Nel's New Day

February 24, 2019

More Need for Wall on Religion

At the beginning of a four-day conference regarding clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called for “concrete and effective measures” to solve the behavior of the Church’s leadership. After four days of speeches about the need for action and the “outrage of the people,” Francis closed the summit by calling for an “all-out battle” but few concrete remedies. Sometimes avoiding the purpose of the meeting, Francis larded his speech with data regarding abuse in schools, at athletic facilities, and within families, talking about the dangers of the digital world.

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes about the problems of Christians who claims to be superior to all others:

When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.

“Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms,” The Chronicle reported.

Leathers told me he is glad he wrote the 2002 article, even if it cost him his career. He expressed frustration at Southern Baptist priorities: The church leadership would expel a church that appointed a woman as senior pastor, even as it accepted sexual predators.

The indifference to criminal behavior is an echo of what has been unearthed in the Roman Catholic Church over the decades. The latest sickening revelations are of priests getting away with raping nuns and with assaulting deaf students.

These new scandals provoke fresh nausea at the hypocrisy of religious blowhards like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who thundered at the immorality of gay people even as their own Southern Baptist network tolerated child rape.

I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status.

“If God is male,” Mary Daly, the feminist theologian, wrote, “then the male is God.”

The result may be threefold: an entitled male clergy, women and girls taught to be submissive in church, and a lack of accountability and oversight. It’s complicated, of course, for many of the Catholic victims were boys, but there does seem to have been an element of elevating male clergy members on a pedestal in a way that made them omnipotent and unaccountable.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, told me, noting the commonality of the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches: “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

The paradox is that Jesus and the early Christian church seem to have been very open to women. The only person in the New Testament who wins an argument with Jesus is an unnamed woman who begs him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28).

The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic text from the early second century, suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to provide religious instruction to his disciples.

But then conventional hierarchies asserted themselves, and women were mostly barred from religious leadership.

After The Chronicle’s investigation, the Southern Baptists have promised greater training and more background checks, but what’s needed above all is accountability and equality.

“Prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity,” Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer professor of Christian morals at Harvard, told me.

Baptist women have been ready to be heard for a century. I know because my great-grandfather John Howard Shakespeare was the leader of Baptists in Britain from 1898 to 1924 and practiced his sermons on his wife. When she once insisted that she had something else to do, he locked her in an upstairs room.

My great-grandmother Amy, wearing a long dress, then climbed out an upper window and onto a tree branch, and finally clambered down the tree to the ground.

Perhaps inspired by such a strong woman, Shakespeare favored the ordination of women. “That women are not yet permitted to take their proper share in the life and work of our churches is, to our thinking, a relic of barbarism,” he wrote in 1901.

So much has changed for women since then, yet even today a majority of religious women still belong to denominations that do not ordain women. And as long as inequality is baked into faith, as long as “men of God” are unaccountable, then sexual assaults will continue.

The problem is not just wayward pastors and priests. Rather it is structural, an inequality and masculine conception of God that empowers rapists.

And, perhaps, embarrasses God.

September 16, 2018

Sexual Abuse: Religion Wants Silence

Pope Francis wants silence about the Catholic Church’s leaders sexually abusing members, but more information about the epidemic is pouring into the media. New York has issued subpoenas against the state’s eight dioceses, and New Jersey created a task force to investigate allegations of clergy sexually abusing minors and any attempts of the church to hide the abuse. In charge of the New York investigation, the state’s AG Barbara Dale Underwood also encouraged the state legislature to pass the Child Victims Act that would permit civil suits until victims are 50 years old and seek criminal charges against abusers until age 28. Pennsylvania prosecutors who recently concluded that 300 priests in the state had sexually abused over 1,000 children during the past 70 years. New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Nebraska, and Missouri have already started investigations or inquiries.

