Posts Tagged “religious freedom”

Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machinery, via Wikimedia CommonsThis is the second of two posts today on the subject of what I call the Great Neocrusade … i.e. the American Religious Right’s war on Islam, mostly within the US but in some cases not limited just to this country.

There are a lot of really angry Christianists in the US, and most of them are mortally offended by the mere existence of Islam, which they view as the world’s chief rival to their own religion. Many of them sincerely believe that there’s no such thing as “Islamic extremism”; in their minds, all Muslims everywhere are by definition “extremists,” so all Muslims must be put down before they slaughter everyone else. Or something like that.

That the US is now contending with the Islamofascist group ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-people-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood isn’t helping. That particular outfit is guilty of a level of savagery the world hasn’t seen much of in the last decade or so. Boko Haram’s kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria earlier this year, and al-Shabaab’s attack on a mall in Kenya a year ago, provide similar examples of the primitive barbarism some Muslims have been willing to stoop to in the name of their particular version of Islam.

While groups like this don’t represent the entirety of Islam — in fact, other Muslims are more frequently the targets of their savagery — these sorts of events fuel Christianists’ sanctimonious rage over Islam and push them to lash out as a result. Right Wing Watch reports on one such Christofascist whose shit-fit over Islam made him declare an “overwhelming Christian just war” on that faith (WebCite cached article):

Yesterday, anti-Islam activist Gary Cass, founder of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, posted a piece on his website [cached] in which he calls for Christians to prepare to wage holy war in an effort to utterly destroy all 1.6 billion of the world’s Muslims because Christians simply have to “face the harsh truth that Islam has no place in civilized society.”

Saying that there is no possibility of converting Muslims to Christianity and forcibly sterilizing all Muslims in order to prevent them from building an “Army of Islam” is impractical, Cass declares that the only solution is biblical violence, which is why Americans must now begin preparing to launch an “overwhelming Christian just war” by arming themselves and their children and forming “small cells” that will “crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus name”

I won’t quote any of this creature’s nasty screed. If you feel like reading it, you can do so for yourself. I will just point out that Cass’s group, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, is just another of many Christianist groups who presume that Christianity needs to be “defended” because it’s about to be wiped off the map. There is, of course, no effort to abolish Christianity in the US even if Cass and his colleagues believe there is. Christians are the majority in the country and will remain so for the indefinite future. He and the rest of the Religious Right have been hoodwinked by the psychopathology inherent in their own religion to want to feel persecuted for their beliefs, so they simply invent that persecution.

In any event, while the country’s Christofascists are cheering on Cass’s declaration of “just war” on Islam, I’m sure the rest of the world … especially the Muslim parts of it … aren’t entirely impressed. Cass doesn’t care about them, of course. In fact, the angrier they get, the happier he gets, because their anger only fuels his own sanctimonious indignation over Muslims’ continued insolent refusal to convert en masse to Christianity. In their minds, the only way to deal with some Islamists’ jihad against the rest of the world, is to direct a Christian holy war right back at them! In the meantime, those of us who’re neither Christian nor Muslim are watching these two groups engage in a pissing contest over whose god can beat up who else’s god. It’s all very tedious and also deadly, but since both sides are deeply mired in immaturity and anger, it’s not going to get better any time soon. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gustave Doré, Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, via Wikimedia CommonsToday I offer not just one, but two blog posts on the theme of what I’ve referred to as the Neocrusade; i.e. the American Religious Right’s effort to outlaw Islam in the US (and sometimes destroy it everywhere else).

I’ve blogged before about Christofascists declaring that the First Amendment’s freedom of religion doesn’t extend to Muslims. Usually the reason cited is because Islam — supposedly — isn’t really a “religion” per se, but rather, it’s a political philosophy. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it can Constitutionally be outlawed. Or something like that.

Of course, I’m not sure how that works, because as far as I know, the US also has things like freedom of speech and freedom of association, which together would make it impossible for government to outlaw any given political philosophy. Maybe that’s just because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and such important sacred notions are beyond my feeble, god-deprived mind.

