Archive for category Religious Fundamentalism
The basic outline of this drama could have been predicted (and was predicted) months ago – someone objects to same-sex couples marrying; in their business or government position they refuse to issue marriage licenses or otherwise serve same-sex couples. A minor media brushfire occurs, a right wing legal organization leaps into the fray and throws gasoline on the fire. A court orders the person to issue said marriage licenses or provide said services. Person refuses, and on the advice of the legal organization starts talking about religious freedom. Court orders person to do their job. Person refuses. Right wing legal organization gives bad advice, hoping to create a martyr. Person goes to jail for contempt of court. The Religious Right goes up in flames.
The specific details were always up for grabs – there’s no reason it had to be Rowan County, Kentucky rather than Mobile, Alabama or Twin Falls, Idaho. The objector could have been a man not a woman, a judge not a county clerk or the owner of a business. That the objector would adhere to a form fundamentalist Christianity was a given, although the specific form doesn’t make much difference (Davis belongs to an Apostolic Christian Church). The actual nature of the objection could easily have been a cut and paste job – we were always going to hear screeching about religious freedom and how this poor person is being oppressed. Even the specifics of the punishment are largely unimportant – whether it was jail time or fines or an order to comply with nondiscrimination laws, the reaction was always going to be the same. Even the comparisons to Rosa Parks were inevitable as the religious right tries to coopt the luster of the Civil Rights movement.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis helpfully stepped into the fray. Her refusal to issue any and all marriage licenses, especially to same-sex couples, put her in the middle of the fight the religious right has wanted for the longest time. Read the rest of this entry »
but then we all already knew that, right?
Nicholas Kristof’s column this morning makes several shrewd observations:
TO appreciate the dumbing down of American politics, consider this: Conservative Republicans, indignant about abortion, are trying to destroy a government program that helps prevent 345,000 abortions a year.
In other words, Title X prevents an abortion about once every 90 seconds.
Family planning investments also offer hedge fund-like returns, for a condom or IUD can avert more than $12,000 in average Medicaid spending on a childbirth. Guttmacher calculates that every $1 invested in public family planning services saves $7 in public expenditures. This is a program that saves money as well as lives.
The paradox of conservative Republicans falling all over themselves to condemn Planned Parenthood for a practice that many Republicans voted to authorize while also threatening to defund and destroy a program that prevents hundreds of thousands of abortions perfectly exemplifies the self-defeating nature of conservative policy.
Mark Summer at Kos sums up the conservative obsession perfectly:
For them, abortion has never been an issue. It’s AN ISSUE. It’s not about babies, after all, it’s about (sotto voce) S-E-X. Any program that helps women with… women things, is something, something, somehow a Very Serious Threat that women should fail in their defined role as the guardians of virtue. After all, how many little girls out there are thinking right now “well, I would be a total sex-crazed slut if only there was someone standing by with federal funds to help me not catch chlamydia.” Se… (ahem) S-E-X should be scary. And is something that should be reserved to old male Congressmen who have the money to pay for it.
It seems to me there’s a deeper force at work. In Republican Gomorrah, Max Blumenthal described it as the culture of personal crisis. It should not be lost on us that conservative states have higher rates of unintended pregnancy and teen pregnancy than do progressive states, it should not be lost on us that divorce rates are higher in conservative religious Alabama than they are in liberal Massachusetts. Texas’ conservative, overtly religious political culture produces policies which reliably produce higher rates of teen pregnancy, unintended pregnancy and divorce which creates the feedback loops that drives Texas’ conservative, overtly religious political culture. Opposition to abortion, and more broadly any honesty about sexuality, is not driven by rational concerns and doesn’t connect to rational policies. When faced with an angry constituency wanting to know why they haven’t done anything about Roe v. Wade, conservative Republicans have no rational policy response so they’ve lashed out at a government policy that is about sex and therefore must somehow alleviate the anger. Then, when the policy response fails, conservatives will, no doubt, decry the culture of personal crisis their policies have created and deepened. It’s a great racket.
Protest against Saudi air strikes, March 26 in Sanaa
The news from Yemen is that a humanitarian disaster is rapidly overtaking the Arab world’s poorest country, which the USA helped to destabilize with drone strikes against Islamic militants. The Saudis are poised to finish the job, committing war crimes with U.S. – made weapon systems.
“It is a terrible situation and it is moving so fast,” Julien Harneis, the Yemen representative of the United Nations Children Fund, told The Associated Press. “We are heading toward a humanitarian disaster.”
…In the southern city of Aden, medical supplies are running out. Doctors Without Borders, which operates in the city, said it has received over 500 wounded, including more than 110 on the first day of airstrikes. UNICEF is giving out midwife kits to treat injured civilians because of lack of supplies.
…In al-Houta, a city north of Aden, people are fleeing fighting to nearby villages for safety and to find goods and produce, said 28-year old resident Ahmed Rageh. The local gas station has been closed for nearly three weeks. “It is a disastrous situation. Somalia is now in a better shape than us,” he said.
It’s heartbreaking to see catastrophe overtake a beautiful country with such a rich history and friendly people. I lived there for two years in the early 1990s, traveled to visit ancient ruins and poor but architecturally fascinating villages. There was virtually no crime. But many problems were waiting to surface, particularly the disenfranchisement of Shiites and the uneasy relationship with Saudi Arabia – which has invaded Yemen in the past.
The blogosphere has been chuckling – okay laughing uproariously – at Bryan Fischer, spokesperson for the American Family Association. Fischer, you see, recently declared “proof” that America is a Christian nation because . . . bacon.
“You want one single item of proof that America is a Christian nation and not a Jewish nation and not an Islamic nation?” he asked. “One single bit of proof is all you need: we freely allow restaurants and grocery stores to sell and to serve bacon. That can only happen in a Christian country.” “So the sheer fact that we freely allow the sale and consumption of bacon,” he continued, “is absolute proof that we are, in fact, a Christian nation”
The part that fascinates me is that Fischer offered this bon mot as if it were an actual argument. I can’t help but wonder – are there conservative Christians out there for whom this argument is persuasive?
The revelation that a home for unwed mothers and their children was home to an unmarked grave holding the remains of 800 infants and children.
The registrar came back with a list of 796 children. “I could not believe it. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset,” says Corless. “There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961.”
It very often seems that whenever conservative Republicans talk about women and anything to do with sexuality, they manage to be oafish and offensive. Mike Huckabee gives us our latest entrant into the hall of shame.
In an effort to defend Huckabee, the folks at the American Family Association added context, because the missing context was the problem, right?
Huckabee’s statement didn’t start off that bad:
“Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, capable of doing anything that anyone else can do. Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them; it’s a war for them.”
So far so good, right? But then his next sentence was:
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”
There is no coherent connection between the two ideas – how do you move from “women are capable” to “they can’t control their libidos”?
Now, as Paul Waldman pointed out:
Huckabee’s position is that saying “Democrats are treating women like dirty sluts by saying they should have access to birth control!” is very, very different from just saying women are dirty sluts. He feels he’s been falsely accused of saying the latter, when he was really just saying the former. I’m sure that he thinks that if women just understood the full context of his statement, they’d realize he respects and honors them. What he doesn’t get is that women actually want and need contraception, and 99 percent of women who have had sex have used some form of contraception at some point in their lives. So when he tells them that contraception is for sluts, what they hear isn’t “Because I care for you, I don’t want you to become a slut,” what they hear is, “You’re a slut.”
Waldman’s insight only takes us so far, though. Huckabee’s statement sets up two opposite positions – birth control and self control. In his statement, Huckabee assumes the need for birth control is caused by lack of self control. He is saying that only sluts who can’t conrol themselves need birth control. And since 99% of American woman use birth control, he’s saying almost every American woman is a slut.
There’s not a positive spin on that statement.
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 »