Nel's New Day

February 18, 2018

GOP Tries to Erase Constitutional Church-State Separation

Christian counseling has taken a new meaning during the time of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Reports about his paying off $130,000 to a porn star after a sexual liaison with her led to James Bakker complimenting DDT for his “counseling” her and giving her money to get out of the pornography industry.

Now George Gregory, a 61-year-old Pennsylvania pastor, claims that he “was counseling a young man with a drug problem.” The man was found in the front seat of Gregory’s car, naked and tied up with nylon rope. Gregory claimed that the man propositioned him, but that he “did nothing.” A neighbor had called the police, and officers found Gregory in the back seat adjusting his clothing. He told officers that he and the man “were just playing” and that they “meet up from time to time to play with each other.” Gregory also claimed that he thought he was in a private place, and officials reminded him that he was on a public street. He said, “That conversation never happened.” The Pittsburgh pastor has been charged with lewdness and indecent exposure, and the other man confirmed that what they were doing was consensual.

In Texas, evangelical minister Gloria Copeland believes in Christian immunization:

Jesus himself is our flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of the flu. We have a duck season, a deer season, but we don’t have a flu season and don’t receive it when someone threatens you with ‘everybody is getting the flu.’ We’ve already had our shot.”

Texas has already had 2,300 deaths from the flu, and the season—which Copeland claims doesn’t exist—isn’t over. Jesus didn’t save Copeland’s megachurch from a 2013 measles outbreak after the preaching that people don’t need vaccines because of Jesus’s protection. Both Gloria and her husband, Kenneth, Copeland were members of DDT’s evangelical advisory panel in 2016.

Evangelical belief is fast becoming the mode, as evidenced at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. DDT said that faith “is central to American life and liberty” although he rarely attends church. The percentage of atheists in the United States has almost doubled to 3.1 from 1.6 percent in 2007, and another 4.0 percent identify as agnostics.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who delivered the keynote address at the event, was even farther off target than DDT. The legislator who was shot at a baseball practice last year gave a revisionist view of American history:

“This was a nation founded with a deep belief in God. Our founding fathers talked about it when they were preparing to draft the Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson—who was the author of the Constitution—If you go to the Jefferson Memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson: ‘God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’

“You can’t separate church from state…. People would say, you know, when you’re voting on issues, how do you separate your faith from the way you vote? Faith is part of who you are.”

Time for a reality check:

Thomas Jefferson didn’t write the U.S. Constitution; he was in France at the time. James Madison, who supported separation of church and state, wrote the constitution. Jefferson did write the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson also strongly supported the separation of church and state. The term “wall of separation” between the two institutions come from Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury (CT) Baptist Association about the First Amendment: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” As president, Jefferson refused to issue proclamations for official days of prayer.

People’s votes may come from their personal beliefs, but not always religious. And government neutrality on religious issues allows people to seek their own paths without government interference.

Evangelical ascendance is leading the United States into a “post-truth era,” according to writer and reporter Kurt Andersen, and that seems to reduce the average IQ. Anderson, a linguistic expert on DDT’s speaking style, points out that only one-third of GOP candidates in 2012 agreed to the scientific theory of evolution. George W. Bush said that evolution shouldn’t be taught in schools unless it is accompanied by the religious belief of creationism. By 2016, only one candidate, George W.’s brother Jeb Bush, was the only one in a large field supporting the science of evolution. Anderson thinks that the Republican candidates, however, are forced to deny evolution to keep their voters as the GOP becomes increasingly extreme. When religious belief “bleeds over into how we manage and construct our economy and our society,” the United States suffers from lasting trouble.

One way that the DDT administration puts Christianity in charge of justice for all people is the religious liberty czar required for every U.S. attorney office. The DOJ has ordered each office to assign a person who monitors litigation for any suits involving “religious liberty” and notify supervisors. All offices must get the approval of the Associate Attorney General, formerly Rachel Brand, before that case can proceed. With Brand’s resignation, the replacement may be Noel Francisco, allied with the ultra-conservative Christian group, Alliance Defending Freedom. The new policy mandates:

“To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, Department components and United States Attorneys’ Offices must reasonably accommodate religious observance and practice in all activities, including litigation.”

The policy adds that “the Office of the Associate Attorney General has supervisory responsibility for overseeing the Department’s respect for religious liberty in litigation.”

A new DDT division of the Office of Civil Rights, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD), permits healthcare workers to deny treatment to LGBTQ people and women seeking abortions if it conflicts with their religious convictions. [The White House has also issued many other mandates giving Christian control of the United States.]

The CRFD will cost the health care system at least $300 million to set up new religious requirements as hospitals, nursing homes, state health programs, pharmacies, and other service providers must post employee notices, draft policies, maintain documentation, and prepare other methods of guaranteeing that health care workers can discriminate against people based on their form of Christianity. Annual maintenance of these practices will continue to cost $125 million. Catholics at institutions supported by taxpayers have re-confirmed their opposition to abortion and death with dignity practices.

Other GOP leaders are following DDT’s lead. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has picked anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian pastor to head up the Michigan Civil Rights Commission last week. The state senate is supposed to confirm the person for this position, but Snyder ignored that requirement.

As evangelicals move farther from the cultural mainstream, they are also losing their constituents through aging and attrition. As a result, the white evangelical Protestant population in the U.S. has fallen over 25 percent from 23 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2016. over the past decade, dropping from 23 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2016. Almost two-thirds of them are now at least 50 years old. Perhaps this change will overcome the listing of the ship of state toward Christian theocracy and Christian sharia-like law.

January 5, 2015

Steve Scalise Scandal, White Supremacy

Fox network is well-known its unfair and unbalanced view of events, lying to protect conservatives and excoriate everyone else. A rare exception to this channel policy came from Greta Van Susteran when she criticized Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) for lacking the “moral courage” to resign from his third-place leadership position as Majority Whip in the U.S. House. Debates have swirled throughout the country for the past week after it was revealed that Scalise was the keynote speaker at a convention of the white supremacist, hate group European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) in 2002, invited by the efforts of KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.

Scalise’s excuse for his speech was that he had no idea about the beliefs of EURO and didn’t know that Duke was connected to the organization. His talk, however, was targeted to a specific audience because it focused on how government programs favor minorities over white people. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that Scalise could keep the position as Majority Whip because he had apologized (in the usual, “it was a mistake I regret”) and because the event was 12 years ago. Evidently, that is the statute of limitations for wrong-doing from one Republican to another.

Van Susteran pointed out that the support for the KKK by the third most powerful GOP member of the House sent a bad message to everyone except the conservative white voters:

“I don’t know if it’s fair to Scalise or not fair to Scalise, but associating with David Duke is grossly unwise. Everyone knows who David Duke is. I realized this was 12 years ago. But if you want to send a message to the American people, the Republicans and Democrats, this would have been the opportunity to say he should step aside, whether it’s fair or not, and send a message that we’re not going to have this distraction, we really do want to have everybody on board.”

Trying to protect Scalise, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) compared Scalise to Jesus because of the congressman’s nobility in sitting down with these evil-doers, just as Jesus would have done. Scalise’s actions were very positive, according to King, because he was helping “the sick,” something that King actually fiercely opposes through his policies against Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

In 1999, while considering a run for U.S. representative from Louisiana, Scalise said that he “embraces many” of Duke’s “conservative” views. Being the keynote speaker for a racist group is not Scalise’s only openness about his opposition to civil rights. He voted against the Martin Luther King holiday twice. In 1999, Scalise was one of just three “no” votes on a Martin Luther King holiday measure, and five years later, he was one of just six Louisiana legislators who opposed King holiday legislation, versus 90 state House members who supported it. Other GOP leaders have also voted against the holiday, but recanted. Former Vice President Dick Cheney (R) changed his mind in 1983 and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 1999. Scalise clung to his opposition into the 21st century.

As a state legislator elected from the same precincts where Duke was once strong, Scalise voted against legislation to establish protections for victims of hate crimes based on race. He is also connected to the Family Research Council, another hate group.

The GOP has struggled with bigotry among its members. Trent Lott lost his position as Senate Majority Leader after his 2002 praise for Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist platform. Boehner called King an “a**hole” for the Iowan’s racial views on Latino immigrants. Last year, the GOP establishment rejected Chris McDaniel during his Senate campaign in Mississippi because of the candidate’s role at a neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist conference.

Scalise is also not Boehner’s first struggle with wrong-doing by GOP House members. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), left in 2010 after an affair with a staffer, and the next year Boehner told Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) to leave after trying to meet women through the Craigslist personals. Last year, after Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) was filmed kissing a married staffer, not his own wife, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) called for McAllister’s resignation. The most recent departure came last week following Boehner’s meeting with newly-elected Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) after he pleaded guilty in December 2014 to a felony tax evasion.

The standards for being forced out of the House seem fuzzy, but evidently adultery, not illegal, is unethical, but speaking with radical racist groups is acceptable for the GOP leadership. Hitting on women online ends a career, but friendly relationships with neo-Nazis works in a person’s favor.

David Duke, who Scalise once praised for his political views, is unhappy about the possibility that Scalise could lose his new position. Livid that the “Zionist” media and the GOP are concerned about Scalise’s speech, Duke threatens to reveal names of other politicians who have secret ties with Duke if the GOP turns on Scalise. Duke has called Scalise “a fine family man” with whom he often agrees. According to Duke, Scalise gave his speech at the convention via a teleconference in Russia and discussed his conspiracy theory about how “Israeli treachery” was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

A political advisor to David Duke, Kenny Knight, claimed that Scalise spoke to a civil group, not EURO and denied any involvement with Duke’s organization. Yet public records showed that Knight was an officer in EURO at one time.

Scalise is now the pick of the House GOP caucus to lead them in their new role in the 114th Congress totally controlled by Republicans. If he stays in that position, he represents the GOP party. It also might be a party that is afraid of Duke’s revelations, meaning that Duke is partly in control of the GOP.

Whites will be the minority in the United States in the year 2042. Steve Scalise is 49 years and could see his race become a minority during his lifetime. That’s something that Republicans might want to think about in picking leaders connected to white supremacists.

Republican leaders had hoped that silence will make the Scalise scandal blow over, but continuing publicity is damaging the congressman’s reputation. Other GOP legislators are forced to defend his actions, and the toxicity is growing, with doubts about fundraising for GOP candidates who support his past behavior. Editorials in hometown newspapers of these legislators aer calling for Scalise to step down. Another question is whether Scalise can be successful in persuading lawmakers to support the House GOP agenda, especially in the growing divisiveness of the GOP members of the House. Conservative activists like Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, and Sarah Palin want him out of GOP leadership.

His continued part of the leadership leaves the GOP open to criticism as shown by the White House’s press secretary, Josh Earnest when he said that it “says a lot about what the [GOP] Conference’s priorities and values are” that Scalise has remained in leadership. Earnest twice repeated a Scalise quote from before he was in Congress that he is like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke “without the baggage.”

Senior Democratic officials think that the Scalise scandal could be worth millions of dollars in donations from their own supporters and sent out a press release to 30 GOP-held districts asking whether that member will “stand behind Scalise despite Scalise’s past rallying voters at white supremacists rallies?”

At this time, Boehner is sticking to his guns, and Scalise is maintaining silence, refusing almost all interview requests and no longer lobbying colleagues for support. Boehner actually benefits from Scalise’s problems because the Louisiana representative might have defeated Boehner for House Speaker.

The 114th Congress starts tomorrow, and a Majority Whip cannot continue to avoid the media. If Scalise keeps the position, protests will weaken, but the message will always be present.

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