Nel's New Day

July 12, 2015

Religion in Birth Control, Cakes, Ignorance

Birth control is an obsession with Republicans. Instead of just letting women use contraceptive devices, the GOP tries to stop them and then accuses them of being fallen women who just want welfare if they get pregnant. Colorado is a great example of this GOP problem.

For the past six years, Colorado offered no-cost, long-acting birth control such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants to teens and poor women. From 2009 to 2013—just five years—the program reduced the birthrate for teenage girls by 40 percent and the rate of abortions by 42 percent. It is truly a pro-life program. In the poorest areas of the state, the decline in unplanned pregnancies among single women dropped the greatest. In 2009, half of all first births in these areas were to women under 21 years of age; by 2014 the age increased to 24. About 20 percent of women ages 18 to 44 in Colorado use a long-acting form of birth control in comparison to the national average of 7 percent.

The success rate is saving the state $5.85 for each $1.00 spent in Medicaid—that’s $80 million–something that conservatives claim that they want. Yet the same conservatives rejected funding to continue the program. Excuses given for discontinuing the funding are all based on individual morality of legislators: it increases promiscuity and subsidizes sex. One GOP lawmaker said, “Does that allow a lot of young women to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places?” Other excuses were that the program might fail, despite the amazing success in its first five years. Colorado Republicans also “misrepresented” the facts, claiming that IUD use led to increased abortions (no!), that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cover long-term birth control devices (no!), and contraction access increased teen sex rates (no!).

A year ago the Supreme Court ruled that the corporation Hobby Lobby held such deep religious convictions that it and other “closely held” stock corporations can choose to be exempt from the ACA mandate that employers’ insurance programs include free contraception for women. A spate of similar lawsuits followed the Hobby Lobby decision. One of these, East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell, came before an extremely conservative judge on the 5th Circuit Court. Nominated by Ronald Reagan almost 30 years ago, Judge Jerry Smith objects to abortions rights and has called feminists a “gaggle of outcasts, misfits and rejects.”

The participants in the lawsuit could be exempted from federal rules just by submitting a form or otherwise telling the federal government that they won’t do it. The plaintiffs refused to complete the paperwork, claiming that doing so makes them complicit in the employee’s decision to use contraception. Smith wrote the unanimous opinion for a three-judge panel that the plaintiffs failed to show that the regulations “substantially burden their religious exercise” through filling out a simple form because a letter is not contraception. He also wrote that ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would lead to such absurd challenges to government functions as a person who disapproves of working on Sunday refusing to apply for Social Security disability because it might assist people to work on Sunday if the form is processed on that day.  Smith summarized that “the possibilities are endless, but we doubt Congress, in enacting RFRA (the religious freedom act), intended for them to be.”

Smith’s ruling led to President Obama issuing new guidelines for contraception and the ACA. If a company wants to deny contraceptives to its employees, it must submit a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stating its objection. The government will then provide free birth control to employees through a third-party insurer. Sen. Patty Murray, irritated with the convoluted process of getting contraception for women, is working on legislation to repeal the Hobby Lobby ruling.

10_commandments_In another religious battle, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is defying the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent order to remove the Ten Commandments monument in front of the state capitol building. In a 7-2 decision, the state’s highest court upheld the constitution that states “no public money or property” would be used to support any specific religion. When asked about her defiance, Fallin said, “You know there are three branches of our government: the Supreme Court and the legislative branch and you have the people. The people and their ability to vote.”

According to a survey last year, only 36 percent of the people in the United States know the three branches, a situation that raised cries to improve the education in the country. Growing up in Missouri, Mary Fallin, 59, was subject to the ignorance that most people educated in the South experienced. The instruction about slavery, for example, is that masters gave the happy-go-lucky slaves a family and protected them from the attacking northerners. One popular textbook wrote that slaves experienced the first social security with great clothing, medicine, and lots of food. “The slave … suffered little or no want.”

Education is rapidly returning to the falsehoods of the 1970s with the acceptance of Texas textbooks promoting “tea party manifestos.” A conservative Christian minister who helped push the standards through said in 2010, “We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it.” The new history textbooks barely address segregation and lack any mention of either the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws. The Civil War was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery,” minimizing the part of slavery in driving the conflict. A school requirement is reading Jefferson Davis’ Confederate inauguration address which fails to mention slavery while ignoring the speech from Davis’ vice president, Alexander Stephens, in which he explained that the South’s desire to preserve slavery was the cornerstone of its new government and “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”

In today’s South, people still fight the Civil War because their ancestors never conceded defeat or signed a treaty to end the war. The only surrender was military. The North never accepted that the Southern states had seceded, and the Southern states never admitted that they had rejoined the North. Because there was no treaty, Southern leaders were never even tried for treason. Texas will lead the South into continued ignorance, one in which governors can’t even name the three branches of the federal government.

A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California, July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS FOOD SOCIETY) - RTX119FY

A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California, July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS FOOD SOCIETY) – RTX119FY

In another big lie about “religious freedom” during the past week, the far right is promoting one huge “misrepresentation” with a giant omission after Oregon levied a $135,000 fine against Sweet Cakes by Melissa because Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

The lie: The Kleins claim that there is a “gag order” against their talking about the case.

The truth: They are ordered only to “cease and desist” from advertising that discriminates against same-sex couples. The Kleins are free to talk about the case—the decision, their disagreement, etc.

