Nel's New Day

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.

March 27, 2016

Authoritarian Christianity Not Healthy or Safe

If your only hospital is Catholic—good luck! Between the Republicans and the Church making the rules about women’s health, women are in danger if anything goes wrong with their pregnancies. In Michigan, for example, at least five women risked death in just 17 months because they could not obtain immediate and appropriate health care after life-threatening miscarriages.

The U.S. bishops’ directive allows medical care if the mother’s life is in danger, but Mercy Health Partners (Muskegon) doctors determined they would wait until sepsis—an advanced infection—or no fetal heart beat. For one woman, it was sepsis as her temperature climbed for eight hours. Doctors didn’t even give these five women, none of them more than 20 weeks pregnant, the option of going to another hospital where they might have received appropriate health care. Mercy Health Partners is the only provider of emergency care in the entire county after a 2008 merger gave control of the county’s secular hospitals to Trinity Health, among the largest healthcare systems in the country.

Marie Hilliard, director of public policy for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, pointed out that the directives make an exception to protect a woman’s health even if the fetus dies. Hospitals ignore this exception. Hospitals claim that they will induce labor if “the mother’s life is in jeopardy,” but there are no clear standards for determining this situation.

At least 10 percent of the hospitals in the U.S. are Catholic, following the same inadequate health care directions for women. The number of Catholic hospitals increased 16% between 2010 and 2011 and is still growing. At the same time, the numbers of public, secular and other religious hospitals all dropped. One out of every nine hospital beds in the US is located in facilities that follow Catholic teachings, and in far more than 30 communities, the only local hospital is a Catholic one.

One of the five women at the Muskegon hospital was prescribed Tylenol for a potentially deadly infection and sent home—twice—where she miscarried by herself on the toilet. Another woman spent three days in the hospital and required additional surgery.  One woman even reported seeing a fetal limb in her toilet but was forced to wait 18 hours.

Former Muskegon County health official, Faith Groesbeck, talked to the hospital about these concerns. After her concerns were ignored, she reported Mercy Health Partners to a division of Health and Human Services, accusing the company of violating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, a 1986 act of Congress requiring hospitals to provide any patient experiencing an emergency with “stabilizing treatment.” She stated that Mercy Health Partners made unilateral healthcare choices for the five women without their knowledge or their consent. Since blowing the whistle on the hospital, Groesbeck has been transferred from the county initiative to reduce and fetal mortality and transferred to deal with substance abuse prevention.

All the women had had the membranes surrounding the fetus rupture too early, always leading to a miscarriage if it happens before the fetus is viable. When the woman develops an infection, most doctors “absolutely urge” the woman to have delivery induced. All women showed infections, but the doctors either didn’t warn the women or, in the case of one of them, refused immediate delivery.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the hospital because federal courts in Michigan lack control over the bishops’ mandates. ACLU appealed the dismissal to the 6th Circuit Court in July 2015.

Michigan lawmakers, known for allowing the governor’s administration to poison the state’s water, want to join Catholic bishops in giving orders to doctors. Introduced legislation would ban dilation and evacuation (D&E), the surgical approach to abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy. Women would then be forced to endure painful, expensive, risky labor, fraught with health problems, in order to abort fetuses that are likely to die.

In her protest against this bill, an OB/GYN described the situation of a pregnant woman with life-threatening high blood pressure who was carrying a fetus with a serious heart defect. The D&E allowed her to preserve her fertility. Another patient whose water broke at 18 weeks had had four prior cesarean sections; labor induction was life-threatening for her. Without a D&E, her four children may have been motherless. Other patients had a molar pregnancy, heart failure, kidney failure, uterine or blood infections, and disorders leading to hemorrhage in labor.

The United States is the only developed nation where the maternal death rate has increased: between 1990 and 2013, the maternal mortality ratio rose 136 percent. At the same time, safe abortions have radically decreased as Christian religious beliefs  led to closing hundreds of women’s clinics through GOP-controlled states.

As fundamentalist Christians and Republicans continue to push their personal beliefs on the people of the United States through punitive laws, Christian faith continues to decrease in the nation. In 2014 the percentage of Christian-identified population dropped to 70.6 percent from 78.4 percent just seven years earlier. Thirty percent of millennials don’t support any religion. People like presidential candidate Ted Cruz blame an assault on Christianity, and 17 states introduced “religious freedom” laws this year, laws which negatively affect health care and personal safety. Christian sects promote wife-beating and doctors’ rejection of patients who don’t match personal beliefs.

This self-perception of danger directed toward Christianity comes from its history of martyrdom, but a reason for the decline is the religion’s nonsensical dogmas. Saying “Happy Holiday” doesn’t represent a “War on Christmas”—a cultural holiday taken from pagan rituals on a date when the prophet Jesus wasn’t born.

The Christian martyrdom is far more prevalent with whites: 61 percent of white evangelicals believe that their religious liberty is threatened compared to only 37 percent of non-white Christians. As whites lose the culture war, many grasp the straw of religious liberty and attempt to use it as a battering ram against people of color. This loss has led 77 percent of U.S. evangelicals to believe that they are living in the End Times. They may express themselves in hate, but they are motivated by fear of secularization.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) gained international fame by persuading 46 Senate colleagues to sign a treasonous letter to Iran saying that the United States might not live up to its agreement. He’s back with a bill to give Christians special visas to enter the United States while banning Syrian refugees of other faiths. Most of the others who seek “religious liberty,” however, don’t mention Christians although their rhetoric is obvious. For example, Cruz ranted:

“There is a war on faith in America today, in our lifetime. Did we ever imagine that in the land of the free and home of the brave, we would be witnessing our government persecute its citizens for their faith?”

Cruz followed that up with recommending that people declare their freedom from the law if the law doesn’t allow “religious freedom.” Yet Cruz declared war on Muslims by comparing them Muslims to criminal gangs and wanting police to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” He claims that it’s part of the GOP willingness to fight “political correctness.” His strategy is to make people afraid and then capitalize on their fear. With Donald Trump he is a classic example of what Stanley Feldman calls “the classic authoritarian leadership style: simple, powerful, and punitive.” A recent poll shows that over 40 percent of likely voters score “very high” or “high” in authoritarianism.

One place where this “Christian” fear has been manifested is in Bullard Elementary School (Kennesaw, GA). To reduce stress among students, administrators instituted the “mindfulness” of yoga and other practices. Because of parental objections, the school eliminated practices such as the Sanskrit greeting “namaste,” placing hands “to heart center,” and coloring pages with the symbol of the mandala. One mother complained about the school “pushing ideology on our students,” and another parent called this “scary.” Parents are pushing fear of “mindfulness indoctrination.”

Cheryl Crawford explained that the purpose is to help the students be “aware of their breath patterns, their tendencies and habits.” She added that focusing inwardly “helps them if they’re very worried.” Crawford explained that “namaste” is a word like “hello,” that the goodness in me sees the goodness in you.” Yoga’s myriad health benefits also include reducing chronic back pain, improving mobility, and relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression—something that doesn’t come from fundamental Christianity.

Evidently authoritarian Christians have entered a new battleground—the War on Mindfulness.

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