Category Archives: Theocracy/Theocrats

Theocrats Never Quit: Vouchers and HS 888

Two recent posts at Talk to Action, the website that specializes in tracking the religious right, show quite clearly that despite our overwhelming rejection of mixing religion and education in the public arena, Xtian theocrats not only haven’t given up the effort to make the US a “Christian Nation” governed by Biblical rather than secular law, they’re surrounding their failed attempts with new arguments possibly scarier than the last bunch. Don Byrd opens yesterday’s post on Bush’s latest school voucher proposal by saying, “If there is one thing we should have learned from the Religious Right by now, it’s that they never give up.” Something we should remember always – you can’t take your eyes off them for a second.

Witness Bush’s latest excuse for proposing school vouchers yet again even though it’s been proved repeatedly that they don’t work. Under the typically Orwellian name, “Pell Grants for Kids”, misleading and inaccurate to say the least, Bush’s rationale verges on the creepy.

Non-public schools, including faith-based schools, have helped to educate generations of low-income students; however, they are disappearing at an alarming rate.

The buried assumption that it is the appropriate business of govt to rescue religious schools in financial trouble is directly contrary to our Constitutionally-mandated neutrality toward religion in a secular society. Byrd disposes of this argument in a few words.

Of all the stated reasons I’ve heard to offer school vouchers, propping up religious schools has got to be the worst. Religious institutions should make their own case for being, and should be supported by like-minded believers, not by taxpayer money. If they are “disappearing”, that is a concern to be addressed by the church, not by the government.

We certainly don’t want the mechanisms of the state to stand in the way of the church. But, we can’t be promoting them either.

(emphasis added)

Bush’s inability to either understand or accept that relatively simple concept is one of the hallmarks of his presidency and a key reason why it has failed. His “thinking” is so ideological, so limited, so shallow in nearly every respect that even patently improper ideas are never questioned. No matter how absurd they are or how much evidence exists that they’re wrong, ineffective, or even harmful to American society, he cannot see their flaws simply because he’s decided not to look for any. Anything he chooses to believe is true, and any evidence that it isn’t must have been faked or twisted. Like most ideologues, he always assumes that everyone else is also an ideologue. Like most corrupt Republicans, he assumes that everyone else must also be corrupt. Like most conservatives, he finds it easier to foster simple-minded beliefs than to do the work it would take to find the truth.

Which brings us to Chris Rodda’s post on HR 888.

HR 888 is a bill introduced by Cong Randy Forbes (R-VA) that would try to force the phony “history” of our Founders’ supposed Christianity into the school system.

This resolution, which purports to promote “education on America’s history of religious faith,” is packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton. It lists a total of seventy-five “Whereas’s,” leading up to four resolves, the third of which is particularly disturbing — that the U.S. House of Representatives “rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources,” a travesty of the highest magnitude, considering that most of the “history” this resolve aims to promote in our public buildings and schools IS NOT REAL!

(emphasis in the original)

In his latest post, Rodda catches us up on what Forbes has been saying to sell his bill and, true to form, he’s lying, this time about who he claims is against the bill.

The first is Mr. Forbes’s implication that the ACLU is somehow at the forefront of the fight against his resolution:

“You know it’s amazing to me — we get groups like the ACLU that are fighting so hard against this resolution, and yet you know some of the things that they have fought to allow people to do and say which so undermines the strength of this country, but yet they’re right out there fighting saying that we don’t even want these words discussed — we don’t even want ’em put out there for the American people to talk about ’em and see ’em, and you know, it just isn’t a lot of intellectual honesty that goes around.”

The ACLU? As far as I know, the ACLU has had nothing to do with the fight against this resolution.

But the ACLU is a favorite – and therefore easy – target for the Right, so why not another lie? After all the others, one more will hardly be noticed.

Dan Barton’s influential – and very short – book, The Foundations of American Government, purports to prove that the Founders intended America to be a Christian Nation ruled by Biblical principles through a combination of seriously warped interpretations, out-of-context quotes, and just plain invented “history”. It has been debunked by both legitimate history scholars and experts in religious history so often that it’s astounding there’s anyone left who doesn’t know how bogus this “information” is. Yet that is the version of history that Forbes wants to foist on the country’s educational system. By force of law, if necessary.

And at no moment do any of these clowns, from Bush to Barton, have a moment’s hesitation when confronted by facts. They believe what they believe and facts are what they say they are, even when they make them up. Despite overwhelming evidence that Americans don’t want a theocratic govt, they’re going to shove it down our throats anyway, even if they have to do it under the radar when we’re not looking.

They’re fanatics, and fanatics NEVER QUIT. Neither can we.

What’s Really Behind the DoJ Politicization: Creating a Theocracy

On both sides of the political aisle now, you hear the same dumb question: “What’s wrong with putting religion into government?” This has to be in the Top Ten List of the Stoopidest Questions of All Time. It may be Number 1.

The argument, such as it is, goes that one’s faith, as expressed by religion, makes one a better, more humane, more thoughtful, more generous, more forgiving, etc etc etc person who will bring those fine qualities to govt where they will do some good. In the eyes of many people, having politicians and govt officials bring their religion into a central decision-making role can only be positive. Even moderates and centrists initially supported Bush’s program to ladle out govt contracts – and therefore public tax money – to faith-based organizations for any number of social functions, from rehabilitating criminals to combatting teen pregnancy. What harm could it do? they wondered.

The problem here is that virtually all religious folk see their faith as exclusively positive. In theory, that’s true of almost all religions – they all preach brotherhood, tolerance, respect, charity, and peace – but in practice, any institutionalized religion can be turned into an instrument of intolerance, meanness, sanctomonius arrogance, and/or authoritarian rigidity, any one of which characteristics can – and usually does – devolve fairly quickly into a warlike antipathy toward infidels and unbelievers.

The framers of the Constitution knew this, even though they were religious themselves (sort of – they were primarily Enlightenment Deists, which is kind of a religion and kind of not a religion). They had reason to: they had seen what happened to Britain when the monarchy allied itself with the CofE to create a state-sponsored, state-enforced religion. Wisely, they wanted no part of it, thus the Establishment Clause.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The Establishment Clause has been interpreted by various Supreme Court decisions as forbidding the US govt from actively supporting a single religion or denomination, thus separating religion from law. In his letter to the Baptist Church of Danbury, CT, Jefferson (then President) explained:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

To make a long story short, the letter was written in response to a concern expressed by the leadership of the Danbury Baptist Church that “in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature – as ‘favors granted.'” At the time there was a movement by so-called “Establishment Religionists” to declare a state religion in Connecticut – an early attempt at legalizing a theocracy at the state level. The Baptists were worried because theirs wasn’t the religion that would be picked – that honor would go to the Congregationalists – and they were afraid that it would be outlawed.

As, indeed, it might well have been if the Connecticut legislature had gone along with the Establishmentarians, but it didn’t. The movement never gained much political traction and died out in only a few years, but the Baptists were right to be concerned. They were a distinct minority in Congregationalist New England, and the establishment of a state religion would make them criminals, subject to fines and possibly either jail or banishment from the state. Certainly their form of worship would be banned at the very least. Worse, laws could be passed demanding their adherence to practices they considered to be forbidden by their faith.

And therein lies the connection between Jefferson’s famous phrase and the supporting cast of the US Attorney controversy now raging.

Continue reading

SC Secession?

According to the AJC, 12,000 fundamentalist Christian theocrats are moving to South Carolina with the apparent intention of forcing it to secede from the Union if it doesn’t quit being so damn librul.

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Cory Burnell may be fighting a cause as lost as the Civil War.

But the 28-year-old Tyler, Texas, math teacher and businessman is serious about moving to South Carolina with 12,000 other Christians.

Though he has never been there, he plans to reshape the South Carolina General Assembly to make the state a Christian domain. And if the federal government does not stop imposing what he considers its liberal will, he wants South Carolina to secede.

“We’re not talking about a takeover,” Burnell said. “We’re talking about reinforcements.”

Uh-huh. You know, most of the radcon crackpots want to return the country to the Robber Baron era at the end of the 19th century before the income tax was instituted, but fundamentalist Christian theocrat-crackpots want to shove us back even further than that–they want to re-play the Civil War. What’s next? Replacing cars with covered wagons? Petitioning Queen Elizabeth to reverse the American Revolution?

Is there no bottom to this silliness?

Christian Theocrats Exposed

In an article published in Harper’s last March, Jeffrey Sharlet brought the activities of a group called “The Family” out into the open for the first time. What is “The Family”?

The Family is, in its own words, an “invisible” association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as “members,” as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities.

For several weeks, Sharlet masqueraded as a “member” of The Family, living with them, eating with them, praying with them–and learning their checkered history playing kingmaker in the halls of power.

During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa’s postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand “Communists” killed marks him as one of the century’s most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise. “We work with power where we can,” the Family’s leader, Doug Coe, says, “build new power where we can’t.”

It was one of the few times that one of the largely unseen and unknown groups knitting religion into govt has been outed publicly, yet many of these groups exist–and flourish–all across the country. They have many goals, ranging from The Family’s goal of influencing policy–domestic and international–in a direction consistent with what they have decided are “Christian” objectives to the long-range goal of making the US a “Christian” government. For some 30 years, fundamentalist Christian groups have been meeting, planning, and forging alliances with that single aim, yet their efforts have remained mostly under the radar of the national media. Only occasionally, as in Sharlet’s piece, are they briefly exposed to the light of day before being ignored again, yet their influence, their power, grows daily.

Since Junior’s election 3 years ago, these groups have, for the first time, begun to bring their aims and agenda into the open, moving to try to force govt to conform to “Christian” values. The opening shots were fired when Fundamentalist groups in several states began agitating to place plaques or statues representing the Ten Commandments prominently in state and county courts, insisting–inaccurately–that they belonged there because they were the basis of our whole legal system. It was a tactic designed to be the “thin end of the wedge” in the battle to dismantle or undercut the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state by conflating the two and demonstrating to the public that the so-called “separation” is bogus. The strategy peaked when Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, under cover of darkness, installed a massive monument dedicated to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama State Supreme Court building and then successfully defied a Supreme Court ruling to remove it for weeks until the Alabama SC was finally forced to remove him from office.

Now, in Georgia, the second phase of the battle has been initiated: the attempt to remove the separation clause from each state govt’s constitution.

In a debate last week, state Sen. Tommie Williams suggested that separation of church and state was little more than a Communist plot. The only constitution in the history of the world that even mentions a separation of church and state was that of the Soviet Union, Williams claimed.That’s very, very wrong.

In fact, proof of Williams’ error lay almost literally beneath his nose. At the time, he was speaking in favor of gutting Article 1, Section II, Paragraph VII of the Georgia Constitution. That paragraph reads, in its entirety:

“Separation of church and state: No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.” That language was adopted by the people of Georgia in 1877, more than 40 years before the founding of the Soviet Union.

The effort to gut that restriction is part of a larger movement by Republicans to strip such guarantees from state constitutions all across the country. The eventual goal is to let conservative Christian groups tap into taxpayer money, giving them enormous resources to help spread their faith. In many cases, that crusade has followed an approved script….

That script includes equating the doctrine of the separation of church and state with Communism–an effective argument with the gullible and the history-impaired. The right wing has had enormous success since the end of WWII with destroying the lives and careers of their opponents simply by labeling them “Commies” or “fellow travelers”; they have been applying the term to liberals for a decade, and their rhetoric has reached the point where Ann Coulter could write a popular book labeling any liberal or Democrat a “traitor” because, after all, we’re all “Commies” and that makes us “enemies of America.”

Jay wrote a good column but his contention that the goal of the movement is “to let conservative Christian groups tap into taxpayer money” is badly off-the-mark. It isn’t wrong but it is short-sighted; the money is nothing but a helpful perk. The real goal is to begin the process that will lead to making the US a theocratic govt run by and for fundamentalist Christians along Biblical lines whether the rest of us like it or not. The groups leading the charge have made it clear they will settle for nothing less.

Judge Roy Beaned

A woman named Mary Schulken who is the editorial page editor for something called the Greenville Daily Reflector (good name for a paper) does some reflecting on Judge Roy Moore in a guest editorial in today’s AJC. It’s worth reading both for what it says and the clarity in the way she says it. It ends:

When a judge flaunts the law and wraps that act in God, it tells us what we need to know. The controversial slab of granite in Alabama is nothing more than a monument to arrogance.But when he becomes a folk hero, it suggests a perilous ignorance of the fundamental principle that safeguards religious freedom in America. For the good people who measure the worth of their souls by the Ten Commandments, those words are a source of constant hope and inspiration.

Yet freedom of worship requires more than the vigorous practice of one’s own faith. It demands, without fail, we exercise respect, tolerance and sensitivity toward differing beliefs.

Those acquainted with the teachings of Jesus Christ recognize that philosophy.

“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them,” he says in the book of Matthew.

Funny, Judge Roy Moore didn’t say anything about that

James Madison couldn’t have said it any better.

Addendum: I posted the above before reading the other editorials, and look what else I found: a smart, acidic take on Moore and other Christian theocrats written by a Georgia high-school senior, JC Boyle. Here’s a sample:

Moore must have been attending an abstinence rally the day they covered the First Amendment in law school, because two tons of Judeo-Christian religious law sitting in a courtroom constitutes an establishment of religion.Even his argument that Mosaic law influenced the American legal system is absurd. The first four commandments are clearly religious in nature and serve no other purpose, and only three of the commandments (murder, theft and bearing false witness) are established law.

Moore’s supporters are guilty of a peculiar hypocrisy. When a federal judge ordered “Roy’s Rock” away from the courthouse, an angry supporter of theocracy shouted before the television cameras to the movers, “Take your hands off my god!” thus violating the fourth commandment against “graven images.”

Good point, JC.