Nel's New Day

March 7, 2019

23 House Republican Votes Support Prejudice

A House anti-hate resolution passed today with a large majority; only 23 Republicans voted against it, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), stripped of his committee assignments after his most recent remarks, voted “present.” One Democratic representative was absent. From the initial rebuke of Rep. Olhan Omar (D-MN), the measure was widely broadened, even including a mention of prejudice against sexual minorities.

Republicans supporting prejudice: Andy Biggs (AZ), Mo Brooks (AL), Ken Buck (CO), Ted Budd (NC), Michael Burgess (TX), Liz Cheney (WY), Doug Collins (NY), Mike Conaway (TX), Rick Crawford (AR), Duane Duncan (CA), Louie Gohmert (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), Tom Graves (GA), Peter King (NY), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Thomas Massie (KY), Steven Palazzo (MA), Mike Rogers (AL), Chip Roy (MD), Greg Steube (FL), Mark Walker (NC), Ted Yoho (FL), and Lee Zeldin (NY). Conservatives are slamming Democrats for supporting anti-Semitism while they protect their own racists and Islamophobes.

RESOLUTION

Condemning anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States and condemning anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contrary to the values and aspirations of the United States.

Whereas the first amendment to the Constitution established the United States as a country committed to the principles of tolerance and religious freedom, and the 14th amendment to the Constitution established equal protection of the laws as the heart of justice in the United States;

Whereas adherence to these principles is vital to the progress of the American people and the diverse communities and religious groups of the United States;

Whereas whether from the political right, center, or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism, and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse;

Whereas white supremacists in the United States have exploited and continue to exploit bigotry and weaponize hate for political gain, targeting traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants, and others with verbal attacks, incitement, and violence;

Whereas the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., taught that persecution of any American is an assault on the rights and freedoms of all Americans;

Whereas on August 11 and 12, 2017, self-identified neo-Confederates, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klansmen held white supremacist events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they marched on a synagogue under the Nazi swastika, engaged in racist and anti-Semitic demonstrations and committed brutal and deadly violence against peaceful Americans;

Whereas a white nationalist murdered nine African American worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on the evening of June 17, 2015, in the hopes of igniting a nationwide race war;

Whereas on October 27, 2018, the perpetrator of the deadliest attack on Jewish people in the history of the United States killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue building in Pittsburgh and reportedly stated that he ‘‘wanted all Jews to die’’;

Whereas anti-Semitism is the centuries-old bigotry and form of racism faced by Jewish people simply because they are Jews;

Whereas in 2017 the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a 37 percent increase in hate crimes against Jews or Jewish institutions and found that attacks against Jews or Jewish institutions made up 58.1 percent of all religious-based hate crimes;

Whereas there is an urgent need to ensure the safety and security of Jewish communities, including synagogues, schools, cemeteries, and other institutions;

Whereas Jews are the targets of anti-Semitic violence at even higher rates in many other countries than they are in the United States;

Whereas it is a foreign policy priority of the United States to monitor and combat anti-Semitism abroad;

Whereas anti-Semitism includes blaming Jews as Jews when things go wrong; calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or extremist view of religion; or making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotyped allegations about Jews;

Whereas Jewish people are subject in the media and political campaigns to numerous other dangerous anti-Semitic myths as well, including that Jews control the United States Government or seek global, political, and financial domination and that Jews are obsessed with money;

Whereas scapegoating and targeting of Jews in the United States have persisted for many years, including by the Ku Klux Klan, the America First Committee, and by modern neo-Nazis;

Whereas accusing Jews of being more loyal to Israel or to the Jewish community than to the United States constitutes anti-Semitism because it suggests that Jewish citizens cannot be patriotic Americans and trusted neighbors, when Jews have loyally served our Nation every day since its founding, whether in public or community life or military service;

Whereas accusations of dual loyalty generally have an insidious and pernicious history, including—

(1) the discriminatory incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II on their basis of race and alleged dual loyalty;

(2) the Dreyfus affair, when Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French artillery captain, was falsely convicted of

passing secrets to Germany based on his Jewish background;

(3) when the loyalty of President John F. Kennedy was questioned because of his Catholic faith; and

(4) the post-9/11 conditions faced by Muslim-Americans in the United States, including Islamophobia and false and vicious attacks on and threats to Muslim-Americans for alleged association with terrorism;

Whereas anti-Muslim bigotry entails prejudicial attitudes towards Muslims and people who are perceived to be Muslim, including the irrational belief that Muslims are inherently violent, disloyal, and foreign;

Whereas Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim are subjected to false and dangerous stereotypes and myths including unfair allegations that they sympathize with individuals who engage in violence or terror or support the oppression of women, Jews, and other vulnerable communities;

Whereas in 2017, mosques were bombed in Bloomington, Minnesota, and burned in Austin, Texas, Victoria, Texas, Bellevue, Washington, and Thonotosassa, Florida, and mass attacks on Muslim communities were planned against communities in Islamberg, New York, in 2019, Jacksonville, Florida, in 2017, and Garden City, Kansas, in 2016;

Whereas the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that hate crimes against Muslims or Muslim institutions in the United States increased by over 99 percent between 2014 and 2016;

Whereas attacks motivated by bigotry against those who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim have substantially increased since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks;

Whereas the violation of an individual’s civil rights based on his or her actual or perceived membership in a particular religious group clearly violates the Constitution and laws of the United States; and

Whereas all Americans, including Jews, Muslims, and Christians and people of all faiths and no faith, have a stake in fighting anti-Semitism, as all Americans have a stake in fighting every form of bigotry and hatred against people based on religion, race, or place of birth and origin:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) rejects the perpetuation of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the United States and around the world, including the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and foreign allegiance, especially in the context of support for the United States-Israel alliance;

(2) condemns anti-Semitic acts and statements as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States;

(3) reaffirms its support for the mandate of the United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism as part of the broader policy priority of fostering international religious freedom and protecting human rights all over the world;

(4) rejects attempts to justify hatred or violent attacks as an acceptable expression of disapproval or frustration over political events in the Middle East or elsewhere;

(5) acknowledges the harm suffered by Muslims and others from the harassment, discrimination, and violence that result from anti-Muslim bigotry;

(6) condemns anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against all minorities as contrary to the values of the United States;

(7) condemns the death threats received by Jewish and Muslim Members of Congress, including in recent weeks;

(8) encourages law enforcement and government officials to avoid conduct that raises the specter of unconstitutional profiling against anyone because of their race, religion, nationality, political, or particular social group, including the assignment of blame or targeting members of an entire religious group for increased suspicion, based on the conduct of a single individual or small group of individuals; and

(9) encourages all public officials to confront the reality of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry, as well as historical struggles against them, to ensure that the United States will live up to the transcendent principles of tolerance, religious freedom, and equal protection as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the first and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

Now the House needs to determine whether policy discussions, such as the U.S.-Israel relationship, can be defined as anti-Semitism.

August 27, 2016

Trump: ‘Make American Hate Again’

 

The two presidential candidates dueled this past week about bigotry and hatred. Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton, and Clinton gave a speech composed greatly out of quotes from Donald Trump, his campaign leader, and his surrogates. Instead of lambasting the entire GOP, Clinton isolated him from the establishment party members by graphically describing his strong white-supremacist connections. With Breitbart’s former leader, Steve Bannon, moving over to be Trump’s new campaign CEO, the field of Trump’s offensive comments has vastly expanded—for example, Breitbart’s headline, “Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield.”

