn’t understand it.

The state’s revenue estimates are consistently and massively lower than estimates, leading to cuts to state agencies and reductions in government services. He took $2 billion from highway funding to make up for a budget hold. The budget could be in even worse shape if the Supreme Court orders hundreds of millions of dollars in additional education spending. that court has twice ruled that the budget allocates insufficient funding for public schools. The state does fund private charter schools.

Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and trickle-down supporter Arthur Laffer have declared the Kansas “experiment” a success by using inaccurate data and highly selective, misleading information about unemployment and job creation.

GOP disasters in Kansas aren’t just fiscal: last year a bill permitted impeachment of any judge who opposed a legislative law. Before that bill, Brownback signed a bill that removes funding from the judiciary if a state court strikes down a 2014 law a 2014 law removing some powers from the State Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court struck down the law. Brownback also signed a bill permitting the Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prosecute someone for voter fraud even if prosecutors choose not to proceed in the cases. Of 18,000 accusations, Kobach convicted nine people, most of whom didn’t understand that they couldn’t vote on local issues in two different states where they had homes. Kobach is now the leader of a federal voter fraud (aka suppression?) commission. Kansas represents what Charles Pierce called the potential of unchecked GOP policies from Tea Party dominance.

Religious diversity’s loss is Kansas’ gain. After his “experiment” in trickle-down poverty, the state legislature overrode Brownback’s veto a few weeks ago to repeal the draconian tax cuts. In the last election, 13 additional Democrats were elected to the legislature, and several conservatives lost to moderate Republicans. Brownback’s gubernatorial approval rating has fallen to 25 percent, tied with New Jersey’s Chris Christopher for the bottom of the heap.

What happens in Kansas now is anyone’s guess. Brownback’s replacement, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, was a key player in the decision to privatize the state’s Medicaid system. Colyer called KanCare a success for saving money, but funding problems left providers without reimbursements. Last January, the federal government rejected the state’s request to extend KanCare because it didn’t meet standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees. Kansas has no system for reporting and tracking critical incidents and no data to show that unexpected deaths were investigated within mandatory timeframes. The program delayed eligibility, cut coverage, and increased caseloads.

Kobach calls Colyer a “good guy.” He said that he wished Brownback had won in his “battle … to preserve the tax cuts.”

Brownback’s approach in Kansas represents the GOP faith—indeed, a religion—in a system that consistently fails. The days that Republicans revere, the mid-twentieth century, was a time of great progressive taxation when the highest income tax rates topped 90 percent. As the taxes have shrunk, the income inequality in the nation has put most of the money in the hands of the top ten percent with the top one percent benefitting the most. The faith in trickle-down comes from the wealthy who can’t argue that they want tax cuts to get more money. When the faith in tax cuts is joined deregulation for the powerful, the result is wage suppression for everyone outside the golden circle.

Some conservative states have taken notice of Kansas’ failure in its “experiment” and consider tax hikes. Eight states, including Tennessee and Arizona, may raise gas taxes, and Nebraska is going more deeply in raising sales taxes to make up for falling income taxes.

Brownback’s failure in his religion of tax cuts may factor into the grand GOP plan to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy across the United States while increasing them for everyone else.  Every time that DDT makes a radical decision, he falsely claims it will save taxpayers money. In his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement he falsely claimed that saving the climate would cost $3 trillion in GDP and “6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income….” His numbers came from an isolated report, not a cost-benefit analysis, that omitted fiscal benefits of reduced emissions which could be as much as $4.5 trillion. The health insurance industry attributes the volatility and instability currently provided by the federal government to its departures from the marketplace, not the failure to turn a profit. DDT’s excuse for throwing out transgender service members was to save money–$5.4 million out of a $790 billion budget.

Republicans want Kansas’ faith-based experiment to be a model for the federal government. Like Kansas, the U.S. would then have a stagnant economy, failing job growth, falling personal income, massive budget shortfalls, loss of healthcare coverage, and significant delays in health care services. What the United States needs is the California model where the economy grew by 4.1 percent, and the budget surplus is nearly $900 million.

July 16, 2017

Christians Fight Their Beliefs

With the removal of health care from people impending, religious supporters of Trumpcare forget that Jesus provided free medical care to lepers in a books that talked about him traveling with 12 men to give medicine to poor people. As Holly Wood wrote:

“Jesus was a homeless brown refugee who ran around giving people universal healthcare.”

This statement is a far cry from a statement made by Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS):

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

Children in public school bible classes probably won’t learn about the Jesus that took care of the sick. But these Kentucky students can take an elective in the study of the bible, thanks to a new law—HB 128, the Bible Literacy Bill. In Kentucky, 2017 is also the “Year of the Bible,” according to another law, and Gov. Matt Begins encouraged people to take part in a bible-reading marathon.

Kentucky is also the state that subsidized a Noah’s ark-themed museum in Williamstown. Even with generous tax incentives and, Ken Ham, head of Answers in Genesis, said that his park is failing because of atheists and the media. Another conservative is blaming “fake news,” this time for the lack of investors. Despite the taxpayers support that hurts the community, employees must “confirm agreement with Ark Encounter’s Statement of Faith.” Applicants “must profess, interalia, that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the bible is literally true in order to be considered for the job.”

One Alabama high school teacher is using a one-sided summer reading list to teach conservative religion and politics. Gene Ponder provided titles of over 30 books for his Spanish Fort High AP Government and Economics students that included authors such as Ann Coulter, Rand Paul, Michael Savage (five of the 30 titles), Steve Forbes, and Mark Levin. Richard Mack, author of The Magic of Gun Control, was one of the armed resister on the Bundy ranch in Nevada using a possible strategy of women and children as human shields. The focus on how liberals lie opposes secularism, abortion, taxation, left-wing politics, and the belief in climate change. Social media made members of the Baldwin County School System aware of the list, and it was recalled. Yet Ponder faces no repercussions and will undoubtedly pass along his extremist conservative views in the fall to the top students of a public school.

