Vatican Edict In Trump’s HHS Portends Extreme Danger for Women

When the right-wing screams they want to take their country back to a dark era when women were relegated to third class status, they likely didn’t count on going back to the 14th Century. That was smack in the middle of the seriously dark era when the Catholic Church virtually ruled the world by controlling nearly all of western civilization by imposing its theocratic will on leaders of most nations.

Now, the Catholic Church is influencing America’s leaders according to an abominable three words in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) draft mission statement. Although it defies science, the Christian bible, the Catholic and evangelical right’s almighty god and just plain common sense, Trump’s evangelical cabal inserted a purely religious edict as government policy to sate the religious right and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). They are the two extremely dangerous groups that vehemently oppose a woman’s right to make any decisions about their reproductive health and lives. This is really that serious and a sign of terrible imposition of religion by government fiat.

Some Americans know there was a Republican war on women but it was really always “religious” war on women. Now that war is being conducted by Trump’s federal theocrats who inserted a Vatican phrase into the HHS mission statement lifted right out of the 1968 Papal encyclical on life –  Humanae Vitae subtitled “On the Regulation of Birth.”

During previous administrations, the HHS mission statement was:

HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving Americans at every stage of life.”

 Now, with an administration hewing close to the standard Catholic discriminatory religious orthodoxy on women’s health and personal life decisions, the HHS mission statement says:

HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.”

Those three words, “beginning at conception,” are the sole basis for the Vatican’s unholy and unscriptural opposition to “any form of ‘unnatural’ or ‘artificial’ birth control.” It is noteworthy that the only form of ‘natural’ birth control that literally guarantees “birth control” is celibacy.

Some Americans are aware that under the Affordable Care Act birth control was required to be covered with no co-pay as a preventive health service for women and their families. It was an attempt to correct the bias against women in the insurance industry as well as provide Americans with valuable assistance in family planning. That “assistance” was too much for Republicans indebted to the radical evangelical cult that exists to control and dominate women. So Trump jumped at chance to repay the patriarchs in the religious right and scrapped the contraception mandate in a blatant religious attack on American women.

The new theocratic ruling will impact the millions of women who now receive contraceptives at no cost under the “former” provision and it was a ruling the evangelical fanatics and USCCB wanted to eliminate. The idea of women getting or using contraceptives at all is an abomination to the Vatican, so in conjunction with the religious right they tasked Republicans to oppose the mandate and Trump made it go away.

The new rules allow all manner of employers, including nonprofits, private companies, and publicly traded corporations to join radical evangelicals like Hobby Lobby’s owners and ban contraceptives in health insurance plans based on a “sincerely held religious or moral objection;” an objection founded on the Vatican’s 1968 “encyclical on life.”

Tragically, now that the evangelical extremist sect got the basis for the Vatican’s edict on life inserted into the federal Health Department’s mission statement, the stage is set for the personhood movement to abolish, not just restrict,  any form of ”unnatural or artificial birth control,” fertility treatments, abortion, or anything to do with stem cell research; all forbidden in the 1968 Roman Catholic encyclical on life and founded on the religious fantasy that “life begins at conception.”

The idea that life begins at conception is a Catholic construct with absolutely no scriptural, biological, or medical science basis whatsoever. In fact it contradicts what the Christian bible’s almighty god said several times about when life begins. As a reminder, according to the “immutable and unerring word of god” of the Christian bible; there is no life, or “living being,” until a fetus leaves the womb and draws “the breath of life.” No zygote, embryo or fetus can possible draw “the breath of life;” but that inconvenient truth doesn’t fit the Vatican, and now bastardized American Christians, plan to control women’s reproductive lives.

Of course the evangelical fanatics and Vatican control freaks know exactly what their god said regarding living beings, but they cannot control women’s reproductive health choices unless a single-celled zygote is a person; that is exactly what the Catholic ‘personhood’ movement claims. Now the United States federal government claims it as official policy.

It was that “life begins at conception” absurdity that Hobby Lobby used to convince the conservatives on the Supreme Court that birth control pills are “abortifacients.” For the uninformed, an abortifacient is a drug used to induce an abortion or cause a miscarriage after a sperm cell fertilizes an ovum; the definition of “ the moment of conception.”

Hobby Lobby, following the Vatican’s encyclical on life, claimed that using birth control prevents conception and is therefore abortion. Of course the conservatives on the High Court conceded that using contraceptives is not “an abortion,” but because it was contrary to Hobby Lobby owners’ “sincerely held religious or moral objections,” the Court acquiesced to the Vatican edict and ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor.

It is likely that many Americans, including religious Americans and women, have no concept of the danger inherent in an extremist religious edict such as “life begins at conception;” it will have a deleterious impact on women and men. Remember, according to the Vatican edict, any unnatural form of birth control is strictly verboten on pain of everlasting torment in Hellfire; because birth control prevents “conception” the clergy claims is tantamount to murder. That means birth control pills, IUDs, diaphragms, tubal ligations, hysterectomies, vasectomies, condoms and any other “unnatural or artificial” form of birth control are abortion; because they all prevent “conception.”

Now that America is in the clutches of a cabal of radical religious extremists, every nightmarish scenario possible is just another executive order away from becoming reality. It is worth remembering that the religious right was not always opposed to abortion or contraception. They embraced the issue as their own after they lost the right to impose school segregation in the South on counsel and advice from the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB). The religious right needed an emotional cause célèbre to garner electoral support for Republicans and the USCCB gave them one straight from the Vatican – “life begins at conception.”

To be perfectly clear, and head off criticism, this is not condemning Catholics any more than it is condemning Christians; just those extremists, organizations, and clergy forcing their dangerous pseudo religious dogmata on all Americans. It is almost certain that most Catholics and Christians would be appalled if they understood the danger of theocratic edicts like “life begins at conception” as a federal government policy.

As an aside, it is odd that a very high percentage of Catholic women have used birth control and it leads one to wonder if making it harder to acquire contraception in America is driving this bizarre fantasy that life begins at conception. According to the Catholic god’s immutable and unerring word, life begins when a fetus exits the womb and draws “the breath of life.”

The only thing that begins at conception is a diploid cell (zygote) resulting from the fusion of two haploid gametes; a sperm and an ovum. It is a basic biological fact that the Vatican, evangelical fanatics and Republicans refuse to grasp even though their god explained it so a three-month-old Rottweiler could understand it. Now America is in the grip of these religious maniacs, and it appears women are in the grip of the Vatican’s 1968 Humanae Vitae; a document well-suited for the 14h Century the Trump administration and evangelical right are imposing in 21st Century America.

Image: CNS/Bob Roller

Strip Tax Exemption From Churches – Not the N.F.L.

Apparently the petulant brat in the White House is butt-hurt that he has been unable to bully the National Football League’s team owners in his fabricated outrage over athletes exercising their constitutional rights. To further rile up his base, Trump came up with some “fake news” that brings up a point of contention, and a cost of hundreds-of-millions of dollars, among many American taxpayers; churches’ tax exempt status.

After scheduling a propaganda plot with his evangelical buddy Mike Pence, Trump took to Twitter to ramp up his base’s animosity toward the N.F.L. to portray the wildly popular sports league as unpatriotic “takers.”

Trump said Congress should eliminate a law that allowed the N.F.L. central office to avoid paying taxes as a nonprofit entity. It is important to note that “only the central office” was tax exempt, like every church in America has been for far too long. The teams, players, and team owners all pay taxes and Trump knows it.

Another bit of news Trump is aware of is that the N.F.L. “voluntarilygave up its tax exemption in 2015; there is nothing Congress can do to eliminate the N.F.L.’s tax exemption they no longer have. Trump is guilty of fabricating “fake news” that he projects on every news outlet on Earth that fails to praise him as a Republican demigod.

It is important to note that the N.F.L. central office’s tax exempt status didn’t bother Trump when he was trying, and failing, to buy an N.F.L. team in 2014. As an aside, many pundits assert that Trump’s current attacks on the league are, besides a distraction from his glaring incompetence, retribution because the league didn’t accept his bid to buy the Buffalo Bills because it was considerably lower than billionaire Terry Pegula’s.

On the only media outlet that Trump has a semblance of control over, his Twitter account, he tweeted:

Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country?” Change tax law!

Ignoring the fact that the N.F.L. is not getting any “massive tax breaks,” there is more “fake news” from Trump that the 32 teams that make up the “league” are disrespecting “our anthem, flag and country.” Neither the “league” nor any one of the 32 teams are disrespecting a song, a flag or America any more than the players exercising their First Amendment rights are. The players are protesting racial injustice and they are paying taxes; something no-one knows if Trump is doing because he is too corrupt to release his tax returns. Everyone knows churches are not paying taxes.

One would support eliminating the N.F.L. central office’s tax exempt status if it still existed on one condition; first strip the tax exempt status from every church in America and do it with extreme prejudice.

According to the last time an organization “estimated” how much church tax exemption is costing American tax payers, that free welfare amounted to about $8.5 billion annually in 2013.  It is noteworthy that the $8.5 billion does not include tens-of-millions in “faith based” initiative money or the double-dipping members of the clergy enjoy on what little they claim on their personal income tax returns. Added in those number are religious organizations exemption from paying sales tax, property tax, federal, state, and local income tax, or investment taxes.

Trump’s claim the N.F.L. Is disrespecting “our country” applies “bigly” to evangelical and Catholic Church organizations. According to their namesake Jesus Christ, and  “their” almighty god’s immutable words, Christians are commanded to pay taxes as well as obey the government on pain of everlasting damnation in eternal Hellfire.

Instead, primarily evangelicals and Catholics regularly violate federal and state laws they claim don’t comport with their “religious beliefs;” even though those “deeply held beliefs” are not part nor parcel of either faith. Those groups also disrespect the United States Constitution by denying other Americans their constitutional equal rights or freedom from religious imposition. It is a monumental form of “disrespect” to other Americans and the Constitution to violate their equal rights and still take the “violated people’s” tax dollars in the form of a tax exemption.

There are many people who have asked for years; “Why are churches getting massive tax breaks while disrespecting the Constitution, other Americans’ freedoms and the secular nation the Founding Fathers provided? Change tax law!”

Trump doesn’t come up with great ideas often. For dog’s sake, he never comes up with even good ideas until now. It is an excellent idea, and time, to “change tax law.” However,  before even considering the N.F.L.’s non-existent tax issue, it is damned high time for Congress to strip tax exemption from every church in the land and save taxpayers what is certainly well over $100 billion annually.

It is possible that for some Americans churches provide a service of sorts, but they don’t deserve tax exemption for doing what their “holy books” command. School teachers, firefighters, military personnel, police officers, librarians, dog catchers and many, many other Americans pay taxes and they all actually provide crucial services to all Americans. For Trump to demand the N.F.L. lose a tax exemption it  forfeited voluntarily two years ago while not focusing on the unwarranted, and wildly expensive, church tax exemption is not only hypocritical, it is further proof that Trump is a punk-ass hypocrite looking for a reason to rile up his base and distract America from his criminal enterprise in the White House.

 

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

Court Rules Against Kentucky’s Religious Abortion Law “With Prejudice”

As expected, women in Donald Trump’s America have already suffered assault after assault to their rights. There has been no good news for women since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration and it is likely there won’t be at the national level until the “pussy-grabbing” misogynist is out of the White House and Republicans lose control of both houses of Congress. However, there was a sliver of good news late this week at the state level when an evangelical extremist governor suffered a blow from a federal judge in Kentucky.

In the ruling handed down in an opinion that only required one page, Federal Judge David Hale told Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin that his cherished anti-woman law violated the Constitution. What that means for Kentucky women, and their healthcare providers is that they will no longer be forced into undergoing an ultrasound prior to terminating a pregnancy.

The law, H.B. 2, which was enacted in January, required doctors to perform an ultrasound and attempt to show an image of the fetus and play audio of its heartbeat to a pregnant woman before performing an abortion. Instead of being truthful and admitting that the barbaric law was the work of radical evangelical extremists, upon signing it Bevin hailed the law as “protect[ing] our most vulnerable, guaranteeing important freedoms for workers and setting our Commonwealth on a course for unparalleled opportunity and prosperity.”

It’s unclear exactly how forcing physicians to perform an ultrasound to demean the woman “guaranteed freedoms for workers” when it forced doctors to perform an unnecessary procedure, or set Kentucky “on a course for unparalleled opportunity and prosperity.” But it sounds more reasonable than Bevin explaining the real reason for the law; to control women, deny them their constitutional rights, and dictate to doctors how to practice medicine according to radical evangelical extremists.

Bevin was being honest when he saidIt is an honor for me to sign into law these historic pieces of legislation” because his evangelical bent informs his intent, and honor, to control women’s reproductive lives and force doctors to do the bidding of the radical evangelical extremists running Kentucky.

The Federal Judge’s ruling is just months after Bevin attempted to shutter EMW Women’s Surgical Center on “his claim” it didn’t meet state health requirements.  A lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the woman’s clinic and said:

If EMW is forced to close its doors, there will be no licensed abortion facility in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Kentucky women would be left without access to a critical and constitutionally protected medical procedure.

Of course that was Bevin’s, and the Kentucky legislature’s, intent and it inspired the Judge to issue a tersely worded one-page decision slapping the evangelicals down like they deserved. The key part of the very short ruling said:

The defendants (Bevin et al) “are permanently enjoined from enforcing H.B. 2 by civil action, criminal proceeding … or any other means of penalizing any person for failure to comply with H.B. 2 by by civil actions criminal proceeding, administrative action or proceeding, or any other means; and applying, imposing, or requiring compliance with, implementing, or carrying out in any way any part of H.B. 2. This action is DISMISSED with prejudice and STRICKEN from the Court’s docket.” (Judge’s bold and caps)

In a statement the ACLU said the ruling was a “vindication of the rights of Kentuckians and their physicians.” A senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas also said in the statement:

We are pleased that Kentuckians will no longer be subjected to this demeaning and degrading invasion into their personal health care decisions. This ruling puts us one step closer to getting Kentucky politicians out of the exam room.”

If Ms. Kolbi-Molinas were more forthcoming and not terrified of butt-hurting the evangelical extremists behind H.B. 2, she would have said the ruling puts “us one step closer to getting Kentucky evangelical extremists out of women’s vaginas.” But she made her point. As anyone with a pulse comprehends,  although it was Kentucky’s Republicans “in the exam room” and physicians’ medical practices, they were driven by evangelical interlopers to impose their bastardized religion on women and their medical providers.

It is true that this victory is noteworthy, but Kentucky is just one of the many Republican-controlled states on a tear to criminalize a legal medical procedure on religious grounds. Kentucky’s other attack on women is a ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, but the lawsuit only focused on “forcing doctors to perform ultrasounds” and not the 20-week ban. The evangelicals running the House of Representatives are set to vote next week on a federal version of H.B. 2 and never one to pass up an opportunity to punish women, Trump pledged to sign that 20-week abortion ban. It is unclear if the federal attack on women’s rights will advance past the Senate, but this Federal Court ruling may inform religious Republican senators that passing laws targeting a legal medical procedure is unconstitutional.

As this column has complained about relentlessly, neither the Federal Judge nor the ACLU ever mentioned that these and other attacks on women’s reproductive rights are founded solely on a genuinely bizarre version of Christianity championed by the radical evangelical personhood movement, and the Vatican. It certainly leads one to believe there is a federal law or article in the Constitution prohibiting anyone from uttering an unkind or accusatory word against a specific religion. Conservatives have no issue defaming other religions.

Despite spending no small amount of time studying the U.S. Constitution, and the U.S. Code, this author can find no state or federal law, or statute, or article in the Constitution banning any American from uttering an untoward comment about religion. Kentucky’s H.B. 2, like the House’s ridiculous fetal pain legislation, is founded on an absurd religious belief and according to the First Amendment, religious beliefs cannot be legislated into law. It’s damned high time women’s advocacy groups and Democrats, and Federal judges acknowledge that it is patently unconstitutional to legislate the establishment of religion; particularly legislating religion to punishing non-compliant women.

Image: LeoWeekly

Military Chaplain Warns That Serving the Constitution Is Serving Satan

he evidence of the trickle-down effect of President Donald Trump’s relationship with the far fringes of the Christian Right is blatant and rampant, and now it is being exposed in the U.S. Military. Many Americans are unaware of the myriad times Trump has issued executive orders explicitly advancing the prejudices, hate and bigotry of the “far fringes” of the one of his last remaining support groups: the evangelical right. However, they have not gone unnoticed by an Air Force chaplain who is preaching that service members’ obedience to the U.S. Constitution over their Christian faith is serving Satan.

An article in Newsweek elucidated the ‘trickle-down effect” of Trump’s pandering to the religious right in reporting the practices of a United States Air Force chaplain at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The chaplain who ministers to “thousands of men and women” at the Air Force base is blatantly asserting in an essay that “Christians in the Armed Forces serve Satan,” and are “grossly in error” for supporting other service members’ Constitutional right to practice other faiths. The chaplain, Captain Sonny Hernandez viciously criticized Christians in the service who “rely on the U.S. Constitution and not Christ.”

Hernandez posted an article on BarbWire and wrote:

Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, which means they have no accountability for their souls.  This is why so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right.

 Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

Captain Hernandez is wrong on many levels, religious fanatics typically are, but he definitely knows exactly why “Christian” service members support the rights of other faiths and the U.S. Constitution. Like Captain Hernandez had to do, every member of the American Armed Services swears an oath, to the Christian god no less, to support and defend the Constitution.

“I , _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.’’

It is noteworthy that nowhere in that oath, or the Constitution, is there any reference to Christ, Christianity or swearing “true faith and allegiance” to religion whatsoever. Bear in mind that chaplain Hernandez swore the “so help me god” oath to support and defend the Constitution, and yet he is actively preaching to his charges that doing so is “grossly in error.” Hernandez’ actions have not gone unnoticed and they have elicited “many complaints” from service members according to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).

MRFF reported earlier in the year that the number of complaints it has received from servicemen and -women in the Army, Air Force, Marines and other branches has doubled since Trump’s election. Service members are reticent, no they are terrified, of lodging complaints with their superiors or the Department of Defense for fear of retaliation at the hands of firmly ensconced high-ranking evangelical fundamentalists in the military.

After fielding “multiple complaints” from service members specifically about Hernandez, MRFF finally filed an official complaint with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) inspector general in April urging the powers that be to investigate Hernandez. After writing the essay in BarbWire, MRFF filed a new complaint this week. As of Friday past, Newsweek reports that neither the Air Force base where Hernandez works nor the DoD’s inspector general has responded to requests for comment or to MRFF’s complaints.

According to MRFF’s most recent complaint, Hernandez’ article “blatantly and indisputably advocates the subordinating of the U.S. Constitution to his personal Christian ideology and violated his Oath of Office as a commissioned officer, as well as Title 18, U.S. Code § 2387.”

That section of the U.S. Code deals with “criminal prohibitions against counseling or urging insubordination, disloyalty, or ‘refusal of duty’ to other military members.” There is little doubt Hernandez has violated his own “so help me god” oath, as well as Title 18, U.S. Code § 2387, but there is little to no chance in proverbial Hell that the Defense Department will take action against a Christian chaplain for fear of inciting Trump’s wrath for “persecuting Christians.”

The founder of MRFF, Michael Weinstein, is a retired Air Force officer that directed blame for Hernandez’ public call to subordinate the Constitution to Christianity at Trump and his intent to always do the bidding of the fanatical evangelical right. Mr. Weinstein said:

America’s military members look to the president for direction and inspiration. Trump’s statements and actions have fully endorsed and validated this unbridled tidal wave of fundamentalist Christian persecution, which is now more inextricably intertwined into the very fabric of our Department of Defense than ever before.”

It is noteworthy that fundamentalist Christianity was already “inextricably intertwined” in the upper echelons of the military long before Trump; and it was heartily encouraged by the George W. Bush administration. The issue became much worse since Trump occupied the White House.

In May, for example, MRFF reported that with the advent of Trump as commander in chief, the organization experienced “a massive influx of new military and civilian personnel complaints of religion-based prejudice and bigotry, most of them coming from non-fundamentalist Christians being persecuted by their military superiors for not being ‘Christian enough.’”

As reported by MRFF, and well-acknowledged by members of the Armed Services, “the U.S. military has long been seeded with radical Christian fundamentalists,” sometimes called Christian Dominionists, who believe “Warrior Jesus” supports their fight against Islam. Like Trump’s choice for Education Secretary, Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions, the “Dominionists” fervently believe their task is establishing a “Kingdom of God” on Earth, starting with the United States. Apparently establishing that kingdom in America is predicated on establishing a fundamentalist military flush with “onward Christian soldiers” according to the Wright-Patterson chaplain.

Americans should be horrified that the military has been infiltrated by fanatical evangelicals who now have a champion in the White House. The idea of soldiers being preached at to put their religion above the Constitution and to stop supporting their fellow soldiers’ constitutional rights is, as MRFF’s Weinstein asserts, a glaring threat to national security. It is also a terrifying sign that theocrats have taken over the military.

Image: U.S. Defense Department

Rand Paul Beds Down With Organization Advocating Prison for Abortion

Republicans are being lured to do an anti-women’s choice organization’s bidding that includes advocating jail sentences for women who have an abortion. While the nation is mesmerized by a con man’s social media use and incompetence, the religious right is making unprecedented progress in the war on women while no-one is watching. Of course it is tempting to only monitor the criminal in the White House, but it is a distraction giving cover to religious anti-choice advocates and Republicans to pass legislation ending women’s reproductive rights and compelling them to become either birth machines or celibate.

It was reported that Rand Paul (R-KY) is pandering for donations for a personhood organization, the National Pro-Life Alliance, to give them more funding leverage to buy Republican support for Paul’s latest “fetal personhood” offering. The nasty religion-driven “non-profit” is making a major push to control women now because Trump signed a solemn pledge to support Paul’s “personhood legislation.” Trump also told the religious group that he supports a “federal” personhood bill, and they expect him to repay them for their ardent electoral support.

National Pro-Life Alliance recently sent out a letter supporting Paul’s “fetal personhood” bill bemoaning the fact that women who exercise their legal right to a medical procedure are not arrested, charged, prosecuted and sent to jail.

Rand Paul’s latestpersonhood” bill, “Life at Conception Act 2017” is short and says much more than it seems.

This bill declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being.”

What the bill doesn’t say is that anything the religious right deems an “unnatural interference” with that “moment of fertilization” will be considered a crime. Paul did add a “provision” to make his bill palatable to more senators, but it means nothing if the bill is passed and signed into law. The provision states:

Nothing in this bill shall be construed to require the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child, a prohibition on in vitro fertilization, or a prohibition on use of birth control or another means of preventing fertilization.”

If anyone believes the measures Paul inserted to make his anti-choice measure palatable are legitimate, they are stupider than dirt. Remember, once theses religious fanatics get their foot in the door, women’s right to choose their own reproductive health is finished. In the Hobby Lobby ruling, although the conservative Justices acknowledged that according to all known medical and biological science, birth control is not abortion, still ruled for Hobby Lobby. They claimed that because according to Hobby Lobby’s owners’ religious belief that birth control is abortion, then it must be abortion to them. It was that “religious belief” aspect that gave Hobby Lobby and the religious right another means of banning birth control because it is unnatural and interferes with “the moment of conception.”

Now, it is getting old having to remind these “Christ centered” personhood malcontents that according to their god in their Christian bible, there is no “living being” until the moment the fetus leaves the womb and draws breath. The result of “the moment of fertilization” is a single-celled organism called a “zygote.” It is not a living human being and deserves no more constitutional rights than an embryo or a fetus. It is noteworthy that Republicans, particularly the evangelical Republicans, are immensely concerned about protecting the rights of a non-living human being, but the second that fetus exits the womb and draws breath they have no use or regard for its well-being whatsoever.

These “Christ centered” personhood advocates could not care less what their holy book says, and despite that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is not a human being, they hew closely to a document created by a Catholic they believe should be enshrined as the law of the land in America. And it is terrifying that there are religious Republicans who share their conviction and now have the means to make it law.

Most Americans who have heard about the Catholic “Personhood Movement” are either completely clueless to its purpose or laugh it off as just another bizarro-world religious right worldview. Although they didn’t start the personhood crusade, the religious right embraced it whole-heartedly to keep the “faithful” electing Republicans who do the movement’s bidding. Prior to being convinced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that birth control and abortion were brilliant emotional appeals to sway evangelical voters for Republicans, the religious right was not anti-women’s choice.

The ultimate goal of the personhood movement is to force legislation that conforms to the 1968 papal encyclical on human life known as Humanae Vitae. The movement adheres to the “encyclical” thesis that all “unnatural” forms of birth control are sinful and that sexual relations are for the express purpose of producing offspring; but only in marriage.

That is a loose summary of Pope Paul VI’s instructions to the Catholic faithful that the personhood movement has adopted as its raison d’être. Now that the personhood movement has a White House occupant’s signature on a document supporting any personhood bill,  they see an opportunity to finally succeed.  With Trump, and Pence who supports jail for abortion, on board, and two Republican versions of “personhood” bills in the works in Congress, it looks very bad for women and their constitutional right to control their reproductive health.

There has been a methodical effort by the personhood movement, with valuable aid from religious Republicans, to create a strategy to eliminate any and all legal protections for abortions, and eventually any and all “unnatural” forms of birth control. Central to that effort is building a body of laws that define zygotes and fetuses as full U.S. citizens with the same legal and constitutional rights Republicans want reserved for white evangelicals.

Women have never been in as much peril of being controlled by the religious right regarding their reproductive rights as they are today. Since Republicans control all three branches of government, there is no firewall against something as absurd as personhood legislation or the real risk of women being imprisoned for choosing a legal medical procedure. It is true a personhood bill on its own will not technically overturn Roe v Wade, but the result will be exactly the same.

If women, or the men who love them, think the religious maniacs will stop at jailing women for having an abortion, it is worth reminding them that there are pro-life personhood zealots who support charging women for murder for choosing a legal medical procedure. No one should be shocked if Republicans “compromise” and settle for just jailing women who have an abortion.

Trump Appellate Nominee Says Religion Supersedes Constitution

Anyone serving in the U.S. Government has to abide by the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land, but that is not the ardent belief of Trump’s nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The idea that the Constitution is secondary to a judge’s religious belief has been a growing threat for at least a couple of decades or so, but now that threat is becoming reality as America lurches toward an evangelical theocracy. For far too long politicians have looked the other way as theocracy-minded evangelicals have infected the government hoping to spread their evangelical beliefs like an incurable cancer.

At least now some members of the Senate realize the danger of a religious fanatic serving as an appeals court judge, but it is likely far too little to stop a serious threat to the rule of law by a Trump nominee who said judges have a duty to put their faith above the Constitution.

Amy Coney Barrett is a practicing conservative Catholic, and is an extraordinarily enthusiastic opponent of a woman’s right to choose. She has written extensively on the Catholic Church’s need to dismantle a long-standing legal medical procedure, Roe v. Wade. Barrett also does not subscribe to the idea of adhering to long-established legal precedents if they conflict with her religious belief that some laws, or Supreme Court rulings “were gross mistakes” because they are not founded on the Christian religion.

Barrett is a law professor at the Catholic Notre Dame University and except for serving as a “law clerk” for dead SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia and appellate Judge Laurence H. Silberman, she has not served as a judge: and she damn well never should for one very good reason.

According to a recent report from the Alliance for Justice (AFJ):

As a judge, Barrett could be expected to put her personal beliefs ahead of the law. She wrote specifically about the duty of judges to put their faith above the law in an article entitled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases.” Among other things, she strongly criticized Justice William Brennan’s statement about faith, in which he said that he took an oath to uphold the law, and that “there isn’t any obligation of our faith superior” to that oath. In response, Barrett wrote: “We do not defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.” (author bold)

If that is Barrett’s position, and she has written extensively that it is what she believes,  it automatically disqualifies her for any position in America’s judicial system. No judge, federal or otherwise, can blatantly disregard the only basis for law in the United States, the U.S. Constitution. Barrett claims the law of the land is secondary to a judge’s religious belief.

And, regarding Barrett’s nomination to a life-long position on a federal Circuit Court of Appeals, AFJ’s president Nan Aron said In a statement:

Amy Coney Barrett is a judicial nominee the likes of which we have rarely seen: a person who believes and has stated that judges can and should put their personal beliefs ahead of the law and Constitution when carrying out their duties. Specifically, Barrett has written that judges should put their religious faith ahead of the law in certain cases. She also has written that judges should not have to abide by precedent if they disagree with how past cases were decided. These views are so contrary to our system of democracy and justice that, in our view, they clearly disqualify her for the federal bench.

That AJF report elicited concerns in the Senate leading Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch to ask about her “questionable record” while quoting directly from the AJF report. But Barrett, a self-admitted “conservative Catholic” did what is becoming natural for so-called “conservative Christian” adherents;  she violated her Christian bible’s Ninth Commandment and lied by denying the AJF’s accusations. She responded to Senator Hatch saying:

That is not true. I totally reject and have rejected throughout my entire career the proposition that the end justifies the means or that a judge should decide cases based on a desire to reach a certain outcome.

Barrett’s assertion was quickly called what it was, a dirty lie, by the legal director for Alliance for Justice, Daniel Goldberg who asserted that Barrett’s testimony is “a point-blank lie.” He said:

Look at our report. It quotes Coney Barrett directly.”

California Senator Dianne Feinstein joined Senator Hatch in expressing her deep suspicions about Barrett’s religious extremism. She noted:

When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Minnesota Senator Al Franken actually did the right thing and questioned Barrett’s “fitness to serve” when she claims a judge’s religious beliefs trump the U.S. Constitution. He also rightly chastised “the conservative Catholic’s close ties and communication with the anti-gay Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.”

It isn’t immediately clear who in the Trump administration directed Trump to nominate Barrett as an Appellate Court judge, but it was almost certainly either Mike “preacher” Pence or Jeff ‘bible” Sessions. It may have even been the Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom; they all believe the Christian bible supersedes the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land. There is no doubt that the idea of a conservative Catholic panting to overturn Roe on the federal bench almost certainly gave them a 19-year-old’s ‘boner.’

Barrett has no right serving in any capacity as a judge. And no, her religion is not the issue; nobody has any shit to give about what Psalms she sings, how she worships, who she prays to, or what Christian denomination she subscribes. However, every American alive should shudder that Trump is nominating Christian extremists who fervently believe that judges have “a duty to put their faith above the law of the land” because it is a direct line to an oppressive theocracy; exactly what whoever nominated an extremist like Barrett intended.

Image: Patheos

Virginia GOP Says Dem. Opposing Racism Is a “Christian-hating bigot”

It is stunning, really, that the state with a motto “Virginia is for lovers” has been the scene of a world of hatred lately. Of course the hate-fest in Charlottesville was attended by a fair number of white supremacists from out of state, and no doubt the haters were all Trump supporters as well as Republicans; but there is something else about Virginia’s Republicans that reveal they emanate hatred. In fact, Virginia Republicans are some downright nasty characters and this week, for the second time in six years, the official Republican Party of Virginia (RVP) has distinguished itself as a horrific example of shameless hatred..

As a secular humanist, one has very little f*ck to give about what the faithful do as long as they are harmless and doing it with themselves. In fact, if the bastardized Christians in the Republican ranks and religious right would hew close to the Jesus teaching of brotherly love, charity and acceptance, they may not be perceived as religious haters on a crusade to control the nation.

When a Virginia Democrat who served in Congress, former Rep. Tom Perriello, called out his “fellow Christians” on Twitter for “ignoring the issue of white supremacy while cloaking themselves in the mantle of their faith,” the Virginia GOP reacted like the haters they are. The Virginia GOP said that because Perriello had the temerity to speak out against white supremacists, he was “a Christian-hating bigot.”

It is a fairly hateful, and odd, thing for so-called religious Republicans to say; particularly because Mr. Perriello was expressing his opinion  from an explicitly Christian perspective against white supremacy.  It is curious that the Virginia GOP, a group that knows Perriello well, would label him a “Christian-hating bigot” when they know he has served as a consultant to the evangelical National Council of Churches of Christ and aided in starting several evangelical faith-based advocacy organizations. Obviously he can in no normal universe be regarded as a “Christian hater.”

Mr. Perriello launched a series of three “Tweets” in response to the violence in Charlottesville at the hands of Donald J. Trump’s white supremacist and Nazi devotees. Perriello appealed to religious right leaders who have not spoken out against white supremacists and called on them to “at least” acknowledge that “racism and white supremacy are a Christian problem.” It is a problem Perriello acknowledges and felt he had to call out the white religious right who are certainly Republicans. He said via Twitter:

White evangelical leaders [whose] whiteness is the golden calf you choose to worship and idolize, is blasphemy of God’s word,”

Any white pastor or priest not preaching this weekend on white supremacy as blaspheming the image of God is another is part of the problem.

 If you have a white pastor/priest who doesn’t preach on white supremacy as blasphemy against image of God in another, please say something.”

Perriello’s entreaty to his fellow white evangelicals, and their clergy, to “please say something” about the white supremacy and racism permeating the South was a bridge too far for the religious fanatics in the Virginia GOP.  Their response was pure Trump and doubled down on Virginia Republican hatred. The Republican Party of Virginia “tweeted:”

Let’s not mince words: you are a Christian-hating bigot We were better off when you were out of the country. #LeftWingBigot

Now, Mr. Perriello’s call to speak out against white supremacy, from his devout Christian worldview, was not an outlier by any means; not now and not historically. After Charlottesville, there were myriad denominations’ leaders speaking out against white supremacy and racism; even some of Republicans’ most fanatical evangelical leaders including Trump’s personal spiritual advisor.

In fact, as noted by Alison R. Parker at ShareBlue, “opposition to white supremacy has long been a bedrock principle for many people of Christian faith; including America’s 19th Century abolitionist movement.” Ms. Parker quoted Christianity Today noting:

Not that all abolitionists were orthodox Christians, though a large proportion were. But even those who had left the church drew on unmistakably Christian premises, especially on one crucial point: slavery was sin. Sin could not be solved by political compromise or sociological reform, abolitionists maintained. It required repentance; otherwise America would be punished by God.”

Now, ignore that weary nonsense about god punishing America. No sane human being believes that now in the 21st Century, and it is likely that few believed it in the 19th Century either. However, the bit about opposition to slavery, white supremacy and racism being  “unmistakably Christian premises” could not be more true if uttered by mythological Jesus himself.

It isn’t clear if some right wing evangelical leader put the Virginia GOP up to the seriously nasty retort to former Representative Perriello, or if they came up with it of their own accord. It is quite likely that Perriello’s message hit home with the religious Republicans ensconced in the Virginia GOP leadership and instead of actually addressing the substance of his call to action against white supremacy, they acted like Trump and attacked what appears to be a ‘real Christian’ appealing to white evangelicals to “please say something” about white supremacy.

In the same manner the preponderance of Republicans are not screaming out against Trump’s, and their racist white supremacist supporters, white evangelical clergy are staying predictably silent. Neither Republicans nor bastardized Christians are going to criticize what is almost certainly the GOP’s most reliable voting base. But they are quick to loudly criticize a religious Democrat for opposing white supremacy.

h/t AlisonRParker