Other issues that Clinton brought up are Trump’s praise of Alex Jones who claimed that “the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there.” She evoked Trump’s long-term birtherism when he refused to accept that President Obama’s long form of his birth certificate was authentic. There was also the attack on a judge, calling him a “Mexican” when he was born in Illinois, and his connection between Ted Cruz’s father and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Clinton gave House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) a pass when she distanced him from Trump, and she cited anti-racist behavior of past Republicans, for example when George W. Bush went to a mosque the week after 9/11 and said that “[Muslims] love America just as much as I do.” She could have attacked other Republicans, for example Ronald Reagan’s comment about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. By making Trump a freaky aberration, however, she makes it easier for Republicans to reject him.

No media outlet even did a fact check on Clinton’s speech except for Breitbart.com, and their defense was filled with lies—for example, their belief that Trump wasn’t racist before his candidacy despite his history of keeping blacks out of his housing development in the 1970s. Everything she said in her speech was true because they were quotes and bringing together all this outrageousness required great skill. Trump’s response thus far is that it was the same old weak technique of Democrats. He also said that he’s never heard of “alt-right,” the white supremacists merged with his campaign. “We’re bringing love,” he said.

Conservative critics said that she shouldn’t have brought the white supremacists into the open, that it was better to leave them alone. Media and internet studies scholar Whitney Phillips wrote, “Sometimes silence isn’t enough, and in fact isn’t appropriate.” People who cross the ethical line continue to go farther and farther without messages that their oppressive aggression and bigotry cannot be tolerated.

After the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Republicans—formerly Southern Democrats—developed the “Southern Strategy” to encourage racial resentments and anxieties as a method of gathering votes. Trump’s strategy puts this movement on steroids as he energizes white nationalists and supremacists and allowed them back into the mainstream of the conservative political party. Normalizing their behavior has resulted in the “Trump effect” that increases open bullying in schools, violence toward marginalized populations, and threatening the safety of everyone who opposes white supremacy.

The thundering response from GOP leaders to Clinton’s speech was silence. Asked about the lack of response, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said that “Congress is in recess.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and RNC Chair Reince Priebus all have at least one Twitter account, but nothing posted on any of these about Clinton’s speech or on the GOP.com website and blog.

GOP pundits are not as quiet about Trump. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote:

 “Trump has hired and elevated some of the very worst people in American politics, known for their cruelty, radicalism, prejudice and corruption. In Trump’s view, leaders elevate themselves by belittling others. They yell and abuse and bully. And their most important quality is absolute loyalty to the great leader, the star of the show. … Trump, more than most, needs to surround himself with people who compensate for his alarming weaknesses. Instead, his choices demonstrate and amplify those weaknesses, becoming one more reason to utterly reject his leadership.”

Trump recently appointed Steven Bannon, former head of extreme right Breitbart.com, for the new campaign CEO. The media found serious problems with Bannon:

  • He was charged for an appalling act of domestic violence against his then-wife in 1996. The case was dismissed after she left town because Bannon threatened her if she stayed.
  • He may be guilty of voter fraud, a problem that the GOP and Trump attribute to minorities. Bannon is registered to vote in swing state Florida at an empty house emptied for demolition. Willfully submitting false information on a Florida voter registration is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. From the 1980s until 2014, Bannon was registered to vote in California from the 1980s until 2014 when he cancelled that registration and then registered in Miami. Residency in Florida is attractive because the state has no income tax. As recently as last week, Bannon was reportedly a resident of Laguna Beach Orange County, CA) where he owns a house although he hosted a talkshow live seven mornings a week from Washington, D.C. or New York City.
  • He may have exchanged money for favorable articles on Breitbart.com. The $2.4 million townhouse in Washington, D.C. that he describes as “his” is actually owned by Egyptian businessman, Mostafa E.-Gindy. Bannon refuses to disclose the financial ties between Gindy and Breitbart.
  • He refused to send his daughters to a private school because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.” In a 2007 court filing, Bannon’s ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard reported that Bannon “said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats.'”

Also on Trump’s payroll is Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s daughter, Lauren. LePage is well-known for his extreme racist statements, but a recent expletive-filled voicemail threatened a state legislator. Earlier this week, he said that he keeps a binder of mugshots for all drug dealers arrested in Maine. He claims that 90 percent of them are black or Hispanic; Maine is 95 percent white. He then declared that people of color in Maine are “the enemy.” About LePage, conservative RedState wrote:

“Donald Trump collects idiots the way Velcro collects lint. That is who he hires…. He has attracted racists and bigots to his campaign in a way I would never have thought possible. He encourages them. He validates them. He inspires them.”

With Trump sinking in the polls, Republicans in Western states fear that he will sink the GOP in their region of increasing numbers of Hispanic, Asian, and younger voters. Trump is also unpopular with educated white professionals who have resettled in Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. Once the deep blue state of California was staunchly red; the same thing can happen in Colorado and Nevada. Trump is rapidly losing “friends” among Republicans. Sean D. Reyes, Utah’s attorney general, called Trump’s campaign to register discontent after Trump referred to people from the Philippines as “animals.” Reyes is part Filipino.

Arizona may have the biggest problem as Clinton has almost tied Trump, and senior senator John McCain faces a difficult election this year. Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, whose sister is a close friend of Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, is donating big money to defeat McCain. The incumbent will probably defeat his extremist right-wing opponent, Kelli Ward, in Tuesday’s primary, but Democratic Ann Fitzpatrick will give him a strong run in the general election. Although Arizona still has more Republicans than Democrats, the latter are registering people at a faster rate. Junior Sen. Jeff Flake, also a Republican, gave this advice: “Distance yourself from Donald Trump.” Even Alaska may not stay red for long: people of color will be 40 percent of voters by 2032.

Yesterday, Trump’s Arizona director said that the candidate had canceled an event this next week in downtown Phoenix, but two hours later, Trump tweeted that the event was on—and would be really big. Earlier this week Trump canceled a Las Vegas rally and called off other scheduled events, including in Colorado.

If John McCain wants to get the vote of people of color, he might want to quit lamenting that “one of the sad things in American politics today is that you can’t tell any ethnic jokes except Irish jokes.” Or at least keep his disappointment about not ridiculing people of color to himself.

August 24, 2016

Men Who Sexually Assault Women Need Protection, Judge Asserts

Filed under: Sexism — trp2011 @ 7:53 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

david beckerAnother judge understands that poor athletes don’t deserve prison time for sexually assaulting unconscious women. David Becker, 18, was charged with two counts of rape and one count of indecent assault and battery at a party in Palmer (MA), but Palmer District Court Judge Thomas Estes ordered Becker’s case be continued for two years without a finding and sentenced him to two years of probation. The recent graduate of East Longmeadow High School was told to avoid drugs and alcohol, submit to an evaluation for sex offender treatment, and stay away from the two 18-year-old victims.

Becker has no jail time, won’t be required to register as a sex offender, and can have his record cleared if he successfully fulfills the requirements of his probation. He can also serve his probation wherever he decides to go to college, originally at the University of Dayton (OH) until the school reported that he will not be attending. Thomas Rooke, Becker’s attorney, is naturally delighted that he won’t be impeded “from graduating high school and to go onto the next step of his life, which is a college experience.”

Both victims woke up while Becker was sexually assaulting them. He denied assaulting one woman but apologized to the other in a text the next day. He had thought his behavior was acceptable because the unconscious women didn’t stop him. Becker evidently has a history of assaulting other girls because his nickname is “David the Rapist.” The lawyer said, “We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18, 19 years old…. Putting this kid in jail for two years would have destroyed this kid’s life.” The DA’s office concurred although prosecutors recommended two years in prison.

Estes’ ruling follows the exoneration of students Brock Turner, Stanford University, and Austin Wilkerson, University of Colorado, for similar offenses. Since Stanford became notorious for the judge’s permissive attitude toward sexual assault, the university has a new policy that may protect future rapists. The school’s solution is to ban large containers of hard alcohol from campus undergraduate events and tell women to be careful of how males “perceive” them if they drink. The new rule continues to put blame on the victim, as the sentencing for Brock Turner did. The policy is only for undergraduates; graduate students and staff have no guidelines.

