Race – excerpts

Updated 3/18/17      see also Culture Wars-Race

The Spirit That Drove Us to Civil War Is Back by Andy Schmookler, Huffington Post, 09/02/2014  Excerpt – …the force that drove us to Civil War more than a century and a half ago, and the force that has taken over the Republican Party in our times…In both cases, we see an elite insisting on their “liberty,” by which they mean the freedom to dominate… the use of the structures of American democracy was combined with a contempt for the democratic values that inspired our founders… the idea of compromise became a dirty word, as the inflamed insistence on getting everything one’s own way took hold of the inflamed side…the powerful elite in the grip of that destructive force refused to accept that in a democracy sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and sometimes you have to accept being governed by a duly-elected president you don’t like. Today’s Republicans have done everything they could to nullify the presidency of Barack Obama, whom the American people duly elected twice. Like no other opposition party in American history, they have refused to accept the temporary minority status to which American voters have consigned them. Blocking the president from performing the function for which the people hired him has been their top priority.

We, the Plutocrats vs. We, the People  by Bill Moyers, TomDispatch, September 12, 2016 commondreams.orgExcerpt and highlighting by Phyllis Stenerson, curator of ProgressiveValues.org 9/23/16 Full text Excerpt – They [citizens] simply couldn’t see beyond their own prerogatives.  Fiercely loyal to their families, their clubs, their charities, and their congregations — fiercely loyal, that is, to their own kind — they narrowly defined membership in democracy to include only people like themselves. … this is the oldest story in our country’s history: the struggle to determine whether “we, the people” is a metaphysical reality — one nation, indivisible — or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others. There is a vast difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud, a democracy in name only.  I have no doubt about what the United States of America was meant to be.  It’s spelled out right there in the 52 most revolutionary words in our founding documents, the preamble to our Constitution, proclaiming the sovereignty of the people as the moral base of government:  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”What do those words mean, if not that we are all in the business of nation-building together?….And yet, despite the flaws and contradictions of human nature — or perhaps because of them — something took hold here. The American people forged a civilization: that thin veneer of civility stretched across the passions of the human heart. Because it can snap at any moment, or slowly weaken from abuse and neglect until it fades away, civilization requires a commitment to the notion…that we are all in this together. American democracy grew a soul, as it were…President Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood the soul of democracy, too.  He expressed it politically, although his words often ring like poetry.  Paradoxically, to this scion of the American aristocracy, the soul of democracy meant political equality.  “Inside the polling booth,” he said, “every American man and woman stands as the equal of every other American man and woman. There they have no superiors. There they have no masters save their own minds and consciences.” God knows it took us a long time to get there.  Every claim of political equality in our history has been met by fierce resistance from those who relished for themselves what they would deny others. So it was, in the face of constant resistance, that many heroes — sung and unsung — sacrificed, suffered, and died so that all Americans could gain an equal footing inside that voting booth on a level playing field on the ground floor of democracy.  And yet today money has become the great unequalizer, the usurper of our democratic soul. No one saw this more clearly than that conservative icon Barry Goldwater, longtime Republican senator from Arizona and one-time Republican nominee for the presidency. Here are his words from almost 30 years ago: “The fact that liberty depended on honest elections was of the utmost importance to the patriots who founded our nation and wrote the Constitution.  They knew that corruption destroyed the prime requisite of constitutional liberty: an independent legislature free from any influence other than that of the people.  Applying these principles to modern times, we can make the following conclusions: To be successful, representative government assumes that elections will be controlled by the citizenry at large, not by those who give the most money. Electors must believe that their vote counts.  Elected officials must owe their allegiance to the people, not to their own wealth or to the wealth of interest groups that speak only for the selfish fringes of the whole community.” Now, I recognize that we’ve never been a country of angels guided by a presidium of saints…And yet, despite the flaws and contradictions of human nature — or perhaps because of them — something took hold here. The American people forged a civilization: that thin veneer of civility stretched across the passions of the human heart. Because it can snap at any moment, or slowly weaken from abuse and neglect until it fades away, civilization requires a commitment to the notion (contrary to what those Marshall housewives believed) that we are all in this together…

The Real Origins of the Religious Right By RANDALL BALMER, Politico.com, http://www.thechristianleft.org/ May 27, 2014    They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation. Posted on Facebook by the Christian Left, 12-9-14 with commentary: We’ve been aware of this for some time but we were recently reminded of it. The “Christian” Right was originally brewed up to defend racism parading as “Religious Freedom.” When the founders realized they couldn’t flaunt racism in the open they threw up abortion instead. They would use whatever issue was handy, and they had tried most of them before. Abortion was their golden egg and they ran with it.

Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America By Sara Robinson, AlterNet, June 28, 2012 full text  Excerpt – It’s been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don’t know is that they’re also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.

Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that’s corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here’s what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.

North versus South: Two Definitions of Liberty

Michael Lind first called out the existence of this conflict in his 2006 book, Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics. He argued that much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite — and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side was winning.

For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they’ve done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.

Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush — nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. Among financial elites, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still both partake strongly of this traditional view of wealth as power to be used for good. Even if we don’t like their specific choices, the core impulse to improve the world is a good one — and one that’s been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.

Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility — the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God…these elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press…perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites’ worldview is the extremely anti-democratic way it defined the very idea of liberty. In Yankee Puritan culture, both liberty and authority resided mostly with the community, and not so much with individuals. Communities had both the freedom and the duty to govern themselves as they wished (through town meetings and so on), to invest in their collective good, and to favor or punish individuals whose behavior enhanced or threatened the whole (historically, through community rewards such as elevation to positions of public authority and trust; or community punishments like shaming, shunning or banishing).

Individuals were expected to balance their personal needs and desires against the greater good of the collective — and, occasionally, to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. (This is why the Puritan wealthy tended to dutifully pay their taxes, tithe in their churches and donate generously to create hospitals, parks and universities.) In return, the community had a solemn and inescapable moral duty to care for its sick, educate its young and provide for its needy — the kind of support that maximizes each person’s liberty to live in dignity and achieve his or her potential. A Yankee community that failed to provide such support brought shame upon itself. To this day, our progressive politics are deeply informed by this Puritan view of ordered liberty.

In the old South, on the other hand, the degree of liberty you enjoyed was a direct function of your God-given place in the social hierarchy. When a Southern conservative talks about “losing his liberty,” the loss of this absolute domination over the people and property under his control — and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws that he was once exempt from — is what he’s really talking about. In this view, freedom is a zero-sum game. Anything that gives more freedom and rights to lower-status people can’t help but put serious limits on the freedom of the upper classes to use those people as they please. It cannot be any other way. So they find Yankee-style rights expansions absolutely intolerable, to the point where they’re willing to fight and die to preserve their divine right to rule.

