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.

October 11, 2015

State May Be Separating from Church

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 30, 2015 file photo, the Ten Commandments Monument is pictured at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s June 30 decision to order the monument removed from the state Capitol grounds has so angered conservatives in the Legislature that some Republicans are calling for justices to be impeached. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

In another failure for Oklahoma conservatives, after they didn’t execute Richard Glossip at the end of September, is the removal of a one-ton granite monument with the text of the bible’s Ten Commandments. Afraid that protesters would obstruct their actions, a “large Oklahoma Highway Patrol presence” guarded the workers late at night. The behemoth isn’t gone; it’s just moved a few blocks away where it doesn’t violate Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution mandating that public property can’t be used to benefit or support any “sect, church, denomination, or system of religion,” either directly or indirectly. Gov. Mary Fallin has asked voters to amend the state constitution so that the monument can return to the capitol grounds. Oklahomans might want to note the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” when considering future state executions.

 

Teaching evolution in public schools does not violate the First Amendment, a federal district court has reaffirmed. Kenneth Smith of Harpers Ferry (WV) had filed suit, stating that his religious freedom rights were violated because his daughter learns about evolution in public school. She plans to be a veterinarian, and her father claims that evolution is teaching her “a faith base (evolutionary ideology) that just doesn’t exist.” Judge Gina M.Groh ruled that he couldn’t prove that state agencies had committed any wrongdoing. Last year, the creationist group Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) sued to stop the state of Kansas from implementing new science education standards that included the teaching of evolution. COPE argued that by teaching evolution, public schools had effectively endorsed atheism as a religious viewpoint. They lost too.

Forced to find money elsewhere after her older brother’s sexual crimes, Jill (Duggar) Dillard, of 19 Kids and Counting, decided to collect money with her husband,Derick Dillard, for a mission to El Salvador. Disillusioned fans after the experience seemed to be more a vacation than actual work were  right: the Dillards had applied for missionary status to the Southern Baptist Convention that decided the couple lacked enough education. Fortunately for them, they still have the money from the “Dillard Family Ministries,” a tax-exempt religious organization that keeps them from having to declare how much money they have or where it is.

This tax-exempt status of religious groups may someday run into legal trouble. Pope Francis has already taken potshots at churches that “worship the God of money” instead of helping the sick and the poor as Jesus commands. Televangelists and preachers who run their “churches” like businesses or political organizations may want to take notice. As in the U.S., Italian churches act as umbrellas for its property and businesses to avoid taxation. Religious groups operate churches as hotels and still don’t pay taxes. One famous example of tax dodging in the U.S. is John Hagee, who reorganized his TV station in 2001 as a church to shelter tax records for his income of over $1 million. Hagee’s personally-owned 8,000 acre ranch is covered through the Cornerstone Church.

In one segment on his HBO show, John Oliver satirized U.S. churches and preachers such as Pat Robertson who run ponzi-like schemes in begging money in return for God’s favor. After the first episode of “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption,” the IRS was skewered for conducting only three audits of churches in 2013-14 and non for the four years before that. Any designated “church,” including the Church of Scientology, is tax exempt. Oliver didn’t reveal how much money he received, but the thousands of responses indicated quite of bit of loot. (Oliver gave all the donations to Doctors without Borders.)

john oliver

Luckily for the Duggar family, they are getting financial assistance from GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee through partnership in the sales of a political DVD series. The company markets the series with an initial “free” item, available for only shipping and processing. Ordering it automatically enrolls the “purchaser” into future sales. The “Learn Our History” series supposedly teaches “historical facts without bias” and American pride as the videos  “…recognize and celebrate faith, religion and the role of God in America’s founding…,” and “…correct the ‘blame America first’ attitude prevalent in today’s teaching.” We can assume that many tax-funded charter schools will be showing the videos.

Pope Francis seems to suffer from ambivalence when regarding LGBT people. Progressives praised him when he seemed to support LGBT families before they were disturbed with a supposed meeting with Rowan County (KY) clerk, Kim Davis, who had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. The Vatican explained that she was just part of a crowd, and the pope met for 20 minutes with a former student and his male partner while in the United States. Now The Vatican has fired Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa after he said he was proud to be a gay priest and in love with his boyfriend. Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombard, said that Charamsa could remain a priest but could not work at the Vatican.

Charamsa made his announcement just before the Vatican hosted bishops from around the world in a synod discussing families. The reports issued indicate confusion. One of the four groups spoke of a need to reach out to families while another claimed there is a need to point out the sins of current attitudes. Another question is whether the documents are to be distributed publicly or given to the pope as advice.

GOP presidential candidates take great pride in claiming their religious beliefs, but their anti-Christian positions may cause difficulties for them. In a townhall meeting, New Jersey Chris Christie was heard to provide too much information about his use of contraception with his wife. Concentrating on Christie’s sex life, the media failed to publicize the question that led to Christie’s humor. In his audience, a man had cited three biblical verses to argue that Christians should oppose foreign wars and support environmental conservation. Basically, the man was echoing the position of Pope Francis, who the GOP also opposes.

Purporting to be Christians, the GOP candidates oppose curbing global warming, raising the minimum wage, and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. Jeb Bush said, “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” and Rick Santorum accused the pope of not being a scientist although pontiff has a degree in chemistry. Marco Rubio said that protecting the economy might be more important than protecting the planet.

Both anti-marriage equality GOP candidates Rand Paul and Donald Trump are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, which supports same-gender marriage, and Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz use Christianity to oppose marriage equality and help for undocumented immigrants, a pathway that conservative Christian groups endorsed in 2013. Huckabee tried to work his way out of trouble at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) in April by emphasizing the need for border security. That was the day after the head of the NHCLC had said that “Republicans must cross the Jordan of immigration reform to step into the promised land of the Hispanic faith electorate.”

It’s a difficult time for conservatives in a changing landscape.

September 27, 2015

GOP in More Trouble

Less than a year ago, the conservatives were crowing about being in the catbird seat after taking over Congress: the GOP majority was the largest in 84 years. They planned to wipe out all advances during President Obama’s six years and take the country back a century ago before human rights in the United States.

The first 100 days of the 114th Congress, however, did not go well. John Boehner (R-OH) was re-elected speaker but only after the biggest revolt in 150 years. The House argued about deporting children and threatened to close the Department of Homeland Security. They couldn’t even pass an anti-abortion bill and almost failed to pass a bill against human trafficking. Their priorities were passing an oil pipeline that created 35 permanent jobs, again trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and pushing the usual tax breaks only for multi-millionaires and billionaires. Most of the few successful bills were supported by Democrats, and the chamber refused to discuss taking action against ISIS while it address—again—the Benghazi deaths. Within the first 100 days, two newly elected representatives resigned in disgrace.

A prime embarrassment for the GOP-led Senate was its delay in confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in the longest wait for any recent AG nominee. They all agreed that she was eminently qualified, and the GOP was eager to get rid of Eric Holder in that position. Yet the GOP-led Senate stalled for 165 days, including the entire first 100 days of the 114th Congress.

