Nel's New Day

July 24, 2022

Christian Nationlists Drive Away Church Members

Religious leaders in the U.S., like the conservative Supreme Court justices, want to make the U.S. a theocracy, overturning rights such as abortion and moving forward to block contraception, marriage equality, etc. With the growing prevalence of Christian nationalism (aka white supremacy) since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was elected in 2016, however, Christianity is losing numbers in its congregations. For the first time, a majority of people don’t belong to any church; only 47 percent have a membership. Only 14 percent of people in the U.S. identify as evangelical Christians.  

The movement from a “feel-good,” “uplifting approach” to hateful political Christian nationalists rants in sermons may be partly responsible. Instead of “welcoming and inclusive,” one pastor in a large St. Louis church prepares his audience for a bloody “final battle” where “the bullets are real.” He assigns books and documentaries about the evidence-free election fraud of 2020, and calls Christianity a “battleship.” Sermons began to sound like “Fox News” at the beginning of DDT’s term, even calling the COVID vaccine “the mark of the beast.” People started leaving halfway through the sermons about “critical race theory,” and new faces were older and whiter.

Christian nationalists believe the U.S. is a completely Christian nation and should follow evangelical beliefs. They want to erase separation and state while claiming biblical references for right-wing culture issues such as the drag queen story hours. DDT is represented as a Christ-like figure, and the violent Proud Boys provide security for Christian nationalist pastors.

A breaking point for many parishioners was insisting on in-person services during the pandemic. Churches had millions of dollars stashed away but ignored the growing poverty caused by lockdowns. People left the radicalized churches because they showed no love for people.

In 2019, the 86-year-old group Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, composed of ministers, lawyers, and political activists, formed the Christians Against Christian Nationalism. It calls Christian nationalism a “damaging political ideology,” a “persistent threat to both our religious communities and our democracy.” According to its initiative, Christian nationalism “often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.” The group also wrote the 2021 report identifying Christian nationalism as the driving ideology behind the Capitol riot.

Evangelical Christians are lobbying conservative Supreme Court justices by wining, dining, and entertaining them for conservative positions on abortion, homosexuality, open gun use, and other issues for several decades. Couples meeting with the justices were directed to focus on “the importance of a child having a father and a mother” and say, “We believe you are here for a time like this.” They report back to the group regarding their progress. VP Peggy Nienaber of Faith and Liberty, part of the legal group Liberty Counsel, prayed with justices. A staffer for Liberty Counsel behind much of the anti-civil rights litigation, reclassified as an “association of churches” in 2018, also said she prays with conservative justices inside the court building.

Since DDT’s election in 2016, activist groups can much more easily gain church status, hiding themselves from financial examination and taxes. An example is the Family Research Council (FRC), steps from the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Its legislative lobbying opposes gender-affirming surgery, abortion, and civil rights through religious exemptions. FRC’s parent organization, Focus on the Family, became a church in 2016. Groups with church status are not required to file public tax returns, reveal key staffer salaries and other officials such as board members, and give such information as grants and large payments to independent contractors. They cannot be audited without permission from a high-level Treasury official.

The IRS has 14 characteristics to identify churches or association of churches, but an organization doesn’t need to meet all 14. FRC states the group has almost 40,000 churches in its association but didn’t name them. It performs ceremonies bush as baptisms and has schools, but these are the responsibilities of the unnamed churches. Although FRC stated it holds regular chapel services for its 65 employees at its office building, a staffer denied the claim.

In early 2022, the American Family Association running the influential American Family Radio network, a film studio, and a magazine changed its designation to a church. It sends out frequent “action alerts”asking subscribers to sign petitions opposing government appointees or boycott media and brands that it identifies as supporting LGBTQ rights or abortion access.

Churches also have a “ministerial exemption” to hiring discrimination laws for religious leaders; i.e., Catholic churches can exclude women when hiring priests. Judicial rulings permit churches to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and other reasons.

The IRS does not reveal how many groups apply to come churches and how many applications it denies. With the proliferation of right-wing political activist groups becoming churches, the Satanic Temple received church recognition in 2019 and is now suing Texas, claiming that the state’s abortion restrictions inhibit the liberty of the organization’s members to practice their religious rituals. The FRC and Liberty Counsel complain that the Satanic Temple is too political to be a church, but the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the FRC, Liberty Counsel and the American Family Association as hate groups for their anti-LGBTQ stances and advocacy. Their theocratic direction, however, leads them to influence politics away from democracy.

Rules prohibiting public, tax-exempt charities including churches from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office” dates back to 1954. These tax-exempt groups, however, can deal in “issue advocacy” such as voter education. If their lobbying is not a “substantial part” of their activities, they can lobby for political causes. For direct political activities, the FRC uses another tax-exempt organization, a social welfare organization called Family Research Council Action, which actively endorses candidates and lobbies for legislation. It is registered at the same address and shares five part-time employees with the FRC with FRC listing no full-time employees.

Scandals are also driving people away from churches. A Southwest Missouri boys’ boarding and reform school faces 19 lawsuits for physical and emotional abuse of the students and violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by misrepresenting or concealing information from parents, such as the quality of education provided, activities at the school, discipline practices, and food and medical treatment. State AG Eric Schmitt asked Gov. Mike Parson for 65 criminal courts against 22 individuals connected to Agapè Boarding School. A longtime physician for the school also faces charges of child sex crime charges in another county. Still open and enrolling students, the Christian school, a ministry of Agapè Baptist Church, supposedly “turns around rebellious boys.”

In the Daily Beast, Kate Briquelet reported on her interviews with former students:

“They encountered a climate … like Lord of the Flies, where staff were given free rein to restrain and beat students, and where some kids were emotionally and sexually abused. They claim Agapé has functioned like a ‘cult’ and ‘Christian torture compound’ for decades, allowing adults to manhandle teenagers and withhold food, water, and proper clothing — apparently without most parents ever knowing.

“[Agapé] banned children from speaking to each other without adults present, censored their letters home, destroyed photographs showing anything other than happy faces, and admonished kids that if they ran away, locals with guns would hunt them down.”

Finally closed seven years ago, West Virginia’s Blue Creek Academy, another “reform” school for boys and part of the nearby Independent Fundamental Church, was an “alternative to today’s degenerate, secular culture and education methods.” It subjected boys to neglect, isolation, silence, rat-infested quarters, physical beating, and sexual abuse. Religious schools in West Virginia don’t need to comply with any standards, and the state is not unique with other states providing no control over these schools. Pastors consider school licensing an “intrusion into freedom of the church’s rights.” No website tracks schools, and the Supreme Court may require taxpayers to pay for tuition to them.

In May, the Southern Baptist Convention released a report about 703 pastors and church workers accused of sexual abuse, most of the cases suppressed by the churches by years and kept in a secret database for almost two decades. Assaulters went to the highest level with one leader sexually assaulting a woman one month after he finished a two-year tenure as convention president. Heather Cox Richardson provides an overview of SBC’s deterioration and declining enrollment.

