Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sporadic Blogging

I'm dealing with some personal matters right now, which leave me with less time for blogging. My posts will be sporadic for the time being.

In the meantime, enjoy some Korpiklaani.

Monday, February 1, 2016

News Tidbits

Hawaii News Now: Hawaii lawmakers: Ban gay conversion therapy for minors

Georgia Voice: Anti-gay preacher, LGBT community prepare for back-to-back rallies at Georgia Capitol

Buzzfeed: Ted Cruz’s Iowa Backers Blast The Attacks From Huckabee Allies

Washington Post: Marco Rubio talks to Iowa about God

New York Times: Indictment Deals Blow to GOP Over Planned Parenthood Battle

Reuters: Texas Supreme Court sides with cheerleaders on ‘Bible banners’

Associated Press: Judge Sides With Ark-Building Group on Tax Incentive

Associated Press: Court to weigh practice of Christian prayers at meetings

MSN News: Self-avowed anti-Islam activist arrested in connection with the Oregon 'militia' investigation

Commentary Tidbits

On Faith: The Bad Biblical Scholarship of Christian Radio

Sojourners: Dr. Larycia Hawkins on the 'Inquisition' at Wheaton and Why She Wants to Stay

SPLC Hatewatch: Anti-LGBT Hate Group Liberty Counsel to Defend Indicted Anti-Abortion Activist

Washington Post: In the age of Trump, grim warnings from Holocaust survivors

Sunday, January 31, 2016

GOP Candidates Divide the Religious Right

The battle for dominance between GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz is splitting the Religious Right. Cruz continues to garner support from right-wing Christian leaders, while Trump is making powerful friends and powerful enemies alike among Religious Right figures.

In an earlier post, Republic of Gilead observed that Cruz was trumpeting new endorsements by International House of Prayer pastor Mike Bickle, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, and multiple leaders from the anti-feminist Eagle Forum. Not long after that post, Cruz also won endorsements from Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, former Texas governor Rick Perry, the Benham brothers, Glenn Beck, and the heads of the Bott Radio Network (a Christian talk radio network). If these endorsements are any indication, Cruz has been wooing the Religious Right like a paramour.

Trump, too, has received support from prominent Religious Right leaders. For example, Texas pastor and radio host Robert Jeffress warmly introduced Trump at two Christian colleges, according to One News Now and the Dallas Morning News. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.) Jeffress' support may be a mixed blessing for Trump, as Jeffress' anti-Mormon statements may alienate conservative Mormon voters.

Other endorsements have stirred controversy among Religious Right leaders. When Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump's campaign, as reported by the Washington Post, several conservative Christian leaders looked askance at his decision. Michael Brown, Robert Vander Plaats, and David French were among the commentators criticizing Falwell's decision. The outcry became so loud that Falwell felt compelled to pen a defense of his decision. Trump, it seems, is a divisive figure among conservative Christians because of his moral character.

The deepest fissures dividing the Religious Right have to do with the candidates' stance on abortion. In late January, nearly a dozen anti-abortion activists released a statement scorning Trump for his misogyny and insufficient devotion to the anti-abortion cause. Leaders from Concerned Women for America, Susan B. Anthony List, and Iowa Right to Life signed their names to the document, which will undoubtedly have a strong impact on anti-abortion voters. (Hat tip to Washington Post.)
"Dear Iowans,

As pro-life women leaders from Iowa and across the nation, we urge Republican caucus-goers and voters to support anyone but Donald Trump. On the issue of defending unborn children and protecting women from the violence of abortion, Mr. Trump cannot be trusted and there is, thankfully, an abundance of alternative candidates with proven records of pro-life leadership whom pro-life voters can support. We have come to this conclusion after having listened patiently to numerous debates and news reports, but most importantly to Donald Trump’s own words.

The next president will be responsible for as many as four nominations to the Supreme Court. Mr. Trump has given us only one indication about the type of judges he would appoint, and it does not bode well for those who would like to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade. Mr. Trump has said his sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who struck down the Partial Birth Abortion Ban in New Jersey, would be a “phenomenal” choice for the court. Earlier this month, Mr. Trump also said he thought pro-choice Senator Scott Brown would make a “very good” Vice President. If one truly believes, as we do, that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life and is committed to the pro-life priorities of ending abortion after five months, and defunding the nation’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood, it would be a disaster to have a vice president who disagrees.

Moreover, as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular. He has impugned the dignity of women, most notably Megyn Kelly, he mocked and bullied Carly Fiorina, and has through the years made disparaging public comments to and about many women. Further, Mr. Trump has profited from the exploitation of women in his Atlantic City casino hotel which boasted of the first strip club casino in the country.

America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women. We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either. Therefore we urge our fellow citizens to support an alternative candidate."
The anti-abortion movement's rejection of Trump came at the same time as the debut of Cruz's anti-abortion coalition. According to a press release at the Cruz campaign website, the Pro-Lifers for Cruz Coalition will be chaired by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and populated by prominent anti-abortion activists.

Pro-Lifers for Cruz participated in a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on January 27th. At the 47:45 mark of this C-SPAN video of the rally, Tony Perkins explained the stakes of the GOP power struggle. The Religious Right's dissension over Trump and Cruz makes more sense when one realizes that the right wants a Republican president who will appoint far-right Supreme Court justices. In the eyes of many right-wing leaders, Cruz can be trusted to do so, while Trump cannot.
"I'm here in this Coalition for Life because there is nothing more fundamental than the right to life. And we look at what has happened in this country--let's just take the last forty-three years. On Friday, I stood on the mall in Washington D.C. for the March for Life. Forty-three years ago, the Supreme Court declared that a child was a choice, rather than something to be cared for that was made in the image of its creator. That wasn't something that the people decided. It wasn't even something that the state legislatures on the Congress decided. It was the courts.

And then we go back to June 26th of this past year when the court -- five judges on the court -- declared that they knew better than fifty million people when they imposed on the entire nation a redefinition of marriage. Now, when you look at all of the things that we care about ... the court is directing this country. The next president will appoint two or three Supreme Court justices. This issue's being lost on a lot of people in this election. Unfortunately, the court does decide the culture of this country ... Ted Cruz is a strict constitutionalist. He can pick 'em out. If there's one person in this election for president that I want picking the next two or three Supreme Court justices, it's Ted Cruz." 
The discord over Trump and Cruz spells good news and bad news. The good news is that without solid Religious Right support, Trump may not be able to unite GOP voters. Without that unity, he may not secure the Republican nomination. This thought is comforting to those of us who don't want Trump anywhere near a seat of political power. Of course, with Trump's strong poll numbers, Trump may have enough critical mass to succeed without united Religious Right backing.

The bad news is that Cruz remains a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. With solid backing by Religious Right leaders, plenty of right-wing voters trust Cruz as a Christian candidate who will carry out their agenda. Cruz's anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Wall of Separation platform is not in America's best interest, and for that reason, I cringe at the idea of Cruz as the Republican nominee. If Cruz secures his party's nomination (and that grows increasingly plausible each day), whether or not he can win the presidency depends on the performance of the Democratic nominee.

EDIT -- Or am I just being pessimistic? Would Trump's arrogance and ignorance alienate sane voters, even if he won the nomination? Would Cruz's far-right agenda disgust moderates and progressives, without whom he could not win the presidential election? Is the current crop of Republican candidates simply too repugnant to win in November? We can hope.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

NPR: Donald Trump Tests Culture And Character Priorities For Evangelicals

Mother Jones: Ted Cruz's New Anti-Choice Group Is Headed by a Guy Who Thinks Abortion Caused the Drought

Right Wing Watch: Cruz Pro-Life Coalition Leader: U.S. Can't 'Survive Another 40 Years Of Roe v. Wade'

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

News Tidbits

Associated Press: Survey: Religious Objections Law Cost Millions

Associated Press: Indiana evangelical group dismisses survey on objections law

Al Jazeera America: Georgia businesses assess costs of ‘religious freedom’ law

Washington Post: Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorses Trump

Religion News Service: Trump gets official and unofficial endorsements from two leading evangelicals

LGBTQ Nation: Rep. Louie Gohmert: ‘It’s time to start impeaching judges’ for marriage equality

Washington Blade: Pope Francis reiterates opposition to same-sex marriage

Gay Star News: Kim Davis: It was a 'joy' to stand against gay marriage

Pink News: Australian PM defends right of predecessor Tony Abbott to speak at anti-gay event

Commentary Tidbits

Sheep Dip: Study: Sex Education Shrinks Brain Cells Vital to Essential Function of Fearing God’s Wrath

Right Wing Watch: Trump Embraces Radical Anti-Catholic, Anti-Gay Pastor 

Homeschoolers Anonymous: No Unbelievers Allowed: How Homeschooling Became a Christians-Only Club

The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box: How The Village illustrates isolated, fear-based homeschooling

The Guardian: A court vindicated Planned Parenthood, but the damage has already been done 

The New Civil Rights Movement: Anti-Gay Activist: Christians Need 'Militant, Warrior Mentality' To Defeat 'Satanic' LGBT Movement

Gay Star News: This gay man was banned from speaking to his mom or sisters for three years to 'cure' his sexuality

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 March for Life Promotes Faux Feminism

The 2016 March for Life took place on Friday, January 22nd on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The March for Life is an annual gathering of anti-abortion activists, including conservative religious figures and political leaders. The March for Life rally included speakers such as Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, and Southern Baptist Convention ERLC president Russell Moore.

This year's March for Life included several satellite events, such as an anti-abortion expo and the 34th Annual Rose Dinner. The March for Life Conference featured keynote speech was entitled "Why the Pro-Life Movement Is the Authentic Women’s Movement", while the March for Life Youth Rally included workshops such as "Regret and Aftermath from Planned Parenthood Abortions" and "Pro-life Activism: Street, Online and Undercover".

I was astonished that thousands of participants marched in Washington D.C. right before an impending blizzard. The next day, when heavy snow made roads impassible and air travel impossible, many of those demonstrators probably found themselves stranded. I hope the march was worth it.

*   *   *   *   *   *

I observed the march in person in 2011 and blogged on the 2012 and 2015 marches from afar, and found the rhetoric repetitive and disconnected from reproductive realities on the ground. This was equally true for the 2016 gathering, which was oblivious to women's wants and needs.

Speakers at this year's march promoted a faux feminism, assuring their followers that denying reproductive rights to women actually empowered women. Anti-abortion figures claimed historic feminist champions as their own, insisting that the women's rights movement has always been anti-abortion. Activists who seek to protect abortion rights follow a "perverted feminism" that pits women against their children, they claimed. 

Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina combined the usual anti-abortion rhetoric with faux feminism. At the 15:02 mark of this C-SPAN video, Fiorina attacked Planned Parenthood funding, referred to a discredited smear campaign that accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, and claimed that the Democratic platform says that "a life isn't a life until it leaves the hospital". Your nose is growing, Pinocchio, I thought.
"In less than a year, there will be a new president in the White House, and that next president will have the awesome responsibility to pick up to four Supreme Court justices who will decide issues of life and religious liberty. She will decide ... whether we force taxpayers to fund the political arm of the abortion industry, whether we as a nation believe, as the Democrat platform says, that a life isn't a life until it leaves the hospital. Yes, that is the Democrat platform, that a life isn't a life until it's born, and they call us extreme. It is Democrats, the pro-abortion industry, that is extreme.

The next president of the United States will have a lot to say about whether a baby only a month, only a month from being born is only as good as the organs you can sell from it. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, this fight for the character of our nation."
Fiorina took swipes at Hillary Clinton and the left's "perverted" form of feminism at the 17:39 mark. She sneered at the idea of a war on women and of abortion as a vital health service.
"As we stand here today, Hillary Clinton is in New Hampshire giving a pro-abortion speech. She is saying that I, as a conservative woman, that all of us as conservative women, don't count. But here's the truth. The left has perverted feminism into a political ideology where women are pitted against men and used as a political weapon to win elections ... Being empowered means having a voice, but ideological feminism now shuts down conversation on college campuses and in the media. If you are a pro-life man or, heaven forbid, a conservative woman who doesn't believe the litanies of the left, then you are waging a war on women, or you are a threat to women's health, or you are variously described as 'window dressing' ... or 'offensive' as a candidate."
Sue Ellen Browder, author of Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women's Movement, also promoted faux feminism at the march. At the 49:46 mark, Browder claimed that "pro-life family feminism" was responsible for women's suffrage and second wave feminism. The anti-abortion movement is the true champion of women because it refrains from "pitting the rights of a mother against the rights of her baby", she argued.
"In 1969, I was fired for being pregnant. I went on to get a job at Cosmopolitan magazine, where I promoted abortion as the royal road to women's freedom. Now I have written this book, Subverted, to say I was wrong. I was wrong about abortion.

Women are most empowered and most free when we are interconnected in love with others. Your branch of the women's movement -- pro-life family feminism -- gave women the right to vote. Your branch of the women's movement -- pro-life family feminism -- launched second wave feminism in the 1960s. And your branch of the feminist movement -- pro-life, family feminism -- is still here today, marching in the streets, hundreds of thousands of strong, defending the bond of love between a mother and her baby.

You, not Planned Parenthood, not NARAL Pro-Choice America, represent the authentic women's movement of the 21st century ... We need to stop pitting the rights of a mother against the rights of her baby. Whatever harms the baby harms the mother."
The willful blindness was astonishing. Browder appropriated second wave feminism for her cause, ignoring the many second wave feminists who advocated for abortion rights. She flatly ignored the fact that control of one's reproductive destiny -- control over if, when, and how often one bears children -- is seminal to women's empowerment.

Underneath all of the pseudo-feminist rhetoric of the march was the belief that women should be mothers. Former NFL athlete Matt Birk couldn't imagine why a woman wouldn't want to have a baby, or why mothers might regret having unintended children. At the 57:17 mark, he had this to say.
"We march because I've never heard a woman give birth to a baby and then say, 'I wish I'd had an abortion'. That's why we march. Because I've never heard somebody say, 'I wish I'd had fewer kids'. That's why we march."
I have heard people say those things. Matt Birk really needs to get out more.

Marguerite Duane, co-founded of the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, was appalled that women might choose to delay childbearing or take measures to be "free to have sex without pregnancy". At the 1:02:03 mark, she claimed that abortion devalues that which "makes a woman truly unique".
"Being pro-life is pro-woman because the pro-life movement affirms what is unique and special about every woman in all phases of her life, personally and professionally as a daughter, a mother, a sister, a single person, or a married woman.

As a physician, I have seen the effects of the segment of our society that does just the opposite, that does not affirm the dignity of women, but instead convinces women that in order to be equal to men, we need to be just like them, free to have sex without pregnancy, and to succeed in their lives professionally, they need to delay having children, or if they get pregnant, destroy their unborn baby. This does not empower women! Instead, it devalues or destroys what makes a woman truly unique."
Let that sink in. According to Duane, society tells women that in order to be men's equals, they need to be "just like them, free to have sex without pregnancy". What is Duane saying here? Does she see pregnancy as women's punishment for having sex? It wouldn't surprise me, since anti-abortion activism seems less concerned about cherishing life than about punishing women for being sexual.

The March for Life shows us how the anti-abortion movement has adapted its tactics. More and more Americans are realizing that the War on Women is real, and that opponents of reproductive freedom are not acting in women's best interests. The march's faux feminist rhetoric tries to distract women from those facts. Oh, we're treating women with respect by forcing them to carry pregnancies to term. Oh, we're actually celebrating women by pressuring them into unwanted motherhood.

Give me a break.

Center for Medical Progress Founder Indicted

Things are looking bad for the Center for Medical Progress, the organization behind an anti-Planned Parenthood smear campaign last year. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood announced that it had filed a federal lawsuit against the parties behind "an ongoing, widely discredited video smear campaign", including the Center for Medical Progress. Now, the Center for Medical Progress is facing more legal woes.

According to the Associated Press, a Houston, Texas grand jury indicted David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, on a felony charge of tampering with governmental record. Sandra Merritt (alias Susan Tennenbaum), who appeared in the smear campaign videos, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with governmental record. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson explained that "we must go where the evidence leads us".

The grand jury investigated Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast after Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched a probe into Planned Parenthood's alleged harvesting and sale of fetal tissue, according to Reuters. The Associated Press reports that the grand jury found no indication of wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

The anti-abortion community is reacting as well as you'd expect.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Slate: Grand Jury Investigates Planned Parenthood, Indicts Anti-Abortion Activists Instead

The Atlantic: An Indictment for the Planned Parenthood Sting Videomakers 

According to Matthew: Creators of fake Planned Parenthood videos get indicted

Rachel Maddow on Mike Bickle's Endorsement of Ted Cruz

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Quotes from Trump's Speech at Liberty University

On January 18th, presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a weekly convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded by Jerry Falwell and currently headed by president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University is a prominent (and conservative) Christian educational institution.

C-SPAN captured Trump rambling remarks, which flattered Christians, celebrated militarism, and slammed Iran. Many of his remarks appealed to right-wing fears and American pride, regardless of whether such fears and pride were grounded in reality. For your edification, I've shared some quotes from the speech below.

First, Trump assured the audience that if elected president, he would protect Christians. At the 5:01 mark, he pointed to the oppression of Christians in Syria as evidence that Christianity is "under siege". I hope that Trump was not conflating ISIS atrocities against Christian minorities with the imagined "persecution" of Christians in the U.S.
"We're going to protect Christianity, and I can say that. I don't have to be politically correct. We're going to protect it. You know? ... I hear this is a major theme right here, but, Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians 3:17, that's the whole ball game. 'Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty', and here there is Liberty College, Liberty University, but it is so true ... It's so representative of what's taken place. But we are going to protect Christianity, and if you look [at] what's going on throughout the world, you look at Syria, where if you're Christian, they're chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity, it's under siege."
At the 17:11 mark, Trump used the imaginary War on Christmas as a way to appeal to his audience. He claimed that if elected president, stored would be allowed to display the words 'Merry Christmas'.
"You go into a department store now, right? Where was the last time you saw 'Merry Christmas'? You don't see it anymore. They want to be politically correct. If I'm president, you're going to see 'Merry Christmas' in department stores, believe me."
Trump trumpeted his support for a stronger military (despite the fact that the U.S. has one of the strongest militaries in the world in terms of armed forces personnel and funding). He warned listeners that an election victory by one of the Democratic candidates would mean "high taxes" and "things are not going to happen with the military" At the 8:55 mark, he had this to say.
 "We need to build our military so big, so strong, so powerful that nobody, nobody is going to mess with us. We have to do it! 
At the 11:26 mark, Trump appealed to American humiliation over the Iranian capture of 10 U.S. Navy sailors and contention over the Iran nuclear deal. He vowed that America would be strong and respected, with "powerful borders".
"Iran is taking over the Middle East ... We have totally destabilized the Middle East. It's a disaster. And you look at this new Iran deal, which took forever to get done. You look at how bad it is and how one-sided it is. You look at how one-sided this deal is, and yesterday I heard that we're getting our hostages back. Some people call them prisoners, some people call them hostages. I don't care ... [Iran is] getting all sorts of advantages including free market oil. They're getting unbelievable advantages. They're going to be an immensely wealthy country -- wealthy terror country -- and they're getting $150 billion.

So when our sailors were captured last week, I said that's one of the saddest things I've seen, when those young people were on their hands and knees in a begging position, with their hands up and thugs behind them with guns, and then we talk like it's okay. It's not okay. It's lack of respect. We can't let that happen to this country ... We're going to be strong, we're going to be vigilant, we're going to have powerful borders and strong borders."
On the topic of U.S. borders, Trump repeated his plan to have Mexico pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to keep immigrants out. At the 27:20 mark, he assured his audience that building a wall would be easy.
"Who's going to build the wall, folks? You tell me. Who's going to build the wall? MEXICO. Everybody knows ... They say, 'Oh, you can't build a wall.' So easy. You have no idea ... I just built a 92-story building. I mean, when you build buildings, building a wall, it's like, give me some pre-fab plank. Bing! ... I have to make it look beautiful. Why? Because someday, they'll name the wall Trump Wall! ...

And by the way, we want people to come in, but we want people to come into our country legally! They'll go through a process. They'll go through a process."
At the 42:10 mark, Trump appealed to right-wing paranoia about gun rights, claiming that Second Amendment rights are "under siege". Tastelessly, he insisted that terrorist attacks in Paris and California could have been thwarted by armed bystanders.
"Second Amendment, very good. We've got to have the right to protect ourselves ... The whole gun situation, it's under siege. Now they're talking about we want to give less bullets, we want to take bullets away ... You can't let it happen. By the way, in Paris, which has probably the toughest gun laws in the world, and France, had bullets been going the other way, you wouldn't have had 130 people killed and plenty more to follow who were so badly injured.

In California, recently, two weeks ago where you had the 14 people killed ... by these two radicalized people, where the people that were killed gave them wedding parties. They held wedding parties. They knew them. They were friends. They went in and they killed 14 people. If we had somebody, a couple of guys like him or him or definitely him with the white hat on with a gun strapped in here [Trump motions to belt] and the bullets could go the other way ... you would have had problems. You wouldn't have had it to the same extent at all.

We need the Second Amendment. Don't let anyone take it away. If I get elected, it's totally protected."
Anti-refugee sentiments found their way into Trump's speech. At the 44:30 mark, Trump played to right-wing fears over terrorists masquerading as Syrian refugees, suggesting that an influx of refugees was to blame for recent violence in Europe.
"I won't let the Syrians that we have no idea who they are. They want to come into our country. They may be ISIS. It may be the great Trojan horse of all time. Who knows? We cannot take a chance. I want to build a safe zone some place in Syria. What's happening in Germany is a disaster. What's happening in Brussels, what's happening all over Europe. Europe is being absolutely swamped and destroyed, what's going on with the crime and the problems. And it could be some sinister plot."
Trump's speech at Liberty University did not elaborate on policy or include logical observations about current events.  As the right-wing's id personified, he appealed to his listeners' pride, soothed their egos, and gave voice to their anxieties. And the audience ate it up.

Demagoguery has always been part of politics, but Trump's demagoguery speaks to the Religious Right's persecution complex, fear of outsiders, and love for American hegemony. A political campaign that feeds irrational emotions should make us all uncomfortable.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links

The Daily Beast: Trump Pledges to Make God Great Again

Salon: Donald Trump’s speech at Liberty University proves just how gullible evangelical voters are

The Atlantic: The Religious Right's Donald Trump Dilemma