The Senate decided to take over the job of determining foreign policy from the president by sending a letter to Iran, declaring that the U.S. wouldn’t live up to its agreements. Boehner invited Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress in an effort to override President Obama’s Iran negotiations and started another lawsuit against the president for his executive orders. By the end of the 100 days, President Obama’s approval rating rose ten points to 50, its best level since 2013.

As disastrous as those first 100 days, they could not begin to match the debacle for Republicans during the past week. Three huge, intersecting events created more problems for the rigidly conservative GOP agenda: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress; China’s decision to create a cap-and-trade policy that the U.S. GOP has rejected; and Speaker Boehner’s unexpected resignation the House of Representatives at the end of October.

As was expected, the pope’s positions made conservatives squirm. His defense of “human life at every stage of its development” was followed by advocating “for abolition of the death penalty,” a blow to conservatives who love the idea of killing people. GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz didn’t go quietly in his response to the pope: he called the use of capital punishment a “recognition of the preciousness of human life.”

The pope spoke against “deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society” and added that the money gained from these sales were “drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” By far the largest arms supplier in the world, U.S. domestic manufacturers sold more than $23.7 billion in weapons to almost 100 countries during just 2014—weapons that included cluster bombs and other munitions used to destroy densely populated areas, schools, and even a Yemen camp for displaced people.  U.S. taxpayers subsidized a large piece of these sales, especially to Israel and Egypt. Members of Congress make $150 million a year from the arms industry.

The pope pushed for the support of immigration by saying that we are all immigrants:

“Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

Environmentalism has been high on the pope’s list, so much so that far-right pundit George Will wrote that “Americans cannot simultaneously honor [the pope] and celebrate their nation’s premises.” Pope Francis urged Congress and corporations to “redirect our steps” to address “environmental degradation caused by human activity.” Jeb Bush accused the pope, who has a degree in chemistry, of being wrong about climate change because “he’s not a scientist.” [Jeb Bush is definitely not a scientist.]

In rejecting unfettered capitalism, the pope chose Dorothy Day as one of his four examples because of “her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed.” Her Catholic Worker Movement was a model of community organization that helped lift thousands out of poverty. Basically, Day was known as a radical social activist, a pacifist, feminist, socialist, and union supporter—all hated by Republicans.

Throughout his speech, Pope Francis expressed his concern for the poor and his dismay at growing income inequality. Like Day, he supports a just distribution of income and a “modern, inclusive and sustainable” economy. His message for lawmakers urged them to pay attention especially to “those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.” According to Francis, “the fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts.”

Last February, conservatives were livid about President Obama’s statement at the National Prayer Breakfast that while many faith communities around the world are “inspiring people to lift up one another,” we also see “faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” The same listeners heard the same message from the pope when he said, “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”

Conservatives, who claim to support religious freedom, failed to support a House resolution honoring the Pope “for his inspirational statements and actions” as well as his goals to ameliorate inequality and promote solidarity. Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans.

The announcement from Chinese President Xi Jinping about his country adopting a program to curtail emissions erases the argument that the GOP uses against the a cap-and-trade program in the U.S. Whenever the program has been suggested, conservatives say that it will do no good because China doesn’t have the program. Xi also pledged aid for low-income nations, a request that President Obama made to Congress for the international Green Climate Fund. During the first 100 days of the new Congress, 81 of the 144 Senate bills proposed increasing pollution.

The biggest shocker to the nation last week, however, was Boehner’s resignation.  He claimed that it was to meliorate the turmoil, but there is no doubt that his action will heat up the firestorm between Tea Party and more establishment Republicans. A bill to pass the budget may avert a government shutdown on October 1—just four days away—but the issue will arise in late November because the bill is good for only two months. A new speaker may actually support a government shutdown at that time.

The question now is who will be selected to be two heartbeats from being President of the United States. Josh Israel has named four likely suspects:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): The House Republican Majority Leader would be the obvious choice in saner times despite his lack of political ability. Although he seemed more moderate toward immigration, his opposition to fight climate change gives him some cred among Tea Party members. McCarthy is notable for being the least experienced person of all time for the position that he holds. During the almost decade he’s spent in Congress, McCarthy has managed to pass only two bills that he sponsored, both of them renaming places in his district.

Steve Scalise (R-LA): The third-ranking Republican in the House spoke at a white supremacist rally in 2002 and was one of a few legislators to oppose making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a Louisiana holiday in 2004. He claims that immigration reform would “actually force” non-citizens who did not want to become citizens “onto an amnesty track.” This fan of debt-ceiling crises has refused to deny he wants to impeach President Obama.

Jim Jordan (R-OH): A major supporter of defunding the Department of Homeland Security also pushed to overturn DC’s same-gender marriage law and stated that the country’s founders wanted to prohibit abortion. Jordan is fully committed to defunding Planned Parenthood even if it shuts down the government.

Jeb Hensarling (R-TX): The defender of recessions as “a part of freedom” also denounces Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as “cruel Ponzi schemes.” In the House since 2003, he has the longest tenure of these four representatives. His opposition to raising the debt ceiling could also lead to more government shutdowns. As co-chair of the failed 2011 “supercommittee,” he promised to oppose “any penny of increased static revenue.”

Tea Partiers don’t want any of these possibilities, but they haven’t found anyone with enough votes to overcome the above “less radical” candidates above. Many of the crazies want the position; time will tell. While the House is in chaos, GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, supported by other ultra-conservatives, called for Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to step down as Senate Majority Leader. The congressional Republicans are in for a rocky fall season.

June 21, 2015

Pope’s Climate Encyclical Enrages Conservatives

Just when it seemed that Pope Francis couldn’t do more to offend U.S. conservatives—including Catholics—after he argued for income equality, he tackled the environment. The opening lines of his new encyclical, “Laudato Si (Praised Be),” come from a 13th-century poem, “Canticle of the Creatures,” written by his namesake. “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs,” the saint from Assisi wrote. The current pope chose his namesake because of his concern for the poor, his love of peace, and his care for creation.

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,” Francis wrote. “We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environment change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable that it is, can only precipitate disaster.”

He closed with progressive ideas that conservatives hate: a commitment to renewable energy, a binding agreement on carbon emissions, and an economy that throws away less and recycles more.

These are five important arguments in the pope’s document:

Climate change is real and “disturbing,” and people are the primary cause of it, primarily from “the great concentration of greenhouse gases released mainly as a result of human activity.”

Technology will not save the environment because “it’s based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.”

There is no excuse for denying reality or playing politics, especially from business-people and elected officials who use personal gain in “masking the problems or concealing their symptoms” and “pretending nothing will happen.”

The Bible was written by an environmentalist, and “Christians in their turn realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.”

Survival comes only from changing everything.

