Nel's New Day

October 16, 2016

Beliefs of Christian Right, Trump Match

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 6:30 PM
Tags: ,

A major question regarding Donald Trump is why the Christian right supports such an immoral man. Marlene Winnell has suggested reasons for this cognitive dissonance. She writes, “Trump actually represents the worst of what might be called ‘deep Christianity’ … deep-seated assumptions in orthodox Christianity.”

“The world is a bad and dangerous place.” Spreading fears about terrorism, violent crime, and financial ruin, Trump’s messages match the Bible with its threats of evil and peril, especially the threat of impending end times. Both Trump and the Bible preach the same message: Be very afraid.

“Might is right.” Trump’s values are strength without equality, peace, or justice. An example of this is his beating the drum with his demand that Hillary Clinton be put in jail—before she is tried in an impartial court and before there is any proof of wrongdoing on her part. Trump measures his success by how much money he makes and how much he has cheated the government. The Bible’s Jehovah displays his power by killing people with plagues, floods, and slaughter. Even Jesus, many times gentle and giving, physically drove merchants out of the temple and brags that his “Father” would send him “more than twelve legions [72,000 soldiers] of angels.” To many of those on the far Christian right, Trump is messianic.

“A savior is needed.” Trump continually tells his audiences that only he can save them. There is no team effort; he speaks only about himself in solving problems. He also doesn’t say how he will save the nation; he tells people that they should “trust” him because he is their “voice.” Fundamentalist Christians are waiting for the Messiah to return and save them from all their problems in a way that didn’t happen the last time Jesus appeared on earth.

“Simplistic thinking is adequate.” Trump’s sole solution to immigration problems is to “build a wall.” Trade deficits can be fixed by defaulting on loans. The sole solution to foreign policy issues is nationalism. Every answer to Trump comes from a black and white look at the problem with complete obedience that comes from either right or wrong—no alternatives. Both Trump and Jesus hold the believe that “whoever is not with me is against me.”

“Obedience is key.” Trump supporters don’t reject anything that he has done or said no matter how racist or misogynist. Their position is that others are worse. His fraudulent Trump University? His birther movement? His cheating Trump Foundation? No problem—he’s their leader and shall not be questioned. A Biblical story lauding Abraham when he obeys God by sacrificing his son Isaac praises Abraham. Devout far-right Christians must follow their pastors’ reading of the Bible instead of thinking for themselves, and Trump audiences at his rallies follow the same knee-jerk response to their leader.

“Violence is okay.” In fact, it’s beyond okay because Trump has called on people to beat up on protesters because it supports his purposes. This is the same premise in the Bible as people who don’t agree with God’s teachings can be burned, buried alive, or otherwise struck down. A constant in the Bible is God’s wrath, something visible in almost every Trump rally.

“Prejudice is acceptable.” God sanctions genocide in the Bible and punishment by death for homosexuality in the same way that Trump wants to punish people.  God regards the disabled as “unclean,” and women are ordered to be quiet and submit to their husbands. Slavery is endorsed in the Bible, and people who read the Bible literally are comfortable with Trump’s superior attitude toward LGBT people, women, disabled people, and racial and other minorities.

“Earth is dispensable.” Despite scientific consensus about the dangers of climate change, Trump believes it is a hoax. “Deep Christianity,” however, put apocalyptic vision over science and rationality. Like many fundamentalist Christians, who have no sense of responsibility for the Earth because of their belief in the End Times, Trump can ignore the problems of global warming in order to make more money.

“Exclusive self-interest is moral.” Moderate Christians believe in giving and helping people, but isolationist Christians and Trump are supremely selfish, in opposition to an ethic of working collectively for the common good. Evangelicals are focused primarily on getting to heaven. The nineteenth-century belief of Manifest Destiny, responsible for making the New World into a white man’s paradise at the cost of killing millions of people native to the country, holds a strong similarity to “making America great again.” Trump’s extreme position of American “exceptionalism” can lead to greater genocide by white men.

“America has lost its way.” Trump’s speeches are filled with false claims of the horror of the U.S.—the “hell holes” where blacks live, the way that blacks have never had worse lives (even during slave times), the disastrous economy, the dangers of ISIS and the global financial institutions, etc. Fundamentalist Christians who believe that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians (actually many of them were Deists) think that the U.S. has abandoned those mythical Christian principles; they’re happy to hear Trump claim that U.S. leaders—of both parties—are running the nation into disaster. They believe the biblical message that these “evildoers” will cause entire nations to suffer and be punished. To these people, every natural disaster, many of them caused by climate change, come from the behavior of sinners who don’t follow their belief. To them, Trump will be their savior.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is one of those people who look on Trump as the nation’s savior. He believes Janet Porter’s movie, Light Wins, in which she claims that the Old Testament flood described in the story about Noah’s Ark was caused by same-gender marriage. Gohmert claims that the same thing can happen in contemporary times because of legalized marriage equality and calls on people to vote for Trump in a goal of “saving America.”

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. has tried to convince the Christian school students to vote for Trump who reminds Falwell of his father. Ironically, there are some similarities as Jerry Falwell, Sr. used his Old Time Gospel Hour to spread videotapes accusing Bill Clinton of drug smuggling and murder when he was governor of Arkansas.

Falwell invited his Trump supporter friend Ralph Reed, who demanded Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, to convince the Christian school students that they have a Christian duty to vote for Trump. After a brief criticism of Trump’s bragging about sexually assaulting women, Reed launched into a diatribe about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and then urged them to not sit out the election or vote for a third-party candidate. He said:

“We are called to put away our ‘my way or the highway’ pride, forsake cynicism and negativity, and participate fully as citizens, always cheerful, always winsome, always ready to defend our faith.”

Pat Robertson also continues his support of Trump by explaining that the candidate’s delighted claims of grabbing women by the “p***y” is just his way of “trying to look like he’s macho.”

These are the people who support the bigoted, racist, sexist, violence, murderous, fearful, narrow, black and white perspectives that they glean from their readings of the Bible. These are the people who want to force everyone to follow their own beliefs without thinking for themselves without permitting any diversity. These are the people who are regarded as role models by the Christian right.

It speaks well for many of the 15,000 students and 500+ faculty at Liberty that they have signed a criticism of both Trump and Falwell. The group Liberty United against Trump wrote that Falwell’s support for Trump had cast a stain on the school’s reputation:

“We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him. … He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”

Of the over 2,500 signatures posted by yesterday, 1,100 of them had Liberty University email addresses, and some faculty members have not signed the petition because of concern about retribution. The issue is valid: after Liberty board member and confidant of Falwell, Sr., disagreed with Jr.’s Trump endorsement last January, he resigned, citing “concern about a lack of trust.” Jr. had supported his endorsement by saying, “Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught.”

Polls indicate that fewer than 100 Liberty students voted for Trump in the Republican primary. Unlike their president, Reed, and other Christian right leaders, they understand this dilemma: Can you still claim to be the “Moral Majority” when you support a man who has boasted about sexual assault? The tragedy for those who say “yes” to this question is that they believe Donald Trump will follow through with his promises to “religious liberty.”

October 2, 2016

Trump Needs Evangelical Votes

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Donald Trump has long known that Christian fundamentalists could provide him the path to the presidency. That decision led him to curry the favor of religious right leaders who claimed for a short time that he had become a “born again Christian.” Since then, he is working to destroy the freedom of religion part of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

As Trump does with all his campaigning, he is now going over the edge in trying to woo conservative Christians. At a rally last week, he asked people in the crowd to raise their hands if they aren’t Christians. After a few brave people put their hands in the air, he said, “That’s alright. I think we’ll keep them, right? Shall we keep them in the room? I think so.” Trump’s method of identifying and shaming non-Christians wasn’t a one-time practice. He did it at another rally that day.

