Nel's New Day

April 14, 2013

GOP Wants Theocracy in the U.S.

Once again, the U.S. voters have shown their ignorance. According to an Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, 11 percent of adults in this country think that the Constitution permits the establishment of a state national religion, and another 31 percent don’t know. The same study shows that 32 percent of the people actually want a Constitutional amendment to make Christianity the official religion of the United States. Only 52 percent oppose this idea.

Those people supporting a theocracy based on the “Founding Fathers” don’t know that James Madison, “father of the U.S. Constitution,” wrote about the need for the separation of church and state in an 1822 letter to Edward Livingston:

“Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.”  He continued, “We are teaching the world the great truth, that Governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson: the Religion flourishes in greater purity without, than with the aid of Government.”

Ironically, the same percentage of people who want Christianity as a national religion are also the only supporters of the GOP approach to social and cultural issues. That leaves the other two-thirds of the people opposing the policies that failed to get a GOP president and Senate in the latest election. So what’s the GOP to do?

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus led the charge in rebranding Republicans, trying to move away from the Old Testament and toward greater success in next year’s election. The far-right groups are upset with the possibility that the GOP might change their position on social issues, especially marriage equality, and have threatened the GOP.

Thirteen high-profile conservatives representing influential groups wrote Priebus to rebuke him for his conclusions of the “autopsy” to determine the failure of the election. The letter concluded: “We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support.”

Within the letter, the writers demanded a resolution to re-affirm the party’s 2012 national platform passed in Tampa (FL) and called for renewed bans on abortion and same-sex marriage. Nine of the 13 groups are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, legally prohibited from supporting political parties. The IRS might want to look into these groups

Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, has called on his people to stop contributions to the GOP until it starts “defending core principles.”

At the meeting this last week, the RNC faithfully toed the Christian line, confirming its opposition to marriage equality and its support of “core values” adopted last summer, including the statement that the country’s “rights come from God.” They rejected the recommendations from the “autopsy” that Priebus announced last month.

A committee vote changed the policy that the winner of a state caucus or primary automatically gets to control its delegates, but a later vote of all 168 delegates to the meeting didn’t pass the change. The purpose of this policy, adopted last summer in Tampa (FL) before the GOP presidential convention, was to keep candidate Ron Paul from getting votes. Without a change, the policy will have the same effect on his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) if he makes a try for presidential candidate, keeping him from getting delegates.

The new GOP policy permits more states to award delegates on a winner-take-all basis instead of proportionally, decreasing the possibility of grassroots candidates to get any support at the convention. The “autopsy” recommended regional primaries, giving the advantage to more moderate candidates who can raise a great deal of money.

It’s hard to see what “core principles” that Republicans aren’t defending. States are working even harder to ban abortions and eliminate reproductive rights. In just the first quarter of 2013, states proposed 694 bills relating to women’s bodies—all of them punitive.

Arkansas alone wants to defund Planned Parenthood and any organization that has contracts with abortion providers or referrers, including power and water companies, health insurers, and medical suppliers. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants the United States to be a place where no one even thinks about abortion.

State legislators are also proposing a plethora of bills to establish official state religions, eliminate sex education, and make sodomy illegal for everyone.

Perkins also wants the religious to keep their guns because the government may come after all those God-fearing, Bible-thumping evangelists. About the new gun legislation, which has almost no chance of passing, he wrote:

“I’m very concerned about this measure; I am concerned about where it may go once it gets to the Senate floor and what might happen in the House. This idea of background checks is very concerning given the fact that the United States military has been increasingly showing hostility toward evangelicals and Catholics as being somehow threats to national security and people that need to be watched.

“Well, what does that have to do with gun control? Well, what happens if all the sudden you are identified as an evangelical, bible-believing fundamentalist and the government decides you’ve got to be put on a watch list? Part of the provisions of this background check is kind of a system where if a caution comes up when they put your name in, you don’t get a chance to buy a gun.”

Meanwhile televangelist Pat Robertson is going after the country’s foreign policy. He thinks that Secretary of State John Kerry’s work on a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians violates Christianity,  warning that Kerry is “asking for the wrath of Almighty God to fall on this nation.”

Robertson also claimed that any deal including territorial concessions to the Palestinians, including Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, will lead to divine retribution and “catastrophic” consequences. “We should do everything we can to restrain our leaders from this course of folly and it is a course of folly and it will result in terrible suffering for people in the United States,” he said.

Every time that government entities meet, they should read the the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

January 13, 2013

Christians Attack Women, Children; Chick-fil-A Loses

Every week after I publish the “Sunday Blog” about religion, I think that there can’t be anything more to report on in the next week. I’m always wrong.

The Buckeye Education School, a Christian school in Berea (OH), must consider children expendable because they used their students, as young as 13, to gut an old building to prepare the site for the new school. Although the walls were filled with asbestos, there were no precautions taken, not even protective gear for the kids. Both state and federal law require trained and accredited personnel to perform public building asbestos abatement.

On December 13, regulators found debris, potentially containing asbestos, in three dumpsters and strewn around the property. Buckeye Education is overseen by Sterling Education; its vision statement includes “adequately funded academic programs and safe, well-maintained, proper school facilities.”  Even a single fiber of asbestos can lodge in the lung, causing inflammation, scarring, and possibly cancer. The students will be immediately x-rayed and tested, but the effects of asbestos exposure could take as long as 30 years to manifest. Buckeye School is now under criminal investigation.

Another attack on children came from a dialog between Matt Dillahunty, moderator of the Atheist Experience cable show out of Austin (TX), and a caller who identified as “Shane” that went sour after Shane tried to convince Dillahunty that he actually believes in God. The subject was raped children. Dillahunty expressed frustration with the God of the Bible who allows children to be raped. Shane responded, “First of all, you portray that little girl as someone who’s innocent, she’s just as evil as you.” Listeners didn’t know who “that little girl” is, but Dillahunty cut off the conversation at that point.

If a couple has problems, it’s the woman’s fault. At least that’s what Pat Robertson told a 17-year-old boy who wrote to Maxim magazine about his father’s spending too much time playing computer war games while the boy “noticed how alone my mom feels.” After Robertson suggested that the boy get his parents to go on a romantic weekend, the televangelist moved onto the real problem—from his perception:  “You know, it may be your mom isn’t as sweet as you think she is, she may be kind of hard-nosed. And so, you say it’s my father, he’s not paying attention to mom, but you know mom…” he trails off before a nasty chuckle before he talked about a woman who sought advice.

“A woman came to a preacher I know—it’s so funny,” Robertson continued. “She was awful looking. Her hair was all torn up, she was overweight, and looked terrible…” Robertson’s punchline?  “And the preacher looked at her and he said, ‘Madam, if I were married to you, I’d start to drink too.’”

The week may not be complete without hate speech from Bryan Fischer (American Family Association). This one concerns ENDA, a proposed bill that would provide federal LGBT employment protections.

“Once [ENDA] goes into effect, which says that no business can discriminate against anybody no matter how bizarre their sexual perversity is, their sexual deviancy is, no matter how abnormal their sexual orientation is, you cannot take that into account in personnel decisions… [If the law goes into effect] the homosexual lobby will send a flaming homosexual into that Christian bookstore to apply for a job. They’ll send a guy in there wearing stilettos, a dress, and dangly earrings and dare the owner of that Christian bookstore not to hire him.”

As with other laws, religious organizations would not be required to hire LGBT people even if they weren’t wearing stilettos.

Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) is competing with Fischer for paranoid winner of the week. To Perkins the military is suppressing religion by testing a new Mind Fitness Training Program to keep soldiers mentally fit and reduce depression:

“What a coincidence–so does faith! Unfortunately, the military seems intent on driving religion out and replacing it with wacky substitutes. They’ve added atheist chaplains, Wiccan worship centers, and now, meditation classes. But none of them are as effective or as constructive as a personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, though, it’s mind over what matters–and that’s faith.”

The pilot program combines yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation with other training. In 2012, the U.S. military averaged one suicide every single day; service members are more likely to commit suicide than be killed on the battlefield. The force-feeding of evangelical beliefs at military academies doesn’t seem to have helped.

Sometimes the good guys win: Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, two Brooklyn-based comedians and social commentators, can keep their parody website, ChickfilaFoundation.com, despite a lawsuit from the Atlanta-based fast-food chain to close it down. A classic video on the website shows the two creators going into one of the restaurants with a coupon for a free chicken sandwich if they renounce their homosexuality: “Trade your Homosexuality for a FREE Original Chicken Sandwich!”  The site appeared after the corporation’s president, Dan Cathy, openly came out against marriage equality and donated $2 million to anti-gay groups. Selvig and Stiefler not only won against the corporation but also got a free chicken sandwich when they used their “coupon” in San Francisco.

Trade-Your-Homosexuality-for-a-free-chicken-sandwich

Perhaps you too can get a free Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich!

December 9, 2012

Christians Support Violence, Theocracy

It’s another Sunday and time for a roundup of religious oddities.

The word of God must not be enough to bring people to worship in the 21st century: several churches are now offering concealed firearms training. Pastor James Miller of Heights Baptist in San Angelo (TX) explained, “We’re about 150 miles from the border with Mexico and we’re very unsure about our insecure borders–about what’s coming into our cities. Personally, I feel more secure that should our worship time be interrupted by a life-threatening intrusion, that we would at least stand some kind of a chance in stopping either a mass killing or terrorizing experience.” Miller added, “Jesus advises his disciples to sell their cloak and buy a sword. He instructed his people to be prepared to defend themselves.”

Not everyone agrees with the gun approach as shown by this sign next to the church in Marengo (OH) that teaches classes necessary to get a concealed weapons permit.

111211-news-concealed-carry-church-1-662w-at-1x

While churches provide secular training,  South Dakota’s legislature advocates Bible study in public schools. One supporter said it was a tiny step toward “taking back the heritage of our country.” The minority said, “It sends the message that other religious texts are not as important as the Bible, which I think is probably a dangerous path for us to start down.” A Republican added that the state should let “the church regulate church things.”

The federal government has been regulating “church things” in marriage for almost two decades. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is so intent on keeping same-sex couples from marrying that he’s paying lawyers to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defends marriage only for heterosexual couples. Having spent over $1.5 million of taxpayer money, he’s planning more expenditures in the Supreme Court. Now he’ll have to explain how he has “standing” and show how he’s been personally hurt by marriage equality.

Taxpayer money continues to promote Christianity in the military. Last week Blake Page quit West Point five months before graduation, citing mandated Christian involvement at the military academy in New York state. “I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same,” he wrote in his letter of resignation. He described routine prayers at mandatory events and awarding off-campus passes and credit to students who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs, activities which foster “open disrespect of non-religious new cadets.”

Christian requirements at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs were criticized in 2005 when evangelical cadets received preferential treatment. and the promotion of religious proselytizing. In 2010 people raised concerns that the war in Afghanistan would be viewed as a Christian crusade because the the Pentagon used gun sights engraved with Bible verses.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC) showed Christianity at its worst when he praised Uganda’s commitment to Christian faith and “national repentance” in that country’s determination to kill LGBT people. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill introduced in Ugandan Parliament in 2009 included a provision of the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”  The Speaker of Parliament has promised the bill’s passage as a “Christmas gift” to the people of Uganda.

The praise of the FRC for dictator Yoweri Museveni’s dedication of his nation to God shows FRC’s desire for theocracy in America. FRC states that it does not support the death penalty for homosexuality but does oppose “the suggestion that gay and lesbian acts are universal human rights.” They have said nothing about other provisions in the proposed legislation including long prison sentences and punishment for people who don’t report people who engage in same-sex relations to government officials.

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day. Eleanor Roosevelt, civil rights leader, helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948. She wrote:

“Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places close to home. So close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world.”

Each one of us occupies one of these “small places.” It is our choice to lead the world toward human rights awareness and action.

 

 

August 21, 2012

Journalists Claim Family Research Council Not Hate Group

Last week, 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins II shot the security guard at the Family Research Council’s (FRC) headquarters in Washington, D.C. Because he was restrained, he couldn’t shoot anyone else with his 9mm handgun. This seems to be the first shooting within the past few years on conservative groups; the others, sometimes wholesale slaughter, have been directed at liberals or minorities such as the Sikhs or just seemingly in general, as the one in the Colorado movie theater.

Terrified about labeling shootings as hate crimes and doing something about people having the right to purchase guns without any permits, the right-wingers have said that these shootings of liberals have had nothing to do with political philosophy, that it is just one crazy person killing others without any political reason. Now we have a liberal shooting someone connected with conservatives. Is it still just one crazy person without any political perspective? Not when the conservatives are the target.

Tony Perkins, FRC leader, said that critics gave Corkins “a license to shoot an unarmed man.” He also wants the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) declared a hate group. Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, said, “It was left on right violence. It is soon to be the new norm.” These people represent those who have previously claimed that conservatives calling on violence has nothing to do with all the people being killed in the name of conservatism.

Other people, fighting the possibility that the growing number of killings related to politics and prejudice might help even a tiny bit of gun control, waffled about whether it’s possible that people use personal ideology to kill others.  is one of those who tries to look as if he is sitting on the fence. After explaining that the shooting at FRC had nothing to do with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the SPLC labeling FRC as a “hate group,” he continues by explaining that the liberal organizations are “reckless” in doing this.

Then Milbank tries to explain how FRC are really good guys, just disagreeing with the HRC and the SPLC, that it isn’t like groups like the Aryan Nations, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Westboro Baptist Church. To prove his point, he uses the most benign quote possible.

Milbank overlooks the fact that officials in the FRC have claimed  that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem” and that homosexuality should be criminalized. One FRC official said that he wanted to “export homosexuals from the United States” and advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality. A 1999 FRC pamphlet reads: “One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the prophets of a new sexual order.” Their philosophy hasn’t changed. Perkins himself has said that “the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children” despite the fact that research concludes the opposite.

Another hate group that doesn’t seem to bother Milbank is the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) which has committed fraud in its attempts to stop marriage equality. Now NOM has said that the attack “is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marrige groups as ‘hateful’ must end.” Spokespeople for NOM have compared homosexuality to bestiality and child abuse (Rev. William Owens) and compared gay rights groups to Nazis whose actions recall “the times of Hitler” (Bishop Harry Jackson).

Anyone who believes that the FRC doesn’t promote hate when it spews bile about the dangers of LGBT people should consider the number of violent acts against those classified as “homosexual”—the murder of one lesbian and near-killing of another in Texas, the mutilation of the lesbian in Nebraska, and on and on. The FBI reported almost 14 hate crimes against lesbians and gays every day—every day—in 2009. Because many LGBT people do not report hate crimes or police refuse to accept crimes as being in this category, there are surely far more than this number.

Through their vicious diatribes, hate groups promote bullying of children and LGBT youth suicide. Here are some frightening statistics about LGBTQ youth: 65.4 percent experienced sexual harassment; 68.6 percent felt unsafe in high school; 83.2 percent suffered verbal harassment; 40.1 percent reported physical harassment; and 18.8 percent reported being assaulted. LGBT youth are 2-3 times more like to consider suicide than non-LGBTQ youth. They also have a much higher percentage of homelessness than other young people. These LGBTQ youth suffer from hate, usually promoted by hate groups claiming to be Christian.

The SPLC’s decision to classify FRC as a hate group uses the group’s record of purveying stereotypes, prejudice, and junk science as a justification to deny LGBT people equal rights and criminalize their conduct. Hate may be permitted under the First Amendment but so is declaring another organization a hate group. If these organizations claimed that people of color are inherently prone to committing certain crimes and called for laws restricting their behavior, they would certainly be called a hate group. The same holds true for saying these things about LGBT people.

Maybe the lesson will come home to these hate groups. If they consider ideas can cause violence against them, they might consider that their ideology can result in violence against the people they oppose.

And journalists who think that the FRC is just a nice, mainstream Christian group should dig a little deeper into the facts. It’s not hard to find.

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