religious freedom

Oklahoma

Detail of 'The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses: Andre Breton, Paul Eluard, and the Painter', by Max Ernst.  Oil on canvas.  Paris, 1926.  (Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany)

This is a simple exercise in contrasts. Steve Benen explains:

… a major court ruling in Oklahoma, where state officials have been told to stop promoting one religion’s scared tenets on the Capitol grounds. The Tulsa World reported this week:

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol must be removed.

The plaintiffs said its placement at the Capitol constituted the use of public property for the benefit of a system of religion, which is banned by the Oklahoma Constitution.

State law isn’t especially ambiguous. Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution says public property can’t be used to benefit or support any “sect, church, denomination, or system of religion,” either directly or indirectly. When state lawmakers approved a monument to the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments, it was hard to even imagine how this could be legally permissible ....

.... The Republican-led state legislature has been a little hysterical since the decision was handed down, and state House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R) said impeachment proceedings against the Supreme Court’s majority “will be seriously considered.”

To summarize:

(1) Oklahoma state Supreme Court decides under clear dictate of law that a state-sponsored tribute to Christian faith is not permissible on capitol grounds.

(2) Republicans will seriously consider impeaching the justices in retribution for enforcing the law.

Oklahoma.

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Image note: Detail of, The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses: Andre Breton, Paul Eluard, and the Painter, by Max Ernst. Oil on canvas. Paris, 1926. (Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany)

Benen, Steve. “This Week in God, 7.4.15”. msnbc. 4 July 2015.

The Bobby Jindal Show (Fun Time Sneak Leak Preview)

Republican Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

“If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)

Sometimes the question of where to start is not so easily resolved. The essential point to remember is that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, perhaps hoping to impress conservative voters as he prepares a 2016 Republican presidential nomination bid, has seemingly run out of room to maneuver against marriage equality. Yesterday’s ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was the third, and yet Mr. Jindal still desperately seeks to delay:

But while Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration previously had said it was waiting on that 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling before recognizing same-sex marriages, top state officials dug in their heels Wednesday and said they wouldn’t change course until a district court orders them to do so.

That only widens the gap between the administration and the reality on the ground across the state. Clerks or other officials in nearly all parishes have now said they will issue licenses to same-sex couples, even as Jindal administration officials continue to tell state agencies to hold off on accepting them as valid.

The administration’s delay in accepting the Supreme Court’s ruling may be behind another point of conflict that cropped up on Wednesday as members of newly married same-sex couples seeking to change the name on their driver’s licenses to reflect their union found their efforts thwarted by the Office of Motor Vehicles.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit appeared to address the administration’s stalling.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is “the law of the land and, consequently, the law of this circuit and should not be taken lightly by actors within the jurisdiction of this court,” the ruling said.

“We express no view on how controversies involving the intersection of these rights should be resolved but instead leave that to the robust operation of our system of laws and the good faith of those who are impacted by them.”

The panel then ordered district judges who have overseen cases involving same-sex marriage, including U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans, to issue final judgments in their cases legalizing and recognizing same-sex marriage by July 17.

Normally that ruling, and any judgments that come from the lower courts, would be largely procedural measures now that the Supreme Court has decided the issue. And, indeed, that’s how they have been treated in most of the country, where clerks began issuing licenses immediately after Friday’s ruling.

But Jindal administration officials have said they won’t comply until forced to do so. While they initially pointed to the 5th Circuit’s decision as the event that would fully grant gay marriage rights in Louisiana, they changed course after the ruling was handed down and said they would continue to follow the state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriages until forced to do so by a lower court.

(Adelson and Shuler)

So, yeah. That’s what is going on in Louisiana. And, you know, there comes a point where this isn’t about anything else than sheer petulant malice.

Or, as Bobby Jindal is wont to call it, leadership.

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Image note: Republican Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Hensch, Mark. “Jindal: ‘Let’s just get rid of the court'”. The Hill. 26 June 2015.

Adelson, Jeff and Marsha Shuler. “5th Circuit Court tells Louisiana to recognize same-sex marriages; Jindal administration still balks”. The Advocate. 2 July 2015.

The Rand Paul Show (Picking Up His Balls)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, hosted 9 potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominations at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Because, you know, gay marriage is just the last straw.

No, seriously. The one and only Rand Paul:

The government should not prevent people from making contracts but that does not mean that the government must confer a special imprimatur upon a new definition of marriage.

Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.

Since government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do — taxed it, regulated it, and now redefined it. It is hard to argue that government’s involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right.

Strangely, the Kentucky junior has no real grasp of political optics. We have heard this sort of talk before in Oklahoma, or as Mr. Paul noted in his special to Time, Alabama. But when it comes to the proposition that if you can’t make all the rules you’ll just pick up your balls and go home and pout, is that really a caliber of behavior we might reasonably describe as presidential?

There really isn’t any more time to adjust; Americans have had nearly two decades to accustom themselves to same sex marriage, and if they chose to spend those years bawling and stomping and fighting and pouting, why should everyone else have to wait even longer just so they can find new ways to pitch tantrums?

Is Mr. Paul capable of comprehending the optics, understanding just how ridiculous he looks striking this pose? Well, okay, of course he doesn’t; this is a guy who has trouble grasping the basics of plagiarism.

Stupid and petulant is no condition for mounting a presidential bid.

Oh. Right. Clown car, all that. He trails Bush, Walker, Rubio, and Carson. Maybe that’s the problem. Given the stupid factor in effect, Mr. Paul’s terrible shitty brat routine doesn’t really stand out as extraordinary, does it?

That still doesn’t mean the self-certified ophthalmologist has a clue about political optics.

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Image note: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, hosted 9 potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominations at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Paul, Rand. “Government Should Get Out of the Marriage Business Altogether”. Time. 28 June 2015.

Rubin, Jennifer. “Rand Paul has another problem”. The Washington Post. 8 November 2013.

The Supremacist’s Lament

Zombie Republic: The Demon Sisters cope with the results of their plan.  (Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 8, '… Of the Dead')

“Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous.”

Win Johnson

The disgraceful derby scrambling in the wake of Obergefell has yet to settle out; with presidential candidates struggling to find ways to evade the U.S. Constitution, or taking up the notion of just calling the whole marriage thing off, an Alabama attorney named Win Johnson has appealed to Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to opt out of the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Johnson, for his part, is a state official, a director at the Administrative Office of Courts, which in turn oversees the courts for state Chief Justice Roy Moore.

It seems a striking letter; Charles J. Dean reported, for AL.com:

In harsh words and a lecturing tone, a lawyer who works for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has written a letter seemingly directed at Gov. Robert Bentley rebuking him for saying Alabama will obey the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage legal.

More appropriately, it really is a striking letter, so wild-eyed and seemingly irresponsible that the Souther Poverty Law Center has called for Johnson’s resignation.

And let us be clear; part of the problem with excerpting the letter is that the whole thing really is a show and a half. Christian supremacism, abdication of duty, rejection of the Constitution, and hey, even a Godwin violation just to hit for the cycle. Again, let us be clear: All for hatred in Jesus’ name, amen.

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Spiritual Warfare, Among Other Things

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd speaks to the faithful in Columbus, Ohio, June 16, 2015. Floyd exhorted members to stand united against same-sex marriage and vows that he will never officiate a same-sex union. (Eric Albrecht/Columbus Dispatch via AP)

We may or may not have mentioned before something about bigots, victimhood, and insurrection.α

If I told you we could add the Southern Baptist Convention to the list, would you really be surprised?

Or, as Craig Schneider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:

Declaring “spiritual warfare” on gay marriage, thousands gathered here Tuesday for the annual Southern Baptist Convention and vowed that, no matter what the Supreme Court rules this month, they will never yield on the issue.

The Baptists acknowledged that the court seems likely to legalize same-sex marriage when it rules in the next two weeks, but leaders urged the faithful to stand fast and, indeed, lead the nation in opposition.

“We are in spiritual warfare,” said convention president Rev. Ronnie Floyd. “This is not a time for Southern Baptists to stand back.”

Floyd echoed a generally defiant tone among attendees, many of them pastors, who have faced increasing criticism for their belief that the Bible declares homosexuality a sin and limits marriage to a man and a woman. At a time when society is increasingly tolerant of same-sex unions, he said, Southern Baptists must stand by their views.

“This is not the time to retreat,” said Floyd, who leads Cross Church in Arkansas. “The alarm clock is going off around the world. Now is not the time to hit the snooze button.”

And it goes on. Fuel to the “wildfire of sexual revolution” that would “move it beyond all control”. At least Dr. Floyd is honest about the connection between sexuality and control. But this is also an attempt by Southern Baptists to paint themselves as victims of gross injustice:

Many of their congregants, sensing the shifting cultural climate on gay marriage, feel defensive and afraid to publicly state their views, wary of being cast as bigots or hate-mongers.

“We understand how fully unpopular our view is, and where the culture is on this issue,” said the Rev. Bryant Wright of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in East Cobb and a former convention president. “But we must stay true to God’s word.”

Wright acknowledged the difficulty of communicating that church members are not hateful or discriminatory against gays and lesbians, though Baptists do believe they are sinners. He noted that he preaches to teens who have sex outside of marriage, people who divorce, and those who commit adultery. He loves them and hopes they find their way, he said.

Let us be clear: When you are calling for warfare of any kind, spiritual or otherwise, in response to the fact that other people have human rights, there is not really any useful way to slip the question of bigotry; nor do people believe the claim that you are not hateful or discriminatory.

Really, that part seems pretty self-evident.

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Evil (Snyder Michi-Mix)

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), ca. 2015, in Associated Press photo.

God save the children of the Great Lake Beast.

The Michigan Legislature is playing a dangerous game of chicken with the children in its care — and now Gov. Rick Snyder has exacerbated the danger by signing cynical legislation into law.

On Wednesday, Republican majorities in both chambers approved a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies — including those who take taxpayer dollars to place children who are in the state’s custody — to discriminate in the practice of their work. They can deny services to families that violate the agency’s religious beliefs, including unmarried couples, same-sex couples and those who hold different religious beliefs.

The legislation is a craven attempt to cloak discrimination in faith, and it leaves the best interests of the 13,000 children in the state’s care — entirely out of the equation.

Even worse, it sends Michigan in the exact wrong direction just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court could invalidate all legislative or constitutional provisions that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Should that happen, this statute, along with bigoted laws in states around the country, would fall like their predecessors — Jim Crow-era laws and regulations — after landmark rulings in the 1960s.

(Detroit Free Press)

Nothing hurts.

Actually, that’s wrong.

Something hurts.

Perhaps this is why people believe in souls. Because sometimes something hurts and it is hard to explain just what.

No, I cannot tell you where it hurts.

It just does.

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The Ted Cruz Show (Cover Songs)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex? ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

There are a number of things we might say. Sure, the state of Ohio might be trying to unmarry a dead man, Louisiana might be looking to shield discrimination by state employees, and Christians might be eyeing re-education camps for insufficiently Christian children, but, you know, hey, they’re not actually executing anyone, so … you know, get over yourselves.

And, hey, you know, we might also mention that doing better than Daa’ish is hardly a reasonable standard for American political health. We might look at Ted Cruz, then, and suggest that, hey, it’s not like we’re actually having dogs rape your ass while forcing you to say you like it, so, you know, get over yourself.

In truth, the functional problem with actually saying that would be legitimizing Mr. Cruz’s stupidity.

Bobby Blanchard tries to explain:

[Cruz] got in a light sparring round with reporters, mainly working on his attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton and defending his views on same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz for President 2016 logo.“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex?” Cruz asked after fielding multiple questions on gay rights. “ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Cruz also said he did not think his opposition to gay marriage will hurt his chances with moderate voters.

“With respect, I would suggest not drawing your questions from MSNBC―they have very few viewers and they are a radical and extreme partisan outlet,” Cruz told a reporter. He cited the expansion of “mandatory same-sex marriage” as an assault on religious liberty in the United States.

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Texas (Forcing Children to Have Babies Edition … Yes, Really)

Texas

I need to make a point of something I passed over in the last post.

Can we run the lede from Dana Liebelson of HuffPo again, please?

Texas House lawmakers are expected to consider a measure as early as Wednesday that could be used to protect child welfare service providers who want to force kids into discredited gay conversion therapy programs. The bill also protects providers who deny minors access to birth control or abortions.

And, you know, the fight over reparative therapy is important not just for its stakes but because it is a symbol of how far these people are willing to go.

But that last?

The bill also protects providers who deny minors access to birth control or abortions.

Are you fucking kidding me? What the hell am I supposed to do with that?

Let me say this plainly: Protecting those who force children to carry pregnancies.

What the hell am I supposed to do with that?

And, look, we can make whatever joke about the fact that it’s Texas, but the question remains: What the hell is wrong with these people? As a human condition, what under the sun and moon and stars has gone awry in these people? Even as a symbol of how far they are willing to go, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?

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Liebelson, Dana. “Texas Bill Could Protect Welfare Providers Who Force Kids Into Gay Conversion Therapy”. The Huffington Post. 13 May 2015.

Huckabeastly

Mike Huckabee, circa 2012. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said late Friday that he would disclose his plans for the 2016 presidential race on May 5. This wasn’t an announcement, so much as it was an announcement about an announcement (at which point, the far-right Arkansan may or may not make an announcement).”

Benen

This is actually an interesting point, but only in an obscure way. Armchair wonkery often seems nearly occult to those who prefer their theatrical performances from the sports or celebrity-gossip sectors, but there is something about drowning one’s announcement of an announcement in the Friday afternoon cascade. The intersection of the Friday news dump with Mike Huckabee is just one of those things, you know?

For Steve Benen, then, it seems that Mr. Huckabee is already acting like a candidate, which is important because the next place our attention goes is to Miranda Blue’s report for Right Wing Watch:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed in an interview with Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson yesterday that the Obama administration has “an open hostility toward the Christian faith,” and urged prospective military recruits to wait until the end of President Obama’s term to enlist ....

.... “There’s nothing more honorable than serving one’s country and there’s no greater heroes to our country than our military,” he responded, “but I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under god’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.”

And while it is always tempting to pounce on the superficial bait, given Republican militaristic bluster about patriotism and supporting the troops and backing the president during wartime, we should not let such low-hanging fruit obscure the forest of stupidity the former Arkansas governor would help cultivate.

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The Tragedy of Bigotry

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 9 March 2015.At a time when Jesus is entirely absent from the American Christian voice, Chris Sosa wants to lend them a hand in empowering their bigotry:

Feigning respect for someone else’s sacred text as a moral guidebook doesn’t just reinforce bad ideas, it’s not even effective. Right-wing Christians already know that most liberals don’t actually care what the Bible has to say about moral values, science or even literal history. When secular liberals attempt to argue with devout believers about the actual content of sacred texts by claiming they actually mean the inverse of what’s on the page, it comes off as absurd. No one wins.

This sort of aid and comfort for bigotry is simply unwelcome. The fact is that Christ is entirely absent from Christian bigotry against homosexuals, and nothing will change that, not even Sosa’s abject hatred toward Christians:

The next time someone tells you that the Bible condemns your entire existence, consider responding: “You’re right. And I, along with millions of open and affirming people across this great country, do not care. You shouldn’t either.”

While it is true that Jesus said nothing about gays whatsoever, the alleged Savior did speak much of compassion. And as Sosa’s solution is not to appeal to the Christianity of Christians, but, rather, to demean his fellow human beings’ faith as utterly meaningless, it is pretty easy to say with absolute confidence that we do not need this manner of hatred in our lives.

Chris Sosa is a bigot. Chris Sosa is part of the problem.

There are plenty of things about Christian faith requiring some sort of reassessment in the twenty-first century, but there is already too much coldhearted indifference on the table. Then again, I suppose this is what is valuable to Chris Sosa, so it must be worth something. ‘Tis a pity in that regard, as it is worth more than he would afford his Christian neighbors.

Or maybe he is just hoping to justify his hatred. Either way, Sosa’s advice is worse than useless; it is dangerous.

But, hey, what is danger unto a Christian? No big deal, as long as your name is Chris Sosa.

I mean, hell, even Christ was gay. But that matters none to bigots, as Mr. Sosa has so coldly reminded.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 9 March 2015.

Sosa, Chris. “Fellow Liberals, Please Stop Claiming Jesus Accepts LGBT People”. The Huffington Post. 14 April 2015.