Archive for category Religious Fundamentalism

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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Court Rules Colorado Bakery Broke the Law by Refusing to Serve Gay Customers

The case of the Masterpiece Bakery in Colorado is one of a number of cases in which small business owners refuse to do business with gay couples on the basis of the owner’s religious objections to gay people doing things like getting married and forming long term commitments to one another.

Friday’s order from administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer says Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver will face fines if it continues to turn away gay couples who want to buy cakes for their wedding celebrations.

It started out simply enough:

In July of 2012, the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple who were planning to celebrate with friends and family the marriage they had received in Massachusetts. The couple, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, filed a complaint, and the Colorado Attorney General proceeded to do the same, and Friday, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer ruled against Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery.

The ACLU’s argument is very straightforward:

“While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one’s religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “No one is asking Masterpiece’s owner to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple.”

In these cases, the courts, businesses and individuals are struggling to distinguish between religious and commercial activity.

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Homeschool Apostates – great title and a scary article

The American Prospect has a lengthy and somewhat scary article about homeschooling.  Much of it is quotable and it’s a fascinating look inside America’s Christian subculture.

As of October, Homeschoolers Anonymous had published nearly 200 personal accounts and attracted more than 600,000 page views. For those outside the homeschooling movement, and for many inside it, the stories are revelatory and often shocking. The milder ones detail the haphazard education received from parents who, with little state oversight, prioritize obedience and religious training over learning. Some focus on women living under strict patriarchal regimes. Others chronicle appalling abuse that lasted for years.

It’s well worth a read.


The Republican Base is the Identified Patient in our National Family System

The American right has transformed from conservative to reactionary to revanchist in an incredibly short period of time.  Today’s Republican base voters feel a toxic mix of anger, frustration, and isolation.  The general perception of America outside their communities is almost entirely negative.  They are keenly aware of themselves as the last holdouts against a rising tide of racial pluralism and cultural tolerance.  The forces at work are complex, but at the same they are the same enemies liberalism has always opposed – the forces of social order which presume that some people are ‘more equal’ than others.  Today’s Republican party has been transformed from a political party to a fundamentalist movement with all that implies about in group and out group dynamics; organized around the ideas of Constitutional purity, American exceptionalism, and traditional culture, this political fundamentalism movement is motivated by fear, anger and loss.

On October 3, Democracy Corps published Inside the GOP, their findings from a series of focus group discussions with Republicans.  They identified the GOP’s three key constituencies – evangelicals, Tea Partiers and moderates and held focus groups in various cities around the country. The memo as a whole makes for depressing reading – it describes a group of Americans who see themselves as socially, culturally and political isolated, a faithful remnant fighting to restore the America they understand and value against a devious and largely victorious enemy.  The average member of the Republican base feels besieged, angry and frustrated.  Their sense of isolation within contemporary culture cannot be overstated.  Tellingly, the members of the focus groups reported that the focus group time was a unique experience of being around like-minded people: Read the rest of this entry »

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The American Religious Right is Aiding and Abetting Spread of Anti-gay Attitudes

At Americablog, Becca Morn documents the ways in which the American religious right is aiding and abetting the spread of anti-gay attitudes around the world.  The strategy is one with which American activists are familiar – create and publish a scientifically questionable study, but market it as scientifically valid (or just distort legitimate research), spread it far and wide and sit back and wait. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Fine Line Between Completely Nuts and Deeply Conservative Keeps Getting Harder to Distinguish

Educators in Kentucky have rolled out a new set of science standards.

Nearly two dozen parents, teachers, scientists and advocacy groups commented at the state Department of Education hearing on the Next Generation Science Standards. The broad set of guidelines will revamp content in grades K-12 and help meet requirements from a 2009 law that called for improving education.

“Students in the commonwealth both need and deserve 21st-century science education grounded in inquiry, rich in content and internationally benchmarked,” said Blaine Ferrell, a representative from the Kentucky Academy of Sciences, a science advocacy group that endorses the standards.

