Archive for the “American Religio-Politics” Category

Religion as it relates to U.S. politics

A Newsweek article about Barack Obama addresses, for the umpteenth time, his effort to appeal to voters based on religion. While this is nothing new — it’s a much-older tradition among the GOP, of course, but Democratic candidates have been doing it for over a year now — the article mentions one of his staffers and his job in the campaign:

[Joshua] DuBois, who is 25, now has the lofty title of national director of religious affairs for the Obama campaign. Real-world translation: he works 20-hour days trying to persuade priests, pastors, rabbis and clerics to endorse his boss — and, more important, to spread the word to their flocks.

Hmm. I had thought that clergy engaging in politics — including endorsement of candidates — was forbidden by the IRS, if they wish to maintain their organization’s tax-exempt status?

Anyone interested in the legality of this sort of thing can check out this Pew Forum report.

It appears, indeed, to be quite forbidden! Why, then, would the Obama campaign — or that of any other candidate — hire staff specifically to cajole clergy into breaking the law?

One might further ask why the IRS has not acted on this? They have occasionally gone after non-profit organizations, religious or otherwise, for being political; but it appears the campaigns are encouraging violation of the IRS rules on a much larger scale than the 2 or 3 groups the IRS goes after annually.

Can it be that politicking by religious groups is actually more acceptable to the IRS than that agency would have us believe?

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Clerical Endorsements of Politicians?

In the US, blending religion with politics is typically a Right-wing affair. The Jeremiah Wright controversy, though, which involves liberal Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, has just gone from being a political squabble with religious overtones, to a religious one. The retired Reverend has decided that the furor over his remarks is an “attack” on black Christianity:

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s speech before the National Press Club this morning was not intended to be a political one. It was billed as the start of a religious gathering, and he came to talk about the black religious experience in America. …

“This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. This is an attack on the black church,” he said. “This is not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill, Chelsea.” He said he was not going to sit back and let his church — comparing it to his mamma and grandma — be attacked.

But at the same time he was defending black Christianity as a distinct entity, he downplayed differences between black Christianity and other forms of his religion:

“Being different does not mean one is deficient,” he said. “It is just different. Black preaching is just different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient. It is just different. It is not bombastic. It is not controversial. It is just different.”

I really don’t see how black Christianity could be different enough that it comes under attack, yet basically the same … but there you go. It’s clear — to me at least — that the Rev. Wright is out of control. He’s so arrogant that he interprets critiques of his own preaching as an attack on black Christianity as a whole. Wow.

Tags: , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Preacher Gone Wild?

Illinois legislator Monique Davis, D-Chicago, recently unleashed her theistic fury on atheist activist Rob Sherman, when he testified before the House State Government Administration Committee on April 2:

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy — it’s tragic — when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children…. What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous —

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court—

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

Davis has since apologized, excusing away her irrational diatribe as resulting from having just heard that a Chicago pupil had been killed. Uh huh. OK. I guess.

Unfortunately, Sherman himself followed up being vilified before the committee, with a racist rant of his own, using wording more appropriate in a pre-civil-rights era — then justified it by suggesting that discrimination against atheists is a civil-rights matter as well and that such wording is appropriate in order to call attention to the problem. However, incendiary language and poor taste in response to wrongdoing, is never acceptable, so I hope Sherman does more than delete his comments from his Web site and offers a genuine apology, himself.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on A Legislative War on Atheism

Florida is not the only place where the evolution vs. religionism (aka “intelligent design”) battle is being fought. Texas is the next avenue of the religionsts’ attack:

Evolution on Trial in Texas Board of Education Battle

Later this year, the state will review its science curriculum; observers fear that creationist explanations of life’s origins will be presented as scientifically valid alternatives to evolution.

There’s ample reason to think intelligent design — a theory that views so-called irreducible complexities to be proof of divine intervention, and was discredited legally and scientifically two years ago during the Kitzmiller v. Dover case — could mount a comeback in Texas.

State science education official Chris Comer was fired last November after telling friends and colleagues about a lecture critical of intelligent design. The 15-member Board of Education is roughly balanced between supporters and opponents of evolution — but the March 4 board election features two pro-ID candidates, both running against pro-evolution incumbents.

The Associated Press reports that would-be board member Lupe Gonzalez, a retired school administrator, wants intelligent design given “equal weight” with evolution in school textbooks. The second challenger, retired urologist Barney Maddox, considers the state’s current science curriculum an attempt to “brainwash our children into believing evolution.”

The fallacy the religionists are guilty of, here, is misunderstanding the nature of science. Science does not — contrary to what they claim — treat all ideas “equally.” Science is in the business of separating bad ideas from good, the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats (to use a religious metaphor these people should understand). For instance, the Ptolemaic model of the solar system is not on “equal footing” in science with the Copernican/Keplerian/Newtonian model; any science teacher who treats them “equally” should be fired on the spot, quite obviously.

There is no such thing as “equality of ideas” in science; whatever model for a phenomenon is superior, is the accepted one at any given moment. Obsolete models are discarded. That is how science works.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Texas, the Next “Intelligent Design” Battleground