An entire portion of Stanford’s policy is devoted to “Female Bodies and Alcohol” that begins, “A woman will get drunk faster than a man consuming the same amount of alcohol.” The policy follows with how women should “optimize the positive effects of alcohol and avoid negative consequences.” At least it eliminated the statement that “research tells us that women who are seen drinking alcohol are perceived to be more sexually available than they may actually be.”

In a survey this week, 56 percent of men think that sexism is a thing of the past.

Trump Watch:  Trump’s new “persuasive” argument to people of color is asking them what they have to lose by voting for him. Prominent Hispanic activist and conservative Ana Navarro answers Trump:

What we have to lose, is our dignity. Our sense of self-worth…. Our moral compass…. Our political leverage. We would lose any power. If we allow somebody who has been bashing us for over a year to win the presidency, it means the Hispanic vote does not matter. So, that’s my answer to Donald Trump. What do we have to lose by voting for you? Our dignity.”

After Navarro listened to GOP Hispanic Communications Director Helen Aguirre Ferré extol the virtues of the GOP candidate, the political analyst listed several Trump offenses against the Hispanic community before she said to Ferré:

“Listen, Helen, I let you speak and I’m old enough to remember when you used to Tweet against Donald Trump! I’m old enough to remember when you used to be as offended as I am by the things Donald Trump used to say! That was before he was the nominee. That was before you had an RNC job.”

At least seven of Trump’s paid campaign staffers agree with the candidate’s bigotry: their personal social media accounts declare that Muslims shouldn’t be U.S. citizens, Secretary of State John Kerry should be hanged, and the country should have a civil war. A graphic designer posted a racist video, and other staffers supported conspiracy theories. There may be many others, but several of Trump’s staffers have set their accounts to private. An examination of internal emails from Clinton’s or the DNC staffers did not find any racially or religiously inflammatory content.

Law enforcement officers, including a sniper perched atop an armored vehicle, watch as demonstrators protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 13, 2014. The police chief of this St. Louis suburb said Wednesday that Brown injured the officer who later fatally shot the unarmed 18 year old ? though witnesses dispute that such an altercation occurred. (Whitney Curtis/The New York Times)

Law enforcement officers in Ferguson (MO),  August. 13, 2014. (Whitney Curtis/The New York Times)

Eager to be known as the “law and order” candidate, Donald Trump wants to put war weapons back on the streets of the United States after President Obama banned sales of such surplus military equipment as grenade launchers to police departments. White House reforms require federal oversight and restrictions for police departments that are allowed other military equipment.

Part of Trump’s strategy to get elected is his lie that war zones in foreign countries are safer than U.S. cities. Yet fewer violent crimes were committed in 2014 than during any year in the past several decades. Crime rates stayed flat in the 30 largest cities during the first six months of 2015. A decade ago, during the reign of George W. Bush, crime rates were 30 percent higher than now. At the same time, Republicans have convinced two-thirds of the nation’s population that crime is vastly on the rise.

crime rate chart

In his business acumen, Trump has almost quintupled the monthly rent charged to the presidential campaign for its headquarters at Trump Tower–$169,758 in July alone. It was much cheaper in March–$35,458—before donors started paying for the rent. Donors to his campaign are also paying in Trump’s coffers through rents for many of his facilities. He has also been caught illegally using campaign funds to buy thousands of copies of his own book at retail cost, putting the money from donors into his own pocket and artificially boosting his sales figures. In the past the FEC has permitted candidates to buy copies of their own books from the publisher at a “discounted bulk rate”with no royalties going to the author.

Comedian Seth Meyers nailed the Trump’s pivot that even mainstream pundits are buying into these days:

“The 2016 campaign has settled into something of a pattern: Donald Trump spends weeks saying inflammatory things that drive his poll numbers down, then for a few days he acts relatively normal, and the media thinks he’s ready to get serious. Well, it’s happening again—even as Trump surrounds himself with people who feed his worst instincts.”

As Meyers said:

“That’s how low the bar is for Trump right now: Republicans are complimenting him for being ‘mature.’ They talk about their nominee the way people talk about a 5-year-old wearing a suit at a wedding.”

And it’s not just the GOP who think this way. As Adele Stan wrote:

“When Trump repudiates his racist followers and stops stoking their fears, we’ll know he’s serious about reaching out to non-whites.”

If Donald Trump loves black people as much as he claims, why doesn’t he meet with them? Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski explained that it’s too dangerous for Trump.

The man who tweeted this declaration wants to be the president of perhaps the most powerful nation in the world:

“I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is!”

In another tweet, Trump told people not to purchase the newly released book about him, Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, because it’s “boring. which went on sale Tuesday. The word “revealing” might be better used for this book that included 20 hours of interviews with Trump. According to the book, Trump wants a TV show if he loses the election, he’s never read a biography about a president, and he thinks that his wife’s breasts have to stay looking good from him to stay married to Melania. There’s also information about his involvement in “one of the most significant racial bias cases” of the 1970s when he and his father tried to keep blacks from living in one of their buildings.

July 6, 2016

‘Political Correctness’ – Just Being Nice

“Political correctness” is a term initiated in the 1793 Supreme Court case Chisholm v. Virginia upholding the rights of people to sue states. Justice James Wilson wrote in his opinion that people, rather than states, hold the most authority which makes a toast given to the United States” is not “politically correct.” He preferred the greater accuracy of “People of the United States.”

For almost 200 years, the term was largely obscure until conservatives co-opted the term in the 1980s for their personal political gain by using the phrase for a leftist conspiracy that infiltrated the higher education system. For decades, people argued about being “politically correct” in teaching and language in university classes.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, political correctness was highlighted in the first GOP debate after Fox network Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump about his verbal sexist attacks against women. He was ready with an answer:

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

The audience applauded, and other GOP presidential candidates adopted the tactic. Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum wrote:

“The term “political correctness,” particularly in the Republican presidential primary, does not have a specific definition. Rather it functions like a Swiss army knife—it is the answer to every kind of issue that a candidate might confront. It’s a “get out of jail free card” for bigotry, sexism and lying.”

Dr. Warren Blumenfeld wrote:

“The political Right coined the terms ‘political correctness,’ ‘politically correct,’ and ‘PC’ as pejorative rhetorical ploys to intimidate, discredit, and outright dismiss the statements, policies, and actions of the progressive Left generally, and more specifically, to inhibit anyone from thinking critically and challenging societal inequalities.”

Trump and his surrogates use the term the most. The candidate complains that he can’t even use the word “thug” without criticism. Corey Lewandowski has been fired from Trump’s campaign but still defends the candidate, describing the accusation of anti-Semitic content of Donald Trump’s tweet using the Star of David, Hillary Clinton, images of $100 bills, and the word corruption “political correctness run amok.”

In the past, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former GOP presidential candidate, blamed political correctness on 9/11 and used it for collecting email addresses. Ben Carson tweeted that we should “#StoPP funding political correctness and Planned Parenthood.” Asked what they have in common, he said that “political correctness” is making people amoral. Carson also said tried to connect political correctness and his opposition to Obamacare and accepting Syrian refugees. Criticized for saying that a Muslim should not be president, a statement that violates the U.S. Constitution, Carson said, “Political correctness is ruining our country.”

The opposition to political correctness (aka civility) is supported by 68 percent of people in the U.S.—81 percent of Republicans. Even 62 percent agree that “a big problem this country is being politically correct.” GOP candidates know these high figures and play on them in order to avoid any difficult topics. It’s all in the repetition.

In today’s News-Times (Newport, OR), Gilbert Schramm provides his take on “political  correctness”:

Like most Americans, I was horrified by the shooting in Orlando—and by Trump’s response. He immediately tweeted, “We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.” Wait, “political correctness” wasn’t the cause of the shooting; political incorrectness was the cause.

