Theocracy Alert: LGBT students forced to read bible as punishment

No doubt human beings read the Christian bible for various reasons whether it is to learn how to live according to Stone and Bronze Age sensibilities in the 21st Century, or to verify that America’s bastardized version of the faith is founded on fantastical lies, or for academic studies into archaic mythology and superstition. For some people it is probable that reading the Christian bible is sheer torture, and it may explain why an Oregon school forced LGBTQ students to read Christian bible scriptures as punishment.

First, although America officially began lurching towards becoming an evangelical theocracy shortly before Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, it is still patently unconstitutional to insert any religion into public education – regardless what “preacher” Pence or Education Secretary and evangelical extremist Betsy DeVos believe. It almost certainly occurs often but is hardly reported for a couple of reasons. Either because victims are terrified of the theocrats, or because there are far too many evangelical extremists in power who regularly flout the U.S. Constitution by inserting and promoting some form of the Christian religion in public schools they refuse to accept or believe that their Christian bible is not the Constitution and ultimate law of the land and they will inflict damage on anyone claiming otherwise.

It is noteworthy that the evangelical extremists who reject the Constitution as heretical also believe that the Constitution imparts religious liberty authorizing evangelicals to single out women and members of the LGBTQ community for “special treatment” regardless of equal rights laws or federal protections against discrimination. Of course it is abominable and contrary to the Constitution to discriminate against any American, but to discriminate against gay students and then use the Christian bible for punishment in the public schools would be criminal if America wasn’t creeping towards theocracy.

In a rural region about 200 miles from Portland Oregon the North Bend School District is facing what are being termed “serious discrimination” charges for “forcing at least one LGBTQ student to read the Christian bible as punishment.” The discrimination aspect entails allegations that the district singles out LGBT students for  “separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment;” such as a school administrator “forcing LGBT students to read the Christian bible while they were being disciplined.

Of course the district, and likely the culprits, summarily denied the allegations because like all common criminal they knew they were violating more than a few rules. However, it seems certain that at some juncture someone in authority actually scanned the Old Testament and read “Number Nine” of the BIG Ten Commandments prohibiting lying under pain of death. Possibly then the theocrat using their bible for punishment realized they were courting death according to Old Testament rules if they continued lying. The administrator in question, although not contrite, confessed to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) investigators that the allegations were indeed true. It also was revealed that another teacher was reported as equating same-sex marriage to marrying a dog — during taxpayer-funded public school lessons.

Part of the Oregon Department of Education investigation is whether the “forced Bible reading violated the student’s First Amendment rights, including the Establishment Clause which recognizes the separation of church and state.” Obviously, any introduction of religion in public school violates the Constitution, so there is no question that punishment by bible is a serious violation; obviously forcing any student to read it is violating the students’ rights.

The ODE letter to North Bend School District Superintendent Bill Yester said in part:

There is substantial evidence to support the allegation that the district subjected LGBTQ students to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment… The department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred.”

Coos Bay World provided excerpts from a “detailed account” of the three primary allegations lodged against the district.

Under the matter of “using the bible as punishment,” the ODE noted that:

The District allegedly treated students differently on the basis of sex and sexual orientation when imposing discipline.”

The district also “failed to respond to sexual harassment complaints when those complaints were made by LGBTQ students.”

And finally, “District  failed to take appropriate action to remedy a hostile environment after complaints had been made by LGBTQ students alleging that students and district staff had sexually harassed other students.” (author bold)

This incident should raise myriad red flags and incite outrage about the increasing imposition of religion occurring at the state and federal level, but it has not. It is likely increasing because at one time only an evangelical extremist would disagree that using the Bible for anything in the public schools violates the First Amendment; now the minority die-hard evangelical extremists run the government as an extension of their version of “the Church” in a burgeoning evangelical theocracy.

Under Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, educators cannot use the Bible as a moral authority in public schools because it is an “establishment of religion” that violates the separation between church and state. The concept of separating church and state, although enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution is an abomination and “unconstitutional” according most religious right fanatics, including Mike “preacher” Pence and J. Beauregard Sessions.

The ODE’s letter to the District also noted that one school counselor the students appealed to for assistance faced retaliation from the district officials after he began advocating for LGBTQ students. The counselor said:

These students have required quite a bit of support, but luckily they have some good family and friends. A lot of students who have been involved didn’t come forward or remained anonymous so it’s two main students who spearheaded the appeal. They had the courage to do this.”

No-one should be surprised at this latest imposition of religion in the public school system, or that LGBTQ students have been singled out and “openly discriminated against and forced to read the Christian bible” both as a form of punishment and to “demean LGBTQ students.” There is a crusade at the federal level to force evangelical teaching on public school students as the be all, end all “national moral authority,” as well as to inculcate America’s youth into the superstitious worldview of bigots according to a religion.

Another aspect of this atrocity in a secular nation is that, save a few local and regional media outlets, this all-too-common story has been woefully under-reported, if reported at all. That dearth of reporting is part and parcel of why evangelical extremists, religious right activists, and Republicans nationwide continue flouting the Constitution with veritable impunity. Sadly, although they only make up a minority of the population, the evangelical theocrats now co-own the federal government with the Kochs and corporations and if Republicans are not thrown out of power quickly, this particular incident is going to be a regular occurrence. And if the Christian Dominionists achieve their goal, it will not be unconstitutional, it will be the law of the land and reporting it as discrimination will be a crime.

Image: Patheos

Trump’s Evangelical War Against Women Took A Dangerous Turn

In yet another despicable move to sate evangelicals crusading towards transforming America into an evangelical theocracy, Trump continued 2017’s pandering to the religious right with another attack on a greater number of the people. Anyone still curious about why the evangelical right adamantly supports a proud sinner who blatantly rejects the concept of repentance and contrition, Trump’s prioritization of evangelical’s freedom to control the rest of the population should explain why bible-thumpers love what decent human beings consider to be a seriously evil man.

For an administration allegedly opposed to federal regulations and federal government agencies, Trump announced some new federal regulations and created a new federal government “division” to protect evangelical workers who refuse to do their jobs and provide medical care. That medical care can be anything that offends the “conscience” of the evangelicals who are cheering Trump for finally  “prioritizing” their religious freedom to discriminate according to their religious conscience. Make no mistake, this new “division” and “new regulations” are specifically protecting evangelicals who intend to discriminate primarily against women and gays by refusing to provide medical care and services that are required as part of their jobs.

If an atheist public school teacher refused to teach any student who was an evangelical Christian on the grounds it violated their conscience, religious Republicans would go ballistic and attack that teacher mercilessly; despite the teacher was immediately terminated for refusing to do the job they were hired to do. Likewise, if a Jew or Muslim worker claimed it violated their conscience to accommodate an evangelical or Catholic because they ate pork products, then they would be summarily fired and Republicans and the evangelical right would go ballistic and attack them mercilessly.

But when pharmacists refuse to fill a physician’s prescription because the medication offends their morality, or the patient is not in compliance with the evangelical’s religious edicts,  there is a new Trump-created federal agency to protect their jobs; because Trump is all about “prioritizing” conscience protections for evangelicals that allow them to violate anti-discrimination laws.

Many have warned for years that so-called “conscience protections” for evangelicals pose a serious danger to the population, and now there is an official division in the Department of Health and Human Services. It is not, as Trump or the White House claim, about protecting healthcare workers opposed to abortion or assisted death based on their “religious” or “moral beliefs;” it is another Republican “license to discriminate” with lifelong, and possibly, life-threatening consequences for a large percentage of the population. Basically, any American who fails to hew closely to religious edicts evangelicals believe should be federal law is open for trouble from the faithful who work in the healthcare industry.

The new theocratic agency, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, is a monumental victory for evangelicals who complained bitterly for eight long years that President Obama failed to give evangelicals what they demanded – much more authority under the guise of “religious freedom.” And it is noteworthy that in 21stCentury America, religious freedom means federal power for evangelicals to impose their religious beliefs on the nation to control women and impose some biblical punishment on members of the LGBTQ community.

The language in the new regulations is so broad that only an idiot cannot see that the “rule” is a veritable license to discriminate and withhold “access to medical care” from anyone if the religious worker does not approve of that “medical care” or the patient’s lifestyle. It is about more than just evangelicals opposed to abortion or birth control, it will lead to legalized discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, lifestyle, marital status, and sexual orientation; the main categories evangelicals firmly believe fall under their purview as theocrats running the government.

In keeping with the “poor persecuted Christian” sentiment based on the inability to control the population, the “poor persecuted” president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s lobbying arm said:

I am thankful that [Trump’s] HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction.”

It is important to note that this new theocratic solution for persecuted evangelicals and their wicked imperiled consciences is about much more than giving pro-life healthcare workers the religious right to refuse performing an abortion or sterilization as HHS claimed. The Obama Administration left in place the decades-long federal protections for evangelical healthcare workers who objected to performing abortions or sterilizations. President Obama’s HHS also kept the George W. Bush rule’s formal process for workers to file complaints if they were expected to do the job they applied for and were hired to do, and then refused according to their “godly morality” or “deeply-held beliefs.”

This latest theocratic advancement is primarily an attack on women’s right to self-determination regarding their reproductive health, but no American is safe from evangelicals who believe their “conscience rights” have been “imperiled” for too long; now they want revenge and Trump willingly  complied.  What is new in 2108 is a full frontal assault on transgenders to bolster the already vicious religious attacks on the LGBTQ community based on evangelicals’ morals and their renowned Christian consciences.

Here’s the thing, if any of these cretins had a conscience, especially a “follower of Christ” conscience, they would never support Republicans who are gleeful at taking away healthcare, food, retirement, and housing from Americans to enrich corporations and the wealthy. Their objections to providing healthcare services, whether it is contraception, abortion, or transgender hormone therapy are not founded on their morality or religious conviction. They object to being prohibited from controlling other Americans who fail to toe the religious right line; it is the only reason why evangelicals vote for Republicans religiously. If they were “followers of Christ” or “Christians,” they would oppose Republicans like plague.

It is a dangerous sign that despite at least four or five Trump administration actions legalizing discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community in 2017, now the religious people who provide healthcare services possess their own federal license to discriminate. Trump’s Department of Justice and Education have openly legalized discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community under the heading “protecting evangelicals’ religious liberty,” and last month the Republican Congress followed suit in an education bill. This latest move at the start of 2018 is the result of an executive order Trump signed last May.  As noted by Sarah Warbelow in the U.S. News and World Report, “Trump’s executive order directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek a license to discriminate in agencies across the federal government.”

There has been a deliberate and concerted effort to impose religion as governance and law for a couple of decades, but now that Christofascists co-own and co-control the federal government, the theocrats are having a field day. All the while, Americans await Trump’s next “tweet” with bated breath and many could not possibly care less because they are not women or members of the gay community. Remember, religious zealots are not known for restraint when they are empowered and when Mike Pence and his religious right fanatics finish putting women and gays in their “biblical” place, they will turn their attention to the rest of the population. If anyone is not terrified at the idea of medical professionals refusing to treat anyone based on conscience objections, then maybe understanding that now fire fighters, police officers, and paramedics can refuse to do their jobs according to their consciences represents a clear and present danger to all Americans.

Bishops Advise Republicans and Parents to Reject Trans Children

There is relatively solid proof now that all of the Republican negative ranting and raving about transgender people is driven by the historical bane of human decency, freedom and equality – religion.

First, when this column cites a religion as “fanatical, radical, or extremist,” particularly Christian denominations, it is not using a “broad stroke to portray” all Christians as fanatical, radical, extremist or bad. The same is true regarding criticism of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the Vatican or the Pope or any of that ridiculously rich syndicate’s bizarre dogmata; it is never about “all Catholics.

There are myriad reasons to attack many members of the clergy and none deserve more than the USCCB; if for no other reason than they implanted the “religious liberty” idea in the evangelical Republican lexicon. That American group of Catholic bishops are guilty of a world of offenses against women particularly, but also against members of the LGBTQ community.

At issue is an “open letter” issued by the USCCB, with many other religious leaders as signatories, “rejecting the legitimacy of transgender identity.” The theme of the letter on families is that parents have to “reject their transgender children” because god, bible, and social conservative (church) norms.

The open letter, “Created Male and Female” asserts that “transgender” is a “false idea that goes against reason;” and it is a “deeply troubling notion that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa.”  It was once a false idea and deeply troubling to “the Church” that the Earth orbited the Sun, but the Church still exists although it imprisoned and killed a few heretics for spreading a false and deeply troubling idea — heliocentrism.

The bishops failed to provide a link to any empirical data as to why transgender identity is a false idea or deeply troubling; just that a parent’s job is rejecting their child if they identify as transgender. The bishops attempted to validate their position by claiming ”transgender children are ‘harmed’ when they are affirmed in their identities,” but no-one with a pulse believes these former priests have any regard for children being “harmed.

One particularly offensive section of the letter states:

“Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.

There is so much inherently wrong, and revealing, in that section of the letter that it boggles the mind until one remembers who issued the ‘open letter’ in the first place and who the signatories are; a bunch of religious fanatics controlling the Republican social agenda. Republicans have hewed closely, and dutifully followed, the real meaning of the USCCB’s theocratic dictate:

The state has a compelling interest to maintain [church] policies and support the social [church] institutions and [church] norms that surround it.

Now, this holy edict that children especially are “harmed” if their transgender identity is affirmed is pure bovine excrement. According to several studies’ results, “the way parents respond to their child’s gender identity can have drastic consequences for their mental health.”

Parents that heed the USCCB’s advice and “reject their children for being transgender significantly increases depression and suicidal thinking.”  Conversely, one of the single most effective  “buffers against those negative consequences” is affirming the child’s identity, “allowing them to be as happy and healthy as their peers.”  What these bishops are advising is exactly what “sows self-doubt and confusion and can be remarkably damaging;” including causing depression and suicide.

The bishops also used a favorite religious right claim that the faithful who condemn transgenders are the “true victims.” They claim:

The movement to respect transgender people is ‘deeply troubling’ and compels people to either go against ‘reason’ or face ridicule, marginalization and other forms of retaliation.”

If the bishops contend that calling a dirty bigot a dirty bigot is “deeply troubling,” then they are no different than the dirty bigots in Trump’s Alt-right Nazi movement.  What the bishops never mention is the hate, “retaliation,” and discrimination that transgender people suffer in “employment, housing, health care, education, the justice system, and public accommodations.

Something that should raise red flags, even for people unsure about what “transgender” means, is this bizarre concept that a bunch of old white guys decked out in Goth-gear and claiming to be celibate get an opinion on parenting when they have never “had” children. Oh it is true that a terrifying number of those “holy men” have “had” plenty of children, but not in the sense that normal, decent or real “god-fearing” human beings ‘have’ children.  These are the same control-freaks who claim to have profound and godly expertise in women’s reproductive science as well as OB/GYN bona fides that Republicans use to control women’s reproductive rights.

What is particularly dangerous about this USCCB “open letter” is that Republicans will seize on it as overwhelming proof that restricting transgender people’s equal rights is justified. Remember, both houses of Congress summoned the same male religious leaders to give expert testimony to restrict women’s access to contraceptives. To think they won’t reference this letter as justification for denying transgenders’ rights is the height of naïveté; the letter tells Republicans that “the state has a compelling interest to maintain church policies and support church institutions and church norms that surround it.” The only group Republicans are more obedient to than the Koch brothers is the religious right and all it entails – particularly the USCCB.

It is one thing for the bishops, priests, reverends and ministers who signed on to the USCCB letter to control Republicans and their radical evangelical supporters; stupid people are easily manipulated. But they have no right to insert their perverted opinions on child-rearing into any family; especially when there is legitimate research demonstrating that the quickest way to harm transgender children, or adults for that matter, is to follow the bishops’ teachings.

It is noteworthy that there are a significant number of religious leaders, including Catholics and Baptists, who are strong advocates on behalf of transgender people; they at least act like “real Christians” and real “followers of Christ.” They are also not enamored with the USCCB for using religious dogma to put children at risk of depression and suicide; something the bishops apparently don’t regard as important. In fact, according to one of the signatories representing the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission;  “trans people are responsible for their own suffering for rejecting God.” As Zack Ford over at ThinkProgress noted, it is a sentiment the USCCB letter strongly implies.

This “parenting” letter from a bunch of old “celibate” white guys is further proof that the force behind most GOP attacks on Americans’ equal rights is driven by religion. That might be acceptable in theocratic regimes such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, but it is an atrocity in America. Not because they are attempting to control the people, that is what religion does. The real atrocity is that Republicans are dutifully following their edicts to the letter.

If that is unbelievable, think back to the GOP’s claims during North Carolina’s “trans toilet” controversy and then note the USCCB’s letter demanding enactment of “policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all.”

It is true these bishops are hateful religious leaders to even suggest that parents should reject trans kids, but they represent a controlling religious syndicate that would not exist without using hate to control their sycophants – like the Republican movement. That they would endanger children by fundamentally saying they are “deeply troubling and false” as if they don’t exist is par for the course and something Republicans will repeat ad nauseam.

Image: Patheos

Trump Legitimizes The Evangelical Hate Movement

Donald Trump is hate personified and it would be nearly impossible to think there were very many Americans who don’t believe that is the case; including no small number of his zealot devotees. They support Trump because like them, he is not the least bit bashful about exuding rage towards the people he hates; a group of Americans that is growing at about the same rate a productive hen lays an egg.

Fortunately for Trump, there is an honest-to-dog hate conference sponsored by several bonafide evangelical hate groups that welcomed him with open hearts last week so he didn’t have to hate alone. In fact, Trump was so enthused at being amongst a throng of religious hate mongers that he stopped talking about himself for a minute to say what an honor it was to be among “his” people. Sadly, “his” people make up a larger segment of the population than most Americans want to admit.

The Values Voter Summit is put on annually by several religious right hate groups led by the Family Research Council; an officially-designatedhate group.” Trump was the first White House occupant to address the hate group and he promptly told the cheering evangelicals that their racist, anti-women and anti-LGBTQ views would “no longer be silenced;” they would be administration policy because he pledged to “defend and protect” the evangelical hateful.

While any self-respecting human being would avoid commiserating in public with a movement renowned as a “hate group,” Trump delighted in being admired and praised by “his people.” He said:

I am honored and thrilled to be the first sitting president to address this gathering of friends, so many friends.  I pledged that in a Trump administration, our heritage would be cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before. We are returning moral clarity to our view of the world.”

When Trump said “our view of the world,” he meant the Family Research Council’s evangelical view founded on pure hate against everything LGBT, women’s rights, and racial equality as evidenced by the white supremacist presence at the hate convention. Of course Trump couldn’t address anyone without addressing his own awesomeness and with a captive audience as dripping with evangelical hatred as Trump has for everything America, he let loose with a few of his most hateful actions to date.

Anti-LGBT groups like the FRC exerted a fair amount of pressure on, and plenty of evangelical prayers to, Trump for a sweeping federal license to discriminate against women and gays according to their evangelical hate standards. So Trump praised himself for directing his equally hateful evangelical attorney general to issue a “bombshell directive” giving evangelicals a ‘’religious exemption” from abiding by any and all anti-discrimination protections for women, gays and people of color.

He also boasted that he gave churches the right to violate campaign finance and tax laws to help elect Republicans and give dark money donors like the Kochs and Karl Rove untouchable religious Super PACs. Not only do churches not have to be accountable to campaign finance or tax laws, the wealthy donors like the Kochs can write off their campaign donations as charitable contributions to churches.

Trump said:

To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony in the White House on our national day of prayer.

Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises, important to so many of you. To prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment interfering with your First Amendment rights.

We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors, our ministers, our rabbis. These are the people we want to hear from and they’re not going to be silenced any longer.”

When Trump said people “we” want to hear from, he meant Republicans want to hear evangelical clergy campaigning from the pulpit to expedite their hate crusade against women and LGBT people; a crusade that already gave religious Republicans control of all three branches of government.

Trump also boasted that he did precisely what the evangelical hate movement demanded by appointing an anti-women’s rights and anti-LGBT equality conservative to the Supreme Court. In a nod to the FRC hate group’s dream of “banning gay sex,” Trump bragged that “I appointed and confirmed a Supreme Court justice in the mold of the late great Justice Antonin Scalia.” In 2002 Scalia dissented on the High Court decision to strike down barbaric religious laws banning gay sex in the United States just 15 years ago.

It is noteworthy that at least two of Trump’s “great friends” speaking to the Hate Voters, as well as the Family Research Council’s president, are violently opposed to anything remotely LGBT and women’s rights. Trump’s newest love-interest Roy Moore allegedly is not publicly certain that gays should be allowed to live; but he is publicly certain that his bible is the law of the land and it does call for killing gay people. Another man equally as enamored with Trump as Trump is of him, Duck Dynasty malcontent Phil Robertson, addressed Trump’s “great friends;” Robertson often makes it perfectly clearhe wants to rid the Earth of wicked gays.

Now, it is no revelation that Trump is the embodiment of hate, or that the FRC’s Values Voter Summit typifies American evangelical hate, there are likely hate groups in every society and most are driven by radical religious beliefs. However, only a minority of the world’s nations are in the thrall of an administration founded on hate with veritable universal support from a small, but very vocal radical religious minority.

The seriously damning indictment of America is that 60-plus million Americans’ supported Donald Trump or he would be pandering to some second-rate cable network for another reality show gig. Throughout the presidential primaries and general election, Trump exuded hatred for every and anything and no American of voting age can say they didn’t know what kind of hate monger he is.

It is a damn sad state of affairs, but now that monster and his hate-infested evangelical cabal are running the nation, and Trump legitimized the hate movement by boasting about every hateful action he directed according to the evangelical’s demands. There are plenty of commentaries claiming the hate groups in America are a small minority, but don’t believe the sophistry. Instead, believe the numbers of Americans who spent six or seven months hearing and seeing hate incarnate on a daily basis and then voted for that incarnation to run the nation and legitimize evangelical hate as an integral element of “his government.”

DOJ Issues Religious License To Discriminate Against Women and Gays

The corrupt and radical religious cesspool known as the Trump-Pence administration ushered America one step closer to an extremist evangelical theocracy and assaulted the secular U.S. Constitution and federal laws in the process on Friday. The good news for evangelical fascists panting to punish Americans who fail to hew to the religious right’s nasty worldview came courtesy of Trump’s racist attorney general, Jeff “sermonizer” Sessions.

As a man who claims the religious “separation clause” in the U.S. Constitution’s is patently unconstitutional and unhistorical, Sessions laid down the evangelical law that going forward, no government employee, agency, or contractor has to adhere to anti-discrimination laws or the 14th Amendment if they claim doing so offends their religious beliefs.

This ultimate “license to discriminate” has been pushed in red religious Republican states since 2010, but prior to the last election there was a firewall at the federal level protecting equal rights. And no, the firewall was not the U.S. Constitution or federal anti-discrimination laws; they still exist but religious Republicans ignore them. The firewall was an administration that hewed closely to the Constitution replete with a Justice Department defending all Americans’ right to protections outlined in the 14th Amendment. It should be obvious by now that the Trump administration players have as much respect for the Constitution as they do veracity, or tolerance for Americans unwilling to subject themselves to radical evangelicals’ nasty form of “Christianity.”

According to the Trump administration’s latest theocratic edict, all it takes is a claim of “violating religious freedom” to “override any anti-discrimination protection for LGBT people, women, and many, many other Americans.” In fact, as the Associated Press noted:

The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.”

The reality is that with a theocratic administration, Justice Department, Congress and Supreme Court, those “wide-ranging” lawsuits will be shut down with extreme prejudice. The DOJ under Sessions and Trump has already inserted itself into employment lawsuits on behalf of radical evangelicals who claim their religious liberty makes them immune to the Constitution’s equal rights provisions, employment laws, and anti-discrimination laws.

The humanitarian folks over at LGBT Weekly performed a preliminary analysis of this newest Trump-Pence theocratic assault on Americans and although they focused on the LGBTQ community and women, every demographic and American citizen are at risk. After all, the concept behind an overarching evangelical “license to discriminate” is providing radicalized Christians uncontested federal government authority to punish any American they believe violates their “religious freedom.”

Just a sampling of the horrors of the latest evangelical edict may provide a preview of what American citizens can expect with a federally-enforced “license to discriminate” declaration from Trump’s justice department. For example:

A Social Security Administration employee could refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse. Government contractors will no longer be legally bound to  provide emergency services to unmarried women or members of the LGBT community because the risk of losing federal, state or city contracts no longer exists.

Organizations that receive federal tax dollars, like every church in America, that was at one time prohibited from demanding that all of their employees adhere to the tenets of the organization’s religion could now legally discriminate against LGBTQ, single women, and the non-religious by not providing employment benefits or employment.

Any agency, including churches and tax-exempt non-profits that receive federal aid in any form, and even those organizations’ individual staff members could refuse services for LGBTQ children in crisis. And they now have something they have fought tooth and nail to see implemented; unilateral authority stop  “placing adoptive or foster children with a same-sex couple or transgender couple;” or non-Christians and people of color if they claim doing so offends their religious sensibilities.

Women will face as much discrimination as LGBTQ people and that is part and parcel of the evangelical edict. The religious right Republicans have attempted to pass legislation forcing women to reveal if they use contraception, and organizations that receive federal funding have, in fact, attempted to require women, not men, to sign employment documents pledging to adhere to the organization’s owners religious standards on pain of employment termination.

This new theocratic edict will affect more than just “federal” agencies and contractors. There are very, very few state and local entities serving the public that do not receive federal funds whether they are public utilities,  public schools, police and fire departments, churches, hospitals and clinics, and emergency service providers. And it is noteworthy that this theocratic expansion of “conscience laws” now has the full weight and authority of the federal government based on religion. This is the new “religious liberty” radical evangelicals have lusted for and if any American thinks they are immune because they aren’t gay, aren’t women, or aren’t people of color, they are phenomenally stupid.

Of course the Trump administration’s latest theocratic edict elicited outrage from advocates for equal rights, but it is probably far too little far too late.

The president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) commented thus:

Today’s guidance by Jeff Sessions proves this [theocratic] Administration will do anything possible to categorize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who are not equal under the law. Freedom of religion does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate. Nothing could be more un-American and unholy than using religion to justify harm and discrimination to others.”

The president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Chad Griffin said:

Today the Trump-Pence administration launched an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities by unleashing a sweeping license to discriminate. This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump’s cynical and hateful [theocratic] agenda will enable systematic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards.

It is noteworthy to remind the naysayers that religious freedom in 21st Century America is the freedom to impose the radical evangelical worldview on all Americans and punish those unwilling to comply with the bastardized version of Christianity. And yes, it is bastardized because the religion’s namesake, Jesus Christ, preached against everything the religious right stands for and promotes.

This latest theocratic assault on America and its Constitution will affect more than just the LGBTQ community and women; although they will bear the brunt of the attacks first. Like previous state-level “license to discriminate laws,” anyone remotely connected to an organization or agency receiving federal taxpayer dollars, can refuse to provide a service or assistance to anyone they claim violates their deeply held religious beliefs, even if they aren’t religious or affiliated with a religion. Bigotry is now a religious faith in America so everyone is a target.

This is not, as was once apt to say, ‘the way theocratic tyranny begins.” Theocracy is here in 2017 in the form of a federally-enacted “license to discriminate” and is not simply an invitation to discriminate, it is a signal to the extremist evangelical right that their “religious freedom” now includes federal protection to flout the equal rights of all Americans and the U.S. Constitution.

Tragically, with radical evangelical extremists running all three branches of the federal government, no American is safe. And there is no longer any freedom from imposition of religion by government fiat; something the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s Framers thought was so important they included it in the First Amendment.

Image: Gage Skidmore

Trump’s America Votes Against Condemning Death Penalty for Gays

America under Trump distinguished itself again late last week at the United Nations by opposing a simple resolution condemning an archaic Old Testament edict calling for the death penalty for committing a “capital crime” the Christian god says is “detestable.” It is no coincidence that under an extremist evangelical administration, the Trump ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, toed the evangelical line and voted with other religious regimes opposing a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution condemning the death penalty for homosexuality. It is important to note that Trump just endorsed evangelical malcontent Roy Moore of Alabama who has intimated often that according to his religious belief, homosexuality should be criminalized – gays have to be punished because “it’s in the bible.”

America was one of 13 nations in the minority voting against the United Nations resolution that condemned the practice of killing human beings because they love someone of the same gender. The so-called “land of the free” joined extremist religious nations such as Iraq, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to vote against the U.N. resolution condemning the execution of human beings for whom they love.

It is noteworthy that the U.N. resolution  stops far short of actually calling for an end to the death penalty because that is a bridge too far. The resolution simply condemns its use “in a discriminatory fashion;” such as singling out members of the LGBTQ community and executing them for not adhering to archaic religious rules.

As noted by the “International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association” (ILGA), besides targeting gays for death, the U.N. was condemning the death penalty to punish adultery because it is regularly and disproportionately imposed on women. America voted against condemning executing people for adultery, blasphemy, apostasy and homosexuality; all designated as sins against the god of the bible and embraced with religious fervor by extremist theocratic nations.

The ILGA’s executive director, Renato Sabbadini, remarked in a statement just how atrocious some countries’ laws against being gay are. Mr. Sabbadini said:

It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in States where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love.”

A spokeswoman for the Trump State Department, Heather Nauert, attempted to assuage the shock and outrage the vote engendered and gave a bizarre explanation for why Trump directed his U.N. Ambassador to vote with theocratic nations stuck in the Bronze Age. Besides opposing any criticism for the death penalty, Ms. Nauert said:

The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization. Okay? I hope that’s clear.”

That remark is not clear, it is a giant pile of bovine excrement and stunning the State Department would dare issue such a remark.  If the United States “unequivocally condemns” killing people for that conduct; why did Haley vote against “unequivocally condemning” killing people for that conduct? And the “official” Trump State Department claim that they were opposing “condemning the death penalty in all circumstances” is just more bullshit after being railed on by civilized human beings.

The director of the Human Rights Campaign Global, Ty Cobb, issued a “scathing statementsaying:

Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships. While the U.N. Human Rights Council took this crucially important step, the [extremist evangelical] Trump/Pence administration failed to show leadership on the world stage by not championing this critical measure. This administration’s blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful.”

What was beyond disgraceful was Nikki Haley following her boss’ lead and lying in defending the vote, but only after harsh criticism. She even used Trump’s media outlet, “Twitter,” to claim the Trump administration “have always fought for justice for the LGBT community.”

Not content to lie just once, Haley also lied in saying that:

The vote that took place in Geneva is the same US vote that took place under the Obama admin. It was not a vote against LGBT.”

More bullshit and two more easily debunked dirty lies. First, during the Obama Administration the United States “abstained” from voting on a similar resolution because America as an institution just enjoys killing people. And second, there was no reference to gays in previous resolution; the “LGBT language was newly-added this year.

Haley was also lying when she said the Trump administration has “always fought for justice for the LGBTQ community” and she knows she was lying. Trump has rolled back protections for LGBTQ people quietly and in the case of transgenders, it has been very public. In fact, the Trump administration has already won the distinction as being the most “anti-LGBTQ administration” in modern history. When the Trump administration did have an opportunity to demonstrate fighting for justice for gays on the world stage, especially to condemn the practice of applying the archaic Old Testament death penalty, they said no.

Although the “no” vote rankled no small number of Americans, it likely thrilled Trump’s supporters in the extremist evangelical sector. There are still five states in America that carry anti-blasphemy laws on the books, and plenty of extremist evangelicals would be thrilled to see the death penalty imposed for being gay; Trump just endorsed one of those extremist evangelicals to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

When given an opportunity to join 27 civilized nations in condemning application of Old Testament punishment for being gay, apostasy, blasphemy and adultery, Trump’s America “officially” said no; we won’t condemn it. Lying after the fact that Trump’s America condemns killing people who fail to conform to archaic bible edicts doesn’t change the fact that “officially” America does not condemn killing people for being gay. That official stance portends bad things for all Americans who think they are not living in an aspiring radical evangelical theocracy.

Image: Patheos

Sessions Expands the Trump Administration’s Theocratic War on Gays

 

Many Americans familiar with Attorney General Jeff Sessions were befuddled at claims by other Republicans that the religious right sycophant was an acclaimed civil rights champion when he was tapped to lead the Justice Department. Those same Americans were well aware that Sessions is a harsh critic of civil or equal rights and complained that since it is the DOJ that is tasked with guaranteeing that all Americans enjoy the same rights, Sessions was not qualified to lead the department or protect Americans’ civil rights.

Late Wednesday, Sessions proved those skeptics right and waded into a private employment dispute litigation on the side of a bigot who believes it is legal to discriminate based on an employees’ sexual orientation. The bigot employer fired a worker on the grounds that he was gay.

The evangelical bigot Sessions used his position at the the Justice Department to file official federal government  court papers arguing that a major 53 year-old federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. As Scotusblog reported; the evangelical running the DOJ butted in on a case now being considered by a New York appeals court in what is regarded as “a rare example of top Washington officials weighing in on gay rights in a private dispute.” It is a portent of things to come with an administration rife with theocrats that demand god is given a supreme voice in public policy.

That is precisely what Sessions didn’t say, and something the media is woefully missing in reporting; Sessions’ official DOJ amicus brief in defense of discrimination is founded on a nasty archaic religious edict, and nothing else. Of course Sessions is attacking LGBT people’s civil rights, it is a hard and fast rule among the religious right that non-heterosexual Americans are not entitled to the same rights or protections as white evangelicals.

The case the theocrats running the federal government are interfering with involves a private labor dispute regarding a homophobic employer who summarily fired an employee simply because he is gay. That is contrary to the meaning of civil rights and “contradicts a federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which says that the 1965 Civil Rights Act does indeed protect gay and bisexual workers” from bigots in the evangelical movement. That position was upheld just three months ago in a major ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that supported the concept that LGBTQ Americans, as American citizens, are entitled to civil rights and employment discrimination protections.

In April, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit made a very important ruling in an 8-3 decision concluding that federal civil rights law — specifically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — does protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The court ruled that it is illegal in the United States for any employer to discriminate against gay workers because it offends their evangelical religion. It was the first federal court to conclude that gay people are real American citizens and therefore entitled to employment protections under existing civil rights law. The Trump administration, run by a theocratic cabal including Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions, disagrees and says gays are not real (white Christian) Americans and therefore not worthy of federal civil rights or employment discrimination protections.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the DOJ’s brief a “gratuitous and extraordinary attack on L.G.B.T. people’s civil rights.” The director of the organization’s L.G.B.T. and H.I.V. Project, James Esseks, issued a statement adding, “The Sessions-led Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working to expose people to discrimination.” Although that is the case, it would be beneficial if the ACLU cited the real source of the administration’s push to legalize discrimination – the evangelical theocrats running the government.

It is noteworthy to remind Americans that less than two weeks ago Sessions gave a speech to an acknowledged evangelical hate group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which claims “being gay is as sinful as bestiality.” That speech prompted U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate, to warn that Sessions’ speech  “sends a very troubling message that our Attorney General, America’s top law enforcement official, is not committed to standing up to anti-LGBT hate,”  

Based on Sessions’ interference in a private employment discrimination case on the side of the bigoted employer, Ms. Baldwin’s comment about Sessions’ lack of commitment to doing his job was prophetic. Not that any sane American expected anything different from an evangelical fanatic in charge of a powerful federal agency.

This latest attempt to “rule” according to theocracy was not unexpected and in great part it is down to the media, Democrats, and all manner of equal, civil, and human rights organizations gross failure to identify the source of every affront to humanity and American citizens’ freedoms – establishment of the evangelical religion as the rule of law. No doubt if these attacks on American citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights to equality were reported as unconstitutional imposition of religion, it is highly likely that people like Sessions, and preacher Pence would never be in a position of authority. Sadly, now the theocrats are the authority and just as sadly LGBTQ people are not going to be the only victims because as history proves, religious regimes will get around to attacking everyone sooner or later.

 

 

 

DeVos Embraces Anti-Gay Extremists At Education Department

 

It is probably true that normal people who are thrust into a high-level position requiring a specialized knowledge of a subject will gather as many preeminent experts in the field for advice as possible. That would be particularly true if the person in that high-level position has absolutely no experience in the field to avoid being a total and complete failure. Betsy DeVos, the filthy rich Republican contributor and avowed enemy of public education is not a normal person for myriad reasons, but primarily for her lack of even a rudimentary comprehension of the public education system she wants to transform into privatized evangelical madrassas. Besides her sworn intent to use public schools and public money to “advance god’s kingdom,” DeVos has refused, under oath no less, to commit to protect the civil rights of all Americans involved in the education system; whether students, teachers, administrators or college professors.

On Thursday last, a day before the Commission on Civil Rights announced it was initiating a comprehensive two-year investigation into the Trump administration, Betsy DeVos was convening a policy-planning meeting of the most radical religious right anti-LGBT extremist groups in the United States of America. If there were any lingering doubts as to why DeVos “refused repeatedly” to commit to protecting the Constitutional civil rights of anyone associated with education, especially students and teachers, DeVos huddling with notorious evangelical hate groups should clear up her “lack of commitment” to civil rights.

Two days prior to meeting with luminaries of evangelical hate such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, DeVos held a “very private meeting” with a Missouri millionaire and renowned conspiracy theorist because he is openly committed to spending whatever it takes to aid DeVos in eliminating public education. And, it cannot possibly be overstated that besides contributing millions of dollars to Republican candidates, the only reason DeVos was nominated, and then confirmed, as Education Secretary is because she is committed to destroying America’s public education system.

First, DeVos deliberated with the Family Research Council, a bonafide hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), because it and the extremist evangelical group Focus on the Family ardently promote hate-driven anti-gay propaganda more than they promote the Christian bible. FRC president, radical fake Christian Tony Perkins, spent no small amount of time, and donor money, lobbying against anti-bullying initiatives in schools, and the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also claims that the LGBTQ community is “disgusting” and exists solely to “recruit children” into the lifestyle – especially in public schools with anti-bullying programs. Perkins, a real pile of feces, heavily promotes programs that abuse LGBTQ children under the guise of “gay conversion therapy,” and appeals to white supremacists for support. Perkins did spend someone else’s hard earned money to purchase the mailing list of white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Perkins, the president of a hate group and a truly hateful evangelical, claims that Americans that support LGBTQ rights are:

Very aggressive, they’re intolerant, they’re hateful, vile, they’re spiteful. …. To me, it is the height of hatred to be silent when we know there are individuals that are engaged in activity, behavior, and an agenda that will …destroy our nation.

This is the mindset that the evangelical freak-of-nature DeVos, Secretary of Education, is intent on installing as education policy “to advance the kingdom of god” in the education system. However, “education system” under DeVos’ plans is a monumental misnomer; she promotes for-profit private and religious schools that can hardly be considered “an education system.” It is  a religious indoctrination system,  not an education system.  It is why she held a private counseling session with “Missouri-based” millionaire and heavy Trump supporter Rex Sinquefield.

Sinquefield is a noted conspiracy theorists who “despises public schools” and regards himself, like DeVos, as a major “school reform expert and advocate.” Like everything related to conservative use of the word “reform,” in Sinquefield’s mind reform means eliminate.

According to Sinquefield, the American public education system was a Ku Klux Klan plot created specifically to hurt African American children and claims it’s what drives his “personal mission” to rescue education from those teachers; especially those teachers represented by unions. He also donates heavily to the extremist right-wing Show-Me Institute, a really right wing “belief tank.” The Show-Me outfit “creates studies” to assail the public education system and promote policies that use taxpayer money to subsidize private and religious schools for the very rich who want taxpayers to fund their kids religious indoctrination.

DeVos claims she believes that “Discrimination in any form is wrong,” and that she “doesn’t support discrimination in any form,” but of course she said that at the same time she repeatedly refused to commit to deny funding to schools that do discriminate. DeVos is a dirty liar; and not just because she committed perjury under oath before the Senate during her confirmation hearing. But because she does not believe discriminationin any form is wrong” or that she doesn’t “support discrimination in any form.”

Her invitation to the extremely discriminatory Family Research Council and Focus on the Family at the Federal Department of Education belies her filthy lie that she opposes discrimination. And, her private meeting with another anti-public education extremist with an eye toward aiding her destruction of public schools, and creation of nationwide evangelical madrassas, belies her filthy lie that she cares one iota about America, its children, or its Constitution.

N.C. Gov. McCrory’s  Crusade To Continue Legalized Bigotry Without HB2

North Carolina’s religious governor, Pat McCrory, must think his state’s residents are imbeciles on myriad levels; they did, after all, elect him as governor. Apparently the governor is getting stressed about his gubernatorial re-election bid particularly after he and his Republican legislature reacted very badly to a Charlotte City Council ordinance; an ordinance “granting” constitutionally-protected equal rights to all North Carolina residents. It was, after all, that Charlotte ordinance that provoked religious Republicans to pass the hideous HB 2 that legalized discrimination against anyone in the state who isn’t white, male, and follower of the “right” religion.

Now, McCrory is proposing what would be a no-win deal for the LGBT community statewide in an attempt to curry favor with decent North Carolina voters and taxpayers who are aware the state is hemorrhaging jobs and revenue due to HB 2. Remember, since HB 2 passed and was signed into law, the NBA All-Star Game and several NCAA championship games relocated out of North Carolina to protect athletes from being subjected to religious Republican-sanctioned discrimination.

Along with the highly-profitable basketball events, the state lost a substantial number of major economic opportunities for the state’s residents and businesses. One conservative estimate in the immediate aftermath of the outrage is that the state has lost at a minimum $230 million as a result of HB 2. Add to that, McCrory raided the state’s emergency disaster relief fund for $500,000 to cover legal fees defending the unconstitutional HB2. It is little wonder McCrory is worried and desperate to save his job.

The governor’s plan is a solemn pledge to voters that he will reconvene the General Assembly before it officially meets again in January and overturn the law. Sounds promising; right? Except it’s not acceptable whatsoever due to one condition that maintains the status quo. Pat McCrory promises to “attempt” to convince the religious Republican legislature that passed HB2 to repeal the law if, and only if, the Charlotte City Council repeals the anti-discrimination ordinance that incited McCrory and his Republican cabal to start this truly sordid religious affair. The result will be no change and LGBT people, women, non-whites, and non-religious residents will still lack any protection from bigotry-driven discrimination they lack with HB2 in effect.

What McCrory is doing is a classic punk move to take pressure off himself during a heated campaign and put it on the Charlotte City Council responsible for passing the state’s only anti-discrimination ordinance. This is a nasty Republican gambit because McCrory is counting on the Charlotte City Council’s refusal to succumb to a no-win deal. If they don’t accept his bogus offer, he can tell voters that “I wanted to repeal the law, but the elected officials in Charlotte wouldn’t let me!

Here’s the thing, religious Republicans realize that the citizens are paying for the consequences of their and the governor’s actions, so it is on them to do the constitutionally-right thing and repeal the seriously discriminatory and unconstitutional law. The city of Charlotte’s leaders already did the “constitutionally-right thing” in protecting the LGBT community with the state’s only anti-discrimination ordinance.

The Charlotte City Council is already facing pressure from anti-LGBT businesses such as the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association. The state’s hospitality industry is putting heat on the city council to take McCrory’s deal and eliminate the only protection the LGBT community has in the entire state. The N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association represents businesses “with hundreds of thousands of employees” and they still want LGBT discrimination firmly in place sans HB2 to lure all the customers they’re losing back due to the NBA/NCAA exodus. The industry stated:

The hospitality industry has become collateral damage in a fight it did not start or ask for. Restaurant and lodging businesses and their employees are suffering the adverse impact of these policies though lost business and wages.

The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association calls on Charlotte City Council to repeal ordinance #7056 immediately, [and] on Governor McCrory to convene a special session of the NC General Assembly, and on the NC House and Senate to repeal House Bill 2 in its entirety.” That way, discrimination remains legal in the state and McCrory and Republicans look reasonable to idiotic voters in the state who are probably unaware sanctioned discrimination is still the law of the state.

It is no mystery why, if all the adverse impacts, suffering and lost business and wages were the only thing on the “hospitality industry’s mind, they aren’t demanding that Governor McCrory immediately convene a special session of the NC General Assembly and order them to repeal House Bill 2 in its entirety; they heartily approve of religious Republican-sanctioned discrimination or they wouldn’t demand that the Charlotte City Council toe the bigots’ line and eliminate the only constitutional anti-discrimination ordinance in the state.

One hopes the Charlotte City Council rejects the “special deal” from McCrory and continues holding the line on equal rights for all North Carolina residents. It is noteworthy that the Charlotte City Council did not start, or ask for, the fight for equality and protections against discrimination; they simply adhered to the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment that religious Republicans and Governor McCrory have no use for according to their nasty bent against the LGBT community, women, non-Aryans and non-Christians.

McCrory and his religious cronies in the state legislature started this fight against the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. If the governor is in a heated re-election bid over HB2 and the economic losses to the state, then he can bolster his decency credentials by demanding “his cohorts” in the General Assembly come to order and repeal HB2 completely. The “no-win deal” McCrory offered the Charlotte City Council is just that: a dastardly deal that perpetuates HB2 without the necessity of a bigoted law and one has to believe that the members of Charlotte’s City Council are savvy enough to comprehend exactly what McCrory is up to.

H/T Patheos