Trump may be winning with the evangelicals, but he lacks popularity with Roman Catholics. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 23 points with this demographic group at 55 percent to 32 percent. The last three GOP presidential candidates received over 40 percent of the Catholic vote.

Political scientist Michael J. New wrote in the conservative National Review that Trump lost support because of his attacks on Latino immigrants, considered the future of the Catholic church, and his attacks on Pope Francis. Christopher Hale, the executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the Trump-Pence ticket the “most anti-Catholic GOP presidential ticket in modern history.” In addition to Trump’s anti-immigration position, his running mate, Mike Pence, has a strong record of blocking the Catholic Church’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Trump’s ratings with the Mormons are also so low that he could lose Utah, a state that hasn’t voted Democratic since Goldwater’s debacle in 1964. Trump is still seven points ahead of Hillary Clinton, but an independent run by Evan McMullin is gaining momentum. In addition to Trump’s immigration problem, Mormon Mitt Romney is a staunch Never Trumper, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose Mormon pioneer ancestors settled in northern Arizona, refuses to vote for the GOP presidential candidate. Utah’s GOP Sen. Mike Lee has refused to support Trump because of his “religiously intolerant” statements in banning Muslims from the U.S. Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz (a convert to Mormonism at Brigham Young University) told a group of 50 Utah Muslims that Trump’s call to ban Muslims is un-American, immoral, and does not represent “who we are as a people.”

Last May, former Sen. Bob Bennett, dying from a stroke, asked:

“Are there any Muslims in the hospital? I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country and to apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump.”

Utah’s GOP governor, Gary Herbert, declared that Trump lacks “Utah values” because of his “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics,” as Mitt Romney describes Trump. Herbert pointed out that Trump’s campaign is based almost exclusively on creating “scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants”—something that Mormons have faced all their lives through violence and state-sponsored persecution. Mormonism, like Catholicism, is also dependant on Latinos for its growth. With close to 1,400,000 church members, Mexico is second only to the U.S. as the nation with the largest Mormon population.

Mormons on the political left ask GOP Mormons to pray for anyone except Trump to become president. On the popular Mormon blog By Common Consent, Russell Fox, a political science professor at Friends University, wrote about how Trump, as president, “would apparently be comfortable with trashing the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments.” He stated that it was up to the Mormons to save the country.

Recent polls show that 80 percent of white evangelicals intend to vote for Trump. It’s not because he’s a born-again; it shows how much their desire for political power has overcome their Christian principles. Trump has promised that he will allow non-profit, tax-exempt religious groups to endorse political candidates, destroying the separation of church and state. He has enflamed the religious right by falsely claiming that their religious institutions would lose their tax-exempt status “if they openly advocate their political views.” By spreading this lie, Trump hopes to get the votes of conservative Christians. He is the first presidential zealot who has advocated for overturning the law that was signed by GOP President Eisenhower.

After declaring his campaign, Trump used Christianity as an excuse for his decisions. In refusing to release his tax returns, he claimed that the IRS was persecuting him for his “strong Christian” beliefs. Christian leaders endorsing him had trouble justifying their position about a man who has bragged about his extramarital affairs. When Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson personally endorsed Trump, he said that his conversion had made him “born again.” Trump has never made this claim, and Dobson shifted his statement to saying, “Only the Lord knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can only tell you what I’ve heard.”)

Evangelicals are a fertile field for an authoritarian candidate who praises the anti-LGBT leader of Russia who wants a “Christian civilization.” For example, Bryan Fischer called Vladimir Putin a “lion of Christianity” and called on legislators to eliminate free speech. Others have called Putin “the moral leader of the world” and champion of “traditional marriage and Christian values.” Franklin Graham, son of the great Billy Graham, puts Putin above President Obama and praised Russia’s actions in Syria, called a “holy battle” by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Trump’s other voting base comes from the white supremacy movement that believes in eliminating all except “the right kind of people.” Some of the “wrong kind of people” are non-Christians, including Jews.  The candidate shows himself in accord with these groups such as the Alt-Right led by Jared Taylor. As shown in the Frontline documentary, “The Choice,” Trump’s father taught his son that success is genetic. Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said:

“The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development. They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”

Like other Trump ideas, this philosophy matches that of Adolf Hitler who murdered over six million people because they lacked the right genes, because they weren’t “the right kind of people.”

A religious conversion may work for Trump if it fits into his business value of fleecing people with his scams. Last summer he selected televangelist Paula White, his “spiritual leader” as his evangelical outreach leader. White has a resurrection seed that will bring the dead back to life—for only $1,144. Russell Moore, leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, called White  a “charlatan” and a “heretic” who preaches a “prosperity gospel” that falsely claims that “God’s favor is seen in increasing wealth and freedom from sickness.” [Below: White and other prosperity preachers lay hands on Donald Trump and pray for him at Trump Tower, from a video made September 2015.]

trump-laying-hands

White’s advice complements Trump’s goal: “Find your passion in life and figure out a way to make money.” Before her divorce from her second husband, Congress investigated them for an abuse of the tax-exempt status of their church. Trump and White are a matched set: religion is a scam for both of them.

September 11, 2016

Sad Hypocrisy of 9/11, Evangelical Christians

On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bush’s head of the EPA at that time, has finally admitted that she was wrong about the air around Ground Zero being just fine following the attacks. She finally said that she was “very sorry” that people are sick and some have died, but she gets upset because people blame her. Over 37,000 people registered with the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) are declared sick, many with respiratory illnesses and/or cancer. Over 1,100 people covered by  WTCHP have died. Whitman had said that air in any areas other than the place of the attack did “not pose a public health hazard.”

GOP legislators also felt the need to comment about the need to “never forget” before they left town for a long weekend with the usual comments about the “heroism of our response” (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY), the need to help people understand the sacrifices made (House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI), etc. They also failed to lead Congress in a new 9/11 health and compensation law—never even signed on as sponsors–and instead used it as blackmail to lift an oil export ban. In talking about “sacrifices,” Ryan also commented that he had to drive home to Wisconsin because he couldn’t get a flight.

McConnell managed two anti-Obama care votes this week, but thousands of babies will be born with birth defects, thanks to the GOP failure to push Zika virus funding; residents of Flint (MI) and probably other cities will continue to be poisoned with lead in its water systems, thanks to any congressional action; the Supreme Court will have only eight justices, thanks to the Senate’s intransigence; etc.

Trump scammed the government for $150,000 in 9/11 money by claiming that he helped people after the attacks. Records, however, claimed “rent loss,” “cleanup,” and “repair” that were not allowable under federal gifts. He said that he let people stay free in his building, but that claim didn’t match the reports. He admitted that his property wasn’t affected by the attacks, and there is no evidence of any Trump from charity. He also lied about having “hundreds of friends” die in the attacks and watching “hundreds of Muslims” cheering when the Twin Towers went down.

The Values Voters Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council, met this weekend, and speakers made the same dire warnings of persecution for Christians. American Family Association radio host and government affairs director Sandy Rios failed to explain why people shouldn’t vote for Clinton other than “we can’t even comprehend what life would be like” if Clinton is president. Rios did claim that those who “name the name of Christ will have trouble finding jobs” and people will have to have the “right” opinions to get into college.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) followed up on the persecution threat by saying that he was correct in his prediction that the 2009 Matthew Shepard hate crimes act would persecute Christians. Before its passage he claimed that the law would make the U.S. into Nazi Germany and legalize pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia. He had no examples of how the law was “used against Christians” or legalization of sex with children, animals, and dead people. After diagnosing Hillary Clinton as “mentally impaired,” he accused her of planning to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Sharia law.” (The purpose of the Values Voters Summit is to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Christian law.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told the Values audience that he was qualified to legislate on abortion because he owned a small business. When an employee tells him that she is pregnant, Scott said, then he takes her to a Christian anti-abortion clinic. Being “in the private sector” make him realize the “importance” of anti-abortion.