Once we understand the two different definitions of “liberty” at work here, a lot of other things suddenly make much more sense. We can understand the traditional Southern antipathy to education, progress, public investment, unionization, equal opportunity, and civil rights

The Civil War was, at its core, a military battle between these two elites for the soul of the country. It pitted the more communalist, democratic and industrialized Northern vision of the American future against the hierarchical, aristocratic, agrarian Southern one. Though the Union won the war, the fundamental conflict at its root still hasn’t been resolved to this day. (The current conservative culture war is the Civil War still being re-fought by other means.)…

post-war Southerners and Westerners drew their power from the new wealth provided by the defense, energy, real estate, and other economic booms in their regions. They also had a profound evangelical conviction, brought with them out of the South, that God wanted them to take America back from the Yankee liberals — a conviction that expressed itself simultaneously in both the formation of the vast post-war evangelical churches (which were major disseminators of Southern culture around the country); and in their takeover of the GOP, starting with Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964 and culminating with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980.

They countered Yankee hegemony by building their own universities, grooming their own leaders and creating their own media. By the 1990s, they were staging the RINO hunts that drove the last Republican moderates (almost all of them Yankees, by either geography or cultural background) and the meritocratic order they represented to total extinction within the GOP. A decade later, the Tea Party became the voice of the unleashed id of the old Southern order, bringing it forward into the 21st century with its full measure of selfishness, racism, superstition, and brutality intact.

…Buttressed by the arguments of Ayn Rand — who updated the ancient slaveholder ethic for the modern age… — it has been exported to every corner of the culture, infected most of our other elite communities and killed off all but the very last vestiges of noblesse oblige…

We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation — in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.

Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government’s job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.

The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren’t just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.

As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we’re no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we’ve always understood them. Instead, we’re being treated like serfs on Massa’s plantation — and increasingly, we’re being granted our liberties only at Massa’s pleasure. Welcome to Plantation America.

With Millions in Assets And Hundreds of Attorneys, Christian Right Is Waging War on the Church-State Wall

Americans United for Separation of Church and State [1] / By Rob Boston [2] posted on Alternet.org, March 5, 2013

Excerpt

…officials at Stanford announced recently that they would open a “Religious Liberty Clinic” thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation that was funneled through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based legal group that seeks to undermine church-state separation with arguments straight out of the Religious Right’s playbook.

The creation of such a clinic at one of the nation’s best law schools underscores the incredible growth, financial power and political influence of the Religious Right’s legal organizations… Today these outfits have multi-million-dollar budgets, hundreds of allied attorneys and remarkable clout in the halls of government. And they are pressing courts and elected officials to fund religious schools and other ministries, open public schools to coercive prayer and proselytizing, limit reproductive rights and gay rights and give organized religion special privileges generally.

Stanford officials have made it clear that the new clinic will push a conservative religious and political perspective.

“The 47 percent of the people who voted for Mitt Romney deserve a curriculum as well,” Lawrence C. Marshall, Stanford’s associate dean for clinical legal education, told The New York Times. “My mission has been to make clinical education as central to legal education as it is to medical education. Just as we are concerned about diversity in gender, race and ethnicity, we ought to be committed to ideological diversity.”

The clinic’s founding director, James A. Sonne, told The Times, “In framing our docket, we decided we would represent the believers. Our job is religious liberty rather than freedom from religion.”

Sonne is a former professor at Ave Maria School of Law, an ultra-conservative Catholic school in Florida founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan.

A taste of things to come at Stanford may have been offered during a recent panel discussion at the clinic. The Times reported that Hannah C. Smith, Becket Fund senior counsel, asserted that church-state separation isn’t in the Constitution.

Smith, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told attendees that Becket works to show “there are certain God-given rights that existed before the state. God gave people the yearning to discover him. Religious freedom means we have to protect the right to search for religious truth free from government intrusion.”

But Smith’s approach to religious freedom is quite different from the definition of attorneys who support church-state separation, and they worry about the burgeoning influence of the Becket Fund and its allies.

The Religious Right move toward legal power began in the 1990s. A turning point occurred when TV preacher Pat Robertson jettisoned a small legal group he had formed called the National Legal Foundation and announced the creation in 1990 of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Named deliberately to tweak the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLJ was for many years the leading Religious Right legal group in the nation. Headed by Jay Sekulow, a Jewish lawyer who converted to evangelical Christianity after his private legal practice became mired in financial problems, the ACLJ collected millions from Robertson’s eager followers. Its aim was a frontal assault on the wall of separation between church and state…The Religious Right landscape really began to shift in 1993…

The Religious Right has even created law schools to train sympathetic attorneys…

The influence of these law schools shouldn’t be underestimated...Faculty for the Blackstone program includes discredited “Christian nation” advocate David Barton and two men – Gary DeMar and Andrew Sandlin – who are members of the extreme Christian Reconstructionist movement that seeks to replace American democracy with Old Testament “biblical law.”…Asserting that the United States was founded to be a Christian na­tion and thus the symbols are appropriate would be a non-starter in court, so these Religious Right attorneys instead insist that the symbols are merely part of an “open forum” or have a secular purpose such as educating the public about the historic origins of law…But the most prominent weapon in the Religious Right legal arsenal is the constant use of the term “religious freedom.” This phrase has a unique definition to Religious Right attorneys – it’s the right to tell other people what to do…tap into a rich vein of Islamophobia among the far right…Some Religious Right legal eagles seem to believe that religious freedom is only for Christians…Religious Right legal groups have argued that parents have a “religious freedom” right to send their children to private religious schools and that states are permitted to facilitate this through voucher plans…

Full text

Stanford Law School in California is a prestigious institution with a distinguished past. Founded in 1893, one of its first professors was a former president, Benjamin Harrison.

When the school opened new offices in 1975, another president, Gerald Ford, was on hand for the festivities. On its website, Stanford proudly calls itself “one of the nation’s top law schools.” U.S. News & World Report agrees and ranks the school number two in the nation, behind only Yale Law School.

It came as quite a surprise, then, when officials at Stanford announced recently that they would open a “Religious Liberty Clinic” thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation that was funneled through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based legal group that seeks to undermine church-state separation with arguments straight out of the Religious Right’s playbook.

The creation of such a clinic at one of the nation’s best law schools underscores the incredible growth, financial power and political influence of the Religious Right’s legal organizations. Thirty years ago, fundamentalist Protestant and ultra-conservative Catholic political forces were represented in court by small, ill-funded and mostly ineffective outfits that few took seriously. They certainly didn’t have the clout to graft themselves onto major law schools.

Today these outfits have multi-million-dollar budgets, hundreds of allied attorneys and remarkable clout in the halls of government. And they are pressing courts and elected officials to fund religious schools and other ministries, open public schools to coercive prayer and proselytizing, limit reproductive rights and gay rights and give organized religion special privileges generally.

Stanford officials have made it clear that the new clinic will push a conservative religious and political perspective.

“The 47 percent of the people who voted for Mitt Romney deserve a curriculum as well,” Lawrence C. Marshall, Stanford’s associate dean for clinical legal education, told The New York Times. “My mission has been to make clinical education as central to legal education as it is to medical education. Just as we are concerned about diversity in gender, race and ethnicity, we ought to be committed to ideological diversity.”

The clinic’s founding director, James A. Sonne, told The Times, “In framing our docket, we decided we would represent the believers. Our job is religious liberty rather than freedom from religion.”