Pope Francis Climate

The 184-page encyclical infuriated 170 members of the House—56 percent of the entire membership—who oppose the belief from 97 percent of scientists that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it. In the Senate, 72 percent are climate deniers, including the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee. After a draft of the text was leaked, members of the conservative Heartland Institute traveled to Rome for a “pre-rebuttal,” and GOP presidential candidates attacked the pope for being political instead of religious. Jeb Bush, the Catholic who said that religion would guide his presidency, stated. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.” Another Catholic, Rick Santorum, who declared he was more qualified to discuss climate change than the pope, said,  “We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”

Defacto GOP leader Rush Limbaugh complained that Francis “doesn’t even disguise” his Marxist beliefs about global warming. Fox nework Greg Gutfeld supported Limbaugh after Juan Williams tried to explain to Gutfeld that being better stewards of the planet isn’t political. Williams said:

“I think the problem for you is that you put it in a box of pure politics, left and right. What about if the Pope is simply saying… we should do all we can to support God’s green earth. Is that so radical?”

Gutfeld responded, “Um, he has a Marxist background.” That was after Gutfeld called Pope Francis “the most dangerous person on the planet.” He added, “[Francis] wants to be a modern Pope. All he needs is dreadlocks and a dog with a bandana and he could be on Occupy Wall Street.” Gutfeld is even angry about the pope believing “that the Earth is overpopulated.” He continued, “Remember he said Catholics have to stop breeding like rabbits? Do you remember where that came from? That’s a Malthusian belief. And Malthusians believe that the Earth is overpopulated and it would be nice if there were a few billion people less. How does that happen? Global warming.” Malthusian belief is that population will be controlled by famine and disease; it seems the Gutfeld opposes the pope in order to have the controlling influence of climate change on population control.

Scientists disagree with the conservative politicians about the pope’s encyclical. Deborah Huntzinger, an assistant professor of climate sciences at Northern Arizona University, criticized only one part of the encyclical because it was simplistic, that how greenhouse gases warm the planet is more complicated. She did say that “the pope captures the science quite well.” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, noted that the only problem is that “Pope Francis is overly conservative [with respect to] the science in the encyclical” and understated some of the problems. “All of the increase in the carbon dioxide is due to fossil fuel burning and other human activities,” Mann said. Anthony Broccoli, a professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers University, said:

“Pope Francis doesn’t have to be a scientist to arrive at these conclusions. All he would have to do is consult the extensive reports on climate change that have been written by the world’s climate scientists in a process organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These reports have been written to inform policymakers and stakeholders about the state of the science and they are a reliable source of information.”

Columnist E.J. Dionne addressed the fallacy of conservative arguments that Francis is ignoring the past and presenting “radical new doctrines.” The encyclical frequently cites Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, neither one known for being liberal, “on the limits of markets and the urgency of environmental stewardship.” As the pope writes, “opinion makers, communications media and centers of power are far removed from the poor.” Hardly a radical statement or new to the Catholic religion. The focus of his paper is “that the world’s poor face the largest threat from climate change and that the world’s rich have a special obligation to deal with it.” In focusing on the “shared responsibility for others and the world,” he brings together the connection between the personal and the political.

If the Koch brothers succeed in buying conservative Catholics with huge donations to Catholic universities, conservative Catholics may turn farther away from the pope’s positions. In 2013 the Kochs give $1 million to launch the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America (CUA), dedicated to “principled entrepreneurship” where the school’s dean, Andrew Abela, opposes public-sector unions and argues that questioning global warming or climate change is a sin.” The donation brought a letter of protest from 50 Catholic educators regarding the ultra-conservative, anti-government, anti-workers-rights, climate-change-questioning, free-market-hyping tendencies of the Koch brothers. It read in part:

“The Koch brothers are billionaire industrialists who fund organizations that advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship.”

CUA leaders released a press release calling the educators’ letter “presumptuous.”

Last December, the Charles Koch Foundation gave Creighton University (Omaha, NE) funds for the new Institute for Economic Inquiry. The next month, the Foundation pledged another $3 million to CUA. The Koch brothers’ donations to a secular university have allowed them to veto most of the professors that the school wanted to hire with the donation. The Catholic Church opposes the Koch brothers’ positions on shrinking the social safety net, cutting taxes, weakening environmental regulations, ending the minimum wage, and busting unions. Conservatives argue that Pope Francis is not talking about capitalism as it is practiced in the U.S., or that he simply doesn’t understand economics. David Koch supports marriage equality and abortion rights; critics of the CUA gifts have pointed out the irony of the school’s accepting massive support from him when Catholic charities are not allowed to take money from any person or group that supports abortion rights or gay rights.

There was a time when the Pope was infallible and the President of the United States deserved respect. Now conservative Catholics have set themselves above the pope’s teaching, following only the restrictive teachings against abortion, contraception, and marriage equality. They have tried to make themselves gods.

The pope says, “We are not God” and should not act as if we are “usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot.”

 

June 14, 2015

Christian Unjustified Paranoia Leads to Discrimination

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) may be a Catholic, but he opposes his church’s leader in climate change. Santorum thinks that Pope Francis should stay quiet about this subject because the pope isn’t a scientist. Santorum said,”I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality,” he said. Francis has an advanced degree in chemistry—which makes him a scientist.

During his interview on the Fox network, host Chris Wallace asked Santorum:

“I guess the question would be, if he shouldn’t talk about it, should you?”

Santorum answered that “there are more pressing problems confronting the earth than climate change.”

Santorum has company in Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, who thinks that the pope’s authority lies only with faith and morals. Donohue wants Pope Francis not to talk about climate change because “no one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who proved to his personal satisfaction that climate change doesn’t exist because he threw a snowball on the Senate floor, is equally upset with Pope Francis. He said:

“Everyone is going to ride the pope now. Isn’t that wonderful,” he said. “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours…. I am not going to talk about the pope. Let him run his shop, and we’ll run ours.”

A Presbyterian, Inhofe doesn’t need to follow the Pope’s precepts, but Santorum and Donohue should. And the pope is scheduled to speak to Congress in a little over three months.

The persecution complex of fundamentalist Christians ratcheted up when Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, a far-right mega-church leader in Texas, compared the treatment of Christians in the United States to Germany’s treatment of Jews before the Holocaust. “They marginalized the Jewish people, disparaged them, and make them objects of contempt.” Questioning from Fox’s Sean Hannity led Jeffress to add that Christians in the United States are “treated as objects of contempt by the media and once that happens then the taking away of further rights will be very easy.” Jeffress’ terror comes from LGBT rights in receiving businesses and services.

After Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order allowing refusal of services based on the provider’s religious beliefs, the “religious freedom” fans scored victories in other states. In Michigan, faith-based adoption groups can refuse to work with any couples that violate the groups’ religious beliefs. The bill was put on the state Senate’s agenda at the last minute with no notice, and the House immediately concurred. North Carolina now allows magistrates and registers of deed to recuse themselves from performing marriage duties that might violate their religious beliefs. The number of legislators required to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto was lowered because of absent legislators, some who had voted against the bill the first time. North Carolina’s bill has an interesting twist. Any North Carolina officials opting out in writing cannot perform marriage duties for the next six months, creating long delays for couples wanting to marry in rural areas. [My question is whether they still get paid.]

Although both Michigan’s and North Carolina’s laws are intended for same-sex couples, the legislation is so broad that anyone can be the brunt of discrimination. Almost 40 years ago, Carol Ann and Thomas Person, two legally blind North Carolinians, were denied a marriage license by two different magistrates because of their skin colors. This happened nine years after the Supreme Court had declared that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Person recently wrote, “The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs.” The current law gives magistrates the right to discriminate against couples because of their race, religion, divorce status—in short, anyone.

At least one presidential candidate thinks that Christian discrimination is more important than LGBT rights. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is positive that being LGBT is a choice and that LGBT people don’t suffer discrimination because they don’t have to drink out of different fountains from heterosexual people. He refused to discuss LGBT rights further, insisting that they talk about discrimination against Christians in the United States. T. Steelman wrote:

“When you have your Bibles confiscated, churches burned and gun-toting idiots protesting outside your sanctuary then you can talk about being persecuted. Nobody is stopping you from worshiping as you wish or burning you at the stake for heresy. Until they do, please just stop it.”

On his 700 Club program, Pat Robertson first explained that the death of a woman’s child was human error rather than the fault of God.  Then he explained to her that God killed the woman’s baby because he could grow up to be Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or a serial killer. According to Robertson, God deliberately terminated the baby’s life to save the world.

The Duggar story keeps growing after the revelation that the oldest of 19 Kids and Counting molested at least four of his sisters, one of them five years old at the time, and another young girl several years ago. Two weeks ago, the parents refused to let DHS talk to a child in their care after a 911 call. The refusal led to a county DHS employee calling police for help. The information was revealed after Fox’s Megyn Kelly gave a cozy interview with the parents when patriarch Jim Bob Duggar said that child molestation is common in Christian families.

The Duggars had a compelling reason for not divulging Josh Duggar’s molestation of his younger sisters. While Jim Bob was in state legislature, Arkansas passed a law that the children could not have been homeschooled if Josh were forced to register as a sex offender. Jim Bob said that he knew Josh’s actions were crimes, but he didn’t trust government-sponsored programs to help Josh.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee continued to support the Duggars after the truth came out. He told Megyn Kelly that “a person is innocent until proven guilty” although Kelly said, “But he confessed.” That didn’t matter to Huckabee, who joked that he wanted to be transgender as a teenager so that he could shower with high school girls.

Another of Huckabee’s friends has also been accused twice of child molestation. John Perry, the man who co-authored several of Huckabee’s books, escaped “sustained” allegations of “sexual battery” against children because the statute of limitations had expired. Perry was ex-communicated from the Presbyterian church because he “has confessed to committing heinous and repetitive sin […] and has not shown evidence of repentance.” Perry molested one of the girls for three years.

Have you read what the religious right has written about the alleged history of former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert molesting his high school students? No? There’s a reason. The conservative religious media is staying mum on the issue: to them, it’s not really news.

People who think that separation of church and state might delight in this exchange between Australian comedian and satirist David Thorne and the self-proclaimed “School Chaplain” at his son’s school. The email exchange is five years old but priceless.

“Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins,” according to Mayor Will Rogers’ sign in Hawkins (TX). Putting the sign on public land isn’t any violation of the constitution, according to Rogers, because “Jesus is part of every major religion in the world, so you can’t pin one religion on Jesus.” No wonder U.S. ranks 14th in the world in education. I’m surprised that the nation isn’t lower.

May 17, 2015

Religious Persecution from the Christian Side

Christian leaders in the United States are still reeling from the latest survey from Pew Research Center regarding religious affiliation in the United States. Completed every seven years, the poll discovered that the number of people not affiliated with any religion is up over 40 percent during the last seven years from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent. At the same time, evangelical Protestants have shrunk about one percent, and Catholics have gone down about three percent. Mainline Protestants have decreased over three percent. Almost six percent of people in the United States identify with a non-Christian faith, an increase of 1.2 percent.

religious landscapeThe greatest increases of nonaffiliated people were those born in the 1980s—about one-third of the population—and those born in the 1990s—rising to 36 percent. A surprising change was also found by the Christian polling company Barna Group. In the last 22 years, the percentage of women atheists and agnostics rose from 16 percent to 43 percent. One assumption for this change is that these skeptics regard Christian churches as “places that have ugly views, such as wars, preventing gay marriage and a woman’s freedom to control her body, sexual and physical violence perpetrated on people by religious authority figures, mixing religious beliefs with political policy and action.” Good guess!

When two gay men recently met with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), they may have honestly thought that they could have a reasonable dialog with the presidential candidate. Cruz said about his visit, “I know it’s been a long time since we’ve seen it, but this is what it means to truly be a ‘big tent Republican’ instead of a panderer.” The “tent” was short-lived. Last week Cruz said that the Democratic Party has “gotten so extreme and so radical in its devotion to mandatory gay marriage that they’ve decided there’s no room for the religious liberty protected under the First Amendment.” Time for LGBT people to leave the GOP tent.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (T-TN) complained about this non-existent victimization at the recent “Freedom Summit” in South Carolina. When asked about Christian persecution, she said, “You know, there have been several lately. There’ve. Um. I can’t give you a specific [pause] right off the cuff.” She shrugged, said “I’m sorry,” smiled, turned away, and then looked back at the camera to finish, “Yeah. Thanks.” Tennessee, Blackburn’s home state, has a law prohibiting atheists from holding any public office.

After his disastrous performance in trying to answer questions about the Iraq War last week, Jeb Bush came up with the example of a florist discriminating against a gay couple as “the best example” of Christians facing persecution in the United States. He said that the country needs to be more “tolerant” of her viewpoint that the LGBT community doesn’t deserve equal access to business services. This statement follows an earlier expression of his support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker delivered a typical misinformed perspective on Christian persecution this past week. Her reference to how Roger Ailes’ Fox network protects Christians shows the source. She wrote:

“Why can’t the Little Sisters of the Poor suck it up and sign off on the Affordable Care Act’s demand that their insurance policy include contraception funding? Ditto Hobby Lobby, the family-owned craft business that prevailed in its Supreme Court fight to not fund insurance covering contraception that destroys embryos.”

No one ever demanded that the Little Sisters include contraception in its insurance, just that the group sign an application for a waiver. It refused. The for-profit Hobby Lobby was comfortable with birth control as long as Hobby Lobby made enough money from their stock in drug companies that sold these to women. The Satanist religion is now trying to protect women from the government’s interference in their health care. If Parker believes in lack of persecution for religion, she will also be supporting that, especially because she wrote that “the state should always go to extra lengths to protect religious liberty whenever possible.”

Parker claims that Hillary Clinton would “crush the individual’s [interests] in necessary to advance women’s rights” because she advocates women’s unfettered access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.” Parker added, “By contrast, Jeb Bush, who will become the GOP nominee if Republicans are smart, [said] it’s a depressing fact that when some people think of Christianity and of Judeo-Christian values, they think of something static, narrow and outdated….” (Depressing yes. Also true.)

The 40,000 students in the Clovis (CA) United School District will not be oppressed by religion after Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black ruled that the religion-based abstinence-only sex education isn’t really sex-ed. Because of this religiously mandated curriculum, the United States faces high rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.

Black concluded that programs dedicated to pushing abstinence rather than “medically and socially appropriate sexual education” are depriving students of “an important public right. The ruling is long overdue. California law prohibited schools  from medically inaccurate or biased information in sex-ed courses since 2003. An example of teaching in the Clovis district is that a non-virgin woman is like a dirty shoe. While failing to provide information about birth control and condoms, abstinence-only programs also compare people who have had sex to chewed up gum, used tape, dirty chocolate, and glasses of spit. “This is the first time that abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula have been found to be medically inaccurate,” Phyllida Burlingame, director of Reproductive Justice Policy for the American Civil Liberties Union, said of the decision.

The ruling against using abstinence-only curriculum as sex ed may be heading for the Supreme Court along with Wal-Mart’s argument that the religious beliefs of their shareholders cannot guide the products that it sells. The Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby decided that corporations can avoid following laws because of its “religious beliefs,” overriding an argument from 44 lawyers that “allowing a corporation … to take on and assert the religious beliefs of its shareholders in order to avoid having to comply with a generally-applicable law with a secular purpose is fundamentally at odds with the entire concept of incorporation.”

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month against the Trinity Church, concluding that shareholders can’t impart their religious beliefs onto a corporation. Wal-Mart, one of 2012 CNN’s top nine “religious companies” in the U.S., refused to let its shareholders vote on whether the company should sell products that “might endanger public safety, hurt Wal-Mart’s reputation, or offend ‘family and community values’ which they believe are ‘integral to Wal-Mart’s brand.’” Wal-Mart and the federal court decided that the shareholders have no religious rights like Hobby Lobby does. The church had sued Wal-Mart because it sells products such as weapons used in mass shootings, including the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Maybe SCOTUS, Jeb Bush, and Kathleen Parker would agree with the shareholders because of their religious beliefs. Or maybe not.

Fundamentalist Christians may be shifting their belief that religion should control the U.S. government. Just five months ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) wanted leaders from the faith community to “rise up and engage America in the public square with Biblical values.” He calls for “pastors to lead the way and reset the course of American governance.” The GOP wants religious leaders to guide public debate.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini - RTR4URKU

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini – RTR4URKU

That was before Pope Francis decided to sign a treaty recognizing a Palestinian country. At that point, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) said, “It’s interesting how the Vatican has gotten so political when ultimately the Vatican ought to be working to lead people to Jesus Christ and salvation, and that’s what the Church is supposed to do.” The conservatives have been upset about the pope’s progressive positions on climate change, Iran nuclear talks, Cuban diplomacy, economic inequality, and pay equity for women, but advocating a Palestinian state drove them over the edge.

Conservatives support religion in government as long as it’s their own religion. Any other time, religious leaders should stay quiet.

May 3, 2015

‘Religious Freedom’ Opens Doors to the Secular

Open a drawer in a hotel room, and you’ll most likely find a bible. Maybe not a telephone book, but a bible distributed by an association called Gideons International. Representatives from the organization have been putting the books across the country for over a century. During World War II, they also gave a copy to each person in the U.S. Armed Forces. After the war, abridged bibles went to all public and private school students between the fifth and twelfth grades after Gideons spoke to assemblies at the schools. The first three years of the program saw 4.2 million copies into the hands of students with a plan to give out a total of 25 million. Many communities required Christian prayers and/or Bible readings in the classrooms.

Original objections came from Jewish leaders opposing the distribution of the New Testament, and Catholic officials fought the Gideon Bible in classrooms because canon law forbids use of the King James Version. Liberal Protestants disapproved, and the editors of the Christian Century claimed that public schools are “not the place” to evangelize because of the Christians have “a duty to respect separation of church and state in relation to the schools.” Complaints led to lawsuits, and the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in 1953 that one school board had clearly favored one religious faith.

Stunned by the decision, the Gideons believed that “Satan has been and still is vigorously opposed to this particular program.” Their appeal to the Supreme Court, however, failed, and the Gideons decided that they were better off without a federal ruling limited to only New Jersey and returned to the other 47 states. Pennsylvania ruled against their actions while Minnesota accepted the bibles in public schools. By the late 1950s, about 43 percent of school districts allowed the bible distribution program, a majority of these in small towns and the areas of the South and the Midwest.  Starting with the 1947 ruling against the Gideons, the Supreme Court has ruled five times against these distributions, but the bibles kept going into the classrooms, in Kentucky as recent as last year.

In the center of the country, Oklahoma has found itself in the center of a firestorm after Attorney General Scott Pruitt passionately defended the right of conservative Christians to proselytize public school students by handing out religious materials. When the American Humanist Association threatened a lawsuit, Duncan Public School District ended a teacher’s distribution of bibles in the classroom. “Few things are as sacred and as fundamental to Oklahomans as the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion,” Pruitt wrote. He continued with the tired meme about the attack on religious freedoms by people “who seek to undermine our constitutional rights and threaten our founding principles.”

The Oklahoma Constitution states:

“Perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of the State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; and no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”

One religious group believes the words of the state constitution and attorney general. Satanist Church of Ahriman leader, Adam Daniels, has requested permission to distribute its church handbook to students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School where the third grade teacher handed out bibles to her students. Daniels told school officials that his church’s handbook is much less “graphic” than the Christian bible. Last year, Satanists received the right to distribute its materials at a Florida school just before the school banned the distribution of all religious materials.

The current demand for “religious freedom” can help improve the country in these areas of need:

Homeless People: In Texas, Joan Cheever is fighting a $2,000 fine in San Antonio for violating the city ordinance against feeding homeless people, using her religious faith as a reason.

Undocumented Immigrants: Leviticus 19:33-34 –  “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” People who provide undocumented people with housing or jobs shouldn’t be charged with a felony if the follow their religious compassion.

Using Marijuana: The original Religious Freedom Restoration Act came from a lawsuit about a Native American’s use of peyote; the Indiana secretary of state has already approved a petition from the First Church of Cannabis Inc. to grow hemp. The use of marijuana can be a religious ritual.

Overfishing: Because the Bible calls shellfish an abomination, vegans and vegetarians might legally block piers and free lobsters from traps.

Climate Change: Members of the GOP have already declared that the belief in human-created climate change is a “religion,” an issue of “faith.” Throughout the Old Testment verses require people to be good stewards of the land. For example, Numbers 35.33-34: “Do not pollute the land where you are…  Do not defile the land where you live and where I [God] dwell.”

Pope Francis clearly understands the importance of being good stewards of the land, and the Koch brothers are unhappy about his position. Their Heartland Institute is sending right-wing “scientists” to tell the pope why he is wrong, both scientifically and biblically, especially after he announced he plans to meet with the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, and other experts to discuss what policymakers and religious leaders can do to better combat the worst effects of climate change. The Koch brothers will attempt to persuade the pope that “there is no need for a radical reordering of global economies that will cause massive reductions in human freedom and prosperity.” In addition, the right-wingers allege that the pope is being “misled” by experts at the United Nations who have “proven unworthy.” Heartland insists that humans are using the land for biblical purposes—the benefit of humanity.

The pope will frustrate the Koch brothers with another position on social issues—equal pay. He called on Christians to demand equality in gender wages. “Why is it expected that women must earn less than men?” he asked. “No! They have the same rights. The disparity is a pure scandal.” The pope explained that his position doesn’t come from attempts to advance women’s rights but said that the higher wages for men is “a form of chauvinism that always wants to control the woman.” Christians should “decisively support the right to equal pay for equal work.”

After two years of being pope, Francis took an important step when he ended the Church’s investigation and control of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a move instituted by Francis’s predecessor, Benedict. The organization that represents about 80 percent of Catholic nuns in the United States had been censored because they paid more attention to helping the poor and homeless than pontificating against abortion and marriage equality. A report states that the “implementation of the mandate has been accomplished.” Catholic Church doctrine still prevents women in the Church from birth control use, but the nuns can return to their good works without punitive measures.

While the pope calls for more freedom, the U.S. Catholic Church is trying to be more restrictive. Like Cincinnati, the Catholic Diocese in Cleveland (OH) has established an “expanded” list of offenses and reclassified teachers as “ministers.” At the five Catholic schools in the city, teachers can be fired if they don’t adhere to the new morality clause with such forbidden behaviors as “[p]ublicly supporting abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, surrogate parenthood, direct sterilization, or so-called homosexual or same-sex marriage or unions.” Other prohibited behaviors on the list are having or helping someone obtain an abortion, any extramarital sex or living with a partner without being legally married, “lewd or sexually suggestive” emails or texts, pornography use or unlawful drug use.

The leadership’s excuse is that “each and every teacher and administrator in a Catholic school, whether they teach religion as a subject or not, is called by the Church to model Jesus.” The new “ministers” might raise the question of biblical references to “surrogate parenthood” and “direct sterilization.” In fact, they should raise the question of how they are actually “ministers” with no personal life outside their employment. Could this requirement be extended to medical practitioners or even everyone who cleans Catholic hospitals and schools? Is a cafeteria worker at a Catholic building a “minister” by providing nourishment?

Anyone finding these questions ridiculous needs only to remember that a for-profit company of craft items now has “religious liberties” and can make opinions for people based on “faith” and not science. Will “religious companies” have the right to control the personal life of all their employers?

Brian-Klawiter-Dieseltec-638x425A recent example of a “religious business” is the auto repair shop in Grandville (MI) where Brian Klawiter bragged on his Facebook page that he wouldn’t repair cars for LGBT people. In fact, if they ask for his services, he might “fix” a car so that it could kill the driver. Although his behavior is legal in Michigan, he’s having trouble getting a city business license because he won’t accept the city ordinance stating that the city has “authority to enter (licensed businesses), with or without search warrant, at all reasonable times.” He wants to be exempted because he thinks the licensing process is a violation of his constitutional rights.

Perception of these constitutional rights differ from one person to another. Tom DeLay, former House Majority Leader, recently said—again—that God wrote the Constitution after he created the nation.  “I think we got off the track when we allowed our government to become a secular government,” DeLay explained. That takes rights from everyone except conservative Christians—maybe even the pope.

April 12, 2015

Pope’s Belief Anti-LGBT, Anti-Women

Pope Francis has fascinated people since he took over the Roman Catholic leadership with his simple lifestyle and seeming tolerance for the LGBT community.  While the pope gained more worshippers than the last pope, he has said that he only has two to three years to live and may retire early. Before Benedict retired in 2013, the last pope to retire was 600 years ago. How many ex-popes does the Vatican want?

Francis has repeatedly said that gay people should not be marginalized and demoted openly homophobic leaders within his church. Shortly after Francis became pope, he said, “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” The pope has started to judge, turning against LGBT people.

After France nominated Laurent Stefanini as the French ambassador to the Vatican, the pope has made no move to finalize the process. The 13-week lag in a response is over twice the normal process of ambassadorial nominations. A Vatican insider has reported that it was “a decision taken by the pope himself,” giving Stafanini’s homosexuality as the reason.

The pope also clearly states his opposition to LGBT people in his new book, Pope Francis: This Economy Kill, written by Italian journalists Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi. Most of his harshest language is used for transgender people who he refers to as “Herods” and nuclear weapons.

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

Lesbians and gays have recently come in for their share of rejection too. Recently, Francis gave his blessing to a Slovakian referendum banning marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples in Slovakia.

Leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States should be delighted with the pope’s bigotry. Earlier this year, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski told all church employees that any support for marriage equaity—even a tweet or Facebook post—could get them fired. Wenski’s email said that employees could not even express support for same-sex marriage “outside the normal working day and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee for the Archdiocese.” These people working for the Catholic Church have lost all rights of free expression for 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Because U.S. bishops have no policy on dismissals, Wenski is out there on his own with his decision.

At the same time, bishops in Germany may start to employ married gays and lesbians as well as divorced and remarried Catholics. A bishop in Belgium recently called on the church to consider blessing same-sex marriages.

While the German Conference of Religious Superiors called for a rethinking of the Catholic Church’s treatment of same-gender couples, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke compared these couples to “kind murderers.” When he was asked about how many people in same-sex relationships display kindness, generosity, and decision, Burke said, “It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people.” The pope removed Burke from a high-ranking Vatican position last year.

The pope’s behavior toward women is almost as bad as toward LGBT people. In 2013, 70% of Catholics believe women should be allowed to be ordained, but Pope John Paul II announced that the exclusion of women from the Catholic priesthood was an infallible article of dogma and could never be changed. Francis agrees, stating that the “church has spoken and says no… that  door is closed” with regard to women’s ordination.

When the pope has tried to mend relationships with women in his church by naming women to an important theological commission late last year, he called them “strawberries on the cake.” Other language he has used shows the lower status of women in the Catholic Church:

  • In a speech to nuns around the world: “Be a mother and not an old maid!”
  • In reference to a strong presence of women in the church:  “I am wary of ‘masculinity in a skirt.’“
  • In answer to the question of whether his references to woman as mothers and wives rather than leaders: “The fact is, woman was taken from a rib.” (He tried to cover up the comment by saying, “That was a joke.”)
  • In answer to the question about making a woman the head of a Vatican department: “Pastors often wind up under the authority of their housekeeper!”
  • In a speech, describing the “weariness and aging” of the European continent to its parliament: “Europe is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant.”
  • In a complaint about the church not evangelizing: “A church that seems more like a spinster than a mother.”

In other “religious news” within the U.S., a middle school teacher in Georgia told her students that President Obama is now a Christian and that “any parent who supports him is not a Christian.” The teacher’s husband is on the school board in Dublin where she teaches and attended the parent-teacher conference after parents complained about the teacher’s action. Teacher Nancy Perry, who told her students that they had to “prove their Christianity” to her, brought materials to the conference to prove her points. Perry is still a teacher at the same school.

