Nel's New Day

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.

March 19, 2017

DDT Supporters Start to Lose—Everything

 

A campaign argument from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to voters was “what do you have to lose?” People voting for DDT almost uniformly said that they wanted a “change.” Now they have a change, and DDT’s policies are proving that everyone except those in the highest income levels will most likely lose.

DDT won with 80 percent support from white evangelical Christians, but some conservative faith leaders are beginning to question the validity of DDT’s policies. Over 100 Christians, many of them conservative, wrote a letter to congressional leaders about how DDT’s cut of $10.1 billion for the International Affairs Budget will damage humanitarian programs abroad.

“With just 1 percent of our nation’s budget, the International Affairs Budget has helped alleviate the suffering of millions; drastically cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty in half, stopping the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs and Ebola, and nearly eliminating polio. As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

Progressive Sister Simone Campbell wrote that DDT’s cuts “disproportionately affect the same group of people — women, people of color, and all at the economic margins.”

Mick Mulvaney, architect of DDT’s budget and OMB director, has tried to explained that punitive cuts for vulnerable populations are really “compassionate” because people should not pay for services to others unless it’s for a “proper function.” He didn’t explain that this function is for building “the wall” and increasing the military by ten percent. He also said that the cut to Meals on Wheels was only three percent when the federal government actually pays 35 percent.

A five-minute search on the Internet would show Mulvaney positive quantifiable results for Meals on Wheels and another project he wants to slash, after-school programs that provide meals.

Meals on Wheels: 26 of 48 states would save money for Medicaid with an expansion in the program of one percent by keeping seniors out of nursing homes. Florida could trim as much as $11.5 million, and Pennsylvania could save $5.7 million. Overall, the nation would pay only $8 million for this  one-percent expansion.

After-School Meals: feeding hungry children costs $.80 a meal. Several studies show that these programs improve student grades, attendance, and school participation.

DDT has taken five trips to Mar-a-Lago since becoming president for a grand total of about $16.5 million, but there are no concrete results for his personal entertainment. Any meetings there could easily be at the White House. Meals on Wheels could feed 5,967 seniors for a year for that amount. After school programs could feed 114,583 poor children for a year for the same amount. Among the 2.4 million people served by Meals on Wheels are 500,000 veterans. The cost for feeding them for a year could be covered by a little over one month supporting DDT’s family in New York.

A tweet: “Trump golfing at Mar-a-Lago costs $10 million/mo. The National Endowment for the Arts costs $12 million/mo. Guess which is being cut?”

Mulvaney’s “compassionate” budget will eliminate the 50-year-old program, National Endowment for the Arts. The basis for this legislation is that a great country comes from an enlightened and unfettered citizenry:

“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster … access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”

An early NEA decision was to foster local and regional economies in individual states: the approximately $400 million—25 percent of it targeted to rural communities—returns more than $704.2 billion to the nation’s economy, about 4.23 percent of the GDP. This is more than construction ($619.8 billion) or transportation and warehousing ($483.5 billion). In 2015, NEA funding provided audiences of 33 million people to “30,000 concerts, readings and performances and 5,000 visual and media arts exhibitions,” according to statistics. The NEA makes cities and towns better place to live and extends education, helping students get higher grades and stay in school. Maintaining DDT’s New York home where his wife and son live costs over $4 million a month; NEA costs the average taxpayer $.46 a year.

The budget also used “compassion” to whack $580 million a year from NIH because the 21st Century Cure project gets $480 million to research cures for 10,000 diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Oddly enough, the charge to taxpayers doesn’t go away, but it can’t be spent unless Congress okays it.

What do blacks have to lose with DDT? He answered this campaign trail question in his budget: elimination of the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity program, SHOP which DDT calls “lower priority programs.” Mulvaney calls this compassion.

The facts belie a demand for the ten-percent increase in military and outright elimination of many programs or cuts of 31 percent to slowing down climate change.