In West Virginia, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, whose diocese covers the entire state, resigned after allegations of sexually harassing adults. Bransfield is a close associate of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick who left his position after allegedly molesting an altar boy and coercing seminary students to sleep in his bed. McCarrick was elevated to cardinal despite warnings over many years.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington since 2006, told his parishioners that he is leaving because of poor judgment when he was bishop of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania investigators named Wuerl over 200 times in its report about the systemic abuse of more than 1,000 children by over 300 priests when bishops and other church officials concealed crimes and protected predatory priests. Wuerl allowed an accused abuser to stay in his ministry and banned victims from speaking during a settlement agreement.

The bishop of Buffalo, Richard J. Malone, has thus far ignored calls for his resignation after an investigation from a local radio station revealed he kept priests in ministry who might be threats to children. When Malone pretended transparency and released the names of priests accused of abuse, he omitted dozens of names.

Four U.S. cardinals went to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the problems of Catholic leaders’ sexual assault. One, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, has been accused of knowing about a priest’s sexual abuse and allowed him to remain in his ministry. DiNardo had appointed the priest, arrested last week on charges of indecency with children, to a leadership role as episcopal vicar for Hispanics after he met with accusers at two separate times.

Knowledge about sex abuse by Catholic Church leaders has erupted around the world with revelations of abuse and cover-ups in Australia, Ireland, Belgium, France, Chile and other countries. A leaked report from Germany included information about 1,670 church workers—over four percent of the clergy—were involved in the abuse of 3,677 children over seven decades. Researchers said that many more cases probably existed because they were not allowed access to confidential records.

A Dutch newspaper found that 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops, and their auxiliaries are accused of covering up the sexual assault of children between 1945 and 2010, four of them accused of sexually abusing children. The report stated that the church destroyed files of accused clergy.

As states ponder dealing with Catholics abusing children, the evangelicals have decided that AG Jeff Sessions’ virulent anti-LGBTQ policies and “religious liberty” discrimination aren’t enough for their approval. Fundamentalist Christians are throwing him under the ever-growing bus because he recused himself from investigation into the Russian scandal after meeting with Russians during the campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Jerry Falwell Jr., is calling on DDT to fire Sessions because Sessions “really is not on the president’s team, never was.” Never mind that Sessions was the first senator to endorse DDT when he looked like a loser, agreeing with DDT’s hardline immigration policies. To Falwell and other evangelicals, the only real leader is the serial liar who attacks women.

At the “state dinner” with evangelicals, DDT told them that Democrats will “overturn everything that we’ve done … quickly and violently” if they get elected and called the election “a referendum on your religion.” To evangelicals, VP Mike Pence, the real believer, is invisible because they want power, not religion.

Evangelicals are also calling for parents to shun their LGBTQ children. “Ex-lesbian” Assemblies of God pastor Janet Boynes published an article on Charisma News, a Christian website, urging parents to refuse to meet their children’s partners and cut the children out of their life. Her solution:

“As pastors, people look to us to take the lead on showing love and hospitality, embracing those who do not know Christ…. You are willing to throw God under the bus because this is your child or loved one. What does that say to God about where your heart is?”

Last November, Ralph Shortey, an anti-LGBTQ former state senator in Oklahoma who served as DDT’s state GOP chair, was charged with felony child prostitution, child sex trafficking, and possession of child pornography. The 35-year-old father of four girls resigned from the state legislature last March after he was found in a hotel room with a 17-year-old male. Both were naked. Shortey cited his Christian beliefs as the reason that he voted against a transgender “bathroom bill” and for other anti-LGBTQ bills including a measure allowing business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people. He pled guilty to child sex trafficking and appeared in court last week, seeking leniency. In his 14 Craigslist ads, he sought a “boy,” offered sex with his wife, and requested group sex with strangers. On the message app Kik, some with usernames referencing child pornography, Shortey wanted interaction with children, listing his background as work as church bus driver and activities with the state YMCA Youth and Government programs and the state American Legion leadership week Boys State.

In Ohio, Wesley Goodman, a GOP first-term representative and proponent of “natural behavior,” resigned the week before Shortey’s fall after Goodman engaged in sexual activity with a male visitor in his legislative office. During his campaign years earlier, a father had gone to Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, to complain after Goodman sexually fondled his son. Perkins promised action but did nothing, and Goodman won his next election because evangelicals protected the sexual predator.

Another anti-LGBTQ “Christian” minister has resigned because of sexual misconduct and “undesired physical displays of affection.” Father Eric Dudley, married and father of three, left the Tallahassee St. Peter’s Anglican Church after complaints followed by an inquiry by senior priests. Dudley had left St. John’s Episcopal Church after ten years because of the Episcopalians’ pro-LGBTQ position and founded a church associated with the Anglican Church of Uganda. He called marriage equality a “well-oiled political scheme involving the media and Hollywood” that caused people to accept bisexuality, polyamory, and identification as “any gender.”

The Mormons also failed to refer cases of sex abuse allegations after investigating missionaries and a stake president. The leaked document read, “The missionary department is reluctant to send this elder home where he may face prosecution for a felony.” When a missionary accused of sexually abusing a child in a foreign country was sent back to the U.S., the Mormon leadership “determined no action would be taken.”

These sexual predators are only a few of the people who take the moral high ground in their war to make the United States a theocracy while abusing others.

Dylan Charles writes:

“Of the world’s two major religions, one is engaged in a generations long campaign of torture and murder of non-believers, and the other is always mired in sex scandals involving child rape, pedophilia, molestation and high level cover ups.”

These authoritarian religions control behavior from fear, forcing people to follow the leaders without doubt, without evidence. These rigid patterns eliminate the opportunity for open minds and education because dogmatic religious leaders don’t permit questioning. The superiority of conservative religious leaders—usually males—is rapidly taking over the United States. The leadership in the federal government, consumed by making more money, will do anything to get their own way—cheat, lie, abuse, cover up wrong doings. The result is a class society of haves and have nots in which people constantly experience more and more abuse—physical, sexual, and emotional.

September 4, 2018

Kavanaugh, Woodward, Plus More News

Democrats may not win the fight to keep Brett Kavanaugh out of the Supreme Court, but they’re putting up a good show. Only two nominees—Robert Bork and Harriet Miers—had lower poll ratings, and neither one was confirmed. Only 38 percent of people want Kavanaugh on the high court, and 39 percent think he should not be confirmed. Women in particular dislike him in their 46 percent opposition. One reason might be that he tried to imprison a 17-year-old immigrant pregnant from a rape although the Supreme Court has ruled that she had the right to one. Rachel Maddow has a 21-minute segment about Kavanaugh’s behavior on the bench that doesn’t match his assurance to gullible Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” In her opening statement at the hearing, Sen. Diane Feinstein explained how Kavanaugh has already ruled against Roe v. Wade. [visual]

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Kavanaugh started today, less than 15 hours after the White House finally released 42,000 pages of documents about him. In a fit of speed-reading, Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) claimed that he and his staff had reviewed all these documents in less than three hours. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) still withholds 93 percent of the records from the time when Kavanaugh was White House counsel and staff secretary for George W. Bush by invoking presidential privilege although Bush cleared the records for release. Some of these may have had to do with Kavanaugh’s support for torture. The White House alerted reporters to the Democrats’ comments, perhaps to show their obstruction. But instead the message may have been that an unindicted co-conspirator has nominated a justice for the nation’s highest court, one who he hopes will exonerate him by ruling that the president is above the law and refuses to release the nominee’s records.

Kavanaugh may also face questions about his possible lying under oath in an earlier confirmation hearing.

In a bad photo op for Kavanaugh, he refused to shake hands with the father of Jamie Guttenberg who was murdered at the Parkland (FL) high school earlier this year. Feinstein had introduced Fred Guttenberg (left) in the committee chambers so Kavanaugh knew who he was. Kavanaugh stared at him for a short time before he turned and walked away. When Kavanaugh returned, he bragged about coaching his daughter’s basketball team. Footage of the interaction with Guttenberg shows that the White House lied to cover up for Kavanaugh’s rude behavior.

Just when people thought that DDT had stopped fighting with AG Jeff Sessions, DDT spent the last day of his Labor Day weekend lambasting Sessions for the indictments of Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY) for misusing campaign funds/fraud and insider trading/securities fraud. DDT’s objection is that he wants the DOJ to hold off on prosecuting the charged congressional members so that they can win their districts. He is a loser in this argument; almost two-thirds of people oppose firing Sessions and back investigator Robert Mueller.

“So I have another bad book coming out. Big deal,” said DDT in a conversation with Bob Woodward about his new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, about DDT’s time in the White House. DDT spent most of the talk either claiming that he would have liked to talk to Woodward for the book, saying that no one had ever told him, and explaining what a wonderful job he was doing. Woodward told at least six people with access to DDT that he wanted to talk to DDT, but DDT claims that no one except maybe Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had mentioned it to him. Kellyanne Conway admitted on the conversation that Woodward had talked with her about an interview with DDT.

Woodward writes that DDT’s closest aides, including Gary Cohn and Rob Porter, hid papers from his desk to keep him from signing them because they viewed DDT as a danger to national security. Woodward reported that Chief of staff John Kelly described Trump as an “idiot” and “unhinged,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said DDT has the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader,” and former personal lawyer John Dowd called DDT “a fucking liar,” telling DDT he would end up in an “orange jump suit” if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller. Dowd resigned the day after DDT told him that he would be a “real good witness.” DDT called AG Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner”; DDT told Rudy Giuliani what he’s “like a little baby that needed to be changed.” Explaining his strategy in Afghanistan, DDT told his generals, “You should be killing guys.” Fortunately, Mattis didn’t kill Bashar al-Assad in April 2017 as DDT requested. The book portrays DDT as lonely and increasingly paranoid, obsessed with the media’s perception of him and with his base.

Fox analyst Howard Kurtz debunked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ defense by pointing out that sources for Woodward’s book are current as well as past employees.

U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia forces are deliberately bombing dozens of Yemeni civilians—some of them at least 40 children riding on a school bus in Yemen when they were taking a rare field trip. On the day of the attack, the head of the coalition stated that the bus was a “legitimate military target.” Later the report indicated that the attack was “unjustified” but only because the suspect was not on the bus, not that they had killed children. The U.S. sold the bomb to Saudi Arabians after DDT lifted the ban on these sales. DDT has said nothing about the tragedies in Yemen.

Desperate for new headquarters, the FBI lost their chance to move out of downtown Washington, D.C. across DDT’s hotel to the suburbs. DDT likely scuttled the deal to keep another hotel from moving into the area. Federal employees were ordered to not discuss any of his comments. To keep the FBI headquarters in place, officials greatly underestimated the cost of not moving the facility.

The white man who murdered two people at a video game tournament in Jacksonville (FL) and then turned the gun on himself to commit suicide has been described as having a mental illness. His easy access to guns was not responsible for the tragedy according to the state AG Pam Bondi; she blames the gathering of people to play video games, for example the football video game Madden. Intent on wiping out any taint of domestic terrorism by white men in the United States, Politico joined the myth by exonerating Timothy McVeigh of any terrorism. In 1995, the 27-year-old white man bombed a government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 680 others. Sam Anderson maintains that McVeigh was no terrorist—he was just depressed because his favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills, had started losing. Given his sad life, Anderson claims, “it is easy to imagine how this young man might have been lured into making a bad decision.” The article was abstracted from Anderson’s book Boom Town. Is it possible that the United States could reduce the murder and domestic terrorism rate by banning video games and football?

Pope Francis has a solution for the allegations that he covered up sex abuse by church leaders and lied about knowing nothing regarding his meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. He called for silence.

When he ran for president, DDT’s name was on 19 brands; now it’s on just one—furniture sold by a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.

DDT has reached 60 percent—in his disapproval rating. His approval rating is 36 percent, and 53 percent think that his interference with Mueller’s investigation is obstruction of justice. At 63 percent, an additional ten percent support the investigation. Mueller’s case against Manafort received 67 percent believing it was justified, and two-thirds oppose DDT’s pardoning Manafort. Sessions also gets 64 percent support from being fired, and 61 percent believe that DDT committed a crime if he told Cohen to make hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

DDT makes up his own approval ratings. In a call to a radio talk show, he said that he adds “another 7 or eight points’ to the existing approval rating, and at a rally in North Dakota, he recommended adding 12 to any of his polls.

DDT has greatly helped ratings for MSNBC and Rachel Maddow in particular. In August, MSNBC was the second-most-watched network across all of basic cable, and The Rachel Maddow Show was number one for total viewers on cable TV for the last week of August and top the 25-54 demographic throughout August, beating Sean Hannity. While MSNBC’s ratings rose over that in 2017, both CNN and Fox went down. All the MSNBC shows—Chris Hayes, Laurence O’Donnell, Brian Williams, Ari Melber, Hallie Jackson, Nicolle Wallace, Katy Tur, and Ali Velshi—had substantial gains and record-breaking numbers. Kudos to genuine news instead of screaming people and fake propaganda.

August 26, 2018

Religious Leadership, Abusive and in Control of the U.S.

The Nuns on the Bus are traveling again in October, this time from Los Angeles through 21 states with 54 events during their 27 days and aimed directly at Mar-a-Lago, where they finish with a “Fiesta for the Common Good.” For the sixth time since Sister Simone Campbell, leader of a Catholic social justice lobby, fired up her followers, the nuns plan to protest, this time the GOP tax plan just in time for people to pick their candidates at the 2018 general election. Critics of the $1.2 trillion tax cut, mostly going to the richest people and biggest corporations, point out that it increases the budget deficit and income inequality. Even worse, Republicans plan to use the tax cut’s deficit from giving money to the wealthiest Republicans to eliminate or at least reduce Social Security and Medicare.

After Pope Francis addressed a letter to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, lamenting the horrific sexual abuse by church leaders in Pennsylvania, Sister Simone spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The sister called on the pope to go beyond writing a letter and take action.

Goodman pointed out that she and the nuns, who fought for social justice, “were investigated more than any of these priests, who preyed on children and adults, seminarians as well.” “When attacked, let’s deflect it,” Sister Simone said to explain the Catholic approach toward the abuse. “We certainly see that in politics right now in our nation,” she added. Sister Simone called on “serious change” in the leadership in a church that ignores women in leadership positions.

“We have all this pious talk about how men and women are created in complementarity and all that, but then we leave women out entirely….”

Sister Simone and her small network was criticized by the Catholic church for “being a bad influence on Catholic sisters in the United States, because we worked too much on the issues of poverty.” The leadership’s focus on abortion and sexual orientation focuses its perspective on sex, “and they become the righteous judgers. And this is wrong. This is wrong.”

Asked if women should be priests, Sister Simone described the “priestly functions” that she performs and “should be acknowledged.” She also thinks that priests should be able to marry, the way that they could before 1200. At that time, a wife might be able to inherit a cathedral if she were married to a bishop. The solution was mandating celibacy.

Pope Francis’ letter promised that “no effort” will be spared to change a church culture that allows both the abuse and the conspiracy to hide it. In Ireland, where the pope is visiting, he may have trouble convincing people after his recent appointment of Philip Boyce as bishop. With only 160,000 residents, County Donegal has the worst record of sexual abuse in Ireland. Four of the 14 accused priests were convicted, including the Rev. Eugene Greene who was imprisoned for nine years after raping and molesting at least 26 boys between 1965 and 1982. Boyce refused to defrock Green in the late 1990s. Residents said that the pope’s appointment of Boyce belies his words, as Francis continues to shuffle along those who protect abusers.

In another case, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that Pope Francis ignored his information about Theodore Carrick by removing sanctions that Pope Benedict XVI placed on McCarrick in 2013. McCarrick, a long-time successful fundraiser for the Vatican, had been aged out of his position of Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Benedict’s sanctions limited him from leaving his residence at a seminary and performing public Mass. Francis repealed the sanctions and “continued to cover” for McCarrick, making him “his trusted counselor” who advised Francis on several bishop appointments in the United States. The Catholic Church made several settlements to McCarrick’s sexual abuse traced back 47 years, but the Church always covered for his activities until he was blocked from public ministry on June 20, 2018.

Viganò calls for Pope Francis and others involved in the coverup of McCarrick’s abuse to resign, adding that complicity of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s respective Secretary of States, Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone had led to the delay of the sanctions.  Benedict had ignored both of Viganò’s memos about McCarrick from 2006 and 2008 until Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and specialist in clerical sexual abuse, sent Benedict a statement about McCarrick’s abuse. Viganò also reinforced the record of cover-up in Honduras by Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and his record of cover-up in Honduras, saying the Pope “defends his man” to the “bitter end,” despite the allegations against him.

In the past three decades, the Catholic Church has paid out over $3.6 billion to settle abuse case.

During his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis largely addressed the “family” with no specifics about stopping the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor, called the pope’s remarks an “extraordinary deflection.” Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar spoke about actually doing something rather than merely express regret and sadness. Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor and the director of Amnesty International Ireland, called the pope’s remarks on Saturday morning an “extraordinary deflection.” He also said that the pope’s statement that Catholics should share the shame were an “insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institution church.”

Francis received a far more lukewarm greeting than the one for John Paul II in 1979, and thousands of protesters gathered in Dublin.

More deflection came from Cardinal Raymond Burke who blamed homosexuality for the child abuse, ignoring the science that this abuse is a sexual disorder, more common in men,that has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Men have more access to boys than girls, especially in the Catholic Church where women have few leadership responsibilities.

High profile U.S. Catholics such as Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington, canceled their trips to be with Francis in Ireland. O’Malley has been accused of concealing sexual abuse among clerics, including a 2015 report about McCarrick, and Wuerl, bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, granted reassignment and retirement requests to priests accused of sexual abuse without reporting their behavior. Current bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, claims that there are no confidentiality agreements about sexual abuse, but he offered a victim money for his children’s college tuition and some counseling in return for his silence.

A letter calling for the resignation of all U.S. bishops is gaining traction since massive reports of sexual abuse coverup; last May, Chile’s 34 bishops all resigned after a sexual abuse scandal. The letter declares:

“The catastrophic scale and historical magnitude of the abuse makes clear that this is not a case of ‘a few bad apples,’ but rather a radical systemic injustice manifested at every level of the Church. Systemic sin cannot be ended through individual goodwill.”

The Irish Catholic Church has a long history of abusing children and women. In a Catholic program that finally ended in 1996, at least 10,000 unmarried mothers or “morally wayward” women were enslaved against their wishes in Magdalene laundries where they worked for no pay, no pension, and no social protection—sometimes for their entire lives—to wash clothes and linens for major hotel groups and the Irish armed forces. The report begins only in 1922; they may have a much longer history.

Many of the women were sent to these laundries after they gave birth in homes run by nuns, one of the most infamous in the small town of Tuam. An investigation found a number of tiny skeletons on the grounds after an historian raised an alarm, who reported that almost 800 children, mistreated at the home are buried there. Her evidence comes from 800 death certificates found at the home, some of them with malnutrition as the cause, but records of only four burials. Conservative Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, ranted against any accusations against Catholic abuse, but Ireland has failed to continue its investigations after discovering the first 35 skeletons. Children who lived were all sent off to foster families.

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as Supreme Court justice, Catholicism will continue to dominate the high court with two-thirds constituency. Meanwhile, DDT is packing the other courts and the government agencies with radical fundamental Christians—almost all male and many of them also abusers. Running the U.S. House are a Catholic and a fundamentalist Christian—both male. Over 45 percent of Congress is Catholic—twice as many as the Catholic percentage in the U.S. Over half the U.S. population is female, but only 20 percent of Congress are women.

Most conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians don’t object to DDT’s sexual misconduct, cruelty, lies, and illegal activity. Until the conservative religious and male control of the United States changes, the nation will continue to be run by people who are obsessed with sex and have no interest in social justice.

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.

Next Page »

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: