Nel's New Day

May 7, 2017

DDT’s Executive Order: ‘Religious Bigotry’

Many conservatives are unhappy with the “religious liberty” order that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed last Thursday: they wanted more discrimination. They don’t believe DDT when he declared to dozens of Judeo-Christian leaders in the Rose Garden ceremony that the “threat against the faith community is over.” Instead, they think that his executive order is useless at best and harmful at worst—sort of like most of his other vague orders. In the National Review, David French called the order “constitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect.” He added, “[DDT] should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.” Meaning that it can’t be used for discrimination.

An earlier draft of the order leaked in February was twice the length of the final one and described as “staggering” and “sweeping,” one which could be challenged in the courts. After last week’s signing, the ACLU called it nothing more than an “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

Conservative criticisms of DDT’s executive order:

The order’s declaration that the executive branch will “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom”: Complaint – the state only repeats that the government should enforce existing laws.

The directive to the Treasury Department to not enforce the so-called Johnson Amendment from 1954 banning nonprofit religious institutions from endorsing political candidates and parties: Complaint – as law, the Amendment requires a change in Congress or the courts. Also, permission to be involved in politics could encourage churches to elect progressive candidates. Orders are good only as long as presidents support them; a future president could reverse the directive.

Instructions to government agencies to “consider issuing amended regulation” to address “conscience-based objections” to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate: Complaint – That’s already happened with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. The contraception mandate stays on the books, and lawsuits are flooding the courts.

A pledge to “provide regulatory relief”: Complaint – This “promise” is so vague as to mean nothing in law.

Far-right anger to DDT’s executive order:

Brian Brown (left) of the National Organization for Marriage and World Congress for Families denounced the president for his “failure to directly fulfill his repeated campaign promises” and then asked for money.

Bryan Fischer told listeners of his American Family Association radio show that it’s “ultra-liberal” Ivanka Trump’s fault because she “likely leaked the February draft to a liberal rag (The Nation) in order to stir up enough intense outrage from the LGBT community to strangle this baby in the cradle.”

Troy Newman, president of anti-abortion Operation Rescue emailed, “We are really feeling betrayed right now.”

The ACLU may go to court yet. Far-right radio host Todd Starnes reassured his listeners that the order gives anti-LGBTQ, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions a directive to write—in DDT’s words—“new rules” for the purpose of religious discrimination. A case in point is proposed Texas law echoing one in South Dakota that prevents the state from punishing adoption agencies that deny LGBTQ families services and child placement for “religious” reasons. If it passes, Texas state- and private-funded agencies could reject potential parents seeking to adopt children with such “religious objects” to couples’ being Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, single, or interfaith couples. Five other states already have this law, but only for faith-based adoption organizations that do not accept government funding. If the Texas law passes, agencies can also reject people who want to foster children, and child welfare organizations can force LGBTQ children to have so-called “conversion therapy,” to “take away the gay.”

Once again, after losing the voter ID law, Texas could go to court for not treating all people equally. This time, however, they have Jeff Sessions who translates the constitutional separation of church and state as prohibiting the favoring of one Christian church over another. He thinks that the First Amendment does not stop establishing Christianity as the national religion.

Christian protection for conservatives by DDT’s Christian order comes from its encouragement to break the law by telling the IRS to violate the Johnson Amendment and not penalize churches for political candidate endorsements and donations. In more “normal” times, these churches and other faith-based nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates or donating to their campaigns, but Sessions most likely won’t be doing this. The order, however, exempts only nonprofit religious nonprofits and churches; other nonprofits will still be prohibited from political endorsements and donations.

Federal law also requires that employer-provided insurance plans cover contraceptives at no cost to the employee unless the organizations—or “religious” corporations—obtain government exemptions. Sessions will probably not force this requirement. The IRS is already breaking the law by not collecting fees from people refusing to purchase health insurance. Again the Justice Department, headed by Sessions, is responsible for enacting the laws of the land.

While the media has concentrated on LGBTQ losses, the order and Sessions interpretations could negatively impact at least half the people in the United States . In addition to losing birth control, female employees of all “religious” organizations and corporations could lose all forms of preventative care—screenings for sexually transmitted infection, IV, and domestic violence along with well-woman visits. Any business could refuse to hire women or pay them less, based on its “religious convictions.”

With the wealthiest Cabinet in history, DDT has put the icing on the cake for corporations who joined religious groups in the 1930s to fight President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For decades, the United States leveled out the financial playing field by developing a middle class that enjoyed the 40-hour workweek, lack of child labor, environmental protection, work safety laws, rural health care, and education. Unions, a safety net, and higher taxes for the wealthiest reigned until corporations used evangelicals as a front to elect Ronald Reagan. Princeton scholar Kevin Kruse has described the corporate historical background in his book One Nation under God as the country continues to be more and more extremist. As Rev. William J. Barber II, creator of Moral Mondays fighting against the immoral political excesses in North Carolina, wrote about DDT’s signing of his executive order:

“If today is the fulfillment of the corporatists’ National Day of Prayer, it may also be its undoing. The God of justice hears the cries of those this executive order targets, along with the prayers of all who suffer under this administration. A religious liberty that gives license for discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community is nothing more than lust for power dressed up in a thinning religious garb. The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency has inspired a moral resistance that is not going away, but is building a movement that will bend the arc of our common life toward justice for years to come. This, too, is an answer to prayer. And it may yet save the heart of our democracy.”

Barber said that the executive order is not about religious liberty. “It’s about religious bigotry.”

Public Citizen, a group that favors strict campaign finance limits, plans to bring a lawsuit against the order in court because churches and other religious charities that do not disclose their donors could be used to launder dark money. Its president said, “This executive order may go down in history as the Citizens United of church/state separation in the context of political spending.” Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition. “Politicians could funnel untold sums of money into churches, and it would all be completely untraceable.”

