Nel's New Day

May 15, 2022

Republicans: The Cult of Death

David Barnhart, a pastor in Alabama, wrote the following about the anti-abortion, so-called “right-to-life” movement banning abortions:

“’The unborn’ are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus, but actually dislike people who breathe. Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.”

The anti-abortion movement—actually the anti-choice movement because they don’t want to give rights to people—calls itself the “right to life,” but it’s actually only rights for the human zygote, embryo, or fetus. Conservatives’ respect for life by conservatives disappears at the instant a fetus emerges from the uterus. From then on, they embrace death:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants to starve migrant babies held in custody for crossing the southern border because selfish baby formula manufacturers have caused a shortage.

New state anti-abortion laws block treatment for ectopic pregnancies in the fallopian tube, cervix, abdominal cavity, ovary or scar from a cesarean section instead of in the uterus. They never result in a birth and are guaranteed to kill the pregnant woman without surgery. A Louisiana bill would permit the charge of murder for anyone who miscarries or needs surgery for ectopic pregnancies. An Ohio bill would mandate doctors to “reimplant” an ectopic pregnancy, medically impossible. An Oklahoma state senator disagreed with permitting surgeries for these pregnancies. Texas law does not define exceptions for medical emergencies, and a doctor denied a woman treatment for her ectopic pregnancy before she was rejected at an emergency room. At least one pharmacy refused to fill prescriptions for this condition. Ignorant legislators create these bills which are then supported by more ignorant people. If laws allow ectopic pregnancies, the confusion may keep women from seeking help. In some states, medical students receive limited education about abortion which means they also don’t know how to care for patients who have had miscarriages. The women who die don’t have the “right to life.”

The Supreme Court supporting “right to fetuses” opposed life for Clarence Dixon, a schizophrenic executed in Arizona last week. His lawyers said he didn’t understand why he was being put to death and suffered for over 25 minutes during the procedure. Age 66 and blind, Dixon is the first execution since Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours, repeated gasping until he died. Witnesses reported that prison had trouble finding a vein for the lethal injection, and Dixon was in pain for 25 minutes until they injected him in the groin. An AP journalist said, “They did have to wipe up a fair amount of blood.” Arizona also has a gas chamber which uses hydrogen cyanide, the same gas used at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Arizona can still kill another 112 people on death row. Supreme Court decisions determined justices shouldn’t meddle in state lethal injections so Arizona can handle the situation any way it wants.  

Republicans virtuously permit people with COVID to infect and kill others with the ridiculous claim of needing freedom from wearing masks. Studies have shown over and over that social distancing, vaccinations, and masks will block the transmission of the disease killing people in a little over two years. Even those who refuse all these precautions have learned how their loved ones have died the hard way, and many of them have admitted this fact. 

In another way to kill people, Republicans block any kind of sex education for young people so that they can protect themselves. Without that knowledge, girls employ myths to avoid pregnancy, myths that don’t work. Their solution is sometimes self-induced abortions, killing the young girls.

In 2008, before President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, over 26,000 people died because they lacked health insurance. Since it passed in 2010, the Republicans have tried non-stop to block health insurance for the poor. Even ten years after the law passed, 45,000 people are still dying each year from lack of health insurance. Even if they don’t die, 25 percent of people in the U.S delay health care for serious illnesses.

GOP hatred for LGBTQ people also promote violent deaths by those with anti-LGBTQ fear and loathing with the attitude that they are following God’s will.   

The deaths of at least ten people in a Buffalo story also shows how cavalier conservatives are permitting mass shootings through the freedom to buy guns. An 18-year-old who had previously threatened a school shooting and posted a “manifesto” on the website murdered people peacefully shopping because they were black. The GOP party line will be that he was a “lone wolf” although the persuasion to stop white people from being “replaced” by minorities has come for the far-right media, especially Fox’s Tucker Carlson, and GOP leaders. This mass shooting was #198 in the first 19 weeks of 2022.

Deliberate income inequality in which Republicans ensure that the wealthy and big business collect the vast majority of assets while people in poverty die from lack of resources.