Seems reasonable right? Read the rest of this entry »


As Republicans Actively Sabotage the Government, America Suffers

Jonathan Chait summed it up pretty accurately:

Spectacles like this have turned into a regular feature of life in the Republican House. The party leadership draws up a bill that’s far too right-wing to ever become law, but it fails in the House because it isn’t right-wing enough. Sometimes, as with the attempts to repeal Obamacare, the failures don’t matter much, but in other instances the inability to pass legislation poses horrifying dangers. The chaos and dysfunction have set in so deeply that Washington now lurches from crisis to crisis, and once-dull, keep-the-lights-on rituals of government procedure are transformed into white-knuckle dramas that threaten national or even global catastrophe.

The Republican Party has spent 30 years careering ever more deeply into ideological extremism, but one of the novel developments of the Obama years is its embrace of procedural extremism. The Republican fringe has evolved from being politically shrewd proponents of radical policy changes to a gang of saboteurs who would rather stop government from functioning at all. In this sense, their historical precedents are not so much the Gingrich revolutionaries, or even their tea-party selves of a few years ago; the movement is more like the radical left of the sixties, had it occupied a position of power in Congress. And so the terms we traditionally use to scold bad Congresses—partisanship, obstruction, gridlock—don’t come close to describing this situation. The hard right’s extremism has bent back upon itself, leaving an inscrutable void of paranoia and formless rage and twisting the Republican Party into a band of anarchists.[snip]

The rational way to view these events is that Republicans have marginalized themselves. But the hard-liners see it differently. In their minds, every bill that passes is a betrayal by their leaders. They know that letting Democrats carry bills through the House has been the leadership’s desperate recourse to avoid total chaos, and since chaos is their leverage, they are now working feverishly to seal off that escape route. This year, an increasing proportion of conservative media is given over to conservative activists’ extracting pledges from Republican leaders not to negotiate with Democrats. In the wake of the tax-cut deal, Republican leaders in both houses had to pledge that they would not engage in any—to quote the ubiquitous buzzword—“backroom deals.” Since all deals get made in back rooms (there is no such thing as a front room, and leaders in Western cultures like the United States habitually transact their business in rooms), this means no negotiation at all.

The Republicans in Congress are fully prepared to engage in any and every extreme tactic they can imagine.  Their goal is simple: sabotage government. Read the rest of this entry »


Harvey Fierstein Has the Last Word on Orson Scott Card and His Homophobia

With Ender’s Game coming to a movie theatre near you, there’s been controversy about author Orson Scott Card’s homophobia in the past.  Card issued a pathetic plea for “tolerance” of his views.

Harvey Fierstein’s response may be the last word:

 I think that you can have any opinion you want, but at least be willing to take the consequences of your opinion. It’s like, “Well, I hope that people will be more understanding,” or what did he say? “More tolerant of my views.” The quotes that got me about him weren’t against gay marriage — he wanted homosexuality criminalized in the United States. That’s what he called for. You want me to be tolerant of you wanting to criminalize homosexuality? Fuck you on your grave, you piece of shit.


Is Detente Between the GLBT Community and the Religious Right Possible?

The Religious Right isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Since the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions, right wing commentators have gone in two distinct directions – some commentators have doubled down on their anti-gay rhetoric, while other commentators have plead for “tolerance” for their views about marriage.  That second group is essentially asking for detente – “you won so be nice to us.”

Is detente between the gay community and the religious right even possible?

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Mind Your Own Business Act

I love the fact that Alan Grayson was able to get back into congress along with Elizabeth Warren. NOW when I get the old, “they’re all the same” refrain, I can say, “well not exactly”.

Alan names his amendment to H.R. 1960 the, “The Mind Your Own Business Act”. When was the last time you heard somebody in congress come up with a plan that didn’t have an Orwellian name? Republicans are always so proud of people on their side who just come right out and say what they think. It’s usually crazy as hell, but they say it anyway. Alan shoots from the hip too, but it sparks something in your brain that says: this really makes sense. Also, for years, Republicans were prohibited from disagreeing with anything a Republican in the hierarchy said. Grayson can say he disagrees with Obama’s stance, because he’s a Democrat. That’s my hope.

