Bishops Advise Republicans and Parents to Reject Trans Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

One particularly offensive section of the letter states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Patheos

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

Missouri Allows Employers To Fire Women For Using Birth Control

For human beings that live in a free society, it is impossible to imagine how horrible it would be to live in an uncivilized Hell where it is necessary to pass a law to protect a woman’s personal freedoms and privacy. In a free society, those personal freedoms and privacy are generally guaranteed to all citizens, so it would never be necessary to even consider a law that protected women from being punished for anything legal, much less for their personal choices. Conversely, patriarchal theocracies controlled by a religious sect would likely forbid such a law from being considered in the first place, much less debated and passed.

In the American state of Missouri, when a city had to pass an ordinance that prohibited employers and landlords from punishing women for exercising their legal Constitutional right to use contraceptive birth control, the religious Republican legislature and governor reacted like the Taliban – minus the guns.

The religious Republicans running the state of Missouri, under direction from the religious Republican Missouri governor, are deep into the process of enacting legislation granting religious individuals authority to punish women if they dare exercise their Constitutionally-protected freedom to use birth control or have an abortion without facing the wrath of the religious right. It is important to note, this is Missouri in America, the Show Me State. And the religious Republicans are showing the nation they are doing exactly what this author has warned about for a decade; use their ugly, savage, insidious religion to control women by punishing them for disobedience. The Missouri Republicans initial form of punishment is being fired and homeless, or become a slave birth machine for evangelical Jesus and the Vatican.

The anti-women legislation was the subject of a “special legislative sessionconvened by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens to put a screeching halt to a recently-passed ordinance that “prevents employers and housing providers from punishing women for their “reproductive healthcare choices.” The focus of the special session was to, as quickly as possible, overturn what in a civilized society should have been a completely unnecessary ordinance. Apparently, the city of St. Louis must not feel Missouri is civilized if they had to pass a law to protect women’s personal privacy and freedoms already guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

The ordinance enraged religious Republicans in the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature that concurred with the governor; the St. Louis ordinance is “a radical attempt” to transform the area into “an abortion sanctuary city.” So the state’s House and Senate quickly passed SB5 on June 14  to put women back under religious men’s control. But still, the legislation wasn’t nearly harsh enough so six days later (June 20) the Republican House passed “an expanded version of SB5” awaiting Senate passage and the governor’s promised signature.

The new and improved SB5 authorizes any landlord or housing provider to refuse housing to any woman based on their reproductive health choices, such as using birth control or if they ever had or contemplate having an abortion. And a landlord can evict a woman for using birth control, having or had an abortion, or for “becoming pregnant while unmarried.

Employers will have the power to fire any “female staff members” who use birth control, or refuse to hire them for being “non-compliant” to a church-driven edict. And to skirt any federal or state privacy laws, particularly medical privacy laws, the theocratic SB5 authorizes employers and landlords access to “what forms of reproductive health care they are using.”  Obviously, men who have had a vasectomy or use “rubbers” are exempted from religious control.

This hideous religious legislation, and that is all it is, puts the great majority of Missouri women at risk of losing their employment or their residence according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) because,

99 percent of all sexually-active, reproductive-age women have used contraception.”

As Sejal Singh of “Feministing” opined, “whether or not someone is part of that 99% is none of their boss’ goddamn business.” Missouri’s religious right Republicans, like all nasty religious right Republicans, disagree that it is none of their business. They claim it is their biblical right to “invasively give employers and landlords power to police highly personal choices women make about their bodies and lives.

There is already a federal law, the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against women because they have had or considered having an abortion, but there is no specific federal legislation protecting women from being punished for using some form of birth control, or becoming pregnant while unmarried; in a free society there is no need for those kinds of legislation. However, in Trump’s savage America, his evangelical administration is frantically rolling back or stripping civil rights protections across the board, and with a conservative Supreme Court anxious to expand evangelicals’ religious liberty to impose biblical edicts as the law of the land, women are in serious peril and not just in Missouri.

Most Americans oppose being ruled by a theocracy, and yet that is precisely what is unfolding now that religious Republicans own the federal government. All of these anti-women’s choice measures are attempts by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to exert control over American women and impose the Vatican’s 1968 Humanae Vitae that forbids sexual activity not intended to produce offspring.

A major reason this religious savagery continues unabated is because the media, Democrats, and women’s rights activists and advocates are terrified to cite the only source of any and all of these anti-women laws. Until the media, women’s rights activists, and Democrats start citing the Vatican and evangelical fundamentalism as the only source of terror being inflicted on American women, legislation like Missouri’s SB5 will continue spreading across the land. And with an evangelical maniac like Mike Pence directing Trump’s domestic policy, Americans can look for more extreme versions of SB5 being enacted at the federal level.