The conservative anti-science aggression is also causing hunger and starvation by refusing to recognize climate change. Republicans also permit toxic chemicals and other pollution to kill people—if they are poor—to benefit big business.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), possibly the biggest liar in the Senate, said the loss of abortion rights won’t bother most voters although it “might be a little messy for some people.” He blithely commented that women can just drive across state lines for the procedure. No worry about lack of resources, distances from blocks of states banning choice, laws blocking getting an abortion in another state, prosecution for getting an abortion at all. Republicans want to have it both ways—get rid of all abortions while persuading the 70 percent of pro-choice voters that he’s not really against women having reproductive rights. The GOP just wants the discussion to disappear before the 2022 election.

House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agrees with Johnson that voters for congressional members don’t really care. And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that “angry leftists … don’t even know that overturning Roe means.” They haven’t noticed that 26 percent of respondents to a Monmouth University poll rated their top concern, only one percent below the economic policy. That’s far above the nine percent of them rating abortion policy as the top concern a year ago. McConnell also tries to persuade people that getting an abortion won’t be any problem because it’s up to the states. People who have seen their rights disintegrate won’t believe that either.

In Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft of the ruling that overturns Roe, he bases part of his opinion on the “great” and “eminent” legal authority, Sir Matthew Hale. The English judge and lawyer who died in 1676 at the age of 67, he presided over a witchcraft trial in which he sentenced two “witches” to death.  His “History of the Pleas of the Crown,” published posthumously in 1736, stated that authorities should distrust women who claimed to have been raped, a position still popular in the second half of the 20th century and used even in the 21st century. He wrote the marital rape exemption protecting a man from prosecution if he raped his wife because marriage means the woman has put her body under her husband’s permanent dominion “which she cannot retract.” In the U.S., no state could prosecute a man for raping his wife—even brutally—until 1970. At the current time, 21 states are still more lenient toward marital rape than rape outside the marriage. Men will cling to a legal system in which men complete control their wives.  

His claim about the “deep roots” of history ignores common law in the first decades of the United States that did not regulate abortion before “quickening”—the first feeling of fetal movement occurring as late as 25 weeks into pregnancy. Alito ignored Hale’s description declaring abortion as a crime “if a woman be quick or great with child.” And he uses as his justification the man who sentences women to death as witches, knows women are liars, and believes women own their wives’ bodies.

Blocking abortion will lead to preventing other human rights such as contraception, same-gender relationships and marriage, biracial marriage, transgenderism, etc. All these rights will be blocked by Republican legislators and their activist partisan judges in a huge government overreach eliminating freedom and liberty for half the people in the country. The GOP has claimed they objected to this practice with Democrats but are now allowing only Christian evangelical laws.  

April 14, 2022

‘Grooming’: The New GOP Attack on Any Opponents

In the past few months, Republicans have developed a fascination with pedophilia, especially the concept of “grooming” children. Until Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis’ spokesperson used the term, the definition referred to sexual abuse, “the manipulative behaviors that the [sexual] abuser uses to gain access to a potential victim, coerce them to agree to the abuse, and reduce the risk of being caught.”   

This explanation from the non-profit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) continues: the process of isolating a selected victim, developing trust with gifts and requirement that the relationship be kept secret, and ends with touching, at first apparently harmless and then sexual contact. The accusations by Republicans starting out toward LGBTQ people, moved on to claims that all Democrats and all teachers are pedophiles.

The word “grooming” is tossed at anyone showing acceptance of people and maintains that children are “introduced too early to sexually explicit material, to the existence of transgender people, and to non-heterosexual sexual orientations,” according to Olga Khazan in her Atlantic article. “Sexually-explicit” has been used for a teacher’s off-hand naming her same-gender partner. On Fox, writer David Mamet said to Mark Levin that male teachers are “inclined” to pedophilia and “we have to take back control.”

Using DeSantis’ new law as red meat for Republicans, at least a dozen other states are copying his “don’t say gay” law that prevents teachers from discussing gender identity and gender orientation. These states follow the tweet by DeSantis’ spokesperson Christina Pushaw:

“If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”

The result of this false explanation of “grooming” goes far beyond the possibility of votes for Republicans; the “moral panic” is causing threats of violence. The QAnon followers use destructive emotion against lies of sex-trafficking against Democrats although they never mention Republicans who molest children, like their former House speaker, or object to the proposed Tennessee law with no age limit for marriage. It was Democrats who had to stop that from passing.