Actor Jon Voight gave Trump an outstanding introduction, comparing the GOP presidential candidate to Saint Mother Teresa and Nobel laureate/theologian Albert Schweitzer. The presidential candidate who came in fifth at last year’s Values Voter Summit straw poll showed himself to be the typical reality-show star as he spoke to an audience that chanted “Lock her up!” Trump followed that with a New Testament verse: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

Trump ridiculed the IRS regulation preventing churches from supporting or opposing candidates to maintain their tax-exempt status but ignored the fact that the law has been effect since 1954 during GOP President Eisenhower’s first term. Trump continued to lie when he declared that “pastors and ministers” cannot “talk about politics” and said that “all religious leaders should be able to freely express their thoughts and feelings on religious matters.” Religious leaders do that weekly if not daily, as proved by the religious leaders who speak at Trump’s rallies and other events.

Same-gender marriage appears to have disappeared from the evangelical radar if former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is any example. At the Summit, the politician who fought bitterly against marriage equality said, “It’s not an issue. In fact, it’s boring.” It appears that the Summit is also “not an issue” and “boring”: The internet has almost nothing about this year’s meeting.

Before cable television was overwhelmed today with Hillary Clinton’s illness, manifested at the 9/11 commemoration this morning, it concentrated on Clinton’s statement that half of Trump’s supporters are in a “basket of deplorable.” She did later apologize for having said this, and many people are saying that she was telling the truth because of a constituency for a racist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic candidate.  (I’ll also add arrogant, narcissistic, and bullying, and you may have a few more adjectives.)

Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, defended the GOP candidate at the Summit by saying that they are “hard-working” and “deserve your respect.” Hard-working they may be, but respect is an interesting term for Pence to use when he shows no respect for many of the people in Indiana after he was elected governor when he promoted laws against women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights, immigrants, raped prisoners, poor people, religious diversity, and people at risk of HIV/AIDS. Pence’s “religious freedom” law in Indiana also permits parents to beat their children with a number of items, including coat hangers and cords. That’s a lot of missing “respect.”

These are a few of the people who Pence wants Clinton to respect:

In Alabama, a Christian pastor told an audience at a McKenzie High School football game that they should be lined up and executed by the military if they don’t stand for the national anthem. The crowd cheered and praised the pastor on Facebook.

In Ohio, a 31-year-old youth pastor sexually abused a teenage member of his church. Church leaders who discovered the abuse told the family not to return to their church until the daughter apologized to the pastor’s wife for being sexually abused.

More examples of evangelical positions:

  • Linking LGBT rights to ISIS.
  • Calling gay rights activists “intolerant,” “hateful,” “vile,” “spiteful” and “pawns” of Satan.
  • Defending Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill as a “laudable” effort “to uphold moral conduct.”
  • Accusing President Obama of using the health care reform law for a private army of loyal Brownshirts.
  • Claiming that the president promoted the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into the U.S. government.
  • Alleging that the health care act will deprive the elderly of life-saving treatments.
  • Insisting that bisexuality means “orgies.”
  • Believing that public school officials are getting “condom profits” from opposing abstinence-only programs.
  • Tying same-gender marriage to failing public schools.
  • Blaming President Obama for “orchestrating” protests in Ferguson (MO) to exacerbate racial tensions.
  • Suggesting that the president is having a secret gay affair.
  • Comparing people who want Confederate symbols removed from government property to ISIS terrorists.
  • Stating that blacks abused during the Jim Crow era are “singing and happy.”
  • Calling an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity.”
  • Asserting that the U.S. government is working with drug gangs and Islamic militant to create turmoil and disorder.
  • Blaming the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal on the inclusion of women in the military.
  • Fearing that the government will use the military to persecute LGBT rights opponents and murder Christians.
  • Maintaining that the president will fake an assassination attempt or “intentionally” spark an Israeli-Irnaian war to “take control of the radio, TV, and internet” and “start usurping all kinds of power.”
  • Insisting that “78 to 81” House Democrats “are members of the Communist Party” and that President Obama uses Soviet messaging.
  • Positing that the president is waging “biological warfare” against Americans through enterovirus D68 or the Ebola virus.
  • Comparing Social Security to slavery.
  • Blaming football injuries on the separation of church and state.
  • Heralding Donald Trump as God’s choice to win the election.
  • And much more!

Pence wants people to respect all the people who want to kill people for thinking for themselves, who have diverse beliefs and religions, rape with impunity, and struggle to take away the rights of everyone except evangelical Christians.

September 4, 2016

Trump ‘Off Rhythm’

trump among church goers

“Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith…. Some politicians come and clap—off rhythm—to the choir. We don’t need that.” Barack Obama made this statement in 2006, but it holds true for Donald Trump’s appearance yesterday in Great Faith International Church, a black church in Detroit.

After the NYT leaked the script for his private infomercial with Bishop Wayne Jackson of Great Faith Ministries, plans changed a little. Trump taped a private conversation with Jackson that may be released on Thursday after Trump’s campaign edits the video and then talked with the media. Trump shook some hands and held a baby. Trump sat in the front row next to Ben Carson and Carson’s wife along with Theresa “Omarosa” Manigault, his head of black outreach and former Apprentice contestant before he spoke for about 12 minutes. Trump left the service before it was half over. At 70, Trump, who infrequently attends church, made his first visit to a black church.

[The view from the back of the church.]

Trump black church

Trump began his speech with words reminiscent of his wife’s plagiarized speech at the GOP convention:

“I just wrote this the other day, knowing I’d be here, and I mean it from the heart and I’d like to just read it and I think you’ll understand it maybe better than I do in certain ways. I am here today to listen to your message.”

People inside and outside the church were skeptical of Trump’s words. Many thought he came for a photo-op instead of to listen. Denaria Thorn said that she had expected an apology for Trump’s treatment of blacks, but that didn’t happen. Thorn said that the speech “was pretty negative and it was very, very hurtful in fact.”

Kim Witten, who has belonged to the church for 20 years, said:

“When somebody wants something from you, and they say the right words—I would have liked to hear him say those things before he wanted something. It was a very good speech. Whoever helped him did a good job on it. But I know that he wants something.”

Trump said that “those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what’s going on,” yet Hillary Clinton has been doing that for over a half century. He accused Hillary Clinton of not being religious, but this is her answer to a woman about her faith in a town hall meeting last January:

Clinton Mount Zion church “Thank you for asking that. I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. My study of the Bible … has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do. And there is so much more in the Bible about taking care of the poor, visiting the prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up … I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith…. I am in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek all the time, who can go that extra mile that we are called to go, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on.”

Clinton began her social activism over 50 years ago in her local Methodist church, thanks to its youth pastor. The photo below shows Clinton preaching at the Foundry United Methodist Church, which she started attending with her family during her husband’s presidency. Clinton preachingTrump is now trying to picture himself as a “unifier,” a person who will bring “civil rights” to the nation. This is the same man who began his long history of racism by discriminated against blacks in the buildings he owned, a violation of the Fair Housing Act. In the 1980s he had all blacks ordered off the floor when he and his wife Ivana went to the casino, and he lobbied to demand the death penalty for four black and one Latino teenager after a jogger was raped in Central Park. After they were exonerated, Trump refused to apologize because, according to him, they were probably committing other crimes that night. His record at The Apprentice also demonstrates his prejudice against blacks. Until a few months ago, Trump pushed the idea that President Obama, born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and that he was a good enough student to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School.

Trump is an equal opportunity bigot: he’s also made racist statements against Native Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, Asians, etc. Until a few months ago, Trump pushed the idea that President Obama, born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and that he was a good enough student to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School. This running list of Trump’s racism shows a long-term pattern.

