Nel's New Day

April 17, 2017

Pence, A Scary Dude

The far-right and even a few liberal pundits had a meltdown a few weeks ago about ridicule and outrage directed toward VP Mike Pence. The subject was the “Billy Graham Rule” of 1948 that banned men from certain social and business situations. A man cannot have dinner alone with another woman: he must take his wife with him. In addition, a man cannot be without his wife if he is with other people where alcohol is served. I don’t know if a man can have coffee alone with a woman; I haven’t read the complete code.

In the 21st century, the United States vice president has a behavioral code that diminishes women to sluts who will all attack a man if they are alone with him at a dinner. And he’s not alone in this belief: females are frequently made responsible for all male transgressions toward them—infidelity, sexual assault, etc. Beyond demeaning women, the “rule” removes women from all professional interactions in networking, mentoring, and one-to-one time. An anonymous 2015 National Journal survey of female staffers in Congress showed that exclusion from one-on-one time with their male bosses was a “huge impediment to moving up.”

For centuries, women have been “protected” from opportunities in education and the job market. The discrimination starts early with school dress codes only for girls. For example, a dress code in a North Carolina public charter school requires girls to wear skirts and bans their wearing pants. The school’s founder, Baker Mitchell, explained that the mandate is “to preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men” and that a woman is “a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor.” A school board supported the requirement as preparation for workplaces with gendered clothing, beginning with an example of the restaurant Hooters.

All school dress codes for girls follow Pence’s example—that they are a “distraction” to males: it’s the female responsibility to control men’s “baser urges.” Enforcement is then used to shame and victim-blame girls. Another solution in schools for “protection” is single-sex classrooms, following the Pence Plan. School officials reason that teenage boys are “distracted” from school work by the presence of girls. The program is not intended to teach young people to work together as equals because in a Pence World, there is no need.

A serious disadvantage of the Pence Plan for more secular people is that, as a far-right evangelical Christian, he thinks that everyone should behave in the way that he does. “Religious freedom” allows anyone to deny everyone else anything if the “religious” person disagrees with the beliefs or actions of the other person. If a Muslim, such as Keith Ellison, were to refuse to have dinner alone with a woman not his wife, evangelicals would be grabbing their petitions to prevent Sharia Law. The former CEO of the blog RedState agreed with the Pence Plan saying that his eating alone with woman not his spouse is acceptable only for “planning your spouse’s surprise party or funeral and that is it.” He is a strong supporter of the party that elected the man who rejoiced in his right to grab “pussy” whenever he wished.

Melania Trump, almost invisible in her role as First Lady, said in a speech at the state department’s International Women of Courage Awards:

“We must continue to fight injustice in all its forms, in whatever scale or shape it takes in our lives.”

Yet that same week during Women’s History Month, Press Secretary Sean Spicer ordered reporter April Ryan not to shake her head at him, and Fox host (maybe) Bill O’Reilly, known for his sexual assaults, ridiculed Rep. Maxine Walters’ (D-CA) hair. DDT asked a group of women if they had ever heard of Susan B. Anthony. In Iowa, a legislator wants a pregnant woman to carry her dead fetus to term because it “saves babies’ lives.”

The day after he addressed a “Women’s Empowerment Panel” at the White House, VP Mike Pence cast the 51st deciding vote to stop mandates for states to deliver family planning services to people with low income through Planned Parenthood—about four million patients across the nation. Spicer said that DDT “made women’s empowerment a priority,” but Pence took away women’s empowerment to get contraceptives, well-woman exams, and cancer screenings. Pence, like DDT, has meetings with no or few women present. Far-right males love this position because of their anger about losing their rightful superiority to women and minorities. Their ticket won with the biggest gender gap in a presidential election while men wore “Trump That Bitch” T-shirts. Pence has joined DDT in removing the ability of women to decide their futures—even when or if to have children. The game plan is to win the next election with male-domination.

Those who want to impeach DDT need to think about the fact that DDT is the only person blocking the United States from male Christian domination by the Family or the Fellowship, an evangelical cult with an office on Capitol Hill.  In his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Jeff Sharlett writes:

“The enemy, to them, is secularism. They want a God-led government. That’s the only legitimate government. So when they speak of business, they’re speaking not of something separate from God, but they’re speaking of what, in Mike Pence’s circles, would be called biblical capitalism, the idea that this economic system is God-ordained.”

An example of Pence’s determination to overcome government officials is his hiring a private law firm when Indiana’s attorney general refused to join a lawsuit to overturn President Obama’s executive order about immigrants, charging taxpayers for the cost, and then hiding information about it. When a citizen filed a public records request for the cost and other communications, Pence argued that the courts had no control over what he chose to reveal. An appeals court rejected Pence’s argument but agreed with Pence that the information was privileged attorney-client communication. The basis of the lawsuit, originated by Texas senior official Daniel Hodge, is its attempt to control executive orders—which should be embarrassing for a man who works for a president who constantly signs executive orders. Before DDT, Pence agreed that “the unchecked expansion of executive authority … threatens the constitutional balance of power.” That argument has disappeared with a Republican president. Another Pence problem is the scrutiny regarding his use of a private email account to conduct state business while he was Indiana’s governor. Pence frequently criticized Hillary Clinton for her private email server.

Pence’s issues go far deeper than the problems listed above. Following is my letter published in the Eugene Register Guard:

People who believe that the “scientific method … is in no danger from Vice President Mike Pence’s … religion” should consider his history. As governor of Indiana, he signed a bill into law forcing women to carry non-viable pregnancies to term. Not only anti-abortion in all cases, he also cosponsored legislation to ban common forms of contraception, stem-cell research, and in vitro fertilization. Believing that LGBT people can be made heterosexual, he supported electroshock therapy for LGBT children and fought marriage equality. His opposition to HIV/AIDS programs started a full-blown epidemic in his own state.

In his refusal to believe science, he said “global warming is a myth” and thinks that smoking isn’t harmful to health because only one-third of smokers die from a smoking-related illness. According to Pence, even the smallest quantity of cannabis possession should be a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Pence refused to comply with federal rules to reduce prison rape, tried to ban state agencies from bringing Syrian refugees into his state, and defended the Iraq War, calling it a “victory.”

Mike Pence is anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-elders, anti-poor, anti-environment, anti-nonChristian, anti-media, anti-science, and pro-war. He is more dangerous than the current president because he is a religious zealot, determined to force everyone in the nation to follow his far-right non-scientific evangelical Christian view of the world. None of his beliefs have any connection with “the scientific method.”

More information about Pence is here and here.

Mike Pence is now playing president in Asia, claiming that “the era of strategic patience is over” with North Korea and that the bombing of Syria and Afghanistan shows our “strength and resolve.” No matter how tough Pence tries to look, he’ll have trouble out-bullying Kim Jong-Un. The result may be another war in Korea—if we don’t expire from nuclear weapons. But then Pence loves a good holy war. At least the military–not Pence or DDT–is making all decisions regarding strikes, bombings, and other warlike activities. Even with all the civilians who they have killed, the Pentagon may have more sense than the two men elected vice president and president.

January 17, 2016

Nikki Haley Wrong about Religion

Filed under: Discrimination,Religion — trp2011 @ 7:56 PM
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South Carolina governor shows her ignorance in claiming that the U.S. has “never…done anything based on race or religion.”

South Carolina Nikki Haley gave a far better presentation following President Obama’s State of the Union speech than Republicans have done so in previous years. Her pearly whites sparkled, she didn’t reach for any water, and she looked at the right camera. The GOP presidential wannabe did manage to offend her own party by partially telling the truth—that the GOP is somewhat to blame for the country’s problems.

She also made a huge gaff in her speech, however, when she said that “we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.” Born in South Carolina to Indian Sikh parents, she may have not been educated about the U.S. Constitution originally counting a black person as 3/5 of a person or keeping blacks as slaves before the Civil War. She also skipped over the Jim Crow years that kept blacks from voting and white people lynched blacks with impunity. Perhaps she thinks that the discriminatory voting laws in her own state at the current time come from a rejection of poor people rather than people of color.

How she could have missed the “done anything based on … religion,” I don’t know. Here are a few examples.

Kentucky conservatives are considering a bill to postpone the opening of school for the 2016/17 session so that Ken Ham will make more money for his creationist museum that shows people living at the same time as dinosaurs. The state has already given Ham money to build the place.

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court justice in perpetuity, said that the constitution does not provide religious neutrality in a speech at Archbishop Rummel High School, a Louisiana school. He explained to his audience that the United States is successful because of God and that the government should honor the Christian deity.

Rep. David Brat (R-VA), replacement for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said that President Obama should not be allowed to use the Bible’s position on Syrian refugees because conservatives “own” Christianity. Brat further complained that the president is “using the Christian tradition and trying to bring about compassion by bonking Republicans over the head with the Bible. It’s almost a comedy routine on what compassion and love is. He’s mocking his enemies in order to compel a larger federal state using the tradition of love.”

Taxpayers are forced to support Catholic hospitals who typically refuse women simple procedures because of Catholic belief that voluntary sterilization is intrinsically evil. Women getting C-sections have to leave the Catholic hospital to get a tubal ligation. When Rebecca Chamorro sued Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center for refusing “pregnancy-related care” for non-medical reasons, illegal in California, a San Francisco Superior Court judge declined to issue an emergency order to allow Chamorro’s the procedure, requiring her to have two separate surgeries at two different hospitals. Catholics are taking over hospitals at such a high rate than millions of women in the United States lack easy access to non-Catholic hospitals.

According to a poll, 82 percent of people in the U.S. place the highest priority on preserving religious freedom for Christians while protecting other religions—or non-religion—is lower. For many people, freedom of religion is only for religions that they like and doesn’t apply to all, as the Constitution states. Rick Santorum argued in a recent debate for GOP presidential candidates that Islam doesn’t deserve religious liberty because it’s also Sharia law. He said nothing about laws in the United States based on Christian religion.

Although marriage equality is now legal in the United States, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of people have refused to issue licenses to lesbians and gays or to marry same-gender couples. Santorum also said in last week’s debate that the economy won’t improve as long as “gays” have children.

Pam Martens and Russ Martens reported on the persecution of Muslims in the U.S.:

“Mosques in 31 states in America have been the targets of firebombs, arson, acid attacks, gunfire, hate speech or other forms of religious intolerance since 2005. In Joplin, Missouri, a mosque’s sign was torched in 2008. Four years later, its roof was set on fire with the perpetrator caught on a surveillance video. One month later, in August 2012, the mosque was burned to the ground.

“In 2008, Chris Rodda, reporting for the Huffington Post, wrote about Muslim babies and children being gassed in an attack on a mosque in Dayton, Ohio during the same week that a DVD of the race-baiting, anti-Muslim documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was mailed to thousands of households in Ohio and inserted into newspapers around the state….

“Approximately 100 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times, distributed millions of these DVDs. Including the direct mail campaign, 28 million DVDs flooded households in key states.”

Anti-Muslim writer David Horowitz took an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” program to more than 100 college campuses. Tracing the money for the creation and distribution of the DVD led to right-wing billionaire Charles Koch.   The money behind the distribution came from right-wing billionaire Charles Koch.

What has religion “done” in the United States? It’s made people ignorant through using Christianity in place of education; it’s killed LGBT people and denied them jobs and housing; it’s blocked health care for women and kept them subjugated to men; it’s heightened racist beliefs; it’s denied women equal rights; it’s stopped immigration reform; it’s decimated the Native American population and taken their lands; and it’s set the United States back almost a century in many other ways.

When domestic terrorists kill people in the United States on the basis of Christian religion, they are regarded as suffering from mental illness. The few Muslims who have done the same thing ar regarded as animals from another world and hated because of their religion.

Gov. Haley, you are wrong. The history of the United States is filled with passing laws and doing anything “based on race or religion.”

March 27, 2015

Indiana Legalizes Discrimination

For most of my life, Indiana was just the state between Illinois and Ohio, fairly innocuous when compared to the corrupt one on the left with four of the last seven governors going to prison and the occasional scandals in the one on the right. Indiana’s one president, Benjamin Harrison, barely made a splash, and most people don’t know that Vice-president Dan Quayle, is a native. Current governor, Mike Pence, is a possible GOP presidential candidate. He’ll just have to decide whether to make another gubernatorial run because he can’t run for both offices. Little noticed when he accepted a form of expanded Medicaid last January, his latest law has put him on the map like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Texas’ Rick Perry.

Yesterday he signed state Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. Religious belief can now be used for legalized discrimination in Indiana starting on July 1:

“A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability…. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding.”

“Person” is defined as an individual, organization, religious society, church, corporation, company, “unincorporated association or another entity,” but the law fails to define “substantial burden.” Individuals can find legal protection in the bill “regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” The exception enables discrimination because people cannot file complaints against businesses for discrimination.

Although other states have proposed the same law, even Jan Brewer was smart enough to not sign a similar bill when she was governor in Arizona. The signing was a private ceremony with only invited fundamentalist Christians and Jews, news of the event crossed the country like a wildfire.

Businesses and organizations that complained about the discrimination, but Pence told them that their concerns were only a “misunderstanding.” When signing the bill, he said, “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.” He blamed the media for the national outrage and said his primary concern was for religious believers who feel their liberty is endangered.

Major businesses, activists, and organizations speaking out against the bill included the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Indiana’s Republican mayor Greg Ballard. The chief executive of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Brinegar, assailed the law as “entirely unnecessary.”

CEO Marc Benioff of Salesforce, purchaser of Indianopolis-based Exact Tartet, was joined by other cloud computer companies in protest. Benioff tweeted, “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert said the Indianapolis-based group would examine “how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.” The Final Four men’s basketball tournament is in Indianapolis next week. Arn Tellem, a prominent sports agent whose clients include the basketball players Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Jason Collins, wrote:

“The measure codifies hatred under the smoke screen of freedom and jeopardizes all that has been recently accomplished. It legalizes discrimination against L.G.B.T. individuals and will cause significant harm to many people.”

Tellem urged the Indiana Pacers and the entire NCAA “to not only condemn this blatantly unconstitutional legislation, but to take forceful action against it by re-evaluating their short- and long-term plans in the state.”

Indianopolis’ largest convention, Gen Con, has threatened to take its 56,000 attendees and $50 million in revenue elsewhere when its contract with the Indiana Convention Center expires in 2020.

Todd Adams, associate general minister and vice-president of the Indianapolis-based Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said, “Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry.” With 659,000 members in North America, the denomination has been headquartered in Indianapolis for almost 100 years. The group may look for another location for its 2017 convention that draws about 6,000 attendees.

CEO Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp, which publishes online reviews of businesses, wrote a blog opposing laws that legalize discrimination. “It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large.”

Eli Lilly, employer of over 11,700 people in the state, wrote, “Simply put, we believe discriminatory legislation is bad for Indiana and for business.” It added, “As we recruit, we are searching for top talent all over the world. We need people who will help find cures for such devastating diseases as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Many of those individuals won’t want to come to a state with laws that discriminate.”

George Takei, actor in Star Trek, promised a boycott. “If it goes into effect, Indiana will be marked as a state where certain people are not welcome,” he posted on Facebook. “We will not spend. And we will not attend events, including GenCon, the world’s largest gaming convention, held in Indianapolis each year. Many fans here are gamers, Governor Pence, and we will demand the convention move out of your state.”

Broadway actress Audra McDonald threatened to drop an upcoming Indiana performance but decided instead to donate proceeds to LGBT rights groups. She tweeted, “On the phone w/@united so long I forgot what year it was, then saw the law Indiana Gov.Pence just signed & remembered…It’s 1950.”

San Francisco is the first city to take action since the bill was signed into law. Mayor Ed Lee announced that the city will not use taxpayer money to fund any city employees’ trips to Indiana.

The law’s target is the LGBT community after the state was forced to legalize marriage equality across the nation. Eric Miller, executive director of the group Advance America, said the law protects Christian bakers, florists and photographers who don’t want “to participate in a homosexual marriage,” Christian businesses that refuse “to allow a man to use the women’s restroom,” and churches that refuse to allow their premises to be used for same-sex weddings.

Yet the discrimination can be against anyone. An employer can refuse to hire Jewish employees, a landlord can refuse to rent to Muslims, or a business can refuse to serve atheists. Pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or drugs dealing with HIV. Restaurants can refuse to serve African-Americans, and people can be exempted from compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Anyone violating a biblical passage is at risk for discrimination.

Indiana has problems more serious than a same-sex couple wanting to buy a wedding cake. With 79 newly confirmed HIV cases within the past three months in Scott County, Pence declared an epidemic and lifted the state law preventing needle exchange in the county. The number is up from an annual average of five cases, and all the new cases are linked to needle sharing among drug users. Pence said, “despite my reservations,” that he is permitting drug users to exchange used hypodermic needles for sterile ones and only in that county for 30 days. Doctors disagree with Pence that this will fix the problem. Poverty has led to an outbreak of hepatitis, a precursor to HIV epidemics, and the county has no addition treatment center. They expect the problem to grow worse across the state.

 

Complaints of over-pricing have forced Coventry Health Care to lower the cost of HIV and AIDS drugs of more than $1,000 per month to $5 to $100 per month for most treatments starting in June. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago had warned Coventry that its high prices might violate federal protections against discrimination. In February, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a rule for 2016 that prohibits plan designs that place “most or all drugs that treat a specific condition on the highest cost tiers” and that charge more for single-tablet regimens than for treatments that require patients to take multiple pills.

 

Mike Pence plans to call the businesses and organizations that think his new law is discrimination. He may have difficulty persuading them, but he could use the approach that a Democratic state representative in Oklahoma developed. Emily Virgin proposed that businesses who wish to discriminate “shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites.” The amendment adds that the notice “may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.” People should know whether businesses plan to discriminate.

February 22, 2015

‘Christians’ in the United States

Exceptional. That’s what conservatives call the United States. This country is so exceptional that doctors can refuse health care to people for religious reasons. That’s what happened in Michigan last October when Dr. Vesna Roi (Eastlake Pediatrics, Roseville) prayed about caring for the infant of a lesbian couple. Prayer – 1; infant – 0. Originally Roi told the women she would be their pediatrician and then changed her mind. She didn’t even have the courage to personally tell the two women that she had reversed her position; she stayed out of the office on the day of the appointment so that she would not have to see them. Embarrassed and humiliated, the couple found another pediatric group. Four months later, after an outcry from social media, Roi sent them a letter that stated,

“After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice, and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.”

After Krista and Jami Contreras legally married in Vermont in 2012, their daughter Bay Windsor was born last October. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics both condemn discrimination against patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other similar criteria. Michigan is considering a “religious freedom” bill which would probably allow doctors to refuse care to unmarried pregnant women, people with HIV, ethnic minorities, etc.

Krista-and-Jami-Contreras-with-Bay-Windsor-638x425

Just as refusing medical care is legal, so could a ban on Advanced Placement classes in U.S. history and a mandate for a religious curriculum be Oklahoma law if proposed legislation succeeds. Again the topic is “exceptionalism.” Dan Fisher, a pastor elected as state representative, succeeded in moving the bill on party lines through a state House committee on a vote of 11-4 with a list of appropriate texts for education.

Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”

In addition to the U.S. Constitution and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” the curriculum would emphasize the Ten Commandments, two sermons, three speeches from former President Reagan, and George W. Bush’s address to the nation after the 9/11 attacks. The sermons are the 17th-century “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop and 18th-century “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.

The Fox network went one better than the Oklahoma bill. Outnumbered host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery said, “There really shouldn’t be public schools, should there?”  Co-host Andrea Tantaros, who earlier described the United States as “awesome” when reports showed how this “awesome” country tortures people, definitely agreed by suggesting that the Department of Education be eliminated so that children would not be subjected to “meaningless liberal crap.”

Retired high-school history teacher Larry S. Krieger may have initiated the malcontent with the national curriculum for advanced students. He complained about its “consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters.” Thanks to Krieger, the RNC passed a resolution in opposition to the Advanced Placement U.S. History course, saying it “reflected a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

In response, the College Board—a non-profit which creates the AP tests—said that the opposition was based on “significant misunderstandings.” Dan Coleman, the President of The College Board, emphasized that the tests are actually written “by college professors and K–12 teachers throughout this country.” He also, in an effort to allay concerns, released a sample test. Students can use this and other AP classes for college credit, saving them money and meeting a prerequisite to attending elite colleges.

Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado have also attacked the test. Colorado students walked out of class after conservative school board members tried to make the AP U.S. History course “more patriotic.” South Carolina has asked the College Board to exclude any of the curriculum with an “ideological bias,” including evolution.

Thanks to the abysmal science education in much of the United States, one-fourth of the people in the United States believe that the sun goes around the earth, according to the National Science Foundation. These people have missed the idea of the earth orbiting the sun that has been accepted by scientists and most of the civilized world since the 16th century. Over 60 percent of the respondents disagreed that “the Universe began with a huge explosion,” and 52 percent oppose evolution, denying that “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

In Florida, at least 164 public schools teach creationism, and Louisiana and Tennessee permit the teaching of creationism as “supplemental” material. The following map shows schools teaching creationism.

Not satisfied with making just the schools religious, Tennessee, thanks to state Rep. James Van Huss, might make the state a theocracy by putting the following sentence in the state constitution: “We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.” State Rep. Jerry Sexton also has a bill that to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee.”

Mississippi legislators have so much faith in Jesus that the House has passed a bill to exempt drivers of church buses from the requirement of a commercial driver’s license. Democrat state Rep. Robert Johnson III said that churches “can pick a person to drive the bus.” Republican state Rep. Toby Barker calls the bill “Jesus Take the Wheel Act” and anticipated tragedies from allowing anyone to drive people, including small children, with no formal training or requisites. Troy Coll, who has a commercial driver’s license said, “This bill is trading the safety of everyone on the road for the convenience of those operating church vehicles.” Mississippi already has the Bible as the state book because of “all the things going wrong in the world” and hopes to declare Mississippi a “Christian state” in a 2016 ballot measure. Mississippi is also the state with the highest poverty rate and the second-highest high school dropout rate.

Right-wing evangelical pastor John Hagee, who campaigned with John McCain in 2008, has predicted that tensions between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may lead God to destroy the United States. “I am a student of world history,” Hagee said, “and you can wrap up world history in 25 words or less and here it is: the nations that blessed Israel prospered and the nations that cursed Israel were destroyed by the hand of God.” He added that God “is watching what America does as it responds to Israel. If America turns its back on Israel, God will turn his back on America. And that’s a fact. It’s proven by history.”

Conservatives are using President Obama’s speech at a recent summit on violent extremism to attack the president’s bona fides, as with Rudy Giuliani’s complaint that Barack Obama “doesn’t love America.” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) summarized the GOP position by calling for a holy war against ISIL:

“We’re taking God out of this country, they’re fighting for their God, and all I can say is the person who has God on their side is going to win this. And I think we all need to huddle around and get back to some basics in this country.”

The increasing number of conservative-owned newspapers also contributes to this ignorance of people in the United States. For example, a “retraction” in North Carolina’s The Lexington Dispatch printed a letter with the headline, “Is Obama the Antichrist?” explained that the letter instead claimed that President Barack Hussein Obama was the “seventh king” who announces the arrival of the Antichrist.

This coming week, the Republicans in Congress, who claim to be Christians, will try to force through the anti-immigration amendments attached to funding the Department of Homeland Security. They want to separate families, tear people from their long-term communities, and eliminate education and health care for vulnerable individuals. Such is the conservative view of Christianity. Rudy Giuliani is right when he claims that he and President Obama have different beliefs.

February 8, 2012

Conscience = Discrimination

Conscience. What a strange word to use when discriminating against people. Once again, religious groups have co-opted a term to oppose the scientific view that conscience is probably learned or imprinted (like language) as part of a culture.

The concept of conscience has provided the latest firestorm against President Obama regarding the requirement that all health insurance plans cover birth control without co-pay with exemptions those provided by churches and other places of worship. Because the Catholic Church operates an unbelievable number of businesses including private schools, universities, hospitals, and charities, millions of employees in these institution are not Catholic. Catholic leaders don’t want to follow the president’s guidelines—except in the 28 states that already require insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and services. No matter that the Church will not be paying for birth control; the insurance carriers do this as part of the benefits.

Republicans are delighted with their war on contraception because they can scream from the rooftops that President Obama is violating the First Amendment right of religious freedom. But what will the result be from their constituents? Republicans are ignoring the fact that 58 percent of Catholics believe that all employers should provide no co-pay birth control, and 98 percent of Catholic women use or have used contraception. Eighty-five percent of all Catholics support expanding access to birth control for women who cannot afford it, higher than the 82 percent of the general population who favors this, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

The decision to provide free birth control to women was based on an Institute of Medicine study concluding that birth control is medically necessary to “ensure women’s health and well being,” echoing similar recommendations by other medical organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Public Health Association.

Demonstrating the extremes to which conservatives are going to fight the health benefit of birth control for women, MSNBC commentator Eric Metaxas compared the requirement to provide contraception to women to the rise of Nazi Germany. Men in Congress have again retreated from solving the economy and jobs problem to again trying to control women’s bodies.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an organization with $26 million in its annual lobbying budget. This legislation would make all women who work for Catholic-operated institutions—nurses, janitors, teachers, etc.—purchase their own birth control unless state law provides that all employee insurance provide birth control or Catholic institutions already include this provision in the insurance policies.

House Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has sworn that Congress will overturn the administration’s mandate. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) claimed that the requirement of contraception coverage in employers’ insurance plans was a “bailout for Planned Parenthood” because birth control “is unrelated to the basic needs of health care.”

“What we are seeing now is the unfortunate fruits of the logical extension of the cesspool of Jacques Rousseau and his civil religion, whereby which your true religion was tolerated as long as it was subservient to the state,” Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) said. “That is not what this nation is about–it is a clear violation of your constitutional right to freely exercise your religion.”

In response, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “Women’s health care should not depend on who the boss is.”

As Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) explained, the administration’s rule has exempted 335,000 churches and other places of worship. “The concept of separation of church and state protects these 335,000 places of worship, but the concept of separation of church and state does not mean that a church can use their bully pulpit to separate millions of women from critical healthcare benefits,”Moore said, adding that separation of church and state does not trump women’s access to contraception.

Conscience is also the excuse in Virginia to give private adoption agencies the right to refuse parents based on sexual orientation or religious and moral beliefs. Under consideration in the state is adding state-funded, faith-based agencies to the list of agencies that can choose which parents are suitable for adoption based on the agencies’ beliefs. At this time, gay and lesbian couples are prevented from adopting because unmarried couples cannot adopt and gays and lesbians cannot get married in Virginia and eight other states. Thus gay and lesbian parents will be forced to contribute their tax dollars to an agency that, in turn, refuse them its adoption services.

The state currently permits single people, including gays and lesbians to adopt.  At this time, approximately 2,279 same-sex couples are raising about 4,558 children inVirginia, most adopted in Virginia, allowing only one parent to have custody.The new law will be more restrictive than the existing one, allowing agencies to refuse adoption by a single gay or lesbian.

Although the federal government has some protection against discrimination, Virginia allows faith-based organizations to discriminate based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and family status. These discriminations will almost certainly continue with the new law despite the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that gays and lesbians are a distinct legal classification and entitled to collective protection under the Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection clauses.

As with the birth control bruhaha, the Virginia legislature ignores the will of the people. Last year a Washington Post poll showed that 55 percent of Virginians think that gays and lesbians should be able to legally adopt children, and a Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of Virginians think that state-run agencies should not ban prospective parents based on their sexual orientation.

The basic question is how far religion can discriminate in the name of religious freedom. For example, if state-funded organizations can deny service to gays and lesbians in adoptive services, can they also deny services to them in hospitals? If Catholic institutions can discriminate against non-Catholic employees in providing health care, can they then discriminate against them in hiring? How far can religions go in infringing on other people’s rights in the name of religious freedom? Why should religions be able to use their beliefs to exclude rights and services when they receive government funding? Why should people be forced to contribute financially to organizations that refuse to provide services to these same people?

If an Islam-operated hospital were to insist that its employees be bound by Sharia law, Congress would be screaming that this is wrong. Their position on freedom of religion is attached only to the Christian religion, which means that they don’t actually believe in religious freedom—just in the political clout that the argument might give them.

AGR Daily News Service

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