The omission: Aaron Klein posted the lesbian couple’s personal information—name, home address, phone numbers and email address—on his Facebook page. After the Kleins campaigned at anti-LGBT hate rallies, the women received death threats. They feared that they would lose their foster children because state adoption officials warned them of their responsibility to protect the children and keep privileged information confidential. (The children have since been adopted.) The judge in the case also received death threats.

The Kleins’ martyrdom is also profit-making. Although the fine is $135,000, they have raised over $250,000 online—a nice payment for bigotry.

May 29, 2015

Pataki, Santorum Widen GOP Candidate Field

Rick-Santorum-at-CPAC-638x439

The GOP presidential candidate field increased by one-third this week with former candidate Rick Santorum and former New York governor George Pataki entering the fray. Rebranding himself without his iconic sweater vest, Santorum, a Catholic, is setting himself up as the evangelical alternative to Mike Huckabee, and the largely unknown Pataki will counter with his moderate—for Republicans—positions.

Santorum wants to move forward after unforgettable  statements on the Internet. He told an audience that President J.F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religious liberty made him want to “throw up” and accused President Obama of trying to get college education for more youth to turn them into liberals. His inarticulate ramblings against marriage equality became a Google sensation:

 “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality—”

Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan interrupted Santorum:

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about ‘man on dog’ with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.”

After that, Santorum stuck to showing the difference in marriages by waving napkins and paper towels. Columnist Dan Savage, however, ran a contest for a Santorum definition, the winner being “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.” Santorum continued by criticizing the Supreme Court’s right that its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas would lead to bigamy and incest. In other references he accused gays of being pedophiles and engaging in bestiality. Santorum’s incest statement is unfortunate because he is a good friend of the Duggar family, and Savage is working on a definition for “duggary.”  

Contraception is “not OK,” according to Santorum. “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” At the same time, he hates single mothers because he thinks people who “look to the government for help” give Democrats an advantage in getting votes. He believes that building two-parent families will “eliminate that desire for government.”

According to Santorum, the separation of church and state, although not in the U.S. Constitution, is “in the constitution of the former Soviet Union,” another GOP myth. Scholars have translated Article 124 of the Soviet Union’s 1947 version constitution: “In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.”

Santorum’s impassioned bombasts also led him to claim that blacks are those who get benefits from the country’s safety net. In Sioux City (IA) he told his audience, composed primarily of whites, that he didn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” He later denied using the term “black,” saying he meant “blah people.” Later, he began a sentence with “We know the candidate Barack Obama, what he was like – the anti-war government nig …”

Other Santorum statements:

The United States shouldn’t put women in combat because “emotions that are involved,” rendering them not fit for the battlefield. His dire predictions about letting lesbians and gays serve in the military have not come to fruition.

“The NBA” and “rock concerts” are corrupting U.S. culture, possibly because of the “blah people.”

Obamacare is like apartheid as well as a plot to kill the opposition’s voters and the “final death knell” of America. The apartheid statement was made after the death of Nelson Mandela to illustrate Santorum’s believe that people having health care in the U.S. is a “great injustice.” Santorum explained that health care is a system to “take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you.”

Health insurance companies should discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Santorum’s reason is the expense to the insurance company.

People who don’t have IDs are trying to rig the election. Although over ten percent of people living legally in the U.S. don’t have a government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or a passport, Santorum said, “The only reason you don’t have a voter ID is you want to continue to perpetrate fraud.”

Consensual LGBT sex should be illegal. “We can’t have a constitutional right to consensual sexual activity, no matter what it is,” Santorum said.

The U.S. is on the path to behead religious (aka Christian) people because of their faith, because of President Obama’s “overt hostility to faith in America.” Santorum’s faith, however, supported Penn State’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky because the “conclusions … [regarding child molestation] aren’t matched by the evidence that they presented.”

Some may declaim that these comments are in the past. Last night, however, Santorum said on the Kelly File that President Obama wasn’t killing enough people because he was afraid of “blowback” from killing civilians. Santorum’s position is that if the U.S. isn’t killing enough civilians because “it’s a public relations campaign.” If he became president, Santorum said, he would order air strikes on Iran if the country didn’t open up all their suspected nuclear program facilities.

To Santorum, “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no ‘Palestinian.’ This is Israeli land.” In his announcement speech, Rick said he wants to “drive a stake” through Common Core, junk the IRS, and institute a flat tax so that the poor pays the same percentage as Bill Gates.

Yesterday, Santorum said he worries about “anti-government rhetoric” and argued there is a place for government. “Government’s us,” he said. It’s a radical—and probably not permanent—shift from his claims that President Obama is a tyrant who “intentionally turned his back on evil and let it prosper around the world.” He has also said that the president is faking a war with ISIS to permit Christian persecution and “has a deep-seated antipathy toward American values and traditions.”  According to Santorum, business owners who refuse service to gay customers have been sent to “reeducation camps” and pastors will soon be jailed or martyred.

Every candidate needs a billionaire, and Santorum’s major donor is the same as during his last presidential run: Foster Friess, who claims that he won’t be using a super PAC which reports donors. “The money I give will be hard to track,” said Friess. The donor is memorable for suggesting that women use an aspirin for birth control by putting one between their knees.