Sonne is a former professor at Ave Maria School of Law, an ultra-conservative Catholic school in Florida founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan.

A taste of things to come at Stanford may have been offered during a recent panel discussion at the clinic. The Times reported that Hannah C. Smith, Becket Fund senior counsel, asserted that church-state separation isn’t in the Constitution.

Smith, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told attendees that Becket works to show “there are certain God-given rights that existed before the state. God gave people the yearning to discover him. Religious freedom means we have to protect the right to search for religious truth free from government intrusion.”

But Smith’s approach to religious freedom is quite different from the definition of attorneys who support church-state separation, and they worry about the burgeoning influence of the Becket Fund and its allies.

The Religious Right move toward legal power began in the 1990s. A turning point occurred when TV preacher Pat Robertson jettisoned a small legal group he had formed called the National Legal Foundation and announced the creation in 1990 of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Named deliberately to tweak the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLJ was for many years the leading Religious Right legal group in the nation. Headed by Jay Sekulow, a Jewish lawyer who converted to evangelical Christianity after his private legal practice became mired in financial problems, the ACLJ collected millions from Robertson’s eager followers. Its aim was a frontal assault on the wall of separation between church and state.

The ACLJ operates in tandem with a separate organization Sekulow had founded called Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism. According to its most recent IRS filing, the operation takes in over $40 million annually.

Even Sekulow’s critics admit that he’s an effective advocate. He has argued several times before the U.S. Supreme Court and helped pioneer a key legal Religious Right strategy of arguing that the government’s failure to extend certain benefits to religion is, in fact, a form of discrimination.

But Sekulow isn’t the only conservative Christian who jumped into the legal arena. In Florida, a conservative Seventh-day Adventist attorney named Mathew Staver started a small group called Liberty Counsel in 1989. The organization percolated along on a modest budget for a number of years before being subsumed into TV preacher Jerry Falwell’s empire in Lynchburg, Va.

Staver, who later converted to the Southern Baptist faith, now runs Liberty Counsel from Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, where he also serves as dean of Liberty’s fledgling law school. It’s unclear how much Liberty Counsel spends because, remarkably, Staver claims the organization is a church auxiliary and refuses to make the organization’s finances public as other nonprofits are required to do.

Conservative Roman Catholics also started legal groups in the 1990s. The Becket Fund was founded by Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, and the Thomas More Law Center was formed by Richard Thompson with money from pizza magnate Monaghan.

The Religious Right landscape really began to shift in 1993, however, when a coalition of TV and radio preachers announced the formation of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). Radio preacher Marlin Maddoux pulled together figures such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, Campus Crusade’s Bill Bright and D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries to fund the ADF.

This band of politically active fundamentalists and “Christian nation” advocates conceived the ADF as a funding pool. The outfit would collect money from the legions of Religious Right donors and parcel it out to other groups that were active in court.

The ADF, which recently changed its name to the Alliance Defending Freedom, did that for a few years but soon began hiring attorneys and taking on litigation directly. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., it took in over $46 million last year and had a network of volunteer attorneys all over the nation.

The Religious Right has even created law schools to train sympathetic attorneys. The best known is the law school at Robertson’s Regent University, although a new law school at Liberty University may eventually prove a contender. For conservative Catho­lics, Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla., is a popular choice. (Another school with a far-right orientation, Pressler School of Law at Lou­isiana College, is in the works.)

The influence of these law schools shouldn’t be underestimated. The current governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell, is a graduate of Regent Law. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Regent had a pipeline to the White House and federal agencies, and many of its graduates ended up with influential government positions, especially in the U.S. Justice Department. (One of them, Monica Goodling, a 1999 graduate of Regent Law, ran into trouble  after she went to work at Justice and was accused of favoring job applicants who were “pro-God in public life” and engineering the firings of several U.S. attorneys.)

Although it doesn’t sponsor a law school, the ADF offers a special “Freedom Legal Academy” for attorneys and summer training for law students called the Blackstone Legal Fellowships.

Faculty for the Blackstone program includes discredited “Christian nation” advocate David Barton and two men – Gary DeMar and Andrew Sandlin – who are members of the extreme Christian Reconstructionist movement that seeks to replace American democracy with Old Testament “biblical law.”

The goal of the program, the ADF states bluntly on its website, is to “recover the robust Christendomic theolo­gy of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”

The group boasts of a roster of more than 2,200 cooperating attorneys nationwide and ties to 300 “allied organizations.” The ADF claims it wins 80 percent of the cases it brings and cites 38 victories before the Supreme Court, although this includes lawsuits where the ADF’s involvement was limited to filings briefs or providing some funding. (Like the ACLJ, the group also does some work overseas and lists activity in 31 countries.)

In recent years, the ADF has aggressively urged pastors to openly violate  federal tax law by endorsing candidates from their supposedly non­partisan pulpits and even sponsors an annual day of law-breaking called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.”

As Religious Right leaders built their legal machine, they became more sophisticated. The organizations that sprang up in the 1980s were famous for tilting at windmills, often taking on cases they had little chance of winning.

Robertson’s ACLJ learned from those mistakes. The group framed its arguments in the language of fairness and equal treatment and leaned away from claims its lawyers knew would go nowhere in the courts.

For example, the ACLJ and other Religious Right groups often argue in favor of religious symbols or Ten Com­­­mandments monuments on public prop­­erty. Asserting that the United States was founded to be a Christian na­tion and thus the symbols are appropriate would be a non-starter in court, so these Religious Right attorneys instead insist that the symbols are merely part of an “open forum” or have a secular purpose such as educating the public about the historic origins of law.

The same logic applies to other church-state disputes. Thus, Religious Right legal groups claim the purpose of prayers before public school events or government meetings isn’t so much to worship God as it is to “solemnize” the occasion.

But the most prominent weapon in the Religious Right legal arsenal is the constant use of the term “religious freedom.” This phrase has a unique definition to Religious Right attorneys – it’s the right to tell other people what to do.

Thus, the “religious freedom” of churches is somehow infringed if same-sex couples are given access to civil marriages. A conservative Christian student’s “religious freedom” is violated if his public school biology teacher instructs about evolution.

Most recently, Religious Right legal groups have employed this argument in a string of cases dealing with access to birth control. They are asserting that the “religious freedom” of business owners and corporations is violated if the government mandates contraceptive access through health insurance plans.

Ironically, some of these organizations can’t be bothered to stand up when real religious freedom is threatened and, in fact, take stands counter to that principle. The ACLJ spent much of 2010 attempting to block the construction of an Islamic center  in New York City, arguing it was too close to the site of the 9/11 attack.

The right of a religious group to build a house of worship on land it has purchased would seem to be a quintessential religious freedom is­sue, but the ACLJ chose instead to tap into a rich vein of Islamophobia among the far right.

Other Religious Right legal guns were mostly silent on the matter.

An anonymous ADF spokes­­person told Yahoo News blogger John Cook, “We’ve been asked by a few outlets. We’re not commenting.”

Some Religious Right legal eagles seem to believe that religious freedom is only for Christians.

On Sept. 11, 2010, Thomas More Law Center’s Thompson ran an incendiary column attacking Muslims and accusing them of seeking to “construct a victory mosque that towers over the ruins of the World Trade Center.” (In fact, the Islamic center would be several blocks away from the Trade Center site, and the group that wants to build it has no ties to the terrorists who masterminded 9/11.)

In public schools, Religious Right legal groups have argued that students have a “religious freedom” right to impose prayer and worship on other students at school-sponsored events. The effort has met with mixed success. The Supreme Court as recently as 2005 struck down so-called “student-initiated” prayers before football games, but some lower courts have bought into the Religious Right’s rationale and allowed students to recite prayers or engage in proselytizing during graduation ceremonies.

In other cases, Religious Right legal groups have argued that parents have a “religious freedom” right to send their children to private religious schools and that states are permitted to facilitate this through voucher plans. They’ve also raised religious freedom in defense of religious groups that want to take taxpayer money through “faith-based” initiatives yet limit hiring to fellow believers.

But perhaps the most alarming Religious Right attempt to redefine religious liberty comes in areas related to human sexuality. Religious Right legal groups have led the charge to roll back gay rights and block the spread of marriage equality in the states.

The marriage of a same-sex couple would seem to be no one’s business but their own. But to the Religious Right, such unions are a threat to Western civilization.

The ADF has been involved in a long-running case dealing with same-sex marriage in California. Voters narrowly approved a ban on same-sex unions in 2008, but the matter went to court. The Supreme Court will take up the issue this year, and the ADF and other Religious Right attorneys plan to be in the thick of the legal donnybrook.

When voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington approved same-sex marriage in 2012, ADF attorneys sent letters to state officials arguing that local court clerks have a “religious freedom” right to refuse to provide a government service to same-sex couples – a claim that has no foundation in the law.

Last year, the ADF took up the case of Julea Ward, a student at Eastern Michigan University. Ward, who was enrolled in a program to become a professional counselor, claimed her religious liberty rights were violated by a school policy that required her to abide by non-discrimination policies.

Ward said she would not counsel gays and lesbians. The school countered that its policies were based on standards promulgated by the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and the American School Counselor Association Ethical Standards for School Counselors.

Cases like this are designed to help Rel­igious Right legal groups achieve their ultimate aim: preferential treatment for conservative religious interests.

If there’s one thing that binds these groups together, it’s their unrelenting hostility to the Jeffersonian church-state wall.

Alan Sears, a former Reagan-era anti-pornography crusader, serves as ADF president. In 2004, he told supporters, “One by one, more and more bricks that make up the artificial ‘wall of separation’ between church and state are being removed, and Christians are once again being allowed to exercise their constitutional right to equal access to public facilities and funding.”

Sekulow has frequently compared the church-state wall to the Berlin Wall. In the wake of one Supreme Court victory, Sekulow exhorted to his followers, “Yes, the so-called ‘wall of separation’ between church and state has begun to crumble.”

Staver has a special animus toward Americans United, an organization that he once said is “out to literally destroy America.” He has blasted AU and its supporters for “essentially saying that separation of church and state is required or part of the Constitution, which we know it’s not.”

The Becket Fund has often steered clear of language this incendiary, but that may be changing. Last year, writer Jon Ward of The Huffington Post reported that the group’s new president, William P. Mumma, was interested in taking the group in a more aggressive direction. Not long after that, the Becket Fund jumped head first into the “culture wars” by attacking access to birth control.

As these groups jockey for funding and exposure, some are branching out beyond church-state relations. Liberty Counsel filed one of the lawsuits against President Barack Obama’s health care reform, and the ACLJ’s Sekulow routinely pops off on issues such immigration, gun control and even the appointment of former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary. (Sekulow also has deep political ties to the GOP. During the 2012 election, he served as an advisor to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. There were even rumors that had Romney won, Sekulow would have been tapped for a federal position.)

These Religious Right organizations also have a warm relationship with government officials in many states. The ADF, for example, recently lined up 18 state attorneys general to sign a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of Galloway v. Town of Greece, an Americans United case that successfully challenged sectarian prayers before municipal meetings in New York.

Similarly, the Becket Fund was able to muster considerable conservative legal firepower in asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of another AU case – Doe v. School District of Elmbrook, a successful challenge to a Wisconsin public school district’s practice of holding graduation ceremonies in a fundamentalist church. Becket drafted Michael McConnell, a law professor at Stanford and a former federal appeals court judge, to help frame its argument.

AU’s Lynn said the rise of Religious Right legal power is alarming and it’s critically important to meet the challenge in the nation’s courts.

“The ‘religious freedom’ the Religious Right seeks is the freedom to run other people’s lives according to their narrow doctrines,” Lynn said. “This is the opposite of real freedom, and it’s why Americans United’s legal department looks for every opportunity to counter the Religious Right agenda.”  

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/belief/millions-assets-and-hundreds-attorneys-christian-right-waging-war-church-state-wall

Links:
[1] http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=aboutau
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/rob-boston
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/god
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/lawyers
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/christian-right
[6] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Moderate Mitt wins conservatives’ blessings

by Dana Milbank, October 16, 2012, Washington Post

Mitt Romney etched and sketched his way to a new position on abortion last week, telling the Des Moines Register, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

It was not terribly surprising that Romney would, on the eve of the election, toss aside the antiabortion positions he cultivated during the Republican primaries; lately, he has reversed himself more often than a parking-lot attendant.

The surprise has been the reaction from conservatives. “No alarm bells here,” the Family Research Council’s president, Tony Perkins, proclaimed to Talking Points Memo. Perkins said he had been assured by Romney’s campaign that the answer was a product of “the way the question was asked.”

Romney later clarified his remarks, stating that he remained antiabortion. Still, the green light given by a top group on the religious right to Romney’s recasting of his abortion position is typical of recent weeks. Conservatives have been sitting silently — approvingly, even — as Romney makes his late lunge for the center. For a movement that has prided itself on being ideologically pure, this is a decidedly pragmatic turn.

Necessity, it seems, is the mother of reinvention. 

Key to the success of Romney’s Etch a Sketch movement has been the cooperation of conservatives, who have been unusually docile in the face of the candidate’s heresies: pledging not to enact a tax cut that adds to the deficit, promising not to decrease the share of taxes paid by the wealthy, vowing not to slash education funding, praising financial regulations, insisting that he would make health insurers cover preexisting conditions and disavowing his earlier claim that 47 percent of Americans are parasites living off of the government.

At Tuesday night’s debate, Romney continued his sprint to the center. He took pains to say he is “so different” from George W. Bush. He asserted that “every woman in America should have access to contraceptives,” and, on immigration, he said the children of illegal immigrants “should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of theUnited States.” After a primary battle in which GOP candidates tried to out-tough each other on immigration, Romney said that he was in agreement with President Obama and that “I’m not in favor of rounding up people.”

The conservatives’ complicity seems to be driven by two things: a belief that Romney’s moves to the middle are mere feints, shifts more in tone than in substance; and an acceptance that Romney’s rhetorical reversals are necessary if he is to deny Obama a second term. 

“I hear all this as tonal,” Grover Norquist, the Republican purity enforcer and keeper of the antitax pledge, told me. Romney’s new pledge that his tax cuts wouldn’t increase the deficit, for example, could be honored simply by using an alternative accounting method, known as “dynamic scoring,” that conservatives favor. “You’re now in the general election and you’ve already convinced conservatives why they should vote for you,” Norquist said of Romney. “You’re now talking to undecided voters, who have a completely different set of issues.”

Had Romney tried to moderate his positions over the summer, conservatives still suspicious from the primaries would have called him a turncoat, which would have depressed Republican turnout. But two weeks ago, polls showed that Romney’s “severely conservative” candidacy was heading to a seemingly inevitable defeat. It was that sense of desperation that gave Romney room to make his late break for the center, because conservatives were forced to accept that even a squishy and ideologically suspect President Romney would be preferable to Obama.

For example, Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, which has worked to defeat insufficiently conservative officials in Republican primaries, gave Romney room to maneuver. “We tend to recognize the political realities,” he told Politico the day after the Denver debate, adding that “when it comes to the issues that the Club focuses on, Romney is 1,000 percent better than Obama.”

That’s quite a bow to reality from the Club for Growth, which brought down Republican Sens. Bob Bennett, Richard Lugar and Arlen Specter and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for lesser ideological offenses.

Rank-and-file Republicans seem inclined to follow the opinion makers’ lead in cutting Romney slack as he makes his late move to the middle. In Washington Post-ABC News polling, Romney’s support improved among self-identified Republicans, from 90 percent on Sept. 29 to 93 percent on Oct. 13. The number of Republicans saying they were very enthusiastic about him climbed to 59 percent from 48 percent. He suffered no attrition among self-described conservatives. 

It has been a rare outbreak of common sense in the conservative movement. Romney should enjoy it while it lasts.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-moderate-mitt-romney-wins-conservatives-blessings/2012/10/16/c98054ea-17cb-11e2-9855-71f2b202721b_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

Is America Losing Its Religion?

The Guardian [1] / By Sarah Posner [2] October 10, 2012 |

Last weekend, hundreds of conservative churches participated [3] in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”, during which pastors preached about electoral politics and sent recordings of their sermons to the Internal Revenue Service. It’s a provocation: these pastors and their legal counsel hope to challenge the rarely-enforced IRS rule prohibiting candidate endorsements by tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, and take it all the way to theUS supreme court.

A new survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life [4], which confirms previously observed trends of Protestant decline, accompanied by a rise in religiously unaffiliated Americans, casts serious doubt on whether the self-styled church freedom warriors are fighting a politically popular battle. Among the survey’s findings, two thirds of Americans (66%) believe churches shouldn’t endorse candidates. And 54% say churches should stay out of political matters entirely. Even a majority (56%) of white evangelicals agreed that churches should not endorse candidates.

Would these data cause the churches clamoring for a legal war with the IRS to pack their bags and go home? Of course not. In fact, in spite of these trends away from organized religion [5] and away from the entanglement of organized religion in politics, I would expect these culture war battles to ramp up – at least for the time being.

The religious right hasn’t spent millions [6] building up legal advocacy groups, pressing for conservative judicial appointees [7], and training lawyers and politicians to thump the Bible in legislatures and the courts for nothing. They’ve built an infrastructure to fight their battles, even as they lose public opinion wars. For their most ardent supporters, losing in the court of public opinion only serves as a call to redouble their efforts, to fulfil their call to carry out God’s plan for America.

But a provocation for secularists might emerge from these data: can they match the organization and intensity of their political adversaries?

Looking at the Pew survey, one wonders how long the religious right can continue to use the same battle plan. Yet, the data shows they are clearly losing the public. Another survey last week from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while Mitt Romney [8] has the support of 80% of younger white evangelical millennials [9] (aged 18 to 25), this is a small and diminishing constituency: white evangelicals comprise only 12.3% [9] of that age group. That’s less than half their proportion of the 50 to 64 population. The Pew survey showed that while 32% of Americans aged 50 to 64 are white evangelicals, only 13% of those aged 18 to 29 are.

As Protestants have declined, percentages of Catholics have remained steady. While they are far less homogeneous politically than evangelicals (the Pew poll found Catholics favor legal abortion 50% to 45%, and same-sex marriage 53% to 37%), the generational trend lines might explain why religious conservatives are intensifying evangelical-Catholic alliances around issues like contraception coverage and same-sex marriage. This is further evidence that, despite demographic shifts, they’re not giving up without a fight – instead, shifting their strategy to frame these concerns as ones of “religious freedom”. If they’re a minority, they hope to reap political benefits from arguing at least that they are a persecuted one.

The Pew survey also found there are now as many “nones” as there are white evangelicals – each makes up 19% of the US population. But the generational trends are traveling even more starkly in a non-theist direction: 32% of 18 to 29 year-olds are unaffiliated, and 42% of those describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. That’s over ten points higher than the 21% of 30- to 49-year-old “nones” who describe themselves that way, and more than twice the 15% of 50- to 64-year-old “nones” who do.

That has to worry Republicans [10]. White evangelicals are the most sizable segment of their base and the unaffiliated – in particular, the atheists and agnostics – are the most sizable part of the Democratic base. Still, Republicans maintain a party identification advantage among Christians as a whole (with the exception of black Protestants and all Catholics, which includes Latino Catholics). Because Democrats [11], overall, have a party identification advantage over the GOP (48% to 43%, according to Pew), will those numbers make each party intensify their efforts to make religious voters happy, or encourage them to present a less religious case for election?

With a tight presidential race, and each campaign trying to peel away as many persuadable voters in swing states as possible, appeals to religion – including from the Obama camp – are likely to continue, if only to targeted audiences. Oddly, 67% of all groups, including nearly a third of “nones”, agree it’s important for the president to have “strong religious beliefs”. At the same time, though, 43% of all groups said it makes them uncomfortable when politicians talk about how religious they are.

The numbers are important, telling and potentially transformative for our politics. Yet, questions remain: there’s nothing in the Pew survey on public attitudes about religious freedom, church-state separation or the secular nature of our government. These are the issues around which the “nones” can organize. The religious right, whose leaders maintain America is in the throes of a revival, has spent decades mythologizing a “Christian nation”, denigrating and undermining church-state separation, and questioning the very American-ness of secularists.