Part of his pandering to black voters uses the same claim that other Republicans use:

“Becoming the nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln … has been the greatest honor of my life.It is on his legacy that I hope to build the future of the party, but more importantly, the future of the country.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a church service, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., September 3, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Technically, he might be correct, but party philosophy changes. Democrats in the early 20th century were a combination of Southern white bigots and northern blacks and white progressives. The Dixiecrats flooded into the GOP after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater used his opposition to this law as part of his platform. Goldwater won only six states in the general election so the GOP used their “Southern Strategy”—race-baiting, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and opposition to affirmative action—to build the Republican party. Democrats were on the wrong side of history in the decades after the Civil War, but that was over a century ago. Now the Republicans are a party of exclusion and white supremacy.

The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, said, “The difference between Donald Trump and Detroit is Detroit’s only gone through bankruptcy once.” Duggan also asked why Trump has converted to using scripted answers when he prides himself on speaking what he thinks.   Chuck Westbrook, a lifelong Detroit resident who attended the service, said Trump’s tone was unfamiliar, “like a weak little whisper from Donald Trump.”

Trump’s stop by Ben Carson’s old home in a Detroit suburb gave a touch of humor. When Trump talked with the house’s current resident, Felicia Reese, he told her that “this is a nice house” and that it’s “worth a lot of money.” She suggested that he might “come up with something associated with The Art of The Deal so I can sell it,” referring to the ghostwritten books published under Trump’s name. Asked how long he spent with her, Reese said, “Oh, just a minute or so. He was here briefly just to take some pictures.” The reporter asked what Reese might want people to know. She said, “Be polite.” And then, “go to vote.” She paused and added, “Democratic.”

The funniest piece of the visit can be seen on this 13-second clip as CNN’s Jeremy Diamond tries to interview Carson:

“We just saw Mr. Trump here and I asked him how did it go and he said ‘Great.’ He said he learned a lot of things. What do you think he took away from today?”

With a panicky look, Carson said, “Oh my luggage. Um—hold on.” And then he ran away. Other Trump surrogates might take notice of this method of avoiding embarrassing questions.

Trump’s constituency and the media have a very low bar for his “success.” He can read a speech, and the GOP leadership sighs with relief. He goes to a black church for the first time when he is 70, and all are agog. Hillary Clinton has been attending black churches, even preaching in them, for over 50 years, and the media focus on the what they perceive as the problems of her connection with the Clinton Foundation—which does very good work with 89 percent of donations contributed to charity.

Soledad O'BrienFormer CNN host Soledad O’Brien talked today about how the media has “normalized white supremacy”:

“I’ve seen on-air, white supremacists being interviewed because they are Trump delegates. And they do a five-minute segment, the first minute or so talking about what they believe as white supremacists. So you have normalized that.”

As she said, Trump claims that “Hillary Clinton, she’s a bigot,” and the media appears to make the two candidates equal as if the argument is simply “he said, she said” instead of one of them lying. O’Brien added that news outlets are rewarded for bad behavior because they like the big audiences for “hateful speech.” In effect, the media is responsible for Trump’s successes after he had only a ten-percent following during the primaries. And they continue to do it: over and over today, I heard about Clinton’s “unlikability” but nothing about Trump’s greater unfavorable ratings. The media will control the 2016 presidential election.

August 21, 2016

‘God’s Catastrophes’: The New Normal

Far-right Christian fundamentalist have a pattern of blaming all disasters on LGBT people. At first, it was just natural disasters such as the California drought of 1978, but then gays blamed for health pandemics. The only time that Ronald Reagan publicly spoke about AIDS just before the end of his second presidential term in 1987 was in his first year in office when he said, “May be the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

Finally evangelical leaders blamed LGBT people for every problem, including the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. In Pat Robertson’s eyes, they shared responsibility with “pagans,” “abortionists,” “ACLU,” and everyone else “who have tried to secularize America.” Pope Benedict XVI expanded the blame by warning that same-gender marriage will “threaten … the future of humanity itself.”

Republicans, however, may be suffering from these disasters. Four years ago, Hurricane Isaac forced the GOP to shorten their convention in Tampa. This month, the disastrous Louisiana deluge flooded the home of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and his Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.  Forced to flee his home in a canoe, Perkins failed to see the event as a punishment but instead “an incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise … with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”

An increasing number of people, however, are realizing that human-created climate change cause recent natural disasters. Belief that climate change is caused by human activities has reached an all-time high of 65 percent, up almost 20 percent from 55 percent last year. Even 40 percent of Republicans understand that climate is caused by people, up nine points from last year. This poll was taken almost six months ago before the massive fires and floods of the summer and the discovery that July was the hottest month in history. Other drastic climate-related effects include glaciers’ melting, permafrost thawing, and sea levels rising.

Yet GOP politicians are panicking about the EPA “suggestion” that federal agencies consider the impact on climate when making decisions such as mine permits, dam installations or removal, and roads construction near protected habitats. Their position is that this “guidance” has “no legal basis,” as summarized by GOP chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, known for using a snowball to prove that climate change doesn’t exist.

Some of these Republicans may hate Trump for what he’s doing to their political party, but they agree with him in denying climate change. Editors of Scientific American, who have always tried to be apolitical, call the 2016 election “something special,” that “it takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain.” Trump slammed global warming as a “Chinese plot,” threatened to eradicate a climate agree that’s taken 20 years to create, and promised to eliminate the federal agency that tries to provide clean air and water for U.S. residents.

The flooding in Louisiana is the most recent disaster from climate change. With 6,900,000,000,000 gallons of rain in one week—and more than 31 inches of rain in 15 hours at one location—the calamity is the worst since the 2012 Superstorm Sandy. Part of the catastrophe is the housing crisis. Damage to over 100,000 homes has left 102,000 people thus far applying for federal disaster aid across 20 parishes. The shortage of habitable homes for rent only makes their situation worse as water rises in some places as it drains south across the flat land. FEMA offers grants of up to $33,000 in disaster areas for repairs, but many people have lost everything because they didn’t have flood insurance.

The flood is called “a 1,000-year event,” but that prediction is based on the climate a century ago and not today. At the University of Washington, Eric P. Salathé studies the intersection of climate change and flooding and explains that the issue is the temperature. Warmer air—as experienced in July—carries more water than cooler air, causing much more rainfall in storm. According to a federal government meteorologist, the Louisiana storm would have produced little rain 40 years ago before the current climate warming. For those who think the disaster has abated, storms and flash floods have moved into Texas.

One way to protect residents in the area is stricter zoning laws, something that conservatives avoid, especially when a similar disaster might not happen for 50 years. Communities have the choice of rejecting development opportunities in the immediate future or putting citizens in danger in the long term—and they usually pick the immediate gratification. Especially when they think that God is the cause of this misery and they can do nothing to protect themselves!

As people suffer from the flooding, Republicans use the situation as a political football instead of working to help them. They deride President Obama for not immediately taking an entourage to the state, causing more expense and confusion. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that he would never ask the president not to visit, but he did say this to the president and Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisor:

“I asked them to let us get out of the response mode where we were still conducting searches of houses, and we were still making rescues. I didn’t want to divert these police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers and other essential resources and assets to providing security for the president while they were needed in this region to undergo those—or to undertake those response activities. And I asked that if he could wait until the response was over and we got into the recovery phase, which I predicted we would do over the weekend and certainly next week would be a better time for us to visit. But the president is welcome to come to our state anytime that he wants to.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, drained these resources while ridiculing President Obama for waiting until the appropriate time for a visit. As Trump spent only 49 seconds in Baton Rouge unloading Play Doh from a truck, he obviously wanted only a photo-op. At the same time, President Obama ensured that people receive immediate federal resources and disaster relief.

