Trump’s love of tyrants hits “religious freedom” limit

Anyone keeping track of the world leaders Donald Trump has lovingly embraced surely noticed one overriding characteristic and defining trait, they are predominately authoritarian dictators. In addition, the tyrants Trump is enamored with have human rights abuses on their records that seemingly make them more appealing to Trump for the obvious reason that his dream is imposing harsh punishment on the people he regards as enemies.

There is little doubt, at least to this author, that if he believed he could get away with it, Trump would parrot the actions of tyrants such as Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, North Korea’s Kim Jung un, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and of course the tyrant he is most enamored with Vlad Putin. It is beyond doubt that one particular reason Trump is enamored with the aforementioned tyrants is the regularity of their human rights violations, particularly against dissenters.

During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump told supporters at a rally that he’d like to punch a protester in the face, and that he lusted for the “good ole’ days” when protesters could be  carried out on a stretcher.” During one rally he appallingly urged his supporters to “stand ready to knock the crap out of hecklers;” something he would instruct law enforcement to do if he had the same dictatorial authority his favorite tyrants enjoy. Instead, he offered to pay the legal fees of supporters arrested for assaulting peaceful protestors.

One of the tyrants Trump admires, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, must have held a special place in Trump’s black heart because after the terrible Turk  observed his security detail “brutally assault” American protestors in America’s capital, Trump’s silence was tacit approval. His silence also reinforced what many Americans already believed about Trump; an overwhelming desire to allow his vile supporters to “brutally assault”  anti-Trump protestors. It is certainly why he fairly praised white supremacists as “very fine people” after they attacked peaceful protestors in Charlottesville Virginia killing one woman for protesting against Trump’s fascist acolytes.

Trump has been silent about all of his favorite dictators’ record of human rights abuses since his poorly attended inauguration leaving many Americans to wonder what kind of atrocity would inspire Trump to condemn his authoritarian heroes. This week Americans learned there is a limit to Trump’s pleasure in human rights abuses at the hands of tyrants, but that limit was set by his extremist evangelical supporters and the aspiring preacher-in-chief Mike Pence – not any sense of common decency or regard for human rights.

It is telling that Trump condoned Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail viciously assaulting peaceful American protestors on American soil, but he is reportedly incensed at Erdogan for detaining an American evangelical preacher accused of causing dissent. This week, Trump threatened to “impose large sanctions” on Turkey over the detention of evangelical preacher Andrew Brunson. Trump’s threat was on the same day as  Mike “preacher”  Pence’s warning during a “religious freedom” summit. To keep pace with the “religious freedom” crusade to pressure an ally,  the Senate Foreign Relations committee passed legislation that would use America’s influence on the World Bank to withhold financial assistance to Turkey – for as long as the evangelical preacher is being detained.

Of course Turkey’s foreign minister responded to the threats in the same way America responds to threats from religious extremists:

No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”

The particulars of why preacher Brunson is being held under house arrest are, for the purpose of this screed, primarily irrelevant. Harsh treatment, whether it is being imprisoned or summarily slaughtered, in Turkey has not incurred any untoward comments, much less threats, from the Trump theocrats. But there is a new “international religious freedom” campaign underway and it was during one such confab led by Pence that a tyrant is being reproached by America’s theocrats – over the treatment of one “man of the evangelical faith.”

What is noteworthy is that the Muslim-majority nation charged Brunson with “dividing and separating the majority-Muslim country by spreading his Christian faith.” That is the reason preacher Pence called on “believers across America to pray for Brunson” while warning the sovereign Muslim nation:

That if it does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey – until pastor Andrew Brunson is free. To President Erdogan I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”

Trump is no more interested in a tyrant’s aggression toward people in his nation than he is fulfilling the pledge he made to uphold and support the U.S. Constitution during his poorly attended inauguration. If that were the case he would be dispensing threats of “significant sanctions” on all manner of nations including his heroes Kim Jung un, Vlad Putin and Rodrigo Duterte et al for committing real human rights abuses, not just “detaining” an evangelical “man of faith.”

In fact, Trump and Pence had a prime opportunity to deliver threats and warnings against Egypt just recently for sentencing 75 people to death for participating in a “sit-in” in 2013. Just like when Turkey’s president watched his security detail brutally assault American protestors on American soil, Trump and Pence have been silent over a tyrannical nation imposing the death sentence for protesting; because the protestors are Muslims.

This absurd round of threats against a sovereign nation for imposing its own laws is a very bad sign that the Trump administration’s “international religious freedom” crusade has nothing to do with promoting religious freedom internationally. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to have any empathy for an American evangelical preacher who relocates to a majority-Muslim nation to “convert” Muslims to Christianity. For dog’s sake, the evangelicals  championing “religious freedom” in America do not comport Muslim adherents whatsoever, much less if they came from foreign nations to proselytize Christians and convert them to Islam.

It is worth noting that as an American of Armenian descent, this author has little-to-no regard for Turkey or its tyrannical leader – no matter if the country is an American ally. However, Turkey is a sovereign nation and if according to its laws the evangelical preacher violated some statute against using his religion to divide the country, then it is the evangelical’s problem regardless of his nationality. He may enjoy “religious freedom” to ignore and violate the law and U.S. Constitution with impunity in America, but he is not in America. Moreover, regardless of how one views a nation guilty of exterminating 1.2 million Armenians, at least in Turkey “the rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”  If only that were the case in America that was founded on the “rule of law,” it is highly likely the threat of “religious freedom” to impose a theocracy would not exist.

Image: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

GOP Education Bill Gives Religious Bigots License To Discriminate

Republicans have had a field day with a rubber stamp in the White House, and besides handing the treasury to the rich and corporations, they have handed social and domestic policy over to bigots under the guise of protecting religious liberty. And it is noteworthy that they have acted stealthily while the happy fascist in the Oval keeps the people mesmerized with social media distractions.

Last week House Republicans introduced a “massive” 542-page “higher education” bill that gives bigots steeped in evangelical fundamentalism a free pass to discriminate if they do so according to their deeply-held religious beliefs and part of their religious practices. The bill, H.R. 4508, authored by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), contains a pair of provisions that “enables discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” without saying it is legal to violate the 14th Amendment on religious grounds. By not specifically mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity the Republicans left room for religious fanatics to discriminate against any group they choose.

The inaptly named bill, “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education” Reform (PROSPER Act) gives the impression that Trump’s America creates opportunities for Americans, but like nearly everything else in Trump’s America, it is a gift to evangelical bigots. Don’t believe it? In a section titled “Campus Access for Religious Groups” a provision guarantees that students can be discriminated against if the bigotry is founded on “religious beliefs or religious standards of conduct.

The offending provision states:

None of the funds made available under the Act may be provided to any public institution of higher education that denies to a religious student or organization any right, benefit or privilege afforded to other students or organization because of their religious beliefs, practices, speech, membership standards or standards of conduct of the religious student or organization.”

What that really means is any person or any group can discriminate against anyone based on a deeply-held religious belief and their religion’s standard practices without repercussions from the “place of higher learning” or state policy forbidding discrimination; it obviously neuters the 14th Amendment to sate religious bigots.

It is yet another Republican religious license to discriminate that taxpayers and tuition-paying students will have to fund and like it; it is how theocratic governments operate and Americans better get used to it.

Prior to this GOP theocratic legislation, the only way to prevent blatant discrimination was by withholding funding from institutions of learning, or by denying religious organizations campus funding for violating nondiscrimination policies they are obliged to uphold as recipients of free money. That concept is unacceptable to religious Republicans and their radical evangelical supporters. So they inserted language allowing the free flow of campus funding to evangelical bigots so they can discriminate against whatever kind of person they regard are “undesirable.”

Apparently there have been institutions of higher learning and governments that have withheld funding for groups that reject LGBTQ students’ membership or participation because “those kind of people violate the religious tenets of the group.” Despite non-discrimination policies at higher-learning institutions and the state and the federal government, the religious groups expect to be funded like every other campus organization that adheres to the U.S. Constitution and campus non-discrimination policies. With this hideous abomination of a bill, Republicans are ensuring that taxpayers and tuition-paying students will have to support bigoted religious groups whether they like it or whether it violates their humanitarian beliefs that discrimination is vile and unconstitutional.

Another section of the “PROSPER Act” protects universities that encourage and enact blatantly discriminatory policies with language virtually mirroring the religious Republicans “First Amendment Defense Act.” That “Act” is a federal Republican license to violate the 14th Amendment with impunity by protecting any businesses and organizations that refuses to serve LGBTQ people; it is the religious bigots’ version of the former Confederacy’s “whites only” laws and religious Republicans love it.  That provision states:

No government entity shall take any adverse action against an institution of higher education that receives funding under title IV, if such adverse action… has the effect of prohibiting or penalizing the institution for acts or omissions by the institution that are in furtherance of its religious mission or are related to the religious affiliation of the institution.”

Some of what religious Republicans call adverse actions to prevent discrimination are:

Denial or threat of denial of funding, including grants, scholarships, or loans; denial or threat of denial to access to facilities or programs; withholding or threat to withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation’s, contracts, tax-exempt status or exemptions; or any other penalty or denial, or threat of such other penalty or denial of an otherwise available benefit.

The two provisions combined mean that institutions of higher learning cannot legally enforce their own non-discrimination policies, and states cannot enforce state or federal discrimination laws on offending schools. This hate-policy is typical of Virginia Foxx who said in 2015 after the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality that it was a threat to the rights of religious bigots and their organizations. She pledged at the time to “do everything in my power to defend these rights;” she followed through with a religious license to discriminate tucked into an education bill.

These religious impositions legalizing discrimination are a growing trend now that the religious right co-owns the federal government. And as the folks over at the Human Rights Campaign noted, this particular “higher education bill is rife with other troubling aspects that should concern both LGBTQ students and all other students.” It is a continuation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ effort to dismantle protections for victims of campus sexual assault targeting women and endemic in her crusade to use the Department of Education to “advance the kingdom of god.”

Since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration there have been nonstop attacks on the rights of Americans, primarily women and members of the gay community, founded on evangelical fundamentalism. And those attacks are always justified as promoting religious freedoms despite they violate the U.S. Constitution; something that should horrify any American who still thinks they live in a free democratic society. Americans’ equal rights are being whittled away by religious Republicans and it is a tragedy that there is absolutely nothing any American can, or is willing to, do to stop the rush towards theocracy. For dog’s sake, most Americans are too afraid to even whisper that all of the Republican attacks on equality are founded on America’s bastardized version of Christianity and it’s exactly why the religious right is running the government.

Appeals Court Gives Christofascists License To Discriminate

Once upon a time there was a nation founded with religious freedom granted as a natural right. For about 200 years in America religious freedom meant exactly that; the freedom to worship, pray, sing Psalms, believe in loving air-fairies and evil fire-gnomes, and frequent whatever building one wanted to praise some kind of man-made god en masse. However, about 35 years ago when extremist Christians needed an emotional lure to garner electoral support for the Republican Party, Catholic Bishops taught them how to morph religious freedom into unchallenged power and authority to force a bastardized version of Christianity down the throats of every man, woman and child in the United States – according to “the Christian’s conscience.” It was a power Republicans were more than happy to grant their reliable voting bloc as remuneration for flocking to the polls with bibles in hand to keep the GOP in power.

Part and parcel of the GOP Christofascist cult’s religious freedom is more than just imposing their religion on the entire population, that isn’t nearly enough dominion for the tyrants working in their “god’s name.

What Christofascist Republicans intently  lust after is controlling the entire population and denying them their 200-plus year-old “god-given” Constitutional rights; including the freedom not to be controlled by barbarically savage evangelical fundamentalists. For an idea of what Christians really want, just imagine ISIS or the Taliban without the “righteous killing” in god’s name; something that is not that far off if the evangelical right gets any more religious freedom.

Yesterday in a biblical Appellate Court ruling, Republicans in the most “Christofascist” state in the nation won the right to deny other Americans’ basic human and Constitutional rights because it is what Mississippi Republicans believe religious freedom entails. Mississippi’s religious Republicans awarded evangelical theocrats the unchallenged right to legally discriminate against any state resident according to their newly-granted religious freedom.

The Appellate court ruling gave religious Republicans the license to discriminate exactly as the bible thumping cult has demanded for decades. Now in Mississippi, state-sanctioned discrimination is the law of the land and freedom from religious persecution was stripped from any non-compliant citizen. It is a giant step towards Christian “Sharia” in America.

Now with a theocracy-driven cabal running the federal government, that evangelical version of Sharia will spread throughout Republican-Dominated states just ahead of its imposition nationwide by a Republican-dominated federal government.

Yesterday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to Mississippi’s bible-based legislation, HB 1523. The theocratic legislation was signed into law by religious Republican Governor Phil Bryant about a year ago. In a gross understatement, HB 1532 was labeled “the most extreme anti-LGBT bill introduced anywhere in the nation,” but it impacts more than just LGBT Americans. The Court said that the Constitution loving plaintiffs were not “personally harmed by the law,” so they had no right to bring a challenge to the religious law.

Writing for the majority opinion, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry E. Smith said:

Under this current record, the plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by HB 1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality. We do not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact … but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward.”

The ruling fulfills extremist evangelicals’ ultimate fantasy and likely gave them massive wet dreams. Now the Christofascists have the legal right to discriminate based on their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, that sexual relations are biblically reserved to such a union, or that “male” and “female” refer to someone’s “immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The theocratic law also grants legal authority to any individual, business, government employee, nonprofit and any other possible entity to discriminate against not only LGBT people, but also same-sex couples and anyone who has ever had extramarital sex; all according to the Christian bible’s Old Testament edicts.

It is noteworthy that last April (2016) a federal Judge, Carlton Reeves, called HB 1523 exactly what it is; “state-sanctioned discrimination;”  Judge Reeves refused to allow Mississippi Christofascists to enforce the biblical law. In fact, about a month later Judge Reeves prohibited the Mississippi theocrats from attempting to impose the edict again. In his ruling he actually addressed the “religious freedom” issue for the bullshit it really is. He wrote:

HB 1523’s absence does not impair the free exercise of religion. In addition, issuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion. Matters of life and death are sui generis. If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to ‘tinker with the machinery of death,’ their animus exceeds anything seen in Romer, Windsor, or the marriage equality cases.” (author bold)

Judge Reeves is right, of course, except he didn’t add that “their animus” is purely religious hatred, not just “hostility.” And it is worth mentioning that if Mississippi residents believe the evangelical extremists will limit their religious hostility to the gay community, unmarried cohabitants, or the sexually adulterous crowd, they are stupider than they appear.

Remember, that phrase “based on their deeply held religious beliefs” will allow untoward acts, save paying taxes, against anyone if a person “claims” someone else’s actions violate their “deeply held religious beliefs;” even if they aren’t religious or affiliated with any religion and their deeply held beliefs are founded in bigotry. Now, no-one is safe in Mississippi. Because not only are they unfortunate enough to live in the most “Christian” state in the Union, those Christians now enjoy state sanctioned discrimination as the law of the land.

H/t New Civil Rights Movement