While this is just one survey, and the “Christian nation” advocates retain their intensity and organization, there’s evidence here that an opening exists for a new revival: a secularist one.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/belief/america-losing-its-religion

Links:
[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/sarah-posner-0
[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/08/us-usa-tax-pulpit-idUSBRE89700E20121008
[4] http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx
[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/religion
[6] http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/22/report-tracks-explosion-of-religious-lobbying-in-washington/?hpt=hp_t2
[7] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/08/republicans-judicial-activism-supreme-courts
[8] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/mittromney
[9] http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/6473/young_white_evangelicals_will_vote_romney,_poll_finds/
[10] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/republicans
[11] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/democrats
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/religion-0
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/religious-right
[14] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The Pundits and the Dominionists by Julie Ingersoll

ReligionDispatches.com, August 26, 2011 

…The increase in coverage of the religious right’s longterm strategy to transform American culture has led to a number of responses charging “leftists” with fearmongering and with generalizing from a few obscure examples to the wide-ranging religiously oriented conservatives… 

look at the influence of Christian Reconstruction; how has it impacted the style of the conservative Christianity that makes up the religious right…

we all seek to shape society along lines we think is best. Reconstructionists themselves  hold a view of knowledge that says that there are really only two possible worldviews (a biblical one and a humanist one that comes in several varieties) and that both worldview are in a conflict for dominion (so in their view “we” are fighting for it too)…

The real influence is much more subtle: it’s in the now-multiple generations who have grown up in Christian schooling…The influence plays out in the many Americans who see history and science as theology, promoting “Christian American history” and opposing evolution as an explanation for human origins…

These broad cultural changes have developed, in part, from a longterm strategy adopted by the Reconstructionists (what Doug Phillips calls multigenerational faithfulness), the most important component of which is the education of children (theirs and insofar as is practical other peoples’ as well).

It is not fearmongering, paranoia, or religious bigotry to try to understand their goals and strategies. In fact, it’s irresponsible not to. 

Full text 

With Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann at the top of the list of Republican presidential hopefuls, “dominionism” has garnered a good bit of media attention—Michelle Goldberg’s piece “A Christian Plot for Domination?” at the Daily Beast, Ryan Lizza’s piece “The Transformation of Michele Bachmann” at The New Yorker, and a piece at the Texas Observer, “Rick Perry’s Army of God,”  by Forrest Wilder.
The increase in coverage of the religious right’s longterm strategy to transform American culture has led to a number of responses charging “leftists” with fearmongering and with generalizing from a few obscure examples to the wide-ranging religiously oriented conservatives. Michael Gerson writes about what he calls “An unholy war on the Tea Party” at the Washington Post:

 

So it becomes necessary to stretch the case a bit. Perry admittedly doesn’t attend a Dominionist church or make Dominionist arguments, but he once allowed himself to be prayed for by some suspicious characters. Bachmann once attended a school that had a law review that said some disturbing things. She assisted a professor who once spoke at a convention that included some alarming people.
 

Granted some of the coverage generalizes inappropriately, and much of it shows a lack of real understanding about the teachings of Reconstructionists, theonomists or (the new catchphrase) “dominionists.” But Perry has done much more than “once allowing himself to be prayed for,” and Bachmann didn’t just “once” attend that school. She still establishes her credentials based on her work there. Her mentor didn’t “once” speak at a Reconstructionist conference, he’s a regular integral part of their work. And as Sarah Posner showed in her piece on Oral Roberts University, Bachmann was steeped in the teaching that American law has a biblical foundation. Gerson distorts the situation as much as those he is criticizing.

 

Other  coverage shows real sophistication, grappling with what I argue is an import theme in American religion. Here at RD we have been covering the work of dominion oriented religion for some time, and recently (in an article in Salon) Sarah helpfully explained what some of what the dismissers are missing.

 

Part of the problem in the current conversation is that writers new to the topic are thinking a bit too one-dimensionally. I get calls from reporters who ask: Is Michele Bachmann (or fill in any other name) a Reconstructionist? And as Gerson noted in his essay, the number of people who can be labeled in this way would “fit in a phone booth.” (Actually there are significantly more than he recognizes, but I take his point.) My point, though, is that this is the wrong question.

 

Far more interesting, I think, is to look at the influence of Christian Reconstruction; how has it impacted the style of the conservative Christianity that makes up the religious right—which is not to say that if I can show influence that that means that the leaders of the religious right really embrace every aspect of it.

 

Clearly we all seek to shape society along lines we think is best. Reconstructionists themselves  hold a view of knowledge that says that there are really only two possible worldviews (a biblical one and a humanist one that comes in several varieties) and that both worldview are in a conflict for dominion (so in their view “we” are fighting for it too).

 

Its not that Rushdoony’s views of the biblical punishment for homosexuality have become widely accepted. The real influence is much more subtle: it’s in the now-multiple generations who have grown up in Christian schooling and Christian home schooling for which he laid philosophical, theological and legal foundations—Bachmann’s legal education is but one example of that. The influence plays out in the many Americans who see history and science as theology, promoting “Christian American history” and opposing evolution as an explanation for human origins.

 

Granted Americans have always had a sense of themselves as what Ernest Lee Tuveson called  A Redeemer Nation, but David Barton invokes that telos in a much more literal way than those before him.

 

And it was shocking when, in 1980, Ronald Reagan said he supported teaching what he understood to be the biblical account of creation alongside evolution in schools. Today all of the viable candidates for the Republican nomination hold this view.

 

These broad cultural changes have developed, in part, from a longterm strategy adopted by the Reconstructionists (what Doug Phillips calls multigenerational faithfulness), the most important component of which is the education of children (theirs and insofar as is practical other peoples’ as well). 

It is not fearmongering, paranoia, or religious bigotry to try to understand their goals and strategies. In fact, it’s irresponsible not to.
http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/julieingersoll/5021/the_pundits_and_the_dominionists

 

10 Great Things About America That Drive Conservatives and the Religious Right Insane

by Rob Boston, AlterNet, May 15, 2011

Religious Right groups and their frequent allies in the Tea Party talk a good line about respecting American values, but much would change if they had their way. They seek not to restore our country to some Golden Age (that never existed anyway) but to recreate it – in their own fundamentalist image.

An America rebuilt along Religious Right lines would be a very different place. And to get there, the theocrats among us first have to tear down some features of American life – some of which are longstanding. Here are ten things about the United States that drive Religious Right groups crazy:

1. Our history debunks Religious Right mythology: American history stands as a rebuke to the Religious Right. America’s founders established a secular government with freedom of religion and its necessary corollary, separation of church and state, built into the First Amendment. A “Christian nation” was not what the founders sought. How do we know this? They said so. Think about it: If an officially Christian nation had been the intent of the founders, the Constitution would prominently include that concept. It doesn’t.

And those Religious Right claims that separation of church and state is a myth? They’re a crock. As James Madison put it, “Strongly guarded…is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States.” Madison ought to know. He’s considered the Father of the Constitution and was one of the primary drafters of the First Amendment.

2. We support science: While polls show some confusion over issues like evolution, most Americans are big fans of science and are quick to rally around the latest medical breakthroughs and cutting-edge technology. Many religious people in America long ago reconciled their faith with modern science. But the Religious Right remains stubbornly insistent that any science that conflicts with its literalist interpretation of the Bible must go.

Religious Right activists hate science because it casts doubt on their narrow worldview – a worldview that teaches that all answers are found in a rigidly fundamentalist interpretation of an ancient religious text. To the Religious Right, evolution and the Bible can’t co-exist. They refuse to read the scriptures in a metaphorical or symbolic context. Since, to the Religious Right, evolution undercuts the Bible, evolution should not be taught in public schools.

3. America has a tradition of tolerance: Yes, we’ve fallen short of complete tolerance from time to time, but at the end of the day, most Americans believe in treating their fellow citizens decently, even if they have different religious or philosophical beliefs. But to the Religious Right, tolerance is entrance ramp on the highway to hell.

The idea that religions should strive to get along is dangerously close to the idea that all religions are on equal footing. This is bad, so says the Religious Right, because it leads people into “error” – that is, an embrace of any religion that’s not fundamentalist Christianity. Tolerance is ridiculed because it dares to suggest that a Unitarian, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, Pagan or atheist might have an equal claim on truth alongside a fundamentalist.

4. We have a secular government: To the theocrats of the right, secular government, secularism and secular anything is the bogeyman of the moment. If you doubt it, just listen to some of our leading politicians (assuming you have the stomach for it). To most people, it just makes sense for government to remain neutral on theological disputes – remember the Middle Ages? To the Religious Right, such neutrality equals hostility toward religion and a “war” against Christianity.

Ironically, there is one place where the Religious Right backs secular government: Muslim nations. Those should be secular, of course – but only as a prelude to adopting fundamentalist Christianity.

5. The U.S. Constitution has endured: The Religious Right and the Tea Party claim to revere our basic governing document, the Constitution. So why do they treat it like a first draft? Just consider the list of amendments they’d like to add: pro-school prayer, anti-abortion, “parental rights,” fetal personhood, “traditional marriage,” the list goes on.

Why does the Religious Right distrust our founders? Maybe because the founders weren’t fundamentalists, and they dared to believe that the Bible could speak metaphorically yet still contain wisdom and insight. Consider this quote by Thomas Jefferson (from a letter to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803): “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”

6. The nation has a legacy of freedom of religion: To the Religious Right, “religious freedom” means the right to use their religion to run other people’s lives. When it comes to groups they don’t like, ideas like liberty and freedom suddenly evaporate.

Consider the controversy over the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan and efforts to block construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Normally, once religious groups comply with local zoning laws, get the necessary permits and so on, they can build houses of worship where they please. Yet Brian Fischer, a columnist with the American Family Association, argued recently that the Constitution grants religious freedom rights only to Christians and said we can legally shut down mosques. Where does this appear in the Constitution? It doesn’t. Fischer made it up.

7. Americans support reproductive rights: The ability to control your own body when it comes to reproduction is the ability to control your own destiny. It’s a big no-no to the Religious Right. God is supposed to control your destiny. Who are you to interfere with His plans? Although most people think of this issue in terms of abortion, it’s worthwhile to look a little deeper. Increasingly, access to birth control is on the chopping block as well. (See attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and bills in the state laws granting pharmacists a right to refuse to fill prescriptions for the pill.)

Throughout recorded history, religious prudes have been obsessed with sex lives of others. They clearly have issues. There’s just something kind of icky about it.

8. Gay people live here: Where to begin? Not only will gay people not stay in the closet or become straight, now they want to get married! You can be sure that Bible Belt fundamentalists, who have the highest divorce rate in the nation, aren’t going to stand for that assault on the sacred institution of marriage.

The bile the Religious Right spews toward gays is unfathomable. You have to call it what it is: Hate. And as polls show increasing numbers of Americans backing same-sex marriage, it’s only going to get worse.

9. Most kids go to public schools: These godless hotbeds of secular humanism actually receive tax funding! They’re known to teach evolution, and some even dare to talk about how they human reproductive system works in Biology class. Since not everyone has the time for home-schooling, it’s best to distribute vouchers, says the Religious Right.

Here’s Tim LaHaye, author of the popular series of apocalyptic potboilers “Left Behind” on public education: “I have a pet concern, and I think it is the concern of everyone in this room; and that is we are being destroyed in America by the public school systems of our country. And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, essentially, let me educate the children of this generation and they will be the political leaders of the next generation. And, folks, we have let the enemy come in and take over the greatest school system in the history of the world.” (So, Tim, what do you really think?)

10. We fund NPR and PBS: Sure, the Religious Right and the Tea Party said they wanted to cut off funding to public broadcasting to save a few bucks, but in reality, they just don’t like the elitist, left-wingery of “All Things Considered” and “Masterpiece Theatre.” Snobs listen to and watch that stuff!

Don’t even get them started on the Muppets. Bert and Ernie have a suspiciously close relationship. ‘Nuff said.

Of course, there are many other things the Religious Right dislikes about our country – consider women’s rights, for example. For all of their flag waving, some supporters of the Religious Right just don’t sound too happy to be here. I doubt they plan to leave soon, so we can expect they’ll keep working to change our nation. Be warned – this list is just a start.

Rob Boston is the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which publishes Church and State magazine.

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/150946/

Communications

15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media

Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead James Fallows Sep 27 2013  –A kind of politics we have not seen for more than 150 years…As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on…This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Our Dumb Democracy: Why the Untied States of Stupid Still Reins Supreem by John Atcheson, January 22, 2013 by Common Dreams – …Want to know how our political discourse got so mind-numbingly stupid? Well, we can start with this little fact:  The press is so enamored with “balance” that they’ll treat even the most ignorant, shallow, fatuous movement – a [Tea Party] movement composed of the selfish, the self-obsessed, the angry, the bigoted, and the blissfully ignorant – as if it were a serious movement.…At one time this kind of foolishness would have been laughed off the national stage. Now it dominates one of our major political parties, thanks to the media’s embrace of balance and false equivalence and the Democrats’ silent complicity…today’s political discourse is so thoroughly littered with “conventional wisdom” without an iota of wisdom...our media has replaced truth, accuracy and reality with balance, false equivalency, and stenography and Democrats have been silent co-conspirators. Why?  Because the press is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporations, and too many Democrats feed at the corporate trough. And that’s not funny, but it is stupid.

A Great Debate By GARY GUTTING, New York Times blogs, Feb­ru­ary 19, 2013…our polit­i­cal “debates” sel­dom deserve the name…Is there any way to make gen­uine debates — sus­tained back-and-forth exchanges, meet­ing high intel­lec­tual stan­dards but still widely acces­si­ble — part of our polit­i­cal cul­ture?..Such debates will not end our polit­i­cal dis­agree­ments, but they will set much higher stan­dards of dis­cus­sion, requir­ing fuller expla­na­tions of posi­tions and even mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make them more defen­si­ble. It’s unlikely that either side would ever sim­ply give up its view, but, polit­i­cally, they would have to react to a strong pub­lic con­sen­sus if they had not made a respectable case…The only major obsta­cle to imple­ment­ing this pro­posal would be get­ting the par­ties to par­tic­i­pate. Here, I sug­gest, shame would be a prime moti­va­tor…Of course, many peo­ple will not have the time, inter­est, or the abil­ity to fol­low debates of this sort. But those who do — includ­ing the lead­ing com­men­ta­tors and opinion-makers — will be among the most con­cerned and artic­u­late, and their views will have a sig­nif­i­cant effect on the terms and tone of the gen­eral discussion. Facts and rea­son­ing will never set­tle polit­i­cal issues. All of us have fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ments that are imper­vi­ous to argu­ment. If an argu­ment seems to refute them, we take this as a refu­ta­tion of the argu­ment. And, of course, many of us are too igno­rant, self-interested or prej­u­diced on cer­tain issues to be moved by ratio­nal con­sid­er­a­tions. But ratio­nal­ity almost always has some role in our deci­sions, and more ratio­nal­ity in our polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion will at a min­i­mum help many to bet­ter under­stand what is at stake in our dis­putes and why their oppo­nents think as they do. So why not give rea­son a chance?…

How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign

What Watchdog? How the Financial Press Has Failed the American Public

Are Conservatives Rethinking Fox News’ Endless Outrage Model?

Republicans Lied To by ‘Conservative Entertainment Complex’

How Conservative Radio Creates an Echo Chamber of Hate

The real media bias is for the horse race by John Rash

Why the Mainstream Media Are Clueless About the Religious Right by Adele M. Stan, AlterNet, August 18, 2011

The Virus of GOP Ignorance: Why Don’t Media Protect Us From the Lies Spewed in the Republican Primary? By Eric Alterman, The Nation, November 23, 2011 – It is a symbol of our current political predicament that anytime anyone tells the truth about anything in the contest for the Republican nomination, a new scandal erupts…The respectful response of the media to the batshit-crazy statements one hears from the second-tier Republican candidates…is doing definite damage to this country…Gingrich…Cain and Bachmann…Pretending that these people might be president, and hence deserve to be treated as if what they say is true, is not merely unjustified—given that the nominee is almost certain to be Romney—but akin to playing accessory to a kind of ongoing intellectually criminal activity.In their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson explain the nature of intellectual insularity of so many in this world, in which “the teachings of dubiously credentialed leaders are favored over the word of secular experts in the arts and sciences.”…
The authors describe “what amounts to a ‘parallel culture,’” where people like alleged “historian” David Barton… abd psychologist James Dobson…proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America’s founders. Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sport

The End of Newspapers and the Decline of Democracy, By Eric Alterman, Center for American Progress, Think Again – March 22, 2012

How You Will Change the World with Social Networking by Deanna Zandt, AlterNet.org, July 24, 2010

 

Biblical economics

 Prosperity Christianity, or what some call “health and wealth” religion…is the adoption of the logic of free enterprise and branding as a way of understanding, experiencing, and proselytizing Christian religious values.…. As a set of religious teachings and training, the theology is centered on the notion that God provides material wealth—prosperity—for those individuals he favors… the teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings… How Christianity Became a Lucrative Brand By Sarah Banet-Weiser, New York Press, posted on Alternet.org, December 17, 2012

Biblical Capitalism – The Religious Right’s War on Progressive Economic Policy by Rachel Tabachnick, Talk to Action, Feb 01, 2011… “Biblical Capitalism” or the belief that unregulated capitalism is biblically mandated. The Religious Right is well known for its regressive social activism, but less publicized is the role it has played in the war against progressive economic policy, labor unions, the regulatory structure and social safety net. The sacralizing of laissez-faire capitalism predates the Tea Party movement and has been a major theme of fundamentalist textbooks for more than three decades…

Capitalism and Christianity by Peter Montgomery, ReligionDispatches.org, July 19, 2013

God Favors Supply-Side Economics, Post by Gordon Haber, ReligionDispatches,org, August 2, 2013

Jesus Hates Taxes: Biblical Capitalism Created Fertile Anti-Union Soil By Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches, March 14, 2011 – While the assault on unions by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP governors and legislators seems driven mostly by the billionaire Koch brothers and corporate-funded groups, religious right leaders and activists have spent decades creating fertile soil for anti-union campaigns through the promotion of “biblical capitalism,” which researcher Rachel Tabachnick describes as “the belief that unregulated capitalism is biblically mandated.”
Pseudo-historian David Barton, a frequent guest of broadcaster Glenn Beck, is using his newly enlarged audience to promote American exceptionalism (America was created by its divinely-inspired founders as a country of, by, and for Christians) and Tea Party-on-steroids economics (Jesus and the Bible oppose progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, and minimum wage laws). The Religious Right has a long practice of claiming divine mandate for its policy agenda as it makes for an exceptionally potent political argument: if God supports radically limited government, then progressive policies are not only wrong but evil, and supporters of liberal policies are not only political opponents but enemies of God.
Two days after the November 2010 elections, Barton, Newt Gingrich, and Jim Garlow (who runs Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership group), held a conference call with pastors to celebrate conservative political gains. On the call, Garlow and Barton asserted a biblical underpinning for far-right economic policies: Taxation and deficit spending, they said, amount to theft, a violation of the Ten Commandments. The estate tax, Barton said, is “absolutely condemned” by the Bible as the “most immoral” of taxes. Jesus, he said, had “teachings” condemning the capital gains tax and minimum wage.
Barton also enlists Jesus in the war against unions and collective bargaining…and went on to explain why the Bible is anti-union…
It’s clear that the attempt to once again “break the spine of labor” is meant to cripple any opposition to the vision of a country in which corporations are given free rein to maximize profits without concern for workers’ safety, community well-being, and environmental protection. The seeds of that vision were first planted by Christian Reconstructionists and The Family and today’s conservative Christian leaders are only too eager to take advantage of the fruits of those labors to make the case that Jesus opposes efforts to ensure a living wage to workers, and that workers should accept as good slaves whatever treatment their employers dish out.

The Debt Ceiling Crisis and Biblical Economics by Julie Ingersoll,  ReligionDispatches.com, July 14, 2011 – An interesting week for biblical economics: the longstanding voice in the wilderness Ron Paul…In many ways prompted by tea party ideological intransigence, Paul has brought what were once considered extreme, fringe, even “crackpot” economic views to bear on the American economy and potentially the global economic system…his ties to the Reconstructionists…The new GOP coalition, built on tea party support, is breaking down over the debt limit crisis…now tea partiers like Michele Bachmann are saying they won’t vote to raise the limit at all and are claiming that the administration is exaggerating the impact a default will have. Moreover, they’re so sure about the tea party members staying in line on a vote, they’re going after Republicans who want to cut a deal.…
rooted in what I described at a “theocratic reading of the Bible…
It’s much harder to make something happen (eliminating the Federal Reserve) than it is to keep something from happening (raising the debt limit)…
for proponents of biblical economics, there’s a much deeper motive. As I explained in the November 2010 piece on the Fed:
North’s overarching schema is that there is an impending social collapse which will provide the opportunity for biblically-based Christians to exercise dominion by replacing existing humanistic institutions with biblical ones…
“people will at last decide that they have had enough moral and legal compromise. They will at last decide to adopt a simple system of honest money, along with competitive free market principles throughout the economy.”…
For North, default of the U.S. economy is inevitable; he argues that it has already begun. We know who he thinks will pick up the pieces.

Does God Want You To Be Rich?

Let There Be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics By Gordon Bigelow, Harper’s Magazine, May 2005

Why Taxing the Rich is the Godly Thing by Peter Laarman, Religion Dispatches.org, July 28, 2010