It’s time to end religious freedom to rape children and conceal it from authorities

There are myriad reasons many Americans detest organized religion, and it is unclear if two of the main reasons have contributed to more Americans leaving “the church” in droves. Of course, one of the reasons is evangelical and Catholic groups claiming their “religious freedom” gives them constitutional authority to demand universal compliance to their religious edicts. Another reason is the idea that members of the Christian clergy are free to commit all manner of heinous criminal acts with impunity because they are granted salvation – because their religion’s namesake died on a stake. It is likely that the “saved by grace” reasoning is a contributing factor to both Catholic and evangelical leaders’ inclination to cover up what is probably the most monstrous sin a human being can commit – raping children.

For those who have followed the regular reports that yet another Catholic priest was revealed to be a child rapist, and then “forgiven” by the faithful and rewarded by Church officials with a new assignment, the horrors reported recently were not unexpected. The response from the “official church,” and rash of platitudes from local church leaders, also were not unexpected or new; Catholic officials probably have Vatican-approved comments prepared for these hideous “revelations.”

It is important to note that this sexual abuse (rape) by clergy is not unique to Catholic priests by any means. Evangelical clergy are regularly caught up in “sexual misconduct” scandals and just like the Vatican and local Catholic leaders, there are typically insincere, often tearful, appeals for forgiveness; often from the stage of a wealthy megachurch. A tearful mea culpa with gratitude for being saved by grace and all is well with the faithful. All the while, the sexual predators are free to return to the flock because they enjoy “salvation by cross.”

Here is a little biblical information about the reason the faithful are so forgiving of child molesters and rapists; there is no salvation for members of the clergy that sin – there just isn’t and it is not this author’s opinion. It is, in fact, written in what Christians consider god’s “immutable and infallible” word – the Christian bible.

According to the archaic rule book Catholics and evangelicals claim rules their lives:

There is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us.”

Of course sacrifice can be replaced with salvation because according to scripture, the only reason Christian are saved is because their deity “sacrificed” his son for the faithful who do not “purposely go on sinning.” In fact, the concept of sinning after learning the truth is regarded as apostasy; a major religious sin that warrants ex-communication. It is no mystery why evangelical and Catholic leaders are not defrocking and ex-communicating the child rapists, and it is precisely the same reason Republicans refuse to evict Trump from the White House or even publicly criticize him; it will damage the brand.

Regarding the revelation that for decades Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, about 300 of them, had raped over 1,000 children, the Pope issued a sternly worded letter. But he did not suggest any penalty except for the pedophile priests to devote their lives to prayer and penance.  No doubt there are thousands of pedophiles sitting in American prisons who would welcome a harsh penalty like devoting their lives to prayer, but those non-clergy pedophiles do not enjoy religious freedom to rape children with impunity.

The most damning part of the Pennsylvania grand jury report is detailing the effort church leaders exerted to “cover-up the crimes.”  The church leaders are complicit in the crimes because their protection emboldened the pedophile priests to continue to rape and sexually abuse children for decades. The report also noted, “in great detail,” that the rapes were “widespread and systematic” with “the full knowledge and tacit approval of church leaders.”  It is worth mentioning that in every other aspect of American society, having full knowledge of a crime and not reporting it is a federal felony. According to 18 U.S. Code § 4 – Misprision of felony:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

There is no doubt that Catholic leaders, from the lowliest nun to the Pope, not only knew about the pedophile priests’ vile crimes, they covered them up to protect the brand. Republicans are doing the same thing in protecting Trump, but that is the subject of another opinion piece. To make matters worse, church leaders, whether the Catholics or evangelicals, are excused from following the rule of law because they enjory religious freedom to ignore the law of the land like they ignore their own bible.

It is a travesty for victims of rape-by-clergy, but in most states there is no requirement for church leaders to report crimes against children. It is true that some states have “mandatory reporting laws” for clergy, but it is also a fact that in most states “any information protected by the clergy-penitent privilege is not admissible in a court proceeding;” even if the “protected information” regards members of the clergy raping children.

Although imprisonment is not guaranteed to deter pedophiles whether they are filthy members of the clergy or just filthy street perverts, sending clergy convicted of raping children to prison would be a “come to Jesus” moment and possibly spare children a lifetime of grief and misery. It is obvious, or it should be, that the Pope issuing another “sternly-worded” letter, or penalizing pedophile priests to a life of “prayer and penance,” or the faithful “considering” withholding financial donations has not worked. However, if the Catholic priests and evangelical clergy were sent to prison for raping children, or if the Church leaders were convicted of “misprision of felony” and spent three years in a federal penitentiary, there may be a rapid reduction in the number of innocent children scarred for life.

There is no reason why members of the clergy, whether Catholics or evangelicals, should be exempt from abiding by the laws of the land like every other American; especially laws prohibiting adults in positions of authority from raping children. In California, if a school teacher, nurse, cafeteria worker, janitor, or counselor even suspects a student has been abused and fails to immediately report their suspicions, they face up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Moreover, if a school teacher et al “intentionally conceals his or her failure to report an incident  of abuse or severe neglect, the failure to report is a continuing offense.” Clergy are exempt from mandatory reporting requirements in California because of religious freedom.

It is true that although no church leader has claimed religious freedom to cover up child rape-by-clergy yet, they know that the only reason they can legally cover up pedophilia is because religious freedom exempts them from adhering to the law. Until that changes, the Pope can issue all the sternly-worded letters he wants, and Catholic adherents can continue “considering” withholding donations to the Church with the same results. Catholic priests and evangelical preachers can rape children with impunity because in America religious freedom means, among other things, the law of the land applies to everyone except child rapists that are Catholic priests, evangelical preachers and their leaders.

Mormons say Utah marijuana ballot initiative violates their religious freedom – file 2nd lawsuit

Most thinking individuals likely consider that being forced to comply with or abide by a religious group’s dictates is a violation of their constitutionally protected religious freedom. Unfortunately for Americans, one specific religion and its various subsidiaries believe their religious freedom entails constitutional authority to force other Americans to comply with their religious beliefs. In Utah, that idea of religious freedom is taking an extreme turn toward theocracy.

A group of Utah Mormons is attempting to exercise what they perceive is their religious freedom to silence the voice of voters and control the democratic process. They are crusading to force removal of a Utah ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana to prevent voters from exercising their right to vote; because Mormons apparently don’t like weed for wellness. It is the second time the Mormons, led by a Mormon attorney and pharmaceutical company owner, have went to court to keep the measure off the ballot in November.

The Mormon attorney financing the religious crusade, Walter Plumb III, is a friend and former legal partner with United States Senator and fellow Mormon Orin Hatch. It seems reasonable to question whether as owner of a pharmaceutical companypeddling “nutritional supplements and products,” Plumb is attempting to block any possible competition from cannabis. Unlike many supplements, cannabis is a well-documented treatment option for a variety of conditions.

After dropping the initial lawsuit, the Mormons followed the tactics of the evangelical extremist cult and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) claiming that if the Utah residents are allowed to participate in the democratic process and vote to legalize medical marijuana, it will “violate the religious freedom of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

According to Plumb and the forces behind the anti-medical marijuana group’s crusade;

If the ballot measure succeeds, Mormon landlords would be forced to rent to medical marijuana cardholders and people who use cannabis violating Mormon code.”

Although the “official” Mormon Church has refrained from openly opposing the ballot measure, it told the Salt Lake Tribune that it has “grave concerns;” it is really grave opposition.

Whether Plumb knows it or is just playing the fool, Mormon landlords already violate the Mormon code by renting to marijuana users, and cocaine users and legal opioid addicts. They also violate the Mormon code when they rent to people involved in extra-marital affairs, and people in homosexual relationships, and church members addicted to Mormon code-violating pornography.

Plumb’s group is citing a “technical” Supreme Court decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, because it allowed a bigot to use his religious objection as grounds to refuse making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. However, that particular case was “decided on a technicality;” specifically that “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was unfairly biased against Phillips.” As most sane people and the Court acknowledged, “the ruling did not directly give people a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their religious belief.”

As bad as refusing to provide a service based on objections borne of religion is, and it is vile, the idea of using religious freedom to prevent an entire state’s voters from exercising their right to weigh in on a legal ballot measure is beyond the pale; but it should have been expected. This monstrous idea of using religious freedom as a cudgel against non-compliance in America’s lurch toward theocracy has grown to the point that maybe now the people will comprehend that no American is safe.

Here’s the thing most normal people comprehend: if Utah residents suffering various maladies are legally allowed to use cannabis for relief, it will have no impact whatsoever on Mormons or their Constitutional freedom to exercise what they call religion. They can still wear magic underwear, prepare for an afterlife on their own personal planetviolate the Christian bible with an addendum created by Joe Smith, ride bicycles two-by-two and annoy innocent strangers, and follow the teaching of an honest-to-dog charlatan reading from a magic hat.

This issue is not about whether cannabis has myriad and valid medical applications, the data is overwhelming that it does. It is also not an issue of whether the people should be allowed to vote on a legal ballot initiative, Utah law says they do. The issue is also not whether Mormon landlords are violating the Mormon Code by renting to people who obtain a medicinal marijuana card or actually use the weed for its documented medicinal purposes. It is about another religious extremist claiming his religious freedom is being violated by allowing voters to exercise their right to vote on a ballot measure. No matter how one distills it, the issue is a religious group’s attack on the democratic process.

It may appear that this piece is heavily biased against Mormons; that is not the case any more than being inordinately biased against Catholics or evangelical extremists imposing their religious dictates, and forced compliance, under the guise of religious freedom. Every person in America has religious freedom, but there is only one faith and its various subsidiaries citing their religious freedom to control the rest of the population. It is a major escalation that this time the Mormon subsidiary is attempting to control a state election and it should terrify Americans that the “faithful” feel so religiously emboldened – but it won’t and it is why they continue unabated.

Alabama woman’s experience portends the American Taliban’s rise to power

It is unclear why Americans love war, or why some Americans particularly love wars against other Americans. Despite the horrors of the American Civil War, many of Trump’s acolytes yearn to wage war against other Americans opposed to Trump and his tyrannical style of ruling, but there is a particular bent among his religious right devotees to wage war against women. That is, after all, one of the primary reasons so-called Christians lovingly embraced a confessed sinner like Trump – he pledged to win the war against women by eliminating their constitutional right to self-determination regarding their reproductive health and so much more.

It is a sad state of affairs, but since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration the evangelical extremist cult’s rise to power has resulted in a wave of attacks against women and their constitutional rights.

Those assaults are borne of what the religious right regards as its constitutional religious freedom to put women in their biblical place – under control of religious men. It is also noteworthy that since Trump handed control over to evangelical extremists, his acolytes in the “family values” movement have felt emboldened to take matters into their own hands and forego Trump and Pence bestowing official government authority to control women.

Not too long ago an emboldened “family values” sycophant created a humiliating scene for two women who were legally breastfeeding their infants in public; because doing so offended what is becoming the “unofficial” modesty police.

Apparently, because Trump and Pence are dragging their feet in designating a Taliban-like religious agency to police women’s activities, the “family values” cult is preparing the population for the official modesty police. The breastfeeding “incident” in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago humiliated a breastfeeding mother because a “modest” family values woman was uncomfortable, but at least she was not forced to leave by management. It was not so “easy” for a woman in bible-thumping Alabama who dared wear shorts in oppressive 100 degree heat in the dead of summer.

The incident occurred in a Mobile shopping mall where security guards at The Shoppes at Bel Air are harassing women for wearing shorts. The shopper, Gabrielle Gibson, described on Facebook how she was “harassed” and “abused” by mall security serving as “modesty police” for the “family friendly” management. Ms. Gibson was “kicked out” of the mall because she was wearing shorts “prompting other women to come forward to share their personal stories of abuse and harassment by mall security guards doubling as family values police.”

Ms. Gibson explained that she was shopping when a security guard approached her after “looking at her a** cheeks” and told her she was being evicted for wearing shorts. Ms. Gibson’s “a** cheeks” were not exposed, but that is not the point. According to Ms. Gibson:

“I was literally harassed and kicked out of the Bell Air mall in Mobile, AL today because of what I’m wearing. Apparently grown men couldn’t contain themselves so I get kicked out. Security officer J. Mathis initiated that he was looking at my a** cheeks and it was a problem. Don’t look at my a** then; there’s a thought? As well. security officer Davis and head of security Jim Chavis were extremely rude and completely unprofessional about the situation.

They went as far as to threaten to call a police officer. From what I saw today everyone had short shorties on. I mean come on, its August and 100° outside. I don’t know why I was pinpointed. I’m just disgusted with the behavior of all these people.”

Of course, being residents of the evangelical cult’s second most religious state in America and one Hell-bent on exercising some evangelical religious freedom, the mall’s management denied ever doing anything wrong; they were simply freely exercising their religious freedom to enforce their Puritanical dress code. The Shoppes at Bel Air released a statement in support of a blatant attack on a woman exercising her constitutional right of self-determination regarding clothing. The mall management’s statement:

Given the high degree of importance we place on maintaining a family-friendly shopping environment, our policy requires all of our customers to dress in a manner that reflects our [religious] code of conduct. Anyone who violates this [religious] policy will be asked to change or to leave the premises.”

A perusal of the corporate ownership of the “mall” failed to turn up any known evangelical extremist involvement, so it is apparent, at least to this author, that enforcing a “family-friendly” dress code was under purview of the local bible-thumpers, not the corporate office in New York. Alabama is, after all, the second “most religious” state in the nation and also contains a vile religious freedom amendment that gives veritable impunity to “freely exercise” religion without interference of any state or federal law – such as anti-discrimination laws. It is likely why the mall’s modesty police threatened to summon the real police to officially enforce the family friendly “code of conduct.”

As it should have, the incident drew outrage from women whose only recourse is protesting what was a very public “slut shaming” to enforce some nasty Puritanical malcontent’s “code of conduct.”  A group of “concerned women” organized a protest as a response to Ms. Gibson’s horrible experience at being “slut-shamed”  by modesty police. The concerned ladies are calling their protest the “Bel Air Mall “Daisy Duke” SlutWalk.”

“Ok ladies – it’s time to bring out the booty shorts and crop tops (if you’re feeling it.) One gorgeous young woman was SHAMED and ASKED TO LEAVE because her shorts were “too short.” I have personally worn shorts shorter than what she wore and walked past security and police and no one said one word. It’s summertime. In South Alabama. It’s hot. WEAR WHAT YOU WANT. Don’t allow anyone to shame you for what you choose to wear. We’re banding together to support our sister in solidarity – women’s bodies are not shameful. We shouldn’t be forced to cover up because men can’t control themselves. Bring your ass (literally) and descend on Bel Air with us. Share with your friends! #SistersInSolidarity #StopShaming#WhatIWearDoesntEqualConsent

Now, although this ardent feminist author fully supports the “concerned” women rushing to defend Ms. Gibson and other women’s right to wear what they want, the choice of a name for the protest, “slut walk,” is curious. It plays directly into the narrative the religious right promotes ad nauseam; that women wearing shorts, short skirts, crop tops etc. are sluts.

For dog’s sake, feminists have been screaming about being “slut shamed” for years over how they dress, and sleazy defense attorneys have convinced juries for decades that raped women deserved what they got for “dressing like sluts.” Of course that is not the case, but the last thing women living in a misogynistic society need is other women donning “daisy Dukes” to participate in a slut walk. Women have a difficult enough time living in a burgeoning theocracy – giving the theocrats more ammunition is foolish and dangerous.

It is important to reiterate that this flagrant discrimination against women, and “slut-shaming,” although not unique, is on the rise due to Trump emboldening the faithful to use “religious liberty” to attack women.

It is worth mentioning that the modesty police are not confined to uber-religious states like Alabama. Some Americans may recall that about a year ago Speaker of the House Paul Ryan laid down some modesty rules against women who exposed their shoulders – sleeveless tops apparently violate the House’s Puritanical dress code. In July of last year a female reporter was attempting to do her job and enter the speaker’s lobby when she was told her dress wasn’t appropriate for entry. The offensive dress was of the sleeveless variety and just like in Puritanical America, a woman exposing her shoulders is “inappropriate.” It is also verboten for women to wear “sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses, open-toed shoes or sneakers.

It is nearly impossible to believe that 21st Century American women are being subjected to Taliban-like abuse at the hands of religious extremists. And make no mistake, these assaults on women’s rights are solely the purview of religious extremists. Whether it is being evicted from a public place for their choice of attire, or being humiliated for choosing to breastfeed in a public place, or being restricted from using birth control because the religious right opposes women having “consequence free” sex, or daring to choose when to give birth; there is a war against women borne of religious zealotry. The religious right loves to demean Muslim adherents for following Sharia law, but they are on a crusade to impose their evangelical version of Sharia on American women under the banner of religious freedom. It would be considered a horrific situation in normal times, but now that the “American Taliban” have two champions running the Executive Department, America’s women are in deep trouble.

It is still a mystery why American men are sitting idly by watching passively as their mothers, girlfriends, wives, daughters, and sisters are subjected to maltreatment by what can only be defined as the American Taliban.  Today the evangelical modesty police are just evicting women from public places for not wearing family friendly attire, perhaps American men will wake up when women in their lives are stoned to death for wearing shorts, or baring their shoulders – it is what occurred under Taliban rule.

Image: Patheos

Trump theocrats claim abuses against women and LGBT people are Christian values

If Americans are the least bit doubtful that the Trump theocrats are on a White House-sanctioned global crusade to spread their savage version of Christianity, a recent announcement at the State Department should disabuse their reservations.

It is not a revelation that evangelical extremists yearn for an executive order from Trump asserting that punishing women for making their own reproductive choice is exercising “religious freedom,” and legal. It is also common knowledge among cognizant Americans that part and parcel of the religious right’s definition of “religious freedom” is brutalizing the LGBTQ community according to their “Christian values.” Now it is an official policy of the Trump administration intent on imposing the evangelical extremists’ style of “religious freedom” around the world; and any opposition to that imposition of “religious freedom” is officially “religious persecution.”

In yet another move legitimizing the evangelical rights’ bigotry and hatred, the Trump administration sent a clear signal that “Christian America” will no longer denounce countries that punish LGBT citizens or women for making their own reproductive health choices. In fact, going forward, nations that embrace religious-driven hatred leading to imprisonment and/or death of LGBTQ people, and abuse targeting women, will be rewarded by Christian America; because Christian-inspired hatred and bigotry exemplify “Christian values” according to Trump’s theocrats.

During an atrocity in a secular nation in Washington D.C., the “Christian Values” proclamation came during the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The Trump theocrat honored to tell the world that Christian bigotry and hatred epitomize America’s Christian values was the director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney’s announcement entailed attacking the Obama Administration for threatening to withhold foreign aid to countries that punish women and members of the LGBTQ community. The evangelical right’s war on women and gays is now a global crusade sponsored by the Trump theocrats’ pushing a brutal version of religious freedom according to evangelical extremists.

Mulvaney said the theocrats in Trump’s administration will no longer encourage countries to abandon their draconian and deadly anti-LGBT and anti-women’s choice laws. Instead, Mulvaney “defended criminalizing and punishing homosexuality” as an American “religious freedom” issue, and that abusing and discriminating against women and gays embodies “Christian values.” According to Mulvaney and evangelical zealots, it is a disgrace that President Obama dared represent America as promoting women’s and LGBTQ rights.

As part of his remarks to the “State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” Mulvaney said:

Our US taxpayer dollars are used to discourage Christian values in other countries. It was stunning to me that my government under a previous administration would say, ‘We know that you have a law against abortion, but if you enforce that law, you’re not going to get any of our money. We know you have a law against homosexuality, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money.’

That is a type of religious persecution that I never expected to see.

I never expected to see that as an American Christian, that we would be doing that to other folks.

I am here to let you know there a lot of people in this government who want to see things done differently. They want to do something.”

What that means is that in the Trump theocracy denying women access to reproductive health care and criminalizing homosexuality indicates “Christian values;” while opposing discrimination against women and homophobia is “religious persecution.

As Zack Ford at ThinkProgress noted,  “Mulvaney’s implication that the Trump administration would turn a blind eye to anti-gay persecution around the world is consistent with actions it has already taken.”

As part of the “religious freedom” crusade promoting “Christian Values” globally, Trump already rejected a United Nations resolution condemning the use of the death penalty to target LGBTQ people. The Trump theocrats gave some lame excuse about not opposing the “proper” use of the death penalty, but it is noteworthy that Trump has mentioned that according to the head of domestic policy, Mike “preacher” Pence, “proper use” of the death penalty would be hanging all gays based on the Christian bible’s Old Testament rules.

It is also noteworthy that another Trump theocrat, Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions proclaimed earlier this summer that America has ceased granting asylum to people who are victims of violence and abuse, and that America would be adding many new barriers to the asylum process. That includes new policies targeting LGBTQ people fleeing persecution to make it impossible for them to escape the brutal “Christian values” cult Trump’s theocrats are defending as part of their global “religious freedom” crusade.

It should be painfully obvious now that in America under Trump’s theocracy, “Christian Values” include criminalizing anything the evangelical extremist cult deems “ungodly.” And it is significant that the religious right supporting Trump’s theocrats are self-appointed authorities on what is “ungodly,” such as women’s reproductive rights and homosexuality. Further, anything resembling opposition to or non-compliance with those “Christian Values” is “religious persecution.” It is something that has been happening in America for a decade, at least, but it was never an official policy position until now.

Most Americans keeping abreast of the GOP’s crusade towards theocracy were already aware of what evangelical zealots considered “religious persecution,” but it has never been proclaimed publicly at the State Department by a high-ranking government official . However, it is now official and Americans should shudder at the revelation. It is a damn frightening prospect that anyone opposing the evangelicals’ brutal Christian values faces being accused of “religious persecution;” especially in an evangelical theocracy in the midst of an honest-to-dog religious crusade.

It is true that all Americans claiming Christianity do not embrace “Christian values” focusing on punishing homosexuality and criminalizing a woman’s right to self determination regarding her reproductive choices, but those “Christians” are not running the government. They are also not screaming in the streets that Trump and his theocrats do not represent Christian values. And why should they?

After all, they embrace the same Christian bible that the vicious evangelical extremist sect asserts gives them religious freedom to abuse women and gays – what they claim expresses their “Christian values.” And anyone opposing the imposition of “Christian values” is committing religious persecution. It is not a new policy by any means, but it is now the official position of America under Trump’s  theocracy and it began in earnest the day of Trump’s poorly attended inauguration.

Image: Patheos

House votes to make churches dark money PACs

One of the greatest atrocities against the U.S. Constitution and America as it was created was foolishly providing churches with tax exemption with one simple requirement they refuse to abide.

As much as Americans complain about the filthy rich and corporations not paying their fair share of tax, it is curious there is no outrage about religious groups paying no amount of tax or contributing anything of value to society. Oh, it is true the “faithful” boast about the church’s “good works,” but those works are mandated by the faith for entrance into eternal bliss, or some such absurd notion. “Good works” are alleged to be their own reward for “real” followers of Christ.

It has been on the religious right’s wish list for decades, but now those “good works” entail actively funding Republican candidates and campaigning from the pulpit for more Republican “good works” enriching the wealthy and punishing non-compliance with evangelical edicts. In addition, Republicans have provided wealthy donors and dark money groups with a nearly foolproof means of avoiding campaign finance regulations with a value-added bonus of deducting campaign contributions as “charitable donations to a tax-exempt church.”

The religious right has revolted against the Johnson Amendment since its inception in 1954 because without their political activism in support of Republicans, they would be incapable of installing anti-women and anti-gay cretins in office. They wanted their tax exemption and the ability to campaign from the pulpit – which is exactly what the Johnson Amendment prohibited until now.

Although House Republicans did not vote to repeal the dreaded amendment, they did vote to prohibit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from taking action against churches and clergy that violate the rule with veritable impunity. Every year for the past five years on so-called “pulpit freedom Sunday,” over a thousand evangelical churches recorded clergy campaigning from the pulpit and then sent the video records directly to the IRS – daring them to take action. The goal was to initiate a lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court to give the evangelical conservatives an opening to strike down the Johnson Amendment as unconstitutional. It is ironic because giving churches taxpayer money is contrary to the Separation Clause in the First Amendment and seems patently unconstitutional. And yes, tax-exemption for churches is giving religious groups free taxpayer money as much as the obscene “faith-based initiative” atrocity is giving churches free taxpayer money.

Now, with Trump demanding that the IRS give churches what they want, something he promised before his poorly-attended inauguration,  and House Republicans voting to make it illegal for the IRS to hold churches accountable to their sacred agreement as non-profits; churches will be the ideal dark money PACs. Remember, donations to political campaigns or PACs and candidates are not deductible and are limited by law. However, donations to religious organizations are deductible and likely unlimited.

What that means is that wealthy donors like the Koch brothers can donate to churches that will funnel the money to the campaign coffers of Republican anti-choice and anti-gay candidates; and they would be tax-deductible unlike any other form of the Kochs’ political giving. It also means “dark money” donors will be able to conceal those contributions from the prying eyes of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and especially the Internal Revenue Service. As Matthew Bulger at The Humanist noted:

Donations to churches for political ends would be anonymous, unlike most other forms of political giving.  This is especially concerning because while most 501(c)(3) groups must file a Form 990 with their tax return, which provides some information about the group and its activities, churches are exempt from that reporting requirement. As a result, their political spending would be nearly impossible to track.”

Moreover, the recently announced Treasury Department rule allows certain tax-exempt organizations, including politically active nonprofit groups like churches, to conceal the identify of their donors to tax authorities ensuring an unlimited, and unchecked, supply of dark money in campaigns. If anyone still believes there is an ounce of fairness in America under Republican rule, they are a moron.

As an aside, it is difficult to believe that this Treasury Department action was not enacted, at least in part, to protect groups like the NRA from reporting that Russia paid the gun-zealots to campaign and advocate for Trump and his gun-crazed GOP cohorts during the 2016 general election.

As Politico noted, the Republican House legislation “amounts to a backdoor way around the so-called Johnson amendment,” but it is so much more. It portends nothing good for America’s waning democracy and all but guarantees that the religious right’s crusade to install more GOP theocrats in high places will proceed with the utmost expediency.

These Republican actions on behalf of churches, and the permanent political supremacy of Republicans, certainly have the potential to be a greater attack on democracy than the dreaded Citizens United ruling. It does not necessarily mean that every church in America will be holding weekly Republican campaign rallies, but it does give evangelical clergy the freedom to promote candidates that share their Dark Age mentality with a captive audience every Sunday. And, coupled with the recent Treasury Department ruling, it will give wealthy donors and dark money groups all the cover they ever hoped for without abolishing all campaign finance regulations.

The concept of giving churches tax exemption, and by extension free taxpayer money, is an honest-to-dog abomination; and it is contrary to the intent of the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s Framers. Why so many Americans believe church tax exemption is sacrosanct is beyond comprehension; likely a fair amount of the blame rests with the media and politicians who refuse to alert the people that they are giving churches free welfare to the tune of over a hundred-million dollars every year. Of course the ignoramus public falls for the tired argument that the church and clergy provide “special” benefits to society, but they never consider that nurses, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, soldiers, and public service workers all provide a benefit to all of society and they all pay taxes; a portion of which is flowing directly to churches.

It is an honest-to-dog travesty that large and small communities across America are struggling to find funding for services like clean water, law enforcement, schools, and dependable roads while churches avoid paying anything for the same roads, clean water, schools, law enforcement and firefighters the rest of the population funds. While discussing exactly what “religious freedom” entailed at the nation’s creation, Founding Father and third President Thomas Jefferson said:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”

Nearly two-and-a-half centuries later, not only are all Americans compelled to support religious worship, places and ministries by government fiat, they are soon going to compelled to comply with the evangelicals who now have all the tools they need to create their theocracy – a theocracy that is being partially funded by the poor unwitting American people.

Image: Patheos

Churches are fuming over being taxed by Republicans and Trump

There is no reason whatsoever to celebrate America these days; the concept of good news has all but vanished. In fact, it is highly likely that a fair number of Americans are mourning the demise of their nation as it existed for 239 years and see nothing but the relentless advance of corporate fascism and a bloodless theocratic coup d’état on the near horizon; many observers, including this author, believe the theocrats have taken over already. These are seriously bad days for America as a nation, and devastating for any citizen that embraced a secular democracy with liberties and freedom for all Americans regardless of race, religious affliction, or gender.

There was a bit of news recently that, although not necessarily good, is certainly worth celebrating if for no other reason than the religious right is up in arms over what they regard as an attack on their religious freedom. In addition, even more reason to marvel is that the attack came at the hands of Congressional Republicans and the religious right’s messianic hero Dumb Don Trump. This particular attack entails a little known “reform” in Trump’s highly touted GOP tax legislation that includes a first ever tax on churches and other non-profits. It is a brief “good time” moment in what is now a horrifically hideous country run by a fascist pig with theocrats and white supremacists supporting his regime.

To remark that the various church leaders are dumbfounded and irate over being taxed would be a monumental understatement. Literally hundreds of church leaders are struggling to comprehend why Republicans would dare treat them like every other American and business, and why their Republican facilitators stabbed them in the back in secret. Actually, since the GOP tax reform legislation was conceived and crafted in secret by the Heritage Foundation, and Republicans voted en masse to enrich the wealthy and corporations without even perusing that legislation, few in Congress were aware of the tax on “the church.”

However, this “tax outrage” is not the kind of tax regular people bemoan; it is a minor tax on the various freebies church and some non-profit organization’s employees receive. Still, the concept of religious organizations being required to contribute anything in the way of “a tax” has infuriated church leaders who vehemently insist that their tax exemption is “sacrosanct,” and non-negotiable.

Subsequently, over 600 churches, thus far, signed a petition demanding that Republicans repeal the tax immediately; because regardless what Jeff Sessions says about the Christian bible command to obey the government, the faithful say they are “exempt” from that particular bible passage like they are exempt from contributing anything of value to America.

The gist of the “hidden tax atrocity” simply requires “churches, hospitals, and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees.”

As a seasonal tax professional and former minister, this author is well-acquainted with the ridiculous number of “tax-free benefits” church employees, especially members of the clergy, receive because they are “blessed” to live in a country that gives churches tens of billions annually as “theocratic welfare.”

The new tax will seem like more “secular persecution” to churches and their employees who are accustomed to special treatment due to their “deeply held faith.” Expecting them to pay taxes like their bible commands is an abomination, and is perceived as the secular government punishing them. It is irrelevant that the “persecution” came at the hands of Republicans and Trump; Trump’s evangelicals, in particular, are beyond incensed. They are not satisfied that the same tax bill “persecuting” them with a small tax also grants them the unconstitutional and unconditional freedom to campaign from the pulpit with the Trump government’s blessings.

That perceived persecution has incited over 600 churches, and some other greedy groups, to sign a petition demanding the Republicans’ tax be repealed.  The churches claim they “don’t need the hassle” of taxes or interacting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or their silly tax forms. The vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of evangelical organizations, Galen Carey said:

There’s going to be huge headaches. The cost of compliance, especially for churches that have small staffs or maybe volunteer accountants and bookkeepers — we don’t need this kind of hassle.”

It is an affront to decency that Carey has the temerity to complain about “the cost” of obeying his evangelical bible’s command to pay taxes. It is a particularly egregious remark since churches receive tens-of-billions of free taxpayer dollars annually due to being exempt from taxation. Moreover, since Bush’s “faith-based initiatives,” they receive billions of taxpayer dollars in direct payments from the federal government because “faith.”

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) is joining evangelicals in complaining that their group may face a tax bill this year because of the Republican tax reform that Trump celebrated signing. The senior tax policy counsel for the group, Steven Woolf, predicted the faithful would force Congress and the Treasury to “stop the outrage.” Woolf said:

“A lot of people are just finding out about it and the more people find out about it, the more pressure there will be on Treasury and Congress to either delay implementation or consider changing this.”  

At least one Republican lawmaker is now promising to rescind the tax he just celebrated voting for because god – or some related nonsense. As previously mentioned, many groups are beyond outraged that they are expected to adhere to Jeff Sessions’ favorite scripture, Romans 13, that commands abject obedience to the government. The churches are particularly aggrieved because Republicans failed to get clearance from the religious right before passing tax reform that Trump signed. According to the crybaby chairperson of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, some malcontent named Mike Batts:

What we’re talking about is an income tax on the church. It’s absurd. The whole idea of tax exemption for nonprofit organizations that are doing charitable, religious and educational work is for them not to be on the same playing field when it comes to taxes, in order to incentivize the good work they do to make our society better.”

If Batts wasn’t an entitled religious cretin, he would understand that millions of Americans in jobs that “make our society better,” such as law enforcement, healthcare, education, disaster relief and the military pay taxes on all their earnings and employee benefits; and they don’t complain that they don’t understand how to do taxes.

Many of the 600 and counting churches demanding the tax’s abolition say  they are confused over how exactly the tax is supposed to work – because they have been exempt unlike the rest of the population. Churches want to know how they are supposed to calculate the value of “freebies” they include as compensation for their employees. Some openly wonder if the garages provided as part of clergy residences are now taxable, or if they can still “double dip” and avoid paying their fair share of tax.

It is worth reiterating ad nauseam that religious organizations (churches et al) already receive at least $82.5 billion annually from taxpayers, and that 2013 amount did not include the billions in faith-based initiative funding from taxpayers. In a fair country with a secular Constitution, churches would not be tax exempt; it is probably why the immutable word of god and Jesus in the Christian’s holy bible commands the religion’s adherents to pay taxes.

Although this is not a major story among the daily revelations that America is lurching towards an evangelical theocracy with a corrupt fascist incrementally decimating everything decent about America, it is worth enjoying for a minute. Of course the “faithful” will force Republicans to abolish the tax, and they will continue using Republicans to take complete control of all facets of the government. They will succeed, in large part, due to a curious fear among Americans, the media and Democrats of “offending” the faithful by resisting their bloodless coup d’état.

It is little consolation, but for people devoted to America as a secular representative democracy, they now have an “event” to look back on fondly and they had better enjoy it. It is the last time the religious will ever be “inconvenienced” by the government because it is likely there will never be a law passed without the express consent of the religious right theocrats running America.

Evangelicals fear a “Blue Wave” but Democrats should fear evangelicals

As excitement grows on the Left for an anticipated “Blue Wave” in the upcoming midterm elections, it is apparent that what has transpired over the past few election cycles has the very real potential of happening again – the left gnashing its teeth and wailing over another disappointing election. For those who have not been keeping track, every couple of years while the left was prematurely celebrating the impending demise of the Republican movement and its theocratic aspirations, evangelicals were planning to flock to the polls to preserve and advance their progress for a theocratic America by 2020.

If there is only one constant in every recent American election, it is that every religious right sycophant will show up at the polls to vote for the candidate who promises to save the fetus, save guns, increase control over women, punish gays, and impose god and the Christian bible on every American citizen. Many pundits have already claimed that the increasing number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation informs that the religious right, like the Republican Party, is fundamentally finished; but that claim has proven abjectly false over the past three election cycles as evidenced by the evangelical extremist ascendancy and complete dominance in government despite predictions of Republicans’ electoral defeat.

The upcoming midterms are no different than the past few cycles and anyone who believes otherwise likely gloated while predicting that dumb Don Trump would be the death of the Republican and evangelical movement in 2016.  Trump’s victory, in no small part a result of a robust turnout by evangelical moderates and extremists alike, and his appointments of dyed-in-the-wool religious right zealots in positions of power, should disabuse any sane American of the idea that the evangelicals’ theocratic aspirations were, or are, going to be dealt a death blow.

It is curious that the evangelical extremist cult is terrified that a Blue Wave and subsequent Democratically controlled Congress will remove Trump and thwart their theocratic plans; especially when Mike “preacher” Pence is significantly more dangerous to America’s endangered secular democracy. Pence is a bonafide evangelical extremist who envisions an evangelical theocracy  with him ruling America according to his Old Testament worldview.

The religious right is terrified of the blue wave primarily because evangelicals ardently believe their theocratic plans will be crushed by a Democratically-controlled Congress itching to impeach Trump. One of their biggest fears is that without Trump, the nation’s federal courts will not be overrun with religious conservatives committed to creating, or ruling in favor of creating, a nation “founded on Judeo-Christian principles by establishing a biblically-based culture in America.”

That theocratic goal and warning that it is in jeopardy if the Blue Wave actually happens was the source of angst from a devoted Trump supporter and theocratic champion of the religious right, the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. Brody was warning the faithful of the existential threat of a “Blue Wave” in the midterm elections and what kind of disaster it will be “for the faith agenda and the Trump administration.”

One member of the Dominionist cabal, Ralph Reed concurred with Brody and said:

If Democrats take control of Congress, they are going to move to impeach the president Trump. There’s no question about it.”

Another Dominionist crusader who bestows “privileged access” to Brody to incite the faithful to action at his racist religious events agreed that it is crucial to keep Trump, and his religious right judicial appointments coming, at any cost. There is a concerted evangelical effort to keep on schedule for an ISIS-Taliban type theocracy to rule Americans, and the Christian Reconstructionists fear that a Blue Wave will delay their intent to fully implement “their theocratic agenda” by 2020. Brody’s theocratic cohort, Christian nationalist and white supremacist David Lane boasted:

We are really clear about what we are doing. There is no hidden agenda about it. We’re trying to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage and reestablish a biblically-based culture in America.”

Set aside the dirty lie that America was ever established as a Judeo-Christian or biblically-based society, Brody, like Lane, has no reason to conceal the Dominionist agenda any longer. But he warned the Christian Broadcasting Network acolytes that their dream of ruling “Christian America” with an iron fist “could be squelched if Democrats win in 2018. Evangelicals see Trump implementing that agenda so far, but after 2018, it’s anybody’s guess.”

To demonstrate how frightened the Dominionist cult is of not imposing theocracy on the nation, Brody agrees with other right wing religious extremists who insist that the Republican Party is still not doing nearly enough to advance the evangelicals’ theocratic ambitions. The consensus among the evangelical extremist sect is that the RNC:  “Should be doing even more care and feeding of the evangelical base.” Brody quoted renowned conservative political consultant Dave Carney saying:

Liberals are motivated by their blind hatred of the president” Trump and Republicans will have to motivate a higher evangelical turnout this year to overcome what’s building on the Left.”

There is hatred of Trump on the Left, and it was developed before Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration, but it is borne of regard for preserving America as a secular democracy, concern for the plight of minorities, women, the environment, and the rule of law. There is nothing whatsoever “blind” driving the animus and growing opposition to a racist and corrupt megalomaniac destroying America.

Of course there is momentum on “the Left,” but it always appears there is momentum for Democrats only to see Republicans gain seats in Congress and worse, in the states.  And it is noteworthy to mention that despite the unpopularity of Trump or Republicans for that matter, the religious right was more than devoted to support a filthy sinner simply because he would allow a surrogate for the religious right theocrats, the Heritage Foundation,  provide a list of “Dominionist approved” nominees to serve on the federal courts at all levels.

All elections are crucial and there are always severe consequences for the over-confidence typically borne of predictions and popularity polls that predict victory; but they nearly always fail to factor in the theocratic voting bloc. Those evangelical voters would willingly vote for Satan the Devil if he was a Republican and pledged to impose god, the Christian bible, more guns, and the Aryan agenda on the people and their government — the goal of Dominionist Christians. Anyone who does not believe that to be true obviously was in a coma during the 2016 general election campaign for the presidency; the 2016 election demonstrated beyond dispute that no matter how evil a candidate, the religious right will vote for them unconditionally if they pledge fealty to the theocratic mission.

Now that they see a real Blue Wave threat to their congressional majority, and theocratic agenda, the various sects adhering to Christian Dominionists’ agenda will show up at the polls en masse, and they will campaign with a sense of urgency from the pulpit courtesy of their sinful facilitator Trump. That urgency is something our side nearly always seems to lack  — likely because they’ve been fed fake news that the impending Blue Wave is unstoppable.

400-year-old trees cut down with blessings of Trump’s BLM

It is fair to claim that Republicans have done nothing positive for the American people over the past couple of decades at least; what can be termed “in the public interest” is of no use to Republicans. In fact, it is also a fair claim that Republicans have been relentless in taking away anything good about America no matter how popular or beneficial it is to the population, or how long it has been a crucial part of America.

With Trump in the White House, Republicans have been on a tear attacking anything of interest to the people, but it is not all down to dunce Don Trump. Republicans have crusaded, often in the shadows, to abolish decades-old programs created specifically for the people such as Social Security, workplace protections, social safety nets, financial regulations and anything remotely connected to FDR’s New Deal.

According to Republicans, and now Trump, there is nothing in or about America worth protecting or preserving any longer whether it is the New Deal, public land, or a 400 year old stand of trees on public, federally protected land, Nothing is sacred to Republicans or Trump if it involves the “public interest,” and a travesty in Oregon is a clarion call for action to preserve Americans’ land and their natural, national treasures.

Since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, there has been a concerted effort to sate the land and natural resources lust of Utah Mormons and the Koch brothers who are funding the GOP’s “public land grab” for their vast lumber, mining, and fossil fuel industries’ profits. This raping and pillaging of the public’s land did not begin with Trump or his dirty Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke; it has been as important to the fossil fuel, mining, and lumber industries as the drive to wipe out the Environmental Protection Agency.  In fact, over that past few years, Republicans have enthusiastically embraced Mormon Cliven Bundy’s crusade to seize the public’s land and it is no coincidence that Trump went to Utah first to deliver precisely what the Utah Mormon’s have demanded for years – possession of federally protected public lands.

Before commenting on why there is a tiny minority of the population vehemently opposed to the concept of “public land,” and who is behind the highly-unpopular “land grab,” it is worth noting why this new policy of giving public land over to corporate interests is an atrocity.

Earlier in the month in Oregon, a private lumber company senselessly  wiped out a stand of 400-year-old trees on the public’s land. As noted by conservationists, some of the trees were old-growth cedars and Douglas firs and cannot be brought back anytime within the next two or three centuries. To make the matter that much more infuriating, the trees “were” home to an endangered species, the Northern Spotted Owl. And the denuding occurred without the public’s knowledge or input.

And just in case the public did discover what was about to transpire, Trump’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allowed the private timber company, Lone Rock Resources, to build gates to keep the public and the media from even approaching the public’s land. Local residents were not amused and complained that the entire affair was done behind closed doors; likely because the outrage and protests would have been robust.

One outraged group on Facebook fairly summed up the entire process that is going to be occurring regularly in Trump’s America to sate Utah Mormons, Republicans, and the Koch brothers. The group rightly said:

Your public lands are being handed away behind closed doors without your say so, and regardless of protest.”

The regional director for a conservation group, Cascadia Wildlands, stated how outrageous of an insult, and serious assault on natural treasures, this action was:

It’s very rare to find old-growth forests like this, and it’s going to be cut down for a senseless road.”

The private lumber company needed a “senseless road” to easily access a few acres of plantation land it intends to  clear cut (denude}, so it “legally” wiped out a stand of “rare” old-growth trees with the blessings of Trump’s Interior Department. The issue isn’t only the blatant disregard for trees older than America, or wiping out the habitat of an endangered species of owl, or that Trump’s BLM under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is keeping the public unawares that their lands, and their natural resources, are being decimated to profit a private enterprise. It is that it is being done on the public’s land and against the public’s wishes; all to profit a private company. And although that land won’t be “public ” much longer, no groups will be happier than Utah Mormons and the Koch brothers. And it is not just this author’s opinion either. And no, there is no author bias against Mormons; just their belief that the federal government cannot own and protect the public’s land.

Some Americans may recall that the main complaint of Mormon extremist Cliven Bundy of the infamous “Bundy Ranch Standoff” was what he called the abomination of “public land” under protection of the land’s owner, the federal government. That “standoff” incited Republicans to join the Mormon and Koch brothers crusade to force the federal government to cede its ownership of protected “public lands” to Republican controlled states to sell off to private interests.

Republican governors and members of Congress jumped at the opportunity to aid the Bundy Mormons’ demand that the federal government immediately cede ownership of all national forests and public lands to the states; going so far as anointing Bundy as a true American hero and patriot. Bundy’s bent about the federal government owning land was, and still is, a longstanding issue with Mormons. But Republicans joined the fight to aid the Koch brothers.

In fact, Republicans would likely write and pass legislation forcing the government to hand over its land directly to the Koch brothers, but that may raise suspicions among Americans that Utah Mormons and Republicans in Congress exist to enrich the Koch brothers. It is particularly true since several Utah Republicans have cultivated a reputation as honest-to-dog “public lands enemies.”

Where the Mormon’s believe their god-given destiny is taking all land in the West, the Kochs believe they are destined to take all of the nation’s natural resources; no matter whose land it is. As Christine Colbert confessed in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Mormons believe religiously that their crusade to force the federal government to relinquish ownership of the public’s land is simply “an effort to ‘take back’ what they believe is rightfully theirs.” Based on the staggering amount of money the Kochs are investing in the Utah Republicans’ land grab agenda, they obviously believe the nation’s natural resources are “rightfully theirs.”

This land grab, and decimation of the public’s national treasures, is a highly unpopular proposal. To belabor the point, last year Zinke’s EPA solicited public comments hoping to find that most Americans were like Utah Mormons, but he discovered that 98 percent of respondents were not only favorable about keeping public land, monuments and national parks as they are now, they “favored” expanding them. Shortly after learning of the public’s favorable opinion about their federal land, Zinke went directly and recommended that Trump modify (read shrink) at least 10 National Parks and Monuments.

Now, if anyone is curious about which demographic makes up the 2 percent of the population opposed to public lands, parks and monuments, consider that Mormons in America make up 1.7 percent of the population. It is likely no stretch of the imagination that the remaining 3-tenths of one percent are in the mining, lumber and fossil fuel business. As noted by people keeping score, it is primarily the Mormons and Koch brothers driving the GOP’s land grab agenda and plans to sell off federal land, national parks and monuments to private enterprise.

Some Americans may think cutting down 400-year old “natural monuments” is no big deal, even if it was to profit a private timber company. But what happened in Oregon is already in the works across the nation and along its coastlines. There are big plans to begin mining highly-toxic uranium in Utah and the Grand Canyon, and besides despoiling Americans’ land, threatening their health and their national treasures, the plans will primarily benefit a Canadian uranium producer, Energy Fuels. It is unclear if Energy Fuels is following China’s and other foreign nations’ lead and bribing Trump for favors, but it is not out of the realm of possibility whatsoever.

Look, the public lands, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas belong to all Americans; it is one of the things that really “made America great” because they benefit all the people. But what the people want is of no consequence to Trump, Republicans, Utah Mormons or the Koch brothers; especially if it is beneficial to all the people. In fact, it almost appears that Republicans are crusading to take the public’s land and hand it over to corporate ownership simply because the overwhelming majority of people have a highly-favorable opinion of their public land. But the truth is that there is big money for the Kochs, and religious satisfaction for the Mormons; neither will be sated until they have stolen the entirety of Americans’ lands to rape and pillage at their pleasure.

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

DeVos Has a Plan To Force Taxpayers to Fund Religious Schools

For many Americans hearing incompetent Education Secretary and  evangelical extremist Betsy DeVos’ name is tantamount to having their eyeballs gouged out with a rusted salad fork. For Americans concerned about educating the next generation to live and compete in the 21st Century, DeVos represents a clear and present danger to the nation as it has existed since its inception.

It is no secret that DeVos hates the public school system for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is that they are not taxpayer funded evangelical madrassas and they do not yet exist to enrich her wealthy cohorts in the corporate private and religious school movement. In fact, DeVos was disappointed to learn that because the federal government does not contribute nearly as much education funding to states as she believed, she is unable to impose her evangelical agenda on states’ public schools as Education Secretary. Now she has a solution to complete her task of using taxpayer money to propagandize American children in America’s bastardized version of Christianity.

For a reminder, DeVos clearly stated that her goal in running Trump’s Education Department is shaping the culture “to advance god’s kingdom.” And she fully intends to force American taxpayers to fund her effort as part of a larger Christian Dominionist movement to restore Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution by 2020. While Americans have been ignoring the warnings and real threat out of fear of offending “the faithful,” theocrats have been systematically setting the stage to reach their 2020 target date and DeVos’ actions are a crucial part of the plan.

DeVos’ effort entails redefining corporate charter and private religious schools as “public” to legally funnel taxpayer dollars away from “non-religious” and “non-profit” public schools directly to her friends in the religious and charter school movement. DeVos exposed her devious machination during a meeting of 50 teachers of the year during her response to concerns that her anti-public school agenda is already damaging public schools.

DeVos revealed her “plan” during a private visit when she asked the country’s “top teachers” to describe the obstacles they face in doing their jobs. At least one of the teachers had the courage to speak the truth and he told the public school enemy that many of her policies are damaging public education. In particular, Oklahoma’s teacher of the year, Jon Hazell, questioned her unconstitutional policy of using “taxpayer money meant for public education to fund private, mostly religious schools.” Mr. Hazell said:

We have a problem where public money is siphoned off from the public schools and given to children who are going to [corporate] charter and private [religious] schools.”

Mr. Hazell said DeVos’ immediate response was shocking. She told the gathered public school teachers that her intent was to redefine “what education is and declare all of it ‘public’ education.” The reason is clearly to legally fund religious, private and corporate charter schools, all for profit, with money stolen from public schools.

Another “teacher of the year” from Pennsylvania, Michael Soskil Sr., confirmed Mr. Hazell’s account of the exchange and like Mr. Hazell, he was stunned saying:

“One of the things that was so stark and memorable in that exchange was . . . SecretaryDeVos trying to redefine what the word ‘public’ is. It was almost like Orwellian double-speak to me.”

Most Americans are aware that DeVos is more of a “know-nothing” than her boss Trump, particularly about the public education system, and that she is a filthy rich member of the upper echelon of the richest one-percent. But she is also a raving evangelical theocrat desperate to eviscerate the public school system to fund private, for-profit, religious schools. The only reasonable assessment of DeVos is that she is a “radical Christian extremist intent on using America’s public school system to ‘advance god’s kingdom;” and she is on a mission to force American taxpayers to fund her theocratic crusade.

One of the reasons DeVos is so enamored with private religious and charter schools is she relishes using taxpayer dollars to discriminate against gays, the disabled and women according to “the sensibilities” of the conservative Christian movement. In fact, DeVos is very upset that there is no federal taxpayer money to fund private religious and charter schools. so her plan is making them “public” to rob taxpayer dollars.

When DeVos was queried about her intent to spend taxpayer dollars on evangelical madrassas, an intent that is patently unconstitutional, she said:

There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the [theocratic] need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s Kingdom.”

DeVos has made no secret that, in her evangelical mind, the pressing need in the public schools system is more Christianity, more god, more prayer and more archaic mythology disguised as science. And since filthy rich evangelicals like her are unwilling to pay tuition for idiot parents that demand religious indoctrination for their offspring, DeVos is more than willing to “destroy public education and use public school funds to advance her dreams of a Christian theocracy.”

There are already many Republican controlled states that are funneling money meant for public schools to private religious and charter schools that are for-profit. And although it is patently unconstitutional, the religious Republicans want to use all federal education money to inculcate American children according to their evangelical form of Christianity.

DeVos, like all of Trump’s people, took a “so help me god” oath of office and swore to her god that she would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States … without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me god.”

Instead, DeVos is purposely defying the document she swore to uphold and defend by going to extreme measures to force Americans to pay for “advancing god’s kingdom” in the “public schools.

This idea of using the federal government to extract money from taxpayers to “continue advancing god’s kingdom” is an abomination, and in no small measure the blame is on the media and Democrats who are still terrified of even mentioning that DeVos’ “school choice” nonsense, or attacks on women’s reproductive rights, or blatant discrimination against the LGBTQ community are borne of theocrats pushing their religion on the population as if it is the law of the land.

At this juncture it is apparent that the Dominionist movement attempting to create a theocratic government is perilously close to reaching fruition by the movement’s 2020 target date. And it is worth noting that once the theocrats have succeeded, Americans will lose the right to criticize the unconstitutional use of taxpayer money to advance the kingdom of god.