Author Topic: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots  (Read 1134 times)

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Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« on: October 10, 2017, 07:32:22 AM »
The Trump Department of Justice just released a couple of memos that will set back the separation of church and state in the US for an indefinite period.

The ACLU's article on this: "Discrimination Is the Big Winner in the Justice Department’s New Religious Guidelines" | American Civil Liberties Union

Quote
The Department of Justice today issued religious-liberty guidelines for all federal agencies, and anyone who values equality for all and the separation of church and state should be deeply disturbed by the message the guidelines send.

Purporting to interpret religious-liberty protections in federal law, the guidance — a 25-page memo sent to all executive branch departments — doubles down on a distorted understanding of religious freedom. Not only does it allow discrimination in the name of religion, it also treats the separation of church and state as a mere afterthought.

[Continues . . .]

"The DOJ’s new 'religious liberty' memo pushes religious freedom to its limits" | Vox

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As the Trump administration announced it would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandates on Friday, the Department of Justice released two memos of its own. The first, titled “Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty,” is a 25-page, 20-point document outlining guidance for how various federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services, should operate to preserve religious liberty as much as possible — even when it conflicts with anti-discrimination laws or other policies. The second, “Implementation of Memorandum on Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty,” requires the DOJ to adhere to the first.

The guidelines include ensuring the “government may not target religious individuals or entities through discriminatory enforcement of neutral, generally applicable laws.” Those entities include for-profit corporations as well as nonprofits such as churches or synagogues. So for example, according to this guideline, the IRS is required to avoid enforcing the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and other 501(c)(3) nonprofits from endorsing particular candidates, in circumstances where the amendment would not be enforced against secular nonprofits.

Quoting President Donald Trump’s speech on ending the Johnson Amendment earlier this year, Sessions said in a statement, "‘Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation … [this administration] will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore.’” Sessions added, "President Trump promised that this administration would ‘lead by example on religious liberty,’ and he is delivering on that promise.”

Trump has made religious liberty a key issue during both his campaign and time in office, courting the religious right by working to dial back the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, and promising to roll back coverage of employer-based contraception under the Affordable Care Act, which he has now done. Now, his administration has gone a step further, interpreting religious freedom so broadly that, according to the memorandum, the government can require an individual or corporation to act against its religious principle only "if it is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling governmental interest." These religious principles, in turn, are defined incredibly broadly, with any “sincerely-held” religious belief considered valid.

[. . .]

Among the most striking parts of the memo is the determination that the federal government and its agencies may not second-guess "the reasonableness of a religious belief.” Therefore, according to the document, the Department of Health and Human Services could not question whether an employer’s religious beliefs would be actually violated if it had to provide contraceptive coverage to a worker, even if opposition to contraception is not formally part of the employer’s religious doctrine. Also notable is the document’s final point, which states that religious organizations must compete “on equal footing” for federal financial assistance, regardless of their hiring practices. This also means that religious schools can compete for and receive school vouchers. (It also reiterates the Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer earlier this year, which found that a Lutheran school’s playground should be allowed to receive public funds for renovation).

[. . .]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the memorandum. “Anyone who values equality for all and the separation of church and state should be deeply disturbed by the message the guidelines send,” said Heather Weaver, senior staff attorney at ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, on the ACLU’s website.

[. . .]

These departmental guidelines are for internal use, and are not law. Like an executive order, these guidelines can easily be overturned. But because the memos interpret the RFRA so broadly, they, like the Hobby Lobby case, set a formidable precedent. And groups like the ACLU cannot preemptively challenge the memo, as World magazine’s Emily Belz points out. Rather, potential challengers have to wait for what they see as harm to occur before initiating a lawsuit.

[Link to full article]

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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2017, 05:18:19 PM »
Since the article below tangentially ties in with the one above, I'll add it to this thread instead of starting another.

"Christianity in America is more politically polarized than ever" | Vox

Quote
Americans are becoming more polarized than ever — especially when it comes to religion.

A series of Pew Research Center polls released last week shows how ideas about religious belief and morality are increasingly falling along racial and political lines. Fifty-six percent of Americans now say that belief in God isn’t a necessary component of morality, up from 49 percent in 2011. The uptick reflects the wider prevalence of the spiritually unaffiliated, or “nones,” as nearly a quarter of Americans identified as atheist or agnostic in 2011.

The change may be only a 7-point difference. But those differences manifest themselves almost exclusively along political lines.

While Republicans have roughly held steady in their attitudes — 50 percent say a belief in God is necessary for morality, while 47 percent say it is not — Democrats have shown the most change in their perspectives. Almost two-thirds of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters now say belief in God is not part of being a good person, compared with 51 percent in 2011.

Although other polls carried out by Pew as part of the study — including questions on race and gender — seemed to reflect stronger political polarization, this particular survey seems to speak to the rise of a more committed and vocal secular contingent on the left. Already, religious “nones” are the largest single religious bloc among Democrats. The survey suggests that Democrats who might otherwise have identified with a traditionally Democratic religious tradition (such as Judaism or mainline Protestantism) regardless of personal belief may now feel more comfortable with the “none” label, something echoed by the fact that mainline Protestantism is likewise in decline [< link to Washington Post--limited number of free articles per month].

Beliefs in the relationship between God and morality also differ by race, with black (63 percent) and Hispanic (55 percent) respondents saying that belief in God is integral to personal morality. By contrast, only 35 percent of white respondents do. Race seemed to outweigh stated religious affiliated as a marker of this belief: Among Catholics, for example, 61 percent of Hispanic Catholics said believing in God was central to morality, compared with only 40 percent of white Catholics. While almost two-thirds of white evangelicals cited belief in God as a necessary component, only 34 percent of white mainline Protestants did.

Such numbers speak to the relative theological liberalism of white mainline churches — many of which have traditionally been associated with progressive politics — as well as the tricky needle many mainline Protestant churches must thread. While they are often more socially as well as doctrinally more liberal than their evangelical counterparts, placing less of a public emphasis on dogma, such a “middle ground” has often left them short of members: Another 2015 Pew study found that, nationwide, mainline churches hemorrhage 1 million members annually [while religiously conservative churches continue to thrive]. Other religious groups were not polled for this particular part of the survey.

[Continues . . .]
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2017, 06:23:59 PM »
I think the article on the possible demise of American democracy, as in the side bar, is part of the same pattern. Religion seeks, ultimately, to control every aspect of life, Islam having just about done so. It can get as totalitarian as fascism and communism.
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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2017, 09:23:05 PM »
I think the article on the possible demise of American democracy, as in the side bar, is part of the same pattern. Religion seeks, ultimately, to control every aspect of life, Islam having just about done so. It can get as totalitarian as fascism and communism.

People want to believe this can not happen with Christianity. I wonder how they passed out of history in their schooling.

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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2017, 09:31:56 PM »
I think the article on the possible demise of American democracy, as in the side bar, is part of the same pattern. Religion seeks, ultimately, to control every aspect of life, Islam having just about done so. It can get as totalitarian as fascism and communism.

People want to believe this can not happen with Christianity. I wonder how they passed out of history in their schooling.

Yes, just look back at the history of the Roman Catholic Church with its spy systems, underhand diplomacy, intrigues, selling "forgiveness" on an industrial scale etc etc etc. 

Then, possibly, inflicting us with the likes of "Sister Agatha"! Is there no end to their crimes!?
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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2019, 01:49:55 PM »
Though I made several posts generally opposing the election of Trump, since then I've restricted my political rants on this site. However, the administration of the steaming "pile of circus peanut shit" has been enabling those with Dominionist ambitions in the US, and that's relevant to anybody who supports separation of church and state. Some further updates:

"Mike Pompeo unveils panel to examine 'unalienable rights'" | Politico

Quote
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday unveiled a new Commission on Unalienable Rights, a panel he said is aimed at providing him with “an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy.”

The panel will be headed up by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor and former ambassador to the Vatican under George W. Bush. Glendon is also a social conservative who has been a prominent anti-abortion voice, which could lend credence to the concerns among human rights activists that the commission is a ploy to undercut LGBTQ and women’s rights under the guise of religious liberty.

In remarks at the State Department on Monday, Pompeo noted that “words like ‘rights’ can be used by good or evil,” decrying how some have “hijacked” human rights rhetoric to be used for “dubious or malignant purposes.”

