Last Leper in the Colony

I hope I can be forgiven for being a little apprehensive when a friend or an acquaintance who is not an author asks me to read a book that he has written. But ‘Last Leper in the Colony’, by Wynne LeGrow, MD is clear and engaging, and an important read for anyone interested in religion and politics. Wynne has a knack for describing the ironic and an honest way of describing his own fears and shortcomings that will warm the reader to him and keep the reader looking forward to the next page. No matter what your faith or how strong your convictions are, the influence of religion on politics despite the founding fathers’ efforts to keep them separate, is an important topic that should not be ignored.

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Of Overgrown Negroes and Gay Weddings

“These [Southern whites] are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes.”

The above quote is what President Eisenhower said to Chief Justice Earl Warren at a White House dinner in 1954 (copied here from Digital History).

In theory, Eisenhower wasn’t against equal rights. He just empathized with Whites who didn’t want to get too close to Blacks because they felt that Black people where inherently dirty.

Those who support a business owner’s rights to selectively refuse certain services to gay people while agreeing with his or her obligation to serve gays as long as they don’t have to get up close and personal are reflecting Eisenhower’s bigotry.

It’s not about religion. There is no biblical distinction between serving pizza to gay people and catering their wedding. If your not killing them, you’re not following Leviticus. That’s a good thing, by the way.

It’s about cooties. There are thousands of ways to disobey God’s law (here’s 10) and many of us do so on a regular basis without being discriminated against by local merchants. But like the good ole Southerners concerned about their daughters sitting next to Black people, some people find the idea of being too close to gayness revolting. That’s not faith. That’s bigotry.

Update 2015/04/07. I also posted this on DailyKos, and commenter Goosrock wrote

Eisenhower Federalized the National Guard to force public school integration in Arkansas.

Part of the theory of democracy is that we don’t need all of our leaders to be messiahs, we can accept flawed ones who think all kinds of great people are icky so long as they govern justly.

States are nullifying federal law in a number of types around the country and will be doing more of it this year and next, but there is very little chance that President Obama will take as bold a step for the peoples’ rights as the bigot Mr. Eisenhower did.

While I don’t share Gooserock’s view about Obama, by mentioning Eisenhower only in the negative, I gave the impression that I don’t respect who he was. But he was a bold leader who held the nation together during difficult times, and there is much to admire him for.

Yes, Phil Robertson Said Atheists Lack Morals

Phil Robertson told a horror story about a family of atheists getting raped and tortured. Maybe to him it wasn’t a horror story. As the criminals brutalize the family, they taunt the man of the house about his lack of faith, saying that since there is no God, what they’re doing is fine and there will be no retribution. Eventually the man of the house realizes that “Something about this just ain’t right”

That revelation prompted John Nolte, at Breitbart, to cry “Foul” at any of us who claim Robertson said atheists have no moral compass.

Actually, if you read what Robertson actually says, he makes clear that atheists do in fact know the difference between good and evil and right and wrong.

Nolte is wrong. The only thing Nolte got right is that Robertson didn’t say the criminals were atheists. He said the victims were.

Although history tells us that Christians are capable of vicious crimes, I don’t think Phil Robertson would tell a story about Christian rapists, sadists, and murderers. More likely, Robertson’s criminals are people who might have been held back by faith from performing horrible acts, but decided the atheists must be right. Even as they taunt the atheist for not believing in God, they must agree with him, or else they wouldn’t commit their atrocities. Thus, according to Robertson, at least some atheists have no moral compass.

As far as the victims go, Robertson doesn’t make it “clear that atheists do in fact know the difference between good and evil and right and wrong”. Robertson’s story only makes it clear that he believes an atheist can recognize a horrible wrong when it’s being perpetrated on him and his family. That’s not much of a moral compass.

Atheists have every right to find Phil Robertson’s comments outrageous and insulting just like they have a right to wonder how much Robertson enjoyed weaving a tale of horrific brutal atrocities visited upon those with whom he disagrees.

Christian Heritage and Legislative Authority

Despite all of the memes on Facebook about how your boss’s religion trumps your personal rights, the Hobby Lobby ruling isn’t so much about bosses, employees, or even religion as it is about the legislative authority of Christians and those of Christian heritage pretending to be Christian. To illustrate that fact, Huffington Post ran a farcical article listing different activities, such as public sex and the use of hallucinogens, that could happen now that we abide by laws “a la carte”. But it’s hard to imagine anything on that list coming to pass unless well connected Christian conservatives claim that it must pass lest their Christianity be overburdened. And it can’t be just any Christians. The Huffpo article also mentions unpasteurized milk, the distribution of which the Amish have not been successful in legalizing despite it being against their beliefs to withhold from others food that they consume themselves.

The owners of Hobby Lobby like to present the appearance of towing the right wing Christian line, but their hypocrisy, as reported by Mother Jones, proves that it’s all for show. In addition to investing in companies that violate their fake principals, Hobby Lobby also sells tons of cheap trinkets imported from China, and doing business with China is no way to keep your hands clean of indirectly supporting non-Christian practices.

Based on Hobby Lobby’s non-Christian dealings and the fact that nobody from Hobby Lobby’s owning family would ever be forced to directly purchase the products that they object to, I don’t believe that anybody at Hobby Lobby felt that God would have been angry at them for violating his commandments. I believe that they objected to being told what to do by a president who doesn’t show due reverence to their Christian heritage.

Rallying behind the cross isn’t about religion, except for a few true-believers who have been duped into thinking that Christianity is compatible with the right wing agenda. Rallying behind the cross is about heritage, and what we’ve seen, more than once now, is that sometimes heritage is more important then merit when it comes to being heard by this Supreme Court.

Christian Exceptionalism

Recently, I commented on a ThinkProgress article about Hobby Lobby

If you live in this country, you indirectly support acts that are against your beliefs. Sailors are served pork for breakfast, paid for with our tax dollars. Jews, Muslims, and religious vegetarians don’t get a discount on their taxes because they don’t believe in the slaughter of pigs. Every reasonable effort has been made to separate Christian fundamentalist employers from the act of providing contraception, but they’re still not happy. Their argument is a lie. It’s not really about religious beliefs. It’s about keeping the Christian Right on a pedestal where they can have influence over U.S. law that others don’t have. Anything that threatens their special status is what they call discrimination.

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Pacifists and moral vegetarians have a better argument about being forced to pay for acts that they find reprehensible, but our government does not exempt them from paying for the slaughter of animals or the bombing of civilians. There is precedent for denying certain religious exemptions and passing others, but it’s murky. The Volokh Conspiracy has a “Guide for the Confused which basically says the court has to balance the burden that a law places on a person who feels that his religious rights are violated by it, and the compelling interest that the government has in enforcing it. And the government’s compelling interest usually wins.

To say that Hobby Lobby is burdened by the requirement to provide an insurance plan that includes contraceptive coverage is a far stretch. Unlike what someone who replied to my ThinkProgress comment wrote, this is not like forcing a Jew or a Muslim to buy pork. It would more like forcing employers of all faiths to provide meal vouchers. If such a law was passed, could you imagine a Jewish or Islamic employer being allowed to provide a special voucher that could only be used for Kosher or Halal food? Of course not. And not out of disrespect for the Jewish or Islamic faith, but simply out of reason. The employer is not being forced to break his own commandments any more than he is by providing a salary that his employees could spend on all kinds of sinful products and services.

To suggest that Hobby Lobby is unduly burdened is to suggest that the test for burdening Christians is different than the test for burdening non-Christians. It would also suggest that a corporation has religion, but that’s a whole other flaw in the argument. We have already gone too far in catering to religious organizations who feel that Christians are unduly burdened whenever other people aren’t forced to accommodate their beliefs. This is not about free exercise. This is about placing the Christian right above the law.

Texas

My wife shared this facebook update from Steve Marmel. If you’re not going to read the whole thing, at least skip down to the paragraph which begins “The senate was recalled 90 minutes after …”, to get a sense of how corrupt the Texas legislature is, while keeping in mind that Texas is one of the states which is now free to supress votes, since it was deemed that singling out corrupt governments for “heavy requirements” is unfair.

REALLY GOOD STATUS UPDATE POST ON TEXAS SB% DEBACLE…

Even though I don’t know exactly where it came from. It’s a repost of a repost from someone named Arséne DeLay.

Enjoy:

Last night something very important happened down in Texas, something that if you weren’t following as it happened, you’re probably not going to hear the whole truth about. I was one of the people who was in the right place to watch, and so I’m now going to try to pass on the word as best I can. I’m tagging some of you at the bottom, people who I think should read this. Apologies for anyone who finds this disruptive.

The Texas senate voted yesterday on an bill that essentially would have closed nearly every abortion clinic in the state. To try to counter the bill (which was heavily supported by the Republican majority, senator Wendy Davis attempted a one-woman day-long filibuster, during which time she spoke on the subject while going without food, water, bathroom breaks or being allowed to sit down or even lean on her table for support. She lasted nearly eleven hours before being ruled off topic on a technicality. A second female senator then stepped up and tried to continue the filibuster by asking for salient points to be repeated to her, as she missed part of the session that day to attend her father’s funeral.

But here’s where things get interesting. With fifteen minutes before the midnight deadline, the lieutenant governor ordered the senate to proceed, and actually had the democrats’ microphones cut off. The spectators in the assembly responded by cheering, chanting and generally causing a ruckus, in order to drown out attempts at a vote. The midnight deadline passed without a vote being taken, but the chair held a vote after midnight, as the spectators were forced out of the assembly. During all of this, THERE WAS NO COVERAGE on MSNBC, CNN or any other major news network, with the only coverage coming from a livestream set up by the Teas Tribune.

At 12:15, THW ASSOCIATED PRESS RAN A STORY SAYING THE BILL HAD PASSED, WHICH CBS PICKED UP. This was based on a SOLE SOURCE, which the AP later admitted was A REPUBLICAN SENATOR. Meanwhile in the chambers, the senators stood around, both sides confused if the vote had even happened, if they had even voted on the correct issue. The chair had left with the lieutenant governor without ending the session. The Tribune’s FEED WAS CUT at 12:20 with 70,000 PEOPLE WATCHING. CNN AT THIS POINT WAS TALKING ABOUT THE DELICIOUSNESS OF MUFFINS.

Outside in the halls of the senate building, thousands of people were packed wall to wall, chanting “shame, shame”, while thousands more were outside. State police had formed a barricade around the entrance hall, and were making sporadic arrests (50 or so by night’s end) and confiscating cameras. In the thick of it was a guy named Christopher Dido, who used his CELL PHONE AND A LIVE STREAM to report on what was happening. He was THE ONLY JOURNALIST IN AMERICA who was filming at the senate, with as many as 30,000 people watching the stream at one time, and OVER 200,000 VIEWERS BY NIGHT’S END. He did this while the state police surrounded the protesters in the building, some of them with nightsticks drawn. The police at this time refused to let through food or water that people tried to send in, instead eating and drinking it themselves. They also barricaded access to vending machines and water fountains within the building, and were said to have blocked off access to the washrooms for at least a period of time. Meanwhile, journalists still inside the chambers tweeted out news updates, which were disseminated and retweeted by people like Matt Fraction, Felicia Day and Will Wheaton, reaching an audience that would otherwise have probably not seen or heard what happened next.

 

The senate was recalled 90 minutes after its midnight end point, to determine whether or not the vote was valid- behind closed doors with no microphones, and only the Senate’s own muted camera. Then something disturbing happened. The senate website carries the official record of the caucus. It listed the vote as happening past midnight, on June 26th. Until suddenly it didn’t. THE DATE WAS QUIETLY MANUALLY CHANGED TO 6/25, THE MINUTES ALTERED TO SAY THE VOTE HAPPENED AT 11:59, despite almost 200,00 people watching live who saw differently. Suddenly twitter and other social media sites blew up with before-and-after screen shots. Inside the closed sessions, the democrats were made aware of the alterations and brought them up- without social media, almost no one would have known, and never in time. Ultimately, based on the fraudulent alterations, the GOP conceded defeat, admitting the vote had taken place at 12:03, and declaring the bill to be dead. When this happened, the AP and CBS said the vote was overturned, never admitting to shoddy journalism. CNN ignored the story until this morning, because muffins take priority.

Yesterday, I witnessed women’s rights under fire, a crippled legal system that didn’t represent its people, a corrupt government body attempting to commit a crime in front of hundreds of thousands of witnesses, and THE COMPLETE FAILURE OF THE MAIN STREAM MEDIA. I also witnessed a woman performing a nearly superhuman act to do what was right, the power of the people making themselves heard both in person and online, and the extraordinary value of one young man with a cellphone making sure people saw and heard the truth about what was going on.

ANYONE READING THE PAPERS OR WATCHING NETWORK NEWS TODAY WON’T GET THE FULL STORY. Hopefully enough people saw it unfold live, that the lessons from last night won’t be forgotten.

They’re Trying to Spoil my Happy

I’m trying to hold on to the joyous feeling I had this morning but the negative reactions to DOMA that I’ve been reading and hearing recently made me go from wanting to hug a gay guy to wanting to beat the crap out of a bigot with an iron pipe.

Justice Scalia was the first jackass to attack my good mood. Not for dissenting, but for being such an outstanding hypocrite about it. From TPM: “24 Hours After Striking Voting Rights, Scalia Cries Out For Judicial Restraint

It’s worth reading, rather then just skimming, to realize the depth of Justice Scalia’s hypocrisy decrying the Supreme Court’s power to block the will of Congress. As TPM points out, regarding health care, Scalia was

prepared to repeal in its entirety a duly passed piece of legislation on the basis that it exceeded Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause and other provisions of the Constitution. This is so even though nearly 200 years of precedent establish that there is “no sort of trade” that Congress cannot regulate and that lawmakers have “full power” over interstate commerce.

and, about gutting the Voting Rights Act, TPM continues, “Just Yesterday”, Justice Scalia and and four others

had no trouble finding that a 50-year-old statute reauthorized less than a decade ago with overwhelming support should be invalidated with the wave of their wands.

While it seems silly to be surprised by Scalia’s hypocrisy, I still sometimes am. Just like I occasionally have to say, “Wow, it’s cold!” on an not-record-breaking Winter day, I also occasionally have to say “Wow, what a hypocrite!” after a typical action by Justice Scalia.

Moving from hypocritical to stupid, Rand Paul thinks this will open the door to marriage between humans and non-humans. I’m so fucking fed up with idiots comparing homosexuality to bestiality. The key difference is, “Consenting Adults”. You know what will happen long before liberals push for human-non-human marriages? Wingnuts like Paul pushing for marriages to the unborn. It’s the perfect marriage (pun intended) between idea of “personhood” and the mostly red-state tradition of marrying young.

As far as polygamy goes, I can accept the government saying “Pick one”, for the sake of record keeping and keeping a handle on beneficiaries. But other than trying to prevent people from bilking the government, I have no problem with somebody else’s polygamy. But thats just my opinion. In reality, striking down DOMA doesn’t open the door to polygamy any more than signing DOMA did. Think about it. It was DOMA that instructed the federal government to define marriage according to the Bible, and it’s the Bible, not gay rights activists, which supports polygamy.

Wonkette has more on the stupid.

The Wonkette link above also takes us to the violent:

Personally, while I think “I predict” is a matter of free speech, “Go get em” is incitement. Somebody should arrest that piece of shit.

All this over a ruling which doesn’t mean as much as a lot of people may think. This has done almost nothing, for example, for gay couples in Virginia.

But still, this ruling is a big step in the right direction (that’s the left direction, actually) and I’m not going to let the idiots and bigots spoil the moment. And I do have an iron pipe handy if I need it.

In Fact, We Do Force Vegetarians to Purchase Hamburgers

There’s a meme going around, apparently originating from a commercial sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, as reported by LifeSiteNews:

“You wouldn’t force an atheist to buy a Bible,” says a woman in the opening shot of the ad. “It’s that simple.”

“You wouldn’t force a vegetarian to buy you a hamburger,” adds another. “It’s that simple.”

The ad concludes: “Why, then, would you ask a Catholic employer to purchase your birth control?

This meme is a completely false analogy and represents the shallow one-step thinking which is driving masses of low-information voters.

We do force vegetarians to purchase hamburgers. I have personally eaten hamburgers purchased with taxpayer dollars. Some of those taxpayers were vegetarians. I have also sought council from chaplains paid for by taxpayers and I’ve seen bibles purchased with taxpayer dollars. They’re in the federal supply system. Some of those taxpayers who paid for those bibles were atheists.

When you hear the word “simple” in a discussion about a controversial issue, chances are you’re about to hear a misleading statement thought up by a manipulator to sway people who are too stupid or mentally lazy to think critically about what they hear.

This “hamburger” meme sounds good until you think about it, or spend a few minutes with Google. It’s as false as other right wing analogies, like those which compare running a government to running a business, or those that equate respecting the rights of non-Christians with enforcing Sharia law. They’re all just nonsense.

We force vegetarians to buy hamburgers and we force atheists to purchase bibles because doing so meets the needs of the men and women who have signed up to serve their country far away from home. The Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis doesn’t realize that we do those things and clearly wouldn’t support doing so if they did. It’s simple, the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis doesn’t support the troops.

A moron or a liar, but certainly a racist, plays to a cheering crowd.

A friend posted on facebook a link to Hank Williams Jr. bashes Obama at Iowa State Fair, and added,

“We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him!” (and the crowd goes wild with applaud)

Hank Williams Jr can’t seem to get it right. In order to stay relevant some people will say anything to get attention. This guy’s top venue–is performing at “state-fairs”. He (along with a select group) are still on the “President is a Muslim” trip. Let’s not laugh at little Hank-hank, maybe he will go away.

Personally I don’t think hoping he’ll go away will be enough. I’d rather call the miserable low-life and his peers out on their lies and their warped beliefs.

First, Obama and Democrats have done plenty to support the military, while Republican leaders talk about supporting the troops while voting against military benefits, pay raises, and jobs programs for veterans. Republicans in congress love the military the way McDonald’s loves cows, and I’m getting sick of military members being lied to about their “support”.

Second, as a commenter on the article asked, “And who is holding up the Farm Bill?…”

Third, I wish we could move from “Obama isn’t a Muslim” to “It doesn’t matter if he’s a Muslim because the United States Constitution is absolutely clear about ‘No Religious Tests‘”.

Hank Williams is a moron or a liar, but certainly a racist, and hoping his type will go away isn’t going to help this nation break out of the gridlock caused by bigotry and ignorance.

So-Called Christians are Making me Mad

I was subjected to ‘The 700 Club’ because someone had it on at the rec center, and I saw a segment about church goers who might otherwise support the president but are now having reservations because of the gay marriage thing. You folks make me sick.

You want a be good Christian? Vote for the guy who wants to help the jobless make it through hard times. Vote for the party that didn’t present false information in order to justify a war. Vote for the guy who is concerned about the land, the water, the air, and the creatures over which God gave us dominion. Vote for the party that didn’t put the Catholic Worker on a terrorist watchlist because they’re against violence. Vote for the guy who didn’t earn millions putting others out of work, and didn’t hide his money in a foreign bank to avoid rendering taxes to his own nation. Vote for the guy who actually is ‘Concerned About The Very Poor’. Don’t vote against most of your believes just to support a man who is more interested in proving how Christian he is rather than doing the good deeds that Jesus asked us to do.

Of all of the Christian rules to put above the others, this is one of the stupidest. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. And based on what he said about marriage, if we don’t allow gay marriage then we should outlaw adults living with their parents, and outlaw men remaining single. Homosexuality is only forbidden in the Old Testament, not the New, But enforcing Old Testament rules would mean no bacon, no lobster, no work on Saturday, and bringing two doves to temple every month to atone for menstruation.

Does God want us to enforce a two thousand year old set of rules or does God want us to understand the morality and responsibility that he was trying to teach us with those rules? When I was raising my children, I had rules about what we watched on TV, when we ate dinner, who was allowed in the house. I also taught my children to be compassionate and responsible. It was not specific rules that I was trying to teach them. I would be disappointed if my children adhered strictly to old rules; I want them to make their own rules, as long as they do so with compassion and responsibility in mind. Here’s another analogy; imagine a mother leaves with strict instructions not to get water on the new carpet. But then a fire breaks out, and the baby sitter grabs a bucket of water to douse it while the children yell, “No, Mom said ‘No Water’!” God hasn’t sent us a babysitter in a long long time. The circumstances have changed. Perhaps God expects us, by ourselves, to start acting like adults.

To push my idea further, Jesus came and said that the old laws are still in effect, but then he went and changed them, which is why Christians can eat pork and lobster. I’m not Christian, but I believe in the wisdom that Jesus taught. What is meant by not changing the laws while changing them? I say it’s that some laws must be changed for others to remain. God gave Man dominion over the earth and also told us to be fruitful and multiply. But today overpopulation, consumption of resources and pollution are our biggest threats. Perhaps in order to maintain God’s commandment of dominion we must change the rule about men taking wives and producing lots of children.

Whether you agree with my conclusions or not, you cannot legislate all of your beliefs. And you shouldn’t fool yourself into thinking that either Obama or Romney will let you do so. Pat Robinson said, “you don’t have Jesus running against someone else. You have Obama running against Romney.” In his perverse way, he’s spot on. We have a choice between two men, each of whom will satisfy some of your Christian desires. One will shout to the world what a Christian nation we are with high-profile displays of Christian rule enforcement. The other will help feed the hungry, care for the sick, and try to ensure we don’t destroy the planet over which we have dominion.

I know my choice, but I’m not Christian. You have to make yours. Make the right choice.