Obviously, if you subject any group to unrelenting bigotry and hate-speech, some unstable person will eventually act on the lies and hatred they have been fed. It doesn’t really matter whether the hatred in Orlando came from a radical Christian, Jew, or Muslim, extremist fundamentalists from all three religions can have equally ugly attitudes about the LGBT community.

To truly understand Orlando, you need to understand the systematic conservative attack on the term political correctness. Nothing defines what the modern Republican Party has become more clearly than its misuse and abuse of this term: Trump and his supporters take an obscene pride in mocking it.

This is truly puzzling. In general usage, “ correct” means right, and “incorrect” means wrong. Why do they reverse our traditional values and language and pretend that the term is an insult?

Through American history, as progressives fought for women, religious, ethnic and racial minorities, they developed new language that reflected their concern for equal rights. The whole idea of political correctness was to improve communication, to reduce conflict, and to be more civil. Not a bad idea.

In creating a better language to express American values, there was sometimes a silly notion that re-labeling problems simply made them go away. Some bigots may have used the new terms insincerely. Some good people may have been unfairly criticized for not keeping up with the changing language. But true progressives not only amended their language, they did other concrete things to rectify the scars caused by institutional racism.

Affirmative action was necessary to help correct the deep institutional disadvantages left by centuries of racism. The GOP has been attacking affirmative action for years by arguing that it constituted “reverse racism.” This is an absurd argument. Its very existence proves that those who use it don’t truly understand the lasting damage left by the real racism.

Then there is the term “colorblind.” Just recently, a Trump spokesman complimented Trump for being “colorblind.” Colorblindness is not vision enhancement; it is a vision deficit that removes a whole dimension of nuance.

So when you hear terms like political correctness, reverse racism, or color-blindness, you are hearing someone who doesn’t understand racism, bigotry, or gender bias at all, and who likely doesn’t care. Yet in spite of conservative efforts to turn the truth upside down, being politically correct (right) is better than being politically incorrect (i.e., just wrong and offensive).

The Trump attitude that “correctness is a bad thing has now spread from opinion to facts. His casual attitude towards facts is noteworthy—in most of what he says he just doesn’t have much use for the truth. For him, it’s right to be wrong.

Trump’s abuse of the term political correctness may have more to do with the “political” part than with correctness. After all, he has won so far by disclaiming any past experience as a politician. Republicans believe that the existence of governments is only excused by the fact that total anarchy is just a tad bit worse. Progressives, on the other hand, feel that government can play a positive role. History has repeatedly proven the progressives to be right.

If GOP conservatives don’t believe that government can make life better, they should leave governing to those who know it can do some good.

Meanwhile, they should stop turning the truth (and our very language) upside down. Corruption of language leads to corruption of thought. That corruption makes it possible to believe that suppressing the vote protects democracy, that there is something called “legitimate rape,” that more guns will make us safer, that gun-free zones attract violence, and other GOP nonsense.

Whatever mild annoyance has been caused by politically correct language, the carnage in Orlando is a stark example of the alternative.

Republicans brag that Donald Trump is honest because he says what he thinks. They seem to admire him for calling undocumented Mexicans “rapists” and stating that sex appeal is responsible for a woman’s success. Zeba Blay wrote:

“To yearn for the opposite of the ‘politically correct’ is simply to yearn for the ability to be comfortable, to maintain the right to trivialize issues that affect people’s lives…. Using “politically correct” as an insult or dismissal is emblematic of an inability to approach difficult conversations with the complexity they demand. Being uncomfortable or annoyed is not a good enough reason to dismiss every conversation that hinges on social justice, as if actual social justice were the worst thing in the world.”

Political correctness is accepting Spanish-language messages on service lines, not telling racist jokes at work, and being less demeaning to women. It’s a way of showing sensitivity toward others, especially those who have been invisible or expected to be submissive. Conservatives don’t like it because it’s hard work. They just want to say what they think—and what they think can be very unpleasant.

Noted author and illustrator Neil Gaiman said, “I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase ‘politically correct’ wherever we could with ‘treating other people with respect’, and it made me smile.” It makes me smile too.

March 1, 2016

Check Out Margaret & Helen!

If you follow just one blog, you might want to consider “Margaret and Helen,” subtitled “Best Friends for 60 Years and Counting.” Helen Philpot learned to blog so that she could blog with her best friend, Margaret Schmechtman. Philpot lives in Texas, and Schmechtman lives in Texas. Their last names have been changed because, as Helen wrote, “We got a few scary emails when I first wrote about Sarah Palin.”

Today’s post, as always, tells it like it is: “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and hates immigrants, gays and people of color then what you have is a Republican duck.”

Thank you, Helen! You rock!

Margaret, once again I find myself stating the obvious – of course the KKK is a part of the Republican base.  Are Republicans really trying to suddenly be outraged by that?  When you hate immigrants, hate gays, question the patriotism of the first black President, use war to solve all your problems… Well hell, Margaret, I could have just used those exact same words to actually describe the KKK rather than the current Republican party.

The entire Republican leadership is culpable for the rise of Trump.  For years they have suppressed minority voters, denied rights to gays, and vilified immigrants.  How in the hell can the party of Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, Sarah Palin, Paul LePage, Mike Huckabee, Jason Rapert, Jon Hubbard, Loy Mauch, Bob McDonnell, Haley Barbour, Jeff Sessions,  Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, George Allen, … suddenly be offended by Donald Trump?  Hell, the list of racist, homophobic, immigrant-hating Republican politicians is so long, I haven’t even scratched the surface.  And who do you think voted them into office?

The numbers speak for themselves.

The KKK thinks Obama is a Muslim.

Almost half of the Republican Party thinks Obama is a Muslim.

The KKK is anti-immigration.

A majority of Republicans support a ban on all Muslim immigration and over half support an increase in the deportation of Mexican immigrants.

The KKK promotes hate crimes against homosexuals and is adamantly opposed to same sex marriage.

Almost 2/3 of Republicans do not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same sex marriage.

The KKK believes African Americans are second class citizens.

Republican controlled state houses have systemically passed laws to suppress the African American vote.

The KKK, small as it is, seems to do best in the Deep South where Republicans do best.  Coincidence?  Oh honey, bless your heart.  I have lived most of my life next door to women who cook and think like Paula Deen.

The Republican leadership can wish all it wants that Donald Trump isn’t their front runner, but in reality they can put wishes in their right hand and shit in their left hand and I promise you that the left one will always  fill up first. If they thought Donald Trump was electable the GOP would be blaming CNN for a faulty earpiece.

In truth, for the first time in my life I have enjoyed watching a few minutes of Fox News.  Those folks are so bent out of shape over this they could kiss their own behind while enjoying the sunshine on their face.  If Bill O’Reilly and company were to be totally honest, they aren’t quite sure what to do right now considering the KKK is probably a ratings point or two for the network.

I have no problem saying what the journalists seem unwilling to say. Until GOP voters demand that the party change its platform, to be a Republican today means you have more in common with the KKK than you probably care to admit.

Donald Trump was endorsed by a legitimate portion of the Republican base and the party leaders are upset that their little secret got out. I mean it.  Really.

Thanks, Margaret and Helen! And I’ll add the kerfuffle about Trump’s taxes. Furious with his refusal to release the information, Rubio and Cruz bragged about releasing their own—but only their summaries for the past few years, not the tax returns, were made public. As the Washington Post stated, “Without the full returns, key details about Cruz’s and Rubio’s family financial dealings – such as precise sources of income, deductions and amounts donated to charity – were not revealed.” Tax lawyer Martin Schenkman said, “The gross numbers without the schedules don’t tell you anything.” Cruz said he was just doing what Rubio did and didn’t plan to release any more tax information at this time.

As Trump and Cruz continue their battle after Super Tuesday’s wins today—and Rubio trying to moving into the big guys’ arena–there will be far more hypocrisy in the GOP.

 

December 20, 2015

What Christianity Teaches

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Around 2016 years ago, a non-Christian Middle Eastern couple needed refuge for the night. There was no room at the inn, but the innkeeper offered the travelers, one of whom was pregnant with another Man’s child, the option of bedding down in the barn. It was there that Jesus Christ was born. Or so the story goes.

The Nativity scene is an icon of current Christian celebration during December although the event most likely occurred in spring. Yet at least five states with these scenes in their capitols or governors’ mansions also refuse to accept any Middle-Eastern refugees in their boundaries. According to the story, an angel of the Lord told Joseph and Mary that they must escape to Egypt because Herod was searching for Jesus to kill him. Legislators claim that they are keeping out Syrian attackers after the Paris attacks to keep out Syrian refugees, but all the attackers were citizens of European countries.

Violence from the conservative propaganda against Islam has expanded to children.  A seventh grader in Ohio tried to resolve his argument with a sixth-grade student on the school bus by calling him a “towel head” and threatening to bring his father’s gun the next day to shoot and kill the Muslim boy. He also called the sixth-grader the “son of ISIS” and blamed him for the 9/11 attacks. The boy denied his threats, but the heated exchange had been taped.

Wheaton College has suspended tenured political science associate professor Larycia Hawkins because she said that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Hawkins tried to protest the increasing Islamophobia by wearing a hijab, but declaring solidarity with the religion was too much for officials at the evangelical Christian school. They wrote:

“While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer.”

Hawkins pointed out that millions of Christians throughout history have the standard belief in a common god. Miroslav Volf, a theology professor at Yale Divinity School and author of the book Allah: A Christian Response, wrote that unnecessary divisiveness over the question creates “justification for cultural and military wars.” In 2013, Brian C. Houston, the evangelical Christian leader of one of the world’s largest Christian churches, explained that Christianity and Islam have a shared deity.

The United States has had three mass shootings by Muslims out of over 350 shootings of at least four people each during 2015. Yet one of these three tragedies caused conservatives to blame the Muslims for all the gun violence in the country. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, supports Donald Trump in keeping all Muslims from coming into the United States.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, goes father in asking all students, staff, and faculty to carry concealed guns on campus to “teach them a lesson.” By them, we’re pretty sure that he means Muslims. Falwell said that he started carrying a .25 caliber handgun in his back pocket after the mass shooting at San Bernardino (CA). Evidently, the shooting by a white Christian at the Charleston (SC) church didn’t cause Falwell any concern. Virginia has a minimum age of 21 for concealed carry, and Falwell said later that he meant only older students should be armed.

Carson-Newman University, a private Southern Baptist college in Tennessee, is the latest school to use federal permission to ban LGBT students, unwed mothers, students who had an abortion, and pregnant women. The university president said he doesn’t know why it sought the exemption to Title IX which prohibits sex discrimination in education that also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. An attorney who filed the same application for a dozen other Christian schools told the president that it was a good idea. In the past 18 months, 56 schools have requested religious exemptions from Title IX. Of these 33 related to gender identity and 23 to sexual orientation have been awarded. A list of schools is available here. Eight senators, including Bernie Sanders and Oregon’s Ron Wyden, have asked for a website to publish the names of schools that discriminate so that students applying to college will be able to make informed decisions.

Of its 45 “speciality” licence plates in Alabama, only God plates are free, according to Gov. Robert Bentley, who announced that the God Bless America license plate will have no additional fee. People who want plates for autism, trees, education, breast cancer, wild turkey, etc. will still have to pay the usual $50 fee.

According to research from the University of Chicago, children from religious families are more selfish than those from less-religious families. In the the study’s dictator game,” 1,170 children are told that not everyone can participate in the game to get stickers and they must choose to keep or donate the stickers: “altruism was calculated as the number of stickers shared out of 10.” In another part of the study, children watched videos of people hurting others and then were asked to judge how mean the bullies are and what punishment they deserved. Non-religious children are less likely to hand out punishment and more inclined to be generous. Religious levels of the children were based on interviews with their parents about religious identity, practices, and morality of the children.

Tennessee GOP lawmakers want to ensure that non-Christians are made to feel excluded from any holiday parties. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and some legislators called for the “immediate resignation”  of University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and cuts in UT’s funding for diversity programs after he issued a memo recommending goals to make parties “build upon workplace relationships and team morale” as well as “an opportunity to reinvigorate individuals for the new year’s goals and priorities.” He also said that parties should be voluntary, not mandatory. While Tennessee suffers from ranking 37th in unemployment, 46th in school funding, and 17th in teen pregnancy, GOP politicians concentrate on their fantasy of anti-Christian discrimination. Ramsay has also urged Tennessee Christians to buy guns because “secularism” and “Jihadists” have joined together to target Christians.

While the GOP U.S. House postponed a vote on keeping the federal government open and deciding whether the U.S. should be at war with ISIS, it passed H.R. 564, sponsored by 36 male representatives. The entire name is “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas”:

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;

(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and

(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

Less than two weeks before it celebrates the birth of Jesus, a Christian-run Kentucky homeless shelter, Emergency Christian Ministries, told all homeless women and children to leave because a “sex problem.” Billy Woodward, Emergency Christian Ministries Director, said the ban is based on teachings in the Bible because the homeless women were using the shelter as a dating or hookup service. Kentucky has the fifth-highest percentage of people in poverty, following Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Michael Long, social studies teacher at Delta Middle School in the central western part of Colorado, organized a bible giveaway in the doorway of the school library while his class met there. A child who took a photograph instead of a bible was shamed by her classmates for not agreeing with Christian beliefs. Principal Jennifer Lohrberg, supported by the district superintendent, declared that favoring one religion was according to district rules and approved by its lawyers. Other religious proselytizing at the same school during the last year included mandated attendance at a Christian religious and the use of free doughnuts as reward for attending morning prayers led by a DMS teacher.

Another school in the state, Colorado Mesa University, forced nurses graduating from the school’s program to either accept or reject a bible as they stepped down from the dais at their pinning ceremony, CMU’s graduation for nurses.  Following a discussion of the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers organization, CMU president Tim Foster said that the “tradition” will be dropped.

stormtroopersThose who saw the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, need to know that it’s based on the Bible. At least that’s what Northern Exposure actress Janine Turner claimed about Darth Vader’s black costume. “This goes back to biblical times,” she asserted, because “the Bible talks darkness and light.” She didn’t explain why the hordes of evil but poorly trained Stormtroopers are dressed in white.

And that’s the Christian teaching for the week.

April 6, 2015

The ‘Cake Wars’

lego cakeThe second decade of the twenty-first century may go down in history as the time of the “cake wars”: fundamentalist Christians think that the only problem with declaring unfettered religious freedom in the business world is that same-sex couples would be denied wedding cakes. And maybe a few flowers and a bit of pizza too. The whole rumor started after Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Gresham (OR) bakery, refused to fill an order for a wedding cake from a lesbian couple. Although the couple did not sue, they filed a complaint with the state of Oregon. An administrative law judge declared that Sweet Cakes’ action was discriminatory and allowed the Bureau of Labor and Industries to impose a fine of up to $150,000.

The firestorm swept across the country after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law that allowed anyone to deny any service or product to anyone else because of declared religious beliefs. The final section of the law stated that “there is not a higher protection offered by the state than the person’s protection of a person’s right to religious belief.”

Hundreds of business leaders, sports figures, celebrities, Christian groups, and almost a dozen cities and states—even NACAR–threatened to boycott Indiana because of the new law. The religious right, however, fought back. “Cake is speech,” Indiana pastor Tim Overton said on NPR. He followed that up by saying that no one would use any Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to deny anyone anything except flowers and wedding cakes. Just because people can do it, they probably wouldn’t.

