Nel's New Day

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.

May 29, 2016

Samantha Bee, History of Anti-Abortion Movement

Jon Stewart’s disappearance from The Daily Show has left a great void in satirical—and educational—news on the comedy scene. Trevor Noah, the person sitting in Stewart’s chair, has openly declared that he won’t criticize the Fox network, and the only funny/educational pieces on his show come from his “correspondents.” Fortunately, Samantha Bee, formerly on The Daily Show, has a new show, Full Frontal, that more than fills in the gap. Although only weekly instead of Daily Shows’ four nights a week, it’s hard-hitting and direct, filled with information that many of us have missed. Last Monday’s show gave the background for the growth of the “pro-life before birth” movement.

Many people think that the evangelical right got riled because the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal in 1973. Bee gives the real reason. As Republican leaders worked to overturn the Democrats and make the United States a GOP dictatorship, they searched for an issue that would animate the Christian right into full-force political involvement. The first issue to coalesce right-wing Christians into a solid voting bloc was segregation. By the mid-1970s, however, that topic lost its popularity, and Paul Weyrich, founder of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, worked with preacher and Bible college founder Jerry Falwell to find another one. They hired up-and-coming SF filmmaker Frank Schaeffer to create the visual propaganda. The result was a film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race, featuring his father, Francis Schaeffer, and future Surgeon General C. Everett Coop.

As Christina Cauterucci wrote:

“There are images of children with white faces painting in blood-red, baby dolls scattered on the shores of present-day Sodom; other baby dolls rolling down a conveyor into a garbage incinerator; and a real toddler crying in a cage, banging on the bars to escape. ‘Ten bucks says that kid is still ‘making films’ in the Valley,’ says Bee of the tot, who Schaeffer says was volunteered for the role by his California Christian parents.

“But the creepiest part of this early anti-abortion film fest is a cartoon Bee calls ‘Homeschool-house Rock.’ The video, made to screen at churches around the country to enlist them in a fight most evangelical leaders would have rather left to Catholics, shows evil doctors using hoses to suck up dancing fetuses wearing top hats and canes while scantily clad nurses drop-kick a series of swaddled infants. In the vein of so many propaganda films, it would seem like a hilarious parody if it weren’t such an effective, damaging piece of political messaging.”

anti abortion

Schaeffer has since expressed his regrets:

“One of the things that I did back in the day when I was young was help found, start, begin what became known as the ‘pro-life movement.’ It is the single greatest regret of my life.”

In a 2014 piece for Salon, Schaeffer wrote about the film series:

“We turned [the GOP] into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built. The difference between now and then is that back then we were religious fanatics knocking on the doors of normal political leaders. Today the fanatics are the political leaders.”

The films didn’t make much of an impact on evangelicals at first.  Schaffer said, “They wanted to preach Jesus. They thought politics was dirty.” To turn the tide, former Rep. Jack Kemp put together 50 GOP congressmen to take on the cause and give it respectability. Bee has a clip of Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer who described the conference call in which GOP and evangelical leaders, including Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, held a conference call to discuss what they should mobilize around now that segregation was over.

Frank Schaeffer wrote about the plans from the 1970s:

“Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, ‘we’ would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights. They have a majority on the Court to back them up.”

Schaeffer’s prescience is all too real—and horrifying. More details are available here.

Part of Bee’s seven-minute expose of the religious right hypocrisy explains that the Bible has no objection to abortion. By now, however, religious leader Jerry Falwell, praised by mainstream U.S. politicians, blames abortion for everything, including the 9/11 attacks. terrorist attack. In 2001, Falwell said, “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this, because God will not be mocked.”

The anti-abortion movement is actually less than a half-century old. Jonathan Dudley wrote in 2014:

“In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, Professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth: ‘God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

“The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, ‘The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.’ And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.”

Born-again Christians at that time believed that the legality of abortion flowed from Scripture, but in the late 1970s  the far-right developed a coalition with Catholics, who had long believed that life begins at conception. At the same time, they formed a common cause with Catholics on other topics such as feminism and homosexuality while re-interpreting the Bible to follow the Catholic position on abortion. In 1980, Jerry Falwell’s book declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.” Through dissemination of this interpretation on the television, the GOP was co-opted by the religious right. For the first time in its 43-year history, the publisher InterVarsity Press had to withdraw a book, Brave New People, in 1984 because it repeated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.

Rick Warren repeated Jerry Falwell’s lies during the 2008 presidential election: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.” GOP presidential candidate John McCain had to change his position from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. Four years later, millions of evangelicals supported Mitt Romney, a Mormon, over Barack Obama because they had been brainwashed to believe that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion. Last year, Donald Trump switched from his longtime pro-choice position to his current position–as of today–that women should punish themselves if they have an abortion.

Jack Kemp may have physically died in 2009, but he lives on in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man who worships Kemp. Ryan’s first action after becoming Speaker was to appoint longtime pro-life advocate David Hoppe as his chief of staff. Since he took over from John Boehner, Ryan promoted pro-life until birth positions such as de-funding Planned Parenthood and banning abortions after 20 weeks. The Catholic leader of the House holds a 100-percent pro-life voting record and claims that he is “pro-life” because of “reason and science.” His proof is seeing a “seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child … in the shape of a bean.” He finished his speech while a vice-presidential candidate by saying, “Now I believe that life begins at conception…. The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions.”

Other radical of Ryan’s radical anti-abortion positions are shown in the bills that he co-sponsored or voted for in the House:

  • Allowing hospitals to deny women access to emergency abortion even if their life is in immediate danger.
  • Preventing victims of rape or incest from using Medicaid for abortion.
  • Denying women in the military to have an abortion at a military hospital except to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
  • Declaring that a fertilized egg should have the same legal rights as a human being. (Buried in his Ryan’s failed Fetus Rights Bill, aka Sanctity of Human Life Act  HR 23, was a section allowing a rapist to sue his victim to keep her from having an abortion. With the current fixation on pro-life until birth, the rapist would probably win the case.)

None of these positions is in the Bible, and none of them has anything to do with either “reason” or “science.” It’s just the popular position pushed on people by the Republicans a few decades ago in a cynical approach to take total control of the United States. And it’s the excuse that far-right fanatics use to openly kill people if their disagree with them.

April 7, 2013

Religious Views in Red States

With DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) possibly disappearing over the western horizon, is there the chance that DORA will appear in the east? North Carolina is the first state that considered a try for an “official state religion,” and conservative legislators in Congress might be unconstitutional enough to attempt a “defense of religion act” for the entire country. Although the GOP House speaker in North Carolina has killed the legislation, it doesn’t mean such a law is dead across the nation.

The original argument is that  the constitutional prohibition in making laws to establish a religion fits only the United States, not individual states. Other states may try for it next.

House Joint Resolution 494, the Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013, stated that North Carolina “does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.” GOP state Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford introduced the bill after the ACLU sued Rowan County to stop them from opening public meetings with a Christian prayer. Their argument was that the Constitution only protects separation of church and state federally, not in individual states.

Right now, this bill and any similar one could not go into effect, based on the U.S. Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman. The law advances one religion, in this case Christianity, as a primary goal. But some legislators thought they had a way around the “Lemon Test.”

Using nullification, lawmakers think they can disregard or subvert federal law and court rulings, and they’ve been getting away with their approach as shown by the proliferation of anti-abortion laws, including “personhood” that violates Roe v. Wade. In Mississippi, legislators have filed a bill creating a state committee to determine which federal laws the state will obey and which ones they will ignore. Lawmakers claim that they have that power because of state sovereignty.

In another Sunday story from the South, evangelical Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, has been known for banning alcohol, dancing, kissing, women wearing skirts “shorter than the top of the knee,” R-rated movies, music not “in harmony with God’s word,” and a Democratic Party group. The school will, however, allow loaded guns everywhere on campus including in classrooms. Jerry Falwell, Jr. is proud “that Liberty is a little more open than some schools.”

Also from the Rachel Maddow blog, Morality in Media is calling Attorney General Eric Holder the nation’s top “pornography facilitator” for not using law-enforcement resources to crack down on pornography. Pat Robertson has also decreed that ignorance is necessary for miracles: that’s why  “people raised from the dead, blind eyes open, lame people walking” seem to “happen with great frequency in Africa.”

Those who follow Robertson, famous for his televangelism program The 700 Club airing on his own Christian Broadcasting Network, shouldn’t be surprised at some of his recent statements:

Men with “rebellious” wives should live where wife-beating is legal. “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done” about wives who fail to “understand authority.” Robertson recommended moving to Saudi Arabia where a husband can legally batter a wife.

Secondhand clothes have demons that must be cast out before the previous owner’s evil infects the purchaser. Because witches may have cursed these clothes, praying over them is a good precautionary measure. “Hey, it ain’t going to hurt anything to rebuke any spirits that happened to have attached themselves to those clothes.”

Women’s newfound discovery in sex and eroticism is amazing.  “The thing that shocks me. We always thought this was a male thing. But now it looks like 30% of women are involved in pornography.” He was referring to Fifty Shades of Gray and was surprised that the author doesn’t look like a “glamour queen.”

People should beware of “scamsters in religious garb quoting the Bible.” This came from the man who requested that people who cannot afford to pay their bills continue to send him money. “There is no way you can out give God. You can’t do it. It’s just $20 a month. And if all of us do it together, it gets to be millions and millions and millions of dollars!” And that’s why Robertson is wealthy—millions and millions and millions of dollars.

The government will soon round up Americans for unknown reasons. “Long trains full of armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor, what are they for, the army going into battle against the enemy? They’re used by Homeland Security against us.” This conspiracy theory has been making the rounds back into the last century. 

Abortion is a lesbian conspiracy. Lesbians have a “deficiency” of not having babies, and therefore, “If these married women don’t have children, if they abort their babies, that puts them on a level playing field.” Robertson missed the studies showing that unwanted childbearing is strongly associated with poverty and stress.

Atheists want to steal Christmas to make Christians miserable. “Atheists don’t like our happiness, they don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable. They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable.”

The earthquake punished Haitians for overthrowing slavery in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries.

“…something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh you know Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True story. And so the Devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island is Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.”

Divorce is wrong unless the woman gets sick. For a man whose wife’s senility is making him lonely, Robertson said, “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her.”

Robertson may seem fairly moderate compared to Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe (AZ). Part of his ministrations includes his rant about how women shouldn’t have sex, publicly speak, read books of their own choosing, dress how they want, and look at/think about/acknowledge any men apart from their husbands who they must always, always obey.

Regarding the marriage equality debate in the Supreme Court at the same time as North Korea’s war threat, Southern Baptist Convention leader Fred Luter asked on a Christian talk show, TruNews with Rick Wiles, “Could the two be connected?”

Also Dave Agema, Michigan RNC chair, claims, in addition to other disgusting lies, that LGBT people account for a high number of murders in cities. The new kinder, gentler GOP is not calling for his resignation. Agema has support from Michael Reagan, the former president’s son, who said that marriage equality will lead to legalizing murder.

Yesterday, I wrote about the massive differences between red and blue states. Obviously this runs to conservative religious beliefs which, ironically, also correlate with high use of prescription drugs. A study released earlier this year shows that Mississippi is still the most religious state in the nation, closely followed by other southern states—Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma—and then Utah.  These states also have the highest use of anti-depressants topped by Utah where residents are twice as likely to be on these medications as the average U.S. population. Of the top ten religious states, nine have higher than average use of anti-depressants.

Of the ten most religious states in the nation, six are also on the list of top-ten most medicated states. Dr. Jane Barlow, vice president of medical strategy and clinical quality for Medco Health Solutions, said that the rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are higher in these states than the national average, particularly West Virginia. “The growth in prescription drug use [is driven in part by] chronic diseases that are largely preventable and are linked to lifestyle and physical activity.”

Once again, states with the highest level of mental and physical health issues want to drag the United States down to their level.

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