A goal of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is to permit houses of worship to endorse political candidates while keeping their tax-free status. A House Appropriations subcommittee has added a provision to a funding bill to the IRS that would remove money from to IRS to implement the 63-year-old so-called Johnson Amendment. In reality, churches have been violating the law against endorsements with impunity despite the 1954 law. It already allows religious ministries to promote and reject any issues, even ballot referenda.  Evangelicals however, want to become political machines and still avoid paying taxes on their churches. DDT’s success could lead to foreign powers funneling campaign donations through these tax-exempt churches.

Evangelicals might want to start giving their money to charity instead of building huge churches and mansions for their pastors. “Small-government” believers claim that churches should provide the money for the needy instead of the government. DDT’s budget cuts require every one of the 350,000 U.S. religious congregations to raise $714,000 a year for 10 years to offset cuts to programs that aid the needy. He isn’t the first: Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget called for eliminating $3.3 trillion in ten years. His excuse was a personal interpretation of subsidiarity, the philosophy rejecting any care for the poor. Although faith-based groups provide up to $50 billion worth of services each year for the needy, many of their initiatives count on government funding for operations. Catholic Charities USA gets half its operating budget from federal funds. A group called “Circle of Protection” issued a statement about DDT’s cuts:

 “We do not support sharp increases to defense spending that are made possible by corresponding reductions in non-defense discretionary spending, particularly in programs that help poor and vulnerable people. The biblical prophets teach us that our security depends in part on upholding justice for people in poverty.”

One corporation that moved the United States closer to Christian control with the help of five Supreme Court Justices is Hobby Lobby. They claimed religious beliefs in their restriction of insurance to not pay for contraceptives and won the case. With their wealth, they are building a “Bible Museum” near the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. and got into trouble with smuggling acquisitions into the country from Iraq. The corporation was required to forfeit thousands of artifacts and pay $3 million. They also promised to stop making “mistakes.” The priceless archeological antiquities were sent to the U.S. through Israel and the United Arab Emirates in packages labeled such innocuous terms as “tile samples.” Instead of wiring money to a dealer, Hobby Lobby deposited money into several bank accounts under a number of different names. Just like DDT’s family and other colleagues, Hobby Lobby pled ignorance, and the U.S. government swallowed their excuse. The money may have gone to Daesh, an extremist group that destroys and/or sells its cultural heritage to fund its terrorism. People who go to the Hobby Lobby museum may want to remember the terrorism that the corporation supports.

In one piece of good news on the evangelical front, the Southern Baptist Convention took a huge step last week when it passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and the alt-right. At first, leaders refused to consider the proposal submitted by Dwight McKissic, a prominent black Texas pastor, but a backlash forced a reversal. The controversy came from divisions in a denomination founded to support slavery. Of the 15 million Southern Baptist members in 46,000 churches, 85 percent are white.

For centuries, Jewish and Christian religions have referred to “the curse of Ham” when justifying the white belief of superiority over blacks. The definition of this justification for slavery has no historical basis, but evangelicals have supported the concept that the “sons of Ham” are “darkened” by their sins. Baptists were split almost 200 years ago about this issue into northern and southern branches, and the perception of blacks came to a head again at the June convention when the Southern Baptists had to decide whether to leave their centuries’ old position.

The SBC is struggling toward racial equality. In 1995, it finally got around to apologizing for its foundational support for slavery. In 2015, it passed a resolution promoting reconciliation. Last year, it called on Christians to get rid of their Confederate flags. Now its policy has these positions:

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

It is a watered-down version of McKissic’s proposal (below) but it is a start:

Affirms that “there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing.”

Identifies this “toxic menace” as white nationalism and the alt-right and urges the denomination to oppose its “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”

Claims that the origin of white supremacy in Christian communities is a once-popular theory known as the “curse of Ham,” which taught that “God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos” and was used as justification for slavery and segregation.

Calls on the denomination to denounce nationalism and “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”

Even passing the resolution was not satisfactory for McKissic. He said his proposal’s rejection “showed a fault line. It showed that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t where you’re supposed to be on this.” The vote at the convention may have felt like a success, but the SBC doesn’t bind members to its resolutions. It uses “congregationalist” polity with decentralized power focused within separate churches. They can retain their racist policy.

June 4, 2017

Is This the Direction for People in the United States?

 

On his visit to the Middle East, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told the world that the United States shared values with Saudi Arabia. Now its King Abdullah will define atheists as terrorists to continue the nation’s repressive laws on political dissent and protests that it claims can “harm public order.” Royal Decree 44 criminalizes “participating in hostilities outside the kingdom” with prison sentences of between three and 20 years. Article One of the new provisions defines terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

Saudi money is being sent to Europe to create its fanatical version of Islam throughout Germany. Instead of moderate Islamism, the push is toward the Wahhabi supremacy of Sharia law and use of violent jihad and takfirism to kill Muslims not following the Saudi interpretation of Islam. Almost all terrorist attacks in the West are connected to Saudi Arabia with almost none to Iran, excoriated by DDT.

Those who think that this idea can never move to the United States need to realize that DDT will do anything to pander to his base of evangelicals and VP Mike Pence is a “Christian” first. One of his leaders, Pat Robertson, has called for parents to beat non-Christian children if they don’t respect Christian beliefs. On his television program he told a woman upset because her grandchildren don’t follow her beliefs to “take that kid to the woodshed and let him understand the blessings of discipline.” He further told the women that the grandson would go to prison if a “strong male figure” doesn’t give him that “discipline.”  Robertson advised before predicting that the kid would end up in prison if a strong male figure didn’t start beating him right away.