  • The U.S. spends more on military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Germany — combined. Yet the U.S. spends far less per capita than other countries on initiatives that DDT cuts.
  • Eliminated programs are more valuable to West Virginia’s coal miners and Detroit’s single mothers, referenced by Mulvaney as not needing them, than the ten-percent increase in military. DDT’s budget cuts funding for early-childhood education, public housing, transit, food assistance, and job training as well as programs that help people in West Virginia and many surrounding states to find jobs. It also cuts the federal agency, the Chemical Safety Board,  that investigated the 2014 chemical spill outside Charleston leaving 300,000 people without drinking water for five days.
  • On top of DDT’s budget cuts is a huge regressive tax cut which gives money only to the wealthy while Mulvaney talks about worrying about coal miner and single mothers. His argument about trying to protect these people in a budget that takes all their services makes no sense.
  • The budget doesn’t reduce the deficit, which DDT had promised to do.

Mulvaney demands “results,” but the U.S. has spent $4 trillion to establish new regime that don’t work instead of repairing U.S. infrastructure and providing jobs for people in this country. The Pentagon is decades behind in a congressionally-mandated audit, and in 2015 alone Army accounting couldn’t support $2.8 trillion in third quarter adjustments and $6.5 trillion in year-end adjustments. In just that one year, $125 billion in administrative waste was identified, double what DDT budget wants for a Department of Defense increase.

The GOP Trumpcare will kill 17,000 people a year, more people in three months than foreign terrorists have killed in the U.S. since—and including—the 9/11 disaster almost 16 years ago. And far more deaths will ensue from DDT’s budget attack on poor people. Those not forced out of their homes may have no heating assistance.

DDT has joined with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to attack people with student debt by rolling back a regulation from President Obama preventing extortionist fees on student loans for late payments. Before this went into effect, students were charged up to 16 percent even if people paid with 60 days of defaulting. For example, a woman with an $18,000 loan was charged $4,500 in fees when she was 18 days late in paying.

Robert Reich wrote about DDT’s theme of unnecessary cruelty in his policies: his budget attacks the poor at a time when the majority of people suffer greater poverty than they have in almost a century; his Trumpcare adds not only to their poverty of people in the U.S. but also to their deaths; his Syrian refugee and Muslim ban does nothing to protect people from terrorism; and his dragnet approach toward driving immigrants out of the country loses some of the nation’s most productive members and keeps other equally important people from coming to the United States. DDT has no reason for this cruelty other than his business style—create chaos and rule through persecuting people.

Fox’s Howard Kurtz wrote, “The swamp fights back,” referring to the backlash against DDT’s budget, including assistance for food, affordable housing, banking, job training, home heating oil bills, and legal counsel. When DDT said he would “drain the swamp,” people believed that he meant the bureaucracy that destroys jobs and moves money to the wealthy. Evidently the “swamp people” represent people DDT had promised to protect only a few months ago.

There is nothing Christian about any of DDT policies and nothing Christian about conservatives calling those who believe in human rights “swamp people.”

March 12, 2017

Fight Back against Fundamentalist Christian Control

Faith groups came out to protest Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) second attempt last week to ban Muslims from the United States. Throughout the first day of the order, a number of groups condemned DDT’s actions calling it an affront to religious freedom.

  • American Jewish World Service tweeted its solidarity with immigrants.
  • Auburn Seminary President Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson decried “the false narrative that this country is at war with a religion” and the “dramatic spike in Islamophobia, including a rise in hate speech, vandalism, and fires at mosques across the nation.”
  • Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed concern “that this administration is using religious identity as a proxy for ‘security threat’ and a reason for exclusion.”
  • Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the social justice advocacy group Bend the Arc Jewish Action, stated that DDT “is targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees purely out of spite and fear, but national security experts agree that his action today will not keep us safer.”
  • Catholic Relief Services issued a lengthy statement condemning the ban that explained refugees already undergo “significant vetting” and stated that “now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reiterated its previous concern “about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war, and religious persecution.”
  • Church World Service unveiled a new grassroots campaign in support of refugees in tandem with the National Council of Churches.
  • The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach reminded people “that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees and we are called to stand in solidarity with them.”
  • The Conference of Major Superiors of Men stated, “It is completely unjust to punish an entire country due to the suspicion of a potential crime by an individual. We should be asking about the root causes of violent acts, such as U.S. militarization of conflicts, and giving our attention to addressing those concrete situations.”
  • Rev. Allison Liles, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, wrote that it “asks that God look with compassion on the whole human family, taking away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts, breaking down the walls that separate us and instead unite us in bonds of love.”
  • Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, stated that the ban is “bigoted and un-American … fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points—not keep Americans safe.” Moline continued, “Now we look to the courts, Congress and the American people to restore what makes American great — our freedom and diversity.”
  • Other groups making statements in opposition to DDT’s restrictive order included Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Methodist Church, and PICO National Network which stated:

“This [ban] is less about keeping America safe and more likely a step toward the ethnic cleansing of America. Coupled with this nation’s track record of detention, deportation and mass incarceration, the travel ban is a path to reassert white supremacy and dominance in the U.S. It is evil, sinister and stands in stark contrast to a core tenet of faith which asserts that we are all children of God. Even with its revisions, President Trump’s ban on Muslim-majority countries continues a xenophobic false hierarchy of human value. It is not only anti-American, it is anti-Christian.”

White evangelicals, however, are pitying themselves. According to a survey, 57 percent of them believe that they face a great deal of discrimination in the United States while only 44 percent think that Muslims are confronted with the same level of discrimination in the nation. White evangelicals are the only major religious group to think that Christians suffer from heavy persecution.

An example of prejudice against Islamic comes from Oklahoma Rep. John Bennett, who refused to meet with his Muslim constituents on its annual Muslim Day at the Capitol unless they completed a questionnaire from the Islamophobic hate group called ACT for America. Three students from Tulsa’s Peace Academy, a private school, asked to speak to Bennett and were told to answer such questions as these:

“Sharia law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?”

“The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”

“Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”

In the United States, an average of almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, equating to over 10 million women and men a year. Yet Bennett asks only Muslims if they “beat your wife.”

In his second Muslim ban, DDT demonstrated the same false belief in Islam violence as Bennett does. The executive order includes a provision requiring the Department of Homeland Security to collect and make public “information regarding the number and types of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” The United States has fewer than 30 so-called “honor killings” each year, but about 1,500 women are murdered from domestic violence in the same time. DDT’s budget eliminates the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women grants of $480 that funded 25 programs last year to help victims of domestic violence. Both DDT and his white supremacist and chief strategist Steve Bannon have been seriously accused of domestic assault.

DDT’s provision follows his plan to use federal resource to increase racial panic when he also promised to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, during his speech to Congress last week. The program ignores the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born people in the United States and that people in the United States are far far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim terrorist. Yet DDT’s federal counter-terrorism program will ignore all extremist groups not composed of Muslims, including violent white supremacists.

Facts have no value for DDT’s policies. As for the DHS report that “citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” a senior administration official said:

 “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

The GOP has increasingly pushed religious freedom for the United States although almost everyone knows that the harder a person pushes for this “freedom,” the more that person means only fundamentalist Christianity. In an evangelical discussion last summer, one of them asked how the Baptists could defend Muslims when they kill and imprison Christians. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore gave a sensible answer—that restrictions on Muslims could lead to restrictions on Christians. Moore said that people must freely choose their faith.

Pastor John Wofford answered:

“So what I am actually doing if I support and defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, I am helping them go to hell. And I do not want to help people go to hell.”

That’s the direction of the United States if we don’t fight back.

February 12, 2017

People Use Religion to Disrespect Women’s Rights

Yesterday’s marches against Planned Parenthood again ignored that federal money doesn’t go to abortions whereas the government spends hundreds of billions of dollars to kill people around the world—many of them innocent—and conservatives are determined to kill people through air and water pollution. These pro-life people are willing to kill anyone except what they consider the “unborn” and abuse children after they are born. Yet they use the bible as their justification for a woman’s choice regarding her own body because conservatives believe women aren’t smart enough to make the right choice for themselves.