Lee's graphicWorse than this mistaken belief is the downright misconceptions of RFRAs throughout the nation. The federal law was passed for religious minorities in 1993 after an American Indian was fired because of his religious use of peyote. After fundamentalist Christians felt threatened by marriage equality, 19 states jumped on the bandwagon with state RFRAs. Although conservatives claimed that Indiana’s law was patterned after the federal one, it granted far more rights on the basis of “religious liberty.” The law that Pence originally granted “religious rights” to any person or company if those religious objectors had a “substantial ownership,” not even majority control. Also, the government does not need to be a party to case, geometrically increasing the number of lawsuits possible. When some legislators tried to add an amendment to block the law’s use for discrimination, the majority refused, acknowledging that they wanted to use it for discrimination, allowing majority religions the control.

Other conservatives argued that the new Indiana law was no problem because the state had no protections for LGBT people. Although they are correct about the state, various municipalities throughout Indiana had anti-discrimination ordinances which were then negated by the new state law.

Exactly one week after Pence signed the law and subsequently declared that he didn’t want to change the law, he signed a new bill last week that stopped people from using the first law from discriminating to against LGBT people. The fix to Indiana’s discriminatory overreach, designed to mollify protesters, was still not satisfactory, at least to some businesses. “Our position is that this ‘fix’ is insufficient,” Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said. “There was not a repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana. Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here.” That’s from a man who led the campaign of Pence’s GOP predecessor.

After the Indiana fiasco, Georgia dropped its discrimination bill—for now. Montana, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming also defeated RFRAs.

Arkansas passed a watered down religious belief bill that lacks non-discrimination protections. It can still be used against people of color, minority faiths, women, and anyone else with references in the bible. It is also binding for the entire state because Arkansas passed a law in February that prohibits anti-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBT people in any of the state’s municipalities.

North Carolina is lukewarm about a bill that goes farther than Indiana’s law. Unlike 17 RFRAs in the country, it states that obeying the law is a “burden” to their religious liberty, not a “substantial burden.” Even Arkansas included the term “substantial.” North Carolina added that there must be a “governmental interest of the highest magnitude” to justify overriding religious beliefs. Unworried about the bill’s effect on people, state House Speaker Tim Moore said he wants to know how such a law would “improve North Carolina’s brand.” He also wants “to make sure we don’t harm our brand.”

Eight other states are considering the creation or alteration of RFRAs.

Before the uproar about the Indiana law, most people believed that LGBT people faced no discrimination in lodging, renting, hiring, etc. across the nation. Indiana’s law forced that information out into the open. Now their only justification is to say that those who face discrimination are not “tolerant” or that LGBT people make a “choice” to face this discrimination.

Conservatives who wail about their lack of rights try to punish pro-LGBT businesses.  Former Arizona TV evangelist Joshua Feuerstein called Cut the Cake in Longwood (FL) to order a cake that stated, “We do not support gay marriage.” Bakery owner Sharon Haller thought it was an April Fool’s joke and told him no. Feuerstein posted a recording of the telephone call on YouTube, and Haller received death threats. Her business came to a halt until people posted positive comments on her Facebook page. Haller could prosecute Feuerstein. Sarasota lawyer Andrea Flynn Mogensen said Florida law requires all parties to consent before recording a telephone conversation. Violation is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies determined that a Denver bakery did nothing wrong when the owner refused to write “God hates gays” on a cake because the message on the cakes would be “derogatory.” Bill Jack wanted a cake showing two groomsmen with a red “x” over them and messages about homosexuality being a sin. There was no discrimination because Silva would have responded to any other customer in the same way.

Bigotry is becoming a cottage industry across the nation. Memories Pizza in Walkerton announced that it would not cater any gay weddings, despite the fact that they have never been asked to do so. The owner garnered not only the free publicity that she wanted but also a large donation for a GoFundMe account. The irony is that half the $842,500 that she received will go to the government in the form of taxes; conservatives who hate the government are giving it a nice little chunk of money. A florist in Washington, fined $1,000 for not serving a lesbian couple, has received $90,000.

David Brooks, columnist for the supposedly liberal New York Times, criticized LGBT people for not using politeness and “gentle persuasion” until society decides to grant same-sex rights. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields agreed with Brooks on PBS News Hour last Friday on a panel that has featured contrasting viewpoints before the Koch brothers started massive funding of public television. They agreed it ws acceptable to deny services, employment, etc.—in short, fairness—to LGBT people until society voluntarily changes its mind with no impetus. Shields said that the question of religious liberty has been “lost” in the debate over gay rights. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt wrote, “[This position] puts the blame on the victims, wondering why we have to push so hard to make ourselves heard.”

Brooks and Shields forgot to ask the evangelical Christians to develop this “politeness.” In fact, fundamentalists are more of a minority in approval ratings than the LGBT community. In a recent poll of likely voters, 53 percent responded favorably to LGBT people whereas only 42 percent had a favorable view of evangelical Christians. Eighteen percent had unfavorable views of LGBT people, and 28 percent were negative toward evangelical Christians.

 

lee.s picture 2People who want to wait until religious people are voluntarily willing to give LGBT rights neglect history. The people who sat waiting for service at Woolworth’s 55 years ago didn’t want a sandwich: they wanted fairness and equality. Approval rating of biracial marriage when it was legalized in 1967 was 20 percent compared to the 59 percent approval of same-sex marriage now when it’s still not recognized in the entire United States.

Fed up with his religion being defined by hate, Rev. Drew Ludwig, pastor at Buffalo’s (NY) Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, has organized the “Christian Cake Mob.” The group bakes cupcakes and hands them out near Allentown’s gay bars. People from all faiths are chipping into the effort that Ludwig posted on social media. Ludwig said he won’t be discriminating because they will also give cupcakes to straight people.

cupcakeWhen is a cake not just a cake? When it’s used as a symbol to refuse service to anyone.

October 26, 2014

Religious Beliefs ‘Not Reasonable’

scalia425x320“Religious beliefs aren’t reasonable.” That’s what Justice Antonin Scalia said in court on October 7, 2014 during oral arguments for Holt v. Hobbs. Mark that date! Of course, the man who ruled that businesses can have religious beliefs (Hobby Lobby) wasn’t dealing with Christianity. The case concerned whether a Muslim prison inmate in Arkansas would be allowed to keep his beard because of his religious beliefs.  [Photo by Pete Marovich, Zuma Press]

In context, Scalia’s statement came from asking the plaintiff to believe that a half-inch beard would fulfill his religious requirement for a full beard. Before October 7, the justice had claimed that religious beliefs are beliefs and therefore don’t need justification with facts. The four drugs in the Hobby Lobby case didn’t actually produce abortions, but the Supreme Court determined that this didn’t matter. What mattered was that the plaintiffs believed that the drugs would result in abortions. No need for facts. The Court got so carried away that they extended the original decision that satisfied Hobby Lobby owners to all forms of contraception with no religious justification.

Arkansas’ argument is that an inmate can hide something in a beard, even in a one-half inch medical beard permitted in 44 other states. Some of those states have no length requirement for beards, and the state’s attorney could not cite any security problems with beards in other states’ prisons. Arkansas has no limit on the length of hair on inmates’ heads. Then the state claimed that the ban on beards was to “keep prisoners from disguising themselves.”

Hobby Lobby plaintiffs suffered little questioning about the “sincerity” of the corporation’s beliefs. The company even provided birth control coverage to their employees before the Affordable Care Act mandate. In the case about a Muslim prisoner wanting to grow a beard, Scalia was intent on forcing the plaintiff to justify his religious beliefs.

For the first time, I agree with Scalia: religious beliefs aren’t reasonable. Here are some examples of the bigoted hypocrisy of “Christians.”