Comprehensive sexual education, according to Khazan has beneficial effects. It helps prevent bullying, have “healthier relationships of all kinds, improves their communication skills, and even boosts their media literacy.” Studies show that sex ed reduces teen pregnancy and child abuse, the “exact opposite” of grooming. Pedophilia bloom with the subject’s ignorance. Because 93 percent of child sexual-abuse victims know their abusers, sexual education can teach children about inappropriate touching, “the difference between ‘tattling’ and keeping unsafe secrets, and how to identify abusive situations.”

Learning correct names for their genitalia gives young people a sense of empowerment, and “pedophiles are less likely to select a child who can accurately talk about those body parts,” according to experts. Young people are less likely to victimize others, and this knowledge is “associated with lower rates of physical and sexual dating violence four years later,” according to a study. Kindergartners are not too young to understand their body parts and protect themselves from unwanted touching. A program for kindergartners and first-graders called “Rights, Respect, and Responsibility,” the “3Rs,” focuses “on preventing bullying, setting boundaries about touching, and learning what types of things make babies.” The curriculum explains, “This is your body and you have a right to know what the different parts are called.”

First graders can be taught they are “perfectly normal” even if they “feel like a girl” although they may have “’boy’ parts.” Talking about sex makes some conservatives uncomfortable, but it’s not “grooming” or “molestation.” Those who pretend children don’t know about sex at an early age are wrong. Many years ago, I was talking about transgender issues with my progressive niece and her husband. Their children aged 9 and 11 were in the room, and I was groping for words as my nephew-in-law looked uncomfortable. The younger niece piped up and asked her her older sister about one of their friends. “Do you remember when [friend] was in kindergarten and her aunt became an uncle?” The parents briefly looked at them in amazement, not knowing how knowledgeable their children were, and we all moved on.

Khagan wrote:

“Between 2 million and 4 million American children are being raised by a non-straight parent. Some children might either be transgender themselves or have a parent who is. Advocates of this type of curriculum say these concepts can be explained more accurately in school, and help make kids who are not straight or cisgender feel welcomed.”

Sex ed, however, depends on community values. Most Texas school districts taught abstinence-only, if they taught anything. Gender identify and sexual orientation isn’t taught in Florida schools despite it being a target of the new law. European countries, most of which provide comprehensive, mandatory, and blunt sex ed, have “lower teen pregnancy rates, lower rates of sexual abuse, and lower STD rates among young people.”

Parents in Europe “don’t see these types of lessons as ‘giving children ideas’ about sex and sexuality. After all, adults openly do things—drink alcohol, use the stove, drive—that kids can’t. Kids understand when an activity is for adults only. [They] reject the notion that telling kids about different sexual orientations or gender identities ‘turns’ kids gay or gender-nonconforming.” In fact, the U.S. has a higher percentage of LGBTQ people than European countries. Hiding LGBTQ information doesn’t seem to make any difference.

Teaching children about these issues opens up “lines of communication [with] responsible adults.” Treating sex as an ordinary topic keeps young people from doing their own searches and finding  misinformation. In her 2018 book Beyond Birds and Bees, Bonnie Rough wrote that only one-fourth of “U.S. public schools report that students practice communication, decision making, goal setting, or refusal skills as part of sex ed.” Instead children in the U.S. often get their sex ed from porn, experimenting, and being abused, keeping their victimized secret.

Conservatives’ inappropriate use of the term “grooming” is hurting sexual abuse victims. Instead of connecting the term to this abuse, they use the word to mean “any set of circumstances in which a young person could safely come out as queer.” Both the words “groom” and “pedophile” lose any real meaning in the conservative desire to support anti-LGBTQ legislation. Journalist Jude Ellison S. Doyle wrote:

“There is the violence being done to language itself; the way survivors become easier to trivialize and dismiss when the terminology of sexual violence is weaponized against us. I was a pre-teen and he was a teenage youth counselor at my church; I was a college freshman and he was a professor. I need to talk about the ways those predators used my youth, my ignorance, my need for acceptance and validation from authority figures; I need to talk about how their age and authority pre-conditioned me to let them overstep certain boundaries—it wasn’t my place to object, I was probably making a big deal over nothing, I might offend them by complaining—and how that allowed them to isolate me in a place where violent things could happen.

“I cannot talk about that when the word ‘grooming’ means ‘trans people existing’ or ‘gay people teaching at public schools.’ Those of us who protest sexual violence and rape culture are already accused of being hypersensitive, hysterical, of making a big deal over nothing. How much easier will it be to ignore us when most left-wing people automatically tune out mentions of molestation and child abuse?”

For Donald Trump Jr., who could be a presidential candidate in a few years, groomers are easy to spot because they have “blue, green, purple hair,” but he worries about the others who are “under camouflage” because they look like anyone else. He said “literally trying to indoctrinate and groom these children” is the only reason for tolerant learning environments, opposition to anti-LGBTQ bullying, and acceptance. His rant came after Vice’s article about online conservatives doxxing tolerant teachers by posting their home phone numbers and addresses. 

Members of Patriots.win promised body bags for these “groomers” after a false report from the Christian website TownHall that schools were handing out puberty blockers without parental consent. A response was “Straight to the woodchipper for them,” and the reply, “…literally beat them to an inch of their life.”

In March, Fox’s Tucker Carlson called for anyone talking about sex to kindergartners to “be beaten up.” He continued by asking “where the men are…. You know, some teacher’s pushing sex values on your third grader. Why don’t you go in and thrash the teacher?”

Robert Foster, a former Mississippi state representative, is calling for political opponents who support the rights of trans people to be executed by firing squad.

A gay couple with children five and six years old were accosted by a man on their family Amtrak train ride along the California coast. The terrified children sobbed as he yelled at them about their stealing the children and called them “pedophiles.” The six-year-old said that the man had yelled the same things in the bathroom. Having taken pride in going to the nearby bathroom by himself, he is now afraid to go alone.

TikTok suspended the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for using the word “gay” in a comment. The next raft of bills will be to ban LGBTQ teachers. It’s the McCarthy era of the 1950s all over again, exchanging the term Communists for “pedophiles” and “groomers.” And all from the party that protects child molesters. 

January 30, 2020

Health on Downward Slide under DDT

While many people fixate on the impeachment trial of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), he is further destroying health care while causing illnesses. After polling shows that Democrats received higher approval for healthcare than Republicans, DDT attacked his HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Then he tweeted:

“I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare. I will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”

DDT fought to take healthcare protections for people in his repeal-and-replace proposals and in his support for a federal lawsuit that removes pre-existing protections in healthcare. When DDT couldn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he moved to take Medicaid from millions of people by giving states block grants for Medicaid that caps federal funding for coverage. The badly named “Healthy Adult Opportunity” allows states to turn away qualified applicants, deprive people of needed medication, and limit health benefits. Medicare/Medicaid administrator Seema Verma, who wants to remove as many people as possible from Medicaid, said, “This policy is about helping people achieve the American Dream.” Her argument is that people who can’t get Medicaid is a “good outcome” because “they don’t need the program anymore.” DDT’s plan will force many people out of nursing homes.

The GOP and DDT hope that they can wait until after this year’s election to deal with the Affordable Care Act so people won’t know that they will lose their health care with no replacement by electing GOP control. A majority of the Supreme Court has helped by denying a request to expedite the challenge to the ACA from the House of Representatives and Democratic-led states. 

A serious problem with current healthcare in the U.S. is that it allows health insurance that provides little more than “thoughts and prayers”—and the purchasers don’t know that the companies may not pay for their medical costs. “Traditional” insurance has legal requirements because of the ACA, but “alternative” coverage doesn’t have these regulations, many of them from “faith-based” providers. This fake insurance will expand with DDT’s possible new rules with workplace Health Savings Accounts. Denial of payment can come from “lifestyle” choices, “preexisting conditions” prevented in traditional insurance, and caps in coverage. For example, the Aliera plan requiring purchasers to belong to a religious group and oppose abortion, appears to have coverage. One client, however, was told to “trust in God” when the company refused to pay the $200,000 for back surgery after it told the purchaser that the cost was covered. “Faith-based” healthcare sharing “ministries” take monthly contributions from over a million people and work like GoFundMe programs. These inexpensive plans use misleading—sometime fraudulent—advertising because DDT’s executive orders give them that permission.

The religious plans were exempted from the ACA individual mandate to get votes from Democratic senators representing conservative states, and DDT succeeded in repealing the individual mandate in 2017. He also took executive action to promote insurance with substandard coverage, and the plans flourished with little or no oversight. They can refuse any claim and define “pre-existing” any way they wish, such as a broken arm. Preventative and mental health care are also not covered. Their customers lack any recourse because of no regulations and the contracts they sign.

Even people with traditional insurance pay higher premiums than anticipated from the ACA because the law lost the individual mandate that everyone have health insurance. “Healthy” people decide to not get health insurance, with their assumption that they will never need it. When they need care, they go to emergency rooms and leave the costs to the hospitals or the government.

An increasing number of people with traditional health care can’t afford medical care such as visits to doctors and medication. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that more people in the U.S. lack funds for medical care than twenty years ago. Problems come from the rise of “narrow networks, high-deductible plans, and higher co-pays.” Between 1998 and 2017, the share of adults 18-64 unable to visit doctors increased from 11 percent to 16 percent, and those with health insurance, the share rose from seven percent to almost 12 percent. Adult Canadians reported only 1 percent of adults over 45 with a chronic disease unable to meet medical needs because of high costs compared to 18.7 percent in the U.S.

Last year, 25 percent of people in the U.S. said that they or a family member postponed treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of cost, compared to 19 percent in the previous year. Another 8 percent reported a delay for a less serious condition, bringing the total to one-third of the U.S. population. The percentage tied that in 2014, the first year of complete ACA implementation.

Meanwhile, health insurance and drug industries make a huge profit. Insurance premiums increased 22 percent since 2014 and 54 percent in the past decade while wages remained largely flat. Deductibles increased by 36 percent since 2014 and 100 percent in the past decade. In 2018, people in the U.S. borrowed $88 billion for healthcare costs, and healthcare costs–the leading cause of bankruptcies–force 530,000 people to annually go into bankruptcy. 

Many people prefer for-profit “Medicare Advantage” plans because they get dental and eye coverage that people on traditional Medigap plans lack. This year, the program added even more “advantages” to help older people. Those who use these plans, however, may be unfamiliar with government audits showing that Medicare Advantage plans pose “an imminent and serious risk to the health of… enrollees” and overcharge taxpayers by $10 billion a year. Another report shows that the plans are not submitting accurate claims data, and they may be paid for services that they provide.  Last year, six senators described wrongdoings by several corporations including UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Cigna and Humana—tens of billions of dollars in overcharges, failure to cover required care, inaccurate provider directories, etc.

Conservatives argue against single-payer health care with two primary reasons—they want freedom to not have health care and the system costs too much. In just 2017, U.S. insurers and healthcare providers spent $812 billion on paperwork and other administrative activities, according to a study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. These costs are 34.2 percent of U.S. total national health expenditures in that year and twice what Canada spends on healthcare administration in the same year. U.S. insurers and providers pent $2,497 per person on healthcare administration in 2017 compared to Canada’s cost of $551 per capita. The study found that “Medicare for All” could save over $600 billion per year, just on bureaucracy.

While DDT removes healthcare from people, he makes health worse in the United States. For decades, health professional believe that exposure to radiation can cause cancer; now DDT wants to “relax” regulations for radiation in the U.S. to “have a positive effect on human health.” According to a witness at a congressional hearing, exposure to radiation and other carcinogen that stress the body makes people healthier by putting bodies’ repair mechanisms work better, like exercise and exposure to sunlight. DDT’s transition team member Steven Milloy, who supports this idea, also denies human-made climate change and any health risks from tobacco. Milloy, a Fox consultant, also supports the use of pesticide DDT and asbestos.