Robertson’s form of child abuse follows Glenn Beck’s call four years ago to physically abuse children until they believe in God. Two years before that, fundamentalist Christian parents beat their nine children in the name of God and killed one of them. Across the country “Christians” are following the advice of Robertson and Beck. Robertson’s solution of child abuse is against the law if it results in physical harm or death–at least for now.

Religious Right activist “Coach” Dave Daubenmire (right) is calling for “a more violent Christianity” and gave DDT and Greg Gianforte as examples of men who are properly “walking in authority.” Gianforte is the new Montana U.S. representative who threw a reporter to the floor and continued to attack him the night before his successful election. Daubenmire played a clip of DDT shoving another world leader aside at the NATO summit to show that DDT “is large and in charge.” He added about DDT, “He just spanked them all.” Daubenmire said, “That should be the heart cry of Christian men. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and violent men take it by force.”

Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin thinks he can solve the problem of community violence in Louisville through prayer. His plan is to send roaming prayer groups to needy areas that will walk around and pray with people two or three times a week for the next year. Bevin thinks that prayer can take away the need for investment in housing, education, and health care.

In Michigan, Rep. Tim Walberg told his constituents that God would “take care of” the climate crisis.

In late May, Mike Huckabee, former presidential candidate and father of White House communication staffer Sarah Sanders, joined 5,000 Israeli settlers with an armed guard to perform religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb in Palestine’s West Bank. With him was Israeli Parliament member Bezalel Smotrich who wants to murder all Palestinians who refuse to admit their inferior status. Later Huckabee met with parliament member Yehudah Glick, called “the most dangerous man in the Middle East” by Israeli police. Glick’s goal is to bulldoze an Islamic holy site and build a Jewish temple in its place before creating a theocracy over all residents in the Holy Land.

According to Calvinist evangelicals, wealth is a sign of God’s approval, a reason that they consider DDT to be God’s anointed. Some people are just destined to accumulate material things, at the expense of others, while others are simply relegated to a far lower place. Combined with fundamentalist reverence for authoritarianism, DDT had the characteristics for the evangelical leader.

In his campaigning, DDT promised Christians that they would not be persecuted if he became president. The GOP has used the persecution myth for decades, but DDT sold it to them to get elected. Now women are being persecuted with the Christian law of the United States. DDT appointed Charmaine Yoest, the former president of an anti-abortion group, to lead public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. He followed that egrigious choice a few weeks later by naming another anti-abortion advocate to oversee the Title X program with the responsibility of allocating $300 million a year in family planning funds for low-income people. Teresa Manning is also in charge of shaping policy and regulation about contraception and teen pregnancy. Her philosophy that family planning is only among “a husband and a wife and God.” She also thinks that contraception doesn’t prevent pregnancy but instead increases the number of abortions. She said, “The prospect that contraception would always prevent the conception of a child is preposterous.”

The past decade has seen increasingly abusive laws for women seeking abortions, and DDT has moved on to controlling contraception for women. DDT’s executive order about eliminating the health care birth control mandate hasn’t appeared yet, but leaks have provided an idea of its direction. If he signs the existing draft, any employee can declare a “belief” reason to stop providing free contraception through their insurance plans. Because of “Obamacare,” teen pregnancy has hit an historic low.

DDT claims that women can get contraceptives from a family member’s health plan, buy separate insurance for them, or use “multiple other federal programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives.” He didn’t specify which ones because he also wants to close down Planned Parenthood in exchange for “crisis pregnancy centers” that don’t provide contraceptives. Losing Planned Parenthood will leave almost 1.6 million low-income patients with no family planning care—and maybe no insurance if employees deny them. DDT also wants to largely defund Medicaid, another source for contraception for low-income women. Any DDT order would be immediate with no public comment because he would declare it an interim final rule because employers need immediate relief. Any DDT order would be immediate with no public comment because he would declare it an interim final rule because employers need immediate relief.

Before the removal of contraception came DDT’s executive order protection of “religious liberty,” removing constitutional rights of others. An example is hospitals which can deny services, fire people on a Christian basis, and refuse federally-mandated retirement regulations and disclosures through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. An example of religious firing was an employee at a faith-based addition center in Missoula (MT) because she didn’t pray hard enough.

The U.S. is already one of the most extreme fundamentalist religious countries in the world, according to scholar Noam Chomsky. Over 42 percent of the people in this country think that the world was created 10,000 years ago by the hand of God, and these people are a political force, controlling others with their beliefs and fear-mongering. The problems of the nation come from income inequality inculcated by huge corporations, but the DDT supporters blame anyone who isn’t white. Yes, the United States shares values with Saudi Arabia, basing its laws on religion and calling for physical punishment. The question is how far the pendulum will swing to the right before it returns—if it ever does.

May 14, 2017

DDT: Religion, Mother’s Day

Evangelicals may not be as supportive of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) as in the past, but the far right Christian nationalists (aka white supremacists) are still clinging to him. Their heritage is creating an extensive private school system after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ordered desegregation. Because of that, Jerry Falwell, Sr. developed his fame in founding and defending the “segregation academies.” When the federal government blocked tax-exempt status for private segregated schools in 1971, religious schools burgeoned throughout the South with the sole goal of preventing racial mixing. At the same time, the evangelicals fought to keep sex discrimination by opposing the ERA and then developed a strong political stance against legal abortion, sex education, and contraceptive access. Collaboration of corporations, that wanted a government that gave them money, and religion, that oppose civil and voting rights, made a strong voting bloc. The evangelicals ignored DDT’s sexual assaults and multiple divorces as long he used virulent racist rhetoric.

Another evangelical argument in support of DDT is their belief in the rapture. DDT believes in chaos, and evangelicals think that he is God’s weapon to bring the righteous closer to the event that will destroy the world and raise the believers to Heaven. They began to worship DDT when he pushed the conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in a foreign country and that he is secretly a Muslim. An international capitalist with investments in over 20 countries, DDT became a symbol for anti-globalism to conspiracy theorists. As a result, DDT is in the center of racist, anti-woman conspiracy theorists. He alone can make the United States into an all-white nation. Their solution is to burn down the country, and DDT is willing to carry out their plans.

As Valerie Tarico  points out, DDT supporters view him as a kind of god, with great similarity to the one in the Old Testament. He incessantly tries to prove his power to people, even rigging his microphone so that his voice sounds powerful. As an insatiable attention seeker, he displays the same characteristics that the bible demands that people grovel before him and prove their loyalty, just like DDT demanded of former FBI Director James Comey before he fired him. Like the Old Testament god, DDT is cruel and sadistic as well as racist and prejudiced. They both reject the handicapped and demean women. Revenge is also a strong characteristic of both DDT and the evangelical god, and the bible is as contradictory as DDT. Science in the bible is garbage, but both of them promise riches for following them. Biologist Richard Dawkins summed up Jehovah in a sentence: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Yup, that’s DDT. Except for the fiction.

Evangelicals have used the bible to justify DDT’s actions such as extreme vetting. A panel at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference was titled: “If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?” In The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi provided other suggestions for following the bible:

  • Marry your rib: Conservatives used the myth of Adam marrying Eve, made from Adam’s rib, to prevent marriage equality so they could take the story to its logical conclusion.
  • Pay taxes with magic fish: Peter did it after Jesus told him to catch a fish that would have money for taxes in its mouth. 
  • Offer up virgin daughters to be raped as in Sodom: Enough said.

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in 40 countries around the world. Most people see the day as just another commercial enterprise and don’t realize that it began in the 1850s when a women formed clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination. During the Civil War commemorated the day to mourn their fallen soldiers. They also tended wounded soldiers and worked for peace. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace.  [More history here.]

Before speaking at great length about football during his graduation address at the evangelical Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell and now operated by his son, DDT spoke briefly about today’s celebration:

“And especially this weekend, let’s make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms. But in all of this excitement don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, right? I had a great mother, she’s looking down, now but I had a great mother. I always loved Mother’s Day.”

The man of family values, representing the party of family values, didn’t see his wife, the mother of his son, or his son on Mother’s Day. DDT was busy golfing with his buddies at the Trump National Golf Course in Virginia, four states away from his wife and son, on his 21st golf excursion in 112 days since he was inaugurated. He did tweet:

 

“Wishing @FLOTUS Melania and all of the great mothers out there a wonderful day ahead with family and friends!”

He picked “friends” over family.

Melania Trump tweeted this photo of her and Barron, her son with DDT, with the message: Happy Mother’s Day!

May 7, 2017

DDT’s Executive Order: ‘Religious Bigotry’

Many conservatives are unhappy with the “religious liberty” order that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed last Thursday: they wanted more discrimination. They don’t believe DDT when he declared to dozens of Judeo-Christian leaders in the Rose Garden ceremony that the “threat against the faith community is over.” Instead, they think that his executive order is useless at best and harmful at worst—sort of like most of his other vague orders. In the National Review, David French called the order “constitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect.” He added, “[DDT] should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.” Meaning that it can’t be used for discrimination.

An earlier draft of the order leaked in February was twice the length of the final one and described as “staggering” and “sweeping,” one which could be challenged in the courts. After last week’s signing, the ACLU called it nothing more than an “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

Conservative criticisms of DDT’s executive order:

The order’s declaration that the executive branch will “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom”: Complaint – the state only repeats that the government should enforce existing laws.

The directive to the Treasury Department to not enforce the so-called Johnson Amendment from 1954 banning nonprofit religious institutions from endorsing political candidates and parties: Complaint – as law, the Amendment requires a change in Congress or the courts. Also, permission to be involved in politics could encourage churches to elect progressive candidates. Orders are good only as long as presidents support them; a future president could reverse the directive.

Instructions to government agencies to “consider issuing amended regulation” to address “conscience-based objections” to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate: Complaint – That’s already happened with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. The contraception mandate stays on the books, and lawsuits are flooding the courts.

A pledge to “provide regulatory relief”: Complaint – This “promise” is so vague as to mean nothing in law.

Far-right anger to DDT’s executive order:

Brian Brown (left) of the National Organization for Marriage and World Congress for Families denounced the president for his “failure to directly fulfill his repeated campaign promises” and then asked for money.

Bryan Fischer told listeners of his American Family Association radio show that it’s “ultra-liberal” Ivanka Trump’s fault because she “likely leaked the February draft to a liberal rag (The Nation) in order to stir up enough intense outrage from the LGBT community to strangle this baby in the cradle.”

Troy Newman, president of anti-abortion Operation Rescue emailed, “We are really feeling betrayed right now.”

The ACLU may go to court yet. Far-right radio host Todd Starnes reassured his listeners that the order gives anti-LGBTQ, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions a directive to write—in DDT’s words—“new rules” for the purpose of religious discrimination. A case in point is proposed Texas law echoing one in South Dakota that prevents the state from punishing adoption agencies that deny LGBTQ families services and child placement for “religious” reasons. If it passes, Texas state- and private-funded agencies could reject potential parents seeking to adopt children with such “religious objects” to couples’ being Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, single, or interfaith couples. Five other states already have this law, but only for faith-based adoption organizations that do not accept government funding. If the Texas law passes, agencies can also reject people who want to foster children, and child welfare organizations can force LGBTQ children to have so-called “conversion therapy,” to “take away the gay.”

Once again, after losing the voter ID law, Texas could go to court for not treating all people equally. This time, however, they have Jeff Sessions who translates the constitutional separation of church and state as prohibiting the favoring of one Christian church over another. He thinks that the First Amendment does not stop establishing Christianity as the national religion.

Christian protection for conservatives by DDT’s Christian order comes from its encouragement to break the law by telling the IRS to violate the Johnson Amendment and not penalize churches for political candidate endorsements and donations. In more “normal” times, these churches and other faith-based nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates or donating to their campaigns, but Sessions most likely won’t be doing this. The order, however, exempts only nonprofit religious nonprofits and churches; other nonprofits will still be prohibited from political endorsements and donations.

Federal law also requires that employer-provided insurance plans cover contraceptives at no cost to the employee unless the organizations—or “religious” corporations—obtain government exemptions. Sessions will probably not force this requirement. The IRS is already breaking the law by not collecting fees from people refusing to purchase health insurance. Again the Justice Department, headed by Sessions, is responsible for enacting the laws of the land.

While the media has concentrated on LGBTQ losses, the order and Sessions interpretations could negatively impact at least half the people in the United States . In addition to losing birth control, female employees of all “religious” organizations and corporations could lose all forms of preventative care—screenings for sexually transmitted infection, IV, and domestic violence along with well-woman visits. Any business could refuse to hire women or pay them less, based on its “religious convictions.”

With the wealthiest Cabinet in history, DDT has put the icing on the cake for corporations who joined religious groups in the 1930s to fight President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For decades, the United States leveled out the financial playing field by developing a middle class that enjoyed the 40-hour workweek, lack of child labor, environmental protection, work safety laws, rural health care, and education. Unions, a safety net, and higher taxes for the wealthiest reigned until corporations used evangelicals as a front to elect Ronald Reagan. Princeton scholar Kevin Kruse has described the corporate historical background in his book One Nation under God as the country continues to be more and more extremist. As Rev. William J. Barber II, creator of Moral Mondays fighting against the immoral political excesses in North Carolina, wrote about DDT’s signing of his executive order:

“If today is the fulfillment of the corporatists’ National Day of Prayer, it may also be its undoing. The God of justice hears the cries of those this executive order targets, along with the prayers of all who suffer under this administration. A religious liberty that gives license for discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community is nothing more than lust for power dressed up in a thinning religious garb. The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency has inspired a moral resistance that is not going away, but is building a movement that will bend the arc of our common life toward justice for years to come. This, too, is an answer to prayer. And it may yet save the heart of our democracy.”

Barber said that the executive order is not about religious liberty. “It’s about religious bigotry.”

Public Citizen, a group that favors strict campaign finance limits, plans to bring a lawsuit against the order in court because churches and other religious charities that do not disclose their donors could be used to launder dark money. Its president said, “This executive order may go down in history as the Citizens United of church/state separation in the context of political spending.” Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition. “Politicians could funnel untold sums of money into churches, and it would all be completely untraceable.”

DDT may have pleased no one. Even worse for the evangelicals, however, might be a backlash from those who don’t want to hear political speeches in about candidates when they go to their house of worship. The past decade has seen the biggest growth of “nones,” especially those among the younger generation who have no affiliation to organized religion. Almost 30 percent of those who left disapprove of religious homophobia, another 16 percent claim their churches became too political, and 19 percent cited clergy sex abuse scandal in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Ninety percent of evangelical leaders think that pastors should not endorse candidates, and 72 percent support the Johnson Amendment. Even 66 percent of DDT-voters want the amendment left as is. Instead DDT is promoting the controlling authoritarianism of religion that many people—except the white men surrounding him—don’t like.

One piece of temporary joy for the day. Frances’s DDT imitator, Marie Le Pen, lost the election to Emmanuel Macron, despite the last-minute drop of negative information about him for “unknown” (aka Russian?) hackers. As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, one more reason for the French to declare their superiority over the United States.

April 23, 2017

Earth Day 2017

Filed under: Religion,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:59 PM
Tags:

For centuries, indigenous peoples around the world understood the importance of caring for their environment—that “there is no Plan B” for our planet. Smaller religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism appreciate the interdependence between humans and the Earth. Hebrew scriptures, used for Jewish and Christian religions, recognize God’s ownership of the earth, and 750 reference to ecology in the Qu’ran explain caring for the environment. In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si (“Care for Our Common Home”), the connection of human behavior to global warming, and defined a sustainable environment as a moral imperative. The Dalai Lama endorsed the pope’s pronouncement.

The European invasion of America was one of destruction. They considered the American natives to be inferior to Anglos and found the two continents’ vast resources useful only for their all-consuming need to become more and more wealthy. In the nineteenth century, men plundered the massive buffalo herds, necessary for life in North America, and left the carcasses to rot. Farmers depleted the soil land and moved on to another area when it no longer supported crops. The result was the devastation in the huge Midwest “Dust Bowl” during the economic depression of the 1930s.

Science provided the education for protecting the land, but it also gave huge companies such as Monsanto, the corporation that developed the devastating Agent Orange, a way to control farmers through its magic seeds that could be used only once without permission for Monsanto and other similar companies. The pesticides also developed by these companies destroyed both wildlife and domestic beings, including humans.

The 21st century has had three leaders in the United States. The first one followed the rapacious desires of advisers who wanted to take over the Middle East for more wealth, and the second tried to reverse some of the assaults on the planet from earlier leaders. His successor has spent less than 100 days in overturning anything done in the last eight years, including its attention to reducing the destruction of the Earth.

On Earth Day 2017, April 22, the current leader denies climate change and actively promotes an annihilation of our only planet through appointments of officials, proposed budget cuts, legislation and executive orders to eliminate environmental and public health protections, suppression of information, and opposition to any cleanups of earlier devastation. He has attempted to eradicate any scientific evidence in make policies. His goal is to break the chain of knowledge that has moved us forward in the past century.

In an immense extinction, the planet loses about 27,000 species every year, and in just three years the number of wild animals living on Earth will drop by two-thirds in the past half century largely because of habitat loss, uncontrolled hunting and fishing, and pollution. Humanity is dependent on nature for air, water, and food, and leaders of the United States are destroying nature.

Every year, I published some magnificent photos by Ann Hubard. Last year, I talked about the advances of overcoming climate change. Yesterday hundreds of thousands of people marched to “Make Earth Great Again.” Otherwise Earth Day 2017 has very little good news; these photographs show what we can lose with our current leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 16, 2017

Different Kinds of Facts?

 

If the major goal of a newspaper is to create controversy, the Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) seems to have succeeded with Anna Katharine Mansfield’s “Puzzling over Trump’s Truth,” reprinted from the Washington Post. It is the umpteenth attempt to explain to those who don’t support Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) why he’s actually telling the truth—emotional truth, according to Mansfield–and received several “questioning” letters to the editor in response.

Mansfield’s premise disagrees with the accusation that DDT is considered a liar by “much of our logic-based, Enlightment-indoctrinated society” because these people use evidence to determine truth. The professor of winemaking who got her certificate in Christian theology education from Sewanee-University of the South, a place that evidently has sent certificates online, talks about “truths” other than factual ones, which she calls “nonfactual truths.” She explains it as “an ability to understand that stories are true, even when the primary elements of the story are not historical fact.” Evidently that’s where taking DDT “seriously, not literally” emerges.

One of her examples of an “emotional truth” is the belief that DDT, not Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote last November. She continues with another “truth” that the mainstream media isn’t trustworthy because it doesn’t represent the conservative point of view. Going back to President Obama, she tries to explain that the belief that is a Muslim or communist explains how it’s believable that he could interfere with DDT even if there is no proof. Mansfield wrote:

“Tom Forman, chief executive of reality TV shows like ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ said in a recent NPR interview that Trump is a master at ‘being directionally correct.’ Trump knows, Forman said, how to amplify what viewers already know to be true, what they ‘know in their bones.’ That’s emotional truth, and factual truth can’t touch it.”

Mansfield claims that sometimes DDT should tell the truth when “logic is called for” but not in “minor issues” because our society needs “emotion-based truth.” It is highly unfortunate that the leader of the (hopefully) most powerful nation in the world can operate without evidence in any part of his commanding.

Personally, I’m terrified that the country is being led by a philosophy that evidence isn’t important because the “emotional truth” of these people carries the same weight as proof-based information and personal feelings based on nothing are equal to education.

A letter from John Blondigen perhaps better states my concern:

So, in the interests of balance, here are emotional truths that I hold dear:

  • I don’t believe the economic health of the fossil fuel industry is more important than the health of the world’s climate.

  • I don’t believe that in a country this wealthy, people should lack medical care because of an inability to pay. The purity of some congressman’s free market ideology is less important than anyone’s health.

  • I refuse to go back to a time when only heterosexual white men were first-class citizens. I remember those times, and they weren’t great.

  • I won’t lead the cheers for the use of deadly force to prove anyone’s toughness.

  • And I absolutely refuse to renounce fact for the sake of indulging anyone’s emotional truth.

Other comments to the article from the Washington Post:

This is an excuse for wishful thinking and rampant confirmation bias. There are dangers to such sloppy sentimental thinking.

“Emotional truth” as opposed to “factual truth” has, since the Enlightenment, been simply called ignorance.

Donald Trump’s lies don’t qualify as myth. They are, quite simply, lies. If an individual finds “emotional truth” in the statement that “white is black and black is white,” then I am probably more interested in getting him/her a scrip for Thorazine than granting him/her the succor that comes with validating a delusion.

If more citizens of our country sought both spiritual guidance and scientific knowledge, we would not be living with such a narrowly educated and cold-hearted leader in the White House.

[The article] boils down to, if it “feels right” I should believe it, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary, and my opinion should be as valid as any other. If that is true, then Dr. Mansfield, I assume, believes we should give deference to flat Earthers, anti-vaxxers, moon landing conspiracy proponents, and any other believers of things she may be less sanguine about.

The error here is in the false equivalency. Emotional truth is individual. Logical truth is universal. To give equal credence to both would destroy society. My emotional truth is not the same as yours , thus there would be no structure. So, although I will defend to the death, the right of a Jesus person to his own personal truth, for the sake of our country, our society, and our planet, logical proof must prevail.

If tRump supporters hold everyone else in the world to certain moral standards of behavior, yet throw those standards away for their president, then we have no basis for communication. They are willing to accept ANY un-Christian act from him, and still consider him God’s chosen candidate. They ignore all of the lessons of the bible (which is SUPPOSED to be the basis of their faith).

Followers of DDT’s “emotional truth” are losing faith in their leader, shown in Tumblr’s “Trumpgrets” and Facebook’s “IregretvotingforTrump.” The Twitter feed “Trump Regrets” also retweeted those sorry DDT voters. Disappointments: not locking up Hillary Clinton, putting Jared Kushner in the White House, dismissing information about Russia, in general not following his (hot air) promises. They’re also amazed that the GOP health plan raises their premiums and DDT is deporting their family members instead of those “bad hombres.” Their “emotional truth” has now clashed with DDT’s beliefs—military dominance, intimidation, and accruing wealth. The question for their “emotional truth” is whether the economy implodes, resulting in another shift of “emotional truth.”

Some evangelical Christians may not accept DDT’s “emotional truth.” Ten percent left their church by mid-November, and 15 percent of all church-going people left their church because they think that DDT politics has become too divisive. The two groups were DDT supporters with pastors who didn’t and those who disagreed with DDT-supporting pastors. A review of data indicates that progressive and moderate evangelicals left their church after its takeover by the right-wing.

Now I’m just waiting for all those articles that explain to DDT supporters the “emotional truth” of the DDT opposition.

April 2, 2017

Conservatives Use Religion to Control

The Christians have a biblical reason that poor and starving people, including children, should not receive help. Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) has repeated the tired excuse from 2 Thessalonians 3-10 to keep people from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise called food stamps, with the statement that “if a man will not work, he shall not eat.” As usual, Arrington insinuates that anyone needing help to get food is a freeloader and unwilling to work.

First, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that “nearly two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, seniors and people with disabilities.” Almost all of the rest are employed. Among those who receive SNAP benefits, 86 percent work 30 hours or more each week. The remainder includes teenagers aging out of the foster system, homeless, and recently released convicts. Many of those on SNAP “want to work,” but “effectively can’t.” There’s also context for the New Testament quotation. The passage refers to those who stopped working because they believe that the Second Coming is imminent. They just sat around waiting for the apocalypse.

Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens” are actually found among corporations, bankers, and politicians who abuse government welfare. The best example at this time is the way the DDT is making a fortune from people paying him through his businesses.

Other religion news:

After 72 people filed sex abuse claims, a second Montana Catholic diocese is filing for bankruptcy protection. If they are successful, insurance will compensate the more than 400 people involved in the lawsuits. Church officials feel bad about what happened. It is the 15th diocesan bankruptcy in the U.S. concerning sex abuse.

In Alabama the veil between church and state may become so transparent as to become nonexistent with a bill allowing a Birmingham megachurch to create their own police force—a God squad, if you will. If the bill passes, the church would be “invested with all of the powers of law enforcement officers in this state.” According to the ACLU, this act would violate the Establishment Clause especially after a 1982 Supreme Court ruled that states could not give churches any official authority to grant and deny liquor licenses. The church already has permission to hire its own security guards but this would give the church control over police officers invested with state powers.  They could possibly enforce religious beliefs of the church for whom they work. The church already puts out a podcast defending Donald Trump and opposing secularism. The bill has isolated just one church without giving the same rights to other religious organizations.

Sarah Posner addresses the way that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—three times married sexual predator—took over the religious right. Roy Moore, a Baptist leader who could represent the “new” religious right, is fighting for the soul of the religious right, to protect it from white supremacists, but DDT won the religious right because of his white “nationalism.” Richard Spencer said, “The GOP is a white person’s populist party.” He claims that these evangelicals see racial differences (aka white superiority) as “a reaffirmation of traditional historical Christianity” as proved by the Christian bible.

Moore may be losing his battle. He could lose his job because of backlash from Trump supporters in his flock who are angry that he criticized the president. Religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports:

“Any such move could be explosive for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, which has been divided over politics, theology and, perhaps most starkly, race. Since he was elected in 2013, Moore, 45, has been praised by younger evangelicals for challenging the political approach of an older generation. He is also very popular among many evangelicals of color, who have welcomed Moore’s promotion of racial justice, including his vigorous opposition to public displays of the Confederate flag. [But] more than 100 of the denomination’s 46,000 churches have threatened to cut off financial support for the SBC’s umbrella fund … [Now], the committee is studying whether the churches are acting out of displeasure with Moore.”

Conservatives use Christians to push through their far-right agenda. For example, in his attempt to push through a transphobic bill, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called on two Christian organizations, Family Research Council and Vision America. Rick Scarborough, founder of the latter,  has said that HIV/AIDS is God’s “judgement” for the “homosexual disease.” FRC argues that being trans requires counseling because it displays “grief, discomfort, and anger,” and Tony Perkins claims that allowing children near a transgender person is “child abuse.

The future may destroy white Christian evangelicals. Data from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that most people in the U.S. are secular in their political views. As the white evangelicals realize they are losing their dominance, they angrily exacerbate their struggles to maintain power and continue to cause the existing polarization in the nation. Perspective in which evangelicals are in the minority include LGBT rights, including marriage equality. DDT won the evangelical vote because of his claim that he sees them as a privileged category and will give them all the advantages that they want. White conservatives confuse their loss of cultural dominance as literal oppression. His promise to turn back the clock won him millions of votes.

Over two-thirds of people think that employers should be required to provide contraception to employees with health care plans at no cost. Only half of the Republicans are opposed. The younger the population, the more they believe in offering contraception. Churches should not be permitted to endorse political candidates, according to 71 percent of the people. Even a majority of Republicans, even evangelicals, agree with this position.

One advantage of the push from the religious right is that progressive religious activism is emerging. Pope Francis has been pushing it for some time, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico has said that Mexicans who help build DDT’s wall are traitors. That includes any companies investing in the work, including shareholders and owners. In the past progressive religious groups have fought slavery and promoted civil right. Now they are offering help to immigrants, urging GOP politicians to keep the Affordable Care Act, and working to preserve federal spending on humanitarian efforts. In 45 of the 50 states, the number of churches giving sanctuary to asylum seekers doubled from 400 to 800. About 300 members of the progressive policy group Leaders of Faith in Public Life from as far away as Ohio rallied at Capitol Hill to block Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general because of his racist views. Donations to the Christian activist group Sojourners have increased by 30 percent since DDT’s election.

Launched in 2013, the “Moral Mondays” movement helped defeat GOP Gov. Pat McCrory for re-election. New alliances among churches, synagogues, and mosques are protesting the recent increase in hate crimes, including those against mosques and Jewish community centers. The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, an alliance between Muslim and Jewish women, has rippled the number of its U.S. chapters to 170 since the November election. Over 1,000 people have already signed up for the annual meeting of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism at the end of the month.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It applies to Karma as well as to physics.

March 26, 2017

Liberty Counsel Added to RICO Case

All the excitement about health care and Russia last week hid a major lawsuit against much of Jerry Falwell’s empire. A RICO suit has added its law firm, Liberty Counsel, that has pushed the “religious liberty” argument in hundreds of cases throughout the United States. This particular suit alleges that organizations growing from Falwell’s ministry helped an “ex-lesbian” flee the country with her daughter to avoid an order allowing her former partner have visitation rights.

Lisa Miller, a member of Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, consistently flouted a court order permitting her former partner, Janet Jenkins, to visit their daughter Isabella in 2009. Vermont finally gave Jenkins sole custody that year, but Miller disappeared on the day she was to turn Isabella over to the legal parent. Investigations showed that Miller had taken Isabella to Canada and then to Nicaragua.

Jenkins filed a civil RICO suit in 2012, alleging that the Thomas Road Church and Liberty University’s law school worked with Miller in 2008 to make her plans to flee the court order by leaving the country. Mennonite ministers, Timothy Miller and Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa) and Christian direct-mail firm Response Unlimited, a company distributing anti-Semitic newspapers, helped Lisa take Isabella out of the United States in September 2009.

Response Unlimited’s president, Philip Zodhiates, made a number of calls to Liberty Counsel on the day Miller fled. A month after Lisa and Isabella’s disappearance, Zodhiates emailed his daughter with directions about paying for the lease on Lisa’s home and a list of items to “rescue.” He wrote, “There is someone that can deliver all or some of these items in the next couple of weeks. If it was already packed in suitcases that’d make it much easier for them to transport.” Several church elders helped pack her things and send them to Nicaragua although Liberty Counsel and its chairman, Mat Staver, also Liberty Law’s dean, insisted that Lisa had packed and left with their knowledge or anyone connected with them.

Zodhiates was charged with kidnapping in 2014 for driving Lisa and Isabella to Buffalo in 2009 and then convicted last September. He was sentenced to three years in prison last week. Earlier, Kenneth Miller was sentenced to 27 months in prison in 2012 but didn’t begin his sentence until last year after exhausting all appeals. Timothy Miller cooperated with authorities beginning in 2011 and was sentenced last week to time served in prison, eight months in both the U.S. and Nicaragua, and one year’s probation.

The court has now granted Jenkins’ request to add Liberty Counsel, Staver, and Lisa’s other lawyer Rena Lindevaldsen, law professor at Liberty University, to the RICO suit. Co-founder of Liberty Counsel, Staver is a leading anti-LGBT crusader. His 2004 book Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk describes homosexuality as a “destructive lifestyle” putting children at risk and the Boy Scouts a “playground for pedophiles.” To Staver, “the homosexual agenda” is “a direct assault on our religious freedom.” He has worked to criminalize gay sex and defended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore after Moore unsuccessfully defied a federal court order legalizing same-sex marriage.

As the face of Liberty Counsel, Staver has participated in defending Kim Davis, the county clerk refusing to allow same-gender couples marriage licenses; appealing California’s ban on conversion therapy; opposing legislation that would protect LGBT people from discrimination; and filing amicus briefs against same-gender marriage.

Liberty Law and Liberty Counsel have always contended that “ex-gay” parents have the responsibility to commit civil disobedience instead of complying with visitation orders although Staver insists he “never counseled Lisa Miller to disobey court orders.” Despite his denials, he has used the case to advance his opinions with highly questionable assertions in fundraising letters:

“I can’t recall a more emotionally charged legal case than the one involving Lisa Miller and her precious daughter Isabella. What makes it even more intense is the fact that every American family has a huge stake in its outcome. After reading this letter, you will see ‘homosexual activism’ in a whole new light.”

He also accused Jenkins of forcing Isabella to take baths with her, and other evangelicals have accused Jenkins of molesting her daughter.

Jenkins and Lisa Miller had a civil union in Vermont in 2000, three years after they started living together, and then had their daughter Isabella in 2002. The girl was born in Virginia, but the family moved back to Vermont soon after the daughter’s birth and lived there until the two women separated in 2003. Miller moved back to Virginia and declared herself a born-again Christian and no longer a lesbian. Court battles determined that Vermont had jurisdiction in determining child custody: Miller had primary custody, and Jenkins had visitation rights. Miller was repeatedly held in contempt in both states for failing to enable Jenkins’ court-ordered visitation, and Jenkins was granted custody to ensure that Isabella could have contact with both parents.

The loser in the case is Isabella, soon to turn 15 and prevented from seeing one of her parents for almost a decade. In 2012, the New York Times reported:

“Her time in Nicaragua has often been lonely, those who have met her say, long on prayer but isolated. She has been told that she could be wrenched from her mother if they are caught. She has also been told that the other woman she once called “Mama” … cannot go to heaven because she lives in sin.”

While the far-right falsely accuses a loving mother of molesting her young daughter, evangelical pastors and other far-right Christians are convicted of pedophilia.  Maybe Jenkins’ case will free one young girl from the victimization that she has suffered for the past eight years.

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