A survivor of abuse said:

“This is a denomination that is through and through about power. It is misappropriated power… I am so gutted.”

The Southern Baptists said the denomination couldn’t put together a registry of sex offenders because it goes against how it functions. One reason, however, is that leaders were afraid of being sued. Private emails also showed how leaders believed sexual abuse concerns were “a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism.” Russell Moore, who left his position in 2021 as head of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “The depths of wickedness and inhumanity in this report are breathtaking.”  

Michael Gerson, George W. Bush’s speechwriter, wrote about “a culture of brutal chauvinism that has grown up for generations around Christianity… An utter failure to prioritize abused women and children is the largest crisis of institutional religion in the United States.”

And the Republicans—including the Supreme Court majority—promote the practice.

October 9, 2021

Reversing DDT’s Policies

Today in Iowa, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) ranted about his lost election, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who condemned DDT less than a year ago, stood beside him, hoping to be re-elected next year at the age of 89. Meanwhile, the U.S. is quashing DDT’s push to destroy protections for U.S. residents.

Twenty state attorneys general have filed a joint complaint against DDT’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for his new crippling rules to delay mail delivery including elimination of working hours, slower first-class mail delivery, and removal of equipment, delaying delivery of prescriptions, bills, Social Security checks, rent payments, etc. DeJoy’s 10-year plan to use trucks for hauling mail instead of airplanes would be accompanied by changing post office locations and increase postal rates. Thirty percent of standard mail delivery would drop from a 3-day maximum to five days, increase the cost of every piece of mail an addition three percent to nine percent, and not reduce the USPS budget deficit. AGs maintain the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), providing independent oversight of the USPS, permitted the new harmful plans to go into effect without appropriate review. The independent postal services is the only federal agency required to be self-sustaining.

DeJoy is making money off a $120 million contract between XPO Logistics, which he led, and USPS. Former White House chief ethics lawyer testified to Congress that DeJoy probably violated federal conflict of interest rules “unless he has recused from so many matters at the USPS that he is not fully functioning as Postmaster General.” DeJoy also bought stocks in Amazon at a lower price with options, another conflict of interest because of the company’s shipping arrangement for the USPS. The FBI is also investigating DeJoy for potentially pressuring his former employees at XPO Logistics to donate to GOP candidates before using his company funds to reimburse them.

Wisconsin is heading into a fake “audit” of the 2020 presidential election ballots with no evidence of any fraud. No Cyber Ninjas this time—instead GOP legislators picked former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, a “Stop the Steal” activist, to oversee the probe. Gableman went not only to Arizona to look at the event but also to South Dakota to attend the “symposium” run by conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, My Pillow’s CEO. At the same time Gableman is subpoenaing mayors and elections for readily available information, he announced he has no “understanding” of how elections should run. The subpoenas are for “all documents contained in your files and/or in your custody, possession,” millions of pages from the state and its five biggest cities. Wisconsin taxpayers are $680,000 for ignorance and failure for Gableman’s “audit.”

Lindell also caused the audit of three Idaho counties which he claimed had fraudulent votes. Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck is billing Lindell for the $6,500 cost. Lindell accused all 44 Idaho counties of “electronic manipulation,” but at least seven counties don’t use this method. He also declared votes in every county in Idaho, which supported DDT by 31 percent, and every county in the nation was off by 8.4. The audit found a 0.1 percent of margin of error in all three counties. Alabama dismissed a Lindell’s claim that the state had 100,000 votes switched from DDT to President Joe Biden.

The Education Department will relax rules retroactively for its Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan, allowing student loans for 22,000 people to be automatically erased. Another 27,000 borrowers could have debts erased if they prove they worked in public service when making payments previously declared ineligible. In the past, loan payments were disqualified for either being received late or slightly different from the required amount, even by a few cents. Different payment plans will also count toward forgiveness because of misleading information from the federal government and loan companies. Over 550,000 borrowers may now fast-forward their path to loan forgiveness.

After a Senate hearing, the Department of Justice is reviewing two former FBI agents accused of mishandling the sexual abuse investigation into former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar against at least 330 girls and women. Four famous female gymnasts testified to the FBI’s lack of accountability and inaction. It is highly unusual for the DOJ to consider reopening a case without charges, but the department’s Inspector General found major missteps by the FBI in 2015 which permitted Nassar to victimize scores more patients before state authorities arrested him the next year. According to the report, Supervisory Special Agent Michael Langement, fired a month ago, lied to the inspector officer’s officer in interviews during 2020 and 2021. W. Jay Abbott, the head of the FBI’s Indianapolis office, also talked to Stephen Penny, the president of the USA Gymnastics, about getting a job with the Olympic Committee during the Nassar allegations in late 2015. Later Abbott lied to the inspector general about seeking the job, and Penny resigned from his job and was charged with evidence-tampering regarding sex abuse. The FBI also failed to alert state authorities about Nassar’s possible sex crimes against children. Nassar, 58, was sentence to 40 to 175 years in prison.  

DDT kept trying to drop salaries for federal employees, but Biden plans to raise wages an average of 2.7 percent on January 1 and signed an executive order directing federal contractors to pay employees a minimum wage of $15 by March 30, 2022.

Changes by the Federal Emergency Management Agent (FEMA) will ease the method for verifying ownership for disaster relief applicants who lack certain legal documents for inherited property. The former system discriminated against Blacks in the Deep South who need help to rebuild after catastrophic storms such as Hurricane Ida. Many Blacks informally inherited property without written wills, a process known as heirs’ property, previously denied under FEMA rules. FEMA will now send inspectors to people without the documentation for property ownership. In majority-Black counties, FEMA’s denial rate regarding “title issues” is twice the national average. Other people suffering from FEMA’s former rules include Native Americans, people in Appalachia, and those in communities near the U.S.-Mexico border.

By the end of the year, the Commerce Department will shut down its 15-year-old security unit illegally making criminal investigations and collecting information on hundreds of its employees and other citizens. With no oversight, the 13-person Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) opened cases against people who simply wrote innocuous letters to the department’s top official. Because almost no case was closed, people in almost 2,000 cases continued to be classified as still under scrutiny. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) called the ITMS a “rogue, unaccountable police force” that “opened frivolous investigations on a variety of employees without evidence suggesting wrongdoing.” The unit covertly searched offices at night, ran broad key word searches on emails, and examined social media accounts for critical comments about the census.

A federal judge tossed DDT’s rule scaling back protections for streams, marshes, and wetlands, saying that it could lead to “serious environmental harm.” The ruling from the District of Arizona applies nationwide and protects drinking water for millions of people and thousands of wildlife species depending on U.S. wetland acreage. Since a 1972 law prohibited the pollution of “waters of the United States” without a permit, courts and agencies have debated which waterways. Agencies will now return to water protections of the 1980s, less restrictive than those of President Obama but far more expansive than DDT’s guidelines. The judge’s ruling requires a permit for strip-mining for titanium in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp.  