George Pataki, who announced his candidacy the day after Santorum, is about as far from the rest of the current crowd as a Republican candidate can get. In supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S., Pataki said that the country cannot “send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains.” When signing a law to legalize marriage equality in New York, he said that the GOP’s focus on issues such as marriage equality and abortion are a “distraction” that hurt the party’s chance of retaking the White House. After the recent disastrous Amtrak derailment, Pataki called for major investments in the rail system and pushes for high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor. He is also in favor of environmental preservation efforts, abortion rights and gun control laws.

In its endorsement for Pataki’s third gubernatorial term in 2002, the so-called liberal New York Times praised Pataki’s “generally progressive stance on social issues.” This time, the NYT wrote that Pataki wants to deploy ground troops to take out ISIL and opposes government regulations to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and promote green energy. If elected, Pataki said he would cut the federal work force by 15 percent through repealing the Affordable Care Act, ending Common Core, and curbing the “overreach” of the Environmental Protection Agency. He also wants to start the federal tax code from scratch.

That that’s it for this week’s GOP presidential candidate announcements. Pataki most likely won’t win, but he’ll create an interesting dialog. Next week, watch for Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) and former Texas governor Rick Perry to join the eight GOP presidential candidates.

February 10, 2013

Religion Causes Polarity

What are the religious right folks talking about on Sunday? My favorite sick far-right belief from the last week comes from  Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who has explained that “certain doctors and certain scientists” found “these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb… Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”

Even Kevin Peeples, director of the movie Birth Control: How Did We Get Here? which argues that the only way to be “pro-life” is to be anti-contraception as well as anti-abortion, thinks that there might be another side to all those “little tiny fetuses … embedded into the womb.” Peeples did say in the interview that the problem with birth control is that women “desire the men’s role.”

A brief science lesson about fetal development for both Swanson and Peeples and maybe all those conservatives on the House science committee: an embryo doesn’t become a fetus until the tenth week of gestation. But more than that, menstruation, that periodic cleansing of the uterus (which Swanson calls the “womb”), moves everything out of the woman’s body. Birth control only keeps the egg from being fertilized and implanted. So the uterus is regularly emptied. No “tiny little fetuses” left.

These ideas come from all those people who didn’t take sex education because the religious right prevented it from being taught in public school.  http://www.care2.com/causes/boy-my-uterus-is-getting-crowded.html

But even if kids go to public school in Texas, they’re going to graduate with the belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old because it’s in the Christian bible.   They’ll also believe that racial backgrounds come from a curse that God placed on Noah’s son and that biblical stories of the sun standing still was proved by astronauts’ discovery of “a day missing in space.” A report from the Texas Freedom Network found that over half the state’s schools teach students to believe in the Bible as “the written word of God.”

A slide show in suburban Houston’s Klein Independent School District (ISD) states, “The Bible is united in content because there is no contradictions [sic] in the writing. The reason for this is because the Bible is written under God’s direction and inspiration.”

Prosper ISD in northern Texas proclaims that “the first time the Lord gathered his people back was after the Babylonian captivity. The second time the Lord will gather his people back will be at the end of the age.”

Some of these Bible classes in Texas public school double as “science” classes. Eastland ISD outside Fort Worth shows videos of a dinosaur footprint on top of “a pristine human footprint.”

A chart in Amarillo ISD identifies the sources of racial and ethnic groups, based on Noah’s three sons:  “Western Europeans” and “Caucasians” descend from Japeth; “African races” and Canaanites from Ham; and “Jews, Semitic people, and Oriental races” from Shem. Students are tested on this information as indicated by the following question: “Shem is the father of a) most Germanic races b) the Jewish people c) all African people.”

The following is found in the preface of one of the textbooks: “May this study be of value to you. May you fully come to believe that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.’ And may you have ‘life in His name.’” Texas uses the 2007 state law permitting “elective courses on the Bible’s Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament” to pass along its revisionist science curriculum.

Eighty years ago in an objection to teaching foreign languages in the public schools, Texas governor Ma Ferguson was quoted as saying,  “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.” The state hasn’t made much progress.

Other beliefs promoted last month by the religious right explained that women are to blame for the country’s problems. As I wrote earlier, Pat Robertson claimed that men are driven to drink by ugly wives. And rape victims are to blame for this crime. India’s prominent Hindu leader guru Asaram Bapu, 71, told his followers that the brutally raped women in New Delhi, who later died, was at fault:

“Had she taken guru diksha and chanted the Saraswati Mantra, she would not have boarded any random bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend. Even if she did, she should have taken God’s name and asked for mercy. She should have called [her rapists] brothers, fallen at their feet and pleaded for mercy. Had she said, ‘I am a weak woman, you are my brothers,’ such brutality would not have happened.”

Two other ways in which women are destroying the nation are the lack of a HIV cure and gun violence. Matt Barber of the legal group Liberty Counsel explained on his radio show that the person who would find the cure for HIV was probably already “slaughtered in the womb” because of legalized abortion. Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), fifth-ranking of House Republicans, said children on psychotropic drugs are likely contributing to gun crimes, primarily through greedy welfare moms trying to get more Social Security money:

“Where are we on all those psychiatric drugs? We’ve overmedicated kids. Quite frankly some of the overmedication of kids are because welfare moms want to get additional benefits and if they can put them on SSI through maintenance drugs, they can also put them on Social Security disability and get a separate check. That is wrong on every single level. Not only is it fraudulent to the government, but it also tells a kid with great potential, “don’t try because you’re disabled.”

There may be hope, however, after two members of Fred Phelps’ family announced they are leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka (KS). Phelps,83, and his clan are well known for their hate-filled rants against LGBT people, picketing funerals of fallen soldiers with signs saying that they deserved to die because of the sin in the United States. Sisters Megan and Grace, Phelps’ granddaughters, have gone to live with their cousin, Libby Phelps Alvarez, who left in 2009.

A highly visible and active member, 26-year-old Megan had taken care of most of Westboro’s social networking and regularly spoke on a Kansas City radio program. Blogger Jeff Chu wrote about Megan.

For many years, many of the people in the country were not familiar with the Phelps name. But after the group threatened to picket the funerals of victims from the Newtown (CT) massacre in December, a petition to officially designate the Westboro Baptist Church became highly popular. In January, church members failed to appear for demonstrations at four different Pennsylvania churches, and the inauguration Westboro protest had more signs than people.

The intolerance of various religious groups is exemplified by the Lutherans forcing an apology from one of its pastors who participated in an interfaith prayer service in Newtown (CT) immediately following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Rev. Rob Morris, a first-year pastor who lost one of his congregation at Christ the King Lutheran Church in the killing, gave the benediction at the December 16, 2013 service.

The 2.3-million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prevents joint worship with other religions because it might be seen as an endorsement of faiths that fail to recognize Jesus alone as a savior. After Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the synod, called Morris to apologize, the pastor wrote, “To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies.” Harrison called on Lutherans to support Morris “especially in providing funding for Christ the King as it continues to care for victims.”

Over eleven years ago, the Missouri Synod suspended Rev. David H. Benke from ministry for participating in a large interfaith prayer service following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. According to Rev. Wallace Schulz, Benke had broken the First Commandment, “I am the Lord thy God,” by worshiping with “pagans,” including Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu clergy members. Benke, who refused to apologize, was permitted to return to ministry two years later.

Top American Family Association official Bryan Fischer supported the Synod’s position, saying that Morris should not have taken part in an “idolatrous” function. According to Fischer,Christians have no right taking part in interfaith prayer services because they offer prayers to “counterfeit gods”  and any Christian who takes part in such functions would be “unequally yoked.”

That’s a reason for our polarity in the “united” states: mourning together is “unequally yoked.”

June 3, 2012

Women Need to Take Back Their Power

As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women…As women, we have heard the powerful messages of our church addressing the dignity [of] and reverence for all persons. As women, we have pondered these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the church, in its struggle to be true to its call to reverence and dignity for all persons, must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of the church.

These were the words of Sister Theresa Kane in 1979 when she was asked, as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), to give four minutes of welcoming remarks to the newly elected Pope John Paul II during his first papal visit to the United States.

In the audience was Joseph Ratzinger, the bishop from Bavaria, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. This pope is the Vatican leader who tried to quell the nuns in the United States because all they do is serve the poor. These nuns were reprimanded because they “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

Their punishment includes giving Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle the final say on every speaker at the group’s conference and every public utterance made in its name. Sartain will also revise LCWR’s governing statutes, and investigate links between LCWR and two liberal Catholic groups.

Sister Maureen Fiedler said yesterday, “If this were the corporate world, I think we’d call it a hostile takeover.” But the nuns are not peacefully accepting the Vatican’s actions. Yesterday, they issued a statement showing LCWR’s intent to contest the hostile takeover:

Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.

LCWR President Sister Pat Farrell and Executive Director Sister Janet Mock plan to go to Rome to take up these concerns with the prefect and Sartain before they consult with the organization’s general membership in August.  If necessary, LCWR can entirely disassociate with Rome and reconfigure itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. According to its website, LCWR “has approximately 1500 members who are elected leaders of their religious orders, representing approximately 80% of the 57,000 Catholic sisters in the United States.”  A reorganization would mean that the group would be only required to operate under U.S. law with the constitutional freedom of religion.

Some people view the Pope’s crusade against the nuns and the fury with which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops attacked the birth control mandate, as opposition to women. Adele Stan believes it goes farther, that  “the church hierarchy is a cult of power.” She cites the scandal regarding the Vatican bank and the battle waged by partisans and enemies of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to keep him from presiding over the group electing the next pope as well as the pay-offs that Cardinal Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, while Archbishop of Milwaukee, to priests accused of abusing children.

Theologian Mary E. Hunt, co-director of the Catholic feminist resource center WATER, describes the Vatican’s attack on nuns as a method of maintaining the clerics’ power, thus keeping people in the church from claiming the power that reforms of the Second Vatican Council give them. Cardinal Ratzinger attacked the nuns before when 24 sisters were threatened with expulsion from their orders for having signed a statement that asserted “a diversity of views” on the subject of abortion existed within the church. This time the reason was the support that LCWR, joined by leaders of 55 religious orders and umbrella groups, gave to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, which represents some 600 Catholic hospitals and 1400 health-care facilities, also backed the bill in defiance of the Vatican. In addition, she  supported the compromise regarding the birth control mandate when the White House required health insurance companies to pay for contraception. Although the bishops gave a hue and cry against the compromise, the majority of Catholics in the country support the nuns’ position, not that of the bishops.

While the nuns pay for food for the poor, the bishops pay for lawsuits against the administration challenging the requirement that all health insurance companies contracted for employer-provided health plans offer contraceptive coverage to the insured, with no co-payment by the patient. According to a New York Times editorial, “The First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society through the law.” Even ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia disagrees with the Catholic Church’s position: in 1990, he said that making “the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land” would mean allowing “every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

The Catholic leadership’s supposed desire for “religious freedom” comes from the same people who want to make laws against all people in the United States regarding women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, and other issues that result solely from religious interests. They threaten religious liberty by their efforts to impose their doctrine on everyone. The same desire for this freedom comes from Catholic Church leadership’s desire to protect all priests who sexually abuse children. One such bishop was William Levada, who served as archbishop of San Francisco and Portland (OR) and is now the Vatican prefect in charge of the nuns’ persecution.

According to Hunt, the Vatican’s power structure is very similar to that of a corporation, while the structure of the U.S. coalition of women’s religious orders functions more on the process-oriented and deliberative model of a local food co-op. About the Vatican, she said, “This is a business, where people do what people do in business.” The Catholic Church’s fiscal problems pattern those of big business.

Two U.S. archdioceses in the U.S. declared bankruptcy after making settlements to abuse victims: Milwaukee, less than two years after Cardinal Dolan became Archbishop of New York; and Portland (OR) under the leadership of Cardinal Levada. Levada punished a priest who reported a child-abusing fellow priest to the police, but the whistle-blower, Father Jon Conley, brought a defamation case against the archdiocese after paving the way for the family of an abused child to win a $750,000 settlement from the archdiocese.

The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein reported about Catholics protesting in more than 50 cities against the Vatican removing nuns’ rights “for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.”

The Catholic Church is not the only religion suffering protests against their actions. The fundamentalist pastors who call for imprisonment and death of LGBTQ people are also experiencing backlashes from their communities. One Million Moms of the hate group American Family Association keeps failing in its boycotts with JC Penneys and Olay making more money after the group publicizes advertising by gays and lesbians.

In a Washington Post column, Lisa Miller wrote about women leaving the church:

There are churches in America in which women aren’t allowed to speak out loud unless they get permission from a man first.

There are churches (many of them) in which women aren’t permitted to preach from the pulpit.

There are churches in America where a 13-year-old boy has more authority than his mother.

Between 1991 and 2011, the number of adult women attending church weekly  declined 20 percent. The number of women going to Sunday school dropped by about a third, as did the number of women who volunteer at church.

It is not only Rush Limbaugh who demeans all women by calling one a “slut” and a “prostitute.” It’s Rick Santorum–that man of faith–who has stopped just short of calling working mothers selfish and who lumps all single moms together as his opposition, as he did in an interview with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council last year.

Unless the strident, authoritarian social conservatives loosen their stranglehold on American women, American women will abandon the Republican Party (as they’re quitting church) and look for their candidates elsewhere.

Conservatives won’t give up their power. Let’s hope that women just take it.

March 27, 2012

Women Gaining Ground–Maybe

As the war on women moves through Women’s History Month, the opposition to women’s rights may be weakening slightly. The Catholic bishops’ struggle to control government decisions and taxpayer dollars regarding contraception flagged last week when U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns ruled that the government was in the right for refusing to renew a contract to the Catholic Church. The decision focused on the bishops’ decision to refuse key reproductive counseling and referrals for human trafficking victims with its $3 million grant. Stearns agreed with the ACLU on the basis that the bishops’ rules for federal funding violated constitutional prohibitions on church and state. The judge in the Massachusetts federal court wrote:

“To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others….This case is about the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).”

He also cited an earlier Supreme Court ruling that stated the Framers “did not set up a system of government in which important, discretionary governmental powers would be delegated to or shared with religious institutions.” Last week’s ruling questions the entire basis of the George W. Bush’s federal faith-based contracting initiative that has given almost total power to groups like the Catholic bishops who are permitted to determine how  taxpayer dollars are spent.

The bishops wanted the issue resolved in their favor even though they no longer had the contract. Their success might continue their autonomy over spending public money—including selection of insurance that provides contraception. In losing this case, they may have lost even more than the control of spending their money as they wish. It is possible that the FDA would make oral contraception available over the counter, making birth control far more accessible to women and totally offending the Catholic bishops.

Another break in the conservative forces against abortion and contraception came from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) in an interview yesterday with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. She said that she opposes the loss of Medicaid funding for the state after Texas stopped funding for Planned Parenthood. “I think Planned Parenthood does mammograms, they do so much of the health care, the preventative health care, and if they’re doing that, then we need to provide those services, absolutely,” Hutchinson said.

Although almost no men directly support women’s fight for contraception, one Republican made a surprising statement at a rally for the Equal Rights Amendment. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) thinks that we women should give our money to Democrats. “I think these are very precarious times for women, it seems. So many of your rights are under assault,” he told the crowd of mostly women. “I’ll tell you this: Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side—my side—has a lot of it. And you need to send your own message. You need to remind people that you vote, you matter, and that they can’t succeed without your help.”

The inequality between men and women in this country is made glaringly clear when male support for a female issue is totally unexpected—and when that male is a Republican, we find the support almost impossible to believe. We still live in a country where the Constitution defines a citizen as a male. But people like Richard Hanna may move us up the path toward more equality.

March 7, 2012

Limbaugh Flap Continues

The Republicans are beginning to figure out that the birth control issue will be huge in the fall election, especially after Rush Limbaugh’s vile comments about a Georgetown University law student. Even one senator who won’t run for election for another four years had second thoughts about voting yes on the Blunt Amendment, the one that said employers and insurance companies don’t need to provide insurance for anything based on personal reasons. With this bill becoming law, owners who are faith healers could tell their waitpeople or hotel maids or retail clerks that they cannot have any insurance but should instead go to the church’s faith healer.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) won her election almost two years ago, despite a Tea Party member running as the Republican candidate and Murkowski running as a write-in. The state even demanded that her name be spelled correctly for the votes to count. With her opposition either far right or Democrat, Murkowski picked up moderate votes, many of them women.

Julia O’Malley of The News Tribune (Anchorage) recently interviewed Murkowski. “She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn’t line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote,” O’Malley wrote.

Yet Murkowski ignored the women who voted for her, the ones who believed they should receive free birth control. Instead the senator voted yes to allow employers and insurance companies to remove insurance coverage for hormone treatment. She claimed that she was supporting religious freedom, which is what everyone says in opposing birth control for women, but she told O’Malley that she would not have voted for the amendment if she could re-vote. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” Murkowski said.

During her campaign, people handed out plastic bracelets with Murkowski written on them so that voters would know how to spell it right. Wearing a gold bracelet hat looks like those plastic ones, the senator said, “I got there [the Senate] because Alaskans took a little bit of risk on me.” O’Malley wonders now if the senator will take risks for the people of Alaska or just apologize for her votes.

Murkowski was concerned about the political ramifications of the Blunt amendment. “The wind had shifted, and Republicans didn’t have enough sense to get off of it,” she said. Like other Republicans, Murkowski worries about the public taking note about the fact that her party is on the wrong side of the birth control issue. She also takes issue with her colleagues in tippy-toeing around Rush Limbaugh’s recent bullying of Sandra Fluke. Murkowski declared his recent remarks “incendiary” and called on political leaders in her party to join her in openly criticizing Limbaugh.

“The comments made by Limbaugh, I was just stunned,” she added. “In the end, I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Including Republicans? “Everybody,” she responded. “What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.”

Instead of dealing up front with Limbaugh, Republicans are backing off on the entire birth control issue. “I think the Senate already took action and we’ve got a lot else on our plate,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who is running for Senate. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said through his spokesman that it was up to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton to determine when the legislation would move forward. This statement contradicts an earlier declaration that declared full steam ahead on the anti-contraception bill. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s anti-contraceptive bill has been around for several months and may languish for several more until it just dissipates.

The Republican leadership has been unbelievably weak in addressing his unpardonable behavior. In his column, Eugene Robinson said it best: “So let’s get this straight: These guys [Republican presidential candidates] want us to believe they’re ready to face down Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Un, the Taliban, and what’s left of al-Qaeda. Yet they’re so scared of a talk-radio buffoon that they ignore or excuse an eruption of venom that some of Limbaugh’s advertisers … find inexcusable.”

Even conservative pundits recognize how pathetic the Republican leadership has been since the Limbaugh diatribe against Fluke. George Will told George Stephanopoulos, “The Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

Memories are short, and the general election is eight months away. This issue, however, may not disappear in time to save the conservatives.

February 16, 2012

Hypocrisy of Catholic Politicians

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:53 PM
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Catholic leaders oppose birth control on religious grounds and claim that President Obama has declared a “war on religion” by forcing them to participate in this. Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are Catholics and carry the banner for the Catholic bishops who want to control women’s reproductive rights. Foster Friess, the main donor to the Super PAC backing Rick Santorum’s presidential bid, describes the candidate’s approach toward birth control: “On this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Baer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Determined to castigate President Obama for giving free birth control to women, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called a hearing this morning to investigate the Obama administration’s new regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to their employees. Who testified? The first panel of witnesses was composed of male religious leaders opposing the rule. Ranking committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked Issa to include a female witness at the hearing, but Issa refused because the hearing wasn’t about reproductive rights and contraception but instead how the administration’s actions relate to freedom of religion and conscience. He also refused to allow the testimony of a female college student because she lacks “the appropriate credentials” to testify before his committee. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of his decision.

Yet conservative and Catholic politicians fail to follow the Catholic Church policies in many important ways.

Preventive war: The U.S. Conference of Bishops and the Pope have denounced “preventive war,” which George W. Bush started with his attacks on Iraq and Republican presidential candidates, except Ron Paul, want to continue with an attack despite no real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the U.S. In opposition to the Catholic policy, the hawkish Santorum wants to ride the rocket down on Isfahan himself.

Israeli withdrawal: Catholic bishops demand that Israelis leave the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967; Rick Santorum denies that Palestinians exist.

Immigrant persecution: After Arizona passed its restrictive laws regarding immigrants, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tore into the state’s position, and Cardinal Roger Mahony characterized Arizona’s S.B. 1070 as “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” saying it is based on “totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.” Santorum, however, is a believer of “anchor babies” and opposes any services to children of illegal immigrants despite the fact that these children are legal citizens according to the Constitution.

