Godstuff

Trumpers See Whatever They Want To See In Trump – Exhibit A

“He is unashamed in standing up for increasing an awareness of God in the United States. He recognizes how important that is and that that is a basis of Western civilization. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I could not be more happy with what I am seeing coming out of the Trump White House. This is beyond my wildest expectations.

“The president himself is man of prayer and man who loves to receive prayer. He is a man who, I do believe, understands who the God of the Bible is and he wants to lift up the God of the Bible here in the United States.

“The Lord is working mightily in our government and I believe it is because God is being reverenced, God is being lifted up. Prayer is not foreign in the White House, it’s not foreign in the Executive Office Building; looking to God, looking through Bible studies, this is not foreign anymore.” – Michele Bachmann, speaking this weekend on Christian radio.

From Joe. My God.

There are few certainties in life, but there is no doubt that Trump is NOT NOW and NEVER WAS a man of God.

Trump’s Executive Order On “Religious Liberty”

I was dreading this. Trump signed it about half an hour ago.

But the final version of the order addresses two issues. First, it instructs the Internal Revenue Service to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion” in cases of pastors and other religious leaders speaking about political candidates from the pulpit, which is currently outlawed by a provision typically referred to as the Johnson Amendment. ““We are giving churches their voices back,” Trump said. Second, it provides “regulatory relief” to religious organizations that object to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires most employers to cover contraception in employee insurance plans.

This is good news.

Trump could not overturn the Johnson Amendment — that would require an act of Congress.  All he could to was instruct the IRS not to enforce it much, which it wasn’t doing anyway.  As for the regulatory relief, well, the Hobby Lobby case took care of that issue before he came into office.

So this doesn’t change things much (although it appeases his fundie base and Trump gets to do a victory lap).

There was no LGBTQ provision, which was in an earlier draft.

Maybe that’s why many fundamentalist people are not happy. On Twitter, the National Review columnist David French called the order “total weaksauce” and a “sop to the gullible.” Russell Moore, the head of the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said “I am hoping that the draft we are seeing this morning is not the entire project, and that more will be forthcoming.” And on Ryan Anderson, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation who works on religious issues, called the new order “woefully inadequate.”

Praise the Lord — Trump fools people again.

Does Korematsu Provide Precedent For A Muslim Registry?

No.

No, it doesn’t.  Not even a close call.

Let’s just all get on the same page.

This is happening:

And the obvious question is…. would it be constitutional for the government to require citizens to register based on their religion?

The OBVIOUS answer should be NO, and the reason most people instinctively know it would be unconstitutional is to do a thought experiment: substitute “Christian” for “Muslim” and see how that flies.

I’m going to set aside the obvious invidiousness of the proposed registry, as well as the obvious difficulties in enforcing registration.  Instead, I’m just going to focus on Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), the case that Trump surrogates are citing as “precedent”.

Korematsu was the case involving Japanese-American internment during World War II.  Roosevelt ordered that George Takei and his family and other Japanese-Americans leave their jobs, friends, businesses, etc. and report to “camps” for the duration of the war.  These were American citizens, living on the West Coast, of Japanese descent.  It came about as the result of a presidential executive order — Executive Order No. 9066 to be exact.

Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, in 1919, the third of four sons to Japanese parents Kotsui Aoki and Kakusaburo Korematsu who immigrated to the United States in 1905.  When the internment order came down, he refused to comply and went into hiding in the Oakland area. He was arrested on a street corner in San Leandro on May 30, 1942, after being recognized as a “Jap”.  He was tried and convicted of violation of a military order – specifically, the military order for internment given under the authority of Executive Order 9066.

That military and executive orders were challenged and the US Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans, with three dissents.

Korematsu is still good law, so I revisited it. Why did the Supreme Court find such an order to be constitutionally valid?

One reason was precedent.  One year earlier, in a case called Hirabayashi v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld a curfew which applied only to the Japanese.

But addressing the race issue, the majority wrote only this:

It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers — and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps, with all the ugly connotations that term implies — we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders — as inevitably it must — determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot — by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight — now say that, at that time, these actions were unjustified.

Basically, they are saying — “we’re at war”.

The dissent by Justice Roberts was having none of it:

This is not a case of keeping people off the streets at night, as was Hirabayashi v. United States,320 U. S. 81, nor a case of temporary exclusion of a citizen from an area for his own safety or that of the community, nor a case of offering him an opportunity to go temporarily out of an area where his presence might cause danger to himself or to his fellows. On the contrary, it is the case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry, and solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. If this be a correct statement of the facts disclosed by this record, and facts of which we take judicial notice, I need hardly labor the conclusion that Constitutional rights have been violated.

And that is essentially the difference.  We’re not at war with the Muslims — there has been no declaration of Congress to that effect.  Furthermore, there is no “military urgency” now like there was following the bombing of Pearl Harbor (it is more than 15 years after 9/11).  Two good reasons right there.

Then you have something that you didn’t have in Korematsu, which was a case about heritage.  The proposed Muslim ban isn’t about heritage; it is about religion.  “Muslim”, after all, simply means an adherent to the religion of Islam.  Islam knows no national origin or skin color.  Cassius Clay, a black American, didn’t come from another country.  Yet he was a Muslim (which he became Muhammad Ali).

So if this is registry of religious beliefs, — welcome First Amendment.

There’s simply on way in hell this Supreme Court would be cool with registering Muslims.  It would be unanimously shot down, even without overturning Korematsu.

In fact, that would be a nice way to start the Trump presidency.  With a 8-0 loss in the Supreme Court.

Is This The End Of The Line For Judge Roy Moore?

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is set for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 EST) today on charges he violated Alabama’s ethical standards for judges.

Moore is asking the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to dismiss the ethics complaint filed by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. The Judicial Inquiry Commission is asking for a summary judgment against Moore and his removal, instead of moving the matter to a trial.

The JIC alleges Moore’s January 2016 order and his conduct surrounding it encouraged Alabama’s judges to disregard clear federal law.

Moore issued an order in January to Alabama’s probate judges, concerning same-sex marriage. Moore told the probate judges a ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was still in effect until the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling.

But Moore’s order came more than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court in its Obergefell decision had ruled state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

In a response filed with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, Moore’s attorneys argue he was simply following the law and established procedure in his order, not defying the Supreme Court.

A thematic deception that infuses the JIC brief is that the Chief Justice ordered the probate judges that they ‘had a duty, under Alabama law, not to issue same-sex marriage licenses,’” the filing argues. “The Chief Justice, however, did not on his own initiative direct the probate judges to follow Alabama marriage law.

“Instead he instructed them that ‘[u]ntil further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court’ they were still under a state-court injunction issued by that Court. He neither endorsed nor criticized that injunction. Because consideration of the effect of Obergefell on that injunction had been pending before the Alabama Supreme Court for six months, the Chief Justice considered it prudent to remind the probate judges that the injunction still remained in effect pending its review.”

Moore was removed from the bench as chief justice in 2003 after refusing a federal court order to remove a 10 Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Moore was re-elected chief justice in 2012.

Local news earlier:

A very late update from AL.com:

Suspended Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will go on trial next month on judicial ethics charges after the Alabama Court of the Judiciary late Monday issued an order that denied Moore’s request to dismiss the charges.

The court, in a brief one-page order, also denied a motion by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission that sought an order removing Moore from the bench without a trial.

Editorial From The Christian Post

Ouch:

Editors’ Note: The Christian Post has not taken a position on a political candidate before today. We are making an exception because Trump is exceptionally bad and claims to speak for and represent the interests of evangelicals.

We the senior editors of The Christian Post encourage our readers to back away from Donald Trump.

As the most popular evangelical news website in the United States and the world, we feel compelled by our moral responsibility to our readers to make clear that Donald Trump does not represent the interests of evangelicals and would be a dangerous leader for our country.

Trump claims to be a Christian, yet says he has never asked for forgiveness.

While God, in His wondrous creativity, has drawn people to Himself through the saving grace of Jesus Christ in many different ways, there are certain non-negotiable actions needed to become a Christian: One must repent of their sins and follow Christ as Lord and Savior. Trump doesn’t talk this way, even when urged to.

Further, his words and actions do not demonstrate the “fruit of the spirit.”

Trump is a misogynist and philanderer. He demeans women and minorities. His preferred forms of communication are insults, obscenities and untruths. While Christians have been guilty of all of these, we, unlike Trump, acknowledge our sins, ask for forgiveness and seek restitution with the aid of the Holy Spirit and our community of believers.

On Sunday, Trump’s apparent reluctance to disavow David Duke until late in the day was extremely distasteful. The Ku Klux Klan is an evil, unholy movement representing the worst of America. Anyone who will not immediately denounce their support is unfit to be president.

Read the whole thing.

On His Deathbed, Bob Bennett Apologizes For What He Wrought

Bob Bennett was a rightwing conservative senator from Utah.  He served in the US Senate for 18 years, and I rarely agreed with him on anything. He was consistently earning high ratings from conservative activist groups such as the National Rifle Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Conservative Union.

But in 2010, something happened — the emergence of the Tea Party.  They deemed Bob insufficiently conservative.  Despite an enthusiastic endorsement from Mitt Romney, Bennett was denied a place on the primary ballot by the 2010 Utah State Republican Convention, placing third behind two Tea-Party-backed candidates.

He never practiced national politics again.  He died two weeks ago of pancreatic cancer.

And how did he spend much of his last few days?  Feeling regret for what the GOP had become, regret for Trump, and regret for the hand that he had in its creation:

Former GOP senator Bob Bennett lay partially paralyzed in his bed on the fourth floor of the George Washington University Hospital. He was dying.

Not 48 hours had passed since a stroke had complicated his yearlong fight against pancreatic cancer. The cancer had begun to spread again, necessitating further chemotherapy. The stroke had dealt a further blow that threatened to finish him off.

Between the hectic helter-skelter of nurses, doctors and well wishes from a long-cultivated community of friends and former aides, Bennett faced a quiet moment with his son Jim and his wife Joyce.

It was not a moment for self-pity.

Instead, with a slight slurring in his words, Bennett drew them close to express a dying wish: “Are there any Muslims in the hospital?” he asked.

“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his wife and son, both of whom relayed this story to The Daily Beast.

The rise of Donald Trump had appalled the three-term Utah senator, a Republican who fell victim to the tea-party wave of the 2010 midterms. His vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, had alienated many conservative activists in his state, who chose lawyer Mike Lee as the GOP nominee for Senate instead.

But as Bennett reflected on his life and legacy in mid-April, following the stroke, he wasn’t focused on the race that ended his political career. Instead, he brought up the issue of Muslims in America—over and over again.

He mentioned it briefly in a hospital interview with the Deseret News, a Utah news outlet. “There’s a lot of Muslims here in this area. I’m glad they’re here,” the former senator told the newspaper in April, describing them as “wonderful.”

In the last days of his life this was an issue that was pressing in his mind… disgust for Donald Trump’s xenophobia,” Jim Bennett said. “At the end of his life he was preoccupied with getting things done that he had felt was left undone.”

Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants from America had outraged the former senator, his wife Joyce said, triggering his instincts to do what he could on a personal level. They ultimately did not canvass the hospital, but Bennett had already made an effort in his last months of life.
As they traveled from Washington to Utah for Christmas break, Bennett approached a woman wearing a hijab in the airport.

“He would go to people with the hijab [on] and tell them he was glad they were in America, and they were welcome here,” his wife said. “He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican Party.”

“He was astonished and aghast that Donald Trump had the staying power that he had… He had absolutely no respect for Donald Trump, and I think got angry and frustrated when it became clear that the party wasn’t going to steer clear of Trumpism,” his son relayed.

Emphasis mine.

Not the first time this has happened.  I remember Lee Atwater — the creative mind behind the “Southern strategy” — doing the same thing.  Isn’t it interesting that as people get closer to seeing their God, they become liberals?

 

Texas Republicans Debate Whether A Muslim Can Be A Republican

A Texas pastor stood up Monday in a local GOP meeting to vocally oppose one precinct chair’s appointment because he is Muslim, the Washington Post reported.

Trebor Gordon, the chaplain for the Harris County Republican Party, said Syed Ali should not be able to serve as a leader in the local GOP “on the grounds that Islam does not have any basis or any foundation.”

Watch:

You know, in the current Republican party,.maybe a Muslim can’t be a member.

Trump May Have Hit The Ceiling

Donald Trump has defied political pundits for months now.  When he first attacked John McCain, the thought was that it would kill him in the polls, but then he went up.  And that’s been the story for over four months now.  He keeps on appealing to the worst-of-the-worst conservative base and his numbers go up.

But many are now saying what I have always said.  Yes, he has a strong base, but he has a low ceiling.  I have put that ceiling on mid-30% of Republicans.  I don’t think he can get much higher than that.

Yesterday, Trump crossed a line.

Donald J. Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on” after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., an extraordinary escalation of rhetoric aimed at voters’ fears about members of the Islamic faith.

A prohibition of Muslims – an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups – reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.