DDT may have pleased no one. Even worse for the evangelicals, however, might be a backlash from those who don’t want to hear political speeches in about candidates when they go to their house of worship. The past decade has seen the biggest growth of “nones,” especially those among the younger generation who have no affiliation to organized religion. Almost 30 percent of those who left disapprove of religious homophobia, another 16 percent claim their churches became too political, and 19 percent cited clergy sex abuse scandal in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Ninety percent of evangelical leaders think that pastors should not endorse candidates, and 72 percent support the Johnson Amendment. Even 66 percent of DDT-voters want the amendment left as is. Instead DDT is promoting the controlling authoritarianism of religion that many people—except the white men surrounding him—don’t like.

One piece of temporary joy for the day. Frances’s DDT imitator, Marie Le Pen, lost the election to Emmanuel Macron, despite the last-minute drop of negative information about him for “unknown” (aka Russian?) hackers. As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, one more reason for the French to declare their superiority over the United States.

May 2, 2017

DDT’s Licence to Discriminate

Filed under: LGBT Issues — trp2011 @ 9:39 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” That’s what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said at the Republican National Convention almost a year ago. Immediately after DDT’s inauguration, his press secretary said:

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”

In his 15th week in office, DDT plans to sign another executive order, this one removing all rights that he can from LGBTQ people. It is labeled “religious liberty,” the term that allows anyone to discriminate against not only LGBTQ people but also anyone else based on what people call their “religious beliefs.” DDT waited until after his first 100 days in office to make this move. Supposedly his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, talked DDT out of signing the hateful order in early February, but super-“religions” VP Mike Pence worked with administration officials to “rewrite” the order. New verbiage is very little different from the original, according to people who have seen it. With Pence involved, discrimination is not surprising: when he was governor of Indiana, he signed a “religious freedom” bill that had to be redone because of millions in lost revenue to the state.

The grand signing is scheduled for Thursday, National Prayer Day, in front of a proud Pence and other conservative leaders. The original draft order, leaked on February 1, was highly criticized as government-licensed discrimination and quietly disappeared. Thursday is also the day that Leonard Leo, DDT’s adviser to select Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court, receives the annual Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund—a “religious freedom” activist group.

DDT has already shown animosity toward the LGBTQ population through his selection of Cabinet members and other administration leaders. AG Jeff Sessions consistently opposes legal protections for LGBT people and voted against the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act, protections for LGBT survivors of sexual violence under the Violence Against Women Act, and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He led the support for the amendment to a constitutional amendment that would have kept same-gender couples from marrying. Sessions’ Hate Crime Subcommittee protects people only on the basis of “religious beliefs or background.” Sessions also withdrew the lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 that included discrimination regarding which bathrooms could be used by transgender people. At the same time, he “persuaded” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to revoke early guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students, stopping lawsuits regarding the rights of transgender students.

Other DDT discrimination against LGBT people:

  • LGBTQ content was removed from White House and Department of State websites on the very first day of Trump’s presidency at the same time that other federal websites kept its content.
  • DDT’s Muslim and refugee ban is a death sentence for many LGBTQ people seeking safety in the United States.
  • DDT’s State Department sent two anti-LGBTQ organizations as the only civil society representatives to the UN annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This UN commission is important to LGBT rights because of its recommendations. Both DDT delegations rely on fake science and fabricated data to support their views.
  •  DDT’s appointment to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, Roger Severino, has said that transgender equality is “the radical left using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
  • DDT revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act that removed mandates from companies receiving labor contracts that included the removal of LGBTQ rights. Less than two months earlier, the White House had declared that “the executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
  • LGBTQ questions measuring sexual orientation and gender identity disappeared from the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census because, according to the Department of Commerce, there was “no federal data need” to measure numbers of LGBTQ people.
  • DDT nominated for Army Secretary a LGBTQ-hater, Mark Green, who referred to being transgender as a “disease.” If confirmed, Green would replace, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay may to be the Secretary.
  • DDT’s recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-LGBT purge of longtime LGBTQ government employees during the George W. Bush presidency.

A leaked copy of an earlier draft executive order, “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” may be similar—if not as bad as—the order to be revealed later this week. The four-page draft covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.” It creates wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity as well as curtailing women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.

Language specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.” To summarize, the February order said that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”

The definition of “religious exercise” extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” It lists specific beliefs and gives governmental protection to those who have those beliefs. The language seems similar to last year’s law from Mississippi, declared in violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The original draft exempted people or organizations from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s preventative-care mandate that includes contraceptive coverage and require insurance not be required to cover abortion or “subsidize[s] plans that do provide such coverage.” The government could also not take action against federally funded child-welfare organizations, such as those providing foster, adoption, or family support services, if they deny services based on “the organization’s religious beliefs.” The order would allow federally-funded organizations to refuse services to LGBTQ people to the point of removing children from their homes.

The ACLU is prepared to sue whenever DDT signs the order. His mandate violates federal law and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution as well as licensing individuals and private parties to violate federal law. In addition, it could violate the 1st Amendment regarding religion and state. Such an order uses a set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity to control everyone.

As Nico Lang wrote about the upcoming order:

“LGBT people, for lack of a better word, would be screwed. This order, if it were to be signed, would allow employers to fire workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, permit doctors to deny life-saving services to trans people, and enable landlords to refuse housing to same-sex couples. It would realize the worst fears of the LGBT community by relegating us to second-class citizens.”

Conclusions: DDT never keeps his promise unless it gets him money or good press, and one of his basic goals is to overturn anything that President Obama did. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ people—mostly gay white men—voted for DDT because they love guns and hate minorities. We’ll see if DDT keeps their loyalty after he signs the order.

February 12, 2017

People Use Religion to Disrespect Women’s Rights

Yesterday’s marches against Planned Parenthood again ignored that federal money doesn’t go to abortions whereas the government spends hundreds of billions of dollars to kill people around the world—many of them innocent—and conservatives are determined to kill people through air and water pollution. These pro-life people are willing to kill anyone except what they consider the “unborn” and abuse children after they are born. Yet they use the bible as their justification for a woman’s choice regarding her own body because conservatives believe women aren’t smart enough to make the right choice for themselves.