Temporarily satisified with gun laws allowing anyone to kill almost anyone else, Florida is working toward its own state-wide “religious protection of children” with a bill that passed 75-38 in the state house. HB 7111, which now moves to the state senate, allows state adoption agencies to discriminate in any way that they wish. Some of these private agencies are religiously affiliated but cannot have licenses or funding revoked based on their discrimination, according to the bill. Amendments to create nondiscrimination exemptions for race, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, etc. were all refused. The only amendment was that “an act by a private child-placing agency under this subsection does not constitute discrimination.” (So much for “if it walks like a duke, it quakes like a duck ….)

Rep. Jason Brodeur (R) basically agreed that the purpose of the bill that he co-sponsored is discrimination. He was asked,“If a child-placing agency decided that they had a moral objection to having single moms adopt, would they be permitted under your bill to have that policy and then reject all single mothers from adopting in the state of Florida?” Brodeur said, “Yes.” I guess he would say the same thing about black couples adopting white children.

Brodeur denied that his bill was discriminatory because same-sex couples could turn to state and secular adoption agencies. Five years ago, an appeals court struck down Florida’s outright ban on gay men and lesbians adopting. Although it is unlikely that the bill will pass the senate in this session, any similar law would require Florida taxpayers to give their money to agencies that discriminate.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll has found that a majority of people in the U.S. support marriage equality, 52 percent to 32 percent opposing same-sex marriage. An additional 3 percent, a total of 55 percent, think that all states should recognize same-sex marriages even if same-sex couples cannot marry in that state. Another 54 percent responded that it is wrong for businesses to refuse services, compared to 28 percent who support discrimination. And 55 percent declared that businesses should not have the right to use their “religious beliefs” to not hire people, compared to 27 percent who want this ability to discriminate.

January 4, 2015

Better Times for Clean Energy, Pope May Help

Filed under: Environment,Pollution — trp2011 @ 8:15 PM
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Pope Francis has decided to follow up other progressive positions during his less than two years as the Catholic leader by addressing the environment and climate change. Last October he said:

“The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”

During the coming year, Francis plans to issue an encyclical on the issue, urging “all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds.” To influence the UN meeting on climate change in Paris, Francis also plans to convene a summit of world religious leaders and speak to the United Nations General Assembly.

Conservatives are not happy about the pope’s latest campaign because the Koch brothers, who specialize in pollution, pay the conservative leaders. Calvin Beisner of the religious right Cornwall Alliance said that believing in climate change “really is an insult to God … and it will eventually lead to tyranny.”

Beisner promised that the U.S. evangelical movement will oppose the pope in his environment endeavors because it is “un-biblical” and a “false religion.” (Actually, the evangelicals have been declared that Catholicism is a false religion for almost five centuries; this is nothing new.)

From JunkScience.com comes a blog called “Pope now decides to dabble in environmentalism and opine on Climate?” that describes Francis as a “commie pope,” “stupid leftist” and “despicable.”

Claiming to use the “best science,” an editorial from Investor’s Business Daily entitled “Pope Francis Errs In Linking Church To Green Movement” states:

“The Vatican apparently now has been infiltrated by followers of a radical green movement that is, at its core, anti-Christian, anti-people, anti-poor and anti-development. The basic tenets of Catholicism — the sanctity of human life and the value of all souls — are detested by the modern pagan environmentalists who worship the created, but not the creator.”

In “Climate Hoax Peddling and Meddling, Pope Allied with Obama, Backing UN World Government, Wealth Redistribution” on GOP The Daily Dose, Rick Wells foams at the mouth about all his objections to progressive ideas including “amnesty” and “global socialism.”

“How could [Pope Francis], as the head of a church who is anti-abortion, be in cahoots with the United Nations, the world’s largest population control agent and abortion facilitator? Is Pope Francis a well-intentioned victim of manipulation or is he somehow knowingly involved in the scheme?”

The Right Wing News blog matches its message to its title, “Pope Francis Delves Deeper Into Leftist Politics by Pushing Global Warming Hoax.” After the typical accusations of the pope’s “attacking economic freedom” and “pushing the global warming hoax,” Dave Blount writes:

“There has never been a more un-Christian ideology than environmental radicalism. The Pope praising the Devil would not be more appalling.”

Furious tweets are available here.

NASA scientists have found some good news about the Earth’s climate. Tropical forests are absorbing as much as 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the Earth’s total absorption of 2.5 billion tons. Current, trees and other vegetation are estimated to absorb 30 percent of the carbons that people dump in the atmosphere. The down side is that this increase can deplete water in the area, leading to greater numbers and severity of wildfires. Global warming is still a threat, but scientists are gaining a better understanding of carbon regulation out of the atmosphere. Just keep the tropical forests and put out fires.

China plans to shut down 2,000 coal mines this coming year and limit the total to 10,000 by 2016 after closing 1,100 this year. Presently, China, with four times the population of the U.S., produces about four times as much coal as the United States.

The number of solar energy jobs increased 20 percent last year to 143,000. That’s over 50 percent more jobs than the 89,000 coal mining jobs in 2012, and almost half those in just the states of Kentucky and West Virginia. Kentucky gets 90 percent of its electricity from coal; California gets less than 1 percent of its power from coal. Coal use for electricity is concentrated in fewer than ten states; it’s easy to determine which states because their senators decry solar energy and the need to reduce pollution from coal. Barclays recently downgraded the utility sector’s high-grade bonds because so many power companies rely on coal although the solar industry is exploding in job growth in the U.S.

Another 85,000 people in the U.S. now work in wind energy and related industry although wind power represents about 3.5 percent of U.S. power generation. This figure shows a 20-fold increase in about a decade.

The commercial nuclear industry employs 120,000 people, and the geothermal power industry provides over 13,000 jobs in the nation.

One example of clean energy takes place in Hugoton (KS), population 3,900, that employs 75 people at an annual payroll of $5 million at a cellulosic ethanol refinery. Abengoa is the largest cellulosic biorefinery in the world, producing up to 25 million gallons ethanol fueled by non-edible waste bought from local farmers. Refined biofuels are sold in the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia. The startup money came from the 2009 stimulus program.

Tesla Motors, which manufactures electric sports cars, paid back its $465 million loan almost 10 years early. The $30 billion in loans had a two-percent default rate, and the program created or saved about 35,000 permanent jobs. That’s 1000-fold the number of permanent jobs offered by the Keystone XL Pipeline.

In her very low-key way, Sister Simone Campbell said, “Pope Francis’s message and tone are making Catholic Republicans a little uncomfortable.”

Fox network commented that the pope is aligning with “extremists who favor widespread population control and wealth redistribution.” Marc Morano came back on the channel to repeat his falsehood that there has been “no global warming” for “almost two decades.” On Special Report, Doug McKelway warned that the pope’s encyclical “may play well into the hands of skeptics who’ve long seen global warming fears as almost religious in its fervor, with biblical themes of a pristine Eden-like planet tarnished by man, followed by a loss of grace and a coming doomsday.” McKelway came to Fox after ABC’s Washington, D.C. affiliate fired him for getting into a “shouting match” with his boss over his faulty criticism of “far left environmental groups” in a piece recycling the false claim that President Obama received campaign money from BP.

The head of Fox, Roger Ailes, is a Catholic, and the chair of parent News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, is raising and educating the daughters from his latest marriage as Catholics and had them baptized in the Jordan River. Pope John Paul II inducted Murdoch into the “Knights of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.” Catholic Fox pundits include Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, Bill Hemmer, Brian Kilmeade, Andrew Napolitano, Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingraham, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Father Morris. The current Senior Communications Adviser in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, Greg Burke, was previously the Fox News correspondent covering the Vatican, a position he held for ten years.

In Congress, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is a devout Catholic as are other GOP leaders such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). In the last House of Representatives, Catholics comprised almost 30 percent of the GOP membership. Ten GOP senators, including Marco Rubio (FL) are also Catholics. (Rubio is already upset with Pope Francis because of his involvement in opening communications between the U.S. and Cuba.) The question may be how far the GOP Catholics will go to oppose their religious leader.

The best news about climate change is that people are finally paying attention to it.

November 16, 2014

Pope Francis Flips the Church’s Attitude

Who knew when a mild-manner cardinal from Argentina became the leader 1.2 billion and renamed himself Francis that he would throw his followers—and the conservatives in the United States—into such a turmoil?! His attacks on climate-change deniers, unfettered capitalism, and bigotry against LGBT people have become legendary. While committee Senate leaders such as James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) will take the country back to the 19th century in environment, public works, commerce, science, and transportation, the pope continues his speeches about how science, rational thought, and data are important parts of present and future human goals.

Last month, the pope said to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that the Catholic Church evolution and the Big Bang theory of the universe fit with biblical teachings. “God was [not] a magician, complete with an all-powerful magic wand.” At the same time, Congress will be controlled by people who link Darwinism with eternal damnation. Inhofe, who wrote The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, said:

“God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is, to me, outrageous.”

During the times of the Founding Fathers, people revered intellectual achievement. It was the Age of Enlightenment that used the scientific method of independent inquiry and the study of objective data to reach conclusions after repeated experiments that were carefully analyzed. Even presidents in the 20th century sought advice from people in the opposing parties. Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Vannevar Bush, an opponent of the New Deal, to head up of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and Democrat Jerome Wiesner sat on the Science Advisory Committee to Dwight D. Eisenhower. The pope moves ahead; the Congress has gone into reverse.

Last week, the pope officially demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke, the U.S. cardinal who attacked Francis on his progressive expressions. In 2004, Burke said that voting for a pro-choice candidate is a “serious sin” and said last year the Church “can never talk enough” about the “massacre of the unborn.” After Francis said about gay priests, “who am I to judge?” Burke told said that homosexual acts are “always and everywhere wrong, evil.”

Pope Benedict XVI elevated Burke to the head of the Apostolic Signatura—the Vatican’s highest court. Benedict resigned, and Francis sent Burke to a ceremonial role as the Patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta. The tipping point leading to the reassignment may have been Burke’s participation with conservative bishops who protested the pope’s discussion of “family issues” such as homosexuality. In his attack, Burke said that the pope did “a lot of harm” and compared his leadership to “a ship without a rudder.” Last month, Burke called homosexuality “profoundly disordered and harmful” and told people that they should keep their children away from LGBT people and cut ties with LGBT relatives. This is the pope’s second demotion of Burke: in 2013, Burke was removed from the Congregation for Bishops.

Francis had already irritated cardinals by elevating many bishops from countries outside the West to cardinal. Before removing Burke, the pope replaced Cardinal Francis George, the conservative who compared organizers of the Chicago Pride Parade to the Ku Klux Klan, with moderate Bishop Blasé Cupich, who condemns anti-LGBT bullying and asked priests and seminarians not to pray in front of Planned Parenthood clinics as a protest.

The pope also diverges from U.S. conservatives in the excesses of capitalism. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have both called him a Marxist, and other pundits have called him a Communist and Socialist. At the World Meeting of Popular Movements, a three day conference attended by farmers, fishermen, miners, and Argentine “cartoneros,” who sift through garbage for recyclable goods, Francis said:

“Let’s say together with our heart: no family without a roof, no peasant farmer without land, no worker without rights, no person without dignified labour!”

He explained this statement:

“Land, housing and work are increasingly unavailable to the majority of the world’s population. If I talk about this, some will think that the Pope is communist. They don’t understand that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel. Demanding this isn’t unusual, it’s the social doctrine of the church.”

Ken Ham, infamous for his religious museum that puts humans and dinosaurs in the same time period, said, “Pope Francis has compromised biblical authority in favor of man’s ideas in the area of origins.” Ham was offended by the pope’s statements that “God is not afraid of new things.” This declaration fails to defer to the bible, according to Ham, which was literally written by God. Ham protested:

“If God and His Word are open to change, then God’s Word is not an authority on anything—man becomes the authority because he gets to decide when and how God’s Word applies.”

Ham asked his followers to pray for the pope. “I encourage you to pray that church leaders like these will realize that they are placing man’s opinions above God’s Word and that they will repent and trust God’s Word, beginning in Genesis.” Unfortunately for Ham, his god failed to translate his words into other languages; therefore his bible is written by human beings.

Conservatives such as Catholic John Ransom are going so far as to say the pope claimed that “God is not a divine being.” It’s another problem of mistranslating because the pope did not speak in English. Ransom’s column about the pope is titled “Can the pope shut up too?” which lacks a sense of reverence for his Church’s leader.

Creationist Ray Comfort didn’t attack the pope but approached the him in a patronizing manner. Comfort said that any self-described Christian might “think that they are siding with science, [but] they don’t realize that the theory has no scientific basis—that it’s unproven, and that it has to be received on blind faith.” People who believe in evolution “don’t believe in Jesus.”

It is possible that The pope’s comments could lead to a schism in the Catholic Church. Australian Cardinal George Pell wrote that Pope Francis was the 266th pope “and history has seen 37 false or antipopes.” The insinuation is that Francis may be the 38th, possibly sent by the devil.

Conservative American journalist Ross Douthat wrote that “[Conservative Catholics] might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.” He also argued that the pope is “stacking the synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change”—as if this were unusual.

U.S. bishops may have decided their approach to Pope Francis last week at the annual General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Part of the business was to pick four representatives to send to the October 2015 synod on marriage and the family. The first synod on the subject was last month when the Vatican riled up conservatives by seeming to recognize loving and committed same-sex partnerships. Cardinals Timothy Dolan and Donald Wuerl will also attend the synod because they are the highest-ranking Catholic clergy in the country.

The highly conservative website, Breitbart.com, describes the selection as a “conservative ‘dream team.’ “  Those chosen were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Archbishop Jose Gomez. Alternates are Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Archibishop-designate Blasé Cupich. Of the six, only Cupich is moderate; the rest are solidly right-wing.  For example, Chaput argued against giving communion to Catholic politicians who support pro-choice and condemned Notre Dame for giving President Obama an honorary degree. Gomez is his protégé.

Times are going to be rocky for the Catholic Church, and this will reflect on the Church’s influence in the United States.

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