But I digress.

Despite this, it’s rare for Religious Rightists to just come right out and say this. They tend to keep this notion close to their vests. Even so, once in a while one of them lets it slip. It turns out that, as Right Wing Watch reports, Tony Perkins did precisely this recently (WebCite cached article):

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who now styles himself as an Islamic scholar, said on his “Washington Watch” radio show yesterday that members of militant groups like ISIS are the real Muslims who are truly “practicing their faith.”

Islam is such a danger, Perkins explained, that Muslim-Americans should not have the same religious freedoms as other citizens.

He echoed other Christianists on the subject of why Muslims should be deprived of freedom to follow their religion:

He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”

As with other Christianists who’ve advocated defying the First Amendment in order to outlaw Islam in the US, Perkins claims it’s not merely a religion, but a lot more, thus depriving it of protection:

He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”

I find it truly odd that a Christian like Tony-boy would condemn Islam because “it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.” After all, the Religious Right movement as it exists in the US is most certainly an economic system, a judicial system, and a military system. If we’re to deprive Muslims in the US of their religious freedom on those grounds, then by the very same reasoning, Perkins and the rest of his fellow Christofascists must also forfeit theirs.

Only a brazen hypocrite could come up with something that insipid. Perkins’s own Jesus explicitly forbid him ever to be hypocritical, of course … but Tony-boy isn’t aware of that, and not likely ever to obey that injunction even if he were to be educated about it.

To be clear, I’m no more a fan of Islam than I am of Christianity (an accusation that correspondents have leveled at me). It is, of course, absolutely correct to protect the US and American interests, and Islamic terror groups such as ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-people-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood ought to be destroyed. There also does appear to be something about Islam which allows such primitive barbarism to grow and fester in a manner not seen — at this moment — in any other religion. But even this admission doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, or even helpful, to outlaw Islam in the US or deprive Muslims here of their religious-freedom rights, merely because some anxious Christian presumes mosques here might be recruiting terrorists. Americans — all Americans, not just Christians! — have certain rights, not the least of which that they shouldn’t be presumed guilty of wanting to be terrorists until there’s reason to think they might be. This means Muslims should be left alone in their homes and mosques (which should continue to be built) until there’s information suggesting otherwise.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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SiegeOfAcre1291Earlier this month I blogged about some Fox News hosts who said that non-believers should leave the U.S. if they prefer not to be forced to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. One of them was Bob Beckel, who — as Politico reports — has since advocated that the religious freedoms of Muslims in this country be taken away (WebCite cached article):

Fox News co-host Bob Beckel went off on American Muslims on Monday, demanding that no more mosques be built until moderate Muslims “denounce” the recent mall attack in Kenya.

Islam is “not the religion of peace,” Beckel, the show’s relatively progressive co-host said. “They are the religion of Islamic [fundamentalism].”

“I will repeat what I said before: No Muslim students coming here with visas. No more mosques being built here until you stand up and denounce what’s happened in the name of your prophet,” Beckel continued.

Politico offers video of Beckel’s spew:

As I see it there are a couple of problems with Beckel’s position: First, and most importantly, it’s unconstitutional. Muslims have freedom of worship in this country, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Unless an individual Muslim, or group of them, is breaking the law, there are no grounds for preventing them from building any mosques. None. I’m sure Beckel would agree with a lot of Neocrusaders who think there is no freeedom of religion for Muslims, because (they argue) Islam is not a “religion” per se, but a “political philosophy” which (they further argue) can be banned. (Not that this distinction even matters very much, either: Political parties and organizations of all sorts are allowed to exist, and they have rights, too.)

Second, Beckel thinks “denunciations” by American Muslims will somehow do something about al-Shabab and other Islamofascist terror groups. I’m not convinced that mere words even matter much. What does matter, is action. Ultimately, it is up to Muslims to police their own religion and stamp out extremism within it. And mouthing denunciations isn’t going to do that. Even so, I’m not sure precisely what actions American Muslims can take to rein in al-Shabab. They’re half a world away and difficult to contact — it’s true they use Twitter (cached), but they keep changing their handle, so using it to reach them won’t work. Traveling there to confront them personally is difficult at best, and dangerously foolish at worst. What American Muslims can do, is to stop joining al-Shabab (cached), and not give them any money … but it goes without saying that the vast majority of American Muslims already are not doing either of those things.

So Beckel’s demand is not only unconstitutional, it’s useless. I’ll have to add him to the ranks of the unthinking, fierce Neocrusaders who actually believe that one form of irrational religionism (i.e. theirs) is superior to another (i.e. Muslims’). I’m not convinced this is the case. Rather, they’re two sides of the same coin … and therefore have no right to hurl stones (whether real or rhetorical) at each other.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'How are you not do as I say!' (I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder)The Religious Right in the US sincerely believes Christianity is “under attack.” There’s a war against their religion, they claim. Now, most of us know there’s no such thing going on. Churches aren’t being shuttered or bulldozed; Bibles and crucifixes aren’t being confiscated or destroyed; devout Christians aren’t being put on trial for believing in Jesus. Put as simply as possible: There’s no persecution of Christianity going on in this country. It’s. Just. Not. Fucking. Happening.

You may have heard that the great Biblical state of Kentucky passed a law protecting Christians’ freedom of religion (even though, with First Amendment protections already in place, no such law is needed — in Kentucky or in any other state). One of its proponents is outraged that there’s been criticism of this law, and penned a letter to the editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader to explain why it was needed (WebCite cached article):

Could it be a war on Christianity? Now I know your response will be that there is no attack on religious freedoms. Indeed, you will deny the very existence of such a war. Yet, tell that to the owners of Hands On Originals or Chik-fil-A, who were vehemently attacked by government officials and agencies for expressing their personal religious beliefs. Tell that to the high school coach who gets sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for offering a prayer of protection before a ballgame. Tell that to the teacher who gets sued for saying, “Happy Thanksgiving,” “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter.” Tell that to the valedictorian who gets enjoined from mentioning God in her graduation speech. Tell that to the county judge-executive who gets sued for posting the Ten Commandments. Tell that to the student who tries to pray or read her Bible during school. Tell that to the citizens whose governor decided the State Capitol needed a “holiday tree” as opposed to a Christmas Tree.

Rep. Stan Lee’s complaint is basically a “dump” of childish whines. There’s no cohesion to it, and Lee generously salts his bellyaching with mythology, marginal claims, and outright lies.

First of all, no business owner has been “attacked” by any officials. An “attack” is a punch in the face or being held up at gunpoint; criticism is not, and never will be, an “attack.” Second, no American — not even the owners of Chick-fil-A or Hands On Originals — is ever entitled never to be criticized. Third, using their position as bosses to coerce their employees to live their private, non-workplace lives according to the fierce, rigid strictures of their own dour metaphysics, is not merely “expressing their personal religious beliefs.” It’s quite something else.

Lee doesn’t provide any evidence of these teachers he says have been “sued for saying, ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Easter.'” It sounds like urban legend to me. There’s nothing specific, just wild claims without a stitch of support.

Valedictorians in public schools being told not to talk up God is part of an effort to keep church and state separate. Let’s face it, lots of public schools use children as proxies to force religion into them, and that’s forbidden.

Oh, and public-school students most certainly can both pray and read Bibles in school. It happens all the time. To say it can’t, is a flat-out lie, and Lee knows it.

Public-school coaches leading students in prayer, and judges putting up immense Decalogue idols in courts, are both examples of Christians using the power of government to promote their religion. And it’s illegal.

And calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree,” harms no one! Since Christmas is a holiday, semantically speaking, this means all Christmas trees truly are “holiday trees.” To say otherwise is also a lie.

Like the rest of the Religious Right, Rep. Lee is confused. He thinks Christians being criticized for wanting to control everyone’s lives, is an “attack” on his religion. He thinks separation of church and state abridges Christians’ freedom of religion. He thinks Christians are entitled to get their way, all the time, every time, and when they don’t, it’s unacceptable.

As I’ve blogged many times already, I understand where Christians are coming from. A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is part and parcel of their religion, and it has been almost since its inception. This persecutorial delusion is embedded deep in the psychopathology of Christianity. Rep. Lee and the rest of the Religious Right really, truly want to think they’re being attacked for their beliefs. In many ways, they literally can’t help themselves.

But that’s really no excuse for remaining attached to this paranoid delusion. It’s one thing to fantasize about being a martyr, because one’s religion is founded on a martyr. It’s quite another to invent persecution that’s not even happening, and accuse others of doing things they haven’t done. The delusions don’t serve any good purpose, and really need to fucking stop already.

I have to add Rep. Lee to my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Not that he’s alone there. Lying for Jesus is a common pastime among Christians. That’s because … to paraphrase Isaac Asimov … lying is the last refuge of the insecure.

Photo credit: I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Mississippi State Capitol buildingThe nation’s Christianists continue to confuse “religious liberty” with “the power to force everyone to believe what they believe.” The Mississippi legislature is no exception. As the AP reports via NECN, both houses of that august, religionistic body have passed measures to promote school prayer under the aegis of “religious liberty” (WebCite cached article):

Supporters say bills to guarantee religious freedom in Mississippi public schools are meant to ensure students can talk about spiritual beliefs and aren’t deprived of their rights.

But some supporters also say the measures would legalize prayer before school audiences, and that makes people who advocate for separation of church and state uneasy.

Both the state House and the state Senate have passed versions of the Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberties Act. The chambers must agree on a single bill before anything would go to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. The Senate version represents the first time the chamber has passed such a bill, improving chances that it will become law.

The bill is ostensibly predicated on the Religious Right’s decades-long whining and bellyaching that school kids aren’t allowed to pray or talk about religion or express their beliefs. Those things are not true. In fact, a lot of praying goes on in schools all around the country, every single minute of every school day. It comes, for example, in quickly muttered prayers such as, “Please God, let me pass this algebra exam!”

Look, I get that the Christian Nationers are none too happy about Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), along with various other decisions that ended prayer in public schools. And I also get that they’re Christians, and therefore can’t help but view themselves as being oppressed for Jesus. But facts are facts, and they’re not allowed to make shit up just ’cause it makes them feel better to do so. Formby is very clearly a lying liar for Jesus.

Even so, at least some of the bills’ supporters are not lying about their motives, and admit they’re not about “liberty” at all:

But it’s clear that advocates for the measure, especially those outside the Legislature, believe it would clear the way for student-led prayer before groups.

“People ask me if this is a step toward getting prayer back in schools. I think this is THE step to get prayer back in schools,” said Paul Ott, who hosts religion-flavored radio and television programs about hunting, fishing and the outdoors.

Because, you know, nothing says “religious liberty” quite like forcing a school full of kids pray when you order them to. Right?

Photo credit: Allstarecho, via Wikimedia Commons.

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St Marys Cathedral Calgary-DayI’ve blogged numerous times about the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy and disingenuousness. For instance, it has condemned civil authorities that dare investigate child abuse at the hands of its clergy yet it simultaneously embraces those same authorities when it has been victimized. Another example is the Church’s open celebration of Galileo Galilei and his scientific achievements, in spite of the fact that the Church did everything in its power to destroy him because of those same achievements.

One would think examples of this phenomenon are so common that additional ones would no longer be necessary, but one would be wrong. With the R.C. Church’s huge pushback campaign now well underway, and with the bishops becoming increasingly vocal and intransigent, we can no longer afford merely to take for granted that the Church and its hierarchs are dissembling liars. Every example of their disingenuousness and hypocrisy must be exposed so that no one is fooled by their pious facade.

Exactly one such example is exemplified in Canada. On its Web site, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops hosts this manifesto on what they call “religious freedom,” in PDF format (WebCite cached version). In point 6 (page 4), it says:

We are never to impose our religious beliefs on others, but always to respect individuals and cultures, honouring the sanctuary of conscience. …

It is a violation of freedom of conscience for anyone to attempt to impose his or her own understanding of the truth on others. The right to profess the truth must always be upheld, but never in a way which involves contempt for those who think differently.

Now, this sure sounds all nice and reasonable and tolerant and accomodating. One would think the Canadian bishops want to hold hands in a ring around the planet and sing “Kum Ba Ya” together. But in practice, this is most assuredly not how the Canadian bishops have behaved! Quite the contrary. Back in 2005 when gay marriage became permitted in the Great White North, Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary penned a pastoral letter condemning gay marriage (cached); included in it was a call to outlaw homosexuality, adultery, and pornography as well:

Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.

Maybe it’s just me, but this reads like the bishop’s attempt to “impose” his views and beliefs on others, and it certainly displays more than a little “contempt” for those he dislikes.

Way to go, Canadian bishops! What a marvelous way to live up to your own stated ideals. Maybe you should crack your Bibles open and read what Jesus himself reportedly said about people who engaged in hypocrisy of this sort. I’m not sure he’d be as impressed with you as you might want to think.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cry babyIn a move that ought to surprise no one with half a brain, America’s Catholic bishops have decided to ramp up their sanctimonious fury, and are taking the Obama administration to court because it dared to thwart their desire to control the lives of others. The New York Times reports on their continued expression of Christofascist outrage (WebCite cached article):

In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration’s rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies.

The bishops’ hissy fit was orchestrated by the usual suspects, including New York’s Cardinal Dolan:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, whose archdiocese in New York is among the plaintiffs, said in a statement: “We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress — and we’ll keep at it — but there’s still no fix. Time is running out and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

The problem is, the Cardinal is lying! Neither he nor any of the rest of the bishops are truly “negotiating” anything with anyone. In order to “negotiate,” one must first be willing to “compromise.” However, at no time have the bishops ever expressed even the slightest desire to “compromise” with anyone. Quite the opposite … they’ve gone on the record as stating they absolutely will not compromise on matters such as this. In their minds, anyone who’s insolent enough to stand in the way of them controlling others and imposing their doctrines on them (whether or not they’re actually Catholic) is an effort to deny them “religious freedom.” As I’ve blogged before, their reasoning is as follows:

  1. We Catholic bishops have religious freedom, and are entitled to hold any beliefs we want
  2. One of our beliefs is that everyone — Catholic or not — is required to live according to Catholic doctrines
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of our forcing everyone to obey Catholic doctrine, therefore …
  4. … is robbing us of our “religious freedom,” which is impermissible.

The bishops object to having to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health insurance, however, the cold fact is that, at some point, everyone has to pay for something s/he objects to … for whatever reason. For example, I object to having had my tax money used to bail out AIG and many banks a few years ago (cached).* Why should the bishops’ objection to contraception spending be more important than my objection to government bailouts … merely because their objection is religious, while mine is purely fiscal?

Sorry, but there’s no rational way this can be said to be about money. It’s about something else; it’s the Catholic Church’s pushback campaign in the wake of the “priestly pedophilia” scandal, and is an effort to scare up political power and regain the societal influence it once had. The bishops are hoping American courts — capped by the US Supreme Court, which currently has a theocrat-sympathetic majority — will hand them the power they want.

* For the record, I accept that, in a representative republic such as the U.S., the government will sometimes spend money in a way I personally object to. I can live with the bailouts, even if I don’t like them and don’t agree they were wise. Why can’t the bishops say the same about contraception? (Answer: Because they’re too fucking childish to do so!)

Photo credit: tacit requiem.

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