Edwards’ office commented about Trump’s visit:

“Gov. Edwards wasn’t informed of the Trump campaign’s visit to the state or the schedule. We welcome them to Louisiana, but not for a photo-op. Instead we hope they’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.”

After talking with Edwards, Hillary Clinton asked people to donate to either the Red Cross or the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

In another “once in a lifetime event,” the Blue Cut fire in California went from a few acres to 30,000 in just 24 hours and forced the evacuation of 82,000 people. As the fire continued to spread, it destroyed at least 96 single-family homes and 213 outbuildings as well as an iconic inn. The extremely hot temperatures also causes the perfect conditions for wildfires. Usually fires this large don’t happen until fall, but climate change has caused the season to be much longer and much worse.

A year ago, a study a year ago reported that worsening wildfire seasons will occur within the coming years. Between 1979 and 2013, the average length of the season became 18.7 percent longer. Like the flooding in the United States, longer seasons are a “new normal.” In the decade before 2015, the U.S. paid $1.7 billion dollars to suppress wildfires. In California alone, the cost of fighting fires went from a few million dollars in the late 1970s to $550 million in 2015 alone. The carbon emitted by fires also hastens climate change, and forests will be less capable of taking CO2 from the atmosphere.

Fires have increased 500 percent on public land since the late 1970s. This year, the fire season started much earlier in California because a heat wave sent temperatures up to 120 degrees in southern parts of the state. Since 1970, summer temperatures have risen almost one-half degree every decade. The worst is yet to come between the end of September and December with the Santa Ana winds from the desert. The state’s fifth year of drought is also creating tinderbox forests.

Basically, people who think that they have no part in causing catastrophes because they come from God, deny any support to remediate climate change, refuse to support any regulations that would make their lives better, fight against “big government,” and try to take away any human rights that don’t fit in their religion want the rest of us to give them money when climate change bites them in ….  They hate President Obama but whine about his not rushing to Louisiana as soon as the flooding started. Hmmm.

August 14, 2016

Fundamentalism: Christianity = Capitalism

Jimmy Carter was the choice of evangelicals 40 years ago. It was a natural fit: he was a Southern Baptist who taught Sunday School, and Christians hoped for a theocracy. Four years later, they switched their allegiance to Ronald Reagan because Carter had weakly supported abortion and women’s rights. Four presidents after Reagan, evangelicals are supporting a twice-divorced casino owner who displays a woeful ignorance of the Bible and differed with almost all the evangelical positions until a recent, unconvincing conversion.

The question is why all those white Christian evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump by 49 percentage points—down from 60 points less than a month ago. One theory is that evangelicals like Trump’s authoritarian approach. Trump has strong similarities to the fundamentalist god—driven by whim and demanding loyalty, punishing those who stray from the pack. An important piece of Trump’s far-right following is his seeming ability to accumulate wealth—the “spirit of capitalism.”

In the early 20th century, Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” explained how the Puritans’ promotion of self-flagellation through constant inward interrogation replaced the European rites of penance and forgiveness inculcated by the Catholic Church. From Puritanism came Calvin’s emphasis on business productivity—a “prosperity gospel.”

The end of state-established churches in 1820, vast resources in the New World,  and the rapid Westward expansion replaced the glumness of Calvinism with a “market revolution” supported by the rise of money-minded faiths such as the entrepreneurial Mormonism. The Pentecostal tent revival meetings of the early 20th century led to famous televangelists such as Jerry Falwell who went on to found what is now Liberty University almost 50 years ago and the wealth-worshipping of Norman Vincent Peale and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen. .

The early American work ethic, admiring purposeful work, disappeared as the new evangelicals worshipped the accumulation of wealth. Osteen preaches the value of capitalist heroes and calls Trump “an incredible communicator,” “a friend of our ministry,” and “a good man.”

Religious leaders didn’t develop their obsession with becoming rich on their own. Industrialists and business lobbies, distressed by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s determination to help the poor through regulations, recruited and funded fundamentalist pastors in the 1930s and 1940s to preach “faith, freedom and free enterprise,” as Kevin Kruse describes in One Nation under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. The corporate rationale for the religious leaders was that Christianity and capitalism are the same: if you’re good you succeed and if you’re bad you fail. Kruse said:

“The New Deal, [corporations] argue, violates this natural order. In fact, they argue that the New Deal and the regulatory state violate the Ten Commandments. It makes a false idol of the federal government and encourages Americans to worship it rather than the Almighty. It encourages Americans to covet what the wealthy have; it encourages them to steal from the wealthy in the forms of taxation; and, most importantly, it bears false witness against the wealthy by telling lies about them. So they argue that the New Deal is not a manifestation of God’s will, but rather, a form of pagan stateism and is inherently sinful.”

The corporate campaign to use religion for its own ends largely succeeded with the election of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. He put a Christian god put on U.S. currency and into the once-secular Pledge of Allegiance. After the election of progressive Democrats in the 1960s, business knew it needed to more heavily involve fundamentalist churches in politics, and Ronald Reagan was their success story. Once elected, he incorporated the term “God bless America” into all his speeches—the first time that this had happened except for Richard Nixon using the phrase once after the Watergate scandal.

Although he voiced acceptance of all religions, George W. Bush extended the policy of bringing Christianity into the federal government. His presidency was a time when religious groups received tax money, and Bush focused on faith-based governance while increased the coffers of the wealthy by reducing their taxes. During President Obama’s terms, many states became increasingly conservative, pushing punitive laws on issues such as women’s and LGBT rights. Recently the courts have started controlling unconstitutional laws, but the next election will determine the direction of the United States, either toward more a secular or a more religious government, returning to Victorian times.

Trump Watch: Today may be Sunday, but Donald Trump never stops sending his outrageous tweets. He’s gone from blaming “rigged” elections for his drop in the polls to raging against what he calls the “disgusting” media after an article in The New York Times displeased him. The day after the RNC agreed to work with Trump’s campaign in Florida, he issued a number of tweets targeting the newspaper before expanding his vitriol to indicting media in general. Now he claims that the media is protecting Hillary Clinton:

“I am not only fighting Crooked Hillary, I am fighting the dishonest and corrupt media and her government protection process. People get it!”

The NYT article cites anonymous Republicans describing the presidential candidate as “exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process.” He also may “be beyond coaching,” according to some of his advisors. Trump tweeted that he won’t be changing: “I am who I am.” Instead of campaigning today, Trump and his team tried to get people to cancel their subscription to the NYT. 

The RNC may publicly support their presidential candidate, but top party officials are privately feeding donors and journalists the position that Trump and his campaign are to blame for his slide in the polls. For example, Sean Spicer, the RNC’s top strategist, spoke to 14 political reporters about the many RNC resources deployed to swing states and the great strength of the GOP infrastructure.  He also said that RNC chair Reince Priebus calls Trump “five or six times a day” to coach the candidate. Spicer said that the deadline for supporting Trump is mid-October, but it could happen before that because early voting starts in September for some states. The RNC is holding off because it wants Trump to do more fundraising, but the RNC message to donors is to give the money to the RNC and not Trump.

While Trump now claims to have been sarcastic in his comment about President Obama being “founder of ISIS,” his vice-presidential candidate hasn’t heard that message. On Fox New Sunday, Pence said that Trump was being “serious” about the statement and “getting people’s attention.” At least Pence was right about the attention. The VP candidate also denied that the “sarcastic excuse” is “getting a bit old,” when host Chris Wallace asked him, because Trump “made his way through a very competitive primary.” Wallace finished the question by asking, “Are you the cleanup crew?”

Hillary Clinton has a projection of how many jobs she would bring to each state and how many jobs Trump would lose. In my state of Oregon, Clinton plus 130,364 jobs; Trump minus 42, 619 jobs. The differences in other states is far more staggering.

Trump says that he has no connection with Russia, but investigators have found the name of his campaign chair, Paul Manafort, along a record of $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to him from Ukraine’s former president, pro-Russian Viktor F. Yanukovych, in an illegal off-the-books system.

Tomorrow? Donald Trump lays out his plans for working with Muslim allies in the Middle East to defeat ISIS. Hmmm.

 

June 5, 2016

Conservative Governments Push Christianity with Taxpayer Funds

North Carolina’s law that forces all communities to maintain the lowest minimum wage and discriminate against veterans gained fame for keeping transgender people from the restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identities. Far-right religious conservative leaders are taking pride in proclaiming their determination to keep their version of Christianity in laws. For example, that state’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest made the following statement on a far-right conspiracy theorist’s radio show. He justified HB2, the discriminatory measure, because “we have a lack of moral compass in our country right now, we’ve taken our eyes off God in America, we have turned our back on God, we have forgotten God in a lot of ways, so the moral compass is broken here.”

Forest continued by explaining that these discriminatory laws “discriminate against behavior, not against people.” He compares them to traffic laws: “If I want to go out and drive 95 miles an hour down the interstate in North Carolina because I feel like doing that, I don’t have the right to do that. It doesn’t mean the law is discriminating against me, it’s discriminating against my behavior of wanting to drive 95.” His logic is problematic: traffic laws aren’t created because people have “turned their backs on God.” The other piece of his illogical statement is that a car’s speed has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation or identity. Forrest also blamed the media for the entire controversy.

Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, is also busy defending his state’s new discriminatory law:  “About 60 days ago, it seemed as if all of the secular, progressive world had decided they were going to pour their anger and their frustration—their friends in the media willingly joining with them to bring all that they could upon the governor of the state…  How dare them [sic]. How dare them [sic].” He finished by stating that he was willing to be crucified for his beliefs against transgender people using the appropriate bathrooms.

In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation in April encouraging “all Iowans” to participate in a statewide Bible-reading marathon, a declaration that the ACLU argues is unconstitutional. The marathon is scheduled for four days starting on June 30 and located in front of all 99 state courthouses. The declaration also states that “the Bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God” and that  “I, Terry E. Branstad, Governor of the State of Iowa, do hereby encourage all Iowans to read through the bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.” The “Lemon test” for constitutionality, taken from the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman , establishes three criteria for government action:

  1. Does the government action have a secular purpose?
  2. Does the government action have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion?
  3. Does the government action foster an excessive entanglement between government and religion?

Violation of any one of the above violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which prohibits the promotion of one religion over another. Both Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas objected to the Lemon test, but Scalia is gone from the court.

Mike Robertson, the mayor of Beebe (AR), has selected the celebration of the nation in its freedom from religious and other domination by Britain, to pay for a gospel band at the 4th of July festivity. His letter encouraging people to attend the concert read in part: “Their goal for the evening is to usher in the presence of god and to celebrate the Christian message. They feel privileged and honored to enjoy the freedom to honor Christ with any and all of their abilities.” Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve.

Two years ago, Beebe approved a small temple in a garage, thinking that it was Christian, but then falsely claimed the zoning laws would prevent worship on that property after they found out that the temple would be pagan. Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve. Beebe is also the town of under 10,000 where tens of millions of blackbirds have died in multiple years, possibly because of its fireworks during a temperature inversion. Or maybe God-created events against the city’s bigotry.

Not every government rejects all religions except Christianity. Philadelphia has followed New York City in adding two Muslim holy days to the school calendar. Students will be given the days off for Eid al-Fitr, celebrated following the month-long observance of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which marks the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham in Judaism and Christianity) to sacrifice his son for God.  In the upcoming school year, Eid al-Adha falls on September 13 and Eid al-Fitr on June 25, a Sunday.

The 2016-2017 Philadelphia school calendar has already been drafted so students and staff who wish to celebrate the two holidays will have excused absences. After that the Philadelphia school district will send the holiday dates to the School Reform Commission, which oversees Philadelphia’s public schools. These holidays vary each year as Muslims follow a Lunar calendar. Philadelphia is also exploring how to make the two holy days city holidays.

bible emoji

My favorite story of today! Emojis have popped up—briefly—almost everywhere, but they may have hit the ultimate location—the Bible.  Now available is the newest bible translation, Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millennials. This project follows The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less … Now with 68% More Humor, published in 2013. Jana Riess’s four-year project translates the holy book into tweets; she sent out one tweet per chapter every day.

The creator of Bible Emoji used the translation engine Lingo Jam to automatically translate all 66 books of the Bible. The person chose about 80 emojis from Unicode and 200 corresponding words, linking each with words that are often repeated in the Bible. About 15 percent of the total character count of the biblical text was replaced with modern slang.

The anonymous author of the emoji version who represents himself or herself on Twitter, @emojiBible, shows God as a smiley face. The six-month project had a few glitches. One respondent suggested that the author might be wrong in emojing  “in the beginning angels created the stars & the earth.”

The emoji bible is an excellent example of how Western culture tries to colonize Africa, South America, and the Inuit communities. The bible emoji for prayer hands fails to represent cultures that pray without outstretched hands, and emojis of supernatural figures—angels, the devil, the halo, etc.—are pop Western cultural depictions.

Someday, texting will be passe, and people will communicate completely with emojis. Unfortunately, miscommunication will most likely be even more rampant as opposite little critters can look almost exactly alike. The same thing may happen in the emoji bible.

May 29, 2016

Samantha Bee, History of Anti-Abortion Movement

Jon Stewart’s disappearance from The Daily Show has left a great void in satirical—and educational—news on the comedy scene. Trevor Noah, the person sitting in Stewart’s chair, has openly declared that he won’t criticize the Fox network, and the only funny/educational pieces on his show come from his “correspondents.” Fortunately, Samantha Bee, formerly on The Daily Show, has a new show, Full Frontal, that more than fills in the gap. Although only weekly instead of Daily Shows’ four nights a week, it’s hard-hitting and direct, filled with information that many of us have missed. Last Monday’s show gave the background for the growth of the “pro-life before birth” movement.

Many people think that the evangelical right got riled because the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal in 1973. Bee gives the real reason. As Republican leaders worked to overturn the Democrats and make the United States a GOP dictatorship, they searched for an issue that would animate the Christian right into full-force political involvement. The first issue to coalesce right-wing Christians into a solid voting bloc was segregation. By the mid-1970s, however, that topic lost its popularity, and Paul Weyrich, founder of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, worked with preacher and Bible college founder Jerry Falwell to find another one. They hired up-and-coming SF filmmaker Frank Schaeffer to create the visual propaganda. The result was a film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race, featuring his father, Francis Schaeffer, and future Surgeon General C. Everett Coop.

As Christina Cauterucci wrote:

“There are images of children with white faces painting in blood-red, baby dolls scattered on the shores of present-day Sodom; other baby dolls rolling down a conveyor into a garbage incinerator; and a real toddler crying in a cage, banging on the bars to escape. ‘Ten bucks says that kid is still ‘making films’ in the Valley,’ says Bee of the tot, who Schaeffer says was volunteered for the role by his California Christian parents.

“But the creepiest part of this early anti-abortion film fest is a cartoon Bee calls ‘Homeschool-house Rock.’ The video, made to screen at churches around the country to enlist them in a fight most evangelical leaders would have rather left to Catholics, shows evil doctors using hoses to suck up dancing fetuses wearing top hats and canes while scantily clad nurses drop-kick a series of swaddled infants. In the vein of so many propaganda films, it would seem like a hilarious parody if it weren’t such an effective, damaging piece of political messaging.”

anti abortion

Schaeffer has since expressed his regrets:

“One of the things that I did back in the day when I was young was help found, start, begin what became known as the ‘pro-life movement.’ It is the single greatest regret of my life.”

