Nel's New Day

July 16, 2017

Christians Fight Their Beliefs

With the removal of health care from people impending, religious supporters of Trumpcare forget that Jesus provided free medical care to lepers in a books that talked about him traveling with 12 men to give medicine to poor people. As Holly Wood wrote:

“Jesus was a homeless brown refugee who ran around giving people universal healthcare.”

This statement is a far cry from a statement made by Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS):

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

Children in public school bible classes probably won’t learn about the Jesus that took care of the sick. But these Kentucky students can take an elective in the study of the bible, thanks to a new law—HB 128, the Bible Literacy Bill. In Kentucky, 2017 is also the “Year of the Bible,” according to another law, and Gov. Matt Begins encouraged people to take part in a bible-reading marathon.

Kentucky is also the state that subsidized a Noah’s ark-themed museum in Williamstown. Even with generous tax incentives and, Ken Ham, head of Answers in Genesis, said that his park is failing because of atheists and the media. Another conservative is blaming “fake news,” this time for the lack of investors. Despite the taxpayers support that hurts the community, employees must “confirm agreement with Ark Encounter’s Statement of Faith.” Applicants “must profess, interalia, that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the bible is literally true in order to be considered for the job.”

One Alabama high school teacher is using a one-sided summer reading list to teach conservative religion and politics. Gene Ponder provided titles of over 30 books for his Spanish Fort High AP Government and Economics students that included authors such as Ann Coulter, Rand Paul, Michael Savage (five of the 30 titles), Steve Forbes, and Mark Levin. Richard Mack, author of The Magic of Gun Control, was one of the armed resister on the Bundy ranch in Nevada using a possible strategy of women and children as human shields. The focus on how liberals lie opposes secularism, abortion, taxation, left-wing politics, and the belief in climate change. Social media made members of the Baldwin County School System aware of the list, and it was recalled. Yet Ponder faces no repercussions and will undoubtedly pass along his extremist conservative views in the fall to the top students of a public school.

A goal of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is to permit houses of worship to endorse political candidates while keeping their tax-free status. A House Appropriations subcommittee has added a provision to a funding bill to the IRS that would remove money from to IRS to implement the 63-year-old so-called Johnson Amendment. In reality, churches have been violating the law against endorsements with impunity despite the 1954 law. It already allows religious ministries to promote and reject any issues, even ballot referenda.  Evangelicals however, want to become political machines and still avoid paying taxes on their churches. DDT’s success could lead to foreign powers funneling campaign donations through these tax-exempt churches.

Evangelicals might want to start giving their money to charity instead of building huge churches and mansions for their pastors. “Small-government” believers claim that churches should provide the money for the needy instead of the government. DDT’s budget cuts require every one of the 350,000 U.S. religious congregations to raise $714,000 a year for 10 years to offset cuts to programs that aid the needy. He isn’t the first: Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget called for eliminating $3.3 trillion in ten years. His excuse was a personal interpretation of subsidiarity, the philosophy rejecting any care for the poor. Although faith-based groups provide up to $50 billion worth of services each year for the needy, many of their initiatives count on government funding for operations. Catholic Charities USA gets half its operating budget from federal funds. A group called “Circle of Protection” issued a statement about DDT’s cuts:

 “We do not support sharp increases to defense spending that are made possible by corresponding reductions in non-defense discretionary spending, particularly in programs that help poor and vulnerable people. The biblical prophets teach us that our security depends in part on upholding justice for people in poverty.”

One corporation that moved the United States closer to Christian control with the help of five Supreme Court Justices is Hobby Lobby. They claimed religious beliefs in their restriction of insurance to not pay for contraceptives and won the case. With their wealth, they are building a “Bible Museum” near the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. and got into trouble with smuggling acquisitions into the country from Iraq. The corporation was required to forfeit thousands of artifacts and pay $3 million. They also promised to stop making “mistakes.” The priceless archeological antiquities were sent to the U.S. through Israel and the United Arab Emirates in packages labeled such innocuous terms as “tile samples.” Instead of wiring money to a dealer, Hobby Lobby deposited money into several bank accounts under a number of different names. Just like DDT’s family and other colleagues, Hobby Lobby pled ignorance, and the U.S. government swallowed their excuse. The money may have gone to Daesh, an extremist group that destroys and/or sells its cultural heritage to fund its terrorism. People who go to the Hobby Lobby museum may want to remember the terrorism that the corporation supports.

In one piece of good news on the evangelical front, the Southern Baptist Convention took a huge step last week when it passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and the alt-right. At first, leaders refused to consider the proposal submitted by Dwight McKissic, a prominent black Texas pastor, but a backlash forced a reversal. The controversy came from divisions in a denomination founded to support slavery. Of the 15 million Southern Baptist members in 46,000 churches, 85 percent are white.

For centuries, Jewish and Christian religions have referred to “the curse of Ham” when justifying the white belief of superiority over blacks. The definition of this justification for slavery has no historical basis, but evangelicals have supported the concept that the “sons of Ham” are “darkened” by their sins. Baptists were split almost 200 years ago about this issue into northern and southern branches, and the perception of blacks came to a head again at the June convention when the Southern Baptists had to decide whether to leave their centuries’ old position.

The SBC is struggling toward racial equality. In 1995, it finally got around to apologizing for its foundational support for slavery. In 2015, it passed a resolution promoting reconciliation. Last year, it called on Christians to get rid of their Confederate flags. Now its policy has these positions:

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

It is a watered-down version of McKissic’s proposal (below) but it is a start:

Affirms that “there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing.”

Identifies this “toxic menace” as white nationalism and the alt-right and urges the denomination to oppose its “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”

Claims that the origin of white supremacy in Christian communities is a once-popular theory known as the “curse of Ham,” which taught that “God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos” and was used as justification for slavery and segregation.

Calls on the denomination to denounce nationalism and “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”

Even passing the resolution was not satisfactory for McKissic. He said his proposal’s rejection “showed a fault line. It showed that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t where you’re supposed to be on this.” The vote at the convention may have felt like a success, but the SBC doesn’t bind members to its resolutions. It uses “congregationalist” polity with decentralized power focused within separate churches. They can retain their racist policy.

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November 13, 2015

GOP: Women Too Stupid to Make Choices for Themselves

The recent National Religious Liberties Conference had three GOP presidential candates–Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal appeared on the stage demanding that LGBT people be rounded up and executed, much in the same way that ISIS does. Approached about his participation in this bath of hatred, Huckabee said he had no idea that Swanson had these views, despite an earlier call for him to not participate in the event. Religious right radio host Michael Brown tried to explain away the candidates’ appearance despite Jake Tapper’s telling Cruz about Swanson’s views before the conference.

With insistence on genocide, however, was the call to eliminate women’s rights.The theme of the conference was freedom, but Geoff Botkin delivered the message that the Disney movie Frozen is evidence of its “spirit of licentiousness.” Botkin compared Frozen’s song “Let It Go” to Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the Garden of Eden and called it “Satan’s rebellion anthem” corrupting children. The song is about a woman who decides to break away from the directive to treat her talents as a curse and make her own decisions. Botkin was not alone in his claims at the conference: Swanson has frequently declared that Frozen will cause little girls to become lesbians.

Several conference speakers have connections to the “biblical patriarchy” or Quiverfull movement, which fights to roll back women’s rights to use contraceptives. To them, birth control access is a threat to the family and liberty because Christian families must return to traditional gender roles in order to bear and raise as many children as possible. At one time, the move to deny birth control was considered a fringe movement, but the Supreme Court legitimized it in the Hobby Lobby case that recognized restriction of birth control as well as abortion. To many fundamentalist Christians, all birth control that stops pregnancy is considered murder. By recognizing Hobby Lobby’s misrepresentations of this position, the Supreme Court put into law the falsehoods about contraception leading to abortions.

Conservatives also use the myth of “abortion regret” to push a doctor’s claim that he can “reverse” abortion by injecting women with unnecessary shots. Women do not regret abortions. A recent study of women who got abortions shows that 95 percent of women who get abortions say, both right after the abortion and years after the fact, that it was the right decision for them. The political propaganda of “saving” the “baby” comes from the misguided theory that women are too stupid to be trusted with legal abortion. The state must make decisions for these women, because no woman really wants an abortion.

Forced pregnancy is a way to protect women, according to conservatives, because, deep down, all women really want to have those babies. Justice Anthony Kennedy enshrined this belief in Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) when he wrote that the right to choose should be narrowed because “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” The opinion moved medical decisions for women from doctors to federal and state legislators. This ruling upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 by claiming that it did not impose an undue burden on the due process right of women to obtain an abortion.

Sheva Guy, 23, disagrees. She was forced to either drive 300 miles from Ohio to Chicago for an abortion or deliver a stillborn child. At 22 weeks, her ultrasound showed a fatal spinal abnormality in a female fetus preventing its survival. Under Gov. John Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate, Ohio dropped abortion clinics from 14 to nine with an abortion ban after 24 weeks. Guy wasn’t even allowed to take her fetus home to Ohio.

The late great journalist, author, and commentator Molly Ivins wrote in 1996:

“There’s something very wrong in our discussion of this. If there’s anything that late-term abortion is, it is not an easy call. And I just want to say, that perhaps, I almost get the impression that somebody thinks women don’t have no moral sense at all. No woman who is seven months pregnant, ever waddles past an abortion clinic and says, ‘Darn, I knew there was something I’ve been meaning to get around to.’ This is ridiculous.

“You have those late-term abortions, because either the mother is going to die, the child is going to die, or both are going to die. These procedures are incredibly rare. I only know of two in the state of Texas since Roe v. Wade was passed. They were both what they call cases of babies with no brain. The brain, the child’s brain stem had developed, but then something went horribly wrong and these children literally had no brains. Now, is that an easy call? Is that simple to you?”

Missouri Republicans are so afraid of abortion research that they are threatening to defund the University of Missouri if Lindsey Ruhr continues her doctoral dissertation on the effects of the 72-hour waiting period before women can have abortions. Despite a Missouri law banning universities from “encouraging” abortions, state senator Kurt Schaefer, chairman of the anti-abortion Committee on the Sanctity of Life, maintains that Ruhu is biased although he has not seen her methodology.

Republicans’  history of banning research includes funding about gun violence because “guns don’t kill people—people do,” according to former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last summer. He said that “a gun is not a disease,” and the topic outside of the CDC’s research domain. Scientists are also prevented from studying right-wing terrorism in the United States.

Even women conservatives want stupid women. According to Phyllis Schlafly, men are smarter than women. She suggests admissions quotas, eliminating student loans, and reinstating all men’s sports canceled by Title IX to prevent women from attending colleges and universities. Schlafly, a retired constitutional lawyer, believes that fewer women would be raped if they didn’t go to college.

Conservatives’ denigrating statements about women and rape accelerated during the 2012 election campaigns and have increased since then. George Will called being a rape victim a “coveted status,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another GOP presidential candidate, minimized rape as a “definitional problem.” Many state legislators claim that women typically lie about being raped to avoid consequences of consensual sex. Former presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, insinuated that rape victims who need abortions after 20 weeks are either lazy or stupid—certainly undeserving of compassion.

The police chief of Georgia’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Bryan Golden, told the school newspaper that “most” sexual assaults aren’t sexual assaults at all — women just feel “guilty” about their “consensual” actions. “That’s being stupid,” he added. Golden was briefly suspended without pay, but he’s back on the job, investigating sexual assaults.

During the present term, SCOTUS will hear a case that may bring back the theme of women’s stupidity. Whole Women’s Health v. Cole resulted from the Texas law that tried to shut down at least nine of the 19 remaining abortion clinics in the state with 27 million people, almost half of them women. The term “abortion clinics” is really a misnomer because these women’s clinics provide far more health services than abortions.

None of the legal requirements for these clinics protects women—although legislators claimed that it does—but has everything to do with restricting abortions. Then-governor Rick Perry said in 2012 that until the world is without abortions, “we will continue to pass laws to ensure that they are rare as possible.” The question in front of the Supreme Court is whether it will uphold 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe v. Wade, or decide that women are too stupid to make decisions about their own bodies.

In Casey, Justice Anthony Kennedy, most likely the swing decider on the court, wrote that a woman’s right to an abortion involves “the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the 14th Amendment.” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said:

“Access to health care should not depend on a person’s income, where they live or their ability to travel to another state. It’s time for the Supreme Court to send a clear message that these dangerous laws create an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”

Quote from Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence:

jennifer Lawrence

Oral arguments on Women’s Heath v. Cole are scheduled for Spring 2017; a decision will probably not be handed down until the end of next June.

November 1, 2015

Good, Bad According to Fundamentalist Christians

The Hobby Lobby company, also called a person by the Supreme Court, fought contraception for their employees and succeeded in convincing the highest court in the land that they should violate their fundamentalist Christian religion. Although contraception is bad, theft and fraud seem to be good, according to Hobby Lobby. Before they went to court to declare themselves highly moral in their rejection of contraception, they shipped themselves 200-300 small clay tablets from Israel that had come from Iraq’s cultural heritage. The U.S. Customs agents seized up the FedEx shipment of Middle-Eastern cuneiform tablets thousands of years old that were described as “hand-crafted clay tiles” with a monetary value of about $300.

The destination for these “tiles” is the Museum of the Bible that Hobby Lobby is building in Washington, D.C. It allegedly “demonstrates the Bible’s impact on every facet of life throughout the ages—including science, the arts, government, literature and languages.” The museum’s website states that “scholars have scoured the world to assemble the more than 40,000 biblical antiquities that today comprise what is known as one of the world’s largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts.” The description doesn’t mention anything about ordinary “hand-crafted clay tiles.”

Hobby Lobby’s CEO, Steve Green, said that some of the museum collection might be illegally-acquired antiquities, but Museum of the Bible president, Cary Summers, said that the only problem with these “tile samples” is the paperwork. The work Green did with Patty Gerstenblith, a DePaul University law professor, regarding legal complications in antiquities sales in 2010, however, indicates that he was not ignorant of the law when the tablets were shipped a year later. The hundreds of hours of investigative interviews indicate more than a bureaucratic delay for the past four years—and much more than a logistical oversight.

The Hobby Lobby people doing the shipping most likely understood that informal customs declarations are for shipments with a collective monetary value of under $2,500. Anything over that is considered formal entry. Those wishing to bring something into the country illegally undervalue the item to avoid scrutiny. A recent example of this evasion was the shipment of a Picasso worth $15 million that was listed on the custom declarations as a “handicraft” worth $37.

With its $4.5 billion, the Green family can afford fines, but it doesn’t look good for someone who pretends to be devoutly religious.

Texas parents of nine homeschooled children consider death good, education bad. The McIntyre family of El Paso is suing the state that requires them to teach their children math and spelling. Even with the serious lack of oversight in homeschooling that doesn’t require a curriculum or standardized tests, the problem surfaced when a 17-year-old daughter tried to run away from the home. Her uncle reported that the parents were neglecting their children’s education. One of them said that learning was unnecessary because “they were going to be raptured.”

Parents argue that teaching only church hymns and theology is perfectly appropriate because the second coming of Jesus Christ is almost at hand. By now the case has gotten to the state Supreme Court where the McIntyres call the all-Republican court “anti-Christian” and use the time-worn complaint of “sweeping governmental power.” The governor may support the parents; he just appointed a Christian homeschooler to lead the Texas Board of Education.

The McIntyres are not unique. In early 2015, a young woman from Texas had great difficulty in proving that she exists. She didn’t have a birth certificate or Social Security number, and her parents had never taken her to a doctor or enrolled her in school. When she fled her home, she had no identity.

Death is good but medical treatment is bad. That comes from Michelle Moon who wrote in her blog that she will allow 4-year-old daughter Julianna, suffering from a severe neuromuscular disease, to go live with the angels. That’s where she can run and meet God, according to her father. After this indoctrination, the parents will permit a four-year-old to make medical decisions for herself. When Julianna tells her mother she is frightened, the parents explains that she won’t be afraid on her way to heaven because of the angels. Moon has recorded her brainwashing techniques in her blog, The Mighty.

Being denied sex with a wife might be bad, but forcing her to have intercourse is good, according to Biblical Gender Roles that provides help for men whose wives refuse to have sex with them. It explains that men should not feel guilty about raping their wives because it will teach women how to enjoy sex. Women also should understand that they always enjoy sex with their husbands because God says they must. If all else fails, men should just not look at their wives’ faces during the forced sex. The directions are as follows:

“Focus your eyes on her body, not her face. Focus on the visual pleasure you receive from looking at her body and physical pleasure you receive from being inside your wife.

“I know you love your wife, most of us as men love our wives. You want to connect with her physically AND emotionally during sex. But your wife is the one refusing to connect with you emotionally, so you have to concentrate 100% on the physical side.”

The religious blogger compares the wife to the mythical Greek mythological monster Medusa who could kill people who looked at her. In this case, the expression on the wife’s face could kill the man’s “sexual pleasure,” and that is unacceptable. It is sad, wrote the blogger, but “sometimes we have to work around the sinful behavior of our wives and this will be one of those times.” These are people who refuse to understand that no means no.

Belief in climate change is a religion—and bad—according to GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, but on the good side at least 70 percent of the people, up from 63 percent last spring, now believe in the reality of climate change supported by solid evidence in the past 40 years. Accompanied by that figure is last year’s drop in the number of Republicans who doubt the existence of climate change, down to 26 percent from 41 percent. Many of these people have cited the drought as the reason for their shift in belief. Thus they continue to use weather experience for their beliefs about climate change, but this time they’re right.

yeast infection

My favorite good/bad story of the week comes from Portland (OR). Children protesting abortion is good while learning about yeast infections is bad. Working at a café near a Planned Parenthood location, Mary Numair saw a protester with a sign saying “Abortion Kills Children” in front of the café. Numair told her the protest was down the street, but the woman said that she had to stand in front of the café. That’s when Numair took a piece of cardboard out of a Dumpster and made a sign that said: “Dear P.P. Thanks for helping with my yeast infections.” When she was in her early 20s, Numair could not afford insurance for her pre-existing condition of yeast infections so she went to Planned Parenthood where the condition was treated “quickly and effectively,” she said.

Numair stood in front of Planned Parenthood next to a boy of about ten holding a sign that said “Abortion is Murder.” She knelt down and asked, “Do you know about yeast infections?” Adults turned red and pulled their children away while others formed a prayer circle. That’s when Numair started chanting, “YEAST IN-FECTIONS, YEAST IN-FECTIONS.” She tried to take a selfie with the protesters, but they walked away.

This strategy could be used by other counter-protesters across the country. Numair said, “I did look at the preacher-pastor guy and said, ‘See you next time!’ and I intend on sticking to that.” She plans to make a bigger sign and maybe a few props. “If someone wants to help me make a giant wooden labia, that would be great.” The best part of Numair’s courageous action is that it’s gone viral with articles about it across the country’s media.

July 12, 2015

Religion in Birth Control, Cakes, Ignorance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 24, 2015

Worry about Josh Duggar’s Crimes, Not Sins

The conservative world is still reeling since the revelation that Josh Duggar, eldest son in his family and the face of Family Research Council (FRC) at anti-LGBT rallies, molested at least five girls when he was a teenager. As executive director of FRC Action, the organization’s political arm, he raised funds, hobnobbed with half the GOP presidential contenders, and talked about how LGBT people are a threat to children. Because the statute of limitations has run out on the 27-year-old’s crimes, he will most likely not be prosecuted, but the publicity surrounding his actions is well-deserved, because of his “holier-than-thou” demeanor toward people who don’t follow his path of hatred and bigotry. Duggar has resigned from his position, but the whirlpool of his actions and the resulting reactions spreads every day.

h-DUGGARS-628x314

The patriarch of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, Jim Bob Duggar, waited over a year—and three months after he told the elders of his church—to file a police report after learning about Josh’s crimes. Jim Bob also refused to allow police to interview Josh during a felony investigation in 2006. The police report emerged only after In Touch magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request and has since been expunged at the request of a judge appointed by then Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Police spokesman Scott Lewis said the expunging of the record was highly unusual because similar records are usually kept indefinitely.

Huckabee explained that the file was destroyed to protect the “innocent victims.” Six years ago, Huckabee wrote about director Roman Polanski’s raping a child almost 30 years ago in a Fox op-ed: “If something is right, it’s right. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Diversity is a good thing; duplicity is not.” Huckabee has a history of releasing criminals, including two murderers who went on to kill six more people.

The police report shows that Josh was investigated for sex offenses—including felonies—against five minors, four of them his sisters. He was accused of touching the girls’ breasts and genitals, often while they slept. Instead of alerting the police, the family later claimed they sent Josh to a four-month Christian program of hard physical work and counseling in 2003 but really sent him to live with a family friend in the home remodeling business. Jim Bob finally took Josh to personal acquaintance Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens, who only gave Josh a “very stern talk.” Hutchins took no other action and is now serving a 56-year prison sentence for child pornography.

After TLC became aware of Josh’s history of molestation, the channel waited to determine the future of their cash cow program. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was immediately canceled after TLC learned that “Mama June” was dating a convicted child molester although he had not been a member of the cast, but TLC aired a Duggar marathon after Josh, a part of the program, apologized for his behavior on his Facebook page. The program began losing its advertisers such as General Mills, and the TLC indicated that it was pulling the show. The show is still listed to air on June 1, and the network hasn’t decided on its long-term decision regarding the show’s fate.

Josh’s former employer, FRC, has traditionally demonized LGBT people through false allegations. The website still posts a 2002 document, “Homosexuality and Child Abuse,” which wrongly assumes male molesters of boys are gay to purport that homosexual men molest boys at disproportionate rates to “the rates at which heterosexual men molest girls.”

Duggar mentor Bill Gothard, 79, has also resigned from Basic Life Principles, the Christian homeschooling organization he founded, after accusations that he sexually harassed over 35 women and teenage girls. Three years ago, Gothard was asked to step down because he “has exhibited a 40-year pattern of moral failure” and “publicly repent.” Basic Life Principles’ curriculum preaches that victims are at fault for being sexually assaulted and the perpetrators are the real victims who are defrauded by the sexual assault victims. Girls are also taught from an early age that they provoke the rapes and have no right to pursue justice. That is what the Duggar children may have been taught.

The billionaires who own Hobby Lobby have provided substantial financial support for Gothard’s organization for at least a decade. Gothard is also associated with Quiverfull, a movement championed by Jim and Michelle Duggar that advocates wifely submission and considers all forms of birth control as sinful. Hobby Lobby CEO David Green praised one ofGothard’s books: “Through the example and teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, we have benefited both as a family and in our business.”

In a religious homeschooling family in Wake Forest (NC) , four of the six brothers pled guilty to sexually abusing their sister for nine years. Anti-schooler parents, John and Nita Jackson, fled to Colorado with the victim to keep her from being interviewed. Eight indictments were handed down after they were returned to North Carolina. Oldest brothers Eric and Matthew received sentences of 12 to 15 years, and two other brothers, Nathaniel and Benjamin, will serve two years each for multiple counts of incest. One brother is expected to plead guilty, and another will go to trial. The girl told police that her mother had walked away after witnessing at least one of the crimes.

Like Josh, the Duggar parents are politically active. Jim Bob was a state representative from 1999 until 2003 and a U.S. Senate candidate. Michelle campaigned for overturning a measure that banned LGBT discrimination in Fayetteville (AR) on the basis that the law would endanger children. She said, “We   should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child.” She succeeded.

Fayetteville is the location of a Christian school that knowingly employed a man convicted of sexual offenses against an 8-year-old child. Paul Leroy Connor, convicted of “taking sexual liberties with” and committing a sexual offense against the child in 2001, served two years in prison and is barred under state law from being on school property. The school’s administrator, Joan Drayton not only refused to fire Connor but also told the reporting teacher to stop teaching students how to search for sex offenders. An investigation revealed grade tampering for the athletic program and wealthy families as well as “fraudulent conduct on the part of the school and its administrators.” One senior with a GPA of .97 received a diploma.

Freedom Christian Academy is one of the state’s top recipients of private school vouchers, almost $120,000 taxpayer funds in 2014. A recently passed state law diverted $10 million from the state’s public system to student vouchers at schools like Freedom Christian that operate with no accountability or oversight and are exempt from financial accountability, ethics oversight, and academic reporting standards which are required of public schools. Many of these schools have no certified teachers on staff, and at least 74 percent do not follow state curriculum mandates. They also collect taxpayer funds for schools who are taught at home rather than at school.

Mike Huckabee, the GOP presidential candidate who earlier slammed President Obama for letting their daughters listen to Beyoncé, praised Josh Duggar for his apology and said that his life as an adult “is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility.” Today, Huckabee told Chris Wallace on the Fox network that the president of the United States should not be required to follow a Supreme Court ruling that legalizes marriage equality. Wallace pointed out that the country has obeyed court rulings since the 1803 Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison (1803) which formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review under Article III of the Constitution.. Huckabee answered that the president must follow the “Supreme Being” and not the Supreme Court.

Huckabee may be surprised by the negative response he has received on his Facebook page regarding his protection of Josh Duggar. Instead of praising him, they have erupted with criticisms. Responses can be found here. These comments reflect how conservatives are disgusted by the hypocrisy of the Duggars and those who defend Josh’s criminal actions. His behavior was horrendous, but the actions of those who try to protect him are far worse. Josh Duggar committed a crime, not a sin, and adults who tried to cover up for him are also committing crimes.

November 23, 2014

Some Christians Move Forward

While some religious fundamentalists try to move the world back to an earlier millennium, others are working to create diversity for all, whether inside a religion or beside it:

Twenty years ago, women could be deacons in the Church of England, ten years later they could be priests, and now they can become bishops. Canon 33 now states, “A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop.” At this time, about 15 percent of the priests are female. The Catholic Church has had about 50,000 women deacons, but that practice stopped about the year 1000.

The Vatican has recently unveiled newly restored frescoes in an ancient catacomb that show the Catholic Church had female priestesses. Both Snostic and Montanist sects of Christianity depicted the godhead as androgynous, both male and female. Women served the Eucharist and would speak as prophets.

catholic women priest fresco

Bishop Allyson Abrams, 43, left her husband and the Zion Progress Baptist Church in Detroit because she married another woman, Diana Williams. She said, “I was open to love in whatever way the Lord would bless me.” According to Abrams, same-sex marriage is in accord with Christian teachings: “The Bible teaches that ANYONE who believes in Jesus Christ will be accepted into God’s realm. You can be a child of God and living in loving committed relationships with persons of the same sex.”

Jessica Fitzwater refused to put her hand on the bible during her swearing in on the Frederick County Council (MD). The Jewish strong supporter of separation of church and state plans to take her oath on a non-religious document such as the county’s charter or the U.S. Constitution.

Seven years after officiating at the wedding of his gay son, the Rev. Frank Schaefer has been reinstated as a clergyman in the United Methodist Church.The denomination’s top court upheld last June’s decision to return his ministerial credentials after a trial court removed them. His reinstatement includes back-pay and benefits but doesn’t sanction same-sex marriage within his church. Only a vote at the General Conference could take that step. In response to Schaefer’s punishment, some pastors married same-sex couples while progressive bishops refused to participate in trials against Methodist ministers who perform these marriages.

Seven years ago, Barry Hazle was forced to spend 100 days in prison because he refused to enter a religion-based rehab program operated by the Fresno-based WestCare California. Because Hazle complained about the requirement that he acknowledge the existence of a higher power, the California Department of Corrections put him back in jail. After seven years of court cases, culminating in the 9th Circuit Court, California has changed its policy that parolees must participate into religious treatment programs and is required to pay $1 million to Hazle. Westcare owes Hazle $925,000, according to the court’s ruling.

Last week Judge Nina Pillard used the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby to limit employers’ abilities to deny birth control coverage to their employees. In Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, Pillard used the Hobby Lobby’s permission for the government to accommodate religious objectors through alternative methods and still provide women with free contraceptives. She also pointed out that the burden on Priests for Life could not be more insignificant. The law used by the Supreme Court applies only when laws “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” Pillard explained:

“All Plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two-page form. That bit of paperwork is more straightforward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations’ compliance with law in the modern administrative state.”

Her position might not pass muster with the conservative Supreme Court justices because Samuel Alito pretty much deleted the term “burden” out of the law. He stated that the Hobby Lobby plaintiffs’ “sincerely believe that providing the insurance coverage demanded by the HHS regulations lies on the forbidden side of the line, and it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” The majority of justices also changed the language of alternatives just days after Hobby Lobby in Wheaton College v. Burwell. Justice Sotomayor said:

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today.”

After the Supreme Court’s ruling that businesses don’t have to follow the law in providing contraception to women, others have decided that they can avoid all laws. Such is the case of a Christian pastor who used the Hobby Lobby ruling to avoid paying $1.1 million in back taxes that he and his wife owed for 20 years. Ronald and Dorothea Joling had stopped paying taxes because they considered the 16th Amendment, added to the U.S. Constitution in 2013, invalid. The Jolings’ attorney, Mark Weintraub, agreed with the rest of us that his clients are “totally wrong and unreasonable” but tried to persuade the court that what they did was acceptable because of their own Christian beliefs.

The Jolings had also declared that they are no longer U.S. citizens and that their Oregon property is no longer part of the United States. They also tried to hide their money, filed false tax returns, and attempted to harass the IRS with “nonsensical paperwork.” They skipped the part in the bible where Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

Mitchell Moore, owner of Campbell’s Bakery in Jackson (MS), has a campaign, “If You’re Buying, I’m Selling,” to fight the state’s “turn away the gays” bill” that passed earlier this year. He handed out stickers for other businesses to post, showing that they did not turn away any customers for their beliefs. After the American Family Association claimed businesses with the stickers were discriminating against the religious freedoms of Mississippians and potential customers, he posted the following questionnaire on his Facebook page. The more serious readers need to know that it’s a spoof.

surveyMany Christians, according to the media, are incensed because the government now forces them to pay for medications against their belief, such as contraception. To all the enraged Christians, there is good news. They can participate instead in health care sharing ministries which are exempt from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Believers pool their money for health care work like insurance with premiums, co-pays, claims, insurance cards, and deductibles. The three largest of them have 242,000 members.

They do have a few differences. Health care sharing ministries don’t pay for routine medical services such as annual physicals. In fact, the companies can decide what each one will cover. There is no guarantee for payment, and they aren’t required to cover people for pre-existing conditions. With no requirement for solvency, they can go bankrupt. Members cannot smoke, do drugs, and have sex except with a legally-married spouse. Permission to use alcohol is very limited. They also don’t pay for “immoral” substances such as contraception.

People who want to live by these rules with less medical coverage are welcome to participate in this type of insurance. They’re what insurance was before the Affordable Care Act—no guarantee that insurance payments will cover what a person needs and the ability to cancel the person with no reason. It’s all the disadvantages of small government.

To those people whining about Obamacare, just join a health care sharing ministry. You can have the same kind of insurance as before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. For those of you who want more, watch out for what the GOP members of the House are doing because this is the kind of insurance that they want to bring back—for all people, not just those who want to return to another century.

October 26, 2014

Religious Beliefs ‘Not Reasonable’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MacKinnon is disturbed with “our leaders” who want:

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

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

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

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

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

“Attempt to bully us,” Coffman echoed.

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

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

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

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

September 21, 2014

Conservatives Continue To Fight Freedom of Religion

Air Force enlistees and commissioned members will no longer be forced to swear “So help me God” in their oath, after a review of the policy by the Department of Defense, possibly because someone read the Constitution:

“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

The revised policy has greatly disappointed religious right members. Bryan Fischer had already praised the oath that included his God, stating that “a man who doesn’t believe in the Creator … most certainly should not wear the uniform.” In this manner, Fischer dismisses the value of soldiers such as Pat Tillman, an open atheist who lost his life after he left his professional football career to fight al-Qaeda.

Televangelist Pat Robertson claims that it’s “crazy” to remove the requirement. He blames “a left-wing radical named Mikey Weinstein who has got a group about people against religion or whatever he calls it, and he has just terrorized the armed forces.” Robertson went on to describe Weinstein as “one little Jewish radical.” Weinstein is the President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Robertson has also added to the blessings of Jesus on the poor and hungry in his Sermon on the Mount. The televangelist added, “Blessed are the fully armed because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

There’s more information about the 14-year-old boy who could go to prison for two years because he posted a photograph of himself simulating oral sex on a statue of Jesus. DA Bill Higgins of Bedford County (PA) called him a “troubled young man” and used a law from 1972 for punishment higher than simple vandalism. “Troubled” might also refer to Higgins: he admitted to having an extramarital affair in his office with a woman who sued him for sexual harassment but was then “convinced” to drop the charges. In addition, he seems to be fan of pornography. The ACLU is looking into the boy’s case.

The Mars Hill (Seattle) is megachurch no longer led by Mark Driscoll; he’s taking a leave of absence after it was revealed that he considers men to be God’s “tool” and women the shelter for the “tool.” In 2001, under the name William Wallace II, Driscoll wrote:

“Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.

“Therefore, if you are single you must remember that your penis is homeless and needs a home. But, though you may believe your hand is shaped like a home, it is not… And, if you look at a man it is quite obvious that what a homeless man does not need is another man without a home.”

More recently Driscoll said that women need to serve their husbands with oral sex, he would not have married his wife if he knew she was a victim of sexual abuse, and masturbation is homosexuality unless the man’s wife is watching him. He also accused a parishioner of having “sexual demons” and asked her, in front of her husband, “which one of my husband’s friends I had imagined sleeping with.” Forty percent of the Mars Hill staff has been laid off, and the executive elder has resigned.

Continuing its support for separation of church and state, the Satanic Temple announced its plans to provide its own materials to public school students in Orange County (FL). The action would be a response to a Christian group’s distribution of Bibles to students. In its decision for evangelical groups showing Christian films on school property in Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District (1993), the Supreme Court ruled that  “the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others.” Unlike many Christians, the Satanic Temple does not believe the devil to be real and “advocates for religious tolerance and pluralism.”

raelian symbolEarlier an atheist group sued the school district’s refusal to leave its pamphlets after the distribution of Bibles. The district dropped the case, allowing the pamphlets in the school.  Joining the Satanic Temple are the Raelians, a UFO cult that claimed in 2002 that they had cloned a human baby. As Rael said, “Religious freedom is either for everybody or it doesn’t exist,” Rael declared in his statement. Raelian Guide Ricky Roehr, head of the group’s North American branch, said, “Children should … be exposed to a variety of spiritual beliefs and philosophies, and to experience them as well if they wish. That way, they can make their own choice when they reach adulthood, without the pressure of their parents or their social environment.”

The bombs spread across the country from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in support of Hobby Lobby’s religion have started to explode.  U.S. District Court Judge David Sam ruled that because of Vergel Steed’s religious belief, the member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) can avoid naming church leaders who took children out of school and sent them to harvest pecans in violation of child labor laws. Government officials have also been investigating FLDS for several years because of their forced marriage between underage girls and adults males. Warren Jeff, FLDS’ former president, is in prison for life because of several sex crimes including incest and pedophilia.

Meanwhile Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green is moving forward with his $800 million, eight-story Bible museum in Washington, D.C. His only concern is that he wants it closer than two blocks from the National Mall. To a retailer, location is all.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has defined faith as “belief without proof.” Bryan Fischer now has the proof (scientific evidence?) that the United States is meant to be a theocracy and not a secular country. In one word, bacon. He told his radio audience:

“You want one single item of proof that America is a Christian nation and not a Jewish nation and not an Islamic nation? One single bit of proof is all you need: we freely allow restaurants and grocery stores to sell and to serve bacon. That can only happen in a Christian country.”

In his follow-up article, “The Blessings of Bacon,” he complains about attacks from the God-hating left and libertarian right. No mention of the idea that a secular society would also sell bacon. That’s because selling bacon is in the Bible: Mark 7:19 says of Jesus, “Thus he declared all foods clean.” Leviticus 18 bans bacon, which bothers Fischer not one whit although he uses Leviticus to blast his hatred against same-sex relationships.

According to Fischer’s rationale, China must be a very Christian nation. Each person in that country eats 39 kilograms of pork a year, about 45 percent more than people do in the United States. Actually, fewer than 4 percent of people in China are Christians. Of those believing in religion, about 12 percent are Christians whereas 66.1 percent are Buddhists, Taoists or worshippers of legendary figures such as the Dragon King and God of Fortune. Fischer is the Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association which annually receives $20 million in donations.

Fischer has other pronouncements. Although scientists have support for the threat of a sea-level rise, he denies any problem. Climate change is causing the rise of temperatures which are melting ice caps and glaciers at a rapidly growing rate. Increase in water from decrease in ice causes higher sea levels that are putting thousands of miles of coastline underwater. Rainbows remind God to not flood the planet, according to Fischer, because he read it in Genesis 9. God might not flood the planet, but humans are certainly doing this. By the way, rainbows are both a reflection and refraction of light in water droplets. That’s science, not faith.

The Catholic church is expressing an ambivalent attitude toward same-sex marriage. It refuses to recognize marriage equality, but it demands that a gay couple, together for over 30 years and legally married in Washington state, must be legally divorced before they can receive communion. Rev. Samuel Spiering served four days as administrator of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown (MT) four days before he issued his directive to the couple. The next day he dismissed them from their volunteer posts in the church.Two weeks later, the couple agreed to write a restoration statement supporting the church’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, but they refuse to get a legal divorce. About 50 percent of the parishioners support the gay couple.

Christians should celebrate the actions of 13-year-old Kyle Bradford (Weaverville, CA) who gave his lunch to a friend assigned to the cheese sandwich for “non-paying” children. “It seemed like he couldn’t get a normal lunch so I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage if I didn’t eat it,” Bradford said.  Kyle got detention. And we wonder why we have problems in the United States.

August 10, 2014

Conservatives Claim Moral High Ground But Ignore Bible, Constitution

God—and the U.S. Supreme Court—gave people the right to discriminate, according to Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Mike Kelly (R-PA). That’s why they’re pushing a bill, “The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014,” allowing adoption and foster care centers to discriminate against same-sex couples. Nowhere does the language in the bill use references to LGBT people, and it is so vague that any organization can discriminate against anyone if its “sincerely held religious beliefs” are being infringed. The senators claim that the bill is meant to “ensure children can continue to get care from people of faith,” but the bill is intended to give special rights to religious organizations.

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who started a range war against the U.S. government, told a gathering last week that his vendetta was between good and evil. Providing him personal inspiration, God told Bundy, “This is your chance to straighten this thing up.” At least that’s what Bundy claims. He added that people rallied around him because they were “spiritually touched.” The “touched” might have been accurate. Bundy’s big concern at the gathering was that only about 100 people attended. He asked:

“Where is all of your college students? Where’s our young and where’s our old? Where’s our black and where’s our brown? Where are you people? Aren’t you interested in freedom and liberty?”

Although Mormon, Bundy is the perfect example of Tea Party believers. They claim that they want religion back into politics, but what they want is just their own religion represented throughout the country. Despite their claims that the movement is secular, it is religious, founded in spiritual revival and zealotry. Their devotional belief system mandates how people should live, how society should function, what is right and wrong, and who should—and shouldn’t—lead the country.

The basis of their system is a refusal to compromise. The Tea Partiers’ moral imperative is that they will shut down the government before bending on any legislation just as Samson pulled down the pillars of the temple. Their bellicose nature keeps them from reasonable disagreements about fiscal or foreign policies. Anyone who opposes their dogma in government, economics, race, and sex are infidels. Heretics are burned at the primaries.

The Antichrist of the Tea Party religion is the illegitimate Barack Obama must be opposed just like the lesser demons of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Tea Partiers blame them for any problems in the past six years. Washington, D.C. is the seat of corruption in the same way that Rome was before Christ. The solution for Tea Partiers is to undermine the government while pretending to repair it. To do this, Tea Partiers put forward the vision of Paradise from the white, male, Christian country after the Civil War with plantocracy in the South and plutocracy in the North. States rights put blacks in their place, and robber barons fought off the sinful labor laws, unions, and income tax. The cry of “take back America” means a return to the Gilded Age when immigrants, minorities, and women knew their subservient place to the ruling whites.

Without reading the U.S. Constitution, the Tea Partiers have proclaimed this document as its holy text and themselves as solely responsible for its interpretation. If literal readings serve their purpose, they follow the words exactly, cherry-picking text as they do in the Bible. An example is the omission of “a well regulated Militia” in the NRA’s printing of the Second Amendment at its headquarters and the rulings concerning the militia until the past 30 years.

A return to states’ rights got a big boost from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he stated that separation of church and state was never intended in the states. He claims that the only purpose of the Establishment Clause is to protect states from federal interference; it “does not protect any individual right.” His position goes back over 20 years to a SCOTUS case about whether states could have term limits on Congressional representatives. A 5-4 ruling determined that the state could not limit federal terms because the Constitution had no amendment allowing them to do this.

Thomas was on the losing side, and he wasn’t happy. “The ultimate source of the Constitution’s authority is the consent of the people of each individual state, not the consent of the undifferentiated people of the nation as a whole,” he wrote. If there was nothing in the constitution, then states had the power by default. That argument has failed for over 200 years, but Tea Partiers agree with Thomas. They cannot acknowledge that the constitution is an agreement among the citizens of the United States and not among 50 independent republics.

To increase acceptance of the U.S. Constitution among fundamentalist Christians, far-right political figures claim that the document comes from the Christian god. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) explained the process: “Jesus destroyed Satan so that we could be free and that is manifested in what is called the Constitution of the United States. God created this nation and God created the Constitution; it is written on biblical principles.” DeLay gave Texas politics to the GOP by putting Republicans into the Texas House with corporate money so that gerrymandering could keep Democrats out of the legislature.

A big victory for Tea Partiers, at least temporarily, was the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the family that owns Hobby Lobby, and the family is not finished. After starting to push its Christian curriculum into public schools, the Greens plan a Bible museum two blocks south of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the home of history, science, and art museums. Steve Green explained why:

“This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

The text of the Tea Partiers’ Bible is actually opposed to all of them who want small government. According to 2 Peter, 2:10-15, false prophets are those who “despise government.” These government-haters are “wells without water” and “clouds that are carried with a tempest”; they are those “to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.” Verse 17 provides disgusting descriptions that I won’t include. God’s judgment of these government-haters “lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (Verse 3).

To those who condemn LGBT people, the Bible states:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1

About abortion, God commanded women accused of adultery to drink an abortion-producing potion. Under Jewish law, the fetus is the same as “water” during the first 40 days. Abortion is always commanded when the mother’s life is endangered at any time during the pregnancy. The God who handed down Jewish law is the God of Christianity.

The Bible supports charity, loving your enemies, putting down your weapons, not judging others, welcoming the foreigner at the gates, putting others before yourself, not lording yourself over others, and not despising the government.

August 3, 2014

Hobby Lobby Won’t Go Away

The memory of most Supreme Court rulings fade fairly fast, but the Hobby Lobby decision is still in the media more than a month after the Supreme Court eroded women’s reproductive rights by declaring that corporations have religious rights. A prediction that the ruling might lead to dire circumstances is beginning to bear fruit:.

The Satanic Temple is seeking religious exemption from laws restricting access to abortions, which violate its members’ religious freedom. The basis for their argument is Alito’s statement that religious beliefs can trump scientific fact. When the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed in the early 1990s, far-right Christians were afraid that women’s rights to plan their families might be considered a matter of religious conscience.” The Supreme Court has thrown the door open for this argument.

People shouldn’t have to pay student loans. Interest in the Bible is usury and considered sinful, and all debts must be forgiven every few years in the “Year of Jubilee,” according to the same source. Christians following the Bible shouldn’t be forced to pay interest or return the money after the few years.

Members of the Alabama Public Service Commission have called on the public to pray to God for protection from the new EPA limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Member-elect Chip Beeker asked, “Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” They might be able to sue for relief under the Hobby Lobby sincerely-held religious belief. Arguments from religious beliefs on the opposite side could be that God wants people to be healthy.

The IRS is required to enforce rules banning pastors from endorsing candidates from the pulpit after the Freedom from Religion Foundation won its lawsuit. Although advocating for candidates in church is against the law, the IRS wasn’t stopping the practice. Unfortunately, the court decision in favor of FFRF won’t go into effect immediately because of a current moratorium on any IRS investigations of any tax-exempt entities. Pastors could avoid the law by claiming that churches are only using their “sincerely-held” religious beliefs to campaign for—or against—candidates.

After President Obama announced that he was requiring federal contractors to end job discrimination against LGBT people, religiously affiliated institutions came out of the woodwork, asking for religious exemptions. President Obama declared no exemptions except for the religious exemptions that George W. Bush had earlier allowed. Bush hadn’t included corporations in his exemptions. Yet the president’s order could be overturned for “religious” for-profit corporations because of Hobby Lobby.

Sara Hellwege is suing the Tampa Family Health Centers (TFHC) for not giving her a job interview after she told them that she would not prescribe any hormonal contraction. She claims that the women’s clinic is discriminating against her on the basis of her religion. Hellwegg is demanding $400,000 in damages, $75,000 in fines, and forfeiture of all federal funding until the company stops discrimination—evidently against people who won’t perform the job’s duties.

A  lawsuit on behalf of two prisoners at Guantanamo Bay claims that a definition of corporations as people with religious rights extends to Gitmo detainees. Ahmed Rabbani of Pakistan and Emad Hassan of Yemen were prevented from attending communal Ramadan prayer because they were on a hunger strike. Two earlier D.C. Circuit decisions had ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees are not “persons” under RFRA protection. If Hobby Lobby can exercise religious beliefs under RFRA, then so can these two men, according to their lawyers.

The U.S. Department of Education has continued to grant exemptions to “Christian” universities, allowing them to discriminate against transgender students. According to Title IX, schools cannot receive federal funds, including public student loans and Pell grants, if they discriminate against transgender and gender-nonconforming students—unless they’re religious like George Fox University, Simpson University, and Spring Arbor University. Simpson, for example, cannot “support or encourage” an individual who lives in “conflict with biblical principles.” Spring Arbor has been given permission to discriminate against unwed mothers and punish students for dating someone of the same gender. For-profit corporations will surely want the same “religious” rights as these universities.

These are just a few of the “unintended consequences” that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to in her dissenting opinion. Speaking about the case in an interview with Katie Couric, Ginsburg said that the five men who ruled against women’s rights have a “blind spot” about women’s issues and that they didn’t understand “the ramifications of their decision.” Anyone who considers that these consequences are impossible should consider that people said the same thing about a favorable ruling for-profit corporations in Hobby Lobby.

Justice Samuel Alito’s ruling that the Hobby Lobby is a “person” comes from the 1871 Dictionary Act that tried to simplify constitutional language. The statement that such terms as corporations and companies come under the umbrella of “person” was limited by the statement “unless the context indicates otherwise.” Alito’s ruling combined this act with RFRA, but the exemptions in the RFRA are defined as one that “holds itself out as a religious organization.” Hobby Lobby is not a religious organization: it sells crafts.

RFRA was legislated to protect employees, not employers. It was initiated because of an employer’s prejudice against a non-Christian religion. SCOTUS turned the protection on its head, protecting Christian employers against all employees Christian and non-Christian. An actual human person doesn’t have the ability or right to force everyone around him to abide by the restrictions of his religion, even if those people work for him. but it seems that Hobby Lobby does. By allowing closely held corporations to take on a religious identity, Alito has allowed their owners to impose their religions on the people who work for them.

Ginsburg wrote in her Hobby Lobby dissent:

“Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.”

The Hobby Lobby decision is more about ensuring that women will maintain a subservient position in U.S. culture as summarized in Erick Erickson’s tweet: “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer subsidized consequence free sex.” The “consequence” of “free sex” for women can be loss of jobs, loss of education, loss of financial security—in short, loss of everything. Even Hobby Lobby fired a pregnant woman. Men, on the other hand, have no consequence from “free sex.”

Although contraception could put women on a more equal footing with men, the Supreme Court forces many women to buy their own contraception. Hobby Lobby objected to only four types of contraception, but the five male justices “protected” corporations from having insurance for all 20 forms of FDA-approved contraception. When men have “free sex” and women have to pay for it, men retain their power over women.

After the Hobby Lobby decision, male conservatives spent a great deal of time salivating about the thought of all those “slutty” women who were restricted in their access of contraception. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) complained about women using birth control to protect themselves from “recreational behavior.”

Not one of these misogynists mentioned protecting women from uterine cancer or ovarian cysts or anemia or endometriosis or other health problems needing hormonal medication.

As Ginsburg stated, Hobby Lobby begins the practice of preferring some religions over others. Now justices will be “evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims” and “approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodations.” The website for The Becket Fund shows a current list of litigants already taking advantage of Hobby Lobby. These cases have a high cost—women paying a minimum of millions for contraception and taxpayers paying billions for court cases.

The only ray of hope is that Justice Alito decided the case on the basis of a Congressional statute. If the ruling had been constitutional, it could be changed only by a constitutional amendment. As it stands, Congress can fix it by defining “person” and “exercise of religion” in RFRA. With our current dysfunctional and religious-conservative Congress, this ray is only a glimmer.

Sens. Patty Murry (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a bill called “Not My Bosses’ Business Act” to prevent for-profit businesses from dropping birth control coverage. Republicans blocked the bill with only GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mark Kirk (IL), and Susan Collins (ME) voting to move the bill forward. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supported the bill to override the Hobby Lobby decision.  A professional physicians’ association with more than 55,000 members, the group represents 90 percent of board-certified U.S. gynecologists. Their statement explained that “a woman’s boss has no role to play in her personal health care decisions.”

Wooing women with obfuscation, the GOP plans to sponsor a bill stating “no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.” Birth control is already legal: Hobby Lobby is about the right of for-profit companies to deny contraception through its insurance.  With the federal government not moving ahead on women’s reproductive rights, states may begin initiating nullification laws against the Hobby Lobby decision.

In the future, a more reasonable Congress might decide that women should have equality in the United States. It’s better than waiting for a constitutional amendment like Citizens United demands.

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