Mr. Trump, who in September declared “I love the Muslims,” turned sharply against them after the Paris terrorist attacks, calling for a database to track Muslims in America and repeating discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11. His poll numbers rose largely as a result, until a setback in Iowa on Monday morning. Hours later Mr. Trump called for the ban, fitting his pattern of making stunning comments when his lead in the Republican presidential field appears in jeopardy.

Saying that “hatred” among many Muslims for Americans is “beyond comprehension,” Mr. Trump said in a statement that the United States needed to confront “where this hatred comes from and why.”

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Mr. Trump said.

That was too much, even for Republicans who have avoided taking shots at him.  Every GOP candidate spoke against this.  Jeb Bush called it “unhinged”.  Others called it “unamerican”. The former vice president, Dick Cheney, said Mr. Trump’s proposal “goes against everything we stand for.” And others.

Cruz, who rarely distances himself from Trump, took a small step away, saying “I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics” referencing the large group of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates who have criticized the plan, adding “I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”  But then he tweeted how he will always defend religious liberty.  So… a VERY small step away — small enough to still pat The Donald on the back.

But Cruz stands alone in his weak condemnation.

GOP lawmakers have gone to the House floor telling Trump to drop out of the race.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) tweeted late Monday that he was barring Trump from his city “until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.”

Some are concerned and saying that, even as a candidate, Trump is a threat to national security.  There’s a lot of truth to this.  Trump’s rhetoric is the best recruitment tool that ISIS could have.

Trump is also getting burned overseas. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”

Then there is the media.  The Philly Daily News:

CVtm-aYWEAE2HoJ

Trump’s rationalization for this is pretty bizarre.  He keeps using the “what’s going on” phrase:

Here’s something else that’s telling: In an interview with ABC News this morning, Trump repeated various formulations designed to express generalized uncertainty and anxiety, over and over: “What is going on?” “We don’t know what is going on.” “We have to figure things out.” “What the hell is going on.” “We have to figure out what’s going on. Something is happening that’s not good.” “Until our country’s Representatives can figure out what is going on, we have no choice but to do this.”

The details don’t matter in the least. What matters is that Trump is speaking to a basic sense among his supporters that something is going on, thatsomething is wrong. He is willing to admit this and speak to the need to do something about it, even something drastic or “frankly unthinkable.” If that offends the politically correct and corrupt media, which is probably complicit in this American decline in any case, all the better.

Details, indeed, don’t matter. On the radio this morning, I heard a CNN interviewer ask exactly how banning Muslims from entering the country would be done, since religion does not appear on passports.  Trump, obviously speaking off the cuff, said in essence, that the customs people would ask them “Are you Muslim?”

Right.  I see a few flaws in that.approach.  From a practical standpoint (they will lie) and, oh by the way, can it get MORE unconstitutional?  I think not.

Trump compares his policies to Roosevelt’s during WWII, but unfortunately for Trump, most people view Japanese internment as a BAD part of our history.  And Trump is getting compared to Hitler today, more than Roosevelt.

Will it deter Trump die-hards?  Of course not.  CNN and NBC News interviewed a number of Trump supporters in South Carolina, and asked them to react to the new “plan.”.  Here’s what they said:

“I don’t want ’em here. Who knows what they gonna bring into this country? Bombs? ISIS? What?”

“That’s a very prudent idea. I think that he’s done due diligence when he makes that statement. We have to protect our American citizens first.”

“We just let terrorists into this country.”

“Somebody just needs to go in there and take control of this. It’s going rampant, and I’m worried about America. Worried about our safety. They’re getting in. They need to be stopped.”

“I think it’s a good idea. With everything that’s going on in the world right now — it sounds harsh, but reality is reality.”

“I’m a veteran paratrooper. Been in three different campaigns and two different wars. Both Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve had too many brothers and sisters lost over there in those two wars to just let them come here free range in our country now. It’s a kick in the face to every veteran there is that’s fought in those wars, to us trying to protect our homeland from them coming in.”

As CNN’s reporter put it: “No one here we spoke with had a problem with the plan.”

It’s too soon to see if this has any effect on his polling numbers.  But given the VERY LOUD outcry, I don’t expect him to go up, as he usually does.  I think this propels him into the ceiling.

Actually, it might be polls that drove this.  According to one poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, Ted Cruz is on top in Iowa at 24%, followed by Donald Trump (19%), Marco Rubio (17%), and Ben Carson (13%).

The real issue isn’t Trump, but the GOP’s reaction to it.  So far, the party spokesmen have said nothing.  (Reince Pribus simply has said, “I don’t agree”).  But White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said it best:

“The Trump campaign for months now has had a dustbin of history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lie to even the fake hair—the whole carnival barker routine we’ve seen for some time now… The question now is about the rest of the Republican party and whether or not they’re going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him.”

Thoughts and Prayers

There seems to be a backlash to this almost reflexive (and increasingly meaningless) response to mass shootings, best exemplified by the cover of today’s New York Daily News:

godisntlistening

There has also been a backlash to the backlash.  Christians got offended at what is being called “thoughts and prayers shaming”.  The Weekly Standard offered a headline that blared,“Liberal Outrage Over Prayers for Shooting Victims.” And the American Conservative predictably complained that “We have reached the point in our culture in which leading voices on the Left feel compelled to shout from the rooftops condemnation on Christians for offering something as ordinary and decent as prayers for atrocity victims as a first response to news of the killings. Think about that for a moment. When the simple offering of prayers for the dead and wounded are grounds for spiteful attack, it is hard to avoid wondering just what commonalities bind us as Americans anymore.” And Fox & Friends First tweeted out “Prayer Shaming After Mass Shooting: While GOP Calls For Prayers, Mainstream Media Mocks Them.”  Here’s Rand Paul:

Uh no.  What is being attacked is offering “thoughts and prayers” in the absence of action.  Nothing wrong with “thoughts and prayers” itself, especially if….

That’s a good point.  I suspect that most of these politicians don’t actually pray at all.  I wish they could be asked, what do you think about?  What to you pray for?  Peace for the family’s of the victims, certainly — but is that IT?  What are you doing to make sure you aren’t thinking about and praying for FUTURE victims’ families? Today’s Internet belongs to Mary Beth Williams at Slate, if only for writing this:

It’s not prayer shaming to say that a lot of us — a lot of us who find comfort in prayer — are sick of the very people whose rhetoric and policies are helping perpetuate a culture of death hiding helplessly behind God whenever blood is shed. Which happens to occur quite often.

Related:

Also related: Look how the other New York tabloid changed its cover:

Before —  

CVTm1mGUsAAGeKp

Later on —

CVTm1l8VAAAoXl- Blatant bigotry aside, it’s also important to call out the Post’s inconsistent focus on religion in the aftermath of mass shootings in America. After last Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado, the paper not only failed to feature the story on its front page, its editors opted not to label the shooter a “Christian Killer” in any accompanying stories.

And THIS:

Ted Cruz: “Climate Change Isn’t Science; It’s Religion”

OMG.  Sen. Ted Cruz, candidate for the highest office in the land, thinks that climate change — a phenomenon widely accepted by the scientists who study it — is a religious belief.

“Climate change is not science. It’s religion”

That is what he told Glenn Beck yesterday.

To back up his claim, Cruz pointed to the way we talk about climate change.

“Look at the language, where they call you a denier. Denier is not the language of science … Any good scientist is a skeptic; if he’s not, he or she should not be a scientist. But yet the language of the global warming alarmists, ‘denier’ is the language of religion, it’s heretic, you are a blasphemer.”

Nnnno.  You just disproved yourself.  The language of religion, as YOU say Ted, is “heretic” and “blasphemer”.  Those are words used for people who reject something that people BELIEVE in.  “Denier” is used with regard to FACTS.  Not faith…. facts.

What a goon.

I’m tired of hearing how “smart” Cruz is, and how he argued a case before the Supreme Court, etc.  If he is smart, then he can’t honestly believe what he says, and he is playing his followers for fools.

In A Few Decades*, Americans Will Laugh At This The Way We Laugh At Victorian-Era Magazines

You wouldn’t invite a stripper to your family Thanksgiving, would you?  Because they might perform their act just as you start carving the bird.

And if that’s true, then why would you let your gay grandson bring his “partner” to Thanksgiving?  You might get gay juju on the stuffing.

*I say “a few decades”, I hope “a few years”

But Can They Build A Bridge Out Of Her?

What the hell is happening over at Fort Meade?

Air Force dental technician accused of being a witch

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is representing a former Air Force contractor who says she was fired from a dental clinic at Fort Meade, Maryland, after complaining that her co-workers discriminated against her because she was Hindu.  She claims they then accused her of being a witch.

Group founder and president Mikey Weinstein wrote in a letter to officials: “We have spoken with witnesses at the clinic under your command who have universally confirmed that, not only did this horrid harassment take place, but ever since the execution of her punishment for failing the religious test imposed by the leadership of Epes Dental Clinic, a particular offending party has effusively celebrated her replacement by a Catholic woman by saying publicly that ‘It’s good to see we got an angel, since last time we had the devil.’”

The alleged harassment violates a “vast sea” of Defense Department and Air Force directives as well as the U.S. Constitution, Weinstein writes.

“The No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution absolutely forbids the exact same type of practices which are so commonplace under your command in the brazen establishment of evangelical Christianity as the only approved solution for religious belief in the 579th D[ental] S[quadron] of the Epes Dental Clinic at Fort Meade,” the letter says.

Reached by Air Force Times, Deborah Schoenfeld said that her co-workers at the Epes Dental Clinic harassed her over her Hindu faith, claiming she was satanic for wanting to practice yoga and meditating.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two of her former co-workers confirmed Schoenfeld’s account to Air Force Times and said that other employees at the dental clinic are devoutly Christian and deeply suspicious of Hinduism. One of them confirmed that she was referred to as a “Hindu witch.”

One co-worker, who Schoenfeld said prayed for her to find Jesus, told her that meditation summons demons, adding that “all the soldiers who are doing meditation and yoga to help their PTSD, they are getting infected also,” Schoenfeld said.

When her requests for help through the chain of command went nowhere, she filed a formal complaint on Sept. 2, Schoenfeld said. That day, she was fired for allegedly using profanity against a co-worker, although she was not allowed to know who had accused her of doing so, she said.

The Air Force District of Washington has received Weinstein’s letter and is looking into the allegations raised, said spokesman Maj. Joel Harper.

“The Air Force thoroughly reviews all instances in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedoms or accommodations,” Harper wrote in an email Monday to Air Force Times. “Mutual respect is an essential part of the Air Force culture. Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the Air Force core values and the ability to  maintain an effective team.”

Emphases are mine.

I think those co-workers have confused voodoo and Hindu.  And I don’t know how meditation gets mixed in there.

Republicans Don’t Really Want “Religious Freedom”

Someone at Daily Kos pulled certain results of this PPP poll and turned it into this revealing bar graph:

religion

What does it mean?

While most Republicans want religious freedom, almost half of them mean they want religious freedom for Christians only (and/or no freedom for followers of Islam).  Perhaps they don’t understand what “freedom” means, or perhaps they think “religion” means Christianity only.

Update To Pope Meeting Kim Davis

In a follow-up to an earlier post, I should mention that the Pope, while admitting to meeting Kim Davis the other day, is doing some serious backpeddling today:

In a formal statement, the Vatican said Friday that Pope Francis’s meeting with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis “should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”

The statement, issued by the Rev. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, said it was not a “real audience,” suggesting that she was among a group that gathered to greet him and send him off.

That’s a rather unusual statement, and it suggests that the Pope really wasn’t informed about who he was meeting.

When you couple that with the fact that the Pope-Davis meeting was revealed by Davis’s Liberty Counsel lawyers and not, as one would suspect, the Vatican spokesmen, red flags are being raised.  See, e.g. Esquire, Was Pope Francis Actually Swindled into Meeting Kim Davis?  To answer Esquire’s question, I think he was.

Anyway, undeterred by the Vatican backing off the significance of the meeting, Liberty Counsel issued a fresh statement this morning claiming the pope’s support for their client.

“Neither Kim Davis nor Liberty Counsel ever said the meeting was an endorsement of her legal case,” the law firm’s founder, Mat Staver, said in a press release. “Rather, the meeting was a pastoral meeting to encourage Kim Davis in which Pope Francis thanked her for her courage and told her to ‘Stay strong.’ His words and actions support the universal human right to conscientious objection.”

I think the Pope gets to say what his words and actions are meant to support, buddy.

Remember, this is the Pope who said, with respect to gay people, “Who am I to judge?”

So now the question is becoming relevant — how did the meeting come about? And more and more, it looks like behind the scenes machinations by Liberty Counsel, perhaps with the aide of a sympathetic Vatican “insider” and NOT something this Pope sought out.  Those weasels.

UPDATE:  Even though the Pope met Kim Davis, he actually had an “audience” with…. well, CNN just broke this “exclusive”:

The day before Pope Francis met anti-gay county clerk Kim Davis in Washington last week, he held a private meeting with a longtime friend from Argentina who has been in a same-sex relationship for 19 years.

Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Grassi declined to disclose details about the short visit, but said it was arranged personally by the Pope via email in the weeks ahead of Francis’ highly anticipated visit to the United States.

“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi said.

How do you like them apples?

Kim Davis Secretly Met With The Pope

Not much of a secret anymore:

Pope Francis met privately in Washington last week with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a Vatican spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.

Ms. Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, has been at the center of a nationwide controversy over whether government employees and private businesses have a legal right to refuse to serve same-sex couples. She spent five days in jail for disobeying a federal court order to issue the licenses.

On Tuesday night, her lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, said in a telephone interview that Ms. Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car on Thursday afternoon. Francis gave her rosaries and told her to “stay strong,” the lawyer said. The couple met for about 15 minutes with the pope, who was accompanied by security guards, aides and photographers. Mr. Staver said he expected to receive photographs of the meeting from the Vatican soon.

On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the meeting took place, but he declined to elaborate. “I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” he said.

Ms. Davis described the meeting in an interview on Wednesday with ABC News.

“I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me,” Ms. Davis said. “And he said, ‘Thank you for your courage.’ ”

“I was crying. I had tears coming out of my eyes,” she said. “I’m just a nobody, so it was really humbling to think he would want to meet or know me.”

Mr. Staver, her lawyer, said Vatican officials had been aware of Ms. Davis, and that the meeting had been arranged through them — not through bishops or the bishops’ conference in the United States. He would not identify the Vatican officials.

In his public addresses in the United States, the pope spoke in broad strokes about the importance of religious freedom. On the plane trip home, an American television reporter asked him about government officials who refused to perform their duties because of religious objections to same-sex marriage.

The pope said that he could not speak specifically about cases but that “conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right.”

“It is a right,” Francis said. “And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”

The pope did not mention Ms. Davis, but added: “Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise, we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, ‘This right, that has merit; this one does not.’ ”

While in Washington, Francis also made an unscheduled stop to see the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that is suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

Ms. Davis and her husband were in Washington anyway to receive an award from the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, in recognition of her stand against same-sex marriage.

During Ms. Davis’s visit to the Vatican Embassy, “the pope came to her and held out his hand,” Mr. Staver said.

Ms. Davis asked the pope to pray for her, which he said he would, and then the pope asked Ms. Davis to pray for him, Mr. Staver said. They spoke in English, he said, and the pope gave the Davises two rosaries. Ms. Davis gave the rosaries to her mother and father, who are Catholics.

Many on the left are disappointed because they hoped that the Pope would be on our side.  And he is, on many issues (climate change, for one).  But as has been said so many times, this Pope (like all Popes really) does not fall into the left-right schism that we have in this country.  So we just have to eat this one.

The Pope’s Speech To Congress (And By Extension, The American People)

He reminds us that “America” is more than the United States, and that we are all immigrants.  He calls out the black/white-good/evil mindset in politics and promotes pragmatism in resolving problems.  He reminds us of the Golden Rule in calling for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty (as well as a subtle nod to banning abortions).  He speaks of the environment, but does not mention the phrase “climate change”.  Perhaps a nod relating to gay marriage as he says that “fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”

With the exception of immigration and the death penalty, most of his speech is understated, with vague and passing references.  The spinners are going to spin wildly to try to make bread out of the flour droppings.

Full text of the prepared speech is below the fold.

The Right Wing Welcomes The Pope

The Pope’s message::

In his strongest remarks yet concerning the world’s economic and financial crises, the pope said, “Money has to serve, not to rule.

“We have created new idols,” Pope Francis told a group of diplomats gathered at the Vatican on May 16, and the “golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.” According to Pope Francis, a major reason behind the increase in social and economic woes worldwide “is in our relationship with money and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society.”

Blasphemy!  Sic him, right wing talking heads!!

Here Come Da Pope

I am a BIG Pope Francis fan.  And I like that he is coming to America and he’s going to do some papal spanking.

I noted this morning that Lindsey Graham tweeted about how the Pope has pro-life views.  Indeed, he does.  But he also has very strong views on sexual equality, climate change, and income disparity.  I wonder how many Republicans and Republican candidates will cozy up to those messages.  I expect a lot of Pope-bashing starting today, when he lands in the United States.

[UPDATE:  Yup, George Will has started it.]

Over at The Atlantic, Emma Green warns people like me that the Pope, although willing to stake out some doctrinal shifts, is not a progressive in the American sense:

Francis does not fit neatly into American categories. To understand him and his agenda, it’s more helpful to look at America through his eyes than to look at him through an American’s eyes, for even the most familiar U.S. issue may seem very different to this Argentinian Jesuit. As the pope makes his way from Cuba through Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, the American political spectrum is truly idiosyncratic. This is a country where a Democratic congressman can loudly oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, but can’t risk really opposing abortion; a Republican might care a lot about the poor, but woe unto her campaign coffers if she suggests raising taxes on the rich. “Francis, like all the other popes, like the Catholic Church, simply doesn’t land comfortably on either side of the political divide in the U.S.,” said Vincent Miller, a professor of theology at the University of Dayton. “But it’s not simply that on questions of sexuality and human life he agrees with Republicans and on questions of economics he agrees with Democrats. The whole system is so skewed.”

Second, although some read this pope as a rebel within a broken Church, no pontiff can single-handedly overhaul Church teachings on any issue, nor has that ever been Francis’s intention. There is no doubt Francis is a reformer: He has cleaned up Church finances and reorganized the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s bureaucracy. In October, bishops will also gather in Rome for the second of two synods on the topic of family, which may yield changes in how the Church deals with married priests and divorcées. But as with anything in the Church, it’s reform in increments, always in continuity with what has come before. Francis’s style may be different from that of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the two popes who preceded him. But this pope has made painstaking efforts to show how his work is a continuation of theirs, rather than something totally new.

Finally, Francis is fundamentally a global pope. He is not coming to the U.S. to address it as a voting bloc, like some politician traveling to a recalcitrant county to court constituents. The most vibrant and fastest growing parts of the Church are in Latin America and Africa, not North America and Europe. Moreover, the United States is sort of like the Death Star in Pope Francis’s understanding of global politics.

***

In an American context, Francis is actually something of a traditionalist in his approach to family. Although he just about broke the Internet in 2013 when he said, “Who am I to judge?” in response to a pool reporter’squestion about a gay priest, he has not shifted Church doctrine on traditional marriage at all. In fact, at times, he has emphasized the male/female nature of marriage; at a Vatican summit in November, for example, he affirmed that marriages between husband and wife are “an anthropological fact, and consequently a social, cultural fact, etc.” He has consistently written that “marriage and the family are in crisis,” and that “the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.”

I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but it’s a good read.

Breaking: Kim Davis Released

Details coming.

UPDATE – 1:00 pm:  The contempt order was lifted by a US district court judge.  Unclear if it was the same judge who gave the contempt order or if it was lifted on appeal.

UPDATE – 1:15 pm:  It was the same judge:

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples may leave prison — as long as she doesn’t interfere with the licenses that her deputies have been granting since her incarceration last week.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis released, and said that if she did not follow his guidance, “appropriate sanctions will be considered.”

Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, told NBC News that accommodation was unlikely to suffice.

“We’re back to Square One,” Staver said. “She’s been released, but there’s been no resolution.”

Bunning’s order also requires the five deputy clerks in Rowan County to file status reports every 14 days detailing their compliance with his earlier orders that the office issue licenses to same-sex couples in accordance with a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Davis, 49, has repeatedly defied the courts, saying that authorizing the licenses would violate her Christian beliefs. Arguing that her religious freedom is being compromised, she has asked state officials to develop alternative ways for the licenses to be issued without requiring her to authorize them.

Bunning ordered her jailed last Thursday, and she has become a national symbol of resistance to gay Christian supporters have rallied outside the lockup daily.

Mat Staver is a terrible lawyer.  Even Fox News calls him out for his stupidity:

[Fox News host Keith] Jarrett also called out Davis’s attorney [Mat Staver], who said it was “questionable” if the Supreme Court had the “constitutional authority” to rule on same-sex marriage.

“Whether the Supreme Court has constitutional authority?” the Fox News host said. “Article III Section 2 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court constitutional authority to decide constitutional issues!”

Jarrett added that Staver’s statement appeared to be “stunningly obtuse.”

You may recall that prior to becoming a Fox News person, Keith Jarrett was THE main guy at Court TV for many many years.

Anyway, Staver is simply wrong when he says we are at square one.  Her clerks have been issuing the licenses, and will continue to do so.  In fact:

During proceedings on Thursday, Davis was offered to avoid jail if she allowed her deputies to issue the marriage licenses. She refused, and on Friday they began issuing them. The release order requires that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” If she refuses — as she seemed to promise to do last week — she would again be held in contempt.

So basically, Davis caved.  She accepted an offer that she rejected last week.  Here’s the order:

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis ordered released from jail

UPDATE – 3:00 pm:  I suspect the lawyer is talking out of turn:

A CNN journalist at the jail reported that according to her attorneys, Davis “has not changed her mind” and intends to bring the licensing process to a halt all over again when she’s back on the job.

“The problem here is that the attorney says she has not changed her mind, that Kim Davis is adamant that as long as her name appears on those marriage licenses, she objects and she will attempt to stop those licenses from being distributed,” CNN correspondent Martin Savidge said during a live broadcast.

Well, if she “intends to bring the licensing process to a halt” then she is violating the terms of her release.  That would be VERY serious trouble for her.  Her lawyer can SAY this, but it’s easy for him to say since she will end up paying the cost.

So she’s out, and here she is with Ted Cruz and her husband, who is NOT playing Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” (that’s just the way he dresses):

UPDATE – 3:45 pm: Heaven help me….

Huckabee is on stage with her. Ted Cruz? Well, he had her picture with her (see above), but otherwise, his trip seems to be a bust.  Huckabee had staffers there a few days ago, and he has inserted himself there front and center.

Digby:

Kim Davis’ inane lawyer upon her release from jail:

“She can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell.”Too bad she wasn’t free to just quit her job — the solution all the free-market wingnuts prescribe for every other complaint a worker might have against her employer. Oh wait, she was.

Huckabee Needs To Attend Just One College Level Course On The Law

As far as conservative Christians candidates go, I always thought that Mike Huckabee was a slight cut above the rest.  He doesn’t seem dogmatic, and he was governor at one time.  So you would think that he would have some sense, while also being true to his conservative principles.

But this past week he has proved to be either a guy who thinks his followers are idiots, or perhaps he is an idiot.

It’s one thing to lend support to Kim Davis, the Kentucky law clerk now in jail for contempt of court because she refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  But the sheer ignorance coming from Huckabee in relation to that support is amazing.

Let’s start with this Huckabee quote:

“Gavin Newsome in San Francisco as mayor, performed same-sex weddings, even though it was illegal. Did he ever get put in jail? He most certainly did not.”

Nnnnope.  Gavin defended himself:

Put another way, bans on same-sex marriage had not been adjudicated illegal, nor was their a court order telling Newsome to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  Once there was a court order, he stopped.  He followed the federal court order.

Kim Davis, as Huckabee cannot seem to get through his head, is in jail for violating a federal court order on a matter that had been fully judicated.

In other words, if Newsome had continued to issue marriage licenses despite the federal court order, THEN he would be in contempt of court, and like Kim Davis, could have been fined and put in jail.

Huckabee is also one of those guys who thinks Davis is like Rosa Parks, a citizen denied her rights by the government.  In actuality, she is George Wallace standing in the doorways of the University of Alabama — someone who is acting on behalf of the government who is denying rights to citizens.

And then Huckabee also said this:

“Jeffrey Dahmer got bail, Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler got bail, John Wayne Gacy got bail. Kim Davis [the Kentucky clerk], because she followed her convictions is put in jail, and is not given bail.”

Is he kidding with that remark?  Does he know what “bail” is?

It is something criminal defendants get while they are being held awaiting criminal trial.  Let’s ignore that fact that Dahmer and other serial killers didn’t get bail AFTER they were convicted.  Let’s just point out that…. Kim Davis is not getting a trial.  And she is not a criminal defendant.  Congress vested federal courts with incredible power to “punish by fine or imprisonment, or both” any individual who disobeys or resists their dictates. This is what’s known as courts’ civil contempt power, and may include orders, judgments, instructions to appear, or other rules.

It’s comparing apples to oranges.  This, I suppose, was Huckabee’s clumsy way of trying to make the point that Kim Davis is being treated worse than Jeffrey Dahmer.  What horror!!  But does anyone really buy that?  Even Davis supporters?  Davis, unlike Dahmer, can get out of jail anytime she wants to.  And she can do it without changing her beliefs.  All she has to do is (a) agree to do her job; (b) resign or (c) allow others to do her that aspect of her job.  Dahmer, on the other hand, had no control over his future.

Ted Cruz is going to visit her now in jail, too.  Prepare for more absurdity.

Meanwhile, she has filed an appeal of the contempt of court penalty.

Here’s a good read: 5 Myths About Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis You Shouldn’t Fall For

Kim Davis Is A Footnote To The Same-Sex Marriage Victory

I’m on vacation, but I am not completely off the grid.  I just have a higher bar (this week)n as to what interests me enough to blog about.

