Nel's New Day

August 16, 2015

‘End Times’ Guide Religious Direction

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is framing the Iran deal in terms of the Bible, claiming that the UN vote to approve the Iran deal fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 12:3 that all the nations of the world will unite against Israel, “with the United States leading that charge.” According to Bachmann, God and “heaven’s armies” will use groups like AIPAC to defeat the deal in Congress and in doing so “prove to the world His power and His strength.” She added that people are lucky to be living in these dark times because the world will soon come to an end.

John Hagee concurs, explaining fundamentalist Christian love for Israel with the belief  that Israel is connected to the Christian belief of End Times. Like ISIS, these Christians think that we’re nearing the time when the Rapture will take all those faithful up to heaven while the rest of us burn down below. In 2011, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), said that if “we stop helping Israel, we lose God’s hand and we’re in big time trouble.” This week, Hagee said:

“God could care less about what we say about Russia, about China, about Iran, but when we as a nation take a stand against Israel, God will take a stand against us.”

A pop-upon Hagee’s website this week states, “Bibi [Netanyahu] Did His Job. Now We Must Do Ours.” Since 2001, his foundation has donated over $58 million to hard-right Israeli organizations, and Christian Zionists have paid millions of dollars for Jews to immigrate to Israel. Over 60 percent of white evangelicals believe that at least half of world Jewry must be in the Land of Israel for the End Times to proceed, and 77 percent of evangelicals think that they are living in the End Times as do 40 percent of all people in the U.S.

Jim Bakker, the televangelist who went to prison for bilking over 152,000 of his flock, is back with a new scam—selling gear and food to survive the End Times. Hoping to instill even more fear from the projected End Times, he advertises:

“New York, Chicago, all of your big cities, will be Hell. The gangs will take what they want. They will kill to take what they want. Then they will start eating bodies of the people they kill.”

This past week he talked about the End Times with Rick Wiles, who has his own issues:

“Add it up: Bird flu is killing tens of millions of chickens and turkeys, a mysterious virus is killing millions of piglets, a mysterious colony-collapse disorder is killing billions of honeybees, California is in the throes of a mega-drought unlike anything seen in over 1,200 years. Why? The answer is very simple: America is in a state of rebellion against almighty God.”

Wiles has had a good talk with God:

“He said, ‘America has dealt treacherously with me as a treacherous wife.’ And He said, ‘She wants what’s beautiful and good and then she began to commit adultery with other men and I forgave her, and she did it again and I forgave her, and she did it again and I forgave her, and she did it again and I forgave her. But now she’s committing homosexual sex with another woman and I cannot look at her anymore.’ He said, ‘I can’t even look at her, she’s not my wife anymore. The divorce is final.’ He told me that on the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, God went to court too and he got a divorce.”

Bryan Fischer joined Wiles in lambasting same-sex couples through his complaint about their trying to adopt children. Somehow he managed to compare forcing to do things against their will to slavery, ending with the “homosexual lobby” trying to bring “slavery back to the Confederate States of America.” Even if anyone could follow his irrational pretzeling, why would he think that racists in the former Confederacy wouldn’t want a return to slavery?

Rafael Cruz, Christian father of wannabe “Christian” president Ted Cruz is also agonizing about his loss of freedoms. Liberty is important to the elder Cruz because he escaped the Batista regime in Cuba, and he wants everyone here to know how freedom is being taken from us. On the Jan Mickelson show, he listed examples of our lost free will: our ability to buy incandescent light bulbs and our preference of toilet seat is gone. Another myth from Cruz is that the Clean Air Act will regulate the puddles in our own backyard: two mistakes—it’s the Clean Water Act, and it’s not happening. The younger Cruz is equally wacky; he’s claimed that the UN wants to close down all the golf courses in the United States. Racism, uncontrollable gun ownership, healthcare, income inequality, crumbling infrastructure, climate change, lack of food and water aren’t worth a mention, but don’t take away preferred Cruz’s toilet seat.

The War on Christmas has started four months before the actual holiday. Elizabeth Hasselbeck, conservative reject of The View, fired the first salvo from her current position on Fox and Friends when she addressed the story of how people asked for the move of the nativity scene in Belen (NM) from public to private property. The mayor will use taxpayers’ money to go to court because the town is named after Bethlehem. Fox is most likely looking forward to its one-sided “war” after losing the one against Donald Trump.

Outdoing all these ridiculous religious views, however, is this story. The Family Council Action Committee is presenting its first annual “Power of Courage” award to Arkansas state Rep. Justin Harris and another state legislator, Rep. Charlene Fite. Earlier this year Harris “rehomed”—aka gave away—two adopted daughters to a sex offender who then raped the six-year-old daughter. That was after Harris and his wife tried to exorcize the three-year-old and six-year-old girls. FCA’s press release praises the two lawmakers because they “demonstrated courage by standing strong in faith when situations were tough at the State Capitol and they did so with grace. They are consistently models of their Christian values in their homes, their communities, and their churches.” The press release made no mention of Harris’ behavior other than he won’t be seeking reelection.

The Arkansas Times was careful to point out that this news was not satire because it could come straight out of The Onion. The award was to have been presented at an event headlined by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) until the organizers, the Crawford County Republican Party, asked FCA not to do this at this event.

Despite hate messages from radically-right Christians, the world of religion has some good news this week. Muslim leaders plan to issue a call next week to protect the planet and demand that Islamic followers help the environment. They are taking the same position that Pope Francis has espoused—that humans are stewards assigned to care for the Earth and leave it “a better place than we found it.”

Georgians in the 80th state house district has overturned tradition by electing a Democrat in a district that voted for Mitt Romney by a 56-43 margin. In a special election, Taylor Bennett won the seat over Max Davis by 55 to 45 points, despite spending only one-third as much as his opponent. The winning Bennett ran on his opposition to a proposed “religious freedom restoration act” and talked about his lesbian mother and sister.

The best religious quote of the week comes from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ):

Cory Booker

Glenn Beck makes me proud to be from Oregon. Number One of the 15 worst cities in the United States (to quote Beck, “avoid like the plague when things go bad”) is Portland. The remainder are, in order, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, St. Petersburg (FL), Columbus (OH), Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington, DC, and St. Louis.

[Chuck Todd update: After Todd interviewed Donald Trump on Meet the Press, his conservative panel concentrated on bashing Trump. No one pointed out that the same criticisms, such as Trump not directly answering questions, are also true of other GOP candidates. Or the fact that both Chris Christie and Rand Paul already said that they want to rescind automatic citizenship for everyone born in the U.S. Todd consistently interrupted Trump but treated Ben Carson with great courtesy. Bernie Sanders, another interview subject, had to disabuse Todd of the notion that he and Trump are alike. The husband of a staff member for Democratic candidate Jim Webb, Todd praised Jeb Bush for his speech at the Iowa State Fair but trashed Hillary Clinton, providing the conservative press with several criticisms for the Democratic candidate. Todd is at least consistent in his openness to endorse candidates while trying to keep up a pretense of being a journalist.]

January 19, 2014

Fight for Separation of Church, State Continues

Bryan Fischer (American Family Association) is always good for news although I wonder if he believes what he says. this year’s “novel” idea is to limit voting to property owners, just as the Founding Fathers planned. Renters, according to Fischer, aren’t vested in the community. To quote Fisher, “they’ve got no skin in the game.” (Skin is a very popular topic with conservatives these days.)

This week Fischer also declaimed that trans people are “anti-science” because gender identity is decided by a “creator God who doesn’t make … mistakes.” He was agreeing with Keith Albow, Fox network’s resident “doctor,” who is also “not convinced by any science I can find that people with definitively male DNA and definitively male anatomy can actually be locked in a cruel joke of nature because they are actually female.”

 Fellowship Baptist Church Pastor Mike Lewis may have found a use for Fischer’s unvested people. The Vacaville (CA) went to jail for getting three homeless people under his church’s care to firebomb his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house with a Molotov cocktail. Sarah Nottingham has also accused Lewis of vandalizing her car and setting fire to her shrubbery. Lewis is claiming his innocence, but the police aren’t buying it. Maybe it was the illegal firearms, methamphetamine, and evidence implicating Lewis in the crime. The day after the police released Lewis, he was back in church, preaching the gospel.

Another preacher has popped up at the University of Connecticut. Recently hired Ernest T. Jones, a position coach for the football team, plans to put Jesus Christ “in the center of our huddle.” He continued:  

“If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships, then you better understand that this didn’t happen because of you. This happened because of our Lord and Savior. That’s going to be something said by [Head Coach] Bob Diaco. That’s something that’s going to be said by Ernest Jones. That’s who we are.”

If Diaco doesn’t give Jones the bad news, the school administration will. Because the school is publicly funded, it has to abide by the First Amendment—separation of church and state. President Susan Herbst issued a statement that school employees are forbidden from endorsing religion and that all students should feel welcome at the school.

As head coach at his alma mater, Alcorn State University (MS), Jones was fired in 2008 for “malfeasance and contumacious conduct” after just one season. It seems that “contumacious” is a fancy word for stubbornly refusing to obey authority, in this case opening a bank account in which he deposited fund-raising money without any authority. And buying Russell Athletic shoes for the team that had an exclusive deal with Nike and then failed to clean up the $11,000 mess the way he was told. Even with Jesus, Alcorn finished his season 2-8.

Fortunately, the courts are still not 100 percent behind the conservatives. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton decided that the Oklahoma license plate with the famous artwork of a young Apache warrior shooting an arrow skyward is just fine for the state. Bethany pastor Keith Cressman had protested that the image was an affront to his Christian beliefs and his First Amendment rights against compelled speech were violated by being forced to display the (probably heathen) artwork on his vehicle. Heaton said he didn’t see anything religious about the artwork.

 Individuals are also fighting back at the religious bigotry of the far right. A member of the United Methodist Church in Alexandria (IN) for six years, Adam Fraley was also its choir director. He and his male partner were accepted by most of the church members. New minister David Mantor forced Fraley out of the church and then asked David Steele, intermediary between minister and church membership, to resign after Steele asked Mantor to reconsider. Steele refused, and the district superintendent forcefully removed him from is position. As a result, 80 percent of the congregation left the church.

The United Methodist Church still hasn’t learned its lesson that LGBT people deserve rights. After firing  Frank Schaefer for marrying his son in a same-sex wedding, the Methodists have formally charged another pastor, the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, for officiating at his son’s same-sex unions.  Ogletree, 80, is a theologian, a former Yale Divinity School dean and a retired elder in the church’s New York district, or Annual Conference. His trial will be on March 10, 2014 at First United Methodist Church in Stamford (CN).

Ten sex/love/relationship/marriage/dating suggestions from the same religious people who bring us the egregiously gridlocked Congress:

1. Girls: shut up. Justin Lookadoo, faith-based dating coach, motivational speaker, former juvenile probation officer, and author of Dateable: Are You? Are They?, The Dateable Rules and The Dirt on Sex, says, “Dateable girls know how to shut up.”

2. Boys: be wild, but godly, and cover up your ladies. Lookadoo says “men of God are wild, not domesticated. Dateable guys aren’t tamed.” But he’s against porn so guys “keep women covered up.”

3. Share an eating disorder. The Christian Broadcast Network has 101 ideas for “creative dates,” including “Eat creatively one whole day for $1.18.”

4. Engage in strange, antisocial and alienating behavior. More of CBN’s coupling ideas are “kidnap a friend for breakfast … visit the library and ask the librarian a bizarre question … develop a new laugh together … survey the neighborhood with a self-made, bizarre questionnaire.”

5. Pretend to be senior citizens. Also CBN: “Date like you’re from the generation older or younger than you actually are. Eat ice cream cones and rollerblade in the park for a date fit for teenagers. If you prefer senior-style fun, eat applesauce, play bingo and watch a black-and-white movie.”

6. Transcribe the Bible together. Focus on the Family suggests: “Find a flat piece of scrap wood and use a permanent marker to write out your favorite Bible verses. Take it to a nearby beach, river or lake and toss it in the water. This may be of great encouragement to whoever finds it later on.”

7. Wives: keep the devil out by submitting. Karen Blake, the author of Do You Hear the Battle Cry? An Essential Handbook for the Wives of Christian Men, says, “Satan is out to kill your marriage and destroy your ministry.” You can defeat Satan through submission: “Wives, be subject—be submissive and adapt yourselves—to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22, Amplified).”

8. Put out so your husband behaves. In her Christian.com-published book No More Headaches: Enjoying Sex & Intimacy in Marriage, Julianna Slattery tells the story of Sheila and Mark and concludes: “You’re the only woman in the world whom your husband can look at sexually without compromising his integrity!”

9. Dump your Muslim girlfriend. Pat Robertson advised one of his viewers who asked if he should marry his Muslim girlfriend of three years: “No way…. She wants to do her Muslim thing….Walk away.” What’s the Christian thing to do? Robertson explains, Christ is “not gentle Jesus, meek and mild, he really isn’t.”

10. Stay married to your husband who sexually abuses your kids.In her book, Created To Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious, Debi Pearl literally tells women to stay with their abusive husbands:

“But if your husband has sexually molested the children, you should approach him with it. If he is truly repentant (not just exposed) and is willing to seek counseling, you may feel comfortable giving him an opportunity to prove himself…. Stick by him, but testify against him in court. Have him do about 10 to 20 years, and by the time he gets out, you will have raised the kids, and you can be waiting for him with open arms of forgiveness and restitution. Will this glorify God? Forever. You ask, ‘What if he doesn’t repent even then?’ Then you will be rewarded in heaven equal to the martyrs, and God will have something to rub in the Devil’s face. God hates divorce — always, forever, regardless, without exception.”

That’s life in the United States if the Tea Party fundamentalists take over.

 

January 5, 2014

Religious Shifts in 2014

What’s up for 2014 in the world of religion? Luckily for us, Pat Robertson has a direct pipeline to God as long as the televangelist shows up at a special mountain retreat. He missed last year’s predictions because the weather kept him away—Robertson, not God. The year before, God’s messages led Robertson astray, especially the one in which Mitt Romney would defeat President Obama and be a two-term president.

God’s predictions at this year’s retreat:

  • Severe economic problems that will devastate the global economy;
  • An non-unified world;
  • Emergence of a nuclear Iran;
  • Islam in retreat while “people in the pews” are blessed;
  • GOP takeover of the Senate but not veto-proof majority;
  • Leadership of China;
  • “Greatest year in the history of the church”;
  • President Obama withdrawing and becoming a Hawaii surfer. (Yes, Robertson really said that!)

Mayor Tom Hayden has further shredded the thin veil between church and state when he proclaimed 2014 as “The Year of the Bible” in Flower Mound (TX). Not everyone is happy. Resident Curt Orton said, “He was elected mayor. Not as the spiritual leader of Flower Mound.”

The Dallas chapter of the Anti-Defamation League said:

“As a public official, he [Mayor Hayden] has both a moral and legal duty to equally serve his constituents of all faiths or no faith. Regardless of his benign intent, the Mayor’s action is highly inappropriate, not to mention likely unconstitutional. It can only serve to divide residents along religious lines and conveys a message of exclusion to constituents whose faith tradition does not include the Bible. We urge the Mayor to reconsider the issuance of his proclamation.”

Hayden’s idea is on a website thebible2014.com that gives a different scripture each day. By the end of the year, readers will supposedly finish reading the Bible, according to Jon Bell of Calvary Chapel. The “Comments” section has been disabled because of too many responses. It might be interesting to know what kind of responses. Hayden did point out that no one voted on this proclamation. He thinks that it’s just the sort of announcement that all elected leaders make.

A further move to destroy the First Amendment comes from Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, who wants to eliminate all public office holders who believe in evolution. Because people who believe in evolution don’t know that all our rights come from God, they are unable to uphold people’s rights.

“We don’t share ancestors with apes and baboons. In fact, I would suggest to you if a politician, if somebody wants to be, wants to exercise political power, and he is an evolutionist, he is disqualified from holding political office in the United States of America because he does not share the political worldview that established the United States of America, and made it the greatest nation in the history of the planet.”

If Fischer goes to pieces at the idea of his relationship to “apes and baboons,” can you imagine his reaction to being related to a banana. In fact (scientific fact, at least), human DNA is about 50 percent identical to banana sequences. Think about that the next time you eat a banana.

The anti-science position growing among Republicans is damaging the level of education in this country. U.S. 15-year-olds place 21st in the world in science, four places lower than in 2009. Vietnam, which participated this year for the first time, scored better than the U.S., and students in East Asian countries and provinces took seven of the top ten places. Shanghai, China’s largest city, is #1 in the world in science testing.  

Of three states that increased its participation in testing, both Connecticut and Massachusetts scored higher than the international average. Florida scored lower. The two states above average are considered blue states whereas the one below average is controlled by Republicans. It would be interesting to see how the other red and blue states compared.

Fischer and other literalists (fundamentalists who think that everyone must believe how each of them personally interprets the Bible) may have increasing trouble with Pope Francis. Last November the pope struck out at Christian fundamentalism as “not healthy”:

“It is not a good strategy to be at the center of a sphere. To understand we ought to move around, to see reality from various viewpoints. We ought to get used to thinking.”

Thinking is a concept that doesn’t fit with extremists’ Christian culture. Perception from a different point of view is also not in Christian fundamentalist realms.

The pope thinks that “some time of real contact with the poor is necessary.” It may make people more understanding of their plight instead of seeing them as lazy users. Pope Francis does follow his own directions: he is known to dress as a regular priest at night and go out on the streets to minister to the poor.

Pope Francis supports other beliefs that Christian fundamentalists don’t: environmentalism; assistance for immigrants and the marginalized; and respect, kindness, and understanding for atheists and Muslims. He calls on his flock to be more in line with the teachings of Jesus. Fundamentalists twist their own Bible to oppose the New Testament and turn Jesus into a capitalist warrior.

Pope Francis preached:

“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

Another of his teachings is also offensive to Christian fundamentalists:

“God reveals himself not as one who stands above and who dominates the universe, but as He who lowers himself. It means that to be like Him, we do not have to place ourselves above the others, but come down, come down and serve them, become small among the small, and poor among the poor.”

 Pope Francis has company in opposing the stranglehold of extremist Christians. People are beginning to react more against fundamentalist Christian attitudes:

  • Atheists are more willing to declare their non-religious beliefs, for example, atheist, Rebecca Vitsmun, when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked her if she thanked the Lord for living through the Oklahoma tornado.
  • A new generation is more willing to express their personal beliefs.
  • Human rights are expanding, for example the number of states legalizing marriage equality and the demands to end the rape culture and lack of women’s rights allowed in the Bible.
  • Cognitive scientists are beginning to openly explore the relationship between religion and mental illness such as anxiety disorders, panic, and depression.
  • Communities are building outside religion to bring together those with like beliefs to provide support through community service, lectures, and recreation.
  • Giving, once led by faith communities, is now being taken over by those outside the religious structure.
  • Texas, a state that controls the content of textbooks, will teach biological science after publishers refused to include creationism in the books.
  • Organizations such as Freedom from Religion are beginning to chart wins in their work to bring back more separation of church and state, and many of the leaders are young people.
  • Young people who were isolated in homeschooling now have a network, Homeschoolers Anonymous, to lend support for each other. Others in church schools are starting to protest the bigotry, for example when hundreds of them walked out after a Bellevue (WA) school fired a gay teacher.

Between Pope Francis’s teachings and the changing demographics of the United States, the country may move away from a militaristic country of unfettered capitalism toward more compassion and acceptance for others.

December 1, 2013

Religion at War

How can we attack President Obama? Let me count the ways.

Rev. James David Manning, birther pastor of Atlah World Missionary Church, has presented another conspiracy theory surrounding President Obama. Miriam Carey, the mentally ill woman shot and killed after she tried to ram her car into a barrier outside the White House during the October government shutdown, was the mother of President Obama’s illegitimate child. People will know the truth by giving Carey’s child a DNA test. Also Michelle Obama is biologically male—according to Manning.

More reasonable people—at least when compared to Manning—have other conspiracy theories about the president. The Washington Post started the most recent religious kerfuffle one in this report about the U.S. embassy’s move from the Vatican:

“The Obama administration, in what’s been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See–a free-standing facility–and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Italy.”

The Breitbart blog, which lives on long after its namesake’s death, changed the story from “moving” to “shutting it down.” Fox Nation loved the change and used its top story to declare that President Obama intends to “close” the embassy to the Holy See.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) called the action a “slap in the face” to the nation’s Roman Catholics, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a petition drive to protest the move, calling it “the latest anti-religion pursuit” of the Obama administration and a decision that “weakens America’s position as a global leader.”

Even Jeb Bush, who holds no elected office at this time, decided that the issue would provide fodder for a possible presidential run in 2016 and called the move a “retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.” In reality, his brother started the re-location: George W. Bush’s administration bought buildings for a new embassy location that is one-tenth of a mile closer to the Vatican. There is no reduction in staff or activities. The new location is part of the larger U.S. compound in Rome which houses the U.S. Embassy to Italy and the U.S. mission to the U.N. offices in Rome. The move increases security and saves up to $1.4 million a year.

There is wide-spread Catholic support for the Affordable Care Act. The Catholic Hospital Association (CHA), a trade group of Catholic hospitals, endorsed health care reform and in July of this year announced that it is also satisfied with the administration’s contraception rule. A majority of U.S. Catholics also agree that religiously affiliated groups should comply with the mandate.

Pope Francis himself caused a kerfuffle this week after he released the first major document as head of the Catholic Church. In the Evangelii Gadium, or Joy of the Gospel, he condemned “trickle-down” economic policies, calling rampant capitalism “a new tyranny. The pope also compared the obsession with wealth to a “new and ruthless” form of worshiping a false idol and argued it reduces humans to creatures of consumption. He may have been referring to a permanent “Black Friday” mentality.

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Francis also called on the rich to share their wealth, arguing that there should be a commandment that guides humans to be inclusive of all people and eliminate economic inequality from society.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

Most of his 224-page document, an “apostolic exhortation” that lays out the pope’s platform for his rule, was a concern regarding economic inequality. The pope has thus far led by example, using a Ford Focus for travel instead of the traditional luxury vehicles for Pope Benedict XVI and living in a guest house rather than the palatial papal apartments.

Calling for an overhaul of the financial system, the pope warned that the inequity of wealth will inevitably lead to violence.

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

The action that the pope wants will go “beyond a simple welfare mentality.” He wrote, “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”

The pope’s position directly opposed Ronald Reagan’s signature economic theory, which continues to be the ideology worshipped by conservative Republicans. Francis’ lament that people had “calmly accepted (the) dominion” of money over themselves and society, expressed in the recent financial crisis and the continuing promotion of consumer-based economies, was not well-taken by far-right wingnuts.

Stuart Varney, Fox Business host, lectured the pope on the U.S. system that gave 40 percent of the country’s wealth to four people:

“Capitalism, in my opinion, is a liberator. The free choice of millions of people is the essence of freedom. In my opinion, society benefits most when people are free to pursue their own self-interest. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it is not.”

Fox is big on mixing religion and business, but Varney thinks that the pope shouldn’t do this—at least when the pope disagrees with Varney:

“I go to church to save my soul. It’s got nothing to do with my vote. Pope Francis has linked the two. He has offered direct criticism of a specific political system. He has characterized negatively that system. I think he wants to influence my politics.”

Varney never criticized the former Pope John Paul II, who really liked private property and hated communism. That religious leader never tried to make rich people who had too much feel bad because millions of people had too little.

Cliff Kinkaid, director of the misnamed Accuracy in Media, went farther when he spread a video on the Internet to explain that Marxists have infiltrated the Catholic Church. He insisted:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not here to beat up on the pope. That’s not my job. But I can read. I can read this document. I can see what he is saying, and I can tell you right now that this is a very, very disappointing document, and it makes me wonder about the future of the Roman Catholic Church in this world and what they’re heading towards.”

Kinkaid found an evil commie plot in the Roman Catholic Church supporting one world government. According to him, Pope Francis uses “flowery language” to camouflage this sinister plot, or  “what we might euphemistically call a new world order, a new world economic order.”

Pam Geller, Islamophobic blogger/activist, is upset because the pope doesn’t want to destroy all Muslims:

“At a time when Christianity worldwide is under siege by Islamic jihadists, the leader of the Catholic Church claims that the quran teaches non-violence. As Christians across the Muslim world live in abject terror and fear kidnapping, rape and slaughter to the bloodcurdling cries of ‘Allahu akbar,’ the pope gives papal sanction to the savage.”

Pope Francis offended Geller by comparing “violent fundamentalism” with “authentic Islam.” The latter, he wrote, was “opposed to every form of violence.” Geller asked when the pope became an imam, a requirement to read the Koran, although she too has quote passages from the Islam holy book.

Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association (AFA), is as anti-Islam as Geller. This week he told his followers that the Constitution allows U.S. officials to “make Islam illegal” and “prohibit the building of mosques.” Because the First Amendment, that protects freedom of religion, begins with the word “Congress,” it only applies to the federal government and not the states until the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868.

The argument makes no sense, but far-right evangelicals never concern themselves with reason. After all, this is the same person who claims that the Bible requires an orca at SeaWorld to be stoned to death because the animal caused the death of its trainer.

The last piece of craziness in this week’s column comes from Southern Baptist leader Richard Land who wrote that “the best option” for unmarried mothers is giving up their children for adoption. “A single mother who keeps her baby is quite often denying that baby the father that God wants for that baby, and every baby, to have,” Land argued. He said he knew there are 100,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. but still wants 11 million single mothers to give up their 20 million children.

July 21, 2013

Religion Roundup Contains One Ray of Hope

Arrogant is the word that seems to best describe Christian extremists in the United States. No one demonstrates it better than David Young, long-time chief of staff for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and wannabe replacement for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). At the recent Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, Young worked hard to one-up his two competitors, promising that “as a Senator, he would invite New York Senator Chuck Schumer to lunch so that he could share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Young’s campaign website describes him as a man with the “knowledge, experience, and quick wit” to stand as a “formidable check and balance” on President Barack Obama and Democratic senators. “There’s not a grandstanding bone in his body; he’s even-keeled, thoughtful and even kind,” the bio adds.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait suggested that he might want to try another Jewish senator. He wrote:

“As a senator from New York, [Schumer] has the least to gain politically from a high-profile repudiation of the Jewish faith and conversion to evangelical Christianity. Schumer is also a really good negotiator, and Young could walk out of the room having agreed to become a Jew.”

Arrogant George Zimmerman, exonerated in the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin, also knows that God—not the Devil—made him kill Trayvon Martin. In an interview with Sean Hannity week, Zimmerman showed no regret although he did say about the Martin family, “I am sorry that they buried their child.” About the shooting, he said, “I felt it was all God’s plan.”

Beer, or at least their commercials, has turned Jesse Watters (Fox Nation) to religion. While co-hosting Fox & Friends, he criticized a Samuel Adams ad that used the Declaration of Independence without the words “endowed by their Creator.” Watters claimed that was a sign that “the terrorists have won” and that the Tea Party has been “targeted.” When co-host Clayton Morris explained that the Beer Institute guidelines require its advertising to not mention religion, substitute host Anna Kooiman disagreed: “Yeah, that’s what they say. They’re puttin’ it off on some old red tape there.” Some people may not have paid attention to whatever she said because her dress was hiked up to the top of her thighs.

Almost two years ago, Watters’ Fox Nation published death wishes for President Obama, and the year before he stalked a female blogger who criticized Bill O’Reilly for his claim that an 18-year-old woman would not have been raped and killed if she hadn’t gotten drunk. Watters is also known for his Fox segments featuring homophobia, transphobia, and anti-immigrant content. Yet he wants to protect the term “endowed by their Creator” which includes “…all men are created equal, … with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Conservatives bloggers, led by Breitbart.com, are trying to prevent freedom of religion in the military by claiming that the “Pentagon may court martial soldiers who share Christian faith.” This is what Defense Department spokesman Nate Christensen told Fox News Radio commentator Todd Starnes:

“The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and respects (and supports by its policy) the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs. The Department does not endorse any one religion or religious organization, and provides free access of religion for all members of the military services.”

Christensen said, “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense.” Todd Starnes translated this into “the Pentagon confirmed to Fox News that Christian evangelism is against regulations.” The Family Research Council dived into the discussion and reported that Christians are being persecuted in the military. Most of their references came from the highly unreliable Breitbart.com and Todd Starnes.

It’s the nonreligious service members who suffer discrimination. Noting that almost one-fourth of those in the military are nonreligious, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) proposed that these people have nonreligious chaplains from “nontheistic” organizations. His rationale is that the only counseling option other than chaplains is a mental health expert that gives a stigma and lacks confidentiality. Polis’ amendment failed in a 150-274 vote with all Republicans joined by 44 Democrats.

Bryan Fischer (American Family Association) is now furious with Liz Cheney for trying to take Wyoming’s senate seat from a GOP incumbent because she and the rest of her family, including former Vice-President Dick Cheney, don’t reject sister Mary for being a lesbian. Fischer explains it this way:

“If you have a bank robber in the family, that doesn’t mean you automatically have to support that as a lifestyle choice. If you have a drug dealer in the family, you don’t have to automatically support that as a profession….It’s an absurd argument, though it has a strong emotional appeal. That may have affected Dick Cheney’s view of same-sex marriage, and it may well have affected Liz Cheney’s view of same-sex marriage.”

In the Catholic Church, Purgatory is a kind of holding area for those who die if they’re not quite good enough to move directly to Catholic’s Heaven and aren’t so bad that they head directly to Hell. The time in Purgatory can be shortened by purchasing indulgences, a great money-maker for priests in the Middle Ages. Now the Catholic Church grants indulgences for such activities as climbing the Sacred Steps in Rome or attending the week-long Catholic World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. In an attempt to attract the younger crowd, Pope Francis has added another classification of indulgence, following him on Twitter. His social media guru, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, said that those who read the tweets must be truly contrite and have a moment of deepening faith.

Catholic membership has rapidly fallen recently: ten percent of adults in the U.S. are former Catholics, about evenly divided between the unaffiliated and Protestant. Sixty percent of those who abandoned Catholicism said that they were dissatisfied with its position on abortion and homosexuality, half cite birth control, and 40 percent are unhappy with the treatment of women. The Catholic Church has the same problem as the GOP: they’re trying to attract new members by continuing the beliefs that caused them to lose all the former ones.

A bit of hope for the finale. Two-hundred self-identified evangelical scientists have written the Congress, asking for legislation to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. Holding master’s or doctorate degrees in scientific fields, these 200 people cited scientific evidence of increased extreme weather events and cite Biblical teachings of charity and compassion for the poor.

“The Bible tells us that ‘love does no harm to its neighbor’ (Romans 13:10), yet the way we live now harms our neighbors, both locally and globally. For the world’s poorest people, climate change means dried-up wells in Africa, floods in Asia that wash away crops and homes, wildfires in the U.S. and Russia, loss of villages and food species in the Arctic, environmental refugees, and disease. Our changing climate threatens the health, security, and well-being of millions of people who are made in God’s image. The threat to future generations and global prosperity means we can no longer afford complacency and endless debate. We as a society risk being counted among ‘those who destroy the earth’ (Revelation 11:18).”

Let’s hope that the conservative Christians join these scientists.

March 19, 2013

Portman Heats Up Marriage Equality Discussion

When potential GOP vice-presidential candidate and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) came out of the closet last week to support marriage equality because his son is gay, the reactions went from lukewarm to downright hot—against him. 

The most common response from the left was approval of Portman’s supporting same-sex marriage combined with questions about why he took over two years to reverse his support of DOMA. He did wait until after Mitt Romney selected his running mate—which was not Portman. A few tweets pointed out the hypocrisy of politicians supporting only issues that affect their families.

“Portman’s son came out & now he is for Gay Rights. Any GOP members with daughters so there could be support for Women’s Rights?”

“I invite every elected official to come spend a day in my house, learn reality of autism, dementia,living w/o health insurance after cancer.”

“Now all we need is a Republican senator whose kid is having sex with an undocumented, union teacher on Medicare and social security.”

Then there were the voices from journalists:

“More importantly, I think, now I want to arrange for every Republican who signed onto the Paul Ryan budget to wake up with a poor son. Because then I know all of a sudden you won’t want to cut food stamps. You won’t want to cut school nutrition. If empathy only extends to your flesh and blood, we gotta start shoving people into those families.”—Rachel Maddow on Real Time with Bill Maher

“Empathy, especially in elected officials is a good thing! But there’s also something frustratingly blinkered and limited about this form of persuasion. If it’s going to take every anti-gay politician having a gay son for gay people to be treated like the other human beings in this country, then equal rights are going to take longer to achieve than they should.—Chris Hayes

“But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn’t he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don’t happen to touch him personally? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don’t just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son’s eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn’t that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence.

“The great challenge for a senator isn’t to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It’s to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don’t have direct access to the corridors of power. Senators basically never have poor kids. That’s something members of Congress should think about. Especially members of Congress who know personally that realizing an issue affects their own children changes their thinking.”—Matthew Yglesias

 CPAC attendees weighed in:

“Horrible!” said Tony Mele, an 88-year-old woman from New Jersey. When told he did so because of his gay son, she responded, “That’s his fault! He gets no sympathy from me.” A pastor from Georgia, William Temple, told Portman to “quit being so selfish as to only think about his son,” and if he won’t reverse himself, “to step down and go home.” Another pastor, Rev. Robert Lancia, dismissed Portman’s point that people should follow the Golden Rule: “That doesn’t cover it.” One man, David Kern, even said Portman’s son’s choice of college turned him gay. “Well what did Sen. Portman expect when he sent his son to Yale?”

And the far-right evangelicals capped off with vitriol:

“Homosexual sex is ultimately just as destructive as cocaine use. Would you suddenly call for the legalization of cocaine if his son had announced that he was a cocaine addict? Would that be ‘loving’ and ‘compassionate’? What will happen to Rob Portman’s belief system when he discovers that his son is infected with HIV or throat cancer?”—William Murray, head of the ultra-right-wing “Government Is Not God” PAC

My favorite comes from Bryan Fischer for the so-called American Family Association:

“@ gay son: SSM: A father can still love a son who robs a bank without changing his mind about the morality of bank robbing.”

My taken on it after having had a committed relationship with the same woman for almost 44 years? Portman’s statement is like civil unions: better than nothing but still not good enough.

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.”

January 13, 2013

Christians Attack Women, Children; Chick-fil-A Loses

Every week after I publish the “Sunday Blog” about religion, I think that there can’t be anything more to report on in the next week. I’m always wrong.

The Buckeye Education School, a Christian school in Berea (OH), must consider children expendable because they used their students, as young as 13, to gut an old building to prepare the site for the new school. Although the walls were filled with asbestos, there were no precautions taken, not even protective gear for the kids. Both state and federal law require trained and accredited personnel to perform public building asbestos abatement.

On December 13, regulators found debris, potentially containing asbestos, in three dumpsters and strewn around the property. Buckeye Education is overseen by Sterling Education; its vision statement includes “adequately funded academic programs and safe, well-maintained, proper school facilities.”  Even a single fiber of asbestos can lodge in the lung, causing inflammation, scarring, and possibly cancer. The students will be immediately x-rayed and tested, but the effects of asbestos exposure could take as long as 30 years to manifest. Buckeye School is now under criminal investigation.

Another attack on children came from a dialog between Matt Dillahunty, moderator of the Atheist Experience cable show out of Austin (TX), and a caller who identified as “Shane” that went sour after Shane tried to convince Dillahunty that he actually believes in God. The subject was raped children. Dillahunty expressed frustration with the God of the Bible who allows children to be raped. Shane responded, “First of all, you portray that little girl as someone who’s innocent, she’s just as evil as you.” Listeners didn’t know who “that little girl” is, but Dillahunty cut off the conversation at that point.

If a couple has problems, it’s the woman’s fault. At least that’s what Pat Robertson told a 17-year-old boy who wrote to Maxim magazine about his father’s spending too much time playing computer war games while the boy “noticed how alone my mom feels.” After Robertson suggested that the boy get his parents to go on a romantic weekend, the televangelist moved onto the real problem—from his perception:  “You know, it may be your mom isn’t as sweet as you think she is, she may be kind of hard-nosed. And so, you say it’s my father, he’s not paying attention to mom, but you know mom…” he trails off before a nasty chuckle before he talked about a woman who sought advice.

“A woman came to a preacher I know—it’s so funny,” Robertson continued. “She was awful looking. Her hair was all torn up, she was overweight, and looked terrible…” Robertson’s punchline?  “And the preacher looked at her and he said, ‘Madam, if I were married to you, I’d start to drink too.’”

The week may not be complete without hate speech from Bryan Fischer (American Family Association). This one concerns ENDA, a proposed bill that would provide federal LGBT employment protections.

“Once [ENDA] goes into effect, which says that no business can discriminate against anybody no matter how bizarre their sexual perversity is, their sexual deviancy is, no matter how abnormal their sexual orientation is, you cannot take that into account in personnel decisions… [If the law goes into effect] the homosexual lobby will send a flaming homosexual into that Christian bookstore to apply for a job. They’ll send a guy in there wearing stilettos, a dress, and dangly earrings and dare the owner of that Christian bookstore not to hire him.”

As with other laws, religious organizations would not be required to hire LGBT people even if they weren’t wearing stilettos.

Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) is competing with Fischer for paranoid winner of the week. To Perkins the military is suppressing religion by testing a new Mind Fitness Training Program to keep soldiers mentally fit and reduce depression:

“What a coincidence–so does faith! Unfortunately, the military seems intent on driving religion out and replacing it with wacky substitutes. They’ve added atheist chaplains, Wiccan worship centers, and now, meditation classes. But none of them are as effective or as constructive as a personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, though, it’s mind over what matters–and that’s faith.”

The pilot program combines yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation with other training. In 2012, the U.S. military averaged one suicide every single day; service members are more likely to commit suicide than be killed on the battlefield. The force-feeding of evangelical beliefs at military academies doesn’t seem to have helped.

Sometimes the good guys win: Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, two Brooklyn-based comedians and social commentators, can keep their parody website, ChickfilaFoundation.com, despite a lawsuit from the Atlanta-based fast-food chain to close it down. A classic video on the website shows the two creators going into one of the restaurants with a coupon for a free chicken sandwich if they renounce their homosexuality: “Trade your Homosexuality for a FREE Original Chicken Sandwich!”  The site appeared after the corporation’s president, Dan Cathy, openly came out against marriage equality and donated $2 million to anti-gay groups. Selvig and Stiefler not only won against the corporation but also got a free chicken sandwich when they used their “coupon” in San Francisco.

Trade-Your-Homosexuality-for-a-free-chicken-sandwich

Perhaps you too can get a free Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich!

January 6, 2013

Religious Madness

Mind-bloggling events from the religious perspective:

While the country needs resolution for the economy, jobs, poverty, etc., one of the first bills introduced in the Indiana legislature is to force students to recite the Lord’s Prayer in school every morning. State Sen. Dennis Kruse is known for his ignorance about the constitution: last year he introduced a bill to teach creationism in public schools. Before that, he tried to get language on evolution taken out of the state’s science standards. Taxpayers pay Kruse and others like him to waste time in the legislature.

The Vatican is also struggling with the 21st century in a bipolar fashion. Pope Benedict said in his New Year’s message on Tuesday he hoped 2013 would be a year of peace and that the world was under threat from unbridled capitalism, terrorism and criminality.

There’s already a lack of peace in the Vatican. The country can no longer  take credit cards—at least for now. The Bank of Italy pulled its authorization as of the first of January because the Holy See hasn’t complied with European Union safeguards against money laundering. The Vatican has tried to upgrade its measures, even hiring a Swiss expert, but got failing grades for its financial watchdog agency and its bank.

A Catholic priest is also giving the Vatican bad press. In Italy, where 118 women were murdered last year in domestic violence, Father Piero Corsi blames the women.  On the church bulletin board, the Catholic priest in the northwestern part of the country posted a message titled, “Women and Femicide, How often do they provoke?'”

According to NPR reporter Sylvia Poggioli, “Corsi said scantily dressed women bring out the worst instincts in men and cause violence or sexual abuse. He claimed women end up exacerbating tensions by ‘leaving children to themselves, having filthy houses, serving cold meals, buying fast food and providing dirty clothes.'” Corsi has a controversial history: in October he posted anti-Muslim cartoons on the church bulletin board and before that, scuffled with a homeless man.

In the United States, a mother is upset with the Catholic Church because it refuses to allow her daughter to play football. Sixth-grader Caroline Pla has played football with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for two years, but this year she can’t suit up with her team. The family started a petition on change.org calling for an update to the CYO rules. “Archdiocese of Philadelphia CYO Office: Stop Discrimination – Change the CYO Football Rule – Allow Girls to Play.” Caroline’s teammate, Jake Kueny, and her coach, Jim Reichwin, agree that she should be able to play. CYO’s website says that the purpose of the organization is to develop the individual and promote teamwork.

The fundamental Christian side of religion is not happy either. Bryan Fischer of the far-right American Family Association is upset with legislation passed to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” He declared that it violated the Ten Commandments’ prohibition on covetousness and accused the Democratic Party of being driven by a “Satanic” ideology. Thus the legislation is “demonic.”

Fischer also thinks that abortion is a good idea if—and only if—scientists find a “gay gene.” He wrote, “… I expect many abortion-minded parents will want to know exactly how strong this epi-marker is in their unborn children so they can decide whether or not to exercise reproductive choice. ” Thus he supports abortion for one characteristic that he considers “a birth defect.”

The AFA is also trying to rile up its constituency by warning members that, within 50 years, Christians will be treated like African Americans during the Jim Crow era. The email from Donald Wildmon predicted that government will take children from parents at birth and any city with “saint” or other religious-related name will have to change. “Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a ‘family’ group at will,” according to the email.

Two good ideas from Wildmon are that churches will no longer receive “tax credit” and “churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues.” The email also said that “we will have, or have had, a Muslim president.” It seems that the AFA no longer believes that the current president is a Muslim. And from left field comes the warning that anyone with “any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care.”

AFA’s email comes from the same group that called for kidnapping the children of same-sex couples through a modern-day “Underground Railroad” system. When a man followed this advice and helped a lesbian take her daughter into hiding in South America, AFA recommended that he flee the country to escape U.S. law.

Does Irving Independent School District have an “Islamic bias” in the school curriculum? That was what a chain email claimed. Worried about the backlash of such a possibility, the district asked for a response from the director of Region 10 that administered the state-wide teaching program called CSCOPE, which is put together by the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative.The 72-page answer revealed a “Christian bias” in the school. Jan Moberly told the board  that “she hired a ‘very socially and fiscally conservative’ former social studies teacher who ‘watches Glenn Beck on a regular basis’ to seek out any Islamic bias in CSCOPE [the curriculum].” She “asked her to look for anything she would consider the least bit controversial.”

The report about the investigation that mentioned “every religious reference in the CSCOPE curriculum, from kindergarten to high school” was not a surprise:

Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.

The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.

If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”

At least one church is the loser after Superstorm Sandy hit the Northwest. After it hit St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India in New Dorp, Staten Island, ruining its basement, windows and doors, the vicar tried to get a grant from FEMA to help with the estimated $150,000 rebuilding cost. FEMA said no. “They considered the church a business, so they offered us a loan,” the Rev. Alex K. Joy said.

A variety of private nonprofit organizations qualify for federal disaster assistance grants, including zoos, museums, performing arts centers and libraries, but houses of worship, however, are not on the list. In recent years the federal government has ruled that some religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals can get grants. Many other churches don’t have the problem that St. Malankara does because they carry insurance.

Churches may not receive preferential treatment from FEMA, but their tax-exempt status protects them in many other ways. Trying to stop this, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed a lawsuit with the IRS, alleging that churches and religious non-profits get unconstitutional preferential treatment unavailable to secular groups. Churches and other religious organizations are exempted from the requirement to file detailed reports required from non-profit organizations, according to the lawsuit. The FFRF alleges it is unconstitutional for the IRS to provide benefits to churches and religious organizations “while discriminating against” secular non-profit groups “solely on the basis of religious criteria.”

It’s interesting that FEMA considers churches a business, but the government fails to collect taxes from this “business.”

October 18, 2012

Voter Fraud, Romney’s Lies, Plus Good News

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In past years there have been reportings of people calling Democrats to give them the wrong date for the election. One of these was to tell voters that Republicans would vote on Tuesday and Democrats would vote on Wednesday. Most people reading this say, “Of course, everyone votes on Tuesday.” This year, it’s a county government agency in Arizona that tells Hispanics to go to the polls on the Thursday after the general election.

When Charlotte Walker of Sun City picked up her voter register card, November 6 was the date given in English. That’s the right date. In Spanish, however, people were told that they should vote on November 8, two days later.  The Maricopa County Elections Department said that they made the mistake only on cards that were handed out and that they may have handed out only about 50 cards—although they really don’t know.

Arizona isn’t the only state that’s still working on keeping people, many of them minorities, from voting. The good news in Ohio is that the Supreme Court rejected GOP attempts efforts to block early voting three days before Election Day. The bad news in Ohio is that Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted severely limited early voting hours on those crucial three days to 16 hours, none of them in the evening. Before this weekend, voters cannot cast ballots in-person on nights or weekends. Four years ago, with longer voting hours, and wait times were sometimes as long as two and a half hours. Minority voters who have less flexibility in getting time off from their jobs tend to vote in the evening; the GOP thinks that these same voters tend to vote Democratic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pennsylvania, billboards in Spanish give the false image that people must have IDs in order to vote. A translation of this billboard is “If you want to vote, show it”–even though a court ruling last week blocked a requirement to produce an approved photo identification at polling places.

 

There’s an old saying, “follow the money.” That’s what Greg Palast did when he discovered that Mitt Romney has “concealed, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout—and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and those of the Romneys, were astronomical—more than 3,000 percent on their investment.”

A longtime aide to George W. Romney has accused Mitt Romney of shifting political positions in “erratic and startling ways.” Walter De Vries wrote, “It seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal–or an election.”

When Katie Couric asked VP candidate Sarah Palin four years where she got her news, she didn’t have an answer. Romney does have answers. When Newsmax asked Romney the same question, the GOP presidential candidate said, “You know, increasingly, I’m getting news from electronic sources, whether Newsmax, Drudge, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Online, even USA Today online, Fox online, CNN online.” There’s that token less-biased source of NYT, but the others are on the right, especially the Drudge, which even has a link to a site saying that black Americans will riot and kill and Romney if President Obama doesn’t win.

Kerry Healey, Mitt Romney’s Lieutenant Governor and a current surrogate for his campaign, called contraception a “peripheral” issue, and referred to women being denied contraception coverage because of religious objections a “hypothetical.” It’s no wonder that the polls show that women are returning to President Obama.

Yesterday I wrote about employers attempting an intimidation attempt to get thousands and thousands of their employees vote for Romney. They got the idea from Romney himself. An audio tape from June has recently been unearthed in which Romney addressed a group of self-described “small business owners,” probably including the Koch brothers. After he talked about how bad for business that President Obama is, he gave them their marching orders: “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.”

In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers can force their employees to contribute to candidates and threaten them if they don’t vote for the chosen candidates.

Each election seems to bring the United States closer to a theocracy operated by the far right. If this comes into fruition, women could possibly lose the minority representation that we have now. That’s what Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) wants. He stated on his radio show this week that political leadership should be in the hands of men. His position comes from Paul’s letter to the women of Ephesus in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which states, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, not Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Fischer will probably not agree with a scholarly approach that this passage—and many others in the Bible—have been mistranslated because it’s written by women.

Romney and Ryan are leading the country to disaster in many ways; here are ten that Jon Perr put together.

1. Economists warn the Romney-Ryan plan means huge job losses, possibly 2 million within the next couple of years.

2. Romney and Ryan both supported Social Security privatization although they may now deny it.

3. 98 percent of Congressional Republicans voted for Ryan’s plan to ration Medicare.

4. The Ryan budget takes $716 billion from Medicare to give tax cuts to the rich.

5. Romney and Ryan will cut benefits for today’s seniors by taking away free preventative care now part of Medicare and reopening the “donut hole” in its prescription drug program which saved 5.4 seniors over $4.1 billion last year.

6. Romney-Ryan plans leaves at least 44 million more without health insurance by 2020: earlier this month, the Commonwealth Fund estimated President Romney would preside over a staggering 72 million Americans without coverage.

7. GOP ticket adds trillions more than President Obama in new debt. Both Romney and Ryan dodge the facts that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt and George W. Bush roughly doubled it again. Ryan also skips over the fact that he voted for the drivers of most of the debt–two wars, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the Medicare prescription drug plan. The same Republicans leaders who held the debt ceiling hostage last summer voted to raise it seven times under President Bush.

8. Romney and Ryan won’t name a single loophole they’d close. Will the Romney-Ryan administration end the $63 billion Earned Income Tax Credit for working families that Ronald Reagan called “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress”? How about the $89 billion a year home mortgage tax deduction? Many of those breaks help explain the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, otherwise known as Mitt Romney’s “victims” and Paul Ryan’s “takers.”

9. Ryan supports GOP Platform’s ban on all abortions, and Romney changes his mind each day depending on how much he thinks that he needs the women’s vote.

10. Ryan voted for the defense sequestration he attacks President Obama for.

We’ll finish today, however, with a great achievement for the LGBT community and all others who believe that we should have freedom in this country. The ultra-conservative Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the 2nd Court of Appeals struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. In so doing, the George H.W. Bush nominee concluded that any law which discriminates against gay men and lesbians requires heightened scrutiny because this class of people “have historically endured persecution and discrimination”; “homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society”; “homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages”; and “the class remains a politically weakened minority.” Thus any attempt by government to discriminate against gay people must have an ‘exceedingly persuasive’ justification.”

The case was Edith Windsor v. New York State that I wrote about in more detail on September 29, 2012. Congratulations, Edi!

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