A few facts from their bible:

God defined a potion for abortion potion: “May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”—Numbers 5:22-27

God fines the killing of a fetus but puts to death the person killing a woman: “And if men strive together, and hurt a pregnant woman, so that her fruit [children] come out, and yet no harm follows; the one who hit her shall surely be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall impose upon him; and he shall pay a fine as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth ….” —Exodus 21:22-23

God defines a person through the ability to breathe: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7

The bible’s opinion of women:

A wife is man’s property: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” —Exodus 20:17

Girl babies are twice as unclean as boys: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days …. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks. —Leviticus 12:1-8

Women should keep silent:  “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” —1 Cor. 14:34

A raped daughter must be sold to her rapist: ““If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” —Deut. 22:28-29

Women must cover their hair—like the Muslim hijab: “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” —I Cor. 11:6

Women should be forced to have children: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”—1 Tim. 2:15

Women make men dirty: “[Those redeemed from the earth] are those who did not defile themselves with women.” —Revelation 14:4

Opinions from revered church leaders:

“Woman is a temple built over a sewer.” –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. …” –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

“[Women’s] very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.”–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215)

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.” –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. … Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

“Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband…. For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior.” –John Dod: A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

“A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” – Official Faith and Message Statement of Southern Baptist Convention, Summer 1998, (15.7 million members)

“The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands.” –James Fowler: Women in the Church, 1999.

People who use the bible—“God’s word”—to justify their treatment of people, including eliminating reproductive rights for women,  often also say that no one should take the words in the bible literally. According to Matthew 13:13:

“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

People who try to limit others by quoting the bible should follow their own advice and not bully others with their personal religion.

Fortunately, many people in the United States agree with this position. Counter-protests yesterday were much larger than the anti-abortion activists outside Planned Parenthood to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. Those attending the rallies talked about how much Planned Parenthood does for health—birth control, cancer screenings, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, counseling, etc. Medicaid funds pay for these health services for both men and women. Last month, Donald Trump banned U.S. funding to any international group that even provides information about abortions. Cutting funds for Planned Parenthood would cause 400,000 women to lose access to health care.

Oregon senators, in support of women, are working on a bill to require Oregon insurance companies to cover reproductive health care services. The Reproductive Health Equity Act, HB 2232, would cover all services under the current Affordable Care Act as well as abortion. The bill goes to the House first to address questions and clarify language. At this time, the measure has an exemption that protects religious beliefs.

Illinois advocates are supporting HB 40 to guarantee reproductive care services, including abortion, for all enrolled in Medicaid, something available only in 17 other states.

New Mexico lawmakers have introduced three bills to improve reproductive health access and rights: preserve birth control access, allow women to obtain one year of contraceptive medication at a time, penalize medical providers who refuse reproductive health services, and mandate “reasonable accommodations: for pregnant women in the workplace. Hospitals would not be permitted to “limit or otherwise interfere” with a doctor’s “independent professional judgment” in providing reproductive health information, referrals, and procedures “where a failure to provide” them “would violate the medical standard of care owed to the patient.”

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an amendment to the state constitution that protects abortion rights as outlined in Roe v. Wade.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has approved a bill prohibiting discrimination based on reproductive decisions or pregnancy with a limited exemption for religious institutions but not for business owners who use religion to object.

Respect for women means respecting our rights–all of them.

February 5, 2017

DDT Aims U.S. toward Bigoted Theocracy

With 80 percent of the evangelical vote in the recent election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is paying them back for their loyalty. He nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to get anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-death with dignity rulings. At the National Prayer Breakfast, he promised to allow tax-exempt churches to promote candidates from the pulpit and engage in other political action while keeping their tax-exempt status. And he appointed Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to an educational task force for the Department of Education that will use right-wing fundamentalist Christianity in controlling higher education through eliminating regulations to keep the institutions secular.

In a bizarre appearance, DDT gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that lambasted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on The Apprentice and asked the audience to pray for the series that he produces. Then DDT proceeded to justify his ban against Muslims entering the United States by saying that  it will ensure that everyone in the U.S. will follow “our values of religious and personal liberty.” About Senate Chaplain Barry Black, DDT asked, “Is that an appointed position? I don’t even know if you’re Democrat or if you’re Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year, the hell with it.” Yup. The hell with it.

DDT used Jefferson’s language at the prayer breakfast to argue for limiting worship in the United States to Christianity and eliminating the Islam religion:

“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. . . .”

The founding father believed in the “right to worship,” not the right to take away other people’s rights.

The last fragile vestige of separation of church and state came from the Johnson Amendment from over a half century ago, but Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have introduced legislation to eliminate that law. DDT declared he would destroy the law. The proposed bill would ban religious institutions from donating to campaigns, but there can always be amendments.

Under the existing Johnson Amendment, religious groups may discuss political issues but not endorse candidates. Religious groups may spend up to 20 percent of their operating budget on political organizing and advocacy without violating their tax-exempt status. LifeWay, a religious research organization, found that 79 percent of U.S. citizens don’t believe “pastors [should] publicly endorse political candidates during a church service.”

DDT has still not overturned President Obama’s executive order that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation, but he is considering an executive order allow religious beliefs to discriminate against anyone. The basis of the drafted order:

“This Constitutional protection ensures that Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their consciences, and will remain free to express their viewpoints without suffering adverse treatment from the Federal Government.”

Although the news media has focused on the order’s effect on LGBT people, it could be disastrous for children, non-Christians, unmarried heterosexual couples, unmarried mothers, and women’s reproductive rights, including contraception and abortion—in short, permitting anyone to refuse any services for any self-declared “religious” reasons. The order could permit child abuse, domestic violence, injuries, any persecution or humiliation, and perhaps even murder. Parents could deny medical attention to their children and allow them to die.

The order would cover “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

In addition, the order would allow any church or charitable organization  to be directly political without losing their tax exempt status if  it “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

According to the draft of the order, agencies shall faithfully discharge their duty to accommodate the religion of federal employees and shall not promulgate regulations, take actions, or enact policies that substantially burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious exercise

Asked if DDT believes that Islam is a religion, senior White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart national security editor, refused to answer. Islamphobia has run rampant at the White House: its National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, described Islam as a “cancer,” which “hides behind this notion of being a religion,” and Steve Bannon has made other inflammatory comments about the religion. Avoiding to answer this question indicates that the answer would probably be “no—Islam is not a religion” from the White House administration.

Pope Francis called out DDT on his Muslim ban, criticizing “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.” Francis explained:

“The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian.”

The pope cited the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 which concluded, “I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

[Note: DDT’s staff must have taken away his phone again. Thus far, he has not tweeted against the pope–just the “so-called judge” who overturned his Muslim ban.]

Fundamentalist Christians are accusing progressive women of being witches if they don’t support DDT. In the past men controlled women by declaring them witches and killing them. The water test meant that they were innocent if they drowned and guilty—and then burned at the stake—if they survived. Twenty-first century men are bringing back the threat of witchcraft for uppity women who marched for our rights.

According to “prophet” Rick Joyner, any opposition to DDT is the sign of devil influence and explained that the march’s “out-of-control rage” had to be Satanic. Lance Wallnau accused the nature of “the progressive spirit” in “a desire to control and intimidate, manipulate”—just like witchcraft. Jim Bakker chimed in with his second wife, Lori, to talk to Billye Brim who explained that the march was “driven by demons” and called on her viewers to pray in order to “control the demons that were in those women.” Bakker agreed that he sensed “the most evil spirit I have ever felt” in his hotel lobby on the day of the march.

Bakker was imprisoned for several years and then divorced after his sex scandal, including an alleged rape, and accounting fraud. Jerry Falwell, Sr. called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history.”

Despite the founding of the nation on religious liberty, almost one-third of people in the United States think that only Christians can be real “Americans.” Once again, the youth of the nation may save the country: 44 percent of adults over 50 find Christianity being a key whereas only 18 percent of adults younger than 35 agree.

Religion as the key to being a part of the national identity is far more prevalent than it is in other countries. Only 13 percent of Australians, 15 percent of Canadians, and 15 percent of Europeans believe that belonging in their countries is tied to the Christian religion.

In answer to another question on the poll, the same percentage of people in the U.S.—32 percent—think that people have to be born in the country to be an “American.”

Under DDT, the United States is shifting from being a “flawed democracy” to a white supremacist theocracy.

June 5, 2016

Conservative Governments Push Christianity with Taxpayer Funds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bible emoji

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

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

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

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

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

April 6, 2016

Mississippi Wins Most Hateful Contest

If the states had a contest to see which one could pass the most hateful and broadly discriminatory law, Mississippi would be the winner—at least for now. Mississippi is the “South of the South,” according a friend familiar with “the South.” To keep their pride—and poverty— the state legislature has passed, and Gov. Phil Bryant has signed, a law that may be the model for the conservative extremists in other red states. Legislators started with right-wing reaction to giving marriage rights to same-gender couples and then accelerated with the thought of transgender people using the bathroom that matches their gender identity—and their appearance. The claim is protecting “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” but its purpose is to allow discrimination against most people to run amok. It allows employers to use not only bathroom and locker access policies but also dress code and grooming.

Bryant claims that “this bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizens of this state under federal or state laws” and “is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people.” It actually doesn’t limit the rights of any Christians who profess religious liberty, but everyone else has lost their rights.

The law has the standard stuff about permitting people to be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, denied housing, and turned down for essential services and care. On July 1, 2016, the law grants this “religious freedom” not only to the organizations that IRS grants freedom because of religion but also any private sector or government entity that wants to decline goods and services to anyone who they find objectionable.

In addition to LGBT and human rights groups, the Mississippi Economic Council has come out against the law for fear that it will negatively impact both customers and employees of businesses. The Mississippi Manufacturers Association also opposes the law because of the negative impact on business and industry in Mississippi. The law violates corporate policies, keeping b businesses from staying in or moving to the state. Nissan, Toyota, and IBM have all expressed concern about the new law.

Mississippi isn’t alone in a hate bill based on protecting religion: almost three dozen states introduced almost 200 anti-LGBT bills in their legislatures this year. Most states have failed, including South Dakota and Georgia where the governors vetoed these bills. North Carolina succeeded before Mississippi, and it will be a litmus test on how hate legislation affects the state’s economy. PayPal has already abandoned plans to expand into Charlotte (NC). Both Kansas and Missouri have new “religious freedom” bills.

New York, Vermont, and Washington have already banned  ban state-financed travel to Mississippi. As in North Carolina, federal agencies are reviewing the possibility of pulling funding because of the law.

The law makes any sex outside marriage illegal. According to the Washington Post,it prevents the government from ‘discriminating’ (through taxes, fines, withholding benefits, or other forms of retaliation) against a ‘person’ (broadly defined as an individual, religious organization, association, corporation and other kinds of businesses) for acting on their religious convictions regarding sexuality and marriage. That includes employers, landlords and rental companies, adoption and foster care agencies, people and companies that provide marriage-related services (rental halls, photographers, florists, etc.).”

All state employees can openly express their beliefs without consequence because the law states that no one can be sued for discrimination.Doctors using the religious conviction excuse are protected if they refuse to provide counseling, sex-reassignment surgery, fertility treatments, and other services. Counselors, even those paid by taxpayers, can refuse to serve people. Foster and adoptive families may religiously “guide, raise or instruct” children anyway that they want, including forcing children into “conversion therapy.”

People can decide “whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent” with their beliefs or moral convictions as well as decide to whom they will sell or rent housing they control based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions. Any person  or school can establish “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming,” and can manage the access of restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities.

Protect Thy Neighbor, a project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, listed some hypotheticals of the law’s results beyond the LGBT community:

  • An adoption agency could refuse to place a child with a family if the parents lived together before they were married.
  • A counselor could refuse to help a teen who called a suicide hotline.
  • A car rental agency could refuse to rent a car to a single unmarried mother.
  • A corporation could fire a woman for wearing slacks.

All people who use religion as a reason to discriminate are protected from tax penalties, loss of contracts or grants, or loss of other benefits such as licenses or certification. And on and on! Citing religious beliefs for discrimination not only gives people victory in court but also compensatory damages. The law also voids any anti-discrimination laws in cities or counties.

Five years ago, 46 percent of Mississippians wanted to outright ban interracial marriages, and now a Mississippi landlord is able to refuse rental to a married interracial couple, a Hispanic/Native American woman and a black man. The man is a member of the National Guard. The law legalizes this egregious act.

Although anyone can be blocked from being served by both private companies and government agencies, the Mississippi legislature does have concern about safety in church. The state senate passed the “Mississippi Church Protection Act” allowing concealed carry in churches without a permit and provides immunity from civil and criminal penalties for any designated “sergeant at arms” who has supposedly undergone training. The bill also includes a provision allowing people to concealed carry without a permit. If it passes, Mississippi would be the ninth state to have this law. The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police strongly opposes the bill, but they have no say about the lack of concealed carry permits.

Bryant said that Mississippi law is all about giving freedom to people, but he must not consider women to be people. Women who want to have an abortion in the one remaining women’s clinic in the state must have state-directed counseling in person to discourage her from the procedure and then wait another 24 hours–meaning two different trips to the clinic. A woman must undergo an ultrasound and be offered the option of seeing the image.

Health plans under the Affordable Care Act can cover abortion only in cases when the woman’s life is endangered, rape or incest. Insurance policies for public employees cover abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest, or fetal abnormality. Telemedicine with medication abortion is prohibited. Abortions are performed after 18 weeks only if the woman’s life is endangered, her physical health is severely compromised or there is a severe fetal impairment because state legislators believe that a fetus can feel pain after that time.

Thus Mississippi protects Christians—except for women who need abortions—and no one else. My question is when two different people’s Christian beliefs conflict? Which one will have the rights?

Jesus-Facepalm

In an effort to interpret “what would Jesus think,” the anti-discrimination organization Planting Peace has put up this billboard a few blocks away from the state capitol.

March 31, 2016

“Small Government” in Kentucky, Alabama

bevins hammerWhen GOP Matt Bevin ran for Kentucky’s governor, he promised to save the people by doing away from the dreaded “Obamacare” in the state. Republicans elected him, and he kept his promise. Under the former governor, the state’s health care, KYNECT, was a model for the country in its coverage for over 500,000 people.

Here is what happened with the Tea Party’s new state computer system:

  • Benefind—Bevin’s new system to replace KYNECT for—has shut people out of their online accounts or entirely eliminated their health coverage with no warning and no explanation.
  • Children have been cut off from Medicaid coverage.
  • People who visit overcrowded state offices where they are forced to wait hours—sometimes an entire day—to see anyone. Or they are forced to come back the next day after the computers crash.
  • The helpline is available only from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, limiting access for people who work those hours.
  • The recorded message sends people to a website which has many glitches, is hard to use, and provides no help for people without computers or Internet access.
  • People looking for help in public benefits now are forced to wait hours or days as they repeatedly call the helpline that gives them only a recorded message before hanging up.
  • People who can’t get coverage are cutting back on their medications and ending up in the hospitals’ emergency rooms multiple times.
  • Over 500 workers statewide trained to help people sign up for health coverage cannot access Benefind and thus cannot help people to apply for coverage or fix problems with their coverage.
  • People who formerly provided proof of citizenship can no longer get health coverage until they resubmit the documentation.

Bevin’s answer? On YouTube, he says, “I’m aware of and sensitive to your frustrations.”

Republicans who say that big government doesn’t work may be right—when they’re trying to operate it.

[Personal comment: Today I spent over two hours on the telephone with insurance companies and pharmacies on behalf of my partner. One of her medications cannot be generic; therefore she needs prior approval from her insurance company to pay for the brand medication. She has prior approval, but the insurance company will not send her anything in writing to prove it. Even after that, the cost of the medication with differs from $87 to $1500 for a ninety-day supply—with insurance.

I called three pharmacies multiple times to find the prices. All of them started out by stating that they couldn’t do that without the prescription although one of them said on the opening telephone message that it would give the prices of medications for Medicare. The cheapest pharmacy, gave three different prices on three different calls, but refused to give any written verification. It will take faxes for the prescription but won’t send a fax to request the prescription from the pharmacy that holds the prescription. That pharmacy will fax the prescription on but only after it is asked. Another prescription will require a doctor’s visit.

I’m retired—sort of—and have the time to make the calls during the daytime when these places are open. I’m also determined and willing to take on the problems of these calls. After a drastic increase in my blood pressure over the two hours, I can’t imagine the pain that people in Kentucky are now enduring—just because the GOP doesn’t like “big government” and probably people. Then there’s the issue of a different in almost $6,000 for a prescription from a local pharmacy and the “mail-in” part of a huge insurance company. These problems are something that could be changed by single-payer or universal health care, but it might violate our freedom. Big business loves our freedom because it gives them trillions of dollars.]

Did I mention that Republicans hate “big government”? Here’s a fine example of how they legislate it. Mississippi just passed the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” yet to be signed by GOP Gov. Phil Bryant, allowing discrimination against sex by anyone except a male/female couple after marriage. According to the language, an unmarried couple having sex in their personal bedroom is breaking the law if signed by Bryant.

In another Southern state, the big story out of Alabama less than two weeks ago showed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley governing the state by giving an 80 percent increase in salary to four cabinet members, an extra $73,405 each, after signing a bill banning all cities from raising the minimum wage—the federally mandated $7.25 an hour. These salary increases were the biggest, but dozens of other people—cabinet and staff members—also got sizeable raises.

Last August Bentley defunded Planned Parenthood in the state before a federal judge overturned his move. Taxpayers had to pay for the legal fees. Last December Bentley diverted funding from the 2010 BP oil spill recovery effort to renovate a second Governor’s mansion on the Gulf Coast. In January he took 45,000 people off food stamps if they weren’t supporting minor children. Each of these people had received only $194 a month.

bentleyThis month, however, things got very bad for Robert Bentley after it was revealed that he is having phone sex—and maybe more—with his top aide, Rebecah Mason, on “burner” phones bought at Best Buy. (To find details, just Google the situation.) Rumors have been swirling about his infidelities for quite a while, but they became much more open after his wife of 50 years filed for divorce. He first denied the accusations, despite the tapes played on the media, and then asked for forgiveness. Just for his infidelity and not for refusing poor women health care, causing people to go hungry, appropriating funds for his own personal use, and trying to block LGBT rights in the name of “family values.” Bentley supporters complain that the emphasis in the country shouldn’t be on sex—no problem as long as conservative laws don’t prioritize sex in their “big government” prohibitions.

Although some lawmakers talk about impeaching Bentley, he says he won’t quit. His former Baptist pastor talked about “church discipline” and said that Bentley is no longer a member of the Tuscaloosa congregation where he was once a deacon. The subject of Bentley’s desire has resigned, wanting to spend more time at home with her family, but her husband, state director of the state faith-based initiative office, remains at his job.

Mason’s company was paid over $328,000 during the past three years, more than his cabinet members before their 80 percent raise. She may have been received much more than this. Although Mason served as Bentley’s top aide, she didn’t have to file financial disclosure forms because she wasn’t designated as a state employee.

Alabama has trouble with politicians: a former governor is in prison for corruption, and the speaker of the State House of Representatives is to stand trial this year on 23 felony charges of ethics violations.

Bentley is using his position to investigate two men for blogging about his alleged affair with political adviser Rebekah Mason. He ordered the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find incriminating evidence against attorney Donald V. Watkins, and Legal Schnauzer blogger, Roger Shuler. Some people question whether Bentley broke any laws in his love fest, but Watkins claims investigations will find “wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering violations under federal law, among other charges …[in circumventing] public oversight, transparency and competitive bid laws by channeling millions of public dollars into entities like the Workforce Councils of Alabama and others legitimate agencies and then directing the recipient agency to execute vendor contracts with certain special friends and supporters.”

The U.S. House Freedom Caucus, each making an annual salary of $174,000, is working toward “small government”by not going to work. Despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s claim that the entire last year of the presidential term is a “lame-duck session,” the HFC understands that this time is only the approximately 75 days between the general election and the new president’s inauguration. Members hope to not go into session for this time, causing only 17 days in session after July 15 and  zero days after September 30. They have to wait until April 12 to do this because they aren’t in session.

Conservative House members have already killed the budget and the appropriations process for the year, and the government can’t operate after September 30 without a continuing resolution to maintain last year’s spending levels. HFC board member Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) described the lame-duck session as “a bunch of people who have already either quit, retired or been fired by their constituents decide they still want to vote on major stuff.” He admitted that quitting work that early this year wouldn’t look good for the legislators. He also said, “When you’re one of the people who tends to think most of what we do here is screwed up in the first place, then the less we do, maybe the better.”

That’s life in the world of conservatives who want “small government.”

December 20, 2015

What Christianity Teaches

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 1:25 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the Christian teaching for the week.

November 22, 2015

‘Religious Freedom,’ Safety from GOP Point of View

Seven GOP presidential candidates gathered last week at the “presidential family forum,” hosted in Iowa by the far-right fundamentalist Christian group called The Family Leader.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum stand on stage during the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

From left: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

When seven contenders were asked who they would first call after hearing about a terrorist attack, Fiorina and Huckabee said they’d fall to their knees and pray. Messages from GOP presidential candidates, including these seven, don’t fit the positions that Jesus espoused.

Donald Trump’s first wanted to put surveillance on mosques but moved on to agreeing that Muslims should be forced to wear identifying marks because of their Islam religion. He’s disagreed that he said this, but there’s video of the interview. This morning he doubled down on his call to keep Syrians out of the United States and added that he would torture Syrian refugees.

Marco Rubio goes beyond Trump: “it’s about closing down any place—whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site—any place where radicals are being inspired.” He said on the Fox network this morning that the attacks on Paris were a “positive development.”

John Kasich, sometimes considered a more reasonable GOP presidential candidate, wants a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values throughout the world—specifically in China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East. He said:

“I will consolidate [U.S. Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting] into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.”

Questions about his approach:

  • Will he use public money for this endeavor, contrary to the constitution’s First Amendment?
  • Why is Iran not included in the Middle East?
  • Does he want to get rid of all other religions in China with Muslims only 1.7 percent of its population?

A day later, public opinion “softened” his approach to assigning Voice of America to spread his “Judeo-Christian Western values.” Kasich tried to walk back his Christian-only views on this morning’s Meet the Press by saying that the “Western ethic” is “about life … about equality of women … about the freedom of religion.” First, these are not necessarily the ethics of the U.S.; and second,  he assumes that only the Judeo-Christian world has these values.” When he says “they don’t want to negotiate,” he could be referring to the U.S. Congress instead of Muslims.

Ben Carson joined Trump this morning in calling for torturing Syrian refugees. Carson’s advisor, retired US Army Maj. Gen. Robert Dees, also promotes the creation of a Christian active duty military that will “indoctrinate” the people in the United States. In a 2007 video, Dees said:

“We’re in twenty different countries around the world, recognizing that if you could possibly impact the military, you can possibly impact that whole nation for Jesus Christ and for democracy and for proper morality and values-based institutions.”

After Carson compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs,” he called on a gigantic database on everyone in the U.S. According to Carson, Syrian refugees should be left where they are because of his human brain’s “big frontal lobes, as opposed to other animals, because we can engage in rational thought processing.” Still looking for an answer to the problem, he explained that his brain allowed him to “extract information from the past, present, process it, and project it into a plan” while “animals, on the other hand, have big brain stems and rudimentary things because they react.”

Carson’s answer to the Israel/Palestine problem is to leave the Israelis where they are in Palestinian territory and “just slip [the Palestinian territory] into Egypt.” Chris Matthews broke up reading the quote on MSNBC’s Hardball, and Trevor Noah used the clip for part of his takedown of the hapless candidate. While Trump keeps approximately one-third of the GOP support in various polls, Carson has slipped to third in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mike Huckabee uses food analogies in comparing refugees to “tainted milk,” Chipotle’s problem with E.coli, huge bags of peanuts with ten poisoned ones, etc. He also can’t imagine anyone other than extremist Muslims targeting innocent civilians. Yet in the decade after the 9/11 attacks, Christian terrorists have averaged 337 attacks in the U.S. per year, killing at least 254 people. The death toll increased after the release of the study in 2012. During the same time, an average of nine U.S. Muslims were involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots in the U.S. The 20 plots carried out in fewer than 14 years had 50 fatalities.

A few extremist Christian terrorist actions in the U.S.:

The Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church Shooting: On July 27, 2008, devout Christian Jim David Adkisson killed two children and wounded seven other.

Christian Terrorism against Doctors Who Perform Abortions:  Dr. Richard Gunn was killed in 1993, Drs. John Britton and James Barrett were killed in 1994, Dr. Barnett Sleipan was killed in a home in 1998, Dr. George Tiller was shot dead in his church in 2009, and many other doctors were wounded by Christian terrorists in the U.S. because of religious beliefs–17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, 13 wounded, 100 butyric acid attacks, 373 physical invasions, 41 bombings, 655 anthrax threats, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers since 1977. All these were by extremist Christian terrorists on U.S. soil.

The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombings: Member of the Seventh-Day Adventist splinter group Branch Davidians, Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 people when he detonated a fertilizer bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Another 648 were wounded.

Ku Klux Klan: For the past 150 years, the terrorist extremist Christian groups has terrorized people in the name of Protestantism and racism against blacks, Jews, immigrants, LGBTs, and Catholics. Only two weeks ago, Frazier Glenn Cross, the leader of the Carolina Knights of the KKK, was sentenced to death by lethal injection for murdering a 14-year-old girl and two seniors outside the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in Kansas City. He said, “Jews are destroying the white race” but didn’t realize until afterwards that none of his victims was Jewish.

The Massacre at Zion Emmanuel AME Church (Charleston, SC): An extremist Christian white man killed nine black worshippers.

Ted Cruz is willing to take in Syrian refugees as long as they are proved to be Christians. Without the refugee program, the United States would not have Cruz because his father, Rafael Cruz, was granted asylum in the U.S., but the elder Cruz wants radical Christianity imposed on the entire United States while eliminating atheists and LGBT people. Cruz  also asked for more “tolerance for civilian casualties” in President Obama’s airstrikes (aka let’s kill more innocent people) and joined Huckabee in ignorance about extremist Christian killings in the United States.

Jeb Bush, like Cruz, can’t find any Christian terrorists but couldn’t find words when he was asked how to prove that the refugees are Christians. He finally said, “You know, you err on the side of caution.”

Rand Paul introduced a bill to stop refugees from 34 “high-risk” countries and an amendment to a housing and transportation funding bill barring federally-funded social welfare assistance for any refugees from those same “high-risk” nations. Libertarian policy experts oppose discrimination against people from specific countries. Paul’s office calls it a “careful balance of libertarian principles,” meaning that any non-libertarian view is a “balance.”

Rick Santorum opposes bringing Syrian refugees to the United States. Instead, he wants them put into resettlement camps somewhere in the Middle East. Trump made the same suggestion.

Carly Fiorina just keeps doing what she does best—lying. “The vast majority of these refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work,” she said, perhaps hoping that the media wouldn’t pick up on her false statement. According to a UN database of 4 million registered Syrian refugees, most of them are children under 18. Geoffrey Mock, a Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA, said, “The priorities go to torture survivors, people with serious medical conditions, children and teens on their own, and women and children at risk.” Of the 10,000 refugees who President Obama proposes to bring to the U.S., only 22 percent are “young able-bodied men”—2,200.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s almost-gone governor and the latest GOP presidential candidate dropout, told Fox that his state will ban Syrian refugees and that he’s “ordered the state police to track the ones that are already in Louisiana.” Doug Cain, spokesman for the state police, said that this statement isn’t true. He added, “We are just keeping an open line of communication with federal authorities to make sure everyone is safely settled.”

At the close of the religious gathering in Iowa, Cruz made a prophetic statement:

“If conservatives come together and stand as one, it’s game over.”

Cruz was correct in a very twisted way: the United States may be entering a darker period than even during George W. Bush’s reign—unlimited torture, surveillance by profiling, banning refugees, religious discrimination and forced Christianity, concentration camps, and World War III.

July 19, 2015

Religion + Politics = Discrimination

Republicans still reeling from Supreme Court decisions delivered at the end of their session and the showdown over the Confederate flag are working on responses. Because it is unlikely that they can add an amendment to the constitution that would ban marriage equality, they plan to make life as miserable as possible for same-sex couples as possible, using “religious freedom” as their excuse. Bills to grant protections for objections to marriage equality on moral grounds drafted by Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)  already have 130 sponsors, and House conservatives demanded a vote.

At the same time, other Republicans are searching for ways to expand legal protections for LGBT people. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) has prepared an amendment to limit the inflammatory language from Labrador and Lee plus adding enhanced nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. His concern echoes those of others that the anti-LGBT bill may “see the Indiana debacle turn into a national nightmare.” The amendment would include workplace and housing nondiscrimination language to protect LGBT individuals from losing their jobs or being denied a home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some conservatives in Congress understand that reelection depends on not alienating every constituent except the white man while more extremists go for the throat in every situation. Colby Itkowitz shows the reason behind congressional gridlock in this contrast between Dent and his GOP colleague Rep. Jim Jordan from Ohio.

Asked about whether the House will be having a debate about religious freedom in August, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said, “No decision has been made on—on how best to address these.” In other words, Boehner once again has no idea what to do about his caucus. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is responsible for formally drafting the bill, but it is busy attempt to skewer presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over Benghazi and emails. In the meantime, Labrador said that he isn’t going to give LGBT people legal protections.

The GOP worries that they need to have “religious freedom” laws as legal protection is necessary to keep federal licenses for discriminatory religious broadcasters, federal grants and tax-exempt status for faith-based charities, and funding for Catholic schools. In the past 30 years, very few organizations have lost their tax-exempt status, mainly because of fraud. No one has ever threatened religious organizations that refuse to hire women.

At the same time, the proposed bills have such loose language that “Christians” could fire single women for being pregnant. H.R. 2802, the misnamed First Amendment Defense Act, stops government action against a person—which, of course, includes for-profit corporations—acting from a religious belief that favors their description of traditional marriage. Businesses can discriminate and keep their federal contracts because the bill includes protections for people who believe marriage is between “one man and one woman” and “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” Labrador and Lee, along with their co-sponsors, believe that single mothers can also legally be targets of discrimination.

This concern isn’t in the realm of fantasy: religious schools have fired unwed teachers for being pregnant, even if they weren’t part of the ministerial exception that the Supreme Court blessed. Labrador wants to legalize bigotry because the bill is “just allowing people to continue to believe the way they do.” Lee agreed by supporting the idea that an unmarried woman could be fired from a university for having sex out of wedlock, even if that university receives money from taxpayers.

The politics of the bill are complex because Labrador, co-founder of the extremist conservative Freedom Caucus, has wanted the job of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who controls the floor schedule. When some Tea Party members in the House have gotten out of line, they have seen their legislation blocked as well as temporarily losing their committee positions. The religious freedom act will most likely take a back seat to discussions about whether to declare war on Iran in the next eight weeks, especially because Congress will be in recess over half that time.

Recently, the International Olympic Committee approved Proposal 14 of the Olympic Agenda, keeping the games out of countries with anti-LGBT laws, a ruling that could eliminate the United States from the Olympics if the “religious freedom” bill were to pass. Or from states such as Indiana that have discriminatory laws allowing some areas to deny service to LGBT people, even after the uproar about a discrimination bill. Eighteen other states have laws legalizing discrimination: Florida in preventing same-sex couples form adopting children, Texas in evicting same-sex couples from lodging, etc. The Olympics may prefer London over Louisiana where patriots with Confederate flags can protest a gay swimmer from another country. The heading of the map below shows the level of discrimination in different states based on religious beliefs.

map religious freedom

The far-right population has gotten even crazier since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. For example, Truenews host Rick Wiles has a theory about why the justices voted to allow same-sex couples to marry:

“Perhaps [Justice] Kennedy and many of those who are on the Supreme Court have had sodomite relations themselves.”

Wiles concluded that they were being blackmailed by their same-sex lovers from fear of being exposed. Before the decision, Wiles had promised to renounce his U.S. citizenship if the Supreme Court accepted same-sex marriage. There is no evidence that he followed through.

The Louisiana Supreme Court did determine in Costanza v. Caldwell that the state has to allow same-sex marriage, but they didn’t like doing it. Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll wrote about the “horrific impact these five lawyers have made on the democratic rights of the American people,” and Justice John Weimer said that it is not a judge’s job to “point out what, in my view, the law should be.” One judge even dissented, claiming that he is convinced by the falsehood same-sex adoption leads to pedophilia.

Kansas’ Republican governor, Sam Brownback, issued an executive order prohibiting state government from taking action against clergy or religious organizations denying services to couples based on religious beliefs. His order is so far-reaching that a homeless shelter that receives taxpayer funding could refuse housing to a same-sex couple with a child or a foster care agency could refuse to place a child with a family member in a same-sex relationship. Because “religious organization” lacks definition, businesses could use the order to deny people service.

After the Supreme Court legalization of marriage equality, presidential candidate Rick Santorum repeated his argument that homosexuality is like “man on dog.” The last time he made this declaration, he paid dearly when Dan Savage used a specific sex act as another definition for Santorum.

Glencoe (AL) mayor, Charles Gilchrist, cried Christian persecution because he was asked to follow the constitution by taking down the Christian flag next to the U.S. stars and bars. The city attorney warned Gilchrist that a lawsuit could cost the town more than $500,000, as another town had to do. The Christian flag is being used as a revolution against marriage equality. An anti-LGBT pastor in North Carolina, Rit Varriale, called on churches to raise the Christian flag above the U.S. one, a violation of the U.S. Flag Code. He wanted this done “as a demonstration that Christians will respect and obey the federal government up to the point that the government asks something that is inconsistent with what God has called His people to do.”

My favorite Christian story of the week comes from Queen Creek (AZ) where a woman was upset by the “devilish” cake from Costco. The design for  her six-year-old’s birthday cake from a picture, but she was “extremely shocked and upset to see a demonic symbol written clear as a day” on the cake.

 

cake good

To Jessica Eckerdt, the cute little dinosaur had only three legs, 666 was written on the icing, and images of the devil were spread across the bottom of the design. Plus she bought the cake in Superstition Springs, and Costco has 666 stores. (They really have 672.) Now little kids can no longer get dinosaur cakes from Costco. (The story is almost two years old, but it’s too good to miss.)

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