Checking in, I see not much has changed.  Trump is still testing the bounds of open bigotry.  Ho hum.

And I see that Kim Davis, who I wrote about last week, has achieved mainstream status.  She’s all over my Facebook.  Since I last wrote about her, she has been denied an appeal to the US Supreme Court, so basically, she has no legal recourse anymore, and she has to start issuing marriage licenses to gay and straight couples.

She is quite adamant about not doing it.  Her lawyers say it is “impossible” for her to do it.  Davis released a statement released yesterday in which she wrote: “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience.”

Well, isn’t that special?

She has become the spokesperson for religious hypocrisy too.  Despite her claims to literal biblical interpretation, she was married and divorced three times — in 1994, 2006 and 2008, according to U.S. News & World Report.  She gave birth to twins five months after she divorced her first husband. The father of those twins was her third husband, according to the records.  Her second husband adopted the twins, the news magazine said.

CN_QfbGVAAAtPtbWell, isn’t THAT special?

It seems to me that if she is working under God’s authority, then God should provide her a salary, and the state of Kentucky should not.  Or, as many many many people have said, if she cannot do her job, she should resign (she is an elected official).  The religious objection is a serious one, but she’s misusing it.  Think of it this way. Someone who objects to war due to his religious conscience has a right to be a conscientious objector and not serve in the military, even were there to be a draft. But he does not have the right to serve as a military officer, draw a paycheck from the military and then substitute his own personal views of when war is justified for that of the government. The same applies here.

Today is D-day — Davis Day — as she has to return to federal court on a contempt charge.  She is facing fines and imprisonment.

CN_RmNXWIAAzGUBI can see why this has national media attention.  This is a conflict for which there is no middle ground.  No compromise.   On one side are five same-sex couples who want their licenses in their own county; on the other is Davis, who wants to be free to refuse them and send them elsewhere. A court could hold for the plaintiffs and order Davis to do her job, or it could hold for Davis and tell the couples to go elsewhere. Those are the only two options.

Her lawyers at Liberty Counsel are boneheads.  They made a grievous error in advising Davis to defy the court’s order. And God knows the firm is easy to mock. Its website features a statement by Davis that “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience”—and beneath it, a request for a $25 donation in exchange for a book in which “two nationally-acclaimed real estate entrepreneurs share biblical principles to revolutionize your work and family life, and give you the courage to stand up for what is right.”  When you look all that Liberty Counsel has done for Ms. Davis, you wonder if they have Ms. Davis’ best interests at heart, as opposed to their own.  Such is the state of religion today.

But back to Kim.  Guess what?  She loses.  And it is not because she is Christian.  It is because we are a nation of laws.  Not religion.  The two can co-exist, but if you think religion trumps law…. well, don’t complain when you get called the American Taliban.

UPDATE:  Via Facebook, a not-yet-published interview with Rowan County District Attorney Cecil Watkins:

Exclusive. Just conducted an interview with Cecil Watkins, the Rowan County Attorney. Watkins (who to my knowledge) hasn’t given any interviews.

Watkins indicates that Kim Davis “does not represent” Rowan County and is not representative of its inclusive values.

From Day One, Watkins told David I “will not and cannot support” you in her defiance of the law. Not only that he was clear he would not represent her as the law in the case of same sex marriage is clear.

While he has no stance on same sex marriage, well-established federal law must be followed.

Watkins wanted to emphasize several other things.

First that everyone who works at the courthouse has endured cursing as they enter the building. And it’s not just at her office. Everyone in the courthouse is scared to come to work.

Second that Liberty Counsel will leave Kim Davis high and dry when this charade is over. Watkins thinks the funds they raise off the case should go to Rowan County.

Finally and most importantly he has learned that deputy clerks would issue lawful marriage licenses. They are simply afraid to do so. And if Judge Bunning instructs them to do so . . . they will.

Davis has put, in the words of Watkins, her employees and everyone in the courthouse in a “terrible position.”

Watkins, in his role as the County Attorney, will be in court tomorrow for the hearing at 11:00 in Ashland. He is pictured being sworn in.

Ed. Note – The takeaways from the Watkins interview are clear. Davis is acting alone in her zealous mission. Her conduct has terrorized not just her staff but everyone that works in the courthouse. And all for a foolish mission aided by out of state charlatan lawyers trying to raise money for their “religious liberty” mission.

Shannon Ragland
Kentucky Trial Court Review

UPDATE:

Failing The Bechdel Test

Know your memes, people.  If you don’t know what the Bechdel Test is, this is how wikipedia describes its:

The Bechdel test asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.

The Bechdel test is used to demonstrate how one-dimensional women are depicted in fiction.

It is surprising how many movies, for example, fail the Bechdel Test.  The website bechdeltest.com is a user-edited database of some 4,500 films classified by whether or not they pass the test, with the added requirement that the women must be named characters. As of April 2015, it listed 58% of these films as passing all three of the test’s requirements, 10% as failing one, 22% as failing two, and 10% as failing all three.

Writer Charles Stross noted that about half of the films that do pass the test only do so because the women talk about marriage or babies.  This isn’t necessarily misogyny — even movies and TV aimed at women fail the Bechdel test more often than not (see, Sex and the City).

The phrase comes from the cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who, in a 1985 strip from her comic Dykes to Watch Out For, introduced the idea as a winking criticism of male-dominated movies:

904657213

(Actually, it should be called the Bechdel-Wallace test, as The Atlantic informs us today).

Why do I mention this?  Because someone new has failed the Bechdel test — a different Bechdel test.  Because Ms. Bechdel is also known for writing the graphic autobiographical novel, Fun Home (now a Broadway musical).  And it was assigned to incoming freshman at Duke University.  But there’s a problem:

….Duke University…  politely request[ed] that the incoming freshman class read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, an award-winning graphic novel that has (as CNNputs it) “sexual themes and use of nudity.” That’s right, America: Use. Of. Nudity.

Fun Home is an autobiographical story about Bechdel’s childhood, with memories about growing up as a lesbian interlaced with memories about her occasionally abusive father and his (closeted) homosexuality. It’s has won numerous awards, the most prestigious of which is its inclusion in The A.V. Club’s list of the best comics of the ‘00s. Prestige aside, though, it does have sexual themes and use of nudity, so—according to The Duke Chronicle—a handful of the school’s incoming freshman have declared that they refuse to read it on the grounds that it is new and scary.

Or, as one such freshman put it on his Facebook: “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” That same student said that Duke’s decision to put Fun Home on a recommended reading list was “insensitive to people with more conservative beliefs,” adding that it was “like Duke didn’t know we existed.” The Duke Chronicle quotes another student as acknowledging that it “discussed important topics,” but she “could not bring herself to view the images depicting nudity.” One guy explained that the sexual content is fine and that he “might have consented” to read it in print, but the fact that it has drawings of boobs or whatever “violates [his] conscience.” Another student even suggested that Fun Home shook her entire perception of Duke, saying that she asked herself what kind of school would do something as horrible as suggest that incoming students read an award-winning book about a woman’s struggles with sexual identity.

Apparently, some students want to go to a prestigious college and keep their mind closed to new ideas.  It’s the school’s responsibility to step up and teach them. Duke should challenge these beliefs head-on, rather than dismiss these refusals to read Fun Home as minor quibbles.

Those objecting Duke freshmen would be far better served, watching and listeningto the amazing Sydney Lucas sing ‘Ring of Keys’ from the Broadway show. They might just learn something.

Quote Of The Day: Blind To Self Edition

From Florida, relating to efforts to ban The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime from a high school curriculum:

But Sue Gee, one of the parents who complained about the book, feels that Curious Case is an affront to her faith and that its casual use of swear words would be harmful to students.

I am not interested in having books banned,” said Gee, a former primary school teacher. “But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain — I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended.

Translation:  I am interested in having books banned.

Whatever Happened To Jim Bakker?

Jim Bakker was a smarmy, sex-scandal embroiled, 1980s TV evangelist fraudster and ex-con who fleeced his followers for decades with his then-wife Tammy Faye Bakker.  He was one of the many TV evangelist fraudsters in the 1980s.  It was the cool thing in the 1980s — shoulder pads and being a TV evangelist fraudster.

One day, the feds caught up with Bakker and he cried.

jim_bakker_ap

And he later went to trial and was found guilty.

Jim Bakker prison

And Tammy left him.  And he did his time.  And then he admitted he was wrong in a book with a very unimaginative title.

18-9-jim-baker-book-i-was-wrong

And then he took a long road to recovery.  So I hope he’s not out there doing that televangelist huckstering.

Naaah.  He’s just selling buckets of potato soup to elderly people so they will have food to eat when the Lord comes and smites the world for all the abortions and gay marrying we’re doing.

P.S.  The son of Jim and Tammy is in the religion biz as well.  But he’s actually kinda awesome.

Reactions To The Obama Sermon

Over at The Atlantic, James Fallows asked his readers for their reaction to Obama’s “Grace” speech, in eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight others last week.

One critic chastised Obama for his speech, noting that he never mentioned the word “Jesus”:

I read your article and largely agree with it, but as an evangelical Christian with a keen sense of political performance vs. spiritual authenticity, I think it’s telling that in a 30+ minute eulogy given in a church setting for a slain pastor, the words “Jesus”, “Christ”, or “Jesus Christ” are not used. Even once.

There is much eloquence from scripture and the Christian hymnal which can be adopted for all sorts of purposes. But the glaring omission of what Christians believes is the highest and greatest name in the universe—the name in which Mr. Pinckney believed and preached—keeps me from gushing with the same enthusiasm as you.

To this person, the absence of the word “Jesus” lessened the speech.

In a follow-up article, Fallows picks up the point, with reactions to that person’s criticism.  My favorite is this:

As a Christian, I think it’s really hard to claim that Obama’s speech is not deeply Christian. I know a lot of Christians through my mom’s (liberal) church, and some of them talk primarily about Jesus, some of them talk primarily about God. For Obama, especially in a context where his speech is intended to speak directly to this audience but also to everyone, regardless of religion, it makes sense to talk in terms of God—making the speech much more universal than, and just as valid as, talking about Jesus.

A lot of people will immediately tune out if Jesus is mentioned, because suddenly the speech will seem Christian in an exclusive way. Here, Obama delivered a deeply Christian speech that included rather than excluded non-Christians.

The emphasis is mine.

I think that is brilliant, and absolutely true.  The “Grace” speech will go down in history as not only a great political speech, but a great sermon.  And the absence of “Jesus” is a feature, not a bug.

Who Is Burning Black Churches?

If you could give out an award for under-reported stories these past few weeks, this is it.  Granted, it has been a very busy series of news cycles, with gay marriage and confederate flags and mass murder and a million GOP candidates, but this is more important than, say, shark attacks.  And to be sure, if ISIS so much as set a trash can on fire, the news would be all over it.  But so far, there’s been very little on what is clearly a pattern of racist arson.

Fortunately, the media is starting to take notice, like the New York Times today:

02zionGREELEYVILLE, S.C. — Another predominantly African-American church has burned in the South, the latest in a string of fires that has put congregations on edge.

Investigators on Wednesday morning were in Greeleyville, S.C., north of Charleston, where an African-American church caught fire overnight 20 years after the Ku Klux Klan burned it down.

It took over two hours to extinguish the fire that burned through the roof and gutted the predominantly black Mount Zion A.M.E. Church. Lightning storms were reported in the area overnight, and Mark Keel, the chief of the South Carolina Enforcement Division, said that it was too early to determine the cause of the fire.

Tuesday night’s fire came as the authorities in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee investigated blazes at other churches, most of them predominantly black. Although the authorities have concluded that some of those fires were arson, officials have not yet described any of the episodes as hate crimes. Investigators also said there was no evidence that the fires at the churches were linked.

But here in Greeleyville, a town of about 400 people, speculation was already circulating, particularly along the two-lane road where Mount Zion sits and where federal and state investigators were working early Wednesday. The latest blaze drew investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

“Do I think God is now burning down only black churches, and only wiring in black churches is going awry? I take issue with that,” said Dimas Salaberrios, a pastor from New York who was in South Carolina in the wake of the June 17 shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, a drive of less than 90 minutes from Greeleyville.

James Montgomery, an occasional attendee at Mount Zion whose grandparents are buried in the cemetery behind the charred church building, urged caution. “It’s just a shame,” he said as he gazed at the building, where access was restricted by yellow crime scene tape. “I hope it’s an accident. I hope it’s nothing else.”

[UPDATE: CNN reports that “federal investigators suspect lightning may have caused the fire at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, senior officials in the FBI said Wednesday morning. The FBI has been working with the National Weather Service to determine whether the heavy storms in the area contributed to the fire. A forensics report of lightning strikes by CNN meteorologists shows four strikes occurred in the immediate vicinity of the church, all at 7:18 p.m. ET Tuesday night.  Okay, maybe.  It’s still suspicious though.]

Unfortunately, this is what the New York Times wrote only two days ago, before the Wednesday fire:

After a deadly racist attack in South Carolina and heated debates about Confederate symbols, a string of fires at black churches in the South has put congregations on edge. But officials say they have found no evidence that the blazes were hate crimes.

Fires struck five predominantly black churches last week, and investigators say that at least two were arson. So far, investigators say, there are no indications that any of the fires were connected, or that racism was behind them.

“The idea that this could be about hate, by someone who had no hope, no outlet but to do something so tragic — we were devastated, I mean heartbroken, terrified,” the Rev. Rhonda Kinsey, a pastor of Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said Monday.

Investigators have concluded that while the fire in Charlotte, and one two days earlier in Knoxville, Tenn., were certainly arson, they were probably acts of vandalism. Of the four structures at Briar Creek Baptist, only a youth activities building in the back of the complex burned, while the sanctuary was untouched.

I’m not sure how vandalism which ends up with a burnt church is different from arson.  And even if it is technically (or legally) different, I think that misses the point.  Clearly, black churches are being targeted.

Below the fold is a complete chronology of what we know about the burnings, all of which occurred after the shootings in Charleston.

Pastor Calls For Execution Of Gays

I know.  He’s fringe and we shouldn’t pay attention to fringe.  But I couldn’t resist:

Pastor Steven Anderson, of Faithful Word Baptist Church, called for stoning to death ministers who performed same-sex marriage ceremonies and repeated his call for the execution of all LGBT people.

“I hate them with a perfect hatred,” Anderson shouted. “I count them mine enemies.”

Yeah.  I call for the stoning of anyone who says “mine enemies” instead of “my enemies”.

Anderson said the Bible consistently called Christians to “have the guts to stand up to our culture that is now accepts homos.”

“Where’s the call to repentance?” Anderson said. “Where’s the hope, where’s the love and the grace? It isn’t there.”

Now that’s  how I like my irony served up.

Deadly History of Attacks on Progressive Houses of Worship

Last night, in a horrific act of hateful violence, a white gunman shot and killed at least nine people at the historically black Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The incident, which is being investigated as a hate crime, immediately sparked outrage, with many wondering aloud how someone could commit such an act — especially in a church, were the victims were attending a Bible study.

It’s not the first time Emanuel A.M.E. has endured violence. The historically progressive church, which was founded in 1791, was burned to the ground in 1822 by white supremacists for its connection to an attempted slave revolt.

And it’s hardly the first attack on a progressive house of worship:

Sunday, September 15, 1963: 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama is bombed using 16 sticks of dynamite, killing four girls and injuring 22 others.

image001

July 27, 2008: A lone gunman opens fire on a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, killing two and wounding seven. The shooter said he targeted the church because of its liberal teachings.

According to the Associated Press, Jim D. Adkisson, a 58-year-old truck driver “on the verge of losing his food stamps,” entered Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church while parishioners were gathered to watch the congregation’s youth perform the musical “Annie.” He then pulled out a shotgun and opened fire, leaving behind a note that police officials said expressed hatred of “the liberal movement … as well as gays.” A longtime acquaintance said he also hated “blacks, gays and anyone different from him.”

Adkisson eventually pled guilty to killing two and wounding six others, telling the judge, “Yes, ma’am, I am guilty as charged.”

I blog about it here.

May 24, 2015: A pastor is shot outside a church in Hartford, Connecticut, in what police described as a possible hate crime because of the church’s pro-LGBT views.

According to BuzzFeed, Rev. Augustus Sealy, 54, was shot outside Hartford First Church of the Nazarene around 6:30 a.m. while placing flags in front of the sanctuary in honor of Memorial Day. Police reports say that a vehicle slowly rolled up alongside Sealy before someone in the car fired five gunshots. Sealy survived the shooting, but one bullet struck him in the shoulder, and two hit his leg.

Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley told BuzzFeed: “Some language used in the incident — and given where it was, in front of a church known to be accepting of our LGBT community — it led us to have concern that this is a hate crime.”

August 5, 2012: An armed white supremacist storms a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, shooting six people and wounding four others before committing suicide.

Wade Michael Page, 40, entered the Sikh gurdwara armed with a semi-automatic pistol, where he killed one woman and five men, including an assistant priest. Page, an Army veteran with ties to several white supremacist groups, also wounded an officer before turning his gun on himself.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the incident as an example of domestic terrorism, and then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder later declared the attack to be “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime.”

I blog about it here.

April 13, 2014: A Neo-Nazi shoots and kills three people in two separate shootings outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom, a nearby Jewish retirement community.

The first shooting occurred outside the community center, where people were auditioning for a singing competition and staff were preparing for a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. The gunman, 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr., fired several shots at the building and bystanders before escaping by car to Village Shalom. There, he fired a shotgun at Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson Reat Griffin Underwood. Both men succumbed to their wounds, as did another woman, Terry LaManno, who was also shot.

Miller, who was also a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, later said that while none of his victims turned out to be Jewish, he launched the attack “for the specific purpose of killing Jews.” The American Jewish community consistently reports more religiously-motivated hate crimes than any other faith group in the country, according to statistics collected by the FBI.

1995-1996: A series of church fires rock the South, with 37 black churches falling victim to “suspicious fires” in 18 months.

According to a June 16 Washington Post report on a federal investigation of a string of arsons in the mid-1990s, “The people burning down black churches in the South are generally white, male and young, usually economically marginalized or poorly educated, frequently drunk or high on drugs, rarely affiliated with hate groups, but often deeply driven by racism, according to investigators and a review of those arrested or convicted in the burnings.”

The ATF also noted that 23 predominantly white churches were burned during this same time period. The sheer volume of the incidents collectively spurred the House of Representatives to pass legislation to assist federal officials wishing to prosecute the arsonists. The House made it a federal offense to damage religious property simply because of its “racial or ethnic character,” and then-President Bill Clinton also asked Congress for an extra $12 million for investigations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014: A gunman fires five shots at the mosque in Coachella, California.

At 5:01 a.m. on November 4, an unknown gunman fired several shots at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley mosque near Los Angeles. The FBI investigated the attack as a possible hate crime, and while no one was hurt, the incident was part of a steadily increasing wave of attacks and suspicious fires enacted against Muslim houses of worship in the United States. This included the murder of a Muslim teen in Kansas City, and at least two mosque burnings over the last two years.

*******

And I’m not even counting the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller while he attended church in Wichita, Kansas, and the shooting of Alberta King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mother, while she played the organ in 1974.

Mass Murder Hate Crime Leaves 9 Dead In Charleston Church

I may have been one of the first 1000 people to know what happened in Charleston last night.  I was at rehearsal for a play I am in (barely), and backstage, I checked my phone.  Nothing on the Breaking News app, nothing big on Twitter.  I opened Periscope, and there was a guy working in some Charlotte newsroom who was periscoping (sorry, but that’s the verb) about a shooting and killing of 8 people in Charleston, SC.  I tuned in — there were already about 200 watchers.  He was getting reports off of a Charleston police/fire scanner.  The watchers were typing in that there was nothing on MSNBC, CNN or FOX.  Even the local Charleston TV channel had nothing.  That was around 10:15.

I had to pay attention to rehearsal, so I wasn’t able to periscope for very long, but by the time rehearsal was over (at 11:30 — ugh!) and I was in my car, with MSNBC, CNN, and FOX all on my Sirius radio, I thought I would find out more.  By that time, they had reported the story, but had returned to regular earlier-recorded programming (Chris Hayes on MSNBC, O’Reilly on FOX, etc.).  I was stunned.  When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, that was the only story.

To be fair, there wasn’t a lot to report.  There had been no official statement, no confirmation of anything.  The only “official” thing was the Twitter feed of the Charleston PD, which mentioned the shooting and the fact that the shooter was on the loose.  But it did not say anything about fatalities or injuries.

Even when I woke up today, the Charleston news was the “top story”, but the big three cable network news were focusing on other things.  I suspect there will be some third-day stories about the lack of media interest.  Maybe.

Anyway, here’s the skinny:

The shooting took place last night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston during a bible study group.  The killer attended the group and was with them for an hour.  The EAM Episcopal Church is an historic church:

  • The church sits in an area of Charleston densely packed with houses of worship and well-preserved old buildings
  • Congregation was established in 1816
  • African-American members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over a burial ground
  • Also known as “Mother Emanuel”
  • It’s the oldest AME church in the South
  • It’s also one of the oldest African-American churches in the United States
  • It was involved in the Underground Railroad, according to The Washington Post, which calls it a “symbol of black freedom” (http://wapo.st/1J5Pj7G)
  • The newspaper also reports that the church’s prominent speakers include Booker T. Washington (1909), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1962) and Coretta Scott King (1969)
  • It has the most seats of any African-American church in Charleston
  • It was burned to the ground at one point, but rebuilt; it was also destroyed by an earthquake
  • The church hosts a Bible study in its basement every Wednesday evening

Three males and six females were killed at the church, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said this morning. Eight died at the scene, the ninth died at a hospital.  Among those killed is the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

There were a total of 13 people inside the church at the time of the shooting: the shooter, nine victims that were killed, and three survivors. Of the three survivors, two were unharmed.

The gunman was there for about an hour attending the meeting with the eventual victims, before he began shooting, the police chief said.

A woman who survived the shooting says the gunman told her he was letting her live so that she could tell people what happened, according to Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott. Scott said she heard this from the victims’ family members, and stressed she did not speak to the survivor directly.

There are also reports that a little girl also survived by “playing dead”

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina are opening a hate crime investigation into the Charleston shooting. The investigation is parallel to the state’s investigation, although it should be noted that South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have a hate crimes law.

According to a relative of a survivor, church members tried talking to gunman. The gunman said “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Surveillance photos from the church:

droof

Charleston, we should remember, is that place of the Walter Scott shooting.back in April.

10:30am EST:  The shooter has been identified as Dylann Storm Roof (a memorable name), age 21.  I found his Facebook page.  Not much there.  He’s just Dylann Roof (did he give himself “Storm”?)  This picture and 89 friends (some black).  No likes or posts or anything.  He’s from Columbia, SC.  Police say he may be driving a black Hyundai with the license plate LGF330, police say. If you know him or have information about him, call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

dylan roof

One of those patches is a a Rhodesian flag patch when it was white-ruled (Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe).  The other is an apartheid-era South African flag.  This is no casual racist, this one. Wearing those flag patches is the stuff of hardcore, Stormfront-reading white nationalists.

Here’s a concept: in a state that still flies the Confederacy’s battle flag over public buildings, pointing out that there was an organized effort to teach a young white kid about those two lovely countries when he’s the prime suspect in the murder of nine would kind of be a tacit admission that we still have a gigantic problem with race and racism in America.

10:50am EST: The Daily Mail is reporting:

Roof’s uncle told Reuters that his nephew had received a .45 caliber pistol as a birthday present in April. He called the 21-year-old ‘quiet, soft spoken’ and said he recognized him in the photo released by police.

Also….

While other flags are at half mast, the confederate flag is still at full mast at the South Carolina capital.

11:15am EST:  On Fox, a pro-gun pastor thinks that the “hate crime” designation means it was a “hate crime” against religion not black people.  This despite the report that the shooter said “”You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”  He was referring to Christians?  I don’t think so.  (More at Raw Story)

11:20am EST:

11:55am EST:

Christian conservative radio host Bryan Fischer, a former director of issues analysis for the right-wing American Family Association, knows what the real problem is: a lack of guns in churches.

1:00pm EST:  I didn’t think he would, but he did.  Obama spoke out against easy access to guns.  I don’t expect any legislation to come of this (if Newtown couldn’t stop the gun lobby, then this won’t), but it was good of Obama to keep promoting gun control.

3:00pm EST:  Ugh. This…

The Pope Goes Severe Against Climate Deniers

Pope Francis this week is going to come out for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, He will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us.”

Pretty severe verbiage.  It all comes from a draft document leaked to the Italian press and published today.  The pontiff will make his environmental encyclical on Thursday, directing it to “every person who inhabits this planet”. (This is a big deal; the encyclical is one of the most formal statements the pope can make about Catholic doctrine, and it’s the first of his papacy.)

Among other things he says in the draft:

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it.”

and

“Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases…given off above all because of human activity.”

The pope will also single out those obstructing solutions. In an apparent reference to climate-change deniers:

“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.”

 

Gay Marriage Leads To Divorce

You know that silly argument that same-sex marriage harms the institution of marriage?

Pretty dumb, right?  What do they think is going to happen?  If gay people get married, straight married couples will get divorced??? LOL!!!

Well, actually, not so LOL.  Gay marriage could in fact lead to divorce among straight couples.

Or rather, one straight couple.

Who are being total dicks to prove a point:

A Canberra Christian couple who have vowed to divorce if same-sex marriage is legalised may not be able to follow through with their plan due to the legal prerequisites for divorce.

Director of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute and former ACT director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Nick Jensen, said he was prepared to divorce his wife of 10 years in protest if same-sex marriage is legalised by Federal Parliament.

Mr Jensen said he planned to continue living with his wife Sarah and be married “under God”, but divorced in a legal sense.

“It’s not extreme in our eyes, it’s simply a natural consequence of our conscience,” he said.

“When we signed the contract 10 years ago we made a contract with the state about what marriage is, which was husband and wife, fundamental order of creation, part of God’s intimate story for human history, man and woman for the sake of children.

“So if the state then goes and changes the terms of that contract, then that’s something we can no longer partake in, it makes the contract null and void essentially.”

Now, I know nothing of Australian law, but I know enough to know this is among the stupidest things ever said on that continent.

I mean, if you have a contract between the yourself and the guy who is going to paint your house, and *I* have a contract with the same guy to paint *my* house, it doesn’t mean that I have the same house as you, or that we are painting it the same color.  Get my metaphor?

And even if I disagree with your contract with the painter, it sure as hell doesn’t make MY contract “null and void”.

But stupid analogy aside, this stunt is resulting in pretty strong backlack for Nick Jensen.  Even his pro-marriage-equality brother is coming to his defense (“he has a right to speak” and all that).

I certainly agree with Jensen’s right to his anti-equality views, although I don’t find them to be pro-Christian at all.  And frankly, if he’s not enjoying the backlash, he shouldn’t have performed the stunt — a stunt which embraces a very hurtful stance.

 

Some Sarah Word Salad

Why isn’t the dialogue going right now towards hey, let’s get that law enforcement official — he or her — who released this file, this confidential.

Who — who has been a victim, is a victim — would ever want to speak out and still be able to trust law enforcement that what they’re being told, with counselors and amongst themselves, that their files are going to be held confidential, and then they’re exploited! Why isn’t the press going after that police chief, she or he or whomever it was who released this, and you know it was for political reasons, Sean.

The Duggars Get Softball Interview

Okay, the Duggars.  One word: ugh.  And I could add a lot more to that — about how they’re not really “owning” that their son molested their daughters — but they demonstrated that themselves in an interview with Duggar-friendly Megyn Kelly of Fox News.  Raw Story nails this:

There was so much to dislike and be horrified by in Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’sinterview with Megyn Kelly on Fox News Wednesday night that it is hard to even know where to start.

With an able assist from Kelly — a former lawyer who used her legal training like a defense attorney walking a client through court testimony, making a small admission of guilt here, pointing the finger at someone else in the courtroom over there — the entire interview was an exercise in damage control and blame-shifting with a healthy dollop of the persecution blues.

Among the many low-lights:

  • Jim Bob Duggar, with his wife looking adoringly on, admitting that their son Josh groped –or in carefully-couched crisis manager-speak “inappropriately touched” — several younger Duggar daughters. But the girls were asleep and didn’t know it happened. Also, he touched them over their clothes. Oh, yes, and it was only for a “few seconds,” as if the 5-second rule was in effect which means it never “really” happened. Did I mention that a tearful Josh ratted himself out to his parents? Yes, according to Jim Bob, that happened.
  • Jim Bob and Michelle once again equating transgendered men and women with pedophiles which, by the way, Josh Duggar is not even though one of the victims of the then-14-year-old would have been attending kindergarten if she wasn’t being home schooled. How do we know Josh is not a pedophile? According to Jim Bob, “Actually a pedophile is an adult that preys on children. Joshua was actually 14 and just turned 15 when he did what he did. And I think that the legal definition is 16 and up for being an adult preying on a child. So he was a child preying on a child. ” Move along folks, nothing to see here, just a 14-year-old playing doctorgynecologist with his 5-year-old sister. Nothing weird about that.
  • Why didn’t the Duggars turn their creepy son in? Jim Bob — and you should get used to Jim Bob speaking for the family, because he is the patriarch and also because Michelle doesn’t seem particularly bright — explains: “As parents, you’re not mandatory reporters… The law allows for parents to do what they think is best for their child.” Laws that require teachers to report child abuse to authorities apparently do not apply to home schooling parents. Score one for the home schooling movement. Subtract one from moral culpability.
  • The acknowledgement, as Michelle explained in her little-girl-voice, that the Duggars don’t even let their girls hold hands, kiss or be alone with their boyfriends when they are allowed to have one, lest their purity be sullied. A lesson, I might add, that the girls have had beaten into their heads long after their parents covered up the fact that their own brother had already gotten to second base with four of them.
  • Bringing on Jessa and Jill Duggar — two of the molestation victims whose interview will air on Friday — to vouch for their brother while claiming that they are victims of… wait for it… a vengeful and anti-Christian media, including the tabloids who had a major hand in turning the whole family into America’s Most Famous Breeder Couple and Their Spawn.

This is where Megyn Kelly hit her journalism stride, turning a previously softball interview into an inquisition of the “media” and police authorities who are the real bad guys here and not Josh who, according to his parents, is still working things out with God since he is conveniently beyond the reach of the law.

Because they are Christians, albeit ones who never felt to the need to admit that their son was a creepy sister-groper while they preached sexual morality to America’s legions of sinners, apparently no one else was supposed to know about a little indiscretion that happened multiple times over almost two years with five different young girls.

“I know everyone of us has done things wrong. That’s why Jesus came,” Michelle explained. “I feel like this is more about… there’s an agenda.”

Prompted by Kelly, who practically held up cue cards and mouthed the words for them, Jim Bob said that “THE REAL STORY” is how the supposedly sealed juvenile record of their son was released since they had gone to such extreme efforts with local authorities to bury it for the sake of Josh Duggar’s future. Also, the girls. Them too.

“And when you’re in every newspaper and everything throughout the world, I mean, it’s been an unprecedented attack on our family. And this information was released illegally,” Jim Bob explained. “And so I wonder why all this press is not going after the system for releasing juvenile records. That is a huge story.”

Speaking for his daughters who have been paraded on television since 2008, when they weren’t having their marriage details sold to People magazine as “exclusives,” Jim Bob added, “They didn’t want this out. Every victim should have the right to tell their own story, not the tabloids.”

Defending her daughters who were apparently  raised to believe that “what Josh does in the Duggar household, stays in the Duggar household,” Michelle Duggar explained that the girls” have been victimized more by what has happened in these last couple weeks.”

Accordingly the Duggars insisted that the people who released Josh Duggar’s file either “have an agenda,” maybe were “bribed,” and have absolutely “no consideration” for the girls.

NOW the girls are victims.

As blame-shifting goes, refocusing the narrative on the evil media and the legal system while climbing up on the cross, this was not entirely surprising since there is a lot of money in play here if TLC dumps their show.

As for the show, Jim Bob said they weren’t worried about that right now, saying, “At this point, our family is trying to regroup from these attacks.”

Then Kelly thanked the couple for the interview, to which Jim Bob told Kelly in the only moment in the interview that was the honest to God truth: “Thanks for telling our story.”

That was her job, after all.

Mission accomplished.

Vagina Clown Car Family Has A Creepy Clown

I was writing about the Duggars (often misspelling their name) before the got their own TV show — see here, here, and here.  Oh, and here.  Then, with 19 kids and a TV show, they became some sort of major Christian conservative politico-cultural franchise, and I stopped caring.

Now comes the sad news, as it must to many major Christian conservative politico-cultural franchises

Josh Duggar, the reality TV star and conservative activist, resigned from his position at the Family Research Council on Thursday after reports surfaced that he had molested underage girls as a teenager. The 27-year-old is the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose family is the subject of the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting.”

I will attempt to act surprised. Of course, the real crime is often the coverup.  Here’s the rest of the story:

Jim Bob Duggar waited more than a year after his son, Josh, confessed to sexually molesting several female minors before contacting police, In Touch Magazine is reporting exclusively, based on information contained in the official police report.

What’s more, Jim Bob informed the elders of his church about Joshua’s actions and they waited three months before contacting authorities. The explosive new information is contained in a Springdale, Ark., police report obtained by In Touch magazine.

The report has been hidden since 2006 and was just obtained by the mag through a Freedom of information Act request. Jim Bob also refused to allow police to interview Josh when they opened a felony investigation in 2006. The Duggars star on TLC’s hit show 19 Kids and Counting.

In Touch magazine first broke the news of the Duggars’ underage sexual molestation scandal in this week’s magazine. (Note: Josh’s name is redacted from the police report but In Touch has confirmed the passages that refer to him.)

Other bombshells in the police report are: Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.

Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.

Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”

He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”

The Duggars told police that Josh “apologized” to the female minors and that they had “forgiven” him.

An alleged victim told police in 2006 that Josh had told “mother and dad what had happened… (and) asked for forgiveness.” The report notes the alleged victim says Josh “sought after God and had turned back to God.

Jim Bob told police that “several members of their church were aware of the situation and had been supportive of the family.”

.I need a shower.

UPDATE: Here’s a blast from the past from Mommy Michelle Duggar:

 

Talk About Self-Loathing

Did you hear the one about the anti-gay pastor who told a gay teen that he should kill himself?  Yup.  Until very recently, he was an associate pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Midland, Michigan.  The church bio described him as a man “blessed” with a wife and five children.  He had a gay teen parishoner. He told the kid that since the gay means that the kid would end up in hell, so he should commit suicide.  And he said on social media that the kid’s mother that she shouldn’t support the gay kid anymore.

You know what else the pastor said on social media?  “I love making out naked, oral and massage. And I top. Also love to cuddle”.  That was on Queerty.

Read the whole thing.

 

All Hail The Fastest Growing Religion In The United States

Eight years ago, more Americans considered themselves “Evangelical Protestant” than any other religion — a full 26.3%.  Next was Catholic (23.9%) and then “Mainline Protestant” (18.1%) in third.

Today, Evangelical Protestant is still Numero Religion Uno, although its adherents have dropped to 25.4%.  And in second?

An upstart.  The number two religion in the U.S. is now “NONE”.  It jumped up 6.7% in the past eight years — now at 22.8%

From Pew Survey:

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxThe Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

I’m sure someone will view this as an evidence of an “attack on Christianity”, although it is hard to say exactly who is doing the attacking.

Maybe the United State has finally gone the way of Europe.  Finally.  We no longer believe in myths and fairy tales.

Read the whole thing

Our Favorite Ex-Congresswoman Predicts The End Of Times

Go ahead, Michele Bachmann. Break out your “THE END IS NEAR” sign. You know you want to. She came close in a radio interview:

Michele Bachmann says the rapture is coming, thanks to President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran’s nuclear program and marriage equality.

In a radio interview last week, Bachmann, the former Minnesota Republican congresswoman, told “End Times” host Jan Markell, “We need to realize how close this clock is getting to the midnight hour.”

“We in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church,” Bachmann said. “We see the destruction, but this was a destruction that was foretold.”

Yes, she’s serious.

Slate’s Amanda Marcotte On Demonic Possession

We’ve been following the bizarre story of Arkansas state legislator Justin Harris, and the controversy surrounding his adopted, and then given-to-a-molester, daughters.  But rather than merely recount that story, we’ll let Amanda Marcotte discuss the bigger picture:

This story of Arkansas state legislator Justin Harris’ adoption debacle has been a classic, slow-moving trainwreck, as the Arkansas press discovers disturbing new details on a near-daily basis that have launched what started as a local scandal into national headlines. It’s a story that touches on many hot-button issues—the evangelical enthusiasm for adoption, the disturbing practice of “rehoming,” child sexual abuse—but what has really sent this story to the next level are reports of children being subject to abuse due to the Harris’ alleged belief in demon possession.

The story first surfaced when the Arkansas Times discovered that a man named Eric Cameron Francis, who was arrested for raping a 6-year-old in his care, had previously worked for Harris and his wife, Marsha Harris, at their day care, named Growing God’s Kingdom. Harris copped to having hired and then fired Francis, but he didn’t admit to what the Times dug up: The only reason that Francis had the little girl in the first place was the Harrises gave her to him.* The victim and her sister had been adopted by the Harrises in 2013 and then, six months later, were rehomed with Francis and his wife, a practice that is apparently legal in Arkansas.

Harris went on the defensive, holding a press conference where he admitted to the rehoming the girls and blamed the Arkansas Department of Human Services for not telling him that the girls, ages 4 and 2, were violent and posed a threat to his older biological sons. However, the Times found plenty of people to dispute this story. The foster family who had the girls before claim that they warned the Harrises that they weren’t up for adopting these girls, who had behavioral issues due to extensive trauma, including sexual abuse, in their biological mother’s home. But the family suggested that the Harrises pulled strings to make it happen anyway. The girls’ new family says the girls have “adjusted beautifully and are thriving in our home with unconditional love and patience.”

All bad enough, but where it really gets weird is when the demon possession comes in:

Chelsey Goldsborough, who regularly babysat for the Harrises, said Mary was kept isolated from Annie and from the rest of the family. She was often confined for hours to her room, where she was monitored by a video camera. The reason: The Harrises believed the girls were possessed by demons and could communicate telepathically, Goldsborough said. Harris and his wife once hired specialists to perform an “exorcism” on the two sisters while she waited outside the house with the boys, she said.

The Times confirmed this account with multiple sources who know the family. The Harrises, through their attorney, deny believing in demon possession or exorcism. However, KNWA reports that a former employee, only going by the name Amber, saw the Harrises try to cast demons out of misbehaving kids at Growing God’s Kingdom day care. “If they got in too much trouble they would pray on the kids, do a circle around them, put their hands on their heads, saying, trying to rebuke demons,” she told the station.

All this may seem too outrageous to believe, but the sad fact of the matter is that there are many pockets of evangelical Christianity that believe that bad or sinful behavior is caused by demons literally possessing or oppressing people and therefore need to be exorcised. There’s not a lot of information on how widespread this belief is, though it does seem to be fringe. The biggest proponent of it in evangelical circles is a man named Bob Larson, who can be seen, with his daughter and her “teen exorcist” friends, in this Vice video I posted at Slate in 2013. Larson is a classic charlatan—he even charges $295 for a demon exorcism via Skype—but it works because a lot of people really want to believe that destructive behavior is supernatural and can be done away with by praying. In 2001, Fordham sociologist Michael Cuneo even traveled the country and witnessed at least 50 exorcisms, most in evangelical circles, across the country, and published his findings in American Exorcism.

This belief has been endorsed from on high in fundamentalist circles. Pat Robertson of the 700 Club is forever warning viewers about the dangers of demonic possession and witchcraft. Some recent greatest hits includeblaming homosexuality on demonic possession, warning that Dungeons & Dragons will cause demonic possession, and even buying used clothes could bring demons into your life. Also, don’t put your sonogram pictures up on Facebook, because witches will curse your child.

This stuff usually only gets attention from outsiders who want to point and laugh at it, but as this situation in Arkansas shows, this fear that demons haunt every corner and will pounce the second you let your guard down can have very serious consequences. The Harrises are disputing the claims that they subjected children in their care to abusive behavior under the guise of casting out demons, but if the various witnesses who say they saw it are telling the truth, then that’s very disturbing news indeed.

The Muslim Terrorist Victims?

So here’s what happened:

The Daily Show Comes To Winston-Salem

There was a bit of controversy here in Winston-Salem recently.  It made international news.  Here’s how the BBC reported it in August:

For the past four years, Mary’s Gourmet Restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had been surprising customers with a 15% discount if they prayed or meditated before meals.

“It could be anything – just taking a moment to push away the world,” says Mary Haglund, the owner. “I never asked anyone who they were praying to – that would be silly. I just recognised it as an act of gratitude.”

However, it wasn’t until customer Jordan Smith shared her receipt with a Christian radio station on 30 July that the diner and its discount went viral.

“There was no signage anywhere that promoted the prayer discount. We just ordered our food and prayed over it once it arrived,” says Smith. “It wasn’t until the end when they brought the bill over and it said 15% discount for praying in public.”

To Smith’s surprise, the post received thousands of likes and shares on Facebook.

“It was fun to watch and see how quickly it got popular,” Smith says. “As a Christian, it was exciting to see so many people talk about prayer.”

Haglund was bombarded with media attention from across the United States.

“I was pretty overwhelmed,” she says. “I’m 61 years old so this internet technology blows my mind. It really makes you take a pause because there’s a lot of people paying attention.”

However, unbeknownst to her the discount may have been a violation of the Civil Rights Act, which was passed in the 1960s to protect US citizens from racial and religious discrimination.

“As a place of public accommodation, the Civil Rights Act requires the diner to offer goods and services, which we interpret to include discounts, without regard to religion, race, and national origin,” says Elizabeth Cavell, a staff attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Cavell sent a letter to the diner urging it to withdraw the discount.

“Most people can understand how discriminatory discounts are really unfair to the people that are not included in the preferred group,” says Ms Cavell.

Now, I’m a liberal and an atheist, and, without more knowledge, I would normally side with those who say that Mary’s Gourmet Diner discriminates against those who choose not to pray before meals.

But I’ve eaten at Mary’s now and then.  And I’ve met Mary.  And she’s not one of these evangelical religious nuts and she doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religion.  (Plus, she serves breakfast all hours of the day, which makes her and her establishment awesome, not that that bears on the controversy)

So when I heard the Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show was coming to town to do a segment on the controversy, I was a little concerned that they would go for the easy target (the “discriminating Christian”) and not get the story right (unlike other media).

But to the Daily Show’s credit, they listened to both sides, and actually got the story right.  Mary isn’t an evil person, and the people who are complaining are actually the dicks here.

Here’s the Daily Show segment that aired last night:

Head Explode

Christian conservatives are complaining about the new Russell Crowe action movie "Noah" because it does not accurately depict the real-life flood as written in the Bible.

Oy.

By the way, has anyone answered the question as to where all the flood waters went?  I mean, the whole planet was covered in water — higher than the highest mountain.  Where did all that water go?

The Hobby Lobby Case

Justice Anthony Kennedy, on whose vote the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS case rests, seems very concerned about the government forcing corporations to cover abortion:

WASHINGTON, DC — Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks gay people are fabulous. All three of the Supreme Court’s most important gay rights decisions were written by Justice Kennedy. So advocates for birth control had a simple task today: convince Kennedy that allowing religious employers to exempt themselves from a federal law expanding birth control access would lead to all kinds of horrible consequences in future cases — including potentially allowing religious business owners to discriminate against gay people.

Kennedy, however, also hates abortion. Although Kennedy cast the key vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey upholding what he called the “essential holding of Roe v. Wade,” he’s left no doubt that he cast that vote very grudgingly. Casey significantly rolled back the constitutional right to choose an abortion. And Kennedy hasn’t cast a single pro-choice vote in an abortion case in the last 22 years.

So Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the two companies claiming that they should be exempt from the birth control rules had an ace in their pocket as well. Their path to victory involved convincing Kennedy that their cases are really about abortion — and it looks like Kennedy convinced himself of that point on his own.

It was clear from the get go that the Court’s liberals understood that their best course involved highlighting the dangerous consequences of a victory for Hobby Lobby. Paul Clement, the de facto Solicitor General of the Republican Party who argued the case on Hobby Lobby’s behalf, barely uttered his first sentence before Justice Sonia Sotomayor cut him off to ask what other medical procedures religious employers could refuse to cover in their employee health plans. Justice Elena Kagan quickly joined the party. If Hobby Lobby can deny birth control coverage, Kagan asked, what about employers who object to vaccinations? Or blood transfusions?

When Clement tried to deflect this list, Kagan came armed with an even bigger what. What of religious employers who object to gender equality, or the minimum wage, or family medical leave, or child labor laws? If the Supreme Court agrees with Hobby Lobby’s brief, which argues that laws burdening a corporation’s purported religious faith must survive the “most demanding test known to constitutional law,” then there would be few laws corporations could not exempt themselves from following.

Clement’s argument time then took a number of detours, with the Court’s three women dominating the questioning. Justice Kagan pointed out that religious liberty cases have never applied the same strict constitutional rule applied in race cases. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered how the federal religious liberty law at issue in this case — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — could have passed almost unanimously if it lead to the deeply controversial results advocated by Clement. Justice Sotomayor wondered how it is possible for a corporation to exercise religion.

The justices also spent a good amount of time discussing whether Hobby Lobby faces any real burden at all, since they could always simply stop offering health benefits and pay a tax — a position first articulated in a blog post written by Professor Marty Lederman.

At the end of Clement’s first turn at the podium, Kennedy asked the question that will probably give most hope to Team Birth Control. What about the rights of employees who may be hurt by their employer’s decision not to follow the law? For the moment, it appeared that Kennedy was worried about the parade of horribles that could follow a decision for Hobby Lobby.

Indeed, not long after Solicitor General Don Verrilli took the podium to argue the government’s case, it appeared that he may ultimately emerge victorious. Clement spent much of his argument on his heels. The three women on the bench appeared quite confident in their questioning. Kennedy was silent for much of Verilli’s argument.

But then he made a statement that will likely doom the government’s case. “Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli. This was not the Anthony Kennedy that worried about conservatives imposing their anti-gay “animus” on others, this was the Anthony Kennedy that views abortion as a grave moral wrong. Shortly after Kennedy made this statement, Justice Kagan’s face dropped. It appeared that she’d just figured out that she would be joining a dissenting opinion.

It’s worth noting that Kennedy expressed a different concern than one offered shortly thereafter by Chief Justice John Roberts. Hobby Lobby objects to four forms of contraception on the mistaken ground that these contraceptive methods are actually forms of abortion — a brief filed by numerous medical organizations explains that they are not. Roberts, however, suggested that someone’s mere belief that something is an abortion is enough to trigger an religious exemption to federal law.

This is insane.

Suppose I had the "mere belief" — religiously held — that black people evolved from mud and white people were descendents of Adam and Eve, and had a rightful place in heaven and on Earth?  And in my place of employment?

Of course, you don't have to go that far.  No Muslim or Jewish employer gets to demand that their employees not get coverage for, say, illnesses resulting from eating pork. No Hindu employer gets to restrict health coverage for people who eat beef or were born to the wrong caste.  Why do Christians get a pass?

We have actually addressed this issue before, in 1990, in Employment Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources vs. Smith.  In that case,  Smith and Black were fired by a private drug rehabilitation organization because they ingested peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, for sacramental purposes at a ceremony of their Native American Church. Their applications for unemployment compensation were denied by the State of Oregon under a state law disqualifying employees discharged for work-related "misconduct."

That case involved the same question: what happens when one's religious belief runs up against a generally-applicable law?

And the answer was: Tough.  Here's what Scalia — yes, Scalia — wrote:

We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594 -595 (1940): "Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities (footnote omitted)." We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145(1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. "Laws," we said, "are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself." Id., at 166-167.

Emphasis mine.

There simply is no reason why abortion is entitled to some special category of religious exemption, where peyote and polygamy were not.

But it looks like this is where the Supreme Court is headed, and as Scalia notes, it will be throwing aside centuries of jurisprudence in doing so (Scalia is likely to be one of the justices contraditing himself).

Very sad.  And a very dangerous precedent.

 

Nye-Ham Debate

So there was a debate between Bill Nye vs Ken Ham (founder of the Creationist Museum) last night on the subject of evolution vs. creationism.  It was fascinating to watch.  One of my key takeaways was that Ham actually admitted that evolution takes place.  He says it explains the varieties of "kinds" of animals.  Rather than say that Noah took thousands of kinds of cats on his ark 4000 years ago, he says that Noah took one pair of cats, and from those two cats, we get all the various cats (lions, tigers, pumas, domestic cats) today.

That's a startling admission, if only because it makes evolution work at a much faster pace than Darwin (or any other scientist) claims.

Now, obviously I am in the pro-Nye pro-evolution camp, because I think.  But even then, I was surprised at how BAD the arguments were for the creationism side.  They weren't scientific at all.  He admitted as much.  But I'll farm out the rest of my review:

When I first heard this debate was going to happen, I couldn’t wait.  I never thought as a child that somehow “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” who I watched on Saturday mornings, would one day become a leading figure in the political battle of science vs. delusion.

Keep in mind that I am a Christian, so I don’t discount everything in the Bible.  Though I’ve made it clear that I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the Bible as it’s obvious (to me at least) that much of it has been rewritten – and poorly translated – over centuries.

The dawn of the tea party brought about the attempted hijacking of the GOP by radicals, and science that had never really been up for debate previously (besides between people who were borderline insane) because it had always been accepted as scientific fact,  suddenly became a “debatable topic.”

Not because the science changed, but because insane people were suddenly given a voice in mainstream politics thanks to the tea party.

All of a sudden these people began pushing the ridiculous idea that climate change was a “global hoax” perpetrated by over 95% of the world’s scientists and that evolution didn’t belong in the classroom.  And if we were going to teach evolution in the classroom, creationism should be taught along side of it as another “scientific theory.”

Except, there’s just one problem with that.  Creationism isn’t a scientific theory! 

Which is what led to this debate.  Over the last several years, Bill Nye has been quite public with his assertion that it’s insane how certain people want faith-based beliefs to be taught alongside proven science in our schools.

Well, Nye wasted no time in asserting that he would make Mr. Ham look like a fool this entire night.

Going into this night, I had imagined giving specific quotes and a detailed examination of what I had just seen.  However, it didn’t take me long before I realized that wouldn’t be necessary.

Honestly, a quick summation of what I saw is enough to properly convey just how badly Mr. Nye embarrassed Mr. Ham.

There were questions, rebuttals, long presentations and scientific facts (well, from Nye anyway) that would make most of our heads spin.

There was talk of radiometric dating, bedrock layers, tree rings, the expansion of the universe, evolutionary patterns of animals, technological advancements of ships, common sense and all sorts of scientific data which has been proven by some of best and brightest over many years.

Then there was Mr. Ham’s argument.  Which I will summarize:

“Well, there’s a book which tells me…”

No, I’m not kidding.  That was honestly his answer for most questions.  Because the Bible says something, that makes it fact.  Because a book that’s been translated over centuries says something, that proves it to be fact. 

I’m really not lying, that was his answer to most questions.

Oh, that and, “Well, because we can’t see the earth billions of years ago – how do we know?”   Then Mr. Ham’s “proof” being not that he can prove what’s in the Bible in any way – just that it’s in the Bible.

Seriously, that’s what he used as “proof” for most of his argument, “Because the Bible says.”

Bill Nye used facts, logic, science, data, research and common sense while Ken Ham countered these arguments with, “Well, the Bible says…”

I seriously started laughing during parts of this.

But my favorite part came during the question and answer section when someone submitted a question for Mr. Ham asking if he took all parts of the Bible literally (citing a part about touching pig skin or having multiple wives).  That’s when Mr. Ham proved himself to be an absolute hypocrite.

While the whole night he confidently spoke about the earth being 6,000 years old because that’s what the Bible says, or all these specific things in the Bible which should be taken for their literal word, yet during this part he stumbled over what is or isn’t taken from natural parts.

Essentially saying, well – I guess you can’t take every word of the Bible literally because it doesn’t make sense.

Because as most of us know, the Bible is full of passages that give men the right to stone their wives and all sorts of other heinous acts that in a modern society would seem barbaric.

It was quite comical to see Mr. Ham suddenly start to “subjectively” interpret the Bible when it came to some of the more controversial aspects of what’s written inside.

This entire night showcased that Bill Nye (over and over again) proved with science that there’s evidence to support theories and beliefs of the scientific community based on quantitative data collected by some of the best and brightest this world has ever seen.

While Mr. Ham’s answers basically consisted of two things:

  • Well, we didn’t see the world during that time so how do we know?
  • The Bible says…

And that’s about it.  No proof, no evidence – just another guy reading the Bible trying to claim that as “scientific evidence.”

So, in this debate of Science vs. Creationism, science not only won – it wasn’t even close.

Sex Education For Kindergarteners

Whaat????  OUTRAGE!!!   NEVER!!!  KERFUFFLE!!!!!

Wait… maybe I should read up on the facts….

CPS [Chicago Public Schools] insists the curriculum will use language children understand and focus on topics like bullying, correct names for external body parts and the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.

“As you identify body parts, you talk about should you be touched here or not.,” said Stephanie Whyte, the CPS Chief Health Officer. “And if someone touches you, and it’s uncomfortable, you should tell a trusted adult.”

Oh.  Ok.  I should have noticed the headline which reads:

CPS Mandates Sexual, Health Education For Kindergarten

Well, I'm sure the Christian right wing news is reporting this in a sane, honest and responsible manner:

Chicago Public Schools Mandate Sex Ed Classes for Kindergarten Students

They are much, much too young to even be thinking about sex and sexual acts at their age are the worst form of pedophilia, but Chicago public schools think little boys and girls in kindergarten are ready for sex ed classes

Not to quibble, Lifenews.com, but kindergarteners performing sex acts isn't technically pedophilia.  That's when an adult is involved.

And also, I'm not aware of any sex classes — at any age — where the students perform sex acts.

But you know, you gotta crank up the outrage machine.  Who cares about being, you know, honest?

Let's keep reading:

But parents are already up in arms about not only how appropriate the classes are but whether they distract from real education.

Oh, well, sure.  Wouldn't want this "fake" education to get in the way of….

“The new policy calls for 300 minutes of instruction or about 30 minutes a month,” the report says.

30 minutes a month?

We're taking 30 minutes a month to tell kids what their genitalia is called, and how they shouldn't whip it out, etc. and to be tolerant of each other…. and this is a problem?

OUTRAGE!!!   NEVER!!!  KERFUFFLE!!!!!

BONUS KERFUFFLE:  The socialist Nobama is in favor of the program.

Actions Have Consequences, Part XXVIII

Q.  The senior pastor at a Texas megachurch often speaks from the pulpit against vaccines.  The church's position is that one should seek guidence from God, the Word.   What is the result?

(a)  God, the Word, takes care of everybody.
(b)  The senior pastor gets a Ph.D. in medicine
(c)  There is an outbreak of measles which not only affects members of the church, but the entire community.

The answer, of course, is C. 

And this happens quite often — more than you may think.

Quote of the day goes to William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, who says:  "This is a sadly misinformed religious leader."

And the church?  Looks like they know they stepped in it.

Prudes

Playbill:

Harry Scott, the superintendent of Parkview Christian Schools in Nebraska, says he was fired due to his involvement in a community theatre production of The Producers, according to JournalStar.com.

Scott, who has worked as an educator for 22 years, had been superintendent at the school, which was started by Calvary Community Church, since 2011. He said he was fired Aug. 10.

Scott told JournalStar.com that he was informed the reason for his termination was that Calvary's pastor, Dr. Carl Godwin, felt his participation in the musical would reflect negatively on Calvary Community Church and Parkview Christian School.

"I never imagined that my passion for acting and participating in community theatre would lead to me losing my job," he wrote to the JournalStar. "I truly believe that I did nothing wrong and my involvement in theatre should in no way interfere with the career I love."

Scott played the role of Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks' musical comedy about two men who scheme to get rich quick by producing a flop Broadway show. The musical includes jokes about show business, Nazis and homosexuality. 

According to JournalStar.com, neither Godwin nor the chairman of the school's board could be reached for comment. 

Fake “Pray The Gay Away” Church To Close Its Doors

I guess reality caught up:

Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality announced tonight that it’s closing its doors after three-plus decades of ministry. The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.

“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,”Tony Moore, Board member of Exodus. The message came less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing (www.exodusinternational.org/apology) to the gay community for years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.

“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus. “For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”

Basically, they have been living a lie for over thirty years.

Another Creationism Story To Drive Me Crazy

HuffPo:

The Springboro, Ohio, school board is currently considering a proposal that would allow the district to teach creationism, despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and local parents.

The issue, which was discussed at Thursday night’s board meeting, is part of a larger proposal that would open up a variety of controversial issues for classroom discussion. According to the proposal, “[s]ex education, legalization of drugs, evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change and sustainable development” would be considered suitable classroom topics, reports local news outlet WHIO-TV.

***

“We’re being defined by our issues and not our accomplishments,” said Lynn Greenberg, a local parent who feels the district’s attempts to teach creationism distracts from students’ education.

However, school board member Jim Rigano told the outlet that he thought teaching creationism would help the district “ensure we’re not indoctrinating one point of view or another.”

Gah!  Science doesn’t have a point of view, Jim!  Science is!  It doesn’t have an opinion or point of view!  How many times do you have to be told?!?

God-Evoking During Tragedies

Well, this is a refreshing change:

You’d think by now CNN would have learned to stop treating its assumptions as truths. But when Wolf Blitzer made a casual comment Tuesday, it turned out to be a teachable moment both for the newsman and television viewers.

Speaking live to a survivor of the deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., Blitzer declared the woman “blessed,” her husband “blessed,” and her son “blessed.” He then asked, “You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

But as she held her 18-month-old son, Rebecca Vitsmun politely replied, “I’m actually an atheist.” A flummoxed Blitzer quickly lobbed back, “You are. All right. But you made the right call,” and Vitsmun graciously offered him a lifeline. “We are here,” she said, “and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord.” Nicely done, Rebecca Vitsmun.

 

Muslims Aren’t Inherently Evil

They're not.  Some of them get that way when they are bombed, their nations are invaded, and they live under dictators which the United States supports.

That's the gist of this thoughtful article by Glenn Greenwald, excerpted here:

First, some leading American opinion-makers love to delude themselves and mislead others into believing that the US is attacked despite the fact that it is peaceful, peace-loving, freedom-giving and innocent. As these myth-makers would have it, we don't bother anyone; we just mind our own business (except when we're helping and liberating everyone), so why would anyone possibly want to attack us?

With that deceitful premise in place, so many Americans, westerners, Christians and Jews love to run around insisting that the only real cause for Muslim attacks on the US is that the attackers have this primitive, brutal, savage, uncivilized religion (Islam) that makes them do it. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan favorably cited Sam Harris as saying that "Islamic doctrines … still present huge problems for the emergence of a global civil society" and then himself added: "All religions contain elements of this kind of fanaticism. But Islam's fanatical side – from the Taliban to the Tsarnaevs – is more murderous than most."

These same people often love to accuse Muslims of being tribal without realizing the irony that what they are saying - Our Side is Superior and They are Inferior - is the ultimate expression of rank tribalism. They also don't seem ever to acknowledge the irony of Americans and westerners of all people accusing others of being uniquely prone to violence, militarism and aggression (Juan Cole yesterday, using indisputable statistics, utterly destroyed the claim that Muslims are uniquely violent, including by noting the massive body count piled up by predominantly Christian nations and the fact that "murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States").

As the attackers themselves make as clear as they can, it's not religious fanaticism but rather political grievance that motivates these attacks. Religious conviction may make them more willing to fight (as it does formany in the west), but the motive is anger over what is being done by the US and its allies to Muslims. Those who claim otherwise are essentially saying: gosh, these Muslims sure do have this strange, primitive, inscrutable religion whereby they seem to get angry when they're invaded, occupied, bombed, killed, and have dictators externally imposed on them. It's vital to understand this causal relationship simply in order to prevent patent, tribalistic, self-glorifying falsehoods from taking hold.

Second, it's crucial to understand this causation because it's often asked "what can we do to stop Terrorism?" The answer is right in front of our faces: we could stop embracing the polices in that part of the world which fuel anti-American hatred and trigger the desire for vengeance and return violence. 

Yup.

Also, good reading: Juan Cole.

Why You Didn’t See The Westboro Baptist Church Protesters At The Funeral Of A Boston Marathon Bombing Victim

Members of Teamsters Local 25 sent out a call for any available members to shield today’s services for Krystle Campbell in Medford, Massachusetts. Basic human decency won out: the Boston Globe reports that hundreds of counter-protesters gathered across the street from the church where the memorial for Campbell was held, but that the Westboro protesters never showed up at all. 

This infuriated the WBC morons who insisted they were present, and tweeted a photoshopped photo to prove it.  Yes, a photoshopped photo. 

Why not a real photo?  Because Teamsters Local 25 did their job well.  You couldn't see the WBC protesters.

A Dignified Death

After making North Carolina a punchline for a couple of days, the Speaker of the NC legislature does the right thing:

The Republican speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives killed legislation on Thursday that aimed toestablish an official state religion.

House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Charlotte) announced Thursday afternoon that the bill would not be receiving a vote in the full House, effectively dropping the measure. Loretta Boniti, a reporter for News 14 Carolina, broke the news on Twitter, and it was confirmed in a breaking news alert posted on the home page of wral.com, a Raleigh-based television station. Tillis' decision followed several days of national media attention on the bill, which also said that the state government did not have to listen to federal court rulings and was exempt from the requirements of the First Amendment.

The bill, which was drafted by state Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), was intended to address an issue in Rowan County, where the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the county commission in an attempt to block commissioners from having a Christian prayer at the beginning of meetings.

The North Carolina measure responds to the ACLU suit by declaring that each state is "sovereign" and no federal court can prevent a state from "from making laws respecting an establishment of religion." Though Warren, one of the bill's authors, told HuffPost Live that the measure was not seeking to create a state religion, the drafted legislation would clearly allow for such an action.

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

The North Carolina bill seeks to play the First Amendment both ways. It says that the state is exempted from the establishment clause under the First Amendment, which establishes the "separation of church and state." The clause reads that "Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion." But the North Carolina bill asserts that prohibition does not apply "to states, municipalities, or schools," and that North Carolina could establish a state religion. The bill then goes further, portraying this reasoning as a protection of the freedom of religion, including the state lawmakers' right to exercise their own religious beliefs.

 

North Carolina Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Constitution

This is embarrassing:

RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide.

The bill grew out of a federal lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In the lawsuit, the ACLU says the board has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.

Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered an explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.

In a 2011 ruling on a similar lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not ban prayer at government meetings outright but said prayers favoring one religion over another are unconstitutional.

"To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord," the court said. "Where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance."

House Bill 494, filed by Republican Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, would refuse to acknowledge the force of any judicial ruling on prayer in North Carolina – or indeed on any Constitutional topic:

"The Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people," the bill states. "Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion."  

The Tenth Amendment argument, also known as "nullification," has been tried unsuccessfully by states for more than a century to defy everything from the Emancipation Proclamation of the Civil War to President Obama's health care reforms to gun control.

The bill goes on to say:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Eleven House Republicans have signed on to sponsor the resolution, including Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, and Budget Chairman Justin Burr, R-Stanly.

There is absolutely no way that this bill will hold up in federal court, but of course, the point of the bill is to say that North Carolina doesn't give a damn what federal courts say.  

But the First Amendment applies to the states through the 14th Amendment. This is well-settled law.  From EVerson v Board of Education (1947):

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" 330 U.S. 1, 15-16..

States' rights? Sure states have rights, but not to the point where they can do what the federal government can't.  The last time the South tried to test this theory, they lost.  It was called the Civil War.

Morons.

And not for nothing, but the proposed bill violates the North Carolina constitution as well, where it reads:

Sec. 13.  Religious liberty.

All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

When the states establishes or endorses a religion, it interferes with the rights of conscience of individuals, by putting the stamp of "official" endorsement of one religion over another.