Four years ago DDT reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase in half, the biggest reversal of U.S. land monument protections in history. Biden restored Bears Ears to 1.36 million acres and Grand Staircase to 1.87 million acres, both areas having cultural and religious importance for Native American tribes. A lawsuit by environmental and tribal leaders against DDT has been on hold since Biden issued an executive order in January to examine the matter. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, threatens to sue Biden for his action.

Biden has also announced his plan to restore climate change protections to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and return the requirement for federal agencies to “evaluate all the relevant environmental impacts of the decisions they are making” for projects such as highways, mines, gas pipelines and water infrastructure. DDT’s removal of these mandates caused confusion and litigation.

In another reversed DDT rule, Biden will no longer prevent clinics receiving Title X family planning aid from advising people about terminating their pregnancies starting November 8. Under DDT’s rule preventing information about abortions, Title X grants served 2.4 fewer patients. The Hyde Amendment blocks federal money from directly paying for abortions, but DDT stopped clinics from sending patients where they can receive abortions. Biden also lifted the “Mexico City Policy” preventing worldwide nonprofit organizations from receiving any U.S. global family aid if they perform or promote abortions. DDT had expanded the ban to all U.S. international aid.

The Bureau of Land Management is returning to Washington, D.C. DDT’s decision to move the agency’s headquarters to Grand Junction (CO), causing almost 90 percent of the 328 former headquarters staff to retire, quit, or leave for other jobs. Ultimately, only three people relocated to the West, leaving 80 vacancies.  

The Washington, D.C. District Court ordered the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to take action by the end of the month on complaints against the NRA for its shell companies coordinating campaign spending with federal candidates. In the past, Republican FEC board members blocked the commission from asking the FBI to look into the NRA laundering Russian money into DDT’s campaign.

September 18, 2021

Constitution Day Caps Week of Constitutional Abuses

Yesterday was Constitution Day, the 244th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution ratification, and many people wish the Republicans would read the document they claim to follow. For example, the youngest representative in the U.S. House, North Carolina’s 26-year-old Madison Cawthorn, ranted on Newsmax against the possibility of restricting air travel in the U.S. for those who are unvaccinated. He called it “a constitutional violation because you have a constitutionally predictive right to free restricted travel within the United States of America.” MSNBC’s Brian Williams responded:

“Perhaps you are wondering as we did, who’s going to tell him? We checked the constitution, no mention that we could find of airlines, increase legroom, tray tables, carry on bags, peanuts, none of it.”

Cawthorn wants the government to control private business, long opposed by the GOP.

Encouraging insurrectionists, 26-year-old Cawthorn admires Hitler and called for “bloodshed” earlier this month in reference to the September 18 white supremacist rally in at the U.S. Capitol. Still lying about DDT being the real U.S. president because of an evidence-free “stolen” election, Cawthorn also claims his governor Roy Cooper lost the election although Cooper defeated his opponent by 250,000 votes. Insurrectionists arrested in the January 6 attack on the Capitol are “political prisoners,” according to Cawthorn, and he plans to “try and bust them out.” The transcript of his remarks.  

Today, far-right Matt Braynard, a former campaigner for Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) in 2016, organized the rally, “Justice for J6,” to protest treatment of over 600 insurrectionists, 63 of them in jail, who the group calls “political prisoners.” These are the people who broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and attacked lawmakers and law enforcement, wounding and killing them, in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, thus keeping DDT in the White House. This group is part of a large number of Republicans who think the insurrectionists on the right didn’t harm a large number of people at the Capitol and didn’t vandalized the place while calling the atttackers “tourists.” In 2017, Braynard created a one-issue literary magazine, glorifying a far-right ultranationist Japanese 17-year-old who assassinated a legislator and chair of the Japan Socialist Party at a televised election debate, Braynard compared the killer, Otoya Yamaghuchi (left with samauri sword), to George Washington.

Despite DDT’s strong support for the rally to defend the charged January 6 “being persecuted so unfairly,” the event brought only about 450 people to Washington. Unlike “J6,” today’s rally had a high level of security and no current lawmakers present to encourage the participants to violent action. Because of the arrests regarding January 6, many people were afraid of another performance; those who wanted violence would have been disappointed because the leader pushed a non-violent protest. Hundreds of officers from eight agencies were present, and the congressional halls were almost completely deserted. Long line of trucks parked along Third Street served as security baricades. DDT wasn’t there to deliver rants encouraging the small group to attack the Capitol. People on the far-right called the event a “trap,” accusing the government of luring them to Washington for arrest.

DDT’s legislative supporters found the rally an embarrassment, avoiding it in speech and participation although a few far-right 2022 candidates handpicked by DDT came to speak. Even Rep. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who gave a fist pump to the January 6 crowd, didn’t attend. Republicans struggle with DDT’s leadership: they want him to turn on the base, but he alienates the general electorate when he does.

The current time is particularly bad for the GOP because of the revelations in Robert Costa and Bob Woodward’s book Peril, describing the debacle of DDT’s last days in the White House. Details in that book have taken the media away from President Joe Biden’s struggle with evacuating Afghanistan last month. California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s overwhelming win thus far—63.5 percent to retain him with 85 percent of the vote counted—has caused more problemsfor DDT supporters, especially because of the strong similarity between DDT’s policies and those of the losing candidate, Larry Elder. Newsom partially won because he made the election about DDT.

Author Jason Miciak wrote a humorous description of the rally for Political Flare under the title, “The ‘Justice for J16’ Rally Was a Complete and Total Failure, With Cops Outnumbering Protestors”:

“We suppose that it’s just not as much fun if you cannot ransack the Capitol, threaten to hang various people, wear horns, and break windows to get in. Without any of that stuff, well, you’re not much more than a BLM protest, peacefully asking for a redress of grievances. What white person wants to do that?”

A Supreme Court justice used the day before Constitutional Day to lambast the Supreme Court, saying:

“The court was thought to be the least dangerous branch, and we may have become the most dangerous.”

He continued:

“When we [go beyond longstanding limitations], and we begin to venture into political, legislative or executive branch lanes and resolving things that are better left to those branches—where people actually have some input and some opportunity to participate in the electoral process as to who those leaders are. Those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble.”

Thomas, a Catholic, was among the majority in retaining the Texas vigilante law against abortion until it could be legislated and has called on the overturn of Roe v. Wade, extending abortion rights. Legal experts and political commentators are criticizing Thomas for blasting courts when they do exactly what he does. Keith Boykin, a CNN commentator whose law degree comes from Harvard, said:

“Clarence Thomas didn’t seem too worried about ‘destroying our institutions’ when he cast the deciding vote to make Bush president in 2000 or to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013 or when he sat silently from 2017-2021 as Trump trashed our institutions.”

Thomas’ personal political actions includes speaking at the far-right Heritage Foundation and using Supreme Court facilities to meet with the Foundation’s staff and interns. His activist wife, Ginni Thomas, praised the demonstrators for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) on January 6 who later attacked the U.S. Capitol in their attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s electoral votes.

Calling himself an originalist or “textualist,” Thomas keeps trying to persuade he follows the exact wording of the Founding Fathers but says oral arguments “almost never” changed his mind.

Another justice might be in trouble this week when FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about what Charles Pierce calls the “shake-and-bake investigation” by the FBI into Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation in 2018. The FBI cover-up is an 11-year-old Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the FBI said limited their abilities in the investigation. The FBI claimed the MOU blocked them from further investigation without specific directions from the White House.

According to an examination by The Guardian of the 2010 MOU, signed by then AG Eric Holder and then White House counsel Robert Bauer, doesn’t make this restriction. DDT’s White House did not have control over process parameters on any investigation. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has been birddogging unresolved issues surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation, including the magical disappearance of his heavy personal debts.

The Kavanaugh hearing comes this coming week after four Olympic gymnasts testified before the same committee about how the FBI ignored their information about sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. A 2012 Summer Games gold medalist McKayla Maroney said:

“[The FBI] allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue. What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?”

The four young women testified that FBI not only ignored their allegations in 2015 but also lied about their testimony and covered up the evidence. A few months before the 2016 election, former Director James Comey was busy announcing a new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. In 2018, Nassar was convicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors and was sentenced to a federal penitentiary for the rest of his life. [U.S. gymnasts: Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols – Saul Loeb, AP]

June 20, 2021

Religion Moves to QAnon Beliefs

The Southern Baptist Church conference is over, and thousands of people elected the less extreme Rev. Ed Litton as president. In Slate, Molly Olmstead called the vote a move away from extremist support for Deposed Donald Trump (DDT). Before last week’s meeting, ultraconservatives had pushed DDT supporters to elect far-right Mike Stone and vote for their positions about critical race theory (against) and the church’s sexual abuse (ignore). Former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson, accused of trying to intimidate and silence an alleged sexual assault victim, was a strong proponent of Stone.

Outgoing president J.D. Greear introduced the two-day conference by warning about the dangers of hypocrisy—even worse, he said, than the “curse of liberalism.” He cautioned against a convention mistreating and maligning “female abuse victims” and putting more energy into lambasting CRT than “lamenting the devastating consequences of years of racial bigotry and discrimination.” Two years ago, the SBC convention passed a resolution to use CRT and intersectionality if they were second to Scripture; in November, seminary presidents declared CRT “incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message. Prominent Black pastors left the SBC.  

Prepared for a fight, convention organizers combined many resolutions into one, apologizing for the SBC’s part in perpetuating systemic racism but rejecting “any theory or worldview that finds the ultimate identity of human beings in ethnicity or in any other group dynamic” as well as “any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God and the ultimate solution as anything other than redemption found only in Christ.” The resolution easily passed, and conservatives failed with resolutions to specifically condemn CRT or stop funding institutions promoting CRT. A final vote also amended SBC rules to expel a member church for racism.

In the other issue, the SBC has been accused of ignoring claims by victims of sexual abuse and sheltering the abusers, swiftly clearing accused pastors without a complete investigation. Recently, a report alleged the SBC failed to look into allegations of a church staffer who moved on to abuse children at other churches. A popular Bible teacher, Beth Moore, left the SBC in March, citing sex abuse allegations. She had also broken SBC rules by speaking publicly to men and women as well as opposing DDT in the convention.

Russell Moore (no relation), who pushed for reform within the conference, criticized the SBC for its poor handling of abuse allegations and left the church’s leadership. The convention passed a resolution that “any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.” 

Resolutions are non-binding opinions, and SBC conservatives elected their choice as vice-president. Yet some evangelicals may separate themelves from the secular focus that elected DDT.

Peter Wehner, who worked for three GOP administrations before DDT as speechwriter, wrote about a concern about evangelicals participating in the QAnon movement as 31 percent of them have. In an interview with The Atlantic, Tennessee’s former two-term GOP governor Bill Haslam said:

“I have heard enough pastors who are saying they cannot believe the growth of the QAnon theory in their churches. Their churches had become battlegrounds over things that they never thought they would be. It’s not so much the pastors preaching that from pulpits—although I’m certain there’s some of that—but more people in the congregation who have become convinced that theories are reflective of their Christian faith.”

Wehner wrote:

“Countless people who profess to be Christians are having their moral sensibilities shaped more by Tucker Carlson’s nightly monologues than by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

“Many of those who most loudly proclaim the ‘pre-eminence of Christ’ have turned him into a means to an end, a cruel, ugly and unforgiving end. And this, too, is not quite what Jesus had in mind.”

The SBC is not the only fundamentalist Christian religion being taken over by the QAnons, and pastors are leaving their churches because of parishioners’ radicalization. Even YouTube sermons are infusing dangerous conspiracy theories about rampant sex-trafficking and demon possession of Democrats. Consider Sen. Ted  Cruz’s (R-TX) speech to a recent fundamentalist conference about Democrats being “soulless” with “red eyes” and “no brain.” Many of the audience literally accepts his message. Christian fundamentalism continues to be ripe for takeover by White supremacists.

Last January, over 45 percent of Protestant pastors reported often hearing congregants repeating conspiracy theories about national news events. Sixty percent of White evangelical respondents believe President Joe Biden’s 2020 win was “not legitimate”—the highest of any religious group. Last February, more than 1,400 evangelical pastors and faith leaders published an open letter condemning “radicalized Christian nationalism” and the “rise of violent acts by radicalized extremists using the name of Christ,” according to the Washington Post. SBC youth pastor Jared Stacey, who left the church, said, “The church is going through the biggest information shift since the printing press.”

Since January 6, Derek Kubilus, senior pastor of Uniontown United Methodist Church (OH), has offered “healing for QAnon followers and family members from a Christian perspective” through his “Cross Over Q” podcast. He said he felt he had to do something after seeing “crosses being carried alongside QAnon banners and a noose.”

Also at Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual Road to Majority Conference where Cruz spoke, a group shouted “traitor” at former VP Mike Pence. The MAGA group claimed he had validated the presidency of Joe Biden by permitting the Electoral College to cast the votes of the people for the 2020 election.

The FBI sent Congressional members an unclassified threat assessment that QAnon may go from “digital soldiers” to “real world violence.” The “believers” already played a central role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol with over 20 of them arrested for their participation. The FBI had already classified QAnon as a domestic-terror threat in an internal memo, but DDT accepted their members, calling them “people who love our country” and “they like me very much, which I appreciate.” The recent FBI report comes after requests by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) for a full assessment on the QAnon threat.

Steven Benen wrote about QAnon:

“The basic idea behind the madness is that Donald Trump is secretly at war with nefarious forces of evil, including Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, the “deep state,” cannibals, and an underground ring of Satanic pedophiles who are operating a child sex trafficking ring that only adherents of the conspiracy theory are aware of.

“QAnon adherents were convinced that a reckoning was imminent, in which Trump would be re-elected and his enemies would be vanquished. When President Biden took office, some followers of the crackpot theory came to realize that their bonkers ideas were not coming to fruition.”