After Jan Morgan, owner of an Arkansas firing range in Arkansas, declared that her business is a “Muslim-free zone” because they are all killers, Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, plans to give her award for her action. It’s his opinion that “the Quran … is an instruction to go kill people.” On the other hand, the bible is far more violent than the Quran.

Dan Patrick, the GOP nominee for Texas lieutenant governor, follows the Texas School Board’s desire to require the teaching of creationism in public schools. His rationale is that children become confused because they learn about creationism in Sunday School and then about evolution on week days. This position follows his belief that “there is no such thing as separation of church and state.” As a newly-elected state senator, Patrick walked out of the chamber because a Muslim delivered the opening prayer. Patrick believes in tolerance but thought that remaining during the prayer would signify endorsement. He recently praised Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) for his leadership in bigotry toward LGBT people, minorities, and women.

According to the Christian bible, Jesus would have tried to heal the people faced with the current Ebola epidemic.  The “Christian” far right, however, wants to close the border and stop people from going to fight the disease in West African. At the same time, they spread fears about undocumented immigrants from Central America although there are no cases of Ebola among them and oppose the free treatment that the few people in the U.S. have received if they are infected with the disease. Ebola could be stopped at the source with millions from the United States, but the far-right prefers to spend trillions of dollars to kill hundreds of thousands of Arabs.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has ratcheted up his rants against gays, cohabators, and divorced people after Pope Francis stated that the Catholic Church should be welcoming to these groups. If King gets his way, these people won’t find eternal salvation in heaven. Asked if divorce and cohabitation are sins, he said:

“What was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and people that were condemned to hell 2,000 years ago, I don’t expect to meet them should I make it to heaven.”

King did mitigate his remarks by saying that he needed to read the pope’s document carefully before “passing judgment” on it.

Last spring, King said that entrepreneurs have “God-given rights that our founding fathers defined in the Declaration,” but LGBT people have no rights because being gay and lesbian is a “self-professed behavior” and can’t be “independently verified.” Two years earlier, he said that LGBT people should just lie about the sexual and gender identity to avoid being fired. Three years before that he wanted the name of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill changed to the “Local Law Enforcement Thought Crimes Prevention Act of 2009″ because he doesn’t believe in hate crimes.

Douglas MacKinnon, a former aide to Ronald Reagan and speech-writer for him and George H.W. Bush, doesn’t want to wait for heaven in order to avoid LGBT people: he wants the South to secede and form an ultraconservative independent state named Reagan. As author of The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country … Now, MacKinnon has everything planned for this achievement. His focus is on Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, leaving out Texas because of the “incursions … from some of the folks in Mexico.” He claims to have the help of a military veteran friend and a group that includes “a constitutional law expert, two former military officers, two former diplomats, a minister, another special operator, and experts on banking, energy, farming, and infrastructure.”

MacKinnon is disturbed with “our leaders” who want:

“… to erase our borders, do away with the rule-of-law, expand the nanny state into a theology, bankrupt or punish American companies in the name of fighting climate change, do away with the Second Amendment, censor or demonize the history of Western civilization and replace it with multiculturalism, give every kid a trophy and turn them into wimps, continue to support the completely unfunded public-employee pensions which are destroying the financial solvency of cities, counties, and states across our nation, add billions every day to our $17 trillion in debt, destroy our health-care system to substitute socialized medicine, vilify fossil fuels, and attack all faith in God with a particular and unhinged bias against the Christian faith.”

Because all the Southern states except Texas take more money from the federal government than they pay into it with their taxes, Reagan–the country–could save the rest of the country lots of money!

Fox and Friends co-host, Ainsley Earhardt, has an argument against separation of church and state in public schools: everyone should accept the “culture” of Christianity instead of requesting the removal of Christian plaques from taxpayer-funded Texas schools. As a representative of the 77 percent of U.S. population declaring themselves to be “Christian,” Earhardt asked two people involved in the debate to talk with her on the show—both of them supporting the plaques. As Pastor Justin Coffman said:

“We’re all about wanting to see the cause of Christ go further. We want to see the cause of Christ in more public arenas in the American culture. We don’t want to take things away from. We want to see Christ in our schools.”

Tiffany Davlin complained that a secular group could “come into a community, which is a strong Christian-majority community, and say what we can or cannot have.”

“Attempt to bully us,” Coffman echoed.

“Yeah,” Earhardt agreed. “Yeah, Justin, you touched on it: the War on Christianity.”

Fox needs a war while waiting for the War on Christmas.

A Texas Justice of the Peace subscribes to the “culture” of Christianity in the South by beginning court sessions with bible readings, followed by a prayer. He promises that the case of anyone who is offended “will not be affected.” Too bad MacKinnon doesn’t want Texas in his new country of Texas.

“Religious beliefs aren’t reasonable.” Justice Antonin Scalia said that on October 7, 2014.

February 27, 2014

LGBT Rights v. Religion

For an entire week, the nation’s media was obsessed about Arizona’s bill that would let everyone in the state do anything they wanted as long as they said it was because of religion. The bill went to Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday, and many Republicans—including three legislators who voted in favor of it—asked her to veto it. Last night she did. According to her speech about the veto, she didn’t want to divide the state so she denied the right-wing groups their wish.

Using political-speak rather than reason, she said her veto was to stop a divide. And of course, the wacko right got very divided–against Brewer:

Fox network Tucker Carlson maintained that requiring people to provide service to everyone is “fascism.” [For those lacking a dictionary, fascism is an authoritarian nationalism that has a veneration of the state and devotion to a strong leader and invokes the primacy of the state.]

Another Fox network host, Todd Starnes, tweeted: “AZ Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second-class citizens.”

 A tweet from Rich Lowry of the National Review: “The Brewer veto shows that poorly informed hysteria works.” He skipped the fact that the loudest protests against the bill came from the business community, usually allied with conservatives.

President of Tea Party Nation, Judson Phillips: “Tyranny is on the march!” And my favorite, the veto means that bakers will be forced to sell cakes with “a giant phallic symbol on it” or cakes with another “shape of genitalia.”

Michele Bachmann claimed that Brewer “eviscerated free speech.”

According to Brewer’s speech, she is comfortable that Arizona law protects religious people from discrimination. There was no mention of the state’s discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, hospital visitation, education, health care, marriage. While claiming that people in her state didn’t suffer from religious discrimination, she still managed to figuratively shake her finger at President Obama by blaming him for the concerns in the state.

Logic tells us that protecting LGBT people had no relationship to Brewer’s decision: it was purely business.

brewersuperbowlap-638x461

 

The NFL threatened to pull the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale (AZ), and a number of large companies had said that they would either not expand or even come to the state with SB1062. Even now, Arizona may take a hit as Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton suggested. He said, “The negative national and international publicity that our state has already received — it sends a message that our state is not a warm, welcoming place.” The Hispanic National Bar Assocation has already pulled its 2015 national convention.

Another reason for Brewer to veto the bill is highly personal. She became governor after then-governor Janet Napolitano was tapped for the director of the Department of Homeland Security. Her win a year later seemed unlikely until she signed into law the discriminatory anti-immigrant profiling bill. Her GOP opposition dissipated, and she defeated long-time Democratic icon AG Terry Goddard. The state constitution limits governors to two terms, but Brewer has always maintained that she has served only one term. Thus far, eight GOP gubernatorial candidates have signed up for the primary. Some believe that her vetoing the bill indicates she won’t be running, yet her action has gained her support from some of the most powerful GOP leaders both inside and outside Arizona.

Although Arizona got massive publicity from passing its bill in the legislature,  a similar bill was already passed in the Mississippi Senate—with no hoop-la. After the Arizona debacle, Democrats are backing off, such as Sen. David Blount who said he didn’t know that the bill to change the state seal included discrimination. The 2.5-page bill clearly stated that the religious right would discriminate; the following one-page provision added “In God We Trust” to the state seal. Blount added that no one else knew the bill was discriminatory. The debate on the floor did concern issues such as people “praying facing Mecca” and religious liberty for “devil worshipping” and “voodoo.”

The bill has moved to the Judiciary B Committee. Its chair, Rep. Andy Gipson, once invoked a biblical passage asking for the death penalty for gays. If the bill passes the House, it moves to the governor, Phil Bryant, who has violated a federal order by denying spousal benefits to same-sex National Guard spouses.

Then there’s Georgia, another state that wants to get in on the discrimination action with a similar bill. The Preservation of Religious Freedoms Act would erase a law in Atlanta that protects LGBT people in lodging, housing, and employment. The shotgun approach is like that of the Arizona bill: any person or business can discriminate against anyone. Based in Atlanta, Delta Airlines is one company that has spoken out against the bill.

Georgia has tabled its “freedom act,” taking it off the calendar. Mississippi is considering a re-wording of its “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” perhaps because the state’s chamber of commerce, the Mississippi Economic Council, has issued a statement against discrimination by businesses.

The lead author of a similar bill in Oklahoma said he will re-write it, and Ohio has withdrawn its anti-LGBT legislation. Idaho Deputy AG Brian Kane told legislators that their proposed “religious freedom” bills would have constitutional problems. Kansas withdrew its bill after it passed the state House but before the Arizona bill was passed. In Maine, both legislative chambers voted down a bill similar to that in Arizona. Tennessee’s bill suffered serious backlash from the business community and disappeared, as did one in South Dakota. A state representative has filed an Arizona bill in Missouri. In all, 13 states have introduced so-called religious anti-LGBT bills in less than two months.

Oregon is unique in the discrimination game. Instead of a legislative bill, the proposed measure for the 2014 ballot comes from a religious group that claims it only wants to protect businesses from having to provide services at a same-sex wedding or commitment ceremony. In order for the initiative to be on the ballot, the group must collect 116,284 valid signatures by July 5, and signature-gatherers can’t begin until the state AG determines a 15-word title for the ballot. A measure to overturn the constitutional ban on marriage equality in Oregon has already obtained over 160,000 signatures.

Many people in Oregon think that the initiatives attempting to discriminate against LGBT people in the state actually benefited the community. Threatened by the far-right in the 1990s, lesbians and gays came out of the closet to fight the measures, created alliances, and increased support by becoming visible. One of the men who pushed anti-LGBT laws in Oregon, Scott Lively, left the state and moved his mission to other countries, including Russia and Uganda where LGBT people can be physically abused and sent to prison with the sanction of the government.

The large number of big businesses that opposed the Arizona bill is also a positive affirmation of LGBT people. A solar company fired Jack Burkman as its lobbyist after he said he would push for legislation to stop the NFL from having gay players. Meanwhile, federal courts continue to rule in favor of marriage equality, the most recent Texas. This map shows the status of marriage equality in separate states—at least today! 

map of states marriage equalityUsing religion to justify bigotry is not new. Segregationists used the same argument, often in the U.S. Congress. As late as the 1970s, Bob Jones University excluded blacks and then let them enroll if they were married. When they allowed unmarried blacks to attend the religious school, they prohibited interracial relationships, trying to keep federal subsidies by claiming that their racism came from religious beliefs. The Supreme Court finally struck down the argument of using religious beliefs for racial discrimination. As the court decided, religious liberty is important, but it should not be allowed to eradicate the rights of others. 

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February 21, 2014

Boycotts Focus on Arizona – Again

constitution-burning-485x322Couples in at least 25 states are suing for marriage equality in their home states, federal courts are overturning discriminatory constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, and a number of states are refusing to protect state anti-LGBT laws. Yet Arizona has decided to pass Senate Bill 1062 which allows anyone for any reason to refuse service to anyone if they claim they are doing so because of religious beliefs.

Last week, the bill passed the Senate with a party-line vote of 17-13. A day later, the House approved the bill with a 33-27 vote with three Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition. Democratic House Minority Leader Chad Campbell of Phoenix responded to the legislation by saying, “I’m not sure if Russia is any less progressive than Arizona now against gay rights.” He concluded, “There’s only one type of equality, and that’s equal.”

In the House, 33 members ignored Rep. Ruben Gallego when he reminded them that state is trying to attract the Super Bowl and companies like Apple and Google. “God forbid someone should come to the Super Bowl and come to a restaurant that is not going to allow them in,” he warned. “We’re saying it’s open season on gays; it’s OK to put this sign up,” he said, holding a large “No Gays Allowed” sign. The majority of the House also opposed Gallego’s bid to require businesses that refuse service to post notices at their front doors.

Like the rest of the United States, Arizona has a history of discrimination that leads to world-wide notice and boycotts. In early 1987, newly-elected Gov. Evan Mecham’s first official act was to rescind an executive order creating a Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Arizona. Originally, former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) supported Mecham in his action. Among other boycotts and protests to the loss of the state holiday, the NFL took the 1993 Super Bowl away from the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe and moved it to Pasadena. Mecham was the first Arizona governor to be impeached and left office within 15 months after his conviction. In 2010, the enactment of SB 1070, a measure dealing with illegal immigration, led to boycotts and the state paying millions of dollars in lawsuits.

On the House floor, Rep. Victoria Steele talked about how Pilgrims who came to America subjugated and slaughtered the Indians in the name of religion. She also read pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous poem posted at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Also urging Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the bill is the ACLU of Arizona:

“Once again Arizona’s Legislature is on the wrong side of history. Four years ago, after the passage of SB 1070, we were ridiculed for legalizing discrimination against brown people. The targets today are gay and lesbian Arizonans. They own homes, run businesses and pay taxes just like everyone else but under the guise of religious freedom they are now being vilified by Arizona lawmakers. This bill is not about God or faith. There are already laws on the books in Arizona protecting religious freedom. What today’s bill does is allow private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming.”

Rep. Mark Cardenas talked about the economic impact the legislation will have, and framed the debate as Arizona suffered when it refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day. Problems go far beyond the loss of tourism. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) has directed the chair of its board to send a letter to Brewer, urging her to veto the bill. This organization works with the Arizona Commerce Authority for business expansion or relocation to the state. The letter declares that such a law would “further the agenda to tarnish the business-friendly reputation we have all worked so tirelessly to build.”

Barry Broome, GPEC president and CEO, said the group has already heard from four companies that said they will look elsewhere if Senate Bill 1062 becomes law. Proposed legislation in Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Idaho was blocked after the business community objected.

Before Brewer signs the bill, she might want to consider other ramifications. Such a law could permit Sharia law in Arizona because the there is no sanctioned state religion. As the state Senate Democratic Leader Anna Tovar pointed out, the bill is so broad that it can permit discrimination “based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.” The bill expands  “the definition of person to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.”

If the bill becomes law, anyone who does anything in the name of religion—including physical assault—will be protected. Homeowner’s associations can keep people of color from moving into their neighborhoods; minorities can be evicted from their homes if “religion” is invoked. Even cities could ban a person or group of people, if they wish. People citing religious freedom could stone unmarried, pregnant women with impunity.

pizza

Meanwhile, a Tucson pizzeria, is taking action. Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria has a window sign with that business’s discrimination—against Arizona legislators who voted for SB 1062. Owner Anthony Rocco DiGrazia said on Facebook, “The response has been overwhelming and almost all positive from across the globe. I just want to serve dinner and own and work in a place I’m proud of. Opening the door to government-sanctioned discrimination, regardless of why, is a huge step in the wrong direction. Thanks for all the support.”

pizza 2Some media outlets have questioned whether Brewer will sign the bill because she vetoed a similar one last year. Her reason for doing that was not an objection against the bill’s content; it was a vendetta against the legislators for refusing her Medicaid expansion proposal. This year, she has no such issues. We’ll know by next week: if she either signs the bill or takes no action with five days, it will become law.

 

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