In a 2014 piece for Salon, Schaeffer wrote about the film series:

“We turned [the GOP] into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built. The difference between now and then is that back then we were religious fanatics knocking on the doors of normal political leaders. Today the fanatics are the political leaders.”

The films didn’t make much of an impact on evangelicals at first.  Schaffer said, “They wanted to preach Jesus. They thought politics was dirty.” To turn the tide, former Rep. Jack Kemp put together 50 GOP congressmen to take on the cause and give it respectability. Bee has a clip of Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer who described the conference call in which GOP and evangelical leaders, including Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, held a conference call to discuss what they should mobilize around now that segregation was over.

Frank Schaeffer wrote about the plans from the 1970s:

“Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, ‘we’ would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights. They have a majority on the Court to back them up.”

Schaeffer’s prescience is all too real—and horrifying. More details are available here.

Part of Bee’s seven-minute expose of the religious right hypocrisy explains that the Bible has no objection to abortion. By now, however, religious leader Jerry Falwell, praised by mainstream U.S. politicians, blames abortion for everything, including the 9/11 attacks. terrorist attack. In 2001, Falwell said, “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this, because God will not be mocked.”

The anti-abortion movement is actually less than a half-century old. Jonathan Dudley wrote in 2014:

“In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, Professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth: ‘God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

“The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, ‘The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.’ And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.”

Born-again Christians at that time believed that the legality of abortion flowed from Scripture, but in the late 1970s  the far-right developed a coalition with Catholics, who had long believed that life begins at conception. At the same time, they formed a common cause with Catholics on other topics such as feminism and homosexuality while re-interpreting the Bible to follow the Catholic position on abortion. In 1980, Jerry Falwell’s book declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.” Through dissemination of this interpretation on the television, the GOP was co-opted by the religious right. For the first time in its 43-year history, the publisher InterVarsity Press had to withdraw a book, Brave New People, in 1984 because it repeated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.

Rick Warren repeated Jerry Falwell’s lies during the 2008 presidential election: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.” GOP presidential candidate John McCain had to change his position from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. Four years later, millions of evangelicals supported Mitt Romney, a Mormon, over Barack Obama because they had been brainwashed to believe that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion. Last year, Donald Trump switched from his longtime pro-choice position to his current position–as of today–that women should punish themselves if they have an abortion.

Jack Kemp may have physically died in 2009, but he lives on in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man who worships Kemp. Ryan’s first action after becoming Speaker was to appoint longtime pro-life advocate David Hoppe as his chief of staff. Since he took over from John Boehner, Ryan promoted pro-life until birth positions such as de-funding Planned Parenthood and banning abortions after 20 weeks. The Catholic leader of the House holds a 100-percent pro-life voting record and claims that he is “pro-life” because of “reason and science.” His proof is seeing a “seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child … in the shape of a bean.” He finished his speech while a vice-presidential candidate by saying, “Now I believe that life begins at conception…. The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions.”

Other radical of Ryan’s radical anti-abortion positions are shown in the bills that he co-sponsored or voted for in the House:

  • Allowing hospitals to deny women access to emergency abortion even if their life is in immediate danger.
  • Preventing victims of rape or incest from using Medicaid for abortion.
  • Denying women in the military to have an abortion at a military hospital except to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
  • Declaring that a fertilized egg should have the same legal rights as a human being. (Buried in his Ryan’s failed Fetus Rights Bill, aka Sanctity of Human Life Act  HR 23, was a section allowing a rapist to sue his victim to keep her from having an abortion. With the current fixation on pro-life until birth, the rapist would probably win the case.)

None of these positions is in the Bible, and none of them has anything to do with either “reason” or “science.” It’s just the popular position pushed on people by the Republicans a few decades ago in a cynical approach to take total control of the United States. And it’s the excuse that far-right fanatics use to openly kill people if their disagree with them.

May 18, 2016

‘Religion’ Allows Escape from Contracts

Groups continue to use ‘religious liberty’ in an escape from legal obligations through denying women cost-free contraception and expelling a student from school. 

The fight over women’s contraception isn’t over, but it’s been postponed because of Antonin Scalia’s death. In their continued manic desire for power, traditional religious institutions pursued the issue of cost-free contraception for women to the Supreme Court where a non-decision was issued earlier this week. In Zubik v. Burwell the eight justices recently sent back seven cases they heard collectively in March plus another six cases that the court had not agreed to hear. Six lower courts were ordered to issue new rulings based on questions that the court left undecided.

The question in the lawsuit was whether non-church organizations have the right to be exempt from contraceptive mandates in the Affordable Care Act, as Hobby Lobby claimed—and won—in 2014.  The case wasn’t even about whether these protesting religious corporations should have to provide any contraception; they all opposed just filling out a form saying that they wouldn’t provide the contraception in order for the government to cover the cost of women’s contraception. A court suggestion for compromise is that the non-church groups’ insurance companies provide insurance without contraception and notify that employees that they will provide free contraception not subsidized by the non-church groups.

Even worse, the denial of providing contraceptives uses lay opinion rather than scientific fact because of Hobby Lobby. Among denied contraceptives are intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptive medication which simply impedes ovulation or fertilization of the egg. Basically, the groups are doing whatever they can to block women getting contraception.

With its opinion, the court let government pay for contraception and exonerate non-profits from the risk of penalties until the lower courts rule in a way that satisfies the Supreme Court. Not determined by the court’s opinion, however, are whether the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, whether the government had a “compelling interesting” in mandating free contraceptives, and whether the method they used with the religious groups to provide cost-free contraceptives was the “least restrictive means.” In taking this inaction, the court hoped that the parties could “resolve any outstanding issues between them” but admitted that “areas of disagreement” between the two sides may continue to exist.

Five of the six lower courts had ruled in favor of the ACA mandate. A deadlock of 4-4 would have ruled that the law be interpreted differently according to the regions of these courts. Gretchen Borchelt, vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, expressed disappointment with the court’s indecision. She said, “Eight of nine circuit courts of appeals have already upheld women’s access to birth control no matter where they work.” The 8th Circuit court is the only one ruling against the accommodation that the government made to religious groups. A three-judge panel ruled  that the ACA mandate “substantially burdened” Dordt College’s free exercise of religion. In addition to Iowa, the decision covers Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and both Dakotas.

Fortunately, the high court’s opinion does not set precedent, and lower courts may not solve the problem for the high court. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a separate but concurring opinion telling lower courts that the action does not endorse a proposal put forward by the protesting groups that women must have separate policies for contraceptive coverage. ACA protesters to the ACA are viewing the court’s opinion as a victory for their side, but the opinion seems to tell lower courts not to block the government from implementing its regulations to “ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives,'” during the pendency of the litigation:

“Nothing in this opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, is to affect the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives.'”

At this time, almost all the cases have injunctions to keep federal agencies from enforcing their regulations. The question is whether these injunctions will be lifted in light of the court’s opinion. Groups refusing to provide contraception can also find insurance plans that also refuse to provide contraception, based on that company’s “religious beliefs.”  Yet organizations may not notify the government of its insurance company, which leaves female employees without cost-free contraception. Self-insured plans also cause difficulty for women who want contraceptives because the federal government won’t know which groups insure their employees in this way. Basically, the groups want to not only refuse women contraception but also hide whether they can get this right that a federal law provides.

In another case of “religious liberty,” an appeals judge ruled that St. Thomas High School doesn’t have to obey its own contracts because it is a “religious institution. The altercation started when a teacher failed to call the parents in the evening about a grade dispute because, as he told the student, he was preparing a “romantic” night for his wedding anniversary. The parents called the teacher’s explanation sexual harassment—“inadequate, irrelevant, [and] sexually demeaning.”