DDT makes people sick in other ways. Anxiety, depression, and anger are the highest since 2007. People in the U.S. have a 20 percent higher stress rate than most of the 143 countries in the 143 countries in the Gallup poll, including Venezuela and Rwanda. For the first time, counselors see patients in therapy because of politics.

A report from the New York University Law Schools State Energy and Environmental Impact projects that the rollback of about 100 environmental protection rules will cause, in the next decade, “1,630 more incidences of premature deaths, 120,000 additional asthma attacks, and 140,000 missed school days and 48,000 lost work days.” The EPA estimates an additional 300 to 1,500 human death each year from air pollution.

A 2019 study shows that fracking is tied to skin, genital, and urinary diseases. Researchers theorize that drilling activity may be related to risky sexual behaviors. Disruptions to buried bacteria and chemical exposures in drinking water may be an affect. Other studies show links to cardiovascular and respiratory issues such as asthma.

DDT has also scrapped regulations to define “organic” beef, pork, and chicken and loosened inspections for pork which can also affect health.

A major problem from DDT’s focus rejection of education about sexual and reproductive health is the spike in rates of STI (sexually transmitted infections) within the United States. For example, gonorrhea infections increased by 82.6 percent within a decade. Almost half the states lack both sex education and HIV education, and Title X funding has been taken from many health care providers. DDT’s administration increased the budget for abstinence-only programs by 67 percent although these programs don’t work.

Much less health care with increased illness. What can go wrong?

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.

April 21, 2015

Abstinence Sex Ed–One Person Can Make a Difference

alice dregerAlice Dreger, professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University, has been banned from her freshman son’s high school after she sat in on his abstinence-only “education.” During the class, conducted by a visitor from Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teens (SMART), she sent the following tweets:

 

 

  • They’re teaching “abstinence stories” that worked and non-abstinence” stories that “led to consequences.”
  • The visitor-teacher is telling my kid abstinence education reduces premarital sex. My kid is trying to show her studies that dispute that.
  • She’s being completely condescending. “You can look up anything on the internet” Then refers him to site on abstinence education!
  • The regular health teacher in trying to shut my kid up referred to “LGBYT.”
  • The whole lesson here is “sex is part of a terrible lifestyle. Drugs, unemployment, failure to finish school — sex is part of the disaster.”
  • Now a story about a friend who OD’ed and “was a vegetable 11 years. Tore their family apart.” FFS. Welcome to sex ed.
  • “I finally met a great girl who was brought up in abstinence, and her life was so much better. I put her on a pedestal above everyone else.” (from the visitor leading the class)
  • “You’ll find a good girl. If you find one that says ‘no,’ that’s the one you want.” (also from the leader)
  • She’s now telling story of condom box in which EVERY SINGLE CONDOM HAD A HOLE.
  • “We are going to roll this dice 8 times. Every time your number comes up, in pretend your condom failed and you get a paper baby.” (activity from leader)
  • Paper babies are being handed out to EVERYONE. They have ALL HAD CONDOM FAILURE AND THE WHOLE CLASS IS PREGNANT.
  • “I’m going to collect the babies that you don’t want. We recycle them.”  (leader)

As these tweets demonstrate, the goal of “abstinence-only” is to frighten students, shame anyone who has sex, put down females, and lie to the audience. East Lansing High School Principal Coby Fletcher’s statement to the Lansing State Journal defended his school’s lesson plan because it teaches contraception with its emphasis on abstinence. Dreger pointed out that high school teachers are not necessarily responsible for the horrifying lesson plans in sex ed because lawmakers mandate abstinence-only lesson plans, and schools hire abstinence-only “mercenaries who travel from district to district peddling their bogus (often times overtly religious) agendas.” Dreger is an authority on sex education, but she was banned from school property for saying “fuck” within earshot of students.  The class leader also accused Dreger’s son of “ambushing” him for bringing a copy of an article giving factual information about abstinence-only sex education programs.