[. . .]

Reactions to the new panel were split on Monday. In a statement cheering Pompeo‘s formation of the commission, Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Christian group Family Research Council, said that the panel would be useful in light of governments like Cuba, China and Iran who the group said "have wormed their way onto 'human rights commissions' in their search for international legitimacy."

"Other special interest groups have sought to expand the definition of a 'human right' to include virtually anything. If everything is a human right then the term begins to have little meaning," he said.

In addition, Perkins added, the commission would further promote religious liberty abroad, which he hailed as the "foundation for all other human rights."

Amnesty International, meanwhile, accused Pompeo of using the panel to politicize human rights and pointed to the Trump administration’s rollback of rights for LGBTQ citizens.

"If this administration truly wanted to support people's rights, it would use the global framework that's already in place. Instead, it wants to undermine rights for individuals, as well as the responsibilities of governments," said Joanne Lin, the group’s national director of advocacy and government affairs. "This approach only encourages other countries to adopt a disregard for basic human rights standards and risks weakening international, as well as regional frameworks, placing the rights of millions of people around the world in jeopardy."

And at least one religious group said it was viewing the commission’s formation with skepticism. Rori Kramer, director of government affairs for the American Jewish World Service, criticized Pompeo for employing what she called a “narrow view of religion as a means to undermine the ecumenical belief of respecting the dignity of every person.”

Kramer argued that Pompeo “clearly illustrated” the panel “will be used to question the very notion that basic human rights are inherent in all individuals.”

[Continues . . .]




"Under Trump, Christian nationalists are playing to win — and liberals are finally fighting back" | Salon

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It’s easy for significant stories to get lost in the sound and fury of Donald Trump’s frontal assault on American democracy, epitomized by his militarized co-opting of Washington’s Fourth of July celebration. As my interview with Angie Maxwell, co-author of “The Long Southern Strategy,” shows, Trump’s presidency was decades in the making, with racism, sexism and fundamentalism all playing crucial roles. The forces that brought him to power are ultimately far more consequential than he is.

That's why a cluster of recent developments involving questions of religious privilege deserve far more attention from the public and the media than they have received. These events reflect both the advancement of a theocratic, "dominionist" worldview that elevates the state-sanctified religious liberty of some at the obvious expense of others — and a rising tide of liberal, secular resistance.

On July 2, federal prosecutors announced they would retry humanitarian aid volunteer Scott Warren on two charges related to aiding migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. Warren, whom Amnesty International has previously said “would be a prisoner of conscience” if convicted, was “detained for his volunteer activities motivated by humanitarian principles and his religious beliefs.”

Warren regards himself as a devout Christian, driven to follow the words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew: “For I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me to drink, an alien and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you ministered to me.” Warren’s religious freedom clearly plays no role in the Trump administration’s thinking. It’s the negative space that throws everything else into sharp relief.

The very next day, religious freedom was suddenly center stage again, as the VA announced new policies "to protect religious liberty" by trampling on the rights of religious minorities, in particular allowing religious displays in public lobbies, an issue I’ve written about before which is the subject of a recently-filed lawsuit by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. MRFF president Mikey Weinstein denounced the policy move as “both tragic and predictable in this hyper-dangerous era.”

[Continues . . .]




"Atheists to IRS: Investigate Christian Non-Profit That Endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan" | Friendly Atheist

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Rep. Paul Ryan announced more than a year ago that he wouldn’t be running for re-election to Congress and that meant he would be giving up his position as Speaker of the House. Democrats dominated the midterms and Nancy Pelosi ultimately took that spot, but before that happened, there was a lot of jockeying among Republicans for the role of who would lead the House GOP — and could have been the next Speaker had they maintained control of Congress.

The top candidates were Reps. Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy, and Jim Jordan.

Here’s where it gets bizarre: The American Family Association, a conservative Christian non-profit group, sent their members an email last July saying Jordan should be the next Speaker because the other candidates were “establishment Republicans” and therefore not good enough. They wanted their members to pressure their representatives to vote for Jordan.

[. . .]

[T]he whole charade raised a bigger question: Why was a non-profit group — which, by definition, can’t endorse candidates in an election if it wants to keep its tax-exempt status — endorsing a candidate in an election?

This wasn’t advocating on an issue, which non-profits often do without a problem. This was telling members You need to support a particular candidate for a particular position. It’s literally the one thing you can’t do if you want to hold on to all those perks of being a non-profit group.

Now the Freedom From Religion Foundation is getting involved. In a letter to Mary A. Epps, who’s in charge of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Examination Office, they want to know whether the AFA violated the agency’s rules.

[Continues . . .]

I predict that the IRS will ignore the letter from the FFRF, given its past willingness to give this sort of blatant flouting of the laws a pass, and given the current administration's open opposition to the Johnson Amendment.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2019, 02:56:38 PM »
That makes horrifying reading.
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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2019, 10:08:17 PM »
This is so disgusting.  >:(  I can't wait for the child in chief to be out of the WH.

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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2019, 10:25:11 PM »
If one can't separate their head from their asshole, how could they possibly be expected to separate anything else?

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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2019, 03:42:37 AM »
That's a downer :felix:

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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2019, 02:04:11 PM »
I've always been afraid that the descent into fundamentalist theocracy has been a distinct possibility in the USA because of the apparently (overall) poor education system and the rise of the religious right. It's a positive feedback loop and I really do wonder whether it has gone past the point of no return.  I sincerely hope not, but I am not so sure.
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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2019, 02:48:58 AM »
Bluenose our education system is both admirable and alternatively shameful.  On the one had we have some of the best prep schools in the world. Sad to say that there are too few of them. At the opposite end of the pole we have schools that are mandated to teach creationism and forbidden to teach evolution.   The backward schools are almost always in hillbilly territory or in  locations where evangelism and other mythical madness is in power.  Sure enough our educational system is conflicted.   Overall the system is reasonable and competent.

I am sort of a math geek.  Not at all at the the wizard level or even in sight of such a level.  For what it is worth I have, in my library, a preparatory math school book from OZ.  It has some advanced concepts and features that not many of of our high schools have equaled.  On the other hand we have International Baccalauareate high schools that are among the most rigorous anywhere.

In short we are a fucked up nation who manage to entertain both the highest degree of excellence as well as examples of  abject stupidity.

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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2019, 02:37:14 PM »
It's funny because I was raised in Oklahoma one of the most awfully conservative states in the nation (so much so that every single county voted for Trump. The state is a complete shame) and even there in my public education, I learned about things like the importance of the separation of church and state.

It was quite a blow to me when I began to realize that the people in my state, the government, and many parts of the US as a whole did not. I'm continuously baffled by this, as well as so many other things going on, like people actively fighting against human rights. I was raised to think America was supposed to be better than this, even in a conservative state.

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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2019, 03:37:18 PM »
Icarus I always remember what my father says, who was an international airline pilot back in the late 50s and early 60s and flew into and out of the US frequently.  He said that American things generally were either of the very highest standard or complete rubbish, not much in the middle.  My own observation seems to back this up.  What worries me is that the very bad seems to be taking over. :(

It astonishes me that the nation that landed a man on the moon 50 years ago, a feat that filled me with wonder all those years ago, has people from that same nation build a Noah's ark/creation museum and expect it to be taken seriously.  SMH
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Re: Jeff Sessions Delivers for The Evangelical Zealots
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2019, 10:05:32 PM »
I've always been afraid that the descent into fundamentalist theocracy has been a distinct possibility in the USA because of the apparently (overall) poor education system and the rise of the religious right. It's a positive feedback loop and I really do wonder whether it has gone past the point of no return.  I sincerely hope not, but I am not so sure.

I'm not so pessimistic, though neither do I think that bullshit such as that described in the articles I posted should pass without notice and opposition.

The plurality of the population of the US supports the social/human rights progress that has been made, and not the regressive agenda that the Dominionists and their fellow travellers would like to see enacted. The 'social justice' plurality is greater among younger people. I think these theocratic efforts are the desperate flailings of a lost cause, though in some states it will take longer to die than in others.

The large number of conservative ideologues that the Trump administration has been able to appoint to lifetime seats in the federal judiciary (fruition of the despicable appointment-blocking strategy of Mitch McConnell) will try their best to stop the trend, but they can't dictate how society progresses.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken