Nel's New Day

September 22, 2013

Religion Confronts Politics

Good news for the separation of church and state. According to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, corporations can’t belong to a religion even if they are persons, the second time that a federal appeals court has supported President Obama in the mandate to provide contraceptive services. A third court, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, granted the Hobby Lobby crafts franchise an injunction from the rule until it hears the merits of the case. The decision of that case will show whether the courts are split on the issue.

The Michigan-based manufacturing company Autocam must comply with the Obamacare mandate although its president, John Kennedy, protested because he is Roman Catholic.  “The Kennedys’ actions with respect to Autocam are not actions taken in an individual capacity, but as officers and directors of the corporation,” the 6th Circuit panel wrote. Houses of worship are exempt from the contraception mandate, and religious nonprofits have been extended an “accommodation” that would divorce corporate owners from managing or paying for their employees’ contraception coverage.

Judges on the 3rd Circuit ruled that a Pennsylvania-based company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, had to comply with the mandate. Over 40 secular, for-profit corporations, have alleged that providing contraception coverage in their employee health care plans at no cost violates their religious rights, and a total of 70 federal lawsuits have been filed by opponents to the birth control benefit.

A Tennessee’s religious ruling was overturned last Wednesday. During a paternity hearing between a mother and father over which last name a child should have, child support magistrate LuAnn Ballew ordered that the first name of the child, Messiah, should be changed. She claimed, “‘Messiah’ is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ.” Her ruling was overturned on the basis that it violates the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution (aka separation of church and state). According to records, 2,957 boys in the United States have been named Messiah since 1880 with 762 people given the name in 2012 alone.

Talk shows have been obsessed this week with Pope Francis’ statement that the Catholic Church should stop being obsessed with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. The lack of obsession was short-term: a day later the pope denounced abortions and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them. So much for his ranting about the church’s obsession with “small-minded rules” that are driving away the faithful.

Speaking about women, the pope said, “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. … We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, translated the pope’s words as, “He warned against the feminine machismo.” The question now is what the pope will do about the U.S. nuns, led by Sister Simone Campbell, who worry about the poor and hungry rather than abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. A Seattle bishop still has the pope’s mandate to control the nuns.

The U.S. bishops don’t need to change just because the pope made this statement, according to Terrence Tilley, a theologian at Fordham University. Interviews with bishops across the country indicate that there will be no change in their push against abortion, marriage equality, and contraception.

While the U.S. media hangs on every word translated from the pope’s statements, we should consider that the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, has a status at the United Nations unlike any other religion. Because of the Vatican’s role as a Nonmember State Permanent Observer,  the pope’s representatives have special access to the leadership of the U.N. and vote along with the world’s countries at UN conferences. It is the only U.N. member that requires all its citizens to belong to one religion—although the United States conservatives would like to mandate only Christianity for all the country’s citizens.

In the U.S. House, 230 “Christians” including 60 Catholics, who voted to take food stamps from 3.8 million people last week, may be remembering Jesus’s mandate in the Bible that he wasn’t going to give bread to a hungry man because the man should get a job. (He really didn’t!)  Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) managed to dredge this quote out of 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” The reference is actually to Christians who stopped working in the false belief that Christ was returning soon; instead of working the fields, they gossiped and pried into the lives of others. Paul was warning those Christians to care for their crops.

  • Who goes hungry with the loss of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? A child, elderly person, or disabled person is in 76% of SNAP households which  receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.
  • How about the “lazy freeloaders,” who don’t earn their calories according to conservatives? All unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents receive only three months of SNAP benefits during any three-year period unless they work in a qualifying job training program. For every additional dollar a SNAP participant earns, benefits decline by 24 to 36 cents.

Cramer is really following Joseph Stalin’s 1936 Constitution:  “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” Rep. Michele Bachmann has also quoted Stalin to support her anti-SNAP position. In November 2011 she said, “Self reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”

The good Christians missed some of these verses from the Old Testament:

  • Proverbs 14:31 – “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”
  • Proverbs 22:16 – “He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty.”
  • Proverbs 29:7 – “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

GOP representatives, especially from the South, might want to examine the percentage of SNAP users in their states before they vote against them. Note that four of the five states that have doubled food stamp usage in the past five years have Republican governors.

food-stamp-map again

The Congressional conservatives love to create laws as a method of propagandizing their falsehoods. In the midst of House plans to defund Obamacare and shut down the government, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) plans to introduce the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act next Thursday to “ensure that any religious institution, organization or church that believes that marriage should continue to remain between one man and one woman will not be discriminated against by the federal government.” With 60 co-sponsors, including two conservative Democrats, the bill insinuates that the federal government is discriminating against religious groups through the overturn of DOMA. It isn’t.

More fundamentalist “Christian” stories:

Self-identified television prophet Cindy Jacobs proclaimed that her faith caused a woman to re-grow a cheek bone in seconds and that she self-healed a grapefruit-sized tumor “near—or behind my female organs or whatever”caused by Satan.

After Bill Nye the Science Guy told Bill Maher’s audience that the moon is not a “great light,” as the Bible claims, because it reflects the sun, Australian Pastor Ken Ham took umbrage. Known for his Kentucky Creation Museum that presents dinosaurs living at the same time as humans, Ham tried to explain that “Bill Nye still doesn’t understand the difference between historical science and observational science.” I’m guessing that Nye understands; he just doesn’t believe in unsubstantiated science.

The City Council of Porterville, California, removed Mayor Virginia Gurrola from office last week because she signed a declaration of LGBT Pride Month for last June. After people protested, the council declared June 2013 as “a month of community charity and goodwill to all in Porterville.” Gay rights activists protesting at the meeting were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace.

As far back as 1977 when Anita Bryant blamed the LGBT community for the California drought, LGBT people have been blamed for environmental disasters. They  must now take responsibility for the Colorado floods, according to Pastor Kevin Swanson. He was particularly incensed about the Denver Post cover photo of State House Majority Leader Mark Ferrandino kissing his partner, Greg Wertsch. Swanson’s criticism was of state legislators who “committed homosexual acts on the front page of the Denver Post,” which, along with marijuana and abortion rights, prompted the “worst year ever in terms of flood and fire damage in Colorado’s history.”

Today’s winner for the most offensive statement, however, comes from a speech at Patrick Henry College, a school with close ties to the Christian homeschooling movement. At the annual “Faith and Reason” lecture, with mandatory attendance for all students, government professor Stephen Baskerville delivered a treatise entitled  “Politicizing Potiphar’s Wife.” His premise was that laws against rape, domestic violence, and child abuse are an attempt to put fine, upstanding white men in prison. Baskerville purports that the government has become a “matriarchal leviathan” manipulated by “the temptress, the seductress who lures men into a “honeytrap” by offers of pleasure before springing a trap that today can mean decades in prison.”

Meanwhile church membership keeps dropping in younger people. One-third of adults under the age of 30 are unaffiliated. Reading the above shows why.

January 21, 2013

Corporations Are Not People

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:33 PM
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Today,  January 21, is Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday to celebrate the life of the man who was shot and killed almost 45 years ago when he went to Memphis to support union rights. It is also the day that the first black president is inaugurated for the second time. Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion across the United States.

Today is another anniversary of a Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to make unlimited concealed donations to political candidates. This ruling permitted almost $1 billion to be fed into last fall’s election with the public not knowing who is donating the money to the super PACs.  About two-thirds of all the money went to just ten of these PACs with 89 percent of the funds going to attack the opposing candidate. Consultants think that these ads adversely affect the democratic process. The attacks were so vicious that even some Republican candidates came out in opposition, despite the fact that 90 percent of the funding benefited the GOP positions.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke about how the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United is “corrosive” to our democracy. Republican senators have told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), “You’re leading us off the cliff here. This is a crazy place for us to be, defending secret unlimited money. We’re one scandal way from owning this mess.”

One of the provisions of Citizens United is that there be no communication between the super PACs and the candidates’ campaigns. As long as super PACs act independently of the candidate, there is no danger of corruption, the high court reasoned. An analysis of this election showed that these rules were broken to the point that super PACs sharing mailing addresses and offices with the chosen candidate’s own election campaign.

During the last three years, seven states, countless small towns, and more than 300 cities have passed resolutions calling for the overturn of Citizens United. The most recent one is Los Angeles, where the city council has voted to draft ballot language for voters to determine whether there should be limits on campaign spending and whether corporations are “people,” as the Supreme Court declared.  If passed, L.A. will also urge Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 ruling. During the past two years, Congressional legislators have tried to put 17 bills to do this, but none of them made it to the floor for a vote.

Common Cause is a leader behind the city and state resolutions. Derek Cressman, director of the organization’s Campaign to Reverse Citizens United, said, “The results we’ve seen so far from these ballot measures have been beyond our hopes and expectations.” The ballot measures all passed, winning from 72 percent to 81 percent of the vote, including the red state of Montana where 75 percent of the voters supported overturning the court’s ruling.

Cressman said he got the idea for local ballot measures from the 17th Amendment, which brought about the direct election of U.S. senators in 1913. For years, a constitutional amendment to elect senators by popular vote instead of appointing them was proposed in the House but, not surprisingly, was blocked in the Senate. But when Oregon put the matter to a popular vote, followed by twenty-nine other states, Congress felt enough pressure to pass the amendment. All constitutional amendments must have two-thirds approval in both the House and Senate and then approval by two-thirds of the states.

Short of a constitutional amendment, Democrats have tried to pass a Disclose Bill that would require publicly traded corporations to disclose their donations to these super PACs through expanding the Securities and Exchange Commission’s authority to require disclosure of financially relevant information to include small political expenditures. The NRA told legislators that voting for the Disclose Act would count against them on the NRA scorecard.  SEC officials are now designing a disclosure rule for corporate political expenditures.

Survival in politics usually means having a sense of humor. Here are some ways that people have used the Supreme Court’s statement that corporations are actually persons:

  • Carpooling: California resident Jonathan Frieman put his corporate paperwork on the passenger seat on his commute in the freeway carpool lane. The judge found Frieman guilty, but he plans to appeal.
  • Marriage: Angela Vogel successfully filed for a marriage certificate in Seattle and held a public wedding with “Corporate Personhood,” but the relationship was shortlived. The license was revoked because Corporate Person couldn’t consent.
  •  “Welfare Mamas”: If people like Mitt Romney call people who don’t pay taxes “moochers” and “the 47 percent,” then corporations that don’t pay taxes fall into that category. ExxonMobil, Bank of America, GE, and Chevron are just a few of these “welfare mamas.”
  • Murder: When executives bankrupt companies, such as Hostess Foods, they are killing one of the “people.” Although no one has acted on this yet, the CEOs should be taken to court for murder. When executives bankrupt a company, in the eyes of the law, they are essentially ending a life. Stephen Colbert used Romney as an example of a serial killer.
  • Candidate for Political Office: Murray Hill, Inc. ran for a Congressional seat in Maryland in 2010 with the slogan “For the best democracy money can buy.” Its problem was that the company could not register as a Republican because it could not prove U.S. citizenship.

Even McConnell attributes human feelings to the corporation “people.” In his concern that requiring companies to disclose their campaign spending would stifle their free speech, he says that the demand for transparency exposes these corporations “to harassment and intimidation.” That’s in comparison to the past term of “accountability.” At one time, McConnell supported reforms to create transparency of campaign funding.

The Watergate scandals over 40 years ago started with secret campaign money. Even the Supreme Court Citizens United decision upheld the constitutionality of disclosure requirements on corporations and other outside groups. This part of the ruling needs to be upheld.

Tomorrow is the culmination of the debate regarding the change of Senate filibuster rules. Either the Senate does it tomorrow, or the same dysfunction will exist in that chamber for another two years.


A Las Vegas police officer, 52-year-old Hans Walters, killed his police officer wife, 46-year-old Michelle Walters, and their son. Walters had worked for the Las Vegas police department for over 20 years; associates said that they had detected nothing wrong. At least 1100 people have died of gun deaths since the Newtown (CT) massacre.

February 6, 2012

If Corporations Are ‘Persons’…

Citizens United, which gives First Amendment rights to corporations because they are “persons,” has become more and more contentious in the few primaries thus far in 2012 and promises to become only worse in the next 18 months. With Constitutional rights, however, should come Constitutional responsibilities.

The Fourteenth Amendment has been used to justify the “person” argument that surrounds corporations, beginning soon after it was passed after the Civil War. Originally written to protect racial equality and basic civil liberties for all, clever lawyers co-opted the words to give unprecedented rights to business interests.

Yet business interests ignore the Thirteenth Amendment, that “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude” shall exist in the United States. This amendment has been used by those seeking to reform marriage laws and correct sweatshop conditions in factories. Without the Fourteenth Amendment, lawyers might have used the prior one to argue against government regulations and taxation.

Consider this. Corporations are “owned” by people buying stock, they can be auctioned off in stock exchanges, and they can be forced to work for other “persons” who take all the profits of the labor. In short, corporations are slaves, a condition outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment. Either corporations must be freed or they are no longer “persons.

Of course, no one will ever change the “personhood” argument for corporations because doing so would overturn almost a century and a half of court rulings. But it’s a fun thought!


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