Dreger’s 45 tweets went viral, partly through the efforts of Salon and Vox. In the Lansing State Journal, Judy Putnam accused Dreger of having “a mission to criticize from the outset.” Putnam also wrote, “Personally, I don’t have a problem with abstinence education.” The columnist defended the teacher’s claim that condoms have an 18-percent failure rate. According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, “With consistent and correct use, condoms have a failure rate of 2 percent. The typical use effectiveness rate is about 18 percent.” That rate comes from the lack of understanding in how to use condoms, and students aren’t receiving this information.

The federal government spent $1.3 billion on abstinence-only sex education between 1996 and 2009 although a federally funded study in 2007 found the approach had no effect on when students started having sex, whether they had safe sex, or how many partners they had. That was the year that funding for abstinence education tripled to $176 million over the year 2000. Congress has just voted to extend funding for the abstinence education through 2017.

Eighty-six percent of schools still teach abstinence as the best method of avoiding pregnancy and STD prevention. Three states—Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah—require that teachers tell students about the health hazards of homosexuality, and Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas mandate that schools emphasize homosexuality as an unacceptable lifestyle. Students receiving comprehensive sex education are more likely to be white, urban, and higher-income whereas black, rural, low-income, and single-parent students are least likely to have any sex education. States that emphasize abstinence have higher teen pregnancy rates. Other statistics are available here.

SexEdMaps4

After Dreger’s tweets went viral, Michigan state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. took notice of Dreger’s tweets. State law does not mandate any sex ed in public schools, but those that are offered require stress on the false idea that “abstinence from sex is a responsible and effective method of preventing unplanned or out-of-wedlock pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and is a positive lifestyle for unmarried young people.” Hertel, who serves on the Health Policy Committee, had already met with a student group at East Lansing High School to talk about the problem. After Dreger tweeted her frustrations, Hertel said that he’s especially concerned that the group hired to provide the abstinence presentation that Dreger attended because of its ties to an anti-abortion group. SMART is connected to the Pregnancy Services of Greater Lansing, a right-wing “crisis pregnancy center” that attempts to dissuade pregnant women from choosing an abortion.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have a well-documented history of misleading patients about sexual health issues.  While receiving state funding and teaching abstinence-only sex ed, they downplay the effectiveness of birth control, exaggerate the risks of having an abortion, and tell women that they shouldn’t be having sex outside of marriage. Hertel said, “I think that those groups don’t have a great record when it comes to the truth, and I think that using them as a paid expert in our classrooms is a bad situation.”

A year-long investigation of California CPCs discovered that they provide no option except to stay pregnant. In 91 percent of the centers, investigators were told—wrongly—that abortions led to increased chance of breast cancer, fertility, miscarriage, of “post-abortion depression” resulting in suicide. Others were told that they didn’t need abortions because the chance of a “spontaneous abortion” or miscarriage is 30-50 percent—another lie. Information about different kinds of birth control gave no benefits, instead listing only risks, negative side effects, and resulting “medical abortions.” As in the class that Dreger viewed, investigators were told that the way to not get pregnant was to “stop whoring around” because birth control is not healthy.

CPC workers used gruesome and graphic language to frighten women, claiming “they might puncture your uterus and vacuum your fallopian tubes shut” during abortions. One investigator was told that some women are dilated too fast and might continually miscarry because the cervix wouldn’t close. In one case, the CPC required an ultrasound, and the subject was told that her IUD was a fetus. The same situations are prevalent throughout the United States.

Students at East Lansing High School plan to pursue the issue too, joining other students in the country who are beginning to demand medically accurate sex education. In 2013, Katelyn Campbell, a West Virginia high school student, made national headlines in 2013 after protesting a “slut-shaming” abstinence education course, and last year, a Canadian school dropped its course on sexual purity after a teen filed a complaint after it.

 

Mind-Cast

Rethinking Before Restarting

Current

Commentary. Reflection. Judgment.

© blogfactory

Truth 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

Quaker Inspired, Evidence Based, Art And Science Of Sustainable Health Plus Success - How To Create Heaven On Earth - Education For Seventh Generation Rainbow Warriors

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

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

WordPress.com News

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

%d bloggers like this: