Posts Tagged “freedom of religion”

Lucifer, the fallen angel / By Gustave Doré (for Paradise Lost) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsDespite their religiosity — or perhaps, because of it! — American Christianists oppose religious freedom. Oh sure, they stomp around trumpeting how great religious freedom is, and even whine about how they don’t have any (although that’s a fucking lie). The truth is, they have all the religious freedom they want … and the religious freedom they most want, is the “freedom” to impose their religion on everyone and to harass those who insolently defy their dour metaphysics.

Toward that end, they’ve proclaimed limits on others’ religious freedoms. For instance, many Neocrusaders insist Muslims don’t have any religious freedom, on the grounds that Islam isn’t really a religion, it’s a political philosophy instead. That political philosophies, in addition to religions, are also protected by the First Amendment, is something they appear not to understand. They also say this as though their own religion isn’t, itself, political movement, even though it most certainly is.

No, the mantra they love to spew is that the US was founded by Christians, therefore, only Christians have “religious freedom” — even though, quite obviously, the First Amendment doesn’t say a word about Christianity or any other religion specifically.

The latest Christofascist to reel off this lie, as Right Wing Watch reports, is Rick Wiles (Archive.Is cached article):

End Times radio host Rick Wiles appeared on a program hosted by Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com over the weekend, where Wiles declared that people have no right to worship Satan in America and warned that doing so will bring destruction on this nation.

Wiles said that our society “has been sterilized of God” and “Satan is now coming in to fill the vacuum” and is outraged by reports [cached] that city officials in Boca Raton, Florida, are allowing a satanic display to be erected in a city park during the holiday season.…

“What is happening to this country?” Wiles asked. “We’ve lost our mind. And the city council and the mayor say, ‘Well, these satanists have their rights too.’ No, they don’t. They don’t have any rights. You don’t have the right to worship Lucifer. I’m sorry, but this country was founded by Christians, you don’t have the right to worship Lucifer in this country. You’re going to bring damnation and judgment on the nation.”

Note, Wiles’s complaint is pretty much the same as had been hurled a couple years ago by a bunch of militant Christianists in Texas protesting a “Satanist church” there. What none of them understands are two things: First, Satanists have the same “religious freedom” rights as anyone else; and second, they don’t actually worship Satan … they’re just protesting militant Christofascism with an ironic counter-argument of their own. In other words, these Christofascists just aren’t getting the message. It went right over their sniveling, infantile heads.

Wikimedia Commons.

I’ll end this post with a little dig at all the Christofascists out there: Hail Satan!

Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

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Praying Crusader / ModlicisekrizakNow that Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump has been elected president, he’s begun assigning roles to the various men (many of specious character and/or ability) who supported his campaign. The transition process has turned out to be a clusterfuck, which should surprise exactly no one (WebCite cached article).

One of his appointees, retired general Michael Flynn, is an outspoken Neocrusader (i.e. a Religious Rightist who wants Islam banned in the US at the very least, and — if possible — eradicated from the planet). Among other things, the soon-to-be National Security Advisor as Right Wing Watch explains, he’s said that Islam isn’t a religion (cached):

In August, the Dallas Morning News reported that Flynn had delivered a speech to a Dallas gathering of the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, in which he had called Islam “a political ideology” that hides behind “being a religion,” and “a cancer.”…

“Islam is a political ideology.… It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion. And I have a very, very tough time because I don’t see a lot of people screaming ‘Jesus Christ’ with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, literally axing families on a train, or like they just killed a couple of police officers with a machete.”

Note: The original Dallas Morning News article referred to is no longer on the paper’s Web site, but an Archive.Org cached version is available.

RWW provides video of this event, via Youtube:

Flynn’s complaint that Islam isn’t a religion, but rather a political ideology, is an old one among Religious Rightists. By saying Islam isn’t a religion, the R.R. rationalizes outlawing that religion and robbing Muslims of their religious freedom. Their assumption that Islam could be abolished in the US if it’s found to be a political ideology and not a religion, is — of course — foolish, since in addition to religious freedom, we also have political freedoms. The R.R. could no more ban Islam-as-a-political-ideology than it could the ideology of Leftism (which it would very much like to do, but can’t).

What’s more, Flynn’s contention that Christians never kill based on their Christianity, is untrue: Christians can, and do, terrorize and kill in Jesus’ name. Almost a year ago, Robert Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado (cached); he didn’t (as Flynn idiotically suggested) shout “Jesus Christ” while doing so, but he did mention “baby parts” after he was captured. As such, he was obviously motivated by the release of videos by a “pro-life” Religious Right group a few months prior. (Now, PP wasn’t actually selling baby parts, but sanctimonious pro-lifers don’t really care about facts. They only care about their outrage.)

As I’ve blogged many times before, these Neocrusaders view Islam as the chief rival of their own religion (which, for nearly all of them, is Christianity). Their “war” against it is basically just a form of religious one-upmanship … i.e. a way of pushing the narrative that their god is bigger than the Muslims’ god. By agitating against Muslims, they hope to “prove” the virtues of their own religion and make Muslims cave in to them.

As such, it’s all very childish, but this is the ideology that elected Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump. So what can one expect?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Rick Santorum lowering his head to pray at an Arizona Republican Party fundraiser in Phoenix, Arizona / Gage Skidmore, via FlickrAdd former Pennsylvania Senator — and current back-of-the-pack GOP presidential candidate — Rick Santorum to the list of militant Christianists who claim Islam isn’t really a religion and therefore isn’t protected by the Bill of Rights — which, ironically, was ratified 224 years ago this very day (WebCite cached article). Mediate reports on the Rickster’s idiotic Christofascist blather (cached):

Santorum even argued that Islamic principles are not entitled to complete religious protections due to the religion’s embrace of beliefs that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution.

“Islam is different. I mean that sincerely, Islam is not just a religion,” Santorum said. “It is a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, a civil government, a form of government. So the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.

Note Rickie’s yammering and whining about shari’a law. He presumes it’s part and parcel of Islam and that anyone who follows that religion is obliged to follow shari’a law as well. He forgets two important things: First, there is no single entity known as shari’a law … different sects and cultures view it differently; and not all Muslims, even devout ones, want to live by any form of shari’a law at all (many came to places like the US and Europe specifically in order to get away from it).

Like many Christofascists Rickie-boy employs his own subjective definition of “Islam” in order to argue that Islam is something other than a religion and therefore isn’t entitled to the religious freedom provisions of US law. It’s a ridiculous premise, of course, but these folk are so sanctimoniously outraged that Islam exists — and that there are actually Muslims still living in the world! — that they just can’t control themselves long enough to understand how fucking childish they are. They view Islam as Christianity’s main rival, on a global scale, and simply can’t get over that some people prefer it to their faith.

About the only thing I agree with the Rickster about is that, as far as I know, barring Muslims from entering the country isn’t specifically unconstitutional. Yes, it would be stupid. It would paint people with far too broad a brush. It would be difficult to enforce; visa applications, as far I’m aware, have no line item for “religion,” but even if they did, people could certainly lie. It would wall off the US from the entire Muslim world, which is enormous. It would, quite simply, be a petulant and childish overreaction to Islamist terror … which could be better handled in other ways. But even with all that said, people who aren’t American citizens and who are trying to enter the country, don’t — as far as I know — have any Constitutional right of entry. (I invite any Constitutional scholars who read this, and think otherwise, to instruct me further on the matter.)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Mob with pitchforks / Rockford (IL) Register StarYes, folks, it’s true. There are actually Christians in the US who think freedom of religion is a terrible thing. Or more precisely … they like it, but when applied only to themselves. That is, they think everyone is free to be a Christian — but only a Christian; they’re not free to be anything else (cached), or to have no religion at all.

An example of this sort of thinking was evident late last week in Spring, TX. According to KTRK-TV in Houston, Christians there protested the opening of a “Luciferian” church (cached):

Protest and prayer filled the air outside of Spring’s newest church Friday evening: the Greater Church of Lucifer.…

Some protesters made their way onto the property, only to be escorted off by Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies.

“This is what we get when we have Freedom of Religion,” said protester Christine Weick.

This was the group’s first meeting at its first building, which is smack dab in the middle of Old Town Spring.

There’s more than a little magical thinking going on among this crowd of militant Christianist protesters:

“We are all Christians here, together against this,” [Weick] said. “We ought to be filling up the whole street here that they have to pass through us to get into that church.”

Clearly, Weick thinks that these horrific Luciferians having to run a gantlet of devout Christian protesters will magically make them take Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord & Savior® or something. That, of course, is just as insipid and idiotic as thinking Ten Commandments monuments in courthouses will magically make the whole country law-abiding.

As I always do when I see stories like this, I will issue this challenge to any and all Christianists who sincerely think “religious freedom” applies only to them and no one else: If you really think that, then track me down and force this cynical, godless agnostic heathen to convert to Christianity, whichever form of it you think I’m obliged to join. Go right ahead. Do it. I dare you! Lock and load. I won’t fight back, but I also won’t willingly convert … no matter what you do. That said, you’re free to give it your best shot. And why wouldn’t you? You already think I’m obliged, as an American living in your precious “Christian nation,” to become a Christian. What logical reason would you have not to at least try to make that happen with me?

Photo credit: Rockford Register Star.

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On the heels of presidential candidate Ben Carson’s idiotic Islamophobic yammering, and my release of a static page on this blog explaining what the Great Neocrusade is and what’s wrong with it, the furious Christofascist Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council repeated that Muslims don’t have freedom of religion in the US. Right Wing Watch reports on his claim, and includes audio (WebCite cached article):

On his “Washington Watch” radio program yesterday, Perkins repeated his claim that Islam is not protected under the U.S. Constitution.

While discussing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson’s recent statement that he would never support a Muslim candidate for president, along with the claims of Kim Davis’ critics that a clerk would never receive such praise from the Religious Right had she been a Muslim, Perkins railed against media commentators for “interjecting” Islam “into all of these discussions.” He said that the media is using Islam as a “wedge” to divide conservatives, suggesting that Kim Davis’ decision to impose her Christian beliefs onto her county office was different because Islam is not protected in the Constitution, while Christianity is.

“Religious freedom and our liberty is ordered liberty under the Constitution,” Perkins said. “And as Dr. Carson pointed out, and I know this is driving the left crazy, that Islam is not just a religion, Islam is an economic system, it is a judicial system, it is a compressive system which is incompatible with the Constitution. That’s what Dr. Carson said and he happens to be correct.”

This isn’t the first time Tony-boy has said something like this. I noted he said pretty much the same thing just about a year ago. He hasn’t changed his tune a bit since then, I see. But just as was the case back then, Tony-boy is a blatant fucking hypocrite, decrying Islam as “an economic system” and “a judicial system” in addition to being a religion. He conveniently ignores that his own Religious Right movement is simultaneously religious, political, economic, and judicial. For Tony-boy to say Muslims can’t be granted religious freedom because their religion has certain features, but not admitting to them within his own religion — which he says does enjoy religious liberty — is hypocritical. Which he’s not allowed to do, since his own Jesus clearly, unambiguously, and explicitly forbid his followers ever to be hypocrites, at any time or for any reason. He simply can’t do it!

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the problem here is that the Religious Right views Islam as its main rival, on a global scale at least. That it’s a small minority religion here in the US, and that it does seem to have a propensity for violent extremes at the moment, makes Muslims here a convenient and ready target. That doesn’t mean all Muslims are dangerous, even though Tony-boy and his fellow Neocrusaders keep insisting that’s so. They forget there is such a thing as Christian terrorism, too. So yeah, that’s another example of Religious Right hypocrisy … condemning Islam as a “terrorist” religion, but ignoring the terrorists within their own faith. Nice, eh? Fucking hypocrites.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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The mayor argues that this Nativity scene celebrates the town's origins. / KOAT-TVAccording to Fox News, it’s on, folks! That’s right, Christianists’ annual paranoid whining about an imagined effort to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US has resumed early — in August! (Even so, that’s not as early as back in 2013.) This story involves the town of Belen, NM which has a nativity in a city park year-round (“Belen” is the Spanish equivalent of “Bethelehem,” so Christians there appear to believe this is somehow necessary). KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports on this particular little controversy (WebCite cached article):

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

“My first reaction was seething anger,” Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said.

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it was contacted by a concerned local resident and, after reviewing the situation, it agrees: the Nativity scene on government property is unconstitutional because it’s not a separation of church and state.

But Cordova doesn’t see it like that. He says the scene is more historic than religious, as “Belen” is Spanish for Bethlehem.

“Our town was named Belen for a reason, because our founders wanted it to be named after Bethlehem and of course, what happened in Bethlehem was the birth of Christ, which is something we’ve expressed since our founding,” he said.

I love the editorial reference to the FFRF as “a Wisconsin advocacy group.” As though they’re a bunch of meddling outsiders trying to tell these fine upstanding locals what to do, and who have no place in New Mexico. It turns out this is a common refrain, particularly regarding the FFRF, when they intervene anywhere in the South. “How dare these ‘outsiders’ come down here and order us around?” is a frequent complaint by Christianists offended by being confronted with the law. As noted in the story, though, the FFRF had been notified of this by locals who’d requested their assistance. Besides, the FFRF’s status as “outsiders” to Belen is irrelevant. If they’re breaking the law, then they’re breaking the law, and being told so by out-of-staters cannot and will never change that fact.

As KOAT-TV relates, mayor Cordova used an appeal to the slippery slope in order to justify keeping the nativity on city property:

“Where does it stop?” Cordova asked. “If we don’t stand up for the Nativity scene in the heart of Belen, next will they be asking us to change our name?”

For the record, I know of no effort anywhere in the country to force any municipality to change its name. It has never happened. To assume it will happen merely because one imagines it might happen, is irrational and illogical. At any rate, fuelled by his sanctimonious rage and standing on a foundation of fallacy and paranoia, Cordova promised his city will defy the FFRF and take the case to court. The odds are very good that they’ll lose. What’s more, a court battle is likely to cost them a good deal of money, even if some Christofascist legal outfit promises to represent them pro bono, because after the court case is over and they’ve lost, Belen will end up having to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs. And that won’t be cheap.

I can’t help but wonder why any of this is even necessary. First, why must this nativity — reflecting Belen’s heritage as a New World “Bethlehem” — be placed only on municipal property? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to private property? Will it somehow lose all its magical power unless it’s in a city park? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to some church’s front lawn or something?

Second, why are Christians even erecting idols to their deity — which is essentially what a nativity is — in the first place? As I point out in my page on Decalogue monuments, idolatry is forbidden to Christians, as recorded in both the Old and New Testaments:

You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Lv 26:1)

Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness (Jon 2:8)

Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods. (Ps 97:7)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor 10:14)

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 Jn 5:21)

On top of this, though, a nativity put up prominently on public property is most certainly a form of public piety, which also was explicitly forbidden by none other than Jesus himself:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-6)

How, exactly, is a public nativity scene even an appropriate way to worship a deity who not only prohibited the construction of idols, but also public piety of any kind or at any time? Maybe it’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and haven’t been granted the special sacred insight required to explain the illogic inherent in all of this, but I really and truly don’t get it.

Photo credit: KOAT-TV.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Air Force Academy Oath of OfficeThe kinds of “persecution” many Christians believe they’re afflicted with, are rather bizarre and difficult to figure out. Take, for example, the fact that — as of a year and a half ago — the US Air Force Academy made the “so help me God” at the end of cadets’ oaths optional (WebCite cached article). Apparently this was part of a campaign by the military to suppress religion in the Air Force. Or something.

I haven’t quite figured out how making a profession of belief optional — yes, optional! — harms believers. But then, I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen, and am not gifted with the lofty spiritual insights required to discern that.

One Texas Congressman is so incensed about that decision, Raw Story reports he’s proposed legislation to unravel that, and force all cadets to beg for God’s help (cached):

A Republican congressman has introduced legislation that would force cadets at the Air Force’s Academy to say “so help me God” during their oaths every school year. He said the legislation is necessary because Americans don’t have “freedom from religion.”

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015 [cached], would protect the religious freedom of American troops.

“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county [sic] with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” he said in a statement.

Again, the late 2013 policy change does not forbid cadets from saying “so help me God,” as Rep. Johnson seems to think. As I said, it merely makes it optional. I’m not sure why Johnson is misrepresenting Air Force policy — but he clearly is.

Johnson also trots out an old canard among the Religious Right:

“Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion — but not freedom from religion.

Unfortunately this is not the first time one of these Christian Nation types has openly said that non-believers have no right to refuse to believe in a religion. And I don’t expect it’ll be the last. But it’s true that they rarely come out and say it quite as openly and candidly as this.

At any rate, if the Congressman is convinced that I, as a non-believing American, have no right to remain a non-believer, then I heartily invite him to do something about it. He can track me down, if he dares, and force me to believe in a religion (I assume, his own). Based on the premises he subscribes to, there’s no reason he wouldn’t wish to. So he can just go right ahead. I dare him.

I won’t even get into the fact that he’s suborning perjury by forcing non-believing cadets to profess a belief they don’t hold onto. But that might be the point of what Johnson is doing … non-believing officers in the armed forces would end up having that violation hanging over them, their entire careers. It’s a tool that could be used to control them in any number of ways. Pretty clever, actually.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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