Religion

Exposing My Own Ignorance

I have to admit that when I saw this post on the Box Turtle Bulletin about David Hill being fired from his job simply for being gay, my first thought was "this can't possibly be legal":

A man said he was fired from his hotel job for his sexual orientation and claims the owner who let him go dared him to sue.

David Hill is looking for a new job after he said he was fired Tuesday from a former Brentwood Holiday Inn, which now goes by the name Artee Hotel.

"They literally said to me because of my orientation and my alternative lifestyle, that I was not a fit for the hotel," said Hill.

Hill said he used to be the human resources director and is shocked at the owner's decision to dismiss him because of his sexual preference.

"The owner (Tarun Surti) said, 'I don't give a damn. They can sue me. I will not have any of the gays in leadership roles in my hotel.' And that's a quote," said Hill. 

Embarrassingly, it took a co-worker to point out that, in fact, this is entirely legal thanks to the consistent failure to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) offers Congress the opportunity to ensure workplace equality by protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination. ENDA is pending federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation. The bill protects workers from discriminatory hiring, firing, promotion or compensation practices, as well as retaliation for reporting such practices.

Considering that I work at People For the American Way and have actually mentioned ENDA numerous times in my writings, it's extra shameful that I never realized this ... but I didn't.  

And since I am probably not the only one who has never made this connection, I offer up this post exposing my own ignorance in an effort to point out that this sort of thing can and does happen and hopefully debunk the Right's claims that ENDA is little more than a nefarious effort to grant "special rights" to gays in the workplace:

A U.S. House vote is just around the corner on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — a bill that gives homosexuals special rights in the workplace. ENDA would add "sexual orientation" to a list of federally protected classes that includes race and religion.

“My race is being compromised, in that gays are saying that they need protected status just like someone who’s of a race that they can’t change," said Bishop Harry Jackson, president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is a moral values issue, and it’s an issue of the integrity of the civil rights movement.”

Focus Yanks Beck Interview Amid Complaints That “Mormonism is a Cult”

Back before the holidays, I came across a press release on Christian Newswire from Steve McConkey of Underground Apologetics blasting Focus on the Family for posting a short interview with Glenn Beck about his new book "The Christmas Sweater."  McConkey was outraged that Focus dared to post the interview without mentioning that Beck is Mormon and that “Mormonism is a cult”:   

While Glenn's social views are compatible with many Christian views, his beliefs in Mormonism are not. Clearly, Mormonism is a cult. The CitizenLink story does not mention Beck's Mormon faith, however, the story makes it look as if Beck is a Christian who believes in the essential doctrines of the faith.

Through the years, Focus on the Family has done great things to help the family and has brought attention to the many social ills that are attacking the family.

However, to promote a Mormon as a Christian is not helpful to the cause of Jesus Christ. For Christians to influence society, Christians should be promoting the central issues of the faith properly without opening the door to false religions.

At the time, I ignored the press release because it seemed like just another example of a relatively unknown and unimportant fringe right-wing figure trying to gin up some press for himself … but it turns out that McConkey’s gripes apparently had more influence than I had realized as Focus subsequently pulled the interview from its website:

James Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry has pulled from its CitizenLink Web site an article about talk show host Glenn Beck's book "The Christmas Sweater" after some complained that Beck's LDS faith is a "cult" and "false religion" and shouldn't be promoted by a Christian ministry.

When contacted Friday, a Focus on the Family worker at the ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo. confirmed that the article had been pulled …

For his part Beck is none-too-pleased with Focus’s “censorship” while the organization insists that McConkey’s attack had nothing to do with its decision to yank the article:  

Focus on the Family got to work this week in explaining in detail why it pulled from its website an interview with a Mormon author.

“We intended no insult,” expressed ministry spokesman Gary Schneeberger, in a statement. “[W]e merely miscalculated on how best to feature Glenn [Beck], whom we greatly appreciate.”

Beck, however, maintains that the book's message can be and has been embraced by people of different faiths and should not be “censored” because of his own personal religious views. The book tells the narrative of a boy named Eddie who embarks on a dark and painful journey on the road to manhood.

“The Christmas Sweater is a story about the idea of Christmas as a time for redemption and atonement,” Beck expressed in a released statement after the interview was pulled from Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink website.

“Whatever your beliefs about my religion, the concept of religious tolerance is too important to be sacrificed in response to pressure from special interest groups, especially when it means bowing to censorship,” he added.

According to Schneeberger, however, Focus on the Family could not intimate to its evangelical base that the differences in Mormon faith and the historic evangelical faith are inconsequential.

“We can, and do, gladly cooperate with friends outside of the evangelical heritage on common causes; but in no case do we intend to alter our clear distinction as unwaveringly grounded in evangelical theology,” he explained.

But Schneeberger made sure to also distance the ministry from another that had strongly rebuked it for the article’s posting.

“[W]e do not condone the tone of communications put out from UnderGround Apologetics,” he clarified, referring to the controversial apologetics ministry that spoke out against Focus on the Family last week. “And we can without reservation say that the group's news release had nothing to do with our decision to pull the article from publication."

How Right-Wing Myths Get Started

I came across this article earlier, but didn't think any element of it warranted a blog post:

A Florida woman says she was fired from her job for refusing to comply with a policy requiring employees to say "Happy Holidays" to callers ...Tonia Thomas says she was terminated two weeks ago from her job at Counts Oakes Resort Properties in Panama City after balking at the rule because it went against her religion. She is suing for lost wages, she said.

Thomas offered to use a generic greeting or say "Merry Christmas" to callers instead, but that offer was denied by company President Andy Phillips, according to the Liberty Counsel — the Christian-based legal group representing her.

My first thought upon reading this was that there had to be more to this story - the company in question insists that Thomas was dismissed for other reasons - but that probably won't stop the Religious Right from seizing on this episode as further proof that there is a "War on Christmas/War on Christians."

Then I came across this article in CNS based on a report from the Catholic League claiming that there have been nearly 30 documented episodes of anti-Christmas vandalism and violence in recent weeks.  Among the instances cited is this:

[I]n Riverside, Calif., a pastor was brutally beaten and robbed behind his church as he went to a supply room to get a Christmas bulb.

According to The Press Enterprise, 49-year-old Pastor James Dennis Warman was struck repeatedly in the head by two assailants on Dec. 7. He is now in a medically induced coma and not able to speak, and he may have brain damage, according to his wife, Mendy Warman.

Apparently the Right is chalking this assault up to rapid anti-Christmas sentiment ... while the local police are treating it as an act of robbery:

Along with his wife and daughter, James Dennis Warman stopped by the Base Line Rd. church to finish his sermon for Sunday morning, but figured he'd also fix a broken bulb on the Christmas tree. He walked out the back door to retrieve a replacement from storage. Then his family heard a scream - two robbers were attacking the 49-year-old elementary school teacher with a blunt object, repeatedly striking his head.

...

As Warman lay defenseless on the ground, bleeding, his wife ran at the attackers with a bass guitar she had found by the back door. Finally they ran off, taking the victim's wallet ... "I don't think they were lying in wait for him," sheriff's Sgt. Don Lupear said of the suspects. "But I think it was a crime of opportunity, which was bad."

While there is absolutely no justification for claiming that this has anything at all to do with the supposed "war on Christmas," apparently the Right is intent on going ahead and doing exactly that.

Rick Warren: The Goldilocks Pastor

Last week when we first noted that Rick Warren had been tapped to deliver the Invocation at Barack Obama's Inauguration, we complained that, despite the fact that we and others continually point out that "Rick Warren is really just a friendlier version of James Dobson, his media-driven reputation as some sort of 'moderate' evangelical preacher continues to win out."

Case in point: this new article by the AP's Rachel Zoll. In it, she explains that Warren really is different from the traditional Religious Right leaders because his "biggest critics [are] other evangelicals" ... and then proceeds to fail to name even one of those supposed critics while suggesting that the mere existence of this unspecified criticism proves Warren's centrism and moderation: 

Rick Warren is in a place he never expected to be: at the center of a culture war.

The pastor chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to give the inaugural invocation backed Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his home state of California. But he did so belatedly, with none of the enthusiasm he brings to fighting AIDS and illiteracy.

When other conservative Christians held stadium rallies and raised tens of millions of dollars for the ballot effort, there was no sign of Warren. Neither he nor his wife, Kay, donated any of their considerable fortune to the campaign, according to public records and the Warrens' spokesman.

In fact, his endorsement seemed calculated for minimal impact. It was announced late on a Friday, just 10 days before Election Day, on a Web site geared for members of his Saddleback Community Church, not the general public.

For gay rights advocates, that strategy was nothing more than an attempt to mask Warren's prejudice. They were outraged that Obama decided last week to give a place of honor to a pastor they consider a general for the Christian right.

Lost in the uproar was the irony of Warren's plight. Ever since he began his climb to prominence in the 1980s, he has battled complaints from fellow evangelicals that he isn't nearly conservative enough.

...

It is no surprise that he and Obama have become friendly. Each tries to operate outside a strict liberal-conservative divide, and has risked angering his supporters to do so.

"You can't have a reformation without somebody opposing it," Warren says. "If I wasn't making a difference, nobody would be paying attention."

Of course, as we pointed out last week, both the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family were thrilled with the announcement that Warren was to be part of the Inauguration ... that that list we can also add Richard Land:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Obama for choosing Warren.

"I'm encouraged that President-elect Obama would select Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration," Land told Baptist Press. "First, it is a signal that President-elect Obama is going to employ a big-tent philosophy in his administration's approach to people who may disagree with them on some issues, but not others. His selection of Rick Warren indicates that people who disagree with the president-elect on sanctity of life issues are not automatically persona non grata at the White House in an Obama administration. It also indicates that the president-elect is not buying the radical homosexual activists' argument that anyone who opposes them on the gay marriage issue should be ostracized as a bigot."

If Zoll is going to write an article claiming that Warren is moderate because he has received criticism for not being conservative enough, the least she can do is actually include some examples of people leveling that criticism ... maybe from someone like fringe crackpot Joseph Farah:

I'm writing to share my profound and abject revulsion at your agreement to offer the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as president Jan. 20.

I understand you want this to be a time of "healing" for our nation. I understand you consider Obama to be your "friend." I understand your desire to bring "civility" to our society.

However, when we read the Bible, we see there are times for men of God to stand up to leaders, like Nathan did to King David, and confront them with the absolute truth of God's word and His laws. That's what all Christians should do when confronted with leaders embracing evil.

...

I'm sure you would not want to invoke God's blessing on the inauguration of a figure like Adolf Hitler, whose rise to power brought the destruction of millions of lives.

So, in principle, you agree there is a time for believers to stand up to elected leaders and rebuke them – even publicly. Apparently, you don't believe that time is now – that the deaths of untold numbers of born and unborn babies is not justification enough for such a stance.

Obviously, Farah and his ilk who have criticized Warren in the past hail from the far-right fringes of the Religious Right movement, but apparently that is enough for Zoll to declare that it proves Warren's moderation - so much so that she can completely ignore the fact that current Religious Right leaders like FRC, FOF, and Land see Obama's decision to include Warren as a welcome sign for their own political agenda.

If Warren really did represent some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement, presumably the current Religious Right powerbrokers would be throwing a fit over Warren's role in the Inauguration, rather than welcoming it as an encouraging sign.

Dueling Over DOMA

A few weeks ago, we here at People For unveiled our Dump DOMA campaign, asking those who care about equality to contact Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and urge them to pass legislation repealing the Defense of Marriage Act:

It’s time to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). At this moment of change and progress, it’s time to undo a serious mistake made by Congress 12 years ago. The federal government has no business discriminating against loving families by selectively withholding the 1,300 or so legal protections that only legal civil marriage affords.

It’s time for Congress to show leadership on this issue and send President-elect Obama legislation repealing DOMA which he has said he would sign.

Now, via On Top Magazine, we see that the Alliance for Marriage has unveiled their own Protect DOMA website to press for just the opposite:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation, the group who drafted the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) in Congress, has begun a national campaign to protect the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the upcoming 111th Congress.

The diverse coalition has also unveiled www.ProtectDOMA.org a new online resource to protect DOMA – and the marriage laws of every state where voters have spoken on the issue of marriage – from attack at the federal level.

“The repeal of DOMA is the legislative Holy Grail for activists who want to impose their radical social agenda upon America through the courts,” said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., an AFM Advisory Board Member and President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

“As demonstrated in California, over 70% of the African-American community rejects the utterly false argument that gay activists have a ‘civil right’ to redefine marriage for our entire society,” said Niger Innis, an AFM Advisory Board Member and National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality.

The AIM initiative announced that it is going to be especially focused on mobilizing Latinos:

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation will work to continue to expand our education and mobilization efforts – especially within the Latino community – so that both marriage and freedom of conscience will remain protected in our nation.

The prize in this historic struggle is nothing less than the future of our children and grandchildren.

...

Groups on the Left generally take Latino votes for granted. But the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is the latest research foundation to document that this dynamic does not apply with respect to marriage and the family. On the contrary, support for marriage and family within the Latino community runs deep. This support is expressed when Latinos are given an opportunity to vote on the issue of marriage itself.

U.S. Census data shows that Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group, representing the largest minority in the country. According to data from 2005, there are approximately 42 million Latinos in the United States, which represents approximately 1 in every 8 residents. In fact, a majority of children entering high school, workers entering the workforce and newly-eligible voters will be Latino by 2020.

In the years ahead, the ProtectDOMA.org will continue to build a broad movement – with a positive message that has mainstream appeal --- in order to deliver the margin of victory in the struggle to protect marriage for the sake of our children and grandchildren. At the same time, we will also continue to develop leaders who can give winsome expression to the timeless values that are essential to the well-being of our nation.

Maybe now would be a good time to add your signature to our Dump DOMA petition.

Rick Warren Walks the Line

Last week, Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman sat down for an interesting discussion with Rick Warren during which Warren worked hard to maintain the image he has created for himself as a moderate, nonpartisan religious figure (rather than the James Dobson-lite he actually is) but struggled to explain himself when asked to clarify some of his seemingly contradictory positions.

For instance, when the topic of the discussion turned to reproductive choice, Warren made no bones about his opposition to it, referring to it repeatedly as a “holocaust” and proclaiming that he has, and will continue, to press Barack Obama on the issue: 

Of course I want to reduce the number of abortions. Barack Obama is a friend of mine. We totally disagree on this issue. I’ve actually talked to him privately about this before and intend to again in the future. It’s not something I protest out on the street about. It’s something you deal with individually as rational civil people. The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it. In Psalm 139, David says “you formed me in my mother’s womb. You planned every day of my life before I was born.” To me that means God had a purpose driven life for you before you were even born. He already knew in advance. To me, abortion short circuits that plan … [T]o me it is kind of a charade in that people say we believe abortions should be safe and rare. Why do you believe it should be rare? If you don’t believe life begins at conception, it shouldn’t be rare. That’s an illogical statement. Don’t tell me it should be rare. That’s like saying on the Holocaust well maybe we could save 20% of the Jewish people in Poland and Germany and get them out and we should be satisfied with that. I’m not satisfied with that. I want the Holocaust ended.

When the conversation then turned to the subject of torture, Warren proclaimed that he was “totally against torture,” but when Waldman asked if he had ever made that position clear to President Bush, Warren said that he had not because it was not his place and stating that presidents “don’t need me to be a political advisor. I’m not a pundit. I’m not a politician and that’s why I don’t take sides.”

When Waldman then smartly asked Warren why he was pressing Obama on choice but not pressing Bush on torture, Warren hemmed and hawed, explaining that “everybody has a single issue that they care about” and that for him that issue is the “America holocaust” of abortion:

I just didn’t have the opportunity. It’s actually when Barack, the first time I’d invited Barack-before he’d even decided to run-when I’d invited him to our AIDS conference and we came out and we were just sitting around and we were talking about different issues and that one came up. Actually, that’s not true, it even started before that. I was invited, before I invited Barack out, to speak to the Democratic Senate Caucus and it was Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Harry Reed and Chuck Schumer--all of these guys in the room. And Barack actually brought it up. And he said, “Hey Rick, let’s talk about the big elephant in the room.” And he said, ‘When we Democrats, we do stuff for the poor and we do stuff for the sick, we don’t get many letters about it. But when we vote to support abortion we get thousands and tens-of-thousands of letters. What’s the issue here?” And I had to say, “Well, let me just explain this. Almost everybody has a single issue that they care about. You know, it may be gay rights, it may be farm aid, it may be- everybody has some issue that they care about the most. And I said, “let me just go around the room.” I said, “Hillary, when you were growing up, you were probably a single issue voter because it was during the civil rights movement. And to me-uh, to you-a candidate could be right on everything else; foreign aid, jobs, economy, but if they were wrong on civil rights, there’s no way you were going to vote for them OK. That’s understandable.” And I went around the room and when I came to Chuck Schumer I said, “Chuck, how bad, if you had a candidate and he was right in EVERY SINGLE AREA that you agreed with but he’s a holocaust denier, there’s no way you’re gonna vote for a holocaust denier. That’s a single issue issue for you. And I said, “For these people who believe life begins at birth, alright--at conception--it’s an America holocaust. They believe that there’s 40million people who should be here. And to them that’s an issue.”

Likewise, when Waldman raised the issue of Warren’s support for Prop 8, Warren again danced around, saying that he fully supports equal rights before likening gay unions to incest, polygamy, and pedophilia, claiming that defeating Prop 8 would have limited free speech, and then finally playing the tired “I-have-gay-friends-so-I-can’t-be-a-homophobe” card: 

One controversial moment for you in the last election was your support for proposition 8 in California. … Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?

I don’t know if I’d use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don’t believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.

What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?

You know, not a problem with me. The issue to me, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

Oh , I do. For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews – historically, marriage is a man and a woman. And the reason I supported Proposition 8, is really a free speech issue. Because first the court overrode the will of the people, but second there were all kinds of threats that if that did not pass then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships, and that would be hate speech. We should have freedom of speech, ok? And you should be able to have freedom of speech to make your position and I should be able to have freedom of speech to make my position, and can’t we do this in a civil way.

Most people know I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church. Kay and I have given millions of dollars out of Purpose Driven Life helping people who got AIDS through gay relationships. So they can’t accuse me of homophobia. I just don’t believe in the redefinition of marriage.

There you have it. The kinder, gentler face of the same old Religious Right.

The Far Right’s Newest Boogeyman: Environmentalism

Back in July, we wrote about the then-upcoming 9th Annual Freedom21 National Conference where a bevy of second, third, and fourth string right-wing activists were gathering to blow the top off the nefarious plot behind the idea of sustainable development.

Now, the SPLC has published an account of the gathering … and it was apparently every bit as unhinged as one would expect:

"Environment is not about saving nature," the founder of Freedom Advocates, Michael Shaw, sternly warned an audience of antigovernment "Patriots" and far-right conspiracy theorists during a mid-July conference. "It's about a revolutionary coup in America. [Environmentalism] is to establish global governance and abandon the principles of Natural Law." Sustainable development policies, Shaw argued, will require "a police state" and ultimately "turn America into a globally governed homeland where humans are treated as biological resources."

Shaw's fearful call to arms against environmentalism was sucked in whole hog during the Ninth Annual Freedom 21 conference held in a Dallas-area Crowne Plaza hotel. Co-hosted by the Texas Eagle Forum, a hard-line Christian Right organization, and the anti-"New World Order" American Policy Center (APC), the three-day convergence included such right-wing heavyweights as the error-prone conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, gay- and feminist-hating Phyllis Schlafly, and the far-right Constitution Party's presidential candidate, Chuck Baldwin.

One former popular Freedom 21er was disinvited. Bob Barr, a former conservative Republican congressman from Georgia, was asked not to return by the head of APC, Tom DeWeese, because Barr had talked to Al Gore about global warming. "This is not some nice little debate," DeWeese said he told someone in Barr's office. "This is war."

The SPLC recounts that while Phyllis Schlafly was content to deliver her anti-judges stump speech, the other speakers were committed to exposing how instituting sustainable development policies was the ultimate goal of those shadowy one-world government figures who are behind the (non-existent) efforts to create a so-called North American Union so that they can institute a new worldwide false religion based on “earth worship”:

Michael Coffman, executive director of the United Nations-hating Sovereignty International, took on something called Agenda 21, which was drawn up in 1992 for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Agenda 21 is a comprehensive blueprint of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the UN, governments, and major groups in every area in which humans impact on the environment (21 refers to the 21st century). In Coffman's eyes, Agenda 21 is a menace.

"An anti-human document, which takes aim at Western culture, and the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions," is how Coffman referred to it. Coffman also alleged that Agenda 21 would lead to a kind of communist reallocation of property rights and redistribution of assets. Using a big word, Coffman labeled the proposed changes "usufructual," which he said means the government would own everything. Michael Chapman of Ed Watch, a group that opposes public education, reiterated Coffman's allegations that Agenda 21's real aim is to redistribute wealth. Coffman added that economic development is not being restricted in order to protect the environment, but rather to give power to the government.

"The new world theology is pantheism," Coffman said, "Nature is God."

The John Birch Society (JBS), a group that once insisted that President Eisenhower was a Communist Party member but now focuses on immigrant-bashing, agrees with Coffman. JBS was on hand to warn that environmentalists are really out to get your children. The JBS handed out cards featuring a strange depiction of a group of children holding hands under a large, glowing, balloon-like mockup of the earth that warned of "The New False Religion, Worshipping the Earth." "Advocates of a UN world government have drafted an Earth Charter, which they compare to the Ten Commandments and keep in an 'Ark of Hope,'" warns the JBS without any apparent reference to reality. "Will you let the United Nations or any other group undermine the faith of your family?" The JBS is so concerned with this that is has created a new website, www.getusout.org/earthworship, to battle "Earth Worship."

It should be noted that Rep. Michelle Bachmann was initially listed as scheduled to appear, but the SPLC article makes no mention of her being in attendance, nor does the official conference webpage.

Land Determines Proper Vs Improper Attacks on Religion

Richard Land weighs in on the controversial sign placed in the Washington state capitol by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, saying that he has always believed that governments should "maximally accommodate" religious groups seeking to place messages on public grounds, but complains that the FFRF sign is an "improper attack on religion" because it is "denigrating and disrespectful to the Christian faith": 

One does not honor pluralism by disrespecting other people’s faiths in such hostile ways ... The current display is hostile and disrespectful. In accommodating peoples’ wish to have their faith acknowledged in the public square, one must understand that such displays must not attack other faiths.

Apparently, Land's concerns are limited to messages that he personally considers disrespectful, because he certainly doesn't seem to have any qualms about unleashing his own hostile and disrespectful attacks against other faiths::

"There is not a country in the world where Muslims are in the majority that they don't severely restrict the freedom of religion of every other faith. They seek to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else at the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun. They kill people who disagree with them or who dare to convert to another faith.

"I'll take Islam as a peaceful religion seriously when I see followers of Islam in America protesting and condemning suicide bombers, anti-Semitic hate speech and genocide in the Sudan," Land said.

...

"Was it just happenstance that every person who flew one of those planes into a building and every person that was part of the planning was an Islamic fanatic?" Land asked.

Is Richard Cizik Trying to Get Fired?

It is no secret that Religious Right leaders have had it out for Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals for some time now, starting back in 2007 when they tried to get him fired for branching out into the global warming debate because they feared it was undermining the focus on their traditional anti-choice, anti-gay agenda. 

He certainly didn’t make any friends before the election when he blasted John McCain for selling out to the Religious Right … and now he has even fewer friends among the old-guard right-wing leaders thanks to this recent interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” where he all but admitted that he voted for Barack Obama, said that Dick Armey had good reasons for calling people like James Dobson bullies and thugs, predicted that climate change is going to become an issue on which evangelicals become increasingly active, pledged to work with the Obama administration to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies in this country, and admitted that his opposition to marriage equality is “shifting

GROSS: Let me ask you; you say that you really identify with the concerns and priorities of younger evangelical voters and one of those priorities is uh—it’s more of an acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage. A couple of years ago when you were on our show I asked you if you were changing your mind on that and two years ago you said that you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now as you identify more and more with the younger voters and their priorities, have you changed on gay marriage?  

CIZIK:  I’m shifting; I have to admit. In other words, I would be willing to say I believe in civil unions. I don’t officially support redefining marriage, from its traditional definition, I don’t think. WE have this tension going on in our movement between what is church-building and what is nation-building, and I lean in this spectrum at times, maybe we should concentrate on building our values in our own movement. WE have become so absorbed in the question of gay rights and the rest, we fail to understand the challenges and threats to marriage itself—heterosexual marriage. Maybe we need to re-evaluate this and look at it a little differently.

Not surprisingly, his statements have generated controversy in evangelical circles, forcing the NAE’s president to assure its board that the organization’s priorities remain the same:

The president of the National Association of Evangelicals reassured the organization’s Board of Directors as well as media outlets this past week that the group remains fully committed to its long-held stance on abortion, marriage and other biblical values after several controversial statements were made by the group’s vice president.

In a letter to the NAE’s Board of Directors, the Rev. Leith Anderson said that the wording of the Rev. Richard Cizik, NAE’s vice president for governmental affairs, during a recent interview with NPR (National Public Radio) “did not appropriately reflect the positions of the National Association of Evangelicals and its constituents.”

“Our NAE stand on marriage, abortion and other biblical values is long, clear and unchanged,” Anderson wrote in the letter to the directors, a portion of which he forwarded to several news agencies including The Christian Post, on Saturday.

He added, “Richard has strongly assured to me of his own support and agreement with our NAE values and positions. This was not understood by listeners from what he said.”

Tony Perkins, for one, isn’t buying it, saying that Cizik “left the reservation a long time ago” and wanting to know why he is still employed by the NAE:

How else can you explain enthusiastic support for what will probably be the nation's most pro-abortion, anti-family president in our nation's 232 year history?

The question, however, remains. If Cizik does not speak for the NAE, as the Rev. Anderson has said, why is he on Capitol Hill representing NAE and claiming to speak for Evangelicals? Is it possible for a human being to come with a disclaimer?

The Institute on Religion and Democracy wants to know the same thing:

"Is Richard Cizik representing typical members of the Assemblies of God, the Salvation Army, or the Presbyterian Church in America, along with millions of other evangelicals, when he suggests, even momentarily, support for liberal issues like civil unions? If not, then why is he NAE's chief spokesman? Should not that spokesman consistently espouse traditional evangelical beliefs?"

As do representatives of Concerned Women for America:

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, said, “Mr. Cizik claimed that his views are five years ahead of his constituency, but these views are not anywhere close to Biblical orthodoxy, traditional Christian theology nor the bulk of Evangelicals who ground their faith in the Bible. Perhaps this is why he espouses them in forums to which most of his supposed 'constituency' do not listen.”

Janice Shaw Crouse, Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, said, “The NAE consists of 45,000 churches, 50 denominations and 30 million constituents. I cannot believe that they are happy to have a spokesperson, who supposedly represents them, expressing views that are contrary to Biblical authority and contradict theological orthodoxy. I think, perhaps, my dear friend Rich has been inside the Beltway for too long and has swallowed too much of the NPR and Vogue Magazine Kool-Aid.”

One has to wonder just how many more times Cizik can get away with repudiating and alienating the traditional Religious Right movement and its agenda before the powers-that-be at the NAE finally succumb to the pressure and fire him.

Day Three of the Right’s War on Newsweek

As we’ve noted over the last few days, the Religious Right has not been particularly impressed with Newsweek’s current cover story "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage" and appear fully intent on continuing their crusade to discredit it for as long as it takes: 

Bob Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute, believes there is ample evidence of media bias on the marriage issue, but calls this example one of the worst he has seen. Knight says Newsweek published a "cartoon version of Scripture that is a gay activist's dream."

"It would be one thing if people promoting the homosexual agenda just said, 'Look, the Bible says it's wrong. We don't buy into the Bible's authority, and so we don't agree with you.' But to try to take the Bible and make it say something it flat-out does not say is journalistic malpractice," he argues. "You're talking about the religion editor at Newsweek magazine and a cover piece twisting scripture, using every gay talking point out there without any effective rebuttal."

While most Religious Right activists have merely dismissed the piece as an example of propaganda designed to bolster the gay rights movement, some, like Al Mohler, have set out to rebut many of the claims made in the article.  To the latter category we can now add Peter Sprigg and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council who have penned a lengthy, almost paragraph-by-paragraph counter-point where they seek to rebut the assertions made in the article such as “Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce” with responses such as this:

This is undoubtedly because Jesus encountered many more people who were tempted by easy divorce than he did people who were tempted by homosexuality. The whole argument that "Jesus never mentions homosexuality," and therefore that he must have tolerated it, is ridiculous on its face. Jesus never mentions rape or child sexual abuse, but that can hardly be interpreted to mean that he condoned them. As with those sexual sins, he may have felt that homosexuality was so clearly offensive that there was no point in stating the obvious.

Yep, Jesus knew that homosexuality was just like rape and pedophilia:  so odious and abhorrent that he didn’t even have to bother mentioning that they were horrible sins. 

Fortunately, we have people like Sprigg and Perkins to constantly remind us that, even though Jesus never actually said that, it's exactly what he thought.

Maybe Focus on the Family Should Focus on Reading and Research

Does this claim from Focus on the Family make any sense at all?

Ninety percent of Americans pray every day, according to a study released Thursday by Brandeis University. Half pray several times a day, according to the analysis of four public prayer books filled by patients and visitors at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

Three-quarters of those studied prayed for themselves, families and friends, with about a quarter praying for themselves alone, The Washington Times reported.

“This is a testament to our belief that prayer is a vital part of our walk with the Lord," said Brian Toon, vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. "Examples of answered prayer are more common than many believe. Whole communities have seen crime, suicide and unemployment drop as a result of Americans coming together in prayer."

How exactly does one go about determining that 90% of Americans pray daily, and that many pray several times daily, by analyzing prayer books in a hospital in Baltimore?  

FOF is obviously relying on this Washington Times article which makes the same claim:

Politicians come and go, fashions evolve and the culture shifts with alarming frequency. One thing remains constant, though.

Americans pray. A lot.

Ninety percent have a spiritual interlude with God every day, according to a study released Thursday by Brandeis University. Half pray several times a day, in fact.

"Most prayer writers imagine a God who is accessible, listening, and a source of emotional and psychological support, who at least sometimes answers back," said Wendy Cadge, a sociologist who directed the research.

I haven’t read the study itself because it requires a subscription, but here is the abstract:

Researchers in sociology, medicine, and religion ask whether prayer influences health, but pay little attention to the content or experience of personal prayer. This paper draws insights from cognitive studies of religion to ask what kinds of requests people make of God in their prayers, how they construct God in their prayers, and what kinds of responses they believe possible from God based on how they frame their prayers. We analyze the prayers patients, visitors, and staff wrote in a prayer book at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital between 1999 and 2005. Prayers are primarily written to thank God (21.8%), to make requests of God (28%), or to both thank and petition God (27.5%). The majority of prayer writers imagine a God who is accessible, listening, and a source of emotional and psychological support. Rather than focusing on specific discrete outcomes that could be falsified, writers tend to frame their prayers broadly in abstract psychological language that allows them to make multiple interpretations of the results of their prayers.

Apparently, the study focused on what sort of prayers people offer, not on how many Americans are praying on a given day.  Given that the study was limited to prayers left in prayer books at Johns Hopkins University Hospital over a six years period, it is unimaginable that the author could have deduced that 90% of Americans pray daily based on such narrow and obviously biased source material.  

In this piece by Cadge on Religion Dispatches about her study, she mentions in passing that “close to 90% of Americans pray” but she in no way suggests that this is a finding that came out of her study … yet somehow both the Washington Times and Focus on the Family have convinced themselves that that is exactly what Cadge has found, leading FOF to excitedly crow: “Good News: Study Shows 9 in 10 Americans Pray Every Day.”

“In God We Trust” Goes on the Offensive Against Non-Existent Threat

We’ve written about a group known as In God We Trust a few times before, first back when they were demanding that Barack Obama publicly repudiate a billboard put up in Colorado by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and then again when they freaked out when they learned that the American Humanist Association was going to be placing its own ads in Washington, DC.

Now, the organization is launching a pre-emptive effort to ensure that the FFRF doesn’t have a chance to place their “religion is a myth” sign, which is causing so much controversy in Washington state, in the nation’s capitol:

"In God We Trust will oppose any effort to place these signs in any state capital or in any government location in Washington, D.C.," promises Bishop Council Nedd, the organization's chairman. "These signs have nothing in common with a menorah, a nativity scene or a Christmas tree. They are an attempt by anti-religious bigots to equate a belief in God with enslavement and to ridicule the majority of Americans who believe in God."

"Why do these zealots have the right to post signs on public property attacking their countrymen?" Nedd asks. "Would anyone stand for an equally hate-filled message being posted by the Klan on Martin Luther King's Birthday? Of course not. Yet that is exactly what these atheist bigots want. And their next step will be to demand one of these signs be posted on the National Mall in Washington, DC."

Nedd says he is launching a national effort to preempt the posting of any more of these signs. The organization is mobilizing its 60,000 supporters to lobby their Governors and representatives in Washington urging them stop the atheist advertising effort.

Of course, this mobilization is rather pointless, as the FFRF currently has no intention of actually trying to place its signs in the nation’s capitol and no plans to do so.  I know this because I just called them and asked and was informed that their efforts in this regard are purely reactive and limited to situations where religious symbols are currently on display in state capitols.  

In essence, In God We Trust is merely trying to generate some press and hopefully raise some money off of a current controversy by announcing a mobilization effort dedicated to preventing something from happening that … well, isn’t going to happen.

Washington State’s One-Man Right-Wing Army

Last week, we made a few mentions of the kerfuffle brewing up in Washington over the sign placed in the state Capitol by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that reads "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

And you just knew that if there was some right-wing battle brewing in the state that Ken Hutcherson was going to show up … and so he did:

Several hundred people rallied at the state Capitol on Sunday to protest a holiday display inside that provoked a national outcry by disparaging religion and declaring there is no God.

Organizers pleaded with Sunday's crowd to keep their messages positive, but there were still signs portraying Gregoire as a Grinch. Even scheduled speakers took political pot shots.

"You have led the state of Washington to be the armpit of America. And I'm afraid that our governor is the one adding the offensive odor to the armpit," said the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, a Christian preacher known in the region for his commentary on social issues.

One of Hutcherson’s latest rallying cries is for Evangelicals to stop being “Evan-jellyfish” and start standing up for themselves and declare that they are not going to take it anymore:

“We want to be respected also, and it looks as though Christianity and religious people are the only ones that you can be intolerant against and everyone thinks it’s OK,” he said. “The only reason why that’s going on is because we have allowed it, and I think it’s time for us to say enough’s enough.”

And speaking of Hutcherson, it looks as if he is still committed to his one-man crusade to take over Microsoft so that he can dictate how the company donates to charity:

Last year Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington, asked concerned Christians to purchase shares in Microsoft and send him a share so he could address the company at its annual shareholders meeting about its support for homosexual causes. During the annual meeting last month, Hutcherson was able to address Microsoft executives, including founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer. Hutcherson says he brought up the recent protests by homosexuals against California's voter-approved Proposition 8.< /p>

And my question to Microsoft this year was, our company is supporting, with millions and millions of dollars, a group that has proven to be intolerant, that has proven to be hateful, violent, and [prejudiced] towards African Americans," he explains. "[Opponents of the voter initiative] are now calling African Americans who voted for Prop. 8 by 'the N-word.'"

The outspoken pastor and former NFL player calls reaction from Microsoft executives lukewarm. "You know what they said afterward? It was all quiet and they said, 'Well, we have voted to continue our charitable gifts,'" Hutcherson points out. "That's why I'm saying I'm not going to stop because they have proven to be hypocrites. And if it was any other group, they would have stopped it immediately."

Still, Hutcherson is urging concerned Christians to purchase shares in companies like Microsoft who support the pro-homosexual cause and to request that they stop supporting intolerant groups.

Blame The Alliance Defense Fund

Earlier this week we mentioned that some people were upset about a sign placed in the Washington state Capitol by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that reads "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." The sign sits in the Capitol alongside a Christmas tree and a nativity scene placed there by Ron Wesselius.

Now Bill O'Reilly has jumped into the mix, calling Gov. Chris Gregoire "a coward" for allowing the sign and insisting that "there's no law that says atheists have to have signs up denigrating religion during the Christmas season."

The Governor's office has since been inundated with calls from angry O'Reilly viewers and was forced to release a statement explaining its position:

"The Legislative Building belongs to all citizens of Washington state, and houses the state Legislature, as well as the offices of several state-elected executives, including the governor. The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution’s First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of non-believers."

The thing about this is that, typical of O'Reilly, he's focusing his outrage on the wrong people.  If he's really upset by this, he ought to be blasting the right-wing Alliance Defense Fund which successfully sued the state last year on behalf of Wesselius when he wasn't allowed to place his nativity scene in the Capitol.

As part of the settlement [PDF] it was agreed that:

Plaintiff and all other persons and organizations will be treated similarly to other private members of the public in all respects, including access to the areas in the Capitol Rotunda, pursuant to CCF policy attached as Exhibit A, to display a Nativity Scene during the 2007 traditional holiday season.

The relevant portion of the CCF policy reads: 

Public use of capitol facilities may include, but is not limited to, activites such as rallies, demonstrations and vigils related to government issues, performances, community events, activities sponsored by state agencies, cultural, historical and educational activities, exhibits and displays, affairs of state, wedding ceremonies, choral presentations, and memorial services. Authorization for use of capitol facilities shall not be made on a discriminatory basis based on the religious or political content or viewpoint of the public speakers seeking access to the facilities.

So this particular situation arose directly out of the ADF's suit and eventual settlement and the state of Washington is now obligated to ensure that decisions regarding access to the Capitol can not "be made on a discriminatory basis based on the religious or political content or viewpoint."  

If O'Reilly and his followers want to inundate anyone with calls of outrage regarding this policy, they should be targeting the Alliance Defense Fund:

Mailing Address:
15100 N. 90th Street
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260

Phone: 1-800-TELL-ADF
Fax: 480-444-0025
Website: www.alliancedefensefund.org  

What Is Angering The Right Now?

Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission is angry at Jack Black for this:

Accordingly, Cass is calling on Black to apologize:

In a short video posted on FunnyorDie.com entitled, "Prop 8 The Musical," an all star cast of Hollywood celebrities perform a low budget musical farce that defames Christ, mocks Christians and distorts the teaching of the Bible.

"Jack Black should remember from his days at Hebrew School that homosexual acts aren't funny and are roundly condemned in the Bible," said Dr. Gary Cass, of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. "Appearing as a sarcastic, rotund Christ, Black distorts the Bible and condones shameful, homosexual acts. Associating Christ with perverse activity is an affront to all people of faith, especially Christians. Apparently Black and company find it hilarious to falsely accuse Christians while they intentionally distort the Bible. Black ought to apologize."

Frank Pastore is miffed as well:

The strategy behind this shaming-of-the-public production is simple: lampoon the supporters of the constitutional amendment into embarrassment so that the next time same-sex marriage shows up on the ballot, they’ll do the “loving thing,” and support it rather than reject it, which is the only one true path to social penance, cultural redemption and liberal forgiveness—at least in the mind of the same-sex marriage crowd.

Elsewhere, Bill Donohue is up-in-arms over the "cultural fascists" who "hate Christmas"

“Cultural fascists invoke ‘diversity’ every December as cover for neutering Christmas—they never choose some other month to practice their multicultural religion. And by the way, who are these people from other religions who hate Christmas? I never met one. It would be more accurate to say that it’s precisely the persons who make this charge who hate Christmas.”

This has been another installment of "What Is Angering The Right Now?"  If this keeps up, I might just have to turn this into a regular feature.

The Bitterness That Drives Mike Huckabee

There is a truly exceptional review of Mike Huckabee's latest book up on Religion Dispatches that argues that the driving forces behind Huckabee, his campaign, and his new book tour are resentment and bitterness.  I have to say that I completely agree with that assessment ... probably because I happen to be the one who wrote it:

Billed as an inside look at “the movement that’s bringing common sense back to America,” the book is part campaign memoir, part policy statement, and partly a challenge to all Americans to stop being so fat, lazy, and mean. But mostly it is a means for Huckabee to settle scores with all those who failed to support his candidacy, see its genius and, consequently, to save America from itself.

From the very beginning, Huckabee makes no effort to conceal his disdain for his presidential rivals and seemingly goes out of his way to invoke Mitt Romney wherever he can, mentioning the former Massachusetts Governor by name more than sixty times in the first one hundred pages. While Huckabee doesn’t have anything particularly nice to say about Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, or John McCain—the others barely rate a mention—it is Romney who personifies everything that is wrong with the Republican Party.

It’s clear that Huckabee resents Romney’s wealth and the millions of dollars he pumped into his own campaign. Huckabee and his staff, who were often just scraping by, at one point blasted Romney for attempting “a leveraged buyout of the Republican presidential nomination,” calling him one of those “political wannabes with self-inflicted funding [who] let themselves be sculpted and focus-grouped into what a high-priced pollster thinks is a winning package.” Time and again he mocks the former Massachusetts Governor for spending millions, yet failing to win half the votes that Huckabee and his rag-tag campaign racked up, dismissing Romney’s entire campaign as a fraud perpetuated solely by the fact that his “net worth bought him instant status … [as] a serious contender.”

While Huckabee nurtures a deep personal dislike of Romney, what he truly despises is everything Romney represents: the rich, East Coast, insider elites who dominate the Republican Party. Huckabee, the son of a fireman who struggled to make ends meet, effectively wages class warfare against the party insiders and libertarian “faux-cons” in Washington; he lashes out at the likes of The National Review and the Club for Growth, whom he calls “the silk-stocking crowd,” for looking down their noses at the blue collar “values voters” that Huckabee claims to represent. Two chapters are devoted to holding himself up as the representative of those who shop at Wal-Mart and not Neiman Marcus; of those who eat at The Waffle House rather than Ruth’s Chris Steak House; of those who watch “Touched By an Angel” and not “Desperate Housewives.” He expends several pages rehashing old campaign attacks on his record from the Club for Growth and several more pages striking back at The National Review for their opposition to talk that John McCain might pick him as his running mate. But even here Romney remains representative of everything that “was wrong with our party.”

But you don't have to take my word for it.  Here's Huckabee displaying that bitterness during a book tour stop in Iowa earlier in the week:

Appearing on Christian conservative Steve Deace’s drive-time program, Huckabee said though he was criticized by “establishment Republicans” during his unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination, he has been proven right time and again.

“When I said the economy was beginning to sputter, I was absolutely pilloried by the Wall Street Journal and the National Review and all the other snobbish folks who thought that I was just a dumb hick from Arkansas who didn’t have a clue,” he said.

...

Huckabee’s book has gotten a lot of attention, mainly due to the portions that discuss his fellow Republicans. He was particularly hard on Gary Bauer, the conservative Christian leader and former presidential candidate, whom he described in the book as having an “ever-changing reason to deny me his support.” He also accuses Bauer of putting national security before social issues like the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.

Deace seemed to share his opinion of Bauer.

“The phrase ‘Better for one man to die than the whole nation to perish’ comes to mind,” Deace said.

Huckabee said he couldn’t pull any punches with the book because if he did he would lose credibility with his supporters.

“I want people to know the truth. I got a reputation during the campaign as someone who was plain spoken, who didn’t try to sugar coat or frost things over,” he said. “I would have lost credibility if I had written this book and not told some of the things that I try to at least bring forth.”

But the passages that discuss his fellow Republicans are just a small portion of the book, and the attention they are getting is disappointing, he said.

“Shouldn’t be surprised that people would take a few passages out of a 240-page book and act like that’s all that’s there,” Huckabee said. “This book lays out not just what’s happened and why we’ve had the problems we’ve had in the conservative movement, but it also lays out how we get our groove back.”

I take issue with Huckabee's repeated assertion that his attacks on Romney and various GOP-insiders constitute just a "few passages" in his book because, in fact, they make up the bulk of the first 130+ pages. 

Huck may like to pretend that the purpose of the book was to help resurrect the conservative movement, but the fact is that it was written to settle scores and position himself for a future run at president.  As such, his relentless trashing of the very Republican institutions from whom he will need support the next time around is inevitably going to grab the bulk of the media's attention.  If he wanted the press to pay attention to his "Fair Tax" proposals or dedicated to bad-mouthing Mitt Romney and the Religious Right.

The Right’s Latest Gripe

Always on the lookout for anything they can churn into a controversy that suggests that God is somehow under attack here in America, the Right has latched onto the opening of the new Capitol Visitor Center, which they are accusing of intentionally slighting God and the role that Christianity played in the founding of our nation:

Protests by conservative lawmakers led architects to promise to add "In God We Trust" as the national motto and to engrave the Pledge of Allegiance in the new $621 million Capitol Visitor Center.

Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, had threatened to delay Tuesday's opening of the marble-and-stone center that took seven years to build at triple the original cost … Despite winning a months-long battle to highlight the importance of religion in American life, DeMint said the center still misrepresents American history by downplaying the faith of the Founding Fathers and other prominent figures.

"The current Capitol Visitor Center displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history," DeMint said. The center's "most prominent display proclaims faith not in God, but in government."

DeMint, rated the most conservative senator by several think tanks and advocacy groups, also protested an engraved statement near the center's entrance: "We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution."

That quote was uttered by Rufus Choate, a Massachusetts lawyer who represented his state in the House of Representatives in the 1830s and in the Senate the following decade.

"This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nation's real history and an offensive refusal to honor America's God-given blessings," DeMint said.

Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, along with Republican Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia, joined DeMint in the protest.

There is likewise a new article in The National Review complaining that not only is the new center hostile to God, it’s also overflowing with “liberal bias”  

[M]any conservatives were startled by its mere existence — and they observed that it came in the wake of a trend toward the effacement of religion from the public squares of Washington. David Barton, a historian who heads WallBuilders, an Evangelical organization, had tried to call attention to it. The FDR Memorial, dedicated in 1997, contains no mention of God. Neither does the World War II Memorial, opened in 2004. Carved on one of its walls is a short D-Day message by Dwight Eisenhower, but the quote ends just before Ike seeks “the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” Barton is convinced this isn’t accidental: “It’s hard not to see the bias. Religion is completely scrubbed out” … When Sen. Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, explored the hall, he wasn’t pleased. “There was an obvious absence of any accurate historical reference to our religious heritage,” he says. He noticed the misidentification of the national motto, but the problem went much deeper — and he took it to the floor of the Senate. “In touring the CVC, I found the exhibits to be politically correct, left-leaning, and secular in nature,” he said on September 27. “There seems to be a trend of whitewashing God out of our history.” He noted that although the hall displayed a couple of Bibles, a replica of the House chamber didn’t include “In God We Trust” above the speaker’s rostrum.

Yet the exhibition hall still includes plenty of liberal bias. A section on FDR describes the New Deal, in rah-rah fashion, as “a creative burst of energy that initiated economic recovery” during the Depression. There’s a panel on the 19th-century impeachment of Andrew Johnson, but nothing comparable on the 20th-century impeachment of Bill Clinton (except a brief mention in a video). What’s more, conservative icons are almost totally missing. There’s a picture of Robert A. Taft, but no image of Barry Goldwater or Henry Hyde. At the same time, the CVC is full of dutiful tributes to female firsts: the first woman elected to the House (Jeannette Rankin), the first woman to serve in the Senate (Rebecca Felton), the first woman elected to the Senate (Hattie Caraway), the first woman elected to both the House and the Senate (Margaret Chase Smith), the first “woman of color” and first Asian-American woman elected to Congress (Patsy Mink), the longest-serving woman in Congress (Edith Nourse Rogers), and so on.

An alcove on modern history includes big pictures of an Earth Day rally, an ACT-UP protest on AIDS funding, and hippies at the Pentagon in 1967. It’s not as if the CVC made no attempt at balance: There’s also a black-and-white photo of Vietnam-era “pro-war demonstrators” that’s one-quarter the size of the full-color anti-war image.

But it seems that it is the perceived “religious hostility” of the center that is really irking the Right, so much so that the Family Research Council dedicated its most recent Washington Update to decrying it:

Religious Hostility on Display at U.S. Capitol

Today, the U.S. Capitol unveiled what one congressman has called a "$600 million godless pit," a palatial underground visitors' center which is at the heart of an ongoing debate over the place of America's religious heritage in the nation's capital. Not only does the basement of the House and Senate's home have new galleries, theaters, and gift shops, but, as 108 congressmen rightly argue, it should also include an honest and complete portrayal of America's religious roots.

Initially, planners had scrubbed references to "In God We Trust," the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Founders' faith. The Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for the renovations, came under fire from the building's own residents, the U.S. Congress, for omitting such basic references to the Almighty. Although some of the concerns were addressed before the center opened this afternoon, dozens of leaders and organizations like FRC are still troubled by the politically correct nature of the exhibits, which are historically incorrect.

Opposing Right Wing Legislation for All the Wrong Reasons

I came across an article yesterday about a piece of legislation co-authored by Oklahoma’s favorite militantly anti-gay legislator Sally Kern called the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act but didn’t write about it because, when it passed the legislature this summer, it was vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry

The bill is a typical piece of right-wing claptrap whereby the authors pretend that they are just trying to protect religious freedom when, in reality, they are just trying to make sure that Intelligent Design proponents won’t fail their science classes when they write papers claiming that the Earth is only 6000 years old.

It seems that Kern’s bill has been re-introduced in the 2009 legislative session but doesn’t seem to have been changed in any way that would help it avoid the Governor’s veto pen, should it end up on his desk again.  

The only reason I am even posting on this is because I was caught a bit off guard by this explanation from Rep. Ed Cannaday about why he opposes the bill:

But some lawmakers, including Rep. Ed Cannaday, a former teacher and school administrator in eastern Oklahoma, described the measure as a “cotton candy bill.”

“It’s tasteful and you enjoy it, but it does nothing for you,” said Cannaday, D-Porum.

From reading that, you’d think Cannaday opposed it because it was a attempt by right-wing legislators to inject religion into the public school system in ways that are both unnecessary and harmful.  But you’d be wrong:

Cannaday said the bill also could open the door for radical religious groups to demand equal time in Oklahoma schools.

“What’s more dangerous is that this cotton candy has been laced with arsenic,” Cannaday said. “The radical, non-Christian fringe groups who want to undermine our faith will use this to disrupt and to distract from our spiritual base.”

While it is nice that Cannaday opposes the bill, it would be nicer if he was opposing it because it was unnecessary rather than because it might allow “non-Christian fringe groups" access to public schools from which they would undermine “our spiritual base.”

GOD TV's Logical Follow-Up

If you are Rory and Wendy Alec, the founders behind GodTV, how do you follow up your massively successful election special in which a cavalcade of right-wing luminaries mingled with a bunch of borderline luncatics and your guests declared that we were locked in a "spiritual battle" in which "absolutely everything" was on the line, warned that a Barack Obama victory would signal that “we have not chosen God’s best," recounted visions they had in which they saw the forces of evil commiserating at a casino in the sky while they smoked cigars, drank whiskey, and had the faces of dogs, screeched that they needed to fervently pray to let God’s will be done in America as it is in Heaven, and lamented that Pat Robertson was not running for president this cycle?

Admittedly, it is hard to top that, but Rory and Wendy are nothing if not committed and resourceful, which is why they are unveiling their latest GodTV series asking if we are now living in the End Times:

Rory & Wendy Alec will be hosting a new End-Time series on Fridays at 8.30pm and Sundays at 9pm entitled 'Apocalypse and the End Times' which will feature interviews with internationally-acclaimed Bible Prophecy experts, while also giving the GOD TV visionaries an opportunity to encourage viewers worldwide as they share their personal perspectives on the subjects being discussed.

Guests on 'Apocalypse and the End Times' include: Grant Jeffrey, who has written 'The Next World War' and 'Countdown To The Apocalypse'; Dr Mike Evans author of 'Betrayed: The Conspiracy to Divide Jerusalem' and 'The Final Move Beyond Iraq'; Gary Kah, author of 'En Route to Global Occupation' and 'The New World Religion'; Chuck Missler, author of many books, including 'Alien Encounters' who will share on the UFO controversy; and Dr Larry Bates, author of 'The New Economic Disorder' who will teach believers how to protect their assets in a time of crisis.

Other new programs coming up on GOD TV this month include an End-Time series at 7.30pm on Fridays with Mike Bickle, Director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC), who will teach on how the Bride of Christ must prepare for the Bridegroom. Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries will also present a series of round-table discussions on the End-Times on Mondays at 11am.

Throughout the month, a wide range of topics will be covered on GOD TV - from the Second Coming to the Rapture, the Illuminati, the antichrist, mark of the beast as well as issues such as UFOs and Aliens, bird flue and the current economic meltdown.

"We are certainly living in the most exciting era of world history, as we await the return of our Lord Jesus," said Wendy Alec who is GOD TV's Director of Television. "Although nobody knows exactly when this will be, God has laid a tremendous sobriety on our hearts concerning the End-Times and these programs will allow our viewers to explore many different questions as to the times and seasons we are living in - enabling them to draw key insights from some of the greatest teachers on the subject."

The Latest Fronts In the War on Christmas

It's the Holiday season, so inevitably that means that right-wing legislators and activists are launching their annual effort to save Christmas from the forces of secularism. 

Via AU's Wall of Separation, we learn that Sen. Chris Buttars of Utah is sponsoring a resolution calling on everyone to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" and doing so, he insists, because he's "sick of the Christmas wars":

Sen. Chris Buttars wants Utah's Legislature to declare its opposition to the "war on Christmas."

The West Jordan Republican is sponsoring a resolution encouraging retailers to embrace Christmas in their promotions rather than the generic "holidays."

"It would encourage the use of 'Merry Christmas,'" Buttars said of the non-binding statement that is still being drafted. "I'm sick of the Christmas wars -- we're a Christian nation and ought to use the word."

Several fellow lawmakers he wouldn't yet name support his effort, added Buttars, who has a long history of championing the socially conservative agenda of the Utah Eagle Forum.

I too am sick of the Christmas wars, but it seems that the proper way of handling it is to let people decide for themselves what phrase they want to use instead of demanding that they say "Merry Christmas"  ... in fact, this is exactly the sort of effort that seems destined to simply prolong the "Christmas wars" Buttars is complaining about.

And speaking of the "war on Christmas," it looks Freedom From Religion Foundation is putting up their own holiday signs this year:

In the latest round of what's become almost a winter tradition — conflicts over religious symbols in public places — a group of atheists and agnostics have put up a sign in the state Capitol that says, in part: "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Freedom From Religion Foundation members put up the sign Monday, partly in response to a nearby Nativity scene. They also debuted a billboard in downtown Olympia that reads: "Reason's Greetings."

Of course, now people are unhappy about this:

[I]n 2006, Olympia real-estate agent Ron Wesselius saw a menorah displayed inside the Capitol and wanted to put up a Nativity scene. He was denied because he applied too late for the state to research the issues, according to the state Department of General Administration.

Wesselius, working with the Alliance Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit, the state settled, and he put up a Nativity scene in 2007. He put up another one Monday morning — a few steps from the Freedom From Religion Foundation's sign.

"I think people are losing track of what Christmas is," Wesselius said. "It's not about one religion against another religion."

Of the foundation's sign, Wesselius said: "I think they're being a little divisive there in their saying. But they have freedom of speech and equal access."

That's right - in 2006, Wesselius and the ADF sued the state of Washington because he saw a menorah in the Capitol and demanded to be allowed to put up a nativity scene and now he's complaining that other people are being "divisive" and pitting one religion against another and ultimately "losing track of what Christmas" is all about.

Syndicate content

Religion Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Wednesday 02/09/2011, 10:54am
After calling for conservative writer William Kristol to apologize for “demonizing Glenn Beck, who has done more to educate Americans about the unholy alliance between the secular left and the Islamic jihadists than anyone else,” David Horowitz is now railing against the purported “infiltration of Islamic Jihadist doctrines” in public schools. Horowitz was reacting to the latest right-wing outrage over a school district in Texas that “wanted students at selected schools to take Arabic language and culture classes as part of a federally funded grant,” a... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/08/2011, 6:47pm
Lynda Waddington @ Iowa Independent: Vander Plaats denies involvement in anti-gay seminars. Scott Keyes @ Think Progress: Tim Pawlenty Refuses To Say Whether Gays Should Be Allowed To Serve In The Military At All. Americablog: Gay CPAC attendee GOProud belittles Pawlenty over DADT stance. Julie Ingersoll @ Religion Dispatches: Barton: Founders Intended to Ban Abortion. Amanda Marcotte @ RH Reality Check: Why Give Lila Rose's Dishonesty Mainstream Media Attention? Ryan J. Reilly @ TPM: Peter King To Critics: 'Political Correctness' Won't Stop... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/08/2011, 6:47pm
Lynda Waddington @ Iowa Independent: Vander Plaats denies involvement in anti-gay seminars. Scott Keyes @ Think Progress: Tim Pawlenty Refuses To Say Whether Gays Should Be Allowed To Serve In The Military At All. Americablog: Gay CPAC attendee GOProud belittles Pawlenty over DADT stance. Julie Ingersoll @ Religion Dispatches: Barton: Founders Intended to Ban Abortion. Amanda Marcotte @ RH Reality Check: Why Give Lila Rose's Dishonesty Mainstream Media Attention? Ryan J. Reilly @ TPM: Peter King To Critics: 'Political Correctness' Won't Stop... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/08/2011, 1:16pm
Bryan Fischer is back with another history lesson for us all - this one on how the Native Americans deserved to lose control of North America because "the superstition, savagery and sexual immorality" made them "morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil." You see, there are three ways that control over land is established: settlement, purchase, and conquest.  And in the case of Native Americans, it turns out that they were just like the Canaanites who were so immoral that God decided that "the slop bucket was full, and it was time to empty... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 02/08/2011, 1:16pm
Bryan Fischer is back with another history lesson for us all - this one on how the Native Americans deserved to lose control of North America because "the superstition, savagery and sexual immorality" made them "morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil." You see, there are three ways that control over land is established: settlement, purchase, and conquest.  And in the case of Native Americans, it turns out that they were just like the Canaanites who were so immoral that God decided that "the slop bucket was full, and it was time to empty... MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 02/07/2011, 6:38pm
TPM: So What’s Ginni Thomas Up To Now? Alan Colmes: Michele Bachmann: I Take My First Breath In The Morning Thinking “Repeal Obamacare.” Religion Dispatches: Soft-Pedaling Submission: Bill Gothard Denies "Anti-Woman" Theology. Alvin McEwen: Bradlee Dean and Paul Cameron - When Disgustingly Vile Homophobes Meet. Texas Freedom Network: No Muslim Schools Allowed? AlterNet: Montanta Legislator Introduces Bill to Create Armed Paramilitary Groups. MORE
Brian Tashman, Monday 02/07/2011, 6:38pm
TPM: So What’s Ginni Thomas Up To Now? Alan Colmes: Michele Bachmann: I Take My First Breath In The Morning Thinking “Repeal Obamacare.” Religion Dispatches: Soft-Pedaling Submission: Bill Gothard Denies "Anti-Woman" Theology. Alvin McEwen: Bradlee Dean and Paul Cameron - When Disgustingly Vile Homophobes Meet. Texas Freedom Network: No Muslim Schools Allowed? AlterNet: Montanta Legislator Introduces Bill to Create Armed Paramilitary Groups. MORE