Because of DDT’s pressure, QAnon followers have not moved on with their lives but instead joined him in the master conspiracy theory that the election was “stolen” from him. The FBI fears that they “will begin to believe they can no longer ‘trust the plan’ referenced in QAnon posts,” leading them to extreme violence. Facts contributing to QAnon’s lasting effect, according to the FBI report, include COVID, posts on social media platforms, U.S. polarization, and support from public individuals. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is a QAnon strong advocate.

Fivethirtyeight.com, a political website reporting surveys, has a detailed explanation of why people fall for conspiracy theories such as the moon landing being a hoax and vaccines being dangerous. The article presents testing for different traits such as the jumping-to-conclusions bias with little evidence, a trait more likely held by conspiracy theories. No one trait of the article predicts belief in conspiracy theories, but several of them may indicate a pattern.

A 2018 study about whether a series of coin tosses is random or predetermined examined tendencies to see patterns even if there are none. Those who see predetermination also find them in random statements—as in QAnon conspiracy beliefs making connections between unrelated events and symbols as a marker of conspiracy theories—such as a cicada landing on Biden’s neck meaning the onslaught of “the storm.” Or the connection of the Ever Given, ship caught in the Suez Canal believe by QAnon to transport trafficked children, and a March madness tweet from Mike Pompeo, a warship transit, and a 2018 Q post. [Hint: these coin tosses are random, not predetermined.]

Environmental factors can influence cognitive traits. Conspiracy theories can make people feel safer, perhaps by having a specific political candidate win or keeping a job endangered by an understanding of climate change. The theories may make them part of their tribe, “in-group” instead of “out-group.” Belief can make a person feel superior or important. The sharing of conspiracy theories builds them, and social media has been instrumental in doing this, especially when people were staying at home and on the internet during the pandemic.

About half the population endorses at least one conspiracy theory. (I won’t tell you mine!). And all brains want to take shortcuts, make assumptions, and be irrational. The extremes create danger for our lives and for our democracy.

A fascinating look at conspiracy theories through the last six centuries, their relationship to social and political upheavals, and DDT’s history of conspiracy theories.

 

June 13, 2021

The Polarization of Religion

Until the last half century, Christian religions in the U.S. believed in the separation of church and state: they ran their religions and let government run the country. Until the 1970s, evangelical Christians focused on piety, but secular political activists began working with the rising generation of evangelical leaders such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham. Their desire for power led them to support a twice-married man whose children were alienated instead of an evangelical progressive president for their next leader. Since then, conservatives calling themselves the “Moral Majority” have lost the meaning of “moral” and shrinking enough that the “majority” is disappearing.

These are some recent examples of how conservatives care nothing about morality if they can control the government. Their disregard for the following the ethics of Christianity, however, may be losing membership for conservative Christianity.

People of Praise, the small offshoot of the Catholic Church, is under investigation for sexual misconduct. DDT’s Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a member. In December, a woman reported to the police about her high school physics teacher at the religion’s school sexually assaulting her in 2001 when she was 17. She reported the assault to the school dean five years later. The teacher remained for another five years, despite the dean believing the girl and telling another school official, until the teacher was hired to lead a Phoenix (AZ) charter school, Great Hearts Academies, that didn’t ask for his employment record. He returned to the Minneapolis area in another four year and became headmaster of another Christian school. Last month, the school, Chesterton Academy of the Twin Cities, announced the teacher was taking an indefinite leave of absence because of the sexual assault allegation. Other former members of the religion have reported assault and physical abuse. After Barrett was nominated for the Supreme Court, they formed a private Facebook group. With a membership of 1,700, the People of Praise can’t afford to lose any members.

The Southern Baptist Church, with the largest denomination among Protestants, is suffering the same polarization as political groups—arguments about racism, requirements for political loyalty, etc. As in the government, conservatives fear the groups has gone too far to the left from the Bible’s strict authority as well as concern with racism and gender issues. They want to take over complete power at the upcoming week’s meeting of 16,000 Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in Nashville (TN). They expressed other concerns such as suitability of women giving sermons, treatment of sexual abuse, and the dangers of “critical race theory” allowing history and other information about racism.

The fight using leaked letters and whistle-blower recorders has continued for weeks. Relative moderates such as Russell Moore and (no relation) Beth Moore (no relation to Russell) have left, and conservatives rejoiced at their absences. The conservative campaign of “take the ship” is using T-shirts with the slogan and car flags with a pirate image. Southern Baptists are back to their “roots,” splitting from the Northern members in 1845 because of the SBC’s support for slavery. In the 1990s, the church tried diversification, and the current president, J.D. Greear, encouraged the church’s membership to assert “Black lives matter” in the past year. Ordaining women as staff pastors may have driven conservatives over the edge.

Conservatives urge their leadership to attend next week’s meeting and elect a conservative president. His election may drive off more members because conservatives can try to block any mention of CRT and ignore sexual abuse within the church. Two years ago, the Southern Baptists promised to address sexual abuse within its congregations, but nothing has changed. The conservatives’ choice for president has been accused of blocking attempts to root out abusers and stop “bullying and intimidation” toward sexual abuse survivors.

In a closed meeting, one of the conservatives said that their need to “preserve their base” overrides working against sexual abuse. The church’s “base” has shrunk for 13 straight years, down to 14.5 million in two years by 287,000 members, partly caused by conservatives worshipping the cult of DDT.  

This month, Pope Francis expanded rules in the Catholic Church against sexual abuse to criminalize sexual abuse of adults by priests and laypeople with power in the church. The Catholic Church has had difficulty adjudicating child abuse, but the sexual abuse against adults can be even harder. In the past, Church law considered sexual relationships between priests and consenting adults sinful but not criminal. Priests were rarely removed from their position.

Although the pope’s new rule appears to be positive, at least a dozen priests accused of abuse have been sent back to their parishes or to new positions within the Church, some of them after the Vatican overturned recommendations from local dioceses. Chicago priest Michael Pfleuger was reinstated after multiple accusations of sexual abuse. One of his accusers called it “a cover-up because of his popularity” and described Pfleuger’s abuse. Investigating boards claimed they found no evidence although they didn’t talk to the priests’ victims.

Texas has a new church, the “Rod of Iron Ministries,” for those who want to worship guns, preferably AR-15s. It plans to provide sanctuary for “patriots” from the war they believe will come from the “deep state.” The leader of the “Sanctuary Church,” is Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, son of Sun Myung who founded the Unification Church. Their followers were nicknamed the “Moonies.” The younger Moon said the new church’s name comes from the Book of Revelation stating Jesus used a “rod of iron” to protect himself and others, which Moon took to mean the AR-15. Co-founder of the church is Moon’s brother, Kook-jin “Justin” Moon, the CEO of nearby gun manufacturing company Kahr Arms.

Former Moonies are horrified with the new church, saying “these people are just getting crazier and crazier… I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”  [Visual – Moon]  Follower Nicholas Skulstad was arrested last month for allegedly ramming his car repeatedly into a New York Department of Transport vehicle in Westchester, New York, smashing its window, and attacking officers at the scene. He screamed, “I’m Jesus Christ! You are going to die today! Are you ready to die?” His car contained a “List-to-Kill” of current and former public officials and other figures. Earlier he told people the COVID vaccine was the “mark of the beast” and talked about the coming “purge” to eradicate everyone who “commits evil, like pedophiles.”

Echoing Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been voted out of power, in his case after a 12-year rule. The event took two years and four elections, but the center joined the left in Parliament for a 60 to 59 vote. Unlike the U.S., violence has not yet erupted, but members of the ultra-Orthodox parties loudly heckled the new administration. Netanyahu promised to overturn the election, like DDT, and his loss of the office leaves him open to legal problems after being indicted for bribery and corruption.

While in office, DDT tried to restructure the Middle East under the control of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Netanyahu. The triad would overrule a 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel that would force Jordan out of overseer of Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites. Kushner deliberately ignored history to overlook religion of the past by creating an economic alliance. The plan has currently failed: DDT and Netanyahu are both gone, MBS is out of favor with the white House, and Jordan has regained power, visiting the White House this summer.  

Christian-nationalists believe that God’s will should control the U.S. and anyone not Christian in the “right” way or won’t conform to their agenda is illegitimate. Thus overthrowing an election is justifiable. Less than a year ago, 68 percent of white evangelicals believed that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were divinely inspired; the figure increased to 74 percent within six months. Another 68 percent believe that the January 6 insurrection was caused by Black Lives Matter and Antifa. According to a recent study, 27 percent of white evangelicals, more than any other religious group, believe QAnon beliefs are “mostly true.” And 67 percent of evangelicals think DDT’s loss was “not at all fair.”

Polling on QAnon believers from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core:

By party: 23 percent of Republicans, 12 percent of independents, and 7 percent of Democrats support QAnon conspiracy theories.

Overall: 14 percent of Americans believe in QAnon, 46 percent reject it outright, and 40 percent are doubters but don’t rule it all out.

Specific questions increased the percentage to 15 or 20 percent:  A group of Satan-worshipping pedophile and child sex traffickers control the U.S. media, government, and financial worlds;  if a storm will soon sweep away the elites and restore the rightful leaders (20 percent); and true American patriots may have to resort to violence” to save America.

“Things have gotten so off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” according to 28 percent of Republicans.   

Cicadas return every 17 years, flying around and sometimes landing on people. When one landed on President Joe Biden’s neck as he was leaving for the G7 summit, QAnon went crazier. The cicada was a secret sign about big things to happen.

Child (nymph) + underground + 17 = pedophiles operating an underground sex-trafficking ring because Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.

It’s Sunday, and here is religion in the United States.  

February 17, 2019

A Wall to Protect People from Religion?

If we used the same standards for religious figures that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tries to use for undocumented immigrants, the United States would build a wall between the country and all churches. Another former archbishop and cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse with no chance for appeal, Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power” and “solicitation” during confession. A study completed in 2002 found almost 11,000 cases of sexual abuse by almost 5,000 priests. Far more have emerged in the past 17 years, including the uncovering of over 300 priests in just one state who abused over 1,000 children.

Catholics aren’t alone in sexual abuse by their leaders: at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced charges of sexual misconduct against over 700 victims in the past 20 years—more in Texas than any other state. The church urged many of the victims to forgive the offenders and for becoming pregnant. Sometimes churches shunned the victims. Some sexual abusers returned to their churches to preach. Southern Baptist Convention officials shielded the predators and refused any reforms.

The above are just two examples of denominations in which people are sexual abused by their religious leaders. The stories go into the tens of millions, unlike DDT’s concerns about undocumented immigrants.

The Roman Catholic diocese has exonerated the male white students from Covington (KY) who appeared to invade the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. after they attended an anti-choice March for Life. The bishop claimed that their students were being threatened can called their behavior “laudatory.” The opinion was based on online video and interviews with 43 students and 13 adult chaperones. No one from the Indigenous Peoples group was interviewed. All of them are quite pleased with themselves.

Wyoming has failed to repeal the death penalty, and state Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne) is grateful because Jesus also got the death penalty. Without his execution, he could not have absolved the sins of mankind. Therefore, retaining the death penalty is vital. I’m a bit confused about her logic. Does she compare all executed people to Jesus? Self-identified on her FB as “your only true Conservative, Christian, Pro-Life Candidate,” she also made this argument for her homophobia while speaking to students from Cheyenne Central High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance:

“If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”

Frustrated by two Muslim women in the newly-elected House, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) has accused her of being anti-Semitic because she pointed out that Israel gets its power with the U.S. government because of its donations to legislators. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is right in her claim, but she left out the money that anti-Semitic evangelicals donate to conservative legislators while lobbying them to support Israelis and destroy Palestinians. It all comes from the Christian belief that Christ must convert the Jews after he returns to Israel before the great millennium, the golden age, can begin. Thus their obsession with strengthening Israel for Jesus’s return. Eighty percent of evangelicals viewed Israel’s new state in 1948 as a vital piece of the Second Coming, and 52 percent say they support Israel because of its role in the End Times. VP Mike Pence is one of these people.

The Center for Religion and Civil Culture at the University of Southern California divides evangelical Christians into five different sects since DDT developed power:

Trump-vangelicals:  Primarily white with a few Latinx or black pastors; DDT’s base who want access to political power with the belief that God picked DDT to “make America great again.”

Neo-fundamentalists: DDT supporters who try to keep some Christian values and separate themselves from DDT’s “moral failings.”

iVangelicals: Conservative but pretend to be non-partisan; ministering in big churches to mostly white, financially well-off suburbanites.

Kingdom Christians: Separate from evangelicals but with similar beliefs; keep to smaller, urban churches, sometimes rented spaces.

Peace and justice evangelicals: The left-wing with origins in the 1973 “Chicago Declaration of Social Concern,” urging evangelicals away from prosperity gospel and toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia shows that religious fundamentalism comes from a functional impairment in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Damage results in diminished cognitive flexibility and openness—a loss of curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness. Religious beliefs, socially transmitted mental representations of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real, differ from empirical beliefs based on the appearance of the world and updated with new evidence and new theories. People with lesions in the prefrontal cortex rate radical political statements as more moderate than people without the damage possibly caused by brain trauma, psychological disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or genetic profile. Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas.

Conservatism is connected with religious beliefs because they are not updated with new evidence or scientific explanations. Fixed, rigid beliefs promote predictability and rules of evidence in the person’s tribe. Religious fundamentalism discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues—anything that challenges their beliefs. People can become aggressive toward others who are perceived because they don’t share their anti-science and supernatural beliefs.

Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas. Dr. Marlene Winell, daughter of Pentecostal missionaries and a human development consultant, addresses the problem of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) in her counseling and in her book Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. She explains that emotional and mental treatment by authoritarian religious groups causes RTS from teachings such as eternal damnation, religious punishment and guilt, and neglect when people are denied information and opportunities. Indoctrination leads to fear and anxiety, and some people suffer from nightmares and panic attacks throughout their lives. The syndrome can also cause depression, cognitive problems, and difficulty in social functioning because the core message of fundamentalist Christianity is that people are wrong and deserve to die.

To control people, fundamentalists tell them that they are weak and dependent, keeping them from making decisions because they must follow the Christian leaders. Leaving can be almost impossible because of religious shunning if people don’t conform.  Departure from a church requires a complete change of one’s self of reality and belief systems. Traumas other than RTS are built into society because of an understanding about the horrors of domestic abuse and war-related PTSD. A person needed counseling because of issues related to RTS are sent back to religion.

One of the goals for fundamentalist Christians is to block marriage equality, and seven Kansas GOP legislators are using the concept of religion to accomplish their mission. Their proposed bill would eliminate all rights for sexual minorities because being LGBTQ is “a religion that does not fulfill any compelling state interest.” They maintain that secular humanism was recognized as a religion in the 1961 unanimous Supreme Court decision when the decision merely determined that the U.S. Constitution prohibits government prohibits a religious test for public office. The legislators’ proof is that the LGBTQ community is organized and has “a daily code by which members may guide their daily lives” along with its religious symbols, i.e., a rainbow-colored flag, and the creed of “love is love”—a shibboleth to oppress those outside their denomination.

Perhaps we need a wall to protect people.

September 16, 2018

Sexual Abuse: Religion Wants Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dylan Charles writes:

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

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

August 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 19, 2018

DOJ Protects Discrimination, Sexual Assault by Christians

Hypocritical evangelist Franklin Graham brought his religion that supports sexual assault and serial lying to Oregon in an attack on Gov. Kate Brown in an address to 12,000 people in Canby (OR). Because Brown practices yoga, an exercise used for health and relaxation, Graham accused her of not being a Christian and called on the crowd to pray for her to “come to know your son Jesus Christ as her lord and savior.” Graham’s speech, “Sodom and Gomorrah,” claimed that “secularism and communism are one and the same.”

[According to Christian thought, the sins of Sodom are gang rape, violence, inhospitality, pride, arrogance, inhospitality, and failure to help the poor and needy—not exercise. Note Matthew 6:1 – “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”]

Following Graham’s determination to make the United States a mandated Christian nation, AG Jeff Sessions has created a “Religious Liberty Task Force” to enforce his mandate that federal agencies take the broadest possible interpretation of Christian “liberty,” which he calls “religious liberty.” Sessions’ action prevents the IRS from removing the tax-exempt status of churches that actively promote political candidates, prohibited by law. Grants from any agency for sex education and reproductive care will require an abstinence-only approach, workers can be denied insurance for contraception, and employers can hire only Christians.

As the number of Christians in the United States shrinks, their rights increase through their Supreme Court wins in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) and Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017), the latter forcing taxpayers to give funds to Christian churches. Last May, Sessions created a new office to watch for “any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law.” In July, he tried to use the bible, Romans 13, as justification for his cruelty in separating immigrant children from their families. Sessions personal religious group, the United Methodist Church, formally censured him, including his misrepresentation of the Christian faith.

Sessions’ speech announcing his new task force emphasized the need to eradicate secularism, calling it a “dangerous movement.” He claimed that “courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law” and people can label religious groups as a “hate group,” possibly referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Christian Family Research Council that constantly lies about and attacks LGBTQ people and Muslims while it supports white nationalists. Sessions also reassured the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that he believes that they are not a hate group for their hate attacks against LGBTQ people and claimed that the DOJ does not “partner with any groups that discriminate.”

Rev. Dr. Barber said:

“The rationale that is used to say businesses ought to be able to deny an LGBT person, is the same rationale that segregationists used.”

In his announcement speech for his task force, at the DOJ “Religious Liberty Summit,” Sessions said, among other falsehoods,“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives.” Nuns had been required to sign a form refusing to include contraceptives in insurance for employees. Other accusations concerned a confirmation question to HUD Secretary Ben Carson about supporting LGBTQ rights and questions to judicial nominee Wendy Vitter about her anti-reproductive rights activism. Sessions also referred to “the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” whose case refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple was decided by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission this past June. (Phillips may be back; he has now refused to serve a transgender woman.)

Another speaker at the announcement, Catholic Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to promote discrimination against LGBTQ workers and same-gender couples who want to legally marry. Kurtz advocated for state-funded adoption agencies’ permission to reject prospective LGBTQ parents.

Sessions and Kurtz want to put everyone in the United States under control of Christian religion including the Catholic Church that protected over 300 leaders sexually abusing over 1,000 victims during the past 70 years— just in one state. If a secular institution were in charge, the sexual abusers “would have been arrested under the RICO federal laws [and] considered organized crime,” according to Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi. Instead, the Catholic Conference spent millions of dollars to block any legislation to protect future victims and still continues to fight laws to prevent further victimization. Sessions’ actions in his leadership of the DOJ helps protect the sexual abusers in any church.

How the Church and law officials protected sexual abusers, according to the grand jury:

  • Those with information about sexual abusers were told, “Never say ‘rape’; say ‘inappropriate contact’ or ‘boundary issues.'”
  • Fellow clergy members who investigated were ordered  to “ask inadequate questions and then make credibility determinations” about their colleagues, with whom they lived and worked.
  • Clergy members were sent to church-run psychiatric treatment facilities “for an appearance of integrity.”
  • A priest’s removal was explained as his being “sick” or having “nervous exhaustion.”
  • Priests who raped children were still provided with housing and living expenses.
  • If communities learned about the priests’ abuses, the clergy stayed in the priesthood but were moved new to locations where no one knew about their crimes.
  • Child sex abuse was not treated as a crime.
  • Law enforcement who learned about the abuses “simply deferred to church officials.”

Stories about protected crimes committed by Catholic priests that came out from the grand jury are horrifying:  

  • “A priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The bishop expressed his feelings in a letter—[to the priest]: ‘This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.’” The priest remained in his position.
  • The bishop in the Diocese of Erie heard a priest confess to anal and oral rape “of at least 15 boys, as young as seven years old” before he called the priest “a person of candor and sincerity,” and congratulated him on “the progress he has made” in handling his “addiction.”
  • In the Diocese of Harrisburg, a priest abusing five sisters in one family “collected samples of the girls’ urine, pubic hair, and menstrual blood,” but the diocese “remained unwilling” to confront the priest after finding his “collection.
  • The Diocese of Pittsburgh dismissed a priest’s abuse because he said he was “literally seduced” by a 15-year-old boy despite his admitting to “sado-masochistic” activities with several boys; the diocese said that the sado-masochism was only “mild” and at least the priest was not “psychotic.”
  • A boy was forced to stand naked, posing like Christ on the cross, while priests took pictures and added them to a collection of child pornography that they produced and distributed on the church campus.

As horrific as these revelations are, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been known for decades—perhaps even centuries. And Catholics are not alone: the evangelical Christian churches, those now running the United States, also conceal their sexual abuse, largely with impunity. High-profile leaders such as Paige Patterson and Bill Hybels fell from their pedestals, but a decentralized church structure ignores sexual abuse. Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson said, “Sexual abuse is the most underreported thing—both in and outside the church—that exists.” A former Florida assistant state attorney, he saw dozens of sexual assault victims unprotected by church leadership and church constituents who abused members of their flock.

Tchividjian said that sexual abuse in evangelical churches is worse than that in the Catholic Church, adding that the Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers. Columnist Dan Savage found over 100 instances of youth pastors who, between 2008 and 2016, were accused of, arrested for, or convicted of sexually abusing minors in a religious setting. The tip of the iceberg, these cases are just those publicized. Wade Mullen, director of the M.Div. program at Capital Seminary & Graduate School, found 192 cases in 2016 and 2017 of leaders in an influential church or evangelical institution charged with sex crimes involving a minor, including rape, molestation, battery and child pornography —and these didn’t include those committed by other than leaders or against adults and those who weren’t charged.

Of 166 people at Bob Jones University who reported being victims of sexual abuse, the school discouraged half of them from going to the police, and one BJU official told a victim who reporting sexual abuse by his grandfather that he “tore your family apart” and “you love yourself more than you love God.”

Those who claim that sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is in the past refuse to see how religious leaders block any laws against sexual abuse in Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant. While Sessions promotes discrimination by Christians against all others, he fails to protect victims of sexual assault,many in the name of Christianity. Evangelicals who rant against consenting same-gender relationships and same-gender couples trying to adopt unwanted children should clean their own house before attacking others–but they won’t. It’s all a matter of power over others.

February 17, 2013

First Pope in Almost 600 Years Quits

My question on this Sunday: did lightning strike the Vatican because the pope quit? Everyone else wants to know why the pope quit. [image] Hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, a bolt of lightning struck the rod atop St. Peter’s Basilica. Agence France-Presse gave the photo credit to Filioppo Monteforte, who has photographed the pope extensively for over a decade.

lightning

Although the photo’s authenticity has been questioned, Fairfax Media Nick Moir said, “It’s probably not that rare for St Peter’s to get hit.” He added that there’s no way to verify when the photograph was taken. It can be verified, however, that the pope is leaving, the first time that a live pontiff has done so since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII resignedto resolve which of three people should be the pope.

The timing of his departure on February 28 is peculiar, coming during Lent before Palm Sunday and Easter, two big days of celebration for the Catholic Church. He gave his advanced age, 85, as the reason, saying that the changing pace of the modern world has left him unable to “adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.” Despite physical and mental decay, most other popes stayed until death. Only four others have left the office, believing that their prayer and suffering as they approach the end are a part of their position. None of those who resigned gave cited health as the reason.

One reason for the pope’s resignation could be the increasing connection with cases of sexual abuse by priests under the charge of Cardinal Roger Mahony, then Archbishop of Los Angeles. When he first tried to evade the law after covering for his priests’ crimes, the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, oversaw Mahoney’s actions. In an unprecedented move, Mahoney has been publicly rebuked by current Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez, and stripped of any public duties. The records, including letters from Mahoney to Ratzinger, are becoming public record because of a recent court order

For instance, in a 2003 letter to Ratzinger, Mahony says of Father Lynn R. Caffoe that between the priest and one boy, there were 100 “instances of masturbatory and copulative acts,” according to an account in the Los Angeles Daily News.But Mahony never reported Caffoe’s alleged crimes to police, and Ratzinger apparently never instructed him to.

Mahoney’s lack of ethics continued after he hid the priests’ illegal behavior. In trying to find money to pay the settlement with victims abused by priests, he stripped the cemetery maintenance fund. The $115 million that he took comprised 88 percent of the fund contributed by families of dead Catholics into an account used for the care of graves. Although his move, approved by the Vatican, was not illegal, his secrecy indicates that he knew how angry Catholics would be.

The pope has scheduled a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for Saturday, February 23 to discuss securing protection and immunity from prosecution from the Italian government. This action may have been caused by a diplomatic note sent from an undisclosed European government on February 4, stating the intention to issue an arrest warrant for Ratzinger. He resigned less than a week later.

The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) has asked President Napolitano to refrain from assisting Ratzinger in evading justice. In part, the letter states, “Under international law and treaties that have been ratified by Italy, you and your government are forbidden from granting such protection to those like Joseph Ratzinger who have aided and abetted criminal actions, such as ordering Bishops and Cardinals in America and elsewhere to protect known child rapists among their clergy.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based non-profit legal group, has requested an inquiry on behalf of the Survivors Network, arguing that the global church has maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators. The complaint also accuses Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population. Vatican officials have announced that Joseph Ratzinger will remain a permanent resident of Vatican City so that he will have legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him.

The pope will leave legacies other than the sexual abuses of children. In his push for prescribed gender roles Benedict’s legacy, he described moves toward egalitarianism as “a violation of the natural order.” On his watch, the church equated the ordination of female priests with child sex abuse. Under the pope’s leadership, the Catholic Church has fought against U.S. regulations to provide reproductive health care for all women. He set up an investigation of nuns in the U.S. because all they did was care for the sick and the poor.

Also on the pope’s agenda is his opposition to equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender individuals. Less than a year ago, he said that Catholics should oppose marriage equality and defend opposite-sex marriage against “every possible misrepresentation of their true nature.”  He also used his Christmas speech to denounce marriage equality, saying that it destroyed the “essence of the human creature.”

In a meeting with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga of the Ugandan Parliament, a primary supporter of a bill that would kill people for homosexual acts, he blessed her although the Vatican later denied such a blessing.

The pope stated that the Islam Quran urges that religious faith should be imposed by force. It does not.  In fact, the Quran states:

“Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians–any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. “

He angered Jews when he lifted the excommunication of a British bishop who denies that Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers. Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops who belong to the Society of Saint Pius X were allowed back into the fold.

Under his rule, the Catholic Church maintained the lack of equality between men and women, the sins of LGBT people, and importance of its priests over the victimization of children.

With the pope, for all intents and purposes, gone, the world is guessing about his replacement. Those in Latin America, comprising almost 40 percent of the 1.2 Catholics in the world, think that it’s time for a pope to be from one of their countries after three decades of German popes. Catholics in the United States hope for the first pope from our nation, with some of the U.S. cardinals having held important positions at the Vatican.

The choice will be made by 110+ cardinals under the age of 80, over half of them appointed by the current pope and over half of them from Europe. Of the 11 from the United States, two of them, Mahoney and Cardinal Justin Rigali, lost their positions because it was found that they kept clergy on assignments after indictments for child molestation.

On his most recent show, Bill Maher said that he doesn’t care who becomes pope. The shredded separation between church and state in the U.S., however, demands that everyone who cares for equal rights should care about the positions of the pope selected by the Catholic Churth. Over half of our nation’s population are Catholics and Evangelicals, many of whom try to oppress the rest of the population with their religious beliefs. Those of us who want freedom from religion will be affected by the new pope, especially if he continues to eradicate rights for women and LGBT people.

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