Nel's New Day

July 27, 2018

Kavanaugh, A Disaster for the United States, Part 2

When Brett Kavanaugh accepted the nomination for Supreme Court justice, he gave a lovely speech, full of admiration for women and children and minorities. The wealth of his rulings and dissents show that much of what he said was a farce. Possibly even his wife thought so too, from the look on her face.

Separation of Powers – PHH Corp. v. CFPB (2017): Striking down the single-director structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Kavanaugh opposed the president’s needing a reason to fire the CFPB director. Later, the entire D.C. Circuit Court overrode Kavanaugh’s decision.

Abortion – Garza v. Hargan (2017): The complete D.C. Circuit Court vacated an order preventing an undocumented pregnant teenager from having an abortion. Kavanaugh dissented with the statement that “the en banc majority … reflects a philosophy that unlawful immigrant minors have a right to immediate abortion on demand, not to be interfered with even by government efforts to help minors navigate what is undeniably a difficult situation by expeditiously transferring them to their sponsors.” The 17-year-old girl had been held prisoner without permission to see a doctor to keep her from having an abortion as the administration tried to postpone any decision until the fetus was too developed for the procedure.

Contraception – Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2016): When the D.C. Circuit Court refused to hear a case about employers opting out of birth control coverage by submitting a form, dissented because of the employers’ “religious privilege.” Filling out the form seemed to burden their exercise of religion. Kavanaugh’s view is that courts must accept, without question, any religious claim because any employer has the right to deny birth control coverage to their employees through insurance.

Healthcare – Seven Sky v. Holder (2011): In dissenting to the ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act, Kavanaugh claimed the Anti-Injunction Act, “which carefully limits the jurisdiction of federal courts over tax-related matters.” He argued that a president is not required to enforce the ACA or any other law if he makes that choice. A pending lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of the ACA could be decided by the Supreme Court.

Voting Restrictions – South Carolina v. United States (2012): Kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding South Carolina’s voter ID law opposed by the DOJ because of serious racial disparities in photo ID requirements blocking over 60,000 minority registered voters from the polls.

Discrimination – Howard v. Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives (2013): Kavanaugh’s dissent in this case, if successful, would ban workers in congressional offices from suing on the basis of racism, sexual harassment, and retaliation.  He also claimed in Miller v. Clinton (2012) that the State Department is exempt from being sued for age discrimination. In Rattigan v. Holder (2012), Kavanaugh dissented from the majority rule that a black FBI agent could pursue a case of inappropriate retaliation for filing a discrimination claim when the agency began a security investigation against him.

Hostility to Workers’ Rights – SeaWorld of Fla., LLC v. Perez (2014): Kavanaugh opposed a majority ruling upholding a safety citation after a trainer died while working with an orca that had previously killed three other trainers. He said that the government shouldn’t be responsible for protecting these workers. The nominee has a pattern of ruling against workers in other issues such as worker privacy and union disputes. In National Labor Relations Board v. CNN America, Inc. (2017) Judge Kavanaugh dissented from the majority opinion upholding a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) order that CNN recognize and bargain with a worker’s union. and finding that CNN violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by discriminating against union members in hiring. Another Kavanaugh dissent in National Federation of Federal Employees v. Vilsack (2012) called for drug testing despite the lack of policy. His majority ruling in American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO v. Gates (2007) could allow the Secretary of Defense to eviscerate collective bargaining.

Immigration – Fogo de Chao Inc. v. Department of Homeland Security (2014): The case agreed that specialized cultural knowledge regarding Brazilian-style cooking was valid for a temporary visa, but Kavanaugh wanted to exclude “any and all knowledge or skills … learned from family or community rather than in-company trainers.”

Gun ownership – Heller v. District of Columbia (2011): The ruling in the D.C. Circuit Court supported a law that prohibited assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and that required certain firearms to be registered. Kavanaugh dissented: “semi-automatic rifles, like semi-automatic handguns, have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens for self-defense in the home, hunting, and other lawful uses.” He also stated, “A ban on a class of arms is … equivalent to a ban on a category of speech.” The Supreme Court later overturned Heller.

Net Neutrality – United States Telecom Association v. FCC (2017): After a panel of judges ruled that internet service providers cannot discriminate among content providers, the D.C. Circuit Court refused to rehear the case. Kavanaugh dissented, claiming that the FCC should rely on the 1934 Communications Act which does not allow the FCC to regulate Internet service providers.” The FCC now permits this discrimination.

Environment – EME Homer City Generation, L.P. v. EPA (2012): Kavanaugh wrote the opinion in this decision that the EPA could not require companies to replace refrigerant chemicals of greenhouse gasses with more sustainable alternatives.  In his dissent to White Stallion Energy Ctr. LLC v. EPA (2014), he stated that the EPA should have considered the cost to the power industry before regulating toxic air pollution. The Supreme Court cited his dissent when it reversed the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling that had upheld the standards. In Howmet Corp. v. EPA (2010) Kavanaugh dissented from a decision to approve an EPA fine of over $300,000 against a company that had improperly shipped a corrosive chemical to be added to fertilizer without properly labelling it and taking other precautions to treat it as a hazardous waste.

Unlimited Campaign Donations – EMILY’s List v. Federal Election Commission (2009): Kavanaugh wrote the opinion that led to the creation of super PACs. In Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission (2016), he wrote the opinion which Demos and Campaign Legal Center called “a novel theory that would limit disclosure based on a spender’s tax-status, a theory subsequently rejected by a three-judge court and the Supreme Court.”

A civil rights group wrote:

“Judge Kavanaugh’s 12-year record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as well as his known writings, speeches, and legal career, demonstrate that if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would be the fifth and decisive vote to undermine many of our core rights and legal protections.  In case after case, he has ruled against individuals and the environment in favor of corporations, the wealthy, and the powerful.  He has advanced extreme legal theories to overturn longstanding precedent to diminish the power of federal agencies to help people.  And he has demonstrated an expansive view of presidential power that includes his belief that presidents should not be subject to civil suits or criminal investigations while in office despite what misconduct may have occurred.”

Putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court can vastly increase the economic inequality in a nation where it is greater than at any time during almost a century, an equality marked by gender and race. Lack of healthcare in the United States has caused it to have a higher maternal mortality rate than any other developed country. Taking contraception from women keeps many of them from getting and keeping jobs, advancing their careers, furthering their education, and financially supporting themselves. The loss of contraception also produces higher abortion rates.

In the past century, unions have been responsible for decreasing income inequality. As the number of people in unions grew, so did the percentage of people in the middle class. The reverse is also true, especially for women who comprise the majority of public sector workers that Janus v. AFSCME has tried to destroy. The day after the Supreme Court decision allowed workers to have union benefits without charge, it authorized crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to continue to lie to women about their services and the dangers of abortions. Two weeks later, the current administration proposed prevention of home care workers unions.

Brett Kavanaugh is part of the conservative strategy to demolish the structure that attempts to protect the well-being of women and families, the foundation for the United States’ economy and democracy. Gone will be reproductive rights for women, safety and privacy rights for workers, union rights, individual rights, immigration rights, voting rights, religious rights, a clean environment, etc. Big business will be god, and the president will be above the law.

With Kavanaugh as justice—or someone like him—the Supreme Court will be a disaster for the nation.

May 11, 2018

DDT: Weeks 67-68 – Iran, North Korea Plus Religion, Giuliani

Catching up on the last two weeks of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) roller-coaster events:

Will the United States go to war to support Israel? That question may be front and center now that DDT has withdrawn from the Iran agreement for that nation’s denuclearization. Israel fired on targets in Syria that were believed to be Iranian soon after DDT’s withdrawal. Claims that Iran fired 20 rockets at the Golan Heights the most extensive Israeli bombing on Syria since the countries signed a disengagement agreement after the October war of 1973. Israel has illegally occupied Golan Heights since the Six-Day War in 1967. DDT’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are scheduled to arrive in Israel soon for the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has assured Israel that the U.S. will stand at its side in a fight.

DDT’s officials are circulating a report from Securities Studies Group, an organization with ties to DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton, that provides strategy for a regime change in Iran is being circulated among DDT’s officials. The plan is to stir unrest and help the Iran public to drive a wedge between the people and the nation’s rulers. The plan sounds identical to Russia’s approach to control the 2018 presidential election.

Israel’s military escalation came after DDT decided to please some of his constituents—including Vladimir Putin and Israel—by withdrawing from the Iranian deal. Russia’s economy desperately needs the rubles from the increase in oil prices if Iranian resources aren’t available. At the same time, Russia is concerned about Israel’s attacks on Iran, but DDT may side with Israel, again separating him from Putin. Perhaps DDT figures that a world war would allow him to declare military law, like in Turkey, so that he can remain dictator forever. Bernard Avishai discusses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motivations and the dangers of his country in pushing a war in the Middle East.

DDT announced his withdrawal several days before the deadline at the same time the media jumped on the millions of dollars in “pay to play” paid to his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for access to DDT. Since payments made to DDT’s personal lawyer were first announced, the amount has vastly grown, for example AT&T’s $600,000 to Cohen for access to DDT instead of $200,000. CEO Randall Stephenson called Cohen’s hiring “a big mistake,” and top lobbyist for the company, Bob Quinn, has retired. Quinn was a leader in opposing net neutrality. AT&T also paid Cohen to get approval for its $85 billion merger with Time Warner. Drugmaker Novartis agreed that its $1.2 million contract with Cohen was “a mistake.” Reports as of now show that Cohen was paid $2.95 million through Essential Consultants, the shell company Cohen set up to funnel hush money to Stormy Daniels and perhaps others. The involved companies learned about Essential Consultants because Cohen reached out to them.

In his work to guarantee never-ending war for the U.S., former VP Dick Cheney, who mythologized weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, went on Fox Business directing DDT to believe the falsehood that Iran has these weapons. He also encouraged the continuation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture).

DDT is also hoping that people will ignore all the Russia and Cohen scandals because three U.S. prisoners have been released from North Korea. He also hopes that his talks with North Korea will result in his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, even encouraging his rally crows to chant, “No-bel, No-bel. When the prisoners arrived at 3:00 am, he said, “I think you probably broke the all time in history television rating for three o’clock in the morning.” DDT also thanked North Korean president Kim Jong-Un “ who really was excellent to these three incredible people.” They had been imprisoned for at least a year, and one of them had been sentenced to ten years’ hard labor in one of the world’s most brutal prisons. DDT plans to meet with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on June 12.

While people become excited about the release of prisoners in North Korea, they forget the four U.S. citizens still held in Iran for longer than the newly released NK ones. DDT’s withdrawal spells disaster for these people, one of them 81 years old. Another two U.S. men are still illegally imprisoned in Turkey. 

Although DDT’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared on Sean Hannity only nine days ago, so much has happened that it could have been last year. Giuliani, DDT’s lawyer for one day, said that DDT had paid Cohen $35,000 a week to clean up hush money to Stormy Daniels about her affair with DDT as well as “things that might come up.” DDT first agreed that he paid off Daniels and then tried to deny that he did, going so far as to say that Giuliani “will get his fact straight.” Giuliani lacks the skill to stay quiet, a serious problem in court. (Transcript for the program.)  Giuliani went on another talk show to say that he knew the payment didn’t look good immediately before the election but changed his story to say that the settlement was made solely “to protect the President’s family.” He also might be waiving attorney-client privilege by saying that he had conferred with DDT before he talked about DDT paying Cohen. About the payoff, Giuliani said:

“I don’t think the president realized he paid him back for that specific thing until we made him aware of the paperwork.”

Despite being released from his law firm and claiming “sole concentration” as DDT’s lawyer, Giuliani appeared in a Florida court today to represent a woman accused of purchasing car insurance ten minutes after her car crash. He isn’t licensed to practice law in Florida but said the woman was her personal assistant.

DDT’s staff tried to prep him in advance of any interview with Robert Mueller, but he could answer only two questions in four hours. The argument might be that an interview could cut into time for his important work in the Oval Office, but evidence indicates that he “works” less than two hours a day. DDT is still falsely accusing that the investigators are Democrats as he continues his rant against the investigation. DDT is back to saying that he wants an interview with Mueller, but most people no longer believe him.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) issued DOJ with a subpoena after he was refused extensive information about a longtime intelligence source for the CIA and FBI with the concern that the source could be jeopardized if Nunes discovers the person’s identity. Common knowledge indicates that Nunes wants the information to take to the White House. DOJ officials offered a classified briefing about his demand, but Nunes threatened a contempt charge against AG Jeff Sessions. He also has not bothered to read earlier classified information that he demanded. Nunes is under investigation for three potential campaign law violations.

Giuliani’s bombshell about DDT’s paying off Stormy Daniels intersected with DDT’s appearance for the day of prayer, causing CNBC to tweet, “Trump leads National Prayer Day event after saying he repaid lawyer for hush money to porn star.” DDT signed the “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” that permits religious organizations to use taxpayer money to discriminate on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, allow religious organizations to be “experts” for public policy, remove requirements that religious groups refer anyone objecting to their teachings to other programs, and use his new “faith-based office” to guarantee no blocking of “liberty of conscience” of believers. (Sounds like Sharia law for evangelicals.) The major groups wanting to deny services to LGBTQ people are Mormons and white evangelicals, 20 percent of the population. Among that 20 percent, 47 percent think that it’s wrong to refuse business based on religious convictions.

States such as Kansas and Oklahoma are already passing laws permitting adoption agencies to prevent same-gender couples from adopting children. A lesbian couple in Mississippi was denied an adoption by the state the day before they were scheduled to take their daughter home despite a court ruling that the Mississippi’s ban on same-gender adoptions was struck down by a federal judge in 2016. In another case, the state Supreme Court ruled that a lesbian couple could divorce; a dissenting justice, Jess Dickinson, is now head of the agency denying the couple their legally adopted child. Bryan Fischer, former spokesman for the American Family Association (AFA), announced on his show that only Christians have First Amendment rights and protections.

Anti-LGBTQ preacher Kevin Swanson will hold the Bible Family Conference in Washington, D.C. on August 10-11. He wants to execute all LGBTQ people and all Girls Scout leaders because they support LGBTQ and women’s rights. He also wants Boy Scouts, now called Scouts BSA because it recruits girls as well as boys, to have a “sodomy merit badge” because openly gay scouts can join the organization. The name of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) has disappeared as keynote speaker.

The six worst states for LGBTQ support are Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

More later!

November 9, 2014

Christians Attempt to Subsume Freedom in U.S.

When I write my weekly blog on religion, I worry that I’m obsessed with it. At least one newly-elected senator shows that I’m right to be worried about the growing flood of intolerant Christians.  For example, James Lankford, Oklahoma’s GOP senator-elect, who plans to use his Christian bible to make decisions:

“I look at Nehemiah and how he handled things when he stepped into Jerusalem. It was that the people were in disgrace and the wall was broken down, but the two things that he focused in on was the constructive side of things and the debt. Half of the Book of Nehemiah is just getting the people out of debt, so they could actually take on the other things.”

Think Progress gave the award for most extreme election winner to Colorado’s state senator Gordon Klingenschmitt with his history of attempting to run the country according to his personal Christian beliefs.

In a prayer “against the enemies of religious liberty”—anyone who disagrees with him–he said, “Let their days be few, and replace them with godly people. Plunder their fields and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants. And remember their sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

He blessed Lowes Home Improvement stores for stopping its advertising on the TV show All-American Muslim, which is nothing but Islamic propaganda.” According to Klingenschmitt, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act promotes beastiality, and “federal bureaucrats will enforce Obamacare to exterminate the elderly, systematically.” He tells everyone to get a gun, “sell your clothes and buy a gun.”

Klingenschmitt is big on exorcisms: “I said, “You foul spirit of lesbianism, this woman has renounced you, come out of her in Jesus’ name,’ and she began to wrestle with that and suddenly her eyes began to bug out and then she began to weep, and weep, and weep as the Holy Spirit forgave her sins.” He also performed one on President Obama long-distance on his television show when he tried to remove “the demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant … to oppress us.” In his book, The Demons of Barack H.Obama, Klingenschmitt claims he discovered fifty demons “ruling” Obama , including the dark spirits of “sexual abuse,” “genocide,” “paganism,” “witchcraft,” and “homosexual lust.” Klingenschitt’s overriding policy is that “only people who are going to heaven are entitled to equal treatment by the government.”

Another example of the merging of church and state is Ava Maria (FL), billed as a utopia where kids are safe, neighbors are friends, and life is good. Created in 2005 by Domino Pizza’s founder, Tom Monahan with Barron Collier companies, it’s a place where then-governor and possible future presidential candidate Jeb Bush described it as “a new kind of town where like-minded people live in harmony between faith and freedom.” That’s because Monahan intends to create the city “according to strict Roman Catholic principles”—no sale of pornography, any contraception (including condoms), and X-rated channels on cable TV. Monahan also created the Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law where Justice Antonin Scalia had “significant input” in the law school’s curriculum.

The ACLU started paying attention to the religious control of Ave Maria when Naples Community Hospital negotiated with Ave Maria to open offices in the town. That process brought the questions that all Catholic control brings: would the hospital respect an order of Do Not Resuscitate? what advice and referrals would a rape victim get? would she get information about abortion of emergency contraceptives? Eventually Ave Maria did not get a Naples Community Hospital satellite because the health center refused to restrict the availability of birth control, abortion, and abortion referrals.

As Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out, Ave Maria is not an anomaly. Among insular religious communities attempt in the U.S. are Zion (IL), founded in 1901; Rehoboth (DE), founded in 1873; and Ocean Grove (NJ), founded in 1869. Although these municipalities are now secular, other such as Kiryas Joel (NY), Hildale (UT), and Colorado City (AZ) still exert religious authority over their residents.

“Historically,” Boston adds, “one of two things typically happens in places run by religious denominations. First, outsiders often move in and change the character of the area. Secondly, these communities tend to be riven by internal dissent.” In Hildale and Colorado City, run by polygamist Warren Jeffs before his 2010 imprisonment on child endangerment and sexual abuse charges, so-called “outsiders” have had to contact the FBI and Department of Justice because they were denied housing and public utilities.

Police in another Utah town, St. George, closed down a party because people were dancing without the permission of the city council. Organizer Jared Keddington had even gotten a permit from the council, but the police said that it was missing pages that Jeddington had not received that stated the party could not allow “random acts of dancing by patrons.”

Kiryas Joel, 50 miles north of New York City, is an enclave of over 22,000 Hasidic Jews. The New York ACLU learned in late 2012 that the town planned to make a public 283-acre park into a sex-segregated play area restricting boys and girls according to the town leaders’ religious law. Fifteen months later the suit was dropped after the town removed signs mandating the separation of genders.

Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow at Political Research Associates, quoted Thomas Jefferson when he talked about whether a town can take away individual rights: “Are you as free to go out of a church as you are to go into one? Or are you a captive of the company store?”

Determined to keep students ignorant, the Gilbert School District in Arizona voted 3-2 to tear out pages from the biology book used in the schools Advanced Placement curriculum. The offending portion of the textbook describes methods of contraception and includes Mifepristone, also called RU486, that can terminate pregnancies in their early stages. Members of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom objected to this information and claimed that it violated a state law requiring schools to emphasize childbirth and adoption over adoption. One of the minority said that the textbook “discussed biological principles and in a very understandable way.”

The ACLU protested the censorship, and a state Department of Education official agreed that the textbook doesn’t violate the law. Texas also wants censorship about climate change, affirmative change, and segregation while trying to teach students that Moses inspired modern American democracy. Last year, the Kentucky governor used an executive order to provide accurate science standards in public schools after the legislature tried to do away with these.

Actions in West High School in Tracy (CA) invite a challenge to school policies. Assigned to lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance, Derek Giardina, 17, received detention and a considerably lowered grade after he omitted the words “under God,” added to the Pledge in 1954. A California high school is practically begging to be sued in court after school officials punished a student for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance without the words “under God.” The school demanded the “traditional way,” used for less than half the time since a Christian Socialist wrote the Pledge in 1892.

Arizona’s GOP Rep.Trent Franks has also gained notoriety by warning that ISIS will succeed because “the secular left” in the United States is diluting the country’s Christian heritage. He claims that secularism is telling people in the United States that they can’t wear crosses, say “God bless you,” and show Bibles. According to Franks, a lawsuit is trying to take religious icons from tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. In fact, the United States government has approved 65 religious symbols for engraving on markers in national veterans’ cemeteries.

In a reversal of Christian beliefs in Florida, even Jesus would be arrested in Fort Lauderdale if he tried to hand out loaves and fishes. Ninety-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested and is facing 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for giving food to homeless people. This didn’t stop the man who has been giving food to the homeless for 23 years; he was back, doing the same thing, after his arrest. As Stephen Colbert pointed out on his show, this is the same town where police ignore college students drinking, puking, and partying with abandon every spring.

Neo-Confederates in Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union, are trying to declare the state Christian and English-only, designate “Dixie” as the official state song, and require preservation of Confederate symbols at the University of Mississippi. The proposed initiative also establishes a Confederate History Month and a Confederate Memorial Day. Its rationale is that “the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues. Accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens.”

Meanwhile, a federal district court in Oregon has declared that Secular Humanism is a religion, defined as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces.” Humanism may end up the same special rights as traditional religions. California’s West High School might want to take notice.

February 24, 2013

Aim for Freedom from Religion

All the scandals swirling about the Catholic Church and the pope may be shaking up the leadership. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland and the only cardinal invited to next month’s conclave, said that priests should be able to get married:

“For example the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry–Jesus didn’t say that. There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the church–in some branches of the Catholic church–priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine of origin and it could get discussed again. I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.”

Celibacy has not always been a mandate in the Catholic Church. Most of Jesus’s apostles were married, and priests could be married until the eleventh century when Pope Gregory VII required that priests be celibate. Before then six popes had families with some of their sons then becoming popes.

The German Bishops Conference now says that Catholic hospitals can give emergency contraception to rape victims. After two Cologne Catholic hospitals turned away a rape victim, Cardinal Joachim Meisner said that the church was “deeply ashamed by this incident because it goes against our Christian mission.” Pope Benedict XVI’s secretary, Georg Gaenswein, told him that it was “justifiable” in rape cases to provide drugs to prevent conception. The Catholic Church, unlike many Evangelical fundamentalists, understands that “the ‘morning-after pill,’ …  has a preventive and not an abortive effect.”

At this time, however, the Catholic Church is confused about whether a fetus is a person. To some of the leaders, it may depend on whether denying the “personhood” of a fetus, as they are wont to do, will save them money. The decision goes back to a case in 2006 when a woman seven-months pregnant with twins went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More hospital in Canon City (CO) and suffered a massive heart attack. Her obstetrician, on call for emergencies that night, failed to answer a page, and the woman died. The fetuses did not survive.

The woman’s husband filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, maintaining that the doctor should have answered the page, told the hospital staff to perform a C-section, and possibly saved the fetuses. The hospital’s defense was to claim that this was not a wrongful-death case because the fetuses were not people.

Recent publicity surrounding the Catholic hospital’s defense of the lawsuit led them to declare that their original defense was “morally wrong,” but they blamed the lawyers for using this defense without the hospital’s approval.

This past week the National Organization of Marriage accused state Sen. Pat Steadman of being contemptuous of religion in response to Steadman’s speech on discrimination and marriage equality:

“Don’t claim religion as a reason the law should discriminate. We have laws against discrimination. Discrimination is banned in employment, and housing, and public accommodations, and so bakeries that serve the public aren’t supposed to look down their noses at one particular class of persons and say ‘we don’t sell cakes to you.’ It’s troubling, this discrimination. And it’s already illegal.

“So, what to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate? I’ll tell you what I’d say: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’ And live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself. Away from the stream of commerce where you may have to serve them or employ them or rent banquet halls to them.

“Go some place and be as judgmental as you like. Go inside your church, establish separate water fountains in there if you want, but don’t claim that free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains for her citizens. That’s not what we’re doing here.”

LGBT people aren’t the only ones who suffer from religious bigotry. After 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist sued a Rhode Island school because of its prayer mural dedicated to “Our Heavenly Father,” a florist refused to send a dozen red roses that the Freedom from Religion Foundation ordered for her, citing “religious reasons.” The FtF is now suing Marina Plowman, owner of Twins Florist in Cranston, on the basis that she violated state laws. Metaphorical roses have now been sent by Hemant Mehta: he started a scholarship fund for her which has reached almost $50,000.

Another Colorado organization is using a biblical passage for positive results. According to Isaiah 2:4,

“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

That’s exactly what the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission did. Partnering with Mike Martin of RAWtools—“war” spelled backwards—the group promoting social justice and sustainability has launched the “Guns-to-Gardens Tools” project. Colorado Springs Mike Warren, kicked off the event by donating the AK-47 assault rifle that he bought after the 9/11 attacks.

“I always had it in the back of my mind, there might be something I needed it for,” Warren said. “Sounds stupid now.” He added, “This thing will turn a human being into rags. The fact of the matter is, upon reflection, I concluded that it would be stupid for me to keep thing.” Martin said the gun will be “a garden trowel, a cultivator and a weed puller,” donated to Ranch Community Garden, a non-profit project that provides plots to local residents who lack garden space.

Religion is losing its control over government. Barna Group found that 66 percent of Americans believe that no one set of religious values should dominate in the U.S. On the other hand, 23 percent believe “traditional Judeo-Christian values” should be given preference over competing faiths. Only among evangelical Christians does that percentage rise to 54 percent.

It gives hope to those of us who believe that constitutional separation of church and state means freedom from religion for all.

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