Archive for category Human Rights

The Godly Oppressors

Amidst the troubling and problematic trends in recent years has been the tendency of Christian conservatives to self-righteously declare themselves the victims and then support insanely discriminatory laws targeting gay people.

Witness, Kansas’ unfortunate drive to implement Jim Crow:

To put this simply, the Kansas House has just endorsed a comprehensive system of anti-gay discrimination. If it becomes law—which isn’t unlikely, given Republican control of the statehouse and governorship—it will yield a segregated world for gays and their allies, as they are forced to use businesses and other services that aren’t hostile to them.

When asked about the bill, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback toldThe Topeka Capital-Journal that “Americans have constitutional rights, among them the right to exercise their religious beliefs and the right for every human life to be treated with respect and dignity.” The question is whether he thinks this applies to gays.

Looking at this bill, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call it a close cousin—if not sibling—of Jim Crow (natch, for black gays and lesbians in the state, there’s little difference). Like its Southern predecessors, this proposal is meant to isolate and stigmatize a despised minority, under of the guise of some higher priority (“religious liberty”).

Scott Lemieux at The American Prospect has this to say about it:

“The sovereign,” as John Paul Stevens observed, “must govern impartially.” This bill is a direct shot at this basic principle of democratic governance. It is bad enough to permit private businesses to discriminate; to allow public officials to discriminate is even worse. As the Daily Beast‘s Jamelle Bouie puts it, “[a]mbulances can refuse to come to the home of a gay couple, park managers can deny them entry, state hospitals can turn them away, and public welfare agencies can decline to work with them.” Allowing state officials to deny services to same-sex couples is about as stark a designation of second-class citizenship as one can imagine short of bringing back George Wallace to deny gays and lesbians access to the University of Kansas.[snip]

The pretext for this rollback of civil rights is the protection of religious freedom. But the Kansas law makes clear how hollow and dangerous such arguments are. It’s worth noting here that we’re talking about secular businesses and state officials. Acting as individuals, people are free for religious (or any other reason) not to associate with same-sex couples or support same-sex marriage. But—whether motivated by religious belief or not—homophobic beliefs cannot trump the rights of people to use public accommodations on equal terms. These arguments were bad when they were used to oppose civil-rights legislation to protect African-Americans and women, and they’re no better in this context. For state officials to be permitted to deny services to citizens based on private religious beliefs is simply unconscionable.

Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly:

You don’t have to completely buy the Jim Crow analogy to understand that this legislation—a logical extension from the claims made for blanket exemptions for religious-based objections to laws in the Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby case on which the Supreme Court will hear arguments next month—is designed to carve out a separatist zone of immunity for people who are willing to say their hostility to homosexuality or to same-sex marriage is religiously motivated.  The fact that even public employees would share this immunity shows that it isn’t designed to protect a tiny group of wedding planners or cake-bakers from the horror of being expected to peddle their services to same-sex couples—the hypothetical on which much of the “religious liberty” argument is being pegged—but to sanction discrimination generally.

The bottom line – despite all the hue and cry about religious freedom – is that these laws exist for the sole purpose of humiliating, shaming, harming, and stigmatizing gay and lesbian persons.  The people supporting and passing them are emotional and moral infants, squawling at a world that terrifies them.

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Gay Folks Are Going to the chapel, gonna get married . . . IN UTAH!

Take a minute to scroll through the pictures in this article from the Deseret News – the photos of Matt Barraza and Tony Milner were taken in my home congregation, Holladay United Church of Christ.  Our pastor, Tom Nordberg, has been with us exactly two weeks and this is the first wedding he’s performed in our congregation.  A legal, same sex wedding in Utah in a church by an honest to God real live ordained minister.  I  never thought I’d see it.  But I was there watching it.  This thing really happened.

There’s a petition at Move On urging the governor to let the Judge’s ruling stand.  Please take a minute and sign it.

If you want to get married in Utah, do it now.  I’m hearing that some county clerk’s offices are open today – call and find out and get down there and get married!

 

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Utah’s First Gay Married Couple (updated)

 

Looks like the honor goes to:

Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson

“Our application for a marriage license was just accepted by the state of Utah,” Ferguson wrote on his Facebook wall.

Saw this on KSL a couple minutes ago:

Within hours, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed that, in light of the ruling, he saw no reason to prohibit Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We’ve advised Sherrie Swensen that she should proceed — as of right now … she should be processing those applications like she would of anyone else,” Gill said around 3 p.m. “As of right now, if somebody gets in line and applies, there is no prohibition against it as a matter of law right now.”

Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=28099570#Qsfmk0VPCiOWHtut.99

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Amendment 3

I’m stunned.

A federal judge in Utah Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

“The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. “Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”

And amazed:

“Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same- sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law,” the judge wrote. “The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.” Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=28099570#JEOfBdYmOobFv7r6.99

Apparently the judge didn’t stay the order which means . . . .

“A federal district court judge in Utah just issued a decision striking down Utah’s marriage ban on the grounds that it violates the fundamental right to marry and lacks even a rational basis. This is the first decision since Perry–and the first after Windsor–striking down a marriage ban under the federal constitution. The judge did not stay his decision, so same-sex couples in Utah are applying for marriage licenses now.”

I don’t think anybody saw this one coming.

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Are conservative Christians harmed by compliance with nondiscrimination laws?

Are conservative Christians harmed by compliance with nondiscrimination laws?   It’s a more complex question than it appears at first blush.

I’m glad I don’t have to adjudicate any of these cases.  Like people who want to ban books, conservative Christians who raise objections to non-discrimination laws as they apply to glbt persons are acting from a place of good intent, even if I disagree with their conclusions.  Book banners want to protect children from ideas they believe children aren’t ready to deal with; conservative Christians who object to complying with nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious freedom perceive themselves as the aggrieved party being asked to violate their conscience.

US law has long recognized the right of individuals to request exemptions from certain laws and practices based on questions of conscience and religious faith.  As I understand it, Quakers are not exempt military service, they are however exempt from participating as combatants.  A number of years ago, I helped a friend draft a statment requesting status as a conscientious objector and be granted exemption from combat duty (he was a veteran and member of the reserves at the time).  His statement was lengthy, thoughtful and carefully written; he was granted conscientious objector status and ultimately was not recalled to active duty.

US law has, also, long recognzied the right of individuals to be free from discrimination in the public square, which includes small businesses which are public accommodations.  Businesses are public accommodations, which means they are subject to generally applicable laws and those signs that many small businesses post that read “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” should have a huge asterisk that qualifies that statement.  You can’t legally refuse to serve someone because of their race, gender, religion, national origin and so on.  Increasingly, that list includes real or perceived sexual orientation.  To put it in simple terms, business owners have to make business decisions for business reasons not from animus toward a group of persons.

As more US cities, counties and states adopt nondiscrimination laws covering sexual and gender minorities, and as more states legalize same-sex marriage, I believe there are going to be more cases like that of Elane Photography and Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which small business owners seek exemption from nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious objections.

What happened in these cases is instructive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nelson Mandela Died Today

Nelson Mandela:

Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa, the civil rights activist would become the linchpin in South Africans’ move to end the country’s notorious apartheid regime. The impact of his efforts — to reconcile generosity with pragmatism and to find the common ground between humanity’s higher values and his own aspiration to power, as journalist John Carlin once described them — would ultimately reach well beyond South Africa’s borders, and earn him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend the book Mandela’s Way.

 

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Pope Francis: Don’t Believe ‘Trickle-Down Theories’

Pope Francis

h/t DSWright on Firedoglake

The most inspiring Pontiff since John Paul II has done it again. Pope Francis has issued a rigorous and comprehensive denunciation of trickle-down economics, the long-discredited theory that the best way to aid poor people is through policies that help the rich get richer.

Called his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) makes clear that Pope Francis regards modern capitalism and the political movement promoting it to be antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.

Among other things, Pope Francis wrote (emphasis added):

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

Apostolic exhortations like Evangelii Gaudium are basically calls to carry out existing Church teachings, so in many ways there’s nothing unique about the sentiments expressed in the document. Roman Catholics grew up on stories like Jesus’ admonition that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-26).

UPDATE: How To Use The Pope’s Agenda To Make The World More Equal

How do we ensure that the Pope’s shift in focus to inequality and the well-being of the poor becomes a focus of actual politics and not just a bunch of nice words that make us feel like our philosophical principles got a nod from the Big Guy?

UPDATE: Obama cites Pope Francis to attack income inequality and call for minimum wage increase

“The combined trends of increasing inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream,” Obama said.

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Civil Disobedience And The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Matt Damon gives Howard Zinn’s take on civil disobedience

Rocky Anderson talks about the Trans Pacific Partnership:

Update: More information:

Act Up!

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Everything Old Is New Again – Southern States Resisting Integration Again

Apparently, Southern Republicans governors have no shame.

John at Americablog has been following the story.

When the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act was struck down on June 26, 2013, the Pentagon ordered same-sex spouses to be treated the same as the spouses of heterosexual US service members.  The National Guards in the states mentioned above refused to issue ID cards to the spouses of gay service members, arguing that anti-”gay marriage” laws in the states forbade them from doing so.

These National Guard units are directly defying orders from the Secretary of Defense.  But it gets more interesting:

You see, there’s a little known fact that the National Guard, while split in its administration between the states and the federal government, tends to get the lion’s share of its funding from the feds.

Take Mississippi (please).  The Mississippi National Guard annual report for fiscal year 2011 shows that the state of Mississippi appropriated almost $7.8 million for the state National Guard.  In that same year, the federal government gave the Mississippi National Guard $679 million. In 2012, the figures were similar: $685 million from the feds, $7.2 million from the state of Mississippi.

In other words, Mississippi gets nearly 99% of the budget of its state National Guard from Secretary Hagel, the guy they’re now saying they don’t need.

The folks in South Carolina, who have never been on the right side of any civil issue in American history decided:

 . . . by telling the feds, in essence, that if they want blacks swimming in South Carolina pools, South Carolina will simply shut down the pools altogether, so no one can swim in them. South Carolina is now refusing to issue an ID to anyone, requiring all National Guard families, straight and gay, to go to federal facilities, which are not always nearby.  No word yet on whether South Carolina is going to balk at providing federal marriage benefits to gay couples.

The governor Oklahoma liked that approach so much, she took it a step further:

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced earlier this month that state-owned National Guard facilities will no longer allow any married couples to apply for spousal benefits, regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act means that servicemembers with same-sex spouses are now eligible for federal benefits. Fallin’s unusual tactic is designed to avoid having to recognize those couples, which she asserts would violate Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman . . .

Oklahoma is not alone in defying Hagel’s orders. The Texas Military Force acknowledged this week that it will not allow same-sex couples to apply for a housing allowance at state-run National Guard facilities, having already turned away at least one couple. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia have also refused to comply, but some states that previously had balked have begun complying, like West Virginia. A total of 29 states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, but most are complying with the federal recognition for purposes of the National Guard.

It’s pretty simple.  The Secretary of Defense has authority over the National Guard.  The Federal Governments funds the national guard.  The actions of these states is nothing more than hostility to gay and lesbian folk.

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Two Devastating Health Care Quotes

First from The Commonwealth Fund:

In 2013, more than one-third (37%) of U.S. adults went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when they were sick, or failed to fill prescriptions because of costs, compared with as few as 4 percent to 6 percent in the United Kingdom and Sweden.

And the second from JDI conservative Andrew Sullivan:

When a private sector system means you have ten times as many people failing to get basic treatment as in Britain’s uber-socialized NHS, you realize just how great the market failure is. I’m all for markets, but the facts seem to me to reveal that in healthcare, they are toxic to most people’s actual, you know, health. In what other area does socialism work so much better than capitalism? Isn’t that a first order question conservatives should address?.

The US healthcare system is a grotequely expensive disaster; plagued with inefficiencies, disconnected from the needs and wants of patients, distorted by massively misaligned priorities and goals, it consumes vast amounts of our national wealth without delivering corresponding benefits.  More and more, it seems to me that healthcare and defense are exemplars of American dysfunction.  Delivering sub-par outcomes in exchange for exorbitant amounts of money, driven by fear and a deep-seated mindset of scarcity, both healthcare and defense are expressions of American’s sense of vulnerability.  We overspend on defense to keep us safe against military and other threats and we overspend on healthcare in a frantic desire for wellness.  In both cases, our actions undermine our goals.

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I Don’t Trust Obamacare or the TPP

Even if I come out ahead at 61 – and doubt I’m going to -, I don’t like it, because it has come out that young people will be expected to pay for something they can NEVER afford – Hell; how are they going to feed their own children when our political system cuts their children’s food security a little-bit-at-a-time! A “health” system which is built on profit can never succeed because there’s too damn much money in it!

The same logic goes for war profiteering.

I think Tom Tomorrow goes a bit more lightly on Obamacare in his latest column, but I think it’s a masterpiece.

You may need to left-click on the cartoon to read it.

But also, note that Obama is working to keep secret a meeting at The Grand American Hotel in Salt Lake City tomorrow, (Tuesday November 19th, 2013), and all next week. It may weaken China, but I think we have the right to know what is going on, because it has the potential to greatly weaken America too. This treaty, called the “Trans Pacific Partnership” – TPP -, seems highly dangerous to everybody except huge corporations.

Let’s get down to the Grand American Hotel in Salt Lake City this week and try to find out what’s going on!

555 South Main Street. BE PEACEFUL! BE ROWDY! NO GUNS!

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Will I Be Next? Amnesty International Investigates Pakistan Drone Strikes

Will I Be Next?

I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?
–Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of US drone strike victim Mamana Bibi

“WILL I BE NEXT?” US DRONE STRIKES IN PAKISTAN

On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes. Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive any acknowledgment that it was the US that killed her, let alone justice or compensation for her death.

Earlier, on 6 July 2012, 18 male laborers, including at least one boy, were killed in a series of US drone strikes in the remote village of Zowi Sidgi. Missiles first struck a tent in which some men had gathered for an evening meal after a hard day’s work, and then struck those who came to help the injured from the first strike. Witnesses described a macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror, as US drones continued to hover overhead. The use of pilotless aircraft, commonly referred to as drones, for surveillance and so-called targeted killings by the USA has fast become one of the most controversial human rights issues in the world. In no place is this more apparent than in Pakistan.

Amnesty International has documented nine U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan from last year and this year. Their report, available online in PDF format, includes a discussion of so-called “signature strikes,” follow-up missile attacks launched against people rescuing the wounded from a drone strike, and other tactics. Must-read.

According to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns, “When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict.”

h/t Kevin Gosztola on FDL

UPDATE: Obama Administration Has Launched Drone Strikes Against AQAP Suspects Who Could’ve Been Captured

UPDATE: Translator at drone strike hearing moved nearly to tears by survivor testimony

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