The Texas school expelled the student because of its policy permitting expulsion from “actions by a parent/guardian or other person responsible for the student which upbraids, insults, threatens or abuses any teacher, administrator, coach or staff member of the school.” Parents claimed a breach of contract because the student wouldn’t educate their son, and the school claimed that the student handbook is a part of the contract allowing them to expel the student.

The case could have been a simple contract dispute, but St. Thomas argued their action came from “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” a First Amendment doctrine limiting the courts’ ability to decide cases involving a religious body’s “doctrines, membership, discipline, and internal affairs. The doctrine prevents the courts from even hearing a dispute in the first place, and the appeals court agreed. The court did admit that “churches, their congregations, and their hierarchies exist and function within the civil community … are amenable to rules governing civil, contract, and property rights in appropriate circumstances.”

At least one other Texas case allowed parents to use the doctrine in refusing a student because the education has a “spiritual” element, similar to accepting a church member. The difference in this case is that the dispute was a secular contract dispute, not a federal agency forcing a Catholic school to admit an unwanted student.

If religious schools are permitted to violate all their contracts because of the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” they may lose credibility in their agreements with everyone. People and companies are willing to perform services and sell products to others because breaching the contracts leads to satisfaction in the courts. If, however, St. Thomas shows that religious groups do not need to fulfill any contracts, including educating students, their action may lead to lack of confidence in their institutions, reduced student membership in schools, and inability to work with vendors.

St. Thomas could probably have won their case if they had stuck to the contractual issue. Instead the school chose to use its religious status to show that they are above the law—just as the religious groups have done in Zubik v. Burwell. The question is how far religions will go—not hire women, not pay minimum wage, not fulfilling any obligations that secular groups must—before the country decides that religious groups are not totally above the law.

April 24, 2016

Conservatives Use God as Justification

About going back into politics, Marco Rubio, failed GOP presidential candidate, said, “We’ll see if God offers us another opportunity in the future.” Let’s hope that God has more sense than Rubio. Below are other lawmakers that God should turn down.

Answering the question about funding a defense for Oklahoma’s latest unconstitutional attack on women, state Rep. David Brumbaugh said that God will pay all the legal expenses as well as fixing the state’s disintegrating economy. The state has a $1.3 billion deficit. Last week, the state House passed SB1552 that revokes the license of any doctor who performs an abortion other than for women who have miscarriages or have endangered lives. If the Senate passes House amendments to the bill, which looks likely, and Gov. Mary Fallin signs the bill, which looks likely, women can’t even get a legal abortion within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy when 90 percent of these surgeries are performed. Brumbaugh compared passing this bill to the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights Act, and the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a place where religious conservatives go to pat themselves on the back because they are better than the rest of the people in the United States. It’s also a place where they plan to make everyone in the nation believe the same way that they do. Many of their positions will be found in The Federalist. George W. Carey explained that its readers “would agree with Clinton Rossiter that it stands with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution among the “sacred writings of American political history.” One of these authors of “sacred writings,” Henry Scanlon, published a piece explaining how women who share his views are “incredibly attractive,” whereas the women on the left are manly. In one paragraph of his 2,000 word piece, he writes:

“The young women who attend CPAC are spectacular. No kidding: What’s up with this concentration of incredibly attractive young, conservative women? It’s noticeable and remarkable. They are beautiful and stylish in the way French women often are, which is to say in their own way, not in a conforming or predictable way. They all look like the girl the high school quarterback wants to date, and they are confident, relaxed, and smart, joking amongst themselves.”

He has an explanation for this incredible beauty: daring to read Ayn Rand makes young women “the prettiest, smartest girls” because they have an inner confidence. Scanlon’s wife told him that it’s because these women don’t act like boys which is ugly and they are willing to take fashion risks like Parisian trendsetters. In addition, Scanlon thinks that women get wrinkles from being “politically correct.” In essence, conservative women are “freer” because they don’t have to think. And of course, because God favors registered Republicans. Now we know what religious Republicans are thinking about at CPAC.

In addition to ogling young women at CPAC, Republicans are writing letters in support of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and asking for leniency for the recently-convicted child molester. Among 40 letters of support for Hastert is one from Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority whip who helped make Hastert the speaker and wrote that he is a man of “strong faith” and “great integrity.” DeLay wrote:

“We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can.”

Dennis HastertWhile part of the movement to impeach President Bill Clinton over an extramarital affair between consenting adults, Hastert covered up Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate relationships with young Congressional male pages. Legislators in southern states are in a panic about molesters in their women’s bathrooms. Lawmakers, here’s what a child molester looks like. The sentencing for the man who was two heartbeats away from the presidency for eight years is this coming Wednesday. It is not for his molesting children but instead for a financial crime. (More about Hastert here.)

Many fundamentalist Christians, finding Donald Trump too liberal, are turning toward Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate in November. Their question now is whether he’s the kind of fundamentalist that they want. Cruz’ father, foreign policy adviser Jerry Boykin, PAC leader David Barton—and possibly Cruz himself—are “Seven Mountains Dominionists” who want to take over seven cultures: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government. Those who say that Cruz is just a “constitutionalist” see Dominionism as an “elastic” concept and avoid talking about the Dominionist influence on Cruz.

Every year since 1952, the President of the United States has been forced to sign a proclamation declaring the observation of the National Day of Prayer despite the 7th Circuit Court ruling that Congress’s law is unconstitutional. Alabama state Rep. Mack Butler wants to push religion into government ever farther with his proposal of a resolution demanding that the United States become a Christian nation banning abortion and returning to “traditional values.” His proposal follows the first “whereas” that “God has blessed America, where freedom exists for all, regardless of belief or creed.”

God wanted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to make a fortune off securities fraud, according to the man who’s charged with an alleged kickback deal in which he persuaded people to invest in a company. After his friends put $840,000 in Servergy, Inc., Paxton, who failed to tell them his connection to the company, got 100,000 shares of stock. Paxton claims that the shares were a gift from Servergy’s CEO, William Mapp, because Mapp told him the shares were a gift while they were eating at a Dairy Queen.

Texas has many links to Christianity. The state Board of Education has managed to insert fundamentalist Christianity into the textbooks that then infiltrate the United States, and the Board’s new leader doesn’t believe in science. The woman assigned to head the state’s Board of Education is a home schooler who doesn’t believe in science. Mary Lou Bruner, a woman running for the Board of Education, thinks that the Middle East is forcing Islam content into the textbooks by buying the books. She also has some other bizarre claims, including her accusation that President Obama is a gay prostitute. With a Masters of Education degree from East Texas State University, Bruner has worked as a teacher and counselor in Texas public schools for 36 years. Last November, the board approved about 90 social studies textbooks deemed inaccurate, biased, and politicized.

Almost a year ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a mental health bill on advice from Scientology lobbying. SB 359 would permit hospitals to detail potentially dangerous for several hours in order that they be evaluated. Scientology does not believe in mental illness and purports that the 9/11 attacks were spearheaded by Osama Bin Laden’s psychiatrist.

While engaged in child molesting, other crimes, demolition of the economy, sexism, and falsehoods through their attempts to put fundamentalist Christians into a secular government, Republicans move forward in their attempts to destroy women’s lives. South Dakota plans to be the third state after Arizona and Arkansas that forces doctors to lie about the pseudoscience that a pill will reverse abortions in progress. The theory is based on a physician’s anecdotal case report who tested something on about six patients who said they regretted swallowing the abortion pill. Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, said that doctors offering to undo medical abortions are “essentially testing an unproven, experimental protocol on pregnant women.” Now legislators with no medical training are forcing doctors to do just that in at least three states.

Cecile Richards, director of Planned Parenthood, said, “A woman voting for Ted Cruz is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.” I would say that her statement holds true for the vast majority of Republicans now running for office.

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