The bishops also hold the position that illegal immigrants should not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized. In fact, many Catholic priests provide sanctuary for these people. Santorum wants them all out of the nation.

Health care for all: The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans, but Santorum opposes universal health care.

Executions: Santorum largely supports executions while the Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in most situations.

Minimum wage: Santorum has always voted against the minimum wages, but the U.S. Conference of Bishops urges an increase of the federal minimum wage for the working poor.

Welfare: The bishops also support welfare for all needy families, saying, “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.” Santorum is a vocal opponent of welfare.

Union support: While the U.S. bishops declare that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…,” Santorum has reversed his support of unions in the 1990s has turned to opposing them, starting with eliminating all public employee unions.

Conservatives do not truly believe in freedom of religion over law; they believe in Christian control of the country over all other religions and secular beliefs. This is proved by the proliferating laws against Sharia law at the same time that conservatives fight birth control, same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights, abortion, and the teaching of creationism and climate change because of  “Christian” law. Religion is the same argument preventing interracial marriage until the Supreme Court declared that one class could not be discriminated against—despite Christian beliefs.

All the candidates have made some of the following statements: No religion but Christianity will suffice. U.S. law should follow God’s law. Anything that’s immoral by religious standards should be outlawed. Courts that get in the way should be abolished. Freedom means obeying morality. In their war on women—in fact, all people—all four of the candidates oppose insurance covering birth control, breast cancer screening, coverage for maternity and newborn care, women under 26 on their parents’ insurance, and screening for diabetes. All four candidatesfavor continuing higher insurance costs for women than for men.

Under a theocracy, people in the United States will lose the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. On the other hand, with the Catholics running things, there might not be preventive wars, executions, and persecution of immigrants. People could receive welfare, if necessary, and universal health care. All workers could freely belong to unions, and the minimum wage might be increased. And the Palestinians could return to the land that they had before 1967. If only Catholic candidates actually listened to everything that their church preaches rather than just picking the political hot spots!

February 8, 2012

Conscience = Discrimination

Conscience. What a strange word to use when discriminating against people. Once again, religious groups have co-opted a term to oppose the scientific view that conscience is probably learned or imprinted (like language) as part of a culture.

The concept of conscience has provided the latest firestorm against President Obama regarding the requirement that all health insurance plans cover birth control without co-pay with exemptions those provided by churches and other places of worship. Because the Catholic Church operates an unbelievable number of businesses including private schools, universities, hospitals, and charities, millions of employees in these institution are not Catholic. Catholic leaders don’t want to follow the president’s guidelines—except in the 28 states that already require insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and services. No matter that the Church will not be paying for birth control; the insurance carriers do this as part of the benefits.

Republicans are delighted with their war on contraception because they can scream from the rooftops that President Obama is violating the First Amendment right of religious freedom. But what will the result be from their constituents? Republicans are ignoring the fact that 58 percent of Catholics believe that all employers should provide no co-pay birth control, and 98 percent of Catholic women use or have used contraception. Eighty-five percent of all Catholics support expanding access to birth control for women who cannot afford it, higher than the 82 percent of the general population who favors this, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

The decision to provide free birth control to women was based on an Institute of Medicine study concluding that birth control is medically necessary to “ensure women’s health and well being,” echoing similar recommendations by other medical organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Public Health Association.

Demonstrating the extremes to which conservatives are going to fight the health benefit of birth control for women, MSNBC commentator Eric Metaxas compared the requirement to provide contraception to women to the rise of Nazi Germany. Men in Congress have again retreated from solving the economy and jobs problem to again trying to control women’s bodies.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an organization with $26 million in its annual lobbying budget. This legislation would make all women who work for Catholic-operated institutions—nurses, janitors, teachers, etc.—purchase their own birth control unless state law provides that all employee insurance provide birth control or Catholic institutions already include this provision in the insurance policies.

House Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has sworn that Congress will overturn the administration’s mandate. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) claimed that the requirement of contraception coverage in employers’ insurance plans was a “bailout for Planned Parenthood” because birth control “is unrelated to the basic needs of health care.”

“What we are seeing now is the unfortunate fruits of the logical extension of the cesspool of Jacques Rousseau and his civil religion, whereby which your true religion was tolerated as long as it was subservient to the state,” Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) said. “That is not what this nation is about–it is a clear violation of your constitutional right to freely exercise your religion.”

In response, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “Women’s health care should not depend on who the boss is.”

As Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) explained, the administration’s rule has exempted 335,000 churches and other places of worship. “The concept of separation of church and state protects these 335,000 places of worship, but the concept of separation of church and state does not mean that a church can use their bully pulpit to separate millions of women from critical healthcare benefits,”Moore said, adding that separation of church and state does not trump women’s access to contraception.

Conscience is also the excuse in Virginia to give private adoption agencies the right to refuse parents based on sexual orientation or religious and moral beliefs. Under consideration in the state is adding state-funded, faith-based agencies to the list of agencies that can choose which parents are suitable for adoption based on the agencies’ beliefs. At this time, gay and lesbian couples are prevented from adopting because unmarried couples cannot adopt and gays and lesbians cannot get married in Virginia and eight other states. Thus gay and lesbian parents will be forced to contribute their tax dollars to an agency that, in turn, refuse them its adoption services.

The state currently permits single people, including gays and lesbians to adopt.  At this time, approximately 2,279 same-sex couples are raising about 4,558 children inVirginia, most adopted in Virginia, allowing only one parent to have custody.The new law will be more restrictive than the existing one, allowing agencies to refuse adoption by a single gay or lesbian.

Although the federal government has some protection against discrimination, Virginia allows faith-based organizations to discriminate based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and family status. These discriminations will almost certainly continue with the new law despite the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that gays and lesbians are a distinct legal classification and entitled to collective protection under the Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection clauses.

As with the birth control bruhaha, the Virginia legislature ignores the will of the people. Last year a Washington Post poll showed that 55 percent of Virginians think that gays and lesbians should be able to legally adopt children, and a Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of Virginians think that state-run agencies should not ban prospective parents based on their sexual orientation.

The basic question is how far religion can discriminate in the name of religious freedom. For example, if state-funded organizations can deny service to gays and lesbians in adoptive services, can they also deny services to them in hospitals? If Catholic institutions can discriminate against non-Catholic employees in providing health care, can they then discriminate against them in hiring? How far can religions go in infringing on other people’s rights in the name of religious freedom? Why should religions be able to use their beliefs to exclude rights and services when they receive government funding? Why should people be forced to contribute financially to organizations that refuse to provide services to these same people?

If an Islam-operated hospital were to insist that its employees be bound by Sharia law, Congress would be screaming that this is wrong. Their position on freedom of religion is attached only to the Christian religion, which means that they don’t actually believe in religious freedom—just in the political clout that the argument might give them.

January 23, 2012

Women’s Contraception at Risk

Over half a century ago, people questioned voting for a Catholic president because he might impose his religious beliefs on the United States. Five decades later religious beliefs are the basis of right-wing policies. The Catholic Church vigorously fights not only abortion but also birth control. The Catholic bishops used “religious freedom” to refuse reproductive health care to women who are employed by religious institutions that provide their health care.

President Obama is to be commended for not caving into pressures from the bishop in finalizing a regulation under the health care reform law requiring that all employer-provided insurance plans cover birth control without co-pays. He did give religious nonprofits until August 2013 to comply with the law. Medical research proves that women are healthier if the pregnancy is planned; children born at least two years apart are healthier.

Amanda Marcotte’s arguments supporting Obama’s refusal to allow the Catholic bishops to control women’s reproductive rights are very eloquent. She says, “Having the same regulations for every employer requiring insurance to fully cover birth control is a matter of religious freedom at its most basic. When Catholic organizations use their employees’ economic dependence as leverage to force pregnancy on them, no matter how unwilling they are to be pregnant, they deprive those women of their basic right to believe what they wish on matters of faith. Religious freedom is primarily an individual right. When an organization’s beliefs come in conflict with individual beliefs, the individual right to freedom of religion must triumph over organizational claims. Doing otherwise is allowing organizations to create a government-supported authority to discriminate and control on the basis of religion, depriving individuals of basic religious rights.

“After all, I can’t open a business and refuse to serve people because they have differing religious beliefs than I do. This is recognized as a violation of their basic freedom of religion. And that’s just a matter of serving sandwiches and fixing tires for people. It’s much, much easier to go to a different sandwich shop or car mechanic than it is to get another job or go to another school. Formal religious discrimination against those who don’t believe contraception is a sin has serious ramifications for those who are discriminated against in such a way. Anyone who truly supports religious freedom should therefore understand that women’s reproductive rights and equal treatment by their employers is part and parcel of religious freedom.”

Marcotte continues by comparing negativity toward women’s rights to the civil rights battle. During the turbulent times of the 1960s, “those who wished to discriminate on the basis of race would often claim that their right to push black people out of their businesses and neighborhoods trumped black people’s right not be discriminated against.”

Having free birth control saves money; unplanned pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers more than $11 billion a year. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that contraceptive services provided at publicly funded clinics helped prevent almost two million unintended pregnancies. Without funding from Medicaid and Title X, “abortions occurring in the United States would be nearly two-thirds higher among women overall and among teens; the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would nearly double.” More than 99 percent of women aged 15–44 have used at least one contraceptive method at some time to prevent unintended pregnancies and limit the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

All four of the current Republican presidential candidates have signed the “personhood” pledge, affirming that they would protect all “innocent human life.” This includes any fertilized egg that people think might be damaged by the most popular birth control methods.

As governor of Massachusettsin 2005, Mitt Romney vetoed a popular bill to make the “morning-after pill” available over the counter and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. The bill became law after the legislature overrode his veto. In a recent debate he said, “I don’t know if a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to!” He followed that statement with the position that he wouldn’t vote to ban contraception, but he seems to not know that Griswold v. Connecticut requires all states to allow birth control. He also signed the “personhood” pledge that would stop the most popular forms of birth control.

Rick Santorum has gone even farther than Romney in protesting contraception. He has suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court erred in its overturning Connecticut’s law banning contraception for unmarried women and pledged to defund federal funding for contraception. His reasoning is that states should have the right to “limit individuals’ wants and passions.” According to Santorum, contraception “is a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Recently he has tried to back away from these words, but they will follow him to the end of his campaign.

People who believe that unmarried women should have access to contraception might want to start celebrating June 6, the date that the U.S. Supreme Court gave this reproductive right to all women 46 years ago. If a Republican becomes president in the next election, that right may disappear.

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