MSNBC is supposed to be “the liberal channel”, so why is the host of this segment trying to “get something” on Grayson for insinuating the Nazi’s would have loved to have a “Total Information Awareness” type of system that is going in to full gear, very soon. Grayson answers a question with a question, but it’s a good one, which the host, basically, answers by saying, ‘I’m the one asking the questions here’.

The question Grayson asks is,

How do you feel about the fact that the Government is keeping a record of every single phone call that you make?

I’m totally perplexed at the media coverage Edward Snowden is getting at this late date. He’s not the only whistle-blower on this matter. We have known for many years the government had planned to collect, and has been collecting as much information about every one of us as they could. Now that they are close to having the ability to get EVERYTHING, we get polls that tell us Americans WANT to have all their private information collected to…


Keep us safe.

If the government is serious about keeping me safe, they’d stop spending so much money on secret surveillance, prisons and war. What I really need to keep me “safe” is single payer healthcare and “food security”.

I think Grayson’s best quote in the video is this:

Martin, you are completely missing the point. The point is that we’re taking measures that are not correlated in any sense with our safety, and even if they were it would be beneath our dignity as human beings. That’s what this is all about. All right, listen. You could always make people safer by taking extreme measures. If, for instance, we lowered the speed limit to 10 miles per hour, people would be safer. If we outlawed knives and forks, people would be safer. If we made everybody fly on the airlines naked, people would be safer. None of those things corresponds to my sense of human dignity, and I think I’m not the only one who feels that way….

If you’d like to support congressman Grayson’s amendment, you can sign up here.


Enough with the crybaby christians

A professor in Tennesee gave her class an optional, extra credit assignment:

 Students claim they were required to wear a rainbow ribbon and make public statements in support of gay rights. They were then assigned to write a paper about the reactions they got from other people.[snip]

But Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project, a friend of the professor, said the lawyer’s claims are untrue. He said the assignment was voluntary and is commonly used in psychology classes.

It’s designed to help students gain empathy for gays and lesbians, according to a teaching guide for the assignment, called “Promoting Increased Understanding of Sexual Diversity through Experience Learning.” That guide says that the assignment should be voluntary.

How do we know the assignment was voluntary?  A student who took the class a few years ago said so:

But wearing the ribbon was a voluntary, extra-credit assignment, Vernon said. He did not participate and suffered no consequences.

“It did not affect my grade,” he said. “It did make for an uncomfortable situation.”

Of course this relatively ordinary and optional assignment has got a bunch of conservative Christian panties in a twist.  Conservative Christians are convinced the professor’s assignment is an attack on their faith and they’re claiming to be victims of religious discrimination.

I am so tired of these crybaby Christians who think not getting their way in absolutely everything is the same as being discriminated against.

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Idaho Still Making Utah Look Good by Comparison

I’d like to thank Sheriff Ben Wolfinger for his role in making Utah look much smarter and much less nutty than Idaho.  Sheriff Wolfinger is unhappy with the decision by BSA to permit openly gay scouts.

The Kootenai County Sheriff said Friday that he is compelled to drop the department’s Boy Scouts of America charter because the organization is promoting a lifestyle that is against state law.

“It would be inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to sponsor an organization that is promoting a lifestyle that is in violation of state law,” Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said.

Sodomy is against the law in Idaho, he added.

Except it’s not:

Idaho’s sodomy law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2003, as a result of the Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, No. 02-102 (U.S. June 26, 2003). Idaho sodomy law applied to both heterosexual and same-sex partners as a “crime against nature,” punishable by imprisonment in state prison for not less than five years.Idaho Code §§ 18-6605 (2001); 18-6606 (2001). The sodomy law did not apply to married heterosexual couples. The Idaho Court of Appeals in Idaho v. Holden, 890 P.2d 341 (Idaho Ct. App. 1995), held that “Idaho’s statute prohibiting the infamous crime against nature may not be constitutionally enforced to prohibit private consensual marital conduct.”

So the Sheriff doesn’t know the law he’s supposed to enforce.  And we also need to have a discussion with him about his bigotry.  (Thanks to John at Americablog for catching this one.)

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