A few facts from their bible:

God defined a potion for abortion potion: “May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”—Numbers 5:22-27

God fines the killing of a fetus but puts to death the person killing a woman: “And if men strive together, and hurt a pregnant woman, so that her fruit [children] come out, and yet no harm follows; the one who hit her shall surely be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall impose upon him; and he shall pay a fine as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth ….” —Exodus 21:22-23

God defines a person through the ability to breathe: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7

The bible’s opinion of women:

A wife is man’s property: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” —Exodus 20:17

Girl babies are twice as unclean as boys: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days …. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks. —Leviticus 12:1-8

Women should keep silent:  “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” —1 Cor. 14:34

A raped daughter must be sold to her rapist: ““If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” —Deut. 22:28-29

Women must cover their hair—like the Muslim hijab: “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” —I Cor. 11:6

Women should be forced to have children: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”—1 Tim. 2:15

Women make men dirty: “[Those redeemed from the earth] are those who did not defile themselves with women.” —Revelation 14:4

Opinions from revered church leaders:

“Woman is a temple built over a sewer.” –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. …” –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

“[Women’s] very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.”–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215)

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.” –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. … Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

“Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband…. For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior.” –John Dod: A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

“A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” – Official Faith and Message Statement of Southern Baptist Convention, Summer 1998, (15.7 million members)

“The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands.” –James Fowler: Women in the Church, 1999.

People who use the bible—“God’s word”—to justify their treatment of people, including eliminating reproductive rights for women,  often also say that no one should take the words in the bible literally. According to Matthew 13:13:

“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

People who try to limit others by quoting the bible should follow their own advice and not bully others with their personal religion.

Fortunately, many people in the United States agree with this position. Counter-protests yesterday were much larger than the anti-abortion activists outside Planned Parenthood to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. Those attending the rallies talked about how much Planned Parenthood does for health—birth control, cancer screenings, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, counseling, etc. Medicaid funds pay for these health services for both men and women. Last month, Donald Trump banned U.S. funding to any international group that even provides information about abortions. Cutting funds for Planned Parenthood would cause 400,000 women to lose access to health care.

Oregon senators, in support of women, are working on a bill to require Oregon insurance companies to cover reproductive health care services. The Reproductive Health Equity Act, HB 2232, would cover all services under the current Affordable Care Act as well as abortion. The bill goes to the House first to address questions and clarify language. At this time, the measure has an exemption that protects religious beliefs.

Illinois advocates are supporting HB 40 to guarantee reproductive care services, including abortion, for all enrolled in Medicaid, something available only in 17 other states.

New Mexico lawmakers have introduced three bills to improve reproductive health access and rights: preserve birth control access, allow women to obtain one year of contraceptive medication at a time, penalize medical providers who refuse reproductive health services, and mandate “reasonable accommodations: for pregnant women in the workplace. Hospitals would not be permitted to “limit or otherwise interfere” with a doctor’s “independent professional judgment” in providing reproductive health information, referrals, and procedures “where a failure to provide” them “would violate the medical standard of care owed to the patient.”

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an amendment to the state constitution that protects abortion rights as outlined in Roe v. Wade.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has approved a bill prohibiting discrimination based on reproductive decisions or pregnancy with a limited exemption for religious institutions but not for business owners who use religion to object.

Respect for women means respecting our rights–all of them.

February 5, 2017

DDT Aims U.S. toward Bigoted Theocracy

With 80 percent of the evangelical vote in the recent election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is paying them back for their loyalty. He nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to get anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-death with dignity rulings. At the National Prayer Breakfast, he promised to allow tax-exempt churches to promote candidates from the pulpit and engage in other political action while keeping their tax-exempt status. And he appointed Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to an educational task force for the Department of Education that will use right-wing fundamentalist Christianity in controlling higher education through eliminating regulations to keep the institutions secular.

In a bizarre appearance, DDT gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that lambasted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on The Apprentice and asked the audience to pray for the series that he produces. Then DDT proceeded to justify his ban against Muslims entering the United States by saying that  it will ensure that everyone in the U.S. will follow “our values of religious and personal liberty.” About Senate Chaplain Barry Black, DDT asked, “Is that an appointed position? I don’t even know if you’re Democrat or if you’re Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year, the hell with it.” Yup. The hell with it.

DDT used Jefferson’s language at the prayer breakfast to argue for limiting worship in the United States to Christianity and eliminating the Islam religion:

“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. . . .”

The founding father believed in the “right to worship,” not the right to take away other people’s rights.

The last fragile vestige of separation of church and state came from the Johnson Amendment from over a half century ago, but Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have introduced legislation to eliminate that law. DDT declared he would destroy the law. The proposed bill would ban religious institutions from donating to campaigns, but there can always be amendments.

Under the existing Johnson Amendment, religious groups may discuss political issues but not endorse candidates. Religious groups may spend up to 20 percent of their operating budget on political organizing and advocacy without violating their tax-exempt status. LifeWay, a religious research organization, found that 79 percent of U.S. citizens don’t believe “pastors [should] publicly endorse political candidates during a church service.”

DDT has still not overturned President Obama’s executive order that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation, but he is considering an executive order allow religious beliefs to discriminate against anyone. The basis of the drafted order:

“This Constitutional protection ensures that Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their consciences, and will remain free to express their viewpoints without suffering adverse treatment from the Federal Government.”

Although the news media has focused on the order’s effect on LGBT people, it could be disastrous for children, non-Christians, unmarried heterosexual couples, unmarried mothers, and women’s reproductive rights, including contraception and abortion—in short, permitting anyone to refuse any services for any self-declared “religious” reasons. The order could permit child abuse, domestic violence, injuries, any persecution or humiliation, and perhaps even murder. Parents could deny medical attention to their children and allow them to die.

The order would cover “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

In addition, the order would allow any church or charitable organization  to be directly political without losing their tax exempt status if  it “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

According to the draft of the order, agencies shall faithfully discharge their duty to accommodate the religion of federal employees and shall not promulgate regulations, take actions, or enact policies that substantially burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious exercise

Asked if DDT believes that Islam is a religion, senior White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart national security editor, refused to answer. Islamphobia has run rampant at the White House: its National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, described Islam as a “cancer,” which “hides behind this notion of being a religion,” and Steve Bannon has made other inflammatory comments about the religion. Avoiding to answer this question indicates that the answer would probably be “no—Islam is not a religion” from the White House administration.

Pope Francis called out DDT on his Muslim ban, criticizing “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.” Francis explained:

“The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian.”

The pope cited the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 which concluded, “I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

[Note: DDT’s staff must have taken away his phone again. Thus far, he has not tweeted against the pope–just the “so-called judge” who overturned his Muslim ban.]

Fundamentalist Christians are accusing progressive women of being witches if they don’t support DDT. In the past men controlled women by declaring them witches and killing them. The water test meant that they were innocent if they drowned and guilty—and then burned at the stake—if they survived. Twenty-first century men are bringing back the threat of witchcraft for uppity women who marched for our rights.

According to “prophet” Rick Joyner, any opposition to DDT is the sign of devil influence and explained that the march’s “out-of-control rage” had to be Satanic. Lance Wallnau accused the nature of “the progressive spirit” in “a desire to control and intimidate, manipulate”—just like witchcraft. Jim Bakker chimed in with his second wife, Lori, to talk to Billye Brim who explained that the march was “driven by demons” and called on her viewers to pray in order to “control the demons that were in those women.” Bakker agreed that he sensed “the most evil spirit I have ever felt” in his hotel lobby on the day of the march.

Bakker was imprisoned for several years and then divorced after his sex scandal, including an alleged rape, and accounting fraud. Jerry Falwell, Sr. called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history.”

Despite the founding of the nation on religious liberty, almost one-third of people in the United States think that only Christians can be real “Americans.” Once again, the youth of the nation may save the country: 44 percent of adults over 50 find Christianity being a key whereas only 18 percent of adults younger than 35 agree.

Religion as the key to being a part of the national identity is far more prevalent than it is in other countries. Only 13 percent of Australians, 15 percent of Canadians, and 15 percent of Europeans believe that belonging in their countries is tied to the Christian religion.

In answer to another question on the poll, the same percentage of people in the U.S.—32 percent—think that people have to be born in the country to be an “American.”

Under DDT, the United States is shifting from being